Choosing a Campground and Campsite

Great tips for a family vacation!

Vacationing with Kids

Have camping on the list of things to do this summer with your family? Choosing the campground that is right for your family will make all the difference in your camping experience.

Some things to consider when choosing a campground:

Distance – Depending on whether you are seasoned campers or going for your first time choose how far away you want to travel.  Take into consideration how far you would be willing to travel in the middle of the night should a big storm roll in and you want to go home.

Length of stay – Does the campground offer enough to keep your family entertained for the duration of your trip

Needs of your family – Does the campground have all the amenities that your family wants i.e.. Beach, pool, playground, snack shop, kids activities, hiking trails, bathroom amenities…

Word of mouth – Ask around to friends and family…

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Potty training

How timely as I start thinking about this for my little man!

justwanttobeayummymummy

‘Potty Training,’ if those two words do not instantly fill your head will a range of emotions normally nearing towards dread and doom then you should instantly inform the parents of the potty training world your fabulous secrets!!

Third time round and last time (for the time being)…I have vested interest in this. I have sieged those few days that looked remotely like spring/summer type weather and replaced the pull ups with undies.  The less layers of clothing that need changing and changing and washing and washing, the easier on my brain and washing machine!  We have endured nearly a week of working out the sensation of weeing and the dislike for it disrupting his playtime.  The potty has quietly followed him in his tracks so it is ever so conveniently there when needed. Clearly all is not so slick, with other children’s needs and dare I say it our…

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Taking vows.

The air inside our modest suburban house is damp. The humidity levels are quickly rising as we move from a rather cool spring to a what I believe is going to be a humid summer. My hair is frizzing at rapid pace and the windows let in a cool breeze. Thunderstorms are imminent. My printer is chugging along, thankfully finally set-up properly on my make-shift desk, or rather our kitchen counter, printing out my first complete fiction piece.

This mom of three finally finished a full fiction story! Over one-hundred pages it classifies as a novella in its current state and part of me dreads the next step of editing and re-writing, but an accomplishment it is. My spring chores were put on hold, my house is passably clean on at least the ground level, no one ever goes upstairs but us anyway, my fitness goals were curtailed (truthfully I don’t need much to put those aside,) and other writing endeavours put on hold, but finally the first, first draft is done!

Our neighbourhood cardinal is still singing his morning song and the mother robin who has made a nest outside our kitchen window in a pair of flood lights chirps angrily anytime someone moves in the house. All of this is background noise to the sweet sounds of the printer that will soon complete its task and I will see my words in print. The story I have written in those moments of stolen mornings with coffee in hand in between school pick-ups and rushed lunches.

The actual craft of writing feels intimidating in this moment. Words written by those with much more experience suggest leaving the story for a bit. Taking a break. But a large part of this aspiring writer wants to continue. To take that plunge into the murky waters of a complete writer’s experience from idea to organic writing to learning the craft to attempt at publishing. I have no illusions that my little piece of fiction will garner much more than a friendly reading by those who support me and a pat on the back to “keep going,” but I still have that feeling in the pit of my stomach or that need at the end of this process to say, “I did it! I did not just pour out a bunch of words on paper but I went through the whole experience of a writer.” Where I decide to go from there is still a bit of a mystery but I look forward to the journey.

Now the question becomes, in the days ahead and the looming deadline of summer vacation when this mom is home with three small kids and a dog how do I fit in learning the craft? The answer is simple, continue how I have been doing it. Fit it in at nap time. While the kids are playing contentedly in the backyard or watching their favorite movie for the tenth time. I take a vow.

I vow to not be a superwoman/supermom but to take the best moments with my family each day and enjoy them.

I vow to let my kids to continue to learn how to entertain themselves to foster their imaginations.

I vow to keep my main floor tidy, dishes done and healthy meals/snacks prepared and otherwise let things be.

I vow to keep myself healthy.

