Are the kids going?

In a few weeks we’ll be traveling to Nicaragua and almost everyone I’ve told has asked me if the kids are going. YES! The kids are coming we rarely travel without them.

Nicaragua is a place my husband and I have traveled before when we drove our Westfalia from Canada to Chile (if you look back I’ve posted some stories about the trip). He didn’t immediately fall in love with the place as I did and that’s another story (I’ll be sure to post soon) but it fit the criteria we were looking for in this family trip. We wanted to take the kids somewhere they speak Spanish and somewhere warm, check & check!

This time however we also wanted to add a bit of connection to the local people the kids really haven’t had before. So we’ve contacted a school in Granada and we will be taking some donations from my oldest son’s class to deliver when we visit. Things like arts and craft supplies mostly.

We chose this because we thought it would be something our kids could understand; at age 3 & 6 we can only expect so much but school is something they can both relate to. We’re hoping to show them how differently people around the world live. How much less people have and how happily they live their lives. We hope they’ll see the difference but the similarities as well. How a boy in Nicaragua likes to laugh and play just as they do. How he has to listen to his teacher and learn to read and write just as they do.

It feels poignant right now. Up here in Canada we have recently elected our Prime Minister who fills us with hope. Hope for bringing out the good in people. Hope for the future. But just below us, in America, watching the tidbits online it fills me with despair, true despair, to hear the politicians encourage racism, violence and hatred. I know we live in a bubble here on Vancouver Island, it’s why we live here, surrounded by lush green nature and welcoming supportive people it’s truly a paradise but I’m worried for my friends in America and how their lives will change if Trump is elected. Will their lives change? Will they survive President Trump? How will it affect us here in Canada? I’m afraid to find out the answer to these questions.

I want my children to know no matter where someone lives, no matter what they look like, how they dress, what religion they practice, how they feed their family we can always connect respectfully with one another. We can choose to point out the differences but we can also choose to celebrate the similarities because we are all human. We share this one planet. We breathe the same air. We all want to be loved, treated respectfully and with dignity. And every now and then we ALL need a hug to get through the day.

So this trip won’t be just all sand and surf it will also be about connecting and building relationships. It will be about celebrating similarities and diversity. It just feels right, right now.

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All I Want For Chirstmas

Christmas time can be a bit hectic traveling to see family or having them come to see you. It always seems like a lot of extra people milling around, more cars on the road, more folks in the shops. Even in a small community like ours here in Campbell River I find the energy picks up and the frantic panic of shoppers starts to invade my space.

So this year I opted for the pre-Christmas get away with my family and can’t recommend it enough. We picked Gowlland Harbour over on Quadra Island for a one night stay. Once you hit the grounds there you immediately start to feel a sense of calm. Tranquility resides there and that was exactly the energy I was looking for.

We didn’t completely hibernate. We visited a family friend for a perfectly roasted, roast lamb dinner with all the fixings. Finished that off with an epic dance performance from our 3yr old while we rubbed our full tummies. After tucking the kids into bed back in our cozy cabin at Gowlland Harbour we lit the wood burning fireplace pulled out the guitar and curled up on the couch with a sweet apple beer we had picked up at the local market. Truly feeling at peace.

 

The next day we treated ourselves to an amazing brunch fixed by Chef Joe at the Gowlland Harbour restaurant. Soaking in the light drizzle of rain over the calm harbour water while being nestled between the floor to ceiling window and the giant fireplace in the centre of the large open room was just about as good as it gets for a Sunday morning. We had a restful morning taking advantage of the generous late check out time and frolicked the grounds exploring every nook and cranny.

Eventually we climbed a steep mossy rock cliff back to the main dining area for a delightful afternoon of cookie decorating, crafting and even a visit from Santa himself put on by the resort management.

It felt good really good to just unwind together. No frantic last minute shopping searching for that hard to buy for person in the family just us, nature and great food.

