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A Fun Spring Read for Kids

Screen Shot 2016-04-27 at 11.15.46 AMBakers on Board by Sheryl Berk and Carrie Berk

Mother and daughter writing duo has sent Jenna and the group,Peace, Love, and Cupcakes, on another adventure. Only this one could have serious consequences. This time the Cupcake Club will go on a cruise.

When Leo, Jenna’s stepdad, plans to take the entire family on a Caribbean cruise, the four youngest siblings get chicken pox. So, Leo offers the extra four tickets to Peace, Love, and Cupcakes Club in exchange for an order of 12,000 cupcakes for his business’s upcoming pirate event.

Mother nature wreaks havoc on the night of the party. Will PLCC survive it to enjoy the cruise?

Like the first book, there are many tasty cupcake recipes to bake.

New York Times bestselling co-author of Soul Surfer, Sheryl Berk is the founding editor in chief of Life & Style Weekly as well as a contributor to InStyle, Martha Stewart, and other publications. Her daughter, Carrie, a cupcake connoisseur, cooked up the idea for the Cupcake Club series in second grade. Together, they have invented dozens of crazy cupcake recipes in their NYC kitchen (can you say Purple Velvet?) and have the frosting stains on the ceiling to prove it. Carrie maintains her own cupcake blog, featuring reviews, photos and recipes of her culinary adventures.

The book is available now at your favorite bookstore.

Why Did Mom? Short Fiction.

SIWC2I hate her. There, I said it, or at least in my head. She was supposed to come home today. All those medical talking heads said August 15 would be the date. Adults are liars, even grandma and grandpa. They say we get extra time at their house. Are you serious? I’m supposed to be at home in my own bed tonight!

Grandma has to stop for groceries on the way back to Vancouver, where we spent most of our summer. This is not fair! Stupidest summer ever. We are told we can wash up and get ready for dinner when we arrive. Grandma opens the door, my nose wants to throw up and never smell again. It’s Grandma’s rubbery ham. I walk into their kitchen and see the pale pink blob in the oven. The frame of pumpkin colored carrots and translucent potatoes highlight the big. After I put my napkin over the pink flesh and a mix of white potatoes and the radioactive carrots, Grandpa tells me that we are going to his sister’s house tomorrow. I tell him we need back-to-school clothes still. I am rebuffed.

We have to play cards at my great aunt’s tomorrow. Cards are as fun as it sounds for any 10-year-old. The tea in the fancy cups is cool, along with the tiny sandwiches with the crust cut off. I just suck at old lady games. The day passed into a blur of old people stuff. Finally it is time for me to plan the perfect pre-night braces meal.

I wonder if I should call dad to see if he can pick me up to take me to Big Scoop. Both mom and dad promised me I could have whatever I wanted the last meal before I got braces. I can picture the three-scoop ice cream sundae covered with hot fudge sauce and lots and lots of nuts. Maybe I can ask if they could put extra whip cream on because of the occasion.

By noon I wonder if I should call dad or mention it to Grandpa that I need to go for my ice cream dinner. After I help Grandma with the lunch dishes, the phone in the hallway rings. She ends up closing the door to the hallway after she answers the call. I don’t think anything of it and just go to the TV Room to read my book. I hear Grandma and Grandpa talking at the front of the house. I take a book break and ask what is going on. They say mom is coming home today. So we will be going home tomorrow morning. I stutter but.. but… but in my head. I find my voice.

“But I’m supposed to go for my big sundae. I’m getting braces tomorrow. They promised me a good size treat!”

Grandma and Grandpa look at each other and said maybe there will be time to go out for ice cream after dinner. I feel like my head is going to explode with all the blood rushing up to it. I race upstairs to the room I use. I can’t believe it. I scream into the pillow. I hate this house. I want my own house!

I should runaway. I should’ve demanded to talk to dad. I wait upstairs for as long as I can until I’m told I have to help with dinner. We’re having roast beef. Gross. I think when I grow up I want to be a vegetarian. I push around the food as much as I can and ask to be excused. I hide my food under the napkin and dump it in the garbage right away. Grandpa says hurry up so we can go out and get a scoop of vanilla ice cream at McDonald’s. So, not the same. I know he’s trying. They always forget about me. Like, did she have to come home today? I despise her. I know I’m not supposed to hate, but this has been the stupidest, dumbest summer ever.

