What Are We Doing Today?

Anybody else have kids that ask them first thing Saturday morning what the plans are for the day? It’s always my son Malachi who greets me with this question usually standing beside my bed on Saturday morning as I open my eyes.

When the the spring and summer months are up it’s easy to come up with cost effective activities to do with our kids. The options are pretty much endless!

With the cold winter weather in full force its not always as easy especially if there is no snow. Speaking of snow, moms and dads we have to hook ourselves up with proper winter attire. These kids can stay outside in this cold for hours. I recently got myself a pair of snow pants at a thrift store and I am ready for hours outside if need be.

A few months ago I had posted on my social media accounts activities to do in the the colder months. I had posed the question and got some great ideas. I added more that we have done or plan to do and wanted to share this list as we prepare for this cold weekend.

28 free or cheap activities to do with the kids:

1. Check Wagjag and Groupon they always have great deals. Indoor trampoline parks, bowling, rock climbing, museums, craft centers, restaurants and the list goes on.

2. Visit your local library
3. Indoor swim at a community centre

4. Arrange a good old fashion play date ( if you like the mom invite her to stay😉)

5. Bake (have the kids choose, lead the way and help with clean up)

6. Search Pinterest for an easy DIY kid friendly project.

7. Check out your cities website or cities close by. Most cities put on free or cheap events throughout the year.

8. Check out local churches websites. Free movie nights, special events etc

9. Teach the kids a life skill. Sewing, cook a meal never made in your home, how to build something etc.

10. Good old movies and a special snack.

11. Free skating at outdoor skating rinks.

12. If there’s snow find a hill to tobaggon on. ( nothing says stress reliever for an adult better than acting like a kid.)

13. Go out for hot drinks. This changes up the scenery.

14. Family favourites at Cineplex are $2.99 per person on Saturdays at 11:00 am for a featured family movie. Also if you are going to a regular price movie get your tickets at Costco for 11.99. I usually have at least 3 laying around as I refuse to pay full price.

15. Make a fort!

16. Get down on the floor and play with the kids. These kids love mini sticks

17. Board games

18. Set up a spa with your girls. Give each other mani’s and pedi’s.

19. Invite a family over who has kids close in age. Do an EASY dinner or order pizza! Kids can play and adults can hang out.

20. Pick up a hobby: my kids all enjoy chess which their dad has enjoyed teaching them.

21. Check out a local hockey game. The tickets are way cheaper than the NHL and nice and close.

22. Check out local theaters.

23. When there is snow go for a walk on a trail.

24. Check out a thrift store and let the kids pick a toy, puzzle or game to play. Way cheaper then Toys R US.

25. Do a scavenger hunt outside, at the mall etc

26. Girls may enjoy this more. Go to the mall, pick outfits out and have your own fashion show. Have them bring a friend a long

27. Go out for dessert.

28. Last but not least… Sit down and engage with the kids and have genuine conversation. Where you are in no rush to do or be anywhere. I promise you will learn a lot about them and the same can be said for them. My kids are forever asking us to tell them stories of our childhood.

Enjoy this weekend with your family. One thing I want parents to know is that it’s not about the money we spend during the weekend that the kids remember. It’s the time spent, so I say spend the time wisely!

Thanks for checking this out and subscribe if you haven’t done so. Please leave a comment on free or cheap activities your family enjoys doing in the winter.

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On the Road Again

Happy new year to you all! Cheers to my first post of many in 2019.

Last week a friend posted on her Instagram that she was looking for suggestions on what foods to pack as her family of 7 was travelling for a hockey tournament. She tagged me and asked for my suggestions. My list went on for a bit. After I thought I should do a post about this. It is hockey season right now and with that comes a ton of tournaments. Spring will be here before we know it and this year we have 2 out of 4 kids In rep sports. A lot of travelling will be happening.

Now I threw out a question on my Instagram stories the other day asking if you travel for sports. Majority said no. Not everyone plays sports or has children that age. It’s fair to say you take road trips to visit family and friends. Take mini getaways here and there and if non of the above. We all have to drive around the city with the kids in tow.

We are on the road a lot and the rule of thumb is the kids are to grab a snack and water bottle on the way out the door. This does not happen everytime mind you. It usually is a few minutes into a 15 minute drive and one is saying they are hungry (like honestly kids?!?!)

To avoid listening to probably just my children tell me they are hungry for the 15 minute drive. My suggestion is keep a bag, bin or whatever you want full of snacks in your vehicle. That way when someone starts loosing their mind that they are going to starve to death you can throw (I mean pass) back a granola bar.

