Fall Outdoor Activities Challenge

Autumn gets a bad wrap since it has to follow summer, but when you think about it there is lots to like.  Kids seem to really like Fall with the trees changing colours, Halloween, and lots of yummy things to eat.  Come on, you must like it a little bit?  There is lots to do but sometimes it is not easy to get excited to do Fall activities.

It’s suddenly become cool outside, the plants in the garden are dying, and the rainy and gray days of the west coast have begun.  I find on those days that it’s a challenge to get myself motivated to get out and do something fun in the fresh air, never mind trying to get the kids interested in going too.  I’ve come up with a list of outdoor activities to do as a family on hopefully not too rainy Sundays.  The challenge is to check off one activity a week from September 22 until the end of Autumn, December 21.  That works out to 15 activities, WOW.  Ok, so I expect we won’t do them all, like maybe the swimming if we don’t get another warm day, but we could just go to the beach.  I’ve added 17 to make sure that there are enough ideas.  Here is what I’ve come up with.

  1. Go for a walk in a forest slowly to look for signs of the season change
  2. Collect leaves for leaf prints and for pressing
  3. Go to the beach on a nice- lots to do on cooler days as well
  4. Visit to the beach on a stormy day – play in the wind
  5. Go for a puddle jumping walk after a rainstorm
  6. Visit a farm with hayrides, corn maze or some other autumn activity
  7. Pick your own pumpkins for a jack-o-lanterns
  8. Go to the river and look for spawning salmon and other wildlife
  9. Play in the leaves on a dry day
  10. Give the kids a Fall photo scavenger hunt.
  11. Fly a kite – more winds around in the fall in our area
  12. Plant some winter veggies – Swiss chard, radishes…
  13. Go to a Farmer’s Market
  14. Go Geocaching – fun in all seasons
  15. Watch a sunset – great since it gets dark earlier
  16. Look for constellations on a dry, clear, late fall evening
  17. Go bird watching

This is just our idea list.  Our goal is to get out and do something as a family outside at least once a week.  On your list you may skip some of our suggestions, like if salmon don’t spawn in your area, and you can do your favourite activities more than once.  Let us know your suggestions for great autumn outdoor family outings.  I think it’s a great challenge, who’s with me?

Economic Sacrifices for Sustainable Living

A while back while hiking in a beautiful forest I came to a realization that there is a parallel between the process our family took to overhaul our lifestyle and what we feel needs to happen to make our society sustainable with respect to the environment.  I hesitated in putting this thought out in a blog because it sounds pretty high and mighty of me to first assume I know what is best for society, and second, to think that the simple formula adopted by one stressed out family will actually work on such a large scale.  I decided to proceed anyway because I thought it was interesting to see how making these types of decisions starts when you really do some searching and decide what is truly important.

A couple years back we were floundering around in our success.  We were not rich by any scale but we had more than we needed to live comfortably and to raise our family.  I had a successful career and there was a path I could take for long term financial stability and further success.  We had a fantastic family and we owned our home; we were successful.  The problem was this was not the type of lifestyle that suited us did not fit our personalities.  We were not as happy as we should be and it was slowly getting worse.  My job was getting repetitive and all the political game-playing that comes with working for a large company was getting more and more frustrating.  We lived in the city where the traffic, hurried pace of the people, and even things like air quality we becoming harder to ignore.  Now with children even our normal suburban street seemed less desirable and even somewhat unsafe and we were starting to question if this was a place where we wanted to raise kids.  For many this life is fantastic but to us, while it was sustainable from a financial point of view, when you factor in all these other issues that were affecting our attitude and mood we recognized that this was not a path we wanted to take.  You can find more details in this transition in the Our Transition section of FamilyNavigation.com and learn how we feel these fundamental changes have improved our life even though we have worsened our financial certainty.

After many conversations we realized that our health and overall enjoyment of life were more important than having the biggest house on the block, driving luxury cars, and even owning a high def. TV.  After sorting out our priorities in life we decided that family happiness had to come first.  Everything has not gone exactly how we thought it would but we would not go back even if we could.  Our life is still busy with three young kids but we are healthier, endure less daily stress, and are enjoying the simple things in life.  We are living in a smaller, tighter nit, community with much less traffic and citizens who will pause from their lives to smile and say hello.  We are reconnecting with nature, enjoying quality time with our kids, and doing simple things like growing a garden, and baking bread, which has added quality to our lives.  We recognized that even though we have to maintain a certain level of financial security it was more important to do so while living an enjoyable and less stressful life.

