Today, Mia and Alexa's birth story is featured over on Twin Talk Blog. Click here to check it out.

My first time holding my girls in my arms

Twin Talk is an incredible resource for twin moms. I really wish it had been around back when I was expecting my twins because the twin pregnancy and new twin mom experience really is different than the rest. Even now with older twins (I really can't believe they are almost FOUR), it's still special to connect with other twin moms who know. They just know!

If you want to share your birth story with Twin Talk, you can click here to fill out a questionnaire.

Ghosty Toasty

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

It was a hectic morning today but with the help of some Halloween themed cookie cutters I turned things around. Say hello to "ghosty toasty" and "peanut butter pumpkin toast". 



I love Halloween week! 

Melted Crayon Pumpkins

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Until now I have avoided ALL melted crayon crafts. I worried they'd be too messy and disregarded the many cute ideas I've seen on Pinterest. Then today, I saw this melted crayon pumpkin idea on Pinterest and decided to just go for it.



While the kids were still at school, a friend and myself glued broken crayons to pumpkins with a hot glue gun.


Once the kids were home from school, we laid down a plastic table cloth and let them have fun with the blow driers. It was really easy and fun for the kids, and because of the plastic table cloth the mess was contained....not to mention that it was less messy than the traditional carving of pumpkins.




Now I know first hand there are so many melted crayon crafts on Pinterest because they're just amazing. A few tips though.... The smaller pumpkins were cute and turned out well; however, I think the impact was better on the medium sized pumpkins because there was more surface area on which the crayons could melt. My advice would be to use medium or large sized pumpkins. Another tip, there were all kids of different crayons in our stash. We learned the cheaper the crayons the better they melted (the really good Crayola crayons didn't melt as quickly). But really.... so long as you have something covering your floor then you really can't screw up this craft.


On my quest to read 50 books in 2014, I figured it would be a good idea to throw a few non-fiction books -- parenting books specifically -- into my usual mix of fiction, suspense and YA novels. I didn't have any particular parenting issue in mind when I decided to read "Parenting Without Power Struggles: Raising Joyful, Resilient Kids While Staying Cool, Calm and Connected" by Susan Stiffelman. This excerpt from the book jacket caught my attention:

"While most parenting programs are designed to coerce kids to change, [this book] does something innovative, showing you how to come alongside your children to awaken their natural instincts to cooperate, rather than at them with threats or bribes, which inevitably rules their resistance. By staying calm and being the confident 'Captain of the ship' your child needs, you will learn how to parent from a place of strong, durable connection and you'll be better able to help your kids navigate the challenging moments of growing up".



What I took away from this book was not clear cut strategies or action plans for how to deal with childhood behavioural issues (although there is some of that in the book) but rather the book left me the desire to make sure I create and uphold an unshakable connection with my daughters. The first part of the book is about creating attachment as the precursor to healthy relationships. With attachment in place, parents can be calmly and confidently in charge. Children need you to be in charge but not in control. The rest of the book elaborates on how to deal with common parenting issues such as whining, cooperation, etc. by parenting alongside your child rather than by coercion or other means. Here are some highlights for me:

- offer your attention to your children completely and generously
- kids only tell their truth if we let them know we can handle it
- don't eliminate frustrations because it prevents them from developing the vital life skill of learning to adapt
- sometimes children need to feel their feelings of sadness to learn to move on
- help them learn the essential life skill of adaption equipping them with the means to be happy regardless of whether people, events or circumstances conform to their expectations
- let them feel you are on their side
- kids are inclined to do what you ask when they feel close to you and you ask from a sense of connectedness
- accept the reality that kids are biased towards maximization of fun and enjoyment

Some practical tips which I liked included:

- when a child is frustrated, it is not a good time to teach or advise
- encourage cooperation by making them feel good when they are cooperative
- speak as though you're in charge and walk away with the assumption the child is going to do what you asked
- couch a request in polite terms by saying "honey I need you to..."
- instead of saying "no" say "yes, after..."

Here are two practical tips which I have already put into place at our house:

The first is setting known consequences. Recently, I noticed that Mia and Alexa's teacher posted a classroom contract in their class "signed" by all of the children. What I understand from talking to teacher friends is that the classroom contract is an example of self-directed learning -- the theory being that children learn more effectively and independently if they choose their own activities and pursue them in their own way. By having the children make the list of class rules and then sign the contract, they are actively agreeing to follow such rules and then be willing to face the consequences of breaking them. This is where the book comes in -- as part of parents being steady and calm, the author stresses the importance of discussing as a family the possible outcomes for failing to live up to the family's standards of cooperation and kindness.  With this in mind, I decided to create a family contract at home. As a family, we came up with the rules. I helped guide the girls to focus on really simple and practical rules which will be easy to enforce. We talked about the consequences for breaking the rules, I wrote out the rules and then each member of the family signed the contract. I posted it in our kitchen to keep it as a visible reminder.



