Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Linnaeus 4.2

Whoops! Forgot to do Linnaeus' update... here's a quick list of what he's into these days:

  1. building vehicles & garages out of Lego
  2. playing with water (but still not swimming)
  3. eating sweets--I'm pretty sure my sweet tooth is genetic & he's inherited it
  4. riding his bike (but using it as a runner bike, not pedalling)
  5. running around & playing with other kids at the playground (I find it's best to take him to the park around 4pm to give him a run, sort of like some of the higher-energy breeds of dogs...)
  6. playing on the swings on our deck or at the park
  7. reading books (especially as many as possible to prolong the bedtime routine)
  8. watching any type of large machinery or construction
  9. anatomy & how the human body works
  10. competing with his sister to see who can shriek the loudest
  11. occasionally riding in the stroller basket--he almost never uses the Uppababy Piggyback anymore

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Friday, October 17, 2014

Photo Book Design Secrets from the Pros, Compliments of Blurb

Your photo galleries are sublime. You've spent hours sorting and editing your shots into individual masterpieces, and are ready to take the next step—publishing them into a printed collection of your art. Before you jump online and start pouring your pictures onto the blank pages of a photo book, take a look at this video from Blurb. (or watch below!) In this video, learn graphic design secrets to create a clean, high quality photo book—such as how to avoid falling into the "gutter". Blurb will help you turn your photography into the magnum opus that graces your coffee table, as opposed to just another book of pictures.

Ready to start publishing? Save 20% on photo books with code OCT20%, which is great news if you're thinking ahead to the holidays and making your work of art into a gift to send. Special offer for new customers only—save 25% on photo books with code OCT25%… even better for those of you who are new to Blurb books. Just don't wait because these deals end October 31st.

Disclaimer: this is a sponsored post. As a Blurb affiliate, I will also receive a small commission if you visit the site via one of the links in my post then purchase a book. Thanks for supporting Spokesmama!

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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Invisible Mother: Pregnancy Loss & Remembrance Day

I wasn't sure I was going to write anything about pregnancy loss today but seeing the posts on social media by my friends who've been here too made me pull out my little box of mementoes from my first baby, & well, this post just came out. I share my story in the hopes that I'll lighten the loneliness you feel after miscarriage.

I lost my first baby in 2009. June 4, my life changed forever. I became a different kind of mother. An almost-but-not-quite mother. An invisible mother.

I was almost 18 weeks along, which technically, was a miscarriage. Two weeks later, it would have been a stillbirth, officially. Four or five weeks later we may have been in the NICU, rather than grieving at BC Women's.

When I'd imagined miscarriage before this, I never imagined having to make cremation arrangements, or reading an autopsy report, or choosing a name for a baby who would never live. Arrow. I hadn't realized how awkward many people are around this topic & how when I explained that I lost my baby, more times than I'd like to remember I got a response that (unintentionally, I assume) caused me pain.

I'd never imagined the struggle I'd have with how to count my children. "How many kids do you have?" "Um, two." I have had three pregnancies. I've given birth to three babies, though one of them was not much bigger than my hand. I don't want to talk about Arrow with strangers, necessarily. But I don't want to pretend he never existed. Emotionally, he was my first child. I had bought three little velour sleepers for him. My mother had already bought a baby rocking chair for him. Nearly everyone knew I was pregnant, though I was only starting to show.

Arrow counts, but I haven't yet figured out how to talk to my children about him. Linnaeus may have heard us mention Arrow in passing, but we've never really talked about his brother with him in a deliberate way. I have a little photo of Arrow, given to me at the hospital, framed on my dresser in my bedroom, but Linnaeus hasn't ever asked about it.

I write this post with my four-year-old son singing a made-up song on the couch next to me, while my one-year-old daughter sleeps in the next room. I've moved on & become the usual kind of mother, with living children who I love & who drive me crazy. The visible kind.

