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.

Getting Back to Nature: Little Huson Caves

I’ve been finding the summer days, although luxuriously long, have been falling through my grasp like fine dry sand. Looking back, well I don’t even want to do that right now because frankly it scares me a bit how fast days, weeks and then months disappear, gone.

I’ve also been needing a great big dose of nature. Just us in the wild, no one else but us with trees, a big body of water, blue skies (preferably) to just explore somewhere and it needed to be a new place.

I stumbled, online, onto Little Huson Caves. Just floating around the interweb thinking about exploring the north of Vancouver Island I found this site. The first opportunity I had to go was last weekend but my husband was out of town so I bribed a friend, with drink, to accompany me and my two wild boys on an adventure and what we found was unbelievable.

Little Huson Caves is about 90 minutes north of Campbell River. After taking the turn off to Zeballos you follow the well placed highly visible signs all the way into your parking spot at the trailhead. The trail is so easy my 3 year old could do it no sweat, both ways, while jabbering about anything and everything that crossed his mind. We took small glow in the dark sticks for the kids to explore the caves with and I highly recommend this if you go with children or headlamps at the very least. The caves are very open so taking a light source is not a requirement for having good time but let’s face it, it’s way more fun with light sticks!

This weekend my husband was here and my short burst of caving experience had given me an idea. I planned our over night lake/cave/canoe adventure.

When we left Saturday morning my husband looked at me from the driver’s side and said “so, where are we going?” I wasn’t exactly sure but I knew I wanted to find somewhere it could just be us with no influences, no noise. “North” I said with a confident shrug. I had some ideas in mind but with the camp fire ban finally lifted after many, many weeks I was certain we would be battling to find any kind of privacy. We started again down the road to Zeballos and I found myself thinking what have I gotten us into now, would we be spending all day looking for a camping spot? The kids were already getting a bit tired of being in the truck, placating them with copious amounts of snacks and finally, grudgingly, handing over my husband’s iPhone we pulled up and parked in a small gravelly parking lot. I had scouted this spot out the previous week but had wholeheartedly expected to be confronted with a well established camp filled with seasoned J Crew clad campers frolicking in their smoky camp fire scent. What I received was glorious space, filled with everything nature. A small lake, perfect for our relaxing family canoe paddle, enough wood, rocks, blue sky and trees to fill up my nature void.

Ok, sooooo the relaxing family canoe ride was, ummm, not exactly relaxing being only the second time my husband and I have canoed together. Broadside to the wind, actually paddling in circles, the kids yelling we are “going to crash” into some rocks at the edge of the lake was anything but relaxing but once our feet were firmly planted on firm ground we hit our stride, well right after the wasp sting.

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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.

Travel just to watch the sunset and you will find beauty everywhere.

Goodbyes are not forever. Goodbyes are not the end. They simply mean I’ll miss you, until we meet again.

A little poem I stumbled across on the internet today perfectly sums up how I felt about saying goodbye to Maui a few days ago. I have lots to tell but for now just the sunsets. My oldest came to watch them with me every night. Every night. Sunset pals. Saying goodbye to the day together. Perfect.

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PS other than cropping I’ve left the photos unedited, Mother Nature’s paintbrush at it’s finest.

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.

 

 

The Storm before the Calm

On the eve of our next adventure I stood in the middle of our bedroom surrounded by clothes, luggage, personal grooming items, passports and out came a big sigh, turning on my heel I walked out the door. I wish I could say I was headed for a pedicure or something relaxing like that but as I slipped my unpedicured feet into my shoes I was mentally counting off the number of errands I had to run in order to prepare for our journey. Bank, drug store, bank again because I probably forgot something the first time, post office, etc.

Getting a family of four ready for a vacation is work. To me it always feels a bit like a tornado, everything is whirling around me and I’m holding on for dear life because I know it’s eventually going to come to an end and my feet will land on the ground again, preferably on white sandy beach ground.

It doesn’t end when all the luggage is packed and the kids are buckled in the car because even though I have well behaved kids, super biased here, airports make children crazy. Maybe it’s the energy of the place, people’s excitement to see their loved ones, families heading out to a sunny destination for a well deserved break but children at the airport are like a pack of puppies. They want to see everything, sniff everything, pee all the time, climb up things, down things, run, run, run.

So here’s my suggestion to those of you travelling without kids. STEER CLEAR. Seriously. Don’t sit by the playground if you want to zone out on your handheld device or read a book, do not use the walking people mover thing whatever they are called they are a kid magnet and certainly do not expect children to not bump into you and your luggage while waiting in line for customs, actually you should probably expect to be whacked with one of those fabric retractable line formation things, whatever they are called. I’m sorry, truly I am.

