Screw up

At any given time, I am entirely confident that I'm screwing up my kids in one of a thousand different ways.

It's not even of a question of how I'm screwing them up. The how doesn't really matter. What matters is that I care deeply about raising them to be good humans and sometimes it feels impossible. 

Some days we eat three square meals supplemented with nutritious snacks. Some days we wake up with the sun and play outside all day and read books together and tidy the house and have a bath (including washing our hair and cutting our fingernails and toenails) and go to bed at a reasonable hour.

Some days I throw a vegetable in their general direction and I huff and puff as I trip over the mountain of dirty socks piled in the middle of the floor. There are too many screens and not enough protein and my voice gets progressively higher and higher until I'm squeaking like a furious mouse to "brush your teeth or go straight to bed and let the sugar-bugs eat them!" 

I hope they appreciate how much work it is raising them to not be tiny psychopaths. I hope they remember the in-between times. The nights where we all pile in the big bed and take turns giving each other back tickles before bedtime. The movie nights and pancake breakfasts and kitchen dance parties. 

Mainly I hope they grow up knowing how badly I wanted to do it right for them. And how many times I screwed up, fell down, and made a mess of it all, but kept going because they're worth it.

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Family-Friendly Summer Fun in and around Metro Vancouver

Summer has finally arrived after months of gloom. The grey clouds have (mostly) cleared and we’re ready to enjoy Vancouver at its best. You won’t find travel plans filling my summer calendar; I’ve waited months to catch a glimpse of the sun and now that it’s arrived I intend to take full advantage of all the family fun beautiful British Columbia offers. I’ll save my travel budget for February’s dreariness, thank you very much.

The Healthy Family Expo’s Summer Family Fun Guide 2018 is a great resource for local families. Packed full of info on attractions in and near the Metro Vancouver area, it provides a glimpse of what families can expect when they visit Maplewood Farms in North Vancouver, West Coast Railway Heritage Park in Squamish, the Britannia Mine Museum in Britannia Beach just south of Squamish, and Destination Cultus Water and Adventure Parks.

We were lucky enough to enjoy each of the five attractions featured in the Summer Family Fun Guide thanks to the Healthy Family Expo. I was a little concerned about the age gap between Grady and Poppy (would Grady at almost-seven enjoy the attractions with Poppy at just two? Would Poppy be able to participate in the fun that Grady had?), but my fears were unfounded. Each of the attractions we visited appealed to a wide age range to include family members of different sizes. The cherry on top of this fun-filled sundae was the music we enjoyed during the drive to our adventures. Jessie Farrell’s new album, Sparkle & Shine, was the soundtrack for our car trips. The nature-inspired tracks are perfect to listen to as we travel to our outdoor adventures. The tunes are catchy and upbeat  and I have found myself humming "Ladybug" at work on more than one occasion (hashtag: mom life / shrug emoji). You can preview and download this album on Apple Music or order the CD online, and also catch Jessie & The Gumboot Kids on CBC Kids!

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Cultus Lake Waterpark has been around as long as I can remember but I’d never been. The Cultus Lake Adventure Park was added in 2014 and together the two form Destination Cultus. As I planned my route online, it looked like quite the trek but once we got on the highway it was smooth sailing and we reached the park in just over an hour. Pro tip: if you park at the Adventure Park (the first exit off the roundabout) you’ll pay more than double the rate of the Water Park lot. It’s closer to the park, and it’s a bit nicer because it’s shaded, but you pay for it. Both parks are welcoming and inclusive of riders of different age groups, from the Honey Pots (think Disneyland’s teapots) to the Runaway Mine Train roller coaster in the Adventure Park and the Tots Castle to the Valley of Fear in the Water Park. Everyone can participate, and everyone can have fun. Make sure you buy your gem bag (available for $5 at all ticket booths in the Adventure Park) and visit the Wilderness Trail to pan for gold and gemstones.

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Maplewood Farm has long been a family favourite. I’ve been taking Grady since he was old enough to toddle after the goats in the goat enclosure. This was Poppy’s first visit and it did not disappoint. My city gal’s mind was blown at every step, from the Shetland ponies where she exclaimed, “yook at dat cow!” to the potbelly pig pen where she shrieked, “yook at dose puppies!” Grady loved the autonomy of interacting with the animals, practicing his patience so the roaming chickens would come close to investigate, and braving the rabbit run all by himself. The highlight is always the goat enclosure where the kids can play with the goats. We camped out under the cherry tree for an hour while Grady fed the goats cherries he picked up off the ground and Poppy tried to boss around a herd of unwilling goats.

