Archive for the ‘the future’ Category

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.

Write a Review Wednesday: Dream Big Little Pig

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 Banjo of Destiny. This week we read SourcebooksDream Big Little Pig (age 4-8), written by Kristi Yamaguchi and illustrated by Tim Bowers. I have to thank Crystal at Raincoast Books for my review copy.

@@@@@@@@@@

Poppy is a pig who dreamed big. From a posh prima ballerina to a big-time splashy super model, Poppy had big dreams about what she wanted to be when she grew up. Even when she discovered she didn’t have a talent for singing on-key or that she wasn’t very graceful, Poppy always remembered the encouraging words from her family and kept trying. She kept trying new things that interested her until she discovered skating. Like her other career endeavours, she wasn’t very good at skating either but the more she tried the better she got; the better she got the more she liked it.

Kids are full of big dreams and I think that’s something that should be encouraged, even when things don’t turn out as planned. In Dream Big Little Pig, Poppy has great aspirations for her life and she takes a few risks following her dreams. Yes she’s disappointed when things don’t turn out but the encouraging words she remembers from her family and friends always keep her trying something new. Dream Big Little Pig gives kids a great example of having dreams and taking chances and sometimes failing and sometimes succeeding but always trying. It’s also a reminder to us as parents that our words, though we may think they aren’t being listened to, are being absorbed and referenced when the time is needed. Words of encouragement may be the difference from giving up to trying again or trying something new.

I like how near the end of Dream Big Little Pig, Poppy seems to have found her gift and made her dream come true, yet that doesn’t stop her from having new dreams and aspirations. That’s probably a lesson for some of us adults.

Kristi Yamaguchi,figure skating superstar, believes in and lives by the motto ‘Always Dream. This is seen in her Always Dream Foundation, founded in 1996, designed to support organizations that have a positive influence on children. The inspiration behind Dream Big LIttle Pig is to instill this motto and belief to ,always dream, in the hearts of children.

To add a copy of Dream Big Little Pig to your own library, visit your local bookstore or Raincoast Books. For other great book recommendations for kids, read through the past Write a Review Wednesday posts. What are you kids reading?

Taking Your Heart to Heart

When you think of February you probably think about Valentine’s Day, sending thoughts of love to those near and dear to us. February is also Heart Month, a time to focus on our heart, taking care of our heart, loving our heart.

Sure, I know my heart is important, I don’t think anyone would dispute that, but do I do anything about it? I think I’m like most people, taking my heart for granted. I’m young(ish). I exercise, though maybe not as regularly as I should. I try to eat healthy. I drink the occasional glass of wine. But I’m too young to really worry about a stroke. My job isn’t stressful enough to be that concerned about a heart attack. I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels this way.

But that all changed on Thursday.

The office secretary at my children’s school died suddenly after suffering a heart attack.

I couldn’t believe the news when I heard it. The secretary and I didn’t get along that well (I wrote about our encounter one morning), but my kids liked her; they dealt with her every day and she was pleasant to them, usually. My feelings aside, I would never wish something so terrible to befall her. My older kids were upset about the whole event but it did give me pause to think. It reminded me that life is short; no matter what your age, death comes far too soon. There’s always things we plan on doing ‘someday’. This whole experience reminded me that you have to enjoy what you’re doing now; do what you want to do now. It’s one reason my husband is changing jobs, to live a better quality of life and spend more time with his kids. It was a message we passed on to our kids by making time to enjoy things now, take trips together as a family, telling each other often how much we love each other and appreciate each other.

Taking care of your heart emtionally is important, being happy and sharing love, but physically taking care of your heart is key too.

Eat healthy.
Exercise regularly.
Stop smoking.
Don’t do things in excess.

These are just a few things the Heart and Stroke Foundation suggests as preventative ideas on their site The Heart Truth. This is a great site to find out the warning signs and evaluate your risk. Making changes can be easier said than done but the Heart and Stroke Foundation has a program, Heartbeats, which will set out a whole healthy heart plan for you for the year, delivering an achievable step once a week right to your inbox.

My kids are still young. I want to be around a long time to experience everything with them. That means I need to take care of my heart. Taking care of my heart means my heart will take care of mean. That’s not a bad trade off is it.

Happy Heart Month!

The Cycle of Self Doubt and Personal Fears in All of Us

When I was in my teens I was a nervous person, unsure of what my talents were, lacking in confidence. I don’t think that made me unusual but it did make for stressful high school years.

