The play highlight of the weekend for us was the chilly but sunny walk we had in High Park with friends and their lovely dog on Saturday morning.
We may have needed hats, gloves and boots, but the mood was definitely springy on dog hill and on the pathways through the woods to "castle park" and past that strange menagerie of llamas and bison.
It was a great reminder that our kids have the best kind of fun and most natural form of exercise when we simply head outdoors. You don't need a plan. You may not even need a destination. (Though meeting friends on the corner for a tromp around the neighbourhood, or in a park for an adventure walk, may help coax your kids out of pajamas at the weekend.) I squeezed in a workout, too, piggy-backing Alister up a long hill at the end. (At least I hope it was that uphill walk that made my hamstrings a little stiff on Sunday, and not the, um, bowling I did later that evening.)
The Active Kids Club has come out with this great video aimed at inspiring all of us to get outside with the kids. Check it out!
Need some more inspiration?
Here's a list of great things to do with the kids this week.
Here are some things you can do on rainy days.
The folks at momlogic.com have published this hilarious flowchart. It's a tongue-in-cheek graphic for helping readers sort out whether or not parenting is right for them.
Also in this vein, you might enjoy Are you man enough to be a stay-at-home dad? And while we're passing judgment on others, here's a story about what makes a baby name "elite." (Spoiler alert: Naming your daughter after someone who appeared on The Bachelor? That's for the unwashed masses. Choosing a name from a character in 19th century British fiction? Now that's the stuff of the popular website Nameberry.com.)
Some other stories you won't want to miss today:
Catherine Porter's column on a family that's taken drastic measures to reduce the toxic chemicals in their household, including a mom who makes her own deodorant.
Health Canada issues warning on older Fisher-Price 'Little People' toys, the skinnier ones manufactured before 1991 that your kids may play with when they go to Grandma's.
A profile of a new program that's helping kids get to school safely in a neighbourhood plagued by gun violence.
And apropos of nothing, our photo gallery of the world's greatest monkeys. (Hey, kids like monkeys!)
Maybe it's a function of having two children four years apart, but Cameron weighs in on the parenting and discipline of his 2-year-old brother more often than I'd like. Usually it's in really sweet, protective ways, such as making sure Alister doesn't run out the café door or get too near the edge of a sidewalk.
But I'm getting lots of this stuff, too:
Alister: "I want milk!"
Me: "I don't respond to that kind of talking."
Cameron: "Ya, and I don't like unmanners when you're asking me for a Lego guy, either!"
Can you relate?
Lots of fun at our St. Patrick's Day dinner yesterday.
My little friend Carson, 2, who got quite used to the kitchen when his family was staying with us, insisted on helping to make the soda bread.
He got pretty into it.
With each family contributing something, dinner was pretty easy. Here are the cupcakes made by Lea, decorated by Stella and Charlie. (Stella takes her cupcakes quite seriously.)
Because I don't yet have a separate, self-cleaning mess hall for the children, we usually feed the kids first, then shoo them away with promise of dessert later so the adults can eat in (relative) peace. The ratio of six kids to five adults was almost right!
This stuff is just made to be eaten with butter when it first comes out of the oven.
While the kids endured their peas and carrots along with their mashed potatoes and fish or chicken...
...naturally, these were the highlight of the evening for the kids (and some of the grown-ups, including me.)
Hope you had a good one and that March break is going well.
We're having ourselves a little St. Patrick's Day gathering tonight. Green milkshakes for the kids, some Guinness for the grownups, and a bit of an old-school menu of mashed potatoes, buttery pan-fried whitefish, carrots and peas. One neighbour is bringing a roasted chicken and another some some sort of Ireland-inspired dessert. If I get home in time, I'll make soda bread (which is really easy - check out the soda bread recipes we have on thestar.com today).
Despite the Norwegian surname, I really am Irish. On my mother's side. And today I'm wearing my vintage Shamrock pin, a gift from my granddad, whom I adored and who - while born in Canada - was very proud of his Irish heritage.
There are quite a few green shirts around the office today, which is nice to see. My theory is that anybody who wants to be can be Irish on St. Patrick's Day. Nothing would make me happier than to see my Pakistani friend wearing green today (he drives a cab, between interviews for jobs where he'd actually get to put his MBA to use). In fact, maybe I should give Amir a call.
What could be more Canadian, really, than to order some sushi or a pizza to go with your St. Paddy's Day beer tonight? And when you've got kids, isn't any occasion a reason to celebrate?
