With our fourth child on the way very shortly, we had been hoping to get away for one last little winter getaway as a family of five before baby arrives. So, when the opportunity to go on a winter adventure to Great Wolf Lodge with our best friends for a few days came up, we jumped at the chance!
As soon as we arrived at Great Wolf, we could feel the magic. We stayed in the most beautiful cottage behind the lodge. It was the perfect accommodation for our family. It was a spacious, modern cottage with a very cozy feel. The twins were stoked about their loft bedroom with double bunk beds because they both got to sleep on the top! Each cottage sleeps up to 10 people, so if you’re travelling with multiple families, booking a cottage together is a great option. That way, you can choose to make your own food, coffee and hot chocolate! I think for us, the best part about about this lodging option was the fact that since we were there with our best friends, we could put all the children to bed in the evening and hang out and order room service in the living area together. Win and win!
While we were all most excited about getting to the water, I was initially nervous that the waterpark would be a challenge with Everest, our youngest son. But there was so much for him to do, including the splash pad areas, wading in the shallow parts of the pools, and whenever mama needed a break from chasing, we’d jump in a tube together and float around the lazy river while my husband and the older boys tackled all the biggest water slides. I found this to be such a special opportunity to have some bonding time with my youngest son before baby arrives.
You can check out the rest of the article, read about why we highly recommend getting the PAW PASS and see more photos from our trip over at Today’s Parent!
Every year when we get our Christmas bin down from the attic, one of the first things the boys ask for is the nativity set. The one we had was given to us by my Nana and we will still keep that one as a keepsake of her but it was only tiny and the boys weren’t able to interact with it at all as all the pieces were glued down in the manger. I want the nativity to always be a central piece of the Christmas decor in our home as it’s the focus of our Christmas celebrations so I started to hunt for a more interactive set that worked well with the decor in our home. I saw some different sets like this for sale on Etsy and such and the thought came to me. Why don’t I just make one for them?! I thought it would be such a special gesture and something I hoped they would treasure for years to come. Now I’m no artist by any means but I made up my mind to try my hand at this little painting project and it honestly came together so much better than I ever hoped it would. It took me one evening to make and in total the supplies cost me around $27.00. Although, we did already have the acrylic paint in our craft bin and my husband had some spare wood scraps lying around so the little stable didn’t cost anything either.
Here’s where I got the supplies:
Pack of Peg People – Amazon (I purchased this larger pack because there are multiples of all the sizes and I wanted a few extra in case I messed up and I also figured the rest of the people would be a good addition to the kiddo’s craft bin. But you may be able to find something different and they also sell them at Michaels in packs of 4 or 5 for around $5.
Wooden balls for sheep – Michaels ( I found these in the kids crafting section right next to the peg people)
Acryllic Paint – (black, white, and gold) – Dollarama. The only color they may not have is gold and that can be purchased at Michaels if needed!
Brushes – You’re going to need some real fine tips and also a small flat brush. If you don’t have any at home, I would suggest this set on amazon!
Burlap for swaddle – You should be able to find this in some form at Dollarama. I just had some lying around the house.
Stone for manger – we just went out on a little hunt outdoors.
As for some tips on painting, I just found a picture like mine below of a set on pinterest that I liked and copied the design work. I first used a pencil to lightly draw out my designs and then I painted in layers. So first I did all the white, let that dry, then did the hair and then painted the detail on after.
For the eyes and other dot’s I actually used a pencil tip that I dabbed into the paint and then dabbed onto the people. Worked amazing!
I used the smallest piece of burlap for the swaddle and glue gunned it shut but just enough so that baby Jesus can slip in and out as the kids like to play with it like that.
For the stable, as I mentioned, my husband just whipped it together with some extra cedar wood scraps we had lying around and I actually love the imperfect, rustic look. But if you do want measurements, the base is 9×6 inches. The height is 4.5 inches and the two pieces that make the roof of the stable are each 6 inches long.
Happy Stable making you guys! Hope your kiddo’s enjoy it as much as mine do!
If you’ve been following me on instagram
over the past month, you’ll know that we’ve been headed in the direction of
living with lower waste in our family.
