Tag: Love

I See Me Books Warms Our Hearts With A Christmas Story

There is no denying that Christmas is my favorite time of the year! To me it’s the spirit of Christmas that I enjoy the most as to me it’s the most caring time of the year. Therefore, when we got the opportunity to review a new book by I See Me Books on Christmas – I was thrilled!

Nikki got her “Very Own Christmas” from I See Me Books and she was as excited as me (in all honesty I must have been a tad more excited then she was).

This past weekend we sat down to read the story. When we opened the book, Nikki’s photo was there with her full complete name (first, middle and last) with her date of birth. It was a super sweet personalized touch!

The story is about the Santa quest to decorate the tree with a name to string across it for all the world to see. But it’s not just any name! It’s a name of child whose Christmas spirit is always shining through. The book then takes us on an adventure through Santaland where each character says a letter (from the child’s name) and using a positive descriptive word for the child. As we went through each letter and each page, my heart warmed up.

At the end of the story, Santa announces Nikki’s name and says that you can feel her Christmas spirit which warms up his heart to hear it. This last page had my eyes watering as that is exactly how I feel about my daughter. She is my Christmas spirit and now I have a book that I could read to her to let her know exactly that!

For this #MelandNikkiReview we give “My Very Own Christmas” 5+++ jingle bells out of 5. We also have included this on our recommended list which will be out soon!

The book is personalized to truly make the child feel special and unique. The words used are positive and empowering which we love! We just loved everything that this book had to offer us such as the beautiful illustrations, the customized and inspiring story, and for making us ALL feel special when Nikki is named as the child with Christmas spirit. This book even though was about her very own Christmas Story, I felt like it was mine too. We will definitely be reading this book leading up to Christmas and I look forward to it!

As many of my readers have learnt through my blog that giving and charity is something that I hold dear to my heart. This is why I am delighted to inform you all of a special partnership that started on November 1st with I See Me Books the Children’s Cancer Research Fund, and every purchase will benefit the national non-profit.

I See Me Books has also launched “Letters of Love” campaign. Anyone on this page can write an uplifting letter to a child with cancer and make a lasting gift of kindness. Near the end of December they will deliver the letters to the Children’s Cancer Research Fund, where they will be given to the children. For every 50 letters they receive, they will donate a copy of My Very Own Christmas to a child supported for the non-profit. If you would like to donate to this cause directly you can do so through the page. The goal is to reach $10,000 and I know it can be done.

If you would like to purchase your own book, please click here.

Make sure to follow I See Me Book on FacebookTwitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Google+ and YouTube. Can’t wait to see what comes next!

Until next time…Happy Parenting!

-Momma Braga

* Please note that the product was given in exchange for an honest review. Views expressed in this review are of Momma Braga and were not influenced by the company.

 

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Kidpreneur Making A Difference Through The Nice Bench

It always amazes me to see young people wanting to make a difference in the world and it is empowering to see them make an impact. This rings true to Owen who is already making a difference in his community and his inspiration came from his own family.

Imagine being a parent and told that your child has Leukemia. Sounds like a horrible nightmare, doesn’t it?! The Armstrong family had this happen to them when their nine year old son, Caden, was diagnosed with Leukemia. This family battled and stayed strong together. Now their other son, Owen makes benches and uses the proceeds to help other families travel to get treatment for their child.

We got a chance to chat with Owen and his mother Kirstin who gave us a deeper look at The Nice Bench Co. So grab your tissues and enjoy this inspiring story!

1. How did it all start? How was the idea developed?

“The inspiration for the benches came when Owen built and painted a bench for his little sister, Anikka. His grandparents and auntie loved Anikka’s new bench so much, that Owen was fueled to make more. He built twelve with scrap wood on Christmas Day! Those first bench prototypes were a little rough-looking, but the idea was born.”

2. What type of products does your company do?

“I get some help from a local high school student, named Ryan. He helps me build my nice benches. I have created three lines for these benches, “curious”, “wild” and “happy” – all words my mom uses to describe me! The “curious” line is basically anything I feel like doing, right now I’m really still in to stripes. The “wild” is roughed-up so it looks like it’s been out in the wild (rustic charm) and the “happy” line is solid paint in one of the milk paint colours I have chosen. There’s a big colour palette to choose from.” – Owen

“The step stools are painted using non-toxic, biodegradable, zero VOC milk paint and sealed with 100% natural hemp oil which often comes to us by way of donation from a Canadian company, Homestead House.