We go out for ice cream anyways. When we get back to the house I ask if I can go to bed early. I pack up what I can so that way we can be ready in the morning. My head hits the pillow. Before I know it, the sun is already creeping out from the blinds. I don’t even know what to think, will I be here again or get to home. I give up hoping. I hear grandma’s voice calling up that it’s time for breakfast, and then we have to go. I am actually going home.

It turns out that we won’t be going home before my braces appointment. Dad is meeting us there. I don’t know if I even want to talk to mom anymore. I probably won’t be able to talk later because of a mouthful metal. But, at least I get to go home today. My own bed. My own clothes. My own records. Maybe back to skating?

The appointment took a long time. But at least I got to look out at my hometown through the office window. Dad picks me up. He tells me we have to go home really quietly as mom is already sleeping. Our dog is napping when we walk through the door. I can barely talk, so I don’t even bother. I keep mopping up the drool from having my mouth open for so long.

She sleeps so long that I go to bed before she wakes up. For the first time in almost 2 months, all four of us are actually under the same roof. But it’s like she hasn’t come home yet.

It is a week later and school has already started. Nothing has changed at home. I still take care of my sister. I continue to have no life. I didn’t want to get braces, but at least the kids were kind about it. I can’t eat a lot of the gross meaty things now so that’s good. No more celery or broccoli, or it has to be complete mush.

In two weeks time I have the first skating performance of the season. I wonder if mom will be well enough to come see it or help me with my costume. Dad doesn’t know how to sew and neither do I. But mom at least could patch things up. She continues to be in her room a lot. Sometimes I hear the TV. Sometimes I was allowed to go in and say hi. She’s a quarter of the mom she used to be. I hate cancer. I really hate it.

On the day of the performance, I get everything ready and I sneak into mom’s room to grab her pretty sparkling little purse that she lets me use sometimes for special occasions. I want to look good. Plus it matches my costume. Mom is sleeping. I quietly go in and get it. I’ll tell her later that I took it.

I say goodbye to my sister and dad. Of course mom didn’t make it. But apparently we’re going to pick her up afterwards. Dad says he’s going to take everybody out for McDonald’s after the performance. He brought his cameras to take a lot of pictures. I go off to the dressing room to meet with my coach. There’s one thing I really love, and that is to skate. When I’m on the ice is just me and the music. No cancer, no mom problems, or sister problems. Just the ice and my body. There is nothing else like it. I don’t know how much longer I’m going to be allowed to skate. I know it’s expensive. Plus, Grade 6 homework comes home every day.

I begin to stretch and warm up in the dressing room before it’s my turn to skate. I’m feeling pretty good now. Then I feel a rip in my arm. Somehow I managed to rip the armhole on my right side of my costume. It looks awful. Then I get angry all over again. Mom should’ve been here. Mom should’ve been here with the sewing kit. Only moms are allowed in the dressing rooms with us. No males.

”You need help?” An angelic voice interrupts my anger. I look over. It is my skating club friend and her mom shadowing over me under the fluorescent dressing room light. Jean’s mom had a sewing kit and stitched me up while I was stood in front of her. Done. She takes my hand and whirls me around in a slow dance. I hug her my thanks.

My name is called. I feel excited again and at the same time calm. I slip off my pink skate guards and place them under my cubby. I will be awesome. I can do this. Somehow my legs take me to my mark on the ice. The arena is silent. And I’m off.

I blink and we are in the car on the way home. My cheek still feels the burn from the cold ice, rosy with happiness. I knew I wouldn’t win. Mom taught me that it’s about the journey not the ending.

It is months later from that beautiful skate. School is going great. Skating will end for the season soon. I’m allowed to go to the mall with friends. The dismissal bell rings. I grab my backpack from the locker and head home. It is a short walk. I put the key in the front door and let myself in. Not everyone has a key for their house at my age. Mom still naps a lot so I could be waiting a long time for her to open the door. I listen if the house is quiet. I slip off my shoes, skip up the steps, and I drop my backpack on the living room floor. I tiptoe into the kitchen. I open the fridge and grab the orange juice container, place it on the counter, and get a glass from the dish strainer. I guess dad was able to wash the breakfast dishes this morning. Cool. It was my turn.

