September 5, 2017

The Twins Start Kindergarten Tomorrow and I’m Just Not Even Ready For It.

The Twins at The Wood Carver’s House, in Radium Hot Springs, a few days ago

The twins start kindergarten tomorrow and, all I can say is, I’m just not even ready for it!

My neighbor told me, a few weeks ago, that her and her daughter are ‘ready’ and are, in fact, ‘celebrating’ the start of kindergarten. I gave this some serious consideration…and wondered if I, too, should have this outlook.

But, no…that’s just not my story.

We have worked so hard to give them a good, solid foundation. Really, the last 5 1/2 years have led us up to this big day. They were hard years, with highs and lows…they were amazing years. The best of my life, so far! I’m a little sad to see them changing.

My deepest hope for each of the twins, this year, is that they will have the kind of thoughtfulness, manners, and respect to ensure they are good students, good friends, and good little humans in general.

I hope that they still hold onto their wonderful and curious innocence…for a while longer anyway.

And, I hope while they are at school, they remember how deeply they are loved.

This last week was really dedicated to letting the kids have the happiest last days of childhood before grade school. We did the fun things they requested, we ate more treats than usual, and we spent a lot of great time together as a family.

And so, I hope they are entering into their first school year feeling as happy and joyful as possible!

Gray and Miss A…I Iove you, SO much, my sweet babies! Have a great first day of school tomorrow!

August 31, 2017

My last 30-something Birthday – How I celebrated…and the really fun gifts I received!

 

This summer I turned 39 years old and, I’m not going to lie, I was a little sad about it.

Actually…I was a lot sad about it.

Because we all know what the next big milestone birthday is going to be, right?

Cry!

In case you’re not picking up what I’m laying down right now, here is the reminder my husband gave me in card-form:

Nice, right?

The happy news is that my friends and family really did a great job of making me feel special and I hardly even thought about the fact that it’s my last 30-something birthday (despite feeling a little anxious during the weeks that led up to the day).   I got to go out for some really nice meals, I was gifted some really fun and thoughtful gifts…and…it turned into a bit of a ‘birthday week’!  I love birthday weeks!

On the Sunday before my birthday, my girlfriend (and fellow twin-mom) Liane, invited my family over for a little impromptu birthday brunch. She also was sweet enough to include another twin family we like to chum with (Hi Ange!).

I really wish I had thought to take some photos, but I will just savour in the memories of thoroughly enjoying her Hangover Breakfast Casserole, Biscuits, and Mimosas! The cinnamon buns that Ange brought were a really nice touch, too!

I must tell you that the day was made even more special because, not only is Liane a mom of twins the same age as Gray and Miss A, she also has a teenager AND a brand new baby!!! How she worked that all out, I’ll never know.

Can we all agree that Liane is a machine??

#LianeIsAMachine

It gets better!

The evening before my birthday (see why I’m calling this a ‘birthday week’?), my girlfriends Tara and Reshma treated me to a really nice meal at one of my favourite YYC restaurants, The Bow Valley Ranche. We drank wine…sans kids…and I ate Charcuterie.

Oh, and I didn’t even have to drive!

Thanks friends!

#Bliss

Here’s something only my good friends know about me.  Every year, I always secretly wish Darren will treat me to my most favourite cake in the world – Strawberry Shortcake! My mom used to make me a version of this when I was a child and it really is just my favourite.

Unfortunately, strawberry shortcake doesn’t usually make the cut.  I get it, it’s not an easy to find cake and life is super busy! Hey, I’m happy Darren even works out any cake at all!  He has never-ever forgotten my special day and usually does spoil me with fancy cupcakes and a nice dinner.

Well, this year, he outdid himself.

He decided he was going to bake the cake! Can you imagine??? A strawberry shortcake!  My favourite!  Here is an important piece of information for you:  Darren grew up in a very traditional farm family and I’m pretty sure he hasn’t spent a lot of time in the kitchen baking cakes.  He has no baking experience…at all…and I know he’s really not interested in baking.  I’m shocked that baking was on his radar!

Anyway…the bad news is…the cake didn’t turn out (sad, I know!).

Honestly though, when I saw how much effort he must have put into it…it just gave me ALL of the feels!

Oops!

Here is the take II version from our local fancy cupcake shop, Cake Bake Shoppe, in one of my favourite cupcake flavours – mint chocolate:

Mmm!