Choosing a life that makes you happy seems like a logical decision to make but in our society these types of decisions are rare.  It was amazing to is just how many people who were far better off financially then we were kept constantly complaining and worrying about money.  It seemed that the more money people made the more pressure it brought with it.  Money can have a factor in happiness but in our society the perception is that wealth greatly out ways all other factors that need to be considered.  When we put a greater focus on some of the other factors it became clear that we need to move and start over.  Lately I cannot help to think that our society as a whole could benefit from this type of analysis.

You can get a good idea of what is important to your society by following politics (not all the time as that can be depressing).  There are many and many political issues that are important in our society but it would come as no surprise that the number one issue by a landslide is the economy.  There are other important issues, like the environment, which get consideration but it is the economy that rules them all.  We would like our politicians to fix a lot of the other problems, like this ‘little’ issue called global warming, but it is career suicide for a politician if they do something that will make a positive impact on the environment if it is perceived to have a negative impact on the economy.  Fix all the other problems but make sure I can still buy all the stuff I want to.  It is almost impossible to make any progress if decision makers fear to harm the economy.

We tried, oh how we tried, to make a lifestyle transition by keeping my job and gradually move to a more happy and sustainable lifestyle.  The problem we had is that it meant we had to either be really patient or work far beyond our capacity.  With a full time career and three young kids at home to try and start a business on the side proved to be just too much of a challenge.  The only choice was to realize that we could not ignore the other important factors in our life for just one factor.  In the three or four years leading up to the eventual change there was many times where we said to each other that there was 10,000 reasons to make a change and only one reason, financial certainty, not to.  Money is important but we cannot let all our decisions be dictated by it.

What would we accomplish if we told our politicians that our society is ready to take a leap of faith and will put up with a little short term economic pain in order to really try and improve the environmental sustainability of the planet?  I know this decision would scare the hell out of me because it would take us down a path that is uncertain.   Terrifying as this would be, if you look into the future at likely outcomes I strongly believe that the likely outcome for action on environmental issues greatly outweighs the long term pain we will have if we continue down our current path.  Before we made our leap towards our new life I tried to look into the future 10, 15, 25 years and tried to imagine what our future would be if we continued down the same path and that thought scared me more than acting now and trying something completely different.  I have the same reaction when it comes to the environment.  I am freaked out about making drastic environmental changes that could affect the economy but that freaks me out much less then what the future would be if we stay inactive and continue down the same path.  What if taking a risk really works?  What would happen if decided to make drastic changes and we worked as hard as we could towards the things that are really important to us and in the end we were successful?  There could be a point in the future where I can say that I am living the lifestyle I want and I made some money in the process.  The good news is that if we are determined enough and are crazy enough to take that first leap we may just create a better life for our families.  History is full of people, and societies, who challenged conventional fears and succeeded.  I’m ready to be added to that list.

Review of Summer on the Geocache Diet – Day 240

Dad and son swimming at a lakeIt is the start of the second week of school for Annika, the temperature is noticeably cooler, the days have gotten shorter, and well…what else can I say, summer is over for yet another year.  Spring has always been my favourite season but I always enter summer with more energy and enthusiasm than any other season.  I always want to do and accomplish so much each summer and every year it ends before I can take full advantage of the long warm summer days.  This year was kind of the same yet also a little different.  Again this year I had a long list of things I wanted to do but since then I have also realized that there is only so much I can accomplish in a few months with a young family.  Back in June I wrote Dream Routes for the Geocache Diet and I laid out three things I wanted to accomplish.  Let’s see how I did:

1)      Kayaking: Did I step into a Kayak this summer?  No

2)      Family Camping: Did I take the family camping this year?  Yes

3)      Backpacking: Did I spend at least one night camping in the backcountry on a hiking trip?  No

