Sunday, January 25, 2015

Top Picks for Binge-Worthy Netflix TV Shows

After my gall bladder surgery, I was exhausted and really stuck in bed for an entire week! While that might sound great to many of you who would love a break, I was finding it difficult to entertain myself. I was in pain and had very little energy to get up during the day as I recovered from the surgery and the anesthetic. With pain meds that made me sleepy and headaches that came and went, I had to just rest and watch TV.  It's been a while since I watched daytime TV, so I was actually excited to catch up on some of my old favourites. What I realized was that daytime TV stinks! What happened?  Thankfully, I had Twitter, Facebook and Netflix of course.

Knowing I had a long week ahead and time to myself to heal, I asked my Facebook peeps what shows I should binge watch for that week. Since I had already watched Orange is the New Black, Breaking Bad, House of Cards and House of Lies, I wanted to know what other series would be binge-worthy. The replies were awesome and I actually started a double binge on Weeds and an incredible prison show from Australia called Wentworth. This dark women's prison show has become my new obsession...it's a MUST watch (as I type, I'm watching my last two episodes on the laptop!).
My new FAVE!!!!
So, if you find yourself house bound, sick or bedridden recovering and need some ideas to keep you entertained, here are some great suggestions on Netflix Canada.
Suits
Gilmore Girls
Friends (can't wait to start from the beginning and watch the series again!)
Weeds
White Collar
Homeland
Dexter
Call the Midwife
The 100
The Killing
Mad Men
Nashville
Mr. Selfridge
Sherlock
The Musketeers
Rectify
Friday Night Lights
Downton Abbey

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, January 24, 2015

The Five Reasons Why I Won't Cheat on my Diet this Weekend

Two weeks into healthy eating and I'm down over 12lbs thanks to great advice and support that I'm receiving in our Facebook group. I'm thrilled that I've been able to go virtually carb-free (one serving of fruit a day with none of my fave english muffins or crackers) and wine-free for three weeks, without missing it at all. The key is also to drink at least 3L of water a day and I find myself craving it! I do have to admit that in the past, staying on a diet during the weekends has been a struggle.

When Friday hits and I have my weigh-in (I'm tracking it all through Weight Watchers as well), the voice in my head has made a switch.  I've gone from "yay, you lost weight by working hard all week, you deserve a treat" to "Saturdays and Sundays are still days of the week so keep up the great work!". Weekends are not a free-for-all when it comes to healthy eating! While they might be harder to navigate and avoid the social eating or eating on the run issues, the same rules have to apply if you want to see results. I'm soooo ready for results!  Since it's working for me and many of my friends are asking what I'm doing...here are the 5 reasons why I won't cheat on my diet this weekend!

photo credit: voiceinrecovery.wordpress.com

1. You can still have a great Girl's Night on a diet! Last night, our girl's night was a blast. I had requested a new protein appetizers rather than chips and dip (that I LOVE), so we filled our table with prosciutto wrapped melon, cheese and crackers (I skipped the crackers), veggies and dip, mini bacon wrapped chicken bites (from M & M Meats), pistachios, and shrimps. Delish! While the other ladies had red wine, I was really happy to have my lime Perrier. Last night was a great reminder that social events AREN'T about the food or booze, it's about the friends you're with.
2. The same actions produce the same results. I've been down this road to better health a few times, sometimes successful and sometimes not.  The problem was that I still had the same bad habits of reward days, "treats" and "free" weekends that weren't free at all! This time it's different. I keep hearing Dr. Phil's voice in my head..."how's that working for ya?".  Well, it hasn't been. So now, weekends count towards my goal and I'm pushing through to get there!


3. No such thing as a little cheating. You are either a cheater or you're not. I love my health guru leader, Carrie Burrow's article.  Would you think it's okay to just kiss another man, if you didn't go any further? The only one I'm cheating on, when it comes to my health, is me. Not happening anymore. I know that once I reach my goal, I'll be able to add a few things back into my diet, but not until then.

