Inclusion in education teaches lessons for life

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Nov 14, 2017

Inclusion Williams Syndrome First dayWe’re coming up on that time of year again. It’s time for parents to register the next class of JK  kids for school. It’s only been a year and a half since I was the one trying to come to terms with finding a place for my girl to learn and grow and thrive.

It sounds overly dramatic, but when your child has a disability, finding a school placement that fits your vision for your child takes over your life. It’s about more than the bricks and mortar. It’s about finding a school board and a school that place the same value on the things that matter to you as you do.

For us, that is an inclusive education.

Before Alma started at our local Catholic school last year I cried, almost nightly – in fear, in anger, in worry.

I think all parents have fears, not just the ones like me who have a child with something that sets them apart. But I think disability magnifies these fears – as kids with disabilities are 10X more likely to be bullied in school than typical kids.

What will become of her? Will the kids be mean to her? What about her teacher? Will she teacher challenge her? Will the school community accept her?

I got my answer soon enough.

Curriculum night. Last week of September. It was the first time that I would be with Alma at the school at an event with parents, staff and other kids. I find these things stressful at the best of times, as Alms is all over the place and when she is with her peers and the things that set her apart are more obvious to outsiders.

As the teachers, parents and families gathered in the school gymnasium, I slowly opened the door, filled with dread. This was a moment of truth. Was this the right place for Alma to spend the next 10 years, until the end of grade 8? Alma pushed past me, and what happened next had me in tears all over again.

Everything that I had imagined – everything I had feared…was gone. Poof. Dispelled in a moment as Alma lurched into the center of the room and children cried “She’s here! Alma’s here!” They lined up to shake her hand. Then they ran off to find their parents so they could introduce them to her. They quarreled over who could sit next to her. Not just her classmates, but kids from every grade. Shy second graders, towering 8th graders – all genuinely happy – no, overjoyed-  to see her. She was more than included – she was already part of their lives. She was valued and she brought value to them.

inclusion - kindy first day

The spirit of inclusion

Inclusion in education isn’t just about my child being allowed to be in a ‘regular’ classroom. That’s just the beginning. Inclusion in education is about students learning from each other. It’s about being valued as a member of a school community and being seen as having something to offer, rather than a drain pulling the other students down, or worse – being looked upon with pity.

It’s about an education grounded in empathy and love.

And a system like the Ontario Catholic Schools, that believes that in addition to teaching the curriculum, they need to teach lessons for life, and play a role in creating the people we want our children to be. People who have faith in a better world. And  people who see value in everyone, even the tiniest tyke in school. People who have compassion, big kind hearts and respect for the things that make us different, in addition to the things that bind us together.

Before she was enrolled in the Catholic school I wondered “will she connect with the kids?” Will she get birthday party invitations and genuine smiles and will she have a real friend? She does, she does, she does. I could see that first night in the gym and continue to see it every day.

I am so grateful that Alma will spend her elementary years in a Catholic school community that sees the importance of an education grounded in empathy and love – not just for what it means for my child, but what it means for every child – today and for life.



This post is part of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers #catholicteachers sponsored program. I received compensation as thank you for my participation. This post reflects my personal opinion about the information provided by the sponsors

DIY Pumpkin Spice (is easier than you think)

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Oct 16, 2017 - DIY Pumpkin Spice

Maybe you’ve run out of Pumpkin Spice. Or maybe you live in Canada and Starbucks has run out of pumpkin scones and it’s only halfway through October. Perhaps, you know, you live in Canada and can’t buy it here, like at all. Or it could be that you have a whole drawer full of spices and it just makes sense to make your own. What ever the reason, what are you waiting for?

Pumpkin spice in T-minus 3 minutes

The is probably the easiest recipe you’ll ever find on a blog. It takes about three mintues – maybe less. You just measure out the ingredients and shake it up in a little Bernardin mason jar like the ones these cupcakes were made in.

DIY Pumpkin Spice Recipe

You’ll need these 5 simple ingredients. And no, there is no actual pumpkin in Pumpkin Spice.

1 ½ teaspoons ground cloves

1 ½ teaspoons ground allspice 

2 teaspoons ground nutmeg

2 teaspoons ground ginger

3 tablespoons ground cinnamon


Ok, are you ready for this? Spoon all the spices together in your small mason jar.

Put the lid on the jar.

Shake the jar.

And, done. 

Now that you have this done and you have another hour to kill. And you really want to eat some pumpkin scones. Why not head over here and check out this copycat recipe. || DIY Pumpkin Spice Pumpkin scones

You definitely won’t be sorry.

