Unsupervised Play – The Genius of Play Play Talk

Unsupervised Play – The Genius of Play Play Talk

Should Kids Be Allowed Unsupervised Play?

Genius of Play - Play Talk

I let my kids play unsupervised.

There.  I said it.

Some of you are praising Hallelujah! I have the good sense God gave me to raise strong, independent, creative kids.  Some of you just clutched your pearls and prayed on my feral children.  Most of you likely fall somewhere in between.

Perfect parenting doesn’t exist and we all do the best we can with the tools at our disposal.

The Genius of Play – Play Talk

Since we’re all sitting in this kumbaya circle of acceptance, lets talk play as we sip our (cold) coffee and (sorta) watch the wee ones run around the park like banshees.

The Genius of Play has generously offered to compensate me for oversharing but trust all mom-fails and opinions are strictly my own.

Responsible or Negligent

There’s a big difference between age-appropriate unsupervised play time and being negligent of your children.  I’m certainly not advocating for the latter and trust you keep your kids’ safety in mind.

I, for one, certainly pass no judgement on your parenting style.  You won’t find me casting stones if your kids play outside alone or – heaven forbid – have learned to responsibly take city transit for short distances.

What’s the worst that can happen

We all ask ourselves this, and while I have no suitable answer I can tell you what * has * happened.  Shining moments of glory these were not, and certainly no Mother Of The Year awards were handed out.  

#Parenting What happened when I allowed unsupervised play #geniusofplay @TheToyAssoc by @XD_Impact Click To Tweet

Dancing in Windows

Jasmine & I were a fierce duo nearly from birth.  Around the time she was about 18 months old we shared a bedroom in a ground floor apartment.

I’ve always enforced nap times and on this particular day I could hear Jasmine messing around in the bedroom.  I was determined to let her fall asleep – were were both exhausted – and knew if I just gave her enough time she’d tire out and hunker down.

Except it suddenly got quiet TOO quiet.

I peeked into her bedroom and almost pissed myself laughing.  Knowing no one would believe me without hard evidence, I quietly made my way outside – phone in hand – ready to record this nonsense.

< Waves Furiously >

My dear, sweet, child was standing in the windowsill wearing naught by a nappy and a t-shirt, waving furiously at all the cars that went by and the people walking out front.  She was dancing, playing peekaboo, and having a blast.

Oh.  Um.  Small detail. …We lived on the main drag.

A minute went by before she noticed me, and she was so proud it was hard to get mad.

The Holiday Haircut

Annabelle has always been more independent than her sisters. Her art desk is her ‘Office’ and she can be found there doing ‘Homework’ she’s invented or drawing endless pictures of who and what she misses.

On a few occasions I have found myself coming out of the washroom to find her in a pile of bread or engrossed in ‘The Elements of Style’ – upside down, of course.  She ‘read’ that book for 1/2 hour before letting it down!

Usually a fairly tame child, she did surprise us with an impromptu haircut a week before Christmas one year.

The Evidence

That Time I took a Shower

One afternoon I decided to have a shower while Chloe napped.  I needed sleep, but that day I needed a shower even more.

I waited until she was snoring and ninja-rolled out of the bedroom.  I came back to find her with headphones ones, 1/2 dressed, writing on her foot with  pen (I’d been working in the bed previously).  I sat there and watched until she realized I was back.

Chloe’s Cat Soup

When Chloe was a baby I couldn’t turn around for a minute without finding her attached to one of the cats.  It seems they gravitated towards her, and she to them.

These guys were great – and after 3 babies were extremely tolerant.  Plus, she was kind of their favorite because she shared food with them.

Once she started crawling we’d find her making ‘cat soup’ – dumping all the cat food in the water bowl, then trying to shove it in her mouth – if we accidentally left the gate open or even escaped for a minute to go pee.

That Time UPS Rang the Doorbell

Being the youngest of three there was a year when Chloe was still at home and both her sisters were at school.

That child did not waste a single moment of those hours, as can be evidenced here.

I came back from signing for a package and found her sharing a sucker with Olaf.  Gramma gave her the sucker.  Olaf gave her the puppy eyes.  “I’m SHARING Maman!”.

Olaf’s Piano Lessons

In case you haven’t figured it out, Chloe is our Animal Whisperer.  On this day I had to take a work call and she went to the other living room to play quietly for a few minutes.

This is what I came back to.

Olaf The Baby

I’m not ashamed to say that I let me kids play in a room alone – be it the living room, their bedroom, or somewhere in the stairs.

Once again, I found Olaf in a compromising situation.  His lips were sealed though.  Never once did he tattle tale on her!

Helicopter Parenting?

Clearly, “Helicopter Parent” I am not.

My kids regularly participate in age-appropriate unsupervised play such as spending 15-20 at the park after school (1 block away), playing out front on their bikes (I‘ll add I would never have allowed this in our old neighborhood), and for the oldest allowing her to go for a short walk on her own before dinner.

All three benefit greatly from being able to spend time by themselves.  I have seen their creativity flourish, their problem solving skills improve, and  their self confidence take a boost when they accomplish something they’ve been working on for a while, supposedly in secret.

They’re so damn loud though, what they’re up to is rarely secretive.

What’s the worst that could happen?  Probably a lot, likely no different than the risk of driving to the supermarket.   What has happened isn’t all that bad, all things considered.  They are safe, they are well, and that’s what matters to me.

How do you navigate keeping * your * kids safe while giving them the independence they crave? 

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Unleashed the Movie

Unleashed the Movie

Unleashed the Movie: The Little Movie that Could

Unleashed the movie – a romantic comedy – comes out in theaters and on demand August 25th 2017 and you should see it.  Hear me out before you write this one off as ‘just another fluff piece’. 

The Plot

Yes, the plot is typical and predictable. Girl meets boy, boy breaks girl’s heart.  A supermoon causes her pets to transform to humans and hilarity ensues.

We’ve seen this before.  Maybe not exactly like this, but variations on the ‘freaky Friday’ / Groundhog day / cosmic-oh-fucks that messes up a few lives for a short period of time is not a new concept.

The Dialog

The dialog is good, the jokes are funny, and the actors seem to have a natural chemistry which makes for great performances.

This movie is also very family friendly and you don’t have to worry about your kids repeating anything they shouldn’t have heard.

Side note – the only nudity is a shot of Steve Howey’s (Reba, Something Borrowed, Shameless) gorgeous backside as he is transformed from dog to human.

I can already hear the questions burning into your eyes…

All this is great, but what makes this movie so special I. must. see. it.?

Official Trailer # 1

Unleashed starring Kate Micucci & Justin Chatwin

Official Trailer # 2

Unleashed starring Kate Micucci & Justin Chatwin

The Performance

Simply put, the actors’ performance in this award-winning indie film is outstanding.

Steve Howey (Reba, Shameless)

Steve Howey plays the role of Sam,  Emma’s dog Summit who’s trapped inside a human body.  He sells it so well you can easily picture him as a dog.

He plays big, which is perfect for this role.  Big mouth. Big teeth. A semi-permanent look of wonder in his eyes. Short, quick, sentences. Terrific ‘tail between the legs’ moments.

Every movement, every expression, is exaggerated.  He sports a big goofy grin throughout the film and you just can’t help but love him.

“Good Boy, Steve.  Good Boy”

Kate Micucci (The Big Bang Theory, When in Rome)

Kate brings us Emma – a geeky, somewhat awkward, yet still very feminine woman who trusts her pets more than she does people.  Hey, I can’t judge; just this morning I found myself having a full conversation with my cat and her 5 babies…

Emma is adorable but at risk of becoming a crazy cat lady.  Once scorned and wary of the opposing gender she wishes there were more men like Summit and Ajax.  Be careful what you wish for? …

unleashed the movie

The best performance, without a doubt, goes to Justin Chatwin as Diego.

Justin Chatwin

Can we take a moment to simply appreciate the genius that is Jusin Chatwin and his dedication to the fine art of cat-ing?

unleashed the movie

The amount of time that man must have spent just watching cats is astounding.  The walk, the talk, the tilt of the head – everything!

Diego is the human cat personified.  The things he does with this tongue (get out of the gutter, it’s not that kind of movie), the way he carries himself, his hands…

I’ve had cats all my life – this guy nails it.

Whether he’s drinking milk from a carton, spitting out food, grabbing a goldfish from the tank, the complete arrogance in his swagger – and still, charming.

unleashed the movie

I’m sure the script read “Saunters down the street very cat-like“.

What he did… I mean… Wow. The hips, the shoulders, the slight rolling of his back as he makes his way down the street – and around lamp poles, over benches, through monuments.

Justin did his homework, and it shows.

His performance was the best thing about this movie.  I enjoyed all of it – but this was the pièce de résistance.

 

Verdict

So what else do you want me to say about Unleashed the movie? Me-Ow. Go see it, it’s great.  In theaters and On Demand August 25th. MEEOWWWW. Go!

Oh, and subscribe to Finding Funny to win your very own copy (hard copy or iTunes digital) of Unleashed the Movie. Contest ends September 10th.

*It goes without saying I received a copy of this film in other to review it.  Cause you know, disclosures and all.

Subscribe to Finding Funny

Subscribe & be entered to win a copy of Unleashed the Movie.

Contest ends September 10th

BlogHer17

BlogHer17

BlogHer '17 Experts Among Us

changes, thoughts, and pictures

My first BlogHer conference was in 2012.  5000+ women (and all genders) descended upon the Hilton NY for a weekend of learning, parties, connections, and more.

The moment I walked into the conference space was the first time in my life I felt 100% normal.  I felt like belonged – finally.

In my limited experience I was told this was the conference for swag – product and such given by brands in the expo hall.

I made a few good connections, but the expo hall was so congested you could barely hear yourself talking, never mind having conversations with brand reps.

I learned – a lot – and was inspired by many of the legends and veterans of this world.  @Lesbiandad, Vicki Reich, Tanis Miller, Lena Almeida, Lizz Porter, Mara Shapiro, and so many more.

There were so many community parties it was hard to keep track of them all.  The classics – VOTY reception, open mic, kareoke, the closing party – were also enjoyed.

It was an amazing experience of learning, inspiration, parties, and new connections.

blogher'17

So What’s Changed?

BlogHer was acquired by SheKnows Media a few years ago, and I’ve noticed changes with each passing year.

The tag-line became ‘Experts Among Us’.

We are seeing a renewed focus on learning.

There was a major crackdown on off-boarding in 2014.  There were also fewer sponsors than previous years and swag was not as significant.

BlogHer'17

BlogHer’17 keynotes had less ‘fluff pieces’ and important conversations are being held on the main stage.

BlogHer'17

There’s no longer a panoplie of parties to choose from.  The classics were enjoyed but I didn’t hear of any others this year.

BlogHer'17

Along with sessions on the classics such as writing, web design, SEO, and community building BlogHer’17 had sessions on the next step in our career.  Where is our blogging taking us? What’s waiting for us around the corner?

BlogHer'17

This year’s conference had a small expo hall which some loved and others grumbled about.

BlogHer'17

Sponsored private events were held as usual and anyone reading their emails had a fair chance to get in (depending how quick your fingers were).

Several sponsors were there to help us further our career (as opposed to shilling out swag and hoping for connections or social mentions).

Examples of those present at BlogHer’17 are WordPress.com, Ebay Partner Network, bluehost, and Kindle direct publishing.

Why all the changes?

I suspect many of the changes implemented by SheKnows Media and the BlogHer team were very deliberate.

BlogHer'17

A conference can’t tout itself to be about experts among us while still being seen as the swag-whore mecca.

The smaller expo hall and increased business focus discourages said swag-whores which results in brands making more meaningful connections that will lead to lasting relationships.  This keeps the brands – who highly subsidize our conference fee – happy and increases the chance they’ll be back.

BlogHer'17

The conference was smaller but in my opinion attendees and sponsors came out with more than previous years.

BlogHer’17 – Different yet Same

This was the first BlogHer where I only ran into a small handful of legends I look up to.  Many were simply not there – some have stopped blogging while others are now working in PR and social marketing.

BlogHer'17

Looking around the room, there were many new faces, young faces.

BlogHer'17

Our community is as diverse as ever but there’s a new generation of bloggers at the helm and I suddenly found myself a veteran in the crowd.

BlogHer'17

Notes

BlogHer is not a swagdom, nor is it a space solely for ‘mommy bloggers’ (gag me) to learn their craft in between parties.

BlogHer'17

BlogHer is a business conference for those who blog. 

#BlogHer is not swagdom for 'mommy bloggers' (gag me) It's a business conference for those who #blog Click To Tweet

BlogHer'17

Our industry is forever evolving and we must adapt or jump ship.  So far I like the boat, i’ll be sticking around for a while.

#BlogHer17

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What I’ve Been Up To

What I’ve Been Up To

I've Been Busy

working on some amazing projects

Sometimes one needs – and deserves – and a time out.  After I published my thoughts on the Great Cheeto I put myself on a media time out to preserve my sanity.

Life… Chaos?

Following my self-imposed media blackout my parents moved out, going into accessible and affordable housing.  I have found a nice home for the kids & I as there is no need for 6 bedrooms and 4 bathrooms.  I’m looking forward to sharing my no-fail moving process.  It’s sure to become a comical process with the the little ones off school for the summer!

New Ventures

After years of offering experience design and web development services the marketing company finally has its home on the interwebs!  Check out Impact XD – http://impactxd.com – to see what I’ve been up to.

Stories & Travels & Funnies

I have several posts in the works.  As I’m sure you’ve noticed I’ve had all the time in the world to write but fear not, funnies are on their way 🙂

Here’s a sampling of what’s coming up:

Adventure in Las Vegas

I flew with Sky Combat Ace and the video of me flying a plane upside down is almost done! 

What NOT to wear – Online Dating Version

If your profile picture looks like a serial killer’s mugshot or you appear to be in what can only be your mother’s bed (based on the very old, very flowery, sheets and comforter you’re displaying) you’re doing it wrong.  I’ll be sharing the Do’s & Don’ts of profile pics and a few memorable profiles I’ve come across.

Key West & Visit Florida

I went back to Key West this month and can’t wait to tell you all about it.  Jam-packed full of adventure – road-tripping from Fort Lauderdale, adventures in overnight travels, and 27 miles of jetski in choppy waters.  

Traveling on a Budget

Spoiler alert – don’t try it.  Seriously.  Anything and everything that could go wrong will.  Shit will happen, every time.  At least… it does to me every time I try to save money on travels.  I’ll be regaling you with tales of oh-shits along with tips that actually work. 

#BlogHer17

BlogHer was – as usual – amazing.  We’ll talk sponsors, sessions, and I have amazing pictures of most keynotes – so if you graced the main stage stay tuned for those shots!

NYC & CE Show

The geek inside me is squealing like a kid on Christmas morning.  I will be participating in the VIP media tour at the Consumer Electronics Show and will be sharing all the great (read: geeky af) stuff on display.

There’s even more!!!

That’s what happens you get backed up due to life.  You can sign up to get notifications right in your inbox.  You can always google-stalk me on Instagram and Facebook.  There’s great conversations happening over there so come join us!

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Breaking: Vagina Wars

Breaking: Vagina Wars

Breaking: The War on Vaginas

Cheetolini inspires legions to attempt control of baby cannons everywhere

Human rights, meet Agent Orange

On January 21st, 2017 Captain Diaperpants was inaugurated as Presidential Apprentice following which the internet – and our dear planet – has erupted in a giant ball of fire.

We have a team of neo-fascists at the helm of America doing whatever they damned please with no regards for the law.

Habanero Hitler and his Troop of Trifling Troglodytes are convinced we have no need for such things as the EPA, free speech, and equal rights for all.

Cheeto Jesus flew in on Hair Force One and wants you to believe real news is fake and his words are alternate facts lies.

Hurricane Donald has hit the land of the free and though his enthusiasm seems to be waning he’s inflicting more damage than we ever thought possible in a mere TWO WEEKS ONE MONTH in office.

And so I cry

I haven’t cried in months but tonight… Tonight I cried.

I cried because the reign of Hair Hitler is one giant trigger and I can’t not cry anymore.

I cried because Texas lawmakers want to charge women and providers with murder because “jail time for abortions would force women to be more personally responsible for their sexual behavior”.

I’m plenty responsible for * my own * sexual behavior!  Mkay?  Or shall I draw you a picture?

I cried because Oklahoma courts ruled oral sex is not rape if the woman is too intoxicated to consent, regardless of DNA evidence.

I raged because another Oklahoma law maker is trying to make it illegal for abortions to be performed on a “host” without the written informed consent of the fetus’ father.

Rick Santorum has argued that sexual assault victims should “accept this horribly created” pregnancy because it is “nevertheless a gift in a very broken way” and that, when it comes down to it, a victim just has “to make the best out of a bad situation.”  That post-rape pregnancies are God’s way of saying, ‘I understand your pain and I bless you with this child to comfort you in your life ahead.

Apparently that’s “a better and mentally healthier perspective than aborting the child”.

And this is just a sampling of the love muffin wars that have dominated our news feeds.

Can you guess what I did next?

I got angry

Global warming is a real problem but Tangerine Voldemort would rather trump the law, signing a “Muslim Ban” executive order.

