nodding & smiling

ceci n'est pas un bébé lala


What SickKids Means to Me

I am thankful to have two happy, healthy daughters. The only reason either of them spent time in hospital is thanks to a robust sense of adventure and competitiveness, landing us in the E.R. a few times.

However, I grew up familiar with a 24-inch-long, keloided scar that ran the length of my dad’s upper leg, from his hip to his knee. It was the result of childhood soft tissue sarcoma that was deeply-embedded in muscle, tendons and veins. My dad spent time in hospital, while doctors and nurses removed all traces of the malignant cancer. The scar didn’t scare me, and my dad was happy to answer any questions we kids had about it, because, he taught us, cancer can strike anyone at any time, even little kids.

My dad as a young child (left), shortly before his surgery

My daughter Alexandra, my dad’s first grandchild, was much more empathetic than I was. I remember her feeling very sad, seeing my dad’s scar, instantly imagining him as a young child, sick in hospital. My dad assured Alex that hospitals that specialize in caring for children are the most amazing places, and kids there feel happy, very well-cared-for, safe, and loved. My dad had a gentle, reassuring nature, especially with my daughter, and she was satisfied with his answer.

Alexandra and her "Poppy" - this granddaughter/grandfather duo had a special bond!

Alexandra and her “Poppy” – this granddaughter/grandfather duo had such a special bond

My dad’s experience with cancer, and his love for children made him a lifelong SickKids Foundation supporter. A philanthropic, and fun-loving man who adored his kids, nieces, nephews and grandkids, my dad enthusiastically donated to SickKids Foundation so that little ones, at their most fragile, during their most vulnerable time, could be properly cared-for by “The Best of the Best”, he’d say.

My dad's 50th birthday. 4 months before he'd be diagnosed with a malignant brain tumour

My dad’s 50th birthday. 4 months before he’d be diagnosed with a malignant brain tumour

A couple months after my dad turned 50, cancer once again found its way to him, by way of a brain tumour which would have killed him if they didn’t do what they could to remove it. He suffered many complications from the surgery, and spent 4 months in hospital in intensive & critical care, in and out of a coma. When he finally returned home, he was only a shell of his former self, the surgery having jostled too many things around in his brain, and the dreaded cancer still progressing. Still, my dad’s affinity for SickKids never wavered, as he watched episodes of Little Miracles on TV in between radiation treatments. Seeing children facing illness, adversity, and uncertainty with such bravery inspired him.

My dad’s cancer progressed slowly over 4 years, until I was pregnant with his second grandchild. Through the last half of my pregnancy, he took a turn for the worse and was bedridden, cared-for at home by my mother and home care nurses. He needed round-the-clock care. When I gave birth to my daughter Katherine, I moved in, since I was on maternity leave, so I could help my mother care for him. I wanted to be near my dad in his final moments. My dad was 54 years young.

I can hardly believe this is the same man, a mere 4 years after his big 5-0. This was the only time he held Katherine. He passed shortly after this pic.

I can hardly believe this is the same man, a mere 4 years after his big 5-0. He passed shortly after this pic.

I’ll never forget the moment my father passed away, because I was in the bedroom right next door, nursing my not-yet 2-months-old baby girl. I was rocking her as she fed, softly singing to her, when I heard my mother wail the most terrifying cry. Immediately, I knew my dad had passed on. But never did I break from song or take my eyes off my baby’s sweet gaze. I continued to smile, sing to, and nurse her, because I was a mom. But the tears silently rolled down my cheeks.

The book of memories a young Alex made asking him to "Come Hm Soon Poppy!", and the many donations made in my father's name to SickKids Foundation at his passing.

The book of memories a young Alex made asking him to “Come Hm Soon Poppy!”, and the many donations made in my father’s name to SickKids Foundation at his passing.

While we may never understand why children are stricken with illness or are born (or become) otherwise medically-fragile, it helps knowing there are hospitals, organizations, communities and foundations of people who truly care and who work each and every day to make a positive difference in their lives. My dad’s experience at a children’s hospital certainly coloured his outlook on life, love, and family, and I am so proud to continue his legacy, adopting SickKids Foundation as “my” charity, too. I hope no one in my family ever needs SickKids, but if they do, boy am I glad SickKids is there.

I was so touched to see donations pour in, in my father’s memory, in support of his beloved SickKids Foundation at the time of his death and on its anniversary. This weekend, families just like yours and mine – some with personal connections to SickKids Hospital, and others who simply appreciate all that SickKids does – will be walking in support of SickKids Foundation, in the Canaccord Genuity Great Camp Adventure Walk for SickKids. Please consider showing your support by donating to this amazing, caring organization. You can click here to donate in support of the #WalkForSickKids, or click here for other ways to show your support.