4. I've learned that "Food is just food" so you should eat when you're hungry. It's one of the most important thing that I've learned from Carrie's program and advice is that food is not comfort, it won't make your job or life better. Food gives your body the energy it needs to go about your day, nothing more or less. Reminding myself of this is one thing that has unburdened me over the last 3 weeks. I'm not thinking of food all the time. I'm also learning to know to eat when I'm hungry, not for any other reason. I love Carrie's advice...if you won't eat broccoli, then you aren't hungry and you're eating for another reason. Smart, huh? I've been really aware of this when 9pm hits and the kids are in bed. Normally, I would have grabbed a snack but not anymore.

5. Planning ahead is key. I've packed healthy snacks for the hockey rink (almonds or a cheese string), I keep my water bottle full all day and I try to eat as many meals at home as I can. Since we do go out at least once on the weekends for dinner, I have been reviewing the menus before we go out for dinner so that I know what I can eat. A healthy salad with goat cheese and protein on top, lean beef or chicken burger with no bun or even a chicken breast with veggies is a great restaurant choice! 

My skin is glowing from all the water, my pants feel better and I'm moving in my body better than I have in months.  I'm proud of the hard work I've been doing and very ready to keep up the work, throw out the "cheat day" mentality and put my own health first this year.  Hope these tips help you do the same!

ps. This post isn't sponsored...I just LOVE Carrie Burrows and the way she's made me totally rethink the way I eat!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Keeping Families Active at Sky Zone

There are two dilemmas when your kids get older- keeping them active and finding local fun family activities to do together.  

Last weekend's visit to Sky Zone solved both of those struggles! I've seen trampoline places on T.V. and in my Facebook feed, but I have to admit that the thought of jumping in public after having three babies had me a bit nervous about whether I needed a trip to the drug store for some "support" before I tried this type of adventure.  When we were asked to try out the newest Sky Zone location in Vaughan, I threw caution to the wind and decided to go for it! I wasn't entirely sure what to expect but to say that I was blown away, would be an understatement!

Sky Zone is the world’s first indoor trampoline park. Not only will a visit provide you with a fun family afternoon, but also a fabulous workout (in keeping with my new goal to put my own health FIRST this year)!  They have opportunities beyond just families, like events to help you fundraise, plan a kid's birthday party, attend weekly toddler time classes or even host a team building event. Sky Zone Vaughan (and all locations) have incredible facilities for all types of events!  

One of my favourite features was the accessible ramps up to the activities so that kids of ALL abilities and ages can enjoy the same fun including; the weightlessness of bouncing in the free jump area, flipping and landing in a pit filled with 10,000 foam cubes, dunking a basketball or even playing Ty and Jayden's favourite, dodgeball. If you have a child with special needs (including Autism), I'd highly recommend attending their first Sensory-Friendly Night for kids, later this month.


Check out their calendar for the upcoming events, follow Sky Zone on Facebook or just bring the kids, but here are some tips if you are heading out to one of Sky Zone's new Canadian locations including Ottawa, Mississauga, Toronto and Vaughan.

1.  Book your time online first. I recommend at least one hour ($13 each) but we would have loved two! You really can't believe how busy it can get and how beautifully organized they are at keeping participants to their 1-2 hour time slot, by getting everyone to wear their times on a sticker.

2. Fill out the paperless online waiver before you go. While the kiosks at the location are easy to use, it did cut into our jumping time! You will also be required to buy the reuseable SkySocks for $2 each.

3.  Let the kids have some freedom! Our boys always knew where to find us but they were able to have some independence because of the full team of staff that are at each activity. The rules are very clear and on display everywhere (you can even watch videos on the monitor), and each activity is fully staffed to keep your kiddos safe.

4. Grown ups can jump too! I just missed my turn to jump in the foam pit, but I did really love the free jump area! Show the kids you still have the enjoy to keep up.