Lactose-Free Cinnamon Coffee Cake (with extra crumble)

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Aug 7, 2017 Lactose-Free Cinnamon Coffee Cake

I love cake. And since I am quite lactose intolerant, if I don’t make it, I rarely get to eat it. That’s why I’m so excited about this Lactose-Free Cinnamon Coffee Cake with extra crumble. Of course, now that Natrel makes lactose-free butter here in Canada, it’s like it’s a whole new world.

I have had some great success with vegan butter, but it’s not the real deal. While this cake does not have sour cream or butter milk, it’s still a lovely cake. I would definitely consider it lean closer to a pound cake consistency rather than fluffy birthday cake consistency, but it is perfect with a hot tea (or coffee) on a lazy afternoon.

Starting school with disability #WilliamsSyndromeWednesday

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Apr 12, 2017 || starting school with disabilityThere are two parts to registering a child who is starting school with disability. There’s the functional part – who do you see, what do you need bring? And then there is emotional part. This is not about the functional part.

Enrolling our daughter in school was the hardest thing I’ve dealt with on our parenting journey. So hard that it’s taken me a year to talk about it. But today, when I saw that another mom I know is in the same place I was last year, I felt it was time to open up.

I’m going to skip all the drama that happened between when I started the process (and the tears) of enrolling Alma in school and the first day we put her on the yellow bus to let you know that she has an amazing placement. Some even call it a unicorn placement as it feels like the kind of placement you only hear about. It is perfect. But it is not the placement I was crossing my fingers for at this time last year.

And I now know that’s ok.

I learned a lot along this journey. Hopefully some of it will help you, as you work your way towards the right placement for your child.

DIY Easter Surprise Eggs are easier than you think

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Mar 27, 2017 || DIY Easter Surprise EggsThis DIY Easter Surprise Eggs recipe is a new Easter favourite. In fact, I might be make them 123,045 times before this easter.

My little one LOVES surprise eggs. Like is seriously-obsessed-to-the-point-that-it-drives-me-crazy obsessed. But I can’t bear to have any more little plastic toys filling up our home, and she really shouldn’t be chowing down on full size big-kid eggs.

So I decided to try and make some at home.

Nintendo Switch #fivefavesfriday

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Mar 3, 2017 || Nintendo Switch Mario Edition Five Faves Friday

Nintendo Switch is here!

Today is the day! It’s Launch Day for the Nintendo Switch. My son and I had the chance to test out the Switch here in Toronto. And I have to say, we were both smitten. I am not a gamer by any stretch as was evident earlier today when I stood in line to nab a console for our family. It was def a case of one-of-these-things-is-not-like-the-other. But I’m quite certain this is the next great family console. And here’s why.

Valentine’s Day Edition 2017 #5favesfriday

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Feb 10, 2017 | Valentine's Day Edition #5favesfriday

A day where we celebrate love? I do have a soft spot for Vanlentine’s Day. Growing up my dad ALWAYS bought my sister and I at least one red rose and a box of Turtles. It wasn’t big or fancy or anything, but that Valentine’s Day tradition still warms by heart around this time of year.

Do you exchange gifts?

We don’t really give big gifts here for Valentine’s Day. We’re not anti-v-day or anything. But our anniversary is just around the corner, and my b-day just passed. But I still love to check out what I might like, you, know, if we WERE going to get gifts. This year I got my husband a coffee mug and a few other little sweeties. He’ll probably bring me some flowers. But if I was going to make a wish list, here are five things that caught my eye this year.

Five Faves Friday Valentine’s Day Edition | Valentine's Day List #5favesfriday

Ok, here’s the list.

  1. The first one is the new drool-worthy Fuji X-A3 camera. For starters, it comes in PINK, so there’s that. I haven’t gotten to try one yet, but it lists and impressive number of features including the ability to change lenses – has wi-fi photo transfer and killer display. I can’t wait to get my hands on one to test it out. If you have one, do tell every juicy detail.
  2. Popcorn is one of my favourite foods. And now that Natrel makes Lactose-Free butter, I’ve renewed my popcorn passion in a big way. The girls at work have been talking up this Lekue popcorn popper. It folds flat and pops corn in the microwave without needing to add oil or anything. Yum.
  3. My friend Lindsay from the Penny Paper Co. makes these adorable enamel pins. She has a lovely Valentine’s Day collection (and they’re on sale right now). We bought pins for the kids’ teachers at Christmas and they were a big hit.
  4.  Have you ever owned duck boots? These remind me of when I was a kid and my sister spent all her time at the barn. I never had a pair of my own but I saw these Sperry boots and realized how much I’ve always wanted a pair of my own. In fact, I may or may not have ordered a pair of these as a Valentine’s day gift for myself.
  5. Every year, Indigo makes reading socks around Christmas time. The ones I have already are so warm and fuzzy inside. This is the first time I’ve seen PINK ones for V-day and I have to say, I’m pretty smitten.

