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October is Mystery Month #StreamTeam

October is one of my favourite months. For us Canadians, we get 2 holidays with both Thanksgiving and Halloween occurring in October, and the cool weather means a return to comfort food – stews and soups and casseroles, oh my!

With the days getting shorter and often rainier, I’m always looking for fun new ways to entertain my munchkins, so I decided to try my hand at an old favourite activity of mine – invisible ink! My 6-year-old being the drama queen that she is, always loves a bit of mystery so she was really excited to try her hand at this project.

Invisible Ink is a fun and easy project to do, although with the necessary heat involved, I would recommend it for older children. While there are many different ingredients you can use, we chose milk as it was what we had on hand. Follow these simple steps to try this mysterious craft for yourself!

Invisible Ink Instructions on Life, Love and the Pursuit of Play Netflix #StreamTeam

Continue reading

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Healthy Family Expo Twitter Party RSVP

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Being a parent is tough right? I don’t know about you, but being a sleep deprived working mama of 2 active girls is several full time jobs in and of itself, and as much as I love the conveniences that modern technology brings, I often find myself on information overload. There are so many articles, studies and blogs on what you should a NEVER feed your child, of the activities they should ALWAYS do – strict guidelines, rigid rules, extreme boundaries, absolute hardlines (often conflicting) – it’s enough to make his mama want to give up before I even start!

This is why I love the Healthy Family Expo, and am so excited to be an ambassador for them! They all about small steps and simple solutions to healthy, active and eco-friendly living for busy families. They get that many parents are overwhelmed by all the expert opinions that abound and need easy, actionable items, tools and encouragement (not shame and negativity) to make small, consistent changes toward a better life for ourselves and our families.

The Expo seems like a long way off (March 2015), but the fun is starting now! The Healthy Family Expo is hosting a Twitter Party on Wednesday, October 22 at 8pm PST to introduce some of their amazing sponsors and exhibitors to all of you – and give away over $1000 in prizes from Whole Foods Market, TravelSmart, London Drugs, Greener Print Solutions Inc., Cypress Mountain, AspenClean, Yaya Baby, In Good Company, Boomers & Echoes Kids & Maternity, Modern Mama, Love Child Organics, Pedalheads, Kristen Yarker, Child-Feeding Expert, ENJO (Kate Bailey), Naked Coconuts, SPUD, BC Playthings, Hydralyte, Norwex (Garcie Wong), GnuSanté, Bearfoot Playground and so many more!

Want in? All you have to do is follow @HealthyFamExpo on Twitter, and use the hashtag #HFEsmallsteps to join the fun! Before you get the party started, be sure to follow our wonderful sponsors and co-hosts too (find them all here) and RSVP with the linky below in order to be eligible to win! Use your Twitter handle for ‘Your Name’ and any web address (website, blog, facebook profile etc) for the ‘URL’ as long as it starts with ‘http://’.
For example:

@heather_vmil

http://www.facebook.com/heather.vanmil

 

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#ThriftorTreat at Value Village

Value Village #ThriftorTreat Collage on Life, Love and the Pursuit of Play

Ever since my 6-year-old was very young, we’ve had a special, if unusual Halloween tradition. We typically travel to Ontario for Canadian Thanksgiving, which (for those who don’t know) falls at the beginning of October. One year we were traveling back to BC just before Halloween when we realized we didn’t have a costume yet, so we popped into the closest shop to my mother-in-law’s house, which happened to be a Value Village. We found a cozy costume that my daughter fell in love with, and the rest was history.

Cheer Bear CareBear Costume from Value Village

Our First Value Village Costume – Cheer Bear!

Every year we go to the same Value Village, find an awesome costume, and pay an average of about $7 per costume! Not only is it a great price, but I love that we teaching our kids that there are great options for well-loved, reused/recycled things instead I always looking to buy new. In our house, where dress up is a common activity, and we now have 2 fashionable girls playing, these costumes get well used!

Given this history, I was so excited to get an invitation to join in the #ThriftorTreat experience at the original Value Village here in Vancouver! As always, I was thrilled by my finds. Not only did I score the CUTEST plush princess Halloween basket (which my 6-year-old went crazy for), but an entire range of animal dress up gear. Animal play pretend is the game du jour around our house so they fit in perfectly! The grand total for our Halloween haul was a whopping $48.

