This is bliss

Bliss is many things. To me, it is the feeling of complete and utter contentment. A sense of being at peace with who, what, and where you are, in that very moment in time.

it is he ahhhhhh feeling you get when eating a s’ more for the first time

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It is the feeling of “hell yeah I did” when you see a picture of yourself mid kick in a dance that you poured yourself into for months
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It is watching your dad and your son together one year after your dad’s brain surgery
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It is, after 12 years of marriage, still lighting up inside for this
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It is watching your mom and son laugh together, really laugh, the kind that makes your tummy hurt and your toes tingle
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It is watching the sun set over the water knowing that tomorrow brings new days and new promise
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It is taking the time to stop and enjoy the moment, look at the snails and breathe
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It is the knowledge that you are comfortable in your own skin to do things you never dreamed you’d be able to do. Like this

It is spending time with people who have known and loved you most of your life, know your secrets and what makes you tick and still want to be part of your life
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It is the people that you love most in the world
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Bliss is what fills you, what recharges your soul and gets you going.

I could define it in so many other ways, but now I want to know. What is your bliss?

Fun in San Francisco Day 2 Part 2: Ride the Ducks

After we finished up at the Ripley’s Museum, we headed over to do a Ride the Ducks tour. M decided to step out, and not join Q and I on the tour. We arrived at the booth and discovered that there were spots available on the next tour, which left in 15 min. Perfect! No waiting meant a happy kid.

We paid and bought our quackers for the trip. We had our picture taken before boarding and then grabbed out seats. Q was literally bouncing with excitement about the upcoming tour. We had our quackers at the ready, and the excitement just continued to build as our captain boarded. He introduced himself as Captain Mike, explained that on this tour there was no seriousness allowed, fun was mandatory, and adults were not permitted to take themselves seriously for the next 2 hours. He told us that during our tour, we could expect lots of music and singing, information about the city, and a whole bunch of fun. He wasn’t kidding.
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And off we went! Singing, quacking and rocking our way down the street, learning facts about all the different areas of the city. Did you know that there is only one In-n-out burger in all of San Francisco? Captain Mike pointed out Lombard street, one of the world’s crookedest streets. He asked if anyone would like to drive down that long, steep, crazy street and of course Q was all over that. Ha, we don’t call him the crazy kid for nothing!
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We saw a less touristy part of Chinatown and where to get authentic dim sum, drove through North Beach and learned where to get the best pasta, and learned how to spot a banker in his natural habitat in the Financial District (he is wearing a full suit in 100° weather). We saw the movie theatre that Godzilla destroyed in the most recent movie, learned that there are 171 Starbucks in the city of San Francisco, saw the club where Carlos Santana and Robin Williams used to test out new material on patrons who paid the enormous cover price of $1.50, and saw parts of the city that were built on top of areas or with materials that were damaged in the big earthquake.
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Next up came the part of the tour that we had all been waiting for. After a short safety briefing, Captain Mike revved the engines, turned on some encouraging music (The Imperial March) and drove down the ramp straight into the San Francisco Bay. Yup, right into the bay. We learned all about the history of the DUKW, as well as some of the missions that it was used for during World War II. These vehicles were the ones that delivered troops to shore in some of the bloodiest battles, and brought the casualties back. They delivered supplies to the troops, and took a lot of losses, but just kept on going.
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We saw some big ships that were used in the Gulf War and are now docked in the harbour.
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We drove around AT&T park where the San Francisco Giants baseball team plays. It is a really neat stadium, and one side opens out onto the harbour. Because of this, there are often what are called “splash hits”, which is when a player hits the ball out into the harbour. We learned about the lengths that people will go to to try and retrieve balls hit by famous players, including using diving equipment, dogs, and personal watercraft. It is insane! We even saw a few baseballs floating around in the water – clearly not from anyone famous, haha.
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Then, much to everyone’s excitement, Captain Mike stepped out of his seat to let some of the smaller passengers have a turn driving our boat, I mean bus, I mean duck. Q was thrilled to get a turn taking us for a turn (and I mean that literally, he actually did a turn) around the harbour.
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After everyone had taken a turn, it was time to head back for shore. To a chorus of groans of disappointment, Captain Mike headed back, regaling us with tales all the way. We were even visited by a seal, who swam alongside us for a few minutes.
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As we got closer to the ramp that we would be driving up, I know that I wondered just what was going to have to happen to get this boat/bus/duck out of the water and back on the road. After all, we still had some tour time left! Captain Mike cranked on the tunes (Ride of the Valkyries) and told us that we were going to need to cheer our duck on. And cheer we did. To everyone’s amazement, sloooooowly up the ramp we went, up and out of the water. We stopped for a few minutes at the to purge the water out, and away we went again.
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We drove along the waterfront and saw several of the piers. We saw the Bay Bridge and heard the story of its reconstruction after the last earth quake.
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We saw Alcatraz from afar. We drove along the Embarcadero and saw the Cupid’s Span statue, which was donated to the city by the founders of The Gap clothing chain. It is said to signify all of the love in San Francisco.
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We saw the front of AT &T park and the tribute to and statue of Willie Mays.
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We got to see the TransAmerica tower and Coit tower from afar, and learned that the Coit tower is 210 ft tall.
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Then, after trying to get some passersby to clap along with our music (we did, in case you are wondering, including some firemen), some more quacking and singing, we rolled back into the wharf and the tour was over.
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All in all, Q and I had a great time and a lot of fun. Was it cheesy? Yes, of course it was. Did we get to see the city and learn some interesting stuff? You betcha. It was totally worth the ticket price for us, and I’m sure we’d go on a tour in another city if we had the opportunity. We would recommend it as a great, hilarious and fun activity for both kids and adults.

