Making Memories Travel

Sharing Quebec and History

14 years ago when I went with my Alfred University French class on a spring break trip to Quebec City and Montreal, arriving in Quebec City was a magical experience. It was like being transported to old world Europe. I’d been to Europe on my honeymoon, but Quebec was magical for me. My ancestors had helped to found the area; two of my ancestors were Filles du Roi (women from France selected by the king to help settle the province and grow the population), and my 5x-great- grandfather Nicolas Roussin, was one of the 20 founding colonists of L’Ange Gardien, a small village north of Quebec City that was settled in 1603.

So coming to Quebec was like coming home.

Today, I finally had the opportunity to share the experience with my kids and husband. We wandered the old port area, talked about how much snow was still there despite it being April, listened to the church bells ring out, and ate at a lovely bistro with a view of the Chateau de Frotenac and the statue of Champlain.

It was so much fun to share with my family. I realized that my ancestors were made of heartier stock than I am, to be able to live and survive in such a snowy, cold climate.

We spent the afternoon sharing a movie, cooked dinner in, and enjoyed the time together.

Tomorrow, we head to Montreal,  our home away from home.

Making Memories Travel

Perfect Imperfection

I am in Quebec City, a place I have not been for 14 years, since taking a trip with my French class. It was quite significant that I was able to go on that trip, as a non-traditional student with five kids at home. It remains one of the best memories of my time at Alfred University.

It was that same trip where I fell in love with Montreal, and I’ve taken my family back to that city a dozen times or more. But Quebec City is a longer drive from home – 9 hours – so we’ve never come up. The one time we came close, when I was off traipsing through graveyards buried in snow to find my ancestors, we couldn’t figure out how to get in.

So I’m here. In an AirBnB in a quiet neighborhood in Quebec City, the heart of Europe in North America.

And from yesterday’s tears comes today’s near-perfection. The drive was uneventful and quite lovely. We’d stayed in Watertown the night before so that today’s drive would be more manageable, so we were only 5-1/2 hours on the road.

We listened to great music. We talked. We dozed (not Dave, who was driving). We stopped for lunch and discovered a fun little place in Drummondville called Scores that has the best chicken sandwiches.  You could feel the tension draining from all of us.

We navigated into the city with no trouble and found our place and parking with no trouble. After getting settled in we discovered that the IGA was just 490 meters away, so we walked over, bought some ice, cheese, croissants, chocolatines, and of course, some Quebon (the best chocolate milk in the world). As we were walking back to the place, we decided it would be more fun to eat in, so Dave and Anika walked back, grabbed the sausages we’d been salivating over, some salad, and a still-warm baguette.

We sat together at the table, talking about anything and everything. It was a perfect moment, one I will cherish.

After dinner, we listened to music and played SkipBo. And we talked more.

This is one of those rare days where everything felt right. I went to bed happy, hoping this is sign of things to come on this adventure.


First-Day Travel Tears

It’s day one of our spring break trip. I’m going on about 5 hours of sleep,  for about the 400th day in a row.

Last night, Dave and I were in Buffalo for the Nick Mason concert. We drove home this morning – a 2-1/2 hour drive,  finished packing, and picked up our daughter early from school for the start of our 9- day road trip.

I love road trips, and we’ve made several – cross country twice, up the California coast, up the eastern seaboard – but this time, we’re doing something new and visiting Quebec City, Montreal, and Toronto.

I’ve only been to Quebec City once, and my memories of the place are all good. But the pressure is on to share that with the family. It’s a very much self-induced pressure to create the perfect experience.

So I got the confirmation from my AirBnB tonight and it’s not the walking distance it appeared to be from old town (unless a 40-minute walk down one highway and across another is your idea of a nice walk). We like going into a new place, being walking distance from the stuff we want to do, and having the ability to walk wherever we go.

Between the surprise of the location (not the host’s fault … just my misunderstanding of how Quebec City is laid out), the fact that I’m tired, and the worry that my daughter (who has been burning the candle at both ends) actually has bronchitis and not just a cold – well, our first night hit a small speed bump. As in me sitting on the bed crying quietly because I felt like I’d ruined the trip.

