Moving On…

With my expanding workload at EverythingMom I’m finding it difficult to maintain this blog along with the other things I have to do. Therefore, I’ve decided to stop updating this blog. You’ll still be able to read about what we’re up to in my EverythingMom blog. I’m also in the process of moving all the children’s book reviews from here into EverythingMom’s new Kid’s Book section on EverythingMom and plan to continue to expand on its content. Thanks for visiting.

Lego Master Builders and the New Lego Store

The first Lego store in Ontario (only the second in Canada) officially opened last Friday in Sherway Gardens shopping centre. To celebrate the store gave away prizes and gifts to shoppers and held a big Lego build in the center of the mall with a Lego Master.

You know how my kids love Lego (like most kids their age) so of course we hopped over to check it out. You can read all about the weekend celebrations on EverythingMom‘s Toronto edition. The kids had a great time and after helping with the build project they earned their own Lego Master Builder certificates.

Decorating with Colour

There’s something about a new house that brings the designer out in people you know — your real estate agent, your new neighbours, your family, completely strangers — and their advice is always the same, if you’re going to update the paint keep it neutral. I understand where they’re coming from, colour can be very personal, but the whole off-white, beige, neutral colour scheme just doesn’t work for me. When we bought our first house we didn’t do much in the way of painting because we had more important things to take care of. But after a few months the neutral colours in the place were bringing me down. We went and painted every room, bright bold colours: ox blood red, royal blue, mustard yellow. And when it came time to sell the place we had no problems, no issue with colours.

So when we bought our second home, paint was one of the first things we did (though some rooms, like my son’s, are still waiting for a good colour of paint). We followed with the same colours we used in our old place. Many people who visit say they love the colour but they could never do it in their own place; it’s far too bold. I find the colour warms the rooms up, translates our house into a home. The rooms may be darker, sucking the light into the walls versus reflecting them off of a white, but that just gives me an excuse to buy funky lamps. And forget the idea about not using bold colours in a small place. We painted our small downstairs bathroom a dark red and it has such a rich feel, like a royal throne (pun intended).

A forest green for our foyer

Mustard-like yellow for the living room with green accent

Dark red for the kitchen with black and stainless accents

Red kitchen connects to a burnt orange dining room

Granny smith apple green with yellow accents in youngest' bedroom

Blue in the upper stair hallway

Blue hallway leads to read and yellow office space

Red office with yellow accents

Even if you don’t think you can do a whole room with one colour, try painting just one wall or the ceiling or a banding. There’s a great article on EverythingMom about painting with colour, specifically red, and it has lots of great tips. You might be surprised at how much your room will warm-up with a little (or a lot) of colour.

Write a Review Wednesday: Milo: Sticky Notes and Brain Freeze

Welcome to another Write a Review Wednesday, a meme started by Tara Lazar as a way to show support to authors of kids literature. Last week we reviewed DK Readers: Star Wars series. This week we go a little older, reviewing Simon and Schuster‘s Milo: Sticky Notes and Brain Freeze (age 9-13), written and illustrated by Alan Silbergerg. I have to thank Katie at Simon and Schuster Canada for my review copy.

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MIlo: Sticky Notes and Brain Freeze deals with a 13-year-old boy’s struggle to come to terms with the loss of his mother. Ever since Milo Cruikshank’s mother died nothing has gone right. Now, instead of the kitchen being full of music, his whole house has been filled with Fog. Nothing’s the same. Not his Dad. Not his sister. And definitely not him. In love with the girl he sneezed on the first day of school and best pals with Marshall, the “One Eyed Jack” of friends, Milo copes with being the new kid (again) as he struggles to survive a school year that is filled with reminders of what his life “used to be.” [synopsis from Simon and Schuster Canada]

Although life as a teenager is in my distant past, the awkward moments, feelings of trying to fit in and school crushes are memories that still float around in my head, more so now that my oldest gets closer to that preteen age. Milo: Sticky Notes and Brain Freeze does a great job illustrating these awkward moments, probably more so for me since I was one of those awkward kids growing up. The issue of Milo’s mother’s death is subtle at the beginning of the story, only alluded to. At first I thought it was just a bit of background information. As the story progresses, as Milo develops stronger friendship ties and becomes more comfortable with himself, he reveals to us (and his friends) how his mother’s death really has impacted him. He develops enough courage to try to bring her back into his life, his family’s life, even though he fears his dad’s reaction.

