The world’s biggest dinosaur.

On our first official day of our spring break vacation, we hit up Drumheller. It also happened to be Neil’s birthday. What man doesn’t want to see the world’s biggest dinosaur on his birthday? It was a beautiful, sunny, and warm day, and he truly was really excited about everything and on more than one occasion said he was having the best day ever. Who woulda thought. But really, the world’s biggest dinosaur really is pretty freaking awesome.

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Look how big!!

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We spent the morning at the Royal Tyrell Museum, which was also super awesome. We went through it twice, with a break for a picnic lunch and a play at an awesome playground in between. I didn’t get too many pictures inside because it’s pretty dark, but that place is epic. Dinosaur fossils are kind of insane. I mean, I just can’t imagine what they were like in real life. Cray cray.

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(That’s my kids holding a fossilized dinosaur poop. Although how they “know” it’s a dino poop and not any other kind of poop is questionable to me. Either way, they held some poo. Also, see how the museum lady tricked them all into closing their eyes before she put poo in their hands? Ha!)

After the museum we hiked around the grounds for a bit. Seth and Ben were just having the best time climbing everything and exploring off the beaten path as much as they could get away with. It was 17C out and it was just glorious to be out in that weather!

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After that hike we drove over to the hoodoos, which were kind of anti-climactic. I think that happens when it’s been 20 years since you’ve been somewhere. What you once remembered as just ginormous, really isn’t. They are definitely still cool though. At that point Oliver and Ivy had fallen asleep in the car (where they continued to sleep for two solid hours despite us stopping repeatedly and Seth and Ben and Neil climbing in and out and over them. They were sooooo wiped. I hung out in the car with them while the bigs explored.

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When we’d had our fill of badlands, hoodoos, and dinosaurs, we drove to Calgary, about an hour and a half away. We got there around 4:30, planning to spend the evening swimming and watersliding, only to find that this hotel pool, too, was out of order! And they had no hotel next door for us to use. We ended up getting some poutine and then heading to the theatre to see Home. Thank goodness the movie was so cute and funny because it cost us a small fortune. Apparently movies cost 50% more in Calgary than here, and even here we usually only go on cheap night! Oh well, all good and still fun.

And that was the end of our first day of spring break! It was a good one!

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Road trip!

We’ve been sort of planning a road trip to the mountains for this coming summer. I had been hoping to go last summer, but then driving that far with a two year old scared me too bad, plus Neil was still so sick, so we postponed plans to this summer.

Then a few weeks ago I thought, hey, why don’t we just go at spring break? Neil had already decided to take the week off work, so that wasn’t a problem. And the nice thing about going at spring break instead of in the summer was that Neil and the boys could still go snowboarding. Neil took some convincing, but he finally, reluctantly, got on board. (By the time we actually left for our trip he was super excited, I promise.)

There was still a problem though. Our car. Yes, our car. No, we don’t have a van. Yes, we do have four kids. We have a Mazda 5 which is like a teeny-van that just barely fits all of us plus one purse and nothing else. It works for us because we don’t usually all drive together, besides to church or to go do something fun. On those occasions we don’t need a lot of cargo space. When I do need the space, like for groceries, I only ever have two kids with me, and the back seats fold flat to fit all my groceries. Plus, the Mazda costs literally half as much for gas. Main selling feature for me.

Anyway, how to fit a family of six plus clothes for a week plus outerwear and shoes for two different seasons plus three snowboards in a Mazda 5…

Roof rack! But, what- those things are like $450!!! And then you need a carrier- and those are like another $400! No, I can’t do that. I might as well just buy a new van. Sort of.

Google. Universal roof rack. $40 instead of $400. Semi-good reviews. Ordered off Amazon, shipped to the border, and picked up. $58 Canadian even with the crappy exchange rate and shipping. Yes, that’s more my style. Now, rooftop carrier. Hello Kijiji and $60 later we’re in business.

It took a lot of maneuvering and light packing to fit everything we needed, but we did it. By we, I mean Neil. I had nothing to do with that roof stuff.

We decided to drive straight from Oakbank, MB to Drumheller, AB in one day.

