Saturday, December 26, 2015

Cross country skiing with kids

Cam recently finished his PhD and so has had a bit more flexibility at work. Since it has been so rainy, I checked the forecast and noticed that amidst the weeks of rain there was going to be one sunny day. We capitalized on this sunny day by taking the girl's cross country skiing at Cypress mountain in North Vancouver. This was Julia's first time in the chariot and she rode like a champ. This was also Etta's first time cross country skiing (i.e. not in the chariot) and she ski'd like a boss. Here is how we made our trip a fun and exciting adventure. 

1. Pack the night before
Cam put all the skis, including the chariot, in the car the night before. We put hot chocolate in the thermos so that all that we had to do was add hot water in the morning. We also organized all our snacks and lunch food. In the morning all we had to do was organize the warm clothes for us and the kids. 

2.Get excited during the drive 
Etta is a very talkative 2 year old and can project her voice really well. (This is a nice way of saying she can be quite loud).  Etta does not like sitting in the car. I would say that she dislikes it more than the average kid and this has been true since she was born. Julia is quite different and usually is happy to sit in her car seat beside her super cool sister, Etta. 

In order to entertain Etta during the drive we talked about how much fun we were going to have in the mountains. We talked about how excited we were to go skiing and see the snow. 

When we got really desperate we resorted to code Dora. Since we recently started reading a Dora the Explorer book to Etta our life has been one big Dora adventure. For any parent who has a kid who likes Dora, this is what we did. Throughout the car ride we solved the trolls riddle as we went over bridges and then we picked bananas from the trees that we passed. We also stopped Swiper the fox from swiping various items we had with us by saying 'Swiper no swiping'. 
The girls hanging out in the backseat.

Driving over the Lions Gate Bridge on our way to the mountains. 

3. Speed 
In order for Julia to enjoy being pulled in the chariot we had to keep moving. If you stopped for too long she started to fuss. This is great motivation if you are trying to get into shape. I am always thankful that Cam is a bit of an endurance athlete and a strong skier. He is able to pull the girls (~45 lbs) faster than I can pull myself. When we do outdoor endurance activities I often feel like we have entered a battle and I am telling Cam to leave me behind to keep the girls happy as I haul myself up the mountain. Some other examples of when I have told Cam to leave me behind are (but not limited to):
- when we were hiking down during our back country tip with Etta and I was really sick. See Back country hiking with a baby: A bad game of Oregon trail
- When we almost missed our Ferry in Sweden to travel to the island of Finnham. See The ACE family 5 point travel day game plan

By the time I thought to take a picture, it was time to get moving and that is why this picture is so poor. However, I really wanted to get a pic of Julia in the chariot. 

4. Treats
We gave Etta some yummy snacks during the hour and a half she was sitting in the chariot and being pulled. We also promised to stop after a little while so that Etta could try her skis. She was really excited when she saw the skis we rented, and talking about them kept her really excited. We really enjoyed our ski as it was mostly free of tears and whining!

Etta loved drinking her Hot Chocolate and Julia enjoyed lounging in the snow. 

5. Enjoy the adventure
On our way home I was telling Cam about how I have been enjoying our adventures more than usual. This does not really make sense since we now have two kids and you would think that things would be more complicated. I think that I have embraced the chaos and have recognized that our adventures are a little bit different. I enjoy the time I get to ski and also the simple things like when eat lunch and have hot chocolate outdoors together.

6. Encourage and persist
Etta and Julia do not sit perfectly and quietly the whole time we are out skiing or hiking. I could take that as a sign that I should of no longer take them outdoors. However because we have been persistent, Etta gets excited even when we talk about the mountains at home. This time we skied for an hour and a half before we let her try on her own skis. Because she had watched us, she was super pumped to try the ones we rented for her. She was so determined when she put on the skis she turned to her dad and said "let go, I do by myself". Cam let go of her and gave her a few instructions ('put your hands on your knees' for the little downhill slope). We had a blast watching Etta have a great time trying out cross country skiing for the first time.

(See the video below of Etta's first time skiing. Etta even fell a few times and her determination kept her getting up and trying again.) 

