Thursday, September 15, 2016

Back to School, Back to Reality!

It's the most wonderful tiiiiiiiime of the year! Oh yes, if you're a parent you know that I'm not talking about Christmas, I'm talking about back to school time!

Now don't get me wrong here. I love my kids and summer and the freedom to travel or sleep in, the beach, camping and all that sunshine. However, I am a creature of habits and by mid August I'm jonesing for my routines back. I missed having days to myself where I can be lazy if I want or go for coffee, grocery shop in peace, hit the gym....all those things that are far more difficult with the little people are home every day.

Standard bedtimes, getting and keeping the house in order, after school activities and all those other things that come with the school year are back and I'm thrilled! My poor house has been seriously neglected over the summer so the housework schedule is back in place and it's starting to look like civilized human beings live here. My weight loss journey is back on track now that it's easy to get to the gym when kids are in school all day. Life is back into routine and though we have had an amazing summer, it's refreshing to be back into homework and packed lunches and weekend birthday parties and sports and art classes.

This year Cole is in middle school. I was far more nervous than he was. He makes me so proud. He's embracing this new chapter full force and he's thriving on his increased independence. He loves the different types of classes that he gets to take now and especially that he has a locker. The teachers in grade 6 are fantastic at making the transition a smooth one for the kids and the parents. He was more concerned with leaving Madi behind in elementary school but nothing gets that kid down. She's thrilled with the teacher she has and the kids in her class. Grade 4 is great she says but she's not happy at the lack of homework.

Activities start up over the next couple weeks too. They are both back in catechism (Sunday school), Madi starts Girl Guides tonight and is back in her art classes in a few weeks. Cole decided he didn't want to swim this year and instead is going to be starting Tae Kwon Do next week.

Fall always feels like a fresh start. Moreso than the new year in my eyes. I don't know why, but it always seems like anything is possible in September and I'm excited to see what this "year" has in store for us!

Adventure is out there!
Love The McDonnells

Friday, July 8, 2016

PEI June 25-July 4...PEI National Park Cavendish & Twin Shores

It's the first week of summer vacation and our annual trip to Prince Edward Island! This year we decided to make it a double long trip and check out PEI national park in Cavendish before heading to our absolute favorite camping spot...Twin Shores.

The National park layout is not what we are used to. It's not one solid piece of land for you to explore but rather several little pockets of park land spread out along the coast. We weren't sure what to expect for scenery and trails but we were definitely pleased by the beach located in our campground a few minute walk from our campsite. The kids practically had the place to themselves as most people flock to the bigger Cavendish beach down the road but we were happy to be where we were.

I had printed a crossword puzzle from the park website that had us exploring to find the answers to the clues. It was kind of a neat way to see the park. I really like when they put out activities like that especially when you don't really have a game plan of where to start your adventure. The game took us around Cavendish and North Rustico but we didn't end up finishing because the rest of the clues were in the far end of the park quite a ways away from us. Regardless we did get to see some nice scenery and explore a few trails.

No trip to Cavendish is complete without a visit to some of the Anne of Green Gables sites. We toured Green Gables historic site and hiked Lovers Lane trails, visited the grave of L.M Montgomery and saw the homestead where she grew up. Madi fell in love with the story of Anne and asked for the book so she's been working away at that and obsessing over all things Anne.

We also walked around the old rainbow valley site and tried to visit Avonlea Village only to discover that the acting of the Anne story is no longer there and the entire village has been turned into a shopping and eatery destination. Such a disappointment!

June 30th we packed up and said goodbye to Cavendish and hello to Twin Shores! This was our 4th year in a row coming to this little slice of heaven and it never disappoints. This campground is more like a resort for campers and you certainly want for nothing. The grounds are beautifully landscaped and nestled between two beaches. Children are everywhere playing at the playground or biking around and taking advantage of the daily activities that range from candy bar bingo to daily crafts to make your own sundaes to bike rodeos and so much more. The campground boasts a fresh fish market with a mussel boil on the beach every Saturday, a fully equipped camper store that has just about everything you could need, a canteen where you can get pizza or ice cream,a cafe that has delicious baked goods and coffee, a movie theatre for rainy day fun, an arcade, pedal car rentals, a dog park (with doggy washing station), a gym, laundry, shuffleboard, basketball, tennis and on and on.

