Tuesday, August 20, 2019

TD Summer Reading Club 2019

As much as I hate to admit it, we are nearing the end of the summer. It just seems to go so fast, especially considering that the weather didn’t start to pick up for us here in Newfoundland until mid-July. While we have packed a lot into a few short weeks, there are still some things on my summer bucket list and a few key things I want to experience with Brennen before he goes back to school. One thing on our list this year was to make more time to read together, and I think we’ve done a good job of that!

Brennen and I have been participating in the TD Summer Reading Club – Canada’s biggest bilingual summer reading program for kids of all ages, interests, and abilities, where kids can:

- Join activities happening in local libraries
- Read books online and get reading recommendations
- Track their own reading and collect stickers and online badges
- Connect online to share jokes, stories, book reviews, and more with other kids across Canada


As part of the TD Summer Reading Club, you receive a summer reading booklet, stickers, a web code and a reading goal sheet. You set a goal of how many books you want to read over the summer, and the great thing is that ALL books count – even books that a grown-up reads to you!


Studies show that kids who keep reading all summer do better when they return to school in the fall. Participating in a summer reading club is a great way to build excitement about reading!

Our local library has a wide variety of books available in alternative formats, and we like to try them out once in a while. Brennen does not read Braille, but we like to let him feel the texture on the pages of a book while we read the story, and he seems to enjoy this!


Brennen received an Accessible Notebook, which includes sections from both the pre-reader and school-age notebooks. Accessible tips have been added to support kids who have vision loss, a learning disability or a physical disability making it difficult to hold or turn the pages of a book.


We had a great time participating in the TD Summer Reading Club once again this year. I read a quote once by an author who said that her hope for all children was that they “feel free to imagine themselves as whoever they want to be in the fictional world, because that is, after all, a stepping stone to imagining yourself as whoever you want to be in the real world.”

I think this is what I hope for Brennen, as we are reading stories together. I hope he is able to imagine himself as a character in the books we are reading, and to use his imagination to take him on all sorts of fun adventures!

What are some children's books that you are loving? I'd love to hear about them!

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Can You Canoe

There isn't much that beats the feeling you have after spending a long day outside with your family. Though it often takes a lot of planning to get us all out of the house, it is almost always worth it. Today was a beautiful day and we had no prior commitments, so we decided to meet my sister and her kiddos over at our parents' house to take a spin around the lake. Brennen was so relaxed in the heat, and our little girlie preferred to stay in the shade, but we made it work and had the best day!

There were a few minor meltdowns, a little sunburn and a whole lot of back sweat, but there is nothing better than a full day of fresh air and sunshine with some of our favourite people.

Not a lot of words in this post, just a lot of photos capturing real moments from a really fun day!


Kisses from Nanny!


 Andrew pretending to throw the kids in the lake! 


 See what I mean? The best day. 
I hope you are all enjoying the summer!

Friday, August 2, 2019

Inclusion Matters

Summer is in full swing, and playgrounds all across the country are bustling with energetic youngsters, happy to have been released from the confines of classrooms and formal learning environments. These spaces are filled with endless possibilities for curious young minds and active explorers, but not all kids can play alike. Those with physical disabilities must often navigate a playground terrain not built with them in mind, leaving them with limited opportunities for exercise, socialization and outdoor play.

As a parent of a child with a disability, I am all too familiar with the feeling of despair when we find ourselves at a play space that is not accessible. Fortunately, we have come a long way over the past few years and public playgrounds are becoming more and more inclusive.

I wrote previously about our experience at our local Easter Seals playground (see HERE), and how life-changing it can be when all children are included.


I recently had the opportunity to speak with Jane Park Woo, Director of Too Small to Fail and Tiffany Harris, of Shane's Inspiration. Both Jane and Tiffany were featured on a panel that was hosted by UNICEF at the United Nation’s Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities back in June. Together, they are building accessible and literacy-rich playground environments for children, and we discussed how this work fits into the bigger conversation of early childhood development – particularly for children with disabilities. Their vision is to foster a bias-free world for children with disabilities, creating inclusive playgrounds and educational programs around the world that unite children of all abilities, and I am on board with that.


Knowing the value of outdoor play, I was thrilled to learn that Canadian Tire Jumpstart Charities plans to build a universally accessible playground in Mundy Pond Park, right here in our province. The playground structure will be a gift from Jumpstart to the City of St. John’s as part of the charity’s Inclusive Play Project, which focuses on removing accessibility barriers to sport and recreation.