The morning of my day was pretty relaxed, yet special.  Darren and the kids were excited for me to wake up so they could eagerly watch me open the gifts that they had thoughtfully bought, while I drank my favourite morning drink – hot coffee!

On top of this, my super thoughtful, and fairly small-framed (five-year old) little girl surprised me by making our massive king-sized bed (so I wouldn’t have to)…all by herself!  I can’t imagine how much work this was for her!

Insert more ‘really big feels’!

Of course, later in the day, I went to Starbucks to redeem my free birthday drink. Since it was ‘free’, I decided I should order the largest possible drink I could get. I’m pretty sure Darren probably saved money on taking me out for supper that night, because I was as FULL as can be from that Venti Java Chip Frappuccino!


If that wasn’t enough calories for the day, we got a sitter and Darren took me to my most favourite restaurant…ever!!!  Thai Sa-On!  I just love that place, so much!  Mmm…basil beef, curried shrimp, coconut rice, thai iced-tea…DELICOUS!!!

If you love Thai, and live in YYC, you really should make a point of visiting!  It is so flavourful and worth the drive from anywhere in the city!

Yummy!!!!!!!!!!!

The day after my birthday, I had my final birthday ‘date’. My brother, Warren, snuck away over his lunch hour and we grabbed a bite at Original Joe’s for lunch. It was special to be treated by my little brother and nice to have a one on one visit. We usually are connecting as a family group, so this was nice!

 

And those were my ‘birthday dates’!

In case you’re interested, here’s a little showing of most of the really fun (and thoughtful) gifts I received. I loved ALL of them, so if you happen to be shopping for a 30-something’s  birthday, these all come highly recommended!  There is one really pretty necklace I received that isn’t showing here, but you can never go wrong with jewellery! Feel free to buy ANY jewellery for your favourite 30-something without ANY hesitation!  😀

So…back to the cool gifts I was lucky enough to receive!  I was pumped when I opened up these super cool Converse Chuck Taylor Sneakers – I have been longing for a pair of these and they have been perfect for my casual ‘mom wardrobe’ all season long!  I have worn them with shorts, skirts, jeans…you name it and I know I’ll continue wearing them into fall!

A word to the wise, though…if you order these online, order a 1/2 size down because I would say they fit a little on the long side.

I have historically been a big fan of Scentsy, but a while back, our family got off of the ‘fragrance train’ (due to medical reasons). I was sad to part ways with all of my favourite cubes, but now I’m really excited to build a little collection of essential oils for my new Saje Diffuser!  Now our house can smell wonderful with great health benefits, too!  Bonus!

So, truth be told, I haven’t tried this Arbonne Rejuvinating Cream yet, since I’m saving it for when the snow flies (I’m sorry to even say that out loud!).  It’s a new-to-me product though, one I haven’t tried yet. Having said that, I’m a HUGE fan of Arbonne, so I’m pretty sure I’m going to be crazy about it (plus the friend who gifted it to me always has great recommendations!)!

Just to tell you how much I love the brand, several of my girlfriends (along with myself) became distributors JUST so we could get the discount for ourselves.  When I started using Arbonne a few years ago, more than one person commented on how my skin was looking better.  Pretty much, the rest is history!

More Arbonne delights that I hadn’t tried before!  I have been enjoying this Arbonne Liquid Sunshine all summer.  I have really sensitive lips that are prone to dryness, so I appreciated having this on-hand for our hot, hot days Glamping!

Also, since I am (ahem) ‘aging’…spf is becoming a little more ‘present’ in my beauty line up – so this is on point for me!

This next gift was definitely one of my favourites!!!

Most of my close girlfriends have heard me joke about the fact that I plan to have a sister-wife in my next lifetime!  Of course I love my husband, but…my girlfriends?  Forget about it!  They always know just when and how to step in, pick up, and help where it’s needed!

As a perfect example, my friend Lindsay and her family of four came camping this summer.  Even though there were four extra people to prep food for, cook for, and clean up after…with Lindsaey there, it turned out to be less work than minding my own family of four alone.  The table was set before dinner was done and the dishes were practically hand-dried before they were washed! #LindsayIsAlsoAMachine

Anyway, back to the awesome gift!  I feel like I’m taking a bit of a risk sharing this funny mug with you, but I’m hoping everyone will see the humour here:

#TheBestMugEver

#TheBestComplimentIeverReceived

#CoffeeTastesBetterInThisMug

If you thought it was hilarious, too, you can find the mug here on Amazon!

