A Day in Our Life.

Apr 14, 2018

"The days are long, but the years are short." 

This quote often circulates on social media and seems to resonate with parents. The days ARE long.  I am a stay at home mom.  I spend almost every waking hour catering to my children's needs.  Most days, I love it, and other days I struggle to maintain my sanity.  Regardless of the outcome, when Briley climbs into my bed at 6:30 am, I know that I'm always in for another long day.  
And then suddenly, a photo pops up from a year ago, or even a few months ago, and I wonder where the time has gone. How do these long days accumulate and turn into months and years so quickly?
Our long days together are everything. They are their childhood, the memories that they'll carry into adulthood. 
I've always wanted to spend an entire day with my camera, capturing the simple moments that make up our days. The breakfasts, the routine, the chaos.  Our life, in this chapter, and a day in it. 
Today, I finally carried out this plan.   I missed some moments, like dinner, bath time, temper tantrums,  and car rides. I'm also not in any of the photos, which isn't an accurate representation of our days.  The photos aren't perfect and beautiful. 
I still love having these moments to look back on.  
These long, stressful days are filled with love, laughter, and the magic childhood.

This is a Saturday in the life of our family.  My favourite kind of day.  

break through those glass ceilings.

Mar 8, 2018

"Here's to strong women. May we know them, may we be them, may we raise them."

Today is International Women's Day. A day that used to pass by with little to no recognition on my part.  I've always felt proud to be female, but I never felt the urge to shout it from the rooftops or to fight for change or equality.  And then, I became a mother to daughters.  

A few months ago I was talking to Aaralee about what she might be when she grows up. I went through a list of possibilities, until she stopped me mid-sentence with "I can't be a pilot mom, I'm a girl."  
Pardon me?!
How, at only 4 years old, did my daughter already exclude herself from certain careers based solely on her gender? We had a long discussion about how she could do anything that boys can do, and in that moment I made it my mission to raise empowered, confident girls who will never grow up restricting themselves to certain roles.  If they want to be a stay at home mom, that's great. If they want to be an astronaut, a doctor, a pilot or the prime minister... that's okay too. 
Now that I'm pregnant with our third baby, I'm taking the opportunity to show my girls just how incredible women really are. We can travel the world, have careers and play sports. We can do anything that men can do, but we can also grow and birth babies.  We are strong, we are capable, and we are amazing. 

We don't know the sex of our baby yet, but I've lost count of how many people have wished us luck to have a baby boy this time, or assumed that that was the very reason we tried for a third.  To imply that we'd be anything less than thrilled to have another daughter is crazy. I'd consider myself incredibly fortunate to be given the opportunity to raise 3 girls, and there won't be even a hint of disappointment if that's the case.
And if it's a boy? That's just fine too.  We'll love him, be excited for the new adventure, and most importantly, teach him how to respect and treat women. 
We've come a long way as women, and we still have some obstacles to conquer. I hope that my daughters grow up to be fearless women who stand up for themselves and never hold themselves back or think less of themselves because they are females. I hope that they support and empower other women and know that they can do absolutely anything. 

The Monsters who make me crazy... in love.

Mar 2, 2018

If I were to say that I've loved every moment since returning home and that I'm so glad to be back... I'd be lying.  
These past 2 weeks have been exhausting, physically and mentally.  February always gets to me, and I am so glad to see March. Spring is on the horizon, if you ignore the fact that we are currently under a winter storm warning.  
We might have went on a vacation for 3 glorious weeks, but is it really a vacation if you're at a stay at home mom who is stuck in a van with your family?  Don't get me wrong, we had an amazing trip and I wouldn't change a thing.  However, after 3 weeks of sunshine, outdoors, and fun, we returned home to cold weather, responsibilities, and being stuck inside together trying to pass the days. I longed for a bit of alone time.  For a meal not interrupted with demands for more milk. For a shower not interrupted by "Mom, Briley is on the counter!" For a morning spent cozy under the blankets without hearing the sound of cereal spilling all over the floor.  These kids are my entire world, the reason I wake up every day, and the loves of my life... and they are driving me insane. 