Throughout the pages Alan Silverberg adds cartoon-like illustrations; illustrations that Milo makes to express how he feels, thoughts going through his head, or moments witnessed. They remind me a lot like doodles you would do in the margins of your school book. The images help to illustrate a thought, like Milo explaining how his dad is different in front of people, wearing his Dad costume. They also add a slice of humour to the story and give you a sense that you’re reading Milo’s personal thoughts, like a diary.

Milo: Sticky Notes and Brain Freeze will have you nodding your head in understanding, laughing and cringing at those awkward teen moments and crying as Milo opens his heart to mourn and love his mother. Even with the main character being a boy, pre-teen girls can still relate to Milo’s feelings and experiences; I don’t think they’re boy specific. Milo: Sticky Notes and Brain Freeze is a great story about friendship, fitting in and coming to terms with your inner self. Take a peek at the book trailer below:

To add a copy of Milo: Sticky Notes and Brain Freeze to your personal collection or to give as a gift to a preteen you know (or even a school classroom), visit your local bookstore or Simon and Schuster Canada. For other great book recommendations for kids, read through the past Write a Review Wednesday posts. What books are you enjoying with your kids?

Write a Review Wednesday: Star Wars DK Readers

Welcome to another Write a Review Wednesday, a meme started by Tara Lazar as a way to show support to authors of kids literature. Last week we reviewed Quiet Bunny’s Many Colors. This week we’re participating in DK Canada‘s May the 4th be with You event, supporting reading in Canada thanks to Star Wars. We reviewed Star Wars The Clone Wars: Pirates…and Worse! (age 5-7), part of the DK Readers series. I have to thank Chris at DK Canada for my review copy.

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Get eye-to-eye with the bad guys including Nuvo Vindi and the Separatist leaders, buddy up with jedi and droids as well as extraordinary creatures like the Gutkurrs and Blurrgs, and meet the terrifying pirates Hondo Ohnaka and Turk Falso in Star Wars: The Clone Wars Reader: Pirates…and Worse!!

My 6-year old son is a beginning reader. He loves books and loves hearing stories read to him, but finding a story that interests him enough to practice reading on his own can be a bit of a challenge. There are a lot of leveled reading books out there but he doesn’t have much interest in reading about bunnies or Dora or digging in the dirt so when I was introduced to the DK Readers Star Wars series, I thought these would be ideal for my son. And I was right. He loved the four books we were sent: Watch Out for Jabba the Hutt and Pirates…And Worse! (both level 1); Stand Aside – Bounty Hunters and Boba Fett: Jedi Hunter (both level 2).

It’s amazing just how different leveled readers are from publisher to publisher. Level 1 in the DK Readers series is designed for those beginning to read. Unlike other beginning readers that have 1 sentence on a page, the DK Readers actually consisted of two or three sentences which I preferred as a parent. Most of the vocabulary is understandable but I did have to help my son with a few words. Many of the words are repeated in the story, helping to reinforce vocabulary. The hardest words I found were character names; some my son knew, others we guessed. My son actually enjoyed reading these books and I even found him reading one of the level 1 books to both his dad and little sister; that’s a good sign.

The level 2 books we looked at not only had more sentences per page but the sentences themselves were a little more complex in grammar: He blows things up, and, above all else, he enjoys a good fight. There were also call-outs throughout the story, providing tidbits of Star Wars info; my son loved these elements. In both the level 1 and 2 books we reviewed, my son loved that the topics were on the bad guys; reading about bounty hunters and pirates versus the good guys. The illustrations used are the same as in the animated series, The Clone Wars, drawing a closer connection to the series my son is already familiar with . The only problem I have with this is that many of the illustrations are very dark but this didn’t seem to be an issue with my son.

If you have a child in your family that’s into Star Wars, you’ll love the May the 4th be with You contest DK Canada is running this month. Simply submit a photo of your chid or family reading a Star Wars book and you could win a complete DK Star Wars collection and a Canadian school or library of their choice will receive a complete DK READERS Star Wars set. Plus, for every photo submitted, DK Publishing will donate a “toonie” to Frontier College, Canada’s original literacy organization. For more information visit their site: cn.dk.com/starwars

If you have a Lego Star Wars fan in your home, you might be interested in the review I wrote over at Best Tools for Schools blog: Lego Star Wars: A Visual Dictionary also from DK Canada.

