Jody Robbins | Travels with Baggage - A a freelance writer with bad hair, a loud mouth and a serious case of wanderlust

Do you know the importance of getting your children’s eyes examined? Or how well your can child see? We didn’t. Each year, fewer than 20% of Albertan children under six-years has a comprehensive eye exam before entering school, despite the fact that an estimated one in four has a vision problem. Here’s our story.

Girl standing in field wearing glasses

Our daughter Eve was born with a blocked tear duct. This is pretty normal and it usually resolves itself after a few months. If it doesn’t, you need to have a procedure done to unblock it. The problem was, we were moving to England and her eye didn’t look like it was getting any better.

Wait times in England are long, so we wanted to get this sorted before moving. We got Eve into an optometrist when she was about six months old. Little did we know the Alberta Association of Optometrists (AAO) recommends all children across the province receive their first eye exam at six months of age; their second, by the age of three; their third, before starting kindergarten. After that, it should be done every year after starting school.

Turns out the blocked duct did resolve itself by the time we saw the optometrist, so off to England we went. Returning back to Canada when Eve was three, we went back for another checkup, just because it seemed like the right thing to do. I had no idea this was the recommended time and truth be told, it was my husband who made the appointment and took her.

Because our optometrist had a record of Eve’s eyes when she was a baby, he was able to track her growth and make comparisons that otherwise wouldn’t have been possible. It was apparent she had Astigmatism, which essentially means her vision is blurred and she needs to wear glasses – all the time.

Blonde girl wearing glasses

Truthfully, I’m glad I wasn’t there to receive the news or watch her try on glasses for the first time. According to my husband, it was transformative. Her face lit up as she was able to see objects clearly for the first time in her life. Something as simple as taking her to the zoo became dramatically different. Who knew she couldn’t see any animal that wasn’t within a few feet? To this day, I’m thankful for that blocked tear duct. It got on us on the right path of seeing an optometrist regularly.

All Alberta children are covered to receive an annual eye exam and kindergarten aged children can get free glasses if they need them through the Eye See … Eye Learn® program, which is sponsored by Alberta Health and the Alberta Association of Optometrists. If you haven’t had your kids examined yet, this is a great time to ensure vision problems aren’t preventing your kids from reaching their full potential. We took advantage of this program to get Eve another set of glasses in case she lost or broke a pair (which of course happened).

Girl wearing glasses

Of the 19,888 tested, 1,783 kindergarteners received a free pair of glasses in the 2011/12 school year. To me, that’s a lot and I wonder how many more kids out there need glasses, but haven’t yet been tested?

Alberta Health Care covers the cost for annual eye exams for Alberta children and teens up to age 19, and I’d encourage everyone who hasn’t had their children’s eyes examined to make an appointment.

Click here to find an optometrist near you or get more info on the Eye See…Eye Learn® program.

What regular checkups do you take your children to? Have you had their eyes examined by an optometrist?

Thank you to the Alberta Association of Optometrists for making Travels with Baggage possible by sponsoring this post. As always, my opinions are my own.

Family Maker Experiences

Have you heard of this Maker Movement that’s totally gaining momentum? I had no idea what it was until a few weeks ago. Simply put, makers modify, repair and make things instead of accepting off-the-shelf solutions sold by companies. Kids are natural makers and this movement harnesses their creativity, while helping develop entrepreneurial skills. Here are five of the best Maker experiences Calgary families can have with TELUS Spark this fall.

TELIS Spark Mini Maker Faire

Photo credit fabymartin.com

3rd Annual Mini Maker Faire

If there was ever a time to visit TELUS Spark, the September 6th weekend would be it. The Mini Maker Faire brings in 150 local inventors, designers and experimenters to showcase their work, while providing interactive program and demonstrations. ‘Makers’ onsite include everything from robotics, weaving, theatre, painting, sculpture, and 3D printing. TELUS Spark Digital Media Studio

What this means for families is you can build and launch paper rockets, watch robots compete for dominance, learn how to spin fibre and unleash your inner desire to just make stuff! Cool Makers to put on your radar include Paul Harris’ Electrochemical Extravaganza and Tarana Sharma’s Cycle-a-Sorbet, a pedal powered ice cream maker. With the Electrochemical Extravaganza, expect to see a spectacular display of devices in which electricity meets chemistry head on. There’ll be flames that dance to music, high voltage electricity and major magnetic fields. Meet 10 year-old local robot makers and youth innovators, too!