I got angry because instead of worrying about air pollution, drinking water, and guns PEEOTUS is at war with VAGINAS.

The only garden the Orange Asshat is interested in saving is of the Lady variety.  And by ‘saving’ I mean controlling.

Enough?

Are we ready to say enough is enough? Have we not fought hard enough?

Checking your privilege

We have fought.  We have marched.  We’ve created change to allow everyone the civil rights they deserve.

As women we have fought for the right to vote, the right to be equals, the right to choose what happens to our bodies.  We persisted for the rights of all women, regardless of race or religion.

Same-sex marriages are now legally recognized and parents aren’t forced to adopt their own children.  Trans men & women can use whichever washroom they see fit without having to prove their gender to the pee-pee police.  * Edited to add: Actually, never mind.  I swear this article becomes more and more irrelevant by the day as new executive orders and repeals creep up.

We are here because we fought and I’ll be damned if I’ll sit back and watch democracy, decency, and humanity roll backwards.

I am a proud Franco-Ontarian.  French Canadians fought for the right to go to school in French or in English, for the right to be served in the official language of our choice.

When they tried to close the only French-teaching hospital west of Quebec we fought to not only save the hospital but also to protect minority rights for all Canadians.

Humanity must move forward

We * are * privileged, and we haven’t fought the good fight for this long to let people like Trumpelstiltskin come in and steal it from us.

Instead we must commit.

Commit to using this privilege to effect positive change.

Doesn’t everyone deserve to know this privilege?

This stops now, or Darth Hater will have more than just angry pussies to worry about.

Speak up.  Speak out.  Resist.

Do not conform and assimilate.  Do not ignore the silencing of those whose voices can’t be heard.

When history lessons will teach of the Big Cheeto 45th president and how he was taken down by Teen Vogue and GQ, how the revolution was led by park rangers and scientists…  When dissertations are written on this topic, how will you relive the past?

For all those times you’ve said “if I were alive when that happened I would have done…”  This is it.  This is your time, your chance.

It’s time to stand on the right side of history and fight for all we’ve fought for.

Get it together Humanity.

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Netflix Brings Offline Viewing to the Table

Netflix Brings Offline Viewing to the Table

Netflix Brings Offline Viewing to the Table

#StreamTeam

When do I get on a plane next, because I need to try this feature.

Netflix now allows you to DOWNLOAD designated programming to your tablet or phone for offline viewing. No more paying through the nose for Boingo Hotspots just so I can keep busy on a layover.  No more paying for on-board WiFi only to find out it doesn’t support streaming.

And being able to watch anywhere, without having to worry about my data?  Priceless.

Now on @Netflix_CA - Downloadable content for #OfflineViewing Click To Tweet

So – What’s the first thing you’ll be downloading?

While you’re here – Check out my gift guide & shop the Finding Funny store to help support this blog

As a member of the Netflix #StreamTeam I receive special perks and incentives in exchanging for sharing the awesome, however all data overages and binge-watching exhaustion are all mine.  Oh, and my opinions, too :).

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Dating 101 and Uncommon Goods

Dating 101 and Uncommon Goods

Ya’ll know I have a gift guide, right? One that strives to deliver unique gift ideas at all price points, for everyone on your list?

Yeah.  That one.

So it was no surprise when an email came in asking if I’d review their wares and share my thoughts with you.

What was surprising, however, is the love affair that ensued.

Whhoooooohyyy it’s a hot one

It all started with a simple glance.  A peek, a look-see… could this be a match?

uncommon goods

OMG Glitters & Sparkles.

Because anyone who knows me will tell you – If it glitters and sparkles… it’s all me.  Following the glittery gold my eyes went straight for the ampersand cheese board.

Sold.  Done.  I’m in.

As I spent hours (!!!) going through the site I just couldn’t get enough.  If products could be soulmates, these were my soulmates.  The anywhere travel guide? It gets me.

When I got to the F-Bomb paperweight… I whispered “You complete me“.

Dating 101

As in online dating, I went CSI Google to find out as much as I can before I agreed to a date.

I found out integrity & sustainability is important to Uncommon Goods.  From providing fair wages and health insurance to their staff to being committed to selling products that do no harm to animals or people.

Find someone you can bring anywhere

Ends up you can dress this one up and take it out.

Need a birthday date (gift)? Uncommon Goods.  

Going to a wedding?  Uncommon Goods is all dressed up and ready to go, complete with personalizing.

Fiance camping with the boys pre-wedding? Send him packing with Uncommon GoodsI hear it’s great for groomsmen gifts.

A lady should never get sloshed on the first date

Better to let them see you naked before you puke on their shoes.  

It’s easy to get carried away.  You’re clicking through pages, you’re full of endorphin, and you’ve just found the. perfect. thing. for everyone you know * and * their cat.

Calm down, relax, step away from the shopping cart.  3 date rule, right?

Kidding!  (But the look on your face…)

I’m not saying don’t buy anything… I’m just saying you can come back for seconds, thirds, or however much you want!  Your credit card will thank you for showing mild restraint.

Swiped Right?

If I could have swiped right or left instead of bookmarking all the things, the following is what I would have picked.  Check them out, and peruse the site.

I’m guessing you’ll have a few new must-haves that will leave you pining till you clear up some available credit on your credit card.

Have any dating tips?  Looking to compare notes on the (uncommon) goods?  That comment box ain’t going anywhere 😉

Halloween Fun with Beat Bugs & Word Party

Halloween Fun with Beat Bugs & Word Party

Halloween Fun with Beat Bugs & Word Party

#StreamTeam

My kids love Halloween and they were stoked when we got a pumpkin carving kit from Netflix. We had several designs to choose from, and they picked Beat Bugs and Word Party.

It’s easy to make fun and interesting pumpkin designs – here’s how we did it.

Start by printing your desired designs.  Thicker stock paper works better, as does ‘chunkier’ designs.

You’ll also need to gather a few useful tools.  You can kits at places like Walmart or the grocery store.

Cut out the insides of your image – the parts that will be removed – and tape it onto the pumpkin.

These two designs worked really well because they didn’t have many intricate details.

Trace out and / or fill in the design on your pumpkin, as if you were using a stencil.

Filling in is a little messier than tracing but it really helps the kids see what needs to come off versus what stays.

Now, destroy your masterpiece.

I mean… Use your tools to carve your design.  Yes, there’s a How to Train your Dragon in there… It was disastrous, the boy fell off at the last cut.

And Voila! Beautiful-ish pumpkins that didn’t stress you out at all while the kids insisted on doing everything themselves ;).

Now the fun begins, your kitchen will be a disaster.  Enjoy the fruits of your labour (pun intended).

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Up Your Sexting Game with Some CSS

Up Your Sexting Game with Some CSS

Up Your Sexing Game with Some CSS

how geeking out (almost) got me laid

*** The contents of this post may or may not have been crowdsourced.  User discretion is advised***

Step 1: CSS – The Basics

Word of the wise… The techniques described herein are not for the uninitiated.  This text assumes the reader has prior experience with sexting and a working knowledge of HTML / CSS.  If you need to look up any of these terms… this tutorial is not meant for you.

The first step in upping your sexting game with CSS is announcing to the world that you can, in fact, banter in such ways.

I recently added a bit of CSS to my online dating profile and it goes like this:

all_around_awesome_man {

visibility: always!important;

background: transparent;

position: relative;

display: block;

height: 5616px;

min-height: 4536px;

max-height: 80%;

career: absolute;

humour: inline;

}

The original idea behind this was to eliminate the idiots – those with a single-digit IQ will have no clue what jargon I put up and will move on.  Others, regardless if they know what I’m actually saying, would at least understand it appears to be some kind of coding language.

The friends who get you

This little bit of code generated some interesting conversations in a few of my online groups and some of the more notable comments follow.

“Can you ID such a man by his class” garnered some laughs, and the ladies were quick to point out I should create a few other classes,  .not-tonight or .girls_night, to counter the visibility: always command.  There was much laughter and I thought that was the end of that.

Step 2: Banter with a FFTW (Friend From The Web)

The next few days saw some mild bantering via private message with a FFTW.  This va et vien was quite innocent and random at best.

css1

Until it wasn’t.

css2

css3

Step 3: 1st base is for sissies

Talk may have been had re: international booty call but you’ll need to give me a lot of wine to get those details out of me.

This, however, is where one jumps in with:

.clothing { display: none; }

Cuts the chitter-chatter and brings it back to basics.  Hold on to your hats ladies, it’s all sexy from here.  I’d say hold on to your pants, but it appears you just dropped them ;).

Step 4:  Game On

css4

The FFTW in question will be left mind-blown, speechless, and likely wanting more – which is exactly where you want him.   Not only is he now turned on by the idea of sex… You got him weak in the knees using your noggin.

Of course, this only works if he actually understands a word you’re saying.  See step 1.

Step 5: When Shit Gets Weird, and It Will

Random and unplanned sexy ventures always get weird whether we want to admit it or not.   This is where you * do * need to pull up your big-girl pants and own your awesomeness.

css5

Handle yourself with grace, add some humour, and leave the door open for more – maybe, possibly, someday.

And to finish…

Sexting isn’t always about the sex.  It’s not always about the nudies and the dick pics, it doesn’t have to be crass and crude though I’ve heard “pussy” isn’t as bad a word as I thought it was.  It can be fun, engaging, and stimulating (uhm… goes without saying I hope).

So Ladies, Gentlemen… how do you up your game?

 

 

 

 

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Writing the Thing

Writing the Thing

Writing the Thing

I have a thing I need to write.

I really should write it, but how do you write the thing you can’t bring yourself to write?

Instead I’m sitting at the pub trying not to ogle the table of ten good looking men that just showed up for what can only be post-game drinks. Ten sexy, manly, men in jeans.

You can tell it’s getting cooler when the men show up in jeans.  Tight jeans.

Did I mention there were ten of them?

Tinder tells me I’ve already eliminated everyone within a 10km radius.  How inappropriate would it be to walk over and check out who’s married or not?

I shouldn’t.  Besides, I’m not exactly on a mission to shag my way through Ottawa.

When the kids are gone… It’s lonely.

I’m happy I truly am.  But happiness doesn’t really warm the sheets now does it?  The house… it feels so big, so quiet.

So I sit here.

Watching the ten sexy men in their tight jeans drinking beer… Remember those cartoons with the cat looking at the bird but really seeing a perfectly cooked tender turkey?

Yeah that.

I’m staring at a table, seeing yummy turkeys I could claim for my own if I had the will the go hunting, waxing poetic on the virtues of men in jeans, instead of writing the thing that needs writing.

Maybe the real reason I’m feeling so lonely these days is the realization that my marriage was a sham.  Imagine finding out your husband – the love of your life, the high school sweetheart you reconnected with – wanted to leave you when you were actively trying to get pregnant… the first time.  7 years he hated me, resented this life we built, gave me 2 amazing babies…

7 years I fought for our marriage, and what for?

Never change?

Even him.  Even * he * couldn’t love me, truly love me, without wanting to change me.

So when you start realizing men only seem to give you attention when they’re horny you start to wonder… what the ever loving fuck is wrong with me?

And that’s when I feel lonely.  Sitting at the pub watching these gorgeous men laugh and share stories over beer and wings.  Would it really change anything, if one of them came on to me?

Probably not.  So I really should write the thing now.

Except the guy who went for the tall skinny blonde instead of intelligent conversation just walked in, so maybe I’ll stick around just a bit longer.  Who knows…  and I may have a small hankering for turkey right about now.

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McDreamy is McGone

McDreamy is McGone

My McDreamy is McGone

and so I Netflix

I pay for cable.  I pay a lot of money for cable.  

The one cable box we have?  It’s in my parents’ living room.  If I’m in the mood to watch junkyard wars, every kind of bush / naked / alaska people argue it out on screen, or deadliest catch ad nauseam… I could watch all the TV I want, 24 hours a day.

Sadly (or thankfully, depending on where you stand) none of these interest me and I get twinges of cable withdrawal syndrom from time to time.  Mostly in the summer when all the shows are on break.

So I Netflix.  A lot.

When my television alerted me new episodes of Grey’s Anatomy were now available, I had the brilliant idea to binge-watch from the very beginning.

Do you remember those first few seasons?  Addison, living in the trailer with Derek.  Derek & Meredith, sharing a dog.  Becoming friends.

The way Shepherd looks at Grey the crinkling of his eyes as he laughs from the heart. His gentleness and compassion as he helps her through rough moments.  The sadness in his eyes when she’s not looking.

McDreamy

I had my McDreamy.

An old boyfriend, married (as I was), a friend.  Perhaps the only friend who knew all of me.

The way Derek looks at Meredith?  He used to look at me that way.  Our friendship evolved over the years, going from the ‘happy b-day / merry xmas’ type, to the once a month chat kind, to the weekly and eventually almost daily chats.

We laughed – a lot.

We were there for each other as a sounding board.  Comforting, supporting, and helping each other out through our respective marital issues.

The tension was always there.  I spent years making sure our conversations didn’t cross the line, reigning it in when it got too close to too much.  We were both so miserable… He was my cheerleader, never failing to believe in me. We were the escape we both needed.

I don’t need to tell you what happened next – I’m sure you can figure it out.

I tried leaving my husband a few times, but he always begged for me to keep fighting for us.

He found out about a year ago and by then we were truly having an affair, having seen each other a few times over the previous months.

Needless to say, my McDreamy is McGone.

I still think of him.  I still reach for the phone when I need a joke, or when I come across an article I think he would like.  And then I stop myself, because he’s no longer there.  I am dead to him, and he to me.  Or he should be.  But I still think of him.

I miss him, our friendship, the easiness between us.

So as I navigate this world of dating I fill the empty moments with Mer/Der screen time.

What are you binge-watching these days?  What fills up your moments?

As a member of the Netflix #StreamTeam I get perks, but all stories, laughs, and heartbreaks are my own 😉

 

 

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L’école Bernard-Grandmaître célèbre sont 10eme anniversaire

L’école Bernard-Grandmaître célèbre sont 10eme anniversaire

L'école Bernard-Grandmaître célèbre sont 10eme anniversaire

Café en mains je me demande comment le temps a pu passé si vite; ce n’est qu’hier que je me suis perdu dans les yeux de Chloe pour la première fois.  Plus bébé, elle rejoint maintenant ses sœurs à la grande école, à la maternelle.

Un bouquet d’odeurs familières – papier, craies de tableau, mine de crayon – nous accueille dès la rentrée scolaire.  Un parfum nostalgique, il ne tarde d’offrir ses promesses d’aventures, de camaraderies, et d’un apprentissage qui se poursuivra loin des murs d’école.

Une école de quartier sans pareille

Dans le jeune quartier de Riverside South nos familles francophone sont desservies par l’école catholique Bernard-Grandmaître.

À l’occasion du 10e anniversaire de vie scolaire l’équipe-école, ses élèves, et leur famille on fait la fête en soirée du 1er septembre.

école bernard-grandmaître

Sous un soleil chaud de fin d’été on s’est bourré de blé d’inde, de poutine, et de gâteau.  Suite à un mot de bienvenue de notre directrice et d’une prière de l’Abbé  Jacques nous avons entendu Chad Mariage, conseiller scolaire.  Michael Qaquish, conseiller municipal, a remis un certificat à la direction.

école bernard-grandmaître

L’honorable Pierre Poilievre eut son tour au micro, suivit d’une remise de cadeau à M. Bernard Grandmaître.  Les discours englobe un thème commun: nos racines culturelles, notre fierté franco-ontarienne, les droits pour lesquels nous nous sommes battus.

école bernard-grandmaître

Apprendre en français

Le privilège d’apprendre en français n’est pas un acquit.  Le règlement 17, adopté en 1912 et aboli en 1927, interdit d’utiliser le français comme langue d’enseignement en Ontario.  En effet, le gouvernement provincial reconnaît officiellement l’existence des écoles francophone qu’en 1968 lorsqu’il modifie la Loi sur l’éducation.

bernard grandmaître

Malgré les efforts individuels de différents ministères ce n’est qu’en 1986 que la Loi sur les services en français est introduite par Bernard Grandmaître, ministre des Affaires francophones.

école bernard-grandmaître

Nos enfants ne peuvent imaginer un monde ou le français n’est pas requit pour travailler avec le publique.  Le regard incrédule de mes filles lorsqu’on en discute raffermi mon engagement à leur éducation culturelle.

Des souvenirs d’antan

La soirée s’enchaîne avec un spectacle du groupe Les Cinq Pierres.  Voir Brian St-Pierre sur la scène m’a donné un flash-back à ma jeunesse.

brian st-pierre les cinq pierres école bernard-grandmaître

Des souvenirs du festival franco-ontarien, de la FESFO et des Jeux franco-ontariens.  J’avoue que c’est tout un Lise Paiement Spécial dans ma tête depuis quelque jours.

les cinq pierres école bernard-grandmaître

Ma plus vieille – une groupie bourgeonnante – s’est pressée vers la scène des le spectacle terminé, faute de manquer sa chance à une autographe et ‘photo op’ avec la jolie Mélina.

les cinq pierres mélina école bernard-grandmaître

On dégage le filet

C’est avec fierté, plaisirs et amitiés que l’on entame une nouvelle année scolaire; que l’on célèbre notre héritage, notre drapeau, notre langue.

