Friday, February 28, 2014

Should you fly with a Furby Boom? My answer probably won't surprise you!

If you have a young-ish child, you might have heard of a Furby Boom. If you don't have kids, you might be lucky enough NOT to have heard of these toys at all. For those people, an explanation might be in order: A Furby is an interactive toy. It can talk, it can sing, it can sort of dance, and it responds to how you treat it by changing its personality (meaning its voice and choice of phrases change). You can also interact with it using the Furby app, and feed it, clean it, hatch its eggs, and a lot more besides.

Watch this cautionary video for more information:

Though I haven't been faced with the situation yet, I know it's probably coming when we go on our big trip to Sweden this summer: what to do with a Furby when traveling by plane. My kids have already raised the issue, and we talked a little bit about it - me mostly trying to dissuade them from bringing them at all.

Right now, my position is that an airplane should be a Furby-free zone. The reasons might seem obvious to any adult, but in conversation with my kids, here are some of my arguments:

  • A Furby talks. Bringing any talking or noise-making toy on a plane is by definition a bad idea. It's easy enough to annoy fellow passengers without the help.
  • A Furby moves. Put one in your hand luggage and it is sure to wake up, move around and cause a scene at security. Even worse: a Furby has no off-switch. The only way to neutralize it is to remove the batteries.
  • A Furby will change personality depending on how it is treated. Being jostled, bumped, squashed under seats, and subjected to airplane noise would probably change it to one of the less-cutesy personalities. Then we'd have to spend 10-15 minutes patting the toy's head in order to change its personality back to something more docile. Yes, this is absolutely true. If a Furby is shaken, held upside down, or listens to a lot of loud noises, its personality changes to something rather obnoxious. - PARENTAL NOTE: This argument was the one that seemed the most important to my kids.
  • A Furby is an expensive toy that might break or get lost on a long airplane trip. This argument also seemed pretty effective on my kids.
  • IF a Furby is coming along on our trip, it will have to travel in the regular, checked luggage - not the hand luggage - and it will have its batteries carefully removed before travel. I don't want to freak out any luggage screeners or other security personnel!
Finally, even though I like to complain about the Furby-toys, I can definitely see the appeal for kids. The Furby is cute, pretty funny, and the games on the app are entertaining. Still: it is definitely not approved for use on-board an airplane!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

7 family-friendly activities in British Columbia

My family lives in a pretty fantastic part of the world: we're right outside Vancouver in British Columbia on Canada's west coast - or "the wet coast" as many of us end up calling it during the winter months. My husband and I have explored parts of this great province with the kids, but there are still lots of things I'd love to do with them. Here are 10 things I want to experience with my children in British Columbia:

1. Whale watching
There are lots of whale watching tours that depart from various places around Vancouver, and now that the kids are a little older (they're turning 7 and 11 soon), I think they might be ready for this kind of adventure! In the waters of B.C. there are Orcas (killer whales), humpback whales, and Pacific Grey Whales. Find out more here.

2. Staying at a ranch
Both my kids are very interested in animals, farms, things that grow, and the great outdoors. A stay at a ranch where you get to interact with farm animals, help out with some of the chores, and ride horses, would be a wonderful way to spend a holiday. has a listing with several so-called "dude ranches".

3. Driving across the Rockies
This is really a trip I want to do with both my kids, and my Swedish parents to show them the absolutely magnificent scenery through B.C. and into Alberta and across the Canadian Rockies. There are lots of things to see and do in places like Valemount, Jasper, and Banff.

4. Visit the Kangaroo Creek Farm outside Kelowna
Friends of ours recently visited this place with their kids and were so excited about all the fun they'd had on their visit: learning about and even getting to hold kangaroos. It's definitely something I'd love to do with my kids. Find out more at the Kangaroo Creek Farm's website.

5. Riding the Rocky Mountaineer through B.C. & the Rockies
This is a rather expensive way to travel through the British Columbia wilderness, but if I had the money, this is one trip I'd love to do with the kids. The Rocky Mountaineer has various travel options, but I'd love to go in the see-through dome cars - that would be a terrific experience. Too bad it's so darn pricey!

6. River rafting
There are lots of great rivers in British Columbia, and going for a ride down one of them would be a lot of exciting fun. Of course, depending on where and when you go, it might be a rough ride, but I do think my kids are old enough (and confident enough) to handle it at this point. Lots of information about this at the exploreBC website.

7. Caving
British Columbia is home to several places where you can go caving, for example Horne Lake. What a great way to go on an adventure and learn about flora, fauna and geology at the same time!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Water's edge at Crescent Beach in White Rock

I went for a great walk today with the family at one of our favourite spots for a nice and easy walk: Crescent Beach in White Rock. It's always a great place with a beach where the kids can find cool rocks, logs to balance on, dogs to look at, planes and trains passing by occasionally, and the ever-changing, ever-beautiful ocean.

Today, a heron decided to land in the shallow water and proceeded to look for the perfect fishing spot.

Photos thanks to my husband.

Monday, December 23, 2013

In praise of wearing yoga pants on long haul flights

Yoga pants. If you're in North America, you probably know what I'm talking about. If you live elsewhere in the world, you might not. Sometimes they're also known as lounge pants, though yoga pants make them sound so much more active and sporty.

How would I describe them? Maybe like this: stretchy, breathable fabric, comfortable waistband, form-fitting around the thighs and flared at the bottom.

