February 12, 2017

Birthday Party Loot Bags – It’s Okay to Say ‘No’!

Can we talk about birthday party loot bags for a moment? I really want to know if you ‘love them’ or ‘hate them’? Do you think it’s ‘taboo’ not to give them out?

The twins have a birthday party coming up and, to be honest, I’m not going to be providing loot bags this year. I’m kinda feeling guilty about it…but isn’t that kind of ridiculous?

The truth is that, since I went back to work (if you missed the post about this, you can find it here), I hardly have time to get out birthday party invitations in a timely fashion – let alone organizing appropriate, affordable, thoughtful loot bags. For me, affordable and thoughtful are the key points…if you have 10 kids and spend $5, or more, each…that’s $50! $50, people!!! If you are spending that kind of money on loot bags, you want them to be appreciated and enjoyed, right?

I remember one of the first years I did loot bags, I was discussing them with my friend Kim. She challenged me and asked me why I was doing them – was it to ‘keep up with the Jones’’? It was a different perspective…it made me think about the purpose of why we do give out goody bags.

Was it about keeping up with the Jones’? Honestly, the truth was that it wasn’t about that at all. I didn’t feel like I ‘had’ to provide them to ‘keep up’…I think it was really more of a cultural thing. The same way we eat cake at a birthday…there is often a loot bag given out. It felt a little more like tradition. I do remember being so excited to receive them at birthday parties when I was a child; it was fun to create the same kind of experience for the twins’ little friends!

But, here is the thing. This year, after planning an ‘off-site’ birthday party, extending invitations, and organizing the other food and details, I just don’t feel like I have the time or energy to do any more this year. On top of that, we have already spent a great deal of money on this party since it is off-site and since we have the twins (which makes our guest list a little longer). Shouldn’t that be enough?

On top of this, if I’m being totally honest, I have heard various parents comment on what is an acceptable loot bag standard and I feel like this does complicate how I approach planning loot bags. I mean, now I’m trying to find something perfect…for a reasonable price…for 14 kids…but not include what I have heard to be unacceptable loot-bag fare. Gah. In case you don’t know, here is a list of potentially unacceptable items:

…Dollar store ‘trinkets’ that break easily.

…Treats that other kids might not be permitted to eat.

…Items you may find age-appropriate but another parent doesn’t

So, now take that list and try to find something everyone will enjoy. Sounds so fun, right?

(Insert my head shaking ‘no’ here.

Isn’t a loot bag a gift? Should we really have to be so conflicted about what kind of items we ‘gift’ out?

Here is another point to consider…on the heels of talking about the fact that a loot bag is a ‘gift’…is it ‘necessary’ to be gifting children for coming to a birthday party in the first place? I mean, really…please come to our party where we have entertained you, fed you cake (and maybe snacks) and now let me give you a present for coming. Are we setting the right expectation for our kids by providing these every single year?

One thing that is really important to me as a parent is to raise my kids to be gracious and thoughtful and to not act or feel entitled. A part of me worries that my kids are going to expect that they need to receive a loot bag every time they go to a birthday party. I remember a friend of mind telling me a story about how, as a single parent, she put on a birthday party for her son. At the end of the party, a child basically chastised her since she hadn’t offered him a take-away. What??? Kind of horrible, right?

So…I’m not saying that I won’t ever do loot bags again but I do just want to say that, once in a while, we should just give them a break. I think that should be okay.

To my mom and dad friends who take the time and effort to send these home with my child…they are definitely appreciated! …BUT…I want you to know that having my child (or children for that matter) to your party is also ‘enough’.

In my opinion, it is totally okay to say ‘no’ to the loot bag. This year, that’s exactly what I’m doing.

#SayNoToTheLootBag     #NoBirthdayLoot     #NoLootForYou

February 5, 2017

Why have I been ignoring you??

I have been a bad, bad blogger – Have you felt neglected?

I’m really sorry if you did…I have been thinking about all of you (and this beloved blog) so much for all of this last month! I have missed you!

The thing is, something really unexpected happened very last minute right as we entered the new year – I went back to work full-time.

It isn’t permanent…it is a contract that will take me into spring…I’m really excited to have this opportunity but it has thrown my world completely upside down. For real.

Here’s the thing. I’m working for my ‘pre-kids’ employer…in a job that I LOVE…for a company I also really love…but it’s a lot and a really big change for our entire family. I went from my usual ‘life of leisure’ (or so we-will-call-it) to life in the fast lane working on over-drive! I think I may be running on adrenalin.

The last 30 or so days have been a ridiculous adjustment of ups and downs, pros vs cons, and sacrifices. If I’m just summarizing what the adjustment around this decision has felt like, here is rollercoaster I have experienced:

Upside: My old boss still thinks I’m capable!

Downside: Am I? What if I’m not? What if I fail AND sacrifice my family time while I’m at it?

 

Upside: My bank account will be replenished!