Last spring, I remember being so intrigued by several “Zero Waste” accounts I found on instagram. In my attempts to live more “minimally,” within our home, I often threw too many things in the trash can without even thinking twice. I was feeling awful about how much waste we were producing as a family of 5 and wanted to change this. But we had a newborn, life was a little overwhelming and the steps to get there felt so daunting. I didn’t realize at the time, how simple it could really be.
About 5 weeks back, as I was planning out an earth day unit for the boys schooling, I began to feel compelled again by all the horrific facts I was reading regarding pollution and waste and the issues we’re currently facing. When I thought about what had stopped me in the past from making better efforts in this area, it was these 3 main things: 1.) laziness 2.) believing that it was much too difficult/impossible to live zero-waste with young children. 3.) The thought of my small efforts not making any difference. Well I’ve realized since, that all of these reasons were just excuses for something I knew we needed to start doing as a family. I was letting laziness and the fear of failure stop me from making simple changes that over time can make such a big difference.
So a month ago, we challenged ourselves as a family to make some changes. It was so fun to incorporate this into our homeschooling because it turned our book work into a hands-on project within our home! The boys love a good challenge and got 100% on board with making this happen. They remind me when we’re off to the store not to forget our reusable bags and they’ve noticed the few times I forgot my mug at home when stopping at the starbucks drive-thru. I need that accountability!
I’ve also noticed how maintaining a healthy lifestyle and living with zero-waste go hand in hand which has been so neat and motivating for me. So even IF our efforts to help the planet were minimal, the habits we’re developing as a family are beneficial to our health and wellness and that alone, motivates me to keep going! Less processed foods, less chemicals in plastic leaching into our food, less unsafe chemicals in cleaners, and the list goes on and on. Our society has become much too focused on convenience and as a result, the earth as well as our personal health have both suffered in the process. SO here’s a few simple changes we’ve implemented over the past month:
Composting: This is one of the most obvious ways to cut back on waste in your home but you would be surprised how many people don’t compost. I’m actually so disappointed that we were throwing out so much food waste for so long when we could have been recycling our food, by giving it back to the earth. I found this great blog post all about composting if you have never composted before and would like to get started. We bought this kitchen composter to sit on our counter. And thankfully we already had a back yard compost from the previous owners but if you don’t have one, this one is a great and affordable option!
Reusable shopping bags: We’ve been diligently using our own reusable bags for groceries for about the last year now. Even this small change could be SO big if more people committed to doing it. Think about how many bags would not be thrown away if even 20 people committed to doing this after reading this post. (8 plastic grocery bags/week x 20 = 160). 160 less plastic bags going to the landfills each week. Now what if 100 more people started doing this. That would mean 800 less plastic bags going to the landfills each week. And 3,200 less per month. So while you might think it’s a small change. If we all did even just this for lower waste efforts, we would be creating SO much less plastic waste. And the thing that I have been trying to get better at is bringing my bags not only for groceries but also if I run into the drug store, the mall etc., My goal is to never have to accept a plastic bag no matter where I am shopping. These compact ones are neat for keeping in your purse or diaper bag so you don’t forget!
Reusable Produce bags: If half of your grocery haul is produce like ours, within your plastic grocery bags, is likely tons of smaller plastic bags. If you want to take things a step further, order some reusable produce bags too! I found these mesh ones on amazon and I now use them instead of plastic when packing my produce.
Shopping at the Bulk Barn (or other bulk stores): This is something recent we’ve started to do and I’m seriously amazed at how much of our grocery shop we can do there to cut back on packaging! And if you didn’t know, you can take in your own containers, jars and bags to fill up. They check the tare weight of your containers before you start shopping, make sure they’re clean (have to be completely washed, no crumbs or anything) and then they weigh them again after you’re done. I will be doing another blog post to share our master bulk barn shopping list but just to give you an idea, some of the main things we’ve started purchasing there are: oatmeal, granola, rice, pasta, flour, nuts, crackers etc., All stuff that we would have previously purchased in plastic packaging from the grocery store.