Gowlland Harbour was the place for us, a short distance away with exceptional staff, food and grounds I can’t recommend it enough but if it’s not in your budget or you live farther afield find somewhere that is and take time to just enjoy the holidays together. This time of year can get wild but even just a one night escape can remind you to slow down, enjoy the moments and connect with the ones you love. Our only regret is we didn’t stay for longer, there’s always next time. I have a feeling this will be a new family tradition for us.

So, happy holidays to each and every one of you reading, wherever you are I hope you are safe, have good food in your belly and a warm roof over your head.

Much love.

Kimberlee xoxo

Collecting Moments

The point of writing, of writing this blog is to get stuff down. To tell our story. To put our history into words to be read down the road. I’ve been contemplating this a lot. Some times I just write for fun too. Or because we’ve had a great experience and I want other people to be inspired to get out there and have experiences, adventures. But sometimes it’s more personal, like today.

A few weeks ago I painted. Something I don’t do a lot of and quite frankly I’m not very good at. Normally I wouldn’t write about painting but as the project evolved it became more and more of a story I wanted to get down.

It started with my parents renovating the upstairs of their home. Renovations usually come with massive purges of things and at this point in their lifespan they’ve begun to minimize their “things” and just get back to basics, downsizing of sorts. So, I acquired my Dad’s old wardrobe. I needed something to put bit and bobs of things in and it seemed a perfect fit.

It sat in the garage for a few days before I decided I wanted to spice up the house with a bit of colour and finally went and got some paint. I’ve never used chalk paint and everyone raves about how easy it is to use, they are right, all of them, so easy. Well, I got the thing all painted up and was pretty pleased with myself then as I moved it into the house and reattached the original hardware this piece of furniture started to tell it’s story.

My sister was over visiting one day and she mentioned how the dresser seemed so short. We reminisced about trying to reach coins from the top of the wardrobe as little girls. How we boosted each other up to get change and then quickly jump on our bikes to ride to the nearby gas station for handfuls of 5 cent candies.

Then later I was filling the bottom drawer with games and began to tell my oldest son how this drawer was where my Dad, Pumpah as he calls him, kept his socks. I told him how I’d sneak into his room and pull out my favourite wooly pairs to wear to school. I told him how I did this so often I think Pumpah went with out socks a lot or how he’d come down the stairs and pull up my pants and demand his socks back, which I’d begrudgingly have to take off and return.

Where I stack my sewing fabrics and craft projects are where my Dad used to keep his sweaters. I’d even steal these to wear because wearing a big fuzzy warm sweater, especially your Dad’s, always feels good.

I’m so happy with how the project turned out the new version of my Dad’s wardrobe looks great, but what I’m really thrilled about is how filling up our home with things that have meaning, memories, love, has become important. How when I open the doors of the dresser that familiar slightly creaky sound makes me smile.

I’ve come across this quote a few times “collect moments not things.” I’m sure you must have heard this one too and probably think I’m crazy to believe I’m actually living this but I am. I truly think I am because some “things” are so full of memories it’s worth making an exception to the rule.

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My Dad’s old dresser
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One coat with the new colour. I {heart} chalk paint now!
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Closer up with a little distressing
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Then and now
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The devil is in the details
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I love the new pop of colour in our house

A travelling momma’s Mother’s Day

In true to me form I took my two boys to the “big city” this past weekend for a few days of fun with my best friend. Of course when we scheduled the trip I completely forgot it would be Mother’s Day.

So, my Mother’s Day wasn’t exactly full of blissful breakfast in bed followed by a lazy morning or some family time mixed with some “me” time. It started with an 0630 wake up call from my youngest, we snuggled on the couch after I got up and ran downstairs for coffee because my friend who we were visiting is not a coffee drinker and doesn’t keep any in the house. This meant I was dressed and in public by 0645, ugh.

On my way to get coffee, totally uncaffienated, I actually ran into a Dad pushing a baby in a stroller nearly knocking the poor thing over. While apologizing profusely and trying not to rub my now painful crouch I commented on what a good Dad he was letting this little one’s momma have a sleep in. He responded with “ya, she really needs it too!” Which led me to reminisce about my first Mother’s Day it’s a special one for sure.