This time of the year is obviously way easier to keep food in the car. The summer is going to be trickier for sure. In the summer I keep snacks in my backpack which I take everywhere.

Here is a list of items you could keep in you vehicle during the colder months:

  • Cereal bars
  • Granola bars
  • Baby carrots
  • Apples
  • Yogurt tubes
  • Apple sauce packs
  • Gold fish
  • Pretzels
  • Cheese strings
  • Pepperettes
  • Nuts
  • Crackers
  • Cookies
  • Fruit snacks
  • Water bottles

Road Trips:

Most of us go on road trips, some families more than others. Recently we drove 4 hours up to my brother and SIL’s cottage. I had snacks packed for the drive and we had eaten breakfast befor we left so I thought that would get us there. Well two hours into “I’m hungry” started getting thrown around like a game of catch. At one point I was like “listen you have minimum 6 days before you die of starvation!”My husband and the crew thought this was hilarious. However after the laughing, the questions came back of when we would feed them. All this to say we ended stopping at the only sign of civilization on a 60km stretch. Thank goodness it was Subway.

But Tonya buy lunch on the road is way more convenient you are thinking. Sure but not necessarily and every once in a while we do it too. When you have to feed a small army cost comes into play. Also I’m just not a fan of fast food for health reasons and the fact that it’s not full of a ton of nutritional value and therefore doesnt keep these children or us full long. If you were home lunch would have to be made right? Usually most of us know in advance when we are going to be travelling. So if we take it into consideration when doing groceries it wont be too much extra when it comes time to prep. Also you know how I roll, I would be requesting the assistance of my big kids to help with this or at least something to help get us out the door.

Here is my list of easy travelling foods:

  • Sandwiches
  • Wraps
  • Crackers, cheese and keilbasa
  • Boiled eggs
  • Hot dogs ( put condiments in the bun and then hot dog. Condiments absorb and wont be so messy)
  • Cut up fruit and veggies
  • My husband and I like salads with some sort of meat. Driver eats while everyone stops to take a bathroom break.
  • Foods that go in a thermos ( better if you have somewhere to eat other than your vehicle.) Ravioli, pasta, KD, soup etc.
  • Juice box
  • Snacks of course take your pick

Ever since I stopped nursing the twins and they required “real food” I have been packing food for hotel stays. We save dinner to eat out at a restaurant but breaky and lunch I pack.

Ideally I love when I get a hotel room with a microwave and fridge. But fear not if your room doesnt come with a fridge just use your cooler. Restock with ice at the ice machine. Let me start at the basics.

If your hotel room has no microwave or fridge fear not just get creative.

You know that coffee machine in ever hotel room? Well that thing is not just there to make nasty coffee. After running water through it a couple times you can use this to heat up bottles.

  • Use it to make instant oatmeal and even use the coffee cups they provide for breakfast. That with a side of fruit and yogurt and you are good to go.
  • Refer back to my list on travelling.
  • Most hotels have a common area and there will be at least one microwave there.

Foods to pack for your hotel stay:

  • Pack a paper plates, plastic utensils, cups and grab baggies to put leftovers in. A cutting board, I bring a sharp knife to cut veggies, fruits and other items. I usually dont have time to prep everything before the trip. I have a little container of dish soap and a sponge I always bring.

Breakfast:

  • Bagels and toppings
  • Muffins
  • Cereal and milk
  • Oatmeal
  • If time permits make a breakfast casserole
  • Fruits
  • Boiled eggs
  • Yogurt
  • Apple sauce
  • Keto friendly options: pre cooked sausage or bacon with eggs

Lunch:

  • I usually make some chicken or a meat during the week prior to our trip and put it in the freezer. This helps keep the cooler cold for the travel. If time doesnt permit grab a rotisserie chicken when you do groceries and through in the freezer. I serve this with buns and a bag salad. *hack* add the dressing and toppings to your salad and keep everything in the salad bag. Hold the bag tight and toss away. Serve and go! We are “roughing it” 😉 after all.
  • Meats, cheeses and pickles
  • Sandwiches
  • Child friendly foods, pizza pops, soup, hot dogs,
  • Nachos and salsa
  • Pasta salad

There is my list and is perfect for a weekend hotel stay.

For snacks we usually get the kids their fave snacks and everything else in between.

My personal faves are:

  • Nuts
  • Cheese strings
  • Pepperettes
  • Hummus/dip for our veggies are some snacks that will keep everyone fueled and full. Whether your running back to the water park or the hockey arena.

Also I usually dont have time to prep all of this on between packing for 6 people. So I just throw everything in my cooler and prepare it as we need it.

*Leave your comments below with what you pack when travelling. I’m sure I missed some good stuff.

