july camping week: part 2

 

this is part two of our family camping trip from july (read part one HERE)! yes, i am late in sharing, but i have taken conscious time away from this space to vacation and enjoy summer with my family.

 

after surviving the bumps mac gregor point threw our way, we headed up to the bruce peninsula all the way to tobermory. there we were camping at a national camp ground called cyprus lake. we were excited, as we had heard wonderful things about this destination.

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remember how we had had issues with rain a few days earlier at our previous site at mac gregor point? so to combat fears, dear hubby climbed a few trees to attach the world largest tarp and try to protect the tent from flooding.

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our site surrounded by stunning tall trees. it was a large site perfect for the kids to ride their bikes around, it had a private forests all around where the kids busied themselves with all kinds of games. one thing this camp ground was strict about was keeping your site clean of foods and things that might attract wild animals. there were black bears around, and other animals like raccoons can cause real havoc to campers.

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we had fires each night, mostly for cooking things like baked potatoes and jiffy pop! but, having stories by the fire is never a bad thing either! our kids love camping, but sometimes bear struggles with finding space to be alone. he needs it to recharge his batteries.

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we hiked along a beautiful trail from our campsite to the famous grotto. the view was spectacular! it looked like we were on the mediterranean sea in greece somewhere!

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and then we woke up to rain. and, not nice summer rain that is refreshing and makes the forest smell amazing… no, no this was torrential and cold! luckily, i am married to a man who is not phased by these kinds of surprises, instead of getting upset, he just rolls into action! he backed up the van close to the tent, dragged a picnic table under the worlds largest tarp and started cooking breakfast for us as if it was any ol’morning! how awesome is he?!

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on our last day in tobemory we had to make it count after being rained out! so we took a super speedy boat ride to flower pot island. on the way there we checked out a few shipwrecks in the sparkling clear water. the boys of course thought it was all pretty darn cool!

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then we were off…. woohooo!!!! we all love being on boats and feeling the wind in our hair!

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we saw a snake quickly dash across the trail we were on.

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this was definitely a trying trip for us, mostly cause by the rain and the fact that i had strep, which meant i was tired. but, we saw lots of beautiful things and got to spend that oh-so-important quality time together as a family. being together just the four of us is necessary for us; we all yearn to be together and as the kids get older it’s going to be hard to always have that time.but, i’m hoping if we make these summer traditions now, they’ll become things we all look forward to!

 

well, here’s hoping anyhow!

hope you have been enjoying your summer! soon i’ll be sharing about our experiences at camp neekaunis, a family camp the boys and i attended. plus, some other summer adventures we’ve been fortunate enough to do!

xo, mama lola

toronto day : MRI results!

a few weeks back i blogged about my sad MRI friday, the worry that i carry before getting my results and the general anxiety surrounding my previous tumour…  read more HERE. well, i got my result mid-july.

on july 16th i took the bus into the big city where i met my mum as soon as i got off the bus. we had some time spare before my big annual appointment at the hospital, so we decided to meander our way there. we strolled along dundas street, weaving through the crowds. on my mum’s suggestion we popped in a some of the small galleries across from the AGO. aaah, we saw some beautiful, breathtaking art. art that makes you stop and really look at the details and soak them in. my mum is an artist and listening to her analyse the art was awesome; her attention for detail, eye for colour and knowledge of art was super educational to me.

 

then we contunied walking along dundas street heading west, through china town and the construction there, up into kensington market. i took a picture of courage my love, a store i visited regularly as a youngster growing up in toronto. i used to head down there on the spadina bus!!! remember those ol’ things?! in kensington i strolled through memory lane floored that so many of the stores are still there from 20 years ago!!!

we stopped in a tiny cafe for a snack. i was a nervous wreck and couldn’t really eat.