Ravie du privilège accordé à mes enfants, cette année mes trois cocottes se lancent vers les bras ouverts d’une équipe école dévouée à l’épanouissement de nos petits.

Joyeuse rentrée scolaire à tous, que l’année soit une aventure inoubliable.

 

 

 

 

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The Beatles… euh…. Beat Bugs on Netflix

The Beatles… euh…. Beat Bugs on Netflix

The Beatles... euh.... Beat Bugs on Netflix

#StreamTeam

“Lucy in the sky-yyy- above!”

What the ever loving…

The three year old has been humming and signing Beatles songs all morning.  After the King Julien fiasco, I * know * this isn’t a time warp… but it sure does feel a lot like Mr Soulard’s 7th grade music class.

And it feels good

I had wondered, who would instill a love of the Beatles in my kids the way our middle school teacher did.  I may have spent more time reminiscing today.

The kids are hooked.  I haven’t watched the show yet, but they sure as heck look cute!

beat bugs

I’m all for TV giving my kids missing pieces of culture, if they’re sitting there watching the boob tube anyways.

Sight unseen – but not unheardI’m a fan.  You should watch it, and so should your kids!

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Creativity drives innovation at Mattel

Creativity drives innovation at Mattel

Creativity drives innovation at Mattel

notes from Adobe Summit

I blog.  Therefore I conference.

It’s the nature of the beast – not that I’m complaining.  Going to so many conferences – as a speaker, an attendee, or with press credentials – I’ve seen many products come to market.

I get to hear about them months before they come out,  to see the ads run and be the cool mom who’s already played with that toy, to be the in-the-know friend who says you should wait an extra month because what’s coming out will blow your mind.

I was at Blogger Bash (#BBNYC) last month and saw many such products which you’ll hear about throughout the following months.

One product, however, made me squeal like a schoolgirl when I realized what was in front of me: the Fisher Price 4-in-1 Total Clean High Chair.

What’s so special about a high chair?  Every piece goes in the dishwasher.

You heard me.  Every.  Piece.  is dishwasher safe.  Just quickly and easily pull it apart and enjoy your baby while your dishwasher goes to town <insert cheesy ceremonial music>.

A First Look

I first heard of this high chair at Adobe #Summit2016 in Las Vegas.  Richard Dickson, President & COO at Mattel, gave a compelling keynote on inspiring experience through creativity.

I didn’t see a single blogger friend in the 10k+ attendees at Summit, but all of my blogger friends should see this keynote.

What Richard talked about – from the history of Mattel, to reinventing the image of Barbie, to inspiring a new generation while getting moms to like them just a little bit more… I was impressed.

Not in the sense that I’m now a die-hard ‘must buy everything Mattel’ fan – but impressed, and inspired, by the evolution of the brand and its offerings.

You Should Watch This

I could go on for hours recapping his 1/2 hour talk.  Instead, I’m going to put it here for you to view – it’s worth it.

Save the link and come back later if you don’t have time, but make the time.  What he has to say is important, and we should all be listening.

The #branding keynote every blogger should watch #Summit2016 Click To Tweet

* edited to add – Instead of sending you over to the Summit website, I’ve uploaded the video to YouTube.  You can still watch this and all other Summit sessions here.

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This is Why I Run

This is Why I Run

Yesterday I ran. Today I run

and I'm ok

What a difference 2 years make.

Two years ago tonight I was in San Jose with friends for a blogging conference.  My time in San Jose was life-changing and followed by months of internal dialogue.

I look at my life, at where I was in July 2014, in July of last year.  So much has changed.  I never imagined this would be my narrative today.

Dealing with change

Alas it is, and so I started running.  These words came to me by bits and pieces as I became stronger, as I went farther, as I continued to crush personal records.  These words haunted my runs like ghosts in a castle.  Unable to escape they found their way to pen and paper.

As I lay my ghosts to rest I hope they will find peace in the night.

The heart remembers

I run because you never asked me to tone it down for you, because who I am excites you, because time proves this was a rare gift.

I run because it’s lonely when you’re just. too. much. for most people.  You… never thought I was too much.

I run because you never failed to make me laugh when I needed it most, because I can no longer count on you for a joke.

I run because you get me, and I you, because none of it was enough. Once it became enough… it was too late.

What was once is no more

I run because fireworks and David Bowie, because Coronas and stupid bets, to ignore colourful explosions reminiscent of summers long ago.

I run to forget we ever boycotted McCain, to forget I still wonder if it’s a thing.

I run because I can almost see you standing there, smiling.  A quick wave, a blink, and you fade away. I run because there’s no shoulder to lean on.

I run because I miss this, but also to forget I once loved you and remember I’m strong.  Old habits die hard – I still pick up the phone to call you sometimes only to remember I can’t.

Holding space

I run because I saved you whilst you dared leave me to drown, because my cries for help went unanswered.  With one breath you encouraged me to survive and with the other you tried to drown me.

I run because I protect you still with our secrets, moments which force me to hold space for you.  I’m tired.  Tired of holding space, tired of resenting space that can never be filled.  I run to forget you hold any real estate in my heart.

I run because you will never bear the true consequences of your choices. I run because I gave up everything to protect you.  I’ve been gracious, I took it all in stride.  I’ve nothing left to lose and yet you’ve lost nothing.

I run because you may as well have died suddenly, unexpectedly.  Just… gone.  You continue to live on in the life and hearts of many while I struggle to bury the undead.

Ruins of destruction

I run because you didn’t hesitate to betray me.  You took what were bittersweet memories and made them cheap with lack of intention, denied a friendship long cherished.

I run because I’m angry you’ll never experience the loss I’ve been through. Because I’m not angry enough to destroy you.  I run to numb the pain.

I run because I found freedom, because freedom comes with a price. I run to remember I’m a good person – one who’s worthy of friendship, respect, even love.

I run to forget the scarlet letters on the wall.

Rebuilding my village

I run because life moves on and three beautiful girls need me here, need me whole. I run because I’m crawling back from the dark and I’m afraid to fall back in.

I run to see life and catch the wind in my fingers.

I run to forgive you for failing to protect me.  I run to forgive you for your happiness. I run because I’m angry and hurt, because I don’t want to cry.  I can’t run away – but I can run.

Running for joy

Tonight I ran for the simple pleasure of running. The cold breeze on my face.  The pounding rhythm of my feet hitting the pavement.  The pride in knowing I can.

Tonight I ran for me.

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mervyn valadares  Mervyn Valadares  VLPC  Valadares Law Professional Corporation mervyn valadares  Mervyn Valadares  VLPC  Valadares Law Professional Corporation mervyn valadares  Mervyn Valadares  VLPC  Valadares Law Professional Corporation mervyn valadares  Mervyn Valadares  VLPC  Valadares Law Professional Corporation mervyn valadares  Mervyn Valadares  VLPC  Valadares Law Professional Corporation mervyn valadares  Mervyn Valadares  VLPC  Valadares Law Professional Corporation

Slapstick Comedy for Kids on Netflix

Slapstick Comedy for Kids on Netflix

Slapstick Comedy for Kids on Netflix

Bernard & Larva

I love watching stupid funny.  The slapstick stuff you don’t need to think about to enjoy.

And maybe it’s a little ‘pipi-caca-fesse‘ but let’s be honest – sometimes that’s exactly what you need.

Ends up the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.  The girls’ current favorites for non-stop laughs is Bernard and Lava.

Bernard is a bear who gets into situation.  He’s been a staple on our Netflix roster for a while now.

Netflix Bernard

Larva

The other day I let the girls watch a bit of TV in my room and they begged for Larva.

WTF is Larva was my first thought.  I’d never heard of this show before but the kids seemed to know what they were talking about.

Thankfully I didn’t have to go looking far for it, it was a suggested option on the kids’ profile.  And instead of working (which is what I was planning on doing) I sat there and laughed my ass off for two hours right along with them.

larva netflix

Seriously funny stuff over there, you should check it out.

This post is brought to you by my participation in the Netflix #StreamTeam.  I have not been paid for this post but I do get some nice perks :).

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Tinder vs POF for the non-millenial

Tinder vs POF for the non-millenial

Tinder vs POF

i'm laughing too

Tinder.

I’ll pause a moment while you laugh all the laughs.  Because that’s what I did.

Except my friend appears to have found happiness from swiping and she’s even more seasoned than sweet cheeks over here.

It took some convincing and much Tanqueray but I decided what the heck, worth a few laughs right?

Here I am, weeks later, sitting at the very bar my tindering adventures started.

POF vs Tinder

I’m no stranger to online dating, having been a fan of Plenty of Fish and its price point in the past.  Being able to narrow a search down to a few km away helps cause I have no time to be traipsing around the city meeting men.

It’s great.  You see someone you like, you send a message….. and you wait.  And wait.  And hope that perhaps, maybe, one day, someone will have the grace to reply.

You wait. And wait. And hope that perhaps, maybe, one day, someone will say hi #dating #POF Click To Tweet

It worked, sort of.  I’ve met all of 1 person from POF that went beyond the 1st date, always a win in my books.  The strapping (accomplished, witty, responsible, and hot AF) fella & I have been on several dates in the last few months and we always have fun.

It’s nice when you can hang out with someone who gets you, and * really * gets you <wink, wink>, and you don’t have to worry about what it means.  You enjoy each other when you’re together, whatever it means in the moment.  Bonus, he thinks I’m hilarious which is always sexy in my books.

Tinder?  Lots (and lots) of swiping left.  For you non tind-experts that means ‘helllll NO‘.  Unlike POF someone can’t message you if you swiped left.  Convénient, n’est-ce pas?

To swipe right is to give the app permission to allow strange men from the web to contact you.

Sounds so seedy and gross and wrong…. but that’s really what you’re doing if you get down to it.

Bottom line, if you both swiped right the app will let you message each other.

<insert Star Wars opening sequence music here>

Fucking.  Brilliant.

Right?!?

It almost feels like an old aerobics tape – ‘Swipe left, swipe left, to the right ladies, to the right!‘.  And then you wait…  and wait.  And hope that perhaps, maybe, one day, someone will have the grace to say hi.

Having been around this block a few times I’ll initiate the conversation if I’m interested enough.  At the first sign of mommy issues, unsolicited dick pics, or general malaise one feels around creepy men…. Unmatch.  They can’t even message to ask why you’ve dropped off the face of the earth.  Wonderful!

What you can expect to find on Tinder

Well… let’s see.

The one with all the kids

Single Dad & I had a good time, but our schedules conflict so we haven’t seen each other again.

The one who just wants to fuck

The Pilot & I talked on and off for weeks until we met for what I thought was a date and he thought was a booty call.  He promptly left and I haven’t heard from him since.  Good riddance, is what I say.

The One Who Still Lives With His ‘Ex-Wife’

After texting for a few days we met for lunch and it was going great…  Until 1/2 hour in he casually mentions he’s still living with his ex.

The Closet Exhibitionist

We joked about going skinny dipping but settled on a coffee date – which led to a nice long walk, great conversation….. and the beach.

“I’m going in” he says.  Yeah right!  His clothes dropped and he dove into the water.

I'm going in, he says. His clothes dropped and he dove into the water. Click To Tweet

My first thought was hmmmm nice ass.  Then…. Oh wtf, why not.  I took off my dress and swam out to him in naught but my underthings.  We splashed, we swam, we kissed…. and nothing else.  He’s not ready to really meet anyone right now, and frankly it was nice to be on a date with a man who wasn’t just trying to sack me.

Maybe I’ll see him again when things settle down on his end, then again maybe he’ll miss the boat.  I’m a good catch you know – someone could manage to sweep me off my feet before then.

The European Mutt

This is a special one.  He’s not exactly tall but what he lacks in height he makes up for in looks and ego.  He claims kissing is an art and he is the master.

Frankly the only art I noticed was when he tried to draw on my nose with his uvula.

The only art I noticed was when he tried to draw on my nose with his uvula #kissing #Tinder #midlifedating Click To Tweet

There are many more types I’m sure but I do have a life.

The verdict

Tinder conversations are more spontaneous, conversational.  POF has more of a staccato rhythm.

POF is great if you want to build a meaningful relationship with someone before meeting and finding out there is absolutely no chemistry.

Tinder is great if you’re really lazy.

Tinder lets you ‘pre-vet’ matches.  As it’s linked to your Facebook account you can be reasonably sure you’re getting a real name, real age, and you can see your common connections – if any.  The likelihood of them being who they say they are is pretty good. 

POF has a ‘you’ve got mail’ feel.  Tinder sometimes feels like market day at the farm.

Both will have the majority of guys showing a picture of them fishing, a shirtless shot, a terrible bathroom selfie, and maybe their professional head shot.  Some of the better ones have none of these.

So put yourself out there.  Take a chance.  But please do me a favor and don’t sit around waiting for a man to ask you out.

Don't sit around waiting for a man to ask you out. Go to the pub and have yourself a damn beer Click To Tweet

Kids are gone, house feels empty, and a cold beer sounds good?  Head on over to the pub and have yourself a damn beer.

Go out, have fun, be careful.

Be YOU.  Unapologetically.  What is it the kids say these days?  ‘Haters gonna hate’, ignore them.

Humour me and share your dating horrors and wins in the comments below – let’s laugh a little!

 

 

 

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Context Travel in Montreal

Context Travel in Montreal

Montreal Tours for the Intellectually Curious Traveler

Context Travel
Explore MontrealExplore Context Travel

For the love of history

I’m proud of my roots – both from my Native and French ancestors.  I feel very strongly about teaching our history to my kids and took the opportunity to go on a private tour with a docent from Context Travel in Montreal.

This wasn’t exactly throwing me into ‘cool mom’ territory but save for one whispered comment from Annabelle (“We get it, it’s a wall.  Is he gonna finish talking soon so we can keep going?” bhahahahhaha) the kids had a great time.

A few stops in shaded parks, an exploration of the local Starbucks for some cold drinks, and great discussions about history, French literature, and more.

If you love history, if you thrive on knowing the stories behind hidden gems, I recommend you book a tour with Context Travel.  Serving close to 40 cities world-wide there’s a great chance they’re in your next destination.

Private or group tours?

If you’re budget conscious or otherwise generally well-abled the group tours (maximum 6 people) are a great choice.

If you are traveling with special needs (wheelchair, stroller, etc), kids under 12, or you wish to make some modifications to the tour, I strongly suggest booking a private tour.

Being able to enjoy the full tour – e.g. if your child has to pee you’re not running to catch up with the group after – without missing anything or feeling like you need to be accommodated is a huge bonus.  I’ve traveled with my mom, who’s in a wheelchair.  I’ve traveled with kids.  I’ve traveled on my own and with friends.

By far my best experiences when traveling with my family were those where I took the seemingly indulgent options.  Ease of mind and minimal stress are priceless.  Do yourself a favor, and put yourself in a position to enjoy every magical moment of your vacation.

L’École des Hautes études commerciales

Le Vieux Montreal was known as the Latin district – generally, people in this area studied Latin.  This school, which knew some controversy, was the first to offer adult night classes in Canada.

Old Meets New

From Square Viger to classic row houses, l’École des Hautes études commerciales and Maison Jodoin to modern condos. Old and new marries to give you a glimpse of lifetimes long ago lived with the conveniences of contemporary urban living.

context travel in montreal
context travel in montreal maison jodoin
context travel in montreal
context travel in montreal

Our Docent was Amazing

As a single parent with 3 kids in different age groups, I thoroughly enjoyed the tour.

Daniel (Epstein) was fantastic at juggling the short attention span of the the younger kids while feeding the oldest with all the history she could absorb.

Notes from a 5th grader

I loved learning about how houses were built a certain way and why.  Daniel was a lot of fun too, definitely not boring.  The stories were neat, too.

Jasmine, 10 yrs old

context travel in montreal
context travel in montreal
context travel in montreal

Did You Know?

The Molson Brewery in Old Montreal is not only the oldest brewery in North-America, producing fine ales since 1786.  John Molson’s influence brought us the Montreal General Hospital, Canada’s first railway construction, and more.

context travel in montreal molson
context travel in montreal
context travel in montreal

“We still got to play”

I loved that the man was teaching us cool things, but I also loved that we got to stop in different parks to play while the adults talked.

Annabelle, 6 yrs old

context travel in montreal

What will you discover?

Where will your next adventure take you?  Take a leap and try #DeepTravel for an unforgettable experience.

Discover Context Travel in Montreal or one of the many cities they serve worldwide!

context travel in montreal

I Like to Move It | #StreamTeam

I Like to Move It | #StreamTeam

'90's hits & King Julian

#StreamTeam

I Like to Move-it-Move-it

The kids are * supposed * to be sleeping.

Except I can hear the 3 year old, singing at the top of her lungs in her bed.  “I like to move-it-move-it” – Over, and over, and over again.  Ad Nauseam.

That can only mean one thing: “Hot Tub Time Machine” is actually a thing and I’ve fallen back to the ’90’s.  With all the plaid I’m seeing these days I wouldn’t be surprised…

Guess Again, Watson

Nope.  No time warp.

