Hawaii is for Families

Hawaii has always has always been one of those places you go on your honeymoon or something you save up for after your kids are out of the house. When planning a family vacation destinations like Mexico or the Caribbean or maybe Florida come to find before Hawaii does. Perhaps it’s because I’m on the east coast, or closer to the east coast, so getting to a sunny destination that is quick to get to makes sense.

But in January we decided to try something different. We had a little more time on our hands and thought of going somewhere that took a little more travel time, like Hawaii.

You may think that traveling with 3 young kids on a 12 to 15 hour plane ride is crazy, and I’ll admit I was a little worried, but it went rather smoothly. I was annoyed at first about being bumped and having to take 3 planes versus 2 planes but I actually think the breaks were good for the kids, especially since they weren’t that long. And coming back, with the longer flight, the kids slept most of the way since we were flying over night, so that worked our great too. With the entertainment on the plane plus our own entertainment (electronics, snacks and colouring supplies) the kids were more then content to sit quietly on the plane. I think flying from a border city helped also (I much prefer going through customs in a car versus at the airport and would recommend it to anyone who has it as an option.

Unlike visiting Mexico or the Caribbean, Hawaii is still a US state so you don’t have worries about currency or medical are or water safety or any of those issues that come up with visiting foreign resorts. Yet it still has a very tropical feel. Of course it helped that our hotel, Outrigger Waikiki on the Beach, offered a spectacular location and service. I even wrote how this trip was one of our best vacations to date. But that was my feelings; what about the kds? When I asked my kids where they wanted to go for their next vacation, Disney World or Hawaii, it was Hawaii all around. That says a lot since our family is a Disney family.

You can read all the reviews I posted on our Hawaiian trip over within EverythingMom‘s Family Travel section: from our stay at the Outrigger Waikiki on the Beach to visiting Pearl Harbor and a trip to the Polynesian Cultural Center and more.

Below are a few photo highlights. Makes me wish I was back there now.

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Picture It Picture Books – Illustrated by Your Child

Books are big in our house as I’m sure you can guess from the Write a Review Wednesday posts every week. I love how books encourage learning, discovery and imagination. So when the folks at Mom Central Canada told me about Picture It Picture Books, I was interested to see these first hand how these would work.

The concept behind Picture It Picture Books is to tap into your child’s creative imagination. The stories are already written and your child adds the illustrations, sharing their interpretation of the story being told. There are currently 6 different titles available and the subject matter varies depending on your child’s interest. For younger kids there’s My Alphabet where kids illustrate something for each letter, something that might be more personal to them.

For older kids (and by older I mean maybe six or seven), there’s Captain Zane or The Moon Story. These are closer to stories to actual stories you might read and your child adds the illustrations.

The sample we were sent was Imagining Me, a story about your child. This isn’t really a story but rather a collection of pages about your child’s interests: their job when they grow-up, a wacky hairdo, playing with their best friend. I thought the Picture It Picture Books would be appealing to my 8-year old who has a current fascination with illustrating her own stories, but the sample didn’t appeal to her at all. She has a few books like this, books that she can customize based on her preferences and she had no interest in doing another one. This wouldn’t be one of the books I would have chosen either. For a book about your child, some of the pages are very specific and are of topics kids might have no interest in.

My 6-year old decided he liked a few of the pages, like developing a vehicle or designing a new toy (as his job) but that was the extent of his interest. I would love to see one of the more story oriented books to see if there would be more interest; the kids would actually be illustrating pictures of a story versus more of a workbook type activity (like the alphabet or Imagining Me).

The finished books do make great keepsakes for your kids as they grow-up or maybe even something to give to grandma (a story to read together when visiting and something grandma can enjoy because of the personal illustrations).

You can find the Picture It Picture Books on their website or at other stores and markets across the country.

I want to thanks the folks at Mom Central Canada and Picture It Picture Books for sending the review copy along to me.