Now in my forties I thought those awkward days were behind me. I somehow envisioned that at this stage all those life experiences I had gone through, like school and finding a career and building a family, would give me more confidence and security in who I am. But I still breakout into heart palpitations when invited to a social event. I don’t take risks or chances in my professional life. I don’t give my opinion in discussions or offer to participate in round tables or presentations. I mean, who am I to share my knowledge and expertise or rather, what knowledge and expertise can I share that hasn’t already been covered.

Why am I scared?

What sort of example am I sending to my kids when I won’t take the chances I’m encouraging them to take?

But some recent reading has me doing a little thinking, specially Erica‘s recent Yummy Mummy Club post  A Weekend for Self Esteem with a Twist and Michelle‘s Mom Esteem journey on EverythingMom. These two woman are amazing. I have had the privilege of meeting and working with both of them. They are the two strongest, influential, outgoing and supportive woman I know and are great role models for women like me. So I was amazed to read their posts, admitting to everyone that they too have inner fears and self-doubt.

A revelation: I’m not the only one with doubts and insecurities. Actually that’s not really a revelation; I sort of guessed I’m not the only one feeling this way. What really stuck with me reading these posts is that even those people who you think have it all under control and figured out, those people sometimes feel the same insecurities I feel. Maybe not around the same issues but they feel them none the less. Perhaps I’m going about this doubt issue the wrong way. I will never be the outgoing, extrovert that I would like to be, but that doesn’t mean I have to beat myself up over it. It’s okay to have these doubts and fears, everyone does. The trick is not letting them take over your life, limit your experiences and potential. Admit to your fear and deal with it, work around it, face it.

These insecurities, these doubts, like it or not, are apart of my character; they make me who I am. I need to stop wanting to change that. Instead I need to accept that’s apart of me, accept that there are things I won’t be comfortable doing but at the same time try things that I’m uncomfortable doing. Sometimes this discomfort and insecurity is simply based on the unknown and if I don’t try then these areas will always be unknown, they will always be uncomfortable. As I have discovered from reading Erica and Michelle, taking risks is scary as hell but usually the end result is rewarding.

So I won’t be the belle of the ball but at least when I’m in a room with other women I can be sure I’m not the only one with heart palpitations.

Birthday Greeting and Stepping out of the Box

A birthday gives you time to reflect on the year that’s past and the year that lays ahead. I like to think going ahead I will push myself further beyond my comfort zone. Each time I do I gain a little more confidence in myself and open my doors and possibilities to new adventures.

So here I am, doing a video, exposing myself (no, not in that way; I’m not into discovering those avenues), putting myself outside my comfort zone. So when I received this birthday card from my family, which I love and speaks to me so well, I had to share it and what better way than in a video to you. Forget rehearsing and hesitating, I just did it in one take, no editing and here it is.

Hopefully doing this video will be a reminder to me, to you, to all of us, to forget hesitation, forget fear, forget what others may think, just take a deep breath and do it.

BlogHer: Emotions and Self-Discovery

I don’t know what I expected for myself by attending BlogHer. The idea of meeting people who I only connected with online was both thrilling and terrifying. Attending sessions where hopefully I would learn from the experience and expertise of others was encouraging. The fact that many others, who seemed to be attending for the first time, were just as anxious as I  (at least according to blog posts and twitter feed) was promising.

Sure I made connections and learned a few things from the conference but the whole trip affected me so much more.

See I like to play the ‘I have it all together’ card. To some I may look the part. I have my own business that I enjoy doing and a family I love. Am I where I expected to be at this point in my life? No, but maybe the more relevant question is am I happy at this point in my life. Yes.

However, let’s not confuse happiness with anxieties or challenges. It’s funny to think that at this point I still have both and it was attending BlogHer that helped me, okay, pushed me, into facing some of these things.

Even when I was younger I was never much of a risk taker, though I do think I was a little more adventurous. I left everything and everyone one I knew to come to a city on my own for school, to start a new life. I traveled overseas on my own to visit countries I’ve never been too. Perhaps I was scared then too but my only memories are the thrill of the adventure and independence, the bragging rights when I got home.

But as you get older and things change you can’t help but change too. I have a job and family and responsiblity. I’ve still traveled by it has always been with my family, with my husband taking the lead. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. I love traveling with my kids and husband and I’m fine with taking a passengers position; there’s much less stress. But I’ve been in the passenger position for so long that the thought of taking control again was terrifying.

And going to BlogHer, on my own, would mean just that. Booking my hotel and airline and making my way to New York City on my own, all of this was freaking me out.

