3 Family Activities To Do This September

Spending time together as a family can be a daunting task. Between activities, commitments and crabby attitudes, it’s tough to find the time (or in some cases the want) to spend together.

I know that it may seem painfully Rockwell-esque but getting outdoors has proven to the recipe for success for my family. Without the confines of space, everyone has room to breathe (but not on each other) and stare at nature (but not at each other) and we’re less tempted to look at our texts or make phone calls.

Apple picking may not be tops on everyone’s agenda but it’s a pleasant way to spend the day and the spoils can be made into pie, or strudel, or sauce.

IMG_0660

IMG_3997

IMG_3996

If you live in Toronto or are a short drive, Evergreen Brickworks and Todmorden Mills are rich with history as well as greenery. The farmer’s market never disappoints and Cafe Belong makes for a unpretentiously delicious lunch spot.

1200x630xNo9-Eco-Art-Fest-IMG_2048-1200x630.jpg.pagespeed.ic.Hqffqj7LGM

IMG_4845

The Islands. Toronto has them and they are underrated. Go and explore them.  Biking, sailing, kayaking, strolling, eating, riding – check!

IMG_2626

IMG_2796

IMG_2607

Centreville for the kids on Centre Island and swoon-worthy houses to ogle.  To fully understand what I mean, click on this link.  I’m such a sucker for a house with a history.

kayak outing to Toronto Islands 6 Nathalie Prezeau

In The Wake of The Christmas Tornado

Christmas hit this house like a tornado leaving in its wake a mess of wrapping paper, boxes and lots of new toys.   Before the holiday my boys purged their nest to make room for new loot and to give new life to their old favourites.  The boys readily donated their gently used toys to a local charity that was seeking donations.

The two weeks between Christmas and the return to school passed in a peaceful blur.  With no schedules dictating what to do, we enjoyed spending time together as a family and indulged in several pajama days playing with new toys, reading new books and over eating delicious food.

Some of our favourite gifts from the holiday:

Lego, Lego and more Lego . . . and some Playmobil too!

We spent several hours tediously arranging and re-arranging Lego and Playmobil sets.  The four-year-old has a vivid imagination and readily integrates the sets to create complex battles between swashbucklin’ pirates and the Queen’s knights.  It continues to amaze me how a set of plastic cubes can be the catalyst for learning about medieval history.  Together we spent many more hours thumbing through books about castles, catapults and cannons as well as searching Google for answers to the many, many questions that were sent my way about pirate life, scurvy and Egypt (because the natural transgression from Medieval life is mummies, tombs and pyramids!).

imgres-2

The Boogie Board

A gift from Nana, these Boogie Boards have seen lots of use since being unwrapped on Christmas Day.  The Boogie Board is an LCD writing tablet that erases with the click of a button.  The four-year-old practiced his printing while the 6-year-old played Xs and Os with any willing (and some not so willing) participant.  I wrote the boys a goodnight message on each of their boards that first night, and since then they have been asking for one every night.

imgres-1

Two Greedy Italians

I bought this book for my husband for Christmas – a fantastic cook who needs no help in the kitchen.  Tired of all the reality-based Food Network shows (where are you, Nigella?), we started watching Two Greedy Italians on TLN.  The pair criss-cross Italy, highlighting local fare that extends beyond spaghetti bolognese.  The beautifully photographed book makes a welcome addition to our collection of cookbooks (that I rarely use but love to admire).

1849491801

Cleaning Set

Remember the saying: the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree?  My two-year-old son lives up to my university nickname of “Monica” (the cleaning-obsessed, neat-freak character on the 90’s sitcom Friends).  This adult-like cleaning set comes with all the fixings required to give a home a good clean but sized perfectly for little hands.  This gift from his aunt and uncle are the perfect addition to his vacuum.

082228227483

Wii

Santa spoiled the boys (and cashed in his Shopper’s Optimum points) with the Nintendo Wii.  Is it wrong that the grown-ups in the house have gotten just as much satisfaction from this gift as the kids?  I never thought that I would say “family time” equals “video game time” . . . but a little bowling and some Just Dance 4 is a guarantee for lots of laughs.

008888177487-item

Guest Blogger: Karyn Bowman blogs about Family Movie Night

Have you ever thought “I want to start a ‘family movie night at my house?”

And then that is as far as you get?

I have been there but I made it happen. The story of how that happened is a little long and the particulars have been largely forgotten. And yet this is one of the most enduring traditions of our family.

I should explain first and foremost that I am a big movie fan. I worked for seven years as a movie reviewer for our local paper and I still blog for the paper on a bi-weekly basis. As much as I love watching movies, I want to share that experience with my kids.

Friday Night is our designated “Pizza and Movie” night. Someone gets a movie or we find something on a cable station and watch a movie together as we are eating pizza. It is that simple. Most Fridays, there is nothing else planned so gathering together makes it all that much easier. Before you know it, friends of the kids show up and the house is a little crowded.

So there we are, making lots of pizzas and having plenty of soft drinks while we watch a movie. Friends of each child show up, the husband retreats to the kitchen and I make room for myself in the living room. If friends talk during the movie they are quickly shushed.

Trying to figure out how we started took a little digging. Because I am a creature of habit, long ago I made Fridays “Pizza Night.” Our eleven-year-old daughter stated we have been doing it for as long as she could remember. The fifteen-year-old said the same thing. That is when I went to our 20-year-old.