Value Village #ThriftorTreat Halloween Haul

The impressive Halloween Haul from my Value Village #ThriftorTreat shopping spree!

Whether looking for new or used costumes, accessories, decor or more, thanks to North Shore Mama, one lucky reader will win their own $100 Value Village shopping spree so you can get your #ThriftorTreat on this Halloween!

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Sleep, Glorious Sleep!

So my 18 month old FINALLY slept through the night last night AND slept in. For those of you who are not intimately familiar with the sleep routines (or lack thereof) chez van Mil, this is a big deal. A really, REALLY big deal (hence all the CAPS and exclamation marks)!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sleeping Sisters

Rare moments of bliss when everyone is asleep!

After the initial terror of waking up convinced my baby had died in her sleep had faded, I had the most productive morning of her entire life. This morning I actually spent quality time playing Lego and reading books with my children – and enjoyed it – instead of zoning out in front of Curious George. I loaded, ran and unloaded the dishwasher, as well as packed my oldest’s lunch for school while they enjoyed the healthy breakfast I made for them, as opposed to my 6-year-old grabbing whatever she can reach from the fruit bowl or fridge and sharing with her sister, while we’re zoned out in front of Curious George. I did my daughter’s hair in her favourite loopdy-loop double pony tail instead of sending her to school looking like a poster child of neglect. I swept and steam mopped the kitchen, bathroom and hallway floors. I did 2 loads of laundry. I organized our cupboards. I even washed the dusty air vents and kitchen walls. I wrote and published this blog post. Most impressively, I greeted my hubby with a smile and a kiss when he came home from work, instead of the grunt and flick of the eyes that he usually gets when we’re zoned out in front of Curious George. All of this accomplished BEFORE 9 am. I am a new woman!

Double Twist Pony Hairstyle on Life, Love and the Pursuit of Play

Adri’s favourite “loopdy-loop” hairstyle, complete with barrettes

Now I’m assuming I’ll get absolutely nothing done for the rest of the day, but that’s fine by me. I can’t help but wonder, is this what normal people feel like? You know, those mythical creatures whose children sleep through the night on a regular basis? At first I didn’t believe they existed, but now I’m starting to see the light – and the sleep – at the end of the tunnel.

 

Go on, torture me. Do your kids sleep well?

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Goodbye Daddy

Grief is a funny thing. It never looks exactly how you expect. You may have noticed it had been pretty quiet over here for the last few weeks. that is because my father unexpectedly passed away in the early hours of Friday, September 19. His sudden passing at the relatively young age of 64 has shaken our family and in the process, I’m learning what grief looks and feels like in my life.

Horse rides with Dad

Horsey rides with my Dad

If my relationship with my dad was a Facebook status, it would be “it’s complicated”. Our tumultuous past, coupled with the fact that we lived over 4000 km apart for the last 10 years has left me left me feeling at odds with the grieving process. Although we talked regularly and visited yearly, my Dad wasn’t a part of my daily life so his absence hasn’t impacted me in the same way that it has the rest of my family. His passing doesn’t quite seem real to me yet – logically I understand that he is no longer with us, but it isn’t tangible to me yet, and a large part of grieving for me is trying to get to that place where I really feel it deep in my bones.

Playing Music with Dad

Music was always a big part of our lives

The viewing was the first step on that journey. My Dad wished to be cremated, so we had a private family time to say goodbye beforehand. That hit home for me, seeing him then, but it also didn’t feel like him in a way. He was cold, and even his hair didn’t feel real. My sister in law aptly pointed out that she expected to hear loud snoring. In life, even while sleeping, my Dad was a loud man with a larger than life presence. Afterwards, the busy work that follows death occupied our time and spent our energies. Much of it was impersonal and left me feeling a bit numb so I looked for ways to remember my Dad that had meaning to me. My sister and I got matching tattoos in his honour as well as keepsake memorial necklaces filled with a bit of his ashes. And yet I felt like my grieving wasn’t complete. This “new reality” just didnt seem real to me.