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Don’t Just Survive The Holidays This Year Enjoy Them!

I dont know about you but that is my goal for Christmas 2018. I may be just writting this for me and that is ok.

We are coming up to a lot of get togethers in the next week. Whether hosting or visiting along with the hustle and bustle of everything it’s going to be busy.

I want to share what I have come up with to try this year that I believe will help me to enjoy this time as a parent as much as my children. I also have my tried and tested hacks I use that I will pass on.

I appreciate you taking a few minutes to read this so let’s get started.

1. Put the kids clothes out the night before: I can not concentrate when the kids are running around (can I get an amen?) It’s one thing if its school but when you actually want to put together a half decent outfit x4 I need concentration . I do this most Saturday nights before church as well. I have a couple children who like to pick their own stuff out. To avoid a great debate I have them pick out before bed. Mornings are already hectic enough so anything to alleviate a step is good by me.

2. Have gifts packed not only wrapped: This is one I thought of just this year. When I told my husband about this he was very thankful. We have 5 more get togethers left. So my plan this year is to have the gifts for the event we are going to not only packed but put in a tote bin and put them in the garage. When we are in departure mode aka the mass exodus my husband always loads up the van all items and children. This will be way easier for him to just bring the presents out all ready to go and best yet this will make sure no present gets left behind! Then I can finish getting beautified and running around the house like a “mad woman!”

3. Make your food choice simple: If you have a choice of food item to bring to the get togethers make it simple…No harm in purchasing store bought. I’m telling you it goes down the same way and you take back anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour plus in the kitchen during this very busy time.

4. Prep Christmas breakfast the night before: I have talked to a lot of moms this week. Many of them do a breakfast casserole which can be prepared the night before to go along with brunch. Check out the link below for the one I’m going to try this year. https://pin.it/77kbvfqrjdivqj

We always make a huge Christmas breakfast however it is time consuming. By trying this I hope to save some time Christmas morning. I also turn this into a big family effort. So everyone helps to share the load of breakfast prep.

5. Pack pj’s ( this one is tried and true): I mean for the kids but why not pack some for you too. We do this pretty much anytime we go out it makes for a nice easy transition when they fall asleep on the long drive home. Unless of coure they wake up not knowing where they are then they start screaming. That part sucks! 99.5% of the time they go straight into bed.

6. Make easy memories: Sometimes are minds tend to go to elaborate when we think of making traditions for our children. I have a secret for you. A tradition doesnt have to be elaborate! Think back to what you remember about the holidays as a kid. I bet you it was quite simple. Christmas day the last two years we haven’t had to go anywhere until dinner. We stay in our pj’s, let the kids open every toy, break up a few arguments along the way and overall just chill out. My kids talk about this when they talk about Christmas. Maybe a night in playing games, watching movies or making something are on your to do list. Just don’t forget to have that downtime with your crew to recharge.

7. Take time to sit and enjoy your company: This one is for all the hostesses. Make sure you give yourself a chance and time to do nothing. When your hosting its ok to take a break and come out of your headquarters the kitchen and participate in the conversations. Benefit from the all the joy surrounding your house. Not everything has to be perfect to make it a perfect night. One thing I like to do when hosting is have almost everything ready by the time our guests arrive. It gives me the chance to actually visit. Plus with the set up of my house the kitchen is off to the side so it doesnt allow for open concept convo.

Something is going to have to give but what? It’s going to look different for everyone but just know its ok to let something slide, not make a certain item or visit certain people. If you have a spouse then share the roles. My personal fave is sharing the sleep ins. I sleep in one day and hubby the next. We are on vacay after all. Nothing wrong with that.

Enjoy this wonderful and oh so exciting holiday with your love ones. I plan to enjoy my time amongst all the hustle and bustle.

You may find yourself running late, overwhelmed on occasion or forget your babies wipes or bib. Through all of this give yourself some Grace!

I would love to hear what you do or plan to do that will allow you to enjoy these holidays. Leave your comments below and if you haven’t yet take a second to sign up.

How to Make Christmas Meaningful Yet Affordable

So here we are in December with Christmas and all the festivities coming whether we are ready or not. I love celebrating Christmas just as much as the next person but I refuse to go into debt in order to provide my children and family with a Christmas they will not forget. In this post I will provide you with tips on how to not over spend this Christmas while still being able to check off items on your children’s Christmas list.

Two Christmas’ ago I was on maternity leave and we were on a real strict budget. I had started putting money aside for Christmas in September to avoid any type of financial stress come December.

Tip #1. Sell off unused items and toys:
I love to “clean up” shop before Christmas to make way for all the new toys the kids are going to collect it is a win win situation. By doing this it will make room in your home for all the toys and items the family will be receiving. It also provides extra money and who doesnt want extra money?

