Telling Our Story – Why I’m so open about our experience

It took about two years before I realized that I had to talk about it.

Two years of allowing fear, anxiety, anger and sadness to eat at me from the inside. I was too afraid to show that I was struggling so I held it in.

Until the day that I let it out.

Until the day when I came to the realization that if I was going to make it through parenthood and life in general I had to learn to be open about my struggles. Life was going to be full of them. Life with with a child who had health issues was going to present even more obstacles. If I was going to over come them I had to be willing to face them first.

So I started talking and writing.

I talked and I wrote.

I wrote and I talked

I told our story over and over, to anyone who would listen or read about it.

I wasn’t afraid to admit that I had a difficult time. I wasn’t afraid to admit that I had shed more tears than I could count.

I came to the realization that it made me stronger to open up about it and not weak like I had feared. I could feel the tensions ease and the fears loosen. I felt lighter, less frightened and better equipped to face what was to come.

Truth is, this story isn’t just my story.

It’s our family story.

It’s my husband’s story.

It’s my daughter’s story.
And most importantly it’s my son’s story.

Each story I write, each photo I post, each time I openly share a part of our experience I ask permission. Anything that you see, hear or read about has been approved by those involved, most importantly Tyson.

I want to help my children learn from an early age to face sadness in life. I want them to be comfortable with facing the obstacles life is going to throw at them. I don’t want them to feel like they have to put on a happy face all the time.

Our family does that by talking.

At some point in time I wondered if others were tired of hearing about our struggles.

I heard the voices of people who wanted me to get over it. Those who felt like I should be passed the pain and moved on.

But I pushed through and continued to be open with our story.

A recent visit to Sick Kids hospital reminded me why.

I found out that an old friend would be there with her daughter on the same day that we would be there.

Luckily we were able to connect in between our kids tests.

We chatted right there in the gift shop and I found myself swallowing tears. It felt emotional. It had been years since we had actually physically seen each other but we had reconnected over a common theme that neither of us wished we understood. Both of our children were Sick Kids patients, my son struggling with complications of TEF, her daughter fighting cancer.

When my friend introduced me to her mother she told her mother that I was the first person, after her husband, that she told about her daughter’s cancer diagnosis.

I looked at her feeling both surprised and honoured. “Is that true?” I asked.

“Yes” she replied “You were so open and honest about Tyson’s health issues and your struggles with it that you were the first person I thought of”

This.

This is why I am so open about our story.

I am so open about the things that have knocked me down because I know I’m not the only one trying my best to get back up. There are other parents who feel lost in the struggles of parenthood; sick children, lost jobs, issues with school or friends.

We are all in this together.

While I can’t always be there to pick someone up when they have fallen down, I can use my words to help a lost parent find their way out of the fog.

I tell my story over and over again so that the parent who is sitting in their car in a hospital parking lot fighting for the strength to go back in knows they aren’t alone.

I tell my story over and over again so that the parent who sits on the shower floor crying, hoping that the rushing water will drown out the sound of their sobs knows they aren’t alone.

I tell my story over and over again so that the parent who is sitting in the surgical waiting room in a children’s hospital watching their child’s name on that screen, waiting for it to say “In Recovery” knows they aren’t alone.

I tell our story over and over again in hopes that the parent who isn’t sure if they have the strength to pick themselves up can feel my hand trying to give them something to lean on.

That day, in the gift shop at Sick Kids, I hugged my friend goodbye and held on just a little, knowing that my words helped give her some hope during one of the most hopeless moments a parent can experience and I searched for a way to tell her that her words have been that hand that has given me something to lean on more times than I count.

 

When was your first time?

When was your first time?

To be honest, I can’t actually remember the very first time it happened to me.

Was it the man on the factory floor that used to walk by me and whisper the things he’d like to do to me causing my face to flush red with embarrassment, not even able to lift my head to meet his gaze? He was 28. I was 16 and working my first summer job.

Was it the security guard at the mall that I worked at who continuously asked me out and after I turned him down too many times stood at the door and called me a ‘cunt’? He screamed it out across the parking lot just to make sure I heard him. I heard him loud and clear. He would stand in a hidden doorway across from my store and watch me, sometimes for my entire shift and then would follow me home. I was 20 years old and living on my own for the first time.

