Friday, December 19, 2014

Holiday Movie Streaming and Giving the Gift of Netflix Canada this Christmas

Are you already watching Netflix to put you in the holiday mood?  We sure are! 
We've had so many December dinners in front of the tv watching our top favourite holiday movies like Elf (Hello, this is Buddy the Elf, what's your favourite colour?"), Christmas with the Kranks and Santa Paws (grab a Kleenex for this adorable one).






You can give the gift of unlimited movies and TV shows with the new Netflix Retail Gift cards this season! 


The perfect gift that works for anyone on your list, Netflix gift cards can be purchased in $30 and $60 denominations at Best Buy, Target, Walmart and Shopper’s Drug Mart  locations across Canada. It's easy to set up a new account with a gift card;



In celebration of the the two gift cards under my Christmas tree that I'm giving to my family and friends this year, I'm giving away two 1 year subscriptions to Netflix!


Thursday, December 18, 2014

A Christmas Prayer just when I needed it most

Having a tough time again this year, when the most beautiful email arrived in my inbox. The incredible minister at my parent's church in Fenelon Falls (and having just recently baptized Jayden there, it now feels like OUR church too) sent this prayer, just for me and for our family.  

So, I wanted to share her email so that anyone else there who is struggling will feel the strength of these words, know this prayer is also for them and find comfort in knowing they are not alone.

  
Heather,

I am just going to speak plainly here; your mom mentioned to me that you are having a tough time these days. 

The last time we spoke you told me that you were feeling apprehensive about Christmas coming.  I just want you to know that I will be praying for you, that in the tension between what should be, and what is, there might be a bit of peace and rest for you.  I don't know what it's like to lose a child, but I am not expecting that you would ever "get over it"; so what I pray for is that the loss of Zackary will not hurt as much as time goes on. 
I will pray that there will be moments of joy and peace for you and Paul and your beautiful Ty and Jayden.

I think you are an extraordinary woman and I hope your trip to New York with Paul restores your spirits.

Many thanks for your witness and your grace in the midst of grief. 
May God bless you and keep you.

Susan
The Reverend Susan Spicer and Jayden at his Baptism
Thank you Susan. Merry Christmas to you xo

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Top 10 Gift Ideas for Tween Boys #SeasonsTweetings

While it's been hard to get my Christmas mojo going, one thing that I do love to do is spoil my kiddos at the holidays. As they get older, I find it really challenging to;
a. afford the things they want and stick to our budget
b. find something they don't already have 
Jayden is 7 and the easiest to buy for in our house! He loves almost any gift from musical instruments to small PlayMobil or LEGO figures or even "cool" clothes. But this year as Ty hit 11, I'm beginning to realize that being a tween is not only about moodiness and puberty, it's a tough age to buy for too!  

Somewhere between the ages of 10 and 12, our kids turn into a whole different demographic...tweens!  A relatively new term, Wikipedia defines Tweens as;
"A tween is a person who is between the ages of 10 to 12 years old. The term is often described in popular media as referring to a preadolescent (usually female) who is at the "in-between" stage in their development when they are considered. They are beginning to identify their own interests and express themselves through their activities and the first adult interests start to emerge, such as playing sports, playing musical instruments, cooking, sewing, using computers, etc. At the same time, tween self-esteem is in development and fragile, at best. As such, tweens are highly affected by peers and face pressures and worries that are often focused on how they will fit in and interact with others in society."
 
Considering all the pressures, changes and decisions that these tween boys are going through, gift giving becomes challenging! Many kids already have the latest electronics and gaming systems, so what's left?

Here are my Top 10 Gift Ideas for Tween Boys;

1. Sports equipment: Basketball is a huge hit in our house, but with the cold weather they can't play outdoors. This Christmas, we got the boys the indoor backboards and nets that hang on the back of their bedroom doors. Mini hockey sticks and new indoor sticks are great ideas for the hockey guys in your house!

2. Gaming: If you tween already has the latest system (PS4 is HOT this year), consider one of the newest games out this season (NHL15 or Destiny).  Be sure to check that the rating is T and not "Mature" for this influential age group!


3. Music: Sure iTunes cards are great to help your Tween load up on the latest songs for their playlist, but have you seen the cute Bluetooth speakers you can buy? You might want to limit the volume or suggest they play their music in their room only! Cool headphones are also a huge hit!
4. Books and Magazines: Thankfully, I have a book loving-tween! Every holiday, there are several books under the tree for Ty. This year, The Maze Runner series, Fault in Our Stars and Allegiant series are huge hits for this age.


5. Clothes: The one saving grace for Tween boys is that at this age, they are starting to actually care about their clothes and the way they look! Wrapping up a cool Shaun White hoodie, tshirt or slouch winter hat is actually COOL to these boys!

