Saturday, September 27, 2014

A Study in Contradictions

In my 35 years, I have realized many things – the most obvious being that life is a study in contradictions. I have learned that:

You can run a daycare out of your house and still have a beautiful home.

You can equally enjoy 90’s punk rock music and the Irish Newfoundland Show.

You can be a Mom to a child with special needs and still have a pretty awesome life!

You can be the Director of a non-profit organization and still rock a killer fashion shoot.

I have struggled with how to merge all of these pieces of my identity, and the only thing I can come up with is that they all will comfortably co-exist if I let them.. if I don’t fight them, or try to rationalize their contradictions.

Feeling like I have too much on my plate, yet feeling like I am not doing nearly enough.

Taking on the world, when some days all I really want to do is stay at home, cuddle my sweet boy and fall asleep to the rhythm of his breath.

Organizing events, writing letters, and scheduling meetings because I have to. Raising money, promoting change, and fighting for rights because I want to.

Caring and not caring.

Feeling confident and accomplished, positive and motivated, while at the same time feeling vulnerable and unworthy.

Being excited about the future but at the same time scared to death.

I am just as excited to receive a letter in the mail from CanChild Centre for Childhood Disability Research as I am to receive my monthly ipsy Glam Bag.

How can that be?

One thing I know for sure is that life is wild and rich and full of opportunities. The challenge can lie in recognizing those opportunities and grabbing on to them with all of our might. We can be a great many things. It’s what makes life interesting. It’s what makes us live beautifully.

How do people see me? How do I want to be seen?

I am a mother, a fighter, and an advocate for children with special needs.

I am strong and fun and cool and compassionate, yet vulnerable and insecure and constantly questioning my place in the world.

I have fun putting on high heels and a funky dress and pretending to be a super model.
I have just as much fun reading and reviewing research grant proposals.

This afternoon calls for the latter.

If anyone is looking for me, you can find me buried in a sweat shirt and yoga pants and a pile of scholarly papers.

See you on the other side!

"The goal is not to be loved and accepted by everyone. The goal is to continually become the person you yourself would admire and respect. Be the person you want to know and meet. Work every day to earn the love and appreciation first from yourself and second from those you enjoy and genuinely care about. Your worth and importance is your prerogative. You determine how beautiful you are. How brightly you shine is up to you." 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Little Passports

I like to consider myself well-traveled. I taught English in Bangkok, Thailand for a year and traveled to many countries in South East Asia, including Indonesia, Vietnam, Singapore, Cambodia, Myanmar and Laos. I have sun-bathed on the beaches of Jamaica and explored the Mayan Ruins in Mexico. I've done Disney World in Florida, played the slot machines in Nevada, lived in Northern California, and have visited many other towns and cities closer to home.

I was a free bird in my previous life.. before Brennen came along.

Having a child with special needs brings extra challenges, and that includes not being able to just pick up and go on a whim. There is much more to consider when traveling with a child with a disability. Things like making sure to bring all necessary medical equipment, feeding supplies, and medications. Brennen cannot sit in a airplane seat unassisted, so he needs a special car seat that is CSA approved to be safe for air travel. Some children, like Brennen, who have sensory issues may become stressed, anxious or confused in unfamiliar situations, and loud noises can be a problem on a plane or in crowded environments. This is all before you even get to your destination and have to face the accessibility issues that surely will follow.

I'm sure there are families who travel quite a bit with their children, and I applaud them, but it is just not practical for us. It is a chore just to get out of the house some days! Don't get me wrong, we have traveled with Brennen before, and we will again, but in the meantime, it is nice to be able to bring little pieces of the world home to him. Enter: Little Passports!

**The links in this post are affiliate links and I will receive a small commission if you make a purchase after clicking on my link.

"Little Passports is co-founded by two moms who feel a strong passion to help raise a generation of citizens who are compassionate about the cultures and people around the world. Little Passports is deeply committed to educating children about other cultures as well as improving the livelihoods of children around the globe. Monthly packages deliver the world to your child via fun activities and online games. Each month our characters travel the globe on their magic scooter and share their experiences with your child.