“Where is my silver purse?” I almost drop the glass. My mom is in the doorway wrapped in her red robe. She’s looking at me funny.

“Mom, you scared me. How are you today?” She tells me to find it now tone of voice I’ve never heard before. She turns and goes back into her room. The door slam that followed shook the entire house. I leave my juice to tiptoe to my room. I trash my room looking for it. Crap.

I lost it. I can’t even leave this room again. I wipe my tears and put on my headphones. I turn on my record player and grab my journal. I need to remember how to breathe again. My inner Harriet the Spy finds the answer to my turmoil. I turn up the music, grab a pen with my journal, and go in my closet to sit on the floor to write. This is my safe place. Closing the door is the most magical thing. I am alone.

The door opens. Without looking up I scream, “Go away.” The light from my room reveals my skating friend standing high above me. In her right hand is my mom’s purse. The one I lost.

It is like being stuck in a traffic jam and all of a sudden the road is clear, and I am all alone. I can’t get up. The room is spinning. I’m not 10 years old anymore. I am 15. My skating friend is not my friend, she’s my stepsister. Her mom is my stepmom. My Mom didn’t come home on August 15. She never came home at all. She was supposed to be here.

The purse is one of the few things I have of hers. If mom didn’t die I would have gotten to have that argument with her and many more.

I miss her.


Reason 1,456,789 Being Motherless Sucks

Mother Holding Child's HandBiting my lip, I say good-bye to my precocious older daughter. I remind her to mind her manners, stay safe and have fun on the field trip. Her face is crumpled in a frown. She asks again if I can come for the day trip, two towns away. I remind her that I do not have someone to take care of her sister and drive her to therapy and school. I hug her and wish her a good day. She goes into class and starts chatting with her friends.

Her young sister is pulling my hand in the direction of the walk home. My heart hurts again for not being able to balance between my girls. I feel like my older one always gets the short end of my time. Her sister’s therapy and preschool schedule keeps me busy. I long to have an extra helper so I can devote my energy solely towards her.

The warm sun does nothing to heal my heart and soul. Life would be easier if they had a grandma near that could help out. It is not their fault.

I unlock the front door and let us in. My hand remains on the door. I say a silent message to her to have a good time. In a few short months her sister will be in the same school. I hope life can be better balanced. I am lucky to work at home so I can be there as much as I can.

My thoughts run wild as I prep the therapy room while my young one is anxiously waiting for her therapist. Yes, I can only be stretched so far. Sacrifices are made at the expense of another. My only hope is that as they grow older they will not remember what I didn’t do, but that I was there every day being their cheerleader. Just like my mom, even from her wheelchair before she died. I will have a special snack waiting for her after school.

She’s Not There by Joy Fielding: A Review

Screen Shot 2016-02-25 at 11.32.31 AMWhen I was growing up, the Michael Dunahee case was all through the media. He was taken from a playground when he was only four years old. Years later, of renditions of what Michael might look like showed up in the news. Joy Fielding said in a recent interview that this book is a fictional version of a child who went missing while staying at a resort.

Carole Shipley and her husband take the family on a trip to Mexico to celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary. She is delighted to see close friends join in on the festive occasion. On their last night, the actual anniversary date, the sitter they booked from the resort doesn’t show. Eventually they relent and agree to go down to dinner, leaving their kids in the room since the window oversees the restaurant. The agreement is to check on the kids every 30 minutes. They call it a night after dessert and go back to their room. Carole goes to check on the kids. Samantha is missing.

Fifteen years later, divorced and alone, Carole continues to relieve everything as the media hounds her and her older daughter, Melissa on the anniversaries of Samantha’s disappearance. Then, she gets a phone call from a young woman claiming to be her long-lost daughter.

Step by step the puzzle pieces click together to solve the crime. What they find makes the nightmare even worse.

As a parent She’s Not There was disturbing, yet I could not put it down. You might too.