I started selling items on Facebook buy and sell groups and Kijij. I made almost $300.00 just by getting rid of toys the kids no longer used and items we no longer had use for. Its also a perfect time to go through the kids closets and sell off their clothes that no longer fit. Taking them to consignment stores is a great option. There is still time for this. Actually my son posted a few of his toys over the weekend to sell and everything was picked up within days. Both ladies that came to pick up the toys told me they were Christmas gifts for their son’s.

Tip #2. A second hand Christmas:

If your kids are anything like mine they have provided you with a long detailed list of items they would love for Christmas. Well what I do before I go and order off of Amazon or check out the stores. I go on Kijiji, I almost always find exactly what I am looking for either brand new or the in great condition. Check out the pictures below of items I was able to cross off the kids list for more than half the price. I have been shopping this route for the last two years and I will keep it going. I also hit up thrift stores too when looking for gifts. I got my daughter an easy bake oven last year. All the food packages included and in the box. Paid $4.00 compared to $107.00 on Amazon.

Get it out of your head that the gift doesn’t come brand new in a box (even thoughsometimes it does.) I thought of that the first time but guess what my kids have never asked why the item was not sealed in a box. They have been so over the moon they got almost everything they wanted and a few extra presents and that’s because I always come in under budget. I was able to score my two kids and nephew a Nintendo DS this year all from Value Village. Retail price on these are over $150.00 I got mine for $15.00 each and even purchased a couple games. Yes it does take a bit more planning but the savings is so worth it!

Some items I have purchased via Kijiji or thrift stores.

*basketball net Brand new in box

* fuseball table in box

* air hockey table

* paw patrol figurines and vehicles at a swap party (free)

*Imaginex figures

* Bey Blades and domes

*Pokemon lot of cards and figurines

* skates

*barbie house in brand new condition

*barbies

*dolls

* fur real animals

*scooters

*bikes

* books

* ride on electric motorcycle (Free)

*craft kits

So why do I do this you ask?

Reason 1: kids fave items/toys change by the minute. Why would I spend $100.00 plus dollars on one Fur Real Horse at Toys R Us when I could get this whole lot of Fur Real toys for $50.00. So after a couple days of my daughter playing with this zoo of animals she was on to the next item and now they hang out in her closet.

Reason 2. If the item breaks or they loose it I wont be so upset because I didnt spend a ton of money on it. Come on you know it’s true nothing lasts forever with children.

Reason 3. It makes sense financially!!!!

Tip #3 Gifting experiences for the kids:

Let’s face it our children are blessed and all of our playrooms are full to the max. Last year they could barely come up with gift ideas. I asked my immediate family to gift the kids with experiences. The best part was that most family members included a sleepover so it was a present for mom and dad too!

The kids got to experience a hockey game, trip to the museum, trampoline park, dinner out, movies, tubing and we took them to a water park and turned it into a mini vacay. They still talk about these times spent with their family. Groupon and Wagjag are two great places to go to see what you could purchase.

Another idea is having family pay for an extra circular activity. Ex, swimming lessons, piano, sports, Girl guides, Beavers etc.

Tip #4 Extended Family Christmas:

No need to buy for everyone in the fam. Why dont you draw names so you end up buying for one person and make a price limit? We use a website http://www.drawnames.ca. It draws the names and you can add to your wish list on the site.

I know we are getting down to the last few weeks but you still have time to shop around for items on the kids list. Enjoy the time spent with family and friends this Christmas season and most of all making memories. The last thing we should be doing is worrying about seeing the credit card statement when it comes in January.

Do you do anything to make Christmas a bit easier on the bank account or special for the kids? Let me know

To Tell Or Not To Tell?

As we know on this journey of life we get hit with the good, bad and the ugly. It can be so stressful at times depending on what we are hit with and when. As adults we barely make it through these trials, moments of stress and worry. Do you ever wonder how a child would? Do you keep information from your child in hopes to avoid them going through the same emotions as you? I get it as parent we want to protect our children but here it is….. In this life we will have trials and as parents we have to provide our children with the tools necessary to deal with what’s going to come our way. So the answer to my initial questions is an easy YES ( in an age appropriate manner)

Did you know that children are selfish BEINGS? ( Stay with me, they live in a world that revolves around them, their family, friends school and a few other things. As parents we teach them as they grow that there is more to just them and we help expand their world.