The days are long. They are spent dishing out snacks, kissing owies, breaking up fights, and constantly cleaning. It's a thankless job, a job that I chose.  I feel terrible for ever complaining, but between sleep deprivation and pregnancy hormones, sometimes a mama just needs some space.
But then, they go to bed. Their sleepy little bodies cuddle up under the blankets, exhausted from a long day of refusing to nap.  We sing bedtime songs, give big bear hugs, and I close their door and breathe a sigh of relief. 
And then I miss them.
I sneak into their room every night to see them sleeping. They are always clutching their little blankets, snoring baby snores, and I fear that my heart might actually explode from loving them so much.  

These girls, who push me to the brink of losing sanity on a daily basis, are the most amazing little people I've ever known, and I can't believe that they are mine.  
Aaralee, my first born. She will be 4 1/2 on the 10th. She'll insist on a half birthday cake, and I'll likely oblige because I secretly love how birthday obsessed she is. She is already planning her 5th birthday party, which isn't until September.  She was crazy about the colour pink for as long as I can remember. We bought her pink clothes and pink bedding, and accepted that she would only eat off of pink plates.  Until she watched Frozen, and suddenly changed her mind. Now everything must be blue, and the pink torch has been passed on to her sister.  She loves preschool and can't wait for kindergarten. She asks approximately 5,256 questions per day, ranging from "Why do we get boogers?" to the ever-feared "How did our new baby get in your tummy?"   
She is a picky eater, who would prefer to survive on a diet of sugar and carbs.  She loves to help cook, even if she'll refuse to eat most meals. She is the self proclaimed queen of the household (Queen Elsa to be exact) and has the attitude to go with it. She can get her sister to do almost anything for her. You'll find her wearing a princess dress 6/7 days a week, and on the other day she'll be crying because they are in the wash. 

She can't wait to be a big sister again. She loves to rub my growing belly, and insists that we name the new baby "Flower" regardless of the gender.  She is happiest playing with her friends, and she makes new ones wherever we go.  She is petite, clumsy, serious, strong-willed, and no doubt will outsmart her mama one day.  She is my firstborn, the one who made me a mommy, and she'll forever be my baby girl.  

Briley, my baby, my wild child. She is fast approaching age 3, and she'll be off to preschool in the fall.  I'm not sure how either of those statements are real life. Without fail, she climbs into our bed every morning bright and early. We try to persuade her to go back to sleep, she tells us that she is "super, super hungry" and requests milk and Cheerios.  She is always making us laugh, with her goofy ways and her epic dance moves. She gives the best hugs ever, and will randomly tell me that she loves me.
She would be happy if we'd let her spend all day watching home videos of "Baby Aaralee". She loves her big sister, and loves to push her buttons.  She's will eat everything in her vicinity if given a chance, and is asking for a snack every 20 minutes.  

You'll usually find her running, throwing things, or jumping off of the couch. She was the first to land us in the emergency room and will likely give me many grey hairs.  She is the master of destruction and mess follows her wherever she goes. She loves our dog and requests that we get a new puppy instead of a new baby. 
She's shy, unless you are lucky to catch her in a silly mood, in which case you'll get her life story.  She clings to her blanket 24/7. She is my baby, my big, littlest girl. She has the personality to let everyone know that she is in the room, and being a middle child won't stop her from stealing the spotlight. 

I am so, so, lucky to call myself mommy to these girls, and even luckier that I have been given the opportunity to do it all over.  I might never regain my sanity or my energy, but it's a pretty good trade off for a heart as full as mine. 

The last few days of New Zealand

Feb 22, 2018

On our last morning in Queenstown, we woke up to dark clouds. Incoming rain, combined with the torture of seasonal allergies meant that it was time to move on to sunnier places.
We packed the van and hit the road. As with the majority of our trip, we set out with absolutely no plans. We had 3 days to get to Christchurch, but other than that we were free to wander. We stopped at a fruit stand, where I bought some plums and nectarines as Ryan asked the employee for advice on which route to take. We had 2 options, both scenic. Mountains and farmland, or coast and farmland. Being fortunate enough to spend a lot of our time in the mountains back home, we opted for the coast. 
The rest of the day consisted of a lot of driving, but we still snuck in some fun along the way. We stopped at a lookout and watched seals playing on on the rocks as we enjoyed popsicles.  