King Julien.  He’s back.  Like… back! back.  Season three.

I never told them.  They found it on their own.  Damn thing started yesterday and they’re already halfway through the season.

It appears King Julien and his come-hither eyes are here to stay, for the next little while at least.  The kids love his eccentric tendencies, and I love ’90’s dance music.  Win-Win, right?

Right?!?

 

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Outaouais Tourism invites you to sleep with wolves

Outaouais Tourism invites you to sleep with wolves

Last month Outaouais Tourisme invited me to try out the new  Parc Omega camping in the park experience.  I was skeptical at first, camping for the first time as a single parent, but I bribed begged managed to woo Ann into joining us for 2 days of fun.

The Experience

The Outaouais region is a popular destination packed with hidden gems just waiting to be discovered.  Located in southwestern Quebec by our nation’s capital it’s an easy choice for family getaways no matter the season.

We’ve been to Parc Omega many times – almost twice yearly since Jasmine was a toddler.  Seasoned veterans we still discovered new things and lived an unforgettable experience.

Our adventure started with a private tour led by the park’s zoological director, Serge.  We had brought plenty of carrots to feed the large animals but if you didn’t come prepared you can purchase some onsite.

We visited the Old Farm including pony rides for the three girls.  A black wolf sat in front of her den, newborn pups peering out from just beyond the edge.  A visibly pregnant arctic fox digging a tunnel kept us entertained as she started and stopped to look at us.

There were so many little moments of magic, and perhaps a few good lessons.  Keep reading as I share the captured moments and anecdotes.  You’ll also find some some time-saving, stress-busting tips along with a few hard lessons learned.

Last month Outaouais Tourisme invited me to try out the new  Parc Omega camping in the park experience.  I was skeptical at first, camping for the first time as a single parent, but I bribed begged managed to woo Ann into joining us for 2 days of fun.

The Experience

The Outaouais region is a popular destination packed with hidden gems just waiting to be discovered.  Located in southwestern Quebec by our nation’s capital it’s an easy choice for family getaways no matter the season.

We’ve been to Parc Omega many times – almost twice yearly since Jasmine was a toddler.  Seasoned veterans we still discovered new things and lived an unforgettable experience.

Our adventure started with a private tour led by the park’s zoological director, Serge.  We had brought plenty of carrots to feed the large animals but if you didn’t come prepared you can purchase some onsite.

We visited the Old Farm including pony rides for the three girls.  A black wolf sat in front of her den, newborn pups peering out from just beyond the edge.  A visibly pregnant arctic fox digging a tunnel kept us entertained as she started and stopped to look at us.

There were so many little moments of magic, and perhaps a few good lessons.  Keep reading as I share the captured moments and anecdotes.  You’ll also find some some time-saving, stress-busting tips along with a few hard lessons learned.

parc omega fox digging

Making Memories

After several stressful months a day with nature was just what the girls & I needed. A short break from real life to reset the mind.

Edited to add: A year later they’re all still talking about how much fun they had.

parc omega
parc omega
parc omega
parc omega
parc omega
parc omega animal encounters

Pony Rides

Pony rides are always fun, whether at the local fair, the zoo, or other attraction. At $3 per ride (or 2 for $5) this is one of the easiest (read: affordable) ways to give all three some breathing space.

Much needed when traveling in close quarters.

parc omega pony rides
parc omega pony rides
parc omega pony rides
parc omega pony rides
parc omega pony rides

More than carrots

The animals you see on the trail are just a fraction of the four-legged contingent. All species are provided a balanced diet to meet their nutritional needs. Their care is overseen by Parc Omega’s zoological director.

Carrots, however, a huge treat for them. When the urge to snack comes on, they wander over to the trails where your kids’ hands are waiting with carrots.

context travel in montreal
context travel in montreal
context travel in montreal
context travel in montreal
context travel in montreal
context travel in montreal
context travel in montreal

Baby Fever

Visiting Parc Omega in May you might get a few glimpses of babies and some very pregnant mommas.

The kids had fun trying to spot the mums-to-be and looking for babies in the various dens.

parc omega
parc omega

Baby Fever

Visiting Parc Omega in May you might get a few glimpses of babies and some very pregnant mommas.

The kids had fun trying to spot the mums-to-be and looking for babies in the various dens.

parc omega

Staying the Night: What You Need to Know

parc omega accommodations

Pro Tip

It may sound silly but it never occurred to me there would be little to no cell service in the deep woods of Parc Omega.  Yeah…  it’s not like it was the playoffs or anything….

If you’re planning on entertaining yourself after the kids go to bed have your devices fully charged before you arrive.  Remember to also download your e-books or Netflix show.

parc omega solar energy
parc omega dry toilet
parc omega camping trail to site
parc omega camping trail to site

Accommodations

(updated spring 2017)
Parc Omega features five types of accommodations: tipis, wi-tents (3), prospector tents (3), log cabins, and a house on stilts (1).

Each site features a private dry toilet a few meters away, a fire pit, and beds.  Bedding is available for rent if you forget to bring your own.  You may also purchase fire wood and carrots for the animals.

Solar energy is used for lighting inside all lodgings (except for tipis) and there is access to a community building with stoves, microwaves, coffee makers ( ! ), kettles, heaters, and more.

As you can see from the map above, there is ample space between each site providing plenty of privacy. This also means there’s quite a hike from the parking lot to your cabin. Thankfully the park provides a utility wagon for each site to facilitate the process of getting all your gear up the trail (and back to your car when you leave).

We stayed in prospector tent #1.  The wagon was very useful, but it’s still a winding, uphill, trail in the woods.  A pair of sneakers to switch into would have been great, instead of my ‘ol trusty flip flops.

Successfully making fire on my first solo trip with the girls felt like I’d conquered the world. I may have thumped my chest and lifted my hands up in the air declaring fire. The kids may have shook their heads in shame over my exuberance.

parc omega prospector tent

Pro Tip

After going through a few dozen matches trying to light said fire I gave up and shoved the lit citronella garden stake in the fire pit (where I’d already added kindling and paper) and Voila!

< thumps chest triumphly > I didn’t fail at fire – I succeeded at thinking outside the box. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it. < / end celebratory shenanigans because kids >

parc omega camping fire pit

Last But Not Least: Packing

Pro Tip

We had planned to go offsite for dinner – except it was a holiday Monday in the middle of nowhere. We had to drive quite a bit to find an open diner, restaurant, or casse-croute.

A few minutes of research can save you lots of driving. Short-list a few possibilities and you can choose the day of. If you’re traveling on a weekend or holiday, call them to confirm hours of operation.

Gear Up!

Packing up for a few days with 3 kids is a challenge.  Packing it all up in a small car while remaining visibility is an art.  They don’t call me the Luggage Whisperer for nothing!

Have just bought a new car, a newer-model Ford Escape (which is significantly smaller than older models), it took some imagination to get everything – and everyone – in comfortably.

The kids, being used to our old van, bickered the whole way up.  Something about breathing the same air as their siblings.  They also whined, bitched, and complained all the way from Parc Omega to downtown Montreal the next morning.

Edited to add (2017): Lets just say… I’m pretty sure Ann is still suffering from PTSD after this experience.  

 

parc omega car gear

Soft Shell Cooler – Huge

Costco has these great insulated bags in the spring. I added some ice and put all the perishables (see list above) in this bag. It also held the snack foods that didn’t fit in the smaller one, such as the chips and corn puffs.

One of the girls had an ear infection at the time. I put her meds in this bag.

Food – lunch meat, mustard, juice box X 6, apples, 1 package of hot dogs, a bag of corn puffs, a bag of chips, 2 cans of beer, 3 X 1 liter water bottles, 1 box of cereal, 6 iogo minis, a big bag of ice.

Soft Shell Cooler – Small

A generic soft shell cooler bag designed for beers and such will do. This bag had the bread, snacks, peanut butter, a few butter knives, and one of the beer cans (taken from the fridge) to keep things relatively cool.

Food – loaf of bread, jar of peanut butter, roughly 30 granola bars and such, 2 cans of beer

Personal care – 1 brush, toothbrushes and paste, a handful of elastics, medication (mine), Advil (kids & adult), allergy meds (kids & adult), sunscreen, deodorant, bug spray, 2 packages of baby wipes,

Beach / Park blanket

This rolled up beach blanket was great for sitting on by the fire.  It was also used to cover the stroller when Chloe fell asleep on our Montreal tour.

A wrap style baby sling is also great for covering the stroller, as you can configure it in many ways.

Camping Stuff – 1 large beach / picnic blanket, 4 citronella garden stakes, a pack of matches.  The park provided us with bedding and wood as part of our experience.

Full-size Stroller

We were booked for a 3+ hr walking tour of Montreal on day 2.  Need I say more?

Full-size versus umbrella will take up more space but make your life much easier.  We placed it on it’s side to maximize trunk space.

Miscellaneous – 1 stroller (full size), Ann’s stuff (a few bags, a camera bag, several water bottles and some pop)

Canvas basket

Given the size of the car, the amount of people going in it, and the afore-mentioned stroller I put all of our clothes in a soft-sided, collapsible, canvas laundry basket.

You can’t see it in the picture, but it’s hiding behind the small cooler and part of the stroller.  It doesn’t matter how big your stroller is, or which wheel gets in the way – it will always fit.

Clothes – 2 pairs of underwear for everyone; 1 each [pant, short, t-shirt, sweater, socks] per kid, 1 pant and 1 short for myself, 2 t-shirts for myself,  Sneakers for the kids as we were in Montreal the following day.

Electronics

I put all the chargers, batteries, and electronics in one bag so we wouldn’t constantly be looking through bags to find them.

This particular one is an insulated lunch bag. I put it in the fridge the night before (or the freezer, if there’s room) with the top open.  This helps prevent overheating, specially if it will be in the car for 2 days.

Electronics – chargers – phone, camera, laptop, Surface Pro 3, my camera, and a power inverter (the kind you plug into your car to power).

Famous Last Words

Parc Omega is always a fun day with the family. Regardless of how you feel about your “outdoor” skills and experience, consider staying the night at the parc.

The accommodations are rustic – I wouldn’t mistake this for “glamping” – but it’s definitely a few steps up from pitching a tent in the ground and hoping the wind doesn’t blow you away.

Bonus: Unlike many other campgrounds here you are pretty much guaranteed to not run into a bear or two. Fallow deer and other small animals run freely in the lodging area but the bears and other animals are nicely contained in their respective areas.

You need a key to drive into the lodging area, there’s a guard on duty 24/7, and being afraid of bears is no longer an obstacle. There’s plenty of privacy and you get to sleep on a real mattress. Heck, you don’t even need to pee in a bush!

So what say you? Feeling up to an adventure you won’t soon forget? Check out Parc Omega’s website and start planning your stay!

parc omega outaouais tourisme

Sharing Moments Not A Mortgage

Sharing Moments Not A Mortgage

Dating

sharing Moments, not a mortgage

I’ve been sitting on this post for two weeks, hesitant to hit publish yet anxious to get it all out.

This whole being single and dating thing – I’m not good at it.  Don’t get me wrong – I’m * OK * with being single, I just don’t do it very well.

The last time I dated I was in my early twenties and I find not much has changed.

Heh.  Dating.  <shakes her head>

It’s a loaded word, isn’t it?  How pressed we are to make sure our status is undefined – ‘seeing each other’, ‘hanging out’, ‘chillin’ out’.  And to what end, really?  To make sure our partner 100% understands that this ‘isn’t serious?  To avoid making a commitment to one sole person? 

What is this, 10th grade?

Dating isn’t the same as ‘we’re serious’.

Sex & companionship don’t equate love.

The sex-companionship-love cocktail doesn’t automatically get you in ‘serious’ territory, even if you’re spending most of your free time together (knock her up though and you’ll get a violent shove towards serious).

One can participate in a pleasantly fulfilling monogamous relationship, sharing your moments and truly enjoying each other’s company (and yes, the sex).  You can love each other, fiercely, and yet none of this makes your relationship a serious one.

Serious is all that and much more

It’s planning for the future.

Serious is Thanksgiving dinner and Christmas morning.  Serious is cohabiting.

Serious is something you both choose, and it doesn’t happen overnight.

What Angele Wants

I want to share more than drinks and clean sheets.  I want to enjoy being ‘us’ – whatever the fuck that means today.

I want to be that person you call to gripe about the traffic and I care about your mom’s recovery from that fall.  I want to know when I’ll see you next – I’m not needy and clingy, I just don’t do well with unknowns – they make me anxious and I prefer to be calm.

I don’t want to be compartmentalized into one part of your life – I want to take part in it.

Still, I realize that for many this is all just too muchIt was too much 15 years ago, and it’s too much now.

I’m too much. 

I know that.  I always have been.

I’m too forward.  I laugh too loud.  I speak my mind.  I go after what I want, be it a career or a quick romp in the hay.

My professional skills span too many industries.  I interrupt, I get too excited, I’m loud, and why all the goddamned sparkly clothes!

I don’t fit in your box.

I probably never will.  But if you’re willing to look past that you’ll find a simple, no-nonsense woman who loves life.

Let’s go hiking, fly a plane upside down, or Netflix and chill.  A good ‘ole comedy and some action-packed adventure flick sounds great.  I’ll get the popcorn and wine.

Enjoy being with me Let me enjoy being with you.  I want to share moments, not a mortgage.

I know that, today, I don’t want to spend my moments wonderingwe’re too old for this shit.

I know, I know…. you don’t have to say it

Too much

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Single Parent does Roadtrip, Survives #StreamTeam

Single Parent does Roadtrip, Survives #StreamTeam

Single Parent does Roadtrip... Survives, Barely.

#StreamTeam

I’ve been known to take the kids away in May for our ‘summer’ trip – mostly because I hate crowds and inflated prices.

Except this year was different. 

This was the first time I loaded up the new Ford Escord, stuffed 3 kids and 2 carseats + gear, and headed out into the unknown that is #kickassroadtrip.

Logistics

Thankfully, I had the sense God gave me and split up our trip in 2 segments.  Monday & Tuesday we were at Parc Omega – where we camped amidst the wolves and such – followed by a wonderful tour of Montreal with Context Tours.

We were supposed to leave for Toronto on Wednesday morning but we took a break (more on that soon) and spent Thursday & Friday in Toronto with the help of CityPass.

Beg & Bribe

This being my first trip outnumbered 3-1, I begged and bribed Ann to come with us to Parc Omega & Montreal.  I may have made unfounded promises that she would not get eaten by a bear (ends up that’s true!), I may have bribed with the idea of a memorable #kickassroadtrip… And so she came.

I don’t think Ann will ever come on a trip with my kids ever again!  We laugh about it now… 

“I HOE, I HOE…”

Thursday morning came too fast.  Into the car I shoved the kids and our gear, this time sans 2nd adult.  About 7 hours later we reached Toronto (should have been 4…).

This time I decided to bribe my friend Maureen.

“Come with us to the CN Tower, I miss you!”

“The aquarium will be fun with 3 kids, I promise!”

Truth is I bribed her with wine and much gossip.  After an exhausting afternoon and dinner the kids enjoyed “the best part of the whoooole week”: sleeping in a hotel room.  I’m not ashamed to admit Maureen & I made a ‘picnic’ area on the door of our tiny hotel room and gossiped till the wee hours, when she stumbled (ok, walked) into an Uber and left me with my captors children.

Friday morning I ventured out to the Science Center like the grown-ass woman I am – alone with the kids.  I felt… ready.  Ready to take on this challenge, something I wasn’t earlier in the week.

3 museum hours, 6 driving hours (why does it take so much longer with kids!!!) and we were finally home, where I declared I wasn’t taking them anywhere until next summer.

Chaneling Diana Ross

Three days have passed and I still haven’t recovered.  But I will survive.

I’m well on my way to recovering thanks to the magic of Netflix.  

Yup.  After a hectic week I was * that * mom.  I let them watch as much and whatever they wanted.  And watch they did.

I can’t tell you exactly what they streamed as my eyes are still glazed over from last week – but it was definitely in the kids’ profile.  And they LOVED it.  And I survived.

I survived my first post-divorce, single-parent, trip with 3 kids, and you will too.   You might need to beg and bribe, but you will survive this.

I will survive

* as part of the Netflix #StreamTeam I receive perks and goodies in exchange for my words, but rest assured all glass-eyed inducing activities as well as my views are strictly my own. 

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Standing at the corner of Single and Midlife Sex

Standing at the corner of Single and Midlife Sex

Standing at the Corner of Single and Midlife Sex

I have arrived...

I was going through the blog last night, reading old posts and reflecting on all the things.

Good Lord, have I been a buzz-kill lately.  So while I appreciate y’all sticking around through my writer’s block and depressing posts I promise you, the funnies are coming back.

This morning for example.

Today was the day it all became official.  It started off as any normal day should – We turned off the water last night due to a plumbing issue so I was forced to wee where one had previously wee’d.

I sacrificed the water in the Keurig to wash my hands with full intentions of picking up a coffee on my way across town to the fancy ghetto notary who, for 25$, would pronounce us officially divorced etc.

