Family Geocaching Milestone

We had some non-Christmas related fun the other day.  On one of my days out, the first one in a while, I had found enough caches to put the team at a total of 999 finds.  I really wanted to find more but I resisted and completed my hike stuck one shy of the millennium mark.  I thought it would be much more fun to go out as a family and find it together.  While Annika was at school the twins and I made these signs so we could take the photo I envisioned.  After we picked Annika up from school we rushed out to a newer cache called, If you smelt it, you dealt it.  Why wouldn’t we want such a classy cache as our 1000th?  The next milestone is the 1000 finds while on the geocache diet.  140 more to go.

Facing Nature on the Geocache Diet

A few notes and thoughts from the Geocache Diet

Not the bear I saw!

Most of my hiking adventures have been in bear country.  Many of the caches I have found this year have logs from other cachers warning of bear sightings.  I have been on so many trails this year and yet I have only seen one bear while driving on a freeway on my way to a hiking trail.  In my life I have seen many, many bears but always from the safety of a car, boat, or train and never with the vulnerability of being on foot.  I can say that I was due to stumble upon a bear.  I fully expected to be in the middle of nowhere all by myself and come face to face to a bear.  I didn’t necessarily want to have this encounter but I did expect it to happen.  I avoided certain trails at certain times as a precaution but on this day it was going to happen.  I did see a bear while hiking but it was not in the middle of nowhere, it was in a pretty well used park, and I was not alone.  I had run into other cachers earlier in the day and we had continued our caching outing together.  We were 100m from our car when a bear crossed our path.  For me it was a flash of black about 30m down the trail.  We waited until it was obviously gone and we walked back to the car.  We did see it one more time as I said goodbye to my fellow geocachers but it obviously did not have any interest in us.  It was kind of an anticlimactic way to have my first on foot encounter, not that I wanted a confrontation or anything, but now I feel like a real wilderness cacher.  Now that this has finally been crossed off my life list I will probably see bears all the time while hiking.

You know you are an avid geocacher when you start using cache names as directional landmarks.  Do you know where Sally Brown lives?  Oh sure you turn right pass the Sport card cache, near the park that has the ladybug cache and the Girly Girl cache.   Oh, Ok, I know where you mean.   We also use caches as a time reference.  When was the last time we were in Ladysmith?  It was when we did the Knight’s clock cache, remember.  Oh right…good times.

Sometimes when I get bogged down from everyday events I need a wake up.  I find the best wake up is to go outside and let nature give you a big kick in the teeth.  The other night I was feeling fatigued, frustrated, and a little down in the dumps.  I am never proud of myself when I feel this way as what do I have to complain about.  The solution that day was to get some fresh air.  Luckily when you live by the ocean, in Canada, in December the air can be very, very fresh.  It was dark, pouring rain (I mean buckets), and the wind was blowing (I mean pounding the town).  I decided that I needed to get out and let nature  knock some sense into me.  I was only out for about a half hour but boy did it do the trick.  Walking along the waterfront in that weather was awesome.  I powered my way besides the clanging boats trying to keep myself upright as I was getting pounded by the rain (it was what Forrest Gump would call sideways sting-ging rain) and it was fantastic.  Back home I went and quickly to a hot shower and off to bed not worried at all at what type of day I had.  It is great to be alive.

Surviving the Christmas Rush

Christmas time has hit us and we have been a little caught off guard this year.  We have fallen behind on our writing as we have been trying to keep up with all the holiday planning, shopping, and activities going on this year.  Actually the biggest hurdle has been keeping healthy.  I am trying to stay positive and not write about the negative all the time but the past few weeks have been really tough.  At the moment all five of us are feeling the effects of a bug that has been passed around the house for almost a month.  This can be a real challenge as responsibilities never go away and it can be hard to stay cheery when you are sick.  Let’s just say the tension has been a little higher than normal.

As we speed our way towards Christmas here are some of the things we are doing and thinking about.