His report was that we just started doing it. Sometimes it was a movie, sometimes it was whatever was on TV. Friday nights were always pizza and movie night. I remember allowing the kids a choice in the feature. As more kids arrived at the age of being able to pick, we allowed each child to choose a movie on a rotating basis. If need be, I put down my two cents if I thought the original choice may not be so good for the youngest family member.

As I write this, my other memory is that my husband used to work on Friday nights. He is my second husband and it made life easier on visitation weekends and non-visitation weekends to have routines for the entire family. This gave our oldest continuity in some way, shape or form.

As our children have grown older, my husband encouraged the kids to invite friends. Friends meant we needed more pizzas with different toppings. Pepperoni, sausage, plain cheese, spinach and mushroom for mom and dad.

I know you are wondering how you start your own movie night. The first and best step is setting aside that one night every week that is pizza and movie night.  Pick a day that works best for your family.

Then pick out a movie every week, let the kids make a selection even if it is something you hate (can we say “The Smurfs?”). Shop ahead of time for food and make the kids a part of the pizza-making process. We buy the pre-made shells and the kids like to put on the toppings although I think it is so they can snitch pepperoni slices.

Next, set a start time for the movie and stick with it. In the winter, I start at 6 p.m.; summertime goes up to 7 p.m. Scheduling conflicts might get in the way and you can use those flexibility muscles to fit it in if it is that important to you.

We have done that when games or church events find their way onto a Friday night. Or when we decided to do Movie Night at a drive-in instead of at home. Or when traveling. Well, you get it. Nothing makes a habit like the continual practice of it. And you can start the practice this week.

What movies do you watch on your Family Movie Night?

Karyn Bowman writes the Notes From Rumbly Cottage blog on WordPress. On Fridays she posts about Family Movie Night and the rest of the week can be about anything else.

Image Credit

The Family that sneezes together…

I love Family Day.

What’s not to love? It’s a day off of work and school, where the only obligatory activity is to spend time with your family and relax. As this Toronto Star article states, it’s a holiday that “doesn’t involve turkeys, presents or backyard fireworks, and that’s perfectly fine with Toronto families.” It’s also perfectly fine with me.

So what did my family want to do? Well, we did have brunch planned, and we did hope to catch the re-released Star Wars: The Phantom Menace in 3-D (full disclosure: the kids wanted to see it. I like to pretend Star Wars movies one through three never happened…).  Maybe a nice long walk.  If time permitted, we were going to do some baking, and then curl up on the couch together to watch some TV.

What did we do? Well, Sebastian woke up with a fever on Sunday, and by Monday wasn’t any better, so he napped most of the day, and then Daniel started to look green and his tummy started to hurt, and I threw my back out sometime Sunday morning and was just starting to feel better on Monday, though my legs were still wobbly so I wasn’t up for going anywhere, really.

You get the idea. We did nothing. Bupkiss. Nada.

Except…we didn’t do nothing, exactly. We were home, together. We cuddled. We napped. We read together. The boys played lego and Wii and watched a movie.

It was relaxing and nice, and while I wish we’d been feeling better, I also recognize that it’s kind of ridiculous that we all had to get sick to have a day of blissful nothingness together.  So while I can’t say for sure that next year’s Family Day won’t involve brunch and movies, I can say this year’s was all right with me.

When Bird Woke Up, He Was Grumpy

When Marcelle woke up, she was grumpier still.

We’re on day two of a project to convert our household of larks into early birds. It’s a new world for us: Peter has returned to school part-time and has new job that requires him to be out the door early. I’m trying to accommodate his schedule, the boys’ activities, and the demands of my job. All of this means that I’m trying to get up and out the door significantly earlier than I used to, and consequently, every one else is up early too.

So far, so good.  I’ve not yet bitten off the head of any of my colleagues.

The week is young, yet.

We’re really not morning people. Not one of us. If I were to give in to my own natural rhythm, I’d happily fall asleep at 3 a.m and wake at 10. I’m also a frequent insomniac. Over the Christmas holidays, the boys regularly stayed up until 10:30 (not entirely with our permission, granted) and slept until 10 am. It’s a pattern I’ve seen before. When the boys were babies, each of them transitioned from waking every two hours to waking every three hours to eventually settling into a pattern where they’d wake at around five to nurse and then happily doze for another four or five hours at a stretch. Their longest stretch of sleep, both of them, was usually at a time when most babies were dragging their exhausted parents out of bed for the day. It drove me crazy that our local parenting centre didn’t schedule any activities after 11 am, when my kids both were finally raring to go. Even now, we’re usually dragging their little tushes out of bed at the last possible second, both of them clutching their pillows, chanting my morning mantra: just five more minutes. Just five more minutes.

We live, perpetually, on Pacific Time.

It’s ironic that dawn is my favourite time of day, because I so rarely see it, unless I’ve just not yet made it to bed. This morning, as I set off to work, the sun was just barely pushing its light through the grey, snow dusted sky. I would happily have stayed out there longer, breathing in the damp air, feeling myself awaken to the day. But I had other priorities. As I squeezed myself onto a crowded subway car (so much busier than the one I usually take at 9:05) I wondered what in the world I’d gotten myself into, agreeing to join ranks with the worm eaters. Given my choice, I’ll take the cheese, myself.