Back to my now fifth Mother’s Day, coffee in hand, sandwiched between my two little fellas watching cartoons I was certainly happy even though my tummy was rumbling for some sort of breakfast in bed or not.

I was quickly distracted from the grumbling with preparing for us to leave and getting some food into my growing boys. Once everyone was awake and ready to hit the road we drove to Granville Island, one of my favourite public markets in the world. While my friend had the boys amused for a few minutes, buying them donuts of course, I took the opportunity to check out a new place just outside the market. I found myself face to face with a pistachio chocolate croissant, I figured I deserved a treat. Happy Mother’s day to me 🙂

Now this wasn’t breakfast in bed but it was certainly blissful. I admit I have a weakness for pistachios and chocolate so now I know putting them together in a nice flaky fresh out of the oven so it’s still warm in your hand croissant is a really, really good idea. Of course I would never make these at home, too much work, which means I HAVE to go back. Funnily enough the bakery is called A Bread Affair, which was clearly what was happening in my mouth, tastebuds meet you new lover.

Afterwards we left Granville Island and headed to Kits Beach for a play in the park before heading to the ferry and the rest of our journey home. At this point I realized I hadn’t taken many photos of the trip and I chalk this up to traveling alone with the kids. You almost always have one or two hands to hold, manage luggage, etc so typically the camera is an after thought. I did try however and managed to get an honest photo of my youngest mid temper tantrum, he did not want to go to the park or wear shoes or walk anywhere. He just wanted to roll around on the grass, rubbing his eyes and yelling “NO!”

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On our journey back home both boys fell asleep in the back of the car and I listened to music for the 90 minute drive from the ferry home contemplating my Mother’s day.

It felt good, it felt like me, not perfect, a little crazy, but grateful for the memories we made, the new experiences we shared. Grateful to be a mother and to be able to share this day with every other mother out there including my own.

A whale of a way to start the day

After our trip to visit family in Chile I made a committment to myself for this trip; I was going to find time for myself everyday to relax, just for me if only for an hour I was going to do it. So, I searched the internet for some yoga classes close to where we would be staying because I knew if I was left to my own devices my committment could easily be derailed. I tried two different studios in Kihei, Maui Yoga Path and Kihei Community Yoga Centre.

I enjoyed all my yoga classes immensely, but Maui Yoga Path worked for me the best it was early in the morning and just a short walk away.

Heading down to my third class of the week I was full of doubts and feeling like each step was just taking a little bit more energy than usual. When I arrived I unrolled my mat onto the short green grass and plopped my butt down while crossing my legs to stare out into the ocean waiting for the class to begin. I wasn’t there a moment when a grey whale breached directly in front of me. My eyes opened wide and my breath just stopped. I quickly looked around and spotted a couple only a few feet to my right when our eyes connected through beaming huge smiles we squeaked out; “did you just SEE that?” simultaneously. It was so unreal we had to check in with each other to confirm it actually happened.

To my further amazement the whale stayed throughout my private lesson, no one else showed up to class, slapping the water with its fin and tail. At one point in her soft yogic voice my instructor asked me to raise my right hand up to the sky and my whale, certainly we were buddies now, raised her fin and just held it there, in a simple salute.

Facing out towards the ocean moving through the class watching my whale moving through her own morning routine filled my soul right up. That coupled with chest openers throughout the session on my short jaunt back to the condo, to my family, I felt like my heart was leading the way. I felt lighter, taller, straighter and stronger all at once, in that moment my life felt blissfully perfect.

My silent exchange with this majestic animal was an acknowledgement of sorts, we were both taking our time. Her a straggler at the end of the migration season, me a wife and mother separated from my pack for a morning, moving through the world, taking in the sunrise, stretching out for the day ahead. Preparing to take on the rest of the journey whether it be a day at the beach with family or an epic journey across oceans we knew our tanks need refilling on this morning.

 

 

Recharge your batteries with a 24hr staycation

A well planned 24 hour escape is sometimes all you need to to recharge your batteries.

