Thursday, March 14, 2019

Library Adventures with TD Bank

We’re somewhat nearing the end of the winter season (though, when it comes to the weather we get here in Calgary, it will come as no surprise if we get snow all the way till May) -- and it almost becomes a mini challenge to find ways to stay both warm and entertained during this time of year. Before we had kids, I used to always try and plan a vacation somewhere warm (e.g. Mexico). But life just hasn’t allowed for that kind of luxury in recent years (I’m currently trying to convince Nick to consider somewhere like Hawaii next January, as it’s been years since we’ve gone away together for longer than a night or two). However, during these times we try to make the most of what our city has to offer.

That said, if you live in Calgary and aren’t living under a rock, you’ll have heard about the opening of the new Central Library located downtown. Even though it hasn’t been open for very long, I seriously felt a tinge of jealousy/FOMO every time I came across a photo of the building, as I’m absolutely stunned at the architectural detailing of it all. So back in December, I told Evanna’s Developmental Specialist (her assigned worker from school) that I would like to plan a little family field trip to the Central Library on a day that Nick was home too, and spend an afternoon exploring everything it has to offer.

So last week, we did just that! First, I was very happy at how accessible the library is (both for special needs reasons and for any mama sporting a stroller), and that it’s right along the CTrain line. If I was back in college, I totally would have done so much studying here on my way home from SAIT (Southern Alberta Institute of Technology) since its location is halfway between the school and where I used to live. In fact, I probably would have made the TD Reading Room my second home. I have an extremely hard time staying focused and doing school work when I’m at home (too many distractions like the TV), so I would either stay at school and work in the library or hit up the closest Starbucks and study there (sounds weird, but I do some of my best studying in busy cafes).One look at the TD Reading Room and I almost wish that I was back in college, so I had an excuse to head there and study my brains out. That said, a few times a month, during a stretch of Nick’s days off, I do pack up my laptop and head to a nearby cafĂ© where I make myself at home and try to catch up on emails, DMs, comments, and other social media/blog commitments… so maybe I’ll have to spend one of those days down at the Central Library within the pretty amazing TD Reading Room -- which conveniently hosts a Luke’s coffee shop a few floors down.

While we were there, we also checked out a book called Giraffe and Bird, which was written and illustrated by Canadian author Rebecca Bender and was the selected title for the 2018 TD Grade One Book Giveaway. Each year, the program provides more than 500,000 English and French books to grade one students across Canada to take home and read with their families, as TD is committed to giving youth access to reading programs.
The book is about a giraffe and bird (obviously) who don’t get along very well and essentially make each other miserable. They decide to part ways, but after a big storm, they realize they need  one another and end up reuniting… while laughably still getting on each other’s nerves. I couldn’t help but associate the relationship of the Giraffe and Bird to Evanna and Bennett, and I hope that one day they too need each other, despite driving the other crazy! It’s a great read that is well written, and I can easily see why it was chosen to be this year’s book. The book has recently been added to our own little collection, and Nick has read it to Evanna and Bennett several times over the past month, and they both seem to enjoy.

If you haven’t been down to the Central Library here in Calgary, I truly recommend it. The location makes for a perfect meetup location with friends that live on the opposite ends of the city to get together for a playdate/coffee/chat, plus provides a great setting for a business meeting with a new client. A quick search through hashtags show it’s truly a photographer’s paradise with stunning backdrops and LOTS of natural lighting! They offer so many different activities and resources such a storytime for kids (which Evanna thoroughly enjoyed!), many spaces to study – and what caught my attention the most was a resource centre for those with special needs (on the 2nd floor just opposite of the children’s area). I unfortunately wasn’t able to fully investigate what this program entails as we were busy running after Bennett. I overheard some new volunteers during an orientation discussing the resource centre. I definitely intend to find out more next time I go!

I definitely intend to visit again soon, as I feel there were so many other sections of the library that went unexplored (I don’t think we even touched the 3rd floor), and maybe even actually check out some other books too! We have been blessed by a large collection of books here at home (though, we definitely need to invest in some more book shelves to help display them in a better fashion). 

Finally, if you’d like to win a copy of this book, as well as a few other cute giraffe and bird themed goodies, head over to this Instagram post and leave a comment!

xo The Irvine Family

This sponsored blogpost was done in partnership with TD Bank, but the review of this book and the Calgary Central Library contains opinions + thoughts that are completely my own.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Metro Dental Pampered Parent Fridays

So I’m sure when you hear the word “Dentist”, probably one of the last thoughts that comes to mind is relaxation and pampering. Well, I’m here to tell you that Metro Dental Care is set out to try and change that, and make going to the dentist a little more enjoyable and even easier if you’re a parent. 

