The season to show your skin is almost upon us – temperatures rise, pants get swapped out for shorts and boots take their place in the closet while the sandals get ready for their days in the sun. It’s a time to celebrate, to lean back and feel the warmth on your face – but warmth and sun is no fun with dry, cracked winter skin!
Canada’s often extreme weather conditions, especially over the wintertime, can leave skin suffering long after the season has passed. When it comes to dryness, I have three main problem areas – my hands, my heels, and my lips! It often feels like no matter how many products I layer on to keep the dryness at bay, I just don’t see the results. And unfortunately for Summer, dry sensitive skin seems to run in the family – any weather changes or shift in our environment turns us both into flaky, itchy messes!
But finding Flexitol this past year finally turned my cracked painful problem areas into smooth skin that I actually want to show off, and their children’s line Happy Little Bodies has worked wonders for Summer too! Created in Australia over 20 years ago, Flexitol’s product line is specifically formulated to improve dry skin quick, and provide visible long-lasting results.
I am really neglectful when it comes to caring for my feet, and I can’t remember a time in the recent past where I didn’t go to sleep with dry, itchy, painful heels after a long day of running around. Over the years I’ve tried so many different creams and tools to try and soothe my nightly burning heels – I’ve asked for help at pedicures, slathered my feet in slippery lotion and special socks, the WORKS, but nothing ever seemed to penetrate the problem and provide any relief. I felt like I was constantly just scratching the surface – literally, just scratching at my heels endlessly!
Honestly I expected Flexitol’s heel balm to be another failed attempt, but it turned out to be a total game changer! What makes it different? This formula has 25% Urea, the highest formulation available, which means it moisturizes and exfoliates all at once, breaking down dead skin without any scrubbing or scraping. Plus it’s not slippery or greasy and absorbs super quickly, so I don’t have to worry about slipping around after application (no special socks needed!) I’ve been using Flexitol’s heel balm every night when I get into bed for a few months now, and my burning hot itchy heels are officially a thing of the past!
Suffering from dry, cracked hand-sanitizer exhausted hands? I think we’re probably all in the same boat on this one. I constantly struggled with keeping my hands hydrated over the past year (and then some) until I found Flexitol’s Rapid Relief Hand Balm. Formulated with vitamin E and 10% Urea, this isn’t your average hand cream – I saw a visible improvement almost immediately when I started carrying this cream in my bag and using it daily.
No matter what the season, I always seen to have chapped, dry, peeling lips. I even struggle to wear lipstick because it applies unevenly and gets chunky! Flexitol’s Lip Balm is the #1 selling balm in pharmacies across Australia, and my lips and I are happy to report that it’s worth the hype. Just like every other Flexitol product I’ve tried, this formula really works, and continues to work long after you apply!
With natural ingredients like Jojoba seed oil and Colloidal Oatmeal, Flexitol’s moisturising lotion for little bodies is extremely gentle, but super effective. It’s clinically tested to provide 24 hours of moisturization from just one application, which makes it the ideal product for a busy mom. It also helps to soothe itching caused by bug bites, rashes, poison ivy, and more – definitely a must have for Summer’s summer fun!
Flexitol is now available at Amazon.ca – shop the full line here!
This post was a part of a paid campaign with Flexitol, but all opinions are authentic and my own. I am not a medical doctor, and my personal story and opinions should not be taken as medical advice.
When I mention my unique journey to motherhood, I’m almost always met with assumptions. Specifically assumptions about how I got pregnant in the first place. So today, on Mother’s Day, I’ve teamed up with Mosie Baby to share more details about at-home insemination, and how the Mosie Kit could help you conceive on your own terms!
When people hear a woman purposefully chose to have a baby on her own, they picture Jennifer Lopez in The Backup Plan, Leslie Mann’s character in How to Be Single or even Jane from Jane the Virgin (though obviously, in her case, the insemination wasn’t intentional). All of these pregnancy journeys started out and came to fruition in a fertility clinic, with a patient waiting on a table, legs spread and ready for semen delivered via someone in a lab coat.
Even when I knew Single Motherhood by Choice was the path I wanted to pursue, I knew the process I’d seen depicted in the media was not the path for me.
When I pictured getting pregnant, even if it wasn’t the “traditional way”, I pictured being at home, comfortable and relaxed, with candles and crystals and music and all of my favourite things surrounding me. My vision was much more Jennifer Anniston in The Switch than J-lo or Jane. I think because the majority of my more serious, long-term relationships have been with trans* people, queer folks, or other women, I had already put a lot of thought into how I’d like to conceive if “the old fashioned way” wasn’t an option. Back then I pictured a turkey baster might be my instrument of choice, but later I’d read about hopeful parents using everything from various plastic medical syringes, to menstrual cups (which as you may know, is what I ended up trying!) There was nothing on the market really specifically aimed at home insemination (for couples who are TTC, same-sex couples, or single parents by choice) until Mosie Baby came along!
