If you’re like I am, your child’s toy collection began innocently enough.
In the early days your sweet pea was a minimalist, owning just a few rattles, cute stuffed animals, a nice selection of books, and soft teething toys.
What else did he really need? He was happy and entertained and it was all still fairly manageable.
Then came the toddler years.
It is somewhere around this time when you realize your home no longer belongs to you; in fact, you are actually being pushed out of your nest by colourful wood blocks and yellow trucks and noisy toys so ridiculously enormous you actually consider hauling out your furniture to make room for your child’s belongings.
Now, when you look around the space that once reflected your individual home deco style, you see overflowing toy boxes and train tracks and every kind of animal imaginable and there seems to be no end in sight.
Welcome to our living room. And our basement. Oh, and our kitchen, our son’s bedroom, the bathroom and even our own bedroom, an airy retreat with a big bay window and refreshing walls the calming shade of white linen that is frequently riddled with primary colours, teddy bears and children’s books.
We never imagined living in a house that looks like it could stand in for the movie set of Toy Story.
Before our son was born, my husband and I agreed we’d have a respectable collection of well-curated toys and, for the most part, we’ve stuck to this.
Problem is we can’t seem to contain the generous giving of others.
I get it, you’ve raised your kids and now you want to kick back and enjoy the fun part. I also get that these tiny beans are so irresistible, what with their dimpled hands and elbows and delicious, cherub cheeks, that you just want to spoil them rotten with goodies that will make them light up and giggle.
It makes sense. A child’s joy is infectious and really nothing else can top it, but loading youngsters up with too much stuff isn't the only way to achieve this. In fact, it can become overwhelming for them and parents are the ones left cleaning up the mess. Inevitably toys get shoved into storage where they collect dust and are forgotten about.
Reality is, households can only ‘hold’ so much. Instead, give kids the gift of time — that is what they will remember.
Recently our own overstuffed space reached a boiling point when we balked about the amount of space-eating gifts given to our son by his grandpa for his second birthday. It was getting out of control, we pleaded.
Have you ever tried to ask family members to scale back on gifts? It probably didn’t go over well, or maybe your request was just flat-out ignored. Well, sometimes you just have to put your foot down.
I love this advice from the What To Expect website, “Quarantine the loot. If your home is overflowing with the goodies your sweetie scores after visiting Grandma and Grandpa, tell your parents (and in-laws) that from now on, the stuff they buy has to stay at their house. Once the clutter starts to pile up there, they might understand your complaints and shut down the swag wagon.”
The site also suggests you have to “get tough.”
“If your parents still aren’t getting the message after several (respectful) conversations, take a firmer tone. Tell them their behavior is causing chaos at home … You might also remind them that they had rules when they were raising you and now it’s your turn to set them.”
I am tempted to take it one step further.
The next time someone buys something oversized for your child, why not return the favour by picking them up a cumbersome garage-sale find, say a new table for their TV room, oversized decorative vase or wall-sized piece of art?
If that doesn’t send a strong message, there is a good chance nothing will, so here are four more ideas for coping with the clutter:
1. Can’t win? Give up the fight by giving excess possessions to a children’s charity
2. No one admits it but everyone does it — when you need to scale back, turn to the art of the ‘re-gift’
3. Comb through your toy mountain and select goods to either sell online or through a yard sale
4. Give friends with kids dibs on unwanted goods, especially items your child has outgrown
Finally, remember you are the parent and it’s your job to set limits. You know what’s best for your family and household. It’s important to trust your gut, speak your mind and follow your own guidelines.
Is your child spoiled with stuff? Are you battling too many toys? What are your tips for getting the chaos under control?
From sea to shining sea, exploring Canada’s landscapes and wildlife is the ultimate lesson in diversity. Across this vast country, which offers everything from sleepy coastal towns and lush forests to moody, rock-lined shores and dusty flatlands, there is something for every kind of traveler.
Narrowing down Canada’s must-see spots was not an easy task — it’s an extensive and impressive list, after all — but when planning your next Great White North journey, this list is here to inspire and help get you started.
This wobbly bridge is set 230-feet above the Capilano River and is surrounded by a view of lush, towering trees. Stroll the 450-foot length of this tourist mainstay to the other side of the canyon. For daredevil adventurers, more thrills await with additional suspension bridges and heart-jolting activities, such as the Cliff Hanger Walk, which lines the edge of the canyon.
Visit: Tourism British Columbia for more info.
All aboard! For unbeatable, breathtaking views of the Rocky Mountains, take the train so you can sit back and relax. Year-round, the scenery wows visitors — little wonder then that UNESCO declared seeing the Rockies a World Heritage Site. There are plenty of booking options available: Via Rail, Rocky Mountaineer and the Royal Canadian Pacific.
Visit: Travel Alberta for more info.
Inhale the simplicity of swaying golden wheat fields extending travel as far as the eye can see along the vast Prairie flatlands in Saskatchewan, where dusty trails and old-style grain elevators remain, and tranquility surrounds you. While the people of the Prairies are down-home friendly, if it’s peace and quiet you seek, you will certainly find it here.
Visit: Tourism Saskatchewan to plan your trip.