In the Dark with Franklin for Earth Hour (Giveaway)

Earth Hour is this Saturday and my kids are really excited. We spend so much time immersed in technology (iPads, computers, video game systems, TV) I think they’re actually look forward to a little quiet time. You never saw that coming did you. Actually, I think they’re looking forward to flashlights (checkout EverythingMom for this really fun rechargeable flashlight the kids will love). After making shadow puppets and telling stories we’ll be settling down to a few stories by flashlight.

If you plan on celebrating Earth Hour with little ones, why not enjoy some flashlight reading with Paulette BourgeoisFranklin in Franklin in the Dark. Twenty-five years ago, a little turtle named Franklin conquered his fear of the dark with the help of a night-light. Since the 1986 publication of Franklin in the Dark, Franklin has brightened story time for millions of children worldwide, selling over 60 million books in more than 30 languages.

To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the world’s most beloved turtle, Kids Can Press is marking the occasion with a special, larger-format edition of Franklin in the Dark that offers a fun behind-the-scenes peek at this Canadian classic, including an excerpt of the first manuscript and a selection of original sketches.

GIVEAWAY

In celebration of 25 years of Franklin, I am giving away one (1) copy of the special 25th Anniversary Edition of Franklin in the Dark to one of me readers today (sorry, Canada only). To enter leave a comment below with one other Franklin book you’ve enjoyed (there are over 30 different titles).

For an extra entry tweet the following (be sure to leave a separate comment): Fingers crossed I win the 25th Anniversary Franklin in the Dark from @cbadov http://bit.ly/fLdgPd

Contest closes midnight March 24, 2011, after which I’ll randomly choose a name from those qualified entries.

For other great books for kids, read through my Write a Review Wednesday reviews. Enjoy your time in the dark this Saturday.

Write a Review Wedneday: Me and Rolly Maloo

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 Bunny’s Lessons. This week we read Charlesbridge Publishing‘s Me and Rolly Maloo (age 8-12), written by Janet S. Wong and illustrated by Elizabeth Buttler. I have to thank Donna at Charlesbridge Publishing for my review copy.

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Jenna is a star at math which makes her not so popular at school. So when Rolly Maloo, the most popular girl in school, invites Jenna over to her house, she is beyond thrilled. This could put Jenna on the popular list, hanging with the cool kids. But when Rolly asks Jenna to help her cheat on a math test, Jenna doesn’t know what to do. She knows cheating is wrong but is it so bad helping a friend in need?

We’ve all been here, well some of us anyway, on the outside of the group, wanting anything to be included. With kids of my own I see these issues rearing their ugly head again, especially with my 8-year old daughter. Everyone wants to feel included. Sometimes that desire can take over cloud your judgement, causing you to make bad decisions and miss the good things you already have.

Me and Rolly Maloo puts you in the shoes of Jenna, wanting to fit in and struggling with right versus wrong and misconceptions of friendship. I like that Jenna’s character, though she knows cheating is wrong, really struggles with the idea. Jenna doesn’t just take the moral high ground or stoop to cheating without giving it much thought. The way the story is written we don’t really know which path Jenna would follow since the actual cheat is interrupted.

Although you might perceive Rolly Maloo to be the bad guy (or girl) in this story, her characterization depicts her as having her own internal struggles over the whole cheating issue. This just reinforces that being popular doesn’t mean life is easy either; there are pressures and stresses and influences that Rolly falls pray to also.

The unique style of Me and Rolly Maloo makes it a great read not only because of the subject matter and issues touched upon, but also in the illustrations used. Me and Rolly Maloo is a chapter book with elements of a graphic novel. This graphic novel aspect gives you a peek at some of the more subtle feelings that not only Jenna and Rolly are encountering but also their friends and mothers (there is no father presence in this story. Actually, there is only one real male figure in the story, one of the classmates). This helps give some background without having to add another whole layer to the story. Plus it is a nice way to break-up the copy for those reluctant readers.