So at 4:30 am on March 28, we set off. The kids were super excited. They compared it to our trip to Mexico, when we also woke them up in the middle of the night. Ivy asked, approximately every 25 minutes for 16 hours, “We goin on a tip??”. Yes, Ivy, we’re going on a trip! “Yay!” Repeat times a hundred.

The roof top carrier was whistling a bit, and Neil was super paranoid about losing everything off of the top of car. Between our street and the next street, we stopped like three times to readjust things. Neil looked like he might have an aneurysm, and for a few minutes I thought he might totally cancel our trip and we would lose all the money I spent booking non-refundable hotel rooms through Expedia. But then he calmed down. Until 7 minutes later, when straps starting knocking against the side of the car. Neil looked like he was going to kill the roof rack. He pulled over and tucked the straps in, and it was mostly better, although he tugged on, tightened, and checked on the straps like a complete neurotic for the next 10 hours.

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So, straps tucked in, our first stop was Brandon. All the kids plus myself had slept for about an hour on the way there. We pulled up at McDonald’s for breakfast, unloaded all kids. Then noticed the sign on the door that says cash only. Reloaded all kids. Noticed that Ivy is soaking wet from about mid-back to her knees. Ivy did you pee?? Oh no please no. Oh thank goodness, it’s water. Her water bottle spilled. All. Over. Her. Carseat. And we have 13 hours to go. And of course, all her clothes are packed away very deeply in the rooftop carrier. Even though the internet told me to have an extra set of clothes handy for everyone. I didn’t listen. Okay well, she doesn’t seem bothered by being wet. So we got some Tim Hortons, ate some breakfast, then reloaded all kids. Ivy is placed, completely naked from the waist down, in her carseat, on Neil’s hoodie, which is then wrapped around her. Neil put her wet pants and sweatshirt on the vents of our car so they could dry. It worked remarkably well, just so you know, if you’re ever in a similar situation.

We carried on. The kids watch half of a movie that skipped over and over again and finally quit, and then a whole movie, and then read, then dozed. We made it to Moose Jaw for lunch. The kids ran around in a play place and then we reloaded and keep going.

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I put a movie in the dvd player for them. Then realized the dvd player wouldn’t turn on. At all. Oh shoot. We had like seven hours to go. No! No! No! Thankfully the kids didn’t seem to be as upset as I am, and they kept reading or playing with the little toys they brought along.

We stopped in Swift Current for gas and to readjust the roof top carrier and tighten straps again. I ran into three different stores as fast as I could looking for a replacement cord for the dvd player. I found one, but it didn’t work, so I returned it. We were screwed. It was gonna be an old-fashioned road trip. No dvd players. Okay, we had one iPad, so not totally old fashioned.

It started raining then. It didn’t stop for a long time.

At one point, I was driving, in the pouring rain, and I noticed that the snowboard bag that was strapped to our roof was suddenly visible out the driver’s side window, over my head. I didn’t want to say anything to Neil, but I had to. I silently pointed to the snowboard bag, and Neil not-so-silently cursed while I pulled over. He got out of the car, in the hard rain and the strong wind, and stomped around, pulling and tightening straps. He muttered very loudly and swore several times. Awhile ago I told the kids if they hear Neil or I swear, we owe them a dollar. The kids were all “a buck for me! two bucks for me!” and I was trying hard not to laugh, because honestly, it was funny, even though it wasn’t. I told them that yes, Dad owed them money, but please not to bring it up until the next morning. Neil got back in the car, soaking wet. He pulled an Ivy and sat pants-less for awhile. Thankfully he kept his underwear on.

We drove through probably four hours of rain, but it stopped before we got to Drumheller. It is really really cool driving from mostly prairies to boom! badlands! You kind of go down a big hill and all of a sudden the terrain is 100% different than what you were previously in. It was awesome. Plus, there are dinosaur statues basically everywhere in Drumheller, making it even awesomer. We found our hotel and checked in. The pool and waterslide were out of order. Thank goodness because Neil and I were so exhausted the thought of going for a swim made us want to throw up.

