Feeding the family…

Your alarm goes off and it’s time to start another day…but not just an ordinary day. Because let’s get real, that doesn’t happen when you’re a mom and you have kids to take care of!

Your day constantly revolves around the little people who follow you around calling you “Mamma” from morning to night. Oh boy, has life changed since becoming a mom! Things that weren’t important to us before are all we seem to think about these days. There isn’t anything that we wouldn’t do for our kids…their health and happiness is our top priority.

Marcus’ first taste of beef as a baby.

From the moment they’re born, we only want the best for them and that includes what we give them to eat. Really, think about it, how many of you were like me and never thought you’d be a breastfeeding Mamma and totally surprised yourself? How many of you started to grocery shop differently once it was time to start your little one on solid foods? I found myself buying more organic foods, making sure everything was local, making my own baby food from scratch (you know what’s going into it and its much more cost–effective.) All of a sudden, I knew what superfoods and iron-enriched foods were and why they were so good and important for the growth and brain development of these tiny humans. I found myself in the kitchen a lot more and researching all the food I was preparing for them.

One thing I learned was that 6 months of age is a critical time for infants to get iron-rich foods since iron-reserves are low. One of the best ways for baby to boost iron levels is to eat beef. I’ve battled with low-iron my whole life I wanted to make sure my kids were getting enough of it and from a great source. To quote Health Canada: “Iron is a critical nutrient in brain development. Deficiencies during infancy and childhood may have serious and irreversible effects.” Wow! Health Canada recommends that meats should be introduced as one of baby’s first foods at 6 months of age.

I still remember standing in the kitchen with my Baby Bullet preparing meals for my kids and then blending my creations for them…yes meat too! I actually started with beef, which I would purée with my breastmilk, and the kids would devour! From that we gradually moved on to more chunky textures, and then to finger foods. Still to this day, with my kids being 6 years old (Samantha), 4 years old (Liliana) and 2 years old (Marcus), they are always asking me to make their faves, which usually consist of things like lasagna, burgers, thin grilled steaks, kabobs, stir-fry, etc.

Samantha enjoying a burger while Liliana digs into her lasagna.

Just last night I made another one of the kids’ faves. Can you guess what it was? I’ll give you a hint…it’s healthy, tastes great, is good for them, is made with beef and topped with some fresh locally grown veggies. Wanna know? Watch the video below and see for yourself…

TACOS! Tacos are one of our family’s favourite meals, which we try to get it in weekly if not bi-weekly because it’s a great way to incorporate beef, which is a great a source of iron, as well as veggies, dairy and grains! What a great way to check all the boxes in one very popular meal.

So what are you cooking up for dinner? Don’t know? How about Oven Roast Beef with Simple Sauce or Tuscan Beef Kabobs with Quinoa & Roasted Cauliflower, CLICK HERE to check out the recipes.

Disclosure: This post is in partnership with ThinkBeef.caAs always the opinions expressed are my own.


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Calling all mermaids

March break is coming to an end and it has been a jam packed week filled with fun, fun and more fun! Today was no exception and our visit to Glama Gal Tween Spa Vaughan was the icing on the cake. It’s one of our favourite places to visit and we’ve been going since Samantha was just 23 months old. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while then you’ve probably heard me talk about what a fantastic place it is. Samantha still recalls her visit there with me when she was barely 2 years old and just days before Liliana was born. If you ask her she will tell you how we went to celebrate Mother’s Day just the two of us, she will tell you what we did and even what she wore that day…I’m not even exaggerating!

So last week when I was planning different things to do during the March Break of course a visit to Glama Gal came up and lucky for us they have a special package they are promoting that the girls have been dying to check out. I’m talking about their Mermaid package! What little girl or in my case what Mamma doesn’t want to be all glammed up and pampered like a mermaid, they had me at glitter haha.

The whole week the girls could not wait for Thursday to come just so they could go to the spa with their friends. From the minute we arrived the service was outstanding. They greeted all the children, learned their names right away as they took their coats, they asked the parents if there are any allergies that they should be made aware of. Being a Mamma of child who has a life threatening allergy you don’t know how happy that makes me. The fact that their establishment goes the extra mile and takes these precautions to ensure the safety of everyone who walks through their doors is something that gives me great peace of mind.

From there the girls (and Marcus who is also a big fan as you can see from his photo haha) laughed and soaked in every minute of their mermaid services. They got to mix their own ocean sparkle spa bubbles, picked out their polish for their ocean blue fizzy manicure, relaxed with a tropical citrus hand and arm massage as they sipped on tasty deep blue sea potion and nibbled on goldfish crackers. While in between they got some magical mermaid eye glitter and some shine on their lips. On the way out the girls made sure to hit up the gift area to pick up some fancy lip balm and get their special starfish glitter wish.

Everyone had an amazing time, including us Mammas. If you’re looking for something fun to do with your little ones…girls and boys (yup, they offer services for boys as well) then you definitely need to go and check it out. The Mermaid package is on till May and if you want to get in on the action be sure to ask about their Mom and Me Experience Mermaid package.

I won’t lie, I’m kinda jealous the girls got sparkles today and I didn’t haha!

