Archive for the ‘the future’ Category

The Old Oak Tree

I love old homes, especially ones that are located in old-established neighbourhoods. Our current home (built-in 1909) was untouched by the previous owners which is a rare and wonderful thing. Yes, it means work and more work but all the character is maintained and that’s what I love, a house with history.

The fact that our current house was untouched was a big selling feature but the old growth in the neighbourhood and our yard was another bonus. Our backyard is almost completely shaded by a large old oak, and we have a fairly big backyard (for a city home) so you can imagine how big the oak is:

But a wonderful big oak also means big work. Windy weather like today’s makes that abundantly clear when large branches are snapped from the tree. Lucky nothing big fell from our oak. We’re now in the process of having someone come in a cut back dead weight to avoid any problems in the future. Hopefully with care we’ll be able to keep this oak around for the next few generations to look at in awe. I know I do, every day.

Saying Good-Bye

If you read my book post this week on the Best Tools for Schools blog post, you would have read about the dilema of finding a gift for my daughter to give to her grade 2 teacher. Finding a gift for a teacher at the end of the school  year can be hard in general, but this gift was especially hard because my daughter’s teacher was not only leaving the school, she was leaving the province.

The parents decided to throw a going away party on behalf of their kids, as a way to thank Ms. B for her work during the school year and to wish her the best of luck on her new adventure. The kids were so excited about surprising Ms. B. after school (we held the party in the school library). The kids were hiding behind bookshelves, in corners, behind chairs and under tables. And of course they kept changing their hiding spots too. My kids got right into the whole hiding fun also.

We wanted to give Ms. B a gift that would help her remember all her students so we decided to create a thank you book. Each child in the class drew a picture or wrote a note expressing how much the loved and would miss Ms. B and we packed it up into a book with the class photo on front. I almost started crying as she wiped the tears from her face looking through everyone’s notes.

Ms. B was a great teacher which is obvious from the amazing love from all her students. The kids and parents are all sad to see her go. We know what ever school she ends up at those students will be lucky to have her.

My daughter on the other hand isn’t happy and cried almost the whole night about her favourite teacher leaving. I’ve tried to console her with the idea of writing Ms. B, letting her old teacher know how she’s doing. We can only hope my daughter and her class are fortunate enough to get a new teacher for Grade 3 that can live up to the standards that Ms. B. has set.

Have you had a teacher who’s made such an impact on your life that you’ve been upset about loosing them to a new class?

Majesta Gives You the Chance to Go Green: Contest

I never really thought much about the environment before having kids. I mean I recycled, at little. Things are much different in our house now. We’re not a completely green family but we try to make an effort: litterless lunches at school, stainless steel water bottles for drinks on-the-go, separating garbage and recycling and organic. We try to make green decisions when shopping too by using reusable shopping bags and forgoing the plastic fruit bags. We will often times leave excess packaging at the store for them to deal with. A store can apply a lot of pressure on a company if enough people leave the packaging beyond.

One area I haven’t really transferred over into green territory has been paper products. I know, you think paper products would be the first place I’d go green. We’re talking about bathroom tissue and facial tissue and paper towel. These items are important in a family, especially with my ‘love to get dirty, toilet training, spread the cold around’ kids. I want to make sure the products I’m using will do the job.

Then I was invited to join the Majesta Mom’s Group through Mom Central Canada. We’ve been meeting weekly (online of course since we’re all over Canada) talking about environmentally friendly products, like those made by Majesta (a Canadian company I should point out). My concern with environmentally friendly paper products is that they’re thin and rough. Who wants to use that when they’re going to the bathroom? So the folks at Majesta and Mom Central Canada sent over a few samples to try.

I must admit I was a little surprised.

Bathroom Tissue – actually felt pretty soft, not scratchy with bits of bark in it (like I envisioned green toilet paper to be). Now it was a little thinner than the paper we’re use to using which means more of it gets used, but it breaks down amazingly which is great for the plumbing in our old house.

Paper Towel – similar to the toilet paper, this was much softer than expected. It seemed to do a good job when cleaning up spills, but unlike the brand I use now, it would tear quicker. This is probably because it’s meant to breakdown easier. I think that’s a trade-off I can live with.

Facial Tissue – this was the real surprise. Soft and very little ’tissue dust’ (you know that stuff that seems to fly out of the box when you pull a sheet out). It worked great on little runny noses and I didn’t get one complaint on it being scratchy or rough. I actually prefer the Majesta over what I’m already using (a 3-ply soft tissue).

