I want to tell you about my first meditation experience.
A few years ago, my husband had taken a night shift job and I had nothing to do when I came home from work. (NOTE: CLEARLY THIS WAS BEFORE WE HAD KIDS) So I decided to join a yoga fitness studio in our area. On the schedule after one of my yoga classes was a 30 minute class that read: "Guided Meditation: FREE". I like free. I would jump off a bridge if you told me it was free. Plus it was right after my class, my mat was already rolled out, and no one was at home waiting for me. (NOTE: THAT IS SO WEIRD TO SAY NOW THAT I HAVE KIDS.)
That first session, years ago, made me fall in love with meditation and added to the relaxation of my yoga practice. But then fast forward, we had children, and I didn't have time to sit for 10 minutes to think about nothing. Or rather... I felt guilty (there it is again) taking 10 minutes to think of nothing, take care of myself and BREATHE. Finally, I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder.
Who can't relax to Oprah and Deepak's Voices?
A couple of years ago, a coworker who is a huge fan of Oprah's, introduced me to the Free 21-Day Meditation Experience. The program comes around every few months and is available online, and accessible on smart phone. It seemed simple enough...
But it wasn't. I have a confession to make. When I do the program, I start off okay, following along every day then WHOOPS, I miss a day. Then I miss 5 days in a row, the episodes start to expire, and I don't finish the program. And then a different guilt trip encompasses me.
This time I am making a better effort, I promise! I have downloaded the app on my phone and made a tracker in my journal. I even made that pretty title photo, above, before my session today for encouragement. (I'm now realizing that my coffee in the photo is probably counter-productive...)
During the first session yesterday, which surrounds the ideas of the energy of attraction, Deepak Chopra's forward really struck me, which makes me think that I will stick to it this time. The lesson was about desire, and desiring a better version of ourselves. I certainly can relate to that in this period of my life. As I have said several times on my blog, I want to strive to have more time for my family and life experiences. I want to be calmer and take the time to take care of myself so that I can take better care of my loved ones.
Want to try the 21-Day Meditation Experience with me?
Check out the Chopra Center Website and sign up for the latest experience. While there, you can also sign up for daily newsletters to encourage you to continue with your practice, and updates to be alerted when the next free experience is happening.
Remember when I said our family wasn't perfect? I know it never will be, but I have made it my mission to work hard to make our relationships stronger, which is how this blog came about.
One relationship I never expected to suffer was the one with our first born; our daughter.
For almost four glorious years, she had her parents all to herself. Again with my romanticizing real-life, I imagined her being the "perfect" sister. In many ways she is an amazing big sister to her brother - but that resentment is still there... towards me,
Here is where some of that "mom-guilt" comes in. (And FYI, dads get "mom-guilt" too, I've seen it in action!)
I feel guilty that we are a family with two full time working parents. I KNOW in my heart that I would feel guilty if I decided to stay home and not bring in an income. I feel guilty that we all have different schedules that doesn't allow for enough family time. Schedules that have us rushing around, jobs that are mentally and physically draining, and the stimulation and activity of school and daycare that make our kids exhausted. It was a miracle if one of us didn't fall asleep during our Friday Family Nights.
What I didn't expect was to have our eldest feel like she was left out, after we tried so hard to make family time a priority.
I thought I did everything right: as an educator and an ex-nanny, I thought I knew what we were doing when we added one more. From day one. I made sure not to be holding the baby when she walked into the hospital room and greeted her first. I made sure to include her in the baby's life by helping with his routine and buying him things. Amazing hubby made sure she got one-on-one time with him so that she got lots of attention.
Last week, while we were having a girl chat (which is far and few between now-a-days) she revealed to me that she missed doing things together - just the two of us.
Before her brother was born.
Three years ago!
I had been working so hard to make sure that both kids felt included and that we did everything as a party of four - I didn't realize that I could be making one of them feel like they weren't getting enough of me all to themselves.
The immediate thought I had was to make her a promise, that after the work week was finished, on Saturday, we would spend the entire day together. We will have a girls day and Daddy and Brother will have a boys day.
After all, there are things that we share in common - things she and I love that her father isn't interested in: like art museums... and tea.
My daughter's words completely made me rethink this project of mine!