For more information on Glama Gal Tween Spa be sure to visit them online,
“LIKE” them on facebook and “FOLLOW” them on instagram and twitter.

Disclosure: This post is in partnership with Glama Gal Tween Spa. As always the opinions expressed are my own.

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It’s time to love your HEART!

One quote that I love and live by is “eat well, laugh often, love much” and two weeks ago I did just that. I had the pleasure of attending the Canola Connect Culinary Workshop Series that was held at Kitchen 24 and it was an experience like no other. The minute I arrived I was asked a very important question…how do you love our heart? After giving it some thought I came up with “surrounded by family, friends and delish food!”. Think about it, there’s nothing better for me than being with the ones I love and sharing a meal with them. I’m sure most would agree. 

There’s something about getting together with great people to share a great meal and so, when I entered into the main kitchen and was greeted by Chef Rodney Bowers who was prepping our amazing dinner I was like, ok this is gonna be good! I saw salmon off to one side, chicken to another and a long table filled with colourful veggies and empty jars waiting to be filled. I was intrigued and dying to get started. As many of you know, I’m no master chef myself and the meals I cook at home are pretty simple so I was excited to get some tips from Chef Rodney. Now to be honest, before attending this event my knowledge on canola oil was very limited. Sure you know the basics but why canola oil and what are all these health benefits I keep hearing about.

So why canola you ask? Well where do I start? Maybe with the fact that it has the lowest amounts of saturated fats which also happens to be half that of olive oil. Or maybe it’s because it’s a great source of vitamins K and E and also packed with Omega 3 fats which are also known as an anti-inflammatory which help protect you from heart attacks and strokes. Or maybe it’s because it’s Canadian and is grown by over 43,000 family farmers on our Canadian Prairies which means local and who doesn’t love to support local.

At the event, I also had the pleasure of meeting Jeannette who is a farmer, a wife, and a mother from Alberta. Jeannette told us her story of how she got into farming and it was truly inspiring. Like many mompreneur stories a lot of ups and downs were involved but like many of us she never gave up. Giving up when you have little ones and have to make ends meet is not an option, you make it work…some how, some way, you make it work. Then Jeannette said something that got me thinking, she said “As a farming family we take care and pride in the food we produce. As a mother, what we produce on our farm is what I feed my own family. Not only do I want what’s healthy and safe to be on our dinner table but to be on Canadian families tables too!”. Canola is Canadian and how many other women like her are out there…A LOT! If I’m all about supporting fellow mompreneurs, local businesses and buying local then why hasn’t Canola been on my list. Well let me tell you it is now and especially after Chef Rodney Bowers shared some of his fave recipes with us that include some great and good old Canadian canola oil.

Since I’m on the topic of recipes here’s one that we got to make with Chef Rodney, it was quick, easy and amazing…so amazing that I have to share with all of you.

Chef Rodney Bowers’ Canola Salad Dressing:

* 1/2 cup canola oil
* 3 tbsp lemon juice
* 1 tbsp fresh chopped parsley
* 1 tbsp fresh chopped chives
* 1tbsp chopped taragon
* 2 tsp Dijon mustard
* 1 clove garlic, finely minced
* Salt and pepper to taste

Throw it all together and you my friends are good to go! If you want to have some fun with it you can do what we did, remember that table with all the great and colourful veggies I mentioned earlier next to empty jars? Well, you can create a fun and delish salad in a jar and use this dressing to go with it. Side note, the salads in a jar we all made ended up being a contest and I’m super stoked and pretty proud to say that mine was the winning salad!

The night ended off sharing a meal together with an incredible crew of people and some who I can now call friends. This is exactly what I was talking about when I said “eat well, laugh often, love much”! Here’s to cooking with canola oil while sharing some laughs and enjoying it with the ones we love and all while supporting our amazing Canadian canola farmers and their families.

*All Photos Taken By: Josh Tenn-Yuk*

For more information on be sure to visit Canola Eat Well online,
“LIKE” them on facebook and “FOLLOW” them on instagram and twitter.

Disclosure: This post is in partnership with Canola Eat Well. As always the opinions expressed are my own.

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It’s not too late to pack those bags…

It’s Friday heading into the March break and you’ve booked some time off work to spend with the kids but the idea of winter in Toronto isn’t exactly what you had in mind. You want sun, sand, heat and hey let’s throw a beach on the list. But where can you go without breaking the bank and that the whole family will love?

Lucky for you, I know just the place…it’s a secret little gem tucked away that offers all of that and MORE! I’m talking about Melbourne! Not Melbourne, Australia…Melbourne, Florida and it has everything for a quick escape whether it be for a few days or even something longer like a week or two.

