Hawaii honeymoon

A summertime emergency kit

You know what’s fun? Shopping for crayons. You know what’s especially fun? Shopping for crayons you don’t plan on letting your kids use.

Staples is doing a promotion with Visa Checkout and I was offered the chance to build a summertime emergency kit. If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you’ll know that when it comes to this whole parenting thing, I’m pretty much always game for an emergency kit that will make this gig easier.

I’m a little anxious about school ending for Connor. He does better when he’s busy and active and challenged, and I’m concerned about what our days might be like when he’s not at school all day. Or more specifically what my evenings might be like, because I already get him at his most excitable and there are times I can barely get through dinner without eyeing the garage and wondering if anyone would notice if I duct taped him to his chair. With some stuff to keep him occupied, and some activities we can do on weekends when our time together is more, shall we say, in need of help, I’m feeling a little better.

So I went shopping on the Staples website. For starters, when I searched “Crayola” I got a ton of results. I had no idea.

I bought art supplies and paper and craft kits and paint and finger-painting kits. (I know. Paint. The whole idea of an emergency kit making me a fantastic mom might have gone to my head.)

I bought sketchbooks and glue sticks and construction paper. I might also have bought the 64-pack of crayons with a built-in sharpener and I might not let the kids use it. (Oh, who am I kidding? Connor claimed that one right away.)

6 pack crayons

But I did get them a crayon meltdown art set, so maybe they won’t notice.

Connor loves it when boxes are delivered and loves opening them, especially when he can get his hands on the goods, so this is a hit already.

colouring

Ethan likes to make stuff. He also likes to write on things like walls and floors, so I’m hoping the plethora of paper options will keep him from causing an emergency of another sort (the kind involving a Magic Eraser and mama saying some bad words).

doing crafts

I like to colour, so I figure the contents of the emergency kit will set us up for some good summer days. And if the finger-painting goes sideways, well, at least there might be a Mother of the Year award in it for me. Even if it’s just the E for Effort category.

***

I shopped online at Staples.ca and bought the supplies using Visa Checkout and a Visa gift card that was given to me. I’ll admit to being a bit wary about how easy it would be to use, but I needn’t have been. It was super easy.

It’s not finicky like other pre-paid cards I’ve tried, and Visa Checkout makes it especially easy because you can create a single account sign-in that can be used across all devices (and no need to keep re-entering the card number or address either).

VISA CheckOut Button_4

Here’s a quick how-to for all you Canadians out there. There are just three steps on http://checkout.visa.com:

  • Step one: Create a username and password.
  • Step two: Enter your payment and shipping information. (You only have to do this once)
  • Step three: Look for the Visa Checkout button when you’re shopping online, enter your username and password, and go!

That’s it. Seriously. It’s secure and Visa’s Zero Liability policy applies in case of fraud.

You can use Visa Checkout at many of your favourite Canadian online stores, with many more joining each month. For a full list, visit https://checkout.visa.com/shopping.

And bonus! If you want to create your own summertime emergency kit, there’s a way to stock it extra full. From now through May 12, 2015, Canadians who use Visa Checkout on Staples.ca will receive $20 off when they spend $100! More info at http://www.staples.ca/VisaCheckout.

Giveaway

Want to start stocking up with a Visa gift card of your own? Enter to win one here. (Just promise to keep some unbroken crayons for me.)

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Redemption

I never really wrote about the few days we spent in Radium, BC. Partly because I’m not really sure what to say about it and partly because it seemed ungrateful to whine about time away with my family in a lovely location with an almost ideal place to stay.

I love visiting the mountains. I love how they sit silently and provide a backdrop for whatever I might feel like pondering. I love how in my head they’re always covered in snow, even in the summer.

When we went to Radium the snow was in short supply, and that’s sort of where the problem started.

I went hoping to find the sort of place that has its own rhythm and order of existence, but when I got there I found that all the rhythms I’m used to had followed me – the morning rhythm that results in antsy kids if we don’t get out of the house soon enough and the lack-of-inspiration rhythm that still leaves me with a complete blank when the plans I had in mind fall through. I wasn’t confronted with much of anything except my usual frustration and the wish that the four of us could get our own rhythms more in sync.

When I was little we used to go through Radium on the way home from our cottage. At least I think that’s where we were going to and coming from. Nothing about my memories of that time fit with this experience over 30 years later. What I wanted to do was relive that experience of soaking in the hot springs and putting jammies on and feeling cozy and falling asleep in the car. I was even willing for it to be my kids falling asleep in the car instead of me.

