natalie-romero

My Before 40 Bucket List

In just over a month I will be celebrating the last birthday of my thirties.

For some, the thought of entering their 40’s brings fear.

For me the thought of turning 40 brings excitement.

My thirties, so far, have been some of the best years of my life.

I became a wife right at the end of my twenties and have spent my thirties figuring out what kind of marriage I want and working hard to build that.

I became a mother. I suffered loss and it made me stronger.

Throughout the decade I have become more and more at peace with myself. I have, slowly, learned to love my body, which also means treating it well. I’ve learned to eat healthier and get the proper amount of sleep. I’ve learned that exercise isn’t about looking good but more about feeling good.

I am learning about boundaries and that my boundaries may change with time. I am becoming unapologetic about putting myself and my family first.

Marriage, motherhood and self-love have been the theme of this decade. My thirties have seen me through some of the most amazing adventures. My thirties have brought me so much happiness.

The best part of my thirties has been letting go of my fear of failure. I try to face new opportunities with excitement instead of anxiety.

I am proud of what I have accomplished so far but I still have more goals to reach. Some are lifelong dreams but some are things that I would like to tick off my to-do list before I hit the big 4-0.

Donate Blood – Needles terrify me. I have been known to pass out when doing a blood test. Yet I know that donating blood is important. Years of having a son who is a patient at a Children’s Hospital has shown me just how important blood donations are and since I am healthy and capable I feel as though it’s my duty.

* Edit – I recently conquered my fear and accomplished this goal. I made my first blood donation and though I was scared, it felt great!20023936_10159149308545571_4824111283597782867_o

Run a Race – I’m in decent shape and exercise regularly however I’m a terrible runner. Before I turn 40 I want to run a race. I’m not talking a half marathon or anything, though that might be on my pre 50 bucket list, but I want to run a race. Preferably a race that raises money for a good cause, maybe one that involves colour, and my goal is at least a 5K. So if you’re putting together a race team let me know, I would love to join!

Get a tattoo – I have always crushed on women with tattoos. I adore the look but am fully aware that I’m not one to pull off an entire sleeve. If I’ve learned anything in my thirties it’s that I don’t really have to answer to anyone, if I want a tattoo I can get a tattoo. So, I’m getting a tattoo…before I turn 40. This is the one that brings me to most excitement.

Pitch my book to a publisher – This one is the scariest. This is where I feel the most vulnerable. But it is my dream. So I’m giving myself a timeline. Before I turn 40 I want to pitch my book to a publisher. It may not go anywhere from there but at least I know that I did it. Success or failure I took a step in the right direction.

It seems like a small list but each one of the items on this list make me nervous. Each item is something that I’m afraid I’m not capable of. What better way to say goodbye to my thirties than by accomplishing a few things that challenge me and scare me a little bit?

I reserve the right to add to this list as I see fit because if my thirties have taught me anything it’s that life is ever changing and you never know what’s around the next corner.

The thought of turning 40 doesn’t scare me at all. My thirties have seen me through some incredible growth and I can’t wait to see what my 40’s have in store for me.

This is what 5 am looks like

I’m a tired mom.

I mean exhausted.

Sometimes the exhaustion is so much that I can barely keep my eyes open.

Sometimes it is so much that I can’t think straight.

You may wonder why, when the tiredness cloaks my body like a weighted blanket, I choose to get up at 5 am.

When my alarm goes off it’s still pitch dark outside and I lay there for a minute listening to the deep breathing of my husband, and let’s be honest at least one of my children and I wonder why I’m about to roll myself out of bed.

Yet I still do it.

I get up at 5 am to work out.

It makes me sound crazy right?

The thing is 5 am is actually beautiful.

When I wake up at 5 am I take a moment to drink in the silence; there will never be another time during the whole day where the house will be as quiet.

5 am is beautiful, inspiring and motivating.

5 am is peaceful and still.

5 am makes me feel accomplished.

5 am is solitude. I won’t find myself alone again throughout the day so the solitude is so welcome and I allow it to envelope me with pleasure.

