Newest article up about our latest family adventure to Vancouver, Canada. Find out my Top 5 Vancouver Attractions for families of any size.
This and our other large family trips can be found at Six Suitcase Travel.
Newest article up about our latest family adventure to Vancouver, Canada. Find out my Top 5 Vancouver Attractions for families of any size.
This and our other large family trips can be found at Six Suitcase Travel.
Fitz and Tantrums put out a song recently called, “All The Feels.” The phrase has become used by, pretty much everyone the last couple of years, but especially my kids. I re-listened to the song today and realized why it was an instant hit. It comes at a time when everyone, our kids included, attempt to deal with trying to figure out “all the feels” they have each and every day.
As a parent, trying to navigate “all the feels” can be tiring, exhausting but so important. In fact, dealing with “the feels” is something I navigate daily especially as a parent of three or more children, sometimes those feels come at me all at once, and I forget what kid is feeling what. Thank goodness that two out of three have no issue telling me their feelings.
Our family just got back from our annual summer trip. (More to be written about this later.) There were lots of feels revealed on that trip. After working tirelessly to provide a balanced journey of exploration, rest and fun – as always when we travel with kids – it doesn’t quite work out that way.
This year our family traveled to Italy followed by a cruise on the Mediterranean. Planning a trip this way is the first time we have experienced combining two types of trips – one exploring a new part of the world combined with a place where (we hoped) everyone could relax.
In preparation for our trip, I asked our 8-year-old, 11-year-old and 13-year-old for input. I tried this tactic and am a firm believer that they should have a say on at least one activity. I got standard answers of, “I don’t know,” or the best response, “I just want gelato.” So most of the details were left mainly to me. (Not to say Mr. L didn’t pitch in – he did on so many logistical levels to flights, hotels, and navigation.) My kids, like so many other kids, even when I emailed the older one’s articles or left out Italy travel books hoping to spark any ideas – had almost zero interest in helping plan a family trip. That is fine, I could do it myself. But I also know how it will go – or should have known.
The feels started the second day. Italy was under an intense heatwave – unfortunate timing, but in reality, nothing to be done. We also rented a house that did not have air conditioning. Now most accommodations in Italy do not have a/c, and I prepped all the family members for when we talked about heading to Italy about this fact, but it was promptly forgotten as the house turned into a sauna during the day.
So, keeping the heatwave in mind, time differences and the ages of my kids – I tried to be patient. I did not, as past experience has taught me, expected full-on enthusiasm for all the details on the trip. After all, traveling with 7 people (my parents came along for the ride) leads to “all the feels.” But the days when the whining would not stop, one kid was crying, or I was lecturing in a rental car on behavioral issues, the thought once again crossed my mind, “Why do I keep doing this? Is it worth it?”
I hope so. I wish on some level the kids take away some good memories, some unique experiences, and eventually, an appreciation for the amount of money and effort parents put in to pull off traveling as a family. This kind of travel isn’t for the faint of heart and not for everyone. I’m not sure it will be for me every year. Patience is an ever-elusive trait I am constantly trying to reach for and thank goodness I had some yoga breathwork in my toolbox to take me through the tough moments.
I also am cognizant that if anyone follows any other social media, I am on – the pictures show only part of the story. They tell the happy moments – the beauty that I cannot capture in words – the full heart I carry home, thankful that travel is a priority in our lives. I have to cling to the belief that for them, the experiences they have had, the parts of the world they have seen and the privilege they have to travel with us nestles itself somewhere in their beings.
But in mulling over “all my feels,” and to sit in reality for a moment – here is a cheat sheet of a few lessons that I learned while on this trip. I take these lessons very seriously and apply as many as make sense for future trips. I have to – if I ever want to book another family trip again. They keep me going when I think, “what’s the point.”
These are the top five that I think are the most important when traveling abroad with three or more little people. The tips from the cruise we jumped on with Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines can be put into a few points:
No matter where you travel, be prepared for “all the feels” that comes with traveling with kids. Someone will be sad, happy, excited, angry, and frustrated, including you. Look for those particular special nuggets where everyone smiled for a picture or you think, “well that was a nice hour,” it may be how you get through some of the days. My hope – for anyone who travels and for my family – is the realization that it is worth it. Capture the best moments – learn from the not great ones and plan the next trip.
Where are you traveling to with your family?
Any tips for our next trip? Choices are: Universal Studios, Florida, Vancouver, Hawaii, Israel/Greece – or maybe we’ll be crazy and do all of them next year as different trips. Funnier things have happened.