To add a copy of DK Readers: Star War Series to your own personal library, visit your nearest bookstore or DK Canada. For other great books for kids, read through the past Write a Review Wednesday posts. What books are you enjoying with your kids?

So It’s Official, I Have a New Job

Okay, so maybe NEW isn’t the correct word. I’m still working with EverythingMom.com but my role has evolved. Since I started working for the online company in 2009, I have been a big supporter of everything the site and the company and the founder, Michelle Davies, has stood for. I believe EverythingMom offers its members, writers, readers and marketers a great environment to connect and learn and share. It’s because of my belief in the company and Michelle that I became a partner in 2010, albeit a silent one.

With the new relaunch of content, site design and ad network, my role as Managing Partner and Editor-in-Chief has been made public. I will still be overseeing editorial content on the site but as a partner I’ll also be working with Michelle to carry the site forward into a prosperous future. What a thrill to be able to be part of a company that is supportive of its community, its contributors and staff, as well as the world around it.

Here’s to a fun and fulfilling 2011.

Heaven Cats: Kids Dealing with Grief

As parents we do what we can to protect our kids, steering them clear of sadness, hiding them from cruelty. It’s true they are vulnerable, more so than us, and we want to preserve their innocence, hold off on tainting them with skepticism, doubt, and fear that we as adult seem to know all too well.

But some things you cannot hide from your kids, like the death of a pet. One of our family cats became very ill within the last few days. We had lost two other cats recently to the same illness but that doesn’t make this loss any easier. It was obvious to even the kids that Tick (our cat) was not well and really struggled with her disease near the end. We all tried our best to make her comfortable and pay her extra attention but her condition quickly worsened.
We were hoping Tick would make it past Monday since it was my oldest daughter’s ninth birthday and having one of your favourite animals, a member of the family, die on your birthday isn’t something you would wish on even an enemy. But all hope and prayer aside, it would have been very unfair to Tick to prolong her discomfort and sadness. We hated seeing her in a constant state of depression, unable to walk or even stand on her own, so my husband and I decided to ease her suffering at the vet’s office.

I don’t believe in lying to kids. Some truths are painful and have to be faced but the degree of truth can be adjusted. We told the kids that Tick has passed away in her sleep during the afternoon, when they were at school, so they wouldn’t feel as though they missed saying goodbye to her. I did make sure they all visited her in the morning before heading out but I didn’t see the need to send them to school heartbroken and distraught. Some might disagree with what I did but I can live with my decision.

Of course my kids were devastated, especially my oldest. I think she was also angry that Tick has died on her birthday. Of course she wished Tick had held out a little longer but my daughter also knew that Tick was in pain and really, any day is not a good day for a friend to die.

I don’t know what tore my insides up more, the fact that Tick was gone or that my daughter was so upset over her passing. And although it should have been me, the mother, who offered the reassuring voice, the person to bring comfort to a difficult situation, it was my daughter. It was her and her Heaven Cats.

Heaven Cats is an imaginary world involving, you guessed it, cat spirits. It use to just be made up cats, living wonderful lives free of want and suffering, but with the passing of three of our five cats, Heaven Cats took on a whole new meaning. The cats were no longer imaginary but rather the spirits of our cats. They lived their days enjoying anything and everything they wanted. Sometimes they would visit us, walk with the kids to school, hang out and listen to a story, sleep on a pile of pillows in my daughter’s room.

My daughter was indeed update by Tick’s passing, but somehow knowing that Tick wasn’t gone, that her spirit lingered or could be called on when comfort was needed, was reassuring to my kids (and to me). I don’t think this avoids the fact that our cat had died – my kids knew Tick was gone – but it made thinking about her passing easier. This was especially important since Tick seemed to be in so much pain near the end, not able to do the things she use to do. Now as a Heaven Cat she was hanging out in a jacuzzi tub, eating ice cream, chasing butterflies and visiting the kids for a walk home from school.

I guess sometimes kids are more resilient than we give them credit for.

We’ll always be sad and miss Tick but it’s nice to know she’s out there, hanging around, keeping an eye on us (between milk baths and back rubs of course).

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