Have you ever watched the sunrise? I’ve watched the sunrise many mornings from my spot on the treadmill or mid push up or right as I’m finishing a set up burpees. It makes it so much more beautiful. The beauty of a sunrise can give you the motivation to keep on going.

The exercise is not a luxury for me. It encourages me to make healthier food choices. It provides me with emotional stability and prevents me from losing control over my stress. Exercise is not a luxury but a necessity.

5 am gives me permission to focus on myself and just myself if even for a short while.

5 am allows me to make myself a priority.

As exhausted as I am, the beauty of the early morning hours makes it a bit easier.

So for now, I must head to bed because 5 am comes very fast.

And as tired as I will be, I must admit I look forward to seeing what 5 am will look like tomorrow.

Stuff a Stocking with Hope

We spent our first holiday, Thanksgiving, as parents in a hospital. Thanks to our own parents, we enjoyed Thanksgiving dinner in a hospital cafeteria wrapped in love and support.

It’s been eight years since that first Thanksgiving.

In the years since, I give thanks for being surrounded by such wonderful, supportive, caring and giving people. The day that we walked out of that hospital for the first time as a family, I promised myself that I would always find a way to give back, a way to show my gratitude to all of the people who helped make such an unbearable time for us just a little more bearable.

From our parents who brought us home cooked meals every single day, to the strangers who made quilts for Mr.T, to the nurses who sat by his side and knit him hats and booties all night long. We received so much support during those 6 weeks we were in the hospital.

It has become a family tradition to try and find new ways to give back. Sometimes it’s by doing a walk to support Sick Kids. Sometimes it’s by making a donation to the hospital or by filling a shoe box with gifts for someone less fortunate.

Last year, just in time for Christmas, we made a donation to Ronald McDonald House in Hamilton. I contacted them directly and found out what items they were most in need of; food and toiletries were big ones, and we packed up a few bags of items and dropped them off.

I walked out of the house in tears. I looked in the eyes of some of the parents that were staying in the house and I could feel their fear, I could taste their pain. I wanted to run to them, to hug them, to tell them I was so sorry they were going through this. I wanted to be able to say it will be alright in the end but I knew that I couldn’t say that. I knew that not everyone’s story had a happy ending like mine.

I wished that I could do more. I had to do more.

Christmas is especially magical when you have children. I understand the pain of spending a holiday in the hospital. Thanksgiving is special but it’s not Christmas. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to spend Christmas away from home, in a hospital with no idea if or when you will be able to take your family home.

I decided then that I wanted to try and do more. I reached out to Ronald McDonald House to find out how I could help.

That’s where Stuff a Stocking with Hope was born.

Every year Ronald McDonald House assembles a stocking and places one on each door of each family room. One for each family staying at RMCH Hamilton on Christmas Day.

41 stockings in total.

We are taking on this challenge as a family and we need your help.

We are collecting donations to fill 41 stockings for each family that will be spending Christmas at Ronald McDonald House.

This is a big task and I can’t do it alone.

If you would like to help us by contributing I have included a list of suggested items. The following items will fill generic stockings for each family:

Individually packaged snacks (granola bars, crackers, Rice Krispie squares etc…)

Water, Juice

Magazines

Books

Scent free hand sanitizer

Slippers

Rolled up blanket

Mittens/Scarf/Hat (for the walk from house to hospital)

Journal and Pen

Card games (ie:Uno, deck of playing cards)

Puzzle books (word searches, crosswords etc..)

Gift Cards (Coffee, Gas, Indigo/Chapters, Shoppers Drug Mart)

Toiletries (Deodorant, Toothbrushes, Toothpaste, Hand lotion)

 

Along with all of the goodies collected, each stocking will include an invitation to a Winter Wonderland room where families can ‘shop’ for Christmas gifts. If you would prefer to donate items for the Winter Wonderland room they will be more than welcome. Ronald McDonald House typically receives many toy donations for kids ages 2-8 for that reason items that are most needed to fill their Winter Wonderland room are gifts for infants (ages birth to 12 months), tweens/teens (ages 9-18) and adults.

If you are interested in taking part in this initiative please reach out to me. If you are interested in donating money for me to purchase the items please see our Go Fund me page

Please know that any contribution you are able to make will be so appreciated.