Yep. Even a seasoned and experienced road tripper who makes lists in her sleep and plans everything (we have a suitcase with toilet paper and extra toiletries just in case our AirBnBs don’t have what they say they do. It’s one of those things we learned the hard way) can hit a wall of exhaustion and lose it.

It’s just not a fun thing to do when you’re trapped in a small hotel room with 3 other people.

But my tears are dried, I’ve found a parking garage we can drive to that will get us where we need to be tomorrow, and for now, I can just relax.

Dave has You’ve Got Mail playing. Kids are having a snack. Things are getting settled.

And tomorrow is a new day.

Kid Safety Raising Healthy Kids Sponsored Content

Why Should You Care about Internet Privacy?

Getting Real with Shadra Bruce

This content was provided by our partner, TechWarn and I am being compensated in the form of a VPN subscription to protect my family.

Why should you care about internet privacy?

Even as parents, we rarely pay attention to the ‘terms and conditions’ before logging into an app for the first time, how could we expect our children to practice digital privacy? But practice they must.

Today we live in a world of zero privacy. Social media behemoths take advantage of our innate desire to connect, turning platforms into mega data centers to ruthlessly monetizing our personal lives. Sadly, they don’t seem to be particularly cautious with our sensitive information either, as a security breach late last year reported a hack affecting nearly 30 million users.

If your children are on social media or are regular internet users, understand the risks involved to help them steer clear of privacy breaches and their accompanying risks.

Your privacy is always at stake

The devil is always in the details. Buried deep inside the service terms are often invasive clauses claiming to collect, access, stored and analyze your data ‘for an improved experience’. Opting to keep private info private, and you will be forced to quit the app or leave the platform, leaving you with no choice but to oblige.

What’s rather unfortunate is the fact that we do not have any control over what the companies choose to do with the data they access. There have been numerous cases of accounts hacking, impersonation and other cyber-crimes. Even with these happenings, we keep signing in into mobile phone applications, programs and software, and subscribing to websites without giving much care to the security concerns.

Your data is sold, but you won’t get a penny for it

As the old saying goes, free things are expensive. The paradox in this statement continues being evidenced in the online platforms that claim to be ‘free’ but end up making billions of money by selling out your personal data to advertisers. It’s how Facebook and Twitter make money anyway. How else do you think that you have your timeline hit with adverts of items, products, or services you recently discussed?

Each time you log in to the ever-emerging web platforms, you are providing them with your information and to advertisers; this is a badly needed necessity. The only way to limit how much information and private data these services will be getting from you is by checking your internet privacy.

Technology evolution leads us to be more reliant on the internet

Just like the internet, IT gadgets are going through a major evolution. Newer and sophisticated gadgets are released on a regular basis. Communication is taking a shift, you do not necessarily need to load your mobile phone with airtime; with an internet connection, you are able to make a call online.

Think of the host of websites that allow you stream sports, music and more. We are slowly but steadily bidding goodbye to the old-fashioned computerized gadgets and embracing highly advanced ones.

Smooth operations of these devices require an internet connection. For instance, smartphones require regular software updates. With this level of reliance on the internet, it is important that one puts up reliable privacy protection measures in place.

If stolen, your current private data could haunt your future

Some people rubbish the need to have internet privacy measures in place, claiming they have got nothing to hide. Which is okay; but this may not last for long. When companies access your data (let’s say private and confidential information like call logs or messages content), you have no control over what they might choose to do with them.

Without huge aspirations at the moment, this may not seem much of a concern. But if someone wishes to bring you down in the future, they can use skeletons from your private data that was stored by some company 5 or 10 years ago. Past conversations exposed are on record for bringing down marriages, tainting people’s integrity among other damages. Many internet activities define your private life, browse safely lest the information falls on the wrong hands and ends up being used against you.

The law will not protect you

Due to the rising cases of cyber-related crimes, some countries are developing and enforcing laws in support of internet surveillance. While this might be a good effort and may help trace the criminals bullying people online, it is not right for your privacy.

