This One Question Stopped Me in My Tracks

by Samantha on November 29, 2015

Having a doppelgänger as a sibling presents unexpected and surprising challenges

Boys pic

My son Erik and I were looking at pictures of him and his brother recently. With my laptop cracked open, he had peered over my shoulder as I was idly going through my ever-growing iPhoto library in an effort to determine which photos were going to be moved to make more room for, well, more photos.

We came across a picture of him and his identical twin brother, Aubrey. As the mother of identical twin boys, it had been years since I had finally figured out how to tell them apart, an ability that I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to master when they were babies.

“Which one is me?”

His question hit me like a ton of bricks.

All at once, it occurred to me that he – unlike most of us singletons – was not able to immediately discern his likeness in a picture, at least not in a picture that also featured his identical twin brother. By virtue of the fact that they share the exact same DNA and very similar looks (by most accounts), their ability to distinguish themselves from each other is not an easy task. That sense of “self” that we all take for granted? Well, it’s a bit more complicated for identical twins.

Our capacity to recognize ourselves is something that most of us take for granted. And yet, for identical twins, it is something that is learned, something that needs to be practiced until the subtleties that indicate difference become irrefutably clear.

With identical twins,  the mere act of looking at each other is, in essence, the same as looking into a mirror. To this end, understanding that their twin looks just like them to most people, they are no different from any other person in not being able to discern the physical difference between themselves and their siblings. A unique problem indeed.

How disturbing this must be for both people whose doppelgänger presents themselves to the other with startling frequency (at least in the case of young siblings growing up in the same  household). With less instances of looking at themselves in the mirror and more of looking at each other, is it any wonder that discernment of self is a challenge, to say the least?

Our capacity to recognize ourselves is something that most of us take for granted.

And let’s not forget the inevitable effects on the injured parties (the twins) in these situations:

  • A confused sense of self leading to frustration and insecurity
  • An overwhelming desire by each twin to individuate themselves from each other
  • Resentment at having to try harder than most to carve out a persona that is discernibly separate and different from their twin

While it’s certainly disconcerting to say the least for each twin in these equations, it’s equally distressing to loved ones who – despite their best efforts – are not able to tell the twins apart, adding to each twins’ frustration. We all have a journey towards our sense of self; for identical twins, the road to self-awareness both literally and figuratively, is particularly challenging. In the case of my kids and so many other identical twins:

  • They sleep together in the same room; bunk-beds, yes, however they are together.
  • They’re in the same class at school and look at each other’s likeness daily; oftentimes, their teacher and classmates cannot tell them apart
  • They are siblings – and with that designation, act out their respective roles accordingly, both within the family structure an outside of it (“The Quiet One,” The Outgoing One,” “The Sensitive One,” etc.)

Where does it end, they must think? And for those of us who love and care for them, how do we modify our behaviour to support their individuality as well as their similarities?


I’ve previously written about this topic, and you can read some of my suggestions here:

How to Foster Individuality in Twins

In addition to these five points outlined in the article, consider the following:

    1. Avoid referring to your twins as a single unit – Instead of saying “The Twins” or “The Girls,” refer to them instead by their unique names: “Sarah and Emily,” and other times “Emily and Sarah.” The key is to always reference them as individuals as well as to not always have one child as the first name that is called or referenced, so that no preference is conveyed.

    2. Support individual pursuits for each twin – Though it’s much easier to put your twins into the same classes and extra curricular lessons (from a logistics standpoint alone), encourage them to pursue separate interests. Not only will it help them to form their own strengths, but it will underscore the differences from their sibling that makes them unique.

    3. Make “one-on-one” time a priority – Each child needs to feel that they are valued as an individual. As their parents, it’s important that we support them through special times spent with each of them, alone. It doesn’t have to be a long period of time, but should be consistent and frequent.

    4. Discourage comparisons or competitions between twins – They are individuals and are likely compared to each other by the outside world on a regular basis. Make their lives with the family different by discouraging competition or comparisons between them. They will appreciate not having to live up to expectations that are hard to achieve.

    5. Create separate memories – Along with the one-on-one time with each twin, curate special memories through keepsakes for each of your children. Instead of grouping them both together in a memory box or photo album (digital or physical), keep separate items and photos labelled for both of your individual children. Show them by your actions that you recognize and love their uniqueness.

    6. How do you deal with the unique challenges of parenting identical twins? What can parents of identical twins do to help their children develop individuality and a positive sense of self?


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Panel of older moms discuss their experiences on national television show

Canada AM Panel

Between The New Family, Toronto Life and Canada AM, there’s been a lot of discussion in my world about being an “older mom.”

The reality is, however, that becoming a parent later in life is an increasingly more common occurrence. As women struggle with financial responsibilities, career goals and the inherent challenges of biology and fertility that age brings, the definition of “older mom” will continue to shift. While my personal situation is atypical (having raised a child to adulthood and also raising young children), my experience in being an older mom to elementary-aged children is not.