Was it the senior executive that told me he knew I was pregnant because my breasts had gotten so big? I hadn’t announced my pregnancy yet. There was no doubt that he enjoyed watching my cheeks flush red and seeing me blink back the tears. He never took his eyes off me as I awkwardly tried to figure out how I was supposed to respond. How was I supposed to respond?

Was it the manager who suggested giving me a specific assignment because the client liked the way I looked and that I should try and be available for drinks after work with him? I had worked so hard to prove myself at that company but in that second I felt like none of it mattered.

Was it the time I was going to my first big client meeting with my manager and I stood at the back of the elevator, red faced, as the man who came in behind me stood with his back to the door looking me up and down the entire ride up? When I squeezed my way by the man to get off the elevator he made sure to have his hands in just the right spot. My manager turned to me in shock and asked ‘what was that?’ I brushed it off and said ‘that stuff happens all the time’ because I didn’t want to make a big deal of it. But I walked into my first client meeting shaking. It was a big deal.

I have so many stories to tell and each one winds into the next. I’m not even sure which one was my first.

When did I figure out it was best to stay quiet?

I was a strong, smart, opinionated woman, so why was I afraid to use my voice? Why was I so afraid of making it a big deal?

To be honest, even now, years later, the thought of putting some of my own experiences out there, open for the world to know brings me fear. I don’t want people to know these details. I don’t want my parents to know these details.

But I’m tired.

I’m tired of trying to make things not a big deal.

I’m tired of hearing these types of stories.

I’m tired of the Harvey Weinstein’s of this world.
I’m tired of hearing the backlash afterwards.

I’m tired of people questioning what the women wore or why they didn’t say anything earlier.

Is this still a question? Why the women didn’t say anything?

I want the future to look different for my daughter. I want her to be able to go to work and do her job. Period.

I want her to go to a job and expect better.

I want her to not be afraid of making it a big deal.

It’s a big deal.

I want to change the narrative for her and the only way that I know how to do that is by talking about it.

Make this unacceptable. Make this so unacceptable that anyone who witnesses it stands up and says so.

Can we do that together? Can we change this narrative for our daughters so that one day they won’t be looking back talking about their first time?

NICU Care Package – How you can help during a loved one’s NICU experience

It’s hard to believe that it has been nine years since our NICU experience.  

On the one hand it feels like it was just yesterday; I still have dreams that have the NICU machines beeping in my ear and if I breathe really deeply I can still smell the scent of the hospital hand soap that I used to constantly wash my hands.  

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The memories of our NICU experience have never left me. They are buried deeply inside, close to my heart. They stay with me to remind me of how strong we all are. Those memories have found their place in my memory and they fit so perfectly right close to my heart.  

Though the memories are a part of our lives forever, time has healed. There was a time when I couldn’t speak about our story without shedding tears. There was a time when anger consumed my being; anger over the fact that my baby was sick, anger at those around me for not understanding my pain.  

If you would have asked me back then what you could have done to help me I wouldn’t have had an answer. I didn’t know what I needed.  

Now that I’m nine years out I can tell you that the biggest thing that I needed was to know that I wasn’t alone.  

I needed people.  

I needed people to listen, to cry with me, to bring me a coffee and to just sit by my side.  

I needed to feel like I wasn’t alone.  

If you have a family member or friend who has a baby in the NICU it’s hard to know how to help. You may be afraid to cross boundaries or worried that you’ll say something you should say. Often friends and family are at a loss as to what to do so they just stay away.  

There are ways you can help. 

Check in with your friend. Make a phone call to let them know you’re thinking of them. Pay them a visit in the hospital. Just let them know you’re thinking of them.  

Celebrate their new baby. Sometimes it feels awkward to celebrate when their baby is in the hospital but they have had a baby. Though the experience is different it’s still an exciting moment for a family.  Congratulate them on their new baby. Send a card. Buy a special gift. Make a donation to the hospital in the new baby’s name. There are so many ways that you can celebrate this new miracle.  

Put together a NICU care package.  

A NICU care package that help families feel less alone. It’s really just a way to acknowledge their experience.  

There are so many items that you can include in a NICU care package. When putting together a NICU care package think about items that will help both baby and parents.  