When we travel it’s most often with the kids in tow and this can sometimes leave you needing a vacation from your vacation. I’ve been feeling like this since we stepped off the plane from Chile a few weeks ago and we’re about to embark on another family adventure soon. In the mean time taking care of this family, working and preparing for the next adventure had me feeling a little less than perky these past few days. Then my husband came home form work one day and I could just tell he was feeling the same, we needed a break.

On Tuesday I decided to book us a room in Victoria, 3.5hr drive away, arranged the grandparents to have our kids for a sleepover and informed my husband about our plans for Thursday night. But I knew it wasn’t just about being somewhere else we needed to relax, not just sleep in.

By the time we left Thursday after work I had the workings of a 24hr relaxation plan. We drove to Nanaimo and picked up dinner along the way. Speeding along the highway we talked about our week not even with the music on in the background just talked and got everything out. When we arrived our room had been upgraded to a harbour view and it would have been nice to just relax and let the exhaustion of the week take over but we bundled up and headed for a brisk walk around the inner harbour in the crisp night air. Victoria is brilliantly light up at night with perfectly spaced lighting around the Legislative buildings and reflections of the street lamps off the water it never feels really dark.

A post walk drink at our hotel bar sitting by the huge window over looking the boat slips below was the perfect night cap to the first few hours of our 24hr staycation.

Before we went to bed we decided on ordering room service breakfast which is really out of the norm for us. I LOVE brunch, but the goal was to relax and I didn’t want us to hurry off in the morning to beat the morning brunch crowd. The best part is it seems hotels have come around and the room service menu was in line with what you would pay at any restaurant these days. The food was good, not spectacular but honestly having it delivered hot to your room exactly when you want while you are still in your jammies was perfect.

Part of the plan I had concocted was going to a gentle yoga class at a studio nearby. We went to Hemma yoga studio and moved through a 75 minute class with an emphasis on guided mediation at the end. We left virtually silent, practically melting into our car seats. We really didn’t talk much on the drive home, we didn’t need to, but when we arrived to pick up the kids all felt right in the world again.

I never regret taking time for just the two of us our journey together is just as important as our journey as a family there’s no destination worth arriving at to simply let our foundation fall to pieces.

Adventuring begins with the first step

Growing up on Vancouver Island my boys are no strangers to what the wet and wild west coast has to offer. My oldest has gone through 3 pairs of rubber boots this winter already. Not outgrowing them, out using them! The rips in their jeans were not purchased rather earned through failed attempts to jump, run, bike or hop their way through the natural world.

I’m one of those people when you ask “whats your favourite time of year?” I’ll immediately say summer, no hesitation. I revel in the warmth of sunny days but in the middle of summer my heart yearns for a brisk fall day and in the middle of winter I look forward to the green of spring.

Spring seems the most alive season and wandering through the damp trails in the mornings is one of my favourite things to do. The foliage seems to sparkle and I’m mesmerized.

Yesterday we hiked along Oyster River trail leading to where the river meets the ocean. As we pulled in to park I heard my oldest mumble under his breath “not this one again.” Ignoring his unenthusiastic comment I bustled both boys out of the car and started on down the path. It’s been raining around here lately so the path was slick with mud and adorned with sporadic puddles perfect for encouraging smiles in even the most unimpressed 5 year old boy.

Here’s where the adventure begins. Instantly covered in mud from their toes to their noses the trail becomes a pirate’s ship, walking the planks of old fallen logs immediately turning them into super heros hiding behind fresh rain washed ferns onto pretend bows made from twigs to shoot pretend arrows at imaginative dinosaurs trembling the forest floor with every step. Once we reached the beach my head was spinning not sure if I was good, bad, ugly or being saved from something fierce.

A short reprieve came when I silently watched them struggle to build a driftwood fort attempting to carry logs 3-4 times the size of themselves. On the way back we stopped to marvel at the speed of the river flow and the newly sprung greenery all while hitting every single mud puddle possible.

Somedays it takes all my energy stepping out the front door with a wild 2 year old and a distracted, moody 5 year old. I frequently contemplate the life of a hermit but when you let everything go, everything, and just follow the little minds of these natural adventurers it’s a whole new world to see, to be in. One minute you’re far, far away and the next your smack dab in the range of the muddiest puddle splash.