I’m sure this seems funny to those who have traveled on their own. It seems crazy to me too. Here I am in my 40s, independent enough to take change and run my own business and I’m worried about taking a trip on my own. I would lay away at night obsessing over getting through security at the airport, missing my plane or getting on the wrong plane, having my luggage go somewhere else, finding my way to the hotel in New York City, getting screwed by the cab driver. All this worry before I even go to the event (which was a whole other set of worries).

I tried to handle my anxieties the best I could. I read the airport details and reviewed the airport layouts. I even made sure to arrive at the airport extra early. I was fortunate enough to know a few ladies who were flying down for the same conference and could catch a ride to the hotel along with them. But even for the flight back, which I was going on my own, I started stressing again.

Everything went fine and the folks at Porter were amazing, even bumping me up to an earlier flight on the way home. I had no issues with my bags or security or finding the check-in deck. Everything went very smooth (except for the main road to the Newark airport being blocked due to an accident and my driver not knowing how else to get there but eventually we made it).

Although I probably won’t be traveling on my own that often, it proved to me that I could do it, that all the stress was for nothing. And if I do get the opportunity to travel on my own again will I be relaxed about it? Probably not, especially if it’s a new airport or city I haven’t been to. These things I know about myself and I try my best to deal with them but perhaps now I’ll have a little more confidence and faith in my own ability when put in this position as the leader, my own guide.

I thought going to BlogHer would have some sort of impact on me but I never really thought the mere act of traveling there would affect me so much, instill more confidence and perhaps a little more security in my own abilities. If I took nothing else away from the whole conference, this personal insight into my passenger seat mentality and being forced out of my comfort zone to face my fears, this lesson was far more valuable than any party or session I could attend.

And if only that was the end. But like everything in life, after you face one fear a new challenge appears. This new challenge is to remember that I faced this fear head-on. Yes it was terrifying and yes, I will feel scared when faced with it again but I made it, on my own. And if put into the same position I will make it through that too.

Middle Child Syndrome

Like it or not, the stereotypes are true about birth order and parental behaviour, at least in our house.

My oldest daughter gets to experience all those firsts, first. She was the first one to lose her first tooth. She was the first one to start school. She was the first one to have a sleepover or go to sleep away camp. And with each first she experiences, my husband and I experience it too, for the first time, ever. Being the first-born can be exciting and scary. It can also be stressful, knowing that you’re the first one to experience these things and all eyes (family eyes) are on you to see how you do. As the first-born you are treading into unknown territory for the family and siblings to follow. This can also be frustrating since as parents we tend to be more cautious and maybe not willing to let go when we should.

My youngest daughter, the baby in the family, may not get to experience things first but being the last child to experience things can also have a big impact. When my daughter starts school this Fall, she will be the last child entering school for the first time; I won’t have any little kids at home with me during the day (or at least half of the day). When she walked off into her summer camp program I cried on the way home knowing that she was the last. No more saving clothes or putting aside toys for a smaller member; she will be the last to use them.

Then there’s my poor son. I say poor because being the middle child I think he gets shortchanged, at least on the emotional end of things. The oldest child gets to experience things first, a new experience for everyone; the youngest child gets to experience things last, the last chance for everyone to live that moment; the middle child just experiences the moment.

I realize that each child is different and yes the first day of school is an important moment for each one of them and the parents, but in all honesty, the feeling behind this moment isn’t the same intensity as with the oldest or youngest child. I’m proud of my son and all his accomplishments, like starting school and joining Beavers and going into grade 1 (okay, that last thing I did get a little emotional at). But he’s not the first or the last and I find I react differently.

There is one saving grace in all of this. My son is the only boy which means he will probably have some firsts his sister’s won’t ever experience (first fist fight, first drag race). Maybe not those first, but he is the first to go to skateboard school and that’s pretty cool.

Okay, maybe it’s just me who reacts this way. Perhaps all those mothers out there with middle children share the joys and sorrows equally with all their kids. I never said I was the best at this mothering thing. At least I’ve recognized this discrepancy in my behaviour and they say recognizing your problem is the first step to fixing it. We’ll see.

Summer Camp makes Me Sad

This is a big summer in our house this year. Yesterday we took our oldest 8-year-old daughter to the bus drop-off for camp. She’s off to sleep away camp for the week, 7 days! This isn’t the first time my daughter has been away from home; she did go away for a weekend with her Brownie troop in May (Mother’s Day weekend I might add). I had some difficulty dealing with that too. But this camp, she’ll be away for a whole week, at a camp, where she doesn’t know anyone.