Where I live, just outside Vancouver on Canada's west coast, yoga pants are everywhere: almost every woman I know and pass on the street seems to be wearing them: to the mall, to the coffee shop, to the playground, to the grocery store. Some supposedly fashion-conscious people judge this popular item of clothing rather harshly, saying that yoga pants are too revealing (hugging every hip- and thigh-curve), too casual, or just too unflattering in general to wear outside the house (or outside the yoga-studio).

That said, what really matters to me is that yoga pants are so very, very comfortable. And on a long flight comfort means a lot, making yoga pants pretty much the perfect pants for long-haul flights. They won't squeeze or pinch your stomach, and they won't squash the veins in your midriff and legs when you sit for extended periods of time. The wide, elastic waist-band makes them easy to wear and removes the need for belts. (Belts are a big no-no on flights in my opinion, since they are both tight when you sit down and can set off metal detectors.)

The wide leg below the knee makes them easier to wear than leggings (and yes, I'm one of those women who subscribe to the "leggings are not pants!" belief), and if you get them in black or another dark colour, any stains or spills will not be very visible (and will usually come off rather easily).

Last year was the first year when I traveled on our annual Canada-to-Sweden trek wearing yoga pants. It was a black pair of capri-style yoga pants I had bought at Costco and I became an instant fan: I will be flying in my yoga pants every long-haul flight. While I still love my jeans, and confess that regular sweatpants and even leggings do have their place, yoga pants are where it's at for me right now.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Rest in peace, Nelson Mandela

"There can be no keener revelation of a society's soul than the way in which it treats its children."
-Nelson Mandela

The world lost a wonderful human being today. He overcame so much in his life, and in spite of everything that was done to him, he refused to become bitter, angry, and vengeful. Instead he chose to embrace forgiveness and positive action. He was a truly inspirational person. Thank you, Mr Mandela.

Photo of Mandela from 2008 - source South Africa The Good News.
There can be no keener revelation of a society's soul than the way in which it treats its children.
There can be no keener revelation of a society's soul than the way in which it treats its children.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

10 gift ideas for traveling parents & kids

The holiday season is almost upon us, and if you're like me, you're already busy making your lists and checking them twice, or you might be fretting over how little time you have to make a list and check it twice.

Here are some gift-giving ideas for traveling kids and parents to help you out:

1. A good book
You can't go wrong if you give someone a good book to read: it's one of the best "activities" to bring along on any trip with children. Two fantasy/fairy-tale titles I recommend is Diana Wynne Jones' "Howl's Moving Castle" (the source material for Hayao Miyazaki's famous animated movie), and J.R.R. Tolkien's classic "The Hobbit". Older kids and adults might enjoy Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings" books as well.

2. Travel-friendly art supplies
If your kids are like mine, drawing and colouring is a great way to get them to spend some quiet time, whether you're on a trip or at home. A set of crayons and markers packaged in a handy bag that turns into an art center when opened up, like the Young Artist Studio Desk To Go, would make a great gift.

3. A Child carrier
A good child carrier can be a huge help when you're traveling with kids, or when you're just out and about shopping, hiking, or hanging out at a Christmas market. There are lots of different styles, including the "stand up" Piggyback Rider, and Deuter's line of back-carriers. We used a Deuter carrier when the kids were little, and they were a great help when we were going on flights and had to carry the kids through a big, busy airport.

4. A nice phone/wallet case
Most of us will definitely be bringing our phones along when we travel, and the QCard case turns your phone holder into a wallet. Very handy for keeping credit cards and a bit of cash close by and in an easy-to reach spot.

5. Some fun mittens
These "Vs Mittens" are absolutely adorable and would make a great gift for both parents and kids. Each pair of mittens is made to look like two different creatures: dog vs. cat, lion vs gazelle, frog vs. fly, and so on. There are some great socks as well: check out the vs.stuff website for more!

6. The LeapPad Ultra
This is a kid-proof, kid-friendly educational learning tablet from the LeapFrog company. It works with the company's apps, e-books, games, and so on. It's designed for kids ages 4 to 9. Looks like a great thing to bring along on a flight!

7. A hook-on chair
If you're traveling with a baby or toddler, a hook-on chair can come in very handy. It's also good for when you're visiting someone's house and they don't necessarily have a high-chair available. There are lots of different models available, including the Joovy Hook On Highchair and the Inglesina Fast Table Chair.

8. An easy-to-carry memory
Lots of us need some extra memory when we're traveling, whether it's for documents, photos, or anything else. A USB flash-drive styled as an easy-to-wear bracelet is a great idea and would make a very cool stocking stuffer.

9. A travel alarm clock
I know many people only use their cell-phones as alarm clocks, but for myself, I still appreciate a nice alarm clock that you can easily see in the dark without having to mess around with a phone. There are lots of models available, including the Travel Alarm with LED Light Flashlight and the Lewis N. Clark Nightlight Travel Clock.

10. The travel vest: a booster seat alternative
I just saw this item online recently and I think it looks like a great idea for anyone who travels. To quote the company: the Safe Traffic System Ride Safer 2 Travel Vest "is a restraint that is worn by the child like a vest. It is designed to provide upper torso restraint while vehicle's normal lap belt can't. It locates vehicle's lap belt in better position on lower side of the hips and thighs, and shoulder belt on the child's shoulder but not on neck preventing belt being loose."

Safe, easy to carry, and easy to pack - all very good things.