Saturday, April 2, 2016

Born to be Adventurous : My New Blog/Website!

I am so excited to announce that my husband and I have launched a new website called Born to be Adventurous. You can find the site at Follow the website for regular updates!!!

We will have stories and tips for taking your kids into the outdoors and travelling. We will be doing trail reviews, gear reviews and more! I am also modifying the posts from this blog and transferring them to our new site.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

5 Tips to Teaching your Toddler to Cross Country Ski

If you are thinking about taking your toddler skiing or snowboarding.... Do it!!! It is so fun to see them try the sport and they honestly look so adorable. This past winter season we have taken our 2 and half year old daughter skiing 3 times. She has been cross country skiing two times and downhill one time. Each time it has been a blast.

Since Cam is a certified cross country ski instructor (CANSI certified) and I am a physical education teacher, we decided that we would like to share 5 tips about introducing and teaching a toddler to cross country ski.

Tip 1: You ski first
By this, I mean you ski first while your toddler is being towed in a ski sled. Watching us from our Chariot sled* made our daughter want to try skiing. In our experience, toddlers generally want to copy everything that their parents do. Watching us ski seemed to ignite a flame in our toddler to want to ski. Although we had to put up with the occasional whining as we pulled her around it was totally worth it. When we finally let her try skiing, she did not want to stop and was excited to be doing what Mom and Dad were doing.

Tip 2: Let them explore
Toddlers need exploration time. Let your toddler feel out the skis. Do they fall right away or are they able to stay standing? Can they take a step or two without you or are they too nervous and needs to hold your hand? Encourage your little one constantly  (i.e. “You’re doing a great job” and “Wow way to go!”). Assure the little skier that everything is okay and that if they fall down that is okay too. If your toddler is not happy on the skis and not enjoying it, there is no need to push it. Just take some quick pictures and try another day. Even 5 minutes on skis counts when you’re only 2!

Tip 3: Encourage different movements
Encourage your toddler to walk with the skis. Try jumping with skis and then try running. Think of all the moves your toddler can pull off without skis, and encourage him/her to try them with the skis on. Then see if they can push skis instead of walk. Keep a close eye on your toddler and gauge the reaction if your little one has to a fall. Etta fell a few times but was still totally stoked to keep skiing. I’m sure that some other day, she might not be so gung-ho.

Tip 3: Let your toddler take charge 
If your little skier is ready to “go it alone”, then let  ‘er go. The first time Etta was on her skis Cam was holding on to her and she was slipping all over. Cam reluctantly listened to her, and what do you know, she found her balance. That said, if your toddler wants to a hold a hand, then be sure to offer it. The key her is just to let your toddler communicate their needs.  We followed Etta at her pace and helped out as requested. She was the leader and she rose to the occasion.

Tip 4: Hands on the knees
A great tip for when your toddler is doing some downhill on cross country skis is to get them to put their hands on their knees. This helps to get a forward lean and bent knees, because people of all ages have a tendency to lean back when going downhill and end up on their bums. A great way to enforce this is to say ‘Hands on your knees and bend them please’. I honestly loved watching Etta try the downhill parts. She had a look of fierce determination as she slid down these extremely small bits of downhill.

Tip 5: Play a game
If your toddler is starting to feel comfortable in their skis, try playing a game of ‘Catch me’. Take turns chasing each other. This helps encourage your toddler to try different speeds and directions without over thinking their movements. Don’t stop there and get creative! There are lots of other ways to play and have fun while skiing. If you have older kids you could try playing a game of tag or ski handball. The game was one of my favourite parts of skiing with our daughter was when we played a game. The game is what kept our daughter skiing for about 40 minutes and we had a lot of laughs.

Now it is time to hit the ski trails. I hope these tips can help you and your little one enjoy skiing together. Let us know how your trip goes!

*Chariot sled is a multipurpose stroller. It can be used running, biking, hiking or cross country skiing using different attachments. 