I am happy to announce that the third in my article series about our family trip to Israel is online. You can visit the article for tips on where to go and what we did in Masada/Dead Sea and Eilat at SixSuitcase Travel.
You can find all the articles about that trip to Israel as well as all the other destinations we have traveled in my profile on the SixSuitCase Travel blog. Have you ever wondered where to travel with a large family? Ideas, tips, and pics can be found on the very informative website SixSuitCase Travel for many destinations across North America, Europe and worldwide.
The title is a phrase that every parent has uttered to someone on the other end of a phone call or text message. Especially a parent of three or more kids, all who want or need something anytime during the day. Add in a new cell phone for Elizabeth, our almost 13-year old, and the nonstop texts informing me about things, sending Bitcoms or random Tik Tock videos, (I have no idea if I even wrote those out right!) and it never ends. But in actuality, what I mean about the above phrase is using it to those you love the most, your family.
Have you ever thought about going away? Tried and failed? It’s a hard thing to do as a parent because they find you. Any parent, and to be honest, as a mom, they always find you. To be fair, we let them find us too. We check in. We promise ourselves that it’s time to disconnect and that our phones or emails will be off for an hour, a day or gasp – a weekend. Yet, it’s hard to do. We still call or text making sure the cats have been fed, that all the homework is done and answer random questions about where so-and-so’s textbook is or why didn’t we tell someone that the milk was almost gone. It’s almost like it’s programmed in our DNA. Or is it?
It’s a question I certainly have struggled with over the last little while. In a noisy world, one where immediate responses are guaranteed, even expected most of the time, this constant communication has created a sense of panic if someone doesn’t respond right away. Now imagine disappearing for a day, or a weekend for some much-needed self-care. Be it a girls weekend, retreat, or a day at the mall, whatever brings you peace and joy and what is that huge thing standing in our way? Our own incessant need to be connected. To retain a sense of control of a situation, even when we are not there.
It has also created kids that expect an immediate response and then ensuing anxiety if that response isn’t provided. I can already see it, actually this afternoon, with my eldest daughter. I left my phone in the little cottage in the woods, choosing to join the other women on the retreat for a delicious dinner, sharing circle and chocolate tasting. No pictures. No texts home. Just being in the moment. I came back to 16 texts, most of them cute bitcoms showing her waiting and waiting to hear back from me. On one hand, it’s cute she’s thinking of me, and I even apologized for not answering. Apologized? Why? Because I understand that feeling when you are waiting to hear back, we all do and it has created an impatient sensibility at best and at worse, anxiety in a kid waiting to hear back from their mom. Neither good outcomes.
Don’t get me wrong in many, many situations being so accessible is hugely advantageous. It can help communication about a shift in schedules, emergency situations and even to let your partner know you need milk on the way home. But the question is, does the constant contact serve what we need? I guess that’s a personal question each of us has to answer.
Learning to be an advocate for my own self-care and taking the journey to carve out that space we all need to be silent and offline so we can reflect, and rest has enabled me to see in others that this is not just my struggle but a world we all share. The affects of always being available are real and damaging. It’s pressure. An added weight to already complicated lives and a burden we all carry. A burden that our children, no matter how well-intentioned we are or mindful about it, will have to deal with.
The answer may be different for everyone as everyone may have different tolerance levels to the noise of life. As I spend another weekend at a wonderful retreat with limited (not completely offline) access – I have space to think about other things. Things that I have pushed to the side, unfinished business. I have had time to take a walk through a snowy woods and curl up like a cat near a fireplace with the sun on my face. I have had time to read, to think and to dream. I also know, (Mr. L may not agree), time away allows me to let go of that sense of control we all sometimes carry while, building trust with my partner/support systems that they can handle parts of life. At the very least it reminds me that parts of life can wait until it’s time to return that call.
This retreat, whether guided or self-directed, will not be my last one. Yes, I am very fortunate to be able to go, and yes, I often have other parents, caregivers or anyone, wonder how I can do it. How do I walk away for a day, a weekend or even a week?
Simply put, I choose to say to my partner, friends, family, children, work or whatever is going on in life (and put this onto Text or Voice Mail too), I can’t take your call right now. All of it will be waiting when I return the call, but perhaps, by choosing to disconnect for a morning, a day, a week or a month, I’ll be in a calmer state to deal with what life throws my way. In the process, I hope it teaches my family to be more patient and self-reliant in a world that often revels in and promotes immediate gratification.
Enjoyed the last article on our Big Family Trip to Israel? Then you won’t want to miss article number 2 in the series – Caesarea and Jerusalem. Find out what are the best things to do in both of these historic cities!
Check it out here.