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I’ve been driving past the Britannia Mine Museum since I was a little kid driving to Squamish to visit family. Being the first of my siblings to spot the giant mine truck from the highway gave the ultimate road trip bragging rights. Finally being able to visit and cross it off my childhood bucket list was a dream come true. They caution against bringing children younger than three and I have to agree. It wasn’t unsafe to have Poppy there with us but it did hamper our enjoyment a bit. There’s some walking on uneven ground, quite a few steps, some loud noises, and some portions of the tour are in total blackness. She and Grady both loved the panning for gold, though, and Grady learned a lot. Out of all the places we visited, it was the only one where I felt Poppy was maybe a bit too young to participate. I had a silly smile on my face the whole time we were there, even while wrangling a feral toddler. Taking a picture with my kid beside the giant mining truck felt like a full circle moment. Grady’s already talking about visiting for Easter because one of the mine employees told him a dragon visits to leave eggs for the kids in the mine tunnels.

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I hadn’t heard much about the West Coast Railway Heritage Park in Squamish, which I count as a personal failing seeing as my great uncle was a steam and diesel electric train engineer, and actually drove the Royal Hudson during Expo 86. Steam Train, Dream Train is on heavy rotation in our bedtime story routine so both kids were thrilled to check out the trains. Walking around the elegant Royal Hudson 2860 was exhilarating, not only for the kids. The sheer magnitude of the steam engine and intricate detailing are breathtaking. The WCRHP is interesting and informative for train buffs but manages to be engaging for the little ones as well. The mini ride-on train provides a nice view of the train yard, and the sandpit and wooden train are great for some decompressing playtime after keeping little hands to themselves for so long.

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We're lucky to have so many family-friendly attractions within day-trip distance of Metro Vancouver. It's easy to plan fun adventures that don't require a day of driving, and don't break the bank, meaning your travel fund can overflow into your ice cream fund and everyone wins.

Meal Plan 07/09/2018 - 07/13/2018

One day I will post more than meal plans here on this neglected blog. Today is not that day.

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Monday: Firecracker Baked Salmon served on spinach berry salad.

Tuesday: Firecracker Baked Salmon served on spinach berry salad Tuesday edition (which is exactly the same as Monday's, just served on a Tuesday).

Wednesday: Last week was a HelloFresh week and one of the meals was this gorgeous Thai Beef Salad. I'm going to try to recreate it using a flank steak that I cook in the sous vide and finish on the grill. (If you want to try HelloFresh, this link gets you $40 off your first box. Do it. You won't regret it.)

Thursday: Mexican Street Corn Salad served with Turkey Stuffed Peppers

Friday: Shawn's playing a gig so the kids and I will either order a pizza or go out for burgers depending on my level of end-of-the-week deflation. 

What's on your menu this week?

Meal Plan 06/17/2018 - 06/22/2018

We're in the middle of a bit of a heatwave so this week's meals are (hopefully) not going to be too hot for the kitchen. Today is my meal prep day so I made a giant pot of spaghetti sauce early this morning before it got too hot (Pops takes it for daycare lunch and we use the leftovers in various ways). 

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Father's Day: Devilled eggs, sous vide New York strip steak finished on a screaming hot grill and served with an herby, lemony compound butter, Smitten Kitchen's slow-roasted tomatoes on top of baby greens that have been dressed with lemon juice and olive oil and topped with a healthy crumble of goat cheese, and sauteed asparagus with lemon. Smitten Kitchen's strawberry summer cake served with fresh whipped cream for dessert. 

Monday: Michigans using leftover spaghetti sauce. Served with sliced cucumber and carrots and a homemade dill dip. 

Tuesday: Giant green salads topped with leftover steak, slow-roasted tomatoes, goat cheese, etc. 

Wednesday: Some sort of chicken skewer done on the barbecue with lots of bell peppers, red onion, and grape tomatoes. Served with Mexican Street Corn Salad (made allergy-friendly with greek yogurt instead of mayonnaise). 

Thursday: Leftovers! 

Friday: I'm going to try to figure out carnitas in the Instant Pot because I blew up my slow cooker a few months ago in a devastating baked beans disaster. If I'm successful I'll serve on taco chips with a lime crema, fresh guacamole, and salsa. If I'm unsuccessful we'll order pizza.

What's on your menu this week? Did you do something special for Father's Day?