Wednesday, 24 August 2016

When peppers prepare you for back to school

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I'm in go-mode right now. Back to school is just around the corner and I'm at that point where I start to look at the calendar and then I look at our house and I start to MOVE.

So cupboards are being organized, labeled and beautified. Muffin recipes are being pinned on Pinterest for wildly huge batches of these things that I'll bake and freeze for school lunches. Clothes closets are being purged and organized, fall clothes are being bought and all of the to-do-list things that I meant to do during my mat leave are constantly on my mind.  

And food? Well, I feel like I'm preparing for an apocalypse.

But before I get into that...let's just take a second to breathe and remember that it's still summer time...

and when I start to run through my to-do lists and feel like the time crunch is on...

I just take myself back to summer time fun, and it brings back some perspective.

Because breakfast tables with a view...

sm'Oreos early in the morning (because, well it's summer time, so we can)...

walks along the dock before bedtime...

and kayak rides with Grandma at the cottage mean that we can forget about reality for a second, and stay stuck in summer time mode for just a little bit longer. 

But when I let my eyes stare at the calendar again, and then picture my kindergarten classroom without floors yet since it's currently under construction just a couple weeks before school starts (eek!)...and I think about dropping off Sophia at daycare and both of us crying, and then prepping Carter for his first day of kindergarten and getting Mya ready for her first day of big girl grade 1--then oh ya, getting myself, our classroom and everything ready for my students while going back to work after being on mat leave for over a year...I start to realize that I'll control what I can control. And I'll understand that everything else will happen as it is supposed to and as it will. Everything will come together in the end and everything will work out for good. But in the meantime, I'll scurry around pretending like I can get all of these millions of things done in the 2 weeks before the real craziness begins.

So kitchen cupboards are being organized, because sure, I can't organize and prep my classroom right now--but noone is telling me that I can't organize my tupperware cupboard. So I shall. 

And dinner time? Well the rush of getting dinner on the table after a long day of work means that I want to prep for that too--and what we've done for years now is prep tons of veggies ahead of time and freeze them.

So I bought ginormous bags of peppers from the market (for only $10 a bag!) and we put Sophia down for a nap and spent some time chopping up these millions of peppers and bagging them (then freezing them) so that we will have prepared peppers for meals all winter long. Terry and I have done this many times before with both peppers and onions and it is a LIFE SAVER when it comes to meal prep and it saves us a ton of money since veggies become super expensive during the winter months.

And the great thing about kids growing up right before your eyes? ...well, they can pitch in and help with the whole process..

and they actually think that using our beloved chopper is FUN! So go for it kids...thanks for the help.

And other veggies that we washed, blanched {boil for 3mins, then quickly transfer to a bowl of ice water}, and froze?


and tons of beans.

So with tons of bagged, frozen veggies now filling my freezer, I feel a slight sense of I can actually possibly pull this whole teaching/mom thing off in a couple of weeks. Just maybe.

And until then, I'll keep scurrying around my house cleaning out closets, organizing cupboards, buying cute little organizational things that give our clutter an actual home (like this fabulous little caddie for our kitchen counter that now holds all of the mail, paper etc that used to pile up in this corner)--*from Homesense.  

Because when my house is clean and organized I always have a sense of calm about everything else going on--even when my classroom doesn't even have floors yet.

Power on teacher friends. Power on.

Erica xo

Saturday, 6 August 2016

How we go on a successful family vacation with kids

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We've learned a lot as a family over the years about going on trips with little kids. We've had family vacations where it felt like absolute chaos, where we were absolutely exhausted by the end of it, questioning whether it was worth it and learning the hard way about just about every single part of going away with kids. Because, you see, when we go away with my parents and my sisters family, we have five kids, 5yrs old and under with us--all as close to each other as siblings. So really, let me re-phrase this--we have learned a lot about going on family TRIPS with this many kids...because vacation is a word meant for lazing around, enjoying cocktails on the beach and coming home feeling refreshed and relaxed. A family TRIP still means that we have a good time, but we are definitely not relaxing. So, after a lot of trial and error--after a lot of tears and frustrations, after a lot of absolute exhaustion, I feel like we have finally (somewhat) figured this out. We have figure out how to avoid the meltdowns, how to avoid our kids not wanting to go to bed in strange places, how to avoid the cousins/siblings fighting and how to ultimately just have a good time. 

So, this year, we put all of our trip knowledge into place and packed up all 11 of us, and headed out on the road. And this trip? Well, it was great.