Mosie Baby was created by a couple who were trying to conceive for over two years; two years of invasive tests and costly procedures, that all added up to more unknowns and no results. Before their first IUI appointment (for those who are unfamiliar, IUI is a medical procedure where semen is injected directly into the uterus to optimize chances of a successful pregnancy) they decided to go rogue and inseminate with a syringe together at home. As Maureen (the co-founder) says on their site, “It was obvious that traditional syringes weren’t made for the vagina”, so this crafty couple created the first Mosie Syringe, and soon after created the first Mosie baby, their son!
Though I didn’t personally use Mosie when I was TTC, I couldn’t love this brand and everything they stand for more. Their kits are delivered in subtle, nondescript packaging for privacy, and the designs inside are colourful and inviting. A clinical study has found Mosie “as effective as IUI and timed intercourse” (source here), but the cost is a fraction of what you might pay for a clinical IUI, and it’s totally safe to try from the comfort of your own home. They have truly thought of everything, including super accurate pregnancy tests and ovulation tests to help with tracking and timing – so if you’re a single mom by choice like me, you just need to source your sperm! (If you don’t have someone in your life who is willing to donate, you can always checkout a site like coparents.com)
Most of all, I love that Mosie is providing an accessible alternative for so many couples and single people who are trying to conceive, and challenging the assumptions and taboos surrounding at-home insemination along the way. I’ve received so many messages asking how costly buying donor sperm was and what the selection was like, what clinic I used, and how I navigated the system on my own – the assumption is almost always that I spent an arm and a leg to get pregnant in a medical setting, and when I clarify that was not the case, I often feel judged or like my story is somehow less legitimate. One person even asked outright if my pregnancy was actually just an accident! Though using a fertility clinic and paying for testing, drugs and procedures is the only option for many people who are TTC, it doesn’t need to be the first plan of action in so many cases, including mine. Mosie Baby not only makes the path I chose more legitimate, it normalizes looking outside the doctor’s office for fertility solutions, with a healthy dose of cheerful positive branding in a realm that can so often feel hopeless.
A few of the reasons home insemination felt right for me //
I wanted to avoid medical intervention /
I haven’t opened up too much about this in all the years I’ve been writing this blog, perhaps because it feels too vulnerable, but I struggle with childhood medical trauma. Growing up I had chronic UTI infections and spent a lot of time undergoing really invasive tests, checks and procedures. I am extremely anxious in any medical situation, especially anything that involves me laying on a table and opening my legs for a doctor, so avoiding that route when it came to making a baby was a big priority.
I wanted to have a relationship with my donor /
Many folks choose to purchase donor sperm because they want as little attachment as possible, but personally I wanted to know my donor and have a relationship with him in real life. When I think ahead to Summer growing up and asking questions about the other person that provided the “missing ingredient” to bring her into the world, I don’t want the donor to be a mystery or someone unreachable.
I wanted the process to feel as natural as possible /
Obviously getting pregnant without a partner automatically made my journey to motherhood somewhat abnormal, but I still wanted the moment sperm met egg to feel intimate and special. At-home insemination where I felt safe and in control was an amazing way to make conception comfortable – I just wish I’d known about Mosie Baby!
A few reasons you might want to try Mosie Baby //
You haven’t had any luck getting pregnant with intercourse
You are in a same sex relationship or have a trans* partner
You are on the path to becoming a Single Mom by Choice
You want to avoid costly fertility clinic bills and invasive procedures if possible
The list goes on and on! If you’re interested in trying out Mosie Baby, or know someone who might, click here to order.
This post was a part of a paid campaign with Mosie Baby, but all opinions are authentic and my own. I am not a medical doctor, and my personal story and opinions should not be taken as medical advice. Please contact your doctor if you have questions about fertility.
For many years, Mother’s Day was a holiday that made me feel left out, a reminder of everything I wanted and couldn’t attain (take this as a reminder to reach out to friends who are yearning for a child, struggling with infertility, or who have recently lost their moms on May 9th!)
Now that I do have a daughter of my own, I believe more than ever that it’s important to shower the moms and mom-type-figures in our lives with a little bit of extra love one day a year – this job is TOUGH, unpaid, and so often thankless. I’m also a big supporter of any excuse to eat extra special food, and spend time with family, and give gifts!
