Briley's Mountain Adventures

Aug 22, 2016

This summer has consisted of far too few trips to the mountains. Whether due to other plans, poor weather, or inability to find accommodations, our weekend getaways have sadly been few and far between.  The national parks have been so, so busy this year and sadly spontaneous trips are no longer possible... assuming you'd like to have a place to sleep at night.  
A few months ago I signed Ryan and I up for a 5 kilometre run in Hinton. I'm so thankful that I did, because it motivated us to book a hotel in advance, which is so out of character for us. Had we not done so we likely would have spent yet another weekend in the city.  Instead, we packed up and headed west. My mom had asked to take Aaralee on a trip of her own, so it was just Briley tagging along for the adventure.  I was certain that I'd forgotten something, because packing the car for only one child seemed far too easy. 
Ryan came home from work early and we made the long journey all the way to Jasper National Park. Briley was pretty well behaved for the majority of the car ride. We kept driving until we reached Maligne Lake. The boat tour there is included in the epic summer pass that we purchased for the season, so we got tickets and cruised across the beautiful lake to Spirit Island.  We've seen most of the major attractions in the area, but this was a brand new spot for us and so, so stunning. How are we so lucky to live so close to such magical places? 

Once we were back on land, we returned to Hinton to check into our hotel and put Briley to bed after a long day.  Ryan and I assumed our usual hotel position of hiding in the bathroom while we waited for her to fall asleep.  
Morning came too soon, and it was the day of the big race! We met our friend Jessie at the start line. We'd known her for years, but never actually met in person.  Her and I have a history of being overly competitive when it comes to FitBit step challenges, so this race was essentially going to be our ultimate showdown.  That was the plan prior to her coming down with a terrible respiratory illness that made breathing, let alone running, rather difficult.  I told myself that I'd go slower and just have fun, but I lack the necessary self control to pace myself.  I heard the word go, and off I went. I'm used to running on pretty flat ground, so the hills were painfully difficult and I hated almost every minute of it, as per usual. I love running, except for when I'm actually doing it. I still made it to the finish line and even managed to place as the 3rd female, winning back my entry fee and a snazzy 3rd place medal.   Even more impressive was the fact that Jessie made it despite being sick, and Ryan sprinted to the finish pushing Briley in her stroller.  

We chowed down on the post race lunch and then proceeded to our hotel to shower and freshen up before continuing on with our tourist adventures.  Briley needed a nap, so we drove all the way into British Columbia and to the base of Mt. Robson. I've yet to see the mountain without clouds covering the top, and this day was no exception. Despite this, it was still a beautiful spot!  We enjoyed the crisp mountain air and Briley ran around happily collecting sticks and rocks. 

We returned to Jasper for dinner and then stopped at a lake on the side of the highway to let Briley splash in the shallow waters.  By glacier fed standards, the water was surprisingly warm, and she had so much fun splashing and playing in front of a spectacular backdrop. 

It was an early night after a busy, fun filled day.  We woke up the next morning and packed up the hotel.  Typically, Sundays consist of little more than the drive home, but the weather was perfect so we decided to spend the day in the mountains, even if it meant that we wouldn't get home until that evening.  
Our first stop was the Jasper Skytram... yet another brand new experience for me! We rode the creepy tramway all the way up and then continued on the hike to the summit.  It was about a kilometre up, but it fairly easy and Briley took in the views from my back. 

 At one flat spot, we stopped to feed her and let her play. My crazy child tried to climb the steepest slopes and scramble up completely vertical rocks, getting angry if we'd try to help her or relocate her. We let her play until she was good and tired, at which point she went back up on my back and we continued on.  One the way back down she finally gave in to her exhaustion.  

We were starving after our hike, so we went to Patricia Street Deli in Jasper for lunch. The sandwiches there are so, so good! We stuffed our faces and continued on to Pyramid Lake. There is a little bridge that connects to a small island, so we let Briley run across it in attempt to wear her out before the 4 hour ride home. 

