Escape With Disney On Ice

A Magical Distraction For Kids (And Parents!)

Escape With Disney On Ice

As Dr. Kim Foster so eloquently put it in her post on healthy distractions, no matter what's going on in your life, "It is healthy to take time for yourself, to be with your family, and yes, to choose a few healthy distractions."

After a turbulent month—during which news of the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut left us all shocked and devastated, and the heightened energy surrounding the lead-up to the December 21 winter solstice and the end of the Mayan calendar shook up many old belief systems—I was feeling in desperate need of good distraction. That's why I happily accepted media passes to take my daughter and husband to see Disney On Ice Presents Worlds of Fantasy at the Rogers Centre in Toronto. Ever since our family vacation to Orlando last winter, where my then almost-two-year-old daughter cowered in fright when she met Mickey in real life for the first time...

...we've had a Disney fanatic on our hands!

She currently owns three Minnie dolls, every single Disney princess (stuffed and in Barbie form), Daisy Duck, Goofy, a pair of Minnie ears, a Minnie princess dress, a Disney dinner plate...the list goes on.

So, how could I resist taking her to a show that included The Little Mermaid, Tinker Bell, Mickey and Minnie, and a bunch of other Disney characters including those from Cars and Toy Story. What I didn't anticipate, when I was given the tickets, was that I would need (and love!) the magical distraction as much as my daughter did.

There's something about Disney, no matter how old you are. The magic, the dream, the fantasy—it's transformative! The music begins, the lights come on, and suddenly you're transported to a stunning world where fairies fly, fish harmonize, and cars dance.

Sitting with my daughter on my lap as she giggled in delight and clapped along with the show, I was suddenly a child again. I wasn't thinking about deadlines. I wasn't thinking about tragedy. I wasn't thinking about the news. I was smiling from ear to ear and truly enjoying the time with my family.

So if you're in need of a distraction this holiday season, or later in the winter when the cold, snowy weather starts to wear on you, I recommend a family outing to see Disney On Ice. With shows playing across Canada all winter long—it's the perfect escape!

Be sure to tell Minnie and Mickey that I sent you.

The Disney gang will be on ice in Toronto until December 30. Tickets are available through Ticket Master.


The Toy Marshalls Make Holiday Giving Easier!

How To Buy the Best Gifts For Your Kids And Give To Families In Need

The Toy Marshalls Make Holiday Giving Easier!

While I’m trying really hard this season to teach my daughter that there’s more to the holidays than presents, and toys, and STUFF—I must admit there is something completely heart-warming about watching her open a wrapped present and get totally excited about what’s inside. Especially when I know I’ve chosen well and I get a reaction like this one...

I don’t know about you, but I find myself getting all giddy and excited when I go shopping for toys. It’s like I’m reliving my own childhood, picking out dolls and toys inspired by our (I mean, her)  favourite TV shows, and searching for creative crafts and thoughtful games that will challenge her and help her learn.

But, this year, when it came to finding Hanukkah gifts for all of Willow’s little boy cousins (and there are a lot of them!) toy shopping didn't seem like so much fun anymore. What do boys even like to play with? Is there anything non-violent that will still elicit an “Awesome!” or “Wow!” reaction from a little boy? If so, what is it? I’m totally in the dark when it comes to boys.

I really could have used the help of the Toy Marshalls…if only I’d have known about them before doing my Hanukkah shopping.

What are Toy Marshalls? you ask.

They're a group of adorable real kids (not actors) who were gathered by the creative folks in the Marshalls Canada PR department to provide some advice and insight for parents looking to buy great gifts for their kids this holiday season. These kids are totally adorable and quite candid when it comes to dishing out advice. They know what they like, and they're more than happy to provide grown-ups with some toy-buying insight.

Here's some sound advice from a few of the Toy Marshalls:

Khalil Heron, age 9
"Choose a toy they can play with over and over and not get bored with. You don't want to have toys that just sit on a shelf and or can break easily."

Sydney Fox, age 10
"Kids don't always like a toy just because it's cool or popular. Stick to what you know they

Carson Burk, age 12
"Always look for a toy where kids can use their imagination. When you do, you raise the level of fun!"

Jenna Dart, age 12
"You have to know who the child is that you are buying for, their age, personality and whether they have any siblings who they can share the toy/game with if their friends are not around."

We have a Marshalls store around the corner from our house, and I did a bunch of my holiday shopping there this year. They have a huge selection of toys and books (all the stuff you'd find in the big toy and book stores) at a fraction of the price! While I was doing my own holiday shopping I also picked up a gift for the toy drive my daughter's daycare was conducting. I had her drop the toy off herself, and explained to her the significance of giving to others, especially those in need, around this time of year...and always!

While chatting with Marshall's about their Toy Marshall program I found out they're also encouraging giving back this holiday season. They've partnered with CTV for their annual Toy Mountain drive and have placed collection boxes in the foyers of all their stores. So while you're at Marshall's doing your last-minute toy shopping this week, consider grabbing an extra toy or two for a child in the city who wouldn't otherwise have any gifts to open on Christmas morning. Giving to others is truly the best feeling in the world!

Still need more gift ideas? Check out these great suggestions from the Toy Marshalls:

For the Mini Musician:

$9.99 (Compare at $20)

For the Animal Lover:

$12.99 (Compare at $19.98)

For the Builder:

$9.99 (Compare at $15)

For the Crafter:

$12.99 (Compare at $20)

For the Retro Kid:

$29.99 (Compared at $40)

Visit Marshalls Toy Land site for more gift ideas.