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

The Big Move

Wow it has been a while since I have written a blog post. Honestly the move has left me feeling pretty exhausted. I have had a lack of motivation to sit down and actually think about stringing words together into a coherent post. Well I finally have the motivation now, and for this post, I've decided to drift away from the outdoor adventure theme and talk about what it was like moving from Vancouver to Calgary with two little ones. Here goes....

Our life in Calgary has begun. Cam is working his new job and I am exploring Calgary with the girls. I can see how we will really start to enjoy it here but whenever I reminisce on our time in Vancouver, I feel a bit down that we had to move on. It was a bitter sweet move for us, as we had set down some solid roots in Vancouver and were really starting to feel settled. Four and a half years living somewhere is a long time!!!

Everything has felt a bit chaotic these past couple months. It started with packing up all our stuff over the last 2 weeks of January, then having the movers come and then driving 11 or 12 hours with the girls from Vancouver to Calgary at the end of the month. It was a heck of an adventure driving in the snow through the Rockies with two little ones, but overall the drive was very smooth. Somehow though, it never fails that the girls have to scream the last 15 minutes of each stretch of driving. Talk about heart wrenching/frustrating. 

The morning of the move I woke up really needing some caffeine. The thought of opening a box, dirtying a dish and having to clean it was not appealing though, so I decided I would need to swing by a coffee shop. We had many different coffee shops around our area that we liked to frequent, but that morning I decided to keep it easy and head over to our local Starbucks while on my way to wash our VW camper to get it ready for storage. I was feeling a bit sad about the move and got talking with one of the baristas it as I placed my order. This particular barista knew me and the girls well, as I was a fairly regular customer and would often have brief conversations with her when I popped in. As I talked about how I was sad to be moving, she started to tear up and then cry. She gave me a big hug and grabbed this xoxo cup for me. That moment just reminded me of the closeness of the community at UBC that we lived in and what a special place it is. Not to mention that it was a really sweet gesture that pulled at my heartstrings too!

Washing our VW van for storage ended up taking two hours! It was a rainy day, so there wasn't much open for car washes besides this one place that we had found. This 2 hr van wash meant that we were behind schedule on everything. The above picture was the brief moment I had to say goodbye to our place. Exhausted and rushed, we quickly snapped a few photos. We were rushed because at this very moment the girls were overdue for a nap and the movers had just called to say they were waiting at the front of the apartment building.

The plan was for the kids to nap in the car as I drove the car to Chilliwack to stay the night at my sister's place. Cam was staying back to help the movers load up the truck. He was going to join us in Chilliwack later that evening.

After staying the night at my sisters we started on the longest part of our trip to Calgary. Clear roads and skies shined on us. I started to think we might be able to do the whole journey, 11 hours, in one day.

..... Not long after I had that flash of optimism, we found ourselves at a complete stop in a blizzard around the Coquihala summit. I laugh now that the thought crossed my mind. Not only were we driving with kids which meant more stops and whining car rides but we were also driving in the winter through the mountains which meant sketchy roads and short days. Anyways, my thoughts quickly flipped from the best to worst case scenario and I started thinking that maybe we would be sleeping in our car that night. If only we had our trusty camper instead of our little car! I didn't have too much time to dwell on my worries though, because after about 30 minutes we found out that a tow truck had just finished moving a car and we were able to continue at turtle speed. 

After another 30 minutes of driving, the roads cleared up completely and we were able to drive the speed limit for a good chunk of time. Our first stop was Merritt. We stopped there for gas and let Etta run around for a bit while I fed Julia. It was a short stop as we wanted to make it the 4 hours to Kamloops to have lunch. 

In Kamloops we went to the Chapters so that Etta could look at some books while I had a coffee. It was great to have a place for her to walk around. Etta is a very active 2 year old and needed the activity over sitting in a restaurant for lunch. We ended up getting our lunch to go afterwards and just ate in the car.

