Thursday 13 October 2016

It Takes A Village

"Your son meets the criteria for a diagnosis of autism."

The words still sting a bit.

It's been two weeks since my husband and I sat in the office following Little C's assessment.

It was a surprise, and it wasn't a surprise.
It was definitely surreal, hearing those words spoken.
It was definitely emotional.
It was definitely hard to hear.

To be honest, C was a total rockstar at the assessment. I was (and still am) so very proud of him. He immediately took to the team and seemed to have fun. He showed off all his skills - pretend play, talking, letters, colours, shapes, fine motor, gross motor, puzzles, matching, and so much more. Sometimes he did more than I expected, and sometimes I knew he could do better, but that's okay. It was a long day, and he can't be 100% all the time.

Honestly, the best part of the day was that I got to sit back and watch. I couldn't interject or clarify anything for him, so I had to just sit, and watch in amazement. It made me realize just how far he's come in the past year. This time last year, we were just starting to work with a Speech Language Pathologist. Since then, there have been so many changes in him. A year ago, he couldn't say any words. Now he has many, many words, and his vocabulary grows every day. He also seems to understand EVERYTHING.  A year ago, he couldn't sit still for 2 minutes and now he can sit through a 30 minute SLP session, with very little complaining. He is making much better eye contact, and although it takes him a little while to warm up to new places and faces, he is much more friendly with new people.

In the end, the diagnosis was made. He has autism. We had a feeling it would come, but it was still hard to hear. Sitting in that room and listening to the psychologist, I couldn't seem to process what I was hearing. In the weeks leading up to the assessment, I found myself saying to my husband, "We have to be prepared for the chance that he could be diagnosed." We had talked a lot about how it didn't really change anything. C would still be the same awesome kid. We'd still be the luckiest parents to have him as our son. And we would still work on what he needed to work on, just as we always have. Still. It was hard to hear the words. The assessment team was very nice and very supportive and gave us time to process, let it sink in a little, and talk it out with them.

We made it clear that C is so much more than a label, and we wouldn't use it as an excuse. We'll keep working, just as we have up to this point. He is a loving, funny, smart little boy, and I would never wish him to be any different than he is.  This new word is just one small piece of him.

I'm a firm believer that in the saying, "It takes a village to raise a child." With this diagnosis, our village has grown. That's comforting to realize, when there are so many things I'm not sure of. It's nice to know we're not alone.

Saturday 24 September 2016

Finally, Fall!

It's officially fall! My absolute favourite season. Cozy clothes, warm drinks, colourful leaves, crisp air. I love it all.

I've been working WAY too hard lately. In addition to the craziness of a new school year, with a new position, I have been doing some busy volunteer work and also decided to take on a little side project. Needless to say, it's been a bit crazy.  There hasn't been nearly enough fun in my life, so I thought I'd make a little list of things I would like to do this fall. Hopefully, I can figure out a way to make them all happen!

1.  Go apple picking
2.  Decorate our yard for fall
3.  Carve pumpkins
4.  Enjoy a walk in the park, to enjoy the fall colours
5.  Take a drive up to Fredericton, stopping at all the farm stands
6.  Make pickles
7.  Visit Kings Landing
8.  When September is over, make pumpkin cookies
9.  Find a Halloween costume for C.
10.  Plan something special for C's 3rd birthday!
11.  Jump in puddles
12.  Get some fall candles from Bath & Body Works
13.  Make some Halloween Crafts
14.  Take fun fall photos
15.  Host Thanksgiving Day dinner!
16.  Go to the Moncton Zoo
17.  Thanksgiving crafts!
18.  Fall Nature Hunt / I Spy Walk
19.  Make Applesauce
20.  Sit back, relax, and breathe.

Tuesday 13 September 2016

"Ma" - It's Music to My Ears

I can't get enough of it! Little C  has started calling me "Ma" all the time. When I see him in the morning, he grins and yells, "Ma!" People continue to tell me how much I will eventually tire of hearing him, but I still can't imagine that day! Each syllable is like music to my ears, especially when he says, "Ma." Some days I tear up just listening to him. I'm so proud of my little guy!

He's come such a long way since April, when he only had one word that he would use regularly. Now, he's starting to string words together, like "Pwease Ma!", "Eed Pwease" (read please), and "Ma, D" (Ma, I'm done!) He also says his alphabet all by himself and has about 20 other words. His expressive language is exploding!

We have two weeks until his assessment with the developmental clinic, and I'm nervous. I shouldn't be, and am not afraid of what they actually say, but I am afraid that they won't see what I see. I mean, how can they? These strangers only get to see him for a few hours, in a little room at the hospital. C can be shy, so what if they don't see his personality? What if they don't see the boy who loves to joke and kid around, climb, slide, swing, and explore? Will he say the alphabet for them or read a book? Will he eagerly participate and stay focused for as long as he does with his speech language therapist?

Honestly, I don't know. Maybe he will, maybe he won't. At the end of the day, I know the truth. My husband knows the truth. So do the people who are close to him. We know how awesome his is, and that won't change. Maybe at the end of the day he'll have a label attached to him, and maybe not. That's the part I'm not actually worried about. I just want them to see him like we do. To me, he's perfect, and every time I hear him say, "Ma!" I know that I'm right.

Monday 12 September 2016

Sugar Update

I've been off sugar for 12 days. Well, 12 minus 2 days.  With the Cancer Society's Sugar Free September, friends and family can purchase a "Golden Ticket," so you can have a treat. I had two golden tickets last week, which was pretty "sweet." I got to enjoy a couple of oatmeal cookies and a salted caramel mocha from Starbucks.

So, how is it? I can honestly say, that I'm doing okay. I think I'm lucky that I don't put sugar in my tea or coffee and had already gotten rid of most sugary drinks like juice and pop from my diet. I've also never been one for artificial sweeteners and quit them a long time ago. I do have a major addiction to cupcakes, cookies, and any other baked good laced with sugar.

Am I noticing anything positive? Lots! Fewer headaches, more energy, better quality sleep, better outlook, less frustration, clearer head, and stress is much easier to manage.