Disclosure: I was sent an e-copy for my honest review. The opinions on this blog are my own.


From the Archives: The Irony of Anti-Bullying

Screen Shot 2015-02-24 at 9.15.31 PM My ears are burning before it clicks with what she just said to me. Tomorrow is Anti-Bullying Day. She commented on how cute my daughter will look in pink for Anti-Bullying Day. I shrug my shoulders and say, “ Well, if she wants to wear pink?” The woman stared at me aghast and mentioned she would’ve thought ‘families like mine’ would make sure my children wear pink. Because it’s Anti-Bullying Day. I jump back into my car because I need to get my older daughter to her school. At that moment, the irony hits me smack upside my forehead. Did she just want me to strong-arm my girl into ‘making’ her wear pink for one day?

For the past few years, Anti-Bullying Day has grown in popularity, which is great. We give our children the freedom to wear pink, or any other colour for that day. It is their choice. That’s the whole point.

We commend everybody who does to wear it. We appreciate what started this conversation. Funny thing is, when you live and breathe bullies every day 24/7, 365 days a year, you’re good.

I pull-up to my older daughter’s school, give her a hug and spy her running off with her friends. I think of the irony, it’s just one day. But for us, it’s a lifetime. It is not about wearing pink for one day a year as a symbol of anti-bullying.

Anti-bullying teaching begins at home, it is in words and actions. We all have choices, to be kind or not.

What is on My Nightstand for 2016

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The Crooked Heart of Mercy by Billie Livingston

When Ben wakes up in the hospital, he doesn’t know why or how he got there. He starts to recall snippets of what he remembers. He was a limo driver to the rich. His son died, which drove him and his wife to separate. Cola, his younger brother, has shady people after him.

Maggie, Ben’s wife, is stuck at home with a pile of bills and can’t find employment. She is still distraught over the loss of their son. Maggie turns to her brother, Francis, for help despite him being known for the viral video, “Drunk Priest Propositions Cops.”

This is a sincere and truthful story about many broken people who try to love and heal from their hardships. It was easy to slip into the book over an evening. Billie Livingston has done it again.

The book is now available at your local bookstore.

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Don’t You Cry by Mary Kubica

It was just like any other weekend for Quinn and Esther. She leaves her roommate on a Saturday night for some fun at a local bar. Quinn wakes up early the next morning not alone. She excuses the one-night stand fast and waits for Esther to return with her coffee and bagel, as per their weekly routine. Only Esther doesn’t show up. Quinn begins to search her room to find out what happened to her. What she finds out makes her wonder if she knew Esther at all.

A mysterious woman appears in a small town just outside of Chicago. She befriends eighteen-year-old Alex Gallo where he works at the local coffee shop.

What comes next had me up late at night to find out what happens in the story. It is Mary’s best tale to date.

The book is out on May 17, 2016.

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The Choices We Make by Karma Brown

Hannah and Kate have been friends since they were in school. Hannah celebrated when Kate married her husband, David, and they started their family.

Hannah and Ben have been trying for years to have a baby. When she is told she will never get pregnant, the heartbreak is immense. Then, Kate offers to be Hannah’s surrogate.

This strong bond of two friends is fierce, until a devastating tragedy sends them on a tailspin that they might not heal from.

It is a raw and honest tale of two friends who risk everything for each other.

The book is out July 12, 2016.

 Disclosure: I was sent copies for all three books for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

What book are you looking forward to reading this year?

Supporting Local Families #autism


Autism is now diagnosed in 1/68 children. There are many families in BC that have one or more loved ones diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). You may see them at school, the parks, and at the local stores like London Drugs.

London Drugs has been in BC neighbourhoods since 1945. They now have 79 stores in BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. I am pleased to hear that London Drugs, Puzzled Jewelry, and The Pacific Autism Family Centre have teamed up to raise awareness about autism. From January 8th until February 19th, a 925 Sterling Silver puzzle necklace is available to purchase at all BC and Alberta stores. Puzzled Jewelry was started by three mothers after their sons were diagnosed with ASD. Each necklace cost $25 plus tax, and the proceeds from the necklace will go towards the new Pacific Autism Family Centre. It is slated to open this summer.