 Another two hours of driving and we arrived in Revelstoke. Etta needed about 30 minutes to run around with Cam while I went to fill up the car with gas. It was around 4:00 pm and we had to decide whether we would drive another hour and a half to Golden. Since it was already late we knew that we would be driving in the dark. We decided to continue on with our trip to shorten the length of our trip the next day. The last part of our trip slowed down considerably as nighttime approached. I was relieved when we finally arrived in Golden, as the roads were becoming foggy and it was pitch black outside. My mama bear persona was starting to come out as I wanted to protect my girls and get off the road.

When we got into Golden we were starving and headed straight for dinner. We were so happy to have finished the longest part of our drive. We then took the girls to a hotel. I put Julia to bed while Cam took our energetic Etta for a swim. She came back from the swim with Cam and was nice and quiet as we did our bedtime routine. Her and Julia slept really well and woke up singing to each other across the room.

The next day we ate the complimentary breakfast and were on our way. We only had 3 hours to Calgary and we decided we were going to meet Cam's parents in Canmore. They were there skiing with the Regina Ski club. A short visit over lunch and we were off again to Calgary. The girls napped during the last stretch which meant a date drive for Cam and I!

The girl's were still napping when we arrived in Calgary so we stopped by to take a quick picture of the new house before driving to my parents place, where we stayed the night. The next day the movers arrived at our new home and the chaos continued.

Honestly, our girls are amazing. The trip had its ups and downs but overall we had a great drive. I guess that is what adventuring with kids is really about. You can't expect things to go perfectly, but you enjoy it because you're doing it together - that goes for the exciting parts, the 'boring' parts and the extremely frustrating parts too.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Brain and Neuroplasticity

This post is moving away from what we normally blog about but I thought it was important!!! Cam recently finished his PhD and was asked to answer a few questions on the brain and neuroplasticity. Click here to see how he answers the questions. My favourite part is when he talks about how 'exercise has strong positive effects on the health and function of the brain.' Great evidence for encouraging kids to get outside and be active!!!

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Winter hiking with a baby and a toddler

The weather in Vancouver was amazing over Christmas break, which meant we were able to enjoy the outdoors a whole lot more than we were expecting, based on the prior few weeks of rain, rain and more rain. I guess Etta's singing of "Rain, rain go away" finally worked, and just in time in our books. Even though I try to get outside at least once a day with the kids no matter the weather, we were getting pretty tired of the mix of wet and cold. A turn for the better in time for the holidays was just what we needed, and lifted our spirits during our first Christmas on the west coast that we didn't travel east to be home with our parents.

Since we both grew up in places where Christmas meant snow we decided we wanted to go somewhere snowy over the Christmas holidays, even if this meant just for a day. And so, on New Year's day we decided to head to  Mount Seymour in North Vancouver.
It's been so long since Cam saw the sun, he can't even open his eyes!

Once we got to Mount Seymour, Etta suddenly started to sniffle, sneeze and just get all around fussy. I guess we didn't notice this during the hustle and bustle of packing up everything for the hike, but it seemed that she was overrun by a cold. As such, we quickly adjusted our expectations for the day. Instead of doing one of the harder mountain hikes we decided to do the short 2 km hike to First Lake. We were really lucky that the snow was nice and packed as we were not wearing any snow shoes or crampons. The trail had only a small incline. It felt like walking on sand and the only real obstacle was the occasional falling snow from the trees, which picked up throughout the day as the beautiful sun was melting the snow away. 

Special Note: If we did this again, we'd bring a small toboggan, magic carpet or saucer to slide down certain parts of the trail. Always good to add a little excitement for the little ones (and us too!).

The girls seemed to enjoy their time in their carriers. Etta was happy to get in and go for a ride while listening to Dad sing Christmas songs and tell Dora the Explorer stories. Her most exciting moments were when other people crossed our path, giving her the opportunity to shout "Happy New Year!" Julia, on the other hand, was quite content to snuggle up and zonk right out on Mom's back. 