I've learned three things so far:

1. Sugar is in everything. I am really shocked when I read labels! I now find myself randomly looking at labels to see if sugar is listed... and it usually is, in some form or another. Even more shocking is how high it appears in the ingredient list. It's kind of scary how much sugar you can eat when you don't even think you're eating sweet foods.

2. I snacked a lot. Without giving myself the option of anything sugary, I find myself asking myself if I'm really hungry. Most often, the answer is no. I've always been a mindless sugar-obsessed snacker, so this has been a pretty big revelation for me.

3. Quitting sugar has had a measurable affect my health. In 12 days, I've lost 5 pounds. This is pretty major for me, because it takes me a long time to lose weight. Never more than a pound a week, when I'm really trying.

4. My husband eats a LOT of sugar. This may be even more scary for me. I don't think he can quit it either. Something will have to change. For him, for me, and for our son. Any advice on how I can help that happen?

I have another 18 days to go, and I think I can do it. After that time, I may start integrating some sugar back into my diet, but I definitely don't want to go back to the way things were. I feel healthier, happier, rested, and don't want that changing!

Saturday 3 September 2016

September Challenge: Sugar Free!

I'm going sugar free! I'm not sure if I should end that with an exclamation point. I guess I have strong feelings about it. I'm scared! I think I have a genuine addiction to sugar. My sweet tooth doesn't quit. Seriously. You'll never hear me say, "Wow, that's too sweet to finish." When others are saying that, I'm usually licking the last few crumbs off my plate. Needless to say, I think this is a good challenge for me.

I had been thinking about trying to cut out a few things, like sweets, to help me get rid of some bad habits. Then, one day last week, I saw that the Canadian Cancer Society was hosting "Sugar Free September." I thought it was perfect timing, and provided me with some accountability. You sign up to take on the challenge of going sugar-free for 30 days to help raise funds for the Cancer Society. Sugar free means no cookies, candies, and sugar filled coffee. You see, our diets are filled with added sugar, which can lead to weight gain, which increases the risk of cancer.

So, how serious is this? Well, I don't have to avoid ALL sugar, just ADDED sugar. To do this, I have to read the ingredient lists. If it has sugar (glucose, sucrose, fructose, fake sugar) I can't have it. Healthy foods that contain sugar are fine. So, I can eat an apple, but I can't have an apple with caramel dip. The website helps you figure out what's in and out:

What's in?

  • Water
  • Tea and Coffee (no sugar added)
  • Sugar-free breakfast foods
  • homemade dressings
  • Fresh fruit, nuts and seeds
  • Plain or greek-style yogurt

What's out?
  • Baked goods, desserts, candies, sweets
  • Coffee or tea with sugar
  • Sugary condiments and savory sauces
  • Commercial, processed cereals
  • Sugary drinks

I decided to do this for my health and to raise a little money for one of my favourite charities. Honestly, I would really like to overcome my addiction to sugar. I've been trying to cut back for about a week, to get myself prepared. I avoided the baked goods in the staff room, which was tough. I have also been eating more fruit.

At this point, I'm on day 3 of being sugar free, and I have to say, it's tough! I have learned that everything has added sugar in it - even mayonnaise! If I get nothing else out of this, I have learned to look a little closer at the labels on food.

It's been hard to eat modified versions of some of my go-to foods. I typically have oatmeal for breakfast a few times a week, and it's hard to not add a little maple syrup, like I normally do. I tried blueberries one day and natural peanut butter the next, but it just wasn't the same. I think, by the end of the month, if I could eat oatmeal with just a few blueberries or a spoonful of peanut butter added to it, and I like it, I will call it a win. That will be my test.

Now, I need to go online and find some sugar free snack ideas... so I don't go and get a piece of chocolate from the kitchen!

If you want to give me a little encouragement, you can sponsor my attempt to go sugar free in September! Or, better still, JOIN me!! Try going sugar free and let me know what you learn from the experience.

Wednesday 24 August 2016

More Words!

"Once he starts talking, you'll want him to stop!"  I used to politely chuckle and give a fake smile, when someone would say that. To be honest, inside, I'm always screaming, "No, I won't. I won't want him to stop!"  

I know that they're just trying to make me feel better, but when you have a child with a speech delay, the most magical thing you could hear would be words from your child. Any words. Even sounds that could be the start of something are pretty special.

It really hasn't been that long since he finally started using his first word. "Go." I still love that word. It took him almost two and a half years to start using one word, so those two letters were like magic.

A major breakthrough for C was the use of signs. We introduced a few different signs to help with his frustration, and he formed his own versions of them. The signs he uses most often are more, help, open, and done.

Little C signing his version of, "Help," while on vacation.

Now he is starting to match words or the initial sound in the word with these signs, and is putting signs and words together. For example, he started using his index finger for the number 1 and his sign for more, and then started using the word, "more," instead of the sign. Progress! Since we get so excited and reward any actual word he uses, it pretty much means we always have to read "1 more" book, stay at the playground for "1 more" minute, or give him "1 more" Timbit. I'm not complaining though.

He's been picking up so much lately. In addition to a lot of  new words, he is making a lot of new sounds, can say most of the letters in the alphabet in order and in isolation, and can count to 10. It's been a lot of hard work for him and us, with the support of an awesome Speech-Language Therapist, and we're so proud and excited about his progress.

I love hearing him say anything and everything. Of course, he learned the word no, so in typical 2-year old fashion, "no" is now a constant in our house. When we're out for a walk, he will point out all the "T"s (trucks), point to our house and say "home," and sometimes say "Bu-bye" to anything we pass on our walks. I was pretty excited when he started to sometimes call me "Ma" and my husband "D." He doesn't say his own name, but refers to himself as, "Me" or sometimes "C." Since we call him "C" a lot, I consider it a win. With toilet training this week, we also learned "Uh-oh!"

Little C has made a lot of progress over the past six months, especially the past month, so I can't wait to see (and hear) what's next. I need to focus on the growth he's had, so instead of being annoyed when people say, "Once he starts talking, you'll want him to stop!" I will smile and say, "I can't wait until that day!"