As a result of the Toronto Life and The New Family articles and podcast, the conversation on this topic continued on Canada AM (You can read the full Toronto Life article here:The Mid-Life Moms Club).

The segment made me reflect upon some of the both positive and negative aspects of parenting at an advanced age. Here’s some of the pros and cons of having children when you’re over 40 (or in your late 30’s).


  • I’m more calm and confident in my abilities
  • I’m more self-assured and less anxious
  • More financially stable/more money available
  • I’ve had the experience of already raising a child so know what to expect and am able to provide advice to first-time parents who are uncertain
  • Life experience has made me wiser and I don’t feel like I have something to prove
  • Career is more established when you’re older with kids
  • People judge me and think I’m crazy
  • Less energy than I had when parenting at a younger age – I get tired more easily
  • Going through menopause and middle-age while dealing with young kids or teen angst can be challenging
  • Generally speaking, older parents will have less time to spend with your kids and may not be able to be an actively-engaged grandparent due to age-related illness
  • Kids may not get to know their grandparents (my younger kids never met their paternal grandparents)

Did I miss any? :)

Watch the full segment here and let me know your thoughts:

Canada AM: Becoming a Mom at 40+

What are your thoughts about becoming a mom later in life? Has this been your experience or do you know someone who has taken this untraditional route? Tell me all about it in the comments section below.


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Ivy Lea KOA provides an enjoyable camping experience for non-campers

I’m not a camper.

Anyone who knows me knows that camping and I — “never the twain shall meet”

Having grown up as a first generation Canadian with parents from the Caribbean, the whole “camping in the woods, getting back to nature, avoiding bears paradigm was lost on me. The few times that I’ve gone camping haven’t turned out particularly well. On one occasion, I froze my tush off when the temperatures dropped to almost 0 degrees Celsius. Not exactly my idea of a good time. Suffice it to say that, following this debacle, the thought of revisiting such fun activities was not the first thing that came to mind.

And then of course, I heard about glamping. Apparently, there’s a movement towards bringing la dolce vita to the great outdoors. You know — a “marshmallows and merlot” sort of vibe. After roasting these sugar bombs on a stick, you, too, can retire to your fully decked-out tent (if you can call it that) that is not only heated and spectacularly furnished, but, in some cases, includes indoor plumbing. This, so you don’t have to relieve yourself in the woods in the middle of the night like the common folk do.

Surely, I thought to myself, there must be a happy medium to each of these extremes. What does one do when they don’t want to wake up aching after spending the night on a cold and bumpy tent floor or they don’t want to spend a pretty penny “glamping up” a fully-furnished, industrial-sized tent just to get a good night’s sleep?
Thankfully, there is an in-between option for camping-shy folks like myself, and it works. Think cottage-meets-camping-meets-nature-meets comfort. Not exactly “glamping” (something I don’t get, really, why not just be inside instead of outfitting a tent?) but not throwing caution to the wind – or sleeping in the wind – either.

This camping middle ground is a great alternative for those of us who aren’t “outdoorsy” enough to rough it like the big kids, or aren’t ready to pop open the Moët & Chandon while moose roam around outside.

Some may call it “Outdoor hospitality” or “Soft rugged.” I, unashamedly, call it “the comfortable and easy way out.”

I recently took the family to this well-needed middle ground at KOA Ivy Lea, located in the Thousand Islands. Having never been to this part of Ontario (heading North to cottage country from Toronto, not East has been the usual route during the summer long weekends), I was eager to check out the scenery and also find out if there really were 1,000 islands embedded in the St. Lawrence River (there are).
To say that there was some trepidation about the accommodations is an understatement – let’s just say that there have been previous experiences where the family and I entered our rented cabin and fear and disgust were just two of the emotions felt upon walking through the door.

Not so with this latest escapade, as the cabin was decked out with all of the advertised amenities with no surprises (thankfully!). Yes, I love nature and the great outdoors, but I also love satellite TV, a fully outfitted kitchen and running water. Oh, and heat, on a cold September night.

“Check” to all three.

Waking up in the morning to a freshly brewed cup of coffee indoors, via a coffee-maker is a really great thing. Yes, I know – it’s all about the fire, right? No worries – that can still be done…and then you can go inside to sleep…on a bed.

The site was nestled in a lovely part of the Thousand Islands, with easy access to the Thousand Island boat tours that are popular with tourists. The family and I took a boat tour with one of the many tour operators that are offered in the region (thanks to KOA Thousand Island owner, Dave, for helping to coordinate and for being a generally amazing host). Check online for a variety of options and cruise providers to suit the tour that will best suit you and the family.