During the summer our family of five travelled across the ocean to Mr. L’s home country, Israel. This was our third family trip to this amazing country that is full of sea, sand and everything you need for a memorable experience.
In this first of a 3-part article series on the trip, I provide the Top 10 Family Friendly Places To Visit in Tel Aviv.
Diving, swimming – any thoughts of water to help alleviate a humid early start to summer in this small area of Ontario are much welcome thoughts. Diving into new experiences. Diving into life. So many ways to explore that free-fall experience that ends in a splash..or a belly flop. It can go either way.
We’re heading into our third year here in Prince Edward County. Life is slower at times but I have thoroughly enjoyed the stolen moments with my family or on my own (when not driving to the ends of the each nearby towns to get the kids or that one shop I really like), to sitting or doing simply nothing and enjoy the beauty of this area.
Prince Edward County is a rich oasis of agricultural land, water, art, music and people. There is a laid-back friendliness that we have enjoyed from shop owners, neighbours and strangers just trying to help. It’s the whole area – stemming from Belleville to Trenton to PEC that is quite welcoming. It’s not perfect mind you, but it’s real with little pretence.
The most recent example of this mindset happened when I was fortunate enough to have a story accepted for a local anthology called The County Wave. At the reading, as I tried to ignore my shaking hands and looked out at the crowd, I noticed that the people were attentive and encouraging. No cell phones. Afterwards, as I signed anthologies frankly overwhelmed at the praise, I got to talking with another contributor. He was a fellow former city dweller who now lived almost full-time in The County. He had the following to say,
“You know what I like about this area? When I tell someone here I’m an author, they just simply say, that’s great. Let me know where I can find your stuff. In the big city, the first thing they ask is, should I know you?”
It’s just a slightly different perception out here and I think we like it. Most of the time.
As we enter into our third year here, I still get the odd comment or tears from the kids. They miss their really good friends, our old house was cozy etc. etc. What I think they miss the most is the ability to walk outside your door and instantaneously often have people to talk to, kids to play with a park around the corner. I simply tell them, I do too. But I look at what we are building here. A place for people to visit for as long as they want. A retreat they (and us) will appreciate as life gets busier and busier and takes our family in all different directions. Somewhere our children and their friends will want to come back to, I hope.
I can’t predict the future, all I can do is keep taking them with me as I explore the area showing them the hidden treasures of Prince Edward County. I hide my smile when they slip up and say they’re glad to be home after a long day out doing a multitude of school related activities. I know they will appreciate the quiet as Mr. L and I do, I also know they like how bright the stars shine at night, maybe not the mosquitos, but the view is worth it.
Or maybe not. Maybe they’ll run away to the city or even back to the place where they began their lives. Perhaps they will room with those friends that they have longed for since and that they have managed to stay in touch with. Who knows.
As a parent, the biggest struggle for me the last two years is the constant in and out between home, town and school. Sure, I did it back in the ‘burbs. What parent doesn’t? But add in kilometres and 30-45 minute trips to get pretty much anywhere including groceries and supplies, it adds up. It has meant that we had to make some changes in how we manage life.
Country Living with Kids vs Suburb Living with Kids When You Have Three or More Kids
The list looks daunting and each of these bullet points race through my head every time I am asked, why did you move? Or – was it worth it?
The simple answer is yes.
The above list is just one way of doing things versus another. I choose to view it as a puzzle to solve – is there a good way to deal with a busy five-person household while living in the country? If we simplify things, then yes. If anything, the best thing to come out of this move is the reminder that our family should be more mindful about what choices we make as well as how we spend our time and money.
Who do we want to spend time with in our home? What activities do the kids really want to do versus just doing them because they are available? Do I really need to go and buy that item or can I make do with that I have? In the suburbs, it’s easy to overbuy, overspend and over schedule because it’s available. Out here in PEC, you have to take a pause and think, how important is that right now?
So, in the long run I believe this has been an important lesson for our family to learn and one I hope my children will take with them as they enter the teen years and beyond. The ability to pause, reflect for a moment and make a choice versus doing things just because they are easy. Do you have to change your life and move out to the country to do this? No way. This practice can be done anywhere and by anyone. We just had to move out of the ‘burbs to learn it.
In the beginning, that current catch word, mindfulness, was not the reason I thought we moved here. I will often hesitate, wondering how to phrase my answer to that “why did you move out here,” question. So I blurt out the first answer that pops into my head. I tell people we moved because out here, we got a better value for property. It was the best, honest answer I could form to the constant inquiry. Yes people, we moved to get what we wanted in a family home.