Monday 15 August 2016

Review: Roll & Play Game

Our house has a new favourite thing! It's a game called, "Roll & Play Game: Your Child's First Game." It is a simple game that is both educational and fun - for the whole family!

It's a great way to work on taking turns, playing together, focusing, reading pictures and words, following directions, and all of the skills associated with the game - colours, counting, emotions, body parts, actions, animal sounds.  This game has everything! 

In the instruction packet, it explains how the game was created. The inventor had been talking to a toy store owner and asked what their customers ask for that isn't already on the market. The response? Games for 2 year olds. The rest is history! I have been looking for games for my almost 3 year old, and I agree. It's very hard to find games that are suitable, so I was so excited to find this game.

The instructions are simple:

1. Roll the giant stuffed cube. It's soft, so it can really be thrown, which is half the fun!
2. Pick the card that matches the colour that's rolled.
3. Act out the card. 

Each card colour corresponds with a skill. Yellow for emotions, orange for counting, blue for colours, purple for body parts, red for actions and green for animal sounds. They're all really fun. 

Little C loves it! He loves giving everyone a turn to roll the dice, loves picking up the correct card, and seems to have a different favourite category each time we play. 

For us, what's great about this game is that it works on all of the goals we have set for Little C for his speech language therapy. He says some words, repeats motions and sounds, matches, takes turns, and works together. His focus is incredible during this game!

I think I have found a new go-to shower or 2nd birthday present!

*Note: This is a totally non-biased review. I don't get anything for free! :) This is where I purchased the game, in case you want to get it for yourself and support a small business: Owl's Hollow: Toys & Games for Curious Minds, in Charlottown, PEI.

Wednesday 10 August 2016

Real or Fake? Picture Perfect Posts

I have always loved taking pictures. When I was a child, I was always flipping through photo albums of birthday parties, vacations, and school pictures. To me, photographs help bring me back to a moment. They're like little time machines.

I remember taking pictures with my little turquoise camera that used those strange looking 110 film cartridges. The old disposable 35mm cameras were also a must have for vacations. It was always so fun to take them to the store to get developed. Of course, they were horrible pictures, but in each one of those fuzzy, foggy, off-centered pictures, there is a snapshot of my life.

In my early 20s, I started making scrapbooks. Well, I like to call them "Fancy Photo Albums" - basically photo albums with pretty paper and stickers, not the elaborate ones I see on Pinterest. I still enjoy putting pictures in albums, but I really don't have time. I'm about 3 years behind.  The other downside is that you don't get to share them with friends and family easily.

Social media has allowed me to create digital photo albums that I can share. I use Facebook to share more personal photos of my family and our adventures. On Instagram, I post more general, small moment pictures. This blog has allowed me to add some journalling, which I was always really bad at, when making actual scrapbooks.  Instagram and "Adventures of a Scatterbrain" are public, so I try to keep the pictures focused more on places and activities, not faces, to keep life a little more private.

I just returned from a short vacation with my son. It wasn't the ideal vacation. It was just the two of us, travelling to Prince Edward Island for an extended weekend trip. Little C was not in the best mood. I think he was going through a bit of a growth spurt, so he was having a bad week. For the most part, he was his usual happy, giggly, huggy self, but some times he was a screechy, tempery, grumpus. I always have a hard time with that, so I'm sure it seemed a lot worse than it was. Of course, when I got back home, I posted 25 or so pictures from the trip on Facebook and a few to Instagram.

A video posted by Tiffany S (@tiffs2012) on

I was looking through the album the next day and realized that no one would know that it wasn't all picture perfect. This got me thinking, My Facebook and Instagram feed is always filled with happy pictures. I only post happy, positive pictures.  Is this an accurate snapshot of my life? Am I being fake?

Sure, you could say that it's fake, but I don't look at it like that. Honestly, unless it led to a good laugh or smile, I don't want to remember it in detail. I wouldn't devote a page in my photo album to it, so why would I post the picture online, where it could potentially life forever? I try to live in the positive and focus on the good.

I think it's easy to become envious of others when you see their perfect pictures posted online. Just remember that we are all creating our own digital footprint, editing and polishing before hitting that share or publish button. Things may not be quite as good as they seem, at least not all the time.

You won't see me posting pictures of tantrums, screaming, tears, or moments of failure. It's not because I don't want people to know that they happen, I just don't want to focus on them. Every parent knows that there are plenty of not-so-picture-perfect times, so why focus on the negative? Call me fake if you want, but I just want to remember the good times.

Thursday 4 August 2016

The Terrible & Terrific Twos (6 Ways to Survive a Tantrum)

Little C is now two and a half, and I'm sad to report that the terrible twos have arrived. I heard they would come. We saw glimpses, but from what I've experienced in the past couple of weeks, they are definitely here.  All I can say is yikes.

Honestly, most of our time is terrific. Little C is hilarious. He is very affectionate. He laughs a lot; loves to tease; dances up a storm when music comes on; loves nature, animals and art; is adventurous; and is still all about the cuddles.  

Unfortunately, we have entered tantrum town. They seem to start anytime he isn't getting what he wants, which is a lot, because he doesn't like that he can't run around the grocery store like a wild child or eat cookies and ice cream for breakfast. He also likes to push the limits all the time, and can be more irritable when tired or hungry. Tantrums are tough, and involve ear-piercing screams. They really don't last long, usually just a minute or two, and he seems to recover quickly, but I don't feel like I recover well.

I think the fact that Little C isn't talking much makes it even more difficult. Some sign language and the few words that he has certainly help, but we still have some points of frustration. He can't express why he is upset. I can't even imagine how difficult it must be for him.  I try to be understanding, but it's tough when you have the little person, the most important person in your life, screaming at the top of his lungs and looking at you with such frustration, and you don't have any idea about how to fix it. 

I'm still new at this, but I have learned a few things that seem to work for us. 