Bennett and I recently spent the afternoon at Metro Dental Care… in particular their “Pampered Parent Fridays”. So what does a “Pampered Parent Friday” actually entail? While from the moment we stepped inside their office, we were greeted with several friendly from staff, and escorted over to the food + drink area and told to grab something to eat. Bennett and I were then shown to the back area where a professional care giver was present to watch your little one and even did provide some fun face painting. Due to his age and attention span, Bennett just received a little artwork on his cheek, however, I did see some additional work done on the slightly older kids – and let me tell you that this was no run of the mill face-painter, I’m talking a legit professional! 

Once Bennett was settled in the back, it was finally time for me to climb into that dentist chair. For this particular appointment, I opted to try out a whitening treatment, as I have been wanting to do one for the last few years. Growing up I feel like my teeth were relatively a decent shade of white, but in recent years, I have definitely noticed them becoming more and more discoloured and even become a bit self-conscious of that fact (and why I often smile with my mouth closed – especially if I know the photo is going to be up close). For this process, they first took impressions of my mouth, and quickly took them to the back while they set and finish out that process of making molds to make trays that fit onto my teeth perfectly. During that time, I was able to check on Bennett via their office tablet without having to even leave the dentist chair. They then did a quick floss and polish to finish out that part of my visit before proceeding with the massage – completing the pampered parent portion of my visit.

At the conclusion of my visit, I was quickly given some instructions on how to use my new whitening trays at home and reunited with Bennett while the care giver and staff just gushed at how cute he is and how happy and joy he was to watch over. Overall, Bennett and I had quite a fun time at Metro Dental Care (again, can’t believe I’m using the word fun while describing a dentist appointment!), and highly recommend them if you live here in Calgary. At the moment they offer Pampered Parent Fridays once a month, but hope to increase that frequency if interest continues to rise. It was just so great to be indulged during what’s admittedly an uncomfortable procedure, and also not have to worry about the possibility of having to arrange childcare in order to attend the dentist. Honestly, I think this is such a brilliant and genius idea for busy families like ours, and actually makes me look forward to my next visit to the dentist!

xo The Irvine Family

This sponsored blogpost was done in partnership with Metro Dental Care, but this review contains opinions + thoughts that are completely my own.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Southcentre Mall || A Special Time with Santa

A few weeks ago I took the kids to Southcentre Mall here in Calgary for a sensory friendly event called “A Special Time with Santa”. If you recall this Instagram post from back in October when we attended Southcentre’s Halloween event -- you’ll know it was a huge success with Evanna, and hands down the best Halloween we’ve had to date. It was just so great to take Evanna to a safe indoor venue to celebrate another holiday that was relatively quiet, had the luxury of taking our time, nor feel rushed, and it resulted in an incredibly enjoyable experience. 

For Christmas, Southcentre invited us to attend their sensory friendly “A Special Time with Santa”, where again, we were assigned a certain time block to come and see Santa when the mall first opened (so most of the stores were actually still closed), the lights were kept off  (just the natural lighting from the sky lights were used), and the overall environment was kept calm and quiet. Taking Evanna out into very busy and noisy environment can sometimes be very overwhelming for her, and she'll make it known that she is not having a good time and just wants to go home and play with her favourite toys. So for both Halloween and the Christmas events when Evanna actually exhibited that she was having a good time and was actually enjoying herself -- made my mama heart burst, and there’s seriously no better feeling then seeing your child relaxed and visibly happy. 

On the day we attended “A Special Time with Santa”, Evanna was actually just getting over a week long illness, so we still had to take things slowly and be more aware of her limitations. I was actually a little worried about how the whole thing would go (like I was was *this close* to canceling our appointment), and if sitting with Santa would upset her and cause a desat/go into respiratory distress. Thankfully from the moment we placed Evanna beside Santa, she immediately began to cuddle in close to him and rest her head against his arm. On the other hand, while I though Bennett would love Santa (as he’s super easy going, and generally loves everyone he comes into contact with), he exhibited a good ol’ classic “baby meltdown” while sitting on Santa’s knee, and thought it was quite hilarious! So for a few moments, you had Evanna snuggling in close to Santa on one side… and Bennett crying and trying to get away on the other. Pure gold!
Once we captured a few photos, I grabbed Bennett and removed him from the situation, but when I went to go and grab Evanna, she actually started pushing me away, and cuddled in further into Santa’s embrace. It seriously was the cutest thing ever, and one of the most heartwarming things to see. Santa realizing what was going on, hugged her closer and told us that we could give Evanna a few more minutes before we had to leave. Bless his heart!