And if you're looking for March break ideas to take you through the rest of the week, find some inspiration on our March break guide.
If you haven't had a chance to read Andrea Gordon's great piece on what children really want to do for March break, please be sure to check it out.
Her article is a good reminder that, for all the pressure to come up with the cash for a week-long peak-season family vacation, or all the guilt we feel if we can't take the week off work, kids have really simple expectations of March break.
They just want the week off school.
Tweens and teens relish the chance to sleep in and little guys like my Cameron just want to play Lego with friends. And even an outing to the playground or swimming pool is enough to qualify as March-break fun in the eyes of most school-aged kids.
We hit Bowlerama with the kids on Saturday afternoon. Bowling turned out to be a great rainy-day activity. And we laughed until diaphragms ached at the impossibly slow journey of 2-year-old Alister's bowling ball down the alley. (Was it stopped? No, there was just enough gravity to pull it toward the pins, maybe merely wobbling one a little or knocking it over to his enthusiastic cries of "I winned!")
Last week I asked some of you what you remember from March break. Not surprisingly, the events you recalled told a tale of a much less structured time in school holidays!
Here are some of the responses (via Twitter, of course):
@femwriter: Drove my mom crazy. 11 kids at home all at the same time.
@hvbabywilltrvl I usually spent the week with my grandma. I week of junk food and TV. I LOVED it!
@YMCbuzz I liked to embark on a week-long project. Snow-fort, tree house, sew an outfit for my dolly, knit a craft!
@janelangille Go tobogganing, but of course there was usually more snow back then.
@jamesspeedy Video games. Oh wait, did you mean outside?
@SproutRight Ontario Science Centre!
@TheHaj Play outside with friends all day until suppertime. Parents didn't take time off work because we were at school. Pure freedom!
These days childrens' aid would likely get wind of it if you left your under-12 kids home alone, so if you need some inspiration, you can find it in our March break guide. For instance, we've got a round-up of events happening throughout the GTA, as well as some crafts you can make at home. And if you need to find some grown-up fun amid all this excitement, here are some ideas from @PartyMummy on planning some March break fun for moms.
Please accept my apologies for getting behind on this blog. And for the somewhat misleading title of this post.
I haven't just returned from the perfect family vacation (though I did do some reconnaissance on family-friendly resorts, which I'll share with you soon). However, I do have some thoughts on what would be the perfect vacation for both recuperation and family time.
My mom and I have been on our first mother-daughter holiday to Turks and Caicos. Not since her Switzerland wedding to my step-father, Roy, have Mom and I been away together, and of course that was with other family members. Occasionally we'll snag a night in a hotel when she's coming through town on business, and when I was in university I'd sometimes steal away to Montreal or New York to join her. But during most of my adult life, we've lived across the country from each other and most of our time together has occurred in her city or mine, where jobs, children and household responsibilities have competed with our quality time.
This week of walking the beach and reading novels side-by-side on lounge chairs provided us both with a great opportunity to rest and enjoy each others' company. We'd stumble upon conversations about our family history. The way her mother used to make butter each week using an apparatus that fit into the washing machine in place of the agitator. The tuberculosis status that led my great-great-uncle to establish one branch of our Irish family in Australia instead of Canada. The great-grandfather who went back to Ireland for a wife and brought one back for his brother as well.
Just as importantly, we got a chance to share and reflect on the things currently going on in our lives, hopes for the future, and the seasons of content and discontent that are part of the normal ebb and flow of life. It was the kind of trip we'll always remember.
I've never been away from the kids for more than a few days, and I think the rest I got on this trip has recharged me in a way that will help me keep my cool and be in-the-moment with with them.
But I'll admit that I did have pangs - particularly toward the end - when I saw families playing on the beach together. In my dream world, I'd spend five adult-only days in a warm destination before having Cameron and Alister magically airlifted to my side for a few days of sandcastles. By then I'd have had read a couple of novels and enjoyed a few umbrella drinks, making me entirely ready to ferry buckets of water from ocean to moat, slather crinkled-up faces with sunscreen and coax decent restaurant behaviour from my toddler.
One can dream, right?
Meanwhile, if you're yearning for a family getaway, check out our last-minute travel article. If you're attempting the drive to Florida (brave you!), here are 10 tips to get you to the amusement parks alive. And if it's some adult-time you need, here's how to plan some March break fun for moms.