Every Spring as the weather is getting warmer I start to get everything organized for the heat of the Summer- water shoes and sandals, hats, beach essentials, swim suits… and sunscreen. And each year I try to find a natural option that isn’t loaded with chemicals while keeping my family from turning into lobsters (no olive skin/ 5 minutes to bronzed over here, we fair- skinned folks have to build up a tan over a looooong time). There seem to be some general things to look out for, some questionable, and some that you want for sun protection. As I did the research for this post I tried to simplify the information and make recommendations based on what I found* (I’ve also included the sources that I referred to at the end of the post so you can do some research for yourself if you wish). It’s sometimes hard to find quality options in grocery stores, so all of the options below are ones that you can easily find online (you can also find them in natural/ health food stores). See some of the good and bad things to look for in sunscreens and a few suggestions to try this Summer below- just add sun!
For more natural sunscreen options available online check out Well.ca and Amazon– if you’re unsure about some of the products you find, Google search them by name and you should be able to find their ingredients listed along with information about how they really measure up (that’s how I discovered one of my old go- tos wasn’t as good as I thought).
One other thing I learned while researching the sunscreens to include in this post: if you like sunscreens in spray form (ie in an aerosol/ pressurized can), look closely at the ingredients, as they may not be cause for concern when applied to the skin, but inhaling them has it’s own set of concerns (this article was informative on this topic). This opens up a whole ‘nother can of worms, so I didn’t include any aerosol suggestions, just a cream that you can spray on without it becoming a mist).
* Please note that these recommendations are based on research and information I found online. I am not making medical or scientific recommendations, and as with any skincare product if in doubt, apply a small amount to a test area prior to use.
Who has a Thomas fan at home? My two- especially Ari- love the blue engine and his friends and it’s always one of the top TV requests in our home. I remember watching Thomas as a kid and I love that he’s still around and as popular as ever. Our house has become littered with wooden train sets and countless trains, and Ari has even requested a Thomas themed birthday party this year. She doesn’t know it yet, but we’re taking her to meet Thomas later this month in Squamish and I’ve got the chance for your family to win a 4- pack of tickets so your little Thomas fan can too!
Thomas makes annual appearances at West Coast Railway Heritage Park every year and he’ll be back again from May 20- 22. Not only do you get to meet the blue engine himself, your family can also enjoy a variety of activities.
20 minute train ride with Thomas the Tank Engine
Photos with Thomas at the station
Meet Sir Topham Hatt
Magician and musician performances
Play on Thomas train tables
Thomas theme mini-golf
Sand Castle Building
Thomas craft tables
Model Railway Display
Scroll to the end of the post for more info, to purchase tickets, and to enter to win a family 4 pack of tickets!
We share beautiful moments online captured in photos- the highlight reel as many call it- but much less often share the tough moments, the hard days. This blog is my outlet, so I like it to be a fun place, but I also want it to be real and honest. On some days when I post a light- hearted photo on social media, it’s because I need that outlet, that distraction. It’s not to be fake or to make things seem better than they are, it’s me trying to stay positive, lighten the day.
It’s not very often I sit down to write a post and struggle to find words, I’m a pretty open book and they usually come easy. But this post is different. It’s different from anything I have posted before because it’s not coming from me, it’s coming from Will. I’ve opened up about some of the personal struggles I faced in the past year (you can see those posts here and here), but I didn’t share the whole story- some of the things that happen behind the scenes with our family as a whole- because it wasn’t mine to tell. It was Will’s. And I respected his privacy because that’s what he wanted and deserved. But after the amazing experience and response I had after sharing about my own challenges, I thought it may have the same positive impact for Will and those who read his words, and I asked if he might be interested in sharing part of himself here.
At first he was hesitant, unsure if it was something he was comfortable with, and understandably so. But after talking things through, he ultimately decided that he’d give it a try; to open up and talk about some things aren’t easy to address. And to his credit, I think this is challenging for guys more than for women, they tend not to talk as openly about things they deal with, so I admire, respect, and appreciate his willingness to put this out into the world, in the hopes that others may read it- men and women- and be able to relate, and maybe even find comfort in it.