Location: TELUS Spark Dates: Sept 6 & 7: 10:00 a..m. to 6:00 p.m. Pricing: Senior (65+) $17.95 | Adult (18-64) $19.95 | Youth (13-17) $15.95 | Child (3-12) $12.95 | Children under 3 are free. There’s also a discounted two-day pass for families who want to talk in the full experience. Senior (65+) $27.00 | Adult (18-64) $30.00 | Youth (13-17) $24.00 | Child (3-12) $19.50 | Children under 3 are free.

Open Studio Workshops

You’re a builder. You’re an engineer. You’re an artist. You may just not know it…yet. Open Studio Workshops are way cool. They offer a safe place for kids to learn design and engineering skills by working with real tools to develop legit skills. After kids eight-years and older take a safety oath, they can practice working with saws, hammers and drills, as they cut, paint and join materials with other visitors to co-design and build big collaborative projects. TELUS Spark Open Studio Gallery

Location: TELUS Spark Dates: Open weekdays from 12:00 – 2:00 p.m. and 1:00 – 3:00 p.m. on weekends. Pricing: Access Included with Admission to TELUS Spark.

The Science Centre Galleries 

The best spot for kids under eight-years-old is hands down the Creative Kids Museum. Here, budding artists and engineers create and build during hands-on activities at individual Maker Tables. This is creative play and exploration at it’s finest. The materials change regularly at the tables and range from engineering and building challenges to exploring colours and more. Telus Spark Open Studio Gallery

Geared for kids over eight-years-old, Open Studio has the raw materials to fuel any imagination. Various stations dotted throughout the gallery allow kids to build, break down or combine elements to make something entirely new. My daughter loves the mannequin station, where she designs outfits using materials like duct tape to coffee filters. Some stations are focused on designing and building structures collaboratively, while others are independent. The results are always incredible and FaceBrag worthy.

Location: TELUS Spark Dates: Open every day from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Pricing: Included with Admission to TELUS Spark.  

Beakerhead’s Little Big Street

Art meets engineering at Beakerhead’s Little Big Street. In this inspiring space you’ll find interactive structures, plus forts completed by visitor’s to TELUS Spark’s Open Studio Workshop. It’s creative problem solving at its finest. How else would you describe a 90-square-foot home or a plastic bubble meeting room? Each design reveals in an entertaining way, the engineering and science of solving social and environmental challenges and definitely opens up a great dialog with kids. Families can romp around the structures, talk to the designers or hit up the food trucks when they roll in on Sunday, September 14.

Beakerhead project

Photo credit Beakerhead.org

Location: Olympic Way and 12 Ave SE Dates: Sept 10 – 13: 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. & Sept 14: 9:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. Pricing: Free (donations welcome).

Digital Media Studio Workshops

Kids into computers and digital tools will find the workshops at the Digital Media Studio the perfect place to develop their tinkering skills. Programming and animation workshops provide an age appropriate introduction to digital animation and game design, while 3D printing workshops get kids designing custom objects, before printing them on the science centre’s 3D printer. Telus Spark Digital Media Studio

Location: TELUS Spark Dates: Takes place every Sunday at from 11:00 a.m. to 1 p.m. Registration: Required with TELUS Spark. Call 403-817-6800 to register. Suitable for ages nine-years and up. Pricing: Varies by workshop.

What do you make with your kids? Comment before midnight on Wednesday, September 3 and you could win free admission to the Mini Maker Faire at TELUS Spark with your family.

Thank you to TELUS Spark for making Travels with Baggage possible by sponsoring this post. As always, my opinions are my own.

P.S. You might also be interested in reading The Brainasium Opens at TELUS Spark and Kicking Around Calgary with Kids.

Have you finished your back to school shopping yet? Don’t worry if you haven’t. Comment on this post and you could win a $100 back to school shopping spree courtesy of Market MallMe? I’m nearly finished after one focused lunch hour skulking around Market Mall for sturdy, yet comfy kid’s clothes. And now that I’ve got a tween on my hands, back to school clothes have to be stylish, too. Here are some trendy (yet practical) outfits you and your kids are sure to adore.

pink camo pantsI’m a huge fan of jeggings for girls and Children’s Place has a massive selection. How cute are those pink camouflage ones? The camo trend is hot this year, and I loved this jaunty newsboy cap in the boy’s section.

camouflage hatAfter sussing out GAP Kids I thought (for the first time in my life), it would actually be kind of fun to dress a boy. They have the sweetest ever collegiate line with varsity jackets and loafers.

Gap Kids fall 2014

MEXX also carried adorable boy outfits. Their jeans are both sturdy and fashionable. I found the most adorable cardigan for girls that had star shaped buttons here.

Mexx jeansH&M is a trove of trendy items. Love these leopard print ankle booties and rad plaid pants Gwen Stefani would surely approve of.

