Saturday, May 31, 2014

Living with Pain: Auto Immune Disorders

I was reading a post by someone I met when I first joined twitter and she wrote about a woman whom she saw who had lupus (you can find that post here) and although I don't have lupus, her post touched me.  I do suffer from an auto-immune disease and while it is nowhere as bad as lupus, it still takes a toll on my daily life.

I have a disease called rheumatoid arthritis.  I was diagnosed with this disease 6 months after I gave birth to my first baby, although the symptoms started almost immediately after she was born.  I had severe pain on my left side that made me cry every time I tried to lift my arm up or move my hip.  I spoke with the nurse and she said it was most likely that I had pulled some muscles during childbirth.  A fair statement considering my daughter was only hours old and after I was given some ibuprofen, I felt a little relief.  

The weeks after her birth were marred with more pain and such stiffness when I woke up in the morning, going down the stairs was so hard.  The extreme fatigue was brutal but  I chalked this up to having a newborn as I had heard other new moms stories and the fact that our mattress was old. It went on like this for about 4 months with the pain coming and going.  One morning I woke up and I couldn't bend a single finger on my hands.  They were bent over and bright red.  I couldn't even pick my daughter up.  I was in so much pain and I had no idea what was going on.  I went to the doctor's office that day.  They sent me for some blood work and told me I could take some super strength Motrin but only once per day as I was exclusively breastfeeding my daughter.  

For almost 4 days I waited for the results.  I needed to know what was going on with me.  I got a call from my mother and she told me to come in the doctor's office (she was working there at the time and her voice sounded like she was crying) as my family doctor wanted to see me right away. Obviously I was upset and worried.  I had a new baby and I couldn't think of anything but that I needed to see her grow up and I had no idea what was going on.

The first thing my doctor said was you have a 50% chance of having lupus and a 50% chance of having RA. What?? There wasn't anything like that anywhere in our family medical history.  Where the hell did this come from? Why now?  I waited what seemed like forever to get into a specialist and after multiple tests and blood work the results came back that I had RA.  So what now?  What did this mean for me?  Let me explain what RA is:
Rheumatoid arthritis, or RA, is a form of inflammatory arthritis and an autoimmune disease. For reasons no one fully understands, in rheumatoid arthritis, the immune system – which is designed to protect our health by attacking foreign cells such as viruses and bacteria – instead attacks the body’s own tissues, specifically the synovium, a thin membrane that lines the joints. As a result of the attack, fluid builds up in the joints, causing pain in the joints and inflammation that’s systemic – meaning it can occur throughout the body.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic disease, meaning it can’t be cured. Most people with RA experience intermittent bouts of intense disease activity, called flares.  In some people the disease is continuously active and gets worse over time. Others enjoy long periods of remission  – no disease activity or symptoms at all. Evidence shows that early diagnosis and aggressive treatment to put the disease into remission is the best means of avoiding joint destruction, organ damage and disability.

I started on medication right away but I could only take a certain medication as I was breastfeeding and unfortunately, about 4 weeks after my diagnosis, I had to make the decision to stop breastfeeding and be able to take care of my daughter or breastfeed and not be able to hold her at all. The medication regimen was ridiculous.  I was taking 3 pills and injecting myself everyday and it still wasn't controlling my illness.  My doctor suggested I try one of the new medications just made available on the market called Enbrel.  It is known as a "biologic" drug.  It decreases my immune system therein stopping it from attacking my healthy joints.  It also allows my body the chance to heal, in the sense that it doesn't allow any further damage to my joints.  All I have to say is thank god for this drug because without I probably would be far worse than I am today.  Unfortunately, if you do not have an excellent drug plan, this drug is extremely expensive.  It costs around $1,750 per month for 4 needles.  Thankfully, when I really needed this medication, I was covered on my now ex-husband's plan.

Everyday can be a struggle for me. I have really great days and then really bad days.  Sometimes the pain brings me to tears.  It has been a long road to get to where I am today.  Thankfully, I have been in remission for almost 3 years and although I do still get the occasional flare up, I am doing okay. I always know in the back of my mind that it could come back and be worse than it was before, but for now I'm taking one day at a time.

To find out more visit:   The Arthritis Society

Friday, May 30, 2014

I'm a Parent Tested Parent Approved Blogaholic!

So excited to tell you that I'm a PTPA Blogaholic!  You will find my first post for them here!  Looking forward to all the great things to come with them!  Check them out at: PTPA



Glama Gal Tween Spa Giveaway

The giveaway has now ended.  Thanks to all who entered.