So that’s my 5 Faves list for Valentine’s Day 2017. What’s on your list this year? Have you picked out a gift for yourself? I’d love to hear about it.

This post is solely my opinion and the topic, items and links have, in no way, been sponsored, endorsed or affiliated.

Finding Balance #TetleyFindYourBalance

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Feb 3, 2017

1Finding balance

I think this is the most challenging aspect of my life, and I know I’m not alone. For me, it’s the push and pull of work and kids and keeping the household up and running. And then there is volunteering, the added complications of Alma’s syndrome. My own health, personal growth, our marriage and fun are buried under all the must-do’s. Sadly, I’ve learned you can’t sacrifice yourself for long, without consequence.

Working on it

I’m definitely working on it. Part of finding balance is trying to get out and do things just for me. It’s true that I don’t always succeed, but I try to do one thing each week. Lucky for me, I had the good fortune of receiving an invitation to an event called TEA talks put on by Tetley.

I’m 100% a tea person. In fact, one of my finding balance simple pleasures is drinking a cup of tea (while it is still hot). The sad part of this statement is that I probably only accomplish this goal about 1 in every 5 days. Another thing on my list of tools to help find balance is going to yoga. I say this like it’s a common thing. I aspire to go to yoga, but I have managed one class in 3 weeks.

So with the promise of hot tea and aspirations of going to yoga swirling in my head, TEA talks seemed like the perfect way to spend a Saturday morning. | finding balance Tea Talks

Tetley Tea Talks

We enjoyed a series of talks from a number of presenters including Yogi Cameron, a supermodel turned yogi who felt called to lead a more spiritual life. We also heard from a holistic chef, a doctor of eastern medicine, a Toronto wellness practitioner and more. All of these enlightening speakers had one thing in common. They were all Ayurvedic experts.

If you’re new to the idea of Ayurveda, here’s what you need to know. Developed more than 5,000 years ago, Ayurveda is one of the world’s oldest holistic healing systems. With rich origins in the Vedic culture of India, the word Ayurveda in Sanskrit means “science of life”. This practice teaches that holistic well-being is achieved through the balance of the mind, body and spirit.

Ayurvedic practitioners believe everything in the universe — living or not — is connected. And that to achieve good health, your mind, body, and spirit need to be in harmony with the universe. The aim of Ayurveda is to understand mind, body and spirit in relation to the universe with the aim of fulfilling human potential. | finding balance Dosha

Finding my Dosha

As someone searching for well-being, looking to achieve harmony in my life and live up to my potential, this was one of the most fulfilling mornings I have spent in ages. It was very interesting to me to hear from someone who felt they had a calling to do something different. That’s a phrase I have seldom heard outside of those who have joined the clergy, but in the past few years have wondered if I am being called to a different path (more on that in the future). I loved exploring the notion of Doshas, and learning how to understand my dosha Pitta. You can find your own Dosha here.

I left with a renewed sense of why I am committed to finding balance, and some new tools to help me along that path – including the new line of Tetley Balance teas. The teas were created using the ancient wisdom of Ayruveda.  All three are quite delicious. The Pitta tea with Peppermint, Hibiscus, Spearmint, Lemon Balm, Coriander, Lavender is my favourite. A close second is the Kapha tea with Ginger Root, Tulsi, Peppermint, Spearmint, Cloves, Turmeric, and Cumin.

Is balance possible?

I’m not sure I’ll ever truly achieve balance with so many things on my plate, but I believe attempting to have greater balance in my life every day is a worthwhile pursuit. With that in mind I’m off to yoga tomorrow AM. Today, I’m spending a little time writing and organizing. Then I look forward to a HOT cup of tea in the later afternoon.

My friends at Tetley wanted me to be able to bring one of my readers on the same journey, so they have generously offered some tea and other goodies to one lucky winner. Maybe we can have a cup and chat about finding balance together. | finding balance giveaway

Enter the Tetley Giveaway

The giveaway is open to Canadian residents (outside of QC) over 18 years of age. The contest closes on Sunday February 12, 2017. Please read the contest entry details below, and read the full giveaway terms and conditions here. One winner will be drawn at random from eligible entries. Winner’s name and address will be provided to a third party to facilitate mailing of the prize.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclaimer: This giveaway is sponsored by Tetley Canada. But but all opinions in this piece are all my own and are in no way influenced by sponsorship.








Lemon Chicken Soup with Orzo – 30 minute meals #CANrecipes

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Jan 31, 2017 || lemon chicken soup with orzo and spinach


It’s soup season

Which means it’s the best time of the year. This Lemon Chicken soup with orzo comes together fast with rotisserie chicken and broth you have on hand (either homemade or store bought).  Not only is it easy, it’s really, really delicious. Like I’ve never seen anyone eat as much soup good. Like, there wasn’t any leftover for lunch good.

