Living with Epilepsy

ref=sr_1_1March is finally here.  March is the month for re-birth.  The clocks spring forward, the days grow longer and the promise of warmer weather does not seem so far-fetched.

March is also Epilepsy Awareness month.  This year those words are not simply words written at the top of my calendar page.  This March marks 6 months since my youngest son was diagnosed with epilepsy shortly after his second birthday.

It was a harrowing several months for our family.  Unsure what was the cause of the seizures my toddler visited various doctors and underwent many specialized tests including an EEG and an MRI.  Most terrifying was the thought that my son had a brain tumor or a debilitating congenital disease so when the diagnosis of Epilepsy (Complex partial seizures) was handed down, the relief that I felt was unlike anything that I have ever known.

Despite the fact that more than 300,000 Canadians live with epilepsy, myths, misconceptions and stigmas still abound.

  • Epilepsy is a physical condition characterized by sudden, brief changes in how the brain works.  It is a symptom of a neurological disorder.
  • Each day in Canada an average of 42 people will learn that they have epilepsy.
  • It’s physically impossible to swallow your tongue, so don’t try to force something into someone’s mouth who is having a seizure.  You could cause them more harm.
  • The medication that exists today helps people with epilepsy live full lives but it is important to note that it is not a cure.  The medication acts like a goalie and will not be able to stop all seizures from manifesting.  Unfortunately for some people, medication does not work at controlling their seizures.

If you know someone who has a child that has been recently diagnosed with epilepsy, might I offer a few suggestions?

  • Moms are a crazy bunch.  Their fears kick into overdrive even though some of them are unfounded.  Don’t tell them to calm down, instead listen to their fears and be a shoulder to cry on.
  • Don’t suggest that it’s “no big deal” and go to list all of the people you know with epilepsy living full lives.
  • Don’t say, “It’s not so bad”.  You’re right, it is not so bad, but it will take some time for the family to adjust to their new normal.  As with any change, it will take time (and possibly a few tears).

I have found several resources to be helpful for our family.

Epilepsy Canada (this is where all of the facts for this post were found)

Mommy, I Feel Funny!  A Child’s Experience with EpilepsyDanielle M. Rocheford (author) and Chris Herrick (illustrator)

Growing Up with Epilepsy: A Practical Guide For Parents Lynn Bennett Blackburn, PhD.

Epilepsy: 199 Answers: A Doctor Responds to His Patients’ QuestionsAndrew N. Wilner

Seizures and Epilepsy in Childhood:  A Guide for Parents, 3rd Edition – John M. Freeman, MD, Eileen P.G. Vining,MD, & Diana J. Pillas

What We’re Reading: Kids Edition

From Beth-Anne:

images-1Jan Thomas

My middle son is turning out to be quite the bibliophile and I couldn’t be happier!  When he discovers a new author whose books he enjoys he wants to read everything they have written.  Phoebe Gilman’s and Melanie Watt’s books have been re-read so many times that I have lost count.  Jan Thomas is the new fav


ourite. Her books have been making their way home in the library bag and after reading a few, I can see why he likes them so much.  They’re fun!  If you are looking for an extension activity, Rhyming Dust Bunnies is a great choice for this activity that I did with my son or check out her website that is chock-full of things to do!

Zeke Meeks series by D.L. Green

My oldest son is what I what I would call a reluctant reader.  He can read, and is more capable than he believes but not many early chapter books interest him.  The typical ones have fallen flat with Captain Underpants making the biggest ker-plop (I can’t say that I am overly disappointed).  His school librarian introduced him to the Zeke Meeks series and we have a winner.  While the humor is lost on me (but I am not a seven year old boy) it makes him laugh out loud and encourages him to keep with it.  The double-spaced text and the sprinkling of illustrations help to combat the intimidation of ten lengthy chapters.   At the end of the book D.L. Green offers discussion questions and a glossary of the bigger words found throughout the book; words like: auditorium, cashmere, repulsive.  Only kids of today can read a book, be directed to a website link and explore the characters of the book in an entirely different realm and while it’s not traditional, many of the literary extension activities on-line prove to be quite good.