I want to note that we try very hard to not take the fun out of outdoors activities for our kids. After we take Etta and Julia to do something that we like to do in the outdoors, we try our best to do
something in the outdoors we know they will love, whether it is a swim in a lake after a hike, playing 'explorers', or letting them try the activity we are doing. I have no idea if the girls will grow up wanting to spend their weekends hiking mountains or skiing but I do want them to know that we will always have lots family fun time in the outdoors. 

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Othello Tunnels: Almost....

On our way home from Manning park we decided to stop by the Othello Tunnels an easy 3.5 km trail near Hope, BC. 
check out Julia and I in the reflection of the sign! 
This is the second time we have tried to go through the Othello tunnels. The first time was when we were newly weds moving to Vancouver. Cam's parents were with us and they really wanted to take us to the tunnels. Unfortunately we could not find them! Thankfully, this weekened, we had googlee maps and found the tunnels. Unfortunately the tunnels were closed for the season and were not open. We did get to go up to the first tunnel and talk with some construction workers that were working on getting the tunnels ready for the filming of a popular movie called 'planet of the apes'!

I felt it was worthy of writing a post about because these tunnels are exciting for all ages. Remember to bring flashlights to enhance the experience!!!

Cam and Etta outside the first tunnel

Julia and I at the first tunnel

Family selfie near the first tunnel. 3rd times a charm and we will get to explore the tunnels!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Manning Park: 7 ways children make life more excited

This past weekend we went to Manning Park with the kids to celebrate our 5 years of marriage. We were so happy to soak up the outdoors especially since Cam has been busy finishing his PhD. The great thing about Manning park is there is little cell phone service and therefore we were able to totally focus on each other and the present. 

One of my favourite things about having kids is that you can do something so simple and have a great time. In the past I have written about some of the challenges when travelling and/or camping with kids. Throughout this post I am going to highlight 7 ways our children have made trips more exciting. 

1. Telling the kids we are going to the mountains:
We told Etta we were leaving for the mountains about 10 minutes before leaving. We did this on purpose because she gets SO EXCITED!!! Once we told her we were going to the mountains she started running around the house saying 'Yeah mountains' followed by asking if myself, Cam and Julia were going to come too. We proceeded by saying 'yes we are coming to the mountains too.' Since we were all going, she got even more excited and this excitement lasted the whole weekend. 

2. The Cabin
Etta loved the cabin. Really I loved it as well but her enthusiasm made the cabin that much more exciting. She loved it so much that I now want to live in a simple cabin in the woods. Everyday she was excited to come back to the cabin and hang out. She loved it so much that when we left we had to say bye cabin and blow kisses as we drove away. She still talks about the cabin.
Outside the cabin with Julia.
3. Snow suit, toque and mitts
I know not every kid likes their outdoor gear but Etta gets so excited when she gets to wear her mitts, snow pants and boots. It may not last forever but I'll take it!!!
4.  Hiking
Whenever we tell Etta we are going hiking she starts jumping and running around. Her enthusiasm about the outdoors is incredibly contagious. At Manning Park there are tons of hikes outside your doorstep and although we kept the hiking simple, her enthusiasm amplified the outdoor experience. Trying to see these natural experiences through the eyes of a child is incredible. Our daughter gets excited by things that we often don't even take notice of, like leaves, rocks, snow and water.

5. Throwing rocks
I think Etta could literally spend hours throwing rocks into water. Big rocks, little rocks and even sticks and leaves can provide hours of entertainment.

6. Playing in the snow
Yes as an adult I still like playing in the snow but rarely take the time to indulge. Being forced out in the snow to play with Etta is extremely rewarding. Etta got so excited making her first snowman. Julia had an amazing look of wonder as her hand touched snow for the first time.
Etta's first snowman where she was able to contribute.

Julia's first snow experience.
7. Mountains
Lastly, I know I mentioned mountains previously but that was more about telling our kids we were going to the mountains. We needed to highlight how excited the girls get when we are in the mountains. Etta loves seeing snow-capped mountains. She loves knowing she is hiking on a mountain. She loves the fresh air.

