Category: Family

6 Things Your Kids Should Do After Leaving High School

Written By: Claire Adams

Graduating from high school can be both exciting and stressful. On the one hand, it’s a big milestone for every child, something they can be proud of. On the other hand, college is just a few months away, and the pressure of their parents to enroll right away can often be too much. However, there is no real reason for them to start college the same year – there are many ways of spending their gap year wisely. So, if you’d like to help your child make the most of their free time after high school, here are six things they could do.

1. Encourage them to learn something new

Taking some time off means that they’ll finally have enough time to dedicate to something else, like learning a new language or improving their tech skills. They probably already have some ideas in mind, something they’ve always wanted to do but could never find the time to start.

There are many skills that can be useful in both educational and professional field, which is why you should inspire them to get involved wherever they can. It doesn’t have to be anything huge, and it shouldn’t be anything stressful; the idea is to have fun while using their time wisely, so they should choose something they will enjoy doing.

2. Help them improve the skills they have

Besides learning something new, they can also work on what they already know. For example, if your child likes editing pictures in Photoshop, they can sign up for a graphic design course and improve their skills. Or, if they like drawing or painting, they can sign up for art classes and become even better. In other words, if they are passionate about something, taking some time off to nurture that skill and bring it the next level can mean the world to them.

3. They can get a job

A good way to spend the time between high school and college is by earning some money. Getting a job can help your child become more independent and responsible. It doesn’t have to be a serious full-time job, though – any decent job can teach them how to work in a team and organize their time, which are skills that can be quite valuable in the future.

Moreover, there is always something that kids want, whether it is a new computer or a new pair of jeans. Getting a job would allow them to treat themselves to something nice and learn the importance of money and hard work. Even if they don’t buy anything, they can always save for the future. Plus, earning money on their own can be quite fulfilling, and having some work experience could help them land a much better job in the future.

4. Let them travel

Is there a better time for your child to see all the places they’ve been learning about? If you’re worried about your child’s safety, or if they’ve never traveled alone, there are many safe and fun student trips organized by Unleashed Grad Trips that can offer your child lots of opportunities for fun, education, and relaxation.

Traveling is also a great way for your child to leave their comfort zone and make new connections with people from all around the world. They’d get to experience different cultures, see different points of view, and develop skills like cooking, managing their finances, finding their way around in unknown places, etc. Therefore, let your child see the world, and they are guaranteed to return home much more mature and refreshed.

5. Suggest volunteering

Just like getting a job, volunteering can teach them responsibility and organization. Plus, they’d feel great about themselves once they realize that they can make a difference and do something useful for the community.  Moreover, doing charity work shows that they are compassionate and capable of adjusting to unknown situations, especially if they choose to volunteer abroad. This is something that would look great on their resume, and it would surely be a life-changing experience for your child.

6. Allow them to relax

It’s not the end of the world if your child doesn’t know what they want to do next. Some kids just need time to unwind and figure things out, so try not to make a big deal out of it. Let them do some research, try out new things, or just relax and think things through. After all, it’s better to take some time off and rest than enroll in a college right away just to realize one year later that they’ve made the wrong choice.

There’s more to life than studying, and there are many ways to learn besides going to school. So, let your child take some time away from hovering over a book, and encourage them to spend that time wisely. This way, you can rest assured that your child will be much more motivated and more likely to make the right choices in regard to their future.

 

About the Author

Claire is a personal and professional development expert who believes that a positive attitude is one of the keys to success. She enjoys life to the fullest in the healthiest way possible and loves to share her insights into parenting, education, and entrepreneurship. Feel free to reach her on Facebook and Twitter.

 

Knowing When Not To “Ovary” Step Your Boundaries

To empower change, you need to be a driver of change.

I started my blog almost three years ago and the driving factor was to inspire others’ through experiences that I share from my own life and from other amazing people. I always felt that we can learn so much from one another and it helps us empathize with the paths that people walk through.

Not one person lives the same life or has the same experiences as another. That is why it is important to create a community of understanding and support.

But it wasn’t until I got into the parenting world that I have seen another side of “human interest.”

We all have been asked a million in one questions about our lives by curious people. But when do the questions become too personal?

Now I am an open book ever since becoming a parent. What you see is what you get in layers (I have to be honest). I tolerate a lot of questions as I want to be respectful and nice but I really don’t think that anyone should endure it. Even if it is perceived as “normal” questions to ask.

Recently, I have been asked if I was expecting as a few people noticed that I was interested in attending a Baby Show (Thanks Facebook for sharing events that I am interested in. This is an issue that I don’t even want to touch on…yet). Now I am not sure how that conclusion came about since I do write a blog on parenting and am the Assignments Editor at The Baby Spot. But that is beside the point. Of course I shared my thoughts online as it can be therapeutic to vent online for all to see. Then it had me really thinking, “Why do people ask and why do they care?”

I read an article awhile back that spoke volumes about wanting or getting pregnant was no one’s business. And it is very true! Now I know many people who don’t see the harm in asking so let me bring in my experience as that is the only way I know how.

Back in 2014, I gave birth to a healthy little baby girl. We were all thrilled as my husband and I were married for already seven years so people were starting to really question if babies were in our future (didn’t know there was a timeline of having children after marriage but to some there is). I thought this could be the end of the baby questions but unfortunately it was not and I wasn’t too surprised. As we have been programmed to ask these “normal” questions.

We were even asked why it took us so long to get pregnant and if there was something wrong with us. Once I had the courage to respond, I replied with tears in my eyes, “There wasn’t a problem. We were just grieving the loss of our baby that we miscarried before we had our healthy baby girl.” This was the first time that we were disclosing this information to people and while many empathized, others continued with questions. So I slowly developed a thick skin to brush the insensitive questions and played it off that the people who were asking “didn’t know any better.”

But I think it is time to bring this to light as this momma and many others have had enough.