Curious
Wild
Happy

 

Owen has expanded his collection to include custom name plates and growth charts, and his step stools are now morphing into actual three-seater benches. We have some custom orders, with custom sizes for these that we are creating. Very exciting.

Every month, we try something new. Last month, in honour of childhood cancer awareness, we created a solid gold bench – the #gogold bench. This month we are featuring some artists work on the benches and later we will be doing something with Halloween inspired colour treatment.

BRIKA

Owen has some exclusive projects on the go for BRIKA (an online platform showcasing and selling heirloom quality artisan craft) and another: a screen-printed “THRIVE” bench for the ever-inspiring MAX LOVE PROJECT (a non-profit that aims to maximize quality of life and reduce serious health risks for all childhood cancer survivors with fierce foods and whole-body wellness).”

THRIVE

3. With the proceeds from the sales, how does it help families with children who are getting cancer care treatments?

“For every product sold, Owen collects $5-$10 ($5 from the sale of name plates and growth charts, and $10 from every bench) and purchases gas gift cards for childhood cancer families traveling long distances to Sick Kids Hospital for chemotherapy treatment.

One quarter of families of children being treated for cancer lose 40% of their total household income. Over 50% of mothers reported relinquishing their employment to provide care for their child. (Source: Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center)

Loss of income is huge, then add up all the extra hidden costs of medicine, childcare, meals on the road. Takes a toll on the family. Owen is hoping to offset that in the little way he can – by paying for the families to get their child to treatment.”

4. Can you describe what your family went through when your child was diagnosed and getting treatment?

“There are no words. Utter shock. A surreal, out-of-body experience. Our eldest boy, Caden was diagnosed with Leukemia at the age of nine. What? Kids don’t get cancer.

It is so cliché to say that our world was turned up-side-down but it truly was. Pure chaos. We had just moved three hours north of the city and were set up to live on an island for the summer when we found out we had to turn around and relocate to be near Sick Kids, in Toronto. We had nowhere to go. A family of five. Thankfully, friends and family (our community/life-support) helped us out in ways that go way above and beyond. An expecting couple gave us their home for the summer, we had meals delivered, activities set up for our other two children, the list goes on-and-on. Incredible. We are beyond thankful for their help, it brings tears to my eyes.

Watching Caden endure years of treatment, lumbar punctures, complications, IVs…gutted me. This nightmare has shaved years off my life. I’m sure of it. Despite it all, I was determined to remain positive and happy and strong for Caden. I think he was doing the same for me. He remained stoic, fierce and next-level brave through it all.”

5. Is there any advice that you can provide to other parents who are going through what you have gone through?

“I attached zero negativity to the cancer. I only wanted glowing, positive energy around him. It’s tough, especially in the middle of the night when all is quiet, but I wouldn’t let myself spiral into that abyss of darkness and let my mind go “there.” Mind over matter.

Mind Over Medicine by M.D. Lissa Rankin is all about the power of thought. This book really helped me in the very early days of diagnosis. It gave me back a tiny bit of control. I could adopt a positive mind-set and teach Caden to use visualization techniques. Every night he would send out his “patrol guys” and they would make sure his body was rid of any cancerous cell that may still be looming.

We got through it. We just celebrated Caden’s End of Treatment with that very community that supported us through it all.”

6. How can someone purchase your products?

“Products can be purchased directly from Owen’s website, https://thenicebenchco.com. Owen will also be featuring products to sell at the upcoming Seasons Christmas Show from November 17-19 at the Toronto International Centre. Stop in to meet the young kidpreneur!”

Such an inspiring and strong family! We are truly touched by what Owen is doing and admire his drive as a kidpreneur. We know that Owen has a very bright future in anything that he does and the assistance that he is providing to families is heartfelt. I am sure the families that are getting the help appreciate the heart of gold from this family. Keep up the great work Owen and know that what you are doing is so much more than a nice bench. You are giving hope to families by helping them travel to get the treatment they need for their child. I know in my heart that this means the world to them. Special thank you to Owen and his mom Kirstin for taking the time to have us interview them as we are honoured to have had this opportunity!

