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Vacation Paradise ~ Tigh-Na-Mara

This article is starting the old fashioned way (pen to paper) – while I look across miles of sandy beach and crystal clear waters.  As I sit in a beach chair on a beautiful sunny day and write this article I am watching my children exploring tidal pools teaming with an abundance of magical sea life, running from one tidal pool to another, splashing and having the time of their lives.  I can’t help but think how lucky we are to be here.  Where are we, you ask? No we’re not in Mexico or Hawaii…we are in beautiful Parksville, British Columbia on Vancouver Island, such a magical place and just a short drive and ferry ride from our home.  In this day and age, with the economy and the environment being what it is, vacationing locally just makes sense.  Especially since we live near one of the most beautiful islands on the globe.

Recently voted 10th on a list of top 10 Islands in the world (wow!!) by Travel and Leisure, its’ easy to see why… Vancouver Island is spectacular. A great local, easy get-away for West Coasters and Pacific Northwesters and well worth the travel for families further away.   As for accommodations, we couldn’t have picked a better place for our family.  The Parksville resort Tigh-Na-Mara nestled between the forest and the ocean front in Parksville has elevated what will become an annual vacation for our family.   I’m proud to support a local vacation destination and love the pampering we’ve received.  How awesome to get the entire experience of a sea-side vacation and not have to worry about passports or boarding a plane.  The combination of the Tigh-Na-Mara’s family friendly activities, rustic cabins and award winning dining and spa services seems to have every aspect covered for families that want the combination of family time and adult pampering.

Since arriving here on Saturday, we have gone to a local farm where our children got to ride ponies, milked and then bottle fed that milk to baby goats. We have played mini-golf and gotten soaked on bumper boats equipped with water guns.   We spent an afternoon at the unique Coombs market and had a great lunch on an outdoor patio while goats walk around on the roof eating grass right above us.  The best part is that all this was within 15 minutes of the hotel!

While at the resort, parents are able to relax and watch kids play unscripted in nature with shovels, buckets and imagination in-hand. The perfect environment for families of all ages, but for our family, wonderful because of how safe you feel with young children.  Tigh-Na-Mara is located right at Rathtrevor Beach, where you can walk out into the ocean for a kilometer and still only be ankle deep, which makes it the perfect beach for families with young children.   When the tide goes out it leaves hundreds of tidal pools perfect for toddlers to splash in and big kids to boogie board.

I’ve always thought the concept of ‘kid’s clubs’ and babysitting services were only available on cruise lines or all inclusive resorts, but that is not the case.  Tigh-Na-Mara offers a wide variety of family and kid friendly activities during the summer including, swimming and tennis lessons, build your own bear workshops, Campfire stories, cave tours, dinner and movie for kids, qualified baby sitting services and the very impressive “Tigh-Na-Mara Kids Club” which offers a variety of games, arts and crafts and activities such as treasure hunts and beach tours.  The kids club is safe and supervised by several of the resort’s knowledgable and friendly staff who ensure that all the kids have a great time.  It runs all day and parents can drop off and pick up thier kids at thier convenience.  And did I mention that it is complimentary for hotel guests. Wow…that blew me away.

While the Tigh-Na-Mara keeps your children happy and engaged, high end adult amenities are on-site like the Cedar Dining Room, Copper Lounge, and Grotto Spa.  We have a spa package booked including the Grotto Mineral Pool, infused with natural minerals and elements to detoxify our weary bones <grin>.   Funny, the last time we treated ourselves to this sort of luxury was on our honeymoon in Antigua 10 years ago.  It’s been a busy couple of years creating our wonderful large family…so we are so looking forwards to the spa.  It’s so great to know that childcare is readily available so we can enjoy this time together.

When on vacation, the whole idea is family bonding, spending time concentrating on each other without outside distractions and we have definitely been able to do that. However, it is also important to give the kids some independence and make new friendships while taking some time to enjoy some time alone as a couple.   Ray and I will be celebrating our 10 year anniversary during our stay here and have already booked our spa time followed by a scrumptious meal at the “Treetop Tapas and Grill” which is exclusive to spa guests and where we will be dining in our bath robes.  Needless to say, we don’t do that type of stuff everyday.  The options offered at the Tigh-Na-Mara are truly the best of both worlds. 

We are just half way through our vacation and have three glorious days left.  I may just have to write another post when we get back home.

A sneak peek of the spa.  .  .  I’ve been in love since I saw this picture on the Tigh-Na-Mara’s web site.  This is the kind of natural beauty everyone needs to pamper themselves with occasionally. 