When a government gains access to your communication threads, the sites you are visiting, the people you are networking with and such information without your approval, then it’s interfering with your personal privacy. Unfortunately, many countries continue embracing this trend, especially on visitors and tourists.

You may not have direct control over what the lawmakers of a certain nation think. Fortunately, there are different avenues through which you can shield your internet privacy.

Fraudsters, hackers, and cybercriminals are upping their game

There are many techniques that fraudsters can use to access or gather your online information. Your internet service provider may not warn you of the possible dangers after all high-speed connections are what most of us are concerned about.

If your privacy settings are not customized to limit who can access information about you, fraudsters can easily tell who you are by monitoring your activities on these sites. This is especially so with social interaction sites where we like to upload our photos, update our activities and so on. Others use malicious software known as spyware. The software is able to track and hack your personal information without your knowledge. The developers of such malicious software target unsuspecting internet users and thus the need to care about your privacy whenever you are on the internet.

Ways to protect your internet privacy

The ways through which your private data can be tracked or accessed are multiplying by the day. Here are ways through which you can protect your personal data while on the internet.

Keep your software updated

Doing this can greatly reduce unauthorized access to your data. Keeping your software updated makes sure your system is shielded from even the most recent malware.

Update your privacy settings

This is necessary especially when it comes to social networking platforms. By default, most of the information you upload or post will be shared publicly. Consider changing your settings to limit views to only fewer people or to only share with people you know. To achieve higher efficiency, it’s advisable to ask your friends to do the same.

Block 3rd party cookies

Accepting cookies allows websites to maintain track of you. For instance, they can be able to tell the last time you visited. Others will be able to store your data and even sign you in automatically during your next visit. Blocking cookies limits access should anyone else access your device without your knowledge.

Clear browser history and delete cookies regularly

This helps log you out of all accounts that you may have signed in on the browser.

Get a VPN app

A virtual private network encrypts all the data you receive or send via the internet. With this encryption, third parties cannot access data and even if they do, they cannot be able to use it or trace it back to you.

Privacy and security are well worth your time and money. VPN deals are just a Google search away so there’s no excuse of not going playing your part to safeguard your data. With a VPN in place, your data will always be protected whenever you are using the internet.

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I Won’t Send My Child to a US School if I Don’t Have To

Getting Real with Kira Hazledine

We were supposed to be playing games and singing songs at the local parent resource center, where I have made friends with other moms and my daughter has benefited from socialization and education. Instead, we were huddled quietly in a dark room, barely hidden by filing cabinets. We were still visible to the windows, but it was either that or crowd everyone in the one-person bathroom.

This was a lock-down drill, held at the local elementary school where the center is tucked into an unsecured back entrance. Meaning, people in the community can access the center, but not the school. As I sat huddled with my child and others, I wondered what we would have done in a real active-shooter scenario. How would I have kept my child seated and quiet? Could I have honestly hid her well in this room with nowhere to hide?

The fact that any child even has to go through this is appalling. My toddler thought it was a new game, but in reality, we were prepping for a potential life-and-death situation.

This should not be normal.

Asking teachers to die for their students isn’t normal.

Children afraid to go to the bathroom during class (you’re an easy target when you’re alone in the hallway) isn’t normal.

Considering staplers as a good weapon rather than an instrument in learning isn’t normal.

If there is any way I can take my children and run from this first-world warfare, I’m going to make it happen. As dual citizens, they have rights to a life in the UK, and you bet your ass their father and I are doing everything possible to make the international jump.

I am incredibly lucky to have an out. Most people don’t have a choice between one country or another, or the finances and support to even go through an expensive immigration process. But let’s say I didn’t have the option. Would I really be able to send my children to school? I don’t know. I think I’d have a panic attack before placing my children in the battle ground we call the American education system.

I would seriously consider home-schooling. And I only say that as I see the influx of anxiety in American students, as they attend school in a world where guns are rampant and no amount of mass shootings makes a difference in laws. Children roam the hallways, not thinking about the next sporting event, but wondering which supply closet is unlocked.

We should be rioting in the streets. Where are we, as parents to our kids? We claim to value our freedom, but we’re prisoners to our own ignorance and fear. I won’t do that to my kids.




