explore the world for free!

This post title totally sounds like one of those infomercials promising unrealistic things to an unsuspecting public. Except it's legit and we've traveled with our kids (and alone too) around the globe for next to nothing. I promise. So the first time we took Lily and Oli to France for three weeks a lot of people were asking questions. And if they weren't, I know they were secretly thinking "is he a church planter by day and bank thief by night?!" Which of course he isn't, because he's also a church planter by night, hello long hours in the early years.

Anyway, After that trip we promised to fill you all in our our cheap/free traveling ways but those plans fell by the wayside. Then we went away without our kids, back to France because FRANCE. Also for free. And this spring we spent almost a month in Denmark and Holland - our first trip with three kids - also for nearly nothing.

I thought about blogging all of that info on this space but my blog isn't a travel blog and my husband is the mastermind behind all of our money-saving methods anyway, so he wrote a big long crazy informative post and put it up on another blog. He spend so many hours writing this thing you guys. It took him an insane amount of time to compile the information so that we could do this ourselves and we wanted to share it with you! We love traveling and we love having our three kids in tow (SOMETIMES) but we don't have a lot of money. You might be the same. So rejoice! Because there's a way, friends :)


happy exploring!



Yes, it's a thing. And yes, this always happens. I have a baby, it's crazy hard, I swear off more offspring, a few months in I get some sleep/start bottle feeding/basically have a life again, and then I forget previously mentioned "crazy hard" times completely, and want more kids. It's a dangerous cycle, friends. I should know better.

The other night, as Brad and I were enjoying a quiet dinner and the three meat balls were blissfully sleeping in their shared room, I mentioned this to Brad. It wasn't the first time I've mentioned it, so he was ready with a response.

"you seem to only mention wanting more kids when all of ours are asleep".

har har HAR.

So, he's right. But isn't that when people should make decisions? From a place of strength?

If we decided to go for baby #2 and #3 in the midst of toddler tantrums and sleep deprivation and low milk supply drama and potty training (you know, a few of my favourite things), we probably would still have one kiddo. Every time we decided to give it a go for the next baby we were sleeping well and life was relatively smooth.

Kind of like right now.

Of course, as I type this, we've just had a rough couple days with tantrums and disobedience, but on the whole things are good chez nous. All three kids sleep through the night, in the same room. One is completely out of diapers (even at night! recent! big deal!), two are in preschool for two days a week, the baby is eating solids and drinks cow's milk and plays independently. It's all become very manageable. Words I never dreamed of saying last winter.

And so I find myself at the place of strength where in the past I'd be ready for our next baby. Except we aren't having another baby. But God knows I long for more kids. God knows my heart for adoption has never decreased, after all these years. But it's not that simple. We can't adopt in our current house, and we haven't come to a decision about if we will adopt yet. So we'll re-open the discussion when we move to a home with three bedrooms and when Oli is in school full-time (minimum two years from now).

In the meantime I'm making terrible decisions like following every.single.Duggar on instagram. Why do I suddenly want 19 kids? Not advised. But also, praying for God's will to be clear to me and the hubs about adoption in the future.

Anyone else have baby fever? Or in my case, forever family fever? Please share!



In June I was lucky enough to attend The Gospel Coalition Women's National Conference in Orlando for a few days. The conference itself was three days plus I stayed an extra two for some R&R. It was without a doubt the best five days I've had consecutively in many years. I'm incredibly thankful that Brad was willing to send me joyfully. He and my mom-in-law took care of the kids so I could attend and I couldn't thank them enough. I still look back, months later, and say a quick prayer of thanks for those five days.

There were four thousand women there, out of normal life, away from their jobs, homes, children, husbands, responsibilities. Just there to sit under great teaching, to worship, to learn, to grow, to be challenged. 

The book store alone was an inspiration. Those four walls had magical powers or something. Er, scratch that, they wouldn't teach that at TGC. But for real, the thousands of book titles and silly-low prices were such an encouragement to me, especially as I'd gotten away from reading things apart from the Bible in a particularly busy season of life (and then never really picked it up again, months after the busy season was over). Guys, I came home with a SUITCASE of books. Hallelujah. I've read over half. It was such an incredible kick start, especially what I needed after the I-just-had-a-baby-so-I'm-tempted-to-quit-everything season. I'll be posting my couple-sentence book reviews in the coming weeks as life allows. Spoiler alert: Jen Wilkin continues to be my favourite Bible teacher.

But maybe you weren't one of the four thousand women there? No biggie. You saved some money and spared yourself from the Orlando humidity, and you STILL GET TO LISTEN TO EVERYTHING. Because TGC is cool like that, all the audio is available, free, online (and in multiple languages!)

If you're looking for recommendations, here are mine (links included): 

PANEL: Don Carson, Kathy Keller, Tim Keller, Kathleen Nielson, John Piper Pre-Conference Plenary 1: Why This Issue Now?