27_CC2_Cover_bMedResCurious Critters Volume Two by David Fitzsimmons

Wow!  There is no other word that I can think of to describe the vivid photography used to illustrate this playful resource book for children.  Fitzsimmons’s book is fun and factual and would be a welcome addition to any child’s library.  Curious Critters Volume 1 and 2 audiobooks, in addition to a children’s song, are available for purchase and download here.  Click over, trust me, it’s fun!


From Carol

little houseSo I haven’t exactly discovered this set of beloved books that has been enjoyed for generations, but I’m reading the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder and joining the throngs of fans.  It’s just one slice of life at that time (noting the relationships to “Indians”, for example), but that slice is carefully and lovingly unveiled, and the prose both restrained and evocative.  Farmer Boy is the third book in the series, featuring a nine-year old Almanzo, but otherwise the books focus on the female protagonist Laura, and it’s wonderful how a good story well written is what holds a rapt audience and not the gender of the protagonist.  It’s been lovely to share with my boys, and I’m glad we still have several novels to go.

Travelling With Kids: Yea or Nay?

I came across this post that I wrote several years ago, before number three was even on the way, and I can’t believe how much our lives have changed.  We’ve had the opportunity to travel as a family and experience incredible adventures together that I will forever treasure.  Does it ever amaze you how quickly the time flies by and in what seems like a blink years have passed?


“Having kids is not going to change our life”.  That was the mantra that my husband and I would repeat as newlyweds.  Above all else, we were going to continue our love affair with travelling. In our ignorant opinion, parents who compromised were just lazy.  Fast-forward a few years, 2 kids and a mini-van (gasp!) later, I am agonizing with my husband whether or not we should pack the bathing suits along with lots of patience and take our two young boys on vacation.

This will be the third trip we have taken with precious cargo.  When our first born, was only 5 months old we set off in our sporty SUV for a driving trip around Quebec.  It was everything we imagined travelling with a child to be:  our darling baby lulled to sleep for hours by the hum of the road and late night romantic dinners while our babe, snuggled in his stroller, dozed soundlessly.   Sure, it took some planning but travel was entirely possible with little ones.

My smugness bit me on the nose aboard an Air Canada jet a few months later.  Suffering from an unknown allergic reaction, our one year old threw up chewed pineapple all over himself, my husband and me.  The poor business traveler squished in the seat beside us was spared, thankfully.  Being the good mother that I was, I had a fresh sleeper for him but my husband and I spent the rest of the flight avoiding the uncomfortable glances of neighbouring passengers.  All of our hopes were dashed with greater speed than projectile vomit.  Swollen hives, wakeful nights and general misery presided over the weeklong holiday.  I found myself counting the hours until we’d be back home.

When our second son was born, we were wiser, more experienced.  So when my in-laws announced that they wanted to take the entire family on holiday this summer to commemorate a special birthday, my husband and I exchanged looks of terror.  A six-hour car ride with two kids under 3?   Celebratory meals in nice restaurants?  Uh, no thanks.  After plying us with wine, we reluctantly gave our consent.  The car ride was surprisingly pleasant (thank you DVD player) but the five days of torrential rain and being confined to two small rooms was enough to make even Mother Teresa lose her cool.

The problem remains that when we consider resigning all vacations with the kids until post-puberty we are reminded of our own childhoods.   As a boy my husband would ski all day with his brothers and then return to the cabin to engage in shenanigans that to this day make them bust up with laughter.  I remember trips to Disney World, and what remains with me today more than the vision of Cinderella’s castle, are the times that my work-a-holic father was freed from his cell phone and over-stuffed briefcase.