On the island itself, we found a shallow, scenic spot in the lake where I conveniently planted my baby to play while I took photos of her. She was just having so much fun and being so darn cute! 

After running and swimming, we had one tired baby on our hands so we finally decided to begin the trip home.  It was a long drive back, but worth it for such a great weekend getaway.  It was different from our usual trips, but so much fun to spend so much time with my littlest baby and to explore our favourite places from her perspective.  I'm fairly certain that she loved all of the extra attention that came with being an only child for a weekend, though we all miss Aaralee and can't wait for her to come home!   

As the summer days dwindle, we are hoping to cram in any many mountain trips as possible while it's still warm enough to do so!  With that being said, if you could all kindly stay home, that would greatly improve our chances of actually finding a campsite or hotel to stay in.  It would be much appreciated.  Or just invite us along to the hotel that you probably booked months in advance, because apparently planning ahead is the thing to do these days.
I, however, refuse to let go of my spontaneous ways.  

summer time for parents.

Aug 2, 2016

Hey August, where did you come from? How did you sneak up on me so fast?  Didn't summer just begin? August is like a month-long Sunday. It's bittersweet. Sure, it's still the weekend (summer) but it's already half over and before you know it, Monday (autumn) will arrive and we'll be right back to the beginning of another long week (winter).  
This summer has been a bit of a blur, as most of life is now that I've entered the realms of life with 2 toddlers.  I don't know what we've done, but we've kept busy. We are always busy, and if there is a moment of calm, Briley is quick to ensure that it is short-lived. 

We've splashed at spray parks and in our backyard, attended birthday parties and went on many, many long walks. 

We've gone camping, shopping, and on lunch dates and we've even reunited with some friends from other provinces.  

 I've even managed to sneak in a bit of "me" time! I went on my first kid-free movie date with friends since... ever. I also took a macaron baking class and spent July baking tasty French macarons and then making daily trips to the gym in attempt to cancel out the vast quantity that I'd indulged in.  

Before I knew it, it was August long weekend! Ryan spent May and July long weekend working away, so I was excited for the adventures that we'd finally be able to have.  The thing is, we are a spontaneous family and lately it seems to work against us. Our failure to plan ahead meant that all of the campsites and hotels were already booked up by the time that we considered leaving town.  The weather forecast wasn't all that promising anyways, so our fun weekend away turned into a rainy weekend at home, potty training our daughter. 

After several failed attempts at over the past year, I knew that the time was right.  Aaralee is stubborn and set in her ways, so I knew that we were in for a challenge.   She actually did quite well, minus pooping everywhere besides the toilet. Somewhere between wrangling a screaming, naked one year old into her diaper and washing poop off of my kitchen floor, I stopped to wonder when my life had suddenly become so glamourous.  Long weekends at 30 are sure a change from the ones at 20!  On Sunday I splashed a little bit of Bailey's in my latte, because I might be older now, but I still like to live on the edge.  

With half of summer behind us, I am feeling extra motivated to get out and make the most of the weeks that remain.  We will be spending as much time as we possibly can outdoors... I'm hoping that will include some road trips and camping adventures.
With that being said, it's time to go splash in the kiddie pool with my little water lovers! 

Maui... Wowee!