Downside: There is a cost to that – I had way less time with Gray, Miss A, and Darren and, literally, no days off as a family. Not even one in over a month!

 

Upside: It feels so good to have a piece of my old identity back! I am remembering I have a worth beyond being a mom and wife (please don’t send me hate-mail for saying this!  Huge props to all the full-time, stay-at-home parents out there!)

Downside: Is there a downside? If there is, I haven’t thought of it.

 

Upside: I’m keeping myself current in my field, with my employer, and my fingers in the ‘work-pie’.

Downside: Whoah! I’m on a HUGE learning curve since things have actually changed A LOT since I left! That doesn’t feel good when you’re trying to make good and efficient use of a short time. Also my perfectionist personality, that likes to have all of the information before going forward with decisions, is about to blow up!   …BUT, there isn’t time for that! Shall we ‘wing it’???

 

Upside: Oh, it feels nice to wear make-up again!

Downside: How do you apply make-up again?

 

Upside: Darren gets to see my hair in a hair-style other than ‘messy bun’!

Downside: Covering up gray hair is expensive! Also, why does my hair have to be so difficult? Pregnancy ruined it! That happens sometimes.

 

Upside: We can think about saving more aggressively for some spring ‘glamping’ projects we have planned!

Downside: I don’t have time to plan said ‘spring Glamping projects’.

 

Upside: I really like my co-workers!

Downside: I really miss my kids! …And even my husband!

 

Upside: Darren has really been pulling his weight around the house and has really worked hard to take on his share!

Downside: Hey! Why am I just discovering these ‘hidden talents’ now??

It is NOT easy working full-time AND parenting (…and running a small business…and being a blogger…).

I know this may be a controversial thing to say, but for me, it is much harder working outside the home than being home full-time. I want to still do all the same things I did before for my family – cook ‘clean’ food for my family, spend good quality time with my kids, have an organized home….but I simply can’t. Some of it, sometimes all of it, just has to be let go of. Today none of the beds got made, we ate pizza for dinner, and I have spent my evening fielding work calls. Now, as I am writing this blog post, Darren is relaxing and watching Netflix.

Romantic or what??

Honestly, overall, I’m glad to have the opportunity to work this contract. It gives me a chance to put in some time but still have the summer off and enjoy my last time at home with the twins before they start kindergarten in the fall. In the mean time, I’m adjusting….and learning to let some things go. That simply has to be okay.

So, bear with me please while I sort out how this whole ‘balance’ thing works for working parents! I do promise not to be away for so long next time!

xo

Dionne

January 3, 2017

Tips for Choosing and Registering Your Child in Preschool

If you’re anything like me, you may put a great deal of thought into most of the decisions you make and things you buy – And ‘Whether or not you send your child preschool’ OR ‘Which preschool you choose for your child’ won’t be the exception.

Because I wasn’t completely convinced that preschool was for our family, that was really the starting point for me. Actually, truth be known, I had decided against preschool all together for my duo – but a good friend encouraged me to reconsider our decision (based on the educational path we are hoping to take), so I gave it some more serious thought.

Really, that’s the first place to start – decide whether, or not, you want your child to attend preschool.

Things to Consider When Deciding Whether or Not to Send Your Child to Preschool:

Could this be an opportunity for my child to learn to socialize? Many parents worry that their child may not be well-socialized and consider pre-school an opportunity to introduce them to other children and being in an un-parented (not to be confused with ‘unsupervised’) environment.

Are academics important to me at this age? Many preschools offer a component of learning. There are also ‘play-based’ preschools if you prefer something a little more ‘casual’ for your child.

Do I need child-care and might like some fringe benefits a preschool might offer (more structured play or learning)? Preschools come in part-time and full-time form and could be an option if you need full-time care but want the additional structure or learning also. They don’t come without a price tag though.

Can I afford it? Without a doubt, preschool is an expense! …And if you are like us, with twins (or more), you can pretty much double the cost (sadly the ‘Two for the Price of One’ joke only applies to the ‘conception’ part of having twins).

Do I need a break? …OR… Am I willing to give up that time with my kids? Both are totally valid questions and I actually struggled both ways. I am always telling my husband I could use a break but somehow I also mourned at the thought of sending my duo to preschool (I actually wrote an entire blog post about my struggle with sending the kids to preschool on their first day, you can read it here).

…After thinking about all of these things, you may decide to pull the pin or you may decide to go forward with finding a preschool. If you decide against pre-school…that’s okay! As my friend Kim has been known to say, “There is no need to keep up with the Jones’!”

If you do decide to pursue finding an appropriate preschool, here is a list of things you may keep in mind.

How to Find and Appropriate Preschool:

Get recommendations from friends and people you trust – The first step I took was asking some of my trusted friends if they liked the preschools their children attended and ‘why’ they liked them.

Inquire to see if the preschool is fully licensed in your area – This ensures that they are held to a certain level of accountability. If you live in the Calgary, or even Alberta area, you may inquire about the preschool being fully licensed with the Alberta Government.

