Holiday giveaway time! (Part two)

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas... well, not quite yet. There is still no snow. There was, for a couple of days, but it melted with our warm temperatures. However, this lack of snow doesn't make me feel any less festive. (Which makes me wonder... maybe Christmas in Florida wouldn't be so bad, after all?)

After a fabulous giveaway with one of my favourite toy stores, Tag Along Toys, it's time for my second holiday giveaway!

This time, with Mastermind Toys.

Mastermind Toys has been selling toys for children for over 26 years, and with 13 years selling online, they know a thing or two about what the hottest toys of the season are! I lost track of time when I was looking through their online store, because there are so many items to choose from. Mastermind Toys also has 11 stores in and around Toronto, so if you prefer shopping in-store rather than online, you can do that, too.

Two of their most popular items this holiday season?

The SmartLab Weird and Wacky Contraptions Lab and the SmartLab Glow In The Dark Lab. And guess what? I am giving BOTH away to one of my readers!

The SmartLab Weird and Wacky Contraptions Lab is over 2 feet tall and has 60 mix-and-match pieces so your children can build an unlimited amount of contraptions. This is a popular toy with kids, because they can create and build their own course and test them using the easy velcro-like system. Doesn't it look fun?

The SmartLab Glow in the Dark Lab is also a huge hit, especially with kids who love everything science. (My six year old would love this!) You can make science experiments that glow, ooze, and bounce while using all sorts of lab tools and potions. You can even create a lava lamp, glowing slime, glow balls and more.
Mastermind Toys also helped make Christmas shopping easier for me by sending me a Dora and Diego cook book my three year old will love, and the LEGO Sort and Store Head! My six year old is going to love dumping container after container of LEGO into this cool sorter, and I'm just thrilled that his LEGO will finally be stored in one place, and not in boxes all over the house!

With so many amazing products, you can get all your online holiday shopping done at Mastermind Toys. They even gift wrap for you! You're welcome.

To win these two products, please leave me a comment telling me what your children are asking for this Christmas!

I'll pick a winner randomly on December 4th.

Good Luck, and stay tuned for next week's giveaway with Mrs. Tiggy Winkles!

Oh, and I'm also giving away a Balance Bike on my Yummy Mummy Club shoppng blog! This bike is a must for kids under 5 yeras old, and an awesome gift for your little one. You should totally go enter!

Old school pictures

If I could go back in time to give younger me some advice, it would be something like this:

"It gets so much better. You'll get braces. And your hair will be awesome one day."

Followed by: "What are you thinking?"

I came across pictures in my mom's closet where I was looking for Christmas presents last week. It was sort of like opening pandora's box. Well, maybe not that bad, but almost.

I have mostly happy memories of my childhood, mixed with a very awkward stage that a lot of us went through. Those God-awful middle school years.

I'm convinced this had everything to do with bad hair, pre-waxed eyebrows, shoulder pads, and acid-washed, high-waisted jeans that were always too short.

And awful purple Bonne Bell lip gloss.

I was the queen of bad hair. Having naturally curly hair can be a blessing and a curse, depending on if you know what to do with it. I did not. Clearly, my parents didn't know how to deal with it, either, so when I was 9 years old, they thought it would be cool to cut all my hair off. This resulted in me having hair nightmares, because short hair on me? Is the biggest DON'T ever. Oh, but my hair grew back. Chi-chi-chi-chia... And once again, it was... well... big hair. And sort out of control.

My past is filled with memories of summers in Greece, where I'd play with Patapouf and Bibi-Bo, drink Nou-nou chocolate milk and orange Fanta, and eat Dracula Fingers chips while reading trashy romance novels.

The summer I was almost 13 was the summer of Debbie Gibson and Tiffany playing on repeat on my yellow Sony walkman on a beautiful island in Greece. I had a favourite white skirt and navy blue top with shoulder pads. Shoulder pads! I loved that outfit. Right down to the white penny loafers. (Really, Loukia?)

I posed a lot, back in the day. Like leaning up against a wall type posing. Not sure what look I was going for here. This was the summer I was 14, when I was in England. I had bad hair but good taste in books. I read Wuthering Heights that summer, thinking there was no better place to read it than the place it was written. And I wore really short shorts. God, I loved those shorts.

I was all about desert boots and duckies, Tretorns and push-down socks, Esprit and Benetton. I kept journals where I wrote bad poetry, that I still have today. Most of what I wrote is cringe-worthy, of course. A blog post in itself, if I'm ever looking for something to write about. I had Hilroy notebooks turned into scrapbooks filled with pictures of celebrities, and collections of BOP magazines. I tried hard to perfect the Alyssa Milano circa Who's The Boss? pouf. It never worked on me, but my best friends, blessed with straight hair, had the best pouf's ever.