My personal favorite is the beach. 3km of red sand and ocean waves. You just can't beat it. Mom and Marty camp with us and this year they bought the kids boogie boards for passing in school and it was the best thing ever! They had such a blast playing in the waves on those things we could hardly haul them out of the water!

This year we were at Twin Shores for Canada Day so we headed over to the bayside for the fireworks and they certainly did not disappoint. What an amazing show!!!

It was really hard to say goodbye when we left that Monday but we are already all booked back in for next summer for year 5. We just can't get enough!

Adventure is out there!
-The McDonnells

Fundy National Park - June 17-19, 2016

The week before school let out for the summer was our first trip to Fundy of the season. We had a beautiful weekend exploring the park and enjoying the sun and the breeze. The playgrounds were being upgraded so the kids were mostly stuck with us but they didn't mind too much.

We decided to take part in a 100km hiking challenge the park was putting on. The idea is you hike 100km in the national parks in a season with 10km being in Fundy and you are eligible to receive a special pin.

We hiked a few trails we had never hiked before and found more red chairs that we have never found. We checked out Laverty Falls and the hike was a little too challenging for me but I managed to finish. I can't wait for things like that to be easier for me. Love had a fantastic time playing in the water at the base of the falls.

Madi wanted to go into Alma for our tradition of sticky buns from Kelly's bake shop. They're so popular you have to take a number in order to get a box but boy oh boy there's nothing nicer than sinking your teeth into a sweet, sticky still warm from the oven ball of cinnamon goodness!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Cole's Grade 5 Graduation

This milestone happened in the blink of an eye. I swear it was just yesterday that we stepped through the doors of Royal Road for the first time and left our precious 5 year old in the care of a total stranger in a room full of tiny chairs with tennis balls on the legs. 

Now here we are 6 years later and we watched our almost-as-tall-as-me 11 year old walk across the crowd and accept not only his grade 5 diploma but also a very special award for being recognized as the compassionate, kind hearted boy he is. He received the Mckenzie Carr Memorial Friendship award for being the epitome of a good friend and a good person. Recognition for academic and athletic achievements are wonderful but being awarded because you possess the qualities of kindness, empathy, and compassion is something more. 

Jeff and I were so proud of Cole. We knew he would be receiving the award, but we had no idea of the significance of it. Once the speech was made we were completely blown away. It's moments like this that make you realize you really are doing an ok job with your kids after all and maybe, just maybe, by raising your children with kindness, compassion and empathy towards others as part of their everyday life that they will grow up and make changes in the world or because of them and how they treat someone someday it makes a positive change in that person's life. 

I don't expect we will ever see a Nobel peace prize hanging on his shelf but I hope this recognition stays with him and these qualities stay ingrained in him. We need more people like him in this world. So please, help your children foster these qualities. Have the hard conversations when you see injustice in the world around them and use those examples to teach them why it's wrong. Enrich their lives and show them the beauty in the differences of people everywhere from different races, genders, religions, sexual orientation, abilities, and cultures. It's important. Teach your children love and acceptance before someone else can teach them to hate. Spread the love! It comes back to you tenfold. My heart is full right now and I couldn't be more proud of the young man my little boy is turning out to be. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Mactaquac Provincial Park - June 10-12

Located about a 15 minute drive from our home is Mactaquac Provincial park. The park consists of the campground, a golf course, some hiking trails and a beach on the shore of the head pond.

We set up camp at site 120 with a beautiful view of the head pond. It took quite a few tries for Jeff to get the camper in the right spot and even more to level it off but we got all situated in enough time to have supper and for the kids to make rock spears and invent a survival game down by the water.

Later in the evening we had a campfire then Madi wanted to watch her new movie The Descendants before we settled for bed. It was a chilly night so the heated beds came in very handy that night.

In the morning we were treated to what seems to be a rarity these days...sunshine! The kids played around outside with a friend they found while Jeff and I just enjoyed the nice weather. After lunch we dropped Madi off at a birthday party and headed back to finish out the day with Cole.