We headed to a family resort on the lake, just over a two hour drive away. And if you've never heard of a place like this, picture the movie Dirty Dancing (minus the Patrick Swayze dance moves, of course). Picture little cabins lined up along the water, equipped with nothing more than a tiny bathroom, a tiny bar fridge and some REALLY out-dated decor.

Picture a dining hall where we all met for breakfast, lunch and dinner and where we were served amazingly delicious meals and where someone else did our dishes for us.

Picture events planned and designed for kids, all day long. So finish up breakfast fast, because at 9am they have a scavenger hunt prepared for all of the kids, so you better get moving.

Then picture water games and relay races happening at the beach for the kids, so get down there to join in the fun {or laze around in the ankle-deep water in a boat, because when the water for a long while out is this shallow, it means that kids can play for hours in the water and although we're still on alert, none of us are freaking out like we would have with this many kids if it was even a bit deeper}.

Picture a games room just beside the dining hall, where you'll find game tables, puzzles in progress, a tuck shop for buying treats, a stage for night time performances and karaoke and toys in a big bucket for any kid who needs some entertainment.

*Mya with the magician/kids performer on stage one night

Picture so much hot sun that the full white shirt and floppy hat look becomes our constant (and SUPER stylish) beach attire. 

And when you're done at the beach? Well, head on over to the pool. Because a slide and a bunch of kids means hours of entertainment. 

And then when you're tired of that, head over to the very very old (and a bit sketchy) mini golf course for some more fun. 

Or play at the crazy plastic playground with tons of tunnels that the kids absolutely loved.

 So with roasting marshmallows after dinner...

 and eating sm'Oreos {marshmallows in between Oreos)

we put the kids to bed and watched the sunset from our cabins each and every night.

 And on that last day, just before we left, we sent Mya to the "spa" (ie. the playroom with a couple extra chairs set up), where she got pampered by a couple of the young staff members. So as the curling iron ran through her hair, and nail polish dried on her nails, she came out feeling fabulous.

 So all in all, a GREAT family trip. So much fun. So many great memories made.

But here's the anyone out there who has also thought that family trips are more work than enjoyable and more exhausting than relaxing, here are the things that we have learned over the years..because this time, we really did come home feeling like it was totally worth it. Feeling like it was so much fun. Feeling like the kids AND the adults had a blast.

But, I fully believe that the reason we felt this way is because we made a few important changes (from learning the hard way on previous trips). We, for example, split the kids up at bedtime--every family had their own cabin, so our 2 big kids shared a room, Sophia was with us, and Jen/Jeff's kids shared a room in another cabin. No more tiny people driving us to drink as they bounced off the walls before bedtime, excited to be sleeping with their cousins. We'll save that for when they're a bit older.

And another thing we changed? We made sure there was a ton of stuff to keep the kids busy during the day, which is why this resort with all of their kid friendly activities was so incredibly appealing. The resort did the work, we sat back and enjoyed it. Perfect.

And naps? You try not to miss them. Everyone is in much better shape after some quiet time for the big kids and naps for babies--adults included.

And finally, chillax about the little things and lower your expectations.

It's not going to go perfectly. The morning that we were leaving, trying to pack up our whole house into our van, trying to wrangle little people, change diapers, get breakfast into them on the run and get out on time, I remember pulling Terry aside. We were both doing okay at that point, but I said to him (in case of a catastrophe or just a stressful situation that morning with the kids), I reminded him that our kids will remember how we're reacting to GETTING there. The process of leaving the house for a trip. The process of getting into the car and taking off. The process of getting stuck in traffic and having squirmy kids eager to get out and get to our destination. They'll associate our reaction to them during this getting there process as a part of our trip--so even when it was easy to get frustrated during those moments before we headed out, we tried to pull ourselves together and make the leaving part as enjoyable as the actual trip itself. Easier said than done, but in reminding Terry of this, I reminded myself of this and we got there with both parents intact. Good news.

So we've learned a lot. We've messed up a lot in order to learn a lot. But I finally feel like we have figured out how to travel with 11 people. So to anyone out there who is about to take their little kids somewhere great, whether you have 3 people in your family or 11--enjoy it! And bring lots of treats. Treats fix almost anything on a trip. And remember, one day they'll grow up and (I think) it will get a lot easier.

Happy summer everyone!

We're a little happy to be home now too.

Erica xo


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