Let me fill you in! Melbourne, Florida (near Orlando) is the perfect little place with so much to see and do and now with Porter Airlines offering non-stop flights there for incredible prices its makes for the perfect trip. Picture this…flying out of Toronto’s Billy Bishop airport and not having to deal with the craziness and delays of the bigger airports. You can relax in the porter lounge as you wait to board your flight with access to free newspapers, wifi and snacks because being a parent means you know how important those snacks are haha. Once you board your flight, get settled in, grab a book, give the kids an activity or throw on a movie and maybe indulge in a free glass of wine or beer (yup, free wine and beer is offered on the flight). Before you know it, you’ll be landing at the beautiful and newly renovated $20 million dollar Orlando Melbourne International Airport (MLB). When I had the chance to visit back in October I just could not believe how amazing the staff was and now efficient, quick and smooth the process was. We had our bags and were outside under the sun and palm trees in no time. I have to say that the best part was that once we got in the car we were at the beach and ready to surf in about 20 minutes time, now that’s awesome if you ask me.

Melbourne beach is absolutely stunning and with so many great beach front hotels you can’t go wrong or if you’re looking for more of a relaxed feel for a longer stay the beach home rentals are a pretty sweet option. With the Kennedy Space Centre near by you can head over to the visitor complex where you can have lunch with an astronaut, maybe even catch a rocket launch, if shopping is your thing then Ron Jon Surf Shop is a must visit (one of my personal faves and its open 24 hours), or go check out Exploration Tower, do some paddle boarding, surfing, kayaking, fishing, going on the zip line roller coaster…let’s just say you won’t be hearing your kids say “I’M BORED!”.

Another biggy for me just because I am a huge Disney fan is that Disney World is about an hour away so you can do beach by day and fireworks at Disney by night. I got the chance to do this while I was there and it was just magical. I don’t think I will ever get old of walking through those gates. Or if you’re all about Harry Potter like I am, maybe a visit to Universal Studios might be more your style. Head on over Ollivanders in Hogsmeade to pick yourself up a wand, grab a butter beer and enjoy some time before heading back beach.

Now if maybe you’re a parent reading this who isn’t off next week for March break but are thinking about a trip down the road you’re going to want to put Melbourne on the top of your list. It’s also a fantastic place for a 2 in 1 trip, so if you’re heading out on a cruise leaving from Port Canaveral then head out to Melbourne a few days prior for some fun beach time before you set sail or spend a few days when you get back as the port is just minutes away.

To recap, if you’re looking for a great sunny destination perfect for the family or even if you want a little adult getaway which I highly suggest doing there (ummm hello Disney without the kids is pretty awesome I won’t lie) Melbourne, Florida is the place to be. It’s a trip you can do on a budget, just a few short hours away and with soooooo much to do it’s really a no brainer!

Here’s a little video of how I spent some of my time in Melbourne! It was so good and now all this talk about Melbourne now has me wanting to pack my bags. Who wants to meet me at the Porter lounge?

Disclosure: This post is in partnership with Porter Airlines and Orlando Melbourne International Airport. As always the opinions expressed are my own.

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Infant Top 10 List

Guest Blog Written By: Barbara Ann Solomon of Barbara Ann Style Blog

I started this post probably three days before I went into labour, which was 2 weeks before my due date. I was excited to share some of my favourite items, and why I thought #babyNegin would love them. There were a zillion things that they say you need vs. what works best for you, and this can be somewhat difficult to navigate. For Trevor and I, we tried to keep things simple and ensure we invested in things that would compliment our lifestyle.

New Rides

1. Our new ride: Trevor and I had been driving a 10 year old coupe upon getting pregnant and one of the first things that EVERYONE told us, was that it was time for a new car. There would be no way, we could get a baby in and out of our current ride and it was time to look for a bigger option. After months of research (mostly on Trevor’s part) we agreed that we wanted an SUV, packed with all the safety features but not comprising on style and luxury.

We test drove a number of makes and models but kept coming back to the first we had seen, the new 2017 Mazda CX5. Some of the features we loved about this SUV were the rear-facing camera, 4-wheel drive, lane departure warnings, Skyactiv Technology and the Smart City break support. We found our perfect CX5 at the Westowne Mazda dealership, located in Etobicoke, with the help of Doug Warsh and Niki Figliano.

2. Baby Negin’s new ride: When shopping for strollers, options seemed endless with so many varieties in the market place. We knew we needed something compact and lightweight, that was ideal for long walks with Taco. We started browsing and testing out each stroller and we loved how easily the ValcoBaby strollers handled.

We picked the Snap Ultra Tailormade in denim, weighing just 8.2kg, this lightweight stroller is ideal for easy traveling. Suitable for infants with a full reclining seat through to 45 lbs, the stroller includes a beautiful boot cover and collapsible hood. It also has adapters available to pair with our Maxi Cosi car seat.

Coat: Club Monaco, Sweater: Club Monaco, Leggings: Noppies from Carry Maternity,  Boots: Uggs, Diaper bag: Skip Hop (on sale)

3. Shopping Cart Hammock: One thing that confused me, while getting ready for Sterling, was how I was going to be able to go grocery shopping. Typically a task I love to do, I couldn’t figure out how to push both a shopping cart as well as a stroller. I was then introduced to the Binxy Baby Shopping Cart Hammock, a one-of-a kind hammock that provides a safe and cozy seat that hangs elevated inside the basket portion of most standard shopping carts. It’s ideal for babies who are not quite ready to sit up yet and allows plenty of room for groceries. I also love that I can place my car seat on top of the sling and secure it to the shopping cart, for those quick trips to the store.