I used to be a dancer, and took the obligatory recital pictures, year after year. This picture shows me in my least favourite costume, ever. Again, this picture is majorly cringe-worthy. I am the reason the term "jazz hands" exists today.

While in high school I finally figured out how to handle my unruly curls (hint: don't brush them!) and fell in love with fashion. I got rid of my braces and I won "best dressed" my graduating year which isn't something to be that proud of, but still. I had come a long way from just a few years before!

In university I was too busy studying to even remember what I wore, but college years were all about pleather tops that exposed way too much skin, and... why do I look like a bobble head? A few months after this picture was taken I landed my internship at CBS TV in D.C, and got my style sense back. When I wasn't at the TV station I was in Georgetown, shopping and maxing out my credit card. Some things never change, I guess.

I think pictures stopped being embarrassing after college.

Since then I've learned a thing or two: pleather is always a no, especially red pleather snakeskin pants, find a good hair stylist, and remember that confidence comes from within. It's not about the size of pants you wear or where your clothes are from. The pictures I get the most compliments on are the ones where I'm smiling my biggest, most sincere smiles. Usually it's when I'm thinking about my children.

So there you have it. My most embarrassing pictures, ever, exposed on my blog. It's totally a blogging rite of passage, isn't it?

Please tell me... do have pictures from back in the day that make you cringe? That make you shake your head and wonder what you were thinking? That make you laugh out loud? Or is it just me?


I'm in a giving mood...


It's official. I'm feeling festive. Despite the lack of snow and the unseasonably warm weather, I am so excited that the holidays are almost here. Seriously. Only one month left! It seems we went from trick-or-treating to deck-the-halls in no time at all. I start feeling a little festive the day I see the red cups at Starbucks. They make me so excited... and anxious!

The panic is slowly setting in. The calendar is filling up quickly with holiday parties and events, Christmas lists are being made, shopping is about to get started, baking will soon commence, (God help me) and presents will need to get wrapped. (My area of expertise!)

Well, I'm here to offer you some relief, at least in the shopping department. I'm like Santa's little helper, red hat and all.

Every week until mid-December, I'll be having a holiday giveaway with some of my favorite stores, just for you... just for your children!

Last year, I was fortunate enough to work with Tag Along Toys on a fantastic holiday giveaway, where I gave away a Corolle doll and a Playmobil set.

I'm excited to be working with Tag Along Toys again this holiday season!

This year, I brought my boys with me to help pick out some items for the giveaway.

Tag Along Toys is an amazing toy store in Ottawa's west end, owned by a mom who is also a registered early childhood educator. That came as no surprise to me, as Patti welcomed my boys in to her store with open arms, selecting items that were perfect for them. Kids in a candy store? This was even better! They did not want to leave, and were running around the store happily pointing out all the toys they thought would make great presents, for themselves, and for others.

Tag Along Toys has been around for over 10 years and is also known as "Aladdin's Cave for Kids." There is something here for all the children on your shopping list, from babies to teens. One stop shop? Indeed. Books, educational toys, Playmobil, play kitchens, and items by Djeco, Schleich, Plany Toys, Kiss Naturals and more fill the shelves. Thre is a huge selection of bath toys, puzzles and construction vehicles. Needless to say, my boys were in heaven! You can also place special orders, and get your purchases gift wrapped.

Tag Along Toys offers discounts to teachers and educators everyday, and they have Grandparents Day on the last Thursday of every month where all purchases are 20% off. Isn't that amazing?

This holiday season, I'm excited to be giving away a very awesome Pirates Mosaic Craft Set. My six year old has the Dragon Mosaic Set, and he loves it. It's a wonderful craft and it's not messy at all. You can create 4 different scenes and the end result is just awesome. If your children are crafty at all, this is perfect for them.
I also have a fabulous Kiss Naturals giveaway that will keep your little ones busy for hours on end. Kiss Naturals are fun all-natural do it yourself kits, and I have not one, not two, but three kits to give away: the lip balm kit, the soap kit, and the bath fizzies kit. These kits make great gifts for Christmas or birthday parties. Also? Kiss Naturals is a Canadian company.

To win these awesome gifts, just leave me comment below telling me what you love the most about the holidays.

Bonus entry number 1: Follow @TagAlongToys on Twitter.