There is still some internal conflict when it comes to celebrating Christmas.  We have a lot of fun as a family but the kids are still most excited about what is going to be under the tree.  We all went to a Santa Claus parade and everyone had a lot of fun but when I asked them what they liked best the unanimous answer was the candy they got.  That is kids for you but it got me thinking of a past blog, Can We Protect Our Kids From Materialism.

The answer always has to be balance.  We have been shopping and the kids will be spoiled once again with some great, and probably some not so great, toys.  To make room for this onslaught Martin was given permission to clean up our playroom.  In his words the room was a mess, disaster, and needed swift and drastic action.  I distracted the kids and let him go at it.  It was about a year ago around the same time when Martin wrote Control Toy Clutter when the toy room was last re-organized.  Martin got rid of around 6 big boxes of toys he considered were not being played with and arranged the room with the premier toys including many that were buried under the clutter.  The reaction by the kids were very positive and instead of wondering where most of the toys disappeared to they started playing with long lost toys as if they were new again.  We left the boxes in the garage in case there were some toys that they really wanted, and there were a couple, but now most of the toys are going to disappear forever. It is amazing how many toys we collect in a year and we know that we will have to do this at least annually as the kids get older.

Once again we are doing a family tradition of an advent calendar and for the second year in a row we are not giving the kids toys or candy each day but doing activities.  This is the same as last year when we wrote about our Activity Advent Calendar.  This last minute idea last year has turned into a wonderful annual event and has created even more excitement for the holidays.  The kids will get their gifts but this ensures that we follow through with some great family activities.  Yesterday we had a games night, today is a wonderful craft, and I think we will go see Santa tomorrow.  I am hoping these colds disappear for the snow tubing, swimming, and Christmas light events we have planned.

We still have not reconnected cable to watch TV shows.  With people feeling under the weather we have watched more shows lately however.  Free online streaming is great but this is also a good time to Rediscover Your Public Library.  We are borrowing a lot of the Christmas specials we want to share with our kids as well as some great books and music.  We have movie night as one of our special activities on the advent calendar.

Another activity we did was put up the Christmas tree.  We gave into peer pressure, and kid pressure, and put up the tree much earlier than we ever had before.  Maybe it is the fact that Christmas trees hit the stores just after Halloween that gets people to put them up so early but we were given a few guilt trips for deciding not to put our tree up until Dec 12.  Tired of hearing reasons why this is far too late we put our tree up last weekend instead.  The kids had a great time with this one though it was like putting up a giant sorting toy in our living room.  It has been so hard to keep the twins off the tree and we end up redecorating it twice a day.  Both Bryce and Jada have their favourite branch and we are always finding dozens of ornaments winding up on these branches.  It was funny the first time when we let the kids decorate first and all the ornaments ended up on 20% of the tree but now it is getting a bit too much.

Besides the colds we are having a lot of fun.  Each year the excitement for Christmas grows and grows and being able to see the holidays through children’s eyes has been really special and has changed our perception, and some of our cynicism, for the event.  The kids tell us that it is the toys that they like best about Christmas and there is nothing we can do to change that, but I know that when they look back at their childhood Christmases that it will be the activities, and the time spent together, that will stand out the most.

Puzzling Times on the Geocache Diet – Day 315

I am not sure if I am a puzzle person or not.  I am certainly puzzling but what I mean is, I am not sure if I like doing puzzles or not.  I don’t think I am very good at them and I just seem to get frustrated while doing them.  When I solve a tough puzzle however, the feeling is tough to beat.  This is the same when I am geocaching.  I am not sure if I like puzzle caches when I am doing them but if I end up solving the puzzle and finding the cache they usually end up on my favourites list.  I think the best part about doing a puzzle geocache is that eventually I will end up going outside.  While I still have to figure out if I like doing puzzle caches I now know that I do like hiding them.