4. Baby Carrier: When we moved into our stacked town home, I knew that our stairs would be an issue once we started our family. Not wanting to leave an infant alone, I’d need to find an easy solution to keep my little one close while allowing me to move around our home. Once getting pregnant and bringing home Taco, the requirement for something that would be effortless became urgent.

I stumbled upon Solly Baby on Instagram (where I find and fall in love with a lot of brands these days) and was taken back by the beautifully designed fabrics of these infant wraps. Made in the US, the wraps are made from certified Lenzing modal, which is lightweight, buttery soft and a sustainable fabric sourced from the pulp of Austrian beechwood trees and dyed with environmentally friendly dyes.

I simply love that I can keep Sterling close and still go about my daily activities, and he seems to love it too.

Innovative Essentials

5. Smart Pump: Breastfeeding is something I become very passionate about leading into my final stages of pregnancy. In late November, I was a guest on the AM640’s The Parenting Show with Pina Crispo, which airs Sunday nights at 7pm and discussed the topic of breastfeeding (listen here), with host Pina of Chic Mamma, lactation specialist Katie Wickham, and the hilarious momma, Meredith of That’s Inappropriate.

Together, they prepared me, while scaring the shit out of me, for everything I’d need to know regarding nurturing my newborn. I walked away from the show, knowing that the most important things was to feed my baby, regardless of method. Whether it be through formula, breastfeeding, pumping or any combination of these options, I felt confident knowing that there is no right or wrong way to feed your baby.

Socks: Comrad

Being a busy mom, with the hopes of jumping back into the swing of a blogger lifestyle, I knew I’d need to use a pump to help share the responsibilities and ensure that there was always a supply of milk available for my growing son. The new Sonata Double Electric Breast Pump by Medela, is quiet, responsive and smart connecting to the MyMedela app which tracks your baby’s growth, pumping sessions and personalized content regarding lactation information, to help you reach your breast milk feeding goals.

6. Portable Baby Lounger: Being an entrepreneur means that even though you may have just given birth, it doesn’t mean the projects stop. I am fortunate, as Sterling is a napper, who will fall asleep basically anywhere, as long as he feels secure.

Enter the lightweight and beautiful Dockatot, a multi-functional lounging, playing, chilling, resting and snuggling dock you can take anywhere. Sterling sleeps like a champ in this 100% cotton, cozy and breathable nest available in two sizes, (Deluxe for 0 – 8 months and Grand 9 – 36 months), as its snug fit resembles the womb and makes him feel safe.

7. Easy Swaddle: Sterling, as mentioned is a great sleeper and we are fortunate because of that. We strongly believe in swaddling and creating cozy womb like environments, which has been proven to have therapeutic and developmental benefits. We tried a few different methods of swaddling and found that the most effective and easiest is with the help of The Ollie World Swaddle.

What we loved most about The Ollie was the design, the Velcro kept Sterling feeling secure in the moisture-wicking material and the opening at the bottom made over night diaper changes easy without the need to un-swaddle. Swaddling for us, has allowed Sterling to sleep safely and self-sooth throughout the night getting hours of quality sleep at a time.

8. The Cleaner Pacifier: I tend to fall in love with beautifully designed things, and hope that they product matches the level of design. With The Pop Pacifierby Doddle and Co, recently seen on Shark Tank, we’ve found that magic spot where function meets fashion. Recommended for babies 0 – 6 months (but suitable for older babies), this 100% silicone pacifier is designed so that the nipple pops back into its built-in protective bubble every time it falls, allowing for fewer trips to the sink to wash it.

Ring: Bluboho

Beauty and Brains:

9. Baby furniture that doesn’t look like baby furniture: Our living space, in our new home, was designed to be very open, with clean lines, bright and light colours (see our kitchen reveal and living room reveal). Trevor and I spent a lot of time curating the collection of furniture and decor to match both of our styles and allow for optimum entertaining.

With a baby on the way, we didn’t want to throw away everything we had done to create this aesthetic, and began the hunt for well designed baby items. We came across the ingenious Tripp Trapp highchair by Stokke, a Norwegian brand who’s focus is on creating products that encourage child development and to strengthen the bonds between parents and children in those crucial early weeks, months and years. Created in 1972, this chair is designed to grow from infancy (with the infant attachment) into adulthood by having adjustable seat and foot plates.

Shirt: Ripe Maternity from Carry Maternity, Pants: Noppies from Carry Maternity, Slippers: Walmart, Frames: Kam Dhillon from Clearly, Mug: Anthropolgie, Bowl: 1815 by Royal Doulton, Table: Universal Furniture

10. Rock-a-bye-baby: For the past few weeks, we have been very lucky. We did our research and found the perfect bassinet that allows Sterling to sleep well throughout the night, waking only when he has a wet diaper or requires a feeding. We knew we would want something that rocked, but was simple in design, and didn’t really find the need for technology to be involved (if he was a fussy baby we may have rethought our strategy).