Once we got Evanna settle back into the stroller, we let Bennett crawl around the “North Pole” exhibit for a little while (burn some more energy lol), and I was then interviewed by Global Calgary. Link to that news article can be found here ---->

Overall, while it was a slightly stressful morning because Evanna’s energy and tolerance reserve was significantly lower than normal -- it actually went better than expected, and still over the moon with how the whole thing unfolded. I would like to thank Michelle and the team at Southcentre for putting on this amazing event + and Dave the Santa for being so patient, calm, kind and beyond understanding of our situation – while also looking past the trach and oxygen. I just loved how he “knew” just what to do and how to make Evanna feel at ease and comfortable.

If you are still needing to get photos taken with Santa for Christmas, he can be found in the Enchanted Forest/Centre Court at Southcentre Mall until December 23rd during regular mall hours, and on Christmas Eve (December 24th) until 3pm.

xo The Irvine Family

Friday, November 30, 2018

Lake Louise Family Photoshoot + our Christmas Cards

So this post is incredibly long overdue when you consider that these family photos were taken back in July. However…. I’m sure most could agree that our life has been a little crazy (with the California surgery and postop recovery) up until just recently; and so around the time things began to FINALLY slow down just a little – it came time to order our Christmas cards, and I decided to hold off on posting these photos a little while longer.

For context, the months leading up to Evanna’s first surgery down in California was filled with a lot of stress, anxiety and quite a lot of fear of the potential risks that we were consenting to. Well after a little “cry on the internet” (quoting Nick there lol) about the absolute nightmare of trying to coordinate travel plans just to get Evanna down to California in the first place (after experiencing a ton of dead ends, our incredible social worker here in Calgary was able to knock some sense into a doctor or two, and emphasize that due to how much oxygen Evanna was on, a commercial flight was not possible whatsoever, and she absolutely required a private medical "hospital to hospital" transport), my good friend and family photographer asked if we’d like to take some family photos before we left. I of course jumped at the opportunity, and while discussing location ideas, she mentioned she had been doing lots of sessions out in the Banff and Lake Louise area, and asked if Evanna could handle the short drive out there. I stated that Evanna could definitely handle the drive, and because I didn’t want to take up any more of Jennie’s valuable time, I inquired if she already had sessions booked in that area that we could just piggyback onto, and did it on a day that both Nick had off and when Jennie was already going to be in the area for another photoshoot. 

The awesome result of doing this photoshoot out at Lake Louise, was when I showed Evanna’s Stanford/LPCH nurses pictures of what she normally looks like (people tend to look like crap postop to say the least... so I like to always show "normal" pictures of Evanna to the nurses that are taking care of her in hospital), it was also a neat way to show them where we’re from and the beautiful mountain backdrops that exist here in Alberta. If anything, while a handful of staff had heard of Calgary (only because of the 88’ Olympics... so maybe we should host again one day soon lol), most of the people we talked to down in California really only knew of Vancouver, Toronto and Banff when talking about our home Canada – so I often had to say that if traveling to Banff or Lake Louise, you usually had to fly into Calgary to get there lol. Though I know the world doesn’t revolve around me, I guess despite the size of city (and the fact that it’s like the 4th largest city in all of Canada), I was shocked at how many people in California (at least the hospital staff we came across) hadn’t heard of Calgary before. I had to constantly state that we're basically just north of Montana, and seriously less than a 3 hour plane ride from San Francisco (because most people assumed we had come really far to get to  Stanford... like the East Coast/Toronto perhaps? And not realize that we're a lot closer than they originally thought).  Oh well.... at least I now know that we've educated a few more Californians, and had many state that Calgary/Banff/Lake Louise is now on their bucket list to visit in the future by the time we were transferred back to Calgary. 
Anyways, though I’ve already posted and shared several of these photos on both my personal Instagram and family Facebook Page from our July Lake Louse photoshoot with Jennie of Guenard  Photography here’s more of my favourite shots for your viewing pleasure!


And now for the photo that we chose to put on our Chatbooks Christmas Card. Chatbooks has a ton of amazing holiday card layouts to choose from -- both portrait and landscape options, and even templates that allows for multiple photos to be added. I personally love layouts that allow for one large photo with simple text, as our parents + grandparents tend to display these cards all year long, and so it's something I keep in mind when choosing which design I'm going to use. 
What I particularly loved -- was the FREE option to add a few more little candid photos on the back with a little holiday message. Chatbooks also includes envelopes with a return address printed on them for FREE! Seriously how amazing is that?! With the code kierra20, you can get 20% off your  entire order... and with tomorrow being the December 1st -- this is something I would personally order before the end of the week! Click HERE to view + shop their holiday card designs!

xo The Irvine Family

Below I've linked some past family photoshoots

2014 || 2015 || 2016 [part 1] [part 2]|| 2017