For a long time, my husband and I were stuck in survival mode after our twins were born. Our two older kids, Holden and Beau, have been so patient, both during my difficult pregnancy and during those first couple of years of our twins’ life.
Our home became our cocoon, and we perfected entertaining ourselves indoors. As a result, for this unique period of our parenting journey, I had to put aside one of my passion for gardening so we could focus on our kids.
But this season marks an important landmark for our little family. Our twins are now old enough to run, play, and even listen to instructions. This means that we are now starting to emerge from our cocoon and starting to explore the great outdoors.
One educational activity that has helped us to enjoy being outside together, is gardening. We are breathing life into our once ragged garden and planting new flowerbeds in our backyard. This is a great activity away from television, where they can learn about nature and get a little dirty.
I also used this opportunity to educate our big kids about bees, and the importance of planting wildflowers, to help save them. I first sat down with Holden and Beau and interview them. What began as a fear of bees, eventually turned to excitement and them being eager to be part of the cause...to bring back the bees. They loved hearing how many species of bees there are and how bees pollinate other plants, so that they can make "baby" plants. Have a look:
Since spring is the best time to sow seeds, we planted the seeds that were sent to us through the Bring Back the Bees campaign by Honey Nut Cheerios. Holden and Beau now know the importance of planting wildflowers so the bees have enough to eat and stop dying off. Bees are so important to our ecosystem which is why it's so important to plant these wildflowers so they can then continue pollinating all of the plants that produce the foods all of us love.
Getting outside and gardening with our kids was a fun, hands-on activity we all enjoyed. Our kids participated in every part. From digging into the dirt, to planting and watering their seeds. Even our twins caught on quickly and started to mimic the big kids as they dug and watered the garden.
Why not enjoy this fun and educational activity with your family too? Not only is it a great way to spend a Saturday morning, but you will also helping to bring back the bees.
Almost as soon as my husband and I were married, we found ourselves looking for a breeder to find our Newfoundland puppy we had dreamed about for so long. This was our first shot at being parents, and we were going to do it right.
We found our perfect puppy (actually he chose us), and we gave him the best of everything. We took him to puppy school and pampered our little guy. At the time, Kane was our world.
Not too long after we got Kane, we felt it was time to add another member to our family, and after trying for a couple of months, we were thrilled to find out I was pregnant. Our sweet Kane sensed it too. The pee on the pregnancy test barely dried before Kane started faithfully sitting beside the couch I would lay on every night.
After a few months, I went to get Kane out of his crate in the morning and noticed something odd. There was a little wobble to his walk. "That's odd," I thought to myself. I shook off the bad feeling I had and went on with my day.
The next day, Kane fell face first into his water bowl. I tried to think logically about the situation, finally deciding that my 6-month-old, 95 pound puppy was just so big for his age, and still finding his footing. Again, I went on with my day.
Unfortunately, the days that followed kept getting worse and worse. Kane began to launch into full-blown grand-mal seizures. This is something that is not only extremely traumatic to watch, but also very scary and confusing for the animal experiencing the seizure.
My husband and I carted Kane to countless vets, he had a battery of tests and we tried numerous medications as Kane’s seizures continued. Finally, one medication stopped the grand-mal seizures and we thought we were in the clear.
We had a few days of optimistic calm in our home, before I again, noticed some odd behaviour. Kane was sporadically spacing out, often ending up with his head buried in his toy basket. He was experiencing focal seizures, and it was happening every couple of minutes.
This pained my husband and I, and once again we put our “warrior hats” on and tried to solve the problem. Days away from my first ultrasound, we were trying to enjoy the baby on the way, while tirelessly problem solving what was going on with our precious puppy. But one day, as my husband walked in the door from work, something happened that set off alarm bells for me, and ultimately forced me to make my first hard decision as a mother.
As my husband rounded the corner, and walked into the kitchen to greet us, Kane, our world at the time, jumped up, ran, and hid behind me. He had absolutely no idea who my husband was.
Our hearts shattered, and I knew. It was me in the end that said the word, “we have to let him go.” My husband agreed, with tears in his eyes. So, the night before my ultrasound, while I sobbed in my mother’s arms, my husband laid on the cold floor of the veterinarian’s office, holding his 95-pound boy, while our first baby peacefully departed from this world.
The next day, we each sat quietly while our minds drifted, waiting to be called in for my ultrasound. We felt such a mix of emotions, but eventually finding out that another boy would join our family, helped us get through such a tough time.