For him, I hope he knows the impact that sharing can have, that every conversation we start is another voice added to the collective mix, and that it might be as helpful to him- cleansing even- as it hopefully will be to those who read this and struggle with similar things. This is about being honest and real online and in life, about trying to advocate that no matter what you face, no matter how overwhelming it can feel, you are not alone. This is Will’s story to share, and I cannot thank him enough for letting me help put it out into the world. Life is messy, it’s far from perfect, but it’s not without it’s beauty; sometimes you just have to fight a little harder for those beautiful moments or make them happen for yourself. I’m proud to call this man my husband, and you’ll see why. Behind his cheeky smile is a man who loves his family unconditionally, puts himself last, and has a strength found from navigating some interesting challenges. We wrote this post together and I think it’s about as honest it gets. So here we go…
You can’t tell by looking at me, but I struggle daily with some health- related challenges that have affected me for more than a decade. I’m going to be 31 this year and have dealt with many of these things for half of my life. This isn’t about wanting attention, or wanting a pity party. As a guy, the last thing you want to do is draw attention to these things and open up about them, but I also know the overwhelming feeling of isolation all too well- that feeling that no- one else understands- and facing that alone is not healthy.
I have lived with depression and anxiety since my mid teens, and have in recent years lived with chronic pain including myofacial disorder (this causes the body to feel pain unrelated from anything affecting it at the time- also known as referred pain- when you can experience pain for no apparent reason). It can feel like a vicious circle sometimes: the pain can trigger the anxiety and bring on depression and vice versa, my body responds before I have time to stop it. Going through life with these things isn’t easy. It’s changed every aspect of me. It’s changed my outlook on life- it tends to now be more dark and pessimistic; it makes me feel angry for what I’ve been faced with- and I have to work against this to stay positive. But as much as it can be challenging, I’ve also a learnt a lot from what I’ve experienced.
I don’t talk a lot about it with people because I feel judged, like it’s used against me. As hard as some people try to understand, there’s no way for them to. And I think as a guy you get treated differently because we’re expected to be tough and strong- to ‘man up’ and not talk about it. Women tend to talk more, and get sympathy and compassion. Let’s be honest, guys don’t usually talk much anyways, especially when it comes to problems. And obviously you’re not going to get support if you don’t talk about it, and that’s where it can be challenging as a man living in pain. But that’s why it’s important to talk about it.
Sometimes I feel like these issues have robbed me of who I should be. I feel like the real me is locked away and the key has been tossed. I’m not able to do as much as I want; I’m limited. Time is limited. Energy is limited. It’s hard to feel understood; getting love, support, and understanding is difficult because it’s something you can’t see. These things have made me more reclusive and anti social simply because it’s hard for people to understand. People often can’t tell I’m having a bad day; somedays it’s obvious by the look on my face, or maybe with how I carry myself. But on many days I hide it well- because I want to be strong for my family, and I hate thinking of this as my identity. But that doesn’t mean on those days I’m not suffering or in pain; it can make you feel isolated and alone. Like a prisoner trapped in your own body. I feel like I’ve lost sense of who I am, I don’t know who Will is anymore.
I live with these things everyday, which can get exhausting. It’s the same fight everyday just to keep my head above water and it can make it difficult to enjoy life the way I want to; many of the things I used to enjoy I can’t because of the pain. This can make you become very reclusive. People don’t understand; it’s difficult to explain and people often can jump to conclusions. I feel like I’m constantly judged for things that go on behind the scenes, for things that people can’t see. And I think that’s why it’s important we talk about these things, so others facing their own challenges know they’re not alone. It’s always comforting to speak with others who do understand and are going through the same or similar- and it’s a source of comfort speaking to them and knowing they feel the same way, face the same challenges.
Through everything, I’ve really learnt the importance of having a positive attitude, but will also be the first to admit it’s damn hard some days. You definitely have the days when things get the better of you and you throw yourself a pity party. But on the good days when you have a positive attitude it definitely helps, and you can remind yourself of why you do the things you do, why it’s all worth it. The pain’s always going to be there, but I can choose to be miserable and stay in bed all day or choose to be positive, to get up and live life. Mind over matter really does make a difference.
If I could give any advice to others struggling with similar things, it’s this: Don’t let the pain stop you from living life. Going out and living it will actually make it better. And sometimes you really aren’t doing it for yourself; you’ll do it for a loved one, push yourself for a loved one, and afterwards you’re glad you did.