To tell or not to tell?:

Divorce: My parents divorced when my oldest and twins were young. They didnt grow up seeing them together. I would say approxiamately 3 years ago they started asking questions about my parents and why they didnt live at the same house etc. Josiah’s friends parents had recently got divorced. I will never forget the day because him and I were on a road trip. He came out and said I wished you and daddy were divorced. I’m pretty sure if I had taken a sip of my coffee I would have spit it out. In shock I asked him why. He said his friends parents had divorced and she got to live in two homes, have two bedrooms and get lots of birthday and Christmas gifts. I had to think quick and I explained to him what divorce meant and that he wouldn’t want us to become divorced. I explained my parents had and how much it sucks being an adult when this happens let alone being a kid and going through that. I didnt go in depth regarding their reason as to why. I was honest in telling him and the twins how are family looks like now. What I have told the kids is sometimes people who are married get divorced because something bad happens with their relationship. They try to make it better but over time after trying they can’t problem solve or come up with solutions to make it better. I let them know that this is not always the case for everyone. I didn’t want them to worry if they saw my husband and I have a disagreement.

Sickness: I know my husband and I may be in our own group regarding this category. We are firm believers of telling our children when someone they know, love and care for is ill. Last January my mom came very close to dying. When I got the phone call of her state I immediately broke down. My poor kids saw this but in the moment I went from mother to child bawling for my mom and was in no shape to mother. This is where the best tag team partner ever my husband stepped in and told the kids briefly that “grandma had to be rushed to the hospital and him and I were going to see her.” They cried too, were worried and then prayed some wonderful prayers that made me cry even more. Now once we got a diagnosis for my mom we knew it would be a long road to healing. I didn’t want to tell the kids the severity of the situation and for a week I didnt. I will never forget Malachi saying to me while I was headed out on hospital visit #4. “Why do you have to keep going to see grandma she is not going to die.” I realised in that moment we had not talked to them in detail regarding her state. I went into depth of her situation, why she physically looked the way she did at the time, that she would be at the hospital for a long time and why I was going to visit so much. Without explainging this to them their little brains were led to think so many different things. Often we spend so much time focusing on how we are feeling we dont stop to ask how the kids are. They wanted to be involved but visits werent an option until a month later. They wanted to be involved so they would write letters, take pics and have me send, they face time’d, have me take items, ask to record videos so I could show her what they were up to. My grandma is in her last days and I really wanted the kids to see her even though I know she was worried they would be frightened because of how different she looks. I prepared the kids prior to so it was not huge surprise. The visit was short and sweet. Afterwards we talked on the drive home. I asked them how they felt after seeing her. Malachi asked me if she was going to die. Holding back my tears I told them that yes we just dont know when. I had taken a moment to respond and at first hesitated. This is reality and life is so easy to talk about but death not so much. We are a Christ centered family and the prayers they have prayed for their GG have been almost daily. It was a good reminder and teaching moment when I reminded them our prayers are not always answered the way want them to be. My boys cried and my daughter sat their stunned. They talk about her daily and ask for updates. The children havent witnessed a loved one dying and it’s going to be a very hard time when it happens.

1. In these moments let kids know it’s ok to cry or just sit there. Everyone expresses their feelings differently it’s good to remind them of this.

2. Once the tears have stopped ask them what feelings they have. Acknowledge what they say and let them know it’s ok to feel that way.

3. Ask them if they have any questions and remind them to ask in days to come.

4. Check in with them daily. This is not easy for adults to process let alone kids. If behaviours change that could be a red flag that something is on their mind. I personally love the quality of conversation I get at bed time. I usually ask them and get “verbally dumped”on which is exactly what I want. We dont want our kids having to deal with worries, thoughts and other feelings all day long.

World issues: Do you know the conversations your kids have at school? My oldest came out and told me last school year “Donald Trump is the worst president ever!” My first thought was how do you know his name. He had said at school kids had been talking about him taking kids away from their parents. These conversations are natural for kids but I wanted to explain what was really happening and why. Being a Social Worker I have seen a lot of life stressors over the years. If my kids took this part over they would say. We know there are kids in India, Africa and many other places that dont have food, a home or clothes. They also know the same to be true in the city they live in. They know life isn’t always easy for kids and adults. While at Canada’s Wonderland this past summer they saw a mom fully yelling terrible and embarrassing words to her daughters face. After we walked by they commented on how mean the mom was and that maybe that girl should go to a good foster home. Guess they have been paying attention to what I use to do.

No we dont tell our kids everything but honestly we make life very real to them. The benefit I have seen personally with parents who do this the natural selfishness kids are just born with tends to disappear. Parents who literally ” keep it real” are teaching their children there is more to life than just them, their wants and desires. The compassion and thoughtfullness that comes from this is so marvelous to watch.