Welcome, Fall.

Sep 22, 2016

It's official: Autumn has commenced.  Just like that, summer 2016 is over and done with.   Of course, if you live in Alberta, you're well aware of the fact that summer has already been gone for quite some time. The leaves are falling, the temperatures are dropping, and everything in the vicinity is pumpkin flavoured.  
To celebrate the last day of summer, I took my girls on a spontaneous day trip yesterday. Just east of the city lies Elk Island National Park, a little gem that is beautiful and rarely busy on weekdays.  I always want to go on little road-trips but rarely actually go.  All of my kid-free friends work during the week, and my parent friends typically prefer to plan ahead. It dawned on me that there is absolutely no reason why I'd need another adult to accompany me.  My girls are all the company that I need! 
I'd be lying if I said that we've had a great week. Between a nasty cold and teething, Briley has been a miserable, sad, sleep-refusing baby.  As a result, we were all rather exhausted and maybe a tiny bit grumpy. Perhaps a little bit of fresh air was the remedy that we needed.  
I packed a picnic, and away we went! The weather was perfect.  It was just cool enough outside that I could dress the girls in adorable fall sweaters and justify accessorizing them with unnecessary (yet adorable) infinity scarves and tiny boots.   


There were a few families and a school group, but for the most part the parking lot was empty and we had plenty of room to roam and explore.  Aaralee ran down the paths, crushing every single leaf that stood in her way.  We watched the birds and wandered the boardwalk by the water.  The girls absolutely loved exploring the teepee, running in and out and around in circles.  


My girls even sat miraculously for approximately 3 seconds... long enough for me to snap a photo of them both, looking at the camera, together.  All of you moms of 2 or more can appreciate my sense of accomplishment in that feat.

 

The highlight of the day was when we came across a big pile of leaves.  Despite her usual aversion to anything messy, Aaralee was happy to throw the leaves in the air and roll around listening to them crunch beneath her back.



  She showered Briley with leaves, which left them both laughing hysterically.  



After such a busy few weeks it was so nice to take a little break with my kids to let them just have fun and be kids.  Seeing the world through their eyes is my favourite thing in life. 


After plenty of running around and playing, we had a snack and then packed up the car. There was some serious eye rubbing occurring and I could tell that it was going to be a peaceful car ride home with 2 kids asleep in the backseat. 


We'd had so much fun, and we even spotted a bison on our way out of the park, much to Aaralee's excitement.  As predicted, they slept the entire ride home as I sang along to the radio and snacked on cookies.  
Saying goodbye to summer is never an easy task, but days like these make it better. When you have tiny, fun loving little people in your world it doesn't seem to matter what season it is. Every day is an adventure, and I can't wait for all that autumn has to offer. I feel like we have more day trips in our future, as long as the snow holds off for awhile longer. 



First Day of School!

Sep 13, 2016

Today was a big day in our household. It was exciting, emotional, and one of the toughest days I've experienced in my parenting journey thus far. Today, my daughter started preschool.  It reaffirmed what I already knew...  I am the biggest, most clingy, emotional wreck of a mama.  
Last week we went to her orientation day. She met her teacher, played with toys, read some books, and reluctantly greeted her soon-to-be classmates. She loved it, and didn't want to leave when it was time to go.  Of course, I was by her side the entire time.  I've been by her side for almost every moment of her 3 years on this planet, so the thought of dropping her off with brand new people and leaving the premises weighed heavy on my mind.  I wasn't sure that I'd have the strength to go through with it. In my defence, she just turned 3 a few days ago so this was a lot of growing up for me to embrace in such a short amount of time. 
 I had to remind myself of my reasons for sending her to pre-school in the first place.  The social interaction with kids her age and the new experiences would be great for my busy little girl.  A bit of one-on-one time for Briley and I was just an added bonus.  


She had her pink backpack, her running shoes labeled with her name, and her brand new outfit that she picked out herself on a special trip to the mall.  She was ready, even if I wasn't.  


We talked about how much fun she'd have, and that Mommy would be back after she was all done playing. We arrived early and I took some photos while we waited for Ryan to show up for moral support.  We each held one of her hands, went inside, hung up her backpack and put on her indoor shoes that she'd been waiting 2 weeks to wear.  


I was a nervous wreck as I waited for the classroom door to open, and when it did I led her inside.  I turned around to realize that all of the other parents had said goodbye at the door, so I gave her a kiss, told her that Mommy had to go, and bolted for the door. I didn't look back, because my daughter happens to posses the biggest, saddest, puppy dog eyes and one glimpse of them would have me scooping her up and taking her home.  As I walked back into the hallway, I heard her start to cry and fought back my own tears. It didn't take long for her to stop crying, and when we peeked in the door on our way back to the car, she was already distracted and playing.  
It was the strangest feeling, getting into my car and driving away without her.  Ryan, Briley and I went for lunch so that I could drown my sorrows in pizza and an affogato.  After lunch, Ryan returned to work while Briley and I did a bit of retail therapy. Before I knew it, it was almost time to pick Aaralee up!  