Health On Motherhood

Why Acknowledging Thin Privilege in Motherhood is a Must

Getting Real with Kira Hazledine

Let’s start with privilege. People get up in arms about the word, as if they can help what they were born into. Genetics, society, whatever. You’re right, you can’t.

Which is exactly why it’s so important to own it.

Privilege isn’t stating that life for you is never hard. It’s saying that life for you is never hard for a particular reason. Like in motherhood, life isn’t hard for me because I’m thin. Life is hard for me in other ways, but my weight has nothing to do with how I might be oppressed as a woman and a person.

So, it needs to be owned. I have thin privilege, and here is why it’s so important that the mothers with that same privilege need to be kicking and screaming about the status quo of postpartum bodies.

I’ve never known the struggle of “losing the baby weight” yet I hear society demanding that it be done in a matter of weeks, if not months. I’ve never dealt with the apron that develops after a c-section, or diastis recti that can prevent a woman from losing that baby pouch. Yet, women are expected to heal, get back to work, maintain the house, or whatever it is that society asks for.

This is NOT to say I haven’t dealt with my own self-image issues postpartum. This is NOT to say that I do not personally struggle. This is acknowledging that society does not see me differently. I am not shamed for not having “bounced back.” No one is asking when I’m gonna pick up working out again or setting a healthy example for my children.

What I need to do with the privilege that I have is speak when other women are backed into a corner. Speak for the woman ahead of me in the grocery store when some ignorant person asks when she’s due, with a small baby in the carrier in plain sight. Chide other women with thin privilege that boast about the weight “just falling off” as they continue to rant about how they just don’t understand why it’s so hard for other women. Obviously, they didn’t breastfeed, right?

Except, not, you twatwaffle. Perhaps that mom is struggling with PPD, and healthy eating, or eating at all, isn’t the top of the list. Maybe that mom is a single mother, with no time to do anything except work, pick up kids from daycare, and swing through the drive thru. That mom might have a serious medical condition that prevents exercise and the medication that keeps her out of the hospital causes her to gain weight.

YOU DON’T KNOW HER STORY. And more importantly, a woman’s worth is not tied to her weight.

It’s time to acknowledge that every mother is a warrior, making the ultimate sacrifice by carrying a child. It changes your body and there are some things that will never bounce back, even with the best diet and exercise regimen.

People with thin privilege need to knock their shit off and speak up against society for the stupid expectations. You may not experience the struggle, but many women around you do. Time to step up for your village.


On Motherhood

Going to Work Isn’t Enough as a Supportive Partner

Getting Real with Kira Hazledine

I still float around my birth board when I’m feeding my infant in the middle of the night and there’s nothing better to do, and I can’t help but peruse the posts where women are asking if men are all the same.

“My husband works long hours, goes out drinking with his buddies, and then comes home to sleep.”

“My significant other is fantastic with the kids, but he doesn’t do much around the house.”

Uhm. No.

All men are not the same. Sure, everyone needs a small kick in the ass sometimes to maintain a healthy relationship (which is why it’s so important to communicate your needs and continue to evolve as a couple). However, for whatever reason, there is some ingrained cultural expectation that the women at home should just handle it all. Men go to work.

If all your significant other does is go to work, they aren’t carrying their weight.

Going to work is not enough. Here’s a short list of all the things I’m taking care of while supposedly sitting on my ass having tea and biscuits as a stay-at-home-mom:

  • Keeping the children alive.
  • Bathing said children.
  • Preparing meals.
  • Daily chores and general upkeep so this place doesn’t look like a dumpster fire.
  • Car maintenance.
  • Grocery shopping.
  • Bills and other financial to-dos.
  • Anything to do with immigration and lawyers for my dual citizen children.
  • Fostering long-distance relationships with HIS family.
  • Providing a nurturing environment for our children by offering opportunities to socialize and develop.
  • Try not to lose my damn mind at the 100th tantrum of the day.
  • Pumping and storing breastmilk so I might be able to leave the house for more than an hour at a time.

And I’m absolutely certain this list is not exhaustive.

But yes, please tell me more about how tough your day at work was. Want to know the biggest difference between the two jobs?

