Earth Hour

Earth Hour


Do you and your family do anything special for Earth Hour?

I know it’s not a holiday, and it’s only for an hour, so time is limited, but I just wondered if anyone else out there has any traditions for this day.

Our family does.

We began this little tradition when Earth Hour began in 2007, and the kids still enjoy it to this day:

We shut off as much as possible. Electronics, computers, lights, we go dark. We light a whole lot of candles, use flashlights if necessary, and we even have a wind-up radio (a bit of a pain if you ask me but whatever!).

Then we pull out a board game or two and set it up in our candle-lit kitchen and we play together, as a family.

Often, we go over the hour because we are having so much fun, and it’s almost a shame to turn the lights back on again, but we thoroughly enjoy the time together.

As kids get older, though, it’s tougher and tougher for them to put the electronics down on the best of days, much less on the day of Earth Hour, but they do know there is a greater purpose, so we usually don’t have too many problems with getting them to give it up for one tiny little hour.

What I do NOT recommend is playing a game like Monopoly (that game is NEVER a short one) or PayDay (which is a game we love but have given up for the reason I’m about to explain)…

Board games that deal with handling play money, or writing anything down, or hundreds of tiny game pieces, none of that works very well in dimly lit situations… make a Family Game Night and play those more in-depth games then.

Aim for simplicity in your game choice. For example, for us tonight, it will be Uno or Sorry…

Another plus for your Earth Hour evening: SNACKS! Everything is better with snacks!

Little kids will LOVE this, because it’s almost like a party, and kids LOVE parties! Make it as festive and exciting as possible, and if you DO have small children, skip the real candles and go for flameless candles. Keep those little fingers and faces safe! Have some flashlights and fresh batteries ready!

Lastly, make sure to mark it on your calendar, and remind that kids that Earth Hour is coming up. It builds the excitement if they’ve experienced a fun Earth Hour evening in the past.

I’d love to hear YOUR ideas for making Earth Hour a special occasion!

Family Camping: Where The Heck Do I Start?

Family Camping-Where The Heck Do I


Have you toyed with the idea of going on a family camping vacation, but you have no idea where to begin?


Anyone can call and book reservations to a resort, and book a flight (but wow, the $$$ involved). Even with discounts and last minute bookings, it’s still pricey!


A GREAT vacation does not have to be that expensive!


Sure, planning a camping trip is a little more work, requires a little planning, forethought and some physical labour when packing up that vehicle, but nothing will bring your family together, and sync your internal system better than a trip to the great outdoors.


The first question is when to begin?


That’s an easy one. Begin NOW.


In MANY parts of Canada (and the northern U.S.), there is still snow on the ground. Weather is still unpredictable in March, and kids are still going on ski trips in the great northern part of our fabulous country. Doesn’t matter. Start now. The sooner you book, the sooner you have it out of the way and can begin planning everything.


Where to start?


Location, location, location. Book the venue. But don’t book until you’ve done some research.


First time campers, or even campers who just haven’t done this very often, they need to see what’s out there. You need to find out WHERE to camp.


Questions to ask yourself:


Do we want to be a fair drive away from home? (best option for seeing some wildlife you haven’t seen before)


Do we want to camp closer to home? (best option for those with little kids, you’ll just feel safer knowing you’re not 6 hours away from the closest hospital – JUST IN CASE)


What kinds of facilities will make our trip the most enjoyable?


Do the campgrounds we’re interested in have ratings or reviews?


Do the campgrounds we’re interested in have activities our family will be interested in?


What are the policies and rules of campgrounds we’re interested in?


These answers will help you decide on your best options. When you narrow it down to two or three campgrounds, it can be difficult to make that final cut. So how can you decide?


Ask friends and family if they’ve ever been. Ask around at work. If they’ve been there, what did they think?


If you’re still undecided after all of this, a simple eenie, meenie, miney, moe will do the trick. Pick one and go for it. BUT, before you do that, see if you can look at a campground map. Look for washrooms, other facilities, the beach, high-traffic areas (avoid if possible), and pick a few campsites you might be interested in.


And finally, have your credit card ready and pick up the phone to make your reservation.


Once that confirmation email comes through, you’ve cleared the first hurdle. Congratulations, you’ve just booked your family’s camping trip!

The End of a Beautiful Day

The End of aBeautiful Day


The sun is setting behind the great pines of Algonquin, and the humidity is easing up. Dinnertime has come and gone, and everything has been washed and put away so that bears don’t come looking for snacks.