We purchased the Canadian made Monte Design Ninna Nanna bassinet, which has a removable bed nestled into a solid birch rocker base and we loved everything about the stunning piece of furniture. When Sterling wakes up, he rocks himself back to sleep quickly, and the height is perfect for easy feedings throughout the night without having to leave my bed.

Blanket: Little Unicorn

I received products compliments of and/or in collaboration with Westowne Mazda, ValcoBaby, Binxy Baby, Solly Baby, Medela, Ollie World and Doctatot.

For more from Barbara Ann Style Blog be sure to visit her online,
“LIKE” her on Facebook and “FOLLOW” her on Instagram, Twitter & Pinterest.

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Because Kids Can’t Wait

Guest Blog Written By: Kim Moran, CEO of Children’s Mental Health Ontario.

Jan. 31, Bell Let’s Talk, is an important day for all of us impacted by mental health. It will be a busy day with many people sharing their experiences in public forums. But there is one voice we are not likely to hear above all others – it’s the voice of Ontario’s children.

That is why I’m asking all of you to raise your voice for children’s mental health, so that kids won’t be forgotten on this day.

My Story

As a mom to a child with mental illness, I know how hard it can be. It’s hard to watch our children experience mental illness; and it’s hard to get the right treatment when we need it. When a child suffers from mental illness, the entire family is impacted.

For my family, my daughter’s situation was extreme – at age 11, she became suicidal. Our family was in crisis trying to get the help she needed. We held on tight, trying to get by while we languished on wait lists for publicly funded children’s mental health services. At the same time, I was working and trying to keep my family on track. Within a few short months our daughter tried to die by suicide – it was heartbreaking. We were finally able to get help from highly trained children’s mental health professionals at a publicly funded community agency. But, we shouldn’t have had to wait. No child or youth should have to wait.

My family is fortunate. We still have our struggles, but we have effective coping strategies.

Now, as CEO of Children’s Mental Health Ontario, I speak with so many parents whose children have struggled with mental health. These parents are just like you and me. Thank goodness the vast majority of kids never get as ill as our daughter did.

Sharing and Connecting

One thing I have learned over the years is that when parents share experiences, we are empowered. Not only do we realize we are not alone, but we share advice and ideas.

For me, some of the best advice I received when my own family was struggling was around the importance of spending meaningful time together. It may sound obvious, but it was something that we needed to prioritize. With that in mind, in my family, dinner became almost a sacred ritual.

With busy schedules it is often challenging, but we do our best to make this an important connection time to share our thoughts and feelings. Sometimes we laugh a lot, sometimes we work out problems, sometimes it’s about scheduling, and sometimes it’s about…nothing. But stopping to make time together is so important.

What does your family do to maintain mental wellness and keep your close connections?

Let’s Talk About Anxiety

Anxiety is the most common childhood mental illness. If you have experienced it at any degree, you may be asking: How do you know when it is a problem, especially for a child or teen?  When is time for some form of treatment?

If anxiety seriously interferes with a child’s ability to do everyday tasks, such as attending school or hanging out with friends, or they are struggling to concentrate, focus on school work or sleep at night, they may need additional support. Behaviors vary across ages, but signs of a problem may include:

  • When the feeling of anxiety is persistent – not just in a period of time of big change
  • When the intensity of the child’s responses is outside the norm
  • Younger children may have difficulties sleeping, or may be prone to bedwetting, crying, tantrums, protesting separations and not settling after a short period
  • Older children may have stomach aches, withdrawal, difficulties sleeping, frequent questioning, need for reassurance from caregivers. They may also avoid attending school
  • Teens may show signs of withdrawal from family, friends or activities, spend more time on the computer, alter their sleep patterns, refuse to attend school and/or use drugs or alcohol

Dr. Marjory Phillips, Director of the Integra Program at Child Development Institute, an accredited publicly funded children’s mental health agency in Toronto, has these tips to use to support your child at home:

  • Listen to your child or youth’s worries and reflect the feeling before trying to problem-solve or give advice
  • Take their concerns seriously while at the same time expressing confidence in his/her strengths
  • Recognize that your child’s anxiety may pose challenges to the whole family
  • Be open to listening to your child or youth (ask and hear versus talk and tell)
  • Express empathy by staying calm and reflect back the child’s thoughts and feelings
  • Figure out strengths – when are things better, what helps, who helps, when is it best to talk, etc.
  • Resist asking too many “why” questions

If you feel your child or youth’s feelings of anxiety extend beyond the norm and are seriously interfering with the child’s ability to do the tasks of everyday life, consult your family doctor and visit to find a children’s mental health centre near you.

A Crisis in Ontario

Children’s mental healthcare in Ontario is in crisis:

  • Suicide is the leading cause of death among Canadians age 15 to 34;
  • Families are waiting up to 18 months for treatment;
  • For many, publicly funded child and youth mental health services are not available in their community;
  • Many never get the help they need.

There are currently insufficient resources to intervene in the early stages of a mental health issue (which is proven to garner the most effective results), and too often, intervention occurs only when children are suicidal and/or reach a crisis.

There are solutions. The Ontario government can fix this by increasing funding to community mental health programs to ensure that no child or young person waits longer than 30 days for mental health treatment, and that they can access treatments in their communities when they need it.