The FamilyNavigation team has now has 17 active geocaches hidden near home and 7 of them are caches where you have to do some work before you figure out the final hiding spot.  The other 10 caches we have hidden are traditional caches but I can see a time where the more complicated ones outnumber the standard go to caches.  I don’t think our puzzles are too hard but I at least hope they are fun.  We have not created the best caches in town but I think we are heading in the right direction. As we get more experienced as cachers I can see our hides getting even more interesting.  After hiding a few puzzle caches I now have a real appreciation of just how much work is being put into some of the more involved caches.

Our first puzzle cache we hid may just be my favourite even though it is not much of a puzzle at all.  In Comox Wandering we lead people through town where they gather numbers that help them calculate the final hiding spot.  I like this one because these are the types that suit me the best.  I love wandering through towns and with this cache I get to show people some spots in my new home town.  The next puzzle was Gotta Love the Valley which I thought was easy but it has tripped up a lot of people and not many have found it.  In this cache there are lots to distract the solver.  The next one is not really a puzzle but a night cache.  In A-Maze-ing Night you follow reflectors to find the cache.  We won the reflectors at an event and thought it would be fun to hide a night cache nearby.

This week we released a  four cache series based on world related puzzles.  The first three caches in the Global Puzzle Series require solving puzzles before hitting the trail and the fourth uses clues discovered in the other three caches.  These were a lot of fun to create and I hope people enjoy them.

Most of these caches were thought up while out walking the local trails.  I think of a lot of things while walking, including geocaching.  I thought up the idea for global puzzle #2 a long time ago but thought about doing it with pictures like I did global puzzle #1.  Eventually the idea split and I thought of making them two stages of the same cache.  I finally got around to hiding the cache and I found a great spot when I realized that this would be a good area for a series of caches.  After hiding what turned into being the final cache I decided to make this a series.  For some reason I thought that this series needed four caches so while walking around the marina I thought up the idea for global puzzle #3. The idea on global puzzle #4 was also part of my original large cache idea.  Once the ideas were in place I must have made another 5 return trips to the park to find the best places to hide the other 3 caches.  I like walking in this park so I think it took me so long so I could have an excuse to return.

The puzzle series was released on Friday evening and it was fun reading the logs of the three teams that were running around the maze of trails, in the dark, in the snow.  It sounded like a lot of fun actually and it was tempting to grab a flashlight and join in.  Congrats to everyone who has solved the puzzles.

Things are going OK on the geocache diet.  I have not been on the scale for a while and I do not plan to weigh myself until December.  At this time I just want to concentrate on eating well and exercising.  I am finding the lack of sunlight difficult to get out because I still do not like caching in the dark alone.

Outdoor Activity Challenge – Week 9

I think we can put to the end of the Fall activities.  The leaves have all fallen off the trees and are now buried under snow.  Christmas lights are popping up everywhere, Santa is in the malls, and we even saw a Christmas tree in someone’s front window.  It does not matter that it is still officially autumn, winter has taken control and there is no looking back.  This is no reason not to continue the outdoor activity challenge however as even though we may not be lining up for the ski lifts but we are certainly going to spending a fair bit of time outside.

This week we had an easy choice for an activity.  We were deciding what to do the next day when I noticed something happening outside.  It was dark and the kids hadn’t noticed so I decided to make it a big surprise.  I told them to go to the kitchen and gather by the sliding glass door that leads out to the deck.  We then turned out the lights in the house and instantly flipped on the deck lights.  There was a collective gasp before one of them yelled out:  It’s snowing!!!!!.  I knew that snow was a big deal for kids but the excitement for a few frozen flakes was incredible.  It was fun to see their excitement but in hindsight it may not have been the best thing to show them just before bedtime.

There was no way that for our activity to include anything but playing in the snow.  We didn’t have the biggest snowfall but the kids did not care.  Since then we have had more snow fall and have spent a fair bit of time playing outside.  There is nothing special or unique about this outing but it just may be the kids favourite, and we did not even have to leave our backyard.