H&M leopard boots

red and black children's plaid pantsNow that I have a nine-year old, I’ve come to appreciate Triple Flip. Not only is it a local brand, but their quality is fantastic. Sure, you might shell out a little more for pieces here, but they’ll last until your little sprout grows out of it. I love their layered looks and who could resist this sequined raccoon top?

Triple Flip racoon top

Where are your stand-by stores for back to shopping? Comment before midnight Friday, August 29, 2014 and you could win a $100 gift card from Market Mall for back to school clothes. I’ll notify the winner on this site the first week of September, so be sure to check back.

P.S. You also might like 6 Fashion Mistakes Moms Make and Uggs vs. Bogs.

Hubby had been away on a business trip for a loooong time. I was really looking forward to getting reacquainted, if you know what I mean… But dude wouldn’t so much as lay a finger on me. Also suspicious was how kind he was being (not that he’s an ogre or anything), but this was after a much delayed flight home. How odd, I thought. He doesn’t usually avoid having sex, but whatever. By noon the next day, we’d be laying poolside on our vacation and something surely would come of that.

couple in bed

Yes, I know I could’ve initiated sex, but truthfully, I was tired. After a week pretending to single parent it, I’d spent the day of his return writing a new article, filing two others, invoicing and packing up for our vacation. The house was still in a state the next morning, when I got up to attack the kitchen.

There were chocolate wrappers strewn all over the counter. Likely left by Eve, super excited that Daddy came home with a massive bag of Ghirardelli. There was also an empty box of PMS tea. I used it once, didn’t like the taste, so I offloaded the individual packets to my girlfriend, who popped by the previous day. I was going to recycle the box, but I never got around to it.

Kitchen complete, I went the the bathroom to finish packing my toiletries. Front and center on the counter was a container of Midol and a jumble of liners and tampons. And that’s when it hit me. Dude thought I was riding the crimson tide! I laughed out loud because, well, I wasn’t.

I came across the Midol when packing the day before and realized I should throw it out. Like the tea, I never use it, but I didn’t know if I should take it to a pharmacy or just dump it at home. Not knowing, I left it on the counter to deal with later. The liners and tampons were there to pack up, just in case. After having my “friend” unexpectedly visit in St. John, New Brunswick at 6 p.m. on a Sunday when EVERYTHING is closed, I didn’t want to be empty handed on a trip again.

Now you see why dear, old hubs was ever so cautious around me. Chocolate + PMS tea + tampons + Midol = I’m sure to get my head bitten off if I go near the bitch. So there you have it. A little trick you can use when you can’t be bothered to say, “Not tonight, dear.”

How do you subtly avoid having sex when you don’t feel like it?

P.S. You also might like 5 Romantic Hotels in the Rockies and Date Night Dilemma.

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Back when I lived in London, I used to love popping into the posh shops in Richmond. One of my favourites was this all-natural, organic health and beauty store called Neal’s Yard. Imagine my delight when they opened their first Canadian store in Calgary a few weeks ago.

Neal's Yard Canada

The lovely little shop on trendy 4th Street is overflowing with luscious lotions and potions, that all smell so intoxicating. I fell in love all over again with their rose products – particularly the Rose Antioxidant Mask and Wild Rose Beauty Balm. The balm has reached cult status, as you can use it as a mask, moisturizer, lip salve and even as a cleanser. It may be organic, but this shit works, man!

facial maskOne thing I didn’t realize is that they offer treatments such as massage and facial cupping. I have facial cupping done occasionally by my acupuncturist and it’s awesome for detoxifying, plus lessening the effect of wrinkles and scars. I haven’t booked in with Neal yet, but when I do, I’ll let ya know what it’s like.

All products contain essential oils, not just for their divine smell, but the health benefits. You can make your own products with their Create line, ensuring you get your needs and and scent preferences met. Or, make your own scents and products by getting a bunch of gals together for a private event. Hello, next girls night out!

Perfume sampling

I did this a few weeks ago, and learned all sorts of nifty things about top, base and middle notes, plus the health benefits attributed to each essential oil.

A look at my testing notes reveals I thought Geranium smelt like dirt (but is apparently good for PMS). I found Frankincense to be complex and lemony, yet gross. And Ylang ylang smelt like mentholated sport sox. Sadly, I don’t think I’m cut out for a career as a perfumer.

It's a good idea to take notes of your reaction to the scents.

It’s a good idea to take notes of your reaction to the scents.

If you can’t get to Cowtow, you can get Neal’s Yard products delivered anywhere in Canada by ordering online.

What are your favourite organic beauty products?

P.S. You also might like to read Bring on the Needles and Solution for Sore Muscles.

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