It did not take us long to get to First Lake. Since it only took us about 30-45 minutes at a relaxed pace, we started to re-consider our earlier decision to scale back the hike (based on Etta's cold) and pondered the idea of hiking a bit further, then returning to First Lake for lunch. We knew that we could not push Etta up Dog Mountain because she was getting fussy so we decided to head up to a spot known as Dinkey Peak (yes, that's the real  name). 

It only took us about 5 minutes past First Lake (and a slightly unhappy toddler) to realize that the extra hiking just was not in the cards for us on this day. My motherly gut told me that we should head back to First Lake, have lunch and just enjoy the winter wonderland that we had found only 2 km from the parking lot. We enjoyed lunch and hot chocolate in a beautiful snowy clearing at First Lake (especially Etta, whose mood was brightened substantially by our decision to not hike on and instead to eat, drink and play) . Julia had some awake time spent rolling around in the snow, and we borrowed a nearby hiker's toboggan for a few runs down a small hill - more like a little snowy bump on the lake, but fun nonetheless.  

Best part of the day, hands-down, for Etta was drinking this hot chocolate!

We hung out at First Lake for about an hour playing in the snow and having snacks. The girl's made 'snow angels' and other hikers stopped to admire Julia and her gorgeous cheeks :)

Once again it was a great day to spend in the mountains. The hike was not as intense or long as maybe we would have liked but being together outside in the snow as as a family was really all we were going for anyways - mission accomplished!

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Tips for backpacking with a baby

These tips are based on a post I did previously about when we took our 1 year old on a backcountry trip. Click here to get caught up on our adventures backcountry.  The tips posted here are based on my reflections post-trip and what I might have done differently on my first back-country trip with a baby "If I knew then, what I know now". Please keep in mind that most of the tips are based on things that did not go particularly right for us on the trip. Plenty of things did also go well, and we would do it all over again in a heart beat even with the 'hiccups' that we had.

Choose a short hike
Choose a short hike for your first backcountry trip. By a short hike I mean something you could do even if you were sick and throwing up the whole time (like what happened to us!). That way if something goes wrong you can pack up and only have an easy hike back. Often these types of hikes take you to a nice lake which provides a great activity during the day for the kids. Then if all goes well you can go on a more challenging hike the next time. Our first time we went on a 20 km round trip hike which without a baby would have been relatively easy. Hiking 10 km down the mountain with a baby coupled with a stomach bug was not the most fun.

Practice run
Try out the tent you are going to be using with your family. Our mistake was never trying out our little backpacking tent with our little one before the big hike. We had only gone camping using our 'Glamping' tent which has enough room for us to put our daughters's small camping cot inside as a place for her to sleep. Our daughter likes her space when sleeping so I ended up breastfeeding her all night so that at least one of us could get a good sleep. This was very exhausting on a back country trip when you need energy.
Setting up our tent!
Short Stay
The first time I suggest going for 1 night only. Especially if you go for a longer 20 km round trip plus hike. That way if you do not get much sleep you are back down the mountain and sleeping in your own bed the second night. Our mistake was staying an extra night after having had hardly any sleep the previous night. That is also when our whole family got sick. It was very unexpected and made the trip down very difficult. It might seem like a waste of time to gear up and go for just one night. Then again if you are crazy enough to go on the hike with you baby you probably will love being up in the mountains for even a short amount of time. If it goes well then add another night or two the next time.

Take a Nap
If you have a bad sleep the first night take a nap or rest the next day if you want to stay for more than one night. Do this instead of going on a day hike. Taking a rest with a baby along can be difficult. Take turns looking after the baby if you had a bad night the night before. Instead of resting, we decided to take a day hike the following day because we were so excited to be in the mountains. As previously mentioned I had a really bad sleep and breastfed all night. Breastfeeding burns alot of calories and I find it can be quite exhausting. All these things contributed to a hard descent on the last day.