One person gets to clock out.

The stay-at-home-mom role is 24/7. There are no breaks or paid lunches here. There are precious moments when both children are napping at the same time. There are hurried showers because the baby is crying and your toddler is demanding to have their butt wiped.

The sheer emotional and mental stress of what happens at home while someone is at work is profound.

So, no. Going to work is not enough.

And I do understand, my husband does a job that I could never do. Me and nights don’t get along, and long hours would break my mama heart. I would miss my babies, and I know my husband misses his family. But if for one second anyone thinks I’m Suzie Homemaker, welcoming him home with a drink in hand, you are sorely mistaken.

These children are both our responsibility. We both have long days, with different but equally exhausting challenges. We need to support each other, which means my husband may have to come off nights and watch the kids so I can snag some groceries. He will have to play kitchen while I cook dinner in the real one.

And I support my husband. We are a team. I make sure he’s got clean clothes to jump into once he gets home from work so he can get some rest. I like to pack his lunch while he steals moments with his kids. We are in this together. If you’re significant other tries to tell you that they do enough already, ask them what they do besides going to work. Ask them how they ate today, where those clean clothes came from, and how they can find the time to go out with their buddies. Going to work simply isn’t enough.


Adult Children Toddlers Work at Home

Living with a Toddler Is Hard; It’s Even Harder When They’re Your Grandkids

Getting Real with Shadra Bruce

Living with toddlers is hard. I freely admit I am a control freak. So is my husband. We like everything just. so. We have our reasons – it’s partly in our personalities, and it’s partly because we run a fast-paced, high-end digital marketing firm and need to be organized and productive. Inefficiency and distraction cost us money. And money is what it takes to travel. And travel is what it takes to be happy. So you can see why we run a tight ship.

Our oldest daughter, her husband, and their two kids live with us. They are their own family, but there’s only one kitchen and two bathrooms for 8 people, so we still try to keep to a schedule. Meal times are at a specific time. Showers are at a specific time. Quiet time happens at a specific time.

But living with toddlers is so hard. I’d forgotten how hard it is to have a toddler and an infant.

Toddlers Don’t Respect Schedules

My grandaughter is awesome. She is brilliant and precocious and adorable and saw her first concert (U2) when she was only 1 year old. She is a great traveler and has accompanied us to Montreal and Niagara Falls. But she doesn’t get that we have a company to run, or that our office is now her parents bedroom. She just knows that Nana and Papa are here, that her stories take priority, and that work is only something we’re supposed to do in between spending time with her.

Toddlers Have Tantrums

I did not like toddler tantrums when they were my kids; I really don’t like them when they are my grandkids. It’s not appropriate for me to judge how my daughter is raising her kids. She is an awesome mom, and just because we do some things differently doesn’t mean her way is wrong. It’s also not appropriate for me to undermine her authority and give in to the tantrum because it’s my granddaughter and I want her to be happy.  I want to “help.” I don’t…unless it’s to hold one while the other screams – but I really, really want to give a Hallie what she wants – partially to shush her and partially because I’m Nana.

Toddlers Are Messy

Whether it’s cold season and there are germs all over my laptop because my granddaughter sneezed while she was hugging me or she decides to touch my laptop with peanut butter fingers, everything is so much messier now. Everywhere I turn there are toys and puzzle pieces (you know, the kind with the handles that you find with your feet). It’s always chaotic. It’s hard to find quiet.

But mostly, I’m just older. And I’m tireder. So toddlers are harder.

But I’m also getting this huge, amazing glimpse into the people my grandkids are and the people their parents are becoming by raising them. I’ve seen my son-in-law really step up into his role as a dad and provider. I’ve seen my daughter ache over every decision she makes for her kids, her unbridled love for them, her tireless sacrifice for them.

So it takes me a little longer to get my work done each week, and I sometimes have to explain when I’m on the phone with a client that the screaming or giggling they hear in the background is just my sweet granddaughter.

I wouldn’t trade a day of it.

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To Anti-Vaxxers: What Would You Say at a Funeral?

I have questions.