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Eagle Cam Eco-Activity

With Earth Day approaching, I’ve started hoarding eco-activities and lessons for the month of April that I can participate with my kids.  I was told about the Hancock Wildlife Foundation web site by an amazing preschool teacher and what an exciting activity it is for children to catch a ‘bird’s eye view (couldn’t resist) of eagles interacting courtesy of live eagle cams.  The Hancock Wildlife Foundation that has setup these cams was founded by biologist David Hancock.  The mission statement or goal of this foundation has such an important message with promoting the conservation of wildlife and its habitats through science, education, and stewardship.  The fact that Bald Eagles are endangered is also a great conversation to have with your children about the importance of protecting our environment and the animals that live within it.

The Hancock Foundation has installed various live wildlife cams and it’s amazing to study these proud, beautiful eagles; it’s fascinating to watch them so close in their nest tending to their eggs, nest and each other.  Check out these live streaming videos!  The forum on this site is also packed with information, pictures, and live cams of other animals from Africa to Vancouver Island.  A great computer activity if you are looking for a break from the Nick Jr. or Lego web sites and with April just beginning, it’s the perfect month to celebrate more earth friendly web sites for kids.

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Join The Great Backyard Bird Count ~ Eco Fun!

Teachers, parents, here is an awesome eco-activity that is sweeping through North American over 4 days in February (13th-16th) and its called The Great Backyard Bird Count.  If you haven’t tried bird watching or counting the number of same bird species in one spot, you are missing out.  Kids get so excited with this activity ~ it’s like a rock star enters the backyard when you see a group of birds you can name quickly…kids love it!  Anyone can participate during these 4 days because it’s a fun eco activity that involves bird watching, counting, and entering data online ~ perfect for kids (and adults) of all ages.  Why would you participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count 2009?  It’s fun, free, anyone can participate and it teaches your children to help birds. This event is now an annual event and creates a snapshot of which birds are where, across North America.  This count is important and actually helps scientists learn about bird populations, by knowing where the birds are.  For more reasons this count is important, click here.

How can you participate?

During one, two, three or all four days of this event, plan to count birds for a minimum of 15 minutes.  You submit a different checklist (checklist is online) if counting in different areas (backyard, beach, park, etc.) and a different checklist for different days.  You count the greatest number of same species birds that you see together at one time.  Record these numbers on your checklist (helpful to print a hard copy to use before entering the results online), then enter your numbers online via the website, starting on Feb 13th.  It will be active to enter your results until March 1, 2009.

Things you might need?

The best purchase I’ve made lately was visiting my local wildlife bird store and purchasing a book with bird species that populate the area where I live (West Coast).  My kids love looking through it and recording the different species we find then recording their discoveries in a bird journal.  See To Get Parents and Children Outside Enjoying Nature for more information.

Other helpful tools located on the Great Backyard Bird Count site are:

Printable Tally Sheet. Input your postal code and the GBBC site will bring up a list of all the species you might encounter during your bird counting. If you click on the name of the bird, you’ll see a picture of the species and tons of information….an awesome tool!

The entry form.  Best to print this off beforehand, then enter the information online later.

Tips for attracting birds ~ from choosing bird food to selecting a bird feeder.

Top 10 Birds from the 2008 Backyard Bird Count

Games for Kids. My 5 year old completed the bald eagle puzzle and loved it!

Stats for those into statistics. Wouldn’t it be cool to see British Columbia make the top 10 for checklists submitted in North America? Let’s go for it!

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Resources to Get Parents and Children Outside Enjoying Nature

After a few days of enjoying bird watching, making home-made bird feeders, forest walks, and basically falling in love with trees and nature again, I want to share a few sites that continue to re-inspire me.  It is so important for children and parents to get outside and enjoy at least an hour of outdoor time each day.  I feel like a new person when I get out and explore tree stumps or explain to my children how wonderful it is to see and touch an enormous tree because it means they’ve been on earth for many years.  The process of getting all my kids dressed for cold weather and listen to the complaining about gloves or boots not fitting properly is almost enough to just abandon the whole idea, but once we are finally outside, the kids have the best time and I feel like a new mother ~ ready to teach, inspire, and I regain lots of patience.  Nature really is magical and has a healing effect on myself and the kids.