Four folding chairs are placed around the fire and everyone is freshly showered and in pjs. My husband pours me a glass of wine and kisses me on the cheek as he hands it to me, right before cracking open a can of Canadian for himself. The boys have marshmallows out, and I’ve set up chocolate bars and graham crackers for s’mores. The roasting sticks wait for their calling.


A loon calls out from the the nearby lake, and we all stop talking to listen. What a beautiful sound.


One by one, the stars begin to appear in the darkening sky above us, as the fire crackles. We can faintly hear the fires of fellow campers doing the same. My youngest son exclaims that he saw a shooting star and we encourage him to make a wish. He thinks hard for a second and then smiles. Done.


We discuss what we’ve done today as a family. We began the morning with a nice little hike on a trail close by. We packed some water, granola bars and bug repellent just in case, and we took a lot of stunning photos. We made sure to get some family shots, too. We took our time on this hike. We enjoyed the smells, and the views. We even brought a few peanuts for the chipmunks on the trail.


We came back to the site and made soup and sandwiches for lunch, before heading out on our bikes for a bike ride. It was a good workout, being a little overcast made the ride a little more comfortable. We saw a bear along the way, as she munched on blueberries behind one of the campgrounds. She paid no attention to us, she was all about snacking.


When we came back, the boys did some exploring on their own while I headed for a nap. I fell asleep listening to kids playing, squirrels chirping their warnings and crows clucking. My husband also gave into his exhaustion.


Tomorrow is our beach day. It’s supposed to be sunny and very warm. They’re calling for 30+°C and it’s going to be so relaxing. We all love our day at the beach. Caleb will be building sandcastles and moats, and Tyler is talking about swimming out to the island. I have a feeling it won’t happen, it looks closer than it is!


The sun has disappeared completely now, and we can spot the nearly full moon through the trees. The sky is lit up with stars. Millions and millions. I look up to enjoy them, and see two satellites gliding along. I cannot explain the amount of peace and happiness I feel, being here, with my family.


It feels like I’ve come home.

Photo Challenge – Optimistic

photochallenge-optimistic


January is the month that we have to turn vacation requests in at work. I’m usually excited to do it but it’s getting more and more difficult to work around everyone.


This year, we have a wedding to attend in Ottawa (super pumped about that!) and Tyler’s spending 6 weeks at the military college for cadet camp in Kingston. We’re planning a big camping trip, trying to arrange for several families to attend, while still holding out for Tyler’s return from camp. If it all goes well, I’ll get to see my parents for the first time in person in two years. I’ve really, really missed them. It’s really difficult to be away from them.


So I took on the task of checking the calendar, checking dates and trying to map out how we were going to do this. With Tyler away for so long, we will be putting Caleb in day camp for a couple of weeks and figuring out other arrangements for at least two other weeks. That was our big project this week… and I get pretty excited about planning our family time when it’s still cold and dreary outside.


Devin’s vacation has to be approved first, before I can hand mine in… he has to work around his co-worker’s vacations because they have seniority, but for me, it really doesn’t matter. I am fairly lucky that way!


Yes, I can almost smell the Algonquin pine trees and the evening campfires… I can hear the birds chirping, kids playing and wood being cut for fires. The optimistic was of looking at it is that it’s only 6 months away!


Optimistic

When Life Hands You Lemons

When Life HandsYou Lemons


You make lemonade.


At least, that’s how the saying goes. Today’s writing prompt asks about a time when we’ve solved a problem in an unorthodox way.


This has happened on more occasions than just one… it’s usually involved a work schedule. There have been many times when we’ve had to juggle things around to accommodate our kids (isn’t that always the way with parents?). I think the one that stands out in my mind the most is when my husband found out (before he should have) that he was going to be laid off. He’d been with this particular company for about 8-9 years.


The first instance was when he decided he was going to quit in order to do drywalling with a family member. For the record, let’s just say, I had no say in this decision. He just up and did it (it was not a pretty time for us, at all). The problem with subcontracting is that none of your deductions are taken off, you have to do all of that yourself. I knew it was going to bite us in the butt later, but he’d already done it. There was no going back. It took many years to get all of the tax stuff settled.


Caleb was about 6 months old, Tyler was just 6, and Devin was gone from 6 a.m. until 7 or 8 at night. He’d come home, shower, eat and go right to bed, just to do it all again the next day. It really sucked. I felt like a single mom. It was difficult. Tyler missed his dad… I missed my husband, and I couldn’t do it anymore. He had been doing drywall for nearly two years.


We finally hashed it out one night, and I explained all of this to him. I told him how much I loved him but I needed a partner. I needed help. I needed my husband, and most of all, the boys needed their father. If he couldn’t provide that, as much as it would hurt, I couldn’t stay with him. It was D-Day for us. There was no fighting, no arguments. It was just matter-of-fact. This is what is, and you have a choice to make.