Together we can bring a little bit of hope to a family who is struggling through a difficult experience.

38 Lessons in 38 Years

Today is the last day that I will be 37.

It has become a bit of a tradition for me to reflect on the year and to write about the lessons that life has thrown at me in the hopes of one day passing on these little tidbits of wisdom to my own children. This year did not lack learning opportunities and I had many moments that truly tested me.

The biggest lesson that I am taking on with me from this year seems obvious and like something I should already know. Yet it was during the summer of my 37th year that it hit me and it has left me with a feeling of freedom and an inner peace that I haven’t felt in a while.

This, I think, is the beauty of getting older; the wisdom that you gain with each passing year is truly freeing. With each year my list gets longer and my heart becomes more free.

1 – Don’t ever be afraid to show your vulnerable side. There are times when the only thing that will make you feel better is to cry. The ability to show this side of yourself actually makes you strong.
2 – Do not waste a moment of your life trying to be perfect. Perfection does not exist. We are all flawed. Own your flaws, they are a part of who you are. They make you beautiful.
3 –  Be yourself. Do not try to be anyone else. People will always see through it.
4 – Your job won’t hold your hand when you are sick or dying. Always give it your all but remember it’s just a job. Don’t sacrifice everything else.
5-   Slow down. Enjoy the moment. It will all pass so quickly so take the time to relish in the beauty of life.
6 – Don’t compare yourself to others. You know nothing of their journey and they know nothing of yours.
7 – Try to give people a second chance everyone deserves a second chance. They don’t, however, deserve a third.
8 – No matter how much of a cliché it is, what doesn’t kill you really does make you stronger.
9 – Don’t go into debt. It’s more of a hassle to get out of than it’s worth. Live within your means.
10 – No one gives a f*&# about the Jones’ do not try to keep up with them.
11 – Learn to say no. It’s ok to say no sometimes.
12 – Don’t ever make someone else feel bad just to bring yourself up. Don’t be a bully and don’t allow yourself to be bullied.
13 – When deciding on a career path, do something you love. You are going to spend a lot of time working, make sure you love what you do. Don’t think about money first. You will be happier doing something that fills your soul over something that fills your bank account.
14 – When someone tries to bring you down, know that it says more about them than it does about you. Haters gonna hate 😉
15 – You can’t control others. The only thing in your control is you.
16-  Love doesn’t conquer all. Choose wisely.
17 – Read. There is nothing better than getting lost in a book.
18 – If someone loves you they won’t make you chase them.
19 – You never know unless you try. Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and try new things.
20 – Don’t be flashy. The kind of car you drive, the label on your clothes or the size of your house doesn’t mean a thing. Be modest. Stay humble.
21 – Feed your creativity. It’s necessary for the soul. Find your outlet.
22 – Bad things will happen; a true test of your character is how you pick yourself up when you fall.
23 – Be honest. There is nothing worse than a liar.
24 – Looks always fade. Don’t put your self-worth into what’s on the outside.
25 – See the world. It’s big and beautiful. You will learn so much about yourself and others if you travel.
26 – Demand respect. If someone won’t give it to you, don’t keep them in your life.
27 – You don’t always have to be the best. There will be things you aren’t good at and that’s ok.
28 – Mistakes are how we learn. Don’t be afraid to make them.
29 – Life is a journey. Don’t spend every second worrying about where you’re going, just enjoy the ride.
30 – Celebrate the little things. Use the fancy dishes, wear your best clothes don’t always save it for another time that other time may never arrive.
31-   Touch people. Hug those you love. Kiss them. Hold hands. Cuddle on the couch. The touch of a loved one can soothe even the most battered soul.
32 – Get outside. Fresh air and sunshine is as necessary as food, water and sleep.
33 – Relationships are 50/50, even friendships. Be a giving/caring friend but if you aren’t getting the same back, know that it’s ok to turn and walk away.
34 – If you have a handful of close friends you are lucky. Having a few meaningful friendships is far more important than many superficial ones.
35 – You are stronger than you know. You will have moments when you feel weak. Remember you aren’t.
36 – There is still so much left to learn. Once you realize that you really know nothing, that’s when you know you’re a true grown up

37 – Find beauty in the ordinary. Don’t spend your life waiting for the big, dazzling moments, they are few and far between. True beauty can be found in the mundane; snuggling under the covers on a snowy day, looking at the stars on a summer evening, seeing your children smile. Embrace those moments because those are the real magnificent moments of life.

