Thursday, 29 September 2016

Heroes - Celebrating Terry Fox

I don't know whether or not this is a normal phase, but both of my kids (Jack in particular) have a very strong and active curiosity surrounding death.  This started when they were 3-years-old, following the death of our beloved cat Pan.  We have been fortunate enough that most of the death the minions have experienced has been elderly people and pets who lived long, and for the most part healthy lives.  Our honesty with the kids has led to a lot of questions surrounding death.

Jack is a huge music fan and likes to collect statistics on his favourite artists.  In 2016, this means he's seen a lot of musicians he listens to pass away (Bowie, and Prince).  He has so much curiosity surrounding death, cremation, and legacy in music and family.  We have tried to teach both children how people can live on through their art, family, and contributions to the world.

Death for the elderly and sick has been easier to explain to the kids, although it's been hard to convince Jack that growing to become an old man is a good thing, not a bad thing.  Explaining things like cancer, and why some people are unlucky enough to get sick at a young age is something we struggle with.

This week at school Molly and Jack will be participating in Terry Fox events to raise money for cancer research.  They have learned all about "working together to outrun cancer".  They know about his attempt to run across the country to spread awareness and earn money for an important cause, and that he is considered a Canadian Hero.  Next came the questions about what cancer is and why someone so young could die.  These are all questions I don't really have answers to that will help calm the minds of inquisitive 5-year-olds.

I chose to focus on the good that Terry did in his life, the lives he's saved through his foundation, and the ways that Molly and Jack could also help.  We read testimonies and quotes together on how Terry is a hero, and what that means.  This week parents at the minions school were asked to provide students with a "Toonie for Terry" to help raise money for cancer.

Both R2D2 and Wonder Woman are ready to give back!

A couple of months ago when we began giving Molly and Jack allowance we made an active decision that part of the allowance practice had to do with teaching them about finance, savings, and philanthropy.  Last night, before bed, I told them both how I had put a Toonie (for Terry) into their backpacks.  Next I asked them if they'd like to each provide a Toonie for donation out of their piggy banks, and that if they decided to do this that their dad and I would match their donation again with six dollars each being donated.  Molly started jumping up and down and happily agreed.  Jack calmly instructed me to take a toonie out of his piggy bank.

This morning Jack asked me why his entire piggy bank wasn't in his backpack...Apparently he very graciously wanted to "make it rain" toonies for Terry.  It feels like a pretty good day in the world of parenting lessons at our house.

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Thursday, 22 September 2016

You're My Best Friend

Growing up I was presented with the media version of what friendship was supposed to look like, particularly "best friendship".  In the books I read, in the movies and television shows I watched it was always there.  Kevin Arnold had his Paul Pfeiffer, Blossom had Six, Anne had her Diana, Sherlock had Dr. Watson, Frodo had Sam, and heck, even Batman had Robin.

As a little girl I always idealized the concept of the best friend, the one person who I could go to no matter what.  The thing I always had a tough time reconciling, in my own life in particular, the role of BFF was often played by more than one person, and often the cast of characters would change, from day to day, and year to year.

In my tween years those "BEST FRIENDS" necklaces were huge.  You know the ones that are often a heart, divided in half and worn by two different people as "Be Fri" and "St Ends".  I sat by watching other girls in my class, at my school, or even strangers on the bus, wear their appreciation for their BFFs around their necks and I felt like I was missing something, missing someone.

I knew that I could take the bull by the horns and purchase one of these necklaces for someone, but who?  They didn't create the versions that divided into three or four puzzle pieces until a few years later, and at that time I considered myself way too grown up for such childish trinkets.

Me and My girl out on the town

It wasn't until years later when I recognized that the evolution of friendships, and even the loss of friends, over your life is completely normal.  Friends grow together, fall apart, sometimes if we're lucky they come back, other times they're better left in the past.  Friends serve different roles, and that's also okay.  I have been lucky enough to have a fun, loving, motley crew of people, many of which are in my family, over the years.  Some friends I am raising my children alongside, which is amazing, others I happily get updates from on Facebook, or think of fondly in my memories.

This weekend was my birthday and Chris took the kids out to purchase me gifts.  When I opened my gift from Molly I discovered a divided friendship necklace in the shape of the sun that connects with magnets with the words "You are my Sunshine" on it, and I came very close to crying.  I had never told anyone about my internal tween struggle surrounding friendship necklaces, until I told Molly how much I'd wanted a necklace like this as a child while I secured the clasps around both of our necks.