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Saturday, May 24, 2014

Our Long Distance Love - Meeting my Husband From Across the Ocean

This is probably the easiest story for me to tell and one that I want to tell you all about.

As you know, if you have been reading my blog, I was married for almost 10 years but in 2010 we separated and soon after, got divorced. During the last year or so of my marriage, I was unhappy and I spent a lot of time on my IPhone.  Probably more time than I should have but it was the only little bit of happiness besides my kids, that I really had.  In August of 2010, I downloaded an app called Bingo Live 90.  It is just a little bingo app that allows you to chat with other players in the room.

I spent a lot of time playing this game as it was just a time waster and I was soon talking to almost everyone in the rooms.  There was a group of us that became really close and played and chatted together all the time. Honestly, my IPhone and the people in that bingo game became my friends. Although to this day we have never met, I still keep in contact with them on a regular basis and if I ever visit their hometowns, I am sure that we would get together for coffee.

The chatting in the bingo game eventually moved out to Skype.  Skype is an amazing way to connect with people all over without having to pay long distance fees.  I was able to chat with my him in England and it cost me nothing. Once a week we would all have a chat.  I remember my very first Skype conversation with him.  Honestly, if you are a woman, his voice would have had you swooning.  I am not bragging but I am sure that any woman out there would admit that hearing a British accent really is sexy.  I loved hearing him talk.  I purposely used to ask him questions that would take him a few minutes and lots of talking to answer just so I could listen to him speak.

One of the very first things I realized about him was that we were a lot alike.  We had quite a few of the same interests and we could talk for hours about everything and nothing.  He was also in an unhappy marriage and was in the process of getting divorced as well.  Our meeting and subsequent relationship happened very quickly. Do I think that it may have been too soon? Was he a rebound relationship?  Was this good for the kids? These thoughts and many others went through my mind but in the end I decided to see where it would go.

He spoiled me over the next few months.  Having my favourite perfume sent to me as a surprise, roses delivered on Valentine's day (11 real roses and 1 fake with a note that said "I will love you until the last rose dies, I'm pretty sure I cried for over an hour) and cards sent to me in the mail, just because.


We decided that he would come to Canada to visit me in March of 2011.  It was march break here for the kids so my sister-in-law (the angel that she is) said she would take them for a visit to her house in Michigan for the week and then I didn't have to worry about the kids for the week and I could decide if they were going to meet him or not.

The day he was arriving a friend of mine dropped me off at the airport and I waited.  I have never been so scared, nervous and excited all at the same time.  What if he didn't like me?  What if we didn't hit it off? I should have left all of the nerves at the door because it couldn't have been more perfect.  I saw him immediately and just like that it was like a door to a whole new life opened for us. We spent the week doing fun "touristy" stuff.  I got to go to the CN tower for dinner for the first time, we went shopping (he most definitely spoiled me), we spent a night in Niagara Falls in which he had the most amazing rainbow coloured roses delivered and waiting in our hotel room for me and we took my parents to dinner at Stage West, another first for me.

Everything was absolutely perfect and the only thing left was to pick my kids back up in Michigan and introduce him.  That went even better than I expected as well.  The kids had seen and spoken to him with me on Skype and we introduced him as my friend. The week couldn't have gone any better but it came to an end and I had to say goodbye.  About 3 weeks went by and we decided that we needed to be in the same country so I started looking into jobs that he could do, so he could come to Canada and work.  He was a truck driver in England so I started there.  Eventually, I found a company that had a foreign worker program and would take him as an employee here.  So it was decided, I would go visit him in England in July of 2011, my first trip anywhere (up until this point I had never been anywhere and never on a plane) and it was amazing, but I will save that for another post.  We now call that trip our honeymoon before the wedding.

On July 23, 2011 we landed in Toronto and our life here began.  We got married in September 2012 and had our son in August 2013.  We are currently waiting for his permanent residency to be approved and hope to have that sometime this summer.  We started off in different parts of the world but in the end love really did find me and I can't wait for what the future will bring us.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

A Child's First True Hero: Dad

I thought this post would be appropriate as Father's day is just around the corner.  I want to start off by saying that I have absolutely no contact with my biological father.  The last time we spoke I was 18 years old and we had a disagreement over what he thought was normal behaviour on his part (I disagreed) and he hung up the phone on me.  He was a very abusive man towards my mother and my siblings and I.  My mother told him to leave after my sister and I told her to make a choice between him and us.  Oh sure after the separation, we did see him every other weekend for about 3 months and then all contact stopped. He just left.  We had no idea where he had gone and to be honest, I really didn't care.  I didn't find him again until that last phone call when I was 18.  He has a new life in Arizona with his new wife and her 3 kids. He never looked back.