38- You don’t HAVE to allow anyone to treat you, your family or your home in a disrespectful way, regardless of who they are.

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A Staycation weekend in Burlington

 

I’m not a camper.

I like the outdoors and come summer time I much prefer to be outside than in but I do not like camping. Sleeping in a tent doesn’t appeal to me and the no bathroom thing just isn’t my cup of tea.

The problem is my kids really want to go camping.

So when Tourism Burlington offered up the chance to go “Glamping” I jumped!

I’m not going to lie, in the days leading up to our trip I began to get nervous. I wondered about the bugs and the beds and most importantly the showers! My kids, however, couldn’t wait so I told myself to suck it up and get through the weekend for them.

The moment I set foot into the KOA Campground cabin I knew that I had it all wrong!

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Talk about glamping! Our cabin was set up with two bedrooms, a bathroom, a kitchenette with a fridge, cooktop and dishes, a dining table and a tv with cable!

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It was stunning. I had packed so much stuff in anticipation of camping that I didn’t need. Toilet paper, paper towels, dishwashing liquid and tea towels were all available in our cabin. It really was a home away from home.

My kids weren’t the only ones who were super excited to check out the bunkbeds! My husband claimed the bottom bunk as soon as he walked in.

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It was the perfect place to come back to after spending the evening bowling and laser tagging it up at Splittsville Burlington. My kids are little so bowling with them can take a long time…I mean a long time. At Splittsville the bumpers come up automatically when the kids go up to bowl. It saved us so much time and all we had to do was ask them to program our lane. It was great because the kids had the opportunity to bowl without frustration and my husband and I were able to keep a little friendly competition going between us.

 

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The staff at Splittsville are always amazing and are always checking in to make sure everything is taken care of. I love the kitchen options as I can go spend an evening bowling, laser tagging and arcading and don’t have to worry about stopping to go grab a bit, everything is right in one place. Take my advice and try the Cactus Cut Kettle Chips, they are amazing!

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After my son whooped me at laser tag I was ready for a rest. All I kept thinking was how thankful I was that I was going back to a bed and not a sleeping bag on the ground.

But first it was campfire time.

We lucked out with some really friendly people at the neighbouring cottage who taught my husband the best way to build a campfire and before you know it we were relaxing by the fire enjoying our roasted marshmallows.

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With all the kids, including my husband, snuggled in to their comfy bunk beds, I cozied up in a big ol’ bed all to myself with a book.

This was my idea of camping.

We were up and at it early the next morning. It was going to be a hot one so I was really looking forward to checking out the lake.

Burlington Beach Rentals can be found right up on the beach in Burlington. I was surprised to know that there was such a beautiful shoreline right in my own backyard!

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The wonderfully friendly people at Burlington Beach Rentals got us set up on our paddleboats and we headed out for a peaceful morning on the lake. It was beautiful; quiet, peaceful and so relaxing. My daughter loved feeling as though she was steering the boat herself and I sat back and enjoyed the view. The stand-up paddleboard yoga that has happening just off shore intrigued me and after I inquired about it I learned they also have moonlit yoga on the paddleboards which sounds amazing!  I made myself a promise that I was going to give the paddleboard yoga a try.

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Peddling those paddleboats worked up our appetites and Burlington has so many options for dining that it’s hard to choose.

We ended up sitting on the patio at the Pepperwood Bistro enjoying the view of the lake while we ate our lunch. My kids inhaled their burgers and pasta and the Turkey Cranberry club was to die for. I don’t think any of us could argue with the deliciousness of my husband’s lobster burger, we all had a taste.

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I could have sat on that patio all day, especially since there was a music festival going on right across the street but we had a baseball game to get to.