Find out if the preschool is ‘play-based’ or ‘academics-based’ – you may be looking for one or the other based on your wants or your child’s needs.

Understand what the teacher/student ratios look like – Obviously there is a benefit to having a lower ratio of students per teacher.

Inquire about what the teacher’s qualifications are – You may find there is a broad spectrum of qualifications different teachers have at different preschools.

Ask how, and how often, the school communicates with parents – you will likely be curious to get feedback regarding your child and it’s always nice to know what the school has planned for the day/week/month ahead.

What hours does the preschool operate? Some preschools run as little as a handful of hours per week and others are full-time. There are many options available out there to suit a variety of schedules!

Ask about the daily activities – What does a typical day look like? Will there be changing stations or variety offered?

Inquire about special events – Some preschools take initiative to put on special events such as Christmas or Winter Concerts, Picture Days, and Graduation Ceremony’s. I wouldn’t call these ‘deal-breakers’ but they could be a bonus if you are down to a couple of choices and looking for a deciding factor or wondering why one school may have higher fees than another.

Is there an open house you can attend? – Many preschools offer an open house at the preschool for you to attend with your child. This is a great way to see the environment and meet the teachers. You may also be invited to have a personal tour, which is usually set up by appointment. It’s definitely not a good idea to just show up, expecting a tour…be sure to call ahead to see if this is available.

Find out when registration starts – You may be surprised to hear that preschool registration can begin as early as January for a school year which begins the following September.  You won’t want to miss out on this important date!

Know if your preschool of choice tends to fill up – Some preschools are coveted and will fill up quickly. I remember one of my friends telling me she had experienced a line up at her preschool registration. I was totally not prepared to hear that, but I was happy to have the information.

…Good luck with your choice! It can be a difficult one to make, but hopefully you have some tools to get you started!  If you think I’ve missed something, please feel free to comment!

December 20, 2016

Keeping the Marriage Alive in November – our YYC Date Night

Doesn’t a full belly laugh just feel so good??? Let me tell you, it’s a great way to spend time with your spouse!

Darren and I really wanted to go to Amy Schumer Live and had talked about getting tickets for several months. In case you’re not familiar with who Amy Schumer is, she is a ‘no-topic-is-off-limits’ kind of comedienne. We both really enjoy her humour, which is strange almost, because we don’t typically have the same tastes in entertainment…so, bonus right??

We were really lucky to have found someone, rather last minute, who was not only selling a pair of good seats…but also for a great price!  I guess it was meant to be!

The show was really fun and Amy Schumer did a great job! …And this was a really fun change of pace for our typical ‘dinner out’ dates. We didn’t do a lot of ‘bonding’ but that’s okay! We both had a great time – it was so fun!

Oddly enough…November was a great month for us getting in some ‘alone time’ together.

On top of getting out to the comedy show, we were also able to grab a couple of lunches out together while the kids were in preschool! It was lucky, really! We even snuck in a little ‘day drink’ during one of them…imagine???

Huge bonus for us since getting out once per month can sometimes be a big stretch for us.  I guess we are making some progress on our monthly date journey!

#livingontheedge

December 7, 2016

The Polar Express Train Excursion at Aspen Crossing – My Review and Tips

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The Conductor punched a letter ‘G’ into Gray’s golden ticket

Since the Christmas that my twins were 2-years old, they have loved watching the Polar Express movie! I keep it stored away and only pull it out at Christmas-time to try to preserve some of the magic that the movie brings over the holiday season.

Last year, I learned that there was a Polar Express train ride being offered at Aspen Crossing in Mossleigh, Alberta (a little town, just south east of Calgary). I remember looking into it at that time, but just feeling like the season was too busy for us to add one more thing to our plate…so I left it alone.

This year was a different story and I really felt like it would be a perfect year to take the kids. They are 4-years old now and are really acting wondrous about all things these days. I knew it would be right up their alley!

The first thing I had to do was convince Darren that we should buy tickets for our family, which actually wasn’t very easy. At a starting price of $57 per ticket (plus tax) this is not a cheap excursion and it definitely required some consideration.  Initially he joked that I should just buy three tickets but then he finally got ‘on board’ (pun intended) and we took a chance!

When you arrive for your train ride, everyone meets in a common area. You find the table that holds the tickets and they will take your name and give you your train tickets – not just any ticket though, a replica of the ‘golden ticket’ that you see on the movie.

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It was fun to start the experience this way! The kids really enjoy receiving their own ticket and I think it created a little bit of a buzz for everyone. The train loading process went fairly quick and, just like on the movie, everyone loads the train and is greeted by the conductor! Note: he is in character but very happy…which was a relief since Gray and A were a little nervous about him…he is historically a bit of a grouch.

Can we talk about seating for a moment? There are various seating options you can purchase with the cheapest being in economy – and that was the max we were willing to spend. I can now assure you, they were great! We got our own table and chairs and had a window – and that’s all you really need to enjoy the ride and outside displays. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the economy section to anyone at all.