Snow Day on the Geocache Diet – Day 309

Another day geocaching and another thing to check of my life list.  I have now geocached in the snow.  There wasn’t enough snow on the ground to prevent me from finding some of the caches I was looking for but there was enough to add another level of challenge.  Today was my day out and there was no way that a little snow would keep me at home.

I did not want to travel too far from home so I did some of the caches just south of where we live on a series of short to medium sized walks.  The further I went south the deeper the snow got so as the day went on the harder it was to find the caches.  I ended up finding 9, including finding the final of a puzzle I had been working on.  The best cache of the day was a multi-cache that started on the road and ended on the beach.  It was not the best day for a walk on the beach but it was still a lot of fun.  The rest of the caches were fairly straight forward traditional caches but the setting made it extraordinary.

Lisa talked me into taking the camera and I am glad I did.  I am not sure if the photographs do the scene justice but there is nothing like a west coast winter-scape to relax the soul.  My favourite walk was around Spider Lake Provincial Park and even though I only found one of the two caches I was looking for there, it was a magical place to be on this day.  A day without snow would have produced more geocache finds but sometimes it is not about the numbers.  I would not wish all geocaching days to be in the snow, but the odd one is just fine with me.

Fall Outdoor Activities Challenge – Week 8

Another week has passed and our march towards the end of the fall season continues.  I know I originally said we would do this for 15 weeks but it is feeling a bit more like winter out there now and the Christmas season with all it’s activities and crafts to do is practically underway.  Santa arrives in town this weekend and snow fell today (sort of).  We’ll take it week by week as we always seem to be out doing some activity anyway so why not write about it.

This week we have all been suffering with colds and haven’t felt like going out on a family outing.  What I had stressed before is that it doesn’t matter what you do as long as you are out together having fun, even for a short time.

On a break from rain we went down to another local park and walked through the trees along a pretty boardwalk and the beach before returning up a trail covered in fallen maple leaves.  This was just a stroll in the park but again, its not the activity that is important it is spending time together.  Annika took some pictures, we looked at fall colours, played on the beach, splashed in a big puddle with some other kids, poked at a dead fish, and met lots of nice people and dogs.  It was a beautiful outing and when we came home I was feeling a sense of inner peace and calmness, or maybe it was just the cold medication.  Either way I’m glad I made myself get out of the house and go outdoors.

Challenges of Actually Working Together as we Work Together

The Goal:  Take our partnership as parents and expand it to include working together

The Reason:  We make a great team and we wanted to create a balanced family life where we work together towards one common goal.

The Result:  It has been harder than we thought as while we work on the same things we rarely get the chance to work at the same time on one of our tasks. 

The Problem:  We are living parallel lives that only a few times a day come together without the kids there as well.  The kids take so much of our time that Lisa and I never get time to really talk about work.

I don’t think I realized just how hard it would be for Lisa and I to sit down and have a meeting to discuss work or maybe I underestimated just how important these discussions would be.  Either way it is hard to find time during the day for us to talk without interruptions?  We would have to wake up ridiculously early to have time for a good morning discussion and even then I am not sure if they make coffee strong enough for Lisa to be coherent that time of the day.  After the kids get up only one of us can work while the other looks after them.  After lunch the twins go for a nap and Annika can play quietly by herself but we never seem to get very far before there is some sort of interruption.  Before we know it the twins wake up, if they fell asleep at all, and one of us has to be with them.  The time between dinner and bedtime is family time with no time for an adult conversation.  The time after the kids go to bed is the best time to discuss things but it can be hard to really settle into serious talk when we are both worn out from the day.  If our discussions get too involved then it is hard to stop or let your mind relax enough to fall asleep.  We often stay up way too late as we have so much to say and this can completely wreck us the next day.  It may sound like I am whining about such a little thing but this has turned into our greatest challenge.