Unless a woman has come to you to talk about her pregnancy goals or life, don’t ask!

Reasons Why Not To Ask

We don’t know what one is going through and some women could be going through any one of these reasons as this is why you should not ask:

  • Grieving a miscarriage
  • Difficulty in getting pregnant
  • Financial strain (News flash! Kids are expensive)
  • Suffering from other health issues
  • In an abusive relationship or just a rocky relationship
  • Does not want children (There is nothing wrong with that)

The list could go on and on. The bottom line is that they are not your ovaries to care so much about. Did it ever occur to people that those constant questions could actually cause the person stress? Imagine the health issues that stress brings onto a person!

I am sure that the questions come with no malice attach to them but it doesn’t mean it should be acceptable either. Let’s break the “normal” and start asking less questions about others and start listening more. You would be surprised at how much someone can disclose without being asked.

Now onto the question on many minds…Is Momma Braga pregnant?

The answer is very simple and that is NO. Do I want another? Only time will tell. But if I do and I do become pregnant then I will announce it with great pride. In the meantime, I am enjoying being a mom to one energetic daughter who has taught me that being a mother is the hardest job that I will ever have.

Please let’s respect one another and let’s break old traditions. Be the change by leading by example. Change can only happen if you do something or in this case not ask the questions.

Until next time…Happy Parenting!

–          Momma Braga

Eggciting Fun At Aqua-Tots Swim Schools

Fun, swimming, and Easter Eggs…Oh My!

That is what the Easter Egg Hunt Event was like at Aqua-Tots Swim School Mississauga on a crisp sunny Sunday afternoon.

We were thrilled to attend this member-exclusive event which was an all-ages and complimentary with the annual membership to the school. It is one of many great perks of registering at Aqua-Tots Swim Schools.


We arrived a little early which gave us some time to settle and enjoy the Easter décor around us. We of course could not miss the opportunity to take a photo with the balloon carrots that were so adorable!

There were tons of activities to do during the event such as arts and crafts; story time; egg on a spoon race and of course swimming with an Easter twist!

Nikki’s favorite was doing the crafts as she made a bunny and a chick for Easter. But then the best part for her was to swim with daddy. We got her all ready to hit the pool and to her surprise the Easter Bunny arrived! Now I thought her excitement for Santa was top notch but she might have been even more excited to see the Easter Bunny there giving Easter eggs to all the boys and girls in and out of the pool.

When she caught three Easter eggs, she was on cloud nine and insisted that she swim with the eggs that she got. It was so great to see her enjoy herself so much and she couldn’t stop grinning from ear to ear. This twist in swimming was well received by Nikki and it might have made her enjoy it even more (if that is even possible!).

After an hour of some great swimming with dad, Nikki was all tired out and ready to head home. It was another packed afternoon full of fun and adventure. This is just one of the many reasons why we love Aqua-Tots Swim School. Not only do they teach a very important life skill to children but they also host events to really embrace family quality time together.

Thank you Aqua-Tots for another great event and for giving my husband the opportunity to bond with our daughter on something that they both love to do and that is swimming. We can’t wait to see what other events that they are going to do this year! I am sure they will be just as great. 🙂

“Mommy I had SO much fun! I love swim class! The best day EVER!” – Nikki, Age 3.5 Years Old

If you would like to learn more about Aqua-Tots Swim Schools feel free to contact them at (905) 848-2782.

Until next time…Happy Parenting!

-Momma Braga

 

This article is brought to you in partnership with Aqua-Tots Swim School, Mississauga.

Eggspiring Easter Hunt For Newborns

Easter egg hunts are fun to do and one that we enjoy doing in our home. With my daughter being three, her understanding of the Easter Egg hunt is impeccable especially if it involves finding chocolate. This makes the preparation for the Easter Egg Hunt easier but with a new addition to the family I had to think of a way to involve her as I would hate for anyone to feel left out (my newborn niece won’t notice but I will). 😉

My sister is the much more creative one and she has always come up with ways to make holidays and occasions fun for my daughter so this time I wanted to do something special for her daughter this Easter season.

I thought long and hard about how I can incorporate a newborn friendly Easter Egg Hunt and after a trip to my local dollar store…I came up with a simple way and it was going to include the parents!

I am calling this activity, “Eggspiring Easter Hunt.” So how does it work? Let me give you my simple instructions for some Easter fun for all.

Eggspiring Easter Hunt

This Easter Egg Hunt will involve the parents to do the hunt on behalf of their newborn but of course they can carry their baby with them as they search. There will be decorated eggs hidden in the areas that you have picked for the hunt. As each egg is found, there will be an inspirational quote attached to each one. These messages can be kept to inspire the baby as they grow. These can be used as good wishes for the baby.

Instructions

  1. Purchase Easter eggs that are either already decorated or that you need to decorate yourself. We purchased our ready decorated Easter eggs from our local dollar store.
  2. Come up with some inspirational quotes to add to each egg. We used some classic Disney inspiring quotes as they mean a lot to our family.
  3. We added the quotes to a bunny shape template. Once the quote is added you can cut out the bunny and if you have an older child, they can color it for the baby. If you would like a printable template, click here.
  4. Attach the bunny with the inspirational quote to each egg. We used a pipe cleaner that we attached to the string already on our eggs.
  5. Then on Easter, hide them when the parents are not looking. 😉
  6. Then start the Easter Hunt magic. Watch as each message is read out loud and see the parents enjoy the inspiring wishes for their newborn.

With these steps above, you will have included one of the youngest members of your family and even though they may not know exactly what is happening. They will appreciate the thought as they grow with the inspiring messages around them. But this too will make the parents of the newborn glow with love. I know this is how my sister will feel.

We can’t wait to try this activity out this Easter and spend some great family time together. That is the one thing that I love the best about the different occasions we celebrate as we get to spend time with those that we love and care for.

If you are celebrating Easter, I would love to hear from you on how you are celebrating in the comments below.