1) Stay Calm: In the middle of a tantrum, whether it be at home or in public, stay calm. Calm voice, calm facial expressions, calm body language. It's really difficult, because tantrums are emotional for everyone, but I think it's important. I try to get his full attention and eye contact, and calmly ask what is wrong or what he needs or to give him a choice. I'm finding that it's also important for one person to take the lead, when handling the situation. Instead of multiple voices and faces trying to diffuse the tantrum, there is one. I think it helps the situation seem calmer and less overwhelming. 

2) Get to Know The Good Times & The Bad Times - This is a good way to avoid a tantrum before it even starts. In my son's case, I've discovered that he is definitely an outdoor kid. He needs to be outside. It really hit home one day when he was in a particularly foul mood. It had been raining for three days and he hadn't been outside enough, and probably had a little too much screen time. He had thrown about three fits before 9am, so I said, let's get our boots and jackets on and go outside! It was still cloudy and rainy, but we went for a 30 minute walk around the neighbourhood, running and jumping in puddles, and it really turned his mood around. He was happy and much more relaxed for the rest of the day. We get out for a walk or playtime everyday, regardless of the weather. Sometimes it's all about the time of day. In the past couple of weeks, afternoons have also been a bit of a tantrum hot zone, especially if we go out in public. I think he is very sensitive to being tired, and even though he doesn't always think he needs a nap, he does, and shows signs of being tired soon after lunch is over. To avoid this, we stay at home, either inside or in the yard, after lunch until nap time. By avoiding his grumpy times and making sure he gets what he needs, I feel like I set him up for success, which is critical when trying to fend off the dreaded tantrum.

3) Give Options - C likes to be in control, which I think may be a toddler thing. By giving choices, he feels like he's in control. He may want ice cream for breakfast, but if he gets to choose between cereal and a waffle, he is a bit happier. He may not want to wear what I want him to, but if I give him a choice between two outfits, he'll pick one. Sometimes, it's a choice between continuing to scream and go home, or calming down and staying where we are. I know sometimes he's not in control, but I think knowing that there are consequences are important. Putting him in control of the choice seems to help. They seem to make him feel like he has a little control.  

4) Explain the Plan - I have been using a lot of "First - Then" language lately. First, we're going to pick up our toys, then we're going to have snack. First we are going to get dressed, then we're going to go to Sobeys, then we're going to the playground. There are no surprises. He knows what he has to do to get to what he wants. He also knows that if he gets through the not-so-fun stuff, he'll be rewarded with something fun. Most of the time, I have been doing this verbally, because C's receptive language is very good, but sometimes I use pictures. 

5) Distract (But Don't Reward) - Distraction works really well. When C's ice cream fell off the cone when we were away this weekend, he looked like he was going to get upset, but then I just said, "Hey look! Now you get to eat the cone!" He was happy. When he wanted to get a movie at the corner store, I said, "On the next rainy day, we'll come to the store to rent this. Now, let's go get some milk!" He was happy. When he didn't want to leave the playground, I pointed out some flowers for him to smell on the way out. Again, he was happy. I think it's important to note that distraction does not mean giving in and rewarding the behaviour. I'm not going to say, "Want a Timbit?" to stop him from tantruming. That would probably just lead to more tantrums. Distract, but don't reward! 

6) Breathe. Seriously, Just Breathe.  - This one has nothing to do with C. It has to do with me. When a tantrum hits, I need to remember to breathe. C's tantrums don't last, but even if they only last a minute, it feels like hours when in the moment. It's even more difficult when in public, feeling the looks of others on us, while I try to wrangle a squirming, screaming toddler. Sometimes, I may feel like crying, but instead I try to just breathe. And breathe again. And again. After it's over, I remind myself that it's never as bad as it seems in the moment. My grandmother used to say, "This too shall pass." She had 13 children, so I feel like this is good advice. We'll survive. 

I'm still new at this parenting thing, and I usually don't feel like I know what I'm doing, so I'm always searching for "real" advice.  I can't guarantee that these ideas will work for anyone else. If they don't, just try to be a supportive villager. I think it's important to be understanding and supportive of other parents who are going through the same thing. It takes a village, people. And sometimes the village needs to simply ignore the tantrum or give the mum or dad a supportive comment or understanding smile. We've all been there or are currently living it. Also, remember that the toddler years are also terrific! Focus on the good parts and try your best to deal with the not so good parts. 

Do you have any other ideas? I'd love to hear them. I could use a boost to my mom skills so I can better deal with the next tantrum!

Tuesday 26 July 2016

Summer Fun

Adventures don't have to take you far from home. Honestly, with a toddler, adventure can be found pretty much anywhere - basement, backyard, or flying through the air from the coffee table to the couch. I always have to remind myself that usually the best times are the times that are spent on simple activities. That's what we've been doing lately. Last week, we explored some of our local parks. It was free, fun, and outdoors!

Harbour Passage is a sweet walking/biking/strolling trail along the harbourfront that links the uptown with the west side. In addition to the beautiful sights, there are panels along the route to explain some of the history and wildlife of the area - shipbuilding, seals, the port, Fort LaTour. Of course, I didn't get to spend too much time reading them, but there seem to be more popping up all the time. Over the years, they've added more highlights, including public art, learning stations, and a children's section. Last week, C and I went for an evening walk, looking at the water, flowers, wildlife, and stopping at the children's play area.

I don't know why, but I never think about going to Rockwood Park. It's a shame, because it's a beautiful park. We're lucky to have such a great green space in the middle of our city. It's like our own Central Park. Actually, Rockwood Park was designed by a member of the same team who designed Central Park, in New York City, so it really is Saint John's version!  We spent the morning, one hot Saturday, exploring the trails, checking out the ducks, and eventually popping into Lily's Cafe for lunch on the patio overlooking Lily Lake.

Our other large green space in the city is the Irving Nature Park.  This park seems to be growing all the time. When I was a kid, it was Taylor's Island and Saints Rest. I used to go to the beach to beach-comb and fly kites. I think it opened as the Irving Nature Park in the 90s, and since then has grown to include the Sheldon Point Trail and the Children's Forest. On foggy mornings, we like to stop at Saints Rest, to walk the beach before breakfast. This typically includes throwing rocks into the water and trying to miss getting his by the waves. We always leave covered in sand and soaking wet. Sometimes, we are lucky to spot some wildlife, like deer.