Your child will receive a personalized package in the mail that includes an adventure letter, fun souvenirs, activities and access to our online Boarding Zone full of activities and games.

Little Passports is your child’s ticket to an exciting global adventure. Inspire a love and understanding of the world as your child learns about a country’s geography, history, culture, and language in a fun and memorable way."

I was so excited when our Little Passports 'World Edition' Explorer Kit arrived at our door last week! The first month’s kit arrived in a fun and colorful travel suitcase which contains everything we need to get started on our virtual trip around the world, including a letter from the globetrotting characters Sam and Sofia, a map, a passport, stickers, and access to online games and activities. We had so much fun personalizing the suitcase and passport for Brennen, and getting to know Sam and Sofia through their letter and online activities.

Sam and Sofia visit a new country every month and will send us country-specific packages filled with fun souvenirs, letters, stickers, photos, activity sheets and more. We are excited to find out where their first stop will be!

I'm not sure who loves this more, me or Brennen, but I know that Little Passports has created the perfect way to bring adventure and discovery into our home. The map hangs on the wall in Brennen's room so we can see where we've been and where we want to go next! I can't wait to add stamps to our passport!

The Little Passports World Edition is recommended for ages 5 - 10. With a price as low as $10.95 / month, you can't go wrong!
There is a monthly plan, as well as a 6-month and 12-month plan.

After subscribing, you'll receive your first package with the Explorer Kit in about 3-4 weeks. After that, new country kits will arrive around the 3rd week of every month.

Great news! Little Passports is now on sale! For just a few days you can receive any of the Little Passports subscriptions for 15% off. Simply use the promo code: FALL14 at checkout. Get a jump on your holiday shopping, but don't wait… this sale ends September 26th.

Click on the links below to subscribe!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Tulip Tales: Nathan

On February 17th of 2010, Brennen was scheduled to have his first orthopedic surgery - bilateral heel-cord releases, where they cut the tendons to lengthen the muscles in his legs that had become shortened and tight. I was a nervous wreck that morning, as I sat with Brennen in the surgical waiting room. I knew that he would be in good hands, and that he would be given the best possible care, but as a mother, you just hate to send your little one into the operating room. It is a hard thing to do and it never gets easier. The emotions are overwhelming. 

In the waiting room that same morning was another young boy in a wheelchair who looked to be a year or two older than Brennen. He was with his family, dressed in the same hospital gown that Brennen was wearing, and awaiting his own turn in the O.R. I remember looking at his mother, wondering if she was feeling what I was feeling, and how she was managing to keep it all together. I remember staring at her little boy, as so many strangers have stared at my son, only not out of pity but out of love.. love and concern and a deep understanding for what we were all about to go through. Though we exchanged many glances that morning, we did not speak. As her son was called in and she gathered their things, our eyes met and we smiled. Smiles that held so much more than words could say at that time. Smiles full of courage and comfort and a connection between two mothers on a very similar journey.

That little boy was Nathan, and this is his story.


Nathan was born at the Central Newfoundland Regional Health Centre in Grand Falls on January 3, 2003. He was two weeks early, weighing 6 lbs 4oz and was 21 inches long. I remember we had to buy preemie outfits for him because he was so tiny. Though he was almost an average size, he seemed so small to us. Looking at him today, you would never say that he was premature. At a whopping 100 pounds and 5'4" tall at only 11 years old - he's quite the brute!

We had no idea that Nathan had any health issues until January 2, when I went in for a routine check-up. I explained to my doctor that I hadn't been feeling a lot of movement so she wanted to do a stress test to make sure everything was still fine. It wasn't. The baby was in distress and I was immediately admitted to the hospital with a biophysical ultrasound scheduled for the next morning. I know, you are probably thinking, "Why the next day?", and that's a question we often ask ourselves. I wonder if things would have been different if they had done something right away, but we cannot go back in time, and I don't know that I would want to.

