2012 retrospective - 12 great moments with my kids

It's not quite the end of the year yet, but we're getting there soon, and I'm starting to feel in a retrospective mood. This year, as in years past, I had some great moments with my children. Here are some photos of moments and places I'll remember from 2012.

Late summer/early fall day at Vancouver's Third Beach - And the kids went in the water. My crazy (cold) amphibians.

The dock at my parents' summer house in Burvik, Sweden - One of my favourite places on Earth.

Our seal-safari in Horseshoe Bay, BC, Canada - What a fantastic day on the water that was!

My kids, chilling out together, at the playground at Nordanå, Skellefteå - A great day on our summer-trip to Sweden.

The playful kittens at the old-time farm in Rismyrliden, Sweden - We always visit this farm when we go to Sweden in the summer, and these kittens made our day this year.

Going for a walk through Stockholm, Sweden - Another great day on our trip this past summer. These horses were "parked" just outside the Royal Palace.

My kids and the chickens - This summer, my parents borrowed four chickens (3 hens and a rooster) while we were visiting. My kids loved this. Not that many eggs, and a lot of chicken poop on the ground, but it was worth it.

Another great day at another great playground - The playground on Garden City in Richmond, BC has some great water features and adventurous climbing equipment for kids. It's one of my kids' favourite places to go.

Bald eagle killing a cormorant on Spanish Banks, Vancouver - This moment, when the eagle casually jumped up on and then killed the obviously injured or sick bird (it didn't defend itself or try to get away) was one of those nature moments when you and your kids get to see life and death in the wild up close.
Hiking the Lynn Loop trail in Lynn Headwaters - This hike takes about 2+ hours with the kids (with some fairly easy but somewhat rough and steep sections), and it's about as far as they're prepared to hike for. They were absolute champs every time we did it this year.

Walking through Steveston, BC - This is one of my family's favourite "close and easy" destinations for a walk and some fresh air. Climbing in and out of the old wooden fishing boats set up in the grass, looking at the old buildings, and watching the water flow by always make for a good day out.

Seeing (and hearing!) T-Rex at Science World, Vancouver - We visited the "Extreme Dinosaurs" exhibit at Vancouver's Science World three times. Giant animatronic dinos, fossilized dinosaur poop, and interactive exhibits: this had it all.

Traveling with kids: 8 things to do in bad weather

You don't always get the weather you would like when you go on a trip. Sometimes it rains, sometimes it pours, and sometimes it's just too cold, snowy, or otherwise inclement, that you can't hit the beach, the playground, go for that hike or stroll, or do the sightseeing you had hoped to do.

If you're traveling with kids and are either staying in a hotel, a vacation rental, or with friends or family, you might feel rather cooped up inside. And if your kids are like mine, they really need some kind of activity during the day (even something really simple) to put them in a better mood.

Here are some ideas of how to spend your time with the kids when you're away from home, and bad weather strikes:

1. Catch a movie
Going to a movie theatre for a couple of hours with your kids can be a great way to spend a rainy day. Where I live in Canada, it is getting rather expensive to take the kids to a regular movie theatre - especially if the whole family is going and there's popcorn involved! However, where we live there are many movie theatres that show movies that have been out for a while, and the tickets are a lot cheaper there. Hollywood 3 Cinemas, and The Clova are just two examples of "cheap seats" near Vancouver. (The popcorn is cheaper there too!)

At The Vancouver Aquarium.
2. Go to a kid-friendly museum or other indoor attraction
This is often a great option if you're in a big city. Locally here in Vancouver, places like The Vancouver Aquarium, Science World, and the HR McMillan Space Centre are good spots to spend the day out of the bad weather.

At Leo's Lekland, Skellefteå, Sweden.
3. Get active at an indoor activity centre
These days there are lots of places that offer adventurous indoor activities for kids. There are places with climbing equipment and slides, like Leo's Lekland (a place we go to when we're in Sweden visiting family), and there are other places offering rock-climbing and trampoline-jumping and various other gymnastic activities like Club Aviva, near where we live.

4. Go for a swim
If you're staying in a hotel with a pool, that can be an easy and fun way to spend time with your kids, getting some fun exercise, and stay away from the bad weather. I know this is one of my kids' favorite indoor activities.