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1:30pm was my appointment time. once a month the neurology department holds a pituitary clinic, so people with specifically pituitary issues comes for follow ups then. they also have an aneurysm clinic monthly. so n that clinic day  i looked around the waiting room and noticed that everyone is of a very specific generation, they all looked like baby-boomers. there was nobody else like me there.

at 2:30pm we were called in for my appointment. my poor mum came in with me, because i had asked he to, but i’m sure she was just as terrified as me!  we walked into a room with a large table with various people sitting around it,doctors and med students. first my endocrinologist (hormone doctor) said my blood work came in clear and normal, which was a HUGE relief. she asked a few questions about my weight and my periods, finishing that she had zero concerns! woohoo! then it was time for my neurologist to look at my MRI images which they display on a  huge screen for everyone to see. she said calmly that everything looked great, no sign of any re-growth or tumour. she asked about the kids and if i was going to have more kids. she finished the appoitnment by saying she though i looked wonderful! phew! as my mum and i walked out of the office, i threw my arm around her and did a small jig grinning hugely, with tears in my eyes, no tumour, i am healthy and good to go!

 

after that my mum and i both had more pep in our step as we headed north along bathurst to bloor street.  our shoulders had dropped and smiles were on our faces; the honest kind that come from your eyes and your heart,not just your mouth. finally at spadina and bloor we found a lovely crepe cafe with an authentic french atmosphere. we sipped real espresso and ate delicious savoury crepes.  just as we finished and were ready to head to the bata show musuem it started to pour! so we tucked under a tiny umbrella, walking arm-in-arm trying to avoid the huge growing puddles! at the museum there was an exhibit called “fashion victims” about the history of the dangers of textiles. it was a small exhibit, but wonderfully curated loaded with interesting information and detail.

 

because it was wednesday and i was in the mood to celebrate, we heded back down to dundas street via the U of T campus. the rain had stopped and the streets were packed with young people rushing around. the air was fresh. at the AGO wednesdays after 6pm are free admission, since it was only about 5pm we first had a celebratory glass of wine. the exhibit we were going to see was henry moore’s sculptures and francis bacon’s paintings. again, my mum’s knowledge of art cameflowing out as she told all about the artists and their art. the special exhibit turned out NOT to be free, but the rest of the gallery was.

 

my bus was leaving toronto at 8pm, so slowly we made our way in that direction. we had walked a wonderful loop inside the core of the city that was once my home. i felt energized after a day without the kids, relieved about my health and reconnected to my mum. as the bus rolled out of the city heading down to the highway, i felt very nostalgic; i have memories from so many intersections and corners of this city with all sorts of people.

 

but, i was ready to go.

to go home.

 

xo, mama lola

july camping week: part 1.

as soon as school let out, we packed up the van and went camping. it was fun, but quite stressful as well. we had a lot pretty big bumps along the way, starting with me getting strep throat on our very first night. bah! but, after spending a couple of hours in the ER i got a script for the antibiotics and was good to go from there!

i took a lotof photo’s and i have tried to only choose my top-TOP faves and ones that best tell the story of our adventure! we stayed in two camp grounds, so i’m dividing the pics up according geography. i’m hoping it’ll be easier to see the pics…

[part one] : MAC GREGOR POINT!

we love camping here. the provincial camp grounds are right on the shores of lake huron, there is a small beach and this year the water was freezing, because of the extra cold winter that brought enormous snow levels! i stood in the water for 3 seconds which was enough time to cause excruciating pain in my ankles and feet!

the amenities are great, but our bear was reluctant to use the outhouse style loo’s, but the camp sites are awesome and the bike trails are super fun and the board walks are lovely!we actually had a trail go right by our camp site, allowing the kids to go running and biking on their own a little. it was kinda perfect! plus, their visitors centre is amazing and our kids love it!

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it was super hot and humid… so hot in fact that someone’s ice cream melted faster than they could keep up with it! the heat brought with it torrential rains, a dinner in town and the purchase of the world’s biggest tarp! there are no pictures, because things were chaotic and wet… and, um… tense during those hours!

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a typical camping breakfast made by my lovely husband. coffee pressed in my coleman brand french press, an egg sunny side up with smoked gouda all on a finnish rye bread! perfection, i tell ya!

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we hung-out a lot. the boys rode their bikes, we painted water colours together and complained about the bugs. oh-my-gosh the bugs were intense and not just the mosquitoes, but the deer flies and regular house flies were swarming us! never have i camped where house flies are a problem!

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we saw this turtle one evening. it was minding it’s own business, toodeling along when we came along and disturbed him.