If you haven't been through pregnancy loss yourself, & you talk to someone who does, please give your condolences. A simple, "I'm sorry" or similar is enough. Please do not tell her that it's God's plan, whether she or you are religious. Please do not tell her that it could have been worse, at least it wasn't later. If it was her first or her third miscarriage, if she already has another child, or several, pregnancy loss is still incredibly difficult. Please just acknowledge her pain & listen to what of her story she wishes to tell. Don't make her feel invisible.

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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Blurb Goes Global! Exclusive 25% Off on Canadian & Australian Blurb Photo Books

Pssst! Blurb has got a great deal on right now...

It was only a matter of time before the easiest and most comprehensive way to publish photographic art made its way to other countries—Canada and Australia, you are the lucky ones! Blurb, the complete publishing platform, is making its global debut, and in the process they would like to celebrate with 25% off photo books for our Australian friends with code: AUSTRALIA25 and 25% off photo books for our Canadian friends with code: CANADA25. Photo books are the perfect unique, handmade gift for the holidays, and a wonderful way to start off a new publishing relationship with Blurb. Don't wait to get started on your first masterpiece today—these offers only last until October 31st! 

Restrictions: Offer valid through October 31 until 11:59pm local time. Valid for photo books made by you only. A 25% discount is applied toward your product total. Maximum discount is CAD $75 off product total. This offer is good for one-time use, and cannot be combined with volume discounts, other promotional codes, gift cards, or used for adjustments on previous orders.

Disclaimer: this is a sponsored post & as a Blurb Affiliate, I receive a small commission on your purchases of books if you go there via the links in this post. Thanks for supporting Spokesmama!

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Monday, October 13, 2014

#ThriftOrTreat at Value Village (+ Giveaway!)

Halloween is tied with Christmas for my favorite holiday, but only because I like giving presents. Otherwise Halloween would totally win. The decorations, the costume making, the pumpkin carving, the candy, the fireworks, the history--I love it all.

Obviously, I was excited to take part in a blogger Halloween Shopping Spree at Value Village last week. Value Village has been my go-to costume store for years. I've honesty lost track of all the great scores I've found there.

At the #ThriftOrTreat Blogger event I was given $50 to spend, so I stocked up on costume bits & decorations. I bought:
  • Three styrofoam tombstones $14
  • A skeleton light string $2
  • Large & small fairy/butterfly wings $17
  • Spiderweb decoration $4
  • A braided viking beard $5
  • Grey rose "goth bouquet" $6

I'm excited about the decorations--I think they'll look great out front. We don't get a huge number of kids trick-or-treating here, but I still like to decorate for the holiday. As for the costume parts I found, Linnaeus has already worn the small pair of butterfly wings every day since I got them. They'll be a year round part of the kids' "Tickle Trunk".

If you haven't got your costume(s) all sorted out for this Halloween, head over to your nearest Value Village & take a look. Every store has several costume consultants available to help you with ideas. Besides the huge selection of secondhand costumes, clothing & accessories, Value Village is fully stocked with new costumes, makeup, wigs, accessories, & decorations.

If you want to see other people's costume ideas & scores at Value Village or share your own, use the #ThriftOrTreat hashtag on Twitter & Instagram. Once you're all set, take photos of yourself in costume & upload them here to enter the Value Village Costume Contest for a chance to win a Value Village Shopping Voucher worth $100, $250, or even $500!

If that wasn't enough fun, I've also got a $100 giveaway for you! Follow the instructions in the Rafflecopter Widget below & let me know if you have any questions! Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

For news & updates from Value Village, follow @SaversVVillage on Twitter, or like them on Facebook.com/ValueVillage.

Disclaimer: I was given a $50 gift certificate to spend at Value Village to facilitate this review, but was not otherwise compensated for writing this post. The words & opinions above are my own.