Disclosure: SickKids Foundation is a client of my employer Influence Central Canada.

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Moving – Feeling All the Feels

katie grad

Okay so I suspect moving is kind of like childbirth, in that, once you’re past the hellish bits, you forget how awful the bulk of the experience was, and consider doing it again one day.

When I was young, we moved around a lot for my dad’s work. Moving houses (and provinces) halfway through grade seven, and in the summer after grade nine, and again after grade eleven was HARD.

Teenagers aren’t very nice to newcomers, especially those wearing completely different styles, and speaking with a different accent (anglo-Montrealers speak with an accent, you guys). Most kids have had their core group of friends for years, and they don’t need another friend. They don’t make it easy on the new kid, in fact, some go out of their way to make it hard for the new kid. Not because they’re mean, but because it’s a source of amusement. Maybe they’re bored. I don’t know. Anyway, I didn’t like it, and it forced me to develop a thick skin.

I decided when I was very young that when I had kids, I’d do what I could to ensure they grew up with a set of friends they could keep forever, if they wanted.

When we decided we were moving, we talked about it as a family. Alex was fine, since she’s an honorary Haligonian these days, and surprisingly, Katherine was quite happy about it. Having attended the same school from junior-kindergarten until grade five “graduation”, she seemed ready for a change, and looked forward to the prospect of making new friends.

This mom is relieved. At the same age, I’d have been kicking and screaming!

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I Sold My Home Myself with ComFree

All the money I saved!

We were certain that when we were ready to sell our house, we did not want to hire a real estate agent. Our home is in a high-demand area, and given I work from home and have a background in sales, I was confident we could do most of the work ourselves. Our home didn’t require extensive, or niche marketing, and we weren’t in any rush, so we opted against bringing in a realtor, and instead researched companies who could help us get started on our own.

ComFree was the company that best-suited our needs and style. They offered a flat-rate service which included an MLS listing, professional real-estate-grade photos of our home, and for an added fee, the unlimited paperwork and follow-up support of a dedicated, licensed real estate agent who would be available to us until the deal was done.

I can’t recommend this service enough – everyone we dealt with was extremely professional, knowledgeable, and helpful. And although visiting realtors sneered at our list price, the commission we were offering co-operating agents, and our ComFree sign, our home sold for OVER asking, in five days! Best part? I paid myself the $43,000 I would have had to pay to realtors! ComFree charged me $1,600 for both services, my experience with them is far superior to my experience working with traditional realtors in the past.

This post is not sponsored in any way. I am just happy to share about forward-thinking, fabulous brands I’ve used and loved.

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Our lovely home. Buh-bye!

Our lovely home. Buh-bye!

I calculated that this is my 17th home. From the time I was born to the house in which I currently reside with my own family, I am a longtime veteran of moving. We’ve been in our home now for 10 years, and we’ve been very happy. But, after my hubby started dropping hints about wanting to shorten his commute (okay, they weren’t hints, they were outright asks!), and a re-evaluation of our budget once we entered Alex’s post-secondary years, we decided to list the house for sale and move nearer to his work. The area in which we’re looking is beautiful, offers the smaller-town feel that Katherine and my hubs are looking for, with plenty of jogging paths and trails for me and the dogs.

Of course, the work that follows is never as easy as the decision made. We looked around our house with “buyer goggles” on and rhymed off a bunch of things we needed to address. We’re thousands of dollars into upgrades and updates and up to our eyeballs in boxes, but we think we’ll be ready to list our home on March 1st. We’re going to go the route of no-agent for the first while to see how that works.

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Fitness Friend

My unique, fiesty, caring daughter

My unique, fiesty, caring daughter

I never put much stock in the whole Nature vs. Nurture debate as much as I did after I had kids. It was immediately apparent to me that these kids simply were who they were. Their parenting was the same, after all, even though I was a bit older the second time around.

My eldest was always easy to please as a child, was happiest when making others happy, set (and accomplished) admirable goals, but was never much interested in babies. My younger daughter was so different: not easily content, very fiesty and a true tester of limits (especially mine!) – except when it came to younger or differently-abled kids. In those cases my younger daughter was always all patience and kindness.