*Note: this post was not sponsored by Marshall's, however they agreed that in exchange for me writing it, they'd provide me with two Christmas stockings filled with $500 worth of gifts (suitable for an entire family) which will be donated to the Red Door Family Shelter in Toronto.



My Journey Through Cord Blood Banking: Part 1

Investing In ‘Insurance’ for My Baby’s Health

My Journey Through Cord Blood Banking: Part 1

When I was pregnant with my daughter, a cousin wrote us to say that she’d banked her first son’s umbilical cord blood and was planning to do the same with her second. The bank she used offered a ‘friends and family’ rate, so she wanted to pass the information on to us.

This was the first I’d heard of cord blood banking (though I was extremely informed—if not over-informed—on most things labour, delivery, and new baby).

For those who don’t know: cord blood is the blood that remains in the placenta and umbilical cord after your baby is born and is typically discarded as medical waste. Cord blood is a rich source of stem cells that are the building blocks of our blood and immune system.

Once the concept was on my radar, I began to notice pamphlets and posters around the hospital where my OB was located.

I remember thinking that it was really expensive (at a time when we had so many other expenses). But, to be completely honest, I think the thought of something terrible and life threatening happening to my unborn first-child was almost too much to handle. So, instead of researching it further, I pushed the whole idea of cord blood banking out of my mind.

When I got pregnant this time, I was given an info sheet from my new OB's office. One of the items on it read: “Cord Blood Programs are ‘privately arranged’ biological insurance so to speak, Pamphlets are available in the office.” Because I was a bit calmer and less neurotic this time around, I figured I could handle doing some research without freaking out. So I started to ask around to find out what other moms thought about the subject.

Surprisingly I got a huge range of responses. Everything from:

“We researched it and decided it was a small investment that could mean the world should our kids get sick,”


“With all the new research coming out about stem cells, we thought it was better to have it ‘just in case’ it may be useful”


“Part of me just saw it as something capitalizing on the vulnerability of new parents’ and their irrational fears,”


“I didn’t want to bank it for my own use but hated the thought of all those amazing stem cells going to waste. I wanted to donate it, but didn’t find out about that option until it was too late.”

It seemed like there was a diverse set of opinions across my circle of mom friends. And, this didn’t make my decision any easier. I was still thinking it might be a good idea, and had realized that the overall investment (approximately $1,000 up-front and $100 per year after that) wasn’t actually that expensive in comparison to other things on which we spend our money. So, I began looking for a neutral source where I could garner unbiased information.

I was referred to The Parent’s Guide to Cord Blood Foundation, a not-for-profit launched as an online resource by Dr. Frances Verter in 1998. The site was created in memory of Verter’s daughter Shai who was born with a cancerous tumor in her pelvis and later required a stem cell transplant before cord blood transplants had become commonplace. (Read Frances and Shai’s story; but have Kleenex ready). When her daughter died at the age of four, Verter a former astronomy researcher with NASA, set out to position herself as a consumer advocate for parents who want to bank cord blood and access cord blood therapies.

This site was full of useful information about cord blood including: what it is, why people are banking it, what diseases it can be used to treat, and what the chances are that you’ll ever need to use the cells you’ve banked. In reading through the site, I found out that by the end of 2009 there had already been about 20,000 cord blood transplants worldwide.

Admittedly, all of this was still a bit hard to swallow when I was so busy hoping and praying that both of my kids would always remain  healthy. But, I was beginning to see that the benefits of this type of medical ‘insurance,’ plus the countless future possibilities of scientific discovery not even uncovered yet, all added up to a strong justification for spending the money to establish this ‘safety net.’

When the opportunity arose with CReATe Cord Blood Bank—a Toronto-based bank founded in 2005 by Dr. Clifford Librach (of CReATe Fertility Centre fame) to learn about the banking process and have a place to bank my second child’s cord blood, the timing couldn’t have been better. As a pregnant mommy blogger, I would be able to share my experiences as I embarked on the cord blood banking journey and ask all the questions I’d always wanted to know about the process. 

I couldn’t have been happier to begin my journey with CReATe. Not only did I appreciate the warmth and advice from their dedicated team, but CReATe is the only bank in Canada licensed to harvest and store Peristem cells (the stem cells that are the building blocks of all our structural tissues and are currently being investigated for tissue regeneration and repair, as well as in the management of a whole myriad of autoimmune and inflammatory diseases). I'm so looking forward to sharing my experiences with you over the next few months—until my baby girl is born.

In the meantime, if you’re pregnant and interested in cord blood banking there are a few simple steps you can follow.

1. Start researching today. Email CReATe to request an information kit or visit them for a free information session where their extremely knowledgeable team who will answer all of your questions in an honest and upfront way. (Trust me, you won’t feel like you’re being delivered a sales pitch!)

2. Consider cord blood banking as part of your birth preferences (or birth plan). To help you communicate your birthing goals with your health care provider, CReATe has partnered with bebo mia to provide expecting mothers with a free, easy to download birth preferences form that can be filled out prior to labour and includes your preferences around banking baby's stem cells.

3. Understand the pricing options available to you and know that CReATe has a Gift Registry program through which you can invite family and friends to help you purchase this service.

4. Know that up until delivery, it’s not too late to decide to bank your baby’s umbilical cord blood and Peristem™ stem cells with CReATe. But, it’s advised that you register early so you can have your collection kit packed in your hospital bag and ready to go.

5. Once you’ve made your decision, returning to thinking positive thoughts about your pregnancy and birthing experience. There’s no point in dwelling on fears or 'what if' scenarios. After all, your own happiness is the best gift you can give to your growing baby.