The biophysical ultrasound showed that he had only a small pocket of amniotic fluid by his nose. Other than that, he was completely dry! It was determined that they needed to take the baby right away, and so Nathan was born by emergency c-section at 10:10 in the morning of January 3, with zero blood sugar and high blood pressure. After numerous tests and a week long stay in the hospital we were supposed to be going home. I was packing up our room when one of the nurses came to check on him and noticed that he looked a little "dusky". She swooped him up right away and took him for oxygen. More tests followed and before we knew it, we were airlifted to the Janeway Children's Hospital in St. John's thinking that he may have a hole in his heart! There was so much confusion. I didn't know what was happening or what all of this meant for my baby boy.

Our stay at the Janeway was an incredibly difficult time in our lives. We saw so many doctors and nurses who were all fabulous and they truly don't get enough credit for the work they do every day! Being in the hospital with your baby you see so many things that are sad, amazing and beautiful, all at the same time. You realize as a parent that you really are quite lucky to be blessed with the child you have been given. In time you will understand that all things happen for a reason and that special children are only given to special parents that can make their lives exceptional! 

We have been very lucky with Nathan. He is generally very healthy and does not have a lot of medical issues. He has had several surgeries, and we come to the Janeway regularly for CP clinic, but other than that he has been well.

Although Nathan's communication is mediocre at best, we understand him completely. He is very patient with us and will repeat himself over and over until we understand what he is trying to say. Having even some form of communication is huge when dealing with common everyday things like being hungry, thirsty or sick! 

When I started to write Nathan's Tulip Tale, I recalled the first time I saw Julie and her family. Nathan was having a tendon release done, and it was his first surgery! I remember wanting to talk to her so bad because I had never met or talked to another young mother in the same situation as us! Someone who knows all my feelings and emotions because she no doubt shared them! We didn't talk, we just looked at each other knowing mother to mother what was to come. It was going to be a long road for us. We did exchange email addresses and have been in contact from time to time ever since! I am so full of gratitude for the work that she is doing, bringing awareness and acceptance to cerebral palsy! Brennen must be a very proud little boy that his mommy is such a wonderful person. 

Today Nathan is eleven years old! He is a happy, funny, easy going, laid back young man! He loves his family and friends, loves school, being outdoors, and going to the stadium. Whether it is to watch his little sister play hockey or for him to skate, guaranteed he will always have a plate of fries and gravy at the rink. If there's one thing Nathan loves it's food! 

Our family is unique and special. Although we have different obstacles and challenges than other families, we wouldn't change our lives for anything in this world!


Amy, thank you for sharing Nathan's story! I have to tell you, I filled up when you talked about that day in the waiting room. It's funny how we both felt exactly the same way. I am so glad that we connected and have been staying in touch ever since. Nathan is such a handsome boy and he has such a happy, loving family. You are truly blessed. I just love the picture of him on the swing!  OMG.. the joy on that child's face!! I do feel like we are on a very similar journey, and having someone like Nathan to look up to makes me less afraid of our future. He and Brennen are so very similar, and if they both keep going the way they have been, things are gonna be just fine!  

If you would like to be featured on Tulip Tales, please email me at:  Please include a brief description of your child and their condition, along with any pictures you would like to share.  I will contact you with specific questions.


Saturday, September 13, 2014

Kreation Krate - creating crafts, creating kindness

It's no secret that I have a lot going on in my life.. at all times. That's just the way it is. I am busy, and I like it that way. Unfortunately, it also means that I often don't have time to fit in all of the things that I would like to accomplish. For example, I used to enjoy scrapbooking and am thankful to have completed several books from Brennen's early childhood, but I haven't touched my Cricut machine or embellished a single scrap of paper in months.. ok years! It's actually been years! I just don't have the time to plan an activity, locate all of the supplies I would need and actually complete the project in time to have everything put away again by the end of the day. It just doesn't happen. This is why I LOVE Kreation Krate!

"Kreation Krate is a monthly subscription craft box combining crafts and kindness. Crafting is a great way to show kindness towards others, and Kreation Krate gets you started. Each box is filled with craft supplies to complete 2 different crafts. One to make for yourself, and the other to create and gift to someone else through a random act of kindness (a Kind Craft). Although Kreation Krate is a craft box for adults, children will love helping out with some of the projects, and the Kind Craft is a great way to teach them about being kind to others."