We love going to sporting events but it can be a bit of a hassle to get to some of the major league games. When you factor in the time it takes to get downtown, the cost of the tickets and parking and snacks it can run you a fortune and be such an ordeal. Local sports teams are a fantastic option. The Burlington Bandits play baseball right in the city of Burlington. My kids thought it was super neat that they were able to stand right behind the player bench and watch them warm up. My son was beyond thrilled to catch a foul ball and it was great to watch a game so up close and personal.

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We were sweltering by the time we got back to camp so into the pool we went for a quick swim before we barbecued our dinner on the gas barbecue that was provided with our cabin. Eating our dinner outside gave the kids their camping fix and eating off real dishes with running water to clean up with made me happy.

After dinner the kids burned off what was left of their energy running around the park with some of the other kids camping in the campground. The two playgrounds at the campground are a perfect place for the kids to run and play.

No camping trip would be complete without S’mores and my kids couldn’t wait for the sun to go down so that we could light a fire and make S’mores.

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Sundays are for pancakes and that doesn’t change just because you’re camping. The KOA Campground puts on a lovely pancake breakfast on Sunday mornings and the best part is that the proceeds go to charity. My daughter loved that she could put her own toppings on her pancakes and of course she chose to load them up with chocolate chips.

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The staff at Toronto West KOA Campground are so unbelievably friendly and welcoming. They wanted nothing more than to make sure we had a fantastic stay. My son wasn’t feeling well so wasn’t able to make the pancake breakfast and the staff made sure I was able to bring some pancakes back to our cabin and he was so grateful.

After pancakes we were heading home. My kids were a little disappointed that due to our jam packed schedule we missed out on some of the fun activities that happen every day at the campground. The staff heard my kids complaint and went out of their way to bring out the craft from the day before. Watching them sit in the sun making their own t-shirt made me smile and they looked so content.

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I’ve always thought of camping as a summer only thing but I found out that the cabins at the Toronto West KOA Campground are open all year round. I would love to check it out in the fall and get a glimpse at all the beautiful fall colours. They are a pet friendly space and one of the best parts about our weekend away was that we didn’t have to leave our little puppy Duke at home. He’s such a big part of our family that I love to be able to include him. He loved being outdoors with us and he even made some little puppy friends throughout the weekend.

Just the word camping brings out fear in me. I’m afraid of animals and the stuffiness of the tent. I can’t handle the thought of having to pee in the woods and I sleep so much better in a bed than in a sleeping bag. When Tourism Burlington mentioned the word camping I wasn’t so sure. I am so glad that I gave it a shot because we had a blast!

I had no idea that there was so much fun to be had so close to home. The Toronto West KOA Campground definitely offers you a traditional camping experience but if you’re more like me you have the option to take your camping experience up a notch and glamp it out.

The city of Burlington has so much cool stuff happening day in and day out there is never a chance to get bored. Stroll the Lakeshore and stop for a freshly squeezed juice or at one of the many ice cream places along the waterfront. Enjoy local sports and activities, conservations areas and stay active bike riding or paddling through the lake.

Without a doubt my family will be back to Burlington soon and I can’t wait to see what they have in store for us!

 

They are mine

Every night before I go to bed I quietly sneak into each of my children’s bedrooms to check on them. Holding my breath so as not to make a sound, I peer over their beds and steal a glance at their peacefully sleeping faces. Every now and then, if I’m sure they are sleeping soundly, I lean over and inhale their scent while giving them a kiss. When they instinctively lean into my kiss and let out a sigh it makes my heart swell.

In this moment of darkness and silence I can almost feel their heartbeat. It’s in this moment that I often find myself in awe of the fact that they are mine.

They are mine.

They are the only two people in the entire world who have heard my heartbeat from the inside. Their very first movements of life fluttered inside me like delicate and unique little butterflies. I was the first person who felt them. Mine, was the first voice they ever heard.  I knew them before I ever saw their beautiful little faces.

They are mine.

Though they have only been in the world a few short years, my soul feels as they I have known them forever.

I have helped them learn to eat, walk, read, ride a bike and add. In turn they have taught me about love, patience, kindness, how to let go, how to live in the moment and the list goes on.

They gave me the gift of a wonderful marriage. They opened my eyes to the unseen beauties of the man I chose as their father. Him and I coming together to build this wonderful life together is one of the greatest things we have done.