The second tip is a simple way to deal with how to "give in" to your child while still keeping control. For example, if you told your kid she can have one cookie but then she's pestering you for another cookie and for whatever reason you want to give in, then you say "you must have read my mind, I was just about to offer you another cookie". That way, you still hold your place as being in charge when really you have given in!

More than these practical tips, what I liked best about this book is how the author believes parents need to act as guardians of their children's innate light, honouring them as the emissaries of joy that they are. She also advises parents to delight in our children's unique interests, talents and personalities. So often I see parenting books, websites and blogs offering parents instructions on how to change a child or how to get them to do what you want. This book is different. It's about bringing out the best in our children. My girls are at an age where they delight in everything about life. They are mostly smiles and excitement. Their "innate light" as the author calls it is very bright. I would never want to do anything to diminish that. It doesn't mean that we are not the parents and will allow them to wreak havoc on us. In fact, the author talks about doing the opposite of just agreeing with your kids, doing what they want and eliminating any frustration or conflict from their lives. She wants us to teach them resilience. She says when children grow up believing they can only be happy if events in their lives unfold in a particular way they want them to, they become handicapped adults unable to cope and suffer emotionally as a result. This book is about fostering good relationship so that you can parent from a place of calmness and thereby focus on teaching important life skills and also exploring their unique interests, talents and personalities

One last thing to note... The book reminds us to live like our kids are watching because they are, which I think is maybe the most critical piece of advice. We can establish whatever rules we want but if we are not living as good examples for our children then those rules are meaningless.  

Parenting Without Power Struggles was an enlightening read and I would recommend it to parents of kids of all ages.



Thanksgiving in Canada is the same but different than US Thanksgiving. The food is the same but there's no parade or shopping LOL. We went to several different Thanksgiving events over this past long weekend and our celebrations culminated with a big feast at my parents' house yesterday with my parents, brother, sister-in-law, grandmother, aunts, uncles and cousins. We like to play games at our family get togethers and I'm usually the one that organizes the games. In the past, I've created a "newlywed" style game and a family trivia game. This time around I created a game with trivia about Thanksgiving here in Canada. Since I couldn't find much online in terms of Canadian Thanksgiving trivia, I decided to share this just in case anyone is interested in it for future Thanksgivings. 

Food!

We had plenty of laughs with this game. It's always funny to see which answers are obvious (most folks got the first few questions right and then it deviated from there) and which questions stump people (I thought everyone would know cornucopia -- wrong!). There was even a couple of questions for Mia and Alexa to help with (Charlie Brown and Cinderella). My sister-in-law Rachel was the big winner of a $15 McCafe gift card! Now to come up with something for Christmas...


Game Part I 


Game Part II


***

Here are all the questions which I created and the answers that I researched online. I tried to cover a variety of Thanksgiving-related topics and to make the game as family friendly as possible. 

Questions

1. While American Thanksgiving is associated with the Pilgrims coming to the New World, Canadian Thanksgiving is associated with:
(a) the importance of the turkey in Aboriginal culture
(b) Canada being the world's number one grower of pumpkins
(c) ancient festivities which celebrated the bounty of the harvest and enough food to survive the winter
(d) what do you mean? it's also associated with the Pilgrims

2. Speaking of Americans, in the U.S. what holiday is celebrated the same day Thanksgiving Day is celebrated in Canada:
(a) Martin Luther King Day
(b) Columbus Day
(c) National Pumpkin Day
(d) Chris Columbus (filmmaker) Day

3. Speaking of Columbus -- Christopher the explorer not Chris the filmmaker -- in what year did he arrive in the New World:
(a) 1492
(b) 1442
(c) 1572
(d) 1542

4. A male turkey is called a tom and a female turkey is called a hen. What is a baby turkey's called?
(a) chick
(b) poult
(c) turklet
(d) kidling

5. What is a group of turkeys called?
(a) crush
(b) gaggle
(c) flock
(d) harem

6. According to Martha Stewart, how long and at what temperature should a fresh whole 21 pound turkey be cooked?
(a) 3.5-4.5 hours at 350 degrees
(b) all day at 375 degrees
(c) 3 hours at 375 degrees
(d) 2 hours at 450 degrees

7. The part of the turkey that is commonly said to make a person sleepy is:
(a) trypticon
(b) tryptyc
(c) tryptoponic
(d) tryptophan