Sadly Majesta brands aren’t available where I do my main grocery shopping.

The other great secret about Majesta (well, secret to me anyway) is their tree planting program. The promise to plant 3 trees for every 1 tree used to make Majesta products. So not only are their products good for the environment, the company is taking steps to ensure there’s an environment to take care of.

The folks at Majesta want to help you take care of the environment also. They’re offering 1 person $15,000 to use toward a green makeover. It could be new windows to cut down on drafts. Insulating the attic to keep the heat in and cold out. Landscaping your lawn into a natural garden that lives pesticide free. I think if I had $15,000 to spend on making green changes to my house I would seriously look into solar energy for heating water. What would you use the money for?

Visit Majesta to find out how you can enter.

I am participating in the Majesta Mom’s Group as part of a program with Mom Central Canada and I am being compensated for this post with giftcard.

Write a Review Wednesday: The Magic School Bus and the Climate Challenge

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 Sterling Publishing‘s EcoMazes. 12 Earth Adventures (age 7+ ) by Roxie Munro. Still in an Earth Day mindset we’re reviewing The Magic School Bus and the Climate Challenge (age ) written by Joanna Cole and illustrated by Bruce Degen. I have to thank Nikole at Scholastic Canada for my review copy.

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The kids at Walkerville Elementary School are studying global warming, but if you’re familiar with Mrs. Frizzle, you know she likes to give her class a unique hands-on perspective to what they’re learning. So starts the latest classroom learning experience in The Magic School Bus and the Climate Challenge.

The kids travel around the Earth to see the changes global warming is having on the planet: ice melting in the Arctic, sea levels rising, changes in weather conditions. They also observe first hand, by turning into rays from the sun, how heat-trapping gasses are causing the planet to warm itself. And special goggles enable them to see how much CO2 (a heat-trapping gas) is floating around and what’s causing so much of it.

But the book isn’t all about how bad things are. The kids also explore ways they can help cut down on CO2 emissions through alternative energy sources and simple things like waking, turning off lights and more.

My kids love The Magic School Bus series as do I. The premise of kids taking a fantastic field trip to learn and see first hand how things work fascinates even my youngest. The subject matter of Global Warming can be overwhelming to kids, but breaking out key facts in little digestible chucks makes it easier for kids to absorb, especially when they’re written like project notes from the kids in the story.

The pages in The Magic School Bus and the Climate Challenge cover a lot of material but you can choose what to read; the message isn’t lost if you just read the story content and only add in one or two of the side notes, depending on what is interesting to your kids, but I think you’ll find they’ll want to read it all.

We try to make environmental choices every day at  home, but Earth Day approaching has given us a chance to talk more about the topic. I love that The Magic School Bus and the Climate Challenge shows kids that they can affect change to: recycling, walking more, writing letters to local government. There are a lot of ways kids can help. I love how the author extends the story and adds realism to the kids by including an email question and answer at the end.

You can discover more about The Magic School Bus series and some online activities by visiting Scholastic Canada‘s website.

You can add The Magic School Bus and the Climate Challenge to your own library by visiting your local bookstore or Amazon.ca. Looking for other great kids books? Checkout the past Write a Review Wednesday posts.

What will you be doing with your family on Earth Day?

Everyone Should have a Sibling

I knew when we were planning on having kids we would have at least two. I have a one sister and my husband has a brother and a sister. Yes there were times, many times, that I hated having a sister. I hated sharing a room with her or having clothes that looked the same or that she mimicked me or was friends with my friends. There were many more things too, but that’s part of that whole sibling relationship.

I see it with my own kids. Some days are filled with constant bickering or tattling or all out fights.

But like we remind our kids, friends will come and go but family is forever. And I love when my kids prove me right by supporting one another, sticking up for each other and just hanging out together.

Now that the nicer weather has arrived, we’ve been making an effort to walk to and from school; a nice change from the drive in the van. I love to see my kids walking together and sharing what has happened to then that day. It’s nice knowing that even if my kids don’t want to talk to me (‘cuz I’m mom), they’ll always have each other to confide in.

School uniforms for a sense of community?

It turns out my kids’ school will be implementing a new dress code starting in the new school year. And by dress code I mean they’ll be required to wear a school uniform. It’s not just our school. The Catholic School Board has decided to implement what they call an ‘Appropriate Dress Code’. This means next year the kids will have to wear a white top and blue bottoms or blue top and bottoms.