A lot of times it’s easier to do things for other people because it’s easy to say no to yourself, avoid things for yourself. I find it’s harder for me to let others down than to let myself down; I want to make my loved ones happy and that pushes me even on the tough days. If my wife and kids weren’t in my life, I wouldn’t be working as much as I am; family is a good motivator (even if they can make life crazy and wild sometimes) they’re the motivator and reason to keep going, to keep trying.
To those who don’t suffer but are trying to understand for a loved one: things that help are love, patience and understanding. I don’t choose to suffer the way that I do and I have no control over it. I do what I can to make things better where and when I can, to stay positive, but it’s rarely that simple. It can be frustrating for loved ones and I know they can lose their patience, but it helps when we feel loved and supported, even if they can’t understand what we’re going through.
To those who are suffering from chronic pain- or have another challenge they’re facing: Focus on the positive and you’ll find the positive. It helps. It can turn a shitty day into a good day. If you focus on the negative, all you’re going to find is the negative and I know that first hand. Know that you’re not alone and make an effort to connect with others who do understand, if only to help you keep your sanity intact.
For our family, we are working on finding things that work for us: improving communication within our marriage, speaking with counsellors, and setting realistic, flexible goals as things to look forward to and get us through the tough days have helped. Eating healthier and exercise have also made a difference. There is no formula, you have to find outlets that work for you, but they do exist.
We hope sharing about this contributes to the conversation of tough topics in a positive way, to help break down the stigmas surrounding mental health and other challenges people face. Whether you are the person struggling with something or you know someone who is, we hope sharing about our journey helps in some way. Like the saying goes ‘don’t judge a book by it’s cover’- you never know by looking at someone what they may be facing in life, and sometimes something as simple as a smile or a hug can be the thing that turns someone’s day around. Life isn’t always happy and positive, sometimes you have to find your happy place, and that’s ok. It doesn’t mean it’s not there. You just might have to work a little harder, but you’ll appreciate it that much more once you get there.
Spring Break starts for a lot of schools next week and it never hurts to have some ideas lined up to keep the kids entertained. Colouring, books, and games are a few crowd- pleasing options that are good for a variety of ages and I’ve teamed up with Raincoast Books to bring you a few activity and game ideas to help keep the kids happy (and your sanity intact 😉 ). I’m sharing about 2 activities from their Spring Break #PlayTestShare collection along with a giveaway for your choice of any one of the games/ activities from the collection to help you have fun with the kids this Spring Break.
We’ve enjoyed several of the books and games from Raincoast books over the last year or so and I love the variety offered for kids of all ages in their #PlayTestShare collections (scroll to the end of this post for a list of other books, games, and activities that have been featured on the blog). Old MacDonald Had a Truck Bingo and Towering Tree Puzzle are just two of the options from this recent collection that I’ve been enjoying with Ari since we’ve been spending more time than usual inside (I think our weather has forgotten this is the Westcoast & we’ve had an unusual amount of snow making for some cozy inside days). She has enjoyed puzzles from a young age and I thought it would be fun to teach her how to play Bingo (she’s become a pro!), so I picked options suited for her, but there are plenty more ideas if you’d like more reading material or another activity (you can see all of the activities/ games/ books from the Spring Break #PlayTestShare collection here).
The Towering Tree Puzzle features illustrations by Teagan White on 17 large double- sided pieces with Spring & Summer on one side and Fall & Winter on the other. Each piece shows woodland creatures who call the forest home and is about 3 feet long when finished. This is perfect for kids who enjoy puzzles and is a sweet way to teach your kids about nature and the four seasons- Ari kept mentioning how cute she thought they all were. The large pieces make it a fun floor activity and we had fun putting it together- we just had to keep Liam from taking apart our hard work!
This is the Spring & Summer side of the puzzle…
…And this is the Fall & Winter side
Bingo is such a classic game and can make for hours of fun (and yes I mean hours, Ari has asked to play this game a few times a day, every day since we got it). Once I explained the game to her and showed her how to look at the letter and picture she understood how to play within a few minutes. I hadn’t thought of this until we started playing, but it’s also a fun way to teach younger kids letter recognition. This is something we’ve been working on and it was a nice little bonus to go with the fun. This version comes with 6 double- sided boards and features artwork based on the book Old MacDonald Had a Truck by Steve Goetz (there are also counting cards available if you’re a fan of the book and looking for other activity ideas). If you’re a fan of family game night this is a fun option for younger kids- and let’s face it, who doesn’t love Bingo???