What truly makes me sad, is the fact that he has no idea that he is a grandfather to my 4 beautiful children, my brothers 2 children and my sisters' soon to be 2 children. Although, at the end of the day, he really isn't a man I want in their lives. I am sure that I won't ever try to get in touch with him again and I am okay with that. Although my daughter does know that he wasn't a very nice man and that he used to hit me a lot, I am not sure what I will do if they ever want to try and contact him. I don't really want them to have anything to do with him but he is their biological grandfather, but I will cross that bridge if I ever have to.

So now that we have that out of the way, I wanted to really just discuss fathers versus dads. After that conversation, I never considered him anything more than a sperm donor, harsh I know, but that 's exactly what he became to me.  I really wish things had been different because what child doesn't want their father in the their life in whatever capacity they are capable of.  But alas, he ran and was capable of nothing more than donation. He lost his chance to be my dad and grandfather to my kids and there in lies the difference.

Any man can father a baby but it really does take a real man to be a dad.  It takes an even bigger man to be a father figure to a child that isn't even his. I really didn't have a great role model in which to compare other men to.  I have learned that being a dad means truly being there, being plugged in and just unconditionally loving your children.  Picking them up and brushing them off, all the while telling them they have to try again.  A dad is there to protect you and be your hero. Always your cheerleader.  He will listen and above all, just love you.

Now my step-dad and I haven't always seen eye to eye but at the end of the day I could ask him to do something for me and he would be there.  He walked me down the aisle for my first marriage and was there to help pick up the pieces when it fell apart.  He stood with my now husband as his best man for my second marriage.  We get along as well as any step-dad and daughter could and I know I can count on him.


So now that I am a mother, I am glad that my 3 children from my first marriage are lucky enough to have 2 real men in their lives, 2 heroes.  Their father, although he was not a great husband or father when we were married, he has become an amazing dad now.  He loves them wholeheartedly, he's plugged in and he tries his best with what he knows a father should be (his father passed away when he was 8).  My husband, their step-dad also loves them unconditionally.  We also have a son together and his love is no different for him than the other 3.  That makes him an amazing man in my books.  When a man can love another mans' children they way he does, there is no greater love.  I am so amazingly happy and thankful that my children will grow up with two men who are real men.  They love these kids unconditionally and that is all a child really needs.

So to all the real men in the world, thank you.  Thank you for helping to make our little people, great big people.  Thank you for carrying us on your broad shoulders and for using them to protect us.  So this Father's Day, say thank you, say I love you, make sure they know how absolutely important they are to you and how thankful you are that they are your dad.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

I took the #Stayfree Challenge

So let me first start this post off by saying I am an Always girl.  I have been using Always pads from the very first period I have ever had until now.  So when I was asked if I was interested in taking the Stayfree Challenge, I jumped at the chance to see how they would stack up against my brand of choice.

I received a very big (and heavy) package that contained all of the materials I would need to test out the pads. In the box there were 3 bottles of blue saline liquid, three 5 pound weights (hence the heavy part), a package of Stayfree pads and 2 competitors pads as well as 3 blotting sheets.


I love the fact that I get to see first hand how they stack up against the other brands.  I am not going to lie to you, that time of the month is horrible for me.  After every baby I have had, my wonderful cycle has gotten heavier and heavier.  I really have had a tough time finding a pad that will do the trick because I will tell you changing your pad every 15 minutes when you have 4 kids and a life is not fun at all. Not just that, but being self-conscious about leaking is a constant stress for me as well.  Trust me when I say I own no white bottoms for the summer and granny panties really are my best friend. So I got down to work and tested the pads out.

Well I will tell you, I was really shocked by the results.

I really impressed from the very start of the test.  Even when I poured the liquid on, you can see in the photo that on the Stayfree ultra thin pad it pretty much stayed where I poured it, where as on the other two pads, it spread out from where I had poured it.

What I saw next was pretty amazing and really has changed my opinion on Stayfree ultra thin pads. When I removed the weights, the competitor pads failed miserably.  The Stayfree ultra thin pad had pulled all the liquid away and the blotter sheet was almost completely free of any blue liquid, the same could not be said for the other pads at all.  One of the blotter sheets was completely blue and the second one was blue in quite a few spots.


Overall, I was quite impressed with this challenge test and I could see first hand that the Stayfree ultra thin pad did exactly what it claims.  It absorbed faster and was dryer much quicker than the other brands. Even after I took the blotting strips off, I felt each pad with my fingers as well, the competitor pads were still wet to the touch and the Stayfree ultra thin pad was dry.  I guess the fact that this design was inspired by athletic wear fabric really makes all the difference.