So why are these discussions important?  Working as a team is far more productive then working as individuals.  We need to know what each other is doing so we can each add our own perspective and come up with better solutions.  When you are partners at everything there is a lot to talk about.  Being parents we want to discuss what the kids are doing and to make decisions together as to how to overcome certain family issues.  We are always learning how to be better parents as we go and it is so much easier to face these challenges together.  As house owners there are many chores that have to be done and since neither of us particularly enjoys many of these tasks it is better if we share.  We have also learned that we need to have fun together.  Lisa is my best friend and the person I chose to spend my life with.  We need some time to have fun together and have some time to just sit on the couch and talk about stuff not related to our kids, home, and work.  With so little time to be alone together and so much to talk about outside of work we have found that it is extremely hard to sit down and have a good discussion about work. 

We are working together on everything except rarely are we working on the same thing at the same time together.  This is a problem we have to overcome and we are unsure of which direction to go.  Do we work at separate ventures and work with other people?  Do we get people to look after the kids periodically so we can have work related meetings?  Doing so much together has not strained our friendship at all; in fact it has strengthened it.  Since we are going through everything together we can relate to each other so much better.  In the past if I had a bad day at work it was difficult for Lisa to understand as that world was so different than the one she lived in that day.  There are so many things that are fantastic about our life right now it is hard to admit that it comes with its imperfections.  We knew this wouldn’t be easy and there would be a lot to figure out.

Fall Outdoor Activities Challenge – Week 7

Another Fall Outdoors Challenge activity spent close to home.  We went out on Sunday as a family to scout out an area to place some new geocaches.  We hid one cache and Annika is very excited as it is her second cache she can call her own.  The other caches were a little more complicated and require return trips but we know where to hide them now.  A walk in the woods with kids cannot happen without some distractions and diversions.  While walking the trails our outing turned into a Mushroom spotting trip.  Around every corner it became a race to see who would spot the mushrooms and scream out Mushshoom Mushshoom!  There were so many varieties ranging from HUGE to very small and from ugly to beautiful.  I have been wanting to learn about mushrooms so I can identify them so I photographed many of them so I can figure out what they are.  It was a shame that I did not know which ones were edible because the yellowish one photographed next to Annika’s boot could have fed our whole family.

Thoughts from the Geocache Diet – Day 295

More random thoughts and observations from the Geocache Diet.

  • I have two pairs of hiking boots, one for serious day hikes and walks in wet slippery conditions, and a lighter pair for shorter hikes and warmer days.  The geocache diet has not been kind to my boots and they are now both trashed.  It is getting harder to ignore as I now even dewy grass gets my feet wet.  The problem is that I like my boots.  They are both very comfortable and have become my friends and I also hate shoe shopping.  Both being beyond repair and almost useless in the wet fall weather I must think about the well being of my feet and buy some more boots.  So sad.
  • There is snow in them-thar-hills.  I guess I will have to wait for the thaw before I do any more mountain caching.
  • Even in the coniferous forests of Vancouver Island there are still a lot of falling leaves this time of year which do a very good job of covering up hiding places and geo-trails when geocaching.  I recently cached on some great hiking trails with easy hides most of the year.  In the drier, warmer months you can just follow the worn path to the cache and see the neatly placed piece of bark over the hole but right now all you see is freshly fallen leaves.
  • I find myself craving new caches around our home.  I have now found most of the caches in our area and I love seeing new caches being published.  There was a new one published 300m from home which was very exciting.  Five minutes later I had cache in hand, got a shared first-to-find, and started wishing for more new caches.  Note to local cachers…pleeeassse!!!
  • One nice thing about working at home:   You can eat all the garlic you want.  Mmmmm Hummus!!!
  • I had my first ever first-to-find on a puzzle cache and I am really proud of myself.  I am not quick on puzzles and this was no exception but I did prove that perseverance pays off (that and the fact that many of the local puzzle champions did not try for the FTF).  It was published in the morning and I found it just before sunset the next day with another cacher finding it an hour later.  The cache, Migraine Mania, involved solving 3 different puzzles before locating the final.  A lot of work went into this cache including all three hides.  I appreciate the time cachers take in hiding any cache but I also like to encourage these creative and well thought caches as they are the most enjoyable.  We need a variety of caches including these time consuming beauties.
  • After I found the puzzle cache I received a nice letter from the cache owner.  He wanted to know how I came up with the solution as he wanted to learn about different methods people used to solve the puzzles.  I was more than happy to write back as it is great to see so much enthusiasm with cache hiders.  There was an incredible amount of work put into this cache but unfortunately many cachers will not attempt it because it is too time consuming or daunting.  I enjoy going for a hike and picking up a few easy hides in between exercising but these ones are truly rewarding.   These are the caches that have me standing in the middle of the woods dancing and fist pumping.  I don’t think I have hi-fived so many trees in my life.