Only 1 out of 3…what a failure…right?  I would have liked to have gone kayaking and backpacking but I still call this summer a success, perhaps the most successful in a long time.  I did not get out on the water but I did spend a lot of time by the sea.  We took the family to the beach a lot plus I went on some great seaside walks.  I didn’t camp in the backcountry but I did walk each summer day (minus one crazy day) and I did some great long backcountry day hikes.  Maybe we did not take the kids on as many trips as I thought we would have, but the trips we did have were a lot of fun.  Lisa and the kids left camping season with the sense that they wanted to do more which is much better than feeling like we did too much camping.  This sets up very well for next year.   I also dove head first into a new project this summer which took a lot of my time but has also provided a lot of enjoyment.  The whole summer was successful from a family point of view.  We got outside, we simplified our activities, and just played outdoors.  We had a lot of visitors this year and we enjoyed showing people our piece of paradise.  Yes this was a good summer.

When we decided to change our lifestyle we kept saying that we wanted to simplify things and that really is what this summer was about.  I still want to do some more adventurous things in future summers but I have learned that I can also have fun in the backyard playing with the kids.  I will never stop dreaming of travel but a short camping trip across the island can also provide memories that will endure.  Yes it was a simple and enjoyable summer and the best news is that we can now have a whole new season to try and make the best that we can.

Regaining an Essential Connection with the Natural World

When we lived in the city I felt that we lost some of the connection we had with the natural world.  Moving back to the West Coast, and to a smaller town, it was our goal to regain some of that connection with the environment and, maybe more importantly, make sure our kids grew up with a similar connection.  This summer, during some of my reflective walks, I have been listening to a podcast of a CBC radio show called The Bottom Line by IMGP6344David Suzuki.  Through 10 – 1 hour episodes this series has looked at the disconnect our current society has with the environment and tries to educate us as to just how interconnected everything on this earth really is.  You can find more info on this show on their website and you can download the series on itunes until Sept 20, 2010.  I feel that there is a real division between people who devote their lives trying to excel in the economy and people who work to save the planet.  I recommend this show as a way to step back from your views on both sides and realize that the economy and are environment do not act independently of each other.

I get the feeling that many people act as if the natural world and the human world are different and separate from each other.  This is an easy line to draw as our city dwellings and daily routines are so different than any other animal that live out in the ‘wild’.  Our survival in today’s world revolves around income, social status, and feeling good about ourselves, and less about obtaining food, water, and shelter.  The mountains, forests, and oceans are different worlds to us and while they are nice to visit and photograph we do not relate to them as places where humans belong.  Each generation seems to get more and more removed from the natural world and what is really happening around us.

The truth is that humans are, and always will be as long as we inhabited the Earth, connected with every other living thing.  Our survival is dependent on air, food, and water, and the natural cycles of the world provides this for us free of charge.  The biggest concern of most of our society, as stated in recent political polls, involves the economy.  This I can understand as it affects our daily lives right now.  The problem I see is that as we have become so disconnected with the natural world the decisions our society makes have failed to grasp the vital link between long term economic viability and a healthy earth.  Simply put if we put too much stress on the natural systems then things will begin to collapse starting with our precious economy.

IMGP6609I feel that it is critical that humans regain this connection with the environment and we will be doing all we can to raise our family and influence our community with the environment in mind.  Humans are natural beings.  We are made up of organic material that was claimed by our bodies from the environment.  We are born, and we die like every other organism on earth.  We are a part of this world and it is time that we start recognizing that we do not just live here but we an integral part of the natural cycle of life.  I feel strongly that we have to start realizing this connection the earth and every living thing and start making global decisions based on this connection.  We have to bring the economists and the environmentalists together and realize that we do not have to compromise one for the strength of the other.  We do have to make some drastic changes and we have to make them now or the results will be catastrophic.

I did not mean to make this blog so preachy as I know that always turns people off.  It is almost impossible to be so passionate about something and not sound like an arrogant ‘know it all’ who is trying to influence the world to see things their way.  All I would like our society to do is to try and connect with the natural world, see how it gives them their life, and decide what they feel needs to be done to ensure that the earth stays in good enough shape to create and sustain life for generations and generations to come.