Jul 3, 2016

This year, my birthday was one of those milestone ones that it feels necessary to celebrate. I thought of having a party with friends, but the thought of cleaning my house, staying up late, and buying food and beverages for other people just didn't appeal to me. I'm willing to put the effort into elaborate, thought out parties for my kids... but for myself? I just wanted to enjoy the day with my family and good food, ideally at a beach. Because I live in a city smack dab in the middle of the prairies, this would require a vacation, and thankfully my husband was onboard with this idea.
After much contemplation, we settled on Maui. Perfect weather, great for kids, and all of the shaved ice and fish tacos I could dream of.  We booked our flights and a condo, and we even brought a babysitter... AKA my mom!  
We departed the morning after Briley's birthday party, leaving behind our sticky floors and party decor.  I braced myself for the worst in terms of traveling with a very mobile, very independent one year old, and thank goodness for my mental preparation.  There is always one bad baby on the flight... the screaming, crying, inconsolable, sleep boycotting type. On our 5 1/2 hour journey from Vancouver to Maui, that baby was Briley. By the time that we finally arrived we were all exhausted.  We wearily picked up our rental cars and grabbed a few groceries and then proceeded to our condo where we promptly headed to bed.  It was a rough start, but the next day we woke up to a fantastic view, and we were officially on vacation! 

We kept busy all week by exploring the island, lazing around the pool, and consuming mass amounts of fish tacos. Have I mentioned just how delicious the fish tacos in Maui are?! 

 The shave ice was pretty wonderful too. I could bore you all with a detailed play by play of our vacation, but instead I'll focus on the highlights. There were plenty.  

1. Date nights in paradise.  The last time that Ryan and I enjoyed a meal alone while on vacation was back in December 2012, right before we found out that I was pregnant with Aaralee. With the girls in the trusted hands of Grandma, we managed to enjoy a few solo outings. Our personal favourite? Mama's Fish House in Paia.  Situated on a beautiful beach, this busy restaurant changes their menu daily depending on the catch of the day. We had sashimi to start, and then we each tried the ahi in different preparations. We finished with cookies and coconut ice cream, and everything was delicious.  Oh, and the drinks... I tried a mango colada and a banana colada, and they were some of the best drinks that I've ever had. 

2. The Road to Hana.  A day in the car with 2 toddlers might not sound enjoyable, but the scenery made up for it.  Ryan drove us along the windy roads as my mom and I reminisced about the last time we visited. We drove past waterfalls and through rainforests, making stops for banana bread and shave ice.  Ryan took a swim at the Waianapanapa black sand beach, and the kids wanted absolutely nothing to do with the sand nor the waves.  It was a long day, but the Road to Hana is always worth the drive. 

3.  My birthday.  We woke up and went to Kihei Cafe for a breakfast of pancakes drowning in coconut syrup, followed by a day at the beach.  My girls must have known that it was Mommy's birthday, because they suddenly got over their fear of the beach and could not have been happier to play in the waves and dig in the sand. Sure, we had a torrential downpour of rain for awhile, but we waited it out and the sun eventually graced us with its presence.  Later in the day we went on a helicopter tour (see next point) and finished off with a giant chocolate cake garnished with macarons beside the ocean. It was a perfect day.  

4.  Helicopter tour.  Yes, this also falls under my birthday, but it deserved a point to itself.  Because taking me to Maui wasn't amazing enough, Ryan booked a helicopter tour for the 2 of us in the afternoon. It was amazing. We flew through spectacular valleys and along the coastline, over to the island of Molokai to fly past the world's highest sea cliffs. We saw manta rays, turquoise reefs, and a full circle rainbow. It was all so stunning that I nearly cried, because I'm a sap like that and because riding in a helicopter was a bucket list item.  

5. Our luau.  Okay, so this one was a slight disappointment compared to our prior experience, but fun nonetheless. We got discount tickets at Costco, but we should have probably splurged on the nicer luau.  Regardless, the location was beautiful, the food was good, and my tiny girls looked so adorable dancing around in their pretty little dresses. 

6. Krispy Kreme. Yes. It was a highlight of my trip. If I lived in the States I'd likely join the obesity epidemic thanks alone to Krispy Kreme donuts. We could rarely drive by without stopping when the "Hot now" sign was on.  I'm not typically a donut loving person, but I LOVE those donuts. 

7. Haleakala Crater at sunset.  We spent all week talking about driving up the mountain to see the crater, but we waited until the last possible minute to do so.  (I'm not exaggerating, a few minutes later and we would have missed our flight home.) We ascended to the summit, at 10,000 feet. We were high above the clouds, freezing cold, and it was pretty incredible.  We took a few photos and then had to drive back down the mountain and straight to the airport.  