The days leading up to camp I helped my daughter label and pack everything. I was trying to stay upbeat and excited for her. I mean this is exciting stuff, going away to sleep in a cabin, rock climbing, camp fires, lake swimming. It all sounded great. It would be great. I told her it was okay to be nervous or a little scared about a new adventure, other girls would be experiencing the same feelings. Her response to me was ‘Nervous? I’m not nervous. I wish I was already there.’ I’m glad she’s not scared but I must admit the response wasn’t one I was ready to hear.

Even when we took her to the bus (we could drive her right to camp but she insisted on riding the bus and singing songs and making friends right away), she was eager to say goodbye and find her seat. It was us, her parents, who kept going on and off the bus to give her that one last kiss, again and again. We waited in the hot sun until the bus pulled away and watched it enter the highway.

I’m sure she’ll be fine. She’s a lot like her dad in that she likes meeting new people. My oldest daughter has always had the gift of finding people who are shy or new or nervous and drawing them in, making them feel at ease and comfortable. I mean the whole bus was practically empty and where does she choose to sit, right beside another first time camp girl. Before the bus had even pulled out of the parking lot the two girls were absorbed in my daughter’s Worst Case Scenario Book: The Weird Edition.

This is my daughter’s first real summer camp experience; this is our first real summer camp experience. I don’t think it’s uncommon for any parent to wish the best for their children. Last night, with tears in my eyes, I laid in bed thinking about my daughter, hoping she would have cabin mates she would enjoy hanging out with, that she wouldn’t be excluded or encounter any bullies, that she would enjoy every aspect of every camp day from when she wakes up to when she closes her eyes.

I’m sure when we pick her up next Saturday she’ll be disapointed to leave camp but will be brimming with stories.

As if dealing with my oldest daughter being away for a week wasn’t enough, my 5-year-old and 3-year-old started day camp today. My son is moving into the big kid camp and he’s thrilled. He’s always been very independent; even as a baby he slept on his own at 2 months and enjoyed it that way. It was no surprise to see him say goodbye and march into camp on his own, not a worry or care.

Then it was time for my youngest, my baby, to go to her camp. This is the first year the city has increased the camp hours for the 3 to 5 year old group. It use to be a half-day but now it’s a full day. My 3-year-old has spent all her time with me, no preschool, no other programs with the exception of swimming class. I’ve always thought of my youngest to be more like me, shy and introverted. If anyone would have issues with separating from me, trying new things, it would be my youngest. But she proved me wrong today. She was quick to say goodbye and head up the ramp to her camp. There was no running back for a last minute hug and kiss, no tears, not fighting and pleading for me to come in with her or stay for just a little bit. Nope, she’s been looking forward to this and she was gone.

As I walked home, alone, I couldn’t help but start crying. Don’t get me wrong, I am very happy for my kids to experience summer camp. I’m thrilled that they are adventerous and comfortable with themselves to take these steps without me. So why am I so sad? Why am I crying right now as I write this? And I’m not a big crier (though I did cry when my son graduated from Kindergarten this year and even when I watched and reviewed the new Toy Story 3 movie).

Working from home it’s kind of nice to not have the fightening in the next room or to run to the school for lunch pick-up. But it’s also so quiet that I’m having a hard time concentrating. I miss hearing their voices, even if it’s a dispute over Lego. All this independence my kids are showing is great and is a sign that they’re growing up. I guess I’m just not ready for that yet. So bear with me if I breakout into uncontrollable tears this summer. At least I’ll get lots of practice in before my 3-year-old starts school for the first time this Fall.

How do smashed windows stop child labour

So here I am, trying to work from home and all I can do is read the tweets about what’s going on in the city, my city, as the G20 conference goes on. I’m not really the protestor-type, though I’ve written my share of letters to companies and government officials, signed petitions, maybe attended a demonstration or two in my lifetime, but I understand the desire and need to make your point known on an issue that is really important to you. And what better time to do it then at a conference that will have the world media attention.

When the city agreed to play host to the G20, protests were sort of expected. Many scoffed at the security measures taken in the city in preparation for these protestors. I think we thought it was a little extreme because all we were going to do is yell and chant and march in a group. We’re Canadian, we’re civilized when we protest. We just want to get our time on the news with our sign, get the reporters to quote what our concerns are, maybe get the attention of one of the delegates. I think we were a little naive thinking we’d be immune to the organized protestors that travel the world to cause havoc at these events. Protestors that have no concern or respect for the people whose city they’ve invaded to make their point.