Gifting is my love language, and though I’ve been slacking on blog gift guides since becoming a mom, I truly love putting them together. This gift guide features so many of my favourite products, and most of them are from Canadian small businesses too! But first…
Pre-done gift sets to consider //
With all the shipping delays and added stress this year, a curated gift set could be the way to go! Four different versions caught my attenton:
I’ve had a love affair with The Cross for so many years, and it’s no surprise their Mother’s Day gift boxes this year check all the boxes for all different kinds of moms. They were kind enough to send me the “Cooking Mom Box“, a sweet little set that includes a ceramic berry bowl, tea towel and beautiful bottle of hand soap. There are four options created to fit any budget and spoil any mom on your list!
This Canadian company puts together gorgeous into a seasonal box that’s delivered to you! You can sign up for a whole year, or purchase an individual box to keep or gift to someone else. They were kind enough to send me their spring box and it would make such a perfect surprise delivered to your favourite mama’s door.
This awesome box from mental-health focused Toronto store Crying out Loud is the perfect way to remind the moms in your life to take a moment for themselves! Plus a portion of the proceeds will be donated to Mamas for Mamas to support moms and caregivers in need! Find all three options here.
I’ve been wishing I had this piece published on the blog for over two years now, so it’s about time I’ve finally done it! One of the best parts of sharing my story so publicly has been the ongoing messages I still receive from others who are considering becoming single parents by choice too. It feels like every other day I’m connecting with new people who have just stumbled across my account and are either seeking advice, or hoping to delve deeper into the details of my story. With every new DM or email I kick myself for not yet having created a resource with all of the information I’ve put out into the world about my experience in one convenient place. So here it is. You’re welcome future Alyssa!
Now aside from wanting to put all of the links related to my story in an updated roundup post, it also felt like a good opportunity to do a little update and circle back to some of my opinions from early on that have shifted over the past two years and nine months (give or take). Like everyone loves to remind expecting parents, there’s no way to know how much having a baby changes everything, and that rule definitely applies to single parents by choice too! Here’s a bit on what I’ve learned, and a touch of advice for those who’d like to take it too.
It’s ok to have boundaries //
When I first started trying to get pregnant, I was so eager to share my story. I felt so empowered and proud of myself for taking my dreams into my own hands, and I assumed my “why” would really resonate with people who had similar dreams. What I didn’t expect was the focus on the “how” that came hand in hand with sharing my news, and as my story picked up steam, the questions only got more personal. Truth be told I was caught totally off guard, like I was being asked to validate my story by proving that I went about getting pregnant the “right” way. When I was open about using a known donor instead of a clinic, the scrutiny only intensified.
Let me be clear – there is no correct way to become a single mom by choice! Whether you purchase sperm and go through a clinic to be inseminated, DIY getting a known donor’s semen into your body with something you read about on the internet (oh hey menstrual cup), or have wildly enjoyable sex with your (consenting!!!) next door neighbour, you are just as much a SMBC as anyone else who made the choice to dive into parenthood without a partner. I recently had a follower ask via DM’s if Summer was actually even planned because I got pregnant outside of a clinical setting, and though I was a bit offended, it solidified the judgement I’d felt in the passive remarks and endless questions I’ve received since announcing my “non-traditional” pregnancy.
In retrospect, I wish I’d kept the door shut when it came to that part of my journey – it felt private and too sacred to share, but I panicked and answered the questions in the moment as best as I could for fear if I didn’t, those asking would assume I was covering up an accident. No one asks heterosexual couples exactly how they got pregnant – imagine asking someone if they needed clinical help conceiving with their husband? Or what position they were in the moment they conceived? You wouldn’t, because it’s private! Just because the way you got pregnant isn’t “the norm”, or wasn’t necessarily with someone you romantically love, doesn’t mean you owe anyone an explanation! Especially because sharing details when a known donor is involved could jeopardize anonymity. When I get similar questions about DIY insemination now I advise doing your own research online, speaking to your doctor, and following one golden rule: whatever way you feel most comfortable getting semen into your body will probably work just fine!
*not totally related but I recently came across this cute new syringe product specifically created for at-home inseminations and I love that a brand is making that route more accessible / acceptable!
You can prepare, but you won’t ever be fully prepared //
This point applies to ALL parents, not just the SMBC / SPBC folks. I did everything I could think of to prep for having a baby, and for the first few months, it worked. Aside from my unexpected c-section, life with a newborn was blissful – I could work whenever I wanted, she slept very well from day one thanks to the SNOO, I was free to go pretty much anywhere I wanted with her strapped into a carrier on my body, she napped on the go when necessary and breastfed on demand.