My little adventurer

As a logical adult I understand that many five-year old girls would find this a perfect gift, after-all, they get a necklace too, and I'm sure this was a contributing factor for the purchase.  But there's also something more meaningful.  Molly is not my best friend, I am not that type of mom, and I pride myself on that.  I am not Lorelai Gilmore and she is not Rory, I am me, and I hope that Molly and I will always be close, because she really is my sunshine. This year she picked me the perfect gift, from a Tween accessories store, at the mall.  12 year old me would be so jealous!

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Friday, 16 September 2016

Whistle While You Work

We'd been spending a while discussing the best approach for teaching the minions about both money and responsibilities.  When the end of the year report card came home with a particular suggestion for one of the kids suggesting how well they'd do with added household responsibilities to we decided that their fifth birthdays would be the perfect time to begin some structured chores and allowance.

The kids each earn five dollars a week provided they complete all of their assigned chores during the week.  When I saw an article in Business Insider about tried and true ways parents have set their children up for success I was smugly pleased that one of the ways was through regular chores.

Dinner for 2 with Multigrain Cheerios prepared by Chef Jacques a few years ago

10 reasons why our new chore routine is setting our kids up to be successful

1. It makes everyone more aware of their messes
I strongly believe that the minions recognized that happy little elves don't clean up after them, but added cleaning responsibilities really drives the point home.

2. It teaches cause and effect
When they leave the caps off of their markers and are the ones physically throwing them into the garbage because they no longer work, it should hopefully ring home that markers don't go on trees.  This will be even more apparent when they're replacing these markers using their allowance.

3. It teaches accountability
The minions will remind each other if one is cleaning a room while the other is playing. So far these gentle reminders come more often from one child in particular.  The same thing goes for when they can't find a toy that they didn't put away or a sock that didn't make it to the hamper.

4. It builds confidence
The other day we had a guest over and Molly wanted to show them the room that she and Jack had just tidied.  It was adorable.

This tiny chef knows how to multi-task circa 2013

5. It teaches real life skills
College is not the time to be learning how to do laundry, cook, or make a bed.  Start them while they're young!

6. It forces us as parents to let them become more independent
Often Chris and I are guilty of doing things for the minions because we're pressed for time.  By getting them to do more and more things on their own, they improve their own logic, gross and fine motor skills on a daily basis and things will get easier for everyone.

7. It slows down the "can I have that" mentality whenever we're out at a store
Toys now get saved up for, and anything bought on impulse gets paid for out of the piggy bank when they get home.

8. It solidifies our family as a team
We all contribute to this household and making it run smoothly, whether it's paying bills, cleaning, cooking, or caring for each other.  The minions are increasingly proud of the part they play in making the machine that is our family run smoothly.

9. It teaches them about money
Counting coins as they go into piggy banks teaches counting and math.  They're learning about saving, spending and charity each and every week.

10. It lightens the parental load
Lunches make their way out of backpacks onto the counter by someone other than Chris and I, garbages and recycling gets gathered weekly, and the kids are eager to take on more.  My favourite thing is when it's tidy time and Molly proudly comes back to me saying, "EASY!!!! What's next?"

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Monday, 12 September 2016

Glamorous - The Art of Glamping/ Family Camping

I've enjoyed camping for my entire adult life.  As a camper coming from a pretty adamant "non-camping" family, most of my childhood experiences centred around weekend Scouting trips during Brownies and Girl Guides.  Over the years Chris and I have explored a lot of beautiful places around Ontario in the provincial parks we've visited.

While I've had a blast on trips with Chris that involve 20KM hikes and picturesque canoeing in Bon Echo and beyond, these aren't usually the best introductions to camping for little ones.  In the past I may have turned up my nose at the idea of glamping, or making camping too kushy and easy, cause you're supposed to be roughing it, right?

In the years since Molly and Jack were born camping itself has become a little more difficult.  There was the time that it rained so hard that Molly and I slept inside our compact car (not comfortable).  Or when we decided to take a two year pause from camping because curious toddlers and fire are terrifying.  Last summer our camping trip came to an abrupt end when we had to throw out our 10 year old tent because all of the weatherproofing spray in the world could no longer prevent it from turning into a swimming pool.

Molly helping set up our new tent "Camper Van Tent"
This year we bought a new tent, that isn't supposed to leak (so far it hasn't)...and decided to try something a little different in terms of our camping experience.  After having difficulty trying to secure a camping site at a provincial park on the long weekend (or one that would allow you to bring wine), we decided to try out a KOA camp ground in Campbellville, an American based camping/ almost, but not quite glamping facility, that makes the experience a little less rough.