You can help. One easy way to help is to click here to send Premier Kathleen Wynne a message and let her know that our #kidscantwait for mental healthcare.


For more information on Children’s Mental Health Ontario be sure to visit them online,
“LIKE” them on Facebook & “FOLLOW” them on Twitter.

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The Season of GIVING is here!

The hustle and bustle of Black Friday and Cyber Monday have come and gone. Maybe it kick started some holiday shopping for you while you picked up gifts for loved ones or maybe you used it as an opportunity to purchase a few things for yourself. Now that that’s out of the way, what about helping people who need an extra hand? What about giving?

Today marks the start of the giving season. It’s Giving Tuesday, the one Tuesday in the year that thousands of Canadians give to a cause they care most about. So what is it that YOU care most about? This is the exact question that I’ve been asking myself. Of all the causes and people that I can help, who’s at the top of my list? It’s definitely something that has to do with mothers and children. After becoming a mother myself I’ve realized just how fortunate we are here in Canada. We have tons of amazing programs and support groups during and post pregnancy. We have great health care during our pregnancy and again post. And our children should they need, have one of the best hospitals around. Everything we could possibly need or want is many times just a phone call or short drive away. But it isn’t like this for everyone and that’s what breaks my heart.

About a month ago I was out with some friends and Cuso International was mentioned. I had never heard of Cuso before…what is Cuso? What do they do? What are they all about? Well let me share what I learned about Cuso that night.

Screen Shot 2017-11-26 at 11.07.00 PMCuso International is an organization that has been around for over 50 years and has been doing some great work in countries all over the world. Countries where people and communities are affected by poverty, exclusion and inequality like Ethiopia. Did you know that more than 80% of women in Ethiopia give birth without a skilled health worker which means that the majority of mothers have no help if they face complications before, during or after giving birth. This could mean serious injury, illness and at times losing their lives. A woman in Ethiopia is 55x more likely to die during childbirth than a woman in Canada. These mothers as well as babies are losing their lives from causes that are easily preventable with the basic health care and resources that we often take for granted here in Canada. Pretty scary right?!

How about this as some food for thought…

  • In Ethiopia there is 1 doctor for 26,943 people and 1 nurse or midwife for 4,237 people
  • In Ethiopia maternal mortality rate: 482 out of every 100,000 mothers
  • In Ethiopia under-five mortality rate: 59 out of every 1,000 births
  • In Canada there is 1 doctor for 484 people and 1 nurse or midwife for 102 people
  • In Canada maternal mortality rate: 7 out of every 100,000 mothers
  • In Canada under-five mortality rate: 5 out of every 1,000 births

Screen Shot 2017-11-26 at 11.10.56 PMCuso International is making a difference. Their volunteers are going into these countries and offering a wide range of skills, both medical and non-medical. They’re improving the quality of health care in their facilities and are empowering women and men to make informed health decisions. This means that with more training and better hospital protocols, health workers in places like Pawe Hospital (in Ethiopia) can recognize danger signs earlier, treat them faster and help more moms deliver their babies safely.

This is exactly what we need, we need more Cuso International volunteers to help these mothers and children. Seriously, think about it! Could you imagine what it would be like to live in their world for just a minute. To know that you can lose your life or your child lose theirs and for reasons that can be easily avoided is heart wrenching. So this Giving Tuesday, think about Cuso International and help support the Cuso CAN Fund…help save the lives of moms and babies around the world.

This is your chance to make a difference and help a fellow Mamma. To know that you are the reason she got the help, support and care that she needed in her pregnancy and can hold her child safely in her arms is a gift you can give that you can’t put a price tag on. Your monthly gift will be multiplied by 10, providing even more women and children with life saving health care.

Will you join the Giving Tuesday movement today and help support Cuso CAN Fund?

For more information and to make a donation to be sure to visit them at

Disclosure: This post has been sponsored by Cuso CAN Fund but the opinions expressed are my own.

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How Addiction Has Changed My Life

Guest Blog Written By: Frankie Nelson of Family Is About Love


This year has been filled with so many amazing memories and celebrations. My mother turned 70, my parents are celebrating 50 years of marriage (which is incredibly amazing!), my son turned 3, and my husband BJ and I celebrated our 10 year anniversary together. There was another huge milestone I celebrated this year; ten years ago I checked myself into rehab for the third and final time and gave up a bad drug habit knowing that if I didn’t do it at that point, I was going to die. I chose to live.

I remember telling my parents that this was going to be the time. Third time’s a charm right? I think they kind of rolled their eyes at me when I told them that–they had heard it many times before. Our trust had been broken, but for me, this time was different. I knew I was going to die if I kept going the way I was. When you are on drugs you are not really living. I rarely left my house, except to go out to get more drugs, and I had pushed away anyone who had ever loved me. I mean if you hate yourself it is pretty hard to let others love you.