I vow to keep on trying to delicately balance the different aspects of my life the best I can and not beat myself up when the balance tips one way or another.

I vow to just take each day as it comes.

And finally, I vow to keep writing.

Am I missing anything?

Invite in the crazy.

Twilight was descending on a perfect spring day. After another crazy day, (typical at our house) of appointments, managing babysitters, picking up dinner and squeezing in a precious hour at the gym my older girl and I were driving off to her musical theatre class. If her year-end performance was not approaching at top-speed, I would have almost asked her if she wouldn’t rather go to the park with her brother and sister. But, teaching her responsibility and keeping commitments is an important parenting task, so instead we drove down the highway at top speed singing to the radio as it blasted above the whoosh of wind through the sun roof. 

After I dropped her off and managed a quick chat with her very intimidating but kind musical director regarding her costume pick-up, I hopped into the swag wag again to quickly run a couple of errands in the forty-five minutes I had left. Sipping my lukewarm Grande Bold Misto coffee (which had already been re-heated twice since picking it up a few hours ago) a huge breath escaped me and I turned up the radio enjoying listening to the music on my own. It was the first time I actually remember consciously taking a breath the whole day. 

Thankfully the stores were not crowded on this Thursday evening so I quickly grabbed my items in between chatting to my mother on the phone wishing her a good trip. My parents were heading for a weekend get-away and part of me wished I could go with them. 

Time-management is essential as a parent of three or more. Oftentimes and not unusually the hours slip away and I find myself running at top speed to cram as much as I can into twenty-four hours. I can see the effects of such a life on myself, Mr. L and three busy munchkins. They all can tell when Mom needs a break or is feeling the heavy load of trying to manage all their lives. I know Friday afternoons exhaustion kicks in. That is probably why I keep our weekends tightly controlled and protected. The week is busy enough with activities, daily dramatic occurrences, work and basically life. This weekend there are some family and friend visits planned, but I do not push the kids to do homework and try to nudge them to finish up their chores Sunday mornings. However, the times I love best are the ones where the house is fairly tidy, tummies are full and we can just sit outside watching the kids play on the swings.

It is in these quiet moments, such as a beautiful spring night where no children are in the car and it is simply me, that I remember, busy times pass. Getting through them is the toughest part. When we are all treading water desperately trying to keep our heads from sinking below we need to remember that sometimes, treading, is all one person can manage. And it is enough. With that thought at the top of my  mind on yet another busy weekday, I drive back up the street to pick up Elizabeth. I smile to myself, crank up the radio as Thrift Shop pulses from the speakers, open all the windows and of course, my cool sun roof, and without a care in the world sing at the top of my lungs. I do not care that I have become that Mom, the one in a huge van still acting like she is eighteen, and I invite the crazy in. After all, what else is a mom of three or more to do? 

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To The Under-Appreciated Mom: Happy Mother’s Day

I could not have written it better!

Kinda Crunchy

Maybe you’re a single mom. Maybe you’re secretly pregnant. Maybe you’re married to a man who just isn’t into sentimental things like Mother’s Day. Or… Maybe you just need to hear this from another person: You are a wonderful mom.

Today isn’t really any different from other days. You don’t go to some fancy brunch in a cute dress. You don’t get a mushy card telling you how great of a mom you are. Perhaps, you were up all night with your baby. Someone who can’t tell you, “Thanks Mom, you’re the greatest.” Now, here you are doing another load of laundry. It doesn’t matter that it’s Mother’s Day. Stuff needs to get done and you’re the one to do it. Or maybe you’re battling morning sickness. No one knows how exhausted you are or why. Yet, you continue to do what you can to stay healthy for the little…

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Let’s go out to the ballgame!