Our family will spend enough time on the oceans so that they can be amazed at the biodiversity and thrilled at the sight of some amazing natural wonders.  I want our kids to be saddened and angry about species reduction and oceans dying due to the changing acidity of the water.  We will discuss changes we can make as a family and as a society to improve the survival of the oceans.  Our family will spend time in different ecosystems on land to gain knowledge to be able to make decisions that will not have a negative impact.  We want our kids to realize that the atmosphere is also part of the natural world and it should not be a dumping ground as much as the oceans and the earth cannot be.  I will not have to tell our kids what the best decisions are for their generation as if we get them to connect with the environment that they are a part of then they ultimately will make the best decisions for their future.

IMGP6046Listening to the ‘Bottom Line’ did not give me these views but it did help in clarifying how I felt.  Not everyone who goes out and tries to reconnect with the natural world will have the same views as I do but I do feel that without trying to understand our role and realize its critical importance on our survival, our society will not be equipped to make the best decisions and will continue down this path of uncertainty.

I would love people to listen to this series and let us know if it has helped them feel a little more connected with the natural world.  Thank you for reading my rant; it is much appreciated.

Back to Reality on the Geocache Diet – Day 234

This is a big day for us at the FamilyNavigation household.  Annika is starting her first day of Kindergarten and it is a big deal even though today is only a 15 minute meet and greet.  Wow is she excited.  So summer has unofficially ended and it is back to some sort of reality.  We have to stop playing around, figure out a new schedule, and start getting serious again with the tasks at hand.  This is all right because at least we are a bit relaxed after a break and we can say that we had a good summer.  Before I think about the serious stuff lets look back at some of the fun.

We enjoyed another camping trip with the kids.  We may sneak in another if the weather behaves but we gave the impression to the kids that this was going to be it.  We went to the west coast of Vancouver Island and explored the beauty that is Ucluelet, Tofino, and the Pacific Rim National Park.  There were wild beaches, rain forests, and many places for kids to be kids.  We timed this trip perfectly.  Avoiding rain in a rain forest can be tricky but we arrived a day after it rained and left the day before it rained.  The weather on this side of the island is rarely hot but it was very pleasant and everything went well.  The kids had a fantastic time and I was able to get in a bunch of early morning geocaching as I was able to get up a couple hours before anyone else.  I cannot call these walks ‘power hikes’ because the scenery is just too beautiful to rush on by.  These turned into reflective strolls and I think some good ideas came out of them.

At this point there is not much else to say.  Camping with kids, while a pile of fun, is also quite exhausting so posting to the website fell away.  We will get back to regular posting plus we will introduce our new site very soon.  I am still losing weight at a slow pace and once again I will say that I am going to be making an even stronger effort to lose some weight.  Even with so much going on I can still say that this is a real priority for me and I will not stop trying to live healthier… ever.

Should We Let Our Kids Watch Movies in the Car?

“This is a very nice van for you; it has a built in DVD player”.  This was the sales pitch we received when we were van shopping a few years back.  Lisa was pregnant with the twins and with Annika running around beside us it was obvious to the sales person that this was going to be the most important feature for people in our ‘situation’.  After looking around for a while we ended up buying that particular van… but not because it had a DVD player!

I have had this ongoing feud with TV for a while.  In the past I have had periods where I have revolted from TV watching and have stopped altogether before getting sucked back in and start wasting far too much time doing nothing.  The past little while however, I seem to have struck a nice compromise with TV.   I have revoked my threats of removing the TV from our house altogether but we have cut off our cable.  We still watch DVD’s and I will still watch some sports and the occasional TV show streamed online but for the most part I have replaced watching TV with daily exercise and keeping busy with the family.  Now that I have that all figured out the next battle is with the kids viewing time.  We do let our kids watch DVD’s at home but we try to keep it to a moderate amount.  When we travel in the van however the rules seem to change.

When we first got the van it was a while before we even showed Annika the DVD player.  These days, with three restless kids in the car, we tend to play movies on any out of town trip.  The reason we do this is simple…it works…very, very well.  We want to drive the 3 hours to the grandparent’s house; no problem.  We have one quick ‘intermission’ break in the middle of the trip and the rest of the time is stress free driving where I can actually talk to Lisa and even get some work done.  Our best meetings lately have been held on the highway as we simply let the Hollywood magicians put our kids in a trance as we travel.  While the stress free driving is fantastic this is not a guilt free decision for us.