Being a parent has changed our getaways but it hasn't affected how much we enjoy them. During our trip we decided to keep it simple and Etta's enthusiam and Julia's smiles made the whole experience really fun.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Hiking with a toddler and a newborn!

First I have to say Happy 3 month birthday to my youngest Julia! Time is already flying by so fast and I could not imagine life without her.

To celebrate we decided to go on our first family hike since she was born. I have to be honest though... it is also a celebration of the fact that I think I am recovered enough from child bearing and child birth to do the hike that involves a lot of incline. 

Preamble: We hiked earlier after we had Etta. The major difference this time is that I could not just worry about myself. I had to carry Julia up the mountain because Cam would be carrying Etta. Although Julia is not her 27 lb sister she is already about 15 lbs!!! 

Anyways we decide to tell Etta that we were going to the mountains for a hike about an hour before we had to leave. Big mistake... While I love that she was super pumped and running around the house screaming 'yay mountains', we then had to listen to her whine 'I want to go hike in the mountains' for the hour while we got ready to go. To top it off she saw the hiking carrier and she started screaming that she wanted to go in their NOW!!! Try teaching patience to a determined and independent toddler. Impossible.

Finally after getting organized, we drive the 45 minutes to Cabin lake which is on the way to Eagles bluff on Cypress mountain in North Vancouver. Julia slept the whole 45 minutes. Etta continually repeated that she wanted to get out of the car and go hiking ...... For the whole 45 minutes. Again try teaching a toddler patience. Impossible.

When we got to the mountain Julia woke up so I had to feed her. She was being fussy and I started to think that this hike was a bad idea. I was beginning to lose MY patience. Then we started to hike. That is when it became magical! Julia fell asleep and Etta loved the carrier again. She has been wanting to walk herself these days but since Julia was in a carrier she wanted to be in the carrier too. 

The hike was a gruelling uphill for about 45 minutes up. Etta and Cam talked about the mountains and the trees. It was like she was taking in the outdoors in a way she never had before. She was aware at how amazing it all was. 

I... Who was carrying Julia... Trudged up the hill slowly but surely. My motivation through the exhaustion? Both kids were having a great time. I was breathless but loving exercising and enjoying nature without any whining or crying. It was as if I had won the lottery. My face was beat red, my heart rate was 180 bpm and I was loving it!

Once at our destination we all had lunch, including Julia. Cam and Etta went for a swim in the ice cold water while I played with Julia in the shade.

 We hung around for about 45 minutes just enjoying and exploring the natural surroundings. It felt so great to be back in the mountains. 

When it was time to go we changed the girls diapers, packed up our things and made the trek down the mountain. Julia and Etta immediately fell asleep which was awesome. I was exhausted from exerting myself but new it was all downhill from there.

 Until... After 10 minutes of downhill there was a steep incline. We did not notice going downhill on the way up and I always notice a nice downhill after a long climb. We realized we went the wrong way and would have to climb back up to find the correct trail.

I was exhausted and started to complain.  I was getting stressed that our good luck with the kids on the trail would end. After mustering up some energy we turned around and trekked back uphill. After 20 minutes of uphill climbing we were back on track hiking down to the parking lot. 'Crisis' diverted and my legs were still functioning. 

Once at the parking lot Etta and Julia woke up. I decided to wait to feed Julia because Etta was happy. We immediately packed the girls in the car and drove home. 

About 20 minutes into the drive home Julia started to cry. We decided to divert off the Lions Gate bridge and head to Prospect Point in Stanley Park to feed Julia. We enjoyed an incredible view of Vancouver, grabbed some fries, birch beer and I fed Julia. After an hour enjoying Stanley Park, we drove the 25 minutes home in a cry free/whine free car. It truly turned out to be a successful day outdoors hiking in the mountains and enjoying Vancouver.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

VW Camper Van

We took the plunge! We bought a VW camper van and have officially joined the Westy club. I could not be happier. 

My family had a camper van up until I was about 3 years old. I am the youngest and I have a brother 6 years older and a sister 4 years older.
My sister squeezing my face while my brother is chillin' in his camping chair.
 They used to sleep in the Pop top and I used to sleep in a hammock at the front of the van. I cannot remember the name but it was an air cooled orange VW camper with a pop top. Unfortunately my parents house had a fire a few years ago and finding a solid picture of the van is very difficult.