Never allow the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game!” 
― Babe Ruth

Baseball. The sport of spring and summer. Baseball started last week and two out of my three munchkins have been eagerly dressed in their newly pressed uniforms ready to go even before the season started. Gritting my teeth, I mentally prepared myself for the packing up of equipment and mapping out the different parks across two cities. This is the year my girls are split in two different directions. No longer able to be on the same team in the same league, their two-year age difference brings about the first indicator what my future holds trying to manage three different sets of activities. At the end of last week I was left wondering if it was yet possible to clone oneself in order to be in different places at different times?

Fortunately, the first game for my five-year old was on a pleasant evening. Driving frantically from swimming class to the nearest drive-through to grab dinner and a coffee before trying to program the GPS to find the obscure park where the Angels  t-ball team were playing. My little guy was tucked safely at home with our standard Tuesday night babysitter and my elder girl was munching away on her french fries in the back seat of our van. Driving around one hand on the steering wheel and the other clutched around my chicken wrap, I found the park, scanned the no parking signs until a side street brought relief where we carefully steered into a vacant spot. As I gobbled down my dinner, I was calculating the least amount of items I would have to bring on the brief walk to the diamond. Chair. Check. Blanket for Elizabeth to sit on and try to complete her homework. Check. Elizabeth’s homework. Check. Audrey’s batting helmet and glove. Check. Water for everyone. Check. Thanks goodness it was not my night on snack duty!

After settling into a damp grassy spot behind home plate, Elizabeth and I sat down to watch her younger sister. Then Elizabeth was up, kicking stones trying to get her younger sister’s attention. Wanting to talk to the coach who was her coach last year. Wandering in the grass. After many attempts and finally a veiled threat to take her back to the car, she sat down to do her homework. Her attention diverted, I could finally watch my sometimes timid five-year old strike out on her own without the comfort of her sister. She kept up with the group, looking back once in a while to assure herself we were still there. Eventually I saw her start to relax and have fun running the bases jumping up and down making them squeak. Elizabeth finished her reading. I had finished my last coffee of the day. So, I drew out Elizabeth’s glove and my own thinking what a great opportunity for us to play catch.

Audrey on the Angels.

Audrey on the Angels.

I had played baseball as a youngster. Although never the best on a co-ed team, I had enjoyed being outside and the team spirit. It wasn’t until last year at a Jays game with my parents and daughters I remembered that once upon a time, I had loved baseball.

I used to cheer when my team got a home run and loved hearing the crickets chirping as I stood out in field watching dusk approach. Eventually, I was even able to hit decently for a petite sized girl. I was always a little afraid of the ball and I appreciated that no one judged me for my abilities but just worked around them. I was never playing first base when my team was in the field, but my coaches did try to expose me to different positions and encouraged me to open my eyes as the ball came hurtling towards me. Most importantly, I learned about being on a team and having fun. My only real regret from playing baseball in my younger years was that my parents did not come very often to my games. My Mom, also being a Mom of three, had to juggle two other kids so I was dropped off and then picked up at a pre-arranged meeting place. I missed having someone there cheer me on. To be honest, I did not put a lot of effort into playing.  That is probably why today, as a parent, I make such an effort to be at every game cheering my girls on.  Encouraging them to keep trying and advising them after the game to “keep their eyes open and glove ready.”

The next night it was Elizabeth’s turn to play baseball on her new team. A completely different kind of baseball night, it was rainy and damp. I pulled out my umbrella and kept hoping they would call it off. As I switched vehicles with Mr. L who had come to take the younger kids home, I tried to answer his insistence the game should be cancelled that Elizabeth was now in “real” baseball having moved up to Soft Toss. They don’t cancel games unless there is a thunderstorm. He had shrugged, happy to escape the hour and half commitment and securing my place as the baseball parent.

Elizabeth is also in a different city league on a co-ed team due to other previously committed activities. This means she plays twice a week rather than one and I have to try to navigate numerous parks instead of just one throughout the season. A Pirate this year, she happily pulled on her yellow jersey as we sauntered up to the coach and ran out into the field where she watched each play, running towards the ball albeit not making any attempt to pick it up and throw it. Like mother, like daughter. I sat smiling chatting to another Mom while we shook fat rain droplets off our umbrellas.