Here’s the secret. I’m letting them run wild, as wild as possible because shortly they are about to be confined in a small space and expected to sit in one seat for a long, long time because anything longer than 5 minutes is really, really long for a toddler. It’s totally unnatural to their little bodies and the more pent up energy they have, well, you can guess.

I read awhile back about a couple who handed out a gift package to all the passengers on the plane, kinda of pre-apology to their fellow passengers for having to travel on the same plane as their infant. Well, you won’t be getting anything from me and here’s why; when I buckle myself into the airplane seat I’m still trying to figure out whether I’ve packed everybody’s toothbrush and trying to come to terms with the fact I’ve probably forgotten to turn off some lights at home while simultaneously whacking a finger out of one of my kid’s noses.

So feel free to shoot me a dirty look, request to have your seat moved further away, I would if I were you, but please, please, please remember families need vacations, preferably at white sandy beach destinations, too.

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.

My love affair with street food

I have no idea where it started but I have this love affair with eating food made on the street, from a cart, food truck, a small hot plate on the sidewalk, sold from the trunk of a car it always peaks my intrigue and then my appetite.

I’ve heard it a million times the “don’t eat that you’ll get sick” but I always throw caution to the wind and do it anyway and yes, I have been ill many, many times while traveling. I’m more skilled now though. It has to be hot, like scorch your mouth you have to wait 20 minutes for it to cool down enough to eat hot and I like to see it being made. I make exceptions though, rules are meant to be broken, right?

One of my favourite things to get in Chile is ceviche. Fresh, juicy, salted morsels of white fish “cooked” in an ungodly amount of lemon juice sprinkled with finely chopped onion and fragrant cilantro what’s not to love? With it’s long coast line Chile is a seafood lovers paradise. There are so many types of fish and seafood in two weeks of travel you will have barely scratched the surface. The best part, it’s cheap.

Ceviche can be found at vendors on the various beaches our favourite is Totoralillo (pronounced toe-toe-ra-lee-yo) just south of La Serena. There you can find multiple vendors barely arm’s length from where the fishing boats dock to unload their catches. We scooped up a couple of cups for $3 each.

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Maybe because it’s usually cheap or readily available or the food of the people I really don’t know but what I do know is my kids are already veterans of street food and I like it that way.

Ok, ok but what about the food in Chile

I’ve been writing a lot about traveling with kids, visiting in-laws, even doing yoga on vacation and a spontaneous winery stop but what about the food. Don’t think I’ve forgotten. I haven’t. I’m actually still dreaming about one place we stopped that stole my heart.

Pan Pan Vino Vino.

We stopped here on a recommendation from the fella at Estampa winery, which is just down the road and I couldn’t have been more overjoyed with the result. We hit the end of the lunch rush with the few remaining tables getting up to leave on our arrival, lunch is the main meal in Chile so you usually find full tables for most of the afternoon, and quickly nestled into a rustic outdoor table in the shade with just a slight breeze diminishing the hot humid day.

Since we were headed to my father in-laws for a BBQ that evening I choose to sample the appetizer cheese plate with four locally made cheeses, a few dates wrapped in bacon and complemented it with a Pisco Miel. Pisco Sour is the traditional drink in Chile at Pan Pan Vino Vino they substitute the sour for a slightly sweeter version with honey; a delightful result. With my Pisco Miel in hand I settled back into the chair to watch my boys finding their own shady comfort zone in the nearby hammocks. My husband ordered a fuller lunch opting for succulent stone oven roasted lamb and root vegetables cooked to perfection served with a side of mashed garlic cauliflower. Hearing him moan over the lamb, dripping hot savoury broth with every forkful, I admit to thieving a few bites for myself.

The food, the food, it was divine, but the atmosphere stole the show. Just off the bustling highway you enter into a completely different world. The quiet and understated front exterior opens into an open air courtyard dining experience where the owner has perfected old world rustic charm with touches of the modern perfectly placed as evidenced in the bathroom pictured below. Actually, I’ll just stop talking now and let you see what I’m talking about.

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DSC_0307DSC_0312DSC_0289DSC_0324 One thing I’ve learned while traveling it’s ALWAYS a great idea to get a locals recommendation, seek them out, most of the amazing places I have been directed to aren’t obvious but are always, always memorable.

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**