In the interest of keeping these short and readable, I am going to continue to break them up into parts. If you are not caught up on our adventures yet, you can find them here and here, and here. Next up, we explore Fisherman’s Wharf.

I was not compensated or asked to mention any of the businesses or locations on this trip. I am sharing them with you in hopes that you might find fun places or things to check out on your next trip. All opinions are strictly our own.

What does it matter to you?

We were out at a restaurant the other day, and as we were leaving, the young guy, who I would guess in his early 20′s, looked at the book that Q was carrying in his arms and said “is that a Princess book?” with a look of slight horror on his face. As it so happened, it was a Tink and Friends book, one of his favourites, that was holding. As calmly as I could, I replied “no, it’s actually a Tinkerbell book”, while silently challenging the guy to comment further on my kiddo’s choice of reading material. My inner mama voice was raging – part of me hoping that his internal filter would continue to fail him, and that I would then have a chance to rip him a new one. Smartly, or at least I hope it was smartly, lest he continue to anger one of their regular customers, he shut his mouth and didn’t comment any further. Luckily Q was occupied with the candied fennel seeds and chatting to my parents about them to have heard the comment, but what if he had?

What place did this guy have to comment on his book at all? WHO does that? And what the beep does it matter to him what my kid chooses to read? Why is it, in mid 2014, that anyone feels that they have the right to comment on what book a child, or anyone, for that matter is reading? So WHAT if he was reading about fairies? Or princesses? Would the same comment have been made if he was a girl reading about Transformers or Ninja Turtles? I highly doubt it. Books and reading are such an important and critical thing, especially to kids at this age, it just baffles me as to why anyone would say even one word to possibly discourage that.

As adults, we are the ones teaching children that certain toys or books or characters are reserved strictly for one gender or the other. We are the ones teaching kids that it is ok to comment, tease or harass other people because they don’t like the things that we think they should. We are the ones so stuck in our own narrow view-points of the world that we think that kids actually care about “boys toys” or “girl toys”. They are toys. Just freaking toys.

Why do we feel the need to stifle kids or deny them their individuality? Why is it not ok for boys to like princesses? Is it because we are secretly worried that they will turn out gay? I hate to break it to you, but THAT DOES NOT HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH SOMEONE BEING GAY. I have heard the whispered comments “well, aren’t you worried that…” Worried that what? That my son will like and appreciate pretty girls? That he will feel the need to treat the girls in his life like special, precious people? That he will want to stand up and defend people in need? Oh wait.

The mama in me is conflicted. On one hand, I want him to like what he likes, because he likes it, not because we, or society have told him that he has to or that he can’t. I want him to be himself, be an individual, and march to the beat of his own drum. I want him to feel confident that we will support him regardless of what he chooses. I do not want him to feel stuck in a role that society has assigned him, only liking or watching or reading the things that “they” have deemed to be acceptable. I don’t however, want to feed the fire when it comes to bullies. I don’t want to set him up to be mocked and harassed and tormented for the choices he makes. I want to teach him to stand up and speak out. I want him to know that it is ok to be different, and that no one has the right to tell him who he can and cannot be. I want him not to have to deal with antiquated ideas of what is ok for him to play with, simply because he is a boy. But I don’t know how.