Beluga whales, majestic birds and polar bears, oh my!
Well-preserved beauty abounds in the subarctic town of Churchill, Manitoba, where visitors have the unique opportunity to see these animals in their natural environment. Forget the zoo, the remote shores of Hudson Bay — nicknamed the ‘polar bear Capital of the world’ — delivers the experience of a lifetime.
Click here to learn more about traveling Manitoba.
Add the fiords and mountainous views of Gros Morne National Park to your must-see Canadian bucket list. With 485,000,000 years of Mother Nature working her magic to create this geological wonder, Gros Morne National Park — which not surprisingly is a UNESCO World Heritage Site — will invigorate, and inspire and capture the imagination.
Click here to find out more about traveling: Newfoundland and Labrador.
An abundance of local wineries, breezy afternoons, great cuisine, cultural events and an array of quaint artisan shops makes charming Niagara-on-the-Lake a top Canadian summer vacation spot. Go for the wine tastings and tours, stay for the ambience.
Meanwhile, theatre enthusiasts should plan their trip during the Shaw Festival, which draws visitors from all over.
Start planning your trip to Canada's wine country by clicking here: Niagara-on-the-Lake.
With narrow streets dotted with Parisian-inspired sidewalk cafes and historic stone buildings, it is easy to see why Old Quebec is often considered Canada’s mini Europe.
Expect to hear the relaxing melodies of live street music being carried in the breeze and the sound of hooves slowly echoing along the winding, cobblestone streets as horse drawn carriages take visitors on city tours. The sophistication found in Quebec City is unmatched, as is the superb customer service and food experience. Visit the Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac and Citadel, ride the Funicular or walk to the waterfront and visit the shops and restaurants of Lower Town. Meanwhile, if visiting in early August, that is when the New France Festival annually takes place.
Click here to learn more about traveling Quebec.
The landscape here is nothing short of dramatic, with a plethora of mystical coves, intricate rock formations shaped by the pounding of waves and winds, towering cliffs and waterfalls that will amaze. Known as a whale-watchers haven — as many as many as 15 species frequent the area — it is also home to a large variety of birds.
The Bay of Fundy offers the chance for a slow-pace getaway where travelers can take it easy and marvel at the scenery around them. Peak season runs throughout the summer months (June through August).
Click here to learn more about traveling New Brunswick.
Imagine saying ‘nighty, night’ while drifting off to the sound of waves lapping against the short from a cosy room inside a lighthouse. Cool, right? The West Point Lighthouse in Prince Edward Island is not just a working lighthouse, it also houses furnished rooms, a restaurant and museum. Built in 1875, the West Point Lighthouse stands at 69 feet in a small, secluded community where you can meander along trails and explore the beach, dunes and wooded areas.
Click here to learn more about traveling Prince Edward Island.
With idyllic fishing villages and rocky, weather-battered shorelines, Peggy’s Cove is a beloved Canadian destination, drawing tourists from far and wide. This dreamy, picture-perfect community where locals still fish for lobster is also home to Canada’s most photographed lighthouse. Enjoy the invigorating ocean air, indulge in the fresh food, but be warned, during peak season of summer, sleepy Peggy’s Cove fills up with like-minded, camera-toting tourists. Click here to learn more about about traveling Nova Scotia.
"Perhaps the feelings that we experience when we are in love represent a normal state. Being in love shows a person who he should be." ~ Anton Chekhov
Sometimes, I wake up in the middle of the night and wonder where I’d be without you. There isn’t enough time, I think. Days sweep by in a dizzying flash and I worry that we’re never going to be able to fit it all in—all the moments and experiences I want to share with you. Does everybody feel like this?
When I stop long enough to catch my breath, this is what I pause on—that I want to stretch our days out, to pull at them like Silly Putty until they won’t stretch anymore. I want to squeeze every sunshiny drop out of them.
But we get busy. We get tired. We fall into routine. We get overrun and rundown with to-do lists. Sometimes we’re too sleepy to make the most of our days. Sometimes this is how life goes.
Through all of this, I never take for granted the spectacular magic of having found you, of falling in love with you, of being loved by you. Meeting you was one of the best moments of my life. Marrying you was the cherry on top.
Our son turns two today. Can you believe that? Time, it just slipped by while we were living our lives. Our boy adores you more than trucks and cars and bunnies and books. He loves you more than all the treasures in his young, ever-expanding world. I fall more in love with the both of you every single day.
I had wanted to write a piece in time for Father’s Day, but I ran out of time and energy. The past few months have not been easy. My health has lagged—it was scary at times—and my spirit, where has my spirit been? The stress at times has felt insurmountable.
Throughout it, I’ve leaned on you—my rock, my best friend. You’ve lifted me up when I couldn’t do it. A person shows the core of who they are during times of adversity. I am humbled and awed by the person you have proven to be.
The sentiment goes that, "A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle," and that may be true, but we do need fellow human beings. We require love and kindness and support and balance in order to grow. I’ve found that in you.
I don’t need a special day to tell you how wonderful you are. I need you to know this every day. When we’ve run short on time and the days have swept by us, I need you to take pause and know this.
You, my darling man, are my bicycle.