As a special to Momma Braga readers, use the code MommaBraga to get 15% off your purchase from The Nice Bench Co. You don’t want to miss out on this great opportunity! Not only will you be getting a quality product but you will also be helping children with cancer. Its a win-win for everyone!

Make sure to follow The Nice Bench Co on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.

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

 

Captivating Uniqueness in a “Very Own Fairy Tale”

Imagine being transported to a magical garden of flowers and berries surrounded by fairies. Imagine if you were the one that they were going to announce as their fairy princess. Sounds magical, doesn’t it? It surely would be for a child.

Now your child can be part of a story just like this in I See Me Books personalized book titled, My Very Own Fairy Tale.

Nikki got her very own Fairy Tale from I See Me Books recently and her reaction was priceless. I was fortunate to be able to capture her moment and it just shows you the “WOW” factor I See Me Books can give a child.

After the excitement of the package subsided we were able to see what exactly we got. The package included a pink fairy wand (Nikki’s favorite colour at the moment), her personalized copy of My Very Own Fairy Tale and a coloring and activity book based on the story. It was a magical gift indeed.

We sat down that night to read our magical fairy tale and when we opened the book, Nikki’s photo was there with her full complete name (first, middle and last) with her date of birth. It was a super sweet personalized touch! This Fairy Tale is about finding a person to crown as the Fairy Princess. The way the story progresses is with each fairy saying a letter in the name of the person and with each letter they give a positive characteristic with the start of that letter. It was so beautiful to read and it warmed my heart to read each one of those characteristics to my daughter. To my surprise they spelled out the complete name in the book which really does make it more personalized to the child. There could be a million Nikki’s in the world but only one with her complete name. We loved this touch! I have to mention that each fairy has their own name and at the end of the book every fairy is listed which is very neat.

At the end when the fairies finally announced Nikki’s full name, Nikki was in shock. “That’s my NAME!” exclaimed Nikki. With delight and holding back my overjoy, I told her that yes it was so she is a Fairy Princess and has her very own special wand and story for it. Nikki held onto the book tightly and said, “I Love You.”

Then off to the coloring book she went to see what she can color. The activity book has a section where Nikki can start practising to write out her name – love it! It also goes through each letter of her first name which is lovely.

For this #MelandNikkiReview we give “My Very Own Fairy Tale” 5+++ fairies out of 5. We also have included this on our recommended list.

The book is personalized to truly make the child feel special and unique. The way they use the child’s complete name is something that I haven’t seen before so I love it! The wand and coloring activity book is a perfect combination with the story. This would be a great gift or a just because. We just loved everything that this book had to offer us such as the beautiful illustrations, the customized and inspiring story, and for making our Nikki feel extra special to be named the Princess Fairy.

If you would like to purchase your own book, please click here.

Make sure to follow I See Me Book on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram. Can’t wait to see what comes next!

Until next time…Happy Parenting!

-Momma Braga

* Please note that the product was given in exchange for an honest review. Views expressed in this review are of Momma Braga and were not influenced by the company.

 

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

A Golden Adventure

Imagine packing up and going on a travel adventure from Canada to Central America and back in a motorhome for six months with your family. Sounds like an impossible dream?

Well, it is a true reality for The Golden Family. The Baby Spot first featured this cool family to their global audience back in July to tell their amazing story. After reading their story and the Golden Family being big fans of Momma Braga, we just had to collaborate and get more details on their great adventure for all of you.

1. Tell me a little about your family.

B and I have been married for six amazing years. We were married on a beach in Hawaii where my mom’s ashes are spread. Hawaii is a spot we will always hold close to our hearts for many reasons. We have a five year old daughter, ‘Anela. ‘Anela means Angel in Hawaiian and she is named in memory of my mom. ‘Anela is so keen to learn, help and have fun. She loves swimming, gymnastics, dancing, and expressing herself through music and singing. She definitely takes after her dad, B in the artsy aspect.