Gift cards: Coffee gift cards are great as most hospitals will have a coffee shop on site and nice hot cups of coffee or tea often help parents survive the long days sitting beside an isolette. Gift cards for gas stations, as many parents have to drive to and from the hospital every day, or drug stores are also good ideas. 

Journals: Writing is what saved me from my depression and anxiety after our NICU experience. Unfortunately it took me a couple of years to realize just how much I needed to express my feelings. I often wonder if I would have had a journal with me while I spent day after day sitting quietly beside my baby if that would have helped me heal earlier.  

Diapers/Wipes: While hospitals typically provide the diapers for babies in the NICU, knowing that you’re covered once you get home is such a load off. You don’t have to worry about stocking up on items you may not have even had the chance to get before the baby arrived. Many NICU babies are smaller so the smaller sizes are usually a good idea. Huggies has a diaper size specifically designed for preemies or smaller babies, from 1 – 5 pounds. Although our baby wasn’t a preemie the preemie sized diapers were perfect for his tiny frame. They are fragrance and lotion free which is perfect for their sensitive skin. The umbilical cord cut-out that is available in the preemie and newborn sizes was perfectly shaped so as not to irritate their healing cords.  

Blankets: Skin to skin is so powerful for both babies and parents and even more so when babies are in hospital. It’s not always possible for parents to hold their babies when they are in the NICU but hospitals encourage skin to skin whenever it’s feasible. Huggies is a big supporter of skin to skin care and their No Baby Unhugged initiative promotes skin to skin contact and hugging of babies. Having a baby blanket that isn’t a hospital blanket can help parents feel a little more at home even though they are in a NICU.  

Hand cream: When you have a new baby you are constantly washing your hands but to have a baby in the NICU means extra handwashing in scalding hot water that often leaves your hands dry and cracked. My hands hurt for months even after we were released from the hospital. A soothing hand lotion can help alleviate the pain that can come along with excessive handwashing.  

Camera/photo album: With the exception of the photos we have immediately after my son’s birth, we do not have one photo of him for the entire first week of his life. It is one of my biggest regrets. I didn’t want to take pictures of him so tiny and bruised after hours of surgery. I thought that I wouldn’t want to remember those moments because they brought me such immense pain. But the truth is I wish I could go back now and show him just how far he has come. I wish I had a proof of how tiny he was or how terrible he looked after surgery. I wish I had something to show him that he is one of the strongest kids I know. Parents often forget to take photos of their baby. A polaroid camera and film will allow parents to take photos and print them out right away using them to decorate around their babies isolette, documenting how they are growing and getting stronger every day. It will also allow them to keep the photos or give them to people who come to visit.  

Huggies is a well aware of the power of a hug and is a proud supporter of hospital NICU’s and their baby hugging programs. Huggies has generously donated all of these items to me to give to a family that is currently in the NICU.  

My hope is that by sending a family currently experiencing the NICU a care package containing these items they will know that they aren’t alone in their pain. There are people out there who are thinking of them, standing with them in their pain.  

September is NICU awareness month and I hope to be able to provide any support I can to a fellow NICU family. I hope they hear my message and know that they aren’t alone.  

39 Lessons in 39 Years

By this time tomorrow I will officially be in the last year of my thirties.

I must admit that turning 40 kind of excites me. I feel like this just may be some of the best years of my life.

Some fear getting older but I love it. I am becoming better the older I get. I am becoming more confident and less self conscious. I am more sure of myself and more forgiving of my mistakes. Getting older isn’t something to fear to me, it’s something to look forward to.

Getting older is a privilege that I know not everyone is afforded.

Every year I learn something new about myself, those around me and the world in which I live and the lessons that I learn are powerful and freeing and I am grateful for them.

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.

39 – Make your choices with confidence. No one else has to approve of your choices but you so don’t worry how other’s feel about your choices. Sometimes even the wrong choices will lead you down the right path.

Without a doubt the best thing about getting older is becoming more sure of myself. I have been known to agonize over decisions, to research and plan and still doubt my decision. There is a freedom in making a choice and letting what be will be. We all make wrong choices sometimes but being comfortable with that is not easy. This year has been about learning to be comfortable in my choices even when they aren’t the best decisions.

This will be the last year in my thirties and you had better believe that I plan to live it with no regrets and without fear. I can’t wait to see what this year brings me, I just know it’s going to be full of surprises!

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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