6. Foodie Fun: One thing we know about this age is that they can eat! What about a gift bag of their fave snacks or gift cards to the places they like to go out for a meal! This year, I got my tween a popcorn maker for his favourite movie night treat!


7. Retro Toys:  Some toys might still be cool, like Nerf and LEGO, but also nostalgic toys and games are filling the shelves at Target Canada this holiday. Whether it's a real record player or even the newest Simon electronic game, your tween can enjoy the same things we liked at that age!
8. Accessories: Start teaching your Tween to be on time with a cool colourful watch (this will help with curfews in a few years) or maybe they like to wear belts or ties! Don't forget to visit the shoe departments for the latest kicks for your boys!


9. Movies and TV Shows: Grab the DVD of your tween's favourite movie or show or treat them to a movie gift card or Netflix subscription!

10. Stocking Stuffers: Hit the pharmacy for some tween boy must-haves like deodorant, body spray, hair styling products and even Teen vitamins! Be sure to embarrass them with socks and underwear too!

Want to make shopping for tween boys even easier?  Shop all in one place at Target Canada!  Best part is that all available at 5% off everyday with your Target REDCard (ours comes right off our bank account so we can stay on budget and NO credit card stress!).


Follow @TargetCanada on Twitter or check out the Target Canada Facebook page for more holiday deals and ideas!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

I've decided to cry today

So many days I keep the feeling of sadness and loss bottled up.

I hide it from the boys, I hide it from Paul, I hide it from my parents and friends, I hide it at work and I even try to hide it from myself, but it's always there. 

Grief is a part of who I am.  

It has forever changed who I am, how I see the world, how I see others and how I see myself. 

It has created a layer of sadness that I wear like an undergarment, hidden from the world.

It creeps into every day, every mood, every breath and it can consume me when I least expect it.   

It makes me grumpy and impatient and sad.


I miss the me that was exhausted with sleepless nights, but overwhelmed with joy as a living miracle was in my life everyday. I miss the me who had shined as Zack's caregiver and advocate.  I miss the me that knew my purpose in life.  I miss the me that felt the deepest happiness and laughed out loud with my boys.

I miss my complete family. Our family of 4 is not our family. I look at photos of the four of us and it's not right.  It's not how it was supposed to be. 

I don't need a hug, a like on Facebook, a glass of wine or even shopping therapy.  I need my son back and it's the one thing I can never have.

Excuse me while spend some time alone, because I've decided to cry today.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Win a $100 to DSW Canada for your Holiday Shopping!

What a fun way to shop for shoes!  Let the kids sit in two chairs using the free wifi, while I take my time to go up and down the aisles of the over 20,000 square feet DSW Canada store in Newmarket!

After looking at the DSW Canada website, I planned a visit to look for what holiday looks were hot this season. What I found were rows upon rows of pumps in all heel heights, shoes with tons of bling (or not) and even "shoeties" (below-the-ankle booties) that would be perfect to complete any cocktail or office party look! With discounted prices on all of the leading brands, it was really hard to narrow down my choice for an upcoming holiday party.

It didn't help that my eyes kept going over to the gigantic boot section!  With a weakness for black boots, I bribed the kids with a mint and 15 more minutes to play their iPads, to give me a bit more time to try on some boots! I basically took over one aisle (it then looked like a tornado had hit), as I had about 10 different boxes of boots to try on! With the help of the very friendly staff, I found my size in ALL of my choices! After sharing my two "finalists" on Instagram, I chose a wedge Hush Puppies waterproof and warm pair of boots!  I'm almost excited for the snow (almost).
.

Before I left, I had to look down the men's section for a Christmas gift for Paul...he still misses my discount from when I worked in shoes! Since he NEVER reads my blog posts, I can tell you that my man will be getting a fab pair of chocolate brown Kenneth Cole dress shoes, leather gloves (only $35!) and some funky socks!
 


With my Shoe Lovers Rewards, I was able to save $10 and earn another $10 for my next visit...add that to the great $10 off coupon for completing a quick online survey and you know I'm already making plans for my next visit!

Want to feed your own shoe addition with a $100 gift card from DSW Canada?  Enter the contest below or watch for their weekly Tuesday Shoesday on Facebook
 for a chance to win 1 of 5 $50 gift cards!


Contest runs December 5th to 14th, 2014.  Open to Canadian residents only. Gift card can be used at DSW Canada in Mississauga or Newmarket. 
Not redeemable for cash. Non-transferable. 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

How your Big Kids can still have fun with Elf on the Shelf

Yesterday, after only two days with our new Elf on the Shelf, Buddy, my big kid, Ty, told me that he knew that it wasn't real. Gulp. He knew that it was me who had been moving our "Buddy the Elf" around the house in funny positions each night. 