I am often asked what led to my addiction? That is not an easy thing to answer, though one would think after all that group therapy I would have some clear ideas as to what my triggers were. Was it the internalized homophobia I felt growing up? Was it the fear of fitting in with my peers? Was it the severe anxiety I had about coming out to friends and family? Was it all the rejection I felt when I finally did came out? Was it the “gay-scene” itself with its rampant drug use? Or was it the fact I would never have the family and the white picket fence I had always dreamed of? It was definitely a combination of all the above. A deadly concoction for sure. I used drugs to numb all those feelings—they were too much for my sensitive soul to handle. I didn’t feel loved or worthy of love and that was killing me inside. These are all things I am still working on, and probably will be for the rest of my life, but I have found other ways to deal with those feelings now.

This all seems like a lifetime ago. It’s amazing just how much my life has changed in the past ten years. I could have never imagined such a life for myself. I was living hour by hour back then on social assistance just trying to make it through a day. Now look at me, married with a child, and because of a viral photo our family is now part of an iconic image that has helped change people’s ideas of what it means to be same-sex parents. Can you believe it? A former addict. It’s amazing how we can reinvent ourselves. Life is short and you need to live it to the fullest.

I wondered recently why I didn’t make more fanfare around this milestone this year. Why didn’t I have a party to celebrate (and I do love a good party!)? Why didn’t I acknowledge it with my friends and family? I am a teacher and a father now which means I am a role model for my students and my son. Sometimes I feel these two things are at odds with one another. I mean, how can a former addict be a good role model? Or can I? In fact, I can understand what many of my students are going through. I empathize with mental health issues, having struggled myself over the years, and I use strategies learned through counselling and rehab to help my students succeed at tasks that might seem too hard to achieve. If I can kick drugs, I can definitely help others achieve their goals. But I rarely get to talk about my past and share my story anymore. To be honest, I am not even sure all my family members know about my past. I used to volunteer at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) here in Toronto and talk to my peers that were new in rehab about how I finally achieved success. But life happens and that has fallen by the wayside I am afraid. Having a child can do that.

Frank volunteering at CAMH, 2007
Frank volunteering at CAMH, 2007

Recently, I have been thinking a lot about how I can best use my past experience to educate my son and my students as to the dangers of some drugs out there. I know I do not want to sound anything like Nancy Reagan, as I don’t think a “Just Say No” stance really works. I worry that if I were to share my past with my son, that this could open up a can of worms and give him the opportunity to use the old “like father like child” excuse. We have seen many celebrity offspring following in their parents troubled past. Though people like Kelly Osbourne grew up with her father doing drugs around her all the time, that is not the case for Milo. I could also get it thrown back in my face, but I guess those are the risks I have to take. I know my parents’ generation would just have me sweep it all under the rug and pretend it never happened. But I believe information is education, and I should use my experiences, both successes and failures, to help both my son and students to navigate their futures.

I don’t know how or when I will share this with my son. He is only 3 so I figure I have a few years to think about it. But I know I don’t want my son to grow up with lies. The truth will always set you free. I found that out when I finally came out and I have tried to live an authentic life ever since. I would love to hear from others who have had a similar experience to mine.

A version of this post was originally posted on Gays With Kids


For more from Frankie Nelson be sure to visit,
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2017 Annual Career Check

Guest Blog Written By: Melissa Mac of Melissa Mac Career Coaching


When the clock strikes midnight, what are you going to celebrate as you ring in 2018? How many January’s come and go with the intention of bettering our lives, but as we trudge through to March those intentions are left to the wayside? Give yourself a career check to help you plan for a happier and more balanced career in 2018.

What Happened in 2017?

Don’t raise your glass to hopes of a better year; raise your glass because you are taking solid, actionable steps to ensure that 2018 is a better year. How are you going to do that? By taking the time to focus on what happened in your career during 2017. Ask yourself:

  • Are you working for an organization that supports you and recognizes your contributions?
  • Are you working in a role that utilizes your best talents and strengths?
  • Are you working in a role/organization that offers a positive work/life balance?
  • Are you doing work that you find interesting and purposeful?
  • Are you on track with your projected career goal progress?

Imagine for just one moment that you just said “Yes” to all of those questions. How did it feel? Pretty terrific, right? Unfortunately, statistics reveal that most of you didn’t say yes to them all. When the average turn over rate is 17.8% and 71% of employees are looking to leave their current role, it is disheartening to understand that the majority of you likely didn’t even say yes to half of those questions.

Why Make Change?

Happy employees are 20% more effective in their role. We can’t just depend on our employers to take action to improve employee engagement and provide clear career pathing opportunities. Your career is, after all, your responsibility. You can take steps to be 20% more effective in your role and to be part of the 66% of highly engaged employees who have no intention of leaving their company.

Conduct an Annual Career Check

As the year comes to a close, it is an excellent time to evaluate your past year and plan for next year. You can do this in two easy steps:

  1. Take my Career Fit Quiz to help you determine if you are on the right path
  2. Download this Annual Career Check worksheet to help you reflect back and plan forward

Small and simple steps can have a big impact. Increase your awareness of your current career situation and be planful with your career goals. When November 2018 rolls around and you ask yourself these same questions, perhaps you’ll have more ticks in the yes column than the no.

For more from Melissa Mac Career Coaching be sure to check her out online
“LIKE” her on facebook and “FOLLOW” her on instagram and twitter!