With the escalating number of kids being diagnosed, the centre will become an education place while providing the much needed support and services required. The centre will provide individuals and families with resources for their entire life. PAFC will also provide treatment, counseling, and assessments. What makes the center unique is that it will have physical ‘hub and spoke/satellite” centers to reach out to communities all over the province.

Be sure to stop into London Drugs to get your necklace by February 19th. It will make a great Valentines gift while helping get the centre up and running for families like mine.

I am the one you see at the playground, school or store shopping. Autism lives here.

Thank you London Drugs, Puzzled Jewelry, and Pacific Autism Family Centre for helping all of us who can use extra support.

You can find out more about the Pacific Autism Family Centre:

Follow them on Twitter: @pacificautism

Follow London Drugs on Twitter: @LondonDrugs

Disclosure: I did receive a necklace for helping spread the word about the fundraiser. All opinions on this blog are of my own.





Discipline Without Damage: How to Get your Kids to Behave Without Messing Them Up by Dr. Vanessa Lapointe.

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I’m so tired of parenting labels: Tiger Mom, Helicopter Parenting, Free-Range, and more. This book does not label any parent. Instead it helps you address the cause of your child’s misbehavior without relying on parenting pop culture.

“They misbehave because they’re emotionally disregulated.”

Dr. Lapointe has structured this book to help parents connect instead of disconnect. She shows you how to approach the meltdown through a compassionate lens. Young children need to connect to feel safe, secure and regulate. Walk a mile in their shoes. No one knows our kids as we do.

The book’s format is easy to follow along as it is divided into two parts; part science, and part practice. The doctor also includes personal examples in her parenting journey. All through the book the guiding mantra is: See It, Feel It, Be It. She makes a great point about how there is no such thing as a guaranteed strategy for making discipline work.

I kept nodding throughout the whole book.

I have a question for Dr. Lapointe: Any advice for kids who do not have self-regulation skills? My 7 year-old is on the spectrum and has meltdowns in public and at home still.

This book is great for parents of infants to teenagers. It can assist you from getting out of the house in the mornings, bedtimes, and all of the minutes of the day. I highly recommend it. You deserve to hear that you are good enough.

Our New Favorite Bedtime Story


Wilma Lee Wu, from The Change Your Name Store, is back for another adventure. This time it is with her younger brother to explore. She is bored with the plain, beige food her mother cooks. So Wilma and her brother knock on neighbors’ doors, eager to learn how to cook new food.

They learn how to make food from pad Thai to quesadillas and more! It’s when they get to Monsieur Poutine’s house makes them rethink the beige food.

Everyone will enjoy reading Wilma’s spunky adventures. It isn’t necessary to read the first book. However, you will want to add The Change Your Name Store to your bookshelf. You may find, like we did, to read it again and again for family story time.

Leanne Shirtliffe is an award-winning humor writer. She lives in Calgary, Alberta with her family. You can find our more about her at:

Tina Kugler is an illustrator and author. She lives with her family in Los Angeles, California. You can find her at:

What is your family favorite bedtime story? Care to share?

Both books are available at your favorite bookstore.

Disclosure: I did receive a copy of the book for my honest review. All opinions on this blog are my own.

My 2016 Word

journalUsually, I don’t make resolutions for every January 1st. I routinely make my goals a birthday priority. That changed in 2015 when my health took a bad turn. Now, things are looking up, and I am not making resolutions. Instead, I am picking a theme word. It will stay with me through out the holidays, birthdays, and mundane Mondays.
My word for 2016 is CREATE.
The verb meaning of create is to bring something into existence.
What I hope to create in 2016:
1. Query my favorite magazines. Do it, instead of wishing it.
2. Finish my YA Fiction book. As above, I keep talking about it. It is time to do it.
3. Keep creating a healthier me. Last year was rough. I know what I need to do to be better, just in smaller steps.
4. Create smiles wherever I go. The world needs more smiles.
5. Make memories for my family. I only had 10 years of memories with my mom. I want to fill my kids memories of good times.
I can’t wait to see what 2016 will bring. Hope it is a wonderful one for you and your loved ones.
Do you make New Years resolutions? Care to share them?