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The pictures, from my phone camera, don’t do it justice the green is so vivid and the contrasts and textures of nature so deep it needs to be explored in person. Open the door, step outside you won’t regret it.

Travel, be prepared for the changes ahead.

7 weeks after arriving home from our adventures in Chile we’re getting ready to pack up our bags for sand, sea and surf once again.

We’re not rich, we don’t have the luxury of huge bank accounts and unlimited vacation days, but we choose to make travel an important part of our lives with our children.

When we visit our friend’s homes I envy their nice couches and fancy cars. Heck, I even dream about one day having clean matching fluffy bath towels and so does my husband but we choose to spend our hard-earned money on travel because that’s who we are.

It’s not about judgement. I don’t judge others for their choices I’m simply just stating mine so when you come to visit you don’t expect nice bath towels.

Lately I’ve ben trying to put a finger on what makes traveling so vital to my core being. It’s actually a hard question to answer because not every trip is relaxing and/or exciting.

What I know is traveling opens my eyes to the struggles of other people in this world some of which have been so shocking they’ve changed my entire perspective on survival, on life. You see, I have witnessed unwavering human strength. It’s quite a remarkable thing.

While volunteer nursing at Kanti Pediatric Hospital in Kathmandu Nepal some 10 years ago now I spent some time on the burn unit. Unfortunately this was the most overcrowded unit in the hospital because many families use open flame and oil for cooking. Children often came in with second or third degree burns. One child, a little boy around 5 years old, was brought in by helicopter from the remote Everest region just before my arrival.

This little fella was lucky to be alive his mother had been holding him when she was hit by lightning, dying instantly, his father carried him for 3 days until he reached help. Over half his body was covered in third degree burns from the lightning strike. When I met him it had been almost a week since his mother had died. During our first encounter he was lying beside his father on an ancient hospital bed; my heart sank a little. I knew his recovery would be a steep uphill battle, maybe insurmountable. Over the next week I watched his father care for him with trepidation he seemed to be floating through actions, holding his breath. There were 2 nurses on the unit and they did all the dressing changes, rationed the morphine, family members were to take care of the rest, feeding, bathing, comforting, etc. When this little fella needed blood I sat at his bedside while his father went to give his and read him a few stories. When the father returned I was right in the middle of pulling the sheet up over his son’s little body, my back turned to the door, all I heard was a small yelp and a thud. When I spun around I saw the father on his knees in the doorway. I instantly thought he was light-headed from having had his blood drawn and went to him. As I bent down to help him up his arms enveloped me and he squeezed so hard it almost took my breath away. I was motionless, frozen and barely able to breath. When the translator came over to assist me learned the father was profusely thanking me for being there with his son, shaking my hand, calling me an angel. The lump in my throat was overtaking my voice and I was struggling trying to tell him his son was only asleep. He thought I was pulling the sheet up over his son’s head. He thought his son had died while he was gone. He was devastated. The translator did not know the child was alive and he was wiping tears from his own eyes when I finally found my voice again, through heavy sobs, I got it out. Asleep. Alive. Not dead. We all crumbled into a flood of tears.

I can remember the hospital room this man and his son lived in for the rest of my time at Kanti down to the very detail when I close my eyes. It’s a thread sewn into heart and mind forever.

Sometimes when things are getting a little hectic around here well, I think you know what I’m going to say. It’s not just about counting our blessings though, every trip changes me a little, sometimes a lot, focusing my ideas, direction, the way I parent, be a friend, a co-worker, a wife. If you knew me 10 years ago you don’t know me now and I’m sure I’ll be different in 10 more years because our old dilapidated couches aren’t that comfortable so I’ll be out there in the world continuing to explore, the world and myself.

 

Parent Pit Stop

I can’t tell you how many hours I’ve spent looking for parks to play in, making sure all the sand toys were packed and searching for pools that are not too deep for a toddler to play in while traveling with my kids, it’s been many. Sometimes we’re so focus on making sure our kids are having a good experience we put our own needs aside. So lately I’ve become a big advocate for what I’ve termed the “Parent Pit Stop” when traveling with children.

