GUIDE TO VANCOUVER

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We snuck away for a quick two day, one night adventure to Vancouver. We brought both kids, and it’s never been “just us” before on a family vacation, we’ve always gone to see extended family or friends, so this was a first. It was a lot of chaos and a lot of fun.

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Tacos: La Taqueria. Cheap and great. Happy Hour 3-6pm.

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MeeT in Gastown. Almost everything is vegan/GF.

Nelson the Seagull. Cute coffee shop. We also liked JJ Bean.

One of the best parts of staying downtown: we walked everywhere and didn’t use our car for two days. This city double stroller by Thule saved us. This is the glider board which drives easier than the universal fit ones.

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Our rookiest move was trying to eat in restaurants with small children. It was too much for our kids’ ages. Luckily we had Trey’s tablet with us which saved us multiple times, but we learned next time to just always take everything to go and picnic our way through the day. (Another options is to stay in an AirBnB outside the city so you’d have a kitchen.)

Pool of my dream! Kitsilano Pool. Heated, outdoor, saltwater pool. We spent hours here. Our whole family got in for $6 CAD (under $5 USD!) for the whole day with in/out privileges. Outside the city, so if you’re staying downtown it’s a short drive (or a bike ride).

Umaluma Gelato. Plant based, dairy free, right above the pool.

Our downtown hotel pool view was insane. It really is a gorgeous city nestled right next to water and mountains.

Other noteworthy things:

The exchange rate changes daily, buy when we went the rate was 1 CAD to .76 USD, which means everything is about 30% off if you pay with an American credit card. (Especially fun at the Lululemon flagship where the prices are the same as marked in the US, but you get the discount.)

At this time, babies need only a birth certificate to travel between countries, instead of a passport.

Pack all the snacks you think you’ll need, then double it.

A tablet (or something similar) and kids headphones are a lifesaver.

The drive time from Seattle is only about three hours, which we’ve found is the perfect amount of time for a road trip with kids at this age. Not too long, but far enough that you feel like you’re really out of your daily routine.

Seawall is a fun walk. We put the kids in the stroller, walked along the waterfront, and actually got to have a conversation.

Next time I want to try:

Coffee: Matchstick, Jam Cade, Le Marche St George, Federal Store, Liberty, Dalina

Eats: Nuba Town, Tacofino, Juice Truck, Las Margaritas, 33 Acres, Hey Komoko, Ask for Luigi, Tuc Craft Kitchen

Ice Cream: Rain or Shine, Earnest

To Do: Mt. Pleasant Park, Old Faithful Shop

We’re excited to go back! Traveling with kids takes some strategic planning, but the adventure is worth it. Just go, embrace the chaos, the laundry will still be there when you get back home.

ON GETTING AWAY

A few days ago I polled Instagram on what's the thing that's helped you the most in motherhood, and the responses were great. Not one single product was mentioned, but all the non-tangibles and little (big) things. Among them: grandparents, perspective, grace, coffee, alcohol, a good babysitter, friends, self-care, and time away. It took me a long time to realize that last one but after our trip last weekend I am a big believer.

Daniel planned this trip and it was his idea. Last year we attempted a 2 night getaway and Trey was too young, it was too soon, and I wasn't ready. I was kind of expecting the same thing on this trip, but agreed to go anyways. I know it's good for me to get away and I wanted to, it's just also really hard for me to leave Trey.

This trip was night and day from last time. The resort was incredible. A boutique, luxury resort in Scottsdale, Arizona and I think it might be my favorite place we've ever stayed. (Not sponsored at all, just sharing.) The design is mid-century modern and the concept is little bungalows all over a sunny, warm, resort nestled near Old Town Scottsdale with mountain views. We absolutely loved it.

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I think the biggest realization for me on the trip was: baby/toddler/kid life is demanding. These years take A LOT of resources - time, energy, money, etc. But they are not forever. In the midst of the day to day craziness that is raising small children you think they will, but this pace of life will someday feel slower. When we retire yes, but also when we're empty nesters, and even when we're at the elementary age, we won't be parenting as intensely as we are during this time of life. It's chaotic and messy and crazy most days, but now that I've taken a step back to notice this, I can more fully fill myself up first. I think I gained the perspective that self-care is a THING. A real thing and a needed thing, and exponentially more so during these all-hands-on-deck years.