I was excited to receive June's craft box called "Shine". This box included all of the supplies needed to create a 'SHINE' coaster wall-hanging, a magnetic coaster clipboard and six pom pom keychains.

I love the convenience of everything being sent right to my mailbox, with all materials required to fully complete several craft projects.. and I love to spread the love!

The SHINE wall-hanging looks great in our playroom!

On the pom pom keychains, you are meant to use letters to spell words like "shine" and "be kind", but there just happened to be enough for six, so I personalized mine with the names of the six children in my care at Little Tulips. I can't wait to give them to their families. What a great way to pay it forward!

I had tons of fun with these craft projects. The instructions were super straight forward and the crafts were easy to complete. I would definitely recommend Kreation Krate to any beginner or intermediate crafters. If you love subscription boxes as much as I do, you will be hooked!

Kreation Krate has had some really awesome craft boxes, including an herb seed starter kit, a paper bag scrapbook, metal stamping, and rock painting. Individual boxes are $31.00 each, or a monthly subscription is $26.00 per month. 

My readers can use the coupon code TULIPS for $5 off their first month's subscription! Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

A Night of Traditions

On September 19th, the Cerebral Palsy Association of NL will be hosting a banquet fundraiser and silent auction.

Join us for a “Night of Traditions” where the taste of India meets the spirit of Newfoundland and Labrador! The banquet will include a buffet dinner of traditional Indian cuisine, followed by great entertainment and an amazing selection of silent auction items.

Our fundraising goal is $15,000, which we will put towards continuing to meet the growing and evolving needs of individuals and families living with CP in our province.

If you are interested in sponsoring this event or would like to donate items for auction, please contact me at

Tickets are $50 per person, or $350 for a table of eight.
Seating is limited so order your tickets today!

Thank you for your support.
We hope to see you there!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Brigus and Cupids

This weekend, Andrew and I went off on a little bay-cation (it's like a mini-vacation, out around the bay)!  We needed a little alone time, away from home and the stresses of everyday life. Brennen was excited about having a sleep-over at Andrew's parents' house, and they were more than happy to have him (and Rumble) for the night!

We drove just over an hour out of the city to one of our favourite little communities in Conception Bay. The Town of Brigus is packed full of little gems - cafes and restaurants, antique stores and ice cream shops. We strolled along the narrow and winding streets, taking in the sights and sounds of all that the quaint little community has to offer. Though we have been there many times before, we admired the historic grounds of Hawthorne Cottage and explored the famous Brigus Tunnel as if it was our first. We are easy tourists. We appreciate the beauty of our province and love the fact that you don't have to travel far to see the extraordinary.

The houses in Brigus are beautiful. Almost every one that we walked past, either Andrew or I would point out some remarkable feature of the architecture, or comment on the simplicity of the design. I love that so many of the homes are being restored to their original beauty, keeping the tradition and the feel of the old town alive.

We spent most of Saturday enjoying Brigus and had a bite to eat at the North St. Cafe before heading to the neighboring community of Cupids, where we had booked a room for the night. Cupid's Haven is a four-star bed and breakfast that is housed in the former St. Augustine's Church. The church has been beautifully transformed and restored to honor its original state. The guest rooms and adjoining tea room all have impressive gothic arches and stained glass windows. The attention to detail is obvious within the main common area, with pews from the old church and even pew book racks (is that what they're called?) visible in the kitchen area.

Once we checked in to our cozy B&B, Andrew and I headed out to conquer the Burnt Head Trails. The trails, which start just behind the B&B, are a network of circular seacoast and forest trails, passing remnants of long-gone communities with spectacular ocean views, including a close up look at an impressive sea arch.

After a long day of hiking and exploring, we were more than ready to get cozy in our private room (ok, not before devouring a cup of tea and a couple of giant pieces of homemade pie). It's amazing how one night away from home, free from the routines and expectations of everyday life can do a world of good! We breathed the salt sea air. We smelled the thick pine forests. We picked blueberries and ate them along the way. We are refreshed, renewed, and ready to tackle the week ahead.
My favourite thing about getting away.. is coming home.
We are back, submerged again into our routines. I've got my sweet boy in my arms and life feels good.