We stopped at the Morekai Boulders, which were giant circular rocks along a beautiful stretch of beach. 

The highlight of the day for me was definitely Oamaru, where we were lucky enough to spot penguins! There were hundreds of them hanging out on a pier, waiting to swim to the beach for the evening. I’ve always dreamt of seeing penguins, so I was pretty excited.
The sun was setting and we still had nowhere to sleep, so we carried on our journey towards a campground. Before we arrived, we turned off onto a dark, quiet country road, where we drove into the darkness and turned off the vehicle for a view of the night sky. We could see the Milky Way stretching above us, with thousands of stars twinkling in every direction.  We rolled into a campground late, and moved our sleeping kids from car seats to bed. 

The next day we were Christchurch bound!  We reached the city around lunch time, and we were starving. 
I found some cute cafes that seemed like good options, and jokingly said we should go to a fancy 5 course restaurant that had won a few awards and had great reviews. My foodie husband strolled in and got us a table. I followed behind with the girls, feeling totally underdressed in my denim shorts and tank top. The food was amazing. We shared our meals with the girls, and Briley the adventurous one loved it all. Aaralee held out for a cheese bun in the van. 
That evening, we went to a Maori performance and traditional Hangi meal. Aaralee loved the performance, as she thought the women were all Moana. Briley was terrified. 

The food was fantastic and the highlight of the evening was when they let the girls feed the deer. Briley squealed with delight and wouldn’t stop giggling. It was probably the highlight of her trip. 

We drove back to the campground for the final evening in our van. The next morning we packed it up in preparation to return, and checked out of our last campground. 

We were freshly showered and the van was clean, so naturally we thought it would be a good idea to go to the beach. What started as a quick stop to see enjoy the views turned into our kids digging in the sand and playing in the water fully clothed. I was torn between cringing at the mess and never wanting it to end. Childhood is not supposed to be clean.

We stopped for a quick roadside lunch and then drove downtown to check into our hotel. Ryan left us there while he went to return the van. We said our goodbyes to our beloved home on wheels and then ventured upstairs to our luxury accommodation. We had thick, plushy pillows on big beds, unlimited hot showers, and room for all of us to stand up at the same time!
As soon as Ryan returned, we got our shoes on and went for a walk. Our first stop was to the 185 white chairs that stand as a memorial for the 185 people who lost their lives in the 2011 earthquake. Seeing the chairs all lined up put into perspective just how many people sadly did not survive. Tiny child seats and a baby car seat were somber reminders of the tragedy.  
We carried on, walking through the gorgeous city until we reached a cute little street where we stopped for dinner. We dined on the patio, and every once in awhile a trolley would drive by, clearing Ryan’s chair by a matter of inches. 
On our way back to the hotel we came across a massive, amazing playground. We stayed and played for awhile, migrating to the water play area. I’m not sure if Ryan or the girls had more fun, but everyone was happy and soaking wet. 
We hadn’t planned for water activities, so our dripping wet Briley wore my extra sweater for the walk back. The sun was setting on a beautiful evening and I longed for those warm, late sunsets to come back to Canada.