Until next time…Happy Parenting!

-Momma Braga


 

 

 

Momma Braga’s 7 Bests of 2017

For the last two and a half years, I have had the opportunity to work with companies and brands through my blog which I am truly grateful for. I have met some amazing people who I can call friends and have seen some really neat products.

Therefore, for the very first time I have compiled a list of “Momma Braga’s 7 Bests” and you may find that some of these products can be great gift ideas too!

Each company listed below is fairly different from one another but one thing that they have in common is the love of families in everything that they do. They all have superb customer service and they have all been previously added to the Momma Braga Recommended List. I am just finally writing an official one out. 😉

*Please note that this is list is in no particular order and this is not a sponsored or paid article by anyone listed.

Mimos Pillow Canada

Mimos Pillow offers parents a safe pillow option for baby which also helps prevent and correct flat head syndrome. Now a Class 1 Medical Device in Canada, their mission at Mimos Pillow Canada is to lower the astounding 47% of babies that develop cranial deformities (flat-head syndrome). The Mimos Pillow has undergone clinical trials for effectiveness and is international laboratory tested for breathability (TUV).

The Mimos baby flat head Pillow both prevents and corrects positional skull deformities. This is why we love this product! It is doing an amazing thing for babies all over the world and helping parents sleep with peace at mind knowing their baby has a safe pillow to use.

Remember that you can use promo code: MOMMABRAGA at checkout to get $10 OFF your purchase of a Mimos Pillow. Babies will thank you and their parents too! 🙂

EZPZ

The original all-in-one placement + plate. EZPZ provides a stress free meal time experience with their mats. The mats suctions directly to the table, making it nearly impossible for tiny hands to tip over. It is designed for infants and toddlers (9+ months) with a variety of different colors and styles available. We also can not forget the Care Bears collection that was recently launched (possibly my favorite of them all!). EZPZ also has the play collection where arts and crafts can be super fun with them.

The happy mat promotes self-feeding and it helps children develop their fine motor skills. It also helps children with special needs such as autism, down syndrome, cerebral palsy, and low vision. Their products are tested by feeding specialists and therapists which makes it comforting to know that it works with families in mind.

EZPZ also has launched ONO which is a pet line which is super cute! Hoping to feature this on Momma Braga soon. Now your furry family members will have a bowl that involves less mess!

I have always been a fan of EZPZ since day one and will continue to be one as their products are amazing and they have an amazing company philosophy in helping families.

These products would make great gift ideas and you can purchase them directly online on EZPZ’s website and if you live in Canada, you can purchase them from the Canadian distributor, Hip Mommies.

I See Me!

I See Me! provides the highest quality, most personalized children’s books. Their mission is to increase self esteem in children through personalized books that celebrate the uniqueness of each child. The goal is to show each child how absolutely unique and special he or she is, to teach the child how to spell his or her name, and to build vocabulary skills. However, I See Me! does a lot more than that and I am not sure if they even know it…they give family moments and memories to share together!

Being able to read a personalized story about your child to your child is a wonderful experience. The face your child makes to hear that they are the star of the story is priceless. With each page turn is a memory you are making with your child and it can be enjoyed again and again. There is something special about a book and it becomes magical when every detail in the book in around your child. It becomes a keepsake for a lifetime.

This would make a unique gift for a child that they will treasure forever. We can’t get enough of their beautiful stories and we have become fans of all that they do. I have already started looking to see which books I will be getting for my soon-to-arrive niece.

If you would like to see what they have available and how you can order a copy for a special child or even adult, feel free to check their website.

The Nice Bench Co

The Nice Bench Co. is a kids’ furniture + accessories brand dedicated to supporting non-profit organizations who help lead the fight against pediatric cancer – a cause very close to heart and home.

The founder of the Nice Bench Co is Kidpreneur, Owen who is only nine years old. He definitely has impressed Momma Braga with his amazing skills and heart. We recently ordered a growth chart from him and it was superb. There should be no surprise that they made it onto the list as their story inspires hope, strength, and love.

This would make an excellent gift idea and not only would you be supporting a kidpreneur follow his dream but you would also be helping families in need.

We just love all that they do and I am sure this is only the start to Owen’s successful business venture. To purchase a great product from The Nice Bench Co, make sure to visit their website.

A Little Leafy

A Little Leafy is a small local shop who is doing big things in the world and that is smiles. With a creative passion, business owner, Stef, turns her art into “punny” designs. These designs can be on mugs, pillows, shirts, cards, etc. You can’t help but smile when you see what she has created.

What stands out with A Little Leafy is something that you can’t really buy and that is passion. When you meet Stef or when you deal with her company, you can’t help but notice the heart she puts behind everything she creates. She honestly LOVES (I think more than I do of my blog – didn’t think that was possible) what she does and it is reflected in her creations and in her interactions with her customers. That in itself is what makes A Little Leafy part of Momma Braga’s Bests and it should be on everyone’s wish list.

To see what “punnies” are available to purchase, please visit the Etsy shop online and you won’t be disappointed.

Ever After Entertainment

Ever After Entertainment is the premier choice for character entertainment in the Greater Toronto Area. Their characters bring the same magic and authenticity to your front door that you would find in theme parks around the world. They believe in making dreams come true by inspiring the imagination of children, both young and young at heart.

They truly are amazing as we have used them this year for my daughter’s third birthday. The service was superb from start to finish. Ever After Entertainment offered so much more than a character to celebrate a special occasion. They offered an opportunity for the adults to feel like a kid again and to the children, that dreams can come true if you believe.

If you are looking for entertainment for your child’s party or even for special event like a bridal shower, look no further as Ever After Entertainment is the top choice. They offer different types of parties that you will need to check out such as the Princess PartyFairytale Party, Superhero Party, and Star Warrior Party. There are so many options and no matter which one you pick, it will not disappoint! Make sure to book in advance and you can check out their pricing here. It truly is a magical experience!

