Wednesday, September 25, 2013

walk the walk

As a family who loves an adventure, we are very fortunate to have happy healthy children who can participate in many active outdoor activities.  As my kids jump and play, so very often as parents, we worry if they'll land on their two feet...or fall.

I think it's the "fall" part that worries most parents.  As much as we do everything that we can to give our children the best we can afford...provide lots of healthy meals, give them opportunities to explore the world, and provide a warm and loving home to rest or express their dreams and worries, often that isn't enough to ensure our children will aways be happy, safe or healthy forever.

Sometimes I think of those parents, who've relied on medical staff and resources to help their own children (as I've written in my post, here), as they go through many emotional, physical and financial struggles that are companions to their children's dire medical needs. How do they do it?

This Saturday September 28, our family along with my husband's company, Delvinia & Asking Canadians, will be participating in The Great Camp Adventure, a 20km camp-themed challenge-by-choice adventure walk to help raise money and awareness to support the SickKids hospital's most urgent needs and support those parents who rely on them.

Although we've never had to use the services of SickKids Hospital, to be honest, it's comforting to know that they're there.  We have been long supporters of the Sick Kids Foundation and it means a lot to us to contribute to the efforts that strive to provide better, healthier lives for kids everywhere.  I'm grateful that our kids are healthy and strong right now, however one never knows what lies ahead, and making sure the SickKids Hospital has all the necessary resources is just one more way I feel ensured that our children will be supported in case they don't "land on their two feet".

I can't wait for our family to experience our first family walkathon.  I can't wait for the kids to experience first hand, that no matter who falls, we're there to support and encourage, to help each other stay or get back up on two together, we can walk the walk.

SickKids Foundation

To donate to our family's walkathon team, click here:  The Great Camp Adventure

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

building blocks

As the kids have started to settle into school for another year, I still think back on the learning experiences of this past summer. I feel that learning is not just confined to a classroom and can occur all year long from real life experiences (whether it is observing the tides on the beach or picking up rocks when on a bike trail).  However, let's face it, kids enjoy being online on their down time, and sometimes I worry about those  times when the kids are not unplugged...when they're too connected to the games that can distract them from discovering what's in the real world.

Our "unplugged" basement.

Earlier this past summer, my son and I had an interesting conversation about one of his buildings in his Minecraft game (for those who don't know, it's an online game that builds virtual worlds with virtual building blocks).  He was animated in his description, and explained that the "cornerstone blocks are always the strongest, because they are the pillars of the foundation of which you can build something strong".  (yes, his words).

I liked how that sounded.  Cornerstone. Pillars of strength.  I'm always astounded with the mature insight this young boy (so often) has and I was intrigued with what he was building in his virtual world.

A fresh coat of paint can do wonders for an old corner fireplace. We used
Benjamin Moore "Cloud White" #OC-130 for the brick, trim and lower half of
the wall, and Benjamin Moore "La Paloma Gray" #1551 for the upper wall.

I asked him how he chose what materials to use to create his "buildings".  What determines his choices? As I listen to him, so much is revealed about what he learns...not only about how to build like an engineer, but how his choices also relates to building character.   He chooses material based on strength and durability and knows that a good strong neutral floor is the foundation that makes a solid base and provides the ability to stand tall and the confidence to be flexible and add depth or "character" with details.

There were so many flooring options to choose could be overwhelming,
but choosing the most classic styles and colours was the route to go for us.

It's amazing how much more upscale a room can look with a simple
update in flooring...we went from linoleum to marble-style porcelain.

He learned that the colour of the wall can play an important part of attracting visitors into the room and knows at his tender age that soft serene colours make people feel restful and peaceful while darker hues brings warmth and comfort.  A comforting space for family and friends to feel welcome.  How little decorative elements can make a plain house look "phenomenal" (his words), and you don't need a lot...sometimes it only takes a few simple details.

We wanted to choose a chair rail with a simple but detailed profile.  By painting the chair rail,
baseboard and lower wall all the same colour, the room now looks more sophisticated
for the adults but still comfortable and durable for the kids.  The room also looks larger too!

It was amazing how our "Minecraft" conversation was a foreshadow of events to come.  A few days later, our basement was flooded during a torrential rain storm.  Luckily our good friend, who owns a commercial building and renovation company, was able to fit us into their busy schedule (they don't normally do residential projects), and we had our own "pillar of strength" to help us through this unexpected situation.  They did a beautiful and professional job with our basement renovation.  Coincidentally enough, their company name is...Cornerstone.

Now we can return to our playroom, and enjoy the family activities we once enjoyed before the flood...and play some games, both old and new ones like Chess or Minecraft, and build more foundations, more pillars of strength for our family...building blocks of lifetime memories, learning and good times.

Please note:  The opinion in this post is unpaid and unsolicited, and is solely based on the quality of workmanship and service we received.  A great big thank you to our friends...Jim, Adam and the rest of the team at Cornerstone.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

the big apple

It's been a few years since we've been to New York.  There is something about that city that stands so vividly in my mind.  Maybe it's the energy and the perseverance of the people that draws me to that city.

