Or, in one diaper bag, to be more exact.  Tomorrow will be Spawn #2's first flight and just to keep things exciting, I decided to take baby and toddler together. By myself.

I also timed it to coincide with the point in time that JR:
(a) doesn't like to wear a seatbelt
(b) doesn't listen to anything mommy says
(c) doesn't like being apart from daddy

So, this should be a tonne of fun.

To try and minimize the severity of the nuclear meltdown that is sure to occur tomorrow morning, I'm filling my diaper bag with all of JR's favourite things: homemade granola bars and brownies, dinosaurs, and my secret weapon: the Octonauts.  I can't even describe to you how excited he gets when Octonauts comes on each day.  He screams each character's name as they appear on the screen with such fervor that spit flies everywhere and I'm sure his eyes are going to pop out of his head!

Because you can't get Octonauts toys in Canada, I scoured the internet and ordered some off EBay - they arrived in the nick of time, thank god!

So as I sit here wrapping them all up (every extra second that he's occupied counts!), I wonder if I was crazy to even consider this or if, once again, I'm underestimating my amazing toddler and everything will be fine.  I'll let you know next week...until then, wish me luck!

If you read my post about my newfound trepidation about traveling with not one, but two, kids in tow, you'll know that we're considering taking our kids to Italy this winter.  Italy is, hands down, our favourite place on earth...and we've been to a lot of places!  The pace, the food, the scenery, the people - just can't be beat!  But how do we visit our favourite place with a 2.5 year old and a 6 month old and actually enjoy ourselves? 

Recently, MSN Today posted an article titled "Went to Europe, loved the playground: Why travel with kids is a waste"   The title is a bit misleading because the article does attempt to be balanced and even says that traveling with your children is a good thing - it just shouldn't be "THE" thing.  You need to spend time together at home and create those strong bonds at home before whisking everyone off to some exotic island or far-flung country. 

So I began to think more seriously about Italy...will I be disappointed if we travel all that way knowing that the day after we get back my toddler will already have forgotten half of the things we saw? Or will I be frustrated spending half the day at a playground that looks like the playground that's three doors down from our own house? 
Not really.  As long as the other half of the day is spent doing a little exploring (after naptime, of course).  I suppose it might be upsetting if this was a 'once in a lifetime' trip.  But it's not.  It's just the beginning, really. 

And yes, *I* want to go to Italy.  My kids haven't been begging me.  But I don't see anything wrong with that.  The whole trip will expose them to things they just won't experience at home.

And it will serve as an opportunity for JR to practice his newfound* skills of patience and adaptability to different surroundings.  And an opportunity for us to learn how we best travel as a family.

So when Laura Davis, from Playground Parents, told me about her new site, I started thinking that maybe it's not so silly to travel a great distance with such young kids. She and her husband are building a new online resource for traveling families.  If you're away from home and your kids need to burn off some energy, you can go to their site, plug in your location and it will map playgrounds in your area.  The site is populated by fellow travelers, so if you have a favourite playground near your own home, or somewhere you've traveled, you can add it to their database.  It's a great concept and once more listings are added, I bet will be invaluable to all those intrepid family travelers with rambunctious kids!

*At 2 years old, JR has neither patience nor adaptability yet, but practice makes perfect, right?!

What playgrounds are you traveling to this winter?
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...actually, it was totally just the worst.  Last week was my birthday and I foolishly decided to take both kids (let me remind you of their ages: 2 years old and 2 months old) to the Islands by myself -- even though there was a 40% chance of thundershowers.  I packed lots of snacks, diapers and an umbrella and off we went, blissfully ignorant of the tempest that was brewing.

For both locals and tourists, the Toronto Islands are a must-visit destination. 

The Islands are a network of several small islands and, according to Wikipedia, is the largest urban car-free community in North America.  Two of the islands are actually residential and have gorgeous, eclectic cottages on them, and well worth cycling through for a look.  But if you've got young kids with short attention spans and a love of adrenaline, then you'll probably want to head straight to the main attraction, Centre Island, which is home to an amusement park, called "Centreville".  If rides aren't up your family's alley, you can stroll around or rent single or tandem bikes, explore Franklin's Children's Garden or have lunch at The Rectory Cafe on Ward's Island - a wonderful little spot - or just pack a lunch and a blanket and soak up the wonderful summer weather.

The ferry departs from the foot of Bay Street (click here for fares and schedules) every 15-30 minutes and once you're across, you feel as if you've entered a completely different world, as evidenced by this sign which greets all visitors:
Oh!  Okay, then...we accepted the polite invitation and walked to a quiet place (of which there are many) under some trees, next to the lake. JR proceeded to happily chase pigeons while we waited for friends to arrive.  It was all downhill from there.  The rest of the day involved several meltdowns:

1. After buying the 'ride all day' pass (which, by the way, is a good value at $21.90 (or $19.90 if you buy online before you go as individual tickets are $1 each, and each ride is between 4 and 6 tickets). JR melts down when the cashier attempts to put the wristband on him.  I finally wrangle it on his ankle.  He spends the next 10 minutes screaming, trying to rip it off like it's actually acid being poured on his skin.
2. After trying to gently prod him toward the bouncy castle
3. After his friend decides to go on the roller coaster without him
4. After he waits in line for a pony ride but decides he doesn't actually want to ride it
5. After he drops a piece of his granola bar
You get the idea...

Less than 90 minutes after arriving I decide to pull the plug when I hear thunder.  Huh.  Guess the weatherman was right after all!

It starts raining when we're half way across on the ferry.  And by "rain", I actually mean "torrential downpour".  We dash from the ferry to our car.  And by "dash", I actually mean "clumsily careen the stroller while carrying an infant who throws up on me from all the jiggling while toddler screams from rain that is pelting his face".
A passerby was kind enough to take a photo of me:
Happy birthday to me!
So yeah, it wasn't my favourite birthday, that's for sure.  But it hasn't changed how I feel about the Toronto Islands.  It's such a great place and (usually) always feels like a mini-vacation, getting away from the hustle and bustle of the city. 

Does your city have an 'escape from it all'?  Tell me about it, I'd love to know!