A parent pit stop is anything you, the parent(s) want to do together, keeping in mind the kids will still be with you. Previously we’ve stopped at breweries but on our recent trip to Chile we were driving through wine country and spur of the moment decided to take a detour to a roadside winery. It went a little something like this:

Kids: “we’re hungry”

Me: “we should stop for ice cream”

Husband: “how about that winery back there?”

Me: “Ya sure they probably have food and we can do a tasting.”

Husband: “But I’m driving.”

Me: “that’s OK I’ll take one for the team” batting eyelashes, big smile, coquettish look.

U-turn to the winery.

We ended up at Estampa Winery one whose international export is limited and rarely available in Canada so naturally we walked out with a few treasured bottles. There was no food offerings or ice cream but it was a nice break to get out of the car into the fresh, warm air, use the clean toilets and sip a few glasses of delicious vino in a magnificent architectural setting. The kids got a chance to release some pent-up energy by running down the paths of the vineyard and trying to climb the big bottle in the middle. All in all it was a win-win.

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The parent pit stop doesn’t always have to be a brewery or winery but let’s be honest who doesn’t need a drink when you’re on vacation with you kids!

**As an obvious side note I do not condone drinking and driving only one of us does the tasting then we enjoy whatever we buy together at a later time**

How yoga saved my last family trip

I have always been on again off again with my yoga practice but over the last year and a half it’s become an, at minimum, bi-weekly meeting of my toes and mat. It’s felt great and I’ve actually felt my body progress in poses I never thought possible.

On our most recent trip to Chile I contemplated stuffing a mat into the luggage but in the end it didn’t make the cut.

Travelling to Chile means visiting my in-laws. Ummm, delicately put things do not always lean towards butterflies and rainbows instead rather heavily towards awkward silences and biting my tongue. This trip was no exception.

But if you have ever gone to just one yoga class your entire life or maybe never attended one you probably still know the first rule of yoga is: breathe. In through the nose out through the mouth it is simplicity at it’s finest. For me one big yogic breath and I’m a cool, calm and collected every, single, time.

Just the breathing exercises alone was a huge support to my mental stability through the trip but what really helped me get through was actually hitting the mat. As is usually the case after long flights, and inconsistent sleeping arrangements (pull out couches, hard mattresses, soft mattresses, etc) my back was starting to scream. So I arranged time with my husband to have an hour to myself, borrowed a mat and went through a class in my mind. There was children crying and yelling in the background (not mine), adults speaking loudly and more than I would have liked, interruptions, but by the end I was left alone for just enough time to focus on my practice.

I felt lighter, longer, straighter, centred and most importantly I felt like me again. All the stress from travelling with the kids, dealing with our family in the context of the extended family and trying to make it a positive experience for our kids simply melted away momentarily. On top of that I felt like I was “doing” yoga myself, not just being led but taking control of my practice for the first time ever. It probably wasn’t the perfect flow sequencing but it was certainly empowering getting the results I was looking for from my own knowledge. Hmmmm maybe I’m ready to really take the plunge into ramping up my own home practice?

The second chance I got onto the mat was at a surf lodge we stayed at in Pichilemu. They offered a free evening class 6 days a week and I eagerly jumped at the chance to take part. It was the first time I’ve taken a class not knowing the language but yoga lends itself to invitation no matter what language you speak. I may not have taken home all the “lessons” the teacher was speaking about but following along and getting the basics was easy and felt just right.

Inhalamo, exhalamo, smile.

At this point in the trip, nearing the end, I just needed a bit of “me time” as may or may not be the case for you sometimes travelling to visit family is not exactly relaxing but after this class I practically bounced back to the room ready to take on whatever the evening had in store.

My suggestion when you’re feeling stressed on your vacation find time to do something you love even for just a few minutes it’s amazing how quickly your soul re-energizes when you show yourself some love.

 

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This is me finding a little time to stretch lakeside in Nicaragua a few years ago