Early into the train ride, everyone receives a Polar Express mug, filled with hot chocolate, as well as a cookie. Very ‘animated’ waiters serve these and I thought they did a good job of getting everyone excited about the ride. Most of the families were starting to take photographs and, when they asked the staff for assistance with taking them, no one was ever denied.

Shortly after that, we enjoyed in-train visits from: The Conductor, The Hobo, Billy, the Hero Boy, the Know-It-All-Kid and, eventually, Santa Claus. The only character that didn’t make an appearance (that of course Miss A asked about) was the Hero Girl. I simply told her that she must be not feeling well or on a vacation and she easily accepted it.

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On our journey, we rode by several displays including a stop at Billy’s house (where he actually boards the train) and a stop at the North Pole where elves are excitedly dancing and Santa Claus boards. There was a lot of excitement around that – especially when he started making his way down the isles, gifting the children with their own Sleigh Bells. My heart, honesty melted, when Miss A placed her bell into her housecoat pocket – just to replicate what she had seen on the movie. Swoon!!!

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On the ride back to the station, there is a book reading (of course, it’s the namesake book – The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg) and the children are encouraged to dance and jingle their sleigh bells in the isles while the Waiters and parents (NOT Darren! lol) sang Christmas carols.

I have to say that the experience of this activity exceeded both my husband’s, and my, expectations. On top of the fact that there is a ride to the North Pole and a visit from Santa, there were many of the characters from the movie that made appearances on the ride and did a great, and convincing, job. Not only did they ‘look and dress’ like the characters, they were actually ‘in’ character as well and engaged with the passengers regularly. There were actually times during the ride where I felt the same magical feeling watching the kids as I did in Disneyland! Of course I’m not saying this ride is the same as a trip to Disney, but certainly there is some ‘magic’ that comes with the experience of riding this train.

Over all this was a really fun activity and something I think we would consider doing in future years again. Even Darren admitted that this excursion exceeded his expectations and said he would recommended it to others and will consider it again in the future for our family. Most importantly, the kids LOVED it!

Here are my tips if you go:

  1. Bring your kids in their pyjamas! It is encouraged and most of the kids (and some of the parents even) wore them.
  1. Pack a handful of plastic bags. You get to bring the Polar Express mugs home when you leave and, although you get a bag, we were offered 1 bag for every 2 mugs. I was a little nervous when I heard them ‘clanking’ around. It might be a good idea to be able to wrap them up a bit. Even a large baggie, for each passenger, would work well.
  1. Bring your coats, etc. from your vehicle. There is a period of time where you do wait in line to board the train and it is outside.
  1. Head out there a little early and take some time to browse the gift shop. They have some cute, little things and it was nice to get some souvenirs. We didn’t go through the gift shop, ourselves, until after the ride and it was totally jam-packed! Save your sanity and go through it beforehand.
  1. If you’re up for a little pre-ride dinner, there is a restaurant onsite inside an actual train car. I had a look at the menu and I thought it looked decent. Because we booked our tickets rather last minute the restaurant was full and I wasn’t able to get reservations, so we will have to try again next time. A mom-friend has told me that the food there is good!  …just call to book early!
  1. If you want to make a little adventure out of your evening, check out the Mossleigh Bar N Grill. I had asked some staff at Aspen Crossing for a suggestion of where else to eat, since the onsite restaurant was full, and they had suggested this spot. It is very close to Aspen Crossing and the food was decent (and so was the wine actually). Our ride was on a Sunday night, which happens to be their ‘Kids Eat Free’ night at the restaurant– so it was a total score for us! Our family of four had: four entrees, two glasses of milk, a glass of wine, and a premium beer and our entire bill (with tax) was $38.70!

Unfortunately, since I started writing this blog post, all tickets for the 2016 Polar Express have sold out. Having said that, I noticed a number of tickets available for sale on some of the buy/sell sites (including Kijiji). I took the liberty of contacting Aspen Crossing to make sure the tickets are transferable and I was told that purchasers of re-sale tickets should just ensure they have both the confirmation number as well as the name the tickets were bought under.

If you haven’t considered tickets to this fun, festive evening out, I would definitely recommend it!  Just be sure to purchase your tickets early to avoid disappointment!

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November 7, 2016

Our Son was Burned on the Fireplace last week – our Lesson Learned

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Photo credit: Benjamin Lambert Photography

I want to talk to you about a big ‘Mommy Fail’ I had last week that resulted in me having to take Gray to the Alberta Children’s Hospital.

Like many homes now, our house has a gas fireplace. We used to use it all the time before we had the twins, but once they came along, the fireplace literally wasn’t turned on for years. I think it might have been the end of last winter when we finally started using it again.

At that time, Gray and A were newly 4-years old. We considered them to be fairly compliant and calm for their age, so we started slowly introducing them to enjoying the fireplace with us.

