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Jordyn and Daddy ski down the bunny hill together.

I need a vacation. Really.

Mike and I have always promised each other that we will keep travelling, not allowing life to keep us away from exploring the world.

Then we added a little boy to our family. When our little boy Braeden was 2 years old, we planned a six week long trip backpacking down the coast of Australia and into northern New Zealand. There were many people who told us we couldn’t do it, but we packed a bunch of activities and a soother for our little toddler, and didn’t let having a child stop us from anything. True, we adjusted the trip, making more stops at playgrounds and turning in by 8:00 pm nightly so he could have a good sleep, but it was amazing.

Then we added a little girl to our family. We took both kids to New York City when Braeden was 5 and Jordyn was 9 months old. It was a great trip – New York has all sorts of amazing kid activities. (New York has everything!) Highlights for the kids were the Peanut Butter Inc restaurant, the matinee Broadway show, and walking through Times Square. Again, we had been warned not to bring kids on a trip to NYC, but we did, and the experience was great.

Then we added a Master’s program to our family. Now, in addition to the kids we have long term papers and discussions, and in addition to strollers/carseats, we would need to bring my laptop and textbooks. But the biggest problem is that of finances. Four tickets to pretty much anywhere is impossible right now, especially when paying tuition fees has nearly emptied our bank account. So we need to wait for the big trip. But as I said, I need a vacation. Badly. So we decided to find a nice local place to have a vacation.

Which is how we ended up in Cold Lake, Alberta last weekend, on a one-night skiing trip.

We woke up Saturday morning and the weather was -28. We had signed our 6 year old son up for a two day ski camp, and it started at 9:30 am. But -28? We decided to play it by ear, and packed up our car early for the 90 minute drive from Lac La Biche.

The sun had come out by the time we arrived, and the weather was a balmy -20 by the time he hit the hill. (Well he was dressed warm, so it wasn’t so bad.) Braeden headed out for his ski lesson with a friendly English-accented boy named Tom, and after watching Braeden take a shaky run from a quarter of the way up the bunny hill, we headed into town to shop, and the day went by quickly. By the time we picked a very happy and excited Braeden up at 3:00, we were ready to head to the hotel to rest. We hadn’t realized it when we first rented the hotel, but they had a waterslide and hot tub, and the kids were happily exhausted by the end of the day. After a restaurant rendezvous with some family, the kids and Mike

Braeden's first try at skiing

had a great sleep while I worked on homework on my laptop in the hotel bed.

After such a great first day, nothing could go wrong! So the next day, we decided to be a little more adventurous and rented skis for our 2 year old and ourselves. Easy right? Well, not so much…

She seemed excited to be wearing skis, so at my husband’s suggestion, we took her immediately to the chair lift. Whoops. Apparently she is scared of heights, and she fought and screamed the entire way up the lift. Of course, there is no turning around on the chair lift, so we made it to the top. At the top she was still upset, and wanted her mommy. (Mommy is not a strong skiier so couldn’t help her down, so she was still crying.) We headed down as quickly as we could, and I took our upset little skiier into the lodge, ignoring the stares of people who probably thought we forced our crying little girl into skis so we could selfishly enjoy the hill.

A bright  blue slushee and a piece of a kid’s birthday cake calmed her down (sugar galore) and I talked to her about trying again. After a few people had approached her to mention her “cool” skis and ask about how fast she could ski, she was eager to try it out again. This time we were more reasonable, and headed outside to try the bunny hill. After a few tries, we couldn’t get our little skiier away from the hill! Mike put her between his legs and they skiied down, and at the end she would shout: “Again, again!”

After Jordyn had a quick nap in the car and the adults took turns skiing, Braeden was done his lesson. Of course, I had to do a run with him to see what he had learned before we headed home from our “mini-vacation.” I headed up the chair lift, and we visited on the way up. As we swang in the sun, heading up the hill, we visited about everything: skiing, school, friends, my childhood. I had a sudden realization looking over at him, that my life really had changed. Not only was I not backpacking anymore, but I wasn’t the young traveller I once was. I have two children, and one is old enough to be beside me, sharing his first ski day.