Daddy Tattoo and Memoria Necklace

Tattoo and Memorial necklace – part of how I am keeping my Dad close

Next we will scatter his ashes. My mother, siblings and I all will take part in this ritual in ways that are personal and meaningful to each of us. I brought my Dad back home to BC with me, a place he always wanted to visit but never had the chance. I’m researching different options, but am thinking of renting Harleys and scattering his ashes along the Sea to Sky highway up to Whistler – arguably one of the most beautiful bike routes, and one I always wanted to travel with my Dad. Perhaps then I will finally come to terms with my father’s death, or maybe there are many more steps on my grieving journey.

My Dad and my daughter on his beloved Harley

My Dad and my daughter on his beloved Harley

Maybe it’s silly to put a timeline on mourning, perhaps it is a lifelong process. The first Christmas, birthday and Father’s Day without him. The first time an appliance breaks, a deck needs to be built or an oil changed and he isn’t there to help. There is a bit of mourning every time my 18 month old hears a motorcycle and says “Papa!” remembering a man she had only met twice. I often wonder what she thinks when that motorcycle passes by without stopping. Does she wonder why Papa doesn’t say hi? I’m sure I will grieve a bit when my own daughters are walking down the aisle with their Dad and mine isn’t there to witness it or reminisce when we walked the same path and shared a laugh on my wedding day.

Walking down the aisle with my Dad

Working hard to coordinate our steps

Whether this is a finite period of time with an end in sight, or a lifelong process that only ends when I do, it definitely isn’t what I expected. Even writing this post Is a way or mourning and remembering a man who, despite having a difficult and frustrating relationship with, was still my Daddy.

Toasting my Dad at his favourite watering hole

With my family, toasting my Dad at his favourite watering hole

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This Takes the Cake

Life Love and the Pursuit of Play Blogiversary

Exactly 365 days ago, a blogger was born. With many bloggers quitting after just 3 months, hitting 12 is a big deal! I wrote My Very First Blog Post having no clue what I was in for! Since then it has grown into something beyond anything I could have imagined, and I have loved most every minute. It is definitely my 3rd child, just as demanding as the other 2, but I still am so happy I made the decision to jump in.

In celebration of my Blogiversary, I’m looking back on my top 5 posts of the year.

1. Cake Tutorial: Olaf from Disney’s Frozen

2. Cake Tutorial: Princess Cake Castle

3. Cupcake Tutorial: Olaf from Disney’s Frozen

4. The Many Faces of Motherhood

5. Toddlers on a Plane: 7 Tips and Must Haves for Travelling with Toddlers

As you can see, the Pinterest machine has been good to me, making any cake post I throw out there a big hit. Very big. As in those 3 posts account for over 70% of all my traffic! In fairness, the stats are a bit off when I switched from wordpress.com to .org 6 months ago. Regardless, they are my biggest hits. Post number 4 however – The Many Faces of Motherhood – is the most meaningful to me. If you read just one, make it that one. It is the most honest, raw thing I have ever written, and is painfully close to my heart.

As I wrote back in my first foray into the blogosphere, I wasn’t going to classify or pigeonhole myself with a certain category of posts, and my Top 5 definitely reflect my hodgepodge style. Some might call it disorganized, scattered or rambling, I prefer smorgasbord, mosaic or melting pot. Whatever you call it, it is 100% me and I am so excited about what year 2 will bring!

Now, where’s the cake?

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True Blood In Real Life: A Call To Action

My lifelong commitment to blood donation had a less than noble beginning. The small town high school I attended allowed students of eligible age (17 years currently, although I believe it was 16 at the time) to miss class in order to donate blood at the mobile clinic set up in our gym every few months. Between the form filling, the waiting, the donation, the cookies and juice, the ‘dizziness’, the second serving of cookies and juice and so on, we could stretch a single donation over several periods. As anyone from a small town can testify, entertainment is scarce, so we would have races. We would time ourselves and keep track of who ‘bled the fastest’ – as if we had some sort of control over it. I am a slow bleeder. Always came in last.

