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Thursday, July 21, 2016

A Day at the Park

We are very fortunate, we live close to a couple parks, but that often means frequent requests to go to the park.  I'm not always able to accommodate these requests, other responsibilities get in the way, but an experience I had recently changed my perspective on these trips to the park.

Author's Note:  This is not a picture from this particular trip to the park.  Yes, I live in Canada, but t is not cold enough here to wear a hat and have snow on the ground... at least not in July.  

With my husband working, it was just my daughter and I all weekend, so I promised her we could do some fun things, just her and I, but at the same time, my usual weekend routine, and some work responsibilities needed my time as well.  I accommodated most of her requests, but I had been putting off her request to go to the park, until she drew a picture of her favourite things in her life, she drew her family, a picture of herself dancing, and playing at the park.  How could I say no after such a heartfelt drawing?

So we started off to the park, all the time I had running through my mind all the things that had to get done at home.   Once we got there, I instinctively reached for my phone to check work emails, but then I decided to watch my daughter for a bit instead.  As she ran around the park, jumping on rocks, climbing the play structure, I saw the pure joy on her face.  I remembered what it was like to feel that way.  I felt guilty for not wanting to be there initially, and was really happy we decided to go.

The way I felt when I watched her made me feel happy and calm, unlike the stress I had felt a few minutes earlier thinking about all of the responsibilities at home.

When it was time to head back home, we decided to race home. She laughed so hard while we ran she fell down.  That is pure happiness.

When we got home, I felt rejuvenated and refreshed.  Like I had just meditated.  I'm not saying there won't be times that I will turn down her requests to go to the park in the future, but I will keep this experience in my mind, and I hope it will compel me to take a few minutes, and enjoy her happiness.

Now I know this was a pretty serious post for me... even more serious than I had intended to write when I began, but I think it's good to share these little reminders every once in a while.

Have you had a similar experience?  Feel free to share in the comments below, or on my Facebook page (CLICK HERE).

Monday, July 11, 2016

Being Happy With Me

Seven years ago, I was heading to a wedding.  it was one of my first few big outings after having my daughter.  I bought a new dress, I mustered up the energy, after a sleepless night, to do my hair and makeup.  I was feeling pretty good.  Here is a picture of me at that time:

When we arrived at the wedding, my first interaction with another guest was the following:

Woman - Hi there!  I remember you from the wedding shower!  How are you?

Me - Great thanks.  Nice to see you.  How are you?

Woman -  Good!   So when is your baby due?

Me - *pause*  (feeling my face get red) - I just had her 3 months ago. 

Woman - Really?  I didn't think you had the baby yet.

Me - Yep, she's a good baby. 

At that point someone witnessing the conversation cut in to change the subject.

I felt awful.  I started to question whether I was working hard enough to get my baby weight off.  Then I remembered, I had a baby.... 3 months ago.... and a rough birth at that.  So I decided not to be so hard on myself.  I would be happy with where I was.

Now, 7 years later... I'm no longer happy with where I am.  I often struggle to motivate myself to take control of my health, even though much of the work I have done previously related to motivating others to live healthy lifestyles.

I have always been good at coming up with excuses: I have a busy job that often involves long hours, sometimes involving evenings and weekends; I am a part-time MBA student; I have a daughter who is busy with her own activities which often involves me.  Don't get me wrong... I have free time, but my free time is limited.  And I often feel tired so I spent those free hours in front of the computer or television.

Last night, I asked my daughter if she wanted to have a dance party with me.  I put on some dance aerobics videos and did them while my daughter did her own dancing.  I did a full hour of heart pumping exercise.  That may not sound like a big accomplishment, but for me it was.  I felt good afterwards.  Tired and sweaty, but good.  

I want to ride that feeling.  I hope to hang on to that feeling and continue on a good path... for me, for my health, and for my family.  

I don't need a gym membership, a personal trainer, or even time out of the house by myself in order to exercise.  It can happen in my home, when I would usually watch tv.  

So what's the point in me sharing this information?  Because I know many have been in the same situation I have been.  I want to say to those people.... I've been there... I am there.... you are not alone.

Having a workout buddy is a great thing to have... someone to say "hey, want to get out for a walk"?  But sometimes, schedules get in the way.  I have a few walking buddies, but in addition, I put a little reminder on my phone to remind me to try to get some activity every day.  

Want to share your own tips and stories?  Feel free to share in the comments below. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

My Travel Addiction

So, I literally can picture my husband reading the title of this post, rolling his eyes and saying "well this isn't exactly earth shattering news is it".  My close friends and family can all tell you that I have a problem.  I am always looking in to our next vacation.

Most people have some kind of hobby, for many it may be things like scrapbooking, knitting, painting, running, or a any number of things, for me, it's vacation hunting.   I liken this to when people say they love bargain shopping, it's the thrill of finding a good deal.