Of course, close to our house is Seaside Park. It will be changing a lot next year, so we're trying to take advantage of it now. There is a little playground and a road that leads to the most beautiful views of Partridge Island and the Bay of Fundy. There are big pieces of granite to sit on and watch the ships come into the harbour. It's peaceful. If you continue down a pathway, you can walk along a path that can take you to Bayshore beach in one direction and Duck Cove beach in the other. Of course, the rocks also make the best jump-off rocks with is a bonus!

Last week helped me remember how lucky we are to live in Saint John. We have so many parks to go to within a short walk or drive. It's something to be proud of and support.

Monday 25 July 2016

In-Betweener Clothes

I hate shopping for clothes. It takes me days to get mentally prepared, and when I finally get up the courage, it usually ends with me leaving the stores empty handed, sitting in my truck, feeling so down. It's horrible. I realize that sounds overly dramatic, but it's true. It seems like every store is geared toward younger women or girls who don't have hips or a chest and have very skinny legs. Nothing fits. Nothing flatters. Nothing makes me feel good. By the end of a shopping trip, I feel horrible about myself.

I have been reading "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing" by Marie Kondo. It is basically a plan for organizing your home. You work with categories, like paper and clothing, and only keep items that "spark joy." I like this idea. Surround yourself with things that make you feel good. It sounds like a good plan. Well, let me tell you. Nothing sparks joy in my wardrobe.

This is why. (I will try not to make this move into rant territory.) I am about 5'7", and have always struggled with weight. Although I'm not in plus sized clothing, I am at the upper end of regular sizes. I wish that "plus" sizes went a little lower. I had started shopping in plus stores when I returned to work after maternity leave. I felt like I found "my store," because, when I left, I actually felt good about myself. I had found some nice clothes that both fit and flattered, and (BONUS!) the sales people were also friendly, which made me feel welcome.

Since then, I have been able to drop some more weight, which, health-wise, is a good thing, but I no longer fit in those sizes. I should be happy about that, but when it comes to clothing shopping, I'm stuck shopping at stores that I don't feel are made for me. Being at the upper end of the size spectrum, I get to choose the big versions of skinny clothes. Right now, everything is "skinny". Pant legs are so tight at the calf, they make me feel like an inverted triangle when I try them on. Clothes never fit well, too tight and pulling in some places while being baggy and frumpy in other places.  To make it more difficult, I have long legs, which further limits what I can buy for bottoms.

I really don't know how to fix this problem. It's not like I can design or make clothes. What I would love to see is a designer or clothing line to design and make clothes for us "in-betweeners." Focus the designs on those who are over a size 12. Not just making bigger sizes of skinny clothes. Have options to help us hide or smooth our tummies and the dreaded "muffin top." That would certainly spark joy in me when I look through my closet and go looking for something new to add to my wardrobe.

What are your favourite stores (online or in person) to shop in for clothes? I'd love to check them out!

Friday 22 July 2016

A Little Obsession

I love giveaways. I love having the chance to win something.  I have always entered raffles and contests and would sometimes be lucky enough to win some fabulous prizes - hockey tickets, household decor items, cakes, discounts on my power bill, and even a shopping spree at the Disney Store when I was a kid. If there was a chance to win something, my name was going in the hat! 

My biggest win was a trip to Disney World from a local radio station. It was my dream vacation. I took my first plane trip (at the age of 30); stayed at an amazing Disney resort, The Animal Kingdom Lodge; met my favourite Disney characters; took a special Disney tour, called the Wild Africa Trek; and had so many new experiences. I still can't believe I was lucky enough to win that prize!

Recently, I've starting participating in some Twitter contests. People hold Twitter parties, which are often chats on a product, service, or topic, with prizes. I only participate in parties that I find interesting, so I actually get something out of it, and also only if I would be interested in the prize. I always think that I would hate winning something that I wasn't interested in, and have someone else miss out on something they really wanted. This was a particularly lucky week! I won a $200 gift card from Walmart and a $25 gift card from the Superstore. If you like the chance to win things and learn more about a product, service, or topic, there always seem to be Twitter parties happening focused on one of these things. Sometimes people can get a little cheesey, but if you overlook that, they can be kind of fun. 

My favourite twitter parties are hosted by Yummy Mummy Club. They are well organized and on great topics. You can watch for their contests on their YMC Buzz Twitter account. I rarely win anything, but always learn something new.

There are also a lot of Facebook and Blogger contests that pop up. Many are "like and share" contests with local companies on Facebook. On blogs, they are often associated with products, which are a great way to try new products, without having to buy them. My Organized Chaos has a pretty great contest running right now, focused on summer camp outs. It's a great prize, and also a great post, if you're looking for some summer family fun.

Contests are fun to enter, especially if you have a little luck and actually win something. Have you ever had a big win? I'd love to hear about it! Feel free to share in the comments below and share links to your favourite contests running right now! 

Sunday 17 July 2016

It's Just A Kiss

I usually don't comment on news stories, but this one got under my skin. A lot. Social media has been buzzing this week over a picture that Victoria Beckham posted on Instagram, showing her giving her 5 year old daughter a kiss on the lips. It was her daughter's birthday and a very sweet picture -  a mum quietly celebrating her daughter on her birthday.

A photo posted by Victoria Beckham (@victoriabeckham) on

In my world, this is a pretty common sight. Just a parent and child having a "lip kiss." Of course, "the internet" disagreed, and many faceless commentators had to leave their two cents, saying it was disgusting and inappropriate.

It floored me. With so many sad stories in the news lately, people choose to pick on this? Why can't we celebrate love and parenthood?

This is not the first time this kind of story has met with internet outrage, and, sadly, I know it won't be the last. At some point, before becoming a mum, I don't think I gave it much thought. Now, I have a very affectionate 2 year old, who will stop mid-play or mid-walk to motion for me to kneel down for a "lip kiss" and hug. Even as I was typing this, he ran over, had me kiss his hand and then gave me a little kiss. He also gives major hugs, cheek kisses (where he pushes his cheek to mine and makes a kiss sound) and likes every boo-boo kissed better. He's affectionate, and lip kisses are part of the deal.