I have some great memories as a child going on long drives.  Sure there were times of boredom and nausea but there were also hours and hours of question and answer as I was mystified by all the new sights that we were passing by.  We played ‘I spy’ and we had fun coming up with silly origins for town names like Moose Jaw, Chilliwack, and Wawa.  This not only made the time pass but it also made the trip fun.  I learned a lot from these trips from geology and sociology to independent thought and patience all which I may not have learned about from a screen induced daze.

So what are we going to do about it?  At this age I feel that getting to our destination as stress free as possible is the best solution but as they get older I hope we are dilligent in minimizing the on screen travel time and get to discuss with them the real world around us.  At this time I will live with having a DVD player in the car but I will not guarantee that there will come a time when this fragile relationship goes sour again and the DVD player mysteriously stops working.

Sea to Sky to Sea on the Geocache Diet – Day 226

This was the kind of day I envisioned when we moved back to the coast and pledged that we would live a more active life.  We now live 2 minutes from the ocean and 30 minutes or so from the mountains and yesterday I took full advantage of this.  My only regret is that I did not start the day with my family but a return trip with everyone is not far off.

I am not a fan of hiking in the back-country by myself so I have not spent nearly enough time in the mountains this year.  We have done shorter hikes with the kids but longer hikes have been a challenge as they are pretty young.  A few weeks back I read a story about free guided hikes from the Strathcona Wilderness Institute and I figured that this would be a great way to get out on those trails but even then it still took me a while to fit a mountain hike into our schedule.  Yesterday was the day.

I left before the rest of the family woke up (it’s OK, they knew about it) and admired the early morning light over the ocean as I drove towards the mountains.  I stopped for one geocache on the way before arriving at the Alpine Lodge at the Mount Washington Ski Hill.  Not too many people were around this early so I did some caching around the village before meeting the group for the hike.  As soon as the hike started I could not stop asking myself why I had not come up here before now.  The scenery was stunning, the trails were excellent, and there were so many people on the trails that hiking solo would not have been an issue at all.   The guided hike was fun and I learned a lot about other trails in the park, bird life, plant life, and what I would see here during different seasons.  Surprisingly I was only one of four (including the guide) on the hike as I would have thought others would be keen to learn more about this beautiful area.  I decided to be a hiker and photographer on this day and I forgot about finding all the geocaches on the trail.  There were only three of them on our loop and I knew I would be back soon enough.  There just happened to be a geocache near a lake where we stopped for a few minutes so I could not help sneaking off and making a find.

There were sections of the trail which would be perfect to take the whole family and I have promised to take them up here during the fall colours in a few weeks time.  On this day, with the walking I did before the main hike plus some caching after the hike, I found 5 caches while walking almost 13km.  This alone would be a fantastic day out but this was not going to be all for me.  I returned home at around 3pm and prepared for a seaside geocaching event that evening.  Cache #6 for that day was a very well done event with a lot of familiar faces.  The event was set at a campground and included a GPS led scavenger hunt, a BBQ and potluck dinner, some raffle prizes, and S’mores (not for me).  The kids are older now since the last event we attended and they seem to be more mature and I think we had more fun than we had in the past.  All other events were a lot of fun but at this one the kids just seemed to be more relaxed and would go and play and allowed us adults to socialize.

Sea to Sky to Sea with some geocaching mixed in.  In our world it does not get much better than that.

What Has Happened on the Geocache Diet – Day 221

Where did we go?  It has been over a week since we wrote on FamilyNavigation.com.  Did we stop writing?  Did we finally crack?  Did we move to Namibia?  Surprisingly none of those are correct.  In fact we just took a little break and we may even take another one before the summer is done.  We did a little camping with the kids, visited grandparents, and have been working on our new venture (still won’t tell at this point).  We will be sporadic with our posts for the next couple of weeks before we settle into a regular routine again.  I thought I would summarize some of the fun geocache diet stuff of the past week or so.

