Monthly Archives: July 2012

Bennett vs. his underpants

Bennett has now been potty trained for two months (cue happy dance) and it’s been four weeks since he had an accident. It all went down quickly and better than I could have hoped: Blake forgot to bring a new diaper for him after swim lessons one Sunday, I forced Bennett to go on the potty in the change room (he was complaining, “My penis hurts!” = “I have to go pee!”), and then when we got home I never again put him into a daytime diaper.

This may seem like a harsh thing to do to a special needs kid (and believe me, there were lots of accidents in the beginning, including a No. 2 for the babysitter!) but I read a blog post by a mom whose son has the same genetic condition as Bennett, whom she toilet trained at age three. So I thought, “We are so done with diapers.”  With lots of reminders about peeing in the potty, and plenty of praise for keeping those Nemo briefs dry, Bennett took to the toilet.

Toilet training has led Bennett to discover the joy of flushing items down a magic portal.

In fact, it’s fair to say the act of flushing things other than plain water down the toilet has proven a source of unrelenting fascination for my son. The potty has become a magic portal, a watery gateway to another realm. Where does the pee and poop go? What does that hole in the bottom lead to? In recent weeks, Bennett has launched his own unauthorized experiment to find out. He has tried flushing the following items down the commode, with varying degrees of success:

  1. Two small tubes of toothpaste (success!)
  2. One large bath towel (um, not so much)
  3. A Beauty and the Beast book (ditto)
  4. His runners (they float)
  5. Three pairs of Nemo underpants (as a friend commented: “Maybe the Nemo briefs are just trying to find their way home to the ocean?”)

I pity the sanitation guy who discovers two tubes of toothpaste and three pairs of Nemo briefs.

It reminds me of the Robert Munsch book Love You Forever, in which the toddler boy flushes his Mom’s watch down the toilet. It’s exasperating.

I think Bennett inspired the cover on Munsch’s classic children’s book.

Bennett’s antics look hilarious in a blog post (I mean, flushing Nemo gonch? He’s clearly a comic genius) and in reality it is funny when you catch him in the act. Me: “Where are your underpants?” Bennett smiles. Me: “Where are they? Well? Answer me.” Bennett: “I flushed down toilet, Mommy!” (I mean, he’s so proud of himself, you almost want to congratulate him.) Me: “That’s a bad thing you did! We don’t flush underpants! Only pee and poop and toilet paper! OK?” And then three days later he’s at it again. Sigh.

Maybe I need to invest in some Shrek gonch. Surely an ogre is too big for a journey down the magic portal? And at any rate I suppose I should be thankful — Bennett hasn’t tried flushing my watch. Yet.

Climbing Kili for a Cause: Update

It’s been a month since we launched our fundraising effort for our son Bennett’s integrated special needs school. To date we have raised $3,775 for Renfrew Educational Services in advance of climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro in September.

Summit success on a Mt. Fernie training hike.

We have been wowed by all the support and we are on track to meet our goal ($5,895, or $1 for every metre of mountain from sea level to the summit). And, I am going to be on Global TV in Calgary to talk about the climb and the cause this morning (at 8:24 a.m.), so please tune in!

Over the past four weeks I have clocked 152 miles (350,000 steps) on my Fitbit, hiked to the top of Mt. Fernie in Fernie, B.C., dragged the children on a mud hike and spent more money than I thought was possible on outdoor gear at Mountain Equipment Co-op. I have yet to tackle the steps at Scotchman’s Hill but they are next on my hit list (Fitbit will be thrilled).

We are so keen to train for Kili, we dragged the children on a “mud hike.”

This training odyssey has not only helped me feel more prepared to tackle Kili in seven weeks, it’s led me to discover some great hikes for kids in or near Calgary — look for write-ups in future posts.

Tomorrow I fly to San Antonio, Texas with Bennett for the annual Chromosome 18 Registry & Research Society conference. I’m looking forward to finding out more about our son’s genetic condition (18q-), learning about the latest research and meeting other families with kids like Bennett. Everyone will have a different tale and I’m looking forward to hearing their stories, and sharing our journey with B.

Drink of the Week: Pink Panther

I guess it’s fair to say I’m on a bit of a bourbon kick (the children are out of school all summer, after all). My drink this week is a Pink Panther. It kind of sprang off the page and begged me to drink it when I was perusing the cocktail list at the new National Beer Hall on 17th Ave. S.W. in Calgary.