My 8 year old daughter hasn’t had a chance to read Me and Rolly Maloo yet but I think the storyline and the illustrative treatment will be something she will enjoy. To add a copy of Me and Rolly Maloo to your personal library, visit your local bookstore or Charlesbridge Publishing. For other great book ideas for kids, take a read through the past Write a Review Wednesday posts. What are your kids reading?

In a Man’s World, Women Rock

It’s funny what goes through your mind sometimes, or rather my mind, especially when it comes to how men and woman are different. I think this thought has been brought to the forefront of my mind as I raise my kids, 2 girls and a boy. I hope that my influence and the influence of the men and women in my life is nothing but positive but I know that men and woman are treated and viewed differently in many ways. Things aren’t perfect, I’m not perfect, and although many say it’s a man’s world, there are many reasons why I love being a woman. Here are six:

  1. You can cry if you want to. It might be a stereotype that women are emotional, crying at the littlest things, but I’m thankful for this gift. Sometimes a good cry can get you through a long night of being up with sick kids or express your feelings of joy or love that no words could do justice to. As a woman, I’m lucky that I can have a good cry, that I’m not viewed as weak or inferior because of it.  I’m saddened that people (including woman) feel it’s not something that men and boys should be allowed to do.
  2. Get in the pink (or yellow or black). Woman can wear all sorts of colours and colour combinations unlike men who are still lumped into a stereotype of not being masculine if they wear pale colours. And although I can wear pink and yellows, I usually wear browns and greens. They may not be very girly but I can wear them and I love that.
  3. For the love of mom. I’m fortunate to have both my mom and my mother-in-law in my life. My mom worked hard raising my sister and myself, trying to keep a happy household full of love and understanding. She showed me that if you work hard you can achieve a lot, no matter what the obstacles. My mother-in-law raised my husband who is caring, understanding and supportive of both myself and the kids. Not all men are that fortunate and I’m lucky to have found mine.
  4. To dress, or not. Flowy sundresses. Taffeta ball gowns. Not something I wear often (or at all in the case of ball gowns) but if I wanted to I could. Or I can toss on jeans or track pants. Basically anything I want to wear (though it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s something I should wear). There aren’t too many men who have that dress code freedom and wearing a kilt at the Scottish festival one weekend a year doesn’t count.
  5. No yelling required. Have you ever noticed that some men resort to yelling or cursing to get their point across. Of coarse woman do this too but  it seems more expected with men, almost like a mutual understanding. The louder men get, the more control they have or think they have.
  6. Speak up. Many woman before me, before you, worked hard to demonstrate that woman are intelligent and a point of view worth listening too. Whether it’s sticking up for your child being labelled by school authorities, not standing for someone budding in front of you in line, running for office based on something you believe in, we have the voice that’s worth hearing.

I’m sure there are many other reasons women rock but these have been issues that have come in my personal life recently. I hope I can raise my kids, all of my kids, with the same attitude. I hope my girls will be strong and empowered to make decisions based on their gut versus being swayed by others. I hope the same for my son but that he also shines in his mutual respect and appreciate for the women in his life as he grows up. Why do you think being a woman rocks?

Write a Review Wednesday: Bunny’s Lessons

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 Out of Sight. This week we looked at another book from Blue Apple Books, Bunny’s Lessons (age 4-8), written by Harriet Ziefert and illustrated by Barroux. I have to thank Crystal at Raincoast Books for my review copy.

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Charlie is a little boy, a little boy who Bunny belongs to. Bunny views Charlie has his friend and teacher. Everything Bunny has learned, he has learned from Charlie. Some lessons aren’t so fun, like jealous and scared and sad. But other lessons are wonderful, like pretend, all better and love. No matter what the lesson, Bunny and Charlie learn them together.

Like in Bunny’s Lessons, most kids have a stuffy, a companion that helps them through both scary and exciting times in their lives. My 4-year old has a rabbit friend just like Charlie. Growing up is full of new experiences: walking, the big bed, going to school, visiting the Dr. A stuffy is like an extension of a child. It gives them someone to confide in when they’re feeling angry or sad. It gives them someone to hug and protect them at night in the big bed. It gives them someone to celebrate the first day of preschool. The illustrations are colourful and warm, filling the page with life through Bunny’s perspective.