What would you say to your child, lying in a hospital bed, suffering from a completely preventable disease? A 6 year old Oregon boy contracted the first case of tetanus in 30 years, and after reading the story of his suffering, I have so. many. questions. What did his parents do? Did his mother weep at his bedside, sick with shame and guilt? Or did she pray for him and trust that she still made the right choice? That, live or die, this was how this boy’s life was supposed to go?

Did this mother question every doctor, every nurse, every millimeter of fluids and medicines rushing through her son’s body to save his life? Why was medicine good enough to cure him but not good enough to prevent the disease? Did she breathe a sigh of relief when he recovered and rush every remaining child to the doctor to get vaccinated?

I want to know.

I want to know what this mother would have said at her son’s funeral, had he died.

I’m incredibly curious what any anti-vaxxer would say, whether it was their child’s own funeral or someone else’s.

Would you apologize to me? Would you beg my forgiveness if your unvaccinated, homeschooled child carried measles to my unvaccinated infant too young to receive the immunity, and my infant never recovered? Or would you insist that, since your child is fine, that my child must have been inherently unhealthy. That it’s not your fault, because if the disease was so bad, your child would be dead, too.

What would you say at the funeral of a little girl who was in remission from cancer but died from pertussis? What would you say to her family, crippled by medical and funeral bills, that saw the glimmer at the end of the tunnel and a full life for their baby, only to be struck down by your selfish choice?

Would you cling to your beliefs that vaccines are poison? Would you be able to look a grieving parent in the eye, or in the mirror, and convince yourself that you still don’t believe in modern medicine? Would you be able to come to terms with an empty bedroom, a quiet yard, and a still swing?

I want to know.

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Would You Opt for “Gender Neutral” on Your Child’s Birth Certificate?

Getting Real with Kira Hazledine

Honestly, I’m not a big fan of the gender neutral mantra. I think the notion (as it stands in current mainstream society) misses the mark. I consider it a third box to shove kids in, as they get lost in a sea of grey and “they.” Nonetheless, I try to understand this new option that progressive states are offering. Rather than select “male” or “female” at the birth of a child, some parents have the option of “neutral.”

Would you hit the neutral box?

This only begins to scratch the service of the gendered problems in society, and if given the opportunity, I might have designated neutral on legal papers. That wouldn’t have prevented me from referring to my son as a boy and my daughter as a girl, but it would’ve offered them legal freedoms in the future.

I’m fully aware that my children will become whomever they decide to be. My children will never be boxed in by gendered expectations, at least not from me. However, strong advocates of this neutral motion claim that children should be referred to as “people.” That there shouldn’t be any type of differentiation, even from birth.

Oh man. It’s a lot, I know. I know that I am privileged as a cis-person (meaning I agree emotionally, mentally, and physically with the gender I was assigned at birth). Despite my openness, even I have a hard time understanding why it’s so important to not have designations at birth if your heart is telling you otherwise.

Whether you agree or not, this might be the direction the world is moving in. Where people are just people, not defined by whatever is between their legs. Yes, there are chromosomal differences between male and female, but DNA doesn’t dictate you who are as a person. It’s also so important to remember that gender and sex are two entirely different things, and by declining to state a gender on birth certificates, we are freeing our children to be who they are meant to be without expectations.

I’m not raising my children to be gender neutral. I say “boy” and “girl,” “son” and “daughter.” I believe that they will be raised in such a way that if anything changes for them, they’ll let me know. I hope that we can work through all of this together, and that they can educate me as necessary as to what the proper terms are for their life.

I’m their mother, but I don’t claim to know it all. I’m only doing my best with the information I have. Perhaps in 30 years they’ll look on our generation in shame that we ever separated people into two separate distinctions, that honestly, mean nothing. If that’s the case, I’ll admit my mistakes every time and vow to do better, because that’s all we can do.

I’m hoping my children can grow up in a world that such silly distinctions don’t hold them back. It would be awesome if by the time they’re of driving age, they won’t even have to list their gender on another legal document. It doesn’t matter now, and it won’t matter then.

Would I put gender neutral on my children’s birth certificate? I think I would. I want to give them all the space possible to decide their place in this world, and I hope more states give the option.