Sexier than the Strawberry Lemonade (also made with bourbon), the Pink Panther features watermelon puree (yum) and housemade basil syrup (double yum). It’s strong but not overpowering, and the watermelon (which pairs so nicely with basil) almost tricks you into thinking you’re guzzling a healthy libation. It’s definitely the kind of cocktail you want to shake up when the kids are squabbling on a sticky summer afternoon.

Bourbon, watermelon puree and basil syrup make this National Beer Hall cocktail a hit.

Pink Panther

  • 2 oz Buffalo Trace bourbon
  • 1 oz basil syrup*
  • 5 oz watermelon puree (just add watermelon to a blender and hit “puree”)
  • Top club soda
  • Basil leaf garnish (optional)

Build the drink over ice in a 500 mL mason jar (or 16 oz pint glass) adding the bourbon, basil syrup and watermelon puree, screw the lid on and shake, then add more ice and top with club soda. Garnish with a basil leaf.

*To make basil syrup, combine 1 cup sugar with 1 cup water and 1 cup loosely packed basil leaves. Heat until sugar is dissolved. Let stand for 30 minutes, then pour liquid through a strainer into an airtight storage container (discard basil) and chill before using.

–Recipe courtesy Stephen Phipps, cocktail co-creator for National Beer Hall

Family travel trend: hiring a professional photographer

New trends in travel appear every year. The destination wedding gave birth to the babymoon and, once kids were in the mix, families decided they needed to travel with grandma (multi-generational vacations) for her babysitting services.

Now that the entire clan is jetting off to Maui or the Bahamas every winter, well-heeled (or, ahem, flip-flopped) travellers have realized they need to hire a professional photographer while on holiday, to capture the magic of every sunset moment on a memory card, with the lighting, outfits and facial expressions just right. They want to guarantee they’ll look good for the annual Christmas card or the Facebook photo album that shares their posed beach frolics with the world. This trend is so hot, some resorts are offering sessions with a pro as part of a vacation package.

Now, I’m all for hiring a professional photographer for certain occasions. Weddings, the newborn photo shoot, and the session every several years to capture your kids getting bigger, come to mind. In fact, we hired Jessica Harcombe Fleming Photography to take some snaps of us last fall.

We hired a professional to get pictures of us with our kids (then aged four and six).

But shelling out for those perfect moments miles from home seems a bit over the top. Shouldn’t holidays be spontaneous? You’ve left your structured days back home and you should be able to throw on a sloppy sundress, go without makeup and not worry about everything being just so. Isn’t part of the fun of family holidays the ridiculous photos that come out of it? As one blogger lamented, this trend will put an end to those awkward, kitschy “Griswold” moments typically captured on film.

The “Griswolds” go hiking. Forced nature commune on Canada Day in Fernie.

Proponents of the trend say it takes the pressure off Mom or Dad to be the on-call photographer; that way, they can enjoy the holiday with both eyes instead of worrying about viewing highlights through a lens. A small price to pay, they say. Also, this way they don’t have to rely on random strangers to capture an image of everyone together. (Maybe it’s just me, but I think this random stranger did a pretty good job.)

A “random stranger” does a pretty good job capturing a sunset beach moment of our family in Ixtapa, Mexico. Cost? Priceless.

What do you think? Would you hire a holiday cameraman, or are you content to tote your own point-and-shoot and hope for the best?

Drink of the Week: Zujito

What to you get when you take the rum out of a mojito and replace it with Zubrowka Bison Grass Vodka? A Zujito, of course. A bottle of Zubrowka polish vodka (the one with the grass in the bottle) has been sitting in my liquor cabinet for some months now, waiting for me to try it. Ditto the mint growing in a container in the backyard.

Since the folks from Your Brand Integrated Marketing Communications, who represent Zubrowka in Canada, were kind enough to send recipes with the vodka, I quickly zeroed in on the Zujito and mixed one for myself and a friend. Our consensus: two thumbs up.

We agreed it’s the perfect patio drink: refreshing, with a good balance of tart and sweet and just a hint of mint. Perhaps the vodka has something to do with it? It contains bison grass extract, which gives it a pale olive colour and smooth, velvety mouthfeel. I likened the Zujito to “adult limeade” while my friend described it as “mojito meets margarita.”