Kids don’t view their stuffies as just dolls but as real friends so it’s fitting that Bunny’s Lessons is told from the perspective of Bunny. Although my daughter’s stuffy is a bunny, just like Bunny in Bunny’s Lessons, the story would have just as much meaning to her (and I) if her stuffy was a bear or doll. Bunny’s Lessons does a great job illustrating the relationship between a child and their stuffie.

To add Bunny’s Lessons to your personal library visit your local bookstore or Raincoast Books. For other great books for kids, read through the past Write a Review Wednesday.

iPhone Art Installation Idea

I’m not a veteran business traveller. That’s probably why I get so stressed when getting ready for a trip. I worry that I forgot to pack something, that I’ll have some sort of issue going through secruity, I’ll miss my flight or worst yet, I’ll misplace my iPhone.

Misplacing my iPhone is a worry that hits me every once in a while but the concern was especially on my mind this trip since I was trying Westjet‘s e-boarding pass. This meant I didn’t have to print my boarding pass since it was emailed to me electronically. This also meant that if I misplaced my phone I couldn’t board the plane.

I forgot how many times you actually have to show your boarding pass when at the airport. Every time I pulled my phone out and handed it over, I worried about losing it or leaving it behind.

Which leads me to my art installation idea. (Funny what goes through your mind in high stress situations).

If you found someone’s iPhone unattended your first reaction would probably be to pick it up and see if you can find out who it belongs to, maybe try to call the owner. At least that would probably be my reaction. But you know there are some who would look at this as an opportunity, a free phone to use, even for just one call, maybe try to jailbreak it or sell it for cash.

What if you could trigger the phone to take a picture of the person holding it. As soon as someone touches the screen or presses the button, the phone’s camera is triggered. The image would appear on-screen with a message: ‘ah, ah, ah, you’ve been caught trying to use a phone that isn’t yours. I have your photo and it’s been sent to the authorities.’

As each person’s guilt sets in, they drop the phone, opening the opportunity for another person (and another photo).

Each photo could be uploaded automatically to a website, creating a history of faces and places where the phone travels. Now of course I’m not technically savvy enough to do this. And even if I was, I certainly wouldn’t chance my phone. but I’m tossing this out there for someone else to try. Mean? Mabye. Legal? Maybe not. But wouldn’t you want to who ended up on that website?

Now to start packing and obsession about my trip home. [Breath in. Breath out.]

Write a Review Wednesday: Out of Sight

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 Mad at Mommy. This week, with Spring getting closer, we’re thinking about animals in the wild which makes Chronicle Book‘s Out of Sight, by Francesco Pittau and Bernadette Gervais. I have to thank Crystal at Raincoast Books for my review copy.

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Out of Sight combines a child’s love of animals with discovery in the form of a large lift-the-flap book. Although the term lift-the-flap may lead you to believe this is a book aimed at the youngest reader in your family, the content will be entertaining for anyone with an interest in animals.

Each spread includes flaps, revealing a portion of an animal. Some pages show the shadows of an animal, some show the coat, other pages give you a glimps of just the animal’s ears. Kids will love using these hints to try and figure out which animal will be revealed when they lift the flap.

Under each flap you’ll fine not only find an image of the animal being revealed but you’ll also discover an interesting fact:

– A group of lions is a pride, but a group of tigers is an ambush
– A male donkey is called a jack, and a female donkey is called a jenny
– Goats are very agile. They can even climb trees

Each animal name in Out of Sight is also bolded so there’s no mistaken what animal is being referenced. Each page only has flaps, no words. It’s under the flaps where you’ll find these interesting facts. The flaps are in varing sizes throughout the book and pages but they are all big. The pages in the book and the flaps are made of sturdy cardboard stock paper which is ideal as your kids will be flipping the flaps and pages over and over again.

To add a copy of Out of Sight to your own personal library visit your local bookstore or Raincoast Books. For other great book suggestions for kids, read through some of the past Write a Review Wednesday posts. What are your kids reading?