Aqua-Tots Swim Schools

The school was originally founded in Arizona in 1991 and has grown considerably over the years to have a strong North American and international presence thanks to its carefully crafted swimming program for children. Aqua-Tots Swim Schools Mississauga is the first Aqua-Tots location in Canada and has had its doors open to the Toronto West and Mississauga communities since January 2017.

With a focus on safety, a heated pool, a facility designed for families, and on-going progress reports across eight swim levels, Aqua-Tots Swim Schools introduces babies and children of all ages to safe swimming and water practices. Open six days a week, with flexible morning and afternoon lesson times, the swim schools offers a range of classes.

Here is why we love them:

  • Great programs that are tailored to toddlers and children to help them gain the skills needed to swim.
  • Flexible schedules available for families which is so great for working families.
  • Clean and safe environment. They are extremely clean and have safety in mind. As a parent, it is important to learn about your swim schools safety procedure.
  • Caring instructors and staff members who make you feel like part of the family.
  • It’s fun! Your child learns and has fun at the same time.

You can give the gift of swimming lessons to a child this holiday season and Aqua-Tots Swim Schools would be the perfect place to get them. To learn more about how to purchase a certificate, feel free to contact the Mississauga location at 905-848-2782.

There you have it! Momma Braga’s seven bests of 2017 and they all hold a very special place in our hearts. It was a hard list to compile but they all reach the Momma Braga standard with superb service and family at heart.

From the bottom of my heart, I want to extend a big thank you to all the companies that have worked with Momma Braga this year as it was a true honor to work with all of you and promote your brands to my amazing readers from all over the world. I am hoping that next year, I can bring a lot more to everyone and hoping to compile a even bigger list of bests! 😉

Until next time…Happy Parenting!

-Momma Braga


 

Life Just Got A Whole Lot More EZPZ Caring

Last year I was introduced to the products by EZPZ and then had the opportunity to introduce them to all of you. In case you have forgotten (which is hard as they are super amazing!), their mats are an all-in-one placement + plate/bowl that captures kids’ messes. It suctions directly to the table, making it nearly impossible for tiny hands to tip over. It is especially designed for infants and toddlers (9 months+); however, I have to admit that I have used it too. 😉

This product has been one of my ultimate favorites and just to clarify they are the original!

So how could something that I love so much get any better? Partner up with the Care Bears™ of course!

If you grew up in the 80s like myself you definitely remember the lovable Care Bears™ who showed us how to have fun, be caring and kind. The Care Bears™ had his or her own trait and that was reflected on their tummy such as the sun for Sunshine Bear. I watched it often and had a few of the Care Bears™ in my collection of toys growing up. So imagine how excited I was to hear about a Care Bears™ Collection coming to EZPZ!!!

We received the Care Bears™ Mat In Share Bear™ (Purple) and the Care Bears™ Bowl In Funshine Bear™ (Marigold). There are a couple more colors available and each one has a meaning.

Share Bear is a nurturing and generous bear who considers everyone her friend. Carefree and loving, Share is happiest when she’s giving or baking!

Nothing makes Funshine Bear happier than hanging with friends or going on adventures. He makes the most of his days with fearlessness and sunny optimism. Funshine’s belly badge reflects this spirit – a smiling, blazing yellow sun!

Their meaning was absolutely beautiful and very fitting to the EZPZ brand. I would say this is a caring perfect partnership.

Now it was time to test out the new special editions.

Nikki was as excited as I was when she saw the Care Bears™ Collection and asked if she can use it for dinner. Of course our answer was YES! So that night we prepared dinner and at the table her Care Bears™ Mat In Share Bear™ was ready with her meal neatly in the spaces on the mat which look like a Care Bear. This design makes eating that much more fun!

Nikki and I give the Care Bears™ Collection 5+++ “care bear count down” out of 5. The benefits are all the same as the Happy Mat; easy to use, clean and store. It is 100% silicone; dishwasher safe; BPA free; PVC free; Phthalate free; hypo-allergenic; and does not harbor bacteria. We highly recommend this product to any family and this would make an excellent gift for any child and parent who would love a mess free dinner!

To purchase one, please click here. If you are located in Canada, please visit Hip Mommies who is one of the amazing distributors to purchase one.

Make sure to follow ezpz on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and YouTube for helpful feeding tips from Ms. Dawn Winkelman, Speech Language Pathologist & Feeding Specialist for EZPZ. There is also great other fun shares and great giveaways!

Until next time…..Happy Parenting!

– Momma Braga

Ten Years After “I Do”

A happy marriage is about three things: memories of togetherness, forgiveness of mistakes and a promise to never give up on each other. – Surabhi Surendra

Today is a special day in my life as I celebrate my ten year wedding anniversary with my husband, Mike. My first reaction to the ten year mark is, “Wow, 10 years?!” It astonishes me how quickly the years have gone by and not only has it been ten years of marriage but we have been together for 17 years

The Beginning

Little did I know that at the age of 19, I would have met my life partner. But I did and at that time Mike was a very shy guy who only managed to say one word answers to my list of questions. I honestly didn’t think I had a chance with him and he couldn’t possibly be interested in me since his responses were so quick. But to my surprise, he was interested and called me the next day. Our relationship grew beautifully each and every day. While dating, I stayed by his side while he was being diagnosed with Wilsons Disease and I was happy to be there for him during that hard journey. Mike often comments on how he knew I was for life as I showed it by being there for him and doing everything that I could to help him. I told him that this was called love.

As the days grew to months and the months turned into years, we just knew in our hearts that we were made for each other as we complimented one another so well.

After four years of dating, Mike decided to go on one knee and propose on my birthday which was really sweet (this works for me as there is no way I can forget the date!). After asking me a couple of times, I finally said yes. It could have been the shock of being asked that delayed my response. Two years later we got married and started to build our life together.