Speaking of mugs, these Bodum Bistro Double-Wall Mugs are the cat’s meow!  A few years ago, my brother gave me two similar sets (without handles) for Christmas and they are amazing!  They keep hot drinks hot, and cold drinks cold, yet the outside of the glass feels neutral!  A huge bonus is they present really nicely AND they don’t sweat at all!

I may, or may not, have broken a couple over the years (they are dedicate), so topping up my collection is great!

He picked these up at Crate and Barrel (or maybe he just wrapped them in a C&B box to be ‘fancy’?  Nah…just kidding, Warren!).  You can also click the link above to order them online via Amazon.

When my other brother realized that I had received a Saje Diffuser already, he offered for me to return this one that he bought.  No way!  Now I have one for my main floor and this Essential Oil Diffuser for my second floor!

My main floor has my summer ‘wake up’ type scents and I have this, second diffuser, in my ensuite with a lavender essential oil in it now – but, as you can see, I have a whole Set of Art Naturals Artisan Oils to choose from!  It’s nice not having to clean one diffuser and relocate it around the house when I’m wanting a new aroma for the house (or my mood)!

One of my good girlfriends has been raving about her FabFitFun Box Subscription for months!  It sounded awesome, but maybe like an indulgence my stay at home mom budget should do without.  Anyhow, she gifted me my own box for my birthday and I have to tell you…it was like Christmas morning opening it up!

Basically, it is a subscription box that is semi-personalized and sends you full-sized products (based on your preferences) each season.

Anyway, if you have been thinking about trying it, you probably won’t be disappointed.  Here are the goods I got in my box! I have tried at least half of the items and they were great!  I have had compliments on the water bottle and the scarf (which I wore as a swim suit cover up).

So, really…my birthday (week) was really great!  I’m still a little sad to think about the fact that the days (well, months, really) are counting down to that next BIG milestone…but in the mean time, I have some great memories (and fun stuff) to enjoy!

 

July 22, 2017

Summer Vacation Swimming Lessons? Yes Please!

Let me start off by saying that taking the kids to swimming lessons, has historically been, one of my least favourite things to do as a parent. It’s really is just not my thing. Ask my girlfriends – I grumble about it every time the kids are registered.

…AND…for a whole laundry list of reasons, I ESPECIALLY detest taking the twins to swimming lessons in the wintertime!

Last summer, though, a very smart mom-friend of mine (Rachelle, I’m talking about you!) told me about how she hired a swim instructor to give private lessons to her trio of boys on one of her summer vacations.  They arranged for the lessons to be done at the local outdoor pool where, she was holidaying, and she seemed really happy with her experience!

I was so amazed at what a smart idea it was! It just made so much sense! She was able to book it last minute, got a pretty reasonable price (if memory serves me it was a ‘cash’ sort of arrangement), and her boys got to practice their skills plenty since…well, they were on holidays!

(Also, can I just take a moment to say that she didn’t have to deal with the aggravation of swimming lessons in the winter time…yucky/dirty/muddy change rooms, everyone’s hair needing to get dried before leaving, everyone is freezing cold inside and out, winter gear getting dropped on the wet floor…I could go on! Yuck!).

Did I mention I’m not a fan of winter swimming lessons?

Coincidentally, when Rachelle and I had the conversation, we were actually in the middle of a camping holiday and I decided I was going to look into lessons, near where were camping, right away.

Jackpot! There were lessons being offered at the hot springs pool close to where we were and I was able to get them into a class within days of contacting the organizer (a contrast the waitlists I have had to go on, in the city, for not registering on opening day). On top of that, there were only a couple of other kids in the class AND the price was reasonable!

The kids ended up really enjoying the lesson. The ‘tone’ of the lessons was a lot more casual than what we are used to in the city, which is what I think the kids needed at that time. They also LOVED having their lessons in the ‘warm pool’ of the hot springs – what a world of difference in their level of enthusiasm before classes – from them and me!