"Lip kisses," as they are referred to in my house, are pretty common with kids. Growing up, my family were big huggers. Kisses were always on the cheek. We hugged a lot, but didn't kiss on the lips. If it's not common in your house, it's okay. It doesn't make one family better (or worse) than another.

At the end of the day, it is important that children feel loved, safe, accepted, supported, and are cared for. That looks different for each child and each family. Take the child's lead. If they prefer to give high fives to show affection, go with it. If they like lip kisses, then go with that too. If you're not comfortable with that, then try something different. Most importantly, don't hate on one family just because they do things differently than you do. Be one of the hundreds of supporters who commented after the negative posts, celebrating and supporting this expression of affection between a mum and her daughter. Celebrate the love. Look for the good.

Tuesday 12 July 2016

My 5 Favourite Places to Visit on PEI

I just found this post in draft form and had completely forgotten about it. It caught my eye, because it's about Prince Edward Island. Sure, PEI may not seem like a glamorous place, but I love it. I know summer has arrived when my mind starts having visions of red sand, tiny villages, farm land, and lobster. I  always seem to find myself there each summer, even when I don't plan to. I thought it would be a good time to post. Last summer, I shared my new finds for PEI, but these are my favourite places to go back to every year.

1.  Village Pottery:
I love Village Pottery. Seriously. I posted the second picture on Instagram with the hashtag #icouldspendmypaycheckhere, and this is not an exaggeration. I really could. Since we had declared this trip a non-shopping vacation, I had to be good, but couldn't leave PEI without getting a little something from Village Pottery. (I went with a little sugar bowl and creamer and 3 small bowls.) It's definitely my favourite place to shop on the Island. As a bonus, if your significant other doesn't enjoy shopping, there is always a nice chair out front, in the shade. They can relax in the shade, while you give your wallet a workout!

My new favourites!

2.  Island Hill Farm
We first visited Island Hill Farm last year, and it was such a surprise. They have become a highly rated attraction on Trip Advisor, and if you visit, you'll soon see why. You start your visit in the barn, but it's not your average barn. There are murals on the walls and a chandelier in the chicken coop! Like I said, not your average barn. For just $5, you can spend as much time as you want with a donkey, alpacas, ducks, pigs, kittens, bunnies, and lots of goats! The donkey can get a little nippy (which they warn you about!), but all the other animals are very friendly, especially the goats! Sometimes you get an extra special treat, and one of the animals might have recently had babies. A day or two before our visit, the rabbit had bunnies! We couldn't see much, because they were still hiding in their bunny fur fuzz ball, but it was still exciting. 
Little C had fallen asleep on the drive there, and wasn't too awake when we arrived, so I carried him in for the first few minutes. As soon as he saw the goats, he was ready to roll! He had the best time with the animals, running through the fields, in and out of the barn, and even in the chicken coop! I think the animals enjoy the kids just as much as the kids love them! A great spot for visitors of all ages!

3.  Toy Factory:
I didn't take any pictures at the Toy Factory this year, but let me tell you, this is a kid's paradise! Inside? A small building jam-packed with toys! There is something for everyone - babies, toddlers, "big" kids, and kids-at-heart. I love the wooden toys, especially the cars - they roll smoothly on our floors, so they're great for car races. Also, if you ask, they'll personalize the car for your little one. In addition to their handmade toys, they carry lots of different lines of toys. They have entire sections devoted to puzzles, toy houses, castles, stuffed animals, and toys for young ones. There is a lot packed into a small space.

It's not just about the inside though. This is what makes the Toy Factory so special - they have created a child's paradise outside! There is a (real) bunny on the deck, a (fake) elephant in the yard, knight and princess cutouts, and a horse and carriage. Let's just say, there is lots to see, if you takd the time to look around. It's a bonus for when you want to buy a present or two for that special little boy or girl in your life, and need them to keep busy for a few minutes - one adult can go out, and one can stay inside and do some secret shopping.

It's also within walking distance of the PEI Preserve Company, Gardens of Hope, and Butterfly House. We didn't go there this year, but have been in the past. All three are worth the time to visit!

4.  Kings Castle Provincial Park:
If you have little ones, and are headed to the Points East Coastal Drive, this is a must-stop. It's a bit of a drive, if you're staying in Cavendish or Charlottetown, but if you love to see an ear to ear smile on your child's face, it's worth every minute of driving! Type the address into your GPS and enjoy the ride. (1887 Gladstone Rd, Murray Harbour, PE C0A 1V0) There is a beach, picnic tables spread throughout, washrooms, and lots of playground equipment! Some of the equipment is vintage - like the old woman who lived in a shoe slide, which my son had to go down about a million times. They've made many upgrades in the past few years - including new playground equipment, but I like the older stuff - wooden structures to climb and metal slides. It's a real trip back in time to my own childhood playground fun! You can sit back and watch your kids have a little old-fashioned fun!

5.  Site of L.M. Montgomery's Cavendish Home:
This one may not be as expected. I don't know what it is about this place, but I love it. The cottages that we usually rent are close by, and every year I walk there, usually by myself. That could be part of it's appeal. A little time to myself.  This year was a little better though, because I had my little buddy with me! The view on the way is beautiful - ocean on one side, and a nice field of wheat on the other.

Once you leave the main route, you take a short walk down a red road.  At the entrance to the site, there is a cute little building. You pay your admission fee here, and can also listen to a talk about the site. On your way out, you can pop in again to visit the gift shop. (We picked up a couple of postcards for the album, and a Stompin' Tom Connors "Hockey Song" board book!) It's a pretty simple spot. You can take a walk through the property. There are boards along the pathways, with L.M. Montgomery quotes and descriptions of what it would have looked like when she stayed there. As an added bonus, you can make your visit even longer by using connecting paths to visit the Green Gables post office and even continue on further to arrive at Green Gables.

