Tag: Marriage

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

 

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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


When Is It The Right Time To Announce A Pregnancy?

We have all heard of the three month mark to announce a pregnancy to all and it has been the norm in most families. But is it really the norm? If so, what is the reason behind this norm?

I started to ask myself these questions when this topic came up in one of my discussions with one of my best friends, Grace. We started talking about why each one of us held onto our pregnancy announcement until the three month mark. Both of our reasons where very similar such as it was the norm, this was a comfortable time for us to share and another reason was the fear of miscarrying.

This was one of the main reasons that I did not disclose my pregnancy to my family and friends until I reached the three month mark as I feared that I would endure the pain from my first miscarriage. I did share the news with my immediate family who were sworn to not tell a single soul (sounds silly but they were great sports about it). I only shared my birth announcement on social media which shocked a few people on my friend list as they did not know I was even pregnant. I did all this with the fear of miscarrying.

I get it when people withhold the information until they feel that it is a safe time to tell people and I support their decision. I also support those who are so excited about the news and want to share with everyone that they love earlier than the three month mark. I always tell my friends that it is YOUR news to share and do it when the time is right for YOU.

Here are some thoughts that came to mind as I wrote this piece. If everyone shared the news before the three month mark and a woman miscarried wouldn’t that mean there would be more support for her? Maybe the women who miscarried wouldn’t feel ashamed due to the loving support that she could get from family and friends? Maybe this would be a great start to combat the issue and stigma around miscarriages. I am not saying to put your baby news on the 6 o’clock news but it is perfectly ok to share it with people that you want to share it with.

Whatever you decide to do, just know that by sharing before the three month mark doesn’t mean that there is anything to be ashamed of if you do miscarry.

So when is it the best time to announce your pregnancy? I say it is when you feel comfortable in sharing it. So what will I do if I expect another child? Not sure yet but I know that if I share the news it is because I am comfortable in sharing and the reason to withhold it won’t be due to fear.

Until next time…Happy Parenting!

-Momma Braga

 

 

My First Trip to Disney World

“A magical trip that will be remembered forever” – Momma Braga

If you ask any of my friends and family to tell you something about me, the most common answer would be my love for Disney. Even before becoming a mother, I was always a fan and made sure to buy the latest Disney movie that would come out. I had quit a collection before my daughter was born and the collection keeps growing with the new additions that are released. So it was no surprise that I always dreamt of visiting Disney World.

Back in 2012, my husband wanted to take a trip for our five year wedding anniversary and my request was to visit Disney World. My husband always wanted to go and see what it was all about so he happily agreed and I was the happiest person in the world. Since it appeared at the time that children were not in our very recent future, we decided this would be the best time to experience this as a couple.

The Planning

I am a planner so it is no surprise that I had to plan our vacation and do all my research beforehand. Once our trip was booked, I took it a step further and checked out what was happening at the different parks while we were there. This way I knew which park to go to on what day. We also booked tickets to see Cirque du Soleil in advance to make sure we enjoyed everything we possibly could while we were there. I even booked our dinners at some of the restaurants to ensure that we meet some of the characters that we wanted to meet. On our list of must see was Donald Duck for my husband and Winnie-The-Pooh for me (I just love him!).

My husband and his favorite, Donald Duck.

Our Arrival & Accommodations

The day finally arrived to make my childhood dream come true. It honestly felt so surreal to be going and I was so excited that I couldn’t eat. When we arrived in Orlando Florida, I was like a kid in a candy store. My eyes wide open and full of excitement of what I was going to experience. The Disney bus came to pick us up at the airport to take us to our Disney resort hotel (this is booked when you book your tickets) which added to the magic for me. Since I picked most of the trip, my husband was responsible to pick the hotel and the room we stayed in. He picked the Disney Caribbean Resort and we had the Pirates of the Caribbean Room. We had to go all out Disney!

We truly enjoyed our accommodations as the staff were friendly, the rooms were clean and the food was great.

The Magic of Disney World

The Disney movies that I watched was so full of magic and it is one of the reasons that I love them dearly. They provided me with the aspiration that anything and everything is possible if you just believe. By being at Disney World it allowed me to feel this magic in person. Maybe it was the experience of meeting the characters who are played beautifully by the right person who stays in complete character in front of you. Maybe it was experiencing the thrill of the attractions. Maybe it was seeing the parades and hearing the classic songs from every Disney classic movie. Maybe it was seeing the nightly fireworks. Or maybe it was the opportunity to live out my childhood dream that made it magical for me.