I took some liberties and adjusted the recipe, which originally called for 3 oz of vodka (holy triple!!!), 1.5 oz of lime juice and no club soda. I think my version is pretty delish and hope you’ll agree.


  • 2 oz Zubrowka
  • 1 oz fresh lime juice
  • 3/4 oz simple syrup
  • 8-12 mint leaves
  • Top club soda
  • Garnish with a lemon wedge and sprig of mint

Muddle mint and sugar syrup in a Collins glass over crushed ice. Add Zubrowka and lime juice and churn with a bar spoon. Add more crushed ice then top to taste with club soda. Garnish with a lemon wedge and sprig of mint.

I love you, Fitbit

A couple months ago my husband’s company outfitted everyone in the office with Fitbits. A Fitbit is a brilliant little device that accurately tracks the number of steps you take in a day, the number of stairs you climb, calories you burn and kilometres (or miles) you walk. Just slip it in your pocket and away you go. The head honchos at Blake’s company evidently wanted to motivate everyone to get moving over the summer — the person who logs the most steps wins bragging rights.

The cutest feature is the little blue flower that “grows” when you’re active. How could you not fall in love?

It didn’t take much for Blake to vault onto the Fitbit bandwagon. He became quite obsessed with his fitness friend over a short period of time and even took to walking up and down the stairs in our house while brushing his teeth in order to gain more flights and steps and thus up his daily tally. I thought it was all rather ridiculous … until Blake decided I should have my own Fitbit.

It automatically syncs with your computer to calculate your daily, weekly and monthly totals. Very cool.

Now I too am hooked on my Fitbit. It’s inspired me to be more active as part of training for our Kilimanjaro climb in September. I am never without it (except when I’m sleeping) and I check it regularly to see my step total (I aim for 10,000 or more per day). Do I go up and down the stairs with it while brushing my teeth? You bet! (I know, nerd alert.) I even had a Fitbit scare a couple weeks ago when it fell out of my pocket in the dressing room at MEC during our Kilimanjaro outfitting shopping spree. Luckily, we were reunited.

Hiking with Fitbit in Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park. We clocked over 7,000 steps and five kilometres.

Mostly though, it’s a little bug in my pocket reminding me to walk farther and climb higher. The fact that Blake has one too means some friendly competition to see who takes the most steps each day. If I make it to the top of Kili I’m sure I’ll have Fitbit to thank.

Camping with kids made possible by motorhome

Before we had children my husband and I liked to camp. Backcountry or even front country, you’d find us heading west on many summer weekends. Now, the very idea of camping in a nylon tent with two children induces an instant headache. We tried camping with Avery when she was 14 months old and I wrote about that failed adventure for the Calgary Herald.

Camping with kids is a lot of work.

Six years later our daughter loves camping. She thinks it’s the best thing ever, after s’mores. Bennett, however, is not 100 percent sold on the glory of nature or the benefit of slumbering in its midst. More specifically: he hates fires. And fireworks. Really, anything crackling and hot with a flame. And camping without a fire is kind of like skiing without powder: you can still do it but it’s not going to be as much fun.

We became aware of his pyrophobia last summer, on failed camping attempt No. 2. All was going well in the great outdoors until it was time to roast hot dogs. As soon as the campfire was lit, Bennett retreated to the car and refused to come out. He then refused to go to bed in the tent, which was within earshot of the crackling fire. By refused I mean he screamed and cried hysterically blubbering, “No fire! Go away fire! Put it out! Waaaahhhhhh!!” (I’m sure other campers within earshot must’ve thought we were trying to brand him or make him walk on hot coals or some similar torture.) We ended up driving home at about 10 p.m. Our takeaways from that trip:

  1. No more fires.
  2. Why are we torturing ourselves in a tent, anyway? Let’s peel away whatever shreds of camping self-respect we have left and get a motorhome already.

Fortunately, my in-laws took one for the team and invested in a motorhome. We borrowed it and “camped” at Gull Lake this past weekend.

Ah, nature! Got my barcalounger and a view of the throngs from the porch.

Inside its retro 1981 cabin Bennett felt as secure as if we were staying overnight at a motel. Outside, he was wary of the firepit, but we assured him there would be no fires. After he went to bed we closed the windows, drew the curtains and turned the fan on high (gotta love RV hook-ups!). Then, we lit a honking huge fire and made a bunch of s’mores.

It’s not camping unless there’s a fire + s’mores!