Those are my top 5! I love new finds, but I love a good "return trip." Feels like home! ;)

Monday 11 July 2016

Towers and Strawberries

Last week was a pretty tame week. Even though it's summer vacation, I have been finishing up some work stuff. Last week, I was involved in some professional development and this week I am out of town for a few days. After that, I can breathe easy. Vacation will have finally arrived for me. 

We had some nice weather last week, so we did a little exploring. One day, we decided to go for a neighbourhood walk to visit Carleton Martello Tower. I sometimes forget all that our neighbourhood has to offer. Not everyone can say they live within walking distance of a 200-year old National Historic Site.
Carleton Martello Tower is a small defensive fort that was built during the War of 1812.  It's my understanding that there are many Martello Towers scattered throughout the world, including the Prince of Wales Tower, in Point Pleasant Park.  In the past few years, they've added a lovely interpretive centre. The Tower itself houses a powder magazine and barracks. It also has a gorgeous views of the city, including the port, harbour, uptown and Partridge Island. 

Unfortunately, this turned into a bit of a mis-adventure. You see, Martello Tower received some impressive funding recently which will allow for it to be completely restored.  I believe it is going to be totally dismantled and re-built. It's a pretty big deal. I knew this, but didn't realize that it was starting so soon. Needless to say, the tower wasn't open to go inside. The interpretive centre is still open, but that's not very exciting for a 2 year old. The guide in the centre was great, and gave C a little colouring book and explained that we could still explore outside, so that's what we did. It will be exciting to see the tower refurbished and visit it once it is complete. 

We climbed all the stairs to get to the base of the tower. 

We stopped to look around, but it was a little foggy. I have to say that in this part of the west side, this is what a little foggy can look like. When it's really foggy, you wouldn't be able to see the any of the church steeple or even some of the nearby trees.  It can get pretty thick. Sadly, the normally beautiful views of the city could not be seen that day!

Then we climbed down again.

C was a little upset that there was a gate locking him out, but luckily, 2 year olds are easily distracted and we just ran up and down the pathways a bit and stopped to smell the roses (literally!) A little stop at the store for a tiny tub of strawberry ice cream helped end the afternoon on a high note. Eating ice cream with a little wooden stick makes everything better, doesn't it? 

Later in the week, we went strawberry picking. C has loved picking wild strawberries in our yard lately, and was doing such a good job, I figured he'd love to see a big berry patch. I hadn't been strawberry picking in many years, but I had a flashback to sitting between the rows and stuffing my face with strawberries as a kid. Our berry picking trip went the same way! We drove to Bates Landing, in Long Point, which is near the Kingston Peninsula. We took the long way, so we could take a ferry ride. 

I knew we wouldn't get many berries picked, and we didn't, but it was fun. I picked berries and put them in our bucket, and C would pick strawberries out of the bucket and put them in his mouth. It was a very effective process... for him! He also liked playing with the hay and squishing berries that were on the ground. 

I kept telling him that he couldn't eat the berries, but he wouldn't stop. The ladies picking around us kept saying he could eat as much as he wanted! There were so many berries on the plants, and some were starting to get moldy, so they were probably right. There weren't enough pickers for the berries. He was just helping the berries live up to fulfill their destiny of being gobbled up! After getting the berries weighed and paid for, I gave the girls a few extra dollars for the strawberries consumed during our time in the berry patch. It's not like they didn't know. He had red berry juice smeared all over his face!

Before stopping home, we went to Kredl's in Hampton for lunch at the Cookhouse and picked up tea biscuits and whipping cream to have with our strawberries that night. 

Strawberry shortcake tastes like summer!  There is nothing better than fresh, local strawberries. They taste even better when you pick them yourself. I think we'll be making this a summer tradition. Hopefully, next year, I have a better helper and not just an eater!

Tuesday 5 July 2016

My Little Picky Eater

Little C can be a picky eater. He has a variety of foods that he likes, but there is also a big list of foods he doesn't. Or maybe it's better to say that he just refuses to try them. How can  you not like something you've never even tasted? I know that it could be worse, and I'm not really complaining, but I'm getting bored serving him the same foods, especially when packing lunches.

Breakfasts are easy. When he is eating with his grandparents, on work days, it's always oatmeal. Always. In fact, he ONLY eats oatmeal there. I must not make it the same. He also loves pancakes, cheerios, berries, rice krispies, toast, eggs (sometimes), bacon, sausage, and other breakfast foods. He loves going out for breakfast, and Cora's is definitely a favourite. He gobbles up everything, and usually doesn't stop at the edge of his plate, stealing his favourites off everyone else's. Breakfast really isn't a problem, and is sometimes doubled up as supper. (Really, there's nothing better than breakfast for supper!)

Snacks are easy too - apples, pears, bananas, berries, goldfish crackers, dry cereal, yogurt, raisins, graham crackers, and some treats.

Right now, I'm concerned with his lunches. A typical week of lunches looks like this:
  • Chicken finger/nuggets, raw bell peppers, and fries (potato or sweet potato)
  • Spaghetti (with extra hidden tomatoes and mushrooms)
  • Tomato & Beef Macaroni (especially this recipe!)
  • A "picker" plate - Ham, a boiled egg, veggies (peppers and mushrooms, usually), crackers, and sometimes seeds or dried cranberries - I call it a picker plate, because he picks at it, and I just hope that he gets enough to fill him up
  • Beans, especially Bush's Maple beans, and crackers
  • English Muffin pizza, with sauce, mushrooms, peppers, Barbour's pizza spice mix (he goes crazy with it!), and a little cheese
  • Campbell's chicken noodle soup, with the Frozen characters - this is a new one
  • Fish (salmon, haddock, trout) and rice (usually with some frozen peas and carrots, but he rarely eats them)
That's pretty much it. Well, he also likes lobster. And scallops. (He's totally a maritime kid, right?)

One thing I don't understand is that he doesn't like cheese! No mac and cheese for this kid! No grilled cheeses. No chicken and cheese tortilla roll-ups. No cheese chunks on his plate to add a little more substance to his meal. We were able to get him eating a little cheese on pizza, but that's the extent of it. I should be happy that he doesn't like cheese, but it's kind of a staple for most "kid" food. 