I have done a fair bit of hiking and geocaching the past week.  Since we were out of my normal caching range while staying with my parents and camping there were a lot of caches to find so my hikes have been more productive.  I have picked through our area pretty good so it is fun to go hiking in a geocache rich area again.  The best day, caching wise, was just a couple days ago when I went caching at Horth Hill Park in Sidney BC.  I went caching for 2 hours and found 12 caches on a long walk and 3 others on shorter walks.  This is by far my best cache per hour ratio while on foot.  I was a machine on that day as I took less than 5 minutes on each cache to find it before trudging off to another cache.  There were a couple caches that other cachers could not find recently and I found in no time.  I was unstoppable.  I power walked my way all around that park from cache to cache and had a great time.  I returned from that outing all proud and boasting that I had obtained some special caching vision and caches were now jumping into my arms.  I came crashing back to earth on the next day’s hike while in a cache rich area I went 4 for 8 in the same amount of time.  Oh well, at least I had one day of glory.

Thanks to Grandma & Grandpa & Grandma & Grandpa, Lisa and I were able to have a day to ourselves.  We were out doing research for our new website (oooh a clue…maybe) but we also had a couple meals out and did a little caching.  We discovered a multicache that would take us all around where we wanted to explore so we decided to take the challenge.  This cache was very well done but it involved a fair bit of math which meant there were many places to make errors.  On the third stage I made such a mistake and ended up a very nice beach nowhere near the spot we were supposed to be.  Since we were meant to be beside a brick building and not a beach we realized that we must be in the wrong place and when I read the clue again I discovered my calculation error.  We still wanted to finish the cache but we are not ones to let a hidden beach discovery go to waste.  While Lisa was taking pictures I thought I would see if there happened to be any other caches close by.  I asked my GPSr for the closest cache and I was surprised to find out that I was standing 1 meter from one.  I looked around, saw a likely spot, reached under, and pulled out a cache.  Too easy … see caches are jumping into my arms.  We then got too distracted with the beach and ran out of time to complete the multicache.  Maybe next time.

That is enough rambling for now.  Have a look at some of these pictures of the places we went this week.  We are so lucky to live where we do and have so many great places to take the kids.  We have promised the kids more camping while the weather is good so that is something to look forward to.  We also have our local fair this weekend, a geocaching event to attend, and I am also planning a mountain hike.  The challenge will be to fit in all the work I have to do.  

Anniversary Outing on the Geocache Diet – Day 213

Lisa and I celebrated our lucky 13th wedding anniversary yesterday.  It is amazing to think that we have been married for 13 years, together for 18, and our three kids are all 5 years old or younger…but that is another story.  With help from friends and family we had a lot of options offered to us as to what to do for our anniversary.  Most of the suggestions were based on the notion that we would want to escape the kids and have a day or two by ourselves.  We could spend a night in a hotel somewhere, go out on the town, see a show, go out for meals, and other things that people do for anniversaries.  While this was tempting neither of us really wanted to plan that outing.  We realized that this plan does not necessarily fit to who we are anymore.  Sure we could have a good time doing those things but this was our day and we wanted to do something that we wanted to do.  So we celebrated FamilyNavigation style.

We have friends staying with us from Alberta and they wanted to allow us to have our day.  They were happy to babysit the kids overnight as they wanted us to have a break.  We did take them up on the offer and we had a nice dinner out the night before our anniversary but we wanted them to be included on our anniversary day outing.  We had come up with a number of options and we finally decided on going to Strathcona Park.  We tried to leave as early as we could and we drove into the mountains of Vancouver Island.  It was a simple day to celebrate the marriage of a couple who is enjoying a simpler life.  We went for small walks with the kids, ate a picnic lunch, went swimming in the lake, and of course found a few geocaches.  We were surrounded by nature, friends, and our children and what else could we ask for on our day.

The highlight was the trip to Myra Falls.  These are a cascading waterfall just above Buttle Lake.  At this time of year the flow of water is less than norma and there are pools you can swim at (carefully), which feels great on a hot day.  The water is direct from glacier and snow melt further into the mountains so it is cold but this was one of the hottest days of the year so it was a welcome relief from the heat.  There was a little water fall that flowed into a small pool which was great for the kids and we ended staying up there much longer than we thought we would.  13 years ago we would have lingered by this falls but a couple of a few years back we may have tried to stay on a  schedule.  The FamilyNavigation team of 2010 is now more than happy to splash the afternoon away.  The rest of the day we continued on at this relaxed pace.  We fed the kids the remaining food we brought and swam some more in the much warmer lake and then did some more caching before returning home much later then we planned.  The kids did fantastic and crashed soon after arriving home.  The adults picked up some food from the local grocery store deli and our anniversary dinner was just some hummus and pita in our living room with good friends after a great day out in nature.  This day really symbolizes how successful we have been at living the life we want to live and enjoying the things we used to enjoy.  There were far too many years when we hardly left the city.  Luckily for us I can see a lot more days like this in our future:  Years and years worth.