A few days ago while I was walking the boys to school, I overheard an angst-ridden teenaged girl whine to her friend that her parents were making her go to Mexico for Christmas vacation.  The friend agreed that her parents were being “totally unfair”.  What ungrateful and undeserving brats!  While listening to their whining it occurred to me, there might come a time when my boys would rather be in the company of their friends than explore the world with their parents.  That night my husband and I confirmed a flight reservation.  The vacations that we take with our kids are different than the ones we enjoyed as a carefree couple but I won’t trade the sleepless nights, frantic airports or all-you-can-eat buffets for anything.

The reality is that I am selfish.  I want to see their little faces awash with excitement when we step across the gate at the Magic Kingdom and I want it to be my hand they reach for when we are jostled about in a crowded bazaar.  I know it will not be long before they are grown men, who will want a different woman at their side.

They make travel with kids look so easy.  Now that's acting!

They make travel with kids look so easy. Now that’s acting!

Literacy Extension Activity: How To Eat Fried Worms (kindergarten-grade 3)


Mrs. Claus brought books to each of my boys on Christmas Eve Eve.  My middle and youngest received Christmas stories that they happily listened to over and over.  My oldest is a bit of a reluctant reader and it’s a challenge to engage him in stories.

Mrs. Claus surprised him a favourite story of his mom’s when she was in grade school.  How To Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell was left on his breakfast plate, alongside his new pyjamas, with this inscription:

This was your mommy’s favourite book when she was in the third grade.  I’m sure you will love it too!  Ask your mommy to read it to you.  DSC_0774

The three of us (middle son included) would cuddle up each night and read a few chapters.  The story was an instant hit with the boys, and really what’s not to love?  Gross squiggly wigglies, dirt bikes, bathroom humor and a gang of best friends.

After we finished the book, we did some extension activities.

Feel sorry for my boys – you can take the teacher out of the classroom . . .

DSC_0778Choose a month of the year and complete the blank calendar.

  • Before we did this we reviewed the months of the year and the days of the week.  Here is a catchy tune to help your child learn the months and the days.


Print the number of the days in the calendar squares.

  • We discussed how some months have 30 days and others 31 days and that February only has 28 days.  It’s tricky to learn how many days each month has but this poem/action has proven to be quite helpful.


Are there an odd or even number of days in the month of that you chose?  How do you know?

  • What does “even” mean?  My middle son is Mr. Fairness and he was quick to explain that “even” means “fair”.  That if there is an even number, nothing is left over (and no one gets an extra).  The oldest said that you can always split the extra but then you’d be using fractions.  The boys worked together to identify that even numbers end is 0,2,4,6,8 and odd numbers end in 1,3,5,7,9.  Mr. Fairness also pointed out that this is pattern.

If Billy has to eat one worm every day for 15 days how many worms does he have to eat in total?  Is 15 an odd or even number?

  • The boys laid out their gummy worms on the calendar – one for each day.  This provided them with a visual of just how many 15 worms Billy had to eat.  I also asked the boys when they hear “in total” or “all together” what mathematical operation should they use?



If Billy has to double the number of days, but still eat one worm per day, how many days does he have to eat worms?  How many worms will have to eat in total?  Is that an odd or an even number?

  • It amazed me how they worked together to solve this problem.  The oldest wanted to show off his double-digit adding skills and taught his brother how to re-group.  They showed the several ways to solve this problem with words, pictures and using the gummy worms!


The boys also drew a picture of their favourite character from the novel.  Mr. Fairness chose the worm and his big brother was quick to follow suit!


We couldn’t leave those gummy worms on the calendar, so we made some worms in mud!*


And the next time we want to rent a movie, How To Eat Fried Worms it will be!

*Sorry, no photos from our kitchen creation.  This one is via pinterest.

The Pitfalls of Living With a Love Polyglot

il_570xN.526702741_rgt8Despite winning the French fluency award in the eighth grade, growing up with a bilingual father and being married to someone who speaks three languages, I am what one would call a monolinguist.

I am no fun at parties. I raise my glass with a meek “Cheers!”

I don’t even know the dirty words, the cuss words, in any other language.