I've totally bought in to the idea that gifts of memories are better than "things".  Now, when I say that, I'm not saying that in a judgmental "people are too materialistic" kind of way.  It's all about preference.  Just as some people may like to receive jewelry or a good book, or a new pair of sneakers.... I like anything to do with travel.  We've made a shift from buying each other gifts at Christmas to putting money towards family vacations.

I regularly check airlines, travel agency sites and discount sites like Priceline, Expedia, etc, for travel deals.  Some people hate the process of planning vacations, but I thrive in it.  Wanderlust is a permanent state of mind for me.  And I'm ok with that.

My favourite vacations have included Disney and Cuba....but I also love when we have "staycations".  I think when you live somewhere it's easy to overlook the reasons tourists visit your area.  I try to make an active effort to explore my own city.

Below are some of my favourite vacation and staycation pictures.

Do you have any favourite destinations?  Travel Tips?  I would love to hear them!  Leave your tips in the comments section. 

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Why Do You Have A Blog?

I see blogs as a conversation.  There are some topics I love to talk about, like travel, and I love finding people who have similar interests.  So it goes without saying, that I don't write about things that I'm not interested in or passionate about.

I've heard lots of people say "I could never have a blog".  If you don't like to write, that's true, a blog is probably not for you.  But if you like to have conversations with people you know, as well as strangers, I totally recommend it.

While I am far from a blogging expert, there are some tips I have learned and would like to share:

1.  Write about what you love.  Do you like crafting?  Write about that.  Love your family?  Write about the kinds of things you guys like to do.

2.  Be real.  There's nothing more disappointing than reading a blog that you can totally tell is not someone's true voice.  For me, if someone asked me to write a post about scrapbooking, I couldn't.  It's not that I don't like scrapbooking, and in fact, I actually do  some scrapbooking, but I fully acknowledge that I'm terrible at it.  I admire people who have great looking scrapbooks.  My attempts don't resemble much more than simply sticking pictures on some pages.

3. Blog regularly.  In my opinion, this is one of the most challenging aspects of having a blog.  In my every day life I have a full time job that requires over time and travel, I'm also working towards my MBA as a part-time student, and I'm a mom, and as my daughter gets older, her school and social calendars are getting busier, which often means I'm needing to get her places.  Make a realistic schedule for yourself.  Whether it be 5 days a week or 2, make the schedule and stick to it.  Don't over schedule yourself.  If you are a busy person, it's not realistic to think you will do it every day of the week.

4. Engage with people within your social media network, as well as other bloggers.  This will increase your reach and give you more people to have your conversations with.

Do you have a blog?  Share your link with me in the comments below.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Reconnecting as a Couple

This is one of my favourite wedding pictures.  We look so young, we look so happy.  This is what I remember of my wedding day.  Life has changed so much for us since we took this picture - new jobs, new house, we have a child... and these events have helped shape us as the couple we are today.

All of our commitments sometimes mean that my husband and I don't get much alone time.  And while we do get family time, which is very important, it's also important to make time for your marriage.  Time to reconnect.   And I'm not saying that you have to schedule in time each day to have intense conversations analyzing your marriage, but I do think it's important that, at least every once in a while, you have time, just the two of you.  This time can be to chat, to do an activity together, or even just sit in the same room together, without distraction from cell phones, and just be there... together.

Now I'm sure some of this can come off as super cheesy.  And others may view this as "going without saying", but some of us (ie - me) need reminding of how important it is to reconnect as a couple.

My husband and I celebrate 10 years of marriage this fall, and, for the first time in about 8 years, we are going to take a week-long vacation together.  Just the two of us.

When we first started talking about this vacation, I felt guilty that we weren't taking our daughter, but then I realized that taking time to focus on our marriage is important.  It's important for our relationship, and it's important for our family.

While it's not always possible to take a big vacation, I hope to keep reminding myself to take a little time, for our marriage.

Do you take time to focus on your relationship?  What are your tips or suggestions for reconnecting?  Feel free to share in the comments!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Travel Review: Grand Memories Varadero

My family and I had the fortunate opportunity of traveling to Varadero, Cuba in April 2016.  I won a trip courtesy of FamilyTravelCA and Sunwing Vacations.  Although we received our trip free, the opinions in this post are all mine, and some my family wanted to share as well.

We flew with Sunwing direct from Fredericton, New Brunswick, to Varadero, Cuba.  The ability to take a direct flight from a local airport was so convenient.  No airport transfers to deal with, and no long distance to drive to board our flight.

When we boarded our flight, my daughter received a Sunwing bag with some crayons, colouring page and an inflatable beach ball.  Each child on the flight received one.  My daughter was so excited to get hers, she put her stuffed animal right inside.

Our Sunwing flight featured sparkling wine, a new movie (Creed was the selection on our trip down), a meal, and beverages.  A great way to start our vacation!