On this particular day, there is not much for me to say, other than what I had already written about after our last trip to New York, which included a visit to the 9/11 Memorial site.  Many wrote to tell me how much that post really touched to honour those who lost their lives, without further adieu, here is my post again.

(originally published October 5, 2011)

After a whirlwind weekend of indulgent window shopping, seeing the bright and dazzling Times Square, admiring the million dollar architecture and enjoying the scrumptious culinary delights in NYC a few weeks ago…we felt we needed to end our weekend trip by visiting a special place to bring us back to reality and reflect how fortunate we really all are.

{Above photo, courtesy of CNN}

You see, ten years ago, we had planned to be right here in New York.  Before going on a London/Paris excursion on Sept. 12th, we were planning on stopping by as a post birthday celebration, before heading to London.  But circumstances led to us to stay home instead. Now, not a September goes by when I don’t think about what could have been. It’s amazing how many stories you hear, of someone missing their flight, and someone else taking their place.  How one person was saved because of someone else’s sacrifice. 

Ten years later, looking at the void where the towers were, the enormity of it, the place where monumental heartache took place…I realized that for every hole that is created, somewhere else, another hole is filled.

And even though life seems unfair on the surface, we are guided to fulfill a destiny, a purpose.  And for some reason, all our lives are intertwined in some form or another, with meaningful adjacencies.  (to read a beautiful article about how meaningful adjacencies relate to this memorial, please read Paula Grant Berry's CNN article)

I hope I fulfill my purpose in life…to help create a simple world of love, kindness, and appreciation for our beautiful world and those who fill it.  And especially, during this upcoming Thanksgiving remember to be grateful, and thankful for all we have.

To simply…fill the holes.

Heart Shaped Jam Filled cookies 
(makes approx. 30-40 cookies)

  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 1 cup of granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar plus 4 tbsp extra for dusting.
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • Beat butter and sugar together in a large bowl.
  • Add the egg and vanilla.  
  • Add the vanilla and 1/2 tsp of baking soda
  • Slowly mix the flour into the mixture until dough consistency.
  • Refrigerate for approximately 1 hour.
  • Preheat oven to 350degrees
  • Roll out the dough into desired shapes, creating enough for a solid bottom and one with a cut-out on the top.
  • Bake for approximately 10 minutes, or until the edges are golden.
  • Top one solid cookie with your favourite jam, and sandwich with a cookie with a cut out.
  • Dust the cookies with powdered sugar.

Enjoy...with all your heart.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

step by step

On the first day of school, I attended the school's "first day" assembly.  As the principal spoke, I could feel this tug-of-war within me...wanting to sit around the campfire with my children for just one more week longer, but also wanting them to spread their wings and join their school friends once again, learning to adapt to new teachers, new schedules, and new rules.

I started to think about the many articles I've read recently, about how some parents are feeling as they send their adult children for the first time to post secondary school, and I realized that what I'm feeling today is just the first step towards that "mixed feeling" moment of the future, when my kids will someday move on to college or university.   Today is just a preparatory step.

I started to look around the school gymnasium...paying attention to little details like how the lights reflected on the ceiling, the smell of freshly washed floors, and the nervous excitement I could feel in the air. For some reason I wanted to pay attention to all of this, as if for a brief moment, time felt frozen because I'm staying in the moment, not planning ahead for what I'm going to do for the rest of the day.  Maybe one day, I will remember this moment as a special memory where I once remembered the smell, the light, the feeling of elementary school and wonder where the time went?

Just as this moment is only one step in my journey as a parent to prepare my children (and myself) to grow and spread their wings, I hope my kids will realize how each of their steps are important foundations toward becoming adults that (I believe) will change the world.

I want to remember that moment when they took their very first step, and how it must have felt like trying to climb mountains but with every courageous attempt, I want them to realize after conquering it, that those mountains were really just large rocks after all.

The kids, particularly our son, loves to "parkour", which is overcoming obstacles in his environment
 as quickly and efficiently, using only his body and his surroundings to propel himself.  Both kids loved
these Reebok* shoes, which were light but had a strong grip to give them speed and momentum. 

I want to remember when they first rode their bikes without training worried they were to go too fast or they'd fall and scrape their knee, and I want them to look back as they ride their two-wheeled bikes today, and realize the freedom they now have because they kept trying and kept moving forward.

I want to remember when they were little, how they tried with all their might and frustration to catch every ball, and I want them to realize that sometimes they may miss a few throws, but with persistence and practice, they will catch more and more every time.

In each stage I hope they will rise to the challenge of new experiences, and we'll be there to support and guide, whether in person or in spirit.  We will do our best to give them the tools they need.  Books, running shoes, bikes...anything that will help equip them so they can take each step, so as parents we can savour in the memory, and the kids can look back and learn from it.

With all these steps, maybe as parents we too will learn...and be better prepared when we reach that "mixed feeling" moment in the future as we send our kids to college or university.

Mmm...well...we'll see.  We'll just have to take it one step at a time.

*A big thank you to Michelle for providing the ATV19 Reebok shoes for each step of our kid's outdoor adventures this past summer.  Reebok Kids ATV19 footwear is available at Foot Locker, Sears, Sport Chek and through