8. Pumpkins are a:
(a) vegetable
(b) mineral
(c) fruit
(d) grain

9. Which Disney Princess rides to a ball in a giant pumpkin:
(a) Elsa
(b) Cinderella
(c) Ariel
(d) Aurora

10. In "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" which character is the believer in the pumpkin:
(a) Charlie Brown
(b) Snoopy
(c) Snoop Dog
(d) Linus

11. Which John Hughes movie plot is centered on getting home to Chicago for Thanksgiving:
(a) Home Alone
(b) Planes, Trains and Automobiles
(c) Home Alone 2
(d) Uncle Buck

12. Which classic TV show was known for having a yearly Thanksgiving episode with special guest stars:
(a) Friends
(b) Seinfeld
(c) Cheers
(d) The Cosby Show

13. In which part of Canada is Thanksgiving NOT a statutory holiday:
(a) Quebec
(b) The Maritime Provinces (PEI, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Newfoundland)
(c) The Territories (Yukon, North West Territories and Nunavut)
(d) Nowhere, it's a statutory holiday in all of Canada

14. Which explorer founded what is now Quebec City (which would become the first permanent settlement and the capital of New France) and has come to be known as the founder of Canada:
(a) Christopher Columbus
(b) John A. MacDonald
(c) Samuel de Champlain
(d) Jacques Cartier

15. The horn of plenty, which is the Thanksgiving symbol which represents an abundance and nourishment, is called:
(a) a cornucopia
(b) candy corn
(c) popcorn
(d) a hornet

16. What is the Thanksgiving Day Classic?
(a) doubleheader between four CFL teams
(b) Hockey Night in Canada on Thanksgiving Day
(c) PGA tournament held in Canada over Thanksgiving weekend
(c) curling tournament

17. Canadian Thanksgiving has been held on the second Monday of October since 1931. In what year was it made an official Canadian holiday?
(a) 1931
(b) 1957
(c) 1944
(d) 1964

18. According to the Turkey Farmers of Canada, how many millions of kilograms of turkey were consumed by Canadians in 2013:
(a) 190.2
(b) 203.4
(c) 102.4
(d) 147.7

19. How many calories are in a Starbucks pumpkin spice latte with whip cream (grande size)?
(a) 450
(b) 550
(c) 410
(d) 350

20. The best part about Thanksgiving is:
(a) pumpkin pie
(b) no school/work
(c) time with family
(d) all of the above



Answers 

1 (c)
2 (b)
3 (a)
4 (b)
5 (c)
6 (a)
7 (d)
8 (c)
9 (b)
10 (d)
11 (b)
12 (a)
13 (b)
14 (c)
15 (a)
16 (a)
17 (b)
18 (d)
19 (c)
20 (d)


I know I'm biased when I say my girls both have beautiful eyes. Alexa's eyes are piercing blue just like her Daddy's eyes. Mia's eyes are an ever-changing combination of green and brown (aka hazel) like mine. More important than how they look, however, is that they have healthy and well-functioning eyes. October is Children's Vision Month and today I'm going to share three ways to protect a child's eyesight.

#1 Regular Eye Exams

My girls had their very first eye exam last November just before they turned three. While I didn't have any specific vision issues about which I was concerned, I didn't want to rely on my own observations of my girls' eyesight. The Doctors of Optometry recommend that preschoolers have at least one eye exam between the ages of two and five and that school aged children have a yearly eye exam. At that first eye exam last year, I pre-booked their appointment for this coming November so that I wouldn't forget their yearly eye exam now that they are in full day school. In fact, now that Mia and Alexa are in kindergarten it's even more important for them to have their annual eye exam since eyesight is critical to learning. 80% of a child's learning is based on vision. Eyesight is not only critical to their academic learning -- it's also important to socialization, extra-curricular activities and play. I don't want to limit anything which my girls experience in or outside of school, and so it's a no-brainer to me to make sure they have their annual eye exams.

If you are looking for an optometrist for your little ones, you can visit http://doctorsofoptometry.ca/find-a-doctor/.



#2 Ensure Costumes Are Eye-Safe

My girls love to play dress-up and they are counting down the days until Halloween. While I'm happy to indulge in letting them dress-up in whichever costumes they choose (this year they are going as Maleficent and Aurora), I'm also very picky when it comes to Halloween costume safety. I used to hear news stories about Halloween safety and ignore them for being obvious and exaggerated. Like, who gets hurt in a Halloween costume? Then one Halloween my costume was lit on fire by a candle at a Halloween party and burnt the palm of my hand. It was a small accident but the lesson was not lost on me especially since I was not an innocent child when this happened, I was a grown adult. Since that incident, I have been very mindful of Halloween safety.