We played a couple rounds of ladder ball, took Love for a walk and watched Cole play a huge game of "grounders" at the playground with a group of kids. The evening was beautiful and warm and I was nursing a well deserved sunburn by the campfire making s'mores and popcorn. We were sad to not have Madi there but she phoned to say goodnight and was having an absolute blast with her friend.

In the morning it was gloomy as if the world was mad my vacation got denied (ha! As if) but it did make it a little easier to roll out of bed at an ungodly hour, get my scrubs on and pack my sleepy son into the car so Jeff could drop me off at work.

I don't know that Mactaquac would be on our must do list. It it is nice and convenient for a mid week quick get away when one of us still has to work while the other is off.

Stay tuned for this week's adventure when we head to Fundy National park for hiking and more red chair hunting!

Adventure is out there!
-The McDonnells

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Madi Turns 9!

June 5th our little lady celebrated her 9th birthday.

Her day started with a BBQ at the church to celebrate the end of religious formation classes for the year and a visit from Auntie Debb and Grampy. I had to sleep all morning to prepare for a night shift so unfortunately I had to miss the BBQ and the visit.

After lunch Jeff took her to the Dollarama to get some supplies to make treat bags for her party and we were off to Kingswood!

We didn't get a big crowd of kids. A couple were sick and a couple couldn't come but her closest friends were there and they all had a good time bowling and playing laser tag so that's what counts! Jeff and Cole challenged the girls to laser tag and I'm not quite sure who had more fun, but I bet you can guess!

Fast forward a couple of days and my shifts at work are all done and we can finally get Madi out for her birthday supper. She chose East Side Marios because she loves to spin the prize wheel and then she wanted to spend some of her birthday money. She came home absolutely thrilled with her purchases of a few new stuffy friends, some tsum tsums, a book and a Descendants doll.

I can't believe how time has flown by. This is my baby girl's last year in the single digits. She is growing into such an independent, unique young lady. She's her own person that's for sure with a very interesting personality. You just never know what she's going to come out with next! She makes me laugh everyday, her creativity never ceases to amaze me, she's a good friend, has a huge heart and still loves to curl up with mom for a cuddle. She keeps us on our toes and does not give in when she doesn't want to do something. That stubbornness is going to pay off for her one day!

Happy birthday, little one. We love you!

Adventure is out there!
-The McDonnells

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Jeff Turns 35!

Yesterday was Jeff's 35th birthday! He was adamant that all he wanted was to go out for supper and a movie with the kids and that's what we did!

We were hoping that he would be able to get off work a little early but that didn't pan out so the kids and I headed over to the south side to pick him up when he was finished work. 

(I wasn't feeling too hot but thought I would try and tough it out anyway...I ended up thankfully being ok by the time the movie rolled around!)

Jeff's pick for supper was Swiss Chalet for chicken and ribs. I got the 1/4 chicken breast dinner, Madi got mini hamburgers and Cole got chicken wings and perogies....he didn't like the wings too much as he found them a little spicy but Jeff was more than happy to step up to the plate and help him out. The kids each got special drinks and Jeff and I stuck to our'd kinda wonder whose birthday it REALLY was based on how much fun the kids were having but hey!

After dinner we went over to Cineplex for Jeff's movie choice: Captain America Civil War. We brought the kids with us but they were the only children in the theatre. This made me a little uneasy at first but I thought well, they've seen all the other Avengers movies sooooo....there were a  few parts I made Madison turn her head but other wise it was a pretty (older) kid friendly action movie and they really liked it. The big kid did too! 

When the movie was finished and Madison had her 3rd bathroom trip of the hour (tiny bladder on this one...) we drove down to the Smythe Street Tim Hortons to participate in Camp Day where the proceeds from all coffee purchases go towards sending underprivileged children to summer camp. My coffee was horrible, but at least it's for a good cause right??? The kids got braided camp bracelets too. 

All in all a good evening and a low key birthday which was just what Jeff wanted.

Happy Birthday, Jeffy! We love you!