I'll grab coffee OMW to the ghetto notary who, for 25$, would pronounce us officially divorced Click To Tweet

Apparently I enjoy pain so when the ex & I went stopped at Timmy’s (we live blocks apart, it really didn’t make sense to take 2 cars) I decided ‘screw the coffee!  Let’s go for the Iced Cap instead!‘.

I hesitated, almost changing my order.  But really, how bad could it be?  I’ve only just about shit myself in Ikea – and other fine locales – after one such beverage but today would be different right?  RIGHT?!?!?!?

The ‘Vegas’ Quickie

Formalizing this kind of thing is surprisingly quicker than a bad quickie after a dry spell.  Small blessings?  Because that’s when it happened.

My stomach rumbled.  Cramped.  My cheeks got all tingly and warm and all I could think of was ‘dear God please let me make it home’.

Home.

Where the water is turned off.

FUCK.  Fuckity-fuck-fuck.

With every twist, turn, construction delay and red light I prayed.  He laughed – even offered to stop on the side of the road.  All the nopes.

I ordered strongly advised him to stop at this place.  Because I value good plumbing.  And I can’t afford to get his car detailed.  But mostly because of the plumbing.

Did I mention we’d had Chinese food the night before?  The very Chinese food I eat oh, maybe, twice a year?

I made it.  Barely.

Thankfully the washroom is right by the front door.

As I washed my hands a few minutes later, having flushed at least 3 times while seriously considering stepping on the scale, I started feeling better.

He followed me outside and I couldn’t help but laugh at the horror in his voice.  “What the hell crawled up there and died?!?  Next time you’re using your own bathroom, water or not water”.

It was a shitty morning.

And that’s all I could say to the hot guy who asked how my morning was.  Sexy right? 

About as sexy as the wookie who’s taken up residence on what used to be my legs.  Oh.  And almost as sexy as the thought of inviting a man over and having to introduce him, pre-nookie, to your mom – who’s temporarily laid up, thus residing in your living room.

OMG It’s Happening

I’m standing at the corner of Single & Midlife Sex and the future of my sex life just flashed before my eyes.  This is where one would typically insert a self-deprecating joke involving old abandoned mine shafts but there’s a glimmer of hope.

After all, I * did * just lose about 10 lbs in 3 minutes. #silverlinings

Standing at the corner of Single and Midlife Sex. I have arrived, y'all. Click To Tweet

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No Longer a Wife: That time I pulled up my big girl pants

No Longer a Wife: That time I pulled up my big girl pants

No longer a wife

or that time I pulled up my big girl pants

Change.

I’m not good at it.  It’s scary.  Good… but scary.  I don’t handle the unknown very well and this past little while has been chock-full of it.

I bought a car.  I am now a proud owner of a new-to-me Ford Escape I acquired without the help of ‘fuck-me’ financing – you know, those 24% + hideous things they call ‘loans’?  More like loan shark…

I’ve made some changes in my business, enjoying the flexibility of a more creative role while continuing the work I’ve always done.

I’ve said Goodbye to old dreams and Hello to a new life.  I’ve failed amid success; I got lost on paths well known.

I’ve lost a husband.  I’ve lost a friend…

I’ve lost weight I didn’t * need * to lose – though I’ll admit it hasn’t done any harm to my chronically curvy self.

I found dignity amidst the rubble that was once my life.  I lost my voice and all but forgot how to write.

I discovered the bliss behind ‘Five More Minutes’.  Five more minutes of pretending this world is not yours, not just yet.  Five more minutes of blissful ignorance of the troubles brought on by daylight.

I reconnected with my past – the woman I was before children.  I found her enjoying the last few rays of a warm spring afternoon, surrounded by tulips and the smell of fresh-turned soil.

I found myself and all but lost everything in the process.  I found my voice at the expense blissful ignorance.

I am no longer a wife

I no longer sport the symbol of apparent marital success – a large diamond and a Facebook status.

I am a mother; I will fiercely protect my littles from harm while teaching them to see beauty in the wild.

I am a daughter; caring for aging parents and navigating a health care system that wasn’t designed for those suffering.

I am a sister; at least, I hope I still am.

< allow me to interject a bit of humour as I can’t help but think of  William Shatner’s ‘I Am Canadian’ speech in the face of so many ‘I am’s>

I catch myself in the freezer aisle wondering if we’re still boycotting McCain… only to remember I’m not allowed those thoughts anymore.

I don’t have an answer for my girls when they ask why they can’t play soccer with the boys.  The truth is I was hanging on to hope, a hope with no budget for soccer.

I am not-so-gently reminded that I did this.  I caused this.

But… I didn’t do this alone.  I didn’t cause this by myself.

And yet… It’s my fault, right?  As the woman – it’s my fault.

I’ve watched friends walk away and helped my husband pick new bedding.  I took everything I had to bring everyone here, together, so I could take care of everyone… but everyone is leaving.

And I’m left to wonder.

Why am I the one left alone in a dusty shop, long after the doors have shut?

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You’ve got mail

You’ve got mail

you've got mail early-onset dementia

I was feeling sad tonight and decided to introduce my oldest to a cult classic of the 90’s.  I figured a feel-good romantic comedy would be just the thing to cheer me up whilst participating in the cultural education of my daughter. 

What a trip down the rabbit hole that was!

Remember the infinite star scroll screensaver of Windows 3 point something?  The screeching of the modem while you not-so-patiently waited to be connected to the Internet.  AOL and Yahoo chat rooms to meet with like-minded folk who may or may not be serial killers or your next-door neighbor.

The feeling of comfortable nostalgia set in – and then the empty store scene came up, the one where the mother and daughter are twirling.

That’s when I lost it.

I bawled like a child who’s been denied a piece of candy.  Full-body ugly cried while trying to tell her that really I was OK even if I’m not, really.

You see, my mother has early-onset dementia.

The feeling of comfortable nostalgia set in - and then I lost it #earlyonsetdementia Click To Tweet

I’ve been watching her slowly slip away for the past few years and the doctors are just now confirming what I have suspected from the sidelines is actually happening.  I hoped and prayed I was wrong.  That it was all in my head.  That I was making a mountain out of a mole hill.

Except she’s changed so much.

For the first time in a long time I feel like there’s really no one I can talk to that understands.  My circle of friends isn’t exactly riddled with people who could understand the struggle of raising three spirited girls, trying to juggle all the balls and failing miserably… and when you need your momma the most you can’t turn to her because even if she’s still here – she’s not, really.

Not the parts that matter to me, anyways.

The parts that would wrap me up in her arms, rub my back and tell me everything will turn out just fine.  The parts that would say it’s silly to get all worked up over three fucking little words – You’ve Got Mail.  That it doesn’t matter how many people I’ve hurt or pissed off in the past year, that we all make mistakes, that we all go through shit and this too shall pass.

Because even if I can go down the stairs and climb up in her bed beside her, the woman that lies there tonight is my Mom.

And tonight?  Tonight, I need my momma.

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Traveling to Key West – An Insider’s Look & Pro Travel Tips

Traveling to Key West – An Insider’s Look & Pro Travel Tips

Welcome to Key West

Ann & I were in Florida for TBEX and decided to knock an item off our bucket list while we were there.

Driving down hwy 1, crossing the 7 mile bridge, was like falling down a rabbit hole and finding a mysterious and wonderful secret world. Time… doesn’t * exist * on the island.  It appears that it slows to a halt right after that bridge, making the lower keys the ideal place for a truly relaxing getaway.

The only time that seems to exist is the scheduled departure for your sunset cruise.  Just saying.  But don’t worry, it comes back around tomorrow night.  Meanwhile, head to the boardwalk and take in the sights.  Every night is a celebration and the sunsets are spectacular regardless where you’re standing.

The first thing you’ll want to do as you step out of the car is turn your face to the sun… soak up some therapeutic rays, breath in the smell of the salt in the air, and listen to the waves crashing against the shore.

That’s the island’s song and it may just seduce you.

It certainly worked on me.  So well, in fact, that I’ve been back from Key West for 4 months now and I still can’t write about it.  Writer’s block.  It’s never convenient.

I found a piece of myself on that island, a piece that’s made it hard for me to put pen to paper. I’m finally able to share some of the more memorable moments of our trip and my tips for making the most of your visit to Key West.  You won’t find these in guide books, so stick around.

Size Matters

The island is bigger than it appears and if you’re not careful you’ll end up in the most gorgeous hotel by the ocean a quarter mile from everything else.

This Canadian girl managed to screw up the conversion.

Key West The Inn at Key West

Going the Distance

When planning your trip to the keys remember – Location, Location, location.  ‘Waterfront’ or  ‘Ocean front’ is not synonymous with ‘close to the action’.

We stayed at the gorgeous ocean front Inn at Key West without realizing 1/4 mile was a 15 minute cab ride downtown.  Our cab fares averaged the same amount for a daily rental car.  Best to do the math before you leave home.

sebago key west

Shopping

Mallory square is a great place to find unique items, official Conch Republic souvenirs, and gorgeous jewelry. On Duval st you’ll be able to find fashions of all kind… for all kinds of bodies.

Explore

Once you’re done feeling sorry for yourself ‘cause you can’t have this year round you should head to Duval St and Mallory Square where you can shop, dine, and stroll to your heart’s content.

Mallory square is a great place to find unique items, official Conch Republic souvenirs, and gorgeous jewelry. On Duval st you’ll be able to find fashions of all kind… for all kinds of bodies.

conch republic key west
mallory square key west street food
conch republic key west

Pro Tip

If you love steak as much as I do and you either don’t like the high price tag or the huge portions order a steak salad or a flank steak appetizer. It’s served BESIDE the salad, not on it, and the portion is perfect.

Add a side of steam veggies or mashed potatoes and you’re eating like a king without mortgaging your kids.

Key West food

Missed the Sunset Tour?

You now have the perfect excuse to eat at some fabulous restaurants. Many have ‘happy hour’ specials when drinks and apps are ½ price. Can you say… Yum?

Key West sunset tours

So. Much. Fun.

My favorite part of the day is was parasailing.  I’m afraid of heights but when that parachute lets go and the rope unravels all you feel is freedom.

It’s like floating through the air on a cloud.  I was so comfortable I would have stayed up there all day if I could.

Key West Sebago Watersports
Key West Sebago Watersports
Key West Sebago Watersports

Forgotten Contact Lenses

We were brought out to the coral reef to snorkel and I chose to dive in blind for fear of my glasses ending up in the ocean. I have no idea what the reef looks like, I couldn’t see jack-sqwat, but I was told it was gorgeous.

Key West Sebago Watersports

Wearing Glasses?

Don’t let that stop you!

I was hell bent on parasailing so I maguyvered some holders to make sure I got the best view from the top.

Soon everyone was making holders with yellow duct tape.

The captain said it best – it takes a Canadian to come up with the best ideas. 

Undead to Unclothed

Our trip coincided with Fantasy Fest think… Mardi Gras on crack.

Upon our arrival on the island we were greeted by 10 thousand zombies and 2 police officers 400 metres from the airport entrance.  Needless to say I called budget and told them the zombie apocalypse was right outside their door and we would be late returning our rental car.

Never in a million years have I imagined the words ‘If there weren’t so many zombies around I wouldn’t feel as safe’ would escape my mouth.

Flip-Flops & Flooded Streets

Some things can’t be unseen. A fella with nothing but red glitter paint on his crotch. A very old couple baring all save the world’s largest spray painted bush. 

Just don’t look down, mkay? You’re welcome.

Key West fantasy fest 2015

Got Wet Feet?

High Tide. Full Moon. Flooded streets.

Forget looking down to see if what you just stepped in is water or a gross mix of something else.

Looking down means you have to look back up and you’ll find yourself face-to-face with a full-frontal.

The George Clooneys of the island must have stayed home all kinds of bodies were on display.

Key West fantasy fest 2015

Your Flight Awaits

Key West is truly a magical place and I can’t wait to go back! I hope you’ve enjoyed the video (missed it? At top of page ;)) and the pictures. Armed with the best Key West travel tips you won’t find elsewhere, start planning your dream adventure. You deserve it!

context travel in montreal
key west sunset gorgeous

Explore Key West

Sunset Ceremonies - Daily

Every night crowds gather at the pier for the Sunset Celebration, a nightly arts festival at Mallory Square.

Mermaids playing the yukelele, sword swallowers telling tall tales and fresh-made-right-in-front of you guacamole are just a few of the highlights well after the sun bids farewell.

Conch Republic Independence Celebration

With events ranging from wacky bed races, to a lighthearted sea battle featuring tall ships, the Conch Republic Independence Celebration is a 10-day birthday party showcasing the independent and eccentric spirit that characterizes Key West.  The event is held every year in April.

What exactly * is * the Conch Republic?  Read here for more information!  I was fascinated by this little piece of history and invite you to learn more.

Fantasy Fest

Marketing geniuses decided October needed a party to keep businesses afloat during the slowest season of the year.

Fantasy Fest is a 10-day party in paradise for grown-ups, held annually in October.  Fun-loving revelers from around the globe bring their creativity and imaginations as they descend upon Key West each year in October for 10 days filled with costuming, parades, libations, and excitement!

Galleries

Key West is rich in culture.  Tour some of the many local art galleries to experience Key West arts.

Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum

The home of Nobel Prize winner Ernest Hemingway, where he wrote many of his most notable works, is now a museum featuring some of Hemingway’s original furniture as well as artwork and his wife’s chandelier collection.

The grounds also host the descendants of Hemingway’s cats and beautiful gardens filled with Angel’s Trumpet, Hibiscus and Gardenias.

Bike (and more!) rentals

Rent a bike and explore the island on your time.

This budget-friendly option means you can reach all of the attractions in Old Town within five to ten minutes.  A great way to explore the island!  You can also rent motorcycles and Jeeps.

Free (ish) Things to do in Key West

Key West is a little piece of paradise that doesn’t have to cost you a fortune.

Visiting Key West on a budget is a piece of cake, or Key lime pie. Check it out!

Things to do - Kids

From a museum featuring shipwreck salvage to one of the oldest marine mammal facilities in the world, Key West is a kid-friendly vacation destination that is sure to create memories for the entire family.

So Much to See

None of the locals are locals, and as Ms Beth (one of our Sebago captains and all around awesome woman) would say people just fall in love and come back because they can’t imagine living anywhere else.  I can believe it!

They weren’t kidding when they said #FLKeys had the best sunset in the world @visitflorida #lovefl Click To Tweet.

They weren’t kidding when they said it was the best sunset in the world.

At the table next to us at the restaurant was a woman wearing nothing but a grass skirt and artful body paint.  Men were wearing what can only be described as leather nutsacks on a string and group theme costumes were all the rage.

Never mind shilling out beads for a flash – Body paint is the fabric of choice during these festivities.  I’ve never seen so many Nekkid people at once before.

The F Word – My thoughts on feminism

The F Word – My thoughts on feminism

#thefword video contest banner

#TheFWord - Feminism

Feminism, equity, and the intersection of perspective and reality

I’ve had writer’s block since I came back from Key West in October, but I’m working on a great video to show you my trip highlights.

Meanwhile, SheKnows Media along with the Ms Foundation put out a call for submission for their #TheFWord contest.  The winner gets $4000 CASH (USD!!! lol) and a trip to NYC valued at $1000. 

It appears  I had some thoughts on feminism and have been working tirelessly to create a masterpiece worthy of your time.

In order to create this video, I studied, acquired, and mastered several skills and new software.

I’ve learned whiteboard animation, I’ve successfully created several projects with Adobe After Effects, I improved my Premiere Pro skills, dug deep for creative wisdom and reached out to my community when I needed volunteers. 

The 18 year old me would have said I feel ‘all full of madz skillz’ right now.  And I do.

This project has left me emotionally drained so I’ll just put the video here for you to watch 🙂

Feel free to share it on YouTube and don’t forget public voting starts on March 21st.

Judges: Use the link below the embedded video to download an HD version of my submission.

For my daughters… may you always stay true to yourselves xox

Judges, Click Here to Download the HD Video

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A new year with netflix and unexpected gifts

A new year with netflix and unexpected gifts

Netflix starts Year 3 of #StreamTeam

and apparently I can be dense. oh well...

There comes a time in a blogger’s life where you feel like you’ve ‘arrived’.  You’ve made it.  Then 10 minutes later you hear about this great new high profile campaign that everyone but you seems to have been selected for and once again you are firmly grounded in the real world.

Milestones

I felt like I’d arrived a few times these past years.

But here’s one my favorite moments, one I’ve rarely spoken of publicly.

Last summer I met the #ShareYourCare team at a conference and signed up for their ambassador program.  National Share Your Care day was coming up and we were told that in exchange for posting we would get a piece of original Care Bears animation art.

This is what I was expecting, because apparently I’m really freaking dense:

disney parks vinylmation

I don’t know why ‘Animation Art’ translated to ‘Vinylmation’ in my head… but it did.  I was expecting some sort of vinylmation-type Care Bears figurine that my kids would adore.

Instead a stiff envelope marked ‘Do Not Bend’ showed up on November 25th.   What went through my mind?