We are a fourth generation railroading family. When I met my husband, I quickly became interested in the railroad industry, trains and it's history. Because I'm a nerd. In case you haven't figured that out yet...
I remember sitting and listening to stories his grandfather would tell about working on the rails, and was so proud when my husband followed in the family career tradition. Anything to do with trains, I am on it!
So when I came across this pin on Pinterest just last month, I wondered how the heck we hadn't heard about this before!
I quickly set up camping reservations in Charleston Lake and planned a road trip for the following week!
Brockville, Ontario is home to the first train tunnel ever built in Canada and has been boarded up and lying under the city for decades.
I keep telling everyone who asks about it: I want to meet the genius who had the idea to open it up for the public to enjoy. Part exhibit, part trail, part light and sound experience, this is the coolest train excursions we have ever done!
The railway tunnel itself was left untouched, and the floor was redone to connect it to the Brock Trail, a paved walking and cycling trail through the city of Brockville. At the main entrance there is a railway track pattern imprinted into it. It would have been so cool if it was like that all the way through, but I kind of like how it was only at the beginning and faded away and matched the rest of the Brock Trail's paved path, alluding to the changing times. However, do be careful, the tunnel was designed and built to allow runoff water to slip through so it doesn't collapse, so the floor is a bit slippery in places.
Along the edges of the paved trail are lines of LED lights that not only illuminate the tunnel's walls, but will change colours along with different songs playing in the tunnel. Notably, it was all Canadian artists: we were jamming to Great Big Sea and the Tragically Hip while we walked. One awesome effect was the sound of the train whistle and red light that came through the tunnel - almost like a ghost train. Each time time this happened, the kids and I would just freeze and stare down the tunnel and follow the "train" with our eyes and ears.
When the lights stayed white, all the mineral deposits and little rock crevices where railroad workers made their mark over a hundred years ago were illuminated for us to see. Check out this photo of our daughter catching drips of filtered water from the tunnel's ceiling:
This was the week of our vacation during the heat wave - so this activity was some much needed relief from the heat. The tunnel runs almost 60 feet under the city of Brockville so it was nice to cool off.
Along the way are street signs that tell you where you are in the city above. The tunnel even passes under city hall! You can also find signs with old photographs and information about how the tunnel was made and history of the train industry.
I want to give a shout out to Lindsay at LindsayEmma.com for sharing about her adventures - her blog post and photographs made me plan this little road trip from Montreal to Brockville. If you happen to be on my blog looking for cool things to do around Ontario, do check out Lindsay's blog as well!
If you want to visit the railway tunnel, check out the official site. It's about 2 hours from Montreal and an hour from Ottawa. Entry is free, but you can make a donation at the entrance.
Technically this was a Family Day, not night. It's been a really long time since we have had a family night at the actual movie theater. Our son is about to turn three - the last movie we saw in theaters was Finding Dory and he fell asleep nursing in my arms. Today though, he had way too much sugar and literally bolted around the theater after the movie... However, he was old enough to sit though the whole thing.
Hotel Transylvania 3 Summer Vacation was a must on our Family Night to do list this summer. We have been fans of Hotel Transylvania since the first movie came out (Mavis was on my short list for girl baby names when I was pregnant with my son) AND we recently just caught the cruising bug. When I was a teenager, my friends and I went to see EVERY Adam Sandler movie in theatres, I’m so happy my kids can carry on my tradition. Dad on Time Out and I are also big fans of Andy Samberg and Brooklyn Nine Nine
Watching the movie had us smiling about all the cruising clichés acted out by some of our favorite characters voiced by some of our favorite actors.
We have been Scene members for years and have a bank card that racks up more points for us, so our movie tickets were FREE today!
We also received a ton of discounts with our Scene points for concession food, so we ate lunch and popcorn during the movie. For a family of four it cost us $28.
Before the movie, I played TimePlay on my iPhone. TimePlay is an interactive app that you can play in conjunction with the movie screen in your theater. I won the first round so I won 25 Scene Points. The games are a lot of fun, and you can earn points and cool prizes like cinema gift cards.
Do you collect points for freebies for your family? Which loyalty cards and points systems do you recommend?
My disappointing quality family time vacation (as described in this post) was saved by this place right here.