But I am not one to just follow the pack.  I wanted to know how they would stack up to the real thing.  So as luck would have it, Aunt Flo made her appearance while I was testing this product and I will tell you, the Stayfree ultra thin pad worked amazing.  As I told you earlier, my time of the month is awful and finding a pad that can make it better for me has been difficult, so not having to worry this month was an absolute godsend. So not only did they pass the liquid test but they stood up to the real thing even better than my go to brand ever has.  After this test, Stayfree is going to be my brand of choice, not only for me, but for my daughter when hers starts. After all these years, I am glad that I have finally found a product that I can be confident using.  My granny panties have seen their last days! Thanks Stayfree.

But don't just take my word for it follow the link and take Stayfree Challenge for yourself!

Disclosure:  Although I may have been given compensation for this in the form of products and/or other compensation, the opinions in this blog and post are all my own.



Guest Blog Post at Live By Surprise

Today I have been featured as a guest blogger at "Live By Surprise" (twitter @livebysurprise). I was so excited that she asked me to write something for her blog because as you know I am quite new to the whole blogging thing, so take a peek at my first guest blog post by clicking above.

While you are there check out her other great posts about divorce and co-parenting issues, she is a great writer and mommy of 3. Also if you missed it she also featured me in another post as well, you can find it here.


Wednesday, May 14, 2014

VIP Daddy Daughter Day at Glama Gal Tween Spa


VIP Daddy Daughter Day – Sunday June 15th,2014
What better way to spend Father’s Day then with your daughter at the SPA! Check out this great package as we transform our Glama Gal Tween Spa into a place where Dad and Daughter can have some special bonding time in a unique way. We have time slots available between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. on Sunday June 15th,2014
*DIY Cologne and Perfume Making for the 2 of You
*My heart belongs to Daddy Locket Creation
*Ultimate Daddy Makeover- Use our Make Up and Give Dad a makeover
*Chocolate Facial Masks For the Two of You
*Caramel Hand Masks and Massages
*Daddy’s Little Girl Photo Keepsake of the two of you
*Root Beer and Pretzels Served Throughout
Approximately 1 hour
$85.00 per father daughter duo
Add additional daughter or son for $40.00 each
*Portion of sales from this day will go to Heart & Stroke in honour of  our Ultimate Glama Gal Dad Mark Cannone*

Friday, May 9, 2014

Qustodio - Parental Control Software

I thought I would write a little post about Qustodio.  I received this product after winning a giveaway during the #UBP14 blog party week last month.  I won a one year subscription to Qustodio which is a parental control program that I can use to keep my young kids safe while still allowing them the freedom to use the Internet. In no way was I paid by Qustodio for this review, I just thought as a parent that it needed to be put out there as we all want our kids safe.

I want to start by saying that this program is by no means going to keep your children safe if you aren't still involved in the process.  As a parent of 4 young children, I know that the only way to really keep them safe is stay as plugged in to their lives and the things that they are doing at all times.  The benefit to having Qustodio is that it can give you the extra eyes and ears we all sometimes need.

One of the first things I liked about this program when I read about it was the fact that I can use it across multiple devices and multiple children.  A good thing since I have 3 kids using the Internet. It can also be used on apple devices, android devices, kindle, Mac O/S and Windows.  I will most definitely be writing another review when my daughter starts using her IPhone which I will be installing the software on as well.

When I first went to the site to download the software, it was pretty straightforward and the instructions were easy to follow.  The other great thing I liked about this software was its ease of use.  It took me all of 10 minutes to setup both of my older two kids.  I also loved the fact that although I put the software on the laptop my daughter got for Christmas, it actually setup another account for my son as there wasn't one on her laptop.  It was the easiest setup I have had with any parental software (trust me when I say I have tried a few).  I am hoping the setup for the IPhone is just as easy (but more on that later).

If you notice the screenshot below, you will see the detailed report you will get when you login to your parent account online.  It gives you a breakdown of exactly what your child was doing while browsing the Internet on any computer or device that you have the software setup on.  It will also allow you to put time limits and blocking of webpage content.  With the other parental software I used, I found that they had an all or nothing approach where Qustodio is more customizable and allows you to choose what you want and how you want it.  It allows you to add trusted sites as well to make your life even easier.

Another plus for this software is the e-mail alerts and updates.  I receive an e-mail automatically as soon as either child attempts to access a site that is off-limits or if Qustodio believes there may be a threat to their safety.  I also receive a detailed e-mail every morning outlining the previous days' activity.  I love this feature as I can check up on them and be more aware of there browsing habits and if I need to have a chat with them about what they are doing it's much easier to go in with information.  Both of my children know the software is there and they know that it is to keep them safe.  My daughter, who is 10, uses the Internet a lot and I like that I know what's going on at all times.  I find that it's easier to stay plugged in if I know what they have been doing. It definitely helps to keep the lines of communication open.