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They have made my world brighter. They have made my tears more heartbreaking and my laughter more exhilarating. They have made me believe in myself in a way that I never have before.

They made me a mother.

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Motherhood wrapped me in its beautiful and terrifying warmth in a hospital NICU, in the waiting room of the surgical unit, in the middle of the night darkness of a nursery and it was all because of them.

They are mine.

It was my two beautiful children who have taught me what motherhood really is. They have shown me that motherhood is not at all about being a stay at home mum or a working mum. It’s not about breastfeeding or bottle feeding. It’s not about what types of arts and crafts I do with kids or the activities I plan for them.

Motherhood is in my bones, in every thought I have, it’s in every heartbeat and every breath of my soul.

They are mine…if only for now.

Every single day since they began their journey is leading them away from me. Though I will always be the place they came from and will always be by their side, there will come a day when they won’t need me as they do now. There will come a day when they will belong to someone else. They will start their own family and someone else’s journey will begin with them.

For now they are mine and I love every messy, frustrating, perfect, beautiful moment. For these years they are mine and that makes my soul rest easy.

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The Baby Show Toronto 2016

Pregnancy can be overwhelming. Being constantly bombarded with information, opinions, ideas and the most needed baby gear at every corner is completely exhausting.

If it’s your first baby how on earth are you supposed to know where to start?

The Baby Show is a great place starting point.

The Baby Show is happening in Toronto at the Enercare centre, Exhibition Place on April 2 & 3 2016.

It’s all things baby and mummy under one roof and is a fantastic place to learn about pregnancy and parenting.

All day long you’ll find experts giving talks and showing you tips and tricks to help you along in your journey. You can learn about everything from exercise during pregnancy to breastfeeding tips to baby sleep advice. Make sure to check out the speaker schedule so that you don’t miss out on some of the great experts that will be there.

I must say that my favourite part of the show is the shopping. I’ve purchased some of my most coveted baby gear at The Baby Show! Nursing covers, handmade jewellery for both mamas and babies, strollers, car seats and even art work for your nursery wall. You can find almost anything while strolling the aisles of the show.

Both my children have a beautiful framed initial hanging on their bedroom walls that we found at The Baby Show a few years ago.

On top of the opportunity to buy some of the best gear and products around there are tons of free samples to be tested. I found some of my most used bath time products via the samples that I received at the Baby Show.

Testing out products and gear is reason enough alone for me to attend. Having a baby can get expensive. You almost need a down payment to purchase some strollers. Having the opportunity to try things out; touch them, push them, lift them up makes your decision making so much easier.

I love the shopping but many, especially pregnant mothers, might just choose the pampering over the shopping. The complimentary massages might make the whole day worth it!

Stroll the aisles, check out some of the latest and greatest in baby gear and products, talk to experts and even take a moment to pamper yourself! The aisles are large enough to accommodate strollers, there are plenty of activities available to keep your little ones entertained and lots of places for you to take a break from the excitement, including the DK Rest Area and Reading nook.

Tickets are $15.00 and can be purchased online or at the door. Use my promo code NAT2016 and receive 3$ off your online tickets!

If you are pregnant, planning to get pregnant or supporting a pregnant friend The Baby Show is a must. There are way too many exciting things happening under one roof to miss out.

 

What should I tell my daughter? #IBelieveSurvivors

The verdict that was handed down yesterday in the Jian Ghomeshi trial left me with a feeling of complete hopelessness. It’s not actually the verdict itself that has left me feeling so confused; I expected nothing else. It’s the treatment of the victims that has left me almost speechless.

I truly thought we were past this.  I thought we were moving in the right direction. It has devastated me to learn that I was wrong.

It wasn’t enough to simply clear Ghomeshi on all counts but the judge felt it necessary to spend over an hour chastising the survivors, pointing out every single way they acted inappropriately, every single word they said wrong and every way their actions were not the way a sexual assault victim was supposed to act.

I couldn’t listen to him talk, each word felt like a kick to my gut.

Now I am left wondering what next?

What am I supposed to tell my daughter?

I have spent so much energy trying to make it clear that if someone touches her in a way that makes her uncomfortable that she should tell someone, even when it’s scary.