Most of our clothes, that were in the soft shelled roof top carrier, that was in the rain, for four hours, were very very wet. No harm done though- the hotel had a dryer. We ordered some pizza, the kids jumped on beds, and then we went to sleep. We had made it through a long day on the road and it really wasn’t too bad. Besides the wet kids, the wet clothes, the lack of a dvd  player, and the cursing husband, it had gone so well. Our kids were seriously so well behaved, with no complaining, and no fighting, and no whining. By none I mean a little bit. But so little it’s not even worth mentioning. We were in the car for 16 hours, and sometimes the kids didn’t get out for over 7 hours, but they were total champs.

We tucked in, three to a bed, and slept till morning.

Except for those 15 times Ivy kicked me in the face, neck, and legs. And the rest of the night where she basically rotated 25 degrees every 19 minutes. Except for that, it was a good sleep.

Why haven’t I thought of headphones before?

We’re going on a big road trip tomorrow (Banff!), and in an effort to preserve our sanity as much as possible, I picked up headphones for each of the kids yesterday.

Oliver and Ivy wanted to try them out right away, so I plugged them into the iPad and my iPhone.

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And then, it was QUIET. So quiet that I went to bed for a nap. And actually slept.

(And yes, that is a Sophia the First set complete with crown and a Guardians of the Galaxy set with fur and ears. Obvs.)

When Seth and Ben got home from school, it was their turn. Tunes on, headphones on, and again, quiet.

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And happy, too. They were having the best time. Seth loves those headphones so much, he said, “They’re like REAL headphones. Like TEENAGER ones!” The new headphones kept them busy, and momma happy, until supper time. Although I was concerned by the fact that they had appeared to have aged four or five years instantly. Well, not Ben maybe. The lack of teeth keeps him looking young.

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Now I’m wondering why I never thought of headphones earlier!

This bad day.

I feel like I’m in a depressing rut, just spinning my wheels every day but not getting anywhere. Laundry, housework, sewing work, hospital work, cooking, answering pointless questions from preschoolers, etc., etc. Repeat times a million. I need a fresh start. A clean house. A menu plan. A blank slate. And I feel like it’s never going to happen.

Sometimes it just feels like too much. Like I just can’t do it; I’m drowning. Or like I just don’t WANT to to do it. 

And then I’m going crazy. Feeling like I’m going to snap, then snapping. Raging around, yelling, swearing, fighting, and crying.

And feeling like an absolute failure. Like the worst mom ever. 

Then apologizing to the sweet kids who have taken the brunt of everything. To the three year old that I actually got in a screaming match with, both of us yelling and crying and me knowing just how she feels but doing nothing to help her. 

I hug them and I tell them I’m sorry and they forgive instantly, like children do. Their grace is astounding, really. And I need it, and I’m so thankful for it.

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Thank goodness for the gift that is my children, and thank goodness that tomorrow is a new day. 

Ivy draws.

Ivy drew a picture.



And then she said, 

“Awww, that’s baby you, Mom! That’s when you were a baby!”

(I was so cute, right?)

Then her picture took a dark turn…

“And a bad guy is gonna come cut your cute arm off. You will cry.”

Um, should I be concerned here or is this just a side effect of too many brothers? Hopefully the latter.

First indoor soccer season, finished.

Seth has played spring soccer for a few years now, but this was his first year playing indoor soccer. He started in the fall, and played every Saturday until now. I was sort of dreading being committed to something every single Saturday, but it turned out that I really loved it. What’s not to love about sitting in a temperature controlled arena watching your kid and his team kick butt every Saturday? I’m not joking- they creamed their opponents at most games. They won almost every game, losing maybe two or three out the whole season. Seth scored a lot of goals, learned a lot, improved his skills hugely, and most importantly, had a lot of fun.

For the last game of the season, the kids played the parents. Seth had the best time out there with Neil.

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(Neil had fun too.)

Ivy threw an EPIC tantrum for the first 20 minutes of the game. There is just no reasoning with that child and I was forced to revert to crazy mom status, putting her outside the back door of the arena and leaving her there alone while threatening to burn her blanket. Yeah, I went there. I took it a bit too far with the threats of burning, but I’m quite confident she would have screamed until infinity if I hadn’t left her at the back door solo for all of 12 seconds. That was enough for her to smarten up.