A quick rundown of what made my “camping” trip at KOA Ivy League agreeable (other than the obvious fact that I was not sleeping on the rough or soggy floor of a tent):

The cabin was spotlessly clean and well taken care of – When I walked in with the family, I breathed a sigh of relief that there was not a dust bunny, mouldy smell or grimy appliance to be found.

Main cabin area







There was a reasonably-sized kitchen area with a stove (gas),a full fridge, making cooking for the family a breeze. Bring along some groceries that you can pick up in town and you’re good to go.



No middle-of-the-night trips to the woods to pee here: there was a three-piece bathroom with a shower.



Ever shivered in a sleeping bag while inside a tent when temperatures dip much lower than you planned for? I have. It’s not fun. And for this reason, sleeping inside, where there’s a  fully-functioning furnace for cold nights is appreciated.

Accommodations for our family were great – with the three kids, myself and my husband, we comfortably slept in our own respective spaces. The boys had a small  but cozy room that had a bunk bed – perfect for mischief-heavy evenings when sleep was the last thing that was on their minds.

Boys bunk


Kids in bunk bed


The Master Bedroom was clean, comfortable and large enough to sleep a couple, as it included a Queen-sized bed. It also had generous storage (drawers, wardrobe) for clothes and personal items. Oh – an the view out of the window was great.




In the main living area, the futon is large enough to sleep two adults and one child, or three children, or a combination of all. In other words, the space is generous for anyone who’s looking for a good night’s sleep.


Okay – I’m a bit of a slave to technology and so are my kids. Guilty. I’m also not very good at being creative all of the time, especially when the kids are whining about being bored. For this reason, I’m fully admitting doing whatever is required to keep the children quiet, if only for an hour or so, just for some peace and quiet. Selfish, I know, but so necessary, especially on a family vacation where the weather may disappoint or downright spoil any possibility of enjoying the great outdoors.

This is a very long way of saying that the large TV and satellite service are welcome amenities for those who are traveling with kids to this location.



*Note* The wi-fi was spotty and in the cabin it wasn’t accessible. Apparently it’s under repair so will likely be up and running better than ever by the time you visit!

What I really love about the cabin was the privacy. It was nestled in the woods and a bit off the beaten path, though only steps to all of the outdoor amenities (if that makes any sense), such as the swimming pool, the main building/store, the playground and the hot tub (if you get one of the cabins that have one – make sure to specify this when you book).


The way that the camp is set up is that there are many heavily-treed areas that afford visitors the visual privacy yet are not too far away from the popular features on the campsite grounds. The cabin itself is lovely, with a full deck, outfitted with some Muskoka chairs, a BBQ and a table that can easily fit a family of five. If not enjoying a meal, the deck also provides a great place for reading, relaxing, and socializing, or for the kids – a place to play.





The campground provides a number of amenities, not the least of which were a pool with a slide (the kids love it!).

Kids in the pool

FullSizeRender (2)

There was also a huge trampoline-type thing where one can jump to one’s heart’s desire. Yes – we all got into the groove:




VIDEO: KOA Trampoline Fun

Some things to remember:

  • There are no linens,  so bring your own, as well as towels.
  • Bring groceries with you – there are a few items available in the campsite store, but they’re more expensive than they are at the supermarket and the selection is limited.
  • This location and cabins in particular are very popular so book ahead to make sure you can get exactly the type of accommodations that you want.

All in all, the kids had a blast and the family got some well-needed rest and relaxation with the perfect balance of fun in the great outdoors. If it’s not abundantly clear, we had a fantastic time on our trip and hope to visit again next year.

Verdict? Highly-recommended!fourstars

Finally, for those of you who are confused about the title of this blog post, here’s some ’80’s pop as a hint:

VIDEO: Safety Dance – Men Without Hats

Are you a camper? Do you like roughing it outside, or do you like the “camping lite” type of holiday similar to the one described above? Tell me all about it in the comments section below.


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Family Money: Compare and Save in 3 Easy Steps

by Samantha on October 31, 2015 does the financial leg work so you don't have to

*Sponsored post*

For most busy parents, time is money. We all know that there’s a shortage of free time when you’re trying to navigate the basics of life: working, taking care of kids, shopping and driving children to various lessons via mom’s chauffeur service.

The concept of actually sitting down and planning – whether it’s for the future, for the present or for everything in-between is daunting, to say the least. The big decisions – such as deciding where to invest, how to get the best rate of return on your savings account and figuring out which credit card gives the best perks, rewards or rates – seems too time-consuming to investigate. After all: who has time for spreadsheet comparisons when someone’s having a meltdown in the corner while their sibling is making a huge fuss about the fact that you gave them broccoli with their dinner?

We all know that Professor Google is a great resource when we do finally take the time to try to find out information but, that too can be daunting. Remember what they said about “too much of a good thing?” Therein lies the problem.