(Here is a little plug for Dara’s Dolphins, the organizer for the swimming lessons…she was great to deal with and, also, happens to be another twin mom!  …so she gets extra ‘props’ in my book!)

Darren and I decided then that summer swimming lessons, over holidays, are the way to go for our family for sure!  There are other activities we are focused on in the winter and it just makes sense to us that the kids get their lessons when they can be practicing them the most.  PLUS….I don’t have to deal with winter lessons…because, well…you know.

Unfortunately, when I contacted Dara’s Dolphins for lessons this year, I was surprised she was pretty much already filled up! I guess I waited too long.

#ParentFail

Apparently, Rachelle wasn’t the first person to consider summer-holidaying lessons and the Fairmont Hot Springs Resort appears to be a popular place for children to learn to swim this year. Who knew?

So…we got ‘crazy’ and we made a little splurge in the name of ‘safety’ – we inquired about getting the kids into some private lessons…still through Dara’s Dolphins and still at the hot springs. We normally wouldn’t do something like that, but the kids have been in water so much this summer, we really wanted them developing their skills.  Especially as they get braver and want to venture into deeper water when we are out swimming.

We did end up getting some private lessons set up and we are so glad we did!

#ParentFailPaidOff

Wow – what an amazing experience!

We can’t afford to always offer the kids the luxury of a dedicated instructor, but the results and enthusiasm shown by the kids was really impressive and was really worth the money! The results we saw, in one-week’s time, were way beyond any other swim lessons they have taken.

Now the kids spend more time ‘under’ the water than ‘out’ of it!  Gray on the left, Miss A on the right.

I think part of it was having the ‘one on one’ instruction (or should I say ‘one on two’ instruction?)…but we also got so lucky with a really super instructor! The kids just responded to him so well!  He was really patient but still encouraged them to push themselves and, well, he was doing something right because the kids really made a world of progress over the week.  There were times Gray was coughing and sputtering water, trying to figure out a skill, but willingly keep trying at the coaxing of his teacher .  I don’t have enough good things to say about the amazing experience!


The twins with Louis, their beloved swim instructor…they LOVED him!  We will definitely look for him again!

So, I’m not saying register your kids in private lessons (or if you can, I guess I ‘would’ recommend it – especially if you’re swimmers are trying to get over a ‘hump’ of some sorts)…BUT…I can’t say enough about how well summer vacation lessons have worked for us for two summers now. The kids love it and I enjoy watching them…while warm…in the beautiful outdoors.

And I don’t have to dry anyone’s hair before we leave.

And no one has wet mittens…in minus 30 degrees celcius.

😀

Hooray!  They passed!

 

July 5, 2017

A Preschool Graduation ‘Reward’?

The end of June brought the end of school and ‘graduation’ for many children. If you read my last blog post, “Preschool graduation? Isn’t that a little silly?” then you have probably guessed that we didn’t plan a big celebration, gifts, or anything of that sort for our twins.

Darren took a couple of hours off of work, over lunch, and made the trek back to the suburbs from downtown Calgary to see their year-end show. I thought that was pretty awesome! Darren is always talking about how busy he is at the office, so I kind of felt that his ‘time’ was a bit of a gift in itself.

BUT…the kids are good friends with another set of boy/girl twins, Cam and Abby…and their mom is maybe a little more fun than me. Ange is a pretty fun, thoughtful, attentive and loving mom. She is the kind of mom who might ask her kids what they would like to do to celebrate their Kindergarten year. ☺

Cam said he wanted to head to Fun ‘N More, with Gray, and Abby wanted to get pedicures with Miss A.

So…this worked out pretty nicely for my duo, didn’t it?

We planned a date. The dads took the boys on their excursion and we hear they had a great time. Sadly there are no photos for me to share with you, because, well…like many moms, I am the ‘photo-taker’ in our house (now you know why all the photos you see of me are selfies!).

Ange and I took the girls for a little Starbucks visit and snack (which was mostly for ‘our’ benefit) followed by a trip to Frilly Lilly in Shawnessy for the girls’ little mini manicures and pedicures.  I have to say, it was pretty adorable to see!


Miss A and Abby getting their fingernails painted

There is some serious 5-year old pampering happening here!

I have to say a huge, ‘thank you’, to the owner of this shop, Rayelene, who was really accommodating and great to us and the girls. She fit the girls in ‘same day’ on a Saturday, which I know was a tall order AND the girls experienced star treatment and a few surprises.