Nope.  I am decidedly a unilinguist.  And even that’s questionable considering the number of times in a day when I find myself at a loss for words, desperately searching for the perfect adjective and settling for a sub-par alternative.

However it seems when it comes to love and speaking the 5 Love Languages, I am a regular polyglot (I had to look that up)!

Either that or I am painfully insecure.

Words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of services and physical touch: I speak these eloquently, without accent or hesitation, no stumbling or incorrect conjugations.

I have friends that can start a sentence in Italian and complete it in a flourish of French.  While I don’t know le from les, I know that my three boys and husband each have their own love language that is as different from each other as their thumbprints.

I transition from one love language to another with the ease and fluency of a professional translator.  This innate ability is not startling to me; it’s matter-of-fact.  It’s as natural as speaking Russian – if I were in fact, Russian.

My kids and husband benefit from my understanding the 5 Love Languages.  But there is a challenge in living with a love polyglot like myself: knowing on any given day what is being spoken when you walk through the front door.

“I was thinking of you today when I walked by the patisserie.” He says handing me my favourite, a bag of still warm pain au chocolate.

“It’s Thursday!  Thursday’s garbage day!  Do I have to do everything around here!?”

Poor guy.


The artwork is available at YourOwnWords on etsy.

Sweating Away The Winter Blahs With These Fitness Bloggers

imagesIt’s been an especially brutal winter for north easterners.  The snow is never ending, the temperatures frigid and the skies gloomy – much like most people’s mood.

Admittedly nothing but a thaw and a rise in the mercury will remedy my winter blahs and make my heart happy but a good work out and a hot bath are the closest runners-up.

Looking to break a sweat?  Visit some of my go-to fitness blogs for some inspiration.

The Fitnessista – a mom, a military wife and a certified fitness trainer.  Gina provides readers with detailed workouts for newbies and the hard-core contingent.

Bess Be Fit – features weekly workouts by the eponymous Bess.  Highlight: most workouts don’t require any equipment so there are no excuses!

Carla Birnberg – hailed by the celebrity trainers as an influential fitness blogger, Carla serves up the fitness and inspiration in equal doses.

Workout Mommy – the name says it all!

Blogilates – Casey Ho, certified trainer, peppers her blog with videos that are a must for any visual learner who doesn’t know the difference between a plank and a bridge.

Jillian Michaels Yoga Meltdown #1 (this youtube video is worth the watch)

Stuffed Pork Chops: Skip the restaurant and stay home this Valentine’s Day

Untitled4Mothers welcomes Jillian as our guest for the day.  Jillian is a mother to her 10 month old daughter and an Air Force wife.  She is currently taking a year long break from her job as a news anchor.  Jillian blogs about her love for food, entertaining, travel and fitness at News Anchor to Homemaker.

My husband and I will be celebrating our seventh Valentine’s Day together this year.  I’ll never forget our first.  We were in college and I came home to a home-cooked meal…it was awful.  He made a shrimp dish, but he must have forgotten every spice in the recipe because it was pretty bland. To be honest though, I was so head over heels I didn’t care.  After dinner, he took me to the surprise part of the date at his apartment complex.  We pulled up to an outdoor fire place and  taped above it was a note that read, “Reserved”, signed by management.  He informed me he was “management.”  He was afraid someone would take his idea, so he made it look more official.  Smart guy!  He opened the trunk of his beat-up 4Runner and took out a blanket, champagne (one of his older friends must have bought it for him) and an assortment of chocolates.  It was perfect.

Thinking of our first Valentine’s Day together got me thinking about our favorite restaurant in our old college town, Athens, GA.  If you’re ever in Athens, then you should stop by The Last Resort Grill.  They used to make a dish similar to this.  It would be a great option for you and your sweetheart this February 14th.  Just my humble opinion of course!