A couple of days later, he quietly told me that he made an inquiry with his last company, to see if they were hiring. There was a possibility for him to work overnights. I was going back to work in 6 months, and if he took overnights, we wouldn’t have to shell out for day care (that was a huge concern for us).


I knew he hadn’t had an answer yet, but it was a glimmer of hope.


They took him on for overnights, and while it was tough keeping the kids quiet throughout the day so he could sleep, I was happy that the boys had their father home, and that I had my husband again. I tried to get the kids out of the house as much as possible, but overnights is tough. Everything in your system is telling you that you should be awake during daylight hours. He struggled with sleep. He slept in the basement because it was the darkest part of the house. I bought room-darkening curtains, to keep the bedroom as dark as possible. It was tough, but it was better than the previous situation.


Fast-forward a couple of years, we were in somewhat of a routine. Another hiccup… his company was laying off people left, right and center. They had recently lost a huge account, and it was starting to show in the books. Devin was getting closer and closer to the chopping block. We kept an eye on things, and one day, a union friend called him… he was being laid off when he went in for his next shift. His friend knew he had a family to support and was trying to be nice by giving him a heads up.


Devin called me at work to let me know. I had an idea, and told him I’d call him back. I work in retail, and at that point, retail was still doing well. I spoke to the personnel manager about the situation and asked if there was any need for someone on overnights (with the big pay cut he’d be taking by working at my store, we could afford day care even less than before).


Happily, before he went into work to receive the official news, he already had an interview lined up, and within a week, he had a new job. It was a tough adjustment financially, but we made it work.


We’ve had some pretty tough decisions to make over the years, but when I think about how close we came to splitting up, I am thankful that we chose to stick it out. Together.


How have you turned things around when the going gets tough?


Not Lemonade

Bucket List

Bucket List


Today’s topic is the 11th item on our bucket list.


I’ve never actually written it down, but I’ve had some sort of list in my head for a long time. I’ve been lucky enough to accomplish some pretty great things in my short life, and I’m thankful for it. Some of those things are:


To find and spend my life with an amazing guy
Have babies
Buy a house
See NYC
Be a good wife and mom – this is constantly in progress!


A few other things I would love to do:


Indoor sky-diving in Toronto (I refuse to jump out of a perfectly good plane!)
Travel – I’d love to see Australia, Germany, Italy
Go on a destination vacation
Hold my grandbabies
Write and publish a book
Retire early


I think it’s fair to say that the 11th item is to retire early. I want to travel and create more memories with my husband, when I’m still young enough to enjoy life. I think this list is attainable…


What about you? What’s on your bucket list?


Kick It

Fighting Bordeom

Fighting Boredom


Hello friends!


If you and I are friends on Facebook, you know that we just switched internet companies. We’ve had some pretty bad issues with our previous company, and we did some research for a new one about a month ago. Unfortunately, upon making the switch, we were two days shy of getting the new service, but it couldn’t be helped… we didn’t want to be charged a full month with the old company.


In this house, no internet=boredom. My husband plays an online game with his cronies. Tyler’s usually chatting with friends, and since Caleb’s iPad is out of commission due to a loose connection inside for the display, he’s been all about the XBox. And me… I love my social media and blogging.


In this house, you NOTICE when there’s no internet!!!


What on earth did we do before there was internet? Wait, I know this one… we used to do…. something!!


Thankfully, I went a little download crazy before Company A shut off our service so I had a couple of movies for my husband and I to watch. Thank goodness, because it tied us over. I almost didn’t notice we didn’t have the internet (I’m sure my husband will when he gets our cell phone bill and sees the data usage!!!).


Tyler has exams next week so he was able to get a lot of his notes from school onto his iPad so he could study (have I mentioned he is almost totally paperless?) and he studied and completed projects for school.


Caleb has had a heck of a time trying to pass his 5X multiplication tables… after four or five tries. Frustrating for him. We had him write out up to 5X12, twice (in different orders), leaving the answers blank. At school, if he can answer all of them within one minute, he gets a prize and goes to the next level. So, he was using my iPhone’s timer to do it. Each time he completed one, he’d bring it downstairs, and grab a blank one and get back at it. By the time he was nearly done, he was coming down the stairs before the timer went off.


He happily informed us, the next day, that he passed. Now it’s onto 6X, and guess where he is at this very moment? On the XBox. *sigh* I have not failed as a mom tonight… he’s spending his last hour of the day working on them!


I think I used to read books at one time… rent a movie (remember those days??).


What are some ways that you fight boredom?


( YAWN )