I wasn’t surprised when my younger daughter was paired in Kindergarten with a differently-abled student as a “Fitness Friend”, after watching her play with her younger cousins with such enchantment. Fitness Friends assist each other in gym class and make sure everyone’s included in games at recess. Katherine always spoke of her Fitness Friend with sweetness and included her on birthday invitation lists. Year after year, Katherine was placed in the same class as the student.

I’m pleased her inclusiveness is the first things teachers will tell me about her, and I can’t wait to see what my fiesty, bright, and caring daughter will do next.

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Playing University Sports

Look at this kid! Rocky Mountains for the win!

Look at this kid! Rocky Mountains for the win!

Alex wasn’t sure she wanted to try out for a school team this year. Although sporty, doing well at school takes hard work, and Alex is mature enough to recognize that. Without knowing exactly what kind of toll being a full-time university student would take on her time, she was reluctant to add another schedule commitment.

That said, Alex loves sports. She knew that if she didn’t have sport as an outlet, a means to relieve stress and have fun, she wasn’t likely going to be very successful. So, Alex packed up her massive ringette bag and moved it across the country with her.

When she tried out for the Dalhousie ringette team, she knew right away that she was “home” and among her “people”. She made the team, one of four rookies, and now hits the ice with a smile several times a week, often at ungodly hours of the morning.

Her season culminated at the University Challenge Cup, which took place in Calgary. The team had fun and tried their best, but didn’t place. The coaches still thought they deserved a treat though, and rented a bus to drive the girls out to see the Rockies, figuring “you can’t go to Alberta and not take the trip to Lake Louise!” – those are some amazing coaches right there (Phil, Allan, I am so happy Alex has you looking out for her this year!). The team will continue to practice and scrimmage until the school year ends.

Anyway, all this to say that school teams, no matter what level you play, offer such benefits to kids. Friends, fitness, discipline, teamwork, etc. etc. – the lessons learned from sports can go on and on.


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Feeling Safe at University

Sexism and Rape Culture at Dal?

Sexism and Rape Culture at Dal?

When I sent my daughter across the country to attend university at Dalhousie, I did so confident about the school and faculty I was entrusting her to. My biggest fear was about the male student population, and the mob mentality at this age. I’d read horrifying headlines of college parties involving rape and young women and didn’t want my girl to experience any of it. Having done my research, I was confident that the school’s culture and values reflected my own (to a certain extent), and that the president Richard Florizone encouraged a culture of hard work, responsibility, accountability and fun.

I was as shocked and disappointed as anyone when I first learned of the Dalhousie School of Dentistry scandal, and along with the rest of the country, eagerly awaited the school’s response. Would these so-called “gentlemen” be suspended pending investigation and resolution? Would the school do the right thing and expel them? And most-importantly to me, did I send my daughter to a school that values women’s rights to feel safe at school? Is she safe at school?

Time will tell.

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Alex has admitted many-a-time that she has FOMO (“fear of missing out”).

When she was little and went out, she’d ask, “What will you be doing, Mommy?”

I usually replied, “Going to the bank then taking a nap” (those were the two most boring things in the world to her, and I didn’t want her to think I might dare have fun without her).

She knew when she moved away for college or university, she’d have no choice but to miss out on some things. But this one hit her hard:

Two more days till you're home, honey!

Two more days till you’re home, honey!

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Gimme Gimme Gimme

Little Cousins' Gift Exchange - aka "FamJam"

Little Cousins’ Gift Exchange – aka “FamJam”

Christmas and the holidays are a wonderful time for families. We get to unplug, reconnect with loved ones, spend time together. There is also the magic of the season, with all its treats and treasures.

If you’re like me, you love spoiling your kids and seeing the delight on their faces when they unwrap a special gift, but also worry that they will lose sight of the spirit of the season focusing on “getting stuff” instead.

This year, I’m happy that we will be going almost gift-free among my family. That means that aunties, uncles, parents and grandparents won’t be showering the kids with gifts as we usually do. Instead there will be a single gift exchange at the kid-level (read: no adults participate), and then Santa will do his “thing” (which at our house is a bountiful stocking and one or two special gifts for each child).

The focus will be on finding ways to spend special time with our family, playing games, baking, watching movies, going on walks etc. rather than gift-giving. Best part is the kids seem totally fine with the whole thing!

Happy Holidays to all!

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Stress and Homesickness

Ramen noodles. Of course!

Ramen noodles. Of course!

Alex finally started missing home this week. I say ‘finally’ only because I thought it would set in sooner, not because I wanted her to become homesick (well… maybe a little bit… KIDDING!).

I’ve put two and two together and realized that she is becoming increasingly homesick relative to the rate at which her stress-level is also increasing (exams).