It was shocking to me the amount of noise and speed that is raising kids. I don't think it was so much the place (even though it was amazing) but just the time away to chat. To go whatever we wanted, to really pause and relax, to have time. That is the biggest scarcity element I think of my days right now and the kicker for me was that I realized: someday I will have more time.

I am trying to parent out of this new long-term mindset. I am trying to find pockets of rest and relaxation during my days, and right now, I have to be strategic about it. I have to find it/make it/get creative with it/put boundaries around it. I typically run at about 110% percent, like most moms, since we have a lot of roles and responsibilities that we keep spinning each day. But I'm slowly learning to also put myself on that list of importance things. What would fill me up today, what would I like to do? It can be hard as moms because we take care of so many needs that what we'd like often gets pushed so far back that we don't even know what it is that we need or want. Also, I think our culture values productivity and busyness, and when that's ingrained in you it's hard to get off that train. But I'm doing it. I'm getting off the train of de-valuing self-care. I placing myself on my priority list.

I think sometimes as a mom I've thought about things in pretty black and white terms. Can I both (fill in the blank) and be a good mom? Can I take a parents-only trip and love my child? Can I work and still love my child? Can I enjoy time away for a pedicure and still love my child? I think subconsciously I've thought I had to be this mom martyr, dying to myself all the time in the name of loving my child well. And I know now that while I fiercely love my child, I'm actually a better mom when I'm filled up first. It's the oxygen mask strategy. Our needs matter. What we do for ourselves matters. Not just matters, but is vital.

Part of it for me is that I get so much joy out of being with Trey. This is a great thing. But it does make it hard for me to leave him, for trips or even just a night out. I know these years go fast and I don't want to miss it. But I think there is also something to be said for doing them well and being able to do both - I can love my child well, and enjoy time away. Filling me up fills my family up. We take care of so many needs as moms. Let's make sure to also take care of ours.

PACKING LIGHT

I'm convinced there are two kinds of packers in this world: people who pack Everything You Could Possibly Need and people who pack minimally, almost effortlessly, delicately accounting for all kinds of weather and occasions into three coordinating outfits and one easy to manage, well organized, carry on.

I am in the first camp, certainly.

Overpacking is one of my spiritual gifts. Minimal packing is my husband's.

Naturally, it's a joy to travel with me. Once we added a baby in the mix, our packing level went to an even higher, unfathomable level. The soundtrack to our trip prep started to sound something like this: "Hey! Got any extra room in your suitcase for more diapers/wipes/a hair dryer/my ice skates?"

If could pack the kitchen sink, I would.

Thankfully, people change, and I'm learning how to pack more efficiency and effectively. Travel-sized instead of Costco-sized bottles are a start, as well as limiting my shoe choices (still working on that one.) Also helpful: durable, well designed suitcases. Thule, who makes outdoor gear (and our favorite stroller) just released a line of luggage, built to withstand the elements just like their well loved roof racks and bike racks. The two sizes we have are the 30" and the 28". The 30" is ingeniously designed to zip into two bags, one rolling and one duffel, perfect for using alone or together, for separating baby items, or for overpackers like myself still learning how to pack light. My husband loves the laptop bag for work, and it's designed to hook onto the top of either suitcase.

When I pack lighter, I realize that I usually don't even miss whatever's not there. There is always, always a creative solution, and sometimes, having fewer choices can actually make it easier than having too many (capsule wardrobing taught me that).

I started to think about other things I carry with me (figuratively) that actually make my life more difficult or unnecessarily complicated.

Things like, first birthday party expectations. Somehow (maybe thanks to Pinterest and other forms of social media), this event is HYPED. Where did we get this idea that babies needed this extravagant first birthday party? If you want to go all out for it, great, but if you don't? Also fine. We all know this party is more for the parents than the baby anyways.

In June, we will be celebrating Trey's first birthday. But I'm choosing a small, simple party. Nothing fancy, no paper invites, no rented space, no caterer.

I'm taking this off my plate because it doesn't bring me joy to spend the time or the money in this way. I will celebrate the one year milestone in a way that works for us, not how someone else (or society or culture or social media) thinks I SHOULD be doing it.

These days I'm taking more and more off my plate, letting go of thing after thing, lowering my expectations, packing lighter. This "good enough" space of motherhood is so much better than striving for the unattainable perfection.

I'm trying to pack lighter this spring in all sorts of ways. It's a work in progress, but a great place to be.

Shared in partnership with Thule, the trusted outdoor gear brand. We're big fans of their durable designs.