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Oliver barely tolerates Seth’s soccer games, but he cracked a smile for me at least.

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The game was a wash, with the kids beating the parents 18-9. Seth plays some mean defense. His coach told him that he never worried about their team getting scored on when Seth was on the field. (Insert proud mom face here.)

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So now we say farewell to indoor soccer until next fall. Lucky for me I won’t even have a chance to miss it, since we just signed Oliver and Seth up for spring soccer, which will have us at games four nights a week and a practice on Saturdays. God help me.

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It’s not as scary as it used to be.

Neil flew to Vancouver Thursday morning for work. He’s tacking a trip to Kelowna on afterwards, so he won’t be home until Monday afternoon. So that means I’m single parenting it for almost five days. Usually in this kind of situation I would go stay with my mom and dad for a couple days, but they’re in Mexico right now, so that’s out. I’m on my own.

And the thing is, it’s not as scary as it used to be. The kids are getting bigger, and even though I’m grossly outnumbered, it’s not that hard anymore. Yesterday I took four kids to swimming lessons, and wouldn’t you know, the bigs got ready for their lesson all on their own, and even Oliver walked to his class all by himself so I didn’t even have to go on the pool deck once. Ivy behaved herself for the entire 45 minutes, and then Seth and Ben got themselves all dressed back up while I helped Oliver, and we all met in the lobby a mere ten minutes after the last class ended. It couldn’t have gone better. Well, it could have, I guess, if Oliver had actually listened to his teacher. I’ll be very surprised if he passes this term, since he resolutely refuses to blow bubbles in the pool.

Yesterday was smooth sailing too, although it helped immensely that a friend came for coffee in the morning. It’s always nice to have grown up conversation. In the evening I got the kids’ favorite babysitter to come so that I could go wander around Superstore all by myself.

This morning I slept in until 8:15, when I leisurely wandered out of my bedroom to make coffee and found the kids all fed and watching cartoons. Freaking angels I tell you.

Then we went to Seth’s soccer game. I’m really enjoying the fact that I can take four kids out on my own and it’s not a total gong show. It’s a good, good feeling.



(Seth, after another victory, and his final game, barely obliging my request for a photo.)

The afternoon was pretty chill. Ben went to a friend’s and had a great time but I ruined his life when I told him we were having spaghetti for supper. End. Of. The. World. Still, he was hungry enough that he ate it. What kind of kid doesn’t like spaghetti??

I got all the kids (and myself!) bathed, which is a small miracle. Hygiene isn’t a huge priority around here lately. 

Everyone went to bed and fell asleep with nary a “Mom!” or “I need a drink!” to be heard. Winning.

It’s not so scary as it used to be, being the sole parent. I don’t even mind it too much.

Because they’re good kids and I like them.

Especially when they’re sleeping. 

Benji shoots his teeth out, turns seven, and holds a sugar glider.

Ben’s front teeth were so wiggly over the last couple weeks. At one point he came home and his tooth was so wonky, he looked hilarious. He took matters into his own hands, fetching his Nerf crossbow and some heavy duty thread, recruiting his mom for tooth-tying, and promptly shooting his front tooth out of his mouth. He’s so brave with his tooth losing, I can’t believe it. He repeated the whole thing six days later with his second front tooth, leaving him toofless for his seventh birthday two days later. I’m in love with his face.

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For his birthday we had Prairie Exotics come and show the kids a bunch of snakes, geckos, tarantulas, frogs, and even a sugar glider. Ben was very very excited for his birthday. His original “invite” list included eighteen children and his bus driver (?). I got him to narrow it down to a generous ten, but after handing his invitations out, he realized he’d forgotten three of his “best friends” so three more were added. Thankfully three kids couldn’t make it, because ten seven year olds is a lot, y’all. A loud, rowdy, extra cute lot. Those kids had some serious fun, and they loved the reptile show so much. It was awesome and so fun to see Ben with all his buddies. He has friends from mutliple classes and it really makes me proud how good he is at making friends. He’s obviously very well liked, and it just makes me happy.
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His gift wish list this year included Pokemon, Lego, a clock, and clothes. He got lots of everything, plus a pile of gift cards and cash, making for a happy boy. (That cake was green ombre, just so you know. I forgot to take a picture of my hard work. And I’m pretty sure the kids didn’t even notice, besides Ben.)