Go with other people
You honestly never know what kind of adventure will happen even on easy trails you feel comfortable hiking. It was key that we went with some good friends. We never expected to get so sick and without that support it would have been a lot more difficult to get out of the bush ourselves. Having our friends along saved Cam an extra 6 km of hiking to go back and get our pack. It also was nice to have friends to talk with during the hike and hang out with after the kids went to bed.
At night laughing with friends while Etta sleeps in the tent.

Go with other people that are crazier than you
Whenever I started to think about how crazy we were to take our daughter on this backcountry trip I always looked at our friends that came along. They hiked with us with their two (!) kids. One was the same age as Etta (1 year old) and the other one was 4 years old. In a funny way having, them along gave us more confidence that everything was going to be okay. Unfortunately our friend, the mother of the two kids, also got very sick when she was hiking down the mountain. 

Pack light
Bring only the necessities. This is true for any backpacking trip. Follow the regular guidelines and add whatever food, diapers, wipes etc that you will need for your baby. Remember that you don't want to have too much extra weight, since you've already got an extra 12 lbs, give or take a few, just hauling the babe around.
Etta rummaging through the bags.

Pack for all weather
If the weather forecast is sunny and free of clouds, what should you bring? You bring your rain jacket and warm clothes just in case. In the mountains weather can change in an instant and I have personally experienced this on a backcountry trip in Well's Grey National Park. From blue skies to rain and hail. Expect the unexpected especially when bringing your precious little one along.

Be prepared for anything
Make sure you have the appropriate safety gear, first aid kits and medications because you never know what can go wrong in the back country. This is true no matter how much you prepare. We made sure to bring baby Benydryl in case Etta were to have an allergic reaction to something in the wilderness.
A natural change table with a beautiful backdrop.
Be prepared to sing (Or do whatever is necessary)
Most of the hike Etta either slept or took in the nature surroundings. During any of our snack or lunch stops she would get out of the pack and explore. Unfortunately, in the last hour and a half Etta started to get really fussy. We knew we needed to just get to camp but Etta was starting to scream. I look at Cam who is talking with a a friend and yell 'Cam SING NOW!!". (You have to realize that without children, my husband would never sing in public and especially not in front of friends. He looks at his friend and is slightly embarrassed as he starts belting out "If you're happy and you know it clap your hands".)

Etta hanging out in her carrier with her Husk her husky dog. 

Good Fitness and Mental Toughness
Choose a hike that you could do relatively easy without a baby. The hike we took was a moderate hike that would not have been difficult if we had not become sick. Our levels of fitness and mental toughness were appropriate for the hike we chose, and that is what made the hike as safe as possible for us to do with our daughter. You can never predict nature and the obstacles you are going to face. However, when choosing a hike to do with your baby, make sure it is one that you could easily do at your level of fitness. Also be honest with yourself. Are you mentally tough enough to get through difficult situations that might arise? You need to know your limits and your strengths, and pick you hike appropriately. Cam and I talked about this prior to the hike. I knew that I could do the hike easily by myself, but with a baby I could not have done it without Cam. He has a very strong level of fitness and an even greater mental toughness than me which made this hike an appropriate one for us to do as a family.
Etta has some hiking breaks of her own.

Enjoy the experience
Backcountry hiking with a baby is not necessarily 'Fun'. Just like any backcountry hike you will find the experience of enjoying nature is not an easy walk in the park. Yes, there will be beautiful scenery, a break from your everyday life, smiles and encouragement from fellow hikers, looks of wonder and excitement in your child, and many other aspects of the hike that will be easy to enjoy. But, you have to try to enjoy the whole experience which means enjoying the sore muscles that accompany a long hike with a pack, and a baby that will occasionally whine, and need extra attention and entertainment when you're feeling dead tired. Call me crazy, but all of that adds up to an enjoyable experience for me. Now that I have two kids, a 6 month old and a 2 year old, I am looking forward to another back country trip in the summer of 2016 that should be even more 'enjoyable'!