I wanted to go and try some winter activities that have long appealed to me but that we haven’t really done, even with all our winter exploring here. I wanted to skate on the lake and go snowshoeing and possibly even ski for a day. But when we got there the lake wasn’t frozen and there was no snow on the ground and the hot springs weren’t at all like I remembered them. Still nice, but decidedly less relaxing with a hyper, impulsive six-year-old in tow.

It just wasn’t a good trip, you know?

In the end I think my feelings about the lack of inspiration that trip provided were more about my own (possibly unrealistic) high expectations and subsequent disappointment than anything to do with the place itself.

Luckily, I have found redemption.

Aerial view of Grande Rockies Resort

Suddenly, and quite unexpectedly, we had a chance to visit Canmore. Another of my favourite places, Canmore is a truly lovely mountain town. It has a backdrop of snow-covered mountains and a pub I like and trains running through it.

So we went.

We stayed at a place I hadn’t been to before, in a nicely appointed two bedroom suite. Do you know how heavenly a two-bedroom suite is when travelling with kids? Of course you other parents do. You know that you can put the kids to bed (and not in the same room!) and not have to sit in the dark trying to be quiet. And that you can take advantage of the kitchen to feed your early risers some toast and cereal without having to change out of your pajamas and do something about your morning hair. And that you can make yourself a cup of tea whenever you damn well feel like it.

Two bedroom suite at Grande Rockies Resort

There was still no snow on the ground, but that was quite nice. We went out for lunch and for a bike ride and swam in the pool.

Indoor pool with waterslide

We floated in the indoor/outdoor hot tub at night and looked up at the stars.

Indoor-outdoor hot tub

I went for a run along the train tracks and wandered into a few stores and stopped for a drink at a coffee shop that I love and that reminds me of the time we went to a winter festival and went cross country skiing right down the middle of main street.

I’m sure it was just a coincidence, but I feel as though someone sensed my disappointment from our earlier trip and said, hey, I can fix that. 

And then did.

 

———-

We were offered a chance to stay at the Grande Rockies Resort in Canmore and said yes before we could check whether they were teasing us with mountains. (They weren’t.) It was a great place that we hadn’t been to before and it had everything we needed to make a really good weekend out of it. They offered us this great hospitality without any expectation that I’d write a post about it, but I did because we really did enjoy it and I’m grateful for the time and experience our stay allowed us to have. 

All photos copyright Grande Rockies Resort. 

Just as they are

 

canvas print family photo

I cherish this photo. The photo session that produced it was a total freaking gong show but I barely remember that when I look at this picture. What I see is Connor’s laugh and his sense of humour in this moment that actually captured what he looks like when he thinks something is funny (rather than his goofy photo face). And I see the absolute joy that is Ethan.

I was talking to a colleague and friend at work a couple of weeks ago, and she mentioned that when her kids go to school on picture day she lets them go however they are – messy hair, weird clothes, the whole deal. And if the proofs come back and they have goofy expressions she buys them up, figuring that she’ll have a record of just who her kids were at the time.

I’m not sure I have quite embraced that approach. If we had purchased the proofs from this session that showed just who my kids were as demonstrated by their behaviour at the time, we’d have photos with Connor’s sour expression indicating just how much he didn’t want to be acting nice for the camera and Ethan with a soother in his mouth, probably crying after we tried to remove it for a picture. We’d probably have a photo of Connor hitting me and body-slamming Ethan, and one of Rich sitting with Connor to try to calm him down. We’d have one of me looking frustrated and possibly trying not to cry.

Needless to say, the family photo sessions we have done were nightmares. We did one resulting in the photos above and an earlier one when Ethan was six weeks old, and I remember them both as horrible, barely-worth-it experiences (except for the part where newborn Ethan pooped on Rich). But after both sessions we looked at the proofs (and I mostly looked past how terribly unphotogenic I am) and I saw my kids just as they were at that time. Not the cranky, goofy sides of them but the happy, full-of-joy sides of them and how they look like Rich and sort of like me, and I was glad to have them.

For a while now I’ve wanted a canvas print, so I chose this photo and got one made and hung it on the wall opposite the foot of our bed. Now those joyful faces, already looking younger than they do now, smile back at me every night and, nightmare or not, that’s all I ever really wanted out of those photo sessions anyway.

 

 Disclosure: Canvas Factory gifted me this print but my love for it is my own.

Automagic photo sharing (+giveaway)

A couple of weeks ago I posted about the Locket app and how I’ve been using it to collect memories and photos of the boys. I filled up the fall months and already have some tree-decorating pictures in there for December.