Here are some of the things I do to protect my girls and their eyes on Halloween:

- we pick costumes without masks or anything else that restricts their head movement or vision
- we use hypo-allergenic make-up
- we would never allow our girls to wear decorative contact lenses as part of their costumes
- I accompany my girls on Halloween night and we make sure we carry lights in order to be seen
- we make sure the path to our house is well lit for the other kids

Halloween 2013


#3 Limit Screen Time

My kids love technology and could be attached to a TV or computer/tablet for hours on end if we would allow it. Admittedly, I'm not the greatest role model when it comes to screen time because I'm a TV and iPhone junkie. That said, we make a conscious effort in our house to limit the amount of screen time for our girls. We also enforce a rule that we don't watch TV during mealtimes. We also try to use time on the computer/tablet as a reward for good behaviour. Another helpful idea is to enforce 20/20/20 rule which means 20 means of screen time then take a break for 20 seconds by looking at something 20 feet away.


I hope you find these tips helpful for protecting your children's eyesight. While having an eye exam is the only true way to examine a child's eyesight, this video about the signs a child needs glasses is really helpful.





***

This post was brought to you by the Canadian Association of Optometrists, however, the images and opinions are my own. For more information please visit http://doctorsofoptometry.ca/.

The Doctors of Optometry are also having an amazing contest in connection with this post and Children's Vision Month. At school, socially and in play, undiagnosed vision problems can affect your child’s ability to succeed. A comprehensive eye exam by a Doctor of Optometry is the best way to ensure your child sees well. You could win one of the following prizes:

GRAND PRIZE:
- $2,500 towards an RESP or other educational savings plan
- ENVY Recline touchscreen computer
- Officejet Pro 8600 printer
- $500 gift certificate to a sporting goods store of your choice
- $250 certificate to Chapters Indigo
- $300 in goods and services from a Doctor of Optometry

FIVE WEEKLY PRIZES:
- HP Pavilion x360 hybrid laptop computer
- $300 in goods and services from a Doctor of Optometry

To enter, and for full contest details, go to: www.DOCContest.com.

JK at the 1 Month Mark

Thursday, 9 October 2014

My girls have been in school for a month already! Everything is going well so far, and the transition was luckily easy for our family. This week, I started volunteering at the school and there was also an open house, which means that I got to see more of what it's like for the girls inside of school. It wasn't a surprise to hear from their teachers that Mia spends a lot of time and the art station and Alexa spends a lot of her time building things. Sounds about right.

On the topic of art, I don't know what to do with all of their art projects already. I put the most special pieces in their school binders but that barely covers 5% of what they bring home. The first few weeks, they were bringing home 5-10 paintings per day EACH!! The last week or so they slowed down on the painting and started to bring home stapled booklets with glue, tape and accessories. They're so proud, and I listen to them describe every detail of every piece. I just can't keep it all. I have to secretly throw some of it away at night when they're asleep.

Art binders

Art binders

One of many many many paintings

Booklets

We have their first long weekend off from school this week for Thanksgiving. I'm looking forward to having them home. Have a great weekend, especially if your celebrating Thanksgiving up here with us! On Monday, I'm going to share a Thanksgiving Day trivia game which I created (can't share it sooner because I don't want to spoil the surprise for my family), so check back if you're interested.

Wham

Friday, 3 October 2014

I get a lot of questions about my look from our latest family photos. I can't take any credit for my hair, that goes to my amazing friend and stylist. I'm thinking I should never again take photos without professional hair help just like how the Real Housewives do -- they never appear on film or print without help from a glam squad and I know why. The pros really are pros for a reason!


I did do my own make-up. Everyone asks about my lipstick. The truth is I bought it alone on a total whim. I had been looking for a vibrant pink lip colour for a long time but could never put into words what I was looking for. Then I saw this colour while rushing through Sephora and I just went for it. I fell in love with it and when I got the "thumbs up" from my mom, Lauren and my hubby (my trifecta), then I knew I picked a winner. So without further delay, the colour I'm wearing is a Marc Jacobs Kiss Pop Color Stick in Wham. It's described as a coral rose colour. I like how it applies on my lips and it has good staying power. And bonus -- it's paraben and sulfate free.



The other thing that's different about my make-up is that I filled in my brows. If you're a long time reader, you may remember when my cousin helped teach me how to do my brows -- click here for a refresher. Somewhere along the way, I abandoned filling in my eyebrows because it just felt like another step when I'm already rushed. I took the time to fill in my brows for the photos and I'm so glad I did. It reminded me that filled in brows really do make a difference.