Spinach Stuffed Pork Chop:

Prep: 10 Minutes

Total: 20 Minutes

2 Pork Chops, with a pocket cut

8 oz. Spinach, chopped, cooked and well-drained

Sea Salt and Pepper to taste

Splash of Chardonnay, divided

2-3 Tbs. Butter, divided


Drain your cooked spinach and pat very dry.  Toss into a pan with a splash of chardonnay and about 1 tablespoon (or less) of butter. Cook for a couple minutes then stuff the pork chop with the spinach. Season pork chop with Sea Salt and Cracked pepper.  In a pan, melt more butter and add a more chardonnay. Cook your pork chops for several minutes on each side.

Sweet Potato Mash:

2 Large Sweet Potatoes, peeled.

2 Tablespoons of Butter

1 Tablespoon of Maple Syrup

1 Tablespoon of Brown Augar

1/4 Cup of Milk


Boil sweet potatoes until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain and mash in butter, syrup and sugar, then mash with milk until desired consistency.


What We’re Reading

From Beth-Anne

imgresDreams From My Father by Barack Obama

Technically I didn’t read this book.  Rather, I listened to it while walking the twenty minutes home after dropping my boys at school.  I am intrigued by other people’s lives: ordinary people and those swathed in the limelight.  I enjoy listening to memoirs/autobiographies, especially when read by the author and Obama’s smooth baritone served to lull my nerves after the fracas that is the morning routine.  It’s not a political tome, nor is it pushing any agendas.  It’s simply a reflection, a recount of his formative years with the insight that one only has decades later.    The 5+ hours were a welcome distraction and nearing the end, I found myself taking the long way home.

imgres-1Bride of New France by Suzanne Desrochers

Laure’s story begins in Paris in the 1650’s.   Paris of yesteryear was a gritty and dirty place.  The streets teemed with poverty and sanatoriums overpopulated with the physically sick, mentally ill and destitute.  A careful selection of young girls from these institutions were shipped to New France with the intention of marrying them off to the male settlers and populate the area thereby securing the land for France from the native people.  Reading this novel transported me back to 7th grade history and the King’s Daughter by Suzanne Martel, however Desrocher’s account of life as a filles du roi is more suited for adult eyes.

imagesTurtle Valley by Gail Anderson-Dargatz

I can’t start a book by Gail Anderson-Dargatz if there is anything pressing I must attend to because once I read the first few pages I am committed.  In this case, I followed Kat on her agonizing journey of self-discovery while she put out fires, both literally and figuratively, while re-awakening a fire deep within.  Kat returns home to care for her dying father and support her mentally ailing mother while coming to terms with the end of her marriage to her stroke-ravaged husband.  To complicate things, the neighbour is her recently divorced former lover with whom she shares a sorrowful secret.  While the drama runs high, the characters are real and lack any of the histrionics you’d expect from a soap opera.

From Carol

paradise lotParadise Lot by Eric Toensmeier is an account of two young men who buy a small, barren urban lot in Massachusetts and set about creating a “permaculture paradise” featuring more than two hundred edible plants, many of which you and I have never heard of.  I plowed (ha!) through this book, which was made more interesting by revealing parallel exploration and growth in the protagonists’ lives (they meet lovers and settle down).   So much of the literature on permaculture and growing food assumes one has and needs swaths and swaths of land; this book shows how much is possible anywhere and encourages its readers to do what they can, where they are.

urban farms

A bit counter-intuitive maybe, given the subject matter, but Urban Farms by Sarah Rich is like a coffee table showpiece for this particular kind of farm.  A good-looking book that profiles 16 forward-looking farms thriving in city environments,  there’s more of a reporting quality to this book than a heartfelt one, but the featured farms are so innovative that they can almost speak for themselves.  Fascinating overview of what is possible, especially for the reader new to urban agriculture.