Going through that tragic experience changed what type of parents I think we would have been otherwise. For my husband, he struggled for a long time with fear, every time our son was sick. For me, I embraced each moment more, and knew that I was stronger than I ever thought.
Now, eight years and four kids later, I think back to that time and still get teary. But I somehow think that Kane chose us the day he walked up to me at the breeders and sat on my shoes. He was loved hard for those seven short months of his life. He was able to teach us strength, in ways we could never have learned from reading in a baby book. Kane will always be our first child.
To read more about this experience, head to my blog, Nesting Story and read My Traumatic Start to Motherhood and How It Changed Me As A Parent.
I've always prided myself on parenting from a non-guilty place, but when our twins were born, I must admit, I always felt like I was failing at giving every one of our four kids enough attention. No one ever really complained to me, it was something I put on myself.
Recently, when our family had the opportunity to go on a mini vacation to the indoor water park resort, Great Wolf Lodge in Niagara, I decided to make this trip about focusing on our older kids, while our twin toddlers stayed at home with their grandparents. Great Wolf Lodge offers great family fun with their massive 84-degree indoor water park. With heart-stopping thrill rides and water slides, along with zero-depth-entry playgrounds, your family can swim and splash the day away while creating unforgettable memories together.
It is so rare these days that our older kids, Holden and Beau, get our undivided attention. This was a perfect opportunity.
As we pulled up to Great Wolf Lodge, everyone really started to get excited. The resort was a huge log cabin, flanked with incredible wood carvings. As we walked through the doors, we marvelled at the amount of detail. We felt as if we had just walked into a different world, filled with animated forest animals, log cabin details, and a little bit of magic around every corner.
My husband, Mike, even tried Great Wolf Lodge’s brand new, thrilling water slide, the Wolf Tail. Let’s just say it starts with the floor disappearing under your feet! The brand new Wolf Tail slide opened April 13 and it will hurl you into a nearly vertical, 20-foot freefall, followed by a 360-degree, high-speed loop. He’s the brave one, not me.
When it was time to sit down for dinner, I noticed Holden’s face, that had been beaming with excitement all day, had shifted to a more serious expression. I could tell he was lost in thought.
“What’s up, Holden?” I asked. “I miss the babies.” (That’s what we call his twin toddler sisters). Beau quickly piped up, “me too.” This sweet, but unexpected admission took me completely by surprise. I had pictured them gleefully waving goodbye to their little sisters as we drove away, while thinking to themselves, “good riddance.”
Instead, they were pining for them. This launched us into a conversation that will change my view of motherhood going forward. We talked about how they would see them again soon and that my husband and I wanted to give them special time away because we feel like we are so focused on the babies. Both Holden and Beau told us that they never feel like we give their sisters more attention, and that they love spending time with them.
I could feel something inside of me exhale. I had been carrying around this unfounded guilt all along for no reason. This little dinner conversation coupled with the four of us excitedly peering through a window overlooking the water park, cheering each time an oversized bucket poured water on people, was probably my favorite memory of our mini-vacation.
After lunch, it was time to head home. Both kids (and I) slept during the drive home, still buzzing from all of the excitement we had.
When we walked through the door, Holden and Beau couldn’t wait to be reunited with their sisters, giving them the bear ears they had carefully picked out for them. For the rest of the day, all four kids pretended they were wolves and bears, filling the house with laughter and animal noises. They didn’t leave each other’s side for a second.
Mike and I sat there watching our four kids, with full hearts, feeling guilt-free, while we reminisced about the exciting mini-vacation adventure we had just taken. We loved it so much we put together this cute video of all the cool things you can do there. Take a peek:
Here are some tips on how to have a successful family-focused mini-vacation with your kids:
If you're only going away for 24-48 hours, don’t spend a lot of time driving. Choose somewhere that's preferably under two hours away. This way, you won’t feel exhausted from the drive when you get there.
Being able to hop from one activity to the next was thrilling for all of us. Because Holden and Beau are six and five-years-old, they can get tired of things quickly. At Great Wolf Lodge, we had so much to do that there was never a lull.
We didn’t go into our vacation with too much of a schedule. We knew what we wanted to do, but we let our kids decide what was next. Sometimes, we even split up so one child could enjoy a more fast-paced activity while the other could do something a little more relaxing.
As a mother of four, I find I can be so focused on my to-do lists and preparing meals that it can become rare for my kids to see me laugh and have fun. While floating on the lazy river with my son and running through the indoor rain with my daughter, I couldn’t stop laughing. Seeing them excitedly react to my happiness reminded me that I need to show that side of myself to them more often.