We talked a lot about how ‘hot’ the fireplace is, how they should ever touch the glass, how we cannot play rowdy around it, and the normal things I think most parents would emphasize around ‘fireplace safety’. We never left the children unattended around it and things seemed to go fairly well.

Now that the weather is starting to cool off in YYC again, we have started using the fireplace again. In the morning, our family often enjoys having it on to take the chill off since our thermostat is turned down fairly low at night-time. This was how our morning began last Thursday.

I was sitting on the couch in the living room and Gray was standing in front of the fireplace warming up, with his back towards the glass. In hindsight, he was standing too close…especially since his arms were behind him as he tried to warm them up too. I should have said something at that point, but honestly, I think it was a moment of complacency since the kids have been so careful and mindful around it.

You know where this is going next. My poor little guy absent-mindedly took a small step backwards. Unfortunately, he was close enough that the backs of his little arms made contact with both the burning hot glass and the vent that sends the fireplace heat into the room.

He instantly sprang away from the fireplace and cried a cry that I knew meant he was hurt.

I immediately jumped into giving him first-aid and then I phoned health-link. Thankfully I had done everything right in treating him at home (I rant it under cold water and gave him cold compresses, NOT ICE!!!), but there was one concern that the nurse had – after the initial crying, which lasted a couple of minutes, he wasn’t having pain and I guess pain is good sign when it comes to burns. So, off we trekked to the hospital.

It turns out, Gray suffered 2nd degree burns on one arm and 1st degree burns on his other arm. Luckily, it has been fairly easy to treat at home and he has hardly complained about discomfort, so we have been able to carry on with most of our usual routines.

Thankfully, Tetanus isn’t a concern, since we are current on our vaccines. Did you know you could get infected with Tetanus through a burn? I had no idea. I guess these are the things you learn when your child goes to the hospital to be treated for one. Not quite the way you want to learn your lessons, that’s for sure.

It has been 4-days since Gray’s losing fight with the fireplace. Darren and I are trying to decide if we will re-introduce the kids to the fireplace with stricter rules in place (like, having to keep a certain distance from the fireplace), keep the fireplace off for a while, or maybe look into purchasing a fireplace screen (or maybe a combination of those).

I’m mainly sharing this story with you so you can be reminded of the importance keeping your children safe around your fireplace. This is also a good time to consider getting current on your first aid. Hopefully you won’t need it, but you never know when it might come in handy.

Please learn from my mistake!

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November 3, 2016

Keeping the Marriage Alive in October

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October is a busy month for many families and our family was no exception. Of course we had the usual…work and hockey for my husband, preschool and activities for the twins, and I ran my business and blog and continued to make the ‘wheels go around’ for our household.

On top of that there was, of course, Thanksgiving and Halloween…plus we had one last ‘Glamping’ hoorah. Oh, and my BFF also had a big birthday celebration to top it all off.

Basically, what I’m saying is – if Darren and I hadn’t taken our ‘monthly date night’ pledge (you can find it in my blog post ‘Keeping the Marriage Alive – One Date at a Time’), it ‘might’ have not happened in October!  Correction – it ‘wouldn’t have’ happened in October.

See Darren? Routine is good after all!

We changed it up a little to work with our busy month and we decided to get out on a weeknight (Thursday) evening and that actually worked well. We had a little extra time that night, without any activities, and we were able to easily find care for the kids.

To change it up a little bit, I drove downtown to meet Darren once he was done work and we checked out a little spot I have been dying to try out – Pie Cloud in Kensington!

Yes, sometimes us suburban ‘Stay at Home Moms’ (otherwise known by the acronym SAHM’s) can get all ‘crazy’ and we actually leave ‘the burbs’!

If you aren’t familiar with Pie Cloud, it is a diner/bakery-style restaurant specializing in all things pies (hot and cold) as well as some other diner-type food items – and I thought it sounded like a great spot to try out.  I love me diner food and I love me sweets!

In the name of efficiency, I had taken a quick glance at the Pie Cloud dinner menu online several days before we went and as soon as my eyes saw ‘Chicken ‘N Waffles’ I literally stopped looking at the menu and knew what I was having.  I even talked about it with several of my friends…that’s how much I was looking forward to eating it.  Mmm…

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….BUT…once we got there, I saw something on the menu I have actually never seen on a restaurant menu before:

Turkey Dinner Pie!

What??? Yes!!!

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Now what??

Side note: Anyone who has been to my house for a holiday turkey meal has seen me throw together a couple of Turkey Dinner Pies with the leftovers (I call them ‘Thanksgiving Pies’ or ‘Christmas Pies’). They are my absolute FAVOURITE!!!! They are so easy to make, they freeze well, and they are a great way to get a taste of a turkey meal during the off-season. I’ll add a link to the recipe I use at the end of this blog post in case you want to try making one.  You really should try one!

Squeeee!!!! I was so excited!!!!

Lucky for me, Darren decided to order the Chicken ‘N Waffles himself so I went ahead and ordered the Turkey Dinner Pie knowing I could sample his (thanks Honey!).