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I can’t believe my chubby little baby is seven already. He’s such a great kid; I just love him. He’s such an entertainer, and can laugh AND cry on demand. I’m talking real tears, if he wants. This boy better take drama class in high school because he’s totally convincing. It’s awesome. He loves making people laugh, and he’s pretty good at it. He loves music and dancing, although you’re unlikely to see evidence of this if you’re not family. He loves clothes and takes great care with his appearance. He’s good at pushing people’s buttons, and irritating his siblings when he wants to. He hates doing chores, and has no problem letting you know it. He can whine with the best of them. But he has the best smile, the tightest hug, the sweetest kisses, the biggest heart, and still the chubbiest cheeks, so I’ll keep him.

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I love you Benji, so so much. Happy 7th birthday.

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ps. When Ben turned two, three, four, five, and six

The girl likes the naps.

Ivy is three now and she loves her naps. She will put herself for a nap without prompting on an almost daily basis. She snuggles down in her blankets, cuddles her “digi”, pops her fingers in her mouth, and drops off to sleep within minutes, every time. She will sleep for a good two hours or more if I let her. If I do wake her up she is always mad at me for it.

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The problem is that she’s starting to have trouble falling asleep at night. All the childrens go to bed at 7:30, although the bigs read in bed for up to an hour if they want. Ivy hasn’t been falling asleep till nine or later a lot of nights. And I’m not cool with that. It’s not that she’s getting out of bed, or crying, or misbehaving at all, really; generally she’s just chatting, playing, singing, etc. The problem is that I feel bad that she’s not tired when I put her in bed, but I don’t actually want to hang out with her anymore either (did I say that out loud?). I want to sit on the couch with Neil and listen to children sleeping.

So I thought, hey, she’s three, and on the days that she hasn’t been able to nap because we were out or something, she’s done just fine. She stays pretty happy and generally doesn’t melt down because she’s exhausted or something. So let’s do it. Let’s be done with naps.

I tried it for a few days. She did fine, and fell into bed at seven without a peep. But she missed her naps. She was literally begging me for a nap some days. She’s just not ready, even if I am.

So my current plan is to try to wake her up after around an hour, no more than an hour and a half (as precious as that free time is for me). She hates it though! She freaked out so bad at me when I woke her up the other day (after two hours!). I go into her room and open her blinds and turn down her white noise sound machine and gently touch her shoulder and whisper for her to wake up and come play. Then she screams that she wanted a “BIIIIIIG NAP!” and she yells over and over “TURN MY SOUND ‘CHINE ON!” and “MAKE IT DARK!!!” For infinity.

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Sometimes, SOMETIMES, Sophia the First will get her out of bed. I’ve found that jelly beans work too.

It’s just a season, though, I know. It’s where we’re at and we’re not leaving it right now. Naps will happen and later bedtimes will happen and it’s all fine.

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Because napping children are the sweetest, right?

Big and good news that I forgot to tell you about.

Neil had some diagnostic tests to check up on his Crohns in November. You have to wait forever for a follow-up to actually hear the results of the test, so he finally had his appointment a couple weeks ago.

And the big and good news is that the doctor declared Neil’s Crohns officially “inactive”, or in remission. Neil’s graduated to twice a year check-ups instead of every three months, and had to have his medication increased, because he’s gained over thirty pounds since last summer. Crazy how being able to eat food will do that to you. Neil looks so great.

Anyway this is very good news for Neil and for our family. It’s really amazing what a huge difference there is in Neil’s health compared to this time last year, when he was pretty much constantly sick and in pain. It is the best ever to have him feeling so good.

We’re obviously very very happy! We love this man so much!

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(hashtag best dad ever!)