But in retrospect, or at least during the last two years, although that answer was the best that I could discern from this whole experience and was in part, true, another life lesson emerged from the dive. That one about being more mindful of one’s choices. Now that answer only came to mind once I started to reflect back on the last two years and the corresponding shifts our family have undergone. It was an aha moment as you realize what has shifted within your family over a two year period.
Life is busy when you have kids. Downright insane when you have three or more. If we can slow it down, even a little bit, while teaching an important, unstated lesson to our children about mindfulness, well then at this juncture in our lives, I believe we dove into the deep end and made the right move for us.
True love, unlike what it says in the Princess Bride..
…does not always mean finding that perfect person – the soul mate which you spend the rest of your life. Nice ideals bred out of the romantic illusion sold over the last few hundred years since Prince Charming slipped that slipper on Cinderella’s foot.
For us, Valentine’s Day is a panicked rush where I scrounge to help three children make Valentine’s Day cards for their classes while loading them up with dollar store chocolates hoping most of them are nut free. Valentine’s Day means staying up late to set a table laden with felt hearts and small gifts because a tradition was inadvertently started when your eldest child was four years old and you are now locked into it – even if all you want to do is get yourself to bed and watch a show on Netflix or read a book. Valentine’s Day means rushing home and not getting any work done because you need to make those chocolate heart cakes for their afternoon snacks – even if it is out of a box. You do all of these things – even if you don’t want to – because you’re a parent. If that isn’t true love, then I have no idea what is.
From what I have learned being a parent means living every day for true love.
You know it’s true love when:
For all the tired parents out there who may wonder who are the people who go out for a nice adult dinner on Valentine’s Day – once your kids are off their chocolate highs from the copious amounts of candy they had at school (or brought home) – give yourself a pat on the back. You know what true love really is and you live it each and every day.
Mornings. When you have three or more kids (and 4 pets), it is mayhem, pure and simple. Each day some creature needs attention, does something wrong and I look like a crazed lady with uncombed hair trying to feed, manage and send other people out into the world.
Yes, yes. I have tried all the following:
Some days one of these things may work but most days – nothing works. I still find myself scrambling, coaxing, pleading, begging, shouting and ultimately raising my hands in exasperation as the new kitten knocks over a bucketful of water, one kid has no mittens for winter carnival day and the third has come downstairs with unbrushed hair and clothes that fit her two years ago.
On top of that, usually some of the kids are fighting over something petty and I am again saying “hands off please,” one is in tears because of a bad dream they just remembered or a third is arguing with me that they don’t need to double-check they have proper gym clothes. (Typically she forgets at least one item resulting in the teacher finding me at pick up to tell me she forgot her gym uniform, again). So is it a surprise that I ask myself every morning – will this get better? What is the magic trick to less stressful mornings? In truth, I have tried a lot of things to keep myself and our household calm with no long-lasting solution.
I have resorted to the hard a$$ mom who says, “If you waste my time in the morning by not being ready to go and I have to help you find a pair of waterproof mittens again, (and by the way you have lost two pairs this year), then the consequence is that I can’t get ready or feed the pets or do the marathon list of things that need to happen before we leave and all of you will be late, again, for school.”
This kind of worked. The kicker – being late stresses all of us out more and makes my whole day start late. Or it is a bus day and they have to be ready to go by an earlier time that adds a whole other layer of crazy.
So -what is the trick? Is it just a matter of accepting that for now, while they are these ages, it’s just mayhem? That because they are not old enough to let go of all the mom-checks before they leave, (Do you have your homework? Do you have the permission form signed? Do you have your water bottle, gym clothes, indoor running shoes, mittens, coat? You do know it’s -10 degrees celsius outside? We need snow pants.), but old enough to get themselves ready and be responsible for their things this age is more difficult? Add to all of this that we have two dogs and two cats who also want outside, treats and food and need to be crated and contained before we leave unless I want my house totally trashed.
Should I just accept that these mornings, the ones that have all been on me for the last eight years with a growing brood of children, takes a toll and I need to give myself a break? Do I go back to work full-time and hire a morning nanny to help a poor mom out or just grit my teeth and wait out the winter so we can all go back to leaving the house in a t-shirt alleviating some of the pressure?
I have no idea. If you do – let me know.
Otherwise, pass the coffee- the house is now quiet. Today, I may pour a splash of Irish Cream in lieu of milk into my mug.
Good early, early morning!
As I have been squirreled away, typing out dark fiction stories, I realized that this blog is long overdue for an update. In truth, I’ve been struggling. Like so many of us, trying to find the secret mixture to balance children, household, travel, pets, health and of course, my own creative desires. Something had to give, so I apologize for the lack of posts but here’s another confession – I didn’t know what to write.