I’m not really a fan.

Now we’re not talking about tattooing student numbers on the kids or body searches when they enter the school. No, school uniforms aren’t a terrible thing. My husband went to a school where they had to wear uniforms. He said, like the glossy brochure the school is handing out, that it ensured all the kids were the same, rich kids and disadvantaged kids (himself falling in the later group). Yes I can see the benefit of not having to keep up with the Jones’ Kids (and my daughter, at the age of seven, seems to be pretty status conscious).

So why am I not happy? I think school uniforms take away one avenue for a child’s creative expression. One of the advantages of being self-employed is that I can set my own dress code, but most adults have to conform to office dress policies. Knowing that my kids may have to conform as an adult, I want to protect their freedom for creative expression. Hair colouring and piercings and tattoos are not something I’m going to let my seven-year-old do but miss-matching clothes or wearing a skirt over pants are just one way my daughter likes to express herself, through her clothes.

Yes the uniform only applies during school hours but are you really going to have the kids change into another outfit for the few hours they’re home before bed? I don’t know about you but I have better things to do than extra laundry. With only alternative clothes required on the two non-school days, I can certainly cut down on the number of outfits my kids have on hand (my son has an extensive skull T-shirt collection).

I don’t see how having a school uniform will promote the ‘strenthened sense of community within our school‘. Having everyone the same doesn’t make the school a community. I wonder if the teachers and staff will be required to follow this dress code, as a way of strengthening the school community. Probably not, but it will be the question I pose at the next council meeting.

I like the school. The kids seem to like the school. I’m not happy with the uniform direction but I’m not annoyed by it enough to move my kids, again. I just think it’s sad. This is just one more push to make our children fit into the box we as adults have to deal with everyday. I wish we could just let them play outside of the box a little longer.

My Child’s Not the Problem

My daughter and her best friend attend the same school. The best friend is actually new to the school so I can understand her relying on my daughter for support and for help integrating into the school yard. My daughter started at her new school mid-term, so she knows what it’s like to be dropped into a new environment among already established friendships.

I’m lucky my daughter has such a friendly personality. She has always been inclusive and full of empathy when it comes to others. When she started junior kindergarten she was the one including new kids into the playground games, even though she was new herself.

So I didn’t have any concern about her helping her best friend feel welcome in the new environment. Actually I was a little concerned she would end up abandoning her new school friends to ensure her best friend wasn’t left on her own. We had many conversations about playing with friends in moderation or playing games to include everyone, not forgetting her other friends.

It’s been a few months and things have been going pretty well. We did have an incident with one of her new school chums, but it was all a misunderstanding. Everything was fixed with a five-minute conversation. As expected, friends have their differences. They have good days and bad days. Even as adults we go through that with our friends and family, that’s to be expected in a growing, changing relationship.

Then one nigh I picked up a message from my daughter’s best friend’s mom, who happens to be a good friend of mine. The mom was worried about how the two girls were playing or rather not playing. The next day I had a conversation with the mom, to hear her side of the story. It seems the best friend feels my daughter isn’t playing with her anymore and is actually being mean ‘if you don’t do it my way you can’t be my friend.’

Okay, I was a little surprised by the comment. I think the problem is my daughter has started getting back into playing with the rest of her friends and the best friend isn’t very keen on sharing. And the best friend is use to getting what she wants in other situations. But I agreed to talk to my daughter. I know with her siblings my daughter can be a little commanding when it comes to play and how things are supposed to happen.

So we had the conversation. My daughter confirmed the problem was more about the best friend having to share her time with my daughter and not liking it. I thought everything was fine. Until the next day, after school, my daughter’s teacher wanted to speak with me.

It turns out the best friend’s mom, my friend, reported to the teacher that my daughter was bullying her daughter in the playground. You read that right BULLYING! We’re talking about my happy, inclusive, trying to keep everyone happy, seven-year-old daughter. Now sure I may be a bit biased and yes seven-year-old girls aren’t immune from becoming bullies, but this was insane. My daughter wasn’t being abusive, either physically, verbally or emotionally. She wasn’t intimidating or turning kids against her so-called best friend. She wasn’t behaving like the TTC, now that’s a bully. The whole accusation was ridiculous.