5. Take a bad weather stroll
Sometimes going outside is not so bad, even if the weather isn't cooperating. Dress everyone for the weather and just head outside for a while. Go for a walk in a park or at the beach, stomp in some puddles, run in the rain, get wet and cold and then head inside to warm up.

6. Go storm watching
On a windy day when you can't do much else, going somewhere near the ocean can make for a pretty enjoyable nature-display: big waves, seagulls riding the air (or hunkering down in the sand), and some crazy cloud-formations to watch. Where I grew up in northern Sweden, Bjuröklubb on the Gulf of Bothnia, was a great place to go on a reasonably stormy day. Of course, you should always stay safe, so if the bad weather is really bad, heading inside might be the better option.

7. Head to the library
In many towns and cities, libraries have various things going on for kids, like story-times and author-visits. My kids enjoy just hanging out at the library for a bit, maybe reading a book or playing on the computers that can often be found in public libraries around the world.

On-board Vancouver's SkyTrain.
8. Ride transit to somewhere fun
This is what my kids love to do at home as well as away. At home, we usually hop on the Skytrain and head somewhere like the local airport to watch the airplanes for a bit, or we go all the way to North Vancouver on the Skytrain and the Seabus. In other places you could pick a destination and use the local trains and buses to get there. My kids love this, even if all we do at our destination is go for an ice cream or muffin.

Traveling with kids - movies to travel with

Movies are great travel companions. Usually, my kids make do with the movies on board the long-haul flights we take, but we also always bring along a binder full of their favorite movies on Blu Ray and DVD when we go away for longer periods of time.

I have considered the option of bringing movies to play during our trip, either on my laptop, or on a portable media player of some kind, but have not gotten around to equipping myself for that, yet.

A portable blu-ray/DVD playeris one option . Various services that allow you to stream movies and TV-shows that you can watch on your phone, tablet or portable computer is another option. These kinds of services, like those provided by Netflix and Amazon, are a great option, but may not always be feasible when you're traveling internationally.

Some movie companies now include digital downloads of the movies you buy on DVD or blu ray as part of the "package". FOX-Connect's digital copies is one such service, Paramount Pictures is another. Meaning of course that you can download movies (legally) and bring them along, without having to take the discs with you.

Here is a list of kids' movies that come highly recommended by my 5- and 9-year old.  They're great choices  whether you're bringing movies as DVDs or Blu-Ray discs on your trip, or if you prefer digitally downloaded files, or if you're looking for ideas for movies to pick from your streaming service.

Hayao Miyazaki movies
My kids have really fallen hard for many of legendary Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki's movies. Here are their favorites:

Another Japanese, animated movie my children adore is the very original and entertaining The Cat Returns.

Holiday-themed movies

Even more movies
  • James and the Giant Peach - Based on a tale by Roald Dahl, this is a very original and entertaining movie.
  • Lilo & Stitch - One of my own favorite Disney movies, ever. The kids love it too (especially since Stitch pretty much acts as a souped up toddler in destruction mode!)
  • Monsters vs Aliens - Hugely entertaining and funny animated movie with Reese Witherspoon doing the voice for the terrific Susan, AKA Ginormica. 
  • Despicable Me - super-villain Gru and his minions are thrown together with three orphaned girls and hijinx, as well as hilarity, ensues.
  • Megamind - This take on superheroes and super-villains is one of those movies I enjoy just as much as my kids do!
  • Bolt - A great movie about family, dogs, cats, and finding your way back home.
  • Toy Story 1-3 - These three movies are modern classics. Terrific family entertainment.
  • Wall-E - Another fantastic Pixar movie.
  • Wallace & Gromit: The Complete Collection - My kids really enjoy the adventures of inventor Wallace and his intelligent dog Gromit. The Curse of the Were-Rabbit is another favorite.
  • The Princess Bride - This is an oldie but a goodie. I wasn't sure at first whether my kids would like this (I love it), but they really enjoy this funny take on fairytales.
  • 101 Dalmatians - A Disney-classic that is highly rated by my dog-loving 5-year old daughter.
  • The Adventures of Tintin- My kids hugely enjoyed the new movie, and have also fallen in love with the old Tintin TV-show that is also called The Adventures Of Tintin.

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