Old MacDonald Had a Truck Bingo features barnyard animals and construction vehicles and helps little players learn object recognition, vocabulary, and concentration skills. Good for up to 6 players.
More About the Activities Featured:
Old MacDonald Had a Truck Bingo A classic family-friendly game gets revved up with a winning combination of construction vehicles and farm animals, featuring artwork from the picture book Old MacDonald Had a Truck . With six illustrated, double-sided game boards plus a set of colourful bingo calling cards and chips, this easy-to-learn game is sure to be a hit at any playdate or family game night.
Towering Tree Puzzle Join adorable critters as they navigate the seasons and make new friends in their towering tree. Imaginative play and puzzle logic intersect as each interlocking branch of this innovative puzzle tells a new story, providing hours of entertainment. Adventure is just a branch away!
Visit the Raincoast Blog for more details and a full list of available titles from the Spring Break #PlayTestShare collection.
One of things I was excited about when I decided to rebrand the blog was to have the man behind the scenes- my husband Will- make an appearance from time to time. He’s the voice in the background cheering me on, the one I bounce ideas around with, and occasional Instagram photographer. In short, he’s the guy who’s helped make my blogging career what it is. Going back to the beginning when the words ‘I want to start a blog…’ left my mouth, Will was the one who encouraged me to go for it, knowing I craved a creative outlet.
You will rarely find him in front of the camera here on the blog or in squares on Instagram, but he’s often the one taking the photos, rolling his eyes and smiling at my constant requests to take photos at random times. He keeps my obsession to take photos in check, reminds me to unplug from time to time, and also keeps me thinking positive on the days I’m doubting my efforts. We’ll both admit that marriage is a lot of work, it’s a crazy ride, and that there are days you drive each other crazy. But we’ll also tell you that we laugh together, share inside jokes and tears, and cheer each other on when the other needs it. We’re far from perfect, our marriage is a dynamic labour of love, growth, and evolution, but above all we’re a team and we’re just trying our best like everyone else.
Since you’ll be seeing a bit more of him here I thought it would be fun to ask him a few questions about what he really thinks of this blogging thing I do and share a little about what it’s like to be a blog husband. But first here a few things about this blondie I get to call my hubby:
he loves hot wings- the more they burn the better
he’s had the same hair cut forever until about a year ago when he decided to go for broke and switch things up- that’s why you now find him rocking a man bun/ ponytail as he grows it out to the style he wants (and seriously, he’s got better hair than me- it’s so thick and luscious and I know he’s proud of it)
you can see where my kids get the blonde hair/ blue eye thing from 😉
he’s totally a comfort over style kind of guy and jeans or cargo shorts with a tee are his go- to OOTD
…on that note he wore cargo shorts when we hiked a glacier in Alaska on vacation a few years ago (and yes he was the only one in shorts!)
he takes pride in that beard of his. I wasn’t a big fan of facial hair for the longest time but he can rock pretty much anything and I’ve come to like it
we have some epic inside jokes together and Monty Python, Search for the Holy Grail is quoted in our house way more often than I can even keep track of
if you know me, you know I’m a chatterbox; he’s the silent & deadly one, but when he talks, you know he means what he says and it comes from the heart
When I asked him what he thought about my blogging adventures this is what he had to say:
What’s funny/ annoying about a wife who has a blog?
Taking photos of everything can be pretty annoying
She’s always on her computer or on her phone- always taking photos
She’ll take photos of her food and then complain it’s cold
She’ll take photos of literally almost anything
Hashtags. Nothing to add
What are the positives?
She seems to have tapped into a positive community. The Internet is usually so full of hate so it’s nice to see something positive online.
The blog and what she does is her in her element. It’s a passion more than a job for her and it’s kind of cool to see people enjoying what they do. It’s awesome to see people enjoying what they do and enjoying doing it together; it’s a healthy work lifestyle.
I like that she’s pursuing her dreams and passions, I want her to be happy in what she does and with the blog she is.
… you can see why I think he’s kind of awesome. He really gets what I’m trying to do here, even when he may find some of my antics (and constant photo taking) a little annoying. I’m excited for him to be more a part of the blog this year and we’ve got some big things coming your way. Hugs to this man for loving me and for going along on this crazy adventure with me.