If you'd like to try Sky Zone in Vaughan, 
Enter this contest below for a FREE Family Pass*

  a Rafflecopter giveaway
*Contest ends February 15th. Prize has no cash value and is non-transferable. Pass is for a family of four and does not include SkySocks ($2 each). Winner must be able to travel to Sky Zone Vaughan.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Bye Bye Gall Bladder

A huge Christmas dinner followed by some Chinese Food the next day was the first time I had an attack. I wasn't sure what the attack was, but I knew that it was horrific pain that felt like heart burn but was unaffected by antacids. Dr. Google and my mom pretty clearly diagnosed it as a gall bladder attack and I promised to go to the emergency room next time it happened (in an effort to listen to my body and put my health first this year).  

This past Saturday morning it started again and I wanted to go to Mackenzie Health ER, the hospital where I used to take Zackie often and the home of Zack's Dream Room. It was so odd to walk through those doors and register alone, not pack my stuff in a stroller or have a bag of meds and syringes with me, but I did it on a night where the wait was over 4 hours. Armed with trashy magazines and a phone with limited battery life, I was moved through the queue until I got to see a doctor. They wanted to get an ultrasound, but it was closed. Just my luck. I would have to come back tomorrow and start again. I went home and tried to get some sleep with pain meds, but poor Jayden was throwing up all night. 

Paul was scheduled to be in Dallas, but pushed his flight off so that I could go for my ultrasound to finally diagnosis this pain I've been having. The doctor came in the cubicle after another hour waiting and told me that Cholecystitis was the diagnosis. Not only did I have gall stones, my entire gall bladder was inflamed and he was going to call a surgeon for a consult. WHAT? This was when it got real and I got scared. I had made peace with the fact that I might need surgery for this, but right now? I wasn't ready and I was in the ER alone.

I was asked to wait in the chair area while they paged the surgeon to see the results and talk to me...that was when I heard Elmo's laugh. It was a quick laugh but it unmistakeably was Elmo. There was no doll, no toy and really only one child in the room, as I looked around for the sound. I still have no idea where that laugh came from. Just as quickly as it came, it was gone again. In that moment, I knew Zack was with me and I wasn't alone at all.

The surgeon decided that I was best to get the gall bladder out today and went through the risks and consent forms. My parents drove in from Fenelon Falls, my sister went to my house so that Paul could come to sit with me (after he cancelled his trip). Dressed in my stunning gown and hooked up to the IV, I was ready to head up to the 4th floor (home to Zack's Dream Room) and wait for my turn in the OR.


When they came to get me I started to get really scared.  I hadn't really had any surgery since I was very young and I was nervous. I'm a wife and a mom now, I had so much to lose. While I was wheeled down, my Dad and Paul walked with me and tried to calm my nerves.  We said good-bye and I was taken into the OR. The lights, the equipment, it all rushed back to the night Zack was taken to the OR at SickKids. Had he been scared of those lights, those faces, those tubes? It was almost as if I was feeling all that might have happened to him. I was really anxious and nervous but as Michael Bolton's "I said I loved you but I lied" pumped through the room (they wouldn't take my request for Nick Jonas), and the happy meds rushed through my veins, I felt comforted knowing my angel was there.

I woke up groggy with some great pain meds and Paul beside me in my room. Decorated with four new holes in my stomach, I was so glad it was over. My parents came to see that I was okay and I got to speak to the kids. Even my beautiful pediatric nurse friends from the hospital came to see me! That night though, I was really ready to sleep and then go home to my boys, in the morning.



The next morning, Kath came with a tea and Greek yogurt so that I could still stay on my no-carbs diet and I got the news that I had been sprung! My bestie helped wheel me out and get me home to my family. Not our usual glamour shot, but one that really shows our true friendship. I think this is my new fave.


I learned a few things over the last few days. One, that a gall bladder is a really light organ and really didn't help with my weight loss goals.  Two, that there are angels around us when we need them most. Three, that you know who you can count on, in good times and bad, sickness and health and four, that you need to listen to your body when it's trying to tell you that something's up.  

Life is far to precious to ignore the signs. 

Friday, January 9, 2015

Will you help me stay motivated this year?