The girls loved selecting their nail polish colours and they were super lucky to get to take home their polish, which was beautifully wrapped up for them. To top it off, when Miss A needed a little ‘touch up’ on her toe, she wasn’t made to feel guilty or badly – it was just done without hesitation.

Who doesn’t love a beautifully wrapped item?  The girls loved carrying these out!

When everything was said and done, the boutique owner offered the girls a little ‘surprise’. I don’t think she does this all of the time, but her son had outgrown his Shopkins collection so she let the girls each select one to take home with them. This was so perfect, and fitting, since the girls had ‘just’ spent our time at Starbuck, having a little Shopkins swap and trade!

Selecting a special treasure while their little toes dry.

Over all, it was a really great afternoon for everyone! I’m not sure we will be celebrating the end of the school year with a treat like this every year but, I have to admit, it was nice giving them a little indulgence for ‘this’ year.

Happy preschool graduation, Gray and Miss A! …And you too, Cam and Abby! Thanks for requesting our twins join you on your celebrations!

Of course they had matching little girl mani’s – just the sweetest!

June 25, 2017

Preschool graduation? Isn’t that a little silly?

Gray and Miss A on the last day of preschool

Preschool Graduation? Isn’t that a little silly?

That’s the kind of thing I would have said before I had kids.

And listen…when the twins ‘graduated from preschool’ last week, there was a small part of me that felt a tiny bit silly hearing ‘congratulations’ from the other parents in the class.  I mean…it does sound sort of funny. Congratulations for what? You can still play with sand? You get an A+ for managing to get through snack time?

The truth is, completing preschool (especially completing the truly stand up program we were lucky enough to find) is a celebration of many things that really ‘are’ accomplishments.

It’s definitely not about the ‘snacks’ or the ‘sand’.

What is really is about is the personal growth and development that a young child sees over the span of September through June.

Some of you may remember my first posts about preschool from the very beginning of the school year – My Twins Started Preschool and I’m Mourning, and also, My Twins Started Preschool – Update.  We have really come so far since then!

And by ‘we’, I mean ‘me’. I was the one who felt a little sad about preschool.  The twins had started other un-parented programs by then, which I think really helped relieve any apprehension they might have had otherwise. Gray and Miss A were excited to start preschool!

Attending and completing preschool was a year where the twins were building their character qualities, learning and, even, discovering important life lessons!

For our family, and our kids, preschool meant…

-Creating a schedule and following through with it.

-Working together to be on time (like the time Gray had to blow dry Miss A’s hair for mommy!).

-Building confidence and breaking through some shyness (Miss A).

-Developing new friendships (that kind that are authentically created, not only created because mom and dad are friends with their mom and dad).

-Learning numbers, letters, the world around us, and all of that wonderful stuff!

-Learning how to be inquisitive and imaginative in appropriate ways.

-Meeting people who are very ‘different’ from us, and learning that ‘different’ is ‘okay’ and can be embraced!

Those are the best, and most important things, we are celebrating when we are at preschool graduation!

Academically, the twins have learned so much and that was really exciting for us to see throughout the year! They participated in activities and learned about things that never would have been on my radar had I kept them at home with me.

Gray’s spring report card

Miss A’s spring report card

So…that’s it in a nutshell! Now you (and I) both know why we celebrate a preschool graduation. Yes…I admit to you childless adults…it a little, teeny-tiny bit over the top.  But…when you become a parent, you will understand the pride you feel as a parent seeing your child grow and develop the way they do when they are two or three or four-years old.

So…

CONGRATULATIONS Gray and Miss A!

We love you and we are SO very proud of you!

Mommy

xo

 

Miss Ann, Gray and Miss Sheri

Miss Ann, Miss A, and Miss Sheri

Miss Ann, Gray, Miss A and Miss Sheri

Thanks to the teachers for suggesting to take this last photo with both kids.  It’s the kind of photo a twin parent really appreciates and I would have forgotten to do that in this moment!

PS In case you are searching for a truly amazing preschool program for your littles (in south east Calgary), I’m going to offer a little plug for the Bright Stars Preschool Program. I am ‘that’ thankful and happy with them!