I know there is a lot of advice out there for picky eaters. I've always just gone with my gut. I never force him to eat anything that he doesn't want to. My method has always been to offer him what we're eating. If he eats it, he eats it. (Yahoo!) If he doesn't, I don't force it, but will often offer him some yogurt, fruit and crackers later on. I certainly don't want him to starve (or get too "hangry"), but I also don't want meals to be a big fight or source of stress for the family. We just keep trying new things, hoping he'll like something. 

This summer, my goal is to find some new foods that C will eat. Tonight, I'm trying some homemade soup. Tomorrow, it will be something else. If I can find three more lunches for him, I will call it a mommy win. Let me know if you have any suggestions, send them to me!


Summer is finally here! The weather has been beautiful, and we're ready for some fun and relaxation. 

I have been really bad at updating this blog, but honestly, I never intended to regularly update.  (I'm an admitted scatterbrain, so what else would you expect?) Besides, life has been a little short on adventure for the past few months.  Thankfully, that's about to change. Summer means a less scheduled life, which I've been looking forward to for quite a while. I'm off work for the next 8 weeks, and I want to make the most of it. I see outdoor adventures, crafty adventures, cooking adventures, and maybe a few house reno adventures mixed in. I'll have to sprinkle in a little work to prepare for the fall, but that's fun for me anyway. 

I have no list, no schedule, and no plans. That's different for me. We'll see where it takes us this summer. 

Today's adventure may not be fun, but very necessary. Clean the house! Our poor little house has been neglected lately, so today is filled with tidying, cleaning out, and the ultimate adventure: laundry catch up! Wish me luck!

Tuesday 5 April 2016

Toddler Survival List

Toddler life is never boring! There are so many ways to spend your time and money when you have a toddler in your life. Think of all the products and toys for toddlers. Some are great, but others are a waste of  money.  In my experience, simple and cheap is often the best! 

Here are my top 15 things for surviving life with a toddler!  

1. Sandra Boynton Bedtime books - Actually, Sandra Boynton works any time of the day. You can't go wrong with her books. A bit of a rhyme, lot of rhythm, and plenty of giggles and actions. Our nighttime favourites are "The Going to Bed Book" and "Pajama Time." They never get old! If I'm being totally honest, I ask to read them, if he doesn't. Bonus points for our daytime favourites: "The Birthday Monsters,"  Red Shirt, Green Shirt," and "Blue Hat, Green Hat." Little C has been having a lot of fun making up actions and dances to go along with the stories lately.  

2. Ikea plates, bowls, and glasses - We don't have a local Ikea, but I picked up sets of these on a whim when making an end of trip. They are easy to clean in the dishwasher, unbreakable and the perfect size. I love the colours and sometimes use them myself! Ours are getting a little old now and a little scratched, so I only wish I had picked up extra sets!

3. Crayola Washable Crayons - Crayola products are awesome, but their washable crayons are magical. Seriously. They will wipe off of anything - floors, walls, tables, couches, windows, or even clothes! With just a drop of water and very little effort, all crayon marks disappear, like magic.

4. Bubbles! Bubbles are smile and giggle makers. Bubbles outside, in the summertime, are always fun, but they can also help on a boring wintery day. Blow some bubbles when in the tub or put out a blanket in the living room, to keep the floor from getting slippery, and have a bubble party. It's good for at least 10 minutes, which is pretty good in the life of a toddler! We got this great no spill "Fubbles" container recently, and although C found a way to spill a little, it's not nearly as disastrous as a big bottle of bubbles!

5. Netflix - We really try to limit screen time, but sometimes you just need time to do the dishes, use the bathroom, take a shower, make supper, or just take a breath! Netflix is perfect. I can let him watch a 20 minute program, and there is so much to choose from! As a bonus, I don't have to worry about what comes on during commercial breaks, because there aren't any! His current favourites are Paw Patrol and Chuggington. Full House and Fuller House are some family favourites.

C's got some new dance moves!

6. Music - music is great to have on in the background while playing. I have a Bose system that makes it easy to play music from our phones. Little C loves to dance, so music is always a good source of entertainment, for him and us!

10. Stickers - Stickers make for a fun time. You do have to be willing to peel them off everything in sight - floors, couch, dog, yourself, but they provide lots of fun. C's favourite way to get stickers right now are in books. He has these great little Disney's Cars books with four pages of stickers inside them. The stickers included seem to peel easily, which is good news for parents!

11.  Melissa & Doug - I don't know who Melissa and Doug are, but I'd love to give them a hug. They make the most amazing toys. They can be a bit pricey, but I always watch for sales or the shelves of Winners/Homesense. I love how open-ended they are, so they can be used for lots of social and pretend play.  

12.  Pinterest & Dollarstore Art Supplies - My little guy is crazy for art, so we go through a lot of crayons, paint, paper, and playdoh. Pinterest has so many ideas for cheap art projects for toddlers. Here is a recent project that we made with some masking tape, a $3 canvas, and some paint:
13. Playgrounds - Even though the playground near my house is awful, Little C loves it. Running, sand, sliding, rocks, swinging, dirt... It's all fun. There are some awesome playgrounds within driving distance of our house that we take advantage of from Spring to Fall. To him, a trip to a free playground is just as good as an expensive day trip. Add in some snacks, and it's a full afternoon of (affordable) fun. 

14. Library and Book Store - On a rainy day, there's nothing better than a good book. For toddlers, there's nothing better than the library or book store. It's a great way to find some new reads and hang out with some new friends. The children's section of indigo is always fun, and there is always new and exciting activities going on at the library. They offer great toddler programs, which I'm going to start taking better advantage of.

15. Coffee - This one isn't so much for the toddler as it is for the toddler-wranglers.  You don't know tired until you've spent a day chasing a toddler! A good tip is to invest in a good insulated travel mug. You don't have to worry about spills or having to continually re-heat that cup that you never really had a chance to finish.

That's my top 15. What are your must-haves for life with a toddler?

Blueberry Pie and A Beautiful Drive!

Yesterday, I went for a drive all by myself. I feel like this shouldn't be news, but usually I have C in tow, and although he makes road...