Upon landing in Cuba, once we got through security, we exited the airport to find a Sunwing Representative to directed us to our bus to make our way to the resort. 

After a bus ride of less than an hour, we arrived at the Grand Memories Varadero.  We were greeted by a beautiful lobby and helpful staff.

The check-in process was quick, and we were on a trolley on our way to our room very shortly after.  Once we arrived in our room, we were very quickly asleep, but in the morning, woke to this view:

Not a bad way to start the day, right?

Next, it was off to the buffet.

So many choices every day - from pancakes, French Toast, omelettes, bacon, fruit, yogurt and more.

After breakfast, we made our way around the resort to see what there was to offer.  First, we found the "quiet pool", a beautiful and serene setting with a zero entry pool and a waterfall.  A great place to relax!

There was another pool at the resort that was a little more active.  This pool had several sections including a smaller kid's pool (not very deep), a shallow section for loungers to be put in the water for a cool rest, and a swim-up bar.  

This pool is very active with activities happening at most hours of the day.  There are plenty of "full sun" areas, but equally as many shaded areas.  The schedule can be found just outside the buffet - it includes the activities for both the pool and beach:

Next to the pool is a fantastic snack bar where you can get snacks 24 hours a day.  The pizza was my daughter's favourite.  I really liked the French Fries.

For lunch and supper, the buffet featured a wide range of foods such as pasta, hamburgers, french fries, potatoes, vegetables, fruit, chicken, pork, beef, shrimp and even lobster on some nights.  My daughter is a very picky eater and she never had trouble finding something to eat.  Rest assured that none of us lost any weight on this trip.

The evening featured shows in the very large theater, close to the buffet.  There is a bar at the rear of the theater for your refreshments, and the shows were lively and fun.  This was one of my daughter's favourite things to do at the property.  As an added bonus, for kids involved in the Kids Club, they often put on a show just prior to the main show for the evening.  This Kids Club Show was a highlight to the vacation for my daughter.  She couldn't wait to perform each day.

The fabulous dancers!

And then there's the beach.  Anyone who has ever been to Varadero knows how beautiful the beaches are, and the Beach at Grand Memories is no exception.  Gorgeous clear water, and even warmer than the pool!  Always busy and lots of activities happening.

When I told my daughter I was writing this post she wanted me to make sure I mentioned the Kids Club.  There is a building next to the "activity pool" that has a playground and a very shallow "baby pool".  This is the Kids Club.  Each day there are activities planned for kids to participate in.  Some inside the building, and some outside.  The activities range from arts and crafts, to sand castle building at the beach, swimming, games and shows, and even visits from Toopy and Binoo and the Berenstain Bears!

The schedule posted outside the Kids Club

And, as mentioned above, the kids have the opportunity to participate in a little evening show, which they practise for each afternoon.  

The staff at the kids club were so friendly and welcoming.  They would often walk around the pool to recruit kids for their programs.  My daughter has said that she can't wait to head back to Grand Memories to play at the Kids Club again.

Don't forget to take some time to head off resort as well to take in the sights and sounds of Cuba.  We actually were able to pre-purchase a trip in to Havana while on our plane ride down to Cuba.  This day-trip was a long one with lots of walking, so be prepared for that, but we had lots to see and the tour guide was very informative.

The weather was gorgeous, people were very helpful and hospitable, and the accommodations were great!

Our trip home was comfortable and included a movie, beverages and food.  The Sunwing crew was happy to answer any questions, and prepared us well for arriving back in Canada by providing the proper customs forms and answering any questions we had.

Overall this was a fantastic experience.  We look forward to heading to Grand Memories again, and we will definitely be travelling with Sunwing in the future!

Friday, May 6, 2016

How Does She Do It?

Yes, the age old question that we sometimes ask ourselves, or even ask out loud.  I've thought it, you've thought it, we've all thought it at some point: "How does she do it?"

I know the term "mommy wars" gets a lot of press these days, and before you tune out because you've heard enough about mommy wars.... this post is not about that.  I think that as much as we talk about moms tearing each other down, sometimes, or even frequently, we can be our own worst critic.

I thought about this the other day, a friend of mine said to me "I don't know how you do it, working full time, going to school, busy mom.....  I could never handle all of that".  It made me smile, because just says before, I was thinking the same about her: mom of 2, busy job, busy social life, I don't know how she does it.

I think we all have moments when we think to ourselves "I don't know what I'm doing", or feel frustrated or overwhelmed.  And while we all have those moments, I think we also are far too critical of ourselves for having those moments.

I think it's great to recognize other great moms that you know in your life.  Know someone that's doing a great job?  Fantastic!  It's great to have good moms and friends.  Just remember, you are a great mom too.  We're all just doing the best we can for our kids.  We may all have different methods of getting there, but ultimately, we're all just trying to do right by our children.

All of this to say, take a breath, take a bow, take a moment for yourself.... and pat yourself on the back, mom, you're doing a good job.