I remember how excited I got when Princess Belle waved at me from the parade float and I turned to my husband and said, “Oh my god! Belle just waved at me!” My husband couldn’t help but giggle as he said he saw my childlike self-explode with happiness. But it didn’t prepare him on how excited I would be to meet Winnie-The-Pooh at Hollywood Studios. I waited in line with all the other children who were accompanied by their parents as Winnie was on a short break. As soon as he arrived, my heart started to beat really fast and I couldn’t believe I was going to hug an adult sized Pooh Bear! I approached Winnie and since they are not able to speak to stay in character, he used hand motions to communicate with me. A staff member assisted in translating as I was so excited that I couldn’t comprehend any of the hand motions. So Winnie-The-Pooh pointed out that I had a Winnie bear keychain on my bag and hand motioned that I had a baby Pooh Bear. Excitedly I said, “Oh yes! I love Pooh Bear!” I got a “Love You too!” motion and a great big hug. Yup! This moment made my life!

So why did these particular little moments make me feel special? It was because I was able to feel like a child again without a worry in the world. Children have such a positive imagination, aspirations and dreams without ever doubting themselves. This is what I loved feeling again as it seems that sometimes we lose these feelings as we grow up and sometimes we need to feel like a child again to remember them again.

The whole trip was just an amazing experience for the both of us as my husband secretly (not anymore a secret) enjoyed it as much as I did. However, I think the best part was to share this first experience with my husband as we celebrated our five year wedding anniversary.

Of course my daughter Nikki is loving Disney as much as I do and we will be saving to hopefully be able to take her one day to experience what her momma experienced a bit later in life. However, I always say it is better late than never! 😉

If you have gone to Disney World with your family, what have you enjoyed the most? Leave your comment below as I would love to read it!

Until next time…Happy Parenting!

– Momma Braga

Life of a Mom with Mitochondrial Disease

*This article is not to be taken as medical advice or as an expert piece on Mitochondrial Disease. The purpose of this article is to provide a look into one particular person’s experience and journey with Mitochondrial Disease.

One of my favorite parts of blogging is being able to tell others’ stories to help expand our understanding of what others’ may be going through. I believe that by communicating our experiences and journey, we can learn so much from one another. It helps create a community of support with acceptance. This is why I am so honored to have been trusted to share Kailey’s story with all of you.

Kailey is a wonderful wife, mom and person and also has Mitochondrial Disease but more specifically CPEO+.

So what exactly is Mitochondrial Disease?

According to MitoCanada, the term “Mitochondrial Disease” refers to a group of disorders. Each of these conditions involves a problem with mitochondria which are tiny structures inside almost every cell in your body; all the way from your skin to the organs inside your body. Their main job is to use the food and oxygen that enter the cells to make energy. Almost all of the energy your body needs for daily life and growth comes from mitochondria. When mitochondria fails, less and less energy is converted in the cells. The cells may stop working or die. Depending on where the affected cells are, parts of the body may not function properly and many health problems can result. The symptoms of Mitochondrial Disease can range from mild to severe. There are so many types of Mitochondrial Disease that it would be impossible to name them all, and many have yet to be discovered.

In this article we will be specifically focusing on CPEO+ which stands for Chronic Progressive Eternal Ophthalmoplegia. This is a condition characterized mainly by a loss of the muscle functions involved in eye and eyelid movement. Signs and symptoms tend to begin in early adulthood and most commonly include weakness or paralysis of the muscles that move the eye (ophthalmoplegia) and drooping of the eyelids (ptosis). Some affected individuals also have general weakness of the skeletal muscles (myopathy), which may be especially noticeable during exercise. Muscle weakness may also cause difficulty swallowing (dysphagia). CPEO can be caused by mutations in any of several genes, which may be located in Mitochondrial DNA or nuclear DNA. It has different inheritance patterns depending on the gene involved in the affected individual.

Diagnosis

Kailey was first diagnosed at the age of 20; however, this was after seven years of testing and seeing many doctors. She was eventually referred to a Neurologist in Toronto and was ordered her first muscle biopsy. Shortly after that she was finally given a formal diagnosis of CPEO+ (the plus sign is to signify that it is a more advanced disease).

Symptoms

Kailey was 13 years old when she started to get chronic headaches, migraines and ptosis (droopy eye lids). Over the years her chronic headaches and migraines continued but with the help of massage therapy, chiropractic treatment, low intensity laser treatment and acupuncture helped her manage them. However, her ptosis was worsening over the years which resulted in four eye surgeries. Kailey even had silicone slings inserted into her eyelids to help her eyes open better. Just imagine dealing with all this growing up!