The kids attended a truly amazing preschool with exceptional teachers who took a lot of time to plan a great program. The classroom play centres changed every single class. There were also stories, rhymes and songs every class and they also brought home a high-quality craft…yep, you got it…also every class.

We had so many amazing crafts in our house, I was compelled to create a special art wall to display it all!

The teachers also took the time to make sure a variety of important skills were touched on each day: Language, math, fine motor, gross motor and sensory.  Here is a copy of one of our weekly updates we received via email…they are the real deal!

Our Week at a Glance week 35 page 1
Our Week at a Glance week 35 page 2

 

Can you believe it?? I’m amazed at how much they were able to cover in two and a half hours!

A big huge thanks to the twins’ teachers, Miss Ann and Miss Sheri – your reputation precedes you and you didn’t disappoint!

June 5, 2017

YYC to the Ellen Show – How I got tickets!

Ever since my husband and I scored tickets to the Ellen Degeneres Show, the number one question I have gotten is, “How did you get tickets?” – so I thought I would write about it for you!

Here is the good news my friends – it actually really wasn’t that difficult. It just took time, patience, teamwork, and a little flexibility!

Periodically, the Ellen Show opens up their website to accept ticket requests for a select range of dates. That’s a great place to start!

To keep things super easy for you (because I get how busy mom-life is), here is the link for you: Click here for the ticket request page to the Ellen Show! 

Now, I will tell you that my experience is that you have to submit many times since the demand far exceeds the supply so, don’t give up and keep trying! I actually went through this process for two entire years before finally getting lucky.

One thing that helped me remember to check the website to see if they had opened up any dates (back to that whole ‘busy mom life’ problem) is setting a simple daily reminder in my phone. There is some strict criteria for how often you can submit your name for tickets, but you can figure out those dates once you review the guidelines for applying for show tickets and then you can sort your reminder from there.

Now…I’m going to tell you a little secret – here is where I ‘upped’ my game.

I think there is power in numbers so I recruited some of my other Ellen-Fan-Friends to help! I volunteered to be in charge of keeping my thumb on the pulse of when the Ellen Show opened up their website to accept ticket requests (we know I was doing this anyway) and then I would text my ‘ticket-pursuing-coalition’ of girlfriends the web link when I saw it did. We would all request tickets and list each other as the guests we would like to bring!

Teamwork, right?

Finally…after two long and committed years…my BFF, Tara…got what she referred to as, ‘THE EMAIL’…and we celebrated!!!

Let me just mention a few things here…

The date Tara got offered guaranteed tickets for wasn’t actually the date she requested (I think it was for a date that was week, or so, later) – that’s where the flexibility comes into play. We had to be able to bump our travel days from what we requested. I don’t think this is always the case, but it seems that we were able to at least go to the show sooner by being able to have some flexibility on our travel dates. Unfortunately Tara wasn’t able to make it in the end, but like the loyal friend that she is, she made sure I stayed on the audience list and I was able to still go to the show with Darren.

THANK YOU TARA!!!!

That’s really it! It was fairly simple and mainly just took a small amount of effort and some time.

Of course, you are probably wondering how the show was. I could go on and on about all of the exciting details, but I will just tell you that it was AMAZING and totally worth the wait! I will definitely be trying to work out tickets again in the future!

One last quick thing…in the name of ‘teamwork’ we couldn’t have made it to the Ellen Show without my in-laws, who drove in from Saskatchewan to help with the twins while we ‘gallivanted’ to Burbank. Securing care for the kids was another really big part of the equation in getting to the show. So…thank you, Don and Carol!

Waiting to enter the studio from the ‘Riff Raff Room’ which also doubles as the ‘Ellen Shop’!

May 22, 2017

Hello, again, Instagram!

 

 

Here’s a funny story – Not that many weeks ago, I was on the verge of closing my Instagram account. I literally had a conversation with my BFF telling her that I have been thinking about shutting it down for a while.

The problem was that I just hadn’t been active on it for several years and thought I would focus on my social media faves…Facebook and Pinterest.

Fast forward to one-week later…I was at a dinner-party at my cousin, Meagan’s, house. I asked her opinion on what she thought I could do to improve this little blog of mine (she is my ‘go-to’ for all things social-media. She deals with it on a daily basis and she was actually the person who encouraged me to start Refined Imperfection).

Guess what she told me?

You got it – “Get on Instagram”.