I am seriously going to do well on my challenge the next month.  November is going to be great, I promise.

Fall Outdoor Activities Challenge – Week 6

Wow it’s almost been a week since our last post.  We better get our butts in gear and post, post, post!

On that note this one will be just a quick entry as time is going by fast and I need to start thinking of next week’s activity already.  Last week we didn’t actually do any of the activities off the “list”.  It was Halloween and the Grandparents came up to spend time with the kids over the Halloween weekend.

Annika had activities at school on Friday, Saturday we participated in the local town Costume Parade, and Sunday was trick-or-treating around home in the evening.  All-in-all an exhausting weekend, and way too much candy and junk.  Our family outdoor activity, I guess, was the costume parade though town and trick-or-treating.

Halloween morning Martin and I got a morning out by ourselves, which was nice and well needed.  We went down the a beautiful view of the Strait of Georgia and saw the last bit of the sunrise.  We went for breakfast in Courtenay and then did some geocaching in the backwoods of Courtenay.  We are also doing a little more writing and we will add more posts soon.

Random Notes and Thoughts from FamilyNavigation

Here are some tidbits of wisdom and recent happenings from the FamilyNavigation crew.

We have our first bone break.  And the winner is…Jada!!!!  Lisa is so proud of her little girl following in her fragile mothers footprints.  She was my choice in the pool.  Just a little green-stick fracture and she is fine but will wear a splint for a few weeks.  She is already a pro at milking this for all that it is worth.

Kids can really ruin a good song.  It is fun when we discover a new song to play it for the family but when the kids like a song they take ownership of it and it is a real challenge to turn it off or play something else.  I have stored away a few gems for my enjoyment only.

Is it just us or has there been a real drop in educating kids about proper bicycle safety? 

Farms have to be the best place to take kids for an outing.  Bryce’s favourite game when we went to the pumpkin patch was chicken chase.  That is going to be one healthy, and tasty, free run chicken.

You know we have a delicate child when Dora the Explorer is too scary.  Jada runs screaming from the TV every time the grumpy old troll jumps from under the bridge.

Yes we do let the kids watch a DVD once in a while.  We do not have cable but we use the library as a source for DVD’s.  Sometimes we just need some silence to get some housework done.  My concern with TV is when it becomes relied on too much.  

We have gone almost 6 months without cable and it has been great.  We have saved over $200 and we are still watching our favourite shows.  I watch some TV at night when I cook or clean up the kitchen.  Watching online is great because there are far less commercials and I can watch when I want to.

We are on loose tooth watch again.  Very exciting!!!

We do not know what the kids will wear for Halloween yet and we probably will not know until that night.  We are not worries you see as Lisa seems to have bought up every costume in every thrift store so the kids just have to go down to our costume trunk and pick out what they want.  We have a real animal theme with a dog, pig, tiger, dinosaur, and unicorn.  Throw in a couple fairies, a princess, and a couple clowns and it is safe to say that we should be ready to go.  I want to dress up as a grumpy old troll but Lisa thinks that it would not be a good idea.

Happy Halloween Everyone!!!