As we were preparing for our big day an accident had happened with Mike at a workplace that he was then employed at. A car ran over his foot as it was backing out of a parking spot. Unfortunately, the driver did not see Mike walking by. His injury was a little more significant then what people expected as all the nerves in his foot where damaged. We didn’t even know if he would be able to walk down the isle on our wedding day. But with a lot of physiotherapy, chiropractic treatment and determination, Mike was able to use a cane down the isle. We did not let this stop us from being happy on one of the most important days of our lives. We stayed strong and had a beautiful wedding. Healing took a really long time for Mike but he did and was then able to work again.

Married Life

Our married life has been a journey full of ups and downs but what marriage doesn’t?! All the good and bad times are what made our marriage stronger. Ten years is a milestone and you go through so much together.

We purchased our condo together and just recently sold it to purchase our first home. We adopted our furbaby, Lily and then experienced grieving her loss together. We struggled together to have a child, then we did conceive and not long after we were grieving a miscarriage together. After a couple of years after the miscarriage we were successful in conceiving again and through my pregnancy I was sick often. But Mike stayed strong by my side and after being diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes, he was my rock! I have a fear of needles and the thought of checking my blood sugar would scare me. But Mike was the one who cheered me on and told me that it will be all worth it once we were holding our baby girl. It sure was!

On August 1, 2014, our life changed forever with the addition of our daughter, Nikki. This is where married life shifts as now it wasn’t just about us but about the extension of us. A child changes more than what the books tell you. This is why it is so important to stay strong together and be partners. We have always agreed that we need to work together in raising our daughter together. At times it is a bit tough with Mike’s shift work and when it gets too hard, we re-group to re-focus again.

Almost a year after I had Nikki, I was laid off from work and we had to make the tough decision on what we were going to do for our family. This is when I became a stay-at-home mom to care for my daughter and Mike supported me through it all. Mike has been a great supporter of my blog, Momma Braga and has helped me transition back to the workforce to financially contribute to our family. I couldn’t have asked for a better life partner!

Fast Forward To Today

Today, I am extra thankful for these ten years and if I could do it all over again, I would without hesitation. We are not perfect and I wouldn’t want it to be. I love my husband for who he is and for all his imperfections. I am thankful that he accepts me for all my imperfections and craziness at times. I am thankful for the life we have and continue to build. I am thankful for our energy ball, Nikki, who keeps our life vibrant. There is so much to be thankful for.

As we celebrate our ten years, we know that we worked really hard to get here. It wasn’t always easy but it has been our journey together.

To my husband Mike, thank you for always loving me and for being my partner in life and in parenting. I look forward to our many more years and raising our daughter together. Ten years is an amazing milestone to reach and I couldn’t have asked for a better half. Happy Anniversary!

Until next time…Happy Parenting!

-Momma Braga

 

A Widow’s Perspective: Life without Your Life Partner

“My life is extremely full, I wouldn’t have it any other way!” – Kim

Kim Sutherland is a working mom with two grown boys, ages 22 and 17. Kim has enjoyed a full time career in the travel industry for 20+ years. About ten years ago she opened up her own décor business, as she always had a desire to be an entrepreneur and gain some additional income.

Kim has a busy schedule; however, she is careful to build in time for herself, her family, and volunteering. Kim fosters Labrador Retriever puppies for Dog Guides of Canada. She provides a loving home, follows specific training guidelines to prepare the dogs for their future “service” to a Canadian with a disability. All of the above keeps Kim very busy, and she says she wouldn’t have it any other way.

What many people may not know about Kim is that she is a widow and became one at a young age with two young children to care for. You can say that her world was rocked but how she coped is an inspiring story that I get to share with all of you as I interviewed Kim for this exclusive piece.

The timing of this article is extra special this week as September 10th is quickly approaching which is a memorable day for Kim. This date was when Kim and her husband, Randy were married and it is also Kim’s birthday. Therefore, this makes it a perfect time to share Kim’s story.

Tell me a little about what your husband was diagnosed with?

“My husband was diagnosed with a rare form of Acute Myelogenous Leukaemia, at the very young age of 39. It came out of nowhere, he did not feel well for three weeks prior to Christmas, needless to say it was shocking news, it rocked our world.”

Once you heard of your husband’s diagnosis and time to live. What did you do and how did you cope?

“My husband was given three months to live, at that time I was holding our six month old infant, Carter and  my other son Matthew (age five). We were living in Calgary at the time, both of our careers had taken us there. We loved being in nature, the mountains, all of the outdoor space and family friendly living. Our family members were all back in Ontario.

Once the doctor gave me the news, I immediately called my parents. My mom jumped on a flight to Calgary to come and help. Doctor’s told me to get help, get paperwork in order, he would die from this. What I struggled to understand, was how does this happen to a guy that was so fit, extremely fun and positive, always. We had everything going for us. I couldn’t believe it, but when the doctor sat me down and calmly explained to me how sick he was, and we were being moved to a terminal ward of the hospital within minutes of the diagnosis, I realized this is serious and happening fast.

“Your dad had amazing courage, so let that be a lesson, we need to be tough cookies from time to time…life is not easy.”

Each day was tough, watching someone who was incredibly vibrant maintain his positive attitude and courage (during chemo, brain radiation, hair loss and a bone marrow transplant). To this day, I tell the boys, “Your dad had amazing courage, so let that be a lesson, we need to be tough cookies from time to time…life is not easy.” Sadly all the drugs and great healthcare could not keep my husband alive, his body did shut down. We lost him on August 26, 2002. The boys were really young.”

After your husband’s passing, what did you do to help yourself and your children cope?

“I knew I had to continue to be strong, no matter what. I moved back (to Ontario) to be close to family and friends. I enrolled my boys in some activities and even when I had to do the 5 AM hockey practices, bundling an infant and my eldest into the car at that horrible hour on a Saturday or Sunday morning was not necessarily fun, but it was important. The social aspect was great for them and me! I also had the unwavering support of my mom and dad. Truly, my mom is my rock.