Metal straws and reusable coffee mugs: We love to use straws in our home and I feel embarrassed to say we always had a huge carton of plastic straws for smoothies, iced coffee etc., Last month, I grabbed these affordable metal straws now and the plastic ones are no longer. And if you’ve been following me for a while, you likely know I love starbucks and yup, I was definitely using their paper cups each time I went. My husband and I have now both started bringing our personal cups each time we stop for coffee and that’s another small change that over time can be huge. (especially if you drink a lot of coffee like us! ;))
I hope this gives you some guidance on how you can get started with producing lower waste as a family! And again, we’re not committing to perfection around here and there are some things that just won’t happen while we have young children. There will be days I’ll forget my resuable coffee mug and weeks when I’m just too tired to bake homemade muffins and protein balls and end up grabbing a box of granola bars instead. But we’re committed to trying our very best. Our realistic goal as a family right now is only to produce 1 small white bag of garbage each week. This is a HUGE difference from what we WERE producing some weeks. 🙁 We would like to do even better but we know from experience that you can’t set unrealistic goals right off the bat or you’ll set yourself up for failure. We’re really just having so much fun with it right now and doing what we can to send less waste to the landfills.
When I shared on Instagram a few days ago, that Ron and I sat down (with a platter of nachos ;)) to touch base and make a 2019 plan together for our family, I received so many questions and people asking me to share more. So I thought it would be fun if I explained how we do this while also giving you some tips and pointers on how to get started if you don’t already do something similar with your partner/spouse.
We’ve been doing this every few months on a smaller scale for a while now and its honestly been a game changer for our relationship but also for actually evaluating progress and getting things done. It’s easy to make lists and write down big goals, resolutions, whatever you want to call them. Anyone can do that. But to actually follow through and cross things off, we’ve discovered from experience that in a marriage relationship, (and even more so when you have a young family) you’re MUCH more successful when you goal write and chase those goals together. You have to get on the same page, come along side each other and cheer each other on. You have to really make effort to understand and appreciate each others personal goals and dreams and adapt them as your own. Then figure out a game plan together.
Establishing family values and writing a mission statement– If you’re new to this whole idea, I feel you really need to start with establishing family values and writing a family mission statement together. It’s so important to decide together what is important to both of you, the type of atmosphere you want to create in your home and what you want to focus on as a family, long term but also a more narrow focus this coming year. So from the list of values here, we each circled the 6 things that we valued most. We then took some time to share with each other why we value the things we chose. (For us, there was some overlap and likely would be for you as well!). We then narrowed it down to 8 words together and used those words to create a mission statement.
A simple example of a mission statement (the bold words are values) would be something like:
In our family, we will show respect to all, be thankful daily, and make effort to always think positively. We will give of ourselves and prioritize our health while seeking adventure. We will show kindness and support each other always.
And then when sharing goals and deciding what we were going to work on and chase after as a couple and family, we referred back to our list of values and mission statement to make sure it all aligned. Make sense? I’ve created a PDF template you can get here to help guide you through the process and below I’m sharing tips on how to have a successful goal writing date!
Make it Fun – when we first started to do these, Ron was a little sceptical. I mean, most guys probably don’t want to sit down for 3 hours and talk about life goals and make lists together. I get it. Not their idea of a fun date night? But (and I checked with him to make sure) if you pulled Ron aside today and asked him what he thought, he would say how much he enjoyed this time we set aside to plan together. You have to make. it. fun! If you can get a sitter, go out to your favourite restaurant, notebooks and planners in tow and order apps and drinks. Go to a fun coffee shop. Or we like to have date nights in and make sushi or a giant plate of nachos. And once you begin to see how good it feels to be on the same page and work together on goals, it will become something you will both look forward to. I promise!!!
Narrow the focus for 2019 – I’ve heard a lot of people doing a “word” of the year for their family and I always thought this was a cool idea. But we didn’t actually come up with one intentionally until this year. I love this because once you have agreed on values and a mission statement as a long term plan of things to work towards as a family, a single word will help you to focus on something specific for the coming year. Some examples might be: Content, Grow, Rest, Encourage, Gratitude, Minimize, Learn,… you get the picture.
Spend some time prior to make a list of your own personal goals, priorities and dreams – This is the whole point. See, our personal needs, wants, goals and dreams change and evolve as time goes on. So something I may have been passionate about 8 months ago, might not be a top priority for me anymore and thats ok but if we’re not consistently checking in with each other, Ron might never know that and I might not think to share that with him. It’s so easy, especially in the busy season of raising kids, to become unaware of where the other person is at without realizing it. So a list of what you are hoping to achieve this year – personally, as a family and as a couple is what you will bring to the table. Categories that may help organize your goals would be financial, health and fitness, business, spiritual, family, marriage, parenting and personal. And then you will share and chat together about how you can make those things happen!