OOOHHHHHHHHHHH, ‘animation art’.  A poster!  Of course!

Because, of course, I’m still dense and clueless at this point.

What I found inside brought me to tears.  I grew up watching the original series and I’m a huge fan.  When the show premiered on Netflix I just had to show my kids and share with the world.  

IMG_20151125_124711682

So when this priceless piece of history showed up in my mailbox I was rendered speechless and until now didn’t quite know how to express my gratitude in words.

Once I got over how the shock I had a good laugh over my denseness.  Of course ‘one-of-a-kind animation art from the original series‘ would be ACTUAL ANIMATION ART from the original series.  #facepalm

And now for today’s program…

Care Bears and Cousins are Coming Back!

Today I caught up on some emails and found out that Care Bear & Cousins Season 2 is premiering exclusively on Netflix February 5th.  The kids are, shall we say, excited ;).

Netflix & Chill (and yes, I know what it means)

Care Bear Stare doesn’t get your gander going on date night?  Thankfully there’s much more to Netflix than just kids’ shows.  Currently we’ve been streaming Brooklyn 99, a hilarious comedy set in Brooklyn’s NYPD precinct.

brooklyn99

Not much of a date-night thing, but Fuller House is also premiering February 26th and I’m beyond excited.  I am clearing my schedule for 3 days following the launch and if you can’t reach me you’ll know why.

Clearing my schedule for #FullerHouse premiere on @Netflix_CA #StreamTeam Click To Tweet

Are you excited for Fuller House?  What else are you streaming?

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A dream laid to rest with wrapping paper and rotten apples

A dream laid to rest with wrapping paper and rotten apples

Wrapping Paper & Rotten Apples

laying a Christmas dream to rest

Elf Duty

As I’m wrapping the many gifts that will be exchanged in the following week I’m thinking there can’t be any more, I have to be done.  Except I’m not because Oh!  Look – There’s that bag I had stashed and forgotten about!

We’ve been lucky this year – the blog has afforded us a bigger Christmas than usual.  Brands started recognized that you, the reader, actually care about what I have to say, about my opinions on just about anything – toys included.  By the way,  you can check out all the awesome brands I’ve worked with this year in my year-round gift guide!

The kids are getting 6 gifts from Santa, pajamas from Mrs Claus, and 2 gifts each from us; The kids have also each purchased a small gift for each other, their cousin, and their grand-parents.  50 gifts, all told, with the nice paper – the bows, and ribbons and all that crap.

50 fucking gifts I’ve been begrudgingly wrapping because the past week has been a special kind of hell.

Annabelle took a shit on my carpet.  The kids have been cranky.  Apparently I’m the meanest mom in the world.  Because instead of working or doing Santa duty I’ve been cooking up a storm of chocolate bark for teachers and friends, meticulously melting chocolate and candy canes into the perfect seasonal treat to share.  And I expect them to be asleep before midnight.  Mean, right?  The worst, I tell ya!

In between all this shitting, and wrapping, and baking Annabelle decided she wanted short hair and took to the scissors while drawing peacefully at the table.  So I’ve just spent 3 hours in a shopping mall on the last Saturday before Christmas getting an emergency hair cut for a 4 year old who just wanted short hair.  And thought taking matters into her own hands was better than telling me.

christmas haircut

With my back turned she escaped to the bathroom where she left me a mound of hair on the ground and quietly came back to her seat like nothing happened.

Mom Duty

Yet… as I stab another piece of tape on an unruly corner of paper that refuses to cooperate I think back to this time last month.

At my age…. I don’t even remember when I last had a pregnancy ‘scare’.  And ladies, you know, right?  Until that stick turns blue you shut your pie hole and suffer in silence… because you don’t want the mindless, carefree, impulsive, sex that sends your toes curling to stop should The Man decide he is freaked out by something that may not even be a thing.

But there I was, mid-thirties, contemplating the realities of an unplanned 4th pregnancy.  The risk wasn’t ginormous but September’s Gallbladder turned Septic Infection fiasco has made a mess of my cycle and I just couldn’t be sure.

There I was, mid-thirties, contemplating the realities of an unplanned 4th #pregnancy Click To Tweet

Like ole’ faithful my body cooperated for the first time in months and I was left with conflicting and confusing emotions.  Sure, I felt relief… I’ve always wanted a 4th child but now is not the time or  place to even contemplate that possibility.

Surprising still was the wave of sadness and grief that washed over me.  Grief at the loss of the child that never was, that never will be.  The child I dreamed of a lifetime ago; a baby to soothe and nurse and love to the ends of the world and back.

A tiny life to sustain by the grace of God is a miracle that though unplanned and certainly inconvenient would have brought a ray of sunshine in an otherwise shitty situation.

But this child I speak of exists only in dreams of past and life moves on.

Christmas

I sip on my G&T while carefully placing wrapped packages under the lit tree and I spot something in the corner of my eye.  Upon further investigation I discover a half-eaten apple rotting away under the couch.  A half-eaten apple covered in a few locks of hair, likely from today’s scissor experiments that sent me in a mall this close to Christmas.

And let’s be honest.  This week’s fiasco has proved once again that I’m not the most patient person in the world and I’m certainly no spring chicken so it’s probably for the best that we’re laying the dream of a 4th baby to rest.

Reflections

So I sit back and take a moment to be thankful for the life I have today and the many blessings the universe has provided.  My Christmas wish to you is that you can do the same.  Celebrate the joy of the season with loved ones, honoring the memories and traditions of those who are with us in spirit.

The magic of Christmas heals the heart and warms the soul.  It gives us hope for a new season in life, if slightly more seasoned than the last.

And when that tear rolls silently down my cheek as I finger the gentle fabric of a newborn sleeper I will remind myself there’s not much left to my pelvic floor.  That after being pregnant or nursing for 6 years I’m finally – finally! – getting an average of 5-6 hours of sleep nightly, a rare treat after all these years.  That this precious 4th bundle was not mine to have, that I am blessed with three wonderful, bright, amazing, rays of sunshine we call daughters.

That some dreams belong to a lifetime long-ago lived.

Some dreams belong to a lifetime long-ago lived Click To Tweet

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Ford Road-Trips & The Luggage Whisperer

Ford Road-Trips & The Luggage Whisperer

Fun On The Road with Ford

The Expedition, Fiesta, and Convertible Mustang: Built for road-trips?

It appears this was the year of #KickAssRoadTrips.

First Christa & I drove to Prince Edward County for a bloggers’ retreat followed by  Ann & I #KickAssRoadTrip to NYC for #BlogHer15.  Ford Canada generously let us borrow the Ford Expedition for the ride.

Tee-hee.  What. A. Car.

Aside from the ‘jet’ for an engine (man that thing goes fast when you’re not looking!) and amazing little details like the step that comes down, the pedestrian and other obstacle sensors, the butt-coolers (yes my friend – AC for your bum!) and more the Expedition comfortably held our gear… coming and going.

Ford Road-Trips Expedition NYC

the @fordcanada #FordExpedition comfortably held our gear... coming and going #RoadTrip Click To Tweet

We wrote our hashtag and twitter handles on the windows with chalk markers.  Which was great until we got stuck in NYC traffic and we were making enemies just by trying to follow directions.

ford road-trips

People and cars kept coming out of nowhere. It was ridiculous.  Shorlty before we arrived at our hotel we were instructed by a police officer to turn left immediately.  Except the light changed 1/2 way through the intersection and out came no less than 1000 pedestrians.

Those sensors I mentioned?  They work.  Really well.  The sound comes from the direction of the obstacle, so the car was pretty much singing at us in stereo as we were stuck in an intersection with the wide-ass of the Expedition hanging out into oncoming traffic.

ford road-trips nyc driving

Still stuck in the intersection, letting the last of the pedestrians cross as they’ll do it whether you’re moving or not…

Thankfully we manged to get through that corner and soon after reached the hotel.  Ann firmly declared that * I * would be driving us out of the city.

Except we lost our parking stub and almost didn’t have a car to drive home in.  We’d forgotten to wash off the chalk marker before leaving it with the valet and it ended up being what saved us.  We were able to show that we had pictures of us in front of the car with the writing, and the car we were trying to take was the exact same one.

The gas tank on this beast is huge and this time we didn’t get stranded 15 minutes from home.

Florida Keys – U.S. 1 & the Overseas Highway

On our latest trip to Fort Lauderdale for TBEX we decided to take a few days and detour to Key West.  This time we had Ann’s university freshman daughter with us.  I’m not sure who had more stuff between the two, but one of them may or may not have had to switch things around in order to avoid airport overages.  Which means one of them had over 50 lbs of stuff.  Can you guess which of the two packed heavy?

Airmiles balance in tow we booked a rental car to drive from Fort Lauderdale to Key West;  Airmiles balance running low we took the cheapest option, a red Ford Fiesta with all the trimmings.

It just so happens I was really tired and completely forgot to take pictures of our luggage in the car.  I will say that our 3 suitcases – 2 hard-shells and 1 soft-shell – fit comfortably (if snugly) in the caboose and everyone had plenty of leg room.

I love all the safety features in the Ford lineup including BLIS, the blind-spot sensor.  I usually have my mirrors set ‘just so’ that my blind spot is barely there but this was much better.

Safety features aside the Fiesta won’t save you from the zombies.

As we were driving to the airport to return said rental car we were attacked by 10,000 (yes, 10k) zombies 400 meters from the airport entrance.

Well, not… attacked per se, but we were made to turn around by a couple of laid-back officers who thought nothing of the 10,000 zombies blocking the airport.

Our @FordFiesta was attacked by zombies in #FLKEYS and survived #FantasyFest @FordCanada Click To Tweet

There should be a disclosure when calling the rental company for directions that it’s Fantasy Week in Key West and * today * is the zombie bike ride.  Which I told the guy when I called him back to say we’d be returning the car once the zombie apocalypse was over.

key west ford road-trips

Women drive Mustangs too

We had booked the same Fiesta to return to Fort Lauderdale a few days later but upon our zombie-free arrival at the airport we were offered a $20 upgrade to a Ford convertible Mustang.

Women drive @FordMustang too #RoadTrip with @FordCanada Click To Tweet

Now, I thought the Expedition was a sexy car… but nothing – nothing! – beats driving top-down in a bright yellow Mustang on the most scenic highway in America.

Oh…. WOW.  What a drive.  What a car.  Fast.  Bold.  Sexy.  Driving that puppy felt like I owned the road.

Nothing beats driving top-down in a @FordMustang in #FLKEYS @fordcanada #roadtrip Click To Tweet

Except I had to fit 2 hard-shells, 1 soft-shell, 1 carry-on, 2 backpacks, 2 camera bags, 3 purses, our combined purchased treasures and 3 full grown, full size humans in a car the may as well fit in the palm of my hand – or so it felt.

Mission Accomplished.  * I * am THE luggage whisperer.  I can fit anything in any car.   I did it in NYC 2012 with room to spare.  I did it in Chicago 2013 even if I was stuck in a hobbit hole for 17 hours.  And I’ve done-gone did it again.

Going on a @FordCanada #Roadtrip? Meet the luggage whisperer Click To Tweet

Ford Road-Trips Key West Mustang

Look at it.  It’s a thing of beauty!  Not a wasted space; luggage versus human Tetris at its best.

I’d thought I’d be nervous driving such a muscle car but this may have been the most comfortable drive of my life.  Small car it may be the Mustang does not lack cohones.  Driving down the 7 mile bridge and zipping through Miami traffic it felt as big and powerful as the Expedition, no small feat I’m sure.

The @FordMustang felt as big as the #FordExpedition on the hwy @FordCanada #RoadTrip Click To Tweet

The verdict: Ford cars are build for road trips

In the last decade I have road-tripped in several Ford cars.  When my oldest was a baby we used my old 5-speed Ford Focus sedan.  Following the birth of my 2nd child (and through my 3rd pregnancy almost to the bitter end) we had a blast in our Ford Escape SUV.

I’ve already told you about our adventures in the Ford Expedition, the Ford Fiesta, and the Ford convertible Mustang.

With absolute certainty I can tell you each and every one of these cars were build for road-trips.  They were built for much more, sure, but they sure as heck made great road-trip cars.

Are @FordCanada cars built for #roadtrips ? @Shoeboxbegone says YES, all of them Click To Tweet

The smaller ones may need some creativity in order to cram everything and everyone in it but it’s worth the effort.

I’m getting a tired of the van – or rather, its lack of all-wheel drive and auto-start.  I have fallen in love with the Expedition we drove this summer and went online to ‘build’ my own… and came down with a small case of sticker shock.  All that means is we’ll be buying used again, but hubby already knowsthe Ford Expedition is our next car.

Ford Road-Trips

Did you know it fits 8?

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The Great 2015 Shitastrophy

The Great 2015 Shitastrophy

toilet paper

The Great 2015 Shitastrophy

That time my kid took a dump on the floor

Enough.

Enough is enough is enough. 

Because today my darling, loving, amazing 5 year old did #2 on the carpet.  Because she hates our toilet. Because the toilet at school is ‘shinier’.

Until recently she’d never even graced a toilet with her stench.  Ever.  She’d hold it in and poo in a diaper at night.  Then she’d ask to be changed, thus pushing back bed time even more.

 

We tried taking diapers away but that was a shit-show.  Once can only continuously clean bed sheets and child covered in dung for so long.

 

On day 8?  On crappy day #8 I gave up.

She held it in for 5 nights.  Five nights, waking up dry and clean every morning.  Then it hit the fan – and everything else.

 

8 straight days of waking up covered smeared in pungent, crusty, half-dry stools.

 

Hair, walls, toes, and everything in between had us wondering ‘how the hell did it get in there too?!?‘.   Followed by ‘OMG it doesn’t end!!!!

 

Poopopolypse.  Shitastrophy.  Explosive.

 

Night, after night, after night.

 

“Fuck it” I said, “Fuck all this shit, I’m done”.

 

So every day she poops at school and every night she’s in a diaper.

I felt so bad for her last night when she asked to go to bed at seven.  “I’m tired, maman, please take me to bed”.  The poor thing, I thought, she must be coming down with something.

She was coming down with something all right.

“My bum hurts”

Oh thank the Lord above!  “Ok sweetie, go to the washroom!” I’m doing the secret-parent-happy-dance in anticipation of the much awaited ‘Plop!’.  A good ‘Plop!’ means clean bum tomorrow morning.

Except she gets up and paces the hallway chanting ‘My bum hurts and nothing wants to come out’.  I plead.  I beg.  I bribe – Please, please go sit on the toilet for a few more minutes.  Just a few minutes, I promise!’

It happened so quickly – like a slow-motion action shot from your favorite movie.  Standing at the top of the stairs she could no longer hold it in and out it came.

The biggest lump (yes, lump.  There was no shape to this… thing) of doodoo shot out her bee-hind and onto my carpet.  It was moist, it was shiny, and its warmth could be felt through the multiple layers of paper towels I held on to as I attempted to clean it up.

And that, ladies & gentlemen, is how our anniversary celebration began. 

Anniversary Shitastrophy. That time my kid took a dump on the floor Click To Tweet

How was your day?

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Will you be #LifeReady when it hits the fan?

Will you be #LifeReady when it hits the fan?

Will you be #LifeReady when it hits the fan?

Life is messy.  Families are messy.  Money is messy.

We all wish we could confidently say ‘we’ve got this’ but lets be honest, most of us can’t.  Not 100% anyways.  We may feel #LifeReady in most areas but there’s always that one thing we know we should doand haven’t gotten around to yet.

We may feel #LifeReady in most areas but there's always that one thing we know we should do... Click To Tweet

Cause there’s plenty of time right?  right?!?  Crap on stick.

So maybe we take a step back to focus on our future.  What do you see?  School, marriage, kids, travels, death, illness, aging… One day it will happen and its easier knowing you have financial systems in place that any one of these events won’t cripple you.

My mom woke up one morning just over 4 years ago and couldn’t walk.  At all.  Within a year Mom was confined to her bedroom; my step-dad stopped working to take care of her.  She was hopped up on all kinds of meds, some necessary, some likely not, and her condition got worse.  She was depressed.  She was lonely.  She called herself Rapunzel because she was stuck in the bedroom – She couldn’t walk down the stairs, her husband had shoulder surgery, and he was unable to carry her downstairs.

Her old, tiny home was not made to be accessible.  Doorways were narrow, staircases were narrow, and going outside was nearly impossible.

It broke my heart to see her like this, and newborn baby in arms I arranged to get her an occupational therapist.  I paid for physiotherapy.  The OT helped her get a custom wheelchair through government programs, I bought her some mobility aids, and I stayed cheery.  Eventually, she was able to maneuver.

All those nights driving over to Mom’s to help them out.  Making sure appointments were scheduled.  Food in the fridge.  Were her prescriptions filled?  Did the floors need vacuuming?

A year ago Mom walked a few shaky steps.  She’s much better but though she still relies on her wheelchair to get around she can stand.  She can walk around in the kitchen, bake like she loves to, heck – even getting out of her chair to go sit on the couch!  Can you imaging 4 years without sitting in anything other than a wheelchair? Her progress warms our hearts daily.

We moved in August they came with us.  An apartment was created downstairs, her mental health improved.