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one evening we drove up the coast and went to the shores of lake huron and enjoyed a sunset just the four of us. it was absolutely stunning. we had had a rough afternoon, as our bear had fallen off his bike landing hard on his belly. the shard rock and tree roots left a huge dent in my guy!

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after the sun set it was still steaming hot, especially in our tent, so we removed the world’s biggest tarp and the tent fly to try and get some air in. i lay there listening to my family snore away, as i stared up at the sky filled with stars. it was such a beautiful moment with my family, even if they didn’t know it!

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on july 1st, CANADA DAY we switched camp sites and headed a little further north to tobermory and cyprus lake.

part two will have pictures from there, which will include more fun with the world’s largest tarp, a boat ride and more!

 

xo, mama lola

the best potato salad recipe…EVER!

now that bear is back to eating eggs, i can make my favourite potato salad recipe again. potato salad is one of those foods that i connect with summer BBQ’s and eating outside. my recipe has pickles and red onions in it for some extra flavour, which everyone LOVES!

 

potato salad

 

INGREDIENTS:

4 medium red potatoes

4 hard boiled eggs

1/2 red onion

lotsa fresh dill (i used about 1/2 of a bunch)

4 pickles

1/4 to 1/2 cup mayonnaise

salt

fresh ground pepper

 

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DIRECTIONS:

1. cut potatoes into 2cm squared pieces and steam. once tender to a fork poke put into a bowl to cool. finely chop onion, pickles and dill.

2. cut hard boiled eggs into quarters, not too small as they fall apart easily when mixing the ingredients all together.

3. once the potatoes have thoroughly cooled add all of the ingredients into a bowl and mix well. refrigerate until ready to serve.

 

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this potato salad was a hit at a BBQ we went to at a friends house.

the perfect side to hot dogs!

xo, mama lola

my emotional MRI and more.

 

on friday i had an MRI done. it’s an annual one that gets done to see whether or not the pituitary gland tumour that was removed almost four years ago has returned. pituitary gland tumours are typically cancer free, as was mine, and usually quite simple to remove. my situation had a catch though, as i was pregnant with lion when my tumour was diagnosed, so i was treated at a special hospital with fancy specialists and had a nightmare c-section. all because of this dang tumour.

in the brain tumour community cancer free tumours are not described as benign. all brain tumours reek havoc on the lives of people living with them and their families.

 

my annual check-ups for my tumour always fall right around lion’s birthday, which makes this time of year especially emotional for me. this year i was trying to push away all of the scary memories and focus on all of the good that we are surrounded with. but, then on friday as my MRI time got closer, my anxiety started to increase, my throat got tight, and i felt completely alone in my memories and fears.  DH hadn’t acknowledged anything before heading to work that morning, so 45 minutes prior to my appointment i texted him an angry message “today is not a normal day for me“. and, maybe he was taking cues from me to be chill about the day,but regardless, i was hurt.

 

so, i arrived at the hospital, nervous as heck only to see DH sitting there in the waiting room. he squeezed me tightly, kissed my forehead and whispered sweet words into my ear . he left the hospital once i was checked-in as the kids were with various friends, so someone had to be available as our phones didn’t work inside the hospital.

 

i sat in a horrible vinyl chair listening to a conversation between old  friends who had randomly crossed paths there at the MRI waiting room.  they shared stories of the heartbreaking medical ailments that had brought them there. as i sat there my throat was still tight and i was fiercely fighting back tears. i was remembering my family’s own heartbreak on lion’s birth day; a day when he entered this world in terrible stress to strangers taking him and whisking him away to the NICU. i was under a general anaesthetic for his birth, because there were concerns about my tumour literally exploding and killing me if i pushed him out during a vaginal birth, or if i had an epidural for a c-section like most women.  so i was out cold. because of this DH had to wait outside the operating room for the birth, so that meant our wee baby was born alone. lion had complications and was kept in the hospital for a week. all because of that dang tumour.

 

four years ago when we got home, i had a baby, toddler and a tumour to deal with. i have never wanted others to think i was looking for pity or attention; so instead of sharing my situation and asking for support i have been very internal about most of it. after my surgery in november 2010 to remove the tumour i was back home mothering within days without the necessary recovery times. i never asked anyone for help, because i didn’t want to be seen as weak.  i was so tired, in terrible pain and overwhelmed, but i tried my best to hide all of that and just kept on trucking. part of it was  i also felt like a fraud; like our experience with my tumour wasn’t bad enough to warrant attention or support.