As we reached the top, he immediately took me to his favourite run: Ridge Run and I watched my confident little boy ski strongly down the hill, taking every hill he could to show me his new found skills. It was an amazing experience.

So it wasn’t far, and it wasn’t necessarily easy, but at the end of the day, with my two little pink-cheeked kids resting in the backseat and our snow gear wet in the back of the car, I felt like we’d made the best of not being able to have a long, expensive vacation, by having a short enjoyable one. Sometimes life is about adjustments – life with kids and school certainly is!

But I still need a vacation.



Braeden and Jordyn dressed for the holidays. (Braeden is 6, Jorydn 1 1/2)

I know it’s almost been a month since Christmas. That’s the problem with writing a blog about being a busy mom/student/employee – it’s too busy to find time to write! So I will share my holidays with you a month late – it really could be worse.

The holidays were special for me, as we spent time with both Mike’s and my family. I had requested that everyone tone down the gifts this year. How do you teach your kids that they don’t always get what they want, when they do? I know they love their grandchildren, but Grandma and Grandpa can show their love in other ways – through spending special time with them and doing thoughtful things for them. For example, Mike’s mom Verna is amazing with Braeden. They have such a special relationship. When Braeden is anxious or upset, as he gets whenever his routine is changed at all, he asks if he can call Grandma Verna long distance. She creates stories for him about such characters as “Silent Man” and the three michevious travelling mice, Lily, Lollie and Lulu. He can spend hours on the phone with her, listening to stories and putting in his two cents. That is a gift that is worth more than any bought in a store.

So this year, the kids got a single present from people, instead of a stack. And it was perfect. We made and decorated cookies. We went sledding. We did crafts. We made Christmas ornaments. The adults had rum and eggnog, board games and visits. It was a Christmas like the ones I remembered when I was a kid. Here were my two favourite gifts:

Braeden was given money to go shopping by himself in the store. He handpicked and bought me a basket of bath stuff. He was so proud of himself! He even asked for the receipt at the end. What a big boy he is becoming.

Jordyn found my wrapping paper after Christmas, and took an entire jumbo roll and wrapped herself and several toys up. “Mommy! Present for you! Baby Jordyn is present for you!” Big mess, but so sweet.

I’m a lucky lady!

The literal way kids take things never fails to make me laugh. Braeden bonked his head when he was a toddler, and I mentioned he had a goose egg. Whenever anyone came near, he would say “Don’t touch! The goose might bite you!” I also have vivid memories of what I thought “a licking” was, or being “fired” from a job.  My mom said I also misunderstood the saying “in the meantime…”  I kept waiting for that time when she was going to be mean.

Kids have such a nice way of describing things and looking at the world. It can be so refreshing to see what their minds are thinking of!

This morning, my daughter was rubbing my leg. I haven’t shaved this week (give me a break! I have been trying to catch up on Christmas baking and shopping!) and apparently the stubble bothered her. “Don’t like Mommy’s ‘sparkles'” she says. ‘Sparkles’ is the absolute nicest way I have ever heard my leg stubble described! (Although she still doesn’t like it!)

Braeden, my six year old, has been learning about the value of a good homemade present. He is working on creating stories for many of his family members, complete with drawings. Let me share a couple lines from his stories.

From “Silent Man and the Adventure of His Kidnapping Rescue”: “Silent Man and Braeden landed on the trampoline and they bounced so high that they touched God’s eyebrow.” That’s high.

From “Davy Crockett Meets Pikachu”: “It wasn’t night but the forest was still as dark as if you were in a paper coated and coated in black permanent marker because it was the forest of doom.” What a great description!!

These moments are so sweet and really remind me how lucky I am to have such adorable healthy children. 🙂

Merry Christmas!