Now I have a one year subscription which is worth $44.95 and allows you to track 5 users and 5 devices, they do have a free version as well as a version that tracks 10 users and 10 devices for $79.95.  You can read about it here. The main differences between the free version and the premium version are in the table below (note that anything with a star is only available with the subscription).  As you can see most of the great features of this software are available for free which is great.

Overall, I am a huge fan of this software and I will most likely be renewing my subscription in a year.  I am glad that I won this as I am confident that is helping me keep my kids safer than if we didn't have it.

For more information or to download the software for yourself visit http://www.qustodio.com.

Please note that this software is just a piece of the puzzle and although it can help you in many ways, at the end of the day, you still need to be vigilant and plugged in to what your kids are doing

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Glama Gal Mother's Day Event

MOTHERS DAY EVENT - Perfect Day for two

Bonds in Bloom Mother’s Day Afternoon: Sunday May 11th, 2014 
Time Slots: 10:30am/12:00pm/2:00pm
$100.00 Per Mother Daughter Combo
$50.00 Each Additional Guest ie Aunt, Sister, Grandma
“An empowering afternoon to celebrate the bond between us and the most important women in our lives”

* Upon entering, Mother’s and daughter’s will enjoy mock-Mimosas and will munch on belgian waffles to be topped with an array of fresh fruit.  
 * Mom and daughter(s) will enjoy a fragrant mother’s rose manicure.  Hands will soak in delicate rose pedals before being finished with floral designs.
 * Girls will design a “Motivate Mom” keepsake box.  On days that Mom is feeling blue, she will open up this box and think of you!  Girls will fill the box with photos, motivational messages, and reasons why Mom is loved so much.
 * Match Mom at the floral hair piece creation station! With Mom by their side, girls will decorate pastel coloured headbands with ornate accessories, jewels, and flowers.  
 * End the afternoon with a lovely lavender facial refresher! Girls will relax as the botanical flower extract calms their skin and leaves them feeling rejuvenated.  
 * Mommy Swag Bag! Our guest of honour deserves some at-home pampering too! So, we send mom and daughter(s) home with bath bombs and another unforgettable keepsake.
 Help Strengthen other Family Bonds:
$5 from each ticket sold will be donated to local women shelters based on the Glama Gal Location.

The Final Straw: Why I chose to Leave my Marriage



When I got married I thought that he was my soulmate and we would be together until death do us part. I came to the realization that I was very wrong.

See the rest of my article on Divorcedmoms.com

Friday, May 2, 2014

Mothers Day - My Mommy View

As this time of year comes around again, I can't be anything but thankful. Thankful for my four beautiful babies. Thankful that someone decided that I should be their mommy.

I remember when I was a little girl I wanted to be a mommy. I didn't want to do anything else because when I was 8 being a mommy was the most important job in the world.  As I got older, I still wanted to be a mom but I knew that I would have to have a good job to take care of all of my kids (I wanted 8) and I wanted to be able to give my kids all of the things that my parents weren't able to give me.  My parents tried their best to get us all of the things we needed or wanted but we weren't rich and they could only afford so much.

Being a mom now, I realize that being a good mom has nothing to do with what I can buy my kids. Being a good mom means loving them unconditionally, making the hard decisions so that they can learn to be upstanding adults with good morals and beliefs and letting them know that I will always be there for them. It's not about the money we have but that they feel safe and loved.

Raising kids today is hard.  There are so many outside influences (and not good ones) that come into our kids lives everyday but as parents we have to make sure we are plugged in, we need to know what they are doing all the time and we have to balance this with the ability to let them grow too.  I am having a difficult time with this part.  My oldest, my daughter, is 10 and next September I have to allow her to walk to school on her own. It's not too far from home about a 15 minute walk but I have all of the horrible things in my head that could happen in 15 minutes.  It's my job to protect her and keep her safe.  How do I do that without smothering her?

When I was her age I was walking alone all the time.  I played at a park away from home for hours.  I went to the store on my own and I was never home after school until dinner time.  But it's not safe anymore.  We need to be vigilant.  I will keep them all safe.

So this mother's day, I don't want or need anything.  I just need them to grow and prosper and be safe. The best gift anyone could give me, I already have. Happy, healthy kids that get to call me mommy and I love them more than any gift in the world, but I wouldn't complain if they let me sleep in.