I do think it’s worth just giving you a heads up (since I’m going on and on about them) that it takes them a little while (approximately 30 minutes) to make the Chicken ‘N Waffles…maybe don’t choose this item if you stop in to eat but are in a hurry.

The food was great and we even splurged and shared a piece of apple pie – because how can you go to a ‘pie place’ and not have ’pie’?

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The date was nice! It was fairly short and sweet but it served its purpose – We enjoyed having some adult time together, having adult conversation….free from the interruptions of home and the twins. And that’s the whole point!

As a huge mom-bonus to the evening, it did get even better – I got a break from the bedtime routine! This is where I insert loud cheering and clapping! Thanks so much to my friend, and fellow twin-mom, Ange for taking care of that!

As I promised, I want to share with you the recipe that I use for my Thanksgiving/Christmas Pies. It’s actually a Martha Stewart recipe that I keep it conveniently pinned on my favourite Pinterest Board – Recipes Tried and True!

I hope you like it!

October 28, 2016

One-On-One Time with the Kids – Is that a Real ‘Thing’??

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(edited) Images by Larissa G Photography (www.larissagphotography.com)

One of the hardest struggles of having twins, is trying to get in one on one time with each of them – and any amount of it!

I mean, essentially they have had the same sleep schedule since birth so it’s not like I could sneak in quality time with one child while the other napped. And…until the last year or so, they have done most of their activities together, so we haven’t had much opportunity to bond during those times either.

On top of those obstacles, almost all of the time, I am out-numbered!

I remember feeling so guilty when Gray and A were newborns because it seemed there was rarely an opportunity to just enjoy a quiet snuggle with one baby – this was something I felt so envious about when we spent time with other moms who had singletons. This is literally what my schedule looked like every 3-hours when I was establishing breast-feeding (because the twins were preemies and tiny, I was discouraged from exclusively nursing at the start in case they burned more calories than they took in – it was totally nuts!!):

  1. Nurse baby A
  2. Burp baby A
  3. Top up baby A with bottle of formula
  4. Burp baby A
  5. Nurse baby B
  6. Burp baby B
  7. Top up baby B bottle of formula
  8. Burp baby B
  9. Pump with Breast pump
  10. Change diaper of baby A
  11. Change diaper of Baby B
  12. Sterilize bottles (My bad, I hadn’t bought enough)
  13. Eat, sleep, shower and do anything else that needs to be done before the 3-hour window is up (but probably get to none of it)

It was total insanity!!!!

Thankfully that only lasted for the first 3-weeks before we got the go ahead to drop the bottle-feeding and blow up that dreaded milking machine known as a breast pump…but still, that didn’t drastically change the process. And once my husband went back to work, I was all alone to manage it myself. I can’t even tell you how many times I bounced one twin in the bouncy chair (with my foot) while I nursed the other child. That really happened! All. Of. The. Time.

Side note for expecting parents of multiples: Get yourself a bouncy chair for crying out loud!!!

Thankfully, that phase is history, and now that the kids are four-years old it’s not quite ‘so’ nuts…so, I really feel like Darren and I both need to make a bigger effort to have more one on one time with each of our children.

After I wrote my blog post last month ‘Keeping the Marriage Alive – One Date at a Time!‘, I had a brain-child that maybe we should do the same thing with our kids – perhaps a one-date-per-month-per-child kind of thing?

When I suggested it to my husband, he looked totally deflated! Not because he doesn’t see the value in it, but because I’m sure he was wondering:

Do we have enough time for that? Our weekends already seem to get so busy with activities, birthdays, etc.

How much money are we going to be spending on our endless dates each month?

Why does my wife like routines so much? (I added that for ‘your’ benefit, Darren!)  🙂

Okay, so he was probably right – it’s probably not necessary to make this a formal thing, and for now, we won’t.

So, I am now trying to be mindful to catch those little moments when I can. Darren has taken Grayson out skating (outside of lessons) a few times in the last month and I stole some time with Miss A over the weekend while her brother was watching Netflix upstairs with his dad (No, Darren, I don’t think that quite counts! Lol).

Before Gray came down for the day, Miss A and I quietly got to work and baked some muffins for the family for breakfast. Miss A was so happy to help without the struggle of competing with her brother, which usually looks like this:  Who’s turn is it to pour in the next ingredient? Who’s pushing who off of the stool?  Who gets to stir first?

Miss A even took great joy in helping me set up the table and wash the dishes!  What a nice treat that was!

I know it wasn’t a fancy date out to a play place, or the mall, or swimming…but it was an hour of time that her and I had together and I think that’s what is important. Although we aren’t making this a formal ‘thing’ in our house, I know that each little step towards focusing on our family is going to make us stronger and happier in the end.

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October 22, 2016

We bought our 4-year old a drum kit. What happened here?