Every summer we try to go camping at least once, and we try to book at a camp ground that we haven't been to yet.
We have a love affair with provincial parks. So when we heard about the new railway exhibit in Brockville, Ontario, I immediately searched for the surrounding Ontario Provincial Parks. That led me to Charleston Lake.
As we were camping in a tent in the middle of a heat wave, this beach was a lovely solace. It was perfect: the water temperature was just enough to keep us cool in the heat and the surrounding trees offered a lot of shade for people to park themselves in the sand. And would you just look at the view!?
The campgoers were very friendly, and the kids made several friends as we spent the most part of the days on the beach.
Charleston Lake Beach Tips:
The day use beach has a lot more sand, and allows for swimmers to wade out almost halfway across to the other side before stepping into any seaweed. The sand at the campground beach is a bit muddier.
Northern Watersnakes are common in the area and there were several sightings at both beaches, and some of the islands when we were there, including one sighting by our daughter who followed behind it and pointed it out to all the swimmers on the beach. Other wildlife sightings included minnows, sunfish, and someone caught a large mouth bass when we were there.
Hemlock Ridge Trail
The only hike we made time to do was on the Hemlock Ridge Trail and I`m so happy that's the one we chose - it was beautiful and offered a lot of shade. We made sure to go first thing in the morning as it was cooler. This trail offered a guide to read about various species of trees along the path, passes by a beaver pond, and a section of it weaves through rock crevices. Along the way we spotted a great blue heron and lots of frogs in the water.
It was easy enough for our toddler to climb up the rocks, and the whole trail took us about an hour and a half.
Our daughter came across a poster of activities hosted by the park's Discovery Centre when we went to one of the park's washrooms the first day. She excitedly pointed out a beaver information centre and so we took the kids to the park's amphitheater. That was our first encounter with Shania, one of the park's Naturalists. Shania hosted the whole beaver information session (complete with videos and slide shows) without flash cards or notes or anything! She wasn't even phased when her microphone kept cutting out. This girl knows her stuff! You can tell she loves her job and is genuinely interested in what she does. I watched some of the children at the end of her presentation ask her random questions for their booklets and she knew the answer to every thing, and you could tell it wasn't just memorization - it was just knowledge she has soaked up by working at the park.
That's where we learned about the Discovery Guide and Photo Challenge. (I guess we were too concerned with cooling off at the beach to find out about these activities!) I loved the complimentary Discovery Guide concept which really seemed to have the older children engaged with what they saw in the park. So if you're headed to Charleston Lake, don't forget to pick some up for your kids right when you get there so they can start right away! If you get 12 or more of the photos or achievements in the guide, you get to be an official explorer and receive a button and your name on the Wall of Fame in the Discovery Center!
The following day, we visited the Discovery Center and stayed for a few hours! (And no it wasn't just because it is the only building with air conditioning in the park!)
Inside the discovery center there are many hands on activities for the kiddos, and for adults too!
This is also where the resident Black Rat Snake, Pi, hangs out. He was rescued a few years ago and has lived at the Discovery Centre ever since. He’s super friendly and followed the kids around the glass of his enclosure.
One of my favorite parts was the Wildlife Sightings interactive map - we added the Great Blue Heron to it.
Behind the Discovery Centre, Shania hosted an "Animal Babies" workshop, and again, her nature knowledge didn't cease to amaze. Our seven year old was captivated with the presentation and both of the kids had a lot of fun making the baby bird nest craft at the end.
The park's campsites were really nice, and offered a lot of privacy and shade. Beware of the many sites that have an abundance of poison ivy surrounding them. Our site was okay, but there was an abundance of poison ivy patches along the road on the way to the washrooms from our site. We are also very lucky that our kids don't wander into the brush and mostly stay to roads and paths.
Another bummer was that at the end of the day, we had to keep a fire going (yes, even in the heat wave) to keep the maniacal bugs away. The mosquitoes weren't the worst we had ever seen, but as soon as we walked out of our campsite, we were literally swarmed by deer flies. If you're headed here, bring a good bug repellent and keep a small fire going with the wood sold by the park - the smoke will keep the deer flies away.
Melissa is a mom, wife, and early childhood educator who blogs about her journey looking for new experiences for family time.