We were all sad to return home, but I'm so thankful that I could spend my 30th birthday somewhere as beautiful as Maui.  I'm even more thankful that I got to spend it with my favourite people, and that they all had just as great of a vacation as I did... well, for the most part.

I am also very happy to report that Briley was much better behaved on the return flight, and Aaralee slept the entire way, as per usual.  

Hawaii, Mahalo for your hospitality and I promise you that I will be back!  (P.S... looking back I can not believe that I used to get paid to fly to Maui. They paid me money, to come here!) 

Thoughts on 30.

Jun 29, 2016

This afternoon while my children were napping, I wasted time and ignored my messy house by browsing Pinterest and scrolling through various websites. While entering yet another contest to win random baby items, I paused at the box that asked me to type in my age.  In case you weren't already aware, last week was my birthday.  My 30th birthday.  I reluctantly hit the backspace button, erasing "29" from the box to enter my new, older age.  I'm not old enough to be 30. 30 feels like full blown adult, and I'm fairly certain that I've yet to possess the maturity and experience to call myself a real adult.  I may or may not currently be in denial.  

Realistically speaking, I'm exactly where I'd hoped to be at this age. I'm married, I have a dog, a house, and I'm raising 2 kids in the big city.  This is what the high school version of myself envisioned my life would be like... minus the stay at home mom part. I was going to have a promising career and make an impressive salary, but life had other plans.  Regardless, I'm happy with where I'm at at this phase of my life and though I joke about not wanting to turn 30, I'm actually excited for all that is to come in this next decade. I'll watch my daughters grow and become their own people. They'll start school, and we will have so many adventures as a family. Maybe I'll go back to work. Maybe we'll move somewhere new. I don't know what lies in store, but that's what makes it all the more exciting.  I'm looking forward to embracing the future as it comes, but it is bittersweet to say goodbye to my 20s... because even though I still have so much to look forward to, they just may have been the best years of my life.  My early 20s were entirely about myself, and the more recent years have revolved around my family.  

In the beginning, I lived with some of my best friends... friends that I still love to this day.  First there was Carley, and then there was Rosie, and finally Kimmy and my cousin Chantelle.  We lived on takeout food and our homes were the central gathering location for all of our friends. 

I worked multiple jobs and saved the majority of my income to fund a trip to Australia. I had my heart set on breaking out of my hometown. 2 of my friends set out on the adventure first, and I promised to meet them there once I could afford the flights. They ran out of money and returned home before I made it there, and it was then that I made the life changing decision to travel solo.  I was so shy, so introverted, and so scared of new situations.  When you move to a foreign country all by yourself, you're forced to break out of your shell a bit. I will forever be thankful that I did just that.   I traveled to Thailand and Singapore with my mom, and then onwards to Australia where she left me as she returned home. I made amazing friends, saw beautiful places, and finally had the opportunity for real self discovery. I even went skydiving.  

Once my visa was up and my bank account drained, I returned home. It was then that I started spending a lot of time with Ryan. We'd been friends for a few years, but we finally lived in the same city. We started going to the gym together and it gradually progressed to movies, dinners, karaoke nights... and finally becoming an official couple.  I was so happy when we were together.

I couldn't imagine being away from my boyfriend, until one evening my phone rang and I was offered my dream job. With Ryan's support and encouragement, I packed up and moved to Dubai to work as a flight attendant for Emirates airline.  I ventured to over 30 countries and worked onboard the biggest passenger jet in the world, the Airbus A380. 

It was exhausting and amazing and through it all, Ryan and I persevered through a long distance relationship.  We went on vacation together at the end of 2010 and he asked me to marry him.  