 

so, back to friday when all of these memories brought with them deep waves of emotions that came rushing through me as they prepped me for the MRI. my IV was placed, painfully, my contrast liquid tubes set, the mask to trap my head during the MRI was locked into place and then with a push of a button they put me into this dark terrifying tube. if you’ve never had a MRI here’s a link to what it sounds like… CLICK HERE.  i don’t suggest listening to the whole thing, but i do recommend turning up your volume and jumping ahead every so often to see the range of horrible sounds and noises that machine makes! my MRI’s last about 30 minutes. during those long  minutes in the machine on friday i cried. tears were gently streaming into my ears. i thought of my lovely boy; he exudes love and shine. he giggles easily and cares deeply for others. i thought about him when he was first born, how fragile he looked all wrapped in tubes that were attached to various beeping machines. i also thought of my bear, who in those early days of lion’s life was shuffled around from one house to another, to the hospital all in a blur of confusion and fear. he was only two-and-a–half. and, i was also thinking of my sweet DH who in those months and days was trying so desperately to hold it all together. he never showed his fear to me, always trying to put on a brave face even if i did see right through it. he had been standing outside the room where his son almost died watching the red lights flash in the hallway, listening to the alarms and then seeing the staff intubate him and rush him away. how completely terrifying. luckily today lion is healthy,vivacious and read to roll!

 

after i was done on friday, i got changed and walked to my car. drove home and didn’t want to see anyone. i sat on my couch and cried. i sobbed. my body shook as huge tears rolled down my face. i had to let it all out before the kids came home with DH. when they walked in the door they held a beautiful bouquet of flowers for me.

 

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sharing my story here is a form of therapy for me. i think of my blog as a journal where i record our favourite recipes, craft projects, summer camping trips and also some of the not-so-fun or glamorous health experiences. i hope that talking openly about my dang tumour will open the doors for other’s to share their struggles, even if they are not medical.

 

fingers crossed for wednesday! that is when i head into the big city to see my neurologist and endocrinologist toreceive the results of this emotional MRI and blood work done a few weeks ago.

 

xo, mama lola

end of school year.

i realize this is kinda late, as school ended a few weeks ago now, but here i go anyways…

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my oldest, bear is now 6.5 years old and he just finished senior kindergarten. it’s off to grade 1 in the fall! it’s not a huge accomplishment or anything, but things will be shifting for him as he leaves the kindy yard and switches over to the “big kids” side, as the faces and friends in his class will change. leaving kindergarten also means less play, more structured learning and new teachers. all of this new stuff will for sure trigger his anxiety as he learns to navigate through all of it. actually, i think he’s already anxious about the transitions that are upcoming. transitions, big and small are a struggle for him and the looming changes in september are no different. i have planned a pretty relaxed summer with lots of free time to play alone or with friends. he’s going to one camp this summer for 5 days where he’ll be learning about all kinds of nature things! i’m hoping he can chill te next few months before we step back in to the school routine.

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my youngest, lion is now 4 years old and he is entering school system officially in september. he finished a year of pre-school, which was all montesorri based play-learning so going to junior kindergarten will be a shock to him; at school all day, having to toilet alone, learning to eat lunch with his peers and just navigate the day-to-day routines of the school day will be quite stressful. although he doesn’t struggle with anxiety like his brother, entering school will be a hurdle that will exhaust him deeply. the kid still naps about three days a week!!! that’s why i’ve decided to only send him part-time to school. it’s what i did with bear when he was starting school and it worked out really well.

 

i’m hoping that my assumption that i know my kids best, and know their needs best is true. especially when it comes to their education and experiences at school!

 

but, here’s to a great summer! i am so proud of my guys forall they have accomplished in their learning this passed year!

xo, mama lola

june at the cottage!

we played hookie from school and headed to the cottage at the end of  june for the solstice weekend. the weather was hot and sunny during the day, with cool breezy evenings. it was perfect summer weather!

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there was the issue of the pollen floating grossly on the water, but we got over that quickly.  we had to or otherwise there wouldn’t have been any swimming! the boys were both in swimming lessons since january and boy have they paid off. their confidence has soared, as has their ability to actually swim!