The other piece to this is a frame that will display those photos to a family member or friend who’s far away (or near by, I suppose – I don’t know about you but I don’t do a very good job of visiting people in the next community over…).

I sent this frame to my sister and her husband, who live in another city and don’t get to see the boys all that often. The photos I’ve added to the app appear (automagically, as Connor would say) on their frame and lets them stay up to date on what we’ve been doing.

Locket frame by NixPlay

Ethan bowling

It’s pretty cool, actually. Once my sister turned it on and connected to WiFi, that was it. I just add photos and they get all the new ones on their frame. She also set it up so that it comes on automatically when it detects motion and goes off if it detects no movement for 5 minutes.

Locket frame by NixPlay

Connor with his new cousin

We haven’t done this yet, but you can sync up to 10 users on one account, so my sister could get photos of my nephews and new niece as well if my other sister and brother used the Locket app (available on iTunes). Photo sharing made super easy – I love it.

Want to give it a go? The Locket app is free (and it develops an e-timeline and a photo book as you go – visit www.lifelocket.net for more information), and I’m giving away a Locket frame, which is designed by NixPlay. The Locket Frame is available in three different sizes: 8”, 12” and 15” and if you want to get straight to it (Christmas present, perhaps?) you can find those through the shop section of the Locket app.

 

Disclosure: I am part of the Timewyse Locket blogger program with Mom Central and I receive special perks as part of my affiliation with this group. The opinions on this blog are my own.

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Now We Are Six

Dear Connor,

Last night after dinner we put together the loot bags for your birthday party. They’re Star Wars themed, like your invitations, and your dad had selected a bunch of things along that theme that six-year-olds might like. As we put them together, you helped sometimes, and ran around sometimes, playing with the various extra bits, pretending you had a light sabre, and it struck me once again, in that moment, that you are six. You know things about Star Wars and light sabres and you are six.

Star Wars birthday invitations

For the last couple of months as we led up to your sixth birthday, my chest has been tight thinking about it. I don’t know why. There isn’t anything particularly noteworthy about turning six; at least not that I can think of. You might notice that this year, unlike other years, I have titled this letter, “Now WE are six.” For some reason this birthday, unlike other years, feels more like it’s about us and not just about you.

I have thought about this a lot, trying to figure out why. The closest I can come is that it has something to do with the stage Ethan has reached. At 18 months (and then 19, and then 20) it became clearer and clearer to me how different he is from how you were at that age. And in so realizing, it became clearer and clearer just how hard those first few years of parenthood were when you were a baby.

boy in skull shirt with spiked hair

My darling boy, I love you so much, but a lot of things about being your mom in those first few years just sucked. I look back on those things now and I wonder how we got through it. Sometimes I think maybe I didn’t actually get through it intact, but maybe this is just how things are and were meant to be. Maybe some of these things would have come about anyway.

You are an entirely different person now. Well, maybe not entirely. You are still full of life and energy, but you have evolved into a person who has two speeds: high speed and off. You are either moving through life at mach speed or completely still, focused on Lego, or a movie, or fast asleep. For the last couple of mornings I’ve had to come and wake you up so you could be at school on time, something I don’t actually recall ever having to do in the last six years. You were curled up in your sleeping bag on your camping cot (which you’ve insisted on sleeping in since returning from camping last weekend) and you didn’t even move when Ethan and I came into the room. And then I left the room for a moment to tell your dad that you were still totally passed out—because it really was that remarkable—and Ethan jiggled you enough to wake you up and the next thing I knew you were out of bed. You went from completely OFF to completely ON.

Hoo doos in Drumheller

Recently, I have become better at catching you in, or encouraging you into, quieter moments. I have worked on regulating my own settings so that your high-speed setting doesn’t inevitably push me straight into overdrive. Our relationship is better now than it was. Better now, I think, than ever. I can see more clearly what you need, and you can express your needs more clearly to me, and we aren’t always jockeying to each have our own needs met RIGHT NOW.

I have struggled recently with the things your birth brought into my life – things I didn’t ask for and didn’t expect. But I struggle less with you, and as a result you struggle less with me. We have found a balance, like the point of a spinning top that stays in control, en pointe, and fully supported by the forces around it. It took us a few years of working to build the strength and structure to appear to dance more lightly, but we got here. And as I look in the mirror I see us dancing a choreographed dance that we perform mostly in unison, spending less time treading on each other’s toes.

silhouette in front of water wall

I like this dance, my darling boy.

Now we are partners.

Now we are six.

I will love you always and forever,

Mama xx