At first, I hid the disappointment that my latest attempt to find my Christmas spirit had been lost on my 11 year old son. I knew that Jayden, at age 7, would have far more fun with the Elf, but I actually thought that even Ty who still believes in Santa and the magic of the holidays, would go along with it for fun.  I was wrong...or was I?

Why did the fun have to end, JUST because he knew it had been me moving around our elf?  Couldn't both kids still enjoy this new tradition in different ways?  Of course they could!  

Here are how our Big Kid is going to enjoy Elf of the Shelf this year;

Get your big kid to help move the Elf on a few nights:
Ty and I decided that HE could be a part of the fun antics that Buddy did each night leading up to Christmas! He started last night and loved being woken up out of bed for the elf-capades!

Ask your big kid to help you make it fun for the little ones:
Having our own little secret was really fun and we winked at each other this morning as Jayden found the toilet paper rolling down the stairs.  Ty went on and on about how crazy that Elf was and what a mess he had made...academy award winning performance!

Big kids can be in charge some nights:
Why can't Paul and I be surprised too?  I'd LOVE to wake up and see where the Elf has landed.  We decided that on some nights, Ty would be the one to hide Buddy for our whole family!  He even downloaded the app for more ideas.

Big kids can still be surprised too:
Even though Ty now knows that our Elf isn't magic, it doesn't negate the fact that he still loves the surprises and fun! Sure Ty can help on a few nights, but on others, we will still find ways to make him laugh!

Here's our Elf on the Shelf fun so far.....

December 1- Buddy's first day



December 2- Buddy's second day


 December 3- Buddy's third day with my partner-in-Elf-crime, Ty


Is Elf on the Shelf a tradition in your house?  What's your favorite silly position for him or her? Did you stop the Elf on the Shelf when your kids got older? 

Monday, December 1, 2014

Elf on the Shelf, WestJet and other ways to find your Christmas Spirit

Oh December, here you are again.  The month that brings such a mixture of heartache and joy each and every year since Zack died at age 3 and a half.  I can't truly wrap my head around the fact that this is the fourth Christmas without him. Fourth! How is that possible?  

It's been four years since I bought Zack's last gifts and searched online to find the perfect Elmo bedding set. 

It's been four years since our three boys sat on Santa's lap.  

It's been four years since our family of five took it's last holiday photo.  

It's been four years since Christmas brought the joy that filled my heart and our home. 

It's been four years since I looked forward to this holiday.


I know that it's only normal that I find myself struggling again to find the joy this time of year, but I still curse myself for feeling this way.  

So, in an effort to find MY spirit and maybe help some of you this season, I thought I'd work through MY list of ways in which the magic of the holiday is still alive in our family and somewhere in my heart....


1.  Buddy, our new "Elf on The Shelf" has arrived! For years, we have resisted this tradition , but this year I wanted to try a daily reminder of the magic that is Christmas. So far, this is really a lot of fun!


2. Giving back is one of the best ways for me to find that Christmas spirit! This year we've been part of Operation Christmas Child, World Vision gifts and will host a toy drive at school! 

3.  Holiday parties with wine, appetizers and sweet desserts are some of my favourite parts of December!

4. I love attending the Holiday Memorial service at our local Bereaved Families chapter.  Surrounded by others who are also struggling to find their holiday spirit, it's very comforting to not feel quite so alone.

5.  Shopping is fun and therapeutic!  Picking gifts my boys will love and seeing them wonder about what Santa might bring...that is Christmas spirit at its best. Watching Paul get excited about the shopping deals is a thing of beauty. The world's best shopper, my generous hubby often goes way overboard at Christmas, so I hope that there is some holiday magic on our Visa!

6.  Spending time with my amazing family and going up north to my parent's house at the lake (aka Christmastown) is where memories are made.  Just like some of my wishes on my list from 2013.

7.  I can't wait to take two weeks off with my silly boys and do NO work for two whole weeks! I can't say that I've done that for years and I'm making our to-do list now!

8. Decorating is both tough and beautiful. Every house looks better with mini lights and I smile each time I pass Zack's Elmo ornaments on the tree.  



9. My friends and family around me fill my heart with love, memories and laughter.  Nothing better than surrounding yourself with people who love you, any time of the year.

10. Then there are the viral videos and stories you hear this time of year, like this one. THIS is Christmas spirit and miracles at work.....I dare you not to cry...

 

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Movies to get you and the kids through cold and flu season

Moms aren't allowed to get sick, right? Wrong!  Last week, while Paul was away on business (best timing ever), I was down and out with the flu. Not wanted to get out of bed, I still wanted to entertain (and bribe) the kids so I could rest and feel better! It only took a few days to get over it, and we actually had tons of fun in our pjs!

