Oh Christmas Tree.

Nov 25, 2016

Since the very first time that Ryan and I brought a Christmas tree home together, we've opted for real trees.  They are a lot of work and a huge mess... but in our opinion, they are worth it.  Absolutely nothing beats the appearance nor the smell of a real, live tree.  For us, getting a tree is an experience in itself and an annual family tradition that I'd be sad to give up. 
Today we set out on our journey to find this year's perfect tree. Last year we discovered an amazing tree farm south of the city called Fir Ever Green.  We loved it so much that we had to return.  Upon arriving at the cute little log cabin, we were led to fields of row after row of beautiful, perfect trees.  Ryan held a saw and I pulled our girls on a sled as we set off in search of a tree to call our own. 

We walked past some modest, reasonably sized trees, but they just weren't right.  We wandered and wandered until we spotted it. 
The one. 
Our tree. 

I felt like a bride saying yes to the dress as I giddily danced around it and proclaimed it to be ours.  It was wide and full and would without a doubt take up half of our living room. It was perfect.  
Ryan got to work with the saw and after some hard work and sweat, it was down on the ground and ready to transfer to the car.  

Speaking of car... 
Ryan's beloved green Subaru has been parked for quite some time now, as he's been taking his newer, more reliable car to work up north.  However, we aren't ones to mess with tradition, so he put insurance back on it for the day and we all loaded into the cramped little car because getting a tree with any other car just didn't seem right. It was Briley's second ever ride in Daddy's car, the first being our trip to get a tree last year.  
Ryan hauled the tree through the field, back to the vehicle, and we both rolled it up the hood and onto the roof. Perks of driving a beater car: You can roll a tree onto it with no worries about scratching the paint.  It was massive, but we have no shame in our Griswold game.  

Back at the log cabin, Ryan and the owner forced the tree through a baler and then secured it back on the roof of the car. We paid for it and set off on our journey back home. We made a quick detour for some hot chocolate... because what is more Canadian than taking your freshly cut Christmas tree through the Tim Horton's drive thru?  

Back home, we set the tree up and removed the twine to watch the branches fall.  Our living room quickly disappeared and pine needles went flying... and we were happy.  The first day home with a Christmas tree always makes me feel like a child again.
Tonight as our girls slept in their rooms, we covered the tree in twinkling lights so that they can come downstairs tomorrow morning to embrace the magic that is the Christmas season.  Of course, a tree this big requires more lights than we accounted for, so we'll have to return to the store to purchase some more to fill in the gaps. After that, we'll decorate it as a family and then Briley will undecorate it on a daily basis for the next month.  

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas at our house. Please feel free to come visit, smell my tree, and admire its beauty while eating baked goods than I plan to make in the very near future.  'Tis my favourite time of the whole entire year.  

Guess Who's Back?

Nov 16, 2016

Oh hey, it's me, Krysta... former blogger.
I'd ramble off a list of excuses as to why I've neglected to post in what feels like forever, but if we're being honest here... I've been lazy. My husband was working out of town for about 80% of the month of October and hasn't been around much this November either. Solo parenting is draining. When I finally get the kids down for bed I barely have the brain capacity to watch endless hours of HGTV, let alone write words that string together well enough to make any sense. That last giant sentence? That's just my end of day rambling.
It's not easy taking care of the kids on my own, but I'd take this any day over working away and only seeing my girls during nightly 5 minute FaceTime conversations. We are so thankful for how hard Ryan works to provide for our family, even if we really, really miss him some days.
Here's what we've been up to over the last little while:

We went to Ontario! It was so much fun to visit my family and to introduce Briley to some people that had never met her... or Ryan, for that matter.
While we were there we went to Niagara Falls, crossed the border to shop in Buffalo, and visited Toronto. Aaralee mentions the CN Tower on a daily basis since we've been home, and already wants to return.

Briley learnt to climb. Everything.  Stairs, chairs, couches, and shelves. I came out of the washroom one day to find her proudly standing on the kitchen counter.  If she can't reach something, she'll push over a toy or books to use as a stool. She's into everything, and throws epic tantrums when things don't go her way. 

Aaralee is in preschool and loving it! I'm so proud of her and how far she has come from the hysterical, scared little girl that I dropped off on day one.  She's learning new songs, making friends, and occasionally coming home with artwork that I'll keep forever.  

We celebrated Thanksgiving with my family and it was delicious! I really missed having my husband home for one of my favourite holidays, but still I have so much to be thankful for. Primarily the sweet little turkeys that I spend my days with.  

Halloween was so much fun this year.  Aaralee now has a full understanding of trick-or-treating, and she talked about it for weeks in advance. My girls dressed up as Cruella Deville and a dalmation... and it was awesome. It took me 3 days to be able to brush through Aaralee's hair afterwards, but it was more than worth it.  We went trick-or-treating with my mom and the girls quickly accumulated mass amounts of candy that I'd consume with guilt in the week that followed. 

Last weekend Ryan was off of work, so we took advantage and headed to Banff. It was supposed to be a blissful weekend getaway, and it was... until Briley came down with a fever and spent half of the weekend miserable and refusing to sleep.  On the bright side, we got to ride the gondola several times (thanks, season pass!), visit Lake Louise, and reunite with some of my friends from Dubai!  Oh, and we went on a date. A real date, with a babysitter that was not one of our mothers, for the first time ever.  We only went across the street and we came back early, but it was still awesome. We had a seafood feast followed by a visit to the chocolate shop, and I didn't even have to share. Babysitters are magical. I can't believe that it's taken me 3 years to make this discovery. 

Other than that, it's been life as usual lately. We go to the gym, occasionally visit with friends, watch a lot of Sesame Street and read the Berenstain Bears way too often. 
As hard as I try to appreciate every single moment, I'll admit that I find myself counting down the hours until bedtime every single day.  I'm looking forward to the day in which Ryan comes home for more than a few days at a time. 
Well, I'm mostly looking forward to it. I have grown pretty fond of sleeping at an angle across our king sized bed.  

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. 


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! 


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.