 In our hotel room, we stayed up late in hope of catching a glimpse of fireworks at a nearby park. Our view was impeded by a large building, but we saw colourful flashes above and to the side and the girls were satisfied. 
We woke up to our alarm clocks the next day, for the first time in weeks. We had an early morning flight to catch, bringing us back to Auckland. It was only an hour long, and before we knew it we were back in Auckland having lunch.
The girls were sleepy, so we went back to the hotel where they cozied up on the closet floor and proceeded to have the longest nap they’d had the entire trip. I’m now contemplating moving their bedding to the closet at home.
We finished the day off with dinner at an upscale food court, where we all ordered exactly what we wanted from whichever restaurant we desired.
On our last full day in New Zealand, we set off for one final adventure. After breakfast we caught to ferry to Waiheke Island. It was a 30 minute journey, just long enough for Briley to fall asleep. Once we reached the island we boarded our hop on/hop off bus and the girls were thrilled to ride on the top deck. 
We grabbed lunch at a beachside village and then got back on the bus. Both girls fell asleep, so we did the entire route, taking in the views while they snored in the seat in front of us. 
We got off again at Oneroa Beach. I sent Ryan and the girls down to the beach while I browsed the shops and bought myself a gelato to eat in peace. 
When I joined them at the beach I was pleasantly surprised at how warm the water was. I’d failed to pack a swimsuit for Briley, so we stripped her down and she was happy to run naked and free, splashing in the waves with Ryan and Aaralee. 

Once everyone was all tired out, I bribed them to take a family photo and then we caught the ferry back to Auckland. 

We stopped at a few souvenir shops along the way, where the girls proudly picked out one toy each. 
After dinner we discovered that Briley had shoplifted a tiny “New Zealand beer” keychain, so we made her bring it back to the store and apologize. Wewalked back to our hotel in the rain. We had our ponchos on, and the round of  the rain falling on our heads was soothing. 
When we woke up the next day, it was our final day of vacation. We ordered smoothies on Uber eats and sipped them as we packed up the room and organized our bags for the flight. 
The girls had been asking to go back up the tower, so we made a lunch reservation to eat at the top. It included our ticket up, so we went early to take in the views before sitting down to eat. The food was yummy, the views were stunning. It was the perfect ending to an amazing trip. 
We reluctantly made our way to the airport, with Aaralee grumpily staying several times that she did not want to go home.  I couldn’t blame her. At the airport, nostalgia overcame me as we spotted 3 Emirates A380 planes. The crew walked by and I pointed them out to the girls, explaining that once upon a time, their mommy was one of those girls in the red hats. 
2 hours before our flight, we heard an announcement saying that it was the final boarding call for our flight. We were confused as we frantically dashed across the airport, dragging the girls as we ran. Turns out, it was a mistake.... a mistake that caused us great stress and more cardio than I had signed up for. 
Eventually it was time to board for real, and we said goodbye to New Zealand as we flew off into the sky. We had dinner and the girls and I were super excited to find New Zealand ice cream for dessert. 
With full bellies, it was time to attempt bed time. We’d made the genius decision to upgrade to a Skycouch, which turned 3 of our seats into a makeshift bed. Ryan sat across the aisle and I cozied up with the girls. I had a hard time sleeping, but I was much more comfortable. More importantly, the girls slept like a dream. The seat next to Ryan was vacant, so when we got crowded I’d pass some of our belongings to him. 
We finally landed in Vancouver, eager to get off of the plane but weary with the knowledge that we were still hours from home. Aaralee immediately expressed her displeasure with the cooler temperatures. 
We had lunch, let the girls play, and eventually it was time to board our flight to Edmonton. 

Finally, we were on the way home. 
The girls were miserable and whiny and I’m pretty sure that none of the other passengers wanted us to get onboard. To be fair, it had been a long day and they were exhausted. Briley fell asleep before we reached the runway and Aaralee gave in during takeoff.  

We landed into cold, snowy Edmonton and Aaralee cried when it was time to go outside. 
None of us are thrilled to be back in the frozen tundra that we call home, but we’ve sure missed the space and our cozy king sized bed, and the girls have loved rediscovering all of the toys that they’d forgotten about. It’s back to reality, but we are so thankful for our journey and the many, many memories made along the way. 

Soaring to Milford Sound

Feb 14, 2018

f you know me or if you’ve followed my blog for a few years, you’ll know that I’ve never been a huge Valentine’s Day fan. Ryan and I don’t celebrate it by going on dates or buying gifts. I’ll acknowledge it for the sake of fun for the kids, but otherwise it’s just an ordinary day in our household. 
This year, however, Valentine’s Day was one for the books.
We started the day with breakfast at Bespoke Kitchen. We were out of groceries and tired of our morning yogurt ritual, so a hot meal was much appreciated. The food was incredible, and I left full but wanting more just to try all of the options.