I’m torn. I don’t want to take away the things that he loves or tell him that he is wrong. I don’t believe in the notion of “girls or boys toys/characters/colours/books/movies/TV shows”. I never have. I was a girl who played with hot wheels, climbed trees and rode my bike everywhere. A girl who joined the Army (as an artillery gunner) at the age of 17, and who has worked a number of non-traditional jobs. A girl who loves football, and martial arts, and cars and all kinds of other things that girls are not supposed to like. But no one says boo to me. Why? Why is it different for a boy? Why should any child grow up feeling that there is something wrong with them because of the toys they like to play with? Boys with dolls? Oh the horror! It’s not like that little boy might grow up to be a daddy one day. A kitchen set? Heaven forbid he might know how to cook more than instant noodles and a steak on the BBQ. Crafts or music or dancing? Ugh – he might grow up to be an actor or a singer or a famous artist. Or a teacher. Or a broadway star. Or, or, or.

We do our kids, and all kids, a huge disservice by trying to squash their interests because they don’t fit into our 21st century sexist views. We can pretend like we are all modern and that it is totally ok that the toy lines are blurred, but comments like the one we heard prove that we are not. And until we can stand up and just let kids be kids, it’s never going to happen.

And I am not ok with that. Are you?

It’s all about the adventure

Treasure maps, quests, creatures, pirates, huge problems to solve and battles. What do these things have in common? Oh right, my little dude. Q is absolutely obsessed with adventures right now. He is always drawing treasure maps, hiding stashes of things away to give him excuses to draw said maps, creating epic quests and stories and adventures. He loves any kind of book, show or movie that fit into this theme, and spent a good part of his time at the beach on our recent vacation making and then burying treasure. Basically what I’m saying is that it is in his head. A lot.

We’ve spent a lot of time outside exploring and playing this summer but to be honest, having Netflix has been a blessing a lot this month, for a few reasons. We were on a road trip vacation for a few weeks not long ago, and after a long day in the car, it was nice for him to be able to just chill out a bit before bed with his own shows. It’s also been perfect for the hot days we’ve had this year, when all he wants to do is play but it is far too hot to be outside for too long.

As a Netflix Streamteam member, I get the scoop on some cool shows to watch, a lot of which we probably wouldn’t have found on our own. The name of the game this month was adventure, which, coincidentally, made for an awesome movie night with Q. Here are a few of the movies and shows that we (he) have been loving lately.

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Labou and the Quest for the Lost Treasure

This was a movie that had never come across our radar before, in any way shape, or form. Surprising, as it involves pirates, treasure hunting and adventures, but somehow it never did. I knew right away that this one sounded like it would be a great show for us to watch together, and although Q was a bit reluctant at first (he wanted to watch something else that day), once the movie started and he got into the story a bit, he was hooked. The movie takes place in New Orleans, and is about a group of kids who go off in search of a legendary pirate treasure. Their quest takes them to the swamps, where they run into the great-great-great grandson of a legendary pirate (and his ghost), greedy oil tycoons who want to destroy the land to build a giant refinery, and a small, musical dragon like creature called a Labou. Together they must work together to save the swamps and the Labous before time runs out. If you are looking for a movie that is funny, has great music (seriously, Q got up and danced every time the music started) and will pique the imaginations of young and old minds alike, check this movie out.

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The Hive

This is a catchy little series out of Britain about a group of young bees who live in The Hive. They go to school, play, and have all kinds of fun. The episodes are short but have a social lesson built into them, things like sharing, patience and turn taking. Buzzbee and his friends are quite lovable characters and Q has quite taken to the show. The theme song is catchy so be prepared to hear your kids sing it over and over (and over, don’t say I didn’t warn you, haha). It’s funny and engaging and great for the younger set.

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National Treasure

Treasure maps hidden in American historical artifacts? This fun movie traces a stockpile of treasure from ancient Egypt right up to modern times and links the history of the Knights Templar with the Freemasons. Benjamin Franklin Gates is a historian and treasure hunter who discovers that the map to a legendary treasure is hidden on the back of the Declaration of Independance. Problem is, other, less savory types have also discovered this, and the race is on to see who can follow the clues and find the treasure first. If you like adventure, history and excitement, this movie makes for a great family night. As a history and archaeology buff, I loved this one, and it had enough history in it to make me wonder if maybe, just maybe, any of it might be true…

There you have it. Some of our adventurous favourites to end out the summer. What shows are you and your family loving right now?

As a member of the Netflix Streamteam, I get special perks for my participation, however, as usual, all of the thoughts and opinions about the shows and movies mentioned are ours alone. I share these with you in hopes that you will find a fun new show or movie to enjoy.