Summer Visitors and the Geocache Diet – Day 208

We have been popular hosts this summer.  Now that we live on Vancouver Island, a simply splendid place to vacation, we have been getting quite a few visitors.  We are not complaining at all as we are pleased to see friends and family come for visits and I hope it continues.  It does play havoc with our schedule and it makes it more difficult to get some work done and exercise.

Normally I get up really early and get my exercise done before everyone is up but it can be very hard to go to bed early when the only time to socialize with the adults is after the kids go to bed.  There have been quite a few late nights and getting up early to walk just has not been happening.  I have been able to go out for short walks regularly and when I get the chance I will go for a really long walk to catch up.

I have been doing a lot better eating good meals even with the company.  The hardest part in summer is turning down high calorie beverages but since I do not drink alcohol I have years of training with turning down drinks.  On the hottest days I may have an ice cold drink of lemon-aid but I usually drink nothing but water.  Lisa is the socialiser so I take charge of the cooking and I have been making sure to cook healthy meals.

For whatever reason most of our guests decided to come in early August which has made the past two weeks extremely busy.  We have guests currently with another set arriving over the weekend leaving tentatively on Tuesday.  My plan is to sneak in as much exercise (and geocaching) as possible and then really get in some good hikes throughout the rest of the summer.  We have yet to do much in the way of travelling this summer but we have a number of smaller overnight trips planned.  It has been great to have visitors and to catch up with friends but it is time to hit the trail again and concentrate on burning some calories.  We will make sure we leave a lot of time to play with the kids as well.

I thought I would add a very quick and yummy salad.  A great avocado, tomato, and basil salad can be found at Mediterrasian.com.  Now I must get back to my guests as they are getting hungry.

Tag-Team Irrational Kids

When Annika was two years old we learned that we would have better luck reasoning with a politician then her at that age.  Around the time she turned three she seemed to instantly gain some sort of conscience and we could usually come up with some sort of rational compromise.  That day cannot come soon enough with the twins. 

I realize it is going to be a very long time before our kids act rationally all the time (my parents would probably say that they are still waiting) but what I am talking about is the constant irrational behaviour.  Regardless of what anyone says I think I am an overly rational person so it is very challenging to have a duo of kids interested in demonstrating their freedom of choice every chance they get.  When you have two sets of eyes finding ways to make a scene and two personalities working together and against one another to try and get their way my patience does not seem as endless as it once did.  They have realized that they have the ability to choose and to make a fuss if we do not satisfy their choice.

Let’s look at a simple example with cups.  We use a set of coloured cups with lids and straws.  Over time we have misplaced some and replaced others which means we have a real mishmash of cups, lids, and straws.  The cups are blue, yellow, green, and orange, and there are two different styles of lids in those same colours.  The straws are red, green, purple, and orange.  If Bryce gets a blue cup, lid, and any straw then we are OK.  Bryce thinks blue is the best and Jada feels that any colour is better than blue.  If the blue cups are dirty then it gets more complicated.  If Bryce gets a green cup then Jada usually will want one as well or she will have yellow or orange if she can have a green lid AND a red or green straw.  If Jada gets a green cup then Bryce is OK with green or yellow if he gets a red or green straw.  Neither likes orange all that much but it is fine as long both of them get that colour but we better make sure the straw colours are right.  Sound complicated?  It would be OK if we didn’t also have similar dilemmas with plates, bowls, and cutlery and if the rules didn’t change weekly.  We have thought about just using a set which is all the same but they would just move their focus on to something else. 

If I wanted to I could go on and on with examples as we have to deal with different things all day long.  They have favourite toys, hat/shoe combinations, clothe combinations, DVD’s, places to sit, food to eat, and much more.  Once they realize that you have it figured out then they decide to switch it up.  Lisa and I have changed seats a few times at the dinner table because the twins have demanded that I sit in this chair and not that one.  At least I still have a spot at the table.