Fast forward to today as she embraces her role as a mother of a one year old her symptoms have expanded. Kailey now has chronic fatigue, major muscle weakness (including muscle loss), ptosis, chronic headaches, swallowing issues due to weak muscles, acid reflux and delayed gastric emptying (food does not digest at a normal rate). Kailey also has low vision so she sees an Ophthalmologist at the Low Vision Clinic at University of Waterloo. Kailey has been given horizontal and vertical prisms for her glasses to help her eyes move. Due to her depth perception issues, blurry vision, trouble focusing and double vision, she is unable to drive a car.

Treatment

There is currently no cure or specific medications for Mitochondrial Disease CPEO+. The treatment that Kailey is presently doing is seeing her Naturopathic doctor, message therapist and chiropractor to help her manage the symptoms. Kailey also takes some vitamins and supplements, including Coq10 that has been prescribed by her Neuromuscular Specialist.

The Effects on Pregnancy

Kailey’s pregnancy was considered ‘High Risk’ due to her disease. Fortunately, Kailey had a healthy pregnancy with the exception of minor low blood pressure. Kailey had to stop working around the seven month mark due to her fatigue from carrying around the extra weight from pregnancy. Like most ‘High Risk’ pregnancies she was monitored regularly by specialists throughout her pregnancy. Due to Kailey’s disease, she had a planned C-section at 37.5 weeks and it went extremely well.

The Effects on Motherhood

Motherhood comes with many challenges all on its own. So what type of effects is there on motherhood when you have CPEO+? Kailey states, “I often have to think outside the box to deal with some challenges. Since I am unable to drive, we bought an extra care seat for my parent’s car since they live close by to help us when I need to travel with my son, Jude. I also have some awesome friends who have extra car seats installed that we can go out with. However, we also rely on public transit if no one is available. I have to think ahead and plan our days wisely so that I do not run out of energy. If we take the bus, it’s usually in the afternoon so that my husband can pick us up on his way home from work which is a great energy saver.”

But traveling isn’t the only limitation that Kailey faces as daily activities that are normally done can prove to be difficult with CPEO+ such as opening baby food jars and pouches. Therefore, Kailey needs to plan her day in advance by asking her husband to assist in opening what she needs for the day.

When it comes to daily fun activities, Kailey plans a lot of reading, puzzles and music time to help manage her energy. Kailey also does plan some outings with her son such as trips to the library or baby programs. When she does go out she needs to keep in mind of her restrictions, for example, she often cannot sit on the ground and needs a chair as she is unable to get up easily. Kailey also hosts playdates often with new moms in her community this way she does not need to travel distances and her son can have fun with some friends.

Kailey has not allowed her disease to take away from her joys as a mother. Kailey has been very resourceful in finding supports to help her and her family. Kailey has a nurse and visitor from the Healthy Babies, Healthy Children Program which is a home program that provides support and resources to parents. She also got in touch with a non-profit organization called Tetra Society who helps people with disabilities with equipment and adjustments and they helped adjust her son’s crib to make it easier for her.

Of course Kailey has an amazing supportive husband and network of family and friends who are very involved in helping. Recently she has set up a cleaner monthly and a mother’s helper once a week. “When living with chronic fatigue – some days are harder than others so we just go with the flow. Sometimes we need to adjust our plans or come up with a new plan that works,” says Kailey.

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Kailey’s Wish

“It’s a rare disease that is not well known so I wish that people, especially doctors would just know a bit more about Mitochondrial Disease. It effects people in many different ways and just like lots of other diseases, I am hoping for a cure! I am so happy that Momma Braga is writing about it – awareness is so powerful.” – Kailey

Tips for Other Moms with Mitochondrial Disease

Kailey suggests to set up supports around you with family, friends, community programs, etc. “Meet other parents! I have met some great moms and since it is not always easy for me to get out, they come here for playdates which is awesome” says Kailey.

Some other tips that Kailey suggests are:

  • Learn to ask for more help when you need it.
  • Ask your doctor or health professionals about any support groups or programs in your area that can help.
  • Request accommodations when you attend baby programs – usually staff are really open about this and want to help.

Tips on How to Manage Mitochondrial Disease

Kailey suggested the following tips to those who are suffering from Mitochondrial Disease.

*Please note that the following tips are suggestions based on Kailey’s own experience.

  • Take it one day at a time. Only do what you can.
  • Don’t overbook yourself and generally stick to one activity per day.
  • Make time for rest or napping whenever you need to recharge.
  • Try to stay hydrated and eat small meals and snacks throughout the day.
  • Join a few Facebook groups on Mitochondrial Disease as it can be a great support group.
  • If possible try to attend conferences specific on Mitochondrial Disease.

To learn more about this disease feel free to visit the following resources: MitoCanada and United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation.