Every day I see a bit more of the woman she used to be before this.  Every day I lose just a little bit more of the woman she is today.  Early onset dementia is the newest ‘thing’ we’re dealing with.  It’s certainly not severe, but her short term memory loss has declined tremendously in the past 6 months.

Today I take care of what needs taking care of.  I also focus on the future.  Her needs will increase over time.  I still have 3 amazing girls who need my love and attention, and a husband who’d like his wife to not be stressed around the clock.

Planning and looking forward to trips and conferences with my friend Ann helps ground me.  It gives me something to look forward to, something to get excited about.

I plan out the airmiles I’ll need for flights and car rentals, make strategic parternships with companies that can help us along the way, and break down the budget to the max.  I know what needs to be paid when, how much money I’ll need, when I’ll need it, and how I can save and still have a #kickassroadtrip.

Because these trips help keep me sane.  And I * need * to be sane.  And being #LifeReady is how I can keep travelling a few times a year.

Are * you * #LifeReady ? Take the manulife quiz and find out! Click To Tweet

Are you #LifeReady?  Take the Manulife Quiz and find out.  While you’re at it, start looking forward – is there anything you want to be ready for?

This post is sponsored by 360ACCESS on behalf of Manulife. The opinions are my own.

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Post-Partum to Normal – How I Crawled Out of The Darkness

Post-Partum to Normal – How I Crawled Out of The Darkness

Never Change, Embrace Change

My journey from post-partum depression to normal

Depressingly post-partum depression is still the tabooed elephant in the room.  It’s normal, we all go through it, yet we can’t talk about it.

I’m done with that.  I’m done with silence.  I’m done with feeling less-than.  Post-partum depression is a side effect of the lethal mix of hormones we are subject to, and we all know #depressionlies.

So what does it look like?  Where do you find her?

In your mirror.  Because you, new mom, are the face of post-partum depression.  

The face of #postpartum depression is in the mirror. #depressionlies It's OK. You're OK. Click To Tweet

After 3 grueling pregnancies and extreme post-partum depression I failed. Failed at business. Failed at housework. Failed my kids.

I felt like I had failed life.

The baby was 18 months old and I still wasn’t getting better. My anxiety got worse with each passing week.

We were busy, sure – 1 car, a husband on shift work, little kids at home, ailing parents who needed increasing care, a successful business and career to manage. But I couldn’t.

I couldn’t look at my inbox because it was too hard to get dressed, to brush my teeth. I couldn’t face my inbox weeks later when my anxiety over replying to everyone made me hide under the proverbial rock.

My kids were fed, clothed, had activities, saw their grand-parents multiple times a week. They went to school and preschool, they had friends, but I rarely had time to just enjoy them. I felt my life was spent in the car running errands, in the car to go help someone, or in the house trying to make sense of the clutter.

Driving was a nightmare.

The kind of nightmare where you see a crazy driver go by and the accident that could have been flashes before your eyes: the mangled car, my kids splattered on the asphalt, first responders arriving on scene…

Let’s rewind a minute: I could see – clear as day – my children splattered and dismembered on the asphalt.

Horrible, right? I never meant any harm to my kids – EVER. But my anxiety was so severe I could see worst case scenarios all around me.

All the time.

Every day.

A train wreck you can look away from.

I know. Because I felt it. Every day. Every time I got in the car.

You can’t unsee those images your fucked up post-partum brain shoves in front of you. It’s disturbing. It’s horrifying. And like a train wreck you can’t look away.  The memory dwells and each time you remember you violently shake your head to try to get it to stop.

But the show must go on and I’d had enough.

I remember sitting in my Dr’s office, and telling her exactly what was going on. I’d always described it as ‘crazy thoughts’ but that could mean so much.

I was explicit. I wanted her to understand my pain and help me get better because I wasn’t coping anymore.

The house was a wreck, the car was a wreck, my business was a wreck, and let’s just say my marriage wasn’t exactly honky dory. I screamed too much and lived too little. I was a wreck.

We changed my medication, I spoke to someone, and I spoke up.

Spoke up about my needs, my feelings, my truth.

I put ME first for the first time in years and every day I felt just a little bit more me. My husband didn’t understand but then again he didn’t really believe depression and anxiety was a disease. I should have been able to push through it in his eyes.

I cancelled things. A lot. Family events, meetings, appointments… if the kids hadn’t slept, weren’t feeling well, or were fighting and misbehaving, I didn’t leave the house alone with them – I refused.

I burned bridges, business and personal, but I had to take care of me. Ultimately I’m a much better mom, wife, and friend if I’m not frazzled before even leaving the house, never mind doing groceries, shopping for a gift and a full-blown family affair an hour away with three cranky kids in tow, by myself.

It got better. I got better. Clients got booked, the kids & I went out more, groceries got done. I would put my foot down and insist on running errands on my own – I was entitled. Dads do it all the time!

I learned to talk about my anxiety with the kids; I couldn’t live with myself if they grew up thinking I was angry at them all the time. To the oldest, “I’m in a really bad mood right now. It’s not you. But this is what I’m feeling. You can help me by giving me a bit of space for 15 minutes.” To the younger girls, “Mommy is really cranky / has a bad headache. Its not your fault but I need you to help me get better by behaving / not screaming / etc”.

Today, the crazy thoughts are gone.  I’m happy, I smile and laugh, and our lives are much better.

I survived, and you will too. 

No matter how bad you think it is… talk to someone.  Anyone.  Please.

Depression lies, and post-partum depression is a beast of its own.  It doesn’t have to be like this.

You are OK. 

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#ShareYourCare – Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow

#ShareYourCare – Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow

#ShareYourCare Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow

The Care Bears #ShareYourCare day was Wednesday September 9th.  I had all these big plans.  Social messaging.  Epic blog post.  Unicorns farting rainbows and all, y’all.  It was gonna be great.

Except on Tuesday night I ended up in the ER.  My gallbladder & I were not getting along and with the help of a great medical team we joined forces to evict the little bugger.

Clearly I missed posting about #ShareYourCare (I blame pain and narcotics) during my hospital stint, so bear with me (see what I did there?) a moment while I share today.

I’ve been known to help strangers and friends alike and it’s no secret I have a soft spot for animals.  Whether it be time, money, things, words… sometimes someone just needs it more than I do.  So I step in, I do what I can, I show up.  Because it’s the right thing to do.

Care Bears #ShareYourCare : Let's teach our kids the value of kindness and caring. Click To Tweet

Until the day comes where someone takes care of you.  A complete stranger does something so nice, so simple, that it makes your day.  After this week’s ordeals I honestly can’t remember what it was, but I remember telling my mom ‘sometimes it’s just really nice when you’re on the receiving end of random kindness‘.

It doesn’t matter what you do – buying coffee for the car behind you at Tim’s, covering the $0.05 a child needs to buy a special treat ’cause no one taught them about sales tax yet, or showing up unexpectedly to clean, organize, and cook.  It all counts.  It all matters.  

It matters to someone.

September 9th was #ShareYourCare day – but we should all share our care every day.  Because every time you give a random act of kindness you possibly change someone’s life.  You save them, encourage them, give them hope.

I hope someone showed you unexpected compassion when you needed it most, and that you paid it forward when you saw a need.

For an inspiring story of a child on a mission to change the world around him, read about Zach Kaplan and his philanthropist efforts.

Share your story in the comments!  I’d love to hear it.

Care Bears #ShareYourCare Day

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Teaching financial skills to your child – no matter the age

Teaching financial skills to your child – no matter the age

Teaching your child financial skills

no matter what age

Perhaps because of my upbringing, perhaps my unique high school experience, I’ve always thought it important to teach kids real world skills.  Those are the skills that have brought me where I am today, the skills that will one day help them succeed at whatever they put their mind to.

My daughters know the value of a firm handshake versus fish-hands.  They understand cause and effect – I am not that parent who will argue over a winter coat leaving the mall in a snow storm (let them step outside once instead of arguing – worked with all three!).

Respect – for yourself, others, and all things.  The art of story-telling and the pitfalls of superfluous details.  Money.

A lot about money.  Budgets, spending money, where it comes from and where it goes.  Because it’s important. 

So important that I recently spoke to the National Financial Educators Council on how I’ve taught my girls about money.  Teaching financial skills to your child – no matter the age – isn’t rocket science and can be a lot of fun.

Teaching financial skills to your child isn't rocket science & can be lots of fun! cc @NFEC_FinEdu Click To Tweet

Read the following article to see my tips as well as those of other financial experts to help teach your kids those all important real-world financial skills.

Thoughts?  Nuggets of wisdom?  Share below!

 

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3 secrets to surviving a day at the zoo

3 secrets to surviving a day at the zoo

3 Secrets to Surviving a Day at The Zoo

My kids like to drive me bonkers by jumping like monkeys and laughing like hyenas.  They growl and sneer when asked to do chores and have appetites that rival that of a bear.  It’s no wonder it feels like a zoo in here!

I was skeptical when J-F suggested we take all 3 kids to the Zoo Granbya whopping 2 1/2 hour drive away – for a fun-filled, holiday weekend Saturday, family day of f*ck.  Yeah, I said it.  3 kids.  1 zoo.  Thousands of opportunities for oh-shits and get-the-hell-outa-theres.  

3 kids. 1 zoo. Thousands of opportunities for oh-shits and get-the-hell-outa-theres. #traveltips Click To Tweet

Thankfully I have these 3 secrets to surviving a day at the zoo.  I accept wine and coffee as thanks 😉.

The first step in surviving a SATURDAY at the zoo?  Get there before opening time to get a parking spot that is less than 10 miles from the gate.  You don’t want the kids pooped before you even start the day!  Remember that a zillion other parents had the same idea you did; once inside the park skip the first ‘continent’ and go straight to the 2nd section – you can always loop back at the end.  It will still be busy, but your whole day will be less congested than if you spent it herding your way through with all the parents who showed up bright and early like you did.

The second step for survival when kids outnumber the adults is to bring food.  Lots of food.  And if your kids are a tad OCD like mine make sure every child has exactly the same thing.  Our cooler – which we put in the wagon’s ‘cargo hold’ area – had exactly 3 of everything for the kids.  Apples, drinkable yogourt, granola bars, nutri-grain bars, water bottle and juice box.  We also had 1 loaf of bread and a jar of peanut butter.  We did buy them a treat mid-way but I wanted to save our spending money for the fun things, like camel and train rides.

Lastly, bring a wagon.  Any wagon.  I don’t care how old your kids are.  Ours (a folding number from On The Edge Marketing)  held water, food, extra kid’s underwear & pants, diapers, wipes, a light blanket, a neck pillow and from time to time a napping toddler or a tired preschooler.  Trust me, you don’t want to be carrying a 40lb tired toddler half way across the zoo.

We ended up having a terrific day.  As you can see from the pictures below everyone had a great time – mostly.  Though I will admit to reaching for the wine bottle when we got home I have to say the day was a success thanks to my 3 secrets to surviving a day at the zoo.

3 secrets to surviving a day at the zoo #kids #travel #tips #parenting Click To Tweet

What are your tips for surviving family outings?  Check out the image gallery below then comment with your suggestions!

 

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leopard eating a bone
alligator 'smiling'

Exploring the Big Apple with The Ride NYC

Exploring the Big Apple with The Ride NYC

Exploring the Big Apple with The Ride NYC

I’ve been to the Big Apple before but this time it felt like a new experience.  For one, I wasn’t a million years pregnant.  Let’s just say I saw WAY more than I did in 2012 even though our schedule was beyond jam packed.

I had tickets to 4 different events, two of which were overlapping conferences.  Normally I wouldn’t have had time to explore at all but knowing this would be an issue I came prepared: I purchased a VIP ticket to #BBNYC which included a choice of several experiences on the Wednesday afternoon, something I looked forward to with fervor.

I’m a big fan of tours but The Ride NYC is like nothing you’ve seen before.  Stadium-style seating, floor-to-ceiling windows, and an unparalleled view of the city.  With lights and sounds reminiscent of old Cash Cab episodes and seasoned entertainers you are guaranteed some laughs, lots of oohs and aahhhs, and some fun surprises thrown in the mix.

In the air conditioned greatness of the bus I got to take in some great sights.

The Ride NYC

I also got to take great pictures of a few landmarks from interesting angles.

Beyond our two great hosts we were treated to little extras along the way.  The first surprise was a dancing banker – vaudeville-style.

We were serenaded, attended a jazz concert, and went to the ballet – all without leaving the bus.  We even got to see some spectacular break dancing.

Experience NYC with @the_ride_nyc for some great fun and a memorable experience! #Travel #bbnyc Click To Tweet

We may have all broken into song and our lovely host – who reminds me so much of Anne Hathaway – gave us a stunning rendition of ‘All by myself’.

Some people think tours are tacky and for old people but I guarantee this one is unlike any other you’ve ever seen.  The Ride NYC has several routes you can choose from and they are worth every penny.

Enjoy your stay in the Big Apple, and get on The Ride!  You won’t regret it 😉

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Dragons: Race To The Edge

Dragons: Race To The Edge

Dragons: Race to the edge

My girls?  They.  Are.  Girly girls.

BUT!  They are also big fans of all things loud, dirty, dangerous, and geeky.  As long as there’s wipes nearby so they can clean off their hands right away.  We can’t let that princess dress get dirty – so they’ve told me.

J-F being a great ‘How to train your dragon‘ fan the kids have seen the movie about a zillion times.   With ‘Dragons: Race to the Edge’ the kids are excited for some new ‘mom approved’ streaming time.  J-F has some time off this month and they’ll be able to all watch it together as I pack up the house for our move.

Jasmine is already planing her binge-watching time (ha!) and the other two are playing swords with forks.  The cat is apparently a dragon and is being patient at the youngest’s attempts to ‘train’ him.  Such a good cat, my Owen.

So while I’m packing make sure to enjoy the new Netflix series!

Dragons

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Fake Fashion: Condoms, Socks, and Mushroom Clouds

Fake Fashion: Condoms, Socks, and Mushroom Clouds

Fake Fashion: Condoms, Socks, & Mushroom Clouds

My kids’ feet stink.  I mean – Farmer stepping in shit all day wash your feet BEFORE getting into the house kinda stink.

I don’t get it!  Mere hours after bathing them I fight the urge to Lysol the crap out of their feet.

In efforts to eradicate the problem I’ve spent the past week searching for girls’ cotton socks.  Easy right?  Sears, The Bay, Children’s Place, Old Navy, Gap, Joe Fresh, Walmart, Payless, Kiddie Kobbler, Souris Mini, Gymboree, Giant Tigre… Even the flipping dollar store.  

Nada.  Zip.  Niente. 

What I found instead was several poly-blends.  Polyester (up to 80%), Lycra, Spandex, Nylon… and 2% – 5% Rubber.

That’s right folks.  RUBBER. 

The same rubber that sheaths your man’s cockstand is now being found in fucking socks.

Does this condom make me look fat? #fashion Click To Tweet

I would have loved to be a fly on the wall in * that * meeting.

“There’s not enough synthetic crap in our socks – we need something… something more!

“What about recycling old tires and turning the rubber into a cloth-like fiber?  It would certainly add to the plasticky feeling of polyester and nylon – Think about the planet! “

“OMG That’s genius!  Imagine!  Men’s socks.  Women’s socks.  Kids’ socks…. Unbreathable fucking rubber socks for everyone!”

The whole room erupts in applause; it’s a wonderful day.  The CEO sheds a happy tear at the good deed they are doing for the environment their fat wallets.

Between us?  The mushroom cloud that forms when my husband and kids take off their shoes will probably kill us all well before the millions of condoms lying on the ocean floor.

So where has all the cotton gone?  Anyone?  Bueller?  Hello?

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#DeadRaccoonTO – The memorial that spawned a hashtag

#DeadRaccoonTO – The memorial that spawned a hashtag

#DeadRaccoonTO : The memorial that spawned a hashtag

As I sat idly, lurking the Book of Face, an article by Buzzfeed caught my attention.

“People in Toronto Created A Memorial To A Dead Raccoon After The City Forgot To Pick It Up”

A headline like this begs to be clicked on, and click I did.  Followed by much laughter and benign twitter stalking of the @Norm account.

I laughed so hard I almost pissed my pants and figured if I thought it was funny… chances are you would too.

So for you, dear readers, I share the Saga of the #DeadRaccoonTO – in tweets.  Enjoy 😉

#DeadRaccoonTO memorial spawns hashtag in wake of city fail Click To Tweet

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Thinking Out Loud – Is a kiss just a kiss?

Thinking Out Loud – Is a kiss just a kiss?

Thinking Out Loud - Is a kiss just a kiss?

It was late Saturday night (Sunday morning?) when I sobered up from too many Gin & Tonics and headed to home.  I turned on the radio, still reminiscing great conversations and much fun, when a new song starts playing.  The first few notes sounded promising so I blasted the volume as I took a drink of water.  Big mistake.

Cause the 3rd line of the song came blasting out of my speakers and make me choke on my water.

“Will your mouth still remember the taste of my love”

The visual this brought on was – um – interesting;  the kind of interesting that firmly ensconced me in the gutter.