Some of you must think that we are pushovers and the kids are running amok but we must mention that they do not get away with everything they make a fuss about.  We realize we cannot give in to their every whim so we do resist and try to be proactive as much as possible.  We do go to battle over some things, like the amount of dessert, or when it is time to leave the playground, but many times it is worth avoiding a meltdown by letting them play with their favourite funnel or let them use the tiniest spoon ever made to eat their soup.  We know from experience that this phase will be over soon and we are better off staying calm and not battle their irrational wants all the time.  And to all the more experienced parents out there:  It does not help to remind us that it will be worse when they become teenagers.  Thanks anyway.

Our ‘Bugging’ Entomologist

As many of you know our Annika (aged 5) loves bugs.  At her preschool ‘graduation’ after all the princesses, fire fighters, and artists, the teacher announced:  “When Annika grows up she wants to be an entomologist”.  Most of the parents looked at each other and laughed and the kids all looked confused.  Like most parents I hardly even knew how to spell it.

So when Annika grows up she wants to be a bug scientist.  She is off to a great start and I just hope that she continues to follow her love for bugs as she gets older and doesn’t let anyone convince her that bug are gross and scary.  Most girls and some boys don’t understand why she loves them so much.  She treats and cares for them as if they were her pets.  She even let a wood bug crawl all over her face the other day.  While that sure gave me the ‘willies’ I didn’t let her know it because I want her continue being so enthusiastic about them.  It is really impressive how much she is interested in learning about bugs and in the evening we will read science books about bugs.  I was telling her that sometimes when a bee stings it loses it’s stinger and then dies.  She got so upset to a point of almost crying.  Yes she loves them all that much.

Early in the summer she had been collecting caterpillars in her bug box, which was well stocked with ‘caterpillar food’, and one day we looked in to see a yellow worm looking thing.  Annika was thrilled when she identified it as a chrysalis.  One of her little caterpillars had started its metamorphosis.  She was so thrilled and she began dreaming of the beautiful butterfly it was becoming.  We watched that chrysalis for a weeks and we even took it on a road trip with us in case it emerged while we were away from home.  After about a month I was starting to give up and I was getting ready to tell Annika that here butterfly was not coming when it finally did.  What we thought would be a beautiful butterfly, however, turned out to be a moth, but Annika did not care.  She still thought it was beautiful and very special.  We let it out of the box and allowed it to get its wings ready for flight.  After dinner we checked on it and it had flown away and was gone.  Annika was so proud.

Our neighbours have their niece visiting them right now and she is 1yr older than Annika.  When she first arrived she would not touch or go near a bug except maybe a ladybug.  Yesterday she was over playing in our yard with Annika and they were painting and playing in the splash pool.  Annika got bored and went off to find some bugs.  A few minutes later I heard her little friend say “I caught it! I caught the ant!”  She was so excited and I was thrilled that Annika’s interests had worn off on someone else.  That being said she also got Annika to play with some dolls later that same day.  Annika played Dr. Barbie – Entomologist.

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As many of you know our Annika loves bugs. At her preschool “graduation” the teacher announced, “When Annika grows up she wants to be a entomologist”. Most of the parents looked at each other and laughed and the kids just all looked confused. Like most parents I hardly even know how to spell it.

So she wants to be a bug scientist. I just hope that she continues to follow her love for bugs as she gets older and doesn’t let anyone convince her that bug are gross or scary. Most girls and some boys are confused by how much she loves them. She truly loves them like pets, she even let a wood bug crawl all over her face the other day. It sure gave me the willies, but I didn’t let her know it, because I want her to always see the good in all of them. I was telling her that sometimes when a bee stings someone it losses it’s stinger and then dies. She got so upset to a point of almost crying. Yes she loves them all.

Our neighbours have their little niece visiting them right now and she is 1yr older than Annika. When she first arrived she would not touch or go near a bug, except maybe a ladybug. Yesturday she was over playing in our yard with Annika and they were painting and playing in the pool. Annika got bored and went off to find some bugs, before I knew it I heard her little friend say “I caught it! I caught the ant!” She was so excited and I was thrilled that Annika’s interests had worn off on someone elts, and not the other way around.