Moms are made of something we cannot describe. Somehow we pull energy and strength out when you really feel exhausted, but you get up and put on a smile for your child and that is what matters. You are their world. My mom did a ton to keep the house together, while I ran to/from the hospital. It was a very sad time, but I knew my boys needed me and I had to keep busy to cope. I also knew that my career and the people at work, were good for me. The boys and I did a lot of activities together such as reading, Lego, playing board games, crafting, setting up play dates with other moms and kids, making new traditions.”

What advice can you give a parent who has become a widow with small children?

“Keep positive! Keep their routine, be the parent you wanted to be with your partner/spouse. Don’t be afraid to seek out friends for a shoulder to cry on, or even get professional help to deal with the grief. Nobody knows what it is like until you are in it, so if anyone is not supportive, keep away from those people. Grieving is tough. I suggest you ask someone to take the kids one day a week so you can go do something for yourself. Go to the gym, or for a long walk (or run), meet a friend for a coffee, get a pedicure…you get the idea. It’s about your downtime to re-energize. Kids take a lot of your time and energy. Take a lot of pictures. I found when my husband was sick I didn’t take enough pictures. He didn’t want photos taken (of himself); however, my boys have learned a lot through the videos and pictures we do have.”

How did you do it all? How did you balance two young children, a career and a passion (staging)?

“I did it with the help of family and friends, which I am so grateful for. I love being busy, I don’t stand still often. I started Above & Beyond Décor, to have additional income but it also feeds my creativity. That is what fills me up. Staging is hard work, although it is fun too. You get to create, like a picture in a magazine. Meeting new people, building my business, planning for the future is important to me. I am an advocate for other women, letting them know you need a “plan” i.e. get your financials in order and be ready to take on anything. None of us really know what lies down the garden path, so best to have a plan and have passion.”


Tell me a little about your staging company.

“Above & Beyond Décor was founded as a result of my passion for home décor, floral design, networking and personal growth. I read about home staging and a course that was being offered by a North America staging professional. I decided that would be a great addition to my list of services. I enrolled in the course and became a Certified Staging Professional. Real estate staging is merchandising a property’s best features, understanding lifestyle selling techniques and targeting specific buyers. My friends and family kept telling me I had the “knack” a real talent, knowing how to style and decorate. In order to get that talent noticed, I offered to stage a couple of friend’s homes for free. Their homes sold in a matter of days (with multiple offers on the table), the realtors were very impressed. Soon, a number of realtors were calling me and my business flourished.

I work with a lot of local Mississauga, Oakville and Burlington real estate professionals, they call upon me to stage vacant properties as well as those lived in.

What makes a great stager? Testimonials and referrals. I am extremely pleased with my client testimonials. I often hear that they love my style, my approach (not intrusive), and I am very personable. Comments include: “Your work is amazing;” “Wow, I love how it looks now, I don’t want to move!” “We received multiple offers because of your staging!” or “I need to live like this in my new home.”

What made you decide to become a stager?

“I realized there was a huge opportunity in the market and this just seemed like a natural step forward for me. Realtors and homeowners appreciate when a home sells for top dollar, studies have shown that 65% of buyers prefer to pay more money for a “move in” ready home. Staging is huge now!”

If you could give a younger you some advice on parenting what would it be?

“Hmm, that is tough one. I do not have any regrets, very happy with the way things have worked out for me. I would say getting proper rest is key. Being a parent is fun, challenging, you will be juggling a lot of balls in the air, so when you don’t get enough rest or just need support – Ask for help! Most of us moms don’t ask – we try to be SuperMom and do it all.”

Anything else you would like to add for our readers?

“Melanie, thank you for allowing me to stage your home and for sharing my story on your blog. It was a pleasure meeting you, Mike and Nikki and seeing the smile on your face when you sold for top dollar! As for your readers, fellow mommy friends and family – I look forward to hearing from you. Someone you know might need a stager – that’s me.

Above & Beyond Décor for the ultimate first impression. Staging really sells! Please contact me at kesutherland@cogeco.ca.”

Special thank you to Kim for her time and inspiring us with her strength, courage and passion. I am truly grateful to have had the opportunity to work with Kim on the staging of my home and to get to know her as a business woman, mother and as a friend.

Kim is such an inspirational person in every way possible!

Losing her life partner was tragic and yet she found the courage and love to cope. I have to admit that this was a tough interview for me to do without shedding tears but it shows you how life has many unexpected turns and we have to embrace and love what we do have in the present. Kim has reminded me how precious life and my life partner are. Thank you Kim and please keep inspiring all with your positive love of life!

I am truly honored to have been given this opportunity to share Kim’s story with all of you and I hope you have been inspired as much as I have.

Until next time…Happy Parenting!

-Momma Braga

3 Must Have Gifts To Get Your Kids Right Now!!!

By: Grace Cross, Editor of The Baby Spot

Twitter

Originally Posted Here

As I walked with my four year old down a busy city street in the sweltering heat, I stopped momentarily to grab my key out of my purse so I was prepared to unlock a building door. As I reached for the front glass door, an elderly gentleman beat me to it, opened the door for both myself and my daughter.

“Thank you!” I said with a smile. I hear my daughter’s tiny voice echo her thank yous.

“You’re welcome.” He said smiling back and headed out the door and down the busy street. I love to open the door for people and I am grateful when anyone takes time out of their day to open the door for me. I don’t expect anything said to me when I open the door for someone, if it puts a smile on your face to have the door opened for you then that is great. If I don’t get a thank you, no worries, I wanted to open it for you and that is that. In retrospect, I am grateful when someone does a nice little deed for me. It reminds me that the strangers around us are too, three dimensional who think, feel and are going through things in their life whether it be good or bad.

I like people.