I don’t know what bothers me more, the fact that my daughter was accused of being a bully or that my friend, someone who’s known my daughter since she’s started school, could make the accusation. I expected the best friend to make a fuss about my daughter’s playing with other kids. We’ve grown use to this girls blatant manipulation of the adults around her. The fact that my friend would be so blind to think her daughter didn’t plan any role in what’s been going on just floors me.

I know I have to address this with my friend but I’m so bothered by it. When I dropped my son off at lunch I noticed my friend and her daughter arriving at school. I found myself hurrying out of the playground for fear of what I would say. Anyone who knows me, knows I’m pretty quiet and easy-going. It takes a lot to get me riled. But this whole thing has left me with an awful pit in my stomach. And my feelings aside, how do you think my daughter feels knowing her best friend and her best friend’s mom think she is so awful to resort to calling her a school yard bully!

I know I’m going to have to confront the mom, my friend, about this. I’m not looking forward to it at all. And even when it happens, even if we end up shaking hands and trying to put this black moment behind us, I can’t help but think our friendship will be changed forever. And I feel awful.

Let’s get naked: Feeling comfortable in your own skin

I’m a rather quiet person. I’m more comfortable behind my computer talking to people than being out front. I’ve always been that way and although I’m making efforts to step away from the machine, to meet people in the real world, I’ll never really be that comfortable putting myself out there.

It’s the same thing about my body. I feel completely comfortable in my skin, as long as it’s covered up. It’s not because of a terrible scar from a science experiment gone bad or that I’m embarrassed, I just don’t feel comfortable hanging around sans clothing.

Now my kids on the other hand are a completely different story. The only reason they wear clothes is because they need to go out in public. They would prefer to hang out or rather let everything hang out. Sometimes it’s hard to keep clothes on them at home. I’m forever finding socks and pants and undershirts lying around the house. I think that’s great. Not the picking up laundry part but that they’re comfortable with themselves.

I know what you’re thinking, all young kids feel that way. All kids go through that stage of taking their clothes off. And yes, that’s part of it but I think our attitudes to nudity affect our kids perception and behaviour as they get bigger.

The other night, as I was putting my son’s laundry away, he was getting ready for bed, doing his naked dance and enjoying that stage between getting out of day clothes and into night-clothes (though I should point out his night-clothes usually don’t last that long on him most nights). While he was getting ready for bed I couldn’t help but feel a little sad. I know one day he and all my kids won’t feel so free about their clothing optional status. I’ve already noticed this with my seven-year-old, especially in public places like swimming pool change rooms.

I know as my kids get older they will probably spend less time hanging out in their birthday suits. I guess that could be construed as a sign they’re growing up. Instead I think it’s partly to do with what we impose on them as being the norm. I don’t want to be responsible for changing the way they view themselves because of my own insecurities. I worry that my daughter’s new shy stage may be from witnessing my own behaviour and that bothers me. I’m trying now to be conscious of how I behave when it comes to my own body. I’m trying to bite my tongue at the kids desire to strip off as soon as they get home. I may not be running around the upstairs hall naked, but hopefully allowing my kids that freedom will show them that they should be proud of who they are and all their bits. Hopefully it will be a lesson they will carry forward into their adult life and pass down to their own kids.

And who knows, maybe along the way I’ll discover my inner child, free of inhibitions … probably not.

And so that was 2009

2010 is here and I’m excited but at the same time I can’t help but look back over the past year. I started this blog last Spring because I thought this would be a year of change and I wanted to record it. The year didn’t bring quite the change I was looking for but it did consist of a few (both big and little) important events.

We celebrated a few birthdays

My oldest daughter turned seven and I hosted my first kids birthday party. My middle child turned five and we surprised him (and everyone) with a trip to Disney World. My husband actually kept a secret and surprised me for my birthday (Disneyland‘s Haunted Mansion and I celebrated our 4oth birthday together). We even made a trip to Disney World just after my youngest turned three, but both her and her brother ended up sick (my oldest and I had to celebrate on our own)

We celebrated a few other milestones too

My seven-year old decided she wanted to two-wheel it and there was no going back. It was another summer of participating in the library’s Summer Reading Club, but this year we actually finished the program. My son started Beavers and my oldest daughter graduated into Brownies. My son is actually starting to read on his own. And we’ve been experiencing the ups and downs of potty training with my youngest.