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I’m not going to lie…I have seriously been feeling a little embarrassed to share the news of this recent purchase with my friends (and, honestly, also with you). After all, Gray is only 4-years old. Does he ‘need’ a drum kit? Have we gotten carried away?

This is how we got here…

When Gray was just a little tyke, my girlfriend, Marian, bought him a little toy drum set. He LOVED this thing and often played while singing his ABC’s. He also loved to play while asking mommy to ‘dance’ to his beat.

What?? Nooooooo!! How?? (insert my best pow-wow dance)

There are no photos documenting this. Thank God.  But I do have a cute photo of Gray playing on his old toy drum set!  Let’s think about that instead:

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Eventually, this beloved toy drum kit bit the dust. It was a well-loved toy and always a fan-favourite when friends came over…so it was destined to have a limited life cycle. At the time, I wasn’t ‘that’ sad because, really…only your girlfriend without kids would buy that loud of a toy…but, I was definitely sad for Gray. Of course, he was upset but I hoped he would get over it and move on…and, for a while, it seemed like he did.

…Until last spring.

Last spring he started asking for drums and reminiscing about how much he loved his old toy drum set. Now that he’s four-years old, a little toy drum set like that would likely be too small for him so, I told him that’s a very expensive item he is wanting, and maybe that’s something he should ask Santa for.

He carried on into the summertime, talking about how he wanted drums and he was going to ask Santa for them. That seemed fine…the phase didn’t die off and he accepted that we weren’t just rushing out to buy drums. But, I did realize something. What happens if Santa brings the drums that Gray ‘thinks’ he wants but then loses interest?

So, I suggested to my husband perhaps we should find some little lessons for him in the fall and see how that goes before we…err…Santa…takes the plunge with the drums.

So, I put out a request into Facebook-land to see if any of my friends could recommend a music class or drum instructor…or were drum lessons for a 4-year old even a ‘thing’? It turned out another twin-mama I know recommended someone great who only lives a few blocks away from us – how convenient!

Gray started lessons in September and attends once per week for 30 minutes. The teacher we found is also a mom and does a good job of keeping him on-task but also offers little breaks when he needs it to just play as he wishes…and I like that…it seems age-appropriate to me.

The good news is that Gray seems to be progressing and he hasn’t shown any inkling of losing interest in drumming. By no means is he a ‘gifted musician’ but he really seems to be learning – and in a compound way. He regularly practices how to count (and play) different beats and patterns such as ‘triplets’ and ‘paradiddles’.

He has also worked a little bit on drawing music notes, and he is now learning the names of the different drums in a drum kit. For fun, he gets to watch a ‘Buddy Rich versus Animal-from-the-Muppets’ video – and he quite enjoys that!

Since the lessons seem to be coming along, and Gray seems to be maintaining his interest in drumming, I thought Darren and I could talk about a plan for Christmas.

Me: “What do you think about Santa bringing Gray a used drum set for Christmas? I kind think it’s too expensive of an item for him to get new. If you’re onside, we should probably start keeping our eye on Kijiji soon here.”

Keep in mind that I’m super proud here of my brainchild idea. My husband is…well…tight with money PLUS we are mostly a one-income family supporting four people. Anywhere we can save money is great! So…I’m pretty much thinking here…”I’m so smart!”.

Darren: “You want to give him a used item for Christmas?”

Me: “Well, yeah! Drums are expensive!!!”

Darren: “I don’t know. Would you like it if I gave you a used gift at Christmas?”

Me: “Well…that’s not even the same. He won’t even know – he will still be so excited to get them!”.

Darren: “Does that mean you are okay getting a used gift then?”

Me: (didn’t address the question…Abandon! Abandon!) “Okay, so the other option is we find a used set and chalk it up as a cost of doing an activity – just the same as we bought Miss A her ballet shoes, tap shoes, and dancewear.”

Darren: “Sounds good.”

And that, my friends, it exactly how we got here!

Gray’s drum teacher was kind enough to send us a list of four previously owned drum sets for sale that she thought were appropriate for Gray. She also offered her opinion of what they were actually worth (versus what they were listed for). They were pretty much all selling in the $190-$250 range. She also explained what to look for and what not to worry about (I guess the ‘skins’ are easily and eventually replaced anyhow).

In the end, we picked up a set from some parents whose son had left for university but had had to leave the drums behind. They were asking $190 and we scored a deal of $140 – which was even better than our drum instructor suggested would be a fair price for this particular set (this is where I boast that my brain didn’t turn into complete mush when I had kids and I still have some of my career ‘negotiating skills’ left in me – yay!).

As you can imagine, Gray is absolutely thrilled!!! I’m still a little baffled on how we went from a toy request in spring to a drum kit in his bedroom…but I guess that’s sometimes how it goes.

October 12, 2016

Pregnant with (or have) Twins or More in YYC? Read This!

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Image by J.A.C. Photography (www.jacphotography.ca)

Having twins, triplets or any number of ‘multiples’  is NOT easy. I mean, aside from it being an enormous amount of work (especially in the early days) it is very, VERY expensive and it is also a little scary!