Elder girl at baseball.

Elder girl at baseball.

This year, soft toss means she is “off the tee” and hitting from a slow-moving pitching machine. The coaches, a little more rigorous in their approach, gamely take her aside and well, coach her. She is after all, only one of two girls on the team. However, she watches the boys who can hit the home runs in awe and I hope she soaks up some of their glory and feelings of victory. Watching her high-five the only other kid she knows, a boy from her class at school, I sit back and let her go. Unlike her younger sister who looked for me every ten minutes, Elizabeth was not looking back but listening to her coaches tell her where to go and where to stand. She grew up a little bit for me after that game, even after watching her eat the watermelon in the rain afterwards her face stained red from the juice as she wiped her hands on her jersey, looking up at me with a guilty look on her face as she chatted to her teammates. All I did was wave and shrug and I let her be. After all, being with your team and getting wet and dirty, isn’t that part of baseball?

As I plunge into baseball season I wish for good weather, fun times, learning where to grab hot coffee and most importantly, that my girls continue to love the game as much as I do.

A walk on a spring day.

Another weekend passes by in a flurry of activity. It seems spring brings out everyone with invites for coffee on the patio to drinks at a favourite restaurant. Mingled with the exuberance of our kids itching to dig up worms and plant jewels in the hope a splendidly brilliant jewelled plant will emerge from their muddy pots, it is a time of renewal and yes (insert sigh), spring cleaning.

However, I put all of that on hold this past friday afternoon wanting to enjoy the sunshine and lack of planned activities. I endeavoured to take the kids plus Jake, the dog, on an inaugural walk around the block. The rarity of nice weather has meant our poor yellow lab has been regulated to quick walks in between kid stuff or the backyard with a few good walks a week thrown in by a paid dog walker. This mom just was unable to face taking my crew on a walk while ensuring my old guy did not clip one with his leash while holding umbrellas as it poured around us.

Deciding that as the nice weather continued and I felt safe we were finally out of the clutches of old man winter, I did not look for another dog walker when our current one took on a full time job and was unable to continue helping out. I felt confident in my abilities that if the weather was pleasant, I could handle a walk with kids plus dog.

Walk?

Walk?

After a busy week full of after-school activities, I looked forward to Friday already planning a walk after enjoying snack time out on our patio. My three munchkins, squeezing their knees under the too small toddler table as we await the arrival of our new patio set, were munching on cookies and apples.

After their little tummies were satisfied, we forged ahead. First mistake. Do not let a five year old or seven year old decide to take their “vehicle” of choice unless you are very confident they will ride, scoot etc. the whole way. Giving them a chance, I forewarned them that watching a  runaway toddler while trying to hold Jake meant I could not help with their vehicles. They were responsible for them. Promises were given. Helmets were securely strapped into place and we were off. One on a bike. One on a scooter. One being pushed in an orange “drive-drive” car that we inherited from a friendly neighbour. One on leash excited to be with his “pack” and sniffing all the wonderful smells in our front yard.

Forty-five minutes later, we turned the corner back onto our street from a simple walk around the small block. (Typically this is a ten-minute walk.) Elizabeth was walking her bike having decided she had enough riding. Audrey was pushing Jacob in the car the best she could having to stop every few feet and move it off the lawn she had pushed it onto. I was carrying a scooter while trying to pick up dog poop. What a sight we must have been for the neighbours. The last one hundred feet to our blessed driveway were spent coaxing all the kids to keep going while trying to tell Jacob, who had enough of sitting, not to run across the street.

Giving in I untied the dog’s leash, the relief in my arm immediate as the strained feeling from holding my seventy-five pound guy on a short leash the whole walk and I let him run the rest of the way home. Placing Jacob back in the orange car, I took over pushing the car while carrying Audrey’s scooter as the girls ran ahead. But at least we had made it. The sun was still shining and the neighbour washing his car who had been amusedly watching the whole debacle, shook his head and chuckled as I murmured, “I thought it would be easier this year now that they are a little older?”