These leaders talk about how they came to be complimentarian and their experiences with the complimentarian/egalitarian on-going debate in ministry. Also, the Kellers are the cutest. And Don Carson starts with mentioning he's from French Canada which made my heart swell. Excellent panel discussion for those trying to figure out their thoughts on women in church leadership, gender roles in marriage and in the church.

Kathy Keller: Plenary 1: Taking Action in Light of God's Word (Nehemiah 1-2) 
Tim Keller: Plenary 2: Laboring for a God Who Fights for Us (Nehemiah 3-4)
These are the only two plenary talks I heard in person, to be honest. There was a lot of reading pool side. How else was I gunna put a dent in my suitcase o' books? I've since heard others online but these two remain my favourite :) 

Rosaria Butterfield: Homosexuality and Christian Faith
Rosaria tells the story of how she came to follow Jesus in such a beautiful, eloquent way. Her testimony also includes leaving her homosexual lifestyle.

PANEL: Kristie Anyabwile, Elyse Fitzpatrick, Gloria Furman, Mary Mohler, Trillia Newbell: Teaching Our Children About Jesus
I liked this panel a lot though I didn't always resonate with each speaker on the same level. These moms all had great things to say about how to raise our children to know the Lord though, and it's a worth while listen to any parent or would-be parent.
Jen Wilkin Our Daughters’ Great Worth
OK. This talk was my number one. I already love Jen Wilkin. I'm listening to her James bible study (available here), I read her blog, and I've picked her brain more than once on parenting and other things. The girl is sage, people. This talk on daughters was unlike things I've heard before from the Christian community on raising daughters. She talks against raising our girls to be just wives and mothers, which I loved. I cried no less than four times listening to this. Please listen to it.
PANEL: Kristie Anyabwile, Carolyn McCulley, Mary Mohler, Beth Urton: Hospitality: Creating a Grace-Filled Welcome

I really appreciated this talk, especially Carolyn McCulley and Mary Mohler's input. They discussed hospitality in Muslim cultures, hospitality when you're single, and my favourite - what hospitality is not: having the perfect home and the perfect meal.

Talitha and Noël Piper: Adoptive Mother, Adopted Daughter: Two Perspectives on God’s Surprising Plan

This talk was great for those who are considering adoption, who have adopted, who are adopted, and just for those to understand adoption better. I especially appreciated it because the Piper's adoption is likely the route we would go should God give us the go-ahead to adopt (local adoption and transracial). It did not help my baby fever forever-family fever.

I hope you utilize this great resource! TGC has audio available for free from all of their conferences plus a great blog. Enjoy, friends!


how do you handle "favourites"?

Early on in my parenting career (does it count as a career? I think yes.), I had a hunch that I didn't want my kids to have many FAVOURITE things. Don't worry American friends, I'm not spelling that word wrong. We love our U's in Canada. Anyway, favourite things. With kids, it just seemed dangerous to me from the get go, and I still basically feel the same.

Before I go any further, let me point out that my older two kids both have lovies. A plush toy and a blanket respectively. And they each have favourite shows. And colours. So even though I don't like the concept, I'm kind of living it anyway.

But here's the lie I believed and still believe. Oh, it's so great that she really really loves this one thing! That he has chosen something to really attach to. But then, that one thing isn't available, or in the wash, or Netflix takes it off the air, and I realize, NO. Favourites are kind of the worst.thing.ever.

Because then the kids refuse what's not their favourite. And suddenly it's not the one thing they prefer, it's the THOUSANDS OF OTHER THINGS they can't live with. Won't try. Don't want.

So what can a parent do? I have always consciously avoided favourite colours with the kids. When Lily was a baby I was really adamant about her not wearing pink all the time. Not because I hate pink - I actually love many shades of pink. But because I didn't want her to grow up believing that just because she was a girl, she had to love pink. Or purple. Same with Oli, with blue. And that worked really well for a while. The day Lily announced that her favourite colour was blue I probably shed a tear of joy and pride. But that was short lived, and now she is a pink girl despite my best efforts. And anyone on my instagram feed knows Oli has an unusual obsession with orange.

And though my kids don't watch much television at all, and have still never seen a franchise movie (or anything Disney, I know, I'm that mom, please don't hate me), they already have their favourite characters. Thomas, Dora, Madeline. It's like it was literally love at first sight.

One thing I did recently was clear out the plastic IKEA dishes set which was every colour of the rainbow and replace it with simple, white dishes. I was just so tired of the disappointment when the orange plate wasn't clean or trying to convince them that they still like turquoise or yellow. I gave them all away, picked up four of these side plates, bought these jars for glasses, and employed some vintage shallow bowls I'd had forever and now that's the kid's dishes. White, basic, cheap, simple, and no options for favourites.