That’s why I really want to tell you about an AMAZING resource I discovered when I was pregnant with my own twins – the Twins, Triplets and More Association of Calgary (or ‘TTMAC’ as many of us in the YYC multiples community call it).  I promise, they are not paying me to post this – I just love the association ‘this’ much! Honestly, it was one the greatest supports I had when preparing for and bringing home our twins!

I can’t remember exactly how I heard about TTMAC anymore, word of mouth perhaps? Regardless, I am so happy that I discovered them while I was still pregnant because I was able to take advantage of some of the membership benefits even at that time (speaking of membership, I should mention that there is a nominal membership fee…but for our family, the cost of membership has more than paid for itself year over year). Currently, the membership fee in 2016 for a new member is $50/year.

Here is a list of TTMAC membership benefits that our family has taken advantage of:

Discounts Galore!!!

Thank the heavens above because having multiples is SO expensive! Most items you will need in double (or maybe more if you’re having triplets…or quads…or…OMG!), so any little penny saved will make a big difference for you in the end.

You might be surprised to know that we actually still are able to take advantage of discounts even though we are long past the stage of buying cribs, which is so nice.

Free Loaner Items

There is quite a long list of items that TTMAC has to loan out and these items aren’t just intended for families in financial need…. they are intended for the general membership. Here are some items our family borrowed:

  1. Twin Baby Buddy nursing pillow I did buy a couple of new covers (covers were available I just preferred something a little different). This thing was a lifesaver and made a big difference when I got really crazy and tried ‘tandem feeding’.In case you’re not sure what tandem feeding is, it’s nursing two babies at the same time. It’s for people who like to multi-task. Not me. Thankfully Gray and Miss A were fairly efficient eaters!
  2. Bumbo Chair That thing was awesome and we got loads of use out of it. I used mine to prop the babes up for feeding in the early days and I also used it as an accessory with my exersaucer (which we only had one of). I would place one baby in the exersaucer and the other in the Bumbo within reach of the exersaucer – it worked like a charm and kept both babies entertained for an extended period of time. I supposed this is why exersaucers are affectionately referred to as ‘circles-of-neglect’.
  3. Resource Books The office has a decent little library of books and I did find two or three books on parenting multiples to bring home and place neatly on my bedside table.So, full disclosure here: I had good intentions of reading all of these books but, really…who has time for that when you’re waking up every three hours to ‘nurse-then-bottle-feed-then-burp’ two tiny humans (or more), change 16 diapers a day (or more), and ‘try’ to shower, sleep, cook, and wash in-between? Seriously, my God, why did I think I would be reading?

Access to the TTMAC Facebook Group (which is closed to the public)

I know this probably sounds silly, but the Facebook page has been an enormous resource to me. I have asked many multiples-related questions here such as:

“I’m moving my twins from a shared crib to sleeping in their own cribs, what should I expect?”

and

“I have diastasis recti from my multiples pregnancy and I’m looking for a recommendation on a good physio clinic.”

Honestly, the TTMAC Facebook page is a really great way to connect to the YYC multiples community.

Access to the TTMAC Facebook Classifieds Group (which is closed to the public)

This page has been so amazing for buying and selling multiples-related products and also coordinating outfits for the kids. Think coordinating/matching clothing, double-strollers, Halloween costumes, etc. Awesome!

Socials & Events

There are a wide variety of socials and events available for members. I have personally attended age-appropriate playgroup socials, evening parent socials, family events (Halloween, Christmas, etc) and my personal favourite – Mom only evenings out and retreats!

Contests

All of my friends know that I love me a good contest and TTMAC has no shortage of these! I have been lucky enough to win some products from their monthly contests and one year for Mother’s Day, our family even won an entire family photo session (including DVD) from the very kind and generous Larissa G Photography!

Early Access to the Infamous TTMAC Semi-Annual Used Clothing, Equipment and Toy Sale

This sale is huge, infamous, and very well organized! On top of that, it is another great place to buy equipment for your multiples since most of the vendors are parents of multiples. It’s also a spot you can buy coordinating (or matching) outfits for your multiples second hand.

Even if you don’t have multiples, you ‘can’ and ‘should’ go to this amazing sale!  It is totally worth it!

Workshops and Sessions

Both my husband and I took a first-aid course through TTMAC for a very nominal fee, which probably paid for our membership that year on its own.

There are other TTMAC Membership Benefits Available as well!

Support

There are quite a few areas that TTMAC offers support with if wanted…breastfeeding, NICU support, Bereavement, Single Parent support, and the list goes on.

There is also a “New to You” inventory of clothing and supply items that have been donated to the office for families who might be in want/need.

Overall…

Overall, I can’t say enough good things about becoming a member of TTMAC. If you are expecting multiples or even if you already have them, I would really encourage you to consider a membership. It has been such a great resource for our family and I honestly have met some of my most favourite people through this group…Gray and A have too!