While waiting for class to finish, I checked her mail slot to find my first newsletter and her first preschool craft... cue fighting back more tears.  I was so relieved that she'd made it through the day all by herself.


The door opened, and I rushed to greet her.  She glanced up, saw me at the door, and then carried on playing.  All of my stress and worrying was for nothing, Aaralee loved her first day of school and I am so, so proud of her.  She said goodbye to her teacher, we collected her things, and headed home. She had so much to tell me! She'd played, sang, made crafts, and her favourite part of the day was snack time... obviously.   
When we got home, we went for a walk and she quickly fell asleep. School is tiring!  


Here's hoping that drop offs get easier from here on out.  I can't believe that my sweet, tiny little girl is already in preschool. 

SaveSave

I Scream, You Scream, All of the Kids Scream at Aaralee's Birthday!

Sep 11, 2016

As soon as Briley's first birthday party was over, it was time to start planning for Aaralee's September birthday. Yes, I am that mom. I've said it before, but I feel the need to reiterate it and justify it each time, so I'll just admit to it. I am the Pinterest inspired, over the top, no detail overlooked party planning mom.  I love my daughters, I love birthdays (or any special occasion, if we're being honest...) and I really, really love planning parties.  If my girls ever ask for a low-key party at a Chuck-E-Cheese, I'll happily honour that request, but until that day comes I will continue to decorate, bake, and go DIY crazy for these parties. 
When it comes to deciding the theme for Aaralee's birthdays, I try to think of her favourite things in life and plan around it. It didn't take long at all to settle on an ice cream theme for my tiny little sugar junkie.  I was so excited about this party, because ice cream happens to be high on my list of favourite things as well. Like Mother, like daughter.  


This was probably one of my favourite parties yet.  There were sweet treats everywhere. Giant tissue paper ice cream cones were strung from the ceiling, the kids dove into a sundae bar, and Aaralee was in her glory indulging in ice cream, Grandma's cookies, mama's macarons, and cake. 






Speaking of cake... I managed to pull this one off with no major catastrophes. Okay... I may have dropped the first one into the oven and had to bake another... but given my history of cake baking, I'm still calling it a win. Aaralee was so excited about her giant melted ice cream cone!  


After a few tries, Aaralee successfully blew out all of her candles! We may or may not have been practicing over the past week so to avoid her spitting all over the cake.



It was a 3 layer cake, because it obviously needed to be neopolitan coloured on the inside.  


Even little sister Briley got in on the sugar high, scoring her first ever ice cream cone! 


Aaralee was spoiled with so many great gifts... including her brand new kitchen! With my crazy ideas and Ryan's help, we bought a plain old toy IKEA kitchen and transformed it into her special, pretty blue kitchen, complete with (fake) granite and a tile backsplash. She was pretty excited, and I can't wait to watch my girls cook fancy meals out of plastic food together.  


At the end of the day, we were all tired, the house was a mess, and the kids were having epic tantrums as they came off of their sugar highs.  All signs of a successful birthday party! The guests went home (with ice cream bubbles, of course) and we spent the rest of the evening playing with our birthday girl before tucking her into bed with her brand new dolls. It was another great party for an greater little girl. She is so lucky to be loved by so many people! Thank you so much to everyone who came and made her birthday such a special day! 



SaveSave

I have a 3 year old!

Sep 10, 2016

Aaralee, my sweet, beautiful firstborn.  Nobody in this world makes me laugh like you do. Nobody tests my patience like you do. Nobody has taught me more about love than you have. You made me a Mommy, and I'm forever grateful for that privilege.  Today, you turn 3 years old! 
I remember it like it was yesterday; the day that we met.  You were so tiny, with dark hair and big brown eyes and I'd never seen anything more perfect.  I had no idea what I was doing, and some days I feel like I still don't, but here we are 3 years later! 


As you grow older and become your own little person, you amaze me each and every day.  You are so independent, determined, and smart.  You are so loving, carrying your baby dolls with you wherever you go and giving hugs and kisses to your sister... even though she doesn't quite appreciate the affection.  You love to engineer new uses for everything, just like your Daddy.  When you talk, you sound just like Mommy.  You without a doubt inherited our love of food and our stubborn ways. 
You've changed my life in more ways than I thought possible, and I love you more than words can describe.   I burst with pride watching you navigate life and can't wait to see the adventures that the next year will bring. 


 Happy birthday to you, my big girl... my 3 year old... my preschooler! We have a big day of celebrating ahead of us! 
"I'll love you forever, I'll like you for always... as long as I'm living, my baby you'll be." 



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!