Jumpstart is pleased to partner with the City of St. John’s to provide an innovative, inclusive play space for this community,” said Scott Fraser, President, Canadian Tire Jumpstart Charities. “The Jumpstart Playground will allow more people to enjoy Mundy Pond Park by giving kids of all abilities the opportunity to play outside together.


I am hopeful that this new playground will consider the needs of all individuals and will include equipment that can be accessed by wheelchair-users, without having to transfer out of their chair. This is a huge issue for our family. All too often, we have had the unfortunate experience of feeling the excitement of learning that a space or activity is accessible, only to find out that my child is "too disabled" to participate.

Guess what, guys? "Too disabled" is not a thing.

ALL children deserve the opportunity to take part in recreation and to develop to their fullest potential. When children are denied the opportunity to play and socialize with their peers, they are denied the chance to develop skills that will benefit them forever. Sometimes it is people's attitudes and perceptions of disability that create barriers. More often, it is not people but the environment that is the cause of exclusion, and that is not acceptable.

There are some beautiful examples of accessible and inclusive playground equipment out there. These next few photos were taken recently at the Janeway St. John's Maple Leafs Therapeutic Play Garden.


We look forward to the development of our local Jumpstart playground. There are some big plans for that area, and I am excited about the potential of a truly universally designed play space. Jumpstart's vision is to create a Canada where all kids have access to play. They state that their "goal is to ensure that these playgrounds become the standard for inclusivity by creating imaginative and accessible spaces where children of all abilities can share in the magic of play." I like the sound of that.

There is still time to contribute your ideas about the proposed playground. Email engage@stjohns.ca to join the conversation!

Sunday, July 14, 2019

The Firewood Factory

Have you guys been to the Firewood Factory?! If you haven't, you must go!

With the weather slowly creeping up to a summer-like temperature, Andrew and I were planning a little family backyard camp-out this weekend, but needed a little extra dry wood to get our fire going, so we thought it would be cool to take Brennen down to the woodlot and check out all that goes on there!

The Firewood Factory is a local, family-run business, owned and operated by Luke and Kaylen Janes. All of their wood is sustainably sourced from harvesters in central Newfoundland, and is seasoned over several months to ensure it reaches a moisture content of less than 20% (ideal for burning).

I actually lived on the same street as Luke a long time ago when we were kids (shoutout to Riverside Drive!!) It was nice to reconnect with him so many years later, and to meet his beautiful family, that now includes three mini-lumberjacks! I remember Luke as the little boy down the road with rubber boots and a fishing pole.. and he hasn't changed a bit! His rubber boots are bigger (and probably steel-toe) but he is still in his element when he is working outdoors.

We had a tour of the woodlot and took Brennen for a walk around to experience all that it had to offer. He loved the sounds of the machinery.. and the smell of all of that freshly-cut birch and black spruce was to die for! We honestly could have stayed there all day.


Um, also, no big deal, but I DROVE A TRACTOR!!! After taking a picture of Brennen by the big CAT, Luke asked me to hop in and he gave me an impromptu lesson in how to drive and operate the machine! You guys, it was the coolest thing! I ended up attaching a scoop, driving around the lot and into the warehouse to pick up a load of wood! A big check mark on my bucket list!


I am so grateful to Luke and Kaylen for making this such a cool experience for my family. Brennen loved it there, and I had an absolute blast!


This is Gunner - the family's 11 year old baby who loves spending time at the woodlot. He is a gentle giant and an unofficial Firewood Factory mascot. He was super chill, and just wanted to hang out in the shade. I could totally relate.


We came home from the Firewood Factory with several campfire bundles and a large crate of kindling, perfect for our backyard camp-out! 


We enjoyed a delicious dinner of pan-fried cod, beans and toutons inside the house before coming out to roast marshmallows over the fire. 
Brennen loves a good marshmallow!


.. and when he smiles like this I can't help but feel as if every painful moment of the past few years has led us up to today and has been so completely worth it.

Nothing could have prepared me for this parenting journey. The difficulties have been significant, but even more indescribable is the immense joy that frequently threatens to make my heart explode right out of my chest. I love my boy for teaching me what really matters in life.

THIS. This is what life is all about. These are my people.


What a wonderful way to spend the weekend! The thick perfume of citronella and wood smoke is embedded deep into the fibers of everything that made its way back into the house, but I wouldn't want it any other way.

Thank you to our friends at the Firewood Factory for helping us create such special memories!