It's certainly taken me a while to start writing again. Probably because we are still getting back in the groove after some much needed time off, but I also think I need to do some "planning" for the upcoming year and really make an effort to work on my vision for 2015. I know the 'it' thing is to find the "word" for your upcoming year, so I've chosen "MOTIVATION". This year is about identifying my goals, then finding and staying motivated. 



Here are my 5 goals that will require me to truly stay motivated!
 
1. Personal Health Goal: This goes beyond weight, although I have a goal in mind. My goal has less to do about a number and more about the way I want to feel in my own skin. After losing my first 30lbs two years ago, I enjoyed the feeling of confidence, but now I have more work to do. I want to be more active, take the stairs, get up from my desk regularly to stretch, see the doctors that I need to see and be more in tuned with my body. I want to eat for energy, not for emotional reasons (more on this next post). I've already started my journey to better health and clothes that fit again with the support of an amazing coach, Carrie Burrows and her secret Facebook group!  It's game-changing to have the expertise on your team, be able to ask the questions and know I'm not alone. One week in and I'm 5lbs down and feeling good about the work I'm doing to live a healthier life.

2.  Financial Goal: Last year was a really tough one for us and while the stress was almost too much to bare, it also taught us that we could be more frugal, make better financial choices and live on much less. My hope for this year, as we are now back on track, is to always remember what we learned.

3.  Blogging Goal: Even if it's just short, I want to document each week with a post about how I'm feeling, what's happening in our family, and our journey.  I also miss writing about Zack and because he's still so very much a part of every day, I want to keep his memory alive with my words. I'm also excited that this year will be the year to give my blog a make-over and finally use my own custom URL!  I've been paying for tjzmommy.com and with the help of my friend Ariane....I'll show you all my new site early next month (ps. any feedback on this site design would be appreciated).

4.  Friendship Goal: My goal is to pick up the phone ONCE A WEEK to call one friend whom I've been thinking about. Maybe it's an old high school buddy who I only communicate with on Facebook or maybe it's the online friend who sends me random dirty jokes (you know who you are)....either way, I miss those voices. I'm going to pick up a phone and hear them instead of using technology to keep in touch. 


5. Work Goals: I'm excited that this year I will actually launch the Volunteer and Mentor Programs that I've been working on at Children's Treatment Network. My goal at work is to learn as much as I can and use it every day to help the families we serve.


6.  Marriage Goal: Talk more. It's so simple and it's all I need to feel connected in our very busy lives. Making the time for dates and alone time will certainly be a bonus!


7. House Goal: Our boys are FINALLY getting their rooms painted and will have brand new bedding that really reflects who they are now. I'm excited that we bought some new furniture and have plans to slowly make-over the rooms that need some updating! I can't wait for my (our) vision to slowly be created in our home.

8.  Family Goal: In addition to making time to call my parents and sister more often, I'd love to have more visits with our extended family. But within our own home, our goal is to spend more time together. The boys have instituted "Family Friday" where we all decide on something fun to do together- skating, tobogganing, a movie, a hike or even dinner in pajamas. I love that our kids still want to hang out with us, so I'm going to savour it while I can.

So, will you help me stay motivated?

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Nana's Christmas Shortbread Recipe

Baking shortbread with my Nana is one of my fondest Christmas memories. She would often have the dough ready for my sister and me to cut and decorate with sprinkles. 


We would always decorate the holly with green on one side and red on the other, while Angels were always multicolour. Her secret to the sweetest and softest shortbread was to prick each precious cookie with a fork before baking. 

Now that I have her measuring cup and cookie cutters, baking my Nana's shortbread with my boys is our new tradition keeping not only her delicious at our Christmas dinner, but preserving her memories and giving us a chance to think of her each and every holiday. 


Ingredients:

1/2lb of butter
4oz fruit sugar
4oz rice flour
12oz all purpose flour

Cream butter and sugar.

Add in sifted flours.

Knead with hands



Roll out and cut with Christmas cookie cutters.

Prick each cookie with a fork a few times.



Get the kids involved in decorating the cookies with red and green sprinkles! 

Cook at 325 for 17 minutes.

Enjoy!

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.