I returned to Dubai, worked for 6 more months, and then resigned and returned to Canada. Ryan and I took a month long road trip through the States, and then began our new jobs. I was now a Canadian flight attendant, and Ryan accepted a job in Edmonton. That fall, we bought our first home! 
We got married on April 12, 2012, and adopted our puppy Niko in the summer. 

We celebrated our first anniversary with a trip to Japan.  Our beautiful daughter Aaralee was born in 2013! I was a mom! Some days I still can't believe it. 

9 days prior to turning 29, we welcomed Briley into our family.   Life had changed immensely, but I loved it.  

As my 30th birthday loomed on the horizon, I flew away with my mom, my husband and our daughters to celebrate it in Maui.  10 years of amazing friends, unforgettable adventures, and more love than I knew I was capable of deserves to be celebrated.  

30, you have big shoes to fill and I'm not sure that you're up to the challenge, but I'll embrace you regardless. (I also don't really have a choice in the matter.) It's time to set new goals and new dreams, though I have a sneaking suspicion that most of these will involve my daughters.  My selfish days are over and I'm okay with that, but boy am I glad that I took advantage of them! So, here's to 30. Here's to it being acceptable to go to bed at 9 pm, to being a stay at home mom, to real, lasting friendships and to a family that fills me with pride.  

Briley's First Birthday Party!

Jun 18, 2016

Today was Briley's first birthday party! I'm sure that by now you've all embraced that fact that I really, really enjoy birthday parties. I plan and decorate and go a tiny bit overboard.  I stress about the little details, vow to never do this again... and then do it again, every time. In the end, it's worth it.  
For Briley's first birthday, I was torn between themes. I loved the look of pink and gold, but I was also drawn to a girly woodland theme. So... we did both.  I called it "Woodland chic" and it was basically just a mash up of pink, gold, and random deer. It sounds crazy, but it worked.  Unfortunately once the guest started arriving I neglected my camera, but I managed to get a few photos to remember the day! 

The birthday girl was initially overwhelmed as she'd never seen so many people in her house, but she had a great day full of way, way too many treats! 

It was an afternoon party, so most of the food consisted of sugary, delicious treats.  We had cupcakes, a candy buffet, and s'mores!  My apologies to all of the parents who had to deal with sugar high children for the remainder of the day. I'll likely repeat this in the future. 

The cake kept me up until midnight the evening prior, but I managed to get it complete without any major catastrophes... a rare feat for me. It was covered in rosettes and sprinkled with edible gold dust. 

Our house was jam packed as everyone crowded around Briley's high chair to sing Happy Birthday. She sat and stared in her typical serious fashion.  

When it came time to eat her cake, however, she got right down to business! She chowed down, ensuring even frosting coverage throughout her hair and across her body.  

Big sister Aaralee was also happy to indulge. I don't even want to think about how much sugar she likely consumed over the course of the day.  

Later on we opened gifts. Briley was so spoiled with so many wonderful presents, but she was far more interested in the bags and boxes that they came in.  Aaralee on the other hand has claimed all of the toys as her own.  One of the favourite gifts among all of the little guests was a brand new water table from Grandma Char.  Most of the kids ended up soaking wet at one point or another, Briley included. I foresee us making great use out of it this summer! 

As the day winded down the guests started leaving, taking a jar of s'mores for the road. Of course, I forgot to take a photo until they were almost all gone. Rest assured, they looked cute and tasted delicious! 

It was a busy, sugar filled day and I had 2 very tired little toddlers (I have 2 toddlers!!) by the time that bedtime rolled around. The weather was perfect and we had so many guests come to celebrate with our lucky and so very loved little Briley.  Happy birthday my baby. 

And just like that, it's over. My baby is a toddler, the party is done. Now to start planning for Aaralee's birthday in September... Just kidding... now it's time to pack for vacation to celebrate my own birthday! We leave in the morning, because our weekend just wasn't busy enough already! 
Thank you to everyone who joined us today! Your presence and your presents are so very appreciated!