I’m a big soup person if you can’t tell… In fact, it’s probably my favourite food. I like soup for lunch, for dinner and for a late night snack. Whenever I get a new job, I try to find all the close places nearby that serve great soup. My current position in a little light in soup spots, so I find I’m making more than usual, so I can bring for lunch.

The broth is flavourful, thanks to the tart lemon zest and juice. And the spinach adds a much needed boost of green veg in the dead of winter. Plus, there’s something about orzo that makes it extra special. It’s technically pasta, but has that rice-like quality that gives you the best of both worlds.

Of course, you can always make it the long way on a weekend – start with chicken, boil the broth – but broth from the freezer or the grocer works just fine for a Monday-Friday, fresh pot of soup on the stove in 30 minutes type meal.

I have served this with crackers, with baguette, and with naan bread. It’s hearty enough for a meal, but somehow also light enough to partner with a grilled cheese sandwich or a salad.

Lemon Chicken with Orzo Soup Recipe


8 cups chicken broth

1 1/2 cups shredded chicken

1 stalk of celery, thinly sliced

1 small onion, diced

2 carrots, thinly sliced

2 cloves of garlic – pressed

1 tsp dried Italian herb blend

zest and juice of one lemon

1 cup orzo dry pasta

2 cups spinach (I use baby spinach) cut into thin ribbons



1/2 tsp tumeric


Bring the chicken broth to a boil.

Reduce to simmer and add chicken, onions, celery, carrots, garlic, Italian herb, tumeric, the lemon zest.

Simmer for 5 min then add the orzo.

Simmer for 10 min, until the orzo is cooked.

Turn off the heat and add the spinach. Stir in the lemon juice. Add salt and pepper to taste.


Leftovers can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days.

January is when so many of us look towards establishing healthier routines. Along with my dish today I’m excited to be sharing delicious 30 minute meal recipes from fellow Canadian blogger friends under the hashtag #CANRecipe. Tried and tasted food straight from our kitchens.

CANrecipe Jan 2017


Salmon and Papaya Lettuce Wraps @ Everyday Allergen Free

Easy Coconut Curry @ Maple and Marigold

Big Salad & Avocado Dressing @ Allergy Girl Eats

Pork Carnitas Black Bean Soup @ Dish ‘n’ the Kitchen

Lemon Chicken Soup Orzo @ Mommydo

Kid’s Vegetarian Chili @ Off The Porch

Shortbread cookies that melt in your mouth #CANrecipe

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Dec 5, 2016 || Melt in your mouth whipped Shortbread

Christmas Came Early

So Natrel just released Lactose-Free Butter. LACTOSE-FREE BUTTER!

I stuffed my daughter in the car (buckled her up tight) and proceeded to buy 5 packages. || Melt in your mouth whipped Shortbread Lactose-Free Butter

I also brought the ingredients for these shortbread cookies and a baguette.

First I ate few hunks of baguette spread with glorious butter. Then I whipped up these whipped shortbread cookies.

Whipped Shortbread Cookies Melt in your Mouth

They are one of the first Christmas Cookies I made on my own as a little girl. And they’re still my favourite today. The recipe hails from The Harrowsmith Cookbook, and credit is given to Shirley Hill of Picton Ontario.

They are very delicious, very easy and always a huge hit.

The key to these is to really beat them between ingredients. Don’t stop when the ingredients are mixed, give them a minute or more to beat at each step.

Today I finished the cookies with chunks of Purdy’s dark chocolate and makde a few with a little candied cherry on tip.

I know I mentioned beating after every ingredient…I’m repeating myself so you take me seriously. THIS IS THE SECRET TO THE BEST WHIPPED SHORTBREAD EVER.

Melt in your Mouth Shortbread Recipe

1/2 lb. Butter

1/2 cup cornstarch

1/2 cup icing sugar

1 cup flour


First, beat butter until light.

Then add the remaining ingredients one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Next, roll into small balls and flatten with a fork (or just drop them – that’s what I do).

Bake at 300F for 30 min. Keep an eye on the cookies because they look the best when they come out before they brown.

Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

I’m so excited to be sharing recipes from fellow Canadian bloggers under the hashtag #CANRecipe. Food that will give you a flavour of the season – Christmas Classics straight from our kitchens. || Melt in your mouth whipped Shortbread RoundupFrom the top left the dishes are:

Nanaimo Truffles @  Dish’n’ the Kitchen

Dipped Oreos @ The Inspired Home

Mulled Wine @ Maple and Marigold

Bacon Fried Rice @ Allergy Girl Eats

Coles Pudding @ Off The Porch

Chocolate covered Whiskey-Soaked Figs @ Everday Allergen Free

Shortbread Cookies @ Mommydo


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