But then I looked down at my daughter. I have spoken to waiters and people in service who are shocked at how today’s youth does not use manners. How many children interrupt or swear at their parents when a service individual has briefly taken their parent’s attention to do their job. Basic manners are not mandatory and definitely not mandated by any law in any country that I am aware of. However, it makes all of our lives a little easier.

As human beings, we are a social creature, but little ‘isms’ and human nuances can get on everyone’s nerves. I get it. I’ve been there. Someone not yielding to the right on an escalator for the quicker walkers to walk passed you is social suicide in some cities. Loud talkers in some countries are considered the norm, whereas in my city and in others, it’s considered extremely rude for everyone to have to hear your conversation. In an age where we are blessed to live with different people, cultures and ideas, we can get on each other’s nerves. We can misunderstand and misinterpret each other. There are literally some cultures who shake their heads from side to side meaning ‘no’ and other cultures that shake their head from side to side meaning ‘yes!’ The confusion and naivetés of one another can cause conflict and therefore can make the world a bit of a more challenging place to live in.

So before the keyboard warriors come out and tell us how I and everyone else can do it better, stop! I have three gifts that you can buy your children or even buy yourself that with a simple investment, will make your life easier. With a very unprofessional and uncertified rating system, I will give you a cost break down and an approximate amount of time for every gift to be properly consumed.

The best part of this is, I don’t even have to provide backlinks to any of these gifts because they’re right in front of you. So, put your credit cards down.

Thankfulness

Beyond the screams of a child in a toy store of the sighs of a preteen because Mom or Dad did not let them buy “this cool app, look, it’s only $3.99” is thankfulness. We can’t blame our children. They come from an instantaneous gratification society, a society that gives them information at their fingertips. I am not advocating for this to be taken away, oh no, I think technology is great for the most part. But when we live in a society where we have advertisements telling us we want something, then your children may see a little snippet on the news, of a Syrian family narrowly avoiding death, of a shooting nearby or something that humanizes them that makes them think “well, this did not happen to me, this does not happen here.” The feelings of life start to flood in, but are immediately interrupted from that text of a friend, a new advertisement or another distraction. Before we ask our children to “Be helpers” as Fred Rogers from Mr. Rogers Neighborhood so eloquently put it, we need to remind our children in an age where it seems everyone gets everything right away, to be thankful.

The best way to teach your children, in my humble opinion is to lead by example. No one wants every outing, every experience to be some lesson or lecture. But when a parent shows thankfulness in front of their children, “I am thankful I got home twenty minutes early today and I was not caught in traffic.” “Just got back from the doctors kids, I am thankful for that clean bill of health.” A child starts to hear that behavior and mimic it. Being thankful for a gift, to live in a safe area, to have a loving family is a wonderful seed to plant. A child must be thankful for what the opportunities they have before they can provide opportunities for others.

To add, saying “Thank you” to others, like people who hold the door for your family, serve you in restaurants or in retail settings, deserves a thank you from you and your children if they were kind and attentive.

The greatest thing about thankfulness is you can start when they are infants. Yes, a parent even speaking to their child is soothing. You can introduce this at any age and I promise, it will help shape your children and also keep you in check in a world that can sometimes seem cruel.

Final Cost: 0

Time: About 5 to 10 seconds for each thankful thought.

1 Minute relaying thoughts to others.

Understanding

Understanding can be a tricky one. I am in no means asking you to teach your children to let every bully walk over them “maybe he or she has a hard life and that is why they punch you in the face every day after school, dear.” Or “this person is trying to get me fired from work but maybe they need to feed their family more than I need to feed mine.” That is not the understanding I am advocating for. Protect yourself!

The understanding I am asking for is for your children to function with others who do not think like them. We have this new opportunity where the whole word is connected, a whole world that has opinions, many of them different from their own. I have traveled a bit over the course of my life and created this global parenting magazine on two premises, celebrating the similarities and embracing the differences of parenting practices worldwide. The whole “we are all the same” movement is nice and all and as a people we do share some amazing similarities in both genetics and thought processes, but it is silly and almost ignorant to ignore the vast differences from culture, people and society. Those differences, though foreign to some, are interesting, beautiful and quite frankly, I prefer it. I prefer my thought processes to be challenged and questioned. It either teaches me something new or helps me reform my original opinion to be stronger. As long as the learning process is healthy, I am all for it.

We must teach our children understanding. People have different needs. We have some children who recognize certain religious practices during the day. In retrospect, we have children who require certain understanding. There are children who are religious, not religious, have different ways of thinking or perception like children with autism. The point is, we think differently and we perceive the world differently. We need to understand each other and learn about different types of people.

So what does that mean? Perhaps enrolling your children in a language class, to have a second language under their belt. It’s a new opportunity for your children to learn about a new culture and make new friends speaking their second language. It could be volunteering at a homeless shelter, so your children can interact with people who live differently than themselves. It could also mean having your children meet other children outside of their regular circles, volunteering at a reading program or if extra time is tight, reading about a new country, culture or religion every night for ten minutes. You don’t have to have your degree or be an expert in a subject to get a sense of understanding.

My mom for a short period of my childhood would grab one of her encyclopedia’s, (yes, the book ones not the ones online) and read us a little snippet of a country, culture or place while we ate breakfast before school. Maybe this is corny but it’s true, I enjoyed it! It must have stuck in my head throughout the years, because even though I may not remember anything she read to us, it planted the seed to learn more about everything, to understand to the best of my ability.

I think understanding comes with educating your children. Whether they are destined for a doctorate in medicine or changing the world with Tool and Dye, education breeds understanding. A combination of books and street smarts is a beautiful thing.

Cost=0

Time= ongoing dedication

Empathy

Do you have that child who wants to adopt every stray animal they find? Do you have a child who does not bully others even if everyone else is doing it? You have raised the empathetic child, one of the most beautiful creatures on the planet. A child who many would say is beyond their years, I would humbly say is right where they are supposed to be. To get their peers to think and to inspire adults to remember.