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the kids have been in swimming lessons since january and boy has it paidoff! their confidence has soared,as has their general ability to swim. it makes being around water a little less stressful with each visit. in these pics the kids are in life jackets, but they did do some dips and swims without them as well (closely supervised of course!) bear’s anxiety contributes to his tension around water, but he is slowly overcoming some of those fears. once he is in the water his anxiety melts away, demonstrating the therapeutic nature of water!

lion, on the other hand is fearless, jumping in the water and wanting to swim far to the floating dock! his little body gets cold quickly, so his lips turn blue way before he is ready to get out of the water!

 

bubbles, beer and mosquitoes… how canadiana!

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we ate such good food. bubba and patty brought excellent salmon,while for dessert we gorged on all sorts of melted marshmallowy treats! YUM!

 

what kind of summer adventures have you and your family gotten into so far?

xo, mama lola

painting flower pots!

now that the growing season is here i want to share a favourite project that my boys love to do… paint terracotta flower pots!

painting flower pots, mother's day, gift idea, kids crafts

it’s a wonderful way to be creative, while also learning about how things grow. my kids made each of their grandmother’s a painted pot for mother’s day and planted a geranium in them. they were so proud of their

 

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all you need are some pots, paints, brushes and we used a spray sealant to try to protect the pots from water.

i love using ice cube trays as paint trays instead, as they don’t tip over easily and the paints can be mixed well in the deep slots. my kids often paint outside as the tidying up is so much easier. plus, if they get paint all over it’s not a big deal!

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TA-DAA!

check out these lovely flower pots!

painted flower pots, kids crafts, mother's day, gift ideas, gifts for grandmothers painted flower pots, mother's day, gift idea

i love how carefree the kids are when painting. they do not get inhibited with concerns about what other’s may think of their creations. they just create completely in the moment, enjoying the paint and colours, but most importantly the process.

happy painting and planting to you!

xo, mama lola

make your own backyard teepee!

 

we have been spending an enormous amount of time outside. the weather is warm and inviting, so we’ve tried to take advantage of the summer weather! i’ve wanted to build a teepee for the kids in the backyard for a while, but just never got around to it, but when a friend of mine made one for her boys, i was inspired!

DIY teepee, backyard teepee,

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i found an old white sheet in the basement, which i decided would be perfect if painted. then, i dug around for fabric paint, which i couldn’t find so i made do with tempera paint. the paint bottle said it would stain if not treated, so i hoped it would work! although, i don’t really care what happens to the teepee fabric. if after a big rain storm the paint bleeds, i’m ok with that.

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INSTRUCTIONS:

1. depending on the size of the teepee you want you will need 3-6 sticks for the frame. we just used branches we found in our backyard. we pushed the branches into the ground a little bit for extra support. we used nylon rope to tie the branches at the top.

2. choose a fabric that will be big enough to nicely wrap around the frame/ branches. make sure you leave  an opening! start stapling the fabric to one of the branches at the doorway and work your way around. i had to fold extra fabric tucking it under and stapling it well. i wasn’t too concerned about the precision of the stapling, because i knew it didn’t matter with the integrity of the teepee.

3. enjoy!

garden teepee for kids, make your own teepee

our teepee provides great shade. i chose it’s location in our yard carefully, angling the doorway away from the table area and patio, tucking it away in a more quiet area. i’m hoping the teepee will be a part of games of the imagination, but also a place to tuck away with a book on a hot day, a place lie back and listen to the birds chirping away, and just a place to be.

DIY garden teepee,

the kids love it.

i love it!

it has worked out so well!

xo, mama lola

summer bucket list!

i know, i know summer doesn’t officially start until the 21sth, but the lush grass and green trees, blooming flowers and warmer temperatures have me yearning  for summer.

 

i booked the kids into their one camp months ago, our family camping trips have been planned and we have so many fun carefree days ahead, i just can’t wait to start filling them with all kinds of adventures.

 

here’s my bucket list for the summer; i couldn’t fit everything we will hopefully do, but it’s definitely a great starting point!

 

summer bucketlist

 

what do you have planned with your family?

 

what are your summer traditions?

xo, mama lola
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