Kailey lastly says, “Just because someone does not use a wheelchair or other mobility devices it does not mean they do not have a medical condition. There are many diseases and conditions that are invisible and this is really important to know. Please do not jump to judgments. Ask questions or provide supports to that person. In my experience as a mother with a disability you need to advocate for yourself and your child and it is key to build a support team.”

Kailey is an inspiring and strong mother who definitely has not allowed her disability to redefine who she was as a person or mother. Her resourcefulness and passion to help others is evident in all that she does. I want to take this time to thank Kailey for sharing her story to be shared with the world. Like Kailey stated, “Awareness is so powerful.”

Let’s be mindful of others, let’s demonstrate compassion and let us ask questions to understand. Let us create a more supportive community and I am hoping that we will be the start of one!

Until next time…Happy Parenting!

– Momma Braga
2017 Blogger of the Year by The Baby Spot

5 Tips to Survive a Wedding Event with a Toddler

A beautiful envelope has arrived at your home addressed to the family and as you open it, you realize it’s a wedding invitation. Now as parents of a toddler, you may have mixed feelings about the invite. Reason being is that you are not sure whether you would like to bring your toddler with you or not and that is ok to feel like that!

We were recently in this situation and we thought about it really hard before we responded to the invite. We made the decision to bring our energetic two year old daughter with us and experience a wedding event toddler style.

Naturally as a mom blogger, I started to Google to see if I could get any tips from other parents; however, my search had me more terrified than comforted on our decision. So that meant the challenge was on for Momma Braga to provide some helpful survival tips to other parents.

Please note that if you decide to find a sitter and use the night as a date night then that is great too! Do what works for you and your family and there is no shame in wanting a nice evening out with just your partner. 😉

Tip # 1 Making Decisions 

It is important to first discuss with your partner on what you will exactly be participating in for the event. For example, there might be the ceremony, followed by the reception. My recommendation is to pick one as doing both can be extremely tiring and overwhelming for a toddler. We only did the reception portion of the event and it helped us manage the day smoothly.

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Tip # 2 Start the Toddler Conversation

Communication is key. We started to talk to our daughter about the event and explained to her the different parts of the reception. We emphasized on the parts we knew she would like such as the dancing part of the event. We would repeat these conversations in order for her to remember when the big day arrived.

Tip # 3 Plan and Strategize

Sometimes it can be difficult to plan every single detail especially when toddlers are unpredictable at times. However, if you have a base plan and strategizes (around how to deal with tantrums for example) in place, it will help you a lot in the long run.

An important detail that many forget to do is to ask if there is a meal option for children at the reception and if your toddler is in diapers, it is great to check if the hall has a change station available. If you know the bride and groom well, you can ask them directly but if you don’t then you can call the reception hall. I called them directly and kindly asked. They were not surprised with my request and were kind enough to respond to my inquiries. Knowing these answers helped me plan for the day to make sure I had everything that I needed.

The rest of your planning will be around what your family normally does to prep for an outing out. For us, we planned our timing for the day such as the time we were leaving the house and from the event. We planned around her naptime this way she could be well rested before we arrived.

We also packed a bag for our daughter with extra clothes, PJs for the end of the night, snacks, toys, activities and anything else that we knew we would need.

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Tip #4 Distractions

This tip was key to a successful evening. Toddlers get distracted easily and even though at times this can be hard to cope with but at an event, you can use it to your advantage. Every time our daughter was getting frustrated with all the waiting, I would distract her with her books, coloring and some of the little toys we brought for her to play. This of course worked for some time and when she was bored of one activity, we moved onto the next.

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My favorite distraction from the wedding was being able to tell her that the bride was a princess and we had to wait for her. Since our daughter loves princesses, it worked like a charm and she was completely in love with the fact that a princess was there. Technically, a bride is a princess so there is no stretching the truth here. 😉 This tactic also worked in diffusing any tantrums that started to brew.

Tip #5 Have Fun!

Above all, just have family fun! It is so important to enjoy the event to the fullest. Enjoy the food and the party afterwards. If your toddler is anything like mine, then you will be dancing the night away. So my mom tip is to try and wear comfy shoes as I learned my lesson!

Also alternate parent duties with your partner and if you have family that can help out then share the toddler supervision. My husband and I took turns and we were fortunate to have my in-laws with us who loved the dancing time with their granddaughter. It’s all about having fun for everyone. Don’t forget to take lots of photos and video to capture all your special memories!

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These tips helped us survive our wedding event and to this day, our daughter still talks about dancing with grandma. We are extremely happy that we decided to take our daughter with us and it wasn’t perfect but nothing is. We are just grateful to have been able to experience our first family wedding event, toddler style.

Until next time…Happy Parenting!

–       Momma Braga

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