Be open to adjusting/compromising – It’s so important to have an open mind regarding the possibility of adjusting a goal or priority prior to your chat. Before our most recent chat, there was an opportunity I was seriously looking at pursuing. I was excited about it and ready to jump in but I knew that it was important that I discuss it in depth with Ron, that we pray together about it and weigh out the pro’s and con’s for our family. Although a large part of me was hoping we would come to the conclusion that I should go ahead with it, I also had to be prepared to decline or at least put it on hold for the time being if that’s what we concluded. And for that particular opportunity, based on our family values and mission statement, we did decide together that it wasn’t the right time for me to go ahead and pursue it. Ron’s opinion is very important to me and if something doesn’t sit well with him, then it doesn’t sit well with me.
It’s ok to circle back to something later – If something you’re talking about is causing a point of contention, something you just can’t agree to work together on, move on and go back to it later. We don’t always see eye to eye on everything and that’s ok. Maybe you each just need more time to think/pray on it separately. Take a break from that topic and revisit it at a later date.
Creating action steps together and putting it on the calendar – This is key to supporting each other and making things happen. One example for us, is that Ron has been wanting to start a podcast since last spring. He has slowly been working on content, jotting down ideas here and there but his goal was to launch in September and it’s now January. So why didn’t he start? Because we didn’t have a plan in place together. He works long days, I’m home with the kid’s all day. He comes in the door and jumps right into helping me with whatever I need while we do supper, baths, bedtime and then we’re both just exhausted after the kids are finally in bed. He hadn’t set aside any purposeful time to work on the podcast so it just wasn’t happening. In our chat this week though, we discovered that he is still very passionate about making it happen and so we now have it on the calendar that a certain evening each week, I will do bedtime and after supper, he will head downstairs to plan/record his podcast. With that specific time dedicated to it now, we’re going to make this happen. Together. Team work. Get it?! And we did this with each goal that we worked through. Purchasing a larger vehicle was a priority on both of our goal lists, so we discussed how we will budget accordingly, decided on the amount of $$ we’ll put aside each month etc., to meet that goal by the time we agreed on. Prioritizing our health and fitness is one more goal I’ll share that we both had written down ahead of time so deciding together when I’ll get my runs in, when Ron will hit the gym etc., is something we had to decide together and now we can support each other and cheer each other on to reach those personal goals. If a goal is to spend more 1:1 time with each other or each of your kids, plan how you will do that – put date nights in the calendar, book the sitters ahead of time. A goal without action steps won’t happen so this part is crucial for setting your family up for success.
So you see how getting on the same page and coming up with a plan together can be so effective?!? I’m hoping we can get as many couples on board with this for the month of January so please share this post and when you sit down to make a plan on how you’re going to goal chase together, story a photo and tag us so we can cheer you on!
When we found out we were expecting Everest, the challenge of fitting all 3 kids safely into our vehicle, was one of the first thoughts that came to mind. We played with the idea of just taking the plunge and buying a mini van (like all the other cool parents out there) but decided to stick out our SUV for a while more (basically until baby #4) and put the kiddo’s three across for the time being. It worked, but was a pretty tight fit with the seats we currently had.
So, I was so excited when we had the opportunity to try out Graco’s Extend2Fit ® Convertible Car Seat for the twins, and to add to the excitement – they fit perfectly with the Graco® SnugRide® SnugLock™ 35 DLX Infant Car Seat we have for Everest.
The twins were excited for their new seats too… mostly about the double cup holders though. Their suggestion was that one side be used for their water bottle and the other side to fill up with snacks. Perfect!
Besides the double cup holder though, this seat has some incredible features. Had we gotten them earlier, the twins could have been rear-facing for a lot longer than they were. The seat has a 4-position extension panel that allows 5-inches of extended legroom, allowing children to ride rear-facing longer and more comfortably without their little legs being all squished up.
My husband was the one who installed them, but he also commented on how easy it was to install compared to other seats we’d used in the past. And the markers on the side are so helpful, because you can see for yourself if you’ve installed it correctly.