When in New Zealand, a trip to Milford Sound is high on the “must do” list. We desperately wanted to visit,  but it is a 4 hour drive from Queenstown and sadly, our vacation days are rapidly depleting. We couldn’t possibly see it all in such a short trip


Unless we booked a scenic flight. 

Obviously it wouldn’t be cheap, but after much contemplation we decided that we might only be here once, so it was probably worth it. Besides, Briley was free! 
Ryan had called the night before to enquire, but there was no availability for Valentines day, and the forecast called for rain the day following. Maybe it just wasn’t meant to be.  As we ate breakfast, Ryan decided to call just to see if there were any cancellations. It was wishful thinking. The skies were clear, the weather was perfect, and it was Valentine’s Day. Much to our luck and surprise, the 12 pm slot for a flight and cruise had opened up! We booked it without hesitation and happily returned to the camper to pack a bag. 
We got picked up by a taxi and we were on our way to the airport! 

We were led to our plane, and hopped in excitedly. Aaralee and I sat beside each other in one row, while Ryan sat behind us with Briley on his lap. And then we were off!

The views were incredible, and I say that as someone who has experienced many scenic flights around the world. We flew over blue lakes and between the snow capped mountains of the fjordlands. We saw waterfalls cascading from cliffs and waves crashing on the shores of the Tasman Sea. 

The gentle turbulence rocked both girls to sleep. 

We were in awe, and we still had so much left to see. We landed at the Milford Sound airport and transferred by bus to the cruise terminal. 

Once there, we picked up our picnic lunches and boarded our boat. It was immediately beautiful, as we cruised past a roaring waterfall and into the sound towards the sea. 

We spotted seals sunbathing on the rocks and the skipper brought us in for a closer look. 
While the rest of the passengers were taking their photos of the seals, Ryan spotted something far more exciting... dolphins!! 
Aaralee is obsessed with the movie Dolphin Tale. To see dolphins in real life was like a dream come true. We caught a few more glimpses of them before we carried on. 

Briley was still tired, so I set her down on some seats inside and she slept for the remainder of the trip. 

The boat came nice and close to a huge waterfall, and Ryan and a few other crazy individuals stood at the front, getting absolutely soaked. 

Finally, we were back to the terminal and it was time to say goodbye to Milford Sound. Lucky for us, we still had a scenic flight to take us back to Queenstown. 

We took a bit of a different flight path back for more views of the sound and the beautiful mountains. It was pretty turbulent at times, and I was thankful for the timing of our trip. Only weeks ago, a car ride to the grocery store would have made me nauseous. I was able to relax and enjoy the ride, and Aaralee seemed to be a fan of the turbulence too. 

It was perfect, until descent.  Poor Briley cried in pain as her ears tried to equalize. I felt terrible as she sobbed, but once we landed she was back to her happy self and told us that she wanted to go on another airplane ride. 

We rode back to our campground, where we dropped off our bags and then set out in search of dinner. We decided on a Thai restaurant. Maybe it was the fact that I was really hungry, or maybe everything tastes better during pregnancy, but we had some of the best curry I’ve ever eaten. 
On our walk back to the campground, we stopped into a store where we found a tiny dolphin necklace, made out of the same seashells that Aaralee is so fond of.  She wore it proudly, still beaming from having seen her first dolphins earlier that day. 
We headed back to the camper, where we stopped at the park for a quick play before calling it a night. 
Days with kids are never perfect. Today was no exception. It was chaotic, extra work and there were a few tantrums. But months from now when I look back at Valentine’s Day 2018, I’ll remember the incredible day that we had together as a family. I’ll remember Briley’s chubby cheeks squished together as she wore the headset on the plane, and the look on Aaralee’s face when she saw her first dolphin. I’ll remember Ryan coming inside from the boat deck,  his clothes completely soaked and the huge smile on his face. 
When I reminisce about it, I’ll only remember that today was perfect.