Don’t know where to start with encouraging family enjoyment and the outdoors?  Purchase a Nature Bag.  This gift will far out-last its value because the ideas it inspires in a forest, backyard, or adventure walk are precious.  I always try to remember my child won’t tell me how much they appreciated a treasure hunt, eye-spy or scavenger hunt….until they have children of their own and remember it fondly as a grown-up.  Adults always come back to concepts and activities they enjoyed as children once they become a parent, so help create memories that imprint your child’s memory over a life time.  It is parents finding the time, energy and enthusiasm to setup such a special activity.  The two moms that created the Nature Bag make it easy including leaf viewers, a magnifying glass, a blindfold, and their eco-activities included in a booklet that are truly amazing.  Really, re-introduce your child to nature this Valentines Day and enjoy the rewards this gift will bring your entire family. Click here to find locations that sell this product.

I have deep respect for the two website that inspire me constantly with new ideas about how to get my children to enjoy nature and fun activities.  The BEST activity all four of my kids enjoyed this winter season I learned from the mom writing for Nature For Kids.  You really get the sense that she knows what works for children and nature, she reminded me of the craft of making peanut butter bird feeders.  Pine cones you collect, cover with peanut butter, and then roll in birdseed.  Hang up high and away from your house, so only birds are encouraged to feed ~ this had been such a blast for even my two year olds to participate with.  The amount of birds we’ve watched come to our backyard with these feeders is simply amazing!  This leads me onto a connected eco-activity…

Green Hour – I’ve mentioned them before and I’m a huge fan.  This site simply exists to help re-connect your children with nature for one hour each day. The amount of nature-based activities they’ve listed are simply amazing, but their ‘bird journal’ stuck in my brain because this activity combined with the bird feeder, has simply been the best kid’s activity ever in this household. I purchased my boys a bird sight-seeing book, and then gave them a journal and pen.  They write down the page number from the book and species of bird and record a mark for each of these birds that come to investigate the bird feeder.  I had no idea that our backyard was filled with Black Eyed Junco birds….I would have just assumed they were Chickadees.  A great help for kids that can’t read is to print off pictures of the bird species for their journals so it’s easy to cross match with their book!  It’s hilarious and wonderful that my kids act like a rock star entered my backyard when a ‘Winter Wren’ or ‘Bewick’s Wren’ makes an appearance.

Kids are just naturally drawn to nature.  That must be why a tip for colicky babies is to take them for a walk or when children are just miserable, you put them in boots and give them freedom to ‘go nuts’ in a puddle…suddenly, these ailments are gone.  It is parents finding the energy to make the outdoors exciting and fun.  I hope some of the resources I’ve mentioned help your family discover how refreshing and fun nature can be ~ just go outside.

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Home Made Christmas Crackers & Nature Activities

I’ve recently noticed what the contents of Christmas crackers are…I had no idea they were filled with dollar store quality toys.  A very cute concept for kids, but really, another example of a small way you can re-vamp a Christmas tradition that can reduce some waste and plastic.  By tweaking the cracker and making it yourself – you keep the fun, but help make your Christmas become a little more sustainable.

My mom told me about a neighborhood tradition when I was younger that I thought was such a cute idea.  Take an empty toilet paper roll, fill with something yummy or sustainable to create home made Christmas crackers. There are sites or even Michaels that could tell you how to make a cracker with the ‘cracker piece’ that makes the pop noise, but I would never attempt in such detail with my clan.  But if you are feeling so inclined, there is a great site called Not Martha and they have detailed instructions for making your own party crackers (with the pop).

My boys have the attention span of 4 minutes to start and finish a craft, but that’s all you need to make your own cracker.  Take a toilet paper roll, fill with all natural nail polish, hair accessories, organic chocolate, etc., and wrap in either seed paper or tissue paper.  Tie off each end with hemp string and presto.  Get your children to write guests names on a label or directly on the cracker and it’s your place setting for Christmas dinner.

A few other nature based, holiday crafts that I found so inspiring come from my favorite outdoor site Green Hour and a blog that contributes to the Green Hour site occasionally called Nature For Kids. Check out the nature box that Shawna and her kids made – what an awesome rainy day (or snow day) activity for indoors.  Also, check out her latest post on making a pine-cone bird feeder. A really cute and easy activity for all ages..could also be a unique holiday present. My only advice would be to hang it really high in a tree so that bears or other wildlife don’t find it first. But, a really cute eco activity that I know my kids would all love and if we get snowed in for another day tomorrow, I’ll be looking for fun ways to keep them entertained.

Don’t forget to enter the Mommy Footprint give-away.  Enter to win wall art from Raspberry Kids.  Read details here or click the below link to complete contest form:

http://mommyfootprint.com/mommyfootprint-referral-form/

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