How do I tell her that when she does report it the attention will be focused on her actions before, during and after the event and there will be no focus on the actions of the person who hurt her?

How do I tell her to report it even though she will most likely be the party who will be dragged through the mud, that her character will be put on trial?

I have spent most of her short five years telling her she gets to be anything she wants to be if she works hard enough for it.

How am I supposed to tell her that even after all her hard work, unwanted advances from a boss or co-worker could derail her career?

I naively made the assumption that I was bringing her into a world where she had a certain amount of freedom.

I was wrong.

The expectations and judgments that will be placed on her make her anything but free. She will be expected to be pretty but being too pretty might make her a slut. Be friendly but not too friendly because then she will be a tease. Be nice but being too nice will mean she was asking for it. She will be expected to stand up for herself but not too much because then she will be seen as a whiny, shit disturbing, complainer.

What am I supposed to tell her when she’s told to calm down as she tries to give her opinion, as though her thoughts and ideas are no more than a woman’s silly emotional response?

What am I supposed to tell her the first time she’s called a bitch because she refuses to give someone her phone number?

What am I supposed to tell her when she’s called a cunt because she turns down a request for a date?

Last night I lay down beside her in bed and I felt defeated. A terrible sadness overcame me as I thought of all the ways society has failed her.

Today I refuse to feel that way.

Today is a new day.

Today I woke up prepared to go to battle for her.

Today I woke up to the realization that I can’t give up. It’s not over. The battle will go on and we are a part of that battle whether we choose to be or not.

I will continue to tell my daughter that she owes no one her niceness and that she should never stay in a situation that makes her uncomfortable because she’s afraid of how she will be perceived.

I will continue to teach my daughter that her body is her body and no one else gets to decide what she does with it. She gets to decide who touches it and when and she is the only one who gets to say what’s acceptable and what’s not.

I will continue to tell my daughter that she can be anything she wants to be, even though I know there will be obstacles put in her way.

I will teach my daughter that when someone judges or her calls her names that it says more about those people than it does about her. Yet, I will also make it clear that it will sting when it happens.

I will give her the message that when something isn’t right, she has a voice and it’s perfectly ok to use it.

I will continue to teach her that even though she is receiving so many messages to the contrary, she is free to be who she wants to be.

I will make sure she knows there is no “right” way for her to act to be deemed worthy.

We will continue to have discussions around consent so that both my son and daughter understand what is acceptable and what’s not.

I’m not ready to give up. I can’t give up. Giving up means I give up on her and I don’t have that option.

The scariest thing about the Ghomeshi trial to me is that there really was no question that he committed these acts, the question at hand was if the women wanted it.

Ghomeshi was protected by an organization that swept complaints from their female employees under the rug. He was protected by schools who silently stopped sending interns to work for him. He was protected by the judge who felt that three women weren’t acting “abused” enough for him.

While he was protected, these three women were left with the impossible task of proving that they did not actually want to be abused.

How can I possibly explain that to my daughter?

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Resolutions

I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions. For me, they were always false promises I made myself as a result of a sense of newness I felt on that first day of the year. Promises that were most often forgotten within a week.

I’m not even a fan of New Year’s Eve. Always overhyped and full of excess, it seemed to let me down each and every year.

It’s often considered best to forget the past and focus on the future but I can’t move forward into a New Year without looking back. For me, New Year’s is a time to reflect on the year that has passed. To recognize the lessons that life threw at me and to take those lessons forward as I move into a new year.

2015 was a big year of growth for me. I learned a lot about who I am and who I want to be.

This year saw me learn just how important communication truly is. The experiences of this past year have shown me the true value of communicating with people, whether they are friends, family, significant other or my children.

My husband and I together learned how talking with each other on a regular basis about everything big and small can help us become closer to each other. We’ve always been talkers but this year we seemed to come to an understanding of just how important our chats are for our marriage. We learned so much about each other’s expectations, dreams and visions. We have spent the past year growing so much closer to each other through both easy chats over pancakes and coffee while the kids run around playing beneath our feet as well as uncomfortable talks while we drive in the car struggling to look at each other. Both the easy and the tough talks have allowed us to see right into each other. There are no walls, no barriers, no secrets or surprises. This year solidified how talking to each other is what builds our bond and it’s what is going to help make our marriage successful.