Where does a frazzled mom or dad start when they want to get the goods – really get the goods (perhaps at a discount) – and fast?

Furthermore, how does a frazzled parent get dollars to doughnuts comparisons of said products in time to pick up the kids from soccer practice?

Life is expensive, free time is short an nerves are shot. For these reasons alone, parents are stressed.

Stressed that they’re not making the right financial choices for their present and future family lives (think budgeting for tonight’s dinner and planning for next year’s vacation).

Stressed that they’re not getting the best deals, rewards and loyalty points that will make tonight’s dinner and next year’s family vacation palatable – both literally and figuratively.

Stressed that they’ve not save up enough for their kids future education, their own personal retirement or the unexpected financial crises that seem to affect all of us at least once in our lives.

I recently became aware of a website that does just this – it takes the legwork out of the important financial comparisons that frugal families need to do, and does so easily and quickly as well. is a one-stop shop and comparative website for all things money-related, including credit cards (including reward cards and details), banking products, mortgages, insurance (including Life, Travel an Automobile), and more. Think of it as a “virtual financial assistant” who is part bookkeeper, part savvy shopper and a quick an effective study on the best ways to get the most bang for your family buck.

The site is great, as it’s independent – that is – it’s not affiliated with any particular bank, financial institution or lender, so the information provided is completely objective. Free to use, consumers can easily log on and get the most relevant and up-to-date information on the latest personal finance offers, guides, tips and advice that is best suite to the consumer’s particular needs. There is also a vast resource of informative and easy-to-digest and plain-language articles on a variety of related financial topics – a great help for those of us who don’t really like reading the usual dry, boring financial fare found so often online. is simple to use and one of the great things about it is that it continually updates the best rates and offers available in the market so that you don’t have to. That’s right – simply make a few clicks to customize what you’re looking for and the site will return the answers to you in the time it takes you to click a mouse (or touchpad). The site even has mortgage calculators, savings calculators (find out how much you’ll be able to set away for the family by simply plugging in a dollar amount and timeframe) and a single location to compare auto/travel/home/life insurance rates. No more trying to figure it out by hitting numerous sites and opening multiple tabs.

Simply select the financial product that you’d like to compare, refine your search, click “compare” and watch the results table load, showing you a comprehensive comparison of the best rates, perks and offers available. If any or all of the information revealed piques your interest, no worries – you can find out even more information by easily completing a call-back request from the specific company that you’re interested in learning about.

It couldn’t be simpler.

If you’re busy, tired, hesitant or just plain put off by the prospect of having to spend many hours of groundwork gathering information to make the best money-related decisions for your family, check out this site and spend your time – and money – wisely.


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PODCAST: Parenting in Four Decades!

by Samantha on October 29, 2015

What's it like to raise kids in very different times? Listen to The New Family podcast and find out


What’s it like to parent kids in four decades?

Sounds like a strange question, but it’s one that I can answer.

You see, I’ve done it – and continue to do it with my four children, who range in age from adulthood to elementary school age.

Confused? Surprised? Intrigued?

Read The New Family article where I provide details and listen to The New Family Podcast where I’m interviewed on the topic by The New Family website founder, Brandie Weikle.

the new family

On the podcast, I had a great discussion with Brandie, who provided me with the opportunity to discuss a variety of topics related to my unique parenting journey. Some items that we spoke about include:

  • Parenting in the digital age – how technology has change how we parent in today’s world
  • Becoming a mom in your 40’s – and society’s acceptance or lack of acceptance for this choice
  • Inappropriate and rude comments related to being pregnant at an older age, including discussions on body image and questions regarding fertility and IVF
To download and listen to the episode in iTunes, click here:
To download and listen to the episode via Stitcher radio, click here:
It’s definitely a unique story and has certainly been a trip! Lots of ups an downs and many learnings along the way.

If you haven’t already, please subscribe to this great podcast series on iTunes and give it a rating, if you’re so inclined.

Can’t wait to hear what you think of the episode! Leave me your thoughts in the comments section below.


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Keeping Up With the Kids – Top 5 Tips For Tired or Older Parents

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VIDEO: How to Save Money on Baby Items With Kijiji

September 11, 2015

Advice on how to bring home baby while staying within your budget DISCLAIMER: This post is written in partnership with Kijiji in support of raising awareness about how the Second-Hand Economy can support new parents who are looking for the best value for their family dollar. As with all content on this blog, opinions are completely […]

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ROUNDUP: Top Back-to-School Tips For Parents

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IN THE NEWS: Picky Eater? Don’t Sweat It!

August 28, 2015

Follow these simple tips when packing your child’s lunchbox School lunches can be a headache for parents who have the good fortune [*sarcasm*] of having a picky eater on their hands. Worrying about whether your child has eaten during school hours, or envisioning them hungry and miserable is the fear of many parents. As we […]

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