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Friday, October 10, 2014

Review: Terra Nova Adventure Play Environment

It's not a playground, it's an adventure play environment.
The Buzz

We've been going out to Richmond fairly often in the past year to visit a friend who lives there. We often go for a bike ride along the West Dyke Trail & were curious about the playground we saw from the trail as it was being built. It had been on the list, in the back of my mind, for a while when I read an article about it three weeks ago. So did everyone else, apparently. I heard reports from friends who went shortly after the article came out of 40-kid lineups for the more popular playground equipment.

Last weekend we were out in Richmond again, babysitting our friend's daughter so mom could go donate blood. We biked the three kids over to Terra Nova to see the new playground, hopeful that the crazy crowds would have abated. Well, they sort of had.

Maybe next time we'll go when everyone is awake...
There were still 20-kid lineups for the tall spiral slide & the zip line. Everywhere you looked there were kids on the play equipment & with a lot of trees throughout the park, it wasn't easy to keep an eye on the four-year-old & five-year-old while the one-year-old slept in her bike seat.

The Playground

The slides were taller than anything else I've seen in playgrounds in Vancouver. Much of the equipment was made of logs, rather than the metal & plastic stuff that seems to be the standard nowadays. There is the 'log jam' that looks like a pile of badly stacked logs, great for clambering on & under. Nearby is a sort of obstacle course thing (billed as an 'aerial walkway', it's about 1-2 feet off the ground) with ropes to walk along & steps to jump from. The whole place has a slightly more natural feel to it, probably because they've left so much of the trees & shrubs around the play areas.

The rest was pretty similar to the stuff in the parks around Vancouver: a merry-go round rope pyramid thingie (though the Terra Nova one is inverted), large disc swings, big half-buried rocks to jump along, rope nets to climb up, zip lines, slides, a small water play area.

It is a lovely park, but I have to say, with all of the trumpeting about ONE MILLION DOLLARS, etc, I expected something completely different & better than any other playgrounds we've seen in Vancouver.

20-kid lineup for the spiral slide

Terra Nova is partly conceptual art--perhaps that's part of what's behind calling it an "Adventure Play Environment" rather than a park or a playground. Hapa Collaborative, a local landscape architecture firm, created the park with references to the area's history. You notice it in the fishing net-like climb up to the spiral slide, & the 'log jam' climbing structure. There is also a fence maze of some sort which I didn't see.

The kids spent a third of their time waiting in lines, maybe another third eating lunch--we didn't actually explore the entire park. Hopefully we can go back again during the week when I suspect it'll be much less busy.


Half of the playground is well shaded, which will be nice on hot days in the summer, but all those trees make for poor sightlines--an issue if you have more kids than adults to watch them. The shrubs separating the two halves of the playground & the parking lot make it feel a bit secluded. The part of the playground with a large hill, near the ziplines, is totally open. There are several wooden picnic tables there, which are unfortunately not shaded at all.

Near the tables is a row of portable toilets, but I warn you: they are in dire shape. If you don't have to use them, I would avoid it. Apparently, proper washrooms are in the plans for the park eventually.

Multi-modal travelling: the cargo bike on the skytrain
Getting There

Though the park is right on the West Dyke Trail, the majority of people drive to it. There were three bike racks that I saw. The large parking lot accommodates about 80-100 cars. Transit doesn't go that close to the park--the #401 bus along No. 1 Road is maybe a kilometre away. We did our usual multi-modal trip to get there: bike to the Canada Line, then get out at Lansdowne Station, then bike to the dykes, about 5km. It's only five minutes until you're off road, but the streets are rather lacking in bike infrastructure. Though it's not busy, you do need to be cautious at the blind corners & a couple of oddly designed intersections.

The Takeaway

I liked the natural feel to the park & I think the structures are designed to encourage the kind of play & risk taking that's good for kids. Terra Nova is definitely meant for kids four or five & up. Even kids that age will probably need help getting up to the tallest slide, or using the zip line. I think kids of six to ten would love it. There wasn't really anything that the baby could use at all, unlike most parks in our neighbourhood, which usually have something for toddlers. We'll go back, but I'm not sure we'll make a special trip just for the park.

Have you been to Terra Nova yet? What were your impressions?

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