See how in active I was on it? She didn’t even think I had it! Sheesh!

And so…here I am. Telling you that I am re-connecting with my Instagram and giving it some life. Now that I have spent some time getting re-acquainted with it…I kind of like it!

So, the moral of the story is that you can now follow me on Instagram and actually see what’s happening in my life these days…@RefinedImperfection

I really hope to see you there!

May 6, 2017

Is one of your children staying at, or visiting, the Alberta Children’s Hospital?

Is one of your children staying at, or visiting, the Alberta Children’s Hospital?

If so, have you heard of Emily’s Backyard?

If you haven’t, this blog post is definitely for you!

We have been visiting the Alberta Children’s Hospital (ACH) since the twins were born. We have mainly been there for clinic visits plus, one unfortunate trip to the emergency room, when Gray was accidentally burned on our gas fireplace.

Each visit we had to ACH, we either had one parent stay home with the non-visiting child or we tried our best to arrange childcare. Usually, after months of waiting to get in to see a specialist, I like to be focused on the appointments and not distracted by the extra parenting efforts that we are required with additional children. You know how it goes…

”Please don’t touch that, it’s not a toy.”

“No, you can’t climb on there.”

“Please get off the floor, it’s yucky.”

“Stop poking your sister.”

Having only the ‘patient-child’ in the appointment allows me focus on actually ‘hearing’ what is said and maybe taking a few notes with my phone. I also find that I have a reduced chance of forgetting to ask the questions I wanted to ask (or…like I mentioned earlier, actually ‘hearing’ and ‘retaining’ what the answers are).

If you have visited the hospital, for any reason, you have probably walked by it. It is a colourful play area, seen through windows, right as you enter the hospital. The name of it is posted above the doors (there is a second location on the second level of the hospital as well).

So, here it is…in case you aren’t aware (like I wasn’t)…it is a short-term childcare option available if you have a child staying in the hospital, or visiting a clinic.

And are you ready for this?

IT IS FREE!!!

What??? Why didn’t anyone mention this to us when we booked our clinic appointments? Man…if only I had known about this sooner. For some reason, it didn’t even occur to me that this was a service available to us. Don’t ask me what I thought it was for…or who it was for…but it just never occurred to me.

Anyhow, after 5 years of visiting ACH, I had a brainchild to check into it when Miss A had her most recent clinic visit just last month. I can’t believe how easy, and convenient, it was to book our son in.

If you are wondering how Emily’s Backyard works, here is some info you might find helpful:

 

-Emily’s Backyard is intended for patients, or siblings of patients, who are staying at (or visiting) the hospital

-This amazing service is free!

-Emily’s Backyard is suitable for children who are as young as infants and as old as early teens

-You cannot stay in Emily’s Backyard if you have any of the following symptoms: rash, cough, fever, runny nose, diarrhea, or nausea/vomiting

-There are a variety of activities available for kids to do…from toys to games to crafting

-There is a maximum time limit a child can be left at Emily’s Backyard (at the time of writing this, the maximum is 1.5 hours)

-Emily’s Backyard is operated by both staff and volunteers

-It is best to pre-register your child (which you can do up to two-weeks in advance), but they will work to accommodate drop-in if they can.

That’s it!

I booked the service by submitting an email (you can call or email) and I had a response the very next day…and it was good news…they had space!  A part of me was expecting to have to be put on a waitlist or something of that nature, but that was not the case at all.

I will also say that the environment was very welcoming and Gray didn’t have any troubles being dropped off at all.  He was playing happily when I came to pick him up after Miss A’s appointment.   In fact, the hardest part was trying to explain to Miss A why she couldn’t also visit.  They sent us off with a sticker for ‘both’ kids which I thought was a nice touch.  It also worked as a distraction for Miss A’s disappointment of seeing this fun place but not being able to stay and play.  Awesome!

Like I said earlier…I am a little disappointed and surprised that this fantastic service wasn’t mentioned in the past, when we have booked our appointments there…but now we know and we are so happy that we do!

If you are interested in more information, on Emily’s Backyard, you can get more information here.

Hopefully this post finds you ahead of any visits you might have with your littles there. If you have any additional thoughts or suggestions about Emily’s Backyard, please feel free to comment below.

Grayson playing when I came to pick him up from Emily’s Backyard

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

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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