From Nathalie

imagesQS9I6XEVWell, I have officially gone down the rabbit hole.  After my wonderfully fun book club, I’m perfume-obsessed.  I’ve spent the last four nights with Tania Sanchez and Luca Turin’s Perfumes: The A-Z Guide.  It is more than 600 pages long; it reviews 1800 fragrances; I have ordered more than a few samples from Lucky ScentThe A-Z Guide is a hoot.  There is no pretense of objectivity.  This is entirely a subjective, first person and opinionated account of the authors’ encounters with all perfumes, great and small.  The fact that some of my favourites appear on their five star list was no small source of pleasure.  They, too, love Dzing!, The Breath of God, and Cuir de Russie.

After reading The Perfect Scent, I went back to re-read The Emperor of Scent, Chandler Burr’s book about Luca Turin.  Not only is Turin an eloquent perfume aficionado, he’s a maverick scientist who, out of his love for perfume, comes up with an entirely new theory of how smell works.  He is subsequently vilified and demonized by perfumers and scientists alike, and Burr tells what could easily be a conspiracy theory fairy tale so compellingly and so carefully that it’s hard not to fall in love with both of them.  Absolutely fascinating.  Even the second time around.emp

While I’m at it, I might as well tell you about Patrick Suskind’s Perfume, a novel that I liked more for its detail about how perfume is made than for its plot.  An orphaned child has an uncannily sensitive sense of smell.  He learns the perfume business, makes his employers rich and famous with his genius, then embarks on his own life’s work: to make perfume that smells like innocence.  He does not do it innocently.  If, like me, you are tired of the CSI/murder mystery/Cold Case plot that pits a psychopath against anonymous virginal females, consider yourself warned.  Worth reading for the perfume stuff, though!


Toot! Toot!

photo (42)Toot!  Toot!  That’s the sound of me tooting my own horn!

If you happen to be out at any Loblaw store be sure to look for Viva Magazine (a premium women’s health magazine).  The 2014 weight-loss issue features Jaimie Alexander on the cover and it is chock-full of health and fitness tips, green beauty trends and delicious recipes (including a sun-dried tomato soup that is to die for!).

And if you flip to page 40 you will see an article titled Mommy Tummy (a mother of three contemplates society’s obsession with shedding our baby weight and asks the experts if a celebrity body after baby is realistic for us mere mortals) and I wrote it!  It’s my very first full-length article in a magazine so excuse me while I gush like a first time mom and bombard you with photos.

photo (42) copy

Full disclosure:  That’s not me.  It’s Jessica Alba.  In case you were confused.

That’s Mrs. Manners to you!

imagesYou might as well call me Mrs. Manners – not that mine are perfect (close) but I am the self-appointed manners prefect of the family.  When did kids stop using Mrs., anyway? Like Nathalie, I am not always polite about reminding my boys to use their manners but remind them, I do.

Some (cough, cough the boys) may call it nagging but I call it “constructive guidance”.  It sounds better.

Sit up straight.  Elbows off the table.   Use your utensils.

I also excel at something that I’ve coined “verbal coaching”.  Before leaving the house, going to someone’s house, entering a store, straying more than an arm’s length from me, I like to prompt the boys:

How do we greet people?  What do you say when you arrive?  How do you shake a hand?  What do you say when you leave?  Remember to look at the person when they are speaking to you.  Use your voice, don’t mumble.  Be polite.  Say please, thank you.

Sometimes my gentle reminders are met with an eyeball roll.  I am quick to point out that’s quite rude.

It’s exhausting work being Mrs. Manners in addition to my regular gig as Super Martyr Mom but no one said raising three young boys to be kind, respectful, thoughtful men was easy.

Receiving accolades as a parent is as rare as experiencing a day free from whining.  Spoiler alert: it never happens.  Yet when report cards are sent home, no amount of A’s will make me as proud as when I read how my boys are polite, considerate and courteous.

It’s like I have been graded, and I have passed.  For now.


Cookie: Bite-Sized Life Lessons by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Have You Filled A Bucket Today? by Carol Mccloud have been read many times over in our home and serve as fantastic tools for teaching manners and kindness to my boys. 89d59b4cef6fd34a9e31f3533d879446