B plays guitar, drums and writes his own music. This is something that has been slightly neglected since having kids, so we are excited to take a guitar, an ukulele, shakers and a tambourine on the road to play music as a family. B is a full time paramedic and is kept busy in different locations. He is so passionate about his work and helping others.

Our son, Felix, will be three in October as we commence our trip. He is a busy, fun loving little boy. He loves all things airplanes and helicopters! He also enjoys swimming, gymnastics and banging on the drums. He loves climbing and exploring and runs everywhere he goes.

I, too, am passionate about my job as an RN in Emergency, but my greatest joy is being a mom and wife. I love to travel both nationally and internationally. We often fill free days with stay-cations by going to the beach, on rides, to the water park, or meeting up with friends for a play and visit. Our family time is the most important thing to us!

What is your adventure plan?

Our adventure plan…well it’s to have the time of our lives, teach our kids, and see Mexico and Central America! We are driving from Edmonton, Alberta (Canada) to Costa Rica and back. We bought a 23-foot motorhome that is perfect for our family. The beds are always set up, and we have a bathroom and even a fridge in our small kitchenette.

On September 30, 2017 we will leave Edmonton and start our trek south. The first big stop in the United States is Billings, Montana where we will celebrate Felix’s third birthday. From there we’ll continue southbound to Six Flags over Texas in Arlington for some fun before crossing into Mexico. The kids and I just love all things rides so we thought we’d have a fun day after 3200 kilometers of driving through the USA. B will put up with vertigo from the rides to share in our fun.

Halloween should find us deep into Mexico for “El Dia de los Muertos” national festival. Throughout our travels we plan to scour Mayan ruins, study Spanish and surf. We’ll seek out hot springs, waterfalls, pristine beaches for snorkeling and the occasional scuba dive. There are also many volcanoes and lakes to hike and explore. We are taking our mountain bikes with both a bike trailer and bike seats for kids, which will allow us to cover more ground than walking or driving.

What inspired you to take on this adventure?

We have always talked about taking the kids on a long trip. I thought it would be a backpacking trip (which is how this plan started), but it quickly transformed into a driving adventure. This way we can maximize what we see. We will be able to interact more with the locals and learn the language and culture.

Going back a year, though, we were house shopping in order to move closer to our work. At the time I was driving 1 hour 20 min to get to work and B was driving 1 hour. This seemed like so much wasted time and we wanted to maximize our family time. Therefore, moving closer to work seemed like a reasonable option. The only problem was the inspection for the two houses we loved uncovered big red flags. We walked away from buying either of them.

Once we had put the offer in on the second house, however, we had already found renters for our house in Red Deer. We were essentially homeless with two kids. Yes, we did still own the house in Red Deer but it didn’t seem right to cancel to our renters when they had already given notice to their landlords. As always, we made a new plan A. We decided to rent a house that is only a one minute drive from my work! And because we were now renting, and our house was rented out, we figured there is no better time than the present to go on the trip of a lifetime!

What started out as a South America backpacking trip for two to three months has transpired to be an overlanding trip to Central America and back for six months. We have always known we were going to road school our children in order to show them the world. And this is the perfect opportunity to do so as ‘Anela starts kindergarten this year!

When does your adventure start and when are you anticipating it to complete?

We leave on September 30th, which is rapidly approaching! We depart Edmonton, Alberta and are taking six months to complete a round trip to Costa Rica. We will not be venturing into Panama this go around. In order to travel from Panama back into countries such as Nicaragua and Guatemala, you must have proof of Yellow Fever vaccination. We opted out because it’s a higher risk vaccine, and we wouldn’t be far enough south to be exposed. We’ll save Panama for another time.

How do you think your children will adapt to this great adventure?

‘Anela, now five, has been travelling since she was three weeks old. She did her first trip into the USA at only four weeks. She has been to Hawaii three times, Costa Rica five times, Vancouver Island and Manitoba countless times.

Felix has also been travelling since quite young. Because he had some health issues needing surgery at three months old, we did not travel farther than Manitoba until he was over one year. He has now been to Costa Rica four times.

Our kids are amazing travelers. They love the adventures and getting to be with mom and dad. Of course they get sick of the car seats after a few hours, but we always stop at a playground, spray park, or beach and make meals while they can play and be kids! I anticipate them being great overlanding travelers and will definitely update you as our trip progresses. We have never spent six months in a motorhome before, so this will be a new learning experience for us all.