Heather's Blood Donation on Life, Love and the Pursuit of Play

The family that bleeds together…. at our traditional Valentine’s Day donation.

While I am still a surprisingly slow bleeder, the importance of blood donation is very close to my heart (pun fully intended). I had regularly donated blood on and off ever since those high school days of yore – with occasional breaks due to ineligibility because of anemia as well as various tattoos and piercings – but without a full understanding or emotional attachment to the cause I was supporting. That all changed in the middle of one of the worst winter storms to hit BC in December 2008. At the end of that cold, cold month, just a few short days after our Christmas celebrations, my husband and I welcomed our firstborn, a beautiful baby girl into the world. Unbeknownst to us, she was sick. Very sick. Our daughter was born with multiple Congenital Heart Defects, and would undergo open heart surgery at BC Children’s Hospital at a mere 17 days of age. I won’t go into details as it is a long and complex story (I wrote about it here), but as part of her surgery, Adri was placed on cardiopulmonary bypass (aka the Heart-Lung machine) which temporarily takes over the function of the heart and lungs during surgery, maintaining the circulation of blood and the oxygen content of the body. This machine is primed with donated blood before the patient is connected. We were incredibly lucky that Adri had no major complications after surgery, nor in the 5 1/2 years since, and that as an infant, they only need 0.5-1 unit of blood to prime the bypass. Many are not so lucky.

Open Heart Surgery at BC Children's Hospital

The aftermath of paediatric Open Heart Surgery

Sharing the story was prompted by the news that fellow blogger Marilyn from A Lot of Loves was in a medically induced coma due to post surgical complications. Thankfully she is awake and healing now, but needed over 100 units of blood to get to this point. Her significant need compelled a group of local bloggers, myself included, to go and donate, where we could as well as put together a blog carnival in Marilyn’s honour to inspire more people to donate blood. Did you know that over 2000 units of blood are needed daily across Canada but a paltry 3.5% of eligible donors actually donate? I urge the remaining 96.5% to get out and donate today! You can find a clinic near you here, and even book an appointment online! Don’t wait until a family or friend is in need, use your ‘get out of class free’ pass, go for the cookies and juice, whatever the motivation – just do it! For those that aren’t eligible, volunteers are always needed and appreciated! Below are the posts from bloggers participating in the Blood Donation Blog Carnival. Share your story about donating or receiving blood and help us spread the word using hashtags #bloggersforblood and #alotoflovesformarilyn. Blood Donation Blog Carnival

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Pacific Rim College’s Doula Training comes to Vancouver

The highly acclaimed Holistic Doula Certificate Program from Victoria’s Pacific Rim College is coming to Vancouver this Fall, and we couldn’t be more excited to tell you all about it. We had the opportunity to interview Brea Segger, Pacific Rim’s Director, to learn more about this much anticipated program.

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Tell us about where the idea came from for your Doula Program?

Childbirth is truly the most incredible, unpredictable, and rewarding experiences I have ever had – but I wasn’t always one of those people who wanted to have children, or who was particularly drawn to babies. This, of course, all changed when I gave birth to my first child in 2010. When I went into labour with my first child Ela, I had a plan for a homebirth, an accomplished midwife, and a very supportive partner. From the onset, however, my contractions were excruciating (due to what we soon learned was caused by back labour, likely from a spinal injury I had when I was 14) and over the next 48 hours, labour progressed slowly. Although the midwife checked in periodically, for the most part my partner and I were alone, increasingly exhausted and scared. The birth ended up being complicated and traumatic but the end result was a very special baby girl. I thought, there just has to be a better way to do this! After the birth, and perhaps because I’m the Director of an Integrative Medicine College, it seemed like everyone wanted to talk to me about birth, and particularly, support (or lack thereof) during labour, birth and postpartum. Many people I knew through Pacific Rim College had either received doula training but weren’t practicing as Doulas because they weren’t confident in their skills and knowledge or didn’t know how to start a business. Other people were researching Doula training programs but weren’t excited about the programs that were currently available. The same question kept coming up – How can I be a Doula after taking a couple of workshops and reading a handful of books? This just wasn’t sitting right with many of the folks who were expressing their concerns with me. So here you have it – a program that provides Prenatal, Birth, and Postpartum training in a unique, comprehensive, and practical way! Continue reading

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August Adventures with Netflix #StreamTeam!