Thanks for commenting on my family photos and for reading my blog in general. I hope that answers your questions. XO
My love for shopping in the U.S. is well documented here on my blog. It extends past scoring an amazing deal on boots or finding the infamous "Blardigan" and it extends into the grocery store. Grocery shopping in the U.S. consistently blows my mind with impressive selection and good prices. Trader Joe's is my favourite grocery store in the States. As I have said before, shopping at Trader Joe's is a cultural experience. It's kind of like a cross between Whole Foods and a no frills grocery store. There is nothing like it here in Ontario.



Now that there's a Trader Joe's in Buffalo, it's a lot easier for Canadians to experience shopping there. From my house, we can be at Trader Joe's in under 90 minutes. I haven't been since the Spring and would like to plan another trip this Fall before the cold and blustery weather arrives. Gotta stock up the freezer for Winter!

Since everyone knows I'm a TJ fan, I often get emails and texts from family and friends asking me what to buy which made me think I should write a helpful cheat sheet for Canadians on what to buy at Trader Joe's. My first instinct is to advise you to buy everything but that's not very practical now is it? There's truth to it though, there are so many amazing things that I would recommend that you try whatever seems appealing to you.

To make sure you don't miss any of the greats, here's my list of what to buy at Trader Joe's.

Snacks and Treats
- Speculous cookie butter
- pound plus chocolate bars (my fave is milk chocolate with almonds)
- chocolate peanut butter pretzels
- white cheddar or sour cream and onion corn puffs
- sharp cheddar pub cheese
- organic mini cheese sandwich crackers
- salsa verde



Frozen
- frozen almond croissants (often sold out they're so good)
- panko breaded tilapia filets
- wild mushroom and black truffle flatbread
- turkey corn dogs
- chile relleno, mini chicken tacos and pretty much all other Mexican frozen meals
(truthfully, I've tried a variety of their frozen meals and pizzas 
and so far everything has been great)

Breakfast
- strawberry yogurt O's cereal (my girls' fave)
- honey nut O's
- coffee cups (for Keurig)

Miscellaneous
- coconut oil cooking spray (this is a staple in my kitchen)
- 21 seasoning salute
- coconut body butter




What I don't buy at Trader Joe's includes:

- produce 
(it may surprise you to know TJ's is not known for having the greatest produce)

- yogurt 
(TJ's has good yogurt but I insist on buying Chobani when I'm in the States)

- alcohol 
(if I'm cross-border shopping I don't buy TJ's alcohol but I do buy it when I'm in Florida)

- flowers 
(good quality and selection but it doesn't make sense to buy on a cross-border shopping trip or while on vacation in Florida)




If you are a Trader Joe's fan, leave a comment to let me know what your favourite TJ item is. If you're new to Trader Joe's, feel free to leave a comment with any questions. Edited to add: The closest Trader Joe's to the border is the Amhurst location in Buffalo. It's located at 1565 Niagara Falls Boulevard. We cross the border at the Rainbow Bridge and it's not too far over the border from there. It's in the same plaza as Target, Babies R Us, The Christmas Tree Shop, Lowe's and Chipotle.



Have a great weekend.

Halloween Treat Bags

Monday, 22 September 2014

I was doing some photo resizing and clean-up on my blog when I inadvertently deleted the post on Halloween treat bags from last year. With Halloween fast approaching again, I figured I might as well repost it rather than let it disappear completely from the blogosphere. For this year, I'm not sure whether I will be making treat bags or not. I have no idea what the protocol is for the classroom when it comes to Halloween and whether or not candy is even allowed.

Here again is my post on Halloween Treat Bags originally posted in October 2013.


*****

It's a favourite activity of mine to put together treat bags to give to my girls' little friends on Halloween in order to make trick-or-treating extra special.



Since my girls are loving stamps these days, I picked up a Halloween-themed stamp pack from Michael's and enlisted their help in making the bags. I had them use the stampers on orange lunch bags which I later closed by punching holes and using ribbon tied in a bow. I made tags with plain cardstock and a circle punch. It was so easy!

I filled the bags with all kinds of yummy and fun Halloween treats. To get into the scary spirit this Halloween, I included Scary Bars in the treat bags. Aren't they so spooky and perfect for Halloween!? They were the perfect finishing touch to our Halloween treat bags. I can't wait to hand these out on Halloween!

Scary Bars | Supplies

Assembling

Ready for trick-or-treating

There's just two weeks until Halloween. What are you doing to get in the Halloween spirit? Do you do anything special for your trick-or-treaters?