Being embroiled in fiction writing in 2017 with a mandate to tell as many short stories as possible, I had no ideas left on what to write about from a parenting perspective because in truth, I felt I didn’t have a handle on anything.
I know, I know. None of us do – not really. We pretend and we do our best each day but let’s face it – as these kids get older although some things are much easier – some things are much harder. The stakes are higher. You want to reach them, guide them, mentor them and give them the solid foundation – and they resist. Oh boy, do they resist. So you drink your glass of wine (or martini or tea – whatever your preference), and you realize how mentally drained you are at the end of the day and certain things, like this blog, go by the wayside. Scattered remains leftover by a busy life where we possibly cannot do everything.
And you know what? It’s okay. Blogs, books to read, projects to finish will be here when I have a bit of time or the spark of creativity focuses its lens on something other than monsters under the bed. So, this morning, I am taking the time from my bed, still in pyjamas with our two dogs keeping my feet warm (oops!) and simply write.
Sparred by a podcast I listen to with sincere awe and dedication every Tuesday and Friday, I started realizing I had something new to say. A parenting challenge the last little while that I could share. That I even had a strategy in place when I wrote it out that I had not even realized. A simple response to For Crying Out Loud‘s last podcast turned into a huge Facebook post because something resonated – how I handle one of my children.
Being a parent of three or more kids – any kids for that matter – requires being part investigator and therapist with a dash of imagination. Each child is unique, there is no one size fits all and you know what? It’s hard. Damn hard to try to tweak your own instincts to suit another human being with their own whole host of personality quirks. But we try to do it – figure out these little human puzzles every single day – why? Because we love our kids and want the best for them.
Here’s my FB post in response to a situation that one of the hosts of FCOL when she described a challenge she was having with her older child. It resonated with me because I heard so many things – the personality, the struggle to reach that child – that I was like – hell yes! What’s up with these type of kids?
Posted on January 16th – For Crying Out Loud – Reel It In (A closed group for listeners of the show – so go and listen to podcast and then join the conversation.)
Listening to today’s podcast where Stefanie Wilder-Taylor is describing Sadie, she could be describing my middle girl (who is almost 10). I have STRUGGLED with how to reach this bright, artistic kid who is often out-talked and overshadowed by a chatty older sister and charismatic younger brother. I’m slowly figuring it out, for now. I was fighting a losing battle, so here are some tips I am trying:
1) Listen – she often feels no one listens to what she wants.
2) Let her go at her own pace as much as possible.
3) Make deals – she had to take organized ski lessons last year – she hated it although she’s really good. I told her if she finished the session, (I explained how all I wanted was for her to learn basic skills to which she replied, I know enough.) I would not ask her to take lessons again and she could free ski. She went out for the whole two hours just last weekend, on her own, happy as a clam while the other kids were at lessons. She was happier and was skiing.
4) Give her time to think about things. I make suggestions and give her space and time to consider what she wants. Basketball this year, she wanted to go last year, she got frustrated as she was behind other girls but she stuck with it because she had asked for it. This year, I haven’t pushed her into it, I just asked what she wants to do and the date I need to know. She’s thinking and I have to practice patience and respect our agreed upon timeline.
5) It takes time to find a good fit – I have had to accept that the right teacher/coach is key for this type of child. She needs someone to bring her out of her initial shyness. Example: She is an awesome drummer/musician – was ho-hum with last year’s instructor and was unmotivated. (She’s already given up piano due to not liking structure lessons) New teacher the past two weeks and it’s like a light went on. She’s motivated and excited.
Lastly, keep on telling her I’m on her side – that sometimes I want her to try new things but ultimately I will listen and respect what she wants to do. I found this mindset has helped, she talks more to me about what she wants and has opened up a bit – at this point I’ll take anything she gives as I feel like it’s been a long road to get her to open up and trust we’re all on the same side. If this helps anyone with a kid like this, great. At the very least, I am so glad to hear my kid is not the only one who is like this – sometimes I have no idea what to do with her!!
At the end of crafting this hugely long FB post – unusual for me – I realized maybe I do have something to share and more importantly – some semblance of a plan for my middle child.
Audrey has been brought up before on this blog – for a while I have been frustrated trying to find a way to reach this amazing child, one who remains a bit of mystery to me but who is also a mirror of some of my own inner challenges as a person and a parent. She has taught me patience, to listen and joy because when you reach her and she lets you into her world – a light goes on that makes you feel wonderful.
Do you have a child in your life that you struggle to reach? Love to hear how other parents handle these types of situations and children.
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