My sister Krista and I in the Camper van!

Etta and Cam in the pop top.

Julia in the campervan having a nap.

The adventures ended in that van when the door was so rusted that it fell off. I think my parents were fed up and sold the van for parts. Even though the van at times stretched their patience they were sad to see it go. They still talk about those glorious camping days in the dub. 

My dad, brother, sister and I after a hike in the rockies.

Anyways, since then I have always dreamed of owning my own westy with my family. With two kids and a husband that loves camping we thought it was prime time to join the westy family.

My sister and I hanging out on the camping chairs.

am so excited for more camping trips to come. I hope my girls continue to enjoy the experience of the outdoors each year whether in the van or a tent. Let the adventure continue!!!

Our family embarking on our own VW adventures.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Camping with a newborn and a toddler

Just 3 weeks after Julia was born the weather was fantastic. That meant that it was time to take her on her first camping trip. Since we took Etta (our toddler) camping when she was about 5 weeks old, I felt it was not a big deal taking our 3 week old. My motto is take the leap and get out there, enjoy the experience and it will always make the next time easier.We stayed at Paradise Valley Campsite in Squamish, BC. A few things I loved about this campsite was the dense forest surrounding each of the campsites, the flush toilets and the showers. We were also really excited because we had two other families that were going to be camping with us.  We really enjoyed having the kids all play together during the day and having the adult time at night!!

A few things I did not love were the unforeseen obstacles. Read on to hear about our adventures camping with our toddler and newborn.
Inside our tent. Lors of space and the kids each had their own beds!

Obstacle one: 
Our trip almost started out with a Bang.  Not a good bang. Thankfully while Cam was driving the car he noticed the chariot (stroller for the kids) was starting to come off the side of the car. In the nick of time he was able to pull over and adjust the  chariot making it nice and secure.  Obstacle one averted.

Our campsite. .. I left to go get groceries in Squamish while Cam looked after the girls and set up camp. I was pleasantly surprised he was able to set up it all up by the time I arrived.
Obstacle two:
Right after we put Etta to bed the first night a cop came up to our campsite to warn us that they are looking out for a fugitive that was camping at the same campsite!! He had been gone since the morning but there were dogs running around trying to find him and helicopters overhead. We also realized that the campers two sites down from us were NOT even campers. They were policemen staking out his campsite. In the end along with some other campers we figured we were probably in the safest place with all the cops. The guy was long gone and did not come back to the campground. 
Enjoying the campingexperience!
Etta was so excited to have her own sleeping bag. This Deuter sleeping bag grows with your child and can be expeanded as she gets bigger. The bonus  of having it a little smaller is that she does not loose heat in the sleeping bag because it is too big.

Julia testing out her camping bed. She slept well in it so it is fair to say she liked it as well!

Julia in her sleeping bag all bundled up for the cool nighttime air. She wor a long sleeved onesie, 2x sleepers, toque and this warm 'sleeping bag' to bed.

There was no fire ban wnen we went. We enjoyed fire that started with ease becasue the firewood was nice and dry. 

Taking down the tent. We always try to shake out the dirt. Etta decided to hang out in the tent while shaking it out.
Obstacle 3: 
Taking down camp this time was alot trickier than setting up the camp. Cam and I were exhausted because we stayed up too late the night before. Etta was a little bit cranky so we needed to keep her entertained while making sure Julia was also alright. Etta became really happy and quiet when she was playing in the front seat of the car with the other kids while we were packing the car. Now when everything seems to be too easy for comfort you know that something is wrong. Well we paid later... We paid 500$ for that time... A rock was put into our door and made it so that it could not be properly closed. We had to drive home from Squamish straight to Toyota with a door slightly open. Then we were without a car for 4 days and had to pay 500$ to get it fixed.

The gap caused by the rock in the door. 

In Conclusion: 
Even though we had some unforeseen adventures it was great to be back in the outdoors. I cannot wait for our next family adventure.