But once she started moving, so many of my plans went out the window – a lot of the support systems I had carefully put in place fell through and I hadn’t really made arrangements for daycare or a nanny because I didn’t think I’d need it as someone who works from home and has such a flexible job. The reality is, being a mom is a full time job. Period. Even with a career path I had specifically chased because it was so well suited to being a solo mom while still making a living, I learned the hard way how truly impossible it is to work full time and mother full time without some form of childcare in place. I would call this my biggest blind spot when it came to planning for single parenthood, and I’m still struggling to find a balance that works for us (suggestions welcome – I’ve been on a waitlist for the only affordable daycare I could find over a year and there’s still no availability in sight!)
There’s no such thing as “too soon to tell” //
So much about my journey to motherhood was not traditional, but I did stick to the old “wait until you’re out of the first trimester” to share my pregnancy news, and looking back I wish I’d had the bravery to break that taboo. First off, I think it does birthing people a huge disservice to encourage the isolating practice of keeping a pregnancy secret, when that person is likely to need support and understanding, especially in the case the pregnancy doesn’t make it to term. In other words, we don’t expect parents to stay quiet about miscarriages anymore, so why is it still the norm to keep pregnancies a secret “just in case”?
Building on this point, I also wish I’d had the courage to share how much I wanted children before I started trying. As someone who hasn’t had many long term relationships and spent a lot of her time single, I often felt like my desire to be a mom was misplaced because it’s frowned upon to be open about parenting dreams when you’re single, especially in the hetero world. In an effort to avoid being labelled “baby crazy” and turning off potential partners, I mostly kept quiet about how much I wanted to be a mom, and looking back I regret keeping my goals to myself until they were well underway. I say, let’s normalize people, especially young single women, being open about wanting kids without it being attached to the word “crazy” or becoming a deterrent. If it’s acceptable for women to be anything they want, motherhood shouldn’t be an exception to the rule. It should be just as celebrated to talk openly about wanting to be a mom as it is to talk openly about wanting to run your own business, or be a basketball player, or whatever you care deeply about doing!
Acknowledging my Privilege //
I’m constantly learning, and over the past couple of years I’ve re-examined the way I originally discussed my path to parenthood. When it comes to this conversation it’s important to acknowledge that not everyone is able to make this decision, and that I was able to make it for myself from a place of privilege. Yes I worked hard to get here, yes I built my career on my own and saved up to be able to support myself, but that doesn’t mean being white, cisgender, and non-disabled didn’t impact my ability to make this decision in the first place, and that should always have been a part of the dialogue.
Ready for more? Scroll down for every link related to my story that I could find…
It’s no secret I love to throw a party, especially a party with a good THEME.
Now many will argue there’s no sense throwing a styled event for a first birthday because a one year old baby doesn’t know any better, but on the contrary I think it’s the most important year of all! Not only is your baby easily impressed with fun decor like shiny balloons, but they also have no input yet on what the theme has to be! If you’re the kind of person who truly delights on planning, setting up, and hosting parties, this is likely the only year of your child’s entire lifetime of parties where you get total creative control.
And you best believe I had a plan for this party since Summer was just a tiny embryo!
When Summer was a mysterious little egg developing inside me, I struggled to really connect with who might be in there. I came to the nickname Little Pearl because it was gender neutral (ish), and I felt like the mama oyster taking all of the hard bits of life on to protect the tiny pearl growing inside, safe and warm. Pretty soon after the nickname stuck, I had a eureka moment: my Little Pearl’s first birthday party just had to be a magical, iridescent under the sea theme! I had a little framed Rifle Paper Co. card that read “The World is Your Oyster” in my bedroom, and it seemed to sum up exactly what I was going for. Maybe it would be at a pool! Maybe we’d serve fresh oysters! Thinking about Summer’s first birthday party, and all the parties I’d get to throw her over the years, really helped me connect with my baby on the way (as odd as that sounds).
As most of my projects do, the vision started to take shape a few months ago on a Pinterest board. My initial plans were spiralling out of control, budget and stress wise – it quickly became apparent that serving oysters and renting a space was a bit overindulgent. I decided the more over the top I made the party, the less I was going to actually be in the moment, so I decided to invite fewer guests, serve sushi from my favourite cheap Toronto spot (shout out Sushi on Bloor haha!) and host at my home.
In the end I was so proud of how the party turned out – the kids were super excited, the adults seemed to actually have a good time, and most importantly I didn’t feel the usual party-planning-panic that sneaks up on me the morning of most important events.