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Just one of those days…

Yesterday I came across a post written by Bethany Jacobs titled “To The Mom Hiding In The Bathroom Right Now” on (click on the title to give it a read before continuing on) and let me tell you, it couldn’t have come at a better time for me.

Yesterday was a hard day! One of those days that I just felt like I couldn’t hold it together and was going bat shit crazy trying to do it all…be a mom, wife, take care of my 3 little ones, trying to take care of myself, run a business, host a radio show, teach, do my voice work, etc.

Wanna know what I mean? Well, let’s take a look at what my day was like…

I woke up bright and early to get the kids all ready (help get them dressed, washed up, do their hair, make breakfast, prepare lunches, brush teeth, etc) so I could drop the girls off at school while Marcus came along for the ride.

Ran back home to grab some snacks for the little guy, filled up my water bottle and headed to kickboxing. Almost at kickboxing when I realized, ahhhhh fack I forgot my water at home.

Workout done (barely survived the ass kicking) and it was now time to bring Marcus to gymnastics.

Brought Marcus to his class which was like another workout since it’s parent and tot and God forbid this kid follows the teacher’s instructions so I’m running after him the whole time. So much fun let me tell ya!

Left gymnastics and headed to the grocery store. Ready to park and was like ohhhhhh you know what would be great? A purse! Too bad I left it at Marcus’ class, okkkkkk back we go.

Awesome, I got my purse but now Marcus feel asleep in the car…ok screw the grocery store and just go home.

Got home and laid him down gently so he wouldn’t wake up and I could attempt to take a quick shower…alright shower done…WOO HOO, that was pretty sweet!

Marcus woke up, I gave him some food…there’s something about how it’s important to feed these little humans haha.

Oh look it’s time to pick up the kids early from school for their doctor’s appointment. Where the fack did the day go?

Got to the doctor’s office where the kids found the need to scream at the top of their lungs in the room while we wait for our turn. As we waited I couldn’t help but think to myself “thank God this room has a door so they can’t escape”. The doctor came in, checked them out and ordered some blood work so I packed them all up and we went to the lab. Oh sorry, those piercing screams you hear? That’s just my daughter losing her shit…oh she stopped for a minute…yup just enough time to turn to me and look me in the eyes to tell me that she’s hates me and that I’m a bad mom (because after all it’s my fault she needed blood work). At that point I was like, that’s cute, are we facking done yet? Let’s go! Oh wait we can’t leave, we still need to pick up some meds at the pharmacy…great another stop…ok done!

Piled everyone back in the car and off to the party store we went cuz it’s Marcus’ birthday on Sunday and I haven’t done shit. Side note…did I mention it was raining all day? Ya, sucks when you’re with kids getting them in and out of the car…NUMEROUS TIMES! So we got to the store and I was happy that the shopping carts had seat belts and I was able strap Marcus down. This kid is a shit show and I had zero strength or energy left to run after him so woo hoo for shopping carts with seat belts.

Party store done but only got 2 out of the million things I need. Ahhhh crap the food thing again…it was dinner time now and we still had to head to the mall for halloween costumes. I had a plan, hit up the food court first, then halloween costumes and then get the fack out. Sushi dinner and they all eat like champs…it was going well! I was in a groove as I pushed the double stroller with Lily and Marcus in it and with Sam by my side. We got to the store, picked out the costumes, paid and it’s was about half hour past bedtime, not too bad. At this point my husband popped into my head (who by the way hadn’t done anything wrong) and I kind wished I could practice my jabs and upper cuts on him just cuz he was home alone and I wasn’t haha.

Finally we got home! It was still raining so I hurried and got the kids out of the car and into the house. Wait girls, you need your meds before bed. Sam here you go, great! Go get ready for bed. Lily your turn…oh you don’t want to take this puffer? Oh and now you’re crying and screaming. Why are you crying and screaming? Just breath…pretty easy right?! Oh you don’t give a shit. Ok well you need to take your meds so let’s try…oh now you’re crying bad and screaming bloody murder and wait what’s that? BARF! BARF everywhere! Wonderful! Clothes came off and I cleaned up as the husband carried her up to the bathtub.

As I tucked Lily in I was in tears because I felt like a horrible mom who made her kid throw up. I bet the other moms wouldn’t have made their kid throw up. Lily hugged and kissed me as she said “I love you Mamma and tomorrow I won’t cry and will take my medicine” so naturally that made me cry even more cuz I love the little shit so much.

FullSizeRender 6So 2 down, 1 to go…it was just me and my little man, you know the one from my insta stories who refuses to go to sleep. I had to once again put my pile of work on hold because it was obvious that it wasn’t going to happen.

Reading Bethany’s post yesterday was timely. I’m a hot mess, I’m a shit show who can barely hold it together, I try to do the best that I can and sometimes I can barely get a grip on life while other times I manage a bit better. As crazy hard as it can be I wouldn’t trade it in for the world! I love my little shits and of all the titles I hold, the title of “MAMMA” is by far the best one I have.

I love you Samantha, Liliana and Marcus xoxo

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