As I put all the vehicles away in our full garage, my brood, Jake included, ran crazily into the backyard to drink water claiming all to be “quenched with thirst.” After checking to ensure all were safely playing and Jake was lazily rolling in the newly seeded grass, I started dinner in our kitchen wondering when Mr. L would be home and cocktail hour would start.

I wonder how long it will take to find a new dog walker?

Dancing around the maypole.

“The wind is tossing the lilacs,
The new leaves laugh in the sun,
And the petals fall on the orchard wall,
But for me the spring is done.

Beneath the apple blossoms
I go a wintry way,
For love that smiled in April
Is false to me in May.”
–  Sara Teasdale, May

Has spring actually finally arrived in my little piece of Southwestern Ontario? Within less than five days all the spring flowers have bloomed, the trees are budding, birds are chirping happily building nests and my children are running for the warmth of the sunshine like butterflies eagerly awaiting the warm temperatures. It has been a long wait this year, but with confidence I think we can state, it is spring!

A person can feel their mood lifting with the onset of constant sun. This week is the longest stretch we have had consistently warmer temperatures and sunshine in a few months. I can already feel my whole being sigh with relief and my house is welcoming the open windows.

Last weekend we packed up the family for an hour long trip to a very close friend’s house. R and S are like family to us and we lament that they live so far. Last year we started an annual family sleepover tradition all having young kids still requiring parental supervision where the adults can enjoy some drinks out on the threadbare patios and the kids can giggle and do well, kid-stuff. The girls bunked with their little girl and Jacob bunked with us. It was glorious. The first real taste of a warm spring. A nice change to our little pocket of Ontario where we left gray skies and lower temperatures down by Lake Ontario.

Beauty in the sun.

Beauty in the sun.

This week my two girls have been obsessed with fairy houses and have been diligently writing note after note hoping for the fairies to visit. Currently our playset in our backyard is being turned into a fairy playhouse. Some of my cherished moments are of hearing them playing in harmony instead of the petty bickering that inevitable arises when there are multiple children in a family. I have learned the art this past month of taking a step back and firmly encouraging them to work it out themselves. A constant phrase is, “Is this an emergency? Have you tried to work out? Talk to your sister about it.” A phrase I hear echoed in the classroom and it is with hope I leave them to it turning back to a household chore or chasing a little man who has decided to empty a bag of rice chips all over the kitchen floor.

With spring also comes the reality of taking stock of the winter damage to your property. Gardening, washing windows, finally putting away the winter gear. We also realized that our stone steps although lovely to look at have loosened and sloped to such an extent that measures need to be taken to rebuild or replace them. Add it to the project list. Do they every truly end?

After sneaking away in early April to a writer’s retreat and a renewed dedication to finish a fiction project I am working on, I spent last month forgoing other activities (including this blog) to re-focus myself on finishing a project in the pockets of time I am able to grasp in between family life. A routine has been set-up and to my delight, a fiction novel has developed and I am nearing the last quarter of the story. I can see the finish line!

Now I cannot pretend a lot of hard work is in store as I re-write and edit but the story will be complete which is an accomplishment for this newbie writer and busy mom. On top of that,  I also implemented a new fitness training routine to help prepare for some goals later this summer and truthfully, am feeling stronger each time I pull myself to the gym and leave feeling that natural high that comes after a good work-out.

So what is in store for May? Outside time with the kids. Baseball season starts next week for the girls so I will be trekking to fields across the 401 highway in between spring concerts at school and packing for a big family trip in June. Fitness is on my mind this month. Now that I have a base routine in place, it is time to amp it up and with that figure out how to include the kids.

What are your plans for May?

My dance around the maypole continues.