While the beginning of this summer seemed to be one adventure after another, ever since I dislocated my kneecap our adventures have been on hold. Thankfully the awesome team at Netflix is helping us continue the fun with a great line up of adventurous titles for little and big kids alike!

Wanna get adventurous with us? Here are 14 titles to share with your kids on Netflix:

Big Kids

August Adventures for Big Kids on Netflix

1. The Adventures of Tintin
2. Journey 2: The Mysterious Island
3. Tad: The Lost Explorer
4. The Adventures of Mickey Matson and the Copperhead Treasure
5. National Treasure
6. Labou and the Quest for the Lost Treasure

 

Little Ones

August Adventures for Little Kids

Dora The Explorer
Wild Animal Baby Explorers
Tree Fu Tom
Rubbadubbers: Tubb’s Pirate Treasure
A Turtle’s Tale: Sammy’s Adventures
The Hive

 

While it didn’t make the official adventure list, I have to include the one show on Netflix that has kept both my girls moving while I am off my feet. My 5-year-old discovered Bo on the Go, and while as an adult I find the repetitiveness annoying, she and my 17 month old LOVE it and their ‘animoves’ actually keep them on their feet and “on the go” for the entire episode. And the next one. And the next one. They even clean up when Bo tells them to! Definitely worth checking out with your adventurous little ones.

Bo on the Go #StreamTeam Adventures on Life, Love and the Pursuit of Play

Tell me how your August Adventures are shaping up (in other words, let me live vicariously through you)!

 

Disclosure: I am a member of the Netflix #StreamTeam program, and receive special perks for sharing all my family’s favourites with you, dear reader. I was not financially compensated for this post. 

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*GIVEAWAY* Rub a Dub Dub – Taslie Skin Care Review

Taslie Skin care Cover Photo

Both of my girls come by their love of baths honestly. There isn’t any ailment (physical or emotional) that can’t be cured with a deep and steamy bath, and while I love trying out as many different bath lotions and potions as I can get my hands on, I am VERY particular about what I lather on my munchkins. Given my product pickiness, I was really excited to have the opportunity to take Taslie Skin Care‘s products for a test drive!

My girls love to splash in the bath each night as part of their bedtime routine but we definitely don’t feel the need for suds every time. Since my youngest is also prone to dry skin, we save the soap for the messiest of messes, and opt for a water only spray off otherwise. Lotion, in the other hand is something that we use often to keep her skin silky smooth.

Even though I had my 16 month old in mind when testing Taslie’s products, my 5 year old grabbed the soap right off the bat when she got in the bath and popped open the top. “Mommy it smells deeeeelicous!!” and she proceeded to smell herself every 5 seconds until she fell asleep. Two big thumbs (and nostrils) up from her!

My youngest munchkin doesn’t have as many words to express what she likes, but her skin speaks volumes. She loves lathering herself with the soap in the bath and it washes off nicely, no tears. Since we’ve started using the soap and lotion 4 weeks ago we have had no rough or dry patches and that is such big deal!

Taslie Skin Care checks off everything on your checklist with:
- Organic, natural and chemical free ingredients
- Free of Sodium Laureth Sulphates, Lanolin, Parabens, or Synthetic Colours
- Made in Canada
- A beautiful smell with no artificial perfumes/scents
- Not tested on animals
- Uses sustainable packaging free of phthalates and hand painted with lead free paint
- Great price point
- Easy online ordering

Taslie Skin Care featured as a top summer pick in July 11th's issue of Life & Style Magazine.

Taslie Skin Care featured as a top summer pick in July 11th’s issue of Life & Style Magazine.

 

Because I love Taslie’s products so much, and y’all know I love my readers, I’m SO happy to run this awesome giveaway! One lucky winner will get to browse their fantastic product line up and choose 2 for themselves!

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All on the table disclaimer: While I did receive free or discounted products/services, all opinions are completely honest and totally my own and you know I would never share anything less than superbly stellar with all my fave readers.