Scroll down for all of the party details!
SETTING THE SCENE //
I wanted to focus on making the party full of things that Summer actually loves, so balloons were top of the list. I ordered these shell balloons, the seahorse, and the gold “one”, but otherwise I kept it simple and ordered a bunch of pearl white balloons with iridescent ribbon from a local party store (they filled the ones I ordered online for a fee too). I contemplated tying streamers to the balloons to create a seaweed-like effect, but in the end I kept it more simple.
I ordered a few packs of plates & napkins, straws, and a little mermaid piñata from Meri Meri, my very favourite party supply brand. The rest of the details around the house were sea-inspired treasures I’ve been collecting over the years as photo props / home decor, and when I gathered them all together I realized I had a lot more than expected! I highly recommend combing local thrift shops for figurines and special party decor additions – most of my treasures were picked up on thrifting trips for next to nothing.
Originally I was going to order fresh flower bouquets, but when Wildhood posted their dyed dried flowers (that happened to look just like coral) I knew I’d found the perfect cost-effective solution. The best part? They last forever, so they can be kept for parties and seasonal decor later on!
The big decor addition that really made the setup magical was our new custom Fuse Neon sign. Handcrafted in Toronto, these signs are LED, so much lighter weight and less breakable. Fuse also offers pre-made options and rentals in case you don’t want to commit to having a neon sign around forever, but I personally love the idea of investing in a custom neon for a special event and keeping it as a momento in your home. We couldn’t be happier with our “The World is Your Oyster” neon! Use code “randomactsofpastel15%” for 15% off on their site!
As mentioned above I very quickly accepted serving freshly shucked oysters at a one year old’s birthday was a bit excessive, so I stuck to simpler, kid-friendly options like vegetarian sushi, edamame, and salt and vinegar chips. I wanted to do octopus veggie dogs too (inspired by this post) but in the end it slipped my mind. We also served homemade herbal iced tea for the kiddos, and local wine and beer for the adults (I firmly believe all children’s birthday parties should include alcohol for the grown ups haha)
I enlisted the help of Lindsey Bakes for all things sugary, and she seriously blew it out of the water! She created mini pop tarts and a perfect little pink cake, all adorned with the most incredible shimmering seashell cookies in all shapes and sizes. She also made pre-wrapped cookies to give to guests as a yummy take home party favour – I think edible favours are always the way to go in a world where we all want to cut back on waste!
SPECIAL SURPRISES //
There’s not much that I can say with absolute confidence all one year olds actually like, but music is almost always a win with kids of all ages. I’ve loved The Beach Men (aka Toronto’s premier Beach Boys cover band) from the first moment I saw them, and I’ve been to every show they’ve had since, including when I was nine months pregnant. I took Summer to their park show this past summertime, and she loved it, so when a good friend offered to pay to bring them in for her birthday, I had only one word: GENIUS! Their performance was the highlight of the day – we all smiled so much our faces hurt, and the kids soaked up every second. The band even brought some little instruments along so the kids could participate. If I have any say in baby birthday trends, I’m calling it: live bands are the next big thing!
Whosits and Whatsits Galore //
For invitations, we kept it eco-friendly and created a card on Evite.com. I was able to find a discount code (just by googling) that worked, so in the end we got the invitations for free, and I love how they turned out with a bit of simple customization. We also added a donate option so guests could help us protect the sea for generations to come instead of bringing physical gifts.
Outfit wise, my look was mostly old pieces thrown together (turns out wearing sweaters over dresses gives you a whole new selection of skirts!) but my pearl headband was a new addition (similar version on sale here). My biggest mom styling tip for any special occasion is lash extensions! They make a huge dent in the time it takes to get ready, so even if you get carried away with balloon placement or your baby has a meltdown before you can get any makeup on, you can feel confident you’ll look your best in photos. I even had mine done before my birth! I always go to N15 and ask for a classic cat eye set – if you book with code “N15PASTEL25” before the end of February you’ll get 25% off your first appointment!
And how could I forget our wonderful photographer? I’ve known Scarlet O’Niell for years and her work never ceases to blow me away. It might seem excessive to hire a photographer for a first birthday party, but I find if I don’t have a pro at special events I end up so busy that I forget to take any pictures (for example, I didn’t get a single shot of Summer and I together on her first Christmas). Thank you Scarlet for all your wonderful photos from Summer’s big day, and for taking on the role of unofficial official family photographer – we love you so much!
That’s just about everything I can think of! Scroll down to shop the post below, and feel free to ask about anything I’ve missed in the comments! Next up – a post about my single motherhood expectations vs. reality…