Bonus entry number 2: Become a fan of
Loulou's Views on Facebook, and follow @MrsLoulou on Twitter.

I'll pick a winner randomly on November 27, 2011.

Good Luck!

Also, I'd love for you to follow my shopping blog over at Yummy Mummy Club! I'll be offering tips on holiday shopping and what the hottest items for the season are. I just had an awesome giveaway with Old Navy, too, and someone won a new winter coat!

The holidays are all about giving, right?

Stay tuned for more great giveaways with Balance Bikes, Mrs. Tiggy Winkles and MasterMind Toys!


Little white lies


"Mommy, does Santa ever die?" my six year old was full of questions on our drive home tonight.

Yes, the best conversations always happen when I'm driving with my boys. I ask my children about their day, who they played with, what they learned, if they ate all their lunch, and so on. Conversations, back-and-forth, between my boys and I. Moments I cherish. Until the hard questions are asked. And I'm um, sometimes left wondering what to say.

"No, sweetie... Santa doesn't die," I reply, accepting the fact that I'm lying to my own child.

"Well, how come? Why doesn't he die?" the questions I don't want to answer have finally arrived. My baby is at that age. Six years old, and he's already figured out I'm the magical tooth fairy that leaves him money and a personal letter with every lost tooth. He's wise beyond his years, and he's figured out that Santa is not real. But I can't just give in like that. I have to try to keep the magic alive, don't I?

"Well, he's magical!" I say, because really, I don't know, I'm talking about a make-believe old dude who delivers presents to every good girl and boy on earth in one night on a flying sled with flying reindeer, one with a shiny red nose. Perhaps he's figured out the space-time continuum and is smarter than all of us? Oh, wait... he isn't real.

Truth is, I don't think I ever really believed in Santa, because the house I lived in as a young child didn't have a fireplace.

(Note to self: Remember to write a post about the time in grade six I stuck a car lighter on my nose to see if it would hurt, and what I was called for the rest of the year.)

"Well, I don't believe that Santa is real," my six year old said to me. "He's not real. He is just made up."


"Nooo!" says my little dude, my three year old. "Santa is real and he makes his toys in the factory!"

"That's right, little D! He does!"

And then, I change the subject as quickly as I can because I feel guilty that I'm lying to my baby boy, and I feel guilty that I'm not insisting that Santa is real to my oldest son. I think my six year old still sort of maybe believes in Santa, but I can't be certain.

As a mom, I sometimes feel guilty when I am knowingly lying to my children, even though I know it's not going to damage them later in life.

"There is no more chocolate in this house. Yes, I'm serious!"
"You realize that Santa is watching, right? You better behave!"
"If you don't stop complaining, I will return that toy I just bought you!"
"See the police station over there? You have two minutes to stop fighting or else..."
"If you swallow your gum, it'll stay in your stomach for seven years!"

The Santa lie, though? I have a really hard time with that one. Because I actually feel bad that I'm making my children believe in something that is completely untrue.

And yes, I have seen Elf a hundred times, and I love it. And it almost makes me believe... but not quite. (And if you're real, Santa? I want keys to a condo in South Florida. Thanks!)

For now, though, at least this year, for my six year old? There will be a gift from Santa for him, under our Christmas tree, like every other year, right next to his brother's.

After all... Christmas is kind of magical, isn't it? And I guess this is one little white lie I'll try to keep up until I can't anymore.

The best idea ever

Parenthood is messy. I realized this the day I was peed on when I was changing my baby's diaper days after I had given birth. I'm reminded of the messiness when I clean vomit from the car or from my bed. Children can be messy.

Two days ago, I found my three year old in the bath-tub, covered in an entire bottle of Zincofax, mixed together with an entire bottle of Johnson's baby lotion. It took a long time to get him clean, and his skin is still softer than it was the day he was born.

Yup. Parenthood is messy. But messes? I can handle. Something I can't handle, though? Something that makes me break out into a cold sweat, gasping for air?

Public bathrooms. See, I suffer from Mysophobia. The fear of germs. (I have a lot of other fears, too.)

Of course, because I have this fear, my children will always, always have to go the bathroom when we're in the mall, at a restaurant, in the grocery store, or on a road trip. Gone are the days when I could walk into Banana Republic to change my baby's diaper in the change room without anyone knowing, because well, my boys aren't in diapers anymore. (I used to breastfeed in change rooms, too, in case you wanted to know.)

You might think I'm crazy to have such a fear, but when my children have to go-go? They do it without their clothes on.