During the "cold and flu days" you COULD spend all day "Elfing" yourself like we did in this video, you could grab some empty toilet rolls and create these cute Christmas crafts or you could log into Netflix and watch some hilarious flicks with the kids and laugh your way to better health (this one gets my vote)!




So, my prescription to get better this winter, is to curl up under the covers, down some cold medication, grab your favourite cuddlers and have a family movie night with some of our Family Favourites....after all, laughter IS the best medicine, isn't it?

Our number one favourite for this time of year (and no, it's not too early to watch it) is Elf, so my "sickie" request was that we watch it together first!




Here are some of our other all-year-round faves;

             
             
     


Wishing you and yours good health this winter!


Disclosure: Yay! I am part of the Netflix stream team (#StreamTeam) and have received product and a subscription to Netflix in exchange for writing monthly posts.  Already a huge Netflix fan, this is a pretty sweet deal!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Just-Like-Gourmet Chicken, Goat Cheese and Pesto PIzza Recipe

Weeknight meals are a huge rush for us and now that I'm not working at home, and with Paul working late or traveling, we need some creative ideas to make healthy dinners in 15 minutes! 

I love the idea of batch cooking and even tried it a few times, but I can't seem to find the time on Sundays with our crazy hockey schedule.  That means that dinners are still a stress each day. I've been taking PROTINIS for my lunches, and now I've got a new best kept secret with Maple Leaf PRIME Chicken Breast Strips! Fully cooked strips can be added quickly to pastas, stir fries and wraps or even top your favourite salads for a protein-packed, healthy and quick dinner.
Maple Leaf Prime Naturally® Sweet Thai Chili Fully Cooked Chicken Breasts Strips (400 g)
Last week we used the Sweet Thai Chili Strips to make a Gourmet Pizza that was one of the best pizzas I've ever made!!! I promise, if you keep these strips in your fridge, you will find tons of ways to enjoy them with your family for your own Dinner in 15! 

Ingredients:
pizza dough or pre-made grocery pizza shell
pesto
soft ripened goat cheese
mozzarella
PRIME Chicken Strips (original, Italian Style or our fave Sweet Thai Chili)
any veggies for toppings that you like

Directions:
1. Top the pizza crust with pesto
2. Add chicken strips (and any other veggies you like)
3. Top with crumbled goat cheese and some shredded mozzarella
4. Bake as per pizza crust instructions.

Follow @MapleLeafPrime and the hashtag #Dinnerin15 for more great recipes!




Disclosure: I am a huge fan of life made simple with Maple Leaf PRIME Chicken Strips and was thrilled to be compensated for posting this recipe.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

This Week in Kardashian News- Racism and Nudity

Argh....where do I begin?  

Last night, I was appalled by Khloe's blatant ignorance when she posted this lovely meme on her Instagram account. I couldn't let it go. It went beyond 'stupid celebrity' status and hit me close to home. Very close, in fact. So close that I could see my husband and kids attack by the white hooded clan, in the past. My beloved family would have fallen prey to their violence. I can't even wrap my head around the clan's hatred and persecution over many decades. It will NEVER be funny to me. When I tweeted about her ignorance, I was a target of a lovely troll who was clear to point out how Khloe was just joking and that I should get therapy. AHHHHH...It appears that I wasn't the only one to be offended by her trivializing the horrific violence perpetrated by the KKK, as the internet was quick to reply and educate her on the history of the clan.  How dare she, from her white privilege, feel entitled to joke about such a thing? If you truly love black men, would you EVER make this a joke? 

We already know that Kanye has been offending people with disabilities at his concerts but now the Kardashian girls too? The story came to a halt when BET weighed in and now Khloe has taken the post down on all of her social channels. For the moment, good had triumphed over hatred and ignorance....until...


This. Paper Magazine felt it necessary to show us Kim Kardashian WEST oiled up, photoshopped and NAKED (not just showing her behind as is seen on most posts) in an effort to "break the internet". Did she?  No, but she did have a trending hashtag, had all my blogger friends writing about it, recreated a image steeped in racism and she broke my heart. Stupid I know, but I find it so hard to figure this woman out. I love her and I hate her. She seems in love, committed to her marriage and her lovely daughter, so why is she exploiting herself? Or, is she letting us exploit her because of how she started? Has marriage and motherhood not brought a wisdom that leads to better, more clothed decisions? I wish I was as confident in my post-baby body, and I believe ALL mothers can be sexy, but at what cost to their kids and their creation of what is acceptable. And Kanye, surely his ego is stroked on this photo, and they are singing all the way to the bank. But why is she doing more nudity than ever? Is it because it's on her terms? As a marketing ploy? She's a mom, with a daughter. Surely, there is more she could be teaching her little one about body image.

Has she gone too far or is this just part of her game?