I sit here reading and watching the disgusting behaviour going on in the city, my city. I can’t help but wonder how smashing windows of the shops downtown stops child labour? How a burned out police car protects women who have no rights? How hiding behind a ninja costume stops us from depleting the Earth’s natural resources? How beating up people both physically and verbally solves child poverty and improves education? Perhaps I’m missing something.

Am I missing something? I mean these violent protests have happened before in other parts of the world and they never seem to change anything, why should it be different here? I’m so angry at what’s going on in the name of making a statement on how government and business mistreat everyone. I’m sad that those people who are here to make a stance on a real issue, in a respectable way, are being lost in the chaos. I’m embarrassed that people who aren’t from the city are painting us all as hooligans.

Some people believe that any press, even if it’s bad press, is better than no press, but is endangering strangers and defacing someone’s home (because people do live downtown in our city) really the kind of press that’s going to help any cause?

If you really want to make a stand on child labour then stop shopping at Wal-Mart or buying Nike or North Face. Take your organized power and funnel it toward a protest that is actually going to be heard, at the bank, when profits decrease. If you want to help the world go green, re-educate the masses and don’t buy over packaged products or items made with harmful chemicals. Instead of meeting to determine what elements will cause the most damage on the street corner, talk about how to get other people to believe in your cause, to believe in you and what you stand for and not dismiss you as a fanatic.

Yes, these are harder protest to organize because they take more thinking and re-educating and re-training. But in the end your message will be heard for what it is meant to be instead of a blip on the TV has a random act of violence and destruction with no purpose.

Have the guts to stand-up, face revealed and talk and persuade and work together towards something better in the end.

Welcome to Kindergarten

You may already know my youngest daughter starts kindergarten this fall and how I’m a bag full of mixed emotions. This week our school, like many elementary schools across the province, held a kindergarten orientation for both the kids and the parents.

Most after school activities rotate around her older siblings (5 and 8-years old) so she was thrilled that this night was all about her; it was all she talked about the night before at bedtime, during the day, even during dinner time.

We arrived very early, almost the first ones there, due to my daughter’s uncharacteristically fast walking this evening. After an initial welcoming from the principal, the kindergarten teacher and the parent council representative, the kids (and parents) were divided into groups among four activity stations. Each station represented different aspects in the kindergarten room.

Reading Corner – There was a bookshelf containing a variety of different books, plus chairs and a carpet. The kids grabbed some book while the teacher explained how reading and language skills are dealt with in the classroom. She offered parents some tips on encouraging and building the child’s love and understanding of books too. My oldest daughter attended with us and relished in reading books to her sister.

Play dough – Next the group rotated to the play dough corner. Not surprisingly play dough activities seem to be the most popular in the classroom, according to the teacher. She talked about how beyond just playing with it, kids develop language and social skills, fine motor and creativity. Play dough is also great at exploring math concepts like more and less, big and little, numbering and so on. And here you thought it was just for grinding into the carpet. Arts and Crafts – This was my daughter’s favourite table, arts and crafts. The teacher talked about how using crayons and cutting help build fine motor skills important for writing. The arts and crafts area is use to explore a child’s creativity in pictures and stories. Even my 8-year-old loved this table and both girls didn’t want to leave for the next activity. Letters – The last activity area the kids explored was the letters section. Here the kids matched foam letters to a letter mat and played with letters on a magnet board. The teacher explained how to help kids at home with letter recognition with similar activities or getting them to point out letters they know in a story or on a cereal box, to talk about the letters used in their name and the names of their friends and families. Talking about the shape and sound of letters also helps in reading skills, word formation and spelling. She also said if parents are teaching kids to write their name at home, one of the first words kids learn to write, they should be taught that only the first letter in their name is upper case and all the other letters are lower case. Most kids are taught to write their whole name in upper case as these are easier letters to write, but it becomes a difficult habit to break in school. I know first hand about this with my son; it took us a long time to get him to write his name upper/lower. My youngest loved going to her kindergarten night with her big sister though I did have to remind my 8-year-old that the activities were meant for the kindergarten kids. Like a great older sister she wanted to help her younger sister roll the play dough flat or cut out shapes but that sort of defeats the purpose of learning on her own. It was hard for my oldest to stand back and observe, just like me. She’ll be a great mom one day. The last part of the evening was a bag of goodies for each kindergarten student. The bag contained information on local library programs and pre-screening tests, plus it included a whole bunch of supplies: crayons, paper, scissors, letters, even play dough with a play dough recipe. My daughter was so excited about her bag, she carried it all the way home on her own. And the next day she loaded her backpack and walked around the house pretending to go to school. The summer may go very slow for my eager daughter but it will zip by for me.