So picture me, hyper-paranoid mom, dealing with my children sitting on a toilet seat, with their clothes off, sometimes using their little hands to position themselves on the seat better. I stand, biting my nails nervously as the toilet paper I used to cover the toilet seat falls into the toilet. I tell them to hurry up, because there is only so much I can take, and we wash our hands, leaving as quicky as possible, as I rummage through my purse for my Purell. Those nights? They stay in the bath an extra, extra long time.

Although there is not much I can do to avoid these types of situations, there is something I do to avoid nervous breakdowns when my boys have to pee.

Instead of watching my children come into contact with a germ infested public toilet seat, I carry a plastic cup or an empty water bottle with me. So when my boys have to do their business? I calmly walk them into the bathroom, and they pee into the bottle or cup. I flush the liquid down the toilet, dispose of the cup or bottle, wash our hands, and we are on our way. This has come in handy so many times. With a three year old, there are a lot of emergency stops made while driving, and now, my little dude doesn't even have to get out of the car when he has to go sometimes.

I just have to add here that since my six year can reach the toilet seat in most establishments, he doesn't pee in a cup. My three year old does, in some public bathrooms if the toilet seat is too high. Or if the bathroom is really, really gross. And? I'm totally fine with this.

Anything that makes my life as a mom easier? I totally support.

Am I a genius or what?

New York City on a whim...

Last Thursday, I was in a taxi at 4:30 a.m., on my way to the airport.

I was heading to New York City—one of my most favourite cities ever— for a Tommee Tippee event, for the day. Nothing can get me out of bed with a smile at 4:30 a.m., unless of course, it's to spend the day in NYC.

Also on the agenda: lunch with Marinka and Ali in Saks Fifth Avenue, on the 8th floor.

The shoe floor.

Seriously. It was an awesome day.

New York City with fabulous people, attending an event about a great baby company, and lunching with some of my favourite people on the shoe floor of Saks... sigh. All in a day's work.

My taxi driver was nice enough to have a coffee waiting for me in the car, however, being the paranoid person I am, I wasn't sure I should drink it. What if his intentions were to poison me, and months later an innocent jogger were to discover my body in some random forest? After some back-and-forth conversation, which is always at 4:30 a.m., I decided to drink the coffee. The first sip woke me up enough to remind me that I forgot my Ativan, and I never fly without Ativan when I'm flying without my children. So I stopped drinking the coffee, in order to remain in a sleep-like state, much like how it feels to be on Ativan.

The thing is, I hate flying.

No matter how often I get on a plane, I am never relaxed. At least when my children are with me, I'm too busy keeping them occupied I don't have time to think about the plane falling out of the sky. Because really, no matter how many times it's explained to me, it doesn't make sense that an incredibly heavy piece of metal can stay in the sky without falling, and on top of that, somehow land where it is supposed to land. And turbulence being "nothing to worry about" is something I don't really believe. When the plane "falls" a bit in the sky? It's scary. The only thing I do on the plane is eat, so I can have energy to tread water for hours until I'm rescued, should the plane fall into a body of water.

Despite my fear of flying, every flight I take is worth it, New York City being no exception. Being flown to New York City for a blogging related event was the coolest thing ever, and a great experience.

I loved:

Sitting beside Reeva on the flight from Toronto to New York City—she kept me calm, and talking to her for the hour made me forget I had no drugs to calm me down!

Being called Britney Spears by a crazy dude. Really, really loudly, downtown in New York City.

Seeing Jessica again.

Learning about a fabulous baby company and wishing I was pregnant for the third time.

Tearing up during the The Day You Were Born video demonstration.

Imagining I lived in the apartment in downtown NYC that the event took place in. It was the coolest apartment ever, and the decor was amazing.

Enjoying the balcony of this apartment on an unseasonably warm and sunny day.

Testing out sippy cups with Ali.

Meeting Marinka for lunch in Saks. Even though we were running late—forgive us, Marinka!

Saks Fifth Avenue fries.

Comparing hair trauma stories with Ali as Marinka looked at us as like we were crazy.

Getting hooked on Hanky Panky's. (Thanks, Ali!)

Discovering the world of American Girl dolls. (I'm lucky I only have boys. If I had a daughter I'd be in serious trouble!)

Taking a picture of Rockerfeller Center for my three year old, Home Alone 2: Lost in New York obsessed son.

Laughter, great conversations, and some retail therapy, all under $100.

It really was a surreal day that re-confirmed to me how much I love everything about blogging, my blogging community, and the incredible opportunties I get to be a part of.
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