I think choosing preferences it part of our natural instincts, but how can we tone it down so that a kid's favourites aren't so strong that they can't enjoy other things? Thoughts?


on shared spaces

I spent a week at my parents house this summer which is in a small town that's slowly starting to feel like a suburb as it grows). I loved my time with them and in their backyard pool! Definitely something we don't have here in the city. But when the kids asked to go to the park we were surprised at how limited we were. There is one near my parents, but the next closest one is a good walk away, and the next closest even further. And NONE had splash pads, which have become the uncontested favourite summer activity amongst our littles.

It got me thinking about dynamics in cities versus small towns or 'burbs. Population density is so high in cities that even if they seem to not be family friendly, there are more parks than in small towns! I think this accounts for the assumption that in suburbs and small towns each family has a back yard and possibly a pool, so the need for public shared space is less necessary.

Here, we need parks and in the summer we need splash pads and public pools, because no one has their own. We rely on these shared spaces.

We typically frequent four parks, all within easy toddler walking distance. Another four are within my walking distance (they'd need bikes or the stroller). And over half of them have splash pads in the summer months.

The best part is the community feel of these shared spaces. We're all together. We might have no other choice, but it's not dreaded, it's celebrated. It's all we know, this life amongst one another.

For locals interested, this is the splash pad/ public wading pool at Parc Westmount. We were there on a rainy day so it wasn't too crowded but generally there is a good crowd but still loads of space to roam and play :)


that time we went to europe

I'm breaking my blogging silence, if only for a quick photo dump. True, my baby is sleeping through the night (all three of them share a room now!) and I am less exhausted than I was six months ago. But fitting blogging into my current schedule/life will continue to prove difficult. But I have missed having a place to share things from time to time. Back when I was a blogging lady, I'd post 3-5 A WEEK. Wild. And never happening again. But here, enjoy some pictures!

 We're smiling here because the 16 hour day of travel was just starting.

This is about 1/3 of the way through the day...

people always say, "oh hey! you guys are incredible for traveling with kids! I'd never do that!" to which I say yes. I hear you. At this point I had my doubts too.

But then we arrived in Copenhagen, Denmark. Land of milk and honey.

 And by milk I mean modern Danish design, and by honey I mean cleanest city ever.

Scandinavian people are seriously the least pretentious lot you could come across. Even the palace guards smiled at our kids!

Yes, I said palace. How did I not know Denmark was a monarchy? Unbridled. Joy.

Scandinavia was also INSANELY family/child-friendly. All of the museums and airports had strollers just there. For people to use. For free. Also incredibly modern. elevators were literally everywhere, probably to accommodate said strollers.

It was so wonderful to have Brad to ourselves for three whole weeks! 
Thank you Quebec, for his paternity leave!

We took the kids everywhere. Museums, castles, you name it. Everything was so easy with the free strollers and elevators and there was so much to see.

One day we rented a car and drove to a small town outside of Copenhagen. It was beautiful but we missed the city. Go figure.

European playgrounds. I can't even. 

Castle touring. Side note: I came home slightly obsessed with the Danish royal family.

And with Danish china. Royal Copenhagen tea cups, normally over $100 in Canada found for $20 at a vintage store in Copenhagen. #souvenir

Every day we had lunch, dinner, or both outside. Picnic style.

Copenhagen was our favourite of the two cities we stayed in. Nothing compared.

Family Selfies!

After Copenhagen we flew to Amsterdam, Holland. For free. More on that later.

Amsterdam was essentially the immature rebellious brother of Copenhagen. Absolutely gorgeous, rich history, but really scummy. I'll let the hash tags do the talking.  
#legalizedprostitution #legalizedmarijuana #sextourism #drugtourism 


Such quality time with the kids though. The kind that you have to be away from your job and your home and your distractions and basically your life to achieve.

Yes, I carried Lily in the carrier! And then we forgot it in Amsterdam. Boo.

Another day trip, this time, ironically, to FLEE the city. We needed some fresh air. Literally, everywhere in Amsterdam smells like pot.

What a priceless way to spend Brad's paternity leave.

Now, if you're thinking, "gee, must be nice to travel the world, but I'm not made of money or patience" I have two things to say:

1) Our trip was *almost* free because my husband is a budgeting/air miles collecting/saving fiend with many a trick up his sleeve and yes I'll be sharing all about how you can do the same sometime soon


2) Our mentality during the hard times (i.e. THE FLIGHTS) was that whatever difficulties we came across, they were worth it to see the world and experience it with our kids. And there were major difficulties, make no mistake. Jet lag and 8 hour long flights and insanely long layovers in inhospitable airports and delayed flights and ill-equipped rental apartments made for some funny memories and also, lets be honest, hard times. But oh, the good times! What an incredible experience.
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