I did a little writing (beyond just this blog)

Not only did I participate in Writer Digest‘s Poem-A-Day competition, writing a poem each day in April based on a prompt, I completed it. I’ve actually met a lot of amazing people through blogging and twitter, one is Tara Lazar. I started participating in her weekly post idea Write a Review Wednesday and have enjoyed sharing great children’s books each week (and have met some amazing book publishers in the process). I even participated in my first book blog tour with Tundra Books Medina Hill book launch. Along with my weekly book reviews, I started writing a monthly book review post on Allie‘s amazing site No Time for Flashcards (she’s an amazing lady online and I hope one day to meet her in person) as well as a book review post every second week on the blog Best Tools for Schools. As for fiction writing, I submitted two children’s picture book stories and started an outline for a middle grader story. I wrote an article for Today’s Parent magazine also (it appeared in their November Toy Issue) and they even sent a photographer to our house for a photo shoot to accompany the article.

There were even some personal gains

It was hard, but I came to terms with becoming a van mama. I discovered twitter which as a work from home mom can be a lifesaver. I joined Mom Central Canada as one of their Canadian mom bloggers and test panel members (I had the chance to meet Kathryn, the head Mom Central Canada lady which was pretty awesome too). I spoke with and eventually met Erica Ehm, Yummy Mummy Club founder. And through the Yummy Mummy Club I’ve actually had the chance to meet some other amazing ladies. I even learned how to deal with ignorant parents with the help of my son. I started an additional blog on Michelle‘s mom site Everything MomMichelle also gave me the opportunity of a lifetime and offered me the position of Review Editor on Everything Mom, which I still enjoy doing. And of course I can’t forget about catering our Christmas dinner (okay, maybe that’s not a real gain, but I don’t regret it).

Yes 2009 has been eventful but now it’s time to move forward. And I have high expectations for 2010. I hope it can deliver.

Dove thinks all girls are beautiful

I think all parents worry about their children’s future: Will they do well in school? Will they find true friends? Will they continue to be happy? I know I worry about these things and so much more for all three of my kids. But when you have daughters I think you have extra concerns about their own self-image, self-worth and perceptions.

I know my two girls are still young (3 and 7 years old) but that doesn’t mean that image concerns aren’t relevant. Recently I’ve noticed the effect media, friends, outside influences, heck, even myself, have had on my daughter’s perception of women and herself in particular. I think that’s one reason I’m such a big fan of Dove’s Self Esteem program. Every time you purchase a Dove beauty product a portion of that sale goes toward the Dove Self Esteem fund

Dove Self Esteem Fund

The program is designed to educate and inspire girls and young woman about a broader more realistic definition of beauty. The Dove Self Esteem Fund is a global project supporting a local charitable organization that fosters self-esteem. In the United States funds support uniquely ME! a partnership with Girl Scouts of the USA that helps build self-confidence in girls age 8-17. In Canada funds support the National Eating Disorder Information Center. And there are other worldwide programs. Since 2005 the brand has reached over 3.5 million girls globally and the mission for 2010 is to reach 5 million girls.

You Can Help

Next time you purchase a Dove beauty product, visit Dove’s site to enter your UPC code. Dove will donate $1 for each US household who enters a UPC code and you can choose one of three charities to direct the funds towards: Girl Scouts, Boys and Girls Clubs of America, or  Girls Inc. Be sure to enter your purchase before December 15, 2009 (valid for US residents only).

Thank You for Making a Difference

Dove understands that it’s because of you that the Dove Self-Esteem program has been able to make a difference in so many young girls lives. As a thank you they have given me a wonderful gift basket to offer to you. Share how you encourage self-esteem to the girls in your life, whether it’s your daughter or niece or grand-daughter.

For example: I take pictures of my girls and print them out for display so they and everyone else can see how beautiful they are as themselves.

Your story may inspire someone else and you could win a Dove gift basket consisting of one (1) Dove bathrobe, one (1) bottle of Dove Bodywash, two (2) ‘True You’ mother/daughter workbooks and one (1) Dove Bodymist. Contest is open to Canada and the United States. And with all the great woman out there I’m sure there are many self-esteen ideas and stories to share. But be sure to share your story by December 18, 2009. I’ll pick a name randomly after that.

If you have young girls in your life, make sure to visit Dove’s Self-Esteem program tools page. There you’ll be able to download a copy of the True You workbook, take a self-esteem quiz, try your hand at being a magazine editor and more.

I am participating in the Dove ‘Thank you for making a difference’ campaign and will be receiving Dove products along with copies of the True You workbook as a thank you for my participating post.