Here are 10 reasons why parents may want to consider trying out a KOA site:

1. They have impeccable washrooms
There are no outhouses at KOA, only washrooms with showers and flush toilets.  This also makes life easier for people changing diapers.

2. Need a washer?  They have one!
Damp sleeping bag, or kid fell into a bog on a hike, no problem.  You can wash and dry your clothes without leaving the camp grounds.

3. They deliver your firewood, right to your door/tent
You place the order, with the delivery time, at the camp store and it arrives just in time for dinner.  Ours arrived late,and the kids and I were getting hangry, but the staff were very friendly and even gave us some additional logs at no cost for the inconvenience.

Gatherer Molly

4. It goes beyond tent camping
While we camped in our new tent, KOA facilities have little cabins or yurts and trailer parking for those who can't get comfortable sleeping on the ground.  While we love our cosy little tent, this opens up the doors for spring or fall camping, when it's colder at night but you still want to enjoy the great outdoors.  The park store has all the supplies you may have forgotten!

5. Movie nights
On weekends they have an outdoor movie on an inflatable screen to help keep kids entertained.  A week later the minions are still talking about watching Scooby Doo under the stars.

6. A real kitchen
I like cooking over a fire when I'm camping, and we still did this, and I even don't mind hiking over to a tap at a park to get water for my dishes, but when it's raining camp cooking is terrible.  At KOA there is a communal kitchen for dish washing and cooking, which is great for clean up, and even better for heating something up if it's been raining and you can't get your fire started.  They also have BBQs available for those who want to fire up the grill without using their camp fire (anyone with toddlers)

Snack time

7. It's all about the kids
There are playgrounds and kid focused activities.  These include "crafternoons", and our site had a bouncy castle, balloon animals, and face painting on Saturday.

Balloon flower

8. Bringing in some charity
On Sundays in the summer they host a pancake breakfast, with the proceeds going to helping to send kids with illness, who need extra medical attention to KOA Care Camps.  This no fuss breakfast is a great way for parents to "divide and conquer", Chris was able to take down most of our camp while the kids had breakfast and played on the playground.

9. They have a pool
There was a warm outdoor pool for us to splash around in alongside the kids.  This was a definite highlight for the minions.

10. They are close to other facilities
Provincial parks and conservation areas have great trails, KOA doesn't, but they were only a 10 minute drive away from four different, amazing hikes, also when we went hiking in Halton Hills Conservation Area we were able to still pay for our hike and support Ontario Parks, which is always a win.

While I still have a soft spot for the "roughing it" camping in provincial parks, I enjoyed our slightly pampered weekend away with the kids.  I am also looking forward to trying out some spring or fall camping with the kids in the near future.  For a softer integration into the great outdoors and camping I highly recommend testing out KOA!

Campfire moments

To read 7 tips for camping in the rain click here

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Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Happy Wanderer - Hiking Halton Hills

It's really easy to blame our inactivity on parenthood, but I know that's not setting a good example for our kids.  This is one of the reasons why I purposely workout in front of the minions, as well as try to incorporate some heart healthy active family outings to lead by example.  We've been lucky enough to enjoy a few hikes this summer, although hot weather usually makes hiking more spring and fall focused.  

While I'm still wistful with memories of pre-children days when weekends included very lengthy, challenging hikes, followed by even lengthier afternoon naps.  Molly and Jack have both begun to enjoy a good hike just like their mom and dad.

This weekend was no different when the minions, along with their cousins, hiked the 4KM waterfall trail at Halton Hills near Milton.  There was a nominal per person fee to get access to the conservation areas for day use trails, but it was worth it for the beautiful views.  There is no admission fee for kids under 5, kids 5-14 pay $5.00, and adult admission is $6.75 each.

Molly wanders the gravel trail as our hike "leader"

A view worth hiking towards

Jack and his cousins explore the rocks by the falls

Still Exploring...

Going up, beyond, and behind the falls, the kids even went under and got wet!

The hike was a huge success, although a little longer than we planned.  A hiker before us had decided it would be hilarious to turn one of the trail marker arrows the wrong way and we ended up hiking an extra 2KM total with four very tired kids because of someone's "Genius" prank. Seriously, who does that? Thankfully we found the offending trail arrow, fixed it, and made our way back to the car with minimal complaining, although there were a few piggy backs.  One of the coolest things about this particular trail is that by the falls there is a fire going and several picnic tables so people can stop for a snack, lunch, or even to roast marshmallows and hot dogs.  Both the minions and their cousins can't wait until our next hike.

To read about our Lakeshore Palace Pier hike from the spring, click here.

To share other awesome family hikes, please leave a comment below or email multiplemomstrosity @

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