If your child is none of those things, don’t worry! Empathy can be demonstrated and you can ‘wake up’ your child to think in a different way.

For those parents whose child is not empathetic, with most children, you can lead with example. With children with mental health challenges, leading with example, as you well know, may not work.

But you have to live empathy if there is any hope for your children to be empathetic. Showing empathy for other people’s pain is a gift your child will never know how important it is to have. Empathetic people are the seeds that grow ideas into beautiful plants. When one person, combined with understanding, empathizes with another, it helps build bridges with humanity and not make the gap between human being to human being, even bigger.

How you can express empathy is key. You won’t yell at that waitress who took an extra five minutes to fill up your cup because you can see she is waiting on at least ten other tables and you know this task is next to impossible. So you show and exhibit patience. Yelling never helps anyone anyway. You will donate your clothes to those new immigrants to your country because you know they have never felt a winter like yours and you want them to bundle up and stay warm and cozy as they get to know this new land. You use kind words to others, you hear peoples pain and you respond instead of ignoring. You are alive and you act like it.

Cost: 0

Time: a full time investment at first, but then it comes naturally.

These three gifts are not only a must have for the family, but if you use them as a combo, you can get results far greater than buying into just one. With all three gifts, you give yourself a huge discount in time management!

The media is always talking about role models and who will be the role model for your child? You see celebrities protesting that they just sing songs or act in movies and never asked to be your child’s role model. You know what? They’re right. You never asked them to. You don’t need to because you are their role model. It may not seem like that when they run off with their friends without saying goodbye or are rude sometimes. But they are listening. They are observing. You are the answer to your children getting these three gifts. With a onetime investment on behalf of your children, you can really change their life. I am not promising perfection. But what I am promising is you and your family making a difference, no matter how small, in your community and your world. All cliché aside, stop buying into what people tell you that you need to buy your family and invest in these three gifts for life.

5 Tips For A Trip To The Zoo

By: Karen Silva
Twitter

The zoo is one of my favorite places to go! It’s an amazing feeling to see all the wild animals in person and not to mention that the zoo if full of interesting facts about these animals too. When I found out that my sister wanted to take my niece to the Toronto Zoo, I just had to tag along. However, I knew that going with a two and half year old you just can’t pick up and go, so we had to make sure we were well prepared for the trip.

Here are my top five MUST haves that you should bring with you when going to the zoo. However, if you have never been to the Toronto zoo I suggest you check out their website first.

Stroller or Wagon

We all know that the Toronto Zoo is full of all sorts of creatures, which means there is a lot of walking involved, so make sure you bring a stroller or wagon for your little one. They can get restless and tired throughout your visit and having one of these with you will not only make their visit more comfortable but will work great if they want to take a nap. It will also help you carry items you decide to bring or buy while you are there. Also be sure to check out the zoo train, in my opinion it is worth every penny and is great for younger children. It goes around the whole zoo leaving you at designated areas where you can see other animals. In case, you do go on a very hot day, this ride is very refreshing.

Food/Snacks and Water

The great thing about the Toronto Zoo is that they allow you to bring your own food and drinks as they have great picnic areas that you can eat at. Now it may seem easier to just bring a cooler with ice with you; however the reality is you won’t want to lug that around with you, and you have to remember that the zoo is a big place and requires a lot of walking. Bring simple things like sandwiches, snacks and water bottles. If you want to keep things cool keep a cooler in your car and make the trip back if you wanted or bring ice packs in a large lunch bag. Some great snacks for your little ones that’s easy to pack is Gold fish crackers, grapes, bananas, etc. There are also some great places at the Zoo that you can stop in to purchase food and drinks too.

Protective Gear

As we all know the sun can be quite dangerous when being over exposed, so it is important to put on the sunscreen before heading out and pack some to re-apply after lunch. Even on cloudy days the sun is still doing its job and often times the sun may peek out later that afternoon, so it’s better to be safe than sorry. Also make sure that you are all wearing comfortable clothing such as running shoes, light colored and light material clothing; as well as a hat and sunglasses. Dressing appropriately will make your whole experience more enjoyable. Trust me, I made the mistake once wearing flip flops to the zoo because it was so hot but in the end my feet were killing me from all the walking because my feet weren’t properly supported.

Capturing the moment

You want to remember this day so make sure that you take lots of pictures, not just of the animals but of you and your family. As a family you can write a list of the animals you want to see and/or take pictures of and make it a goal to check off each one. Also be sure to check the zoo’s gift shop, they have great things in there that you can purchase as a souvenir.

 

Smooth Good-bye Transition

Sometimes kids are so exhausted with the whole experience and spending hours at the zoo that leaving shouldn’t be a problem. However, we do have to keep in mind that some children may not want to leave and will pout, kick and scream to stay. In case this happens, I will share with you some smooth transition ideas that will help you all go from the zoo to your cars without fighting tears.

If you are planning on visiting and purchasing something from the gift shop, be sure to save that for the very end. It will give your child something to look forward to and will keep them distracted with a new item all the way to the car. If you’re on a budget make sure to bring along one of your child’s favorite toys; however leave it in the car. It could be used as motivation to go back to the car. At the end of the day you know your child best so you can use the best tricks that you know will work for you in that situation.

I believe that the Toronto Zoo is a great trip to take with your children. It is not only very informative but an amazing experience for children to see these animals in person as appose to seeing them on the T.V.

 

About the Author

Karen Braga graduated from Sheridan College with an Early Childhood Education Diploma. She worked with children for about five years before expanding her skills in Administration. Karen is a loving Godmother/Auntie to one. Combined with her ECE background and passion for DIY projects and baking, she has recently become an expert writer for mom blogger, Momma Braga. Karen hopes by sharing her knowledge, tips and tricks, she can bring families together through her creative ideas.