Thinking Out Loud is a beautiful song by Ed Sheeran, an ode of sorts to his lover.  I laughed as I told Ann about this, until she said she always thought the line was about kissing, not blow jobs, and clearly I’m a bit of a pervert.

Take it how you want – it’s still a great song.  And with all the suggestive music out there if this was in fact about blow jobs it was done remarkably well – classy and sexy.

So tell me, what do you think?  A kiss?  or a “KISS”?  Leave your comments below after watching the video! 🙂

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Style Guide for the Conference Junkie Mom

Style Guide for the Conference Junkie Mom

Style Guide for the Conference Junkie Mom

My name is Angele and I am a conference junkie.  And a MOM of 3

Your body changes after kids; it’s different.  Not better, not worse – just… Different.

That being said I still like to look good when I leave the comfort of my home office pj’s.  I have to take into account the wider hips, the permanent belly-smile-with-old-man-belly-flap that’s right at my bikini line, and ‘The Ladies’.  Practical pieces are a must – specially in footwear – and all things undergarment must still find a way to be sexy AND comfortable.

I refuse to look matronly, but I’m not 20 anymore if you get my drift.

My style has evolved over the years, but I’ve always packed light;  Unless I’m going to BlogHer, Blogger BashType-A Parent, or other conference where there’s a guarantee I’ll need extra space to bring back swag.  In those cases, I bring an empty suitcase with me 😉

So what does one bring to a conference?

I’ve put together my Top 20 List of things that end up in my bags while traveling to a conference.  Ready?

nyc-2015-wardwrobe

Style Guide for the Conference Junkie Mom Top 20 Must-Haves

1.   Find pieces that flatter your body in fabrics that breathe.

This jumper from Reitman’s (or Smart Set, if you’re in the US) is really cute and looks great on.  I was surprised at how well it fit until I realized it came in Petite!  On my 5’2″ frame this was absolutely perfect.

2.  An over-sized t-shirt can be dressed up or down.

Pair with shorts and flip flops to go shopping or with leggings and cute flats for an afternoon of breakout sessions.

3.  It won’t be all business, all the time.  

Remember to pack casual pieces that go a long way like these cute denim shorts from Reitmans and black leggings.

4.  Session rooms and outdoor parties can get chilly.

Come prepared with cardigan or scarf that will match your outfit.

5.  Your (not so little) little black dress.

A great dress in a wrinkle-free fabric will serve you well.  Easy to roll up into your suitcase and pairs great with a cardigan or a pashmina.

6.  Don’t forget you can still be fun and flirty!

This ‘cold shoulder’ top by Michael Kors looks fantastic on and pairs well with jeans or leggings.

7.  Jeans!  The best, most comfortable pair you own.  

Cause lets face it you won’t have time to wear all 36 pairs.  Just bring one (OK 2 – if you insist) that make your ass look fantastic and allows you to breathe.

8.  The makeup bag.  The small, pared-down version of your makeup bag.

Concealer – Mineral Lights, Caryl Baker Visage; High Brow & Gimme Brow by Benefit,  Sephora.  Mascara – DiorShow, Sephora. Tinted Brow Gel – Anastasia Beverly Hills, Sephora.

Add a great lip stain – I love the Smashbox longwear lip lacquer – and some light gloss and you’re all set to look fresh and natural.

9.  Fantabulous sunglasses.

I’m bringing the DVF glasses I won in the BlogHer’12 Eyeconic challenge.  I do wish they would bring this promo back – It was a lot of fun and I absolutely LOVE those glasses. 

10.  A bright Pasmina.

Fits in your bag and very versatile.  Conference rooms get chilly with the A/C, and sometimes you just need that extra little bit of coverage.

11.  Stand out from the crowd with a great badge holder that doubles as awesome jewelry.

It’s not like you can go anywhere without your badge… may as well look good while at it, right?  I found this one on Ebay.  The seller graciously switched out the ring for a lobster clasp which will easily hook onto my badge. Her creations are amazing and fun – check out her pinterest board!

12.  Cute flats, like these Jeffrey Campbell ‘At Hashtag’ shoes I got from Revolve Clothing.

An easy way to add a punch of wow to your outfit without breaking your back.

'At Hashtag' shoes are perfect for any blogging conference! #BBNYC #BlogHer15 Click To Tweet

13.  A well-fitted, right-sized, convertible bra.

My favorite is the Wacoal Red Carpet Strapless Underwire Bra.  It holds’em up and doesn’t go anywhere – and I can choose to put the straps on if I want.  Bonus: it comes in my size, 36H.  I always feel confident the ladies will stay where they need to, and I don’t have to deal with straps digging into my shoulders.

14.  Underpants that go the distance.

Remember the belly perma-smile I mentioned before?  Well these ‘boy’ shorts from La Vie en Rose are perfect.  They look great on, and the panty covers the entire old-man-flap so I don’t end up with weird bits poking through the sides.  No one needs bikini muffin-sides.  Trust me.  It doesn’t hurt that your ass will look fantastic in these :).

Underwear selection matters! No one needs bikini muffin-sides #postpartum #motherhood Click To Tweet

15.  Simple jewelry that will make you feel fabulous.

This coral enamel bangle bracelet from Fossil looks great on, and I love how the enamel feels against my skin.

16.  An alternative to shoes for parties and the expo hall.

I hate wearing shoes, and sometime around day 1.5 my feet start to really swell up.  I relieve them by wearing Slippys Original socks around the hotel and conference area.  They are super cute, and no one is really looking at your feet.

Travel tip:  These are great to change into once you get on the plane.  Just slip your shoes into your carry-on and enjoy!

17.  Waist nippers and such.

I’m not a fan of spanx-type shapewear.  On my round-ish tummy all that smoothing just makes me look like I have a nice, tight, pregnant belly.  Instead I prefer waist nippers like the Maidenform Easy Up and the Maidenform Flexees Waist Nipper.  These really ‘suck you in’ in the tummy area and stay put all day.  Great for any form fitting outfit, but also when you’re feeling all bloated and hormonal.

18.  Feminine Wipes & Panty Liners.

Keep your lady-bits fresh all day.  You’ve had a few kids so the chance you can laugh without tears coming down your legs are slim to none.  Need I say more?  Oh, and neither will help you not piss your pants but at least you’ll stay dry and smell nice.

Panty liners, cause you probably cant laugh without tears coming down your legs #BBNYC #BlogHer15 Click To Tweet

19.  Breath Spray

There will be food.  Lots of food.  Foods of all kinds.  Come prepared with breath spray and spare your neighbors.

20.  YOU, in all your awesome glory

Cause really, that’s all the matters right?  Let us get to know the awesome that is you – be it quirky, weird, different, whatever.  We’re all a bunch of coo-coos anyways, so you’ll fit right in 😉

What are your must-have items? Any tips you want to share?

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Welcome Back Garfield!

Welcome Back Garfield!

Welcome Back Garfield

I love that my oldest loves the same things I did in my youth – The Baby-Sitters Club (and all things reading), Full House (OMG she’s obsessed!), and now – apparently – Garfield. 

And… She’s gotten the littles obsessed as well.  Garfield and his antics are still just as entertaining and with her developing wit she’s also ‘getting’ some of the nuances.  Its nice to see her appreciate both intelligent and no-brainer humour.

What retro (oh good god I can’t believe I’m referring to 80’s and 90’s stuff as RETRO.  Wasn’t that, like, just yesterday?) shows are you passing down to your kids?  Share below and check out some great throwback titles on Netflix!

Garfield is on @NetflixCA - Just as good as I remember! Click To Tweet

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Prince Edward County – A Weekend in Pictures

Prince Edward County – A Weekend in Pictures

Prince Edward County - A weekend in pictures

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I Love You’s and Tequila.  And Vodka.  And maybe Brandy

I Love You’s and Tequila. And Vodka. And maybe Brandy

I Love You's and Tequila. And Vodka. And maybe Brandy

Alcohol.  It loosens the tongue, no?

“I shouldn’t say this but I want you” you say.  “Funny, I was thinking the same thing”, he replies.  You kiss, tentatively, and next thing you know you’re consumed with the taste, smell, and feel of his lips.  You make out on the hood of the car cause you don’t give a damn who sees you, cause you can’t be bothered to wait any longer.

That time you got drunk and made out on the hood of the car #lastnight @lspraggan Click To Tweet

One thing leads to another and you wake up the next morning feeling wonderfully relaxed.  You stretch out like a cat as you roll over to check the time and the proof of your wanton sex-god escapades is staring right at you.

Oh shit.  Oops.  Faaaaccckkkkk.

We’ve all been there, at one time or another.  Remembering what we said – or did – the night prior makes us cringe at the horror of facing our friends again.

Some call it Beer Fear.  Lucy Spraggan, a brilliant twenty-something singer / songwriter from the UK, says it better than anyone else.

Check it out:

A friend shared another of her songs with me – Tea & Toast.  Also beautifully written – though consider yourself warned: you’ll likely shed some tears.

Are you in love with Lucy Spraggan yet?  Thought so ;).

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Protecting Our Tomorrows, Preventing Disease

Protecting Our Tomorrows, Preventing Disease

Protecting our tomorrows, Preventing Disease

As a child, meningococcal disease was almost a myth.  The children of my generation – too young to really be considered gen x, and too old to be a millennial –  got vaccinated and that was that.

Old kids’ books told tales of twins with mumps.  There were stories of uncles who, decades earlier, had suffered from Polio or Meningitis.  The miracle of modern medicine was something to be grateful of, lest we forget the pain and suffering of our elders.

Thought Provoking Changes

Then the 90’s came along and parents of ‘true’ millennials stopped vaccinating their kids.  First labelled as crazy and irresponsible, then fearless leaders in a movement that would cause much debate, these parents did what they thought best for their family.

We think we are safe, that we did the right thing, that the risks outweighed the benefits.  We remain under the impression we’re making educated choices and we can’t possibly be wrong, can we?

Were we wrong to not vaccinate our kids? #vaccination #vaccines #health Click To Tweet

Dangerous Repercussions

Except we’re now seeing a resurgence of previously almost-extinct diseases.  More and more we hear stories of meningitis outbreaks in places there shouldn’t * be * any outbreaks.  This is North-America, not a 3rd world country, after all.  But the evidence is there.

Regardless of your stance on vaccination you can’t deny this practice has dangerous repercussions.  Don’t believe me?  Skeptic?

Anne Geddes illustrates the profound impact of meningococcal disease

Maybe after seeing Anne Geddes’ ‘Protecting our tomorrows: Portraits of meningococcal disease’ project you’ll understand where I’m coming from.  This global project allowed her to capture the stories of 15 survivors and their families.

I’m grateful I had the opportunity to interview Anne along with Dr. Fielding, a pediatrician and infectious disease specialist at the CDC.  Important topics were raised, incredible stories told, and great resources shared.

Check out the interview, and share your thoughts in the comments!  * Opinions are welcome, but comments that could be construed as bullying or harassment will be removed.  It’s a big playground, let’s play nice shall we? *

Watch this great interview with @AnneGeddesTweet & Dr. Fielding #protectingourtomorrows Click To Tweet

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STFU Dr Google, Before You Kill Someone

STFU Dr Google, Before You Kill Someone

STFU Dr. Google, Before you kill someone

In light of a friend’s very public mental / nervous breakdown I can no longer keep quiet.  I am shocked at how many of you – normal-ass people with no medical degrees – purport to know better than trained professionals.

Who * are you * to judge which treatments are best for her?

Who are you to judge at efficacy and safeness of one’s particular pharmaceutical cocktail without a full medical history?   Without a fucking medical degree?

Comments like ‘no need for drugs, they just numbs you‘ and ‘your dose isn’t healthy’ isn’t doing anyone any good.  And those chiming in that this advice should be taken seriously?  They’re just as bad.

Is your name followed by ‘MD’?  No?  Then STFU.

Are you a nurse-practitioner, psychiatrist, or psychologist? No? Then kindly stuff it where the sun don’t shine.

I happen to be one of ‘those’ people.

“Those” people apparently too weak to just to just breathe and center myself when the anxiety builds.  When it builds so high I feel like I’m losing control.  When I get so angry at the sense of losing control that I go bat-shit crazy at anyone or anything who dares give me the stink-eye.

I am of the ‘weak’ who take medication to manage the physical symptoms of anxiety and depression.  Trust me when I say that I’ve never felt better, I am NOT numb, and the extremes are gone.

When you’ve walked a mile in my shoes, so exhausted from being thrown from one emotional extreme to another in every waking moment.  When you’ve laughed and cried and screamed and freaked out and loved …. all at once… every day.  When you trade in your degree from the Google School of Medicine for a real one.

Then, and only then, should you voice your opinion on my current treatment.

You’re not 6 years old anymore, Dr. Know-It-All.  This is real life.

I get that you were worried – we all were.  I get that you were coming from a place of love and compassion.

But do you get that you could kill someone by telling them to go off their meds?  You could cause irreparable damage by encouraging them to self-dosewhether you think they are taking too much or not enough.

You and I both know that pharmaceutical therapies are not the only factor in preventing mental breakdowns.  We all know someone who was freed from the holds of depression through prayer, or diet, or some magic woo-woo what-not.  Maybe that was you!

And maybe you weren’t suffering from CHRONIC anxiety and depression. Maybe your case was unique, your story the exception.  Maybe.  Possibly.  But that still doesn’t make you HER doctor.

Shit happens.  Life happens.  Depression lies.  God & meditation can’t always save you when you’re going bat-shit crazy.

God & meditation can't always save you when you're going bat-shit crazy #depressionlies Click To Tweet

Worried about the safety of a loved one?  Encourage them to call for help, or do it yourself even!

But don’t tell her what she should or shouldn’t do with her medication unless you’re fully qualified to.  And even if you are, unless you’re privy to information that would help you make that judgement it’s really not your call is it?

Bottom line? shut the f*ck up about her meds – You’re not HER doctor.

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Philly’s Harbor Park a Real Gem for Locals & Tourists

Philly’s Harbor Park a Real Gem for Locals & Tourists

Philly's Harbor Park a real gem for locals and tourists

It’s a beautiful summer afternoon on the boardwalk.  You lean against the railing in this rare moment of peace and gently close your eyes; you turn your face up to the sun letting its rays warm your cheeks.

boardwalk

Father and son enjoy a spirited debate over a game of giant lawn chess.  Bystanders chime in from the sidelines as a crowd gathers; everyone has a winning war strategy.  A group of high school juniors play bocce ball; you smile, reminiscent, as a lad and his date flirt like – well, like teenagers!

chess-bocce-jenga

A family is enjoying a picnic on the lawn chairs;  large hammocks play host to a varied crowd.  A couple whispers sweet nothings while snuggling; a young woman is enjoying a novel.

hammocks

You imagine yourself lying there, listening to the rustling of leaves as the wind carries voices of children at play, the nearby fountain a refreshing backdrop to a bird’s song.

fountain

How easy it would be to just close your eyes for a minute, sinfully drifting towards the ultimate guilty pleasure, an afternoon slumber.

nap

Fitting, that the city of brotherly love would give us a repose from our hectic lives; a place where class, race, and politics are forgotten; a place to find your community once again.

philly

Welcome to Harbor Park, Philadelphia.  Stay a while, won’t you?

Welcome to #harborpark - stay for a while, won't you? @visitphilly Click To Tweet

Harbor-Park-10

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Bake Better says BuzzFeed – Simplify Your Life

Bake Better says BuzzFeed – Simplify Your Life

Bake Better, says Buzzfeed

I love baking, though I haven’t in a while.  You know, taxes and all.

As I attempt to ride the allergy-induced migraine wave I’m scrolling through Facebook and came across this video by BuzzFeed.  These are some of the best baking hacks I’ve seen in a while!

Love #baking? Check out these cool baking hacks from @buzzfeed! Click To Tweet

Love buttercream icing, hate the smoothing?

Wait about an hour until the icing gets a little crusty.  Cover your cake with parchment paper (not wax) and gently use a rolling pin to smooth the surface. Voila!

What are your baking hacks?  Share them in the comments below!

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Sometimes Family Chooses You

Sometimes Family Chooses You

Sometimes Family Chooses You

They say you can’t choose your relatives but you can choose your family.  Though I wholeheartedly agree with this I also believe that sometimes it’s the other way around.

Sometimes that crazy family you never would have picked chooses you and becomes an indispensable – no matter how hard you try to avoid this.

Grace & Frankie, a Netflix Original series now streaming globally, is the perfect example.

Beyond the talented actors (and their chemistry), beyond the beautiful settings (hello beach house!), and the laugh out loud moments, this series has touched me in a weird way.

Wait.  Not, like, in a w e i r d way…. that just sounded icky and gross.  But I was hooked from the first few minutes and experienced a slew of emotions as I binge-watched the first season.

I won’t spoil it for you, but I will say it was very well done.  Classy, tasteful… Funny as heck.

Families are complicated.  Families are a pain in the ass.  Families are what saves us.  Enjoy this one, and be thankful for the family that is yours on this Mother’s Day weekend.

Sometimes #family chooses you #GraceAndFrankie @netflixCA #Streamteam Click To Tweet

grace_and_frankie

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