What do you hope your children and yourselves are going to learn from your adventure?

We hope our children will learn more than they would by sitting at home in a conventional classroom. We will be learning language. ‘Anela was already in Spanish immersion preschool and has progressively learned more each trip to Costa Rica. She now teaches Felix and us words in Spanish. B and I have studied the language, so we are aiming to be fluent by the end of our trip.

We are going to learn about the people of each country we travel through, including Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Belize. Each of these Latin American countries have their own traditions, festivities and cultures. Needless to say, we will be learning from the locals, and from the tourist attractions.

For Kindergarten, the kids will use money to learn about math. This will also allow them to practice their Spanish! We will teach them how to be street smart, and the dangers of wildlife, insects and spiders. B and I lived in Australia before having kids, ad so spiders and the like are not a foreign idea of something to watch out for. Overall, we want our kids (and us) to be wordly, compassionate and empathetic humans. We want them to understand how people can be happy with very little, and to be thankful for all that we have in our lives.

What advice can you give to other parents who may want to embark on a similar adventure?

This type of trip is a big deal, yes! But…it is absolutely doable if you are interested. My big tip is RESEARCH!!! We have never done so much research on a trip before. This is a whole new kind of traveling. We have bought books on overland travel to learn about vehicle preparation, border crossings and questionable situations. We have travel and camping books that cover each country at various depths. We even have a book written by a middle aged couple who traveled “99 days to Panama.” The research has actually put our minds at ease. Before starting preparation for this trip, I was super nervous about our safety. Now, I still have my moments of being nervous, but overall feel confident that we are well prepared to start our journey!

People don’t give their kids enough credit. Kids are great little beings that will go along with mom and dad on most adventures quite happily if you frame it the right way. ‘Anela has moments when she says she doesn’t want to go, mostly because she will miss her friends and family. But, we tell her we can ‘Facetime’ whenever she needs to see a familiar face. Grandparents we meet while traveling miss their grandchildren. This works well for both parties. This is also the first trip she will bring her favorite blanket and stuffie, and that’s so exciting for her. We have saved a bunch of new books and toys that can sporadically be pulled out for entertainment if the kids are feeling a bit homesick. Because let’s be honest, it’s going to happen. Those are the times we will distract them with exciting tours or a new book or game.

For anyone who is considering a trip, you are always welcome to contact us for more information, tips and tricks, and books that we found helpful!

How do you prepare yourself as parents on this journey?

As parents, we are “go with the flow” kind of people. Our kids have adopted this mentality and are flourishing and developing absolutely “normally.” We have our few routines we stick to, no matter what time it is and where we are. We will maintain our bedtime routine, whether it is in our motorhome, a hotel, a hostel or someone’s house. That way it is still their normal and is comfortable for them.

Aside from keeping some normalcy with our routine, safety has been our biggest concern. This comes back to doing research and being prepared. I am not sure it is possible to be 100% prepared because there is uncertainty with traveling. But that goes for life as well, doesn’t it? We have never lived in a motorhome for six months…all of us in less than 200 sq feet! There will be bumps along the road, for sure. But with these we will be able to inform future travelers of some hiccups that could possibly be avoided.

There are so many things to think about, plan and research. But if your dreams involve traveling, we say go for it!

Now that is a “Golden Adventure” to say the least and it sounds like the Golden Family is ready to embrace it like a family. What I personally find inspiring by the Golden Family’s story is the time they are going to spend with one another and how they are teaching such valuable lessons to their children along the way that most of us forget in this hectic world; being a compassionate and empathetic human being.

Another lesson that lifted my heart hearing is how the Golden Family want their children to understand how people can be happy with very little, and to be thankful for all that one has in their lives and I think this lesson is priceless.

I truly admire this family on the adventure that they are embarking on and I wish them safe travels. Special thank  you to The Golden Family for their time and for being fans!

Looking forward to possibly collaborating some more with The Golden Family and share tips and stories from their BIG adventure.

To follow the Golden Family on their journey, check them out on The Golden Life, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

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.