2015 is the year that I learned that open communication is not just important to my marriage but also an important part of parenting. My children are growing into their own people. They have their own thoughts, values, feelings and needs. For me to truly know my children, I have to be willing to talk to them and really hear them. I spent many evenings in bed beside my son listening to him tell me not only about his daily shenanigans, but how he is feeling. We talked about his worries and fears. We laughed about what he thought funny and dissected what made him afraid. He asked questions and I answered. I’ve learned that the chats I have with my kids can actually change the way I parent them. This year saw me talk with my children, not just at them. I actually heard what they had to say and their words have changed me. I hope this is just the beginning of a lifetime of open communication with them.

2015 is also the year that I saw friendships change permanently because we lacked the ability to talk freely and openly about things that hurt us. Rather than honest communication, we tried to get our message out passive aggressively or sometimes just plain aggressively and all it did was increase the space between us.

Not everyone is comfortable with talking and many feel it’s not necessary.

Though it’s not always easy, I think that there is no better feeling than being able to talk freely with someone, it’s what helps to build your bond.

The days fly by so fast that it leaves the year in kind of a blur. This year saw new jobs, exciting opportunities in my writing and so much fun with my kids. Yet what is leaving the most impact and what I think will help me as I move into 2016 is the depth I have gained in my relationships with those who are most important to me. The closeness that I have gained through something as simple as being willing to talk and being open to hearing.

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Why we should just calm down about the Elf

She was not planned. In fact, we had no intention of welcoming her as a guest until she was given to us as a gift.

Claire, our Elf on the Shelf, joined our family for the first time last year.

Typically one to buck trends, I was reluctant to have Claire join our family. Yet, when she was given to us, I sat back and thought about how excited my kids would be if she just showed up one day and I thought “Why the hell not?”

If you google Elf on the Shelf you will be bombarded with a whole slew of articles, opinions and blog posts criticizing the tiny little creature.

Parenting experts and parents alike denounce the idea of our kids learning to behave ONLY because of the little Elf who is overlooking their every action. They claim that we should be teaching our kids to behave, not because the Elf will go back to the big guy up North and report on their actions, but because they know intrinsically know right from wrong.

To all those naysayers I say calm the f&*k down.

C’mon people, you are taking this thing wayyyy to seriously.

It’s a toy…It’s…a….toyyyyyyyy!

For goodness sake people what happened to lacing our kid’s lives with just a teensy bit of Christmas magic?

Let me make something clear, my initial objection to the Elf had nothing to do with a fear of my kids learning about Big Brother watching over them. My objection lied solely in my own preference to avoid jumping on bandwagons.

I’m so thankful I let that sh*t go.

When I hear their excited little feet running down the stairs each morning wondering where Claire is hiding, it makes my morning just a little bit brighter. When I hear the squeal of whichever child finds her hiding spot first, all I can do is laugh. As we giggle over the silly spot Claire was found in on any given day, it fills my heart with warmth.

These years won’t last long. Before I know it, I will be the one waking my kids up to open their presents on Christmas morning instead of being awoken by two excited little beings crashing into my room yelling “Santa came!” Soon their little lives will be filled with angst about school tests, broken hearts and searching for summer jobs.

For now I want to try and fill them with as much magic as I can. My kids do know right from wrong. Trust me, they know that hitting their sister or stealing a cookie isn’t right, they don’t need an Elf for that. Throughout the year, Elf or no Elf, they are going to make both good choices and bad choices. They are going to make mistakes and learn from them. They are going to do wonderful things and learn from those as well.

Claire is not going to impact their behaviour drastically either way.

What I hope they remember, as they grow up and they start to figure out the world, is that their childhood was filled with love.

So, for as long as I can stretch it out, I will gladly spend each December morning searching for Claire and seeing what she’s been up to while we were sleeping. I will do so knowing that the only impact this is having on my children is to bring them a little Christmas excitement and cheer.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I must go find a way to make my tea since Claire seems to be hiding in the kettle.