Write a Review Wednesday: Mad at Mommy

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 Ten Big Toes and a Prince’s Nose (age 4-7). After the last few days with my 4-year old I think a perfect book to review would be Scholastic‘s Mad at Mommy (age 3-7), written and illustrated by Komako Sakai. I have to thank Nikole at Scholastic Canada for my review copy.

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A little bunny is so, SO mad at his mommy. She sleeps in and yells for no reason and tells bunny to hurry up and…and…and. Bunny is so mad that he decides he’s going to leave home. And does. But then he forgets something.

I think as parents we sometimes forget what it’s like to be a child, learning new concepts, being small, wanting attention. In Mad at Mommy, Bunny thinks his mom is unfair when he gets in trouble for making a mess in the bathroom but in his mind he’s just playing and doesn’t understand. Bunny thinks his mom is unfair when she rushes him to get ready but then stands and talks with friends when they’re out.

My 4-year old and I have been going through similar battles; she’s struggle to gain more power and independence and I’m working to implement rules and guidelines. We both think we’re right and the other one is being unreasonable but in a way we’re both right.

Mad at Mommy is a great book for both parent and kids. It shows kids that it’s okay to be frustrated; sometimes even kids need to air their feelings (even unhappy ones) and need reassurance that mommy still loves them. For parents it reminds us to be mindful of how we treat our kids and how frustrating it was when we were little. I remember battles with my parents on wanting to stay up late or wear certain clothes. It’s easy to get angry at water spilled out of the tub but instead maybe we need to remember how fun splashing in the tub can be and explain why we’re upset about the water.

Both my 6 and 4 year old enjoyed reading Mad at Mommy and it opened a great dialog on how everyone gets angry but we always love each other. Probably long overdue but Mad at Mommy also got us talking about things each other does that we feel is unfair.

You can add a copy of Mad at Mommy to your own personal library by visiting your local bookstore or Scholastic Books. For other great books for kids, read through the past Write a Review Wednesday posts.

5 Ways Your Kid’s Toys Keep You Fit

I know that adding exercise to your daily routine is a great way to keep healthy and energized and believe me, with 3 kids I need all the energy I can get. Starting a routine is easy, especially at the start of the new year; keeping a fitness routine can be harder. It doesn’t help that I work from home and have my 4-year old with me at home for half the morning. I actually thought having my kids start school would free-up my time but the whole half-day kindergarten is turning out to be more inconvenient than I thought. Now I wouldn’t change that but that’s another post.

All said and done, my situation isn’t going to change. At first I would bemoan not having time to do my workout but the more I thought about it the more I realized I’ve been working out all this time. If you have kids, you probably are too.

So here are 5 Ways Your Kid’s Toys Keep You Fit:

  1. Video Games. It may seem like 30-minutes of saving the alliance from the dark forces but if you’re like me and really get into playing videos games (especially on the Wii or Xbox Kinect) you’d be surprised how much of a sweat you can work-up. Bonus: you’re kids might even think you’re kinda cool. Kinda.
  2. Obstacle Course. My 6-year old son loves his hot wheels cars. He received a track extension set at Christmas which means he can make his own track with loops and jumps. Forget the standard loop with a hoop jump at the end, my son loves to make tracks that go over chairs, under book tunnels, around stuffies, all the way down the hallway on the second floor. Creative right? Sure, unless your office is on the third floor and the courier arrives and you have to dash and jump and swerve down the hall and stairs without killing yourself or ruining the track.
  3. Game Cupboard. I thought I was being smart, setting up our sideboard as a family game cupboard. The idea was that kids could easily pull out a game to play together or on their own to use right on the dining room table. This would cut-down on the requests for me to pull out a game and tidy them up. In theory this is great if you only have a few games but over the years we have amassed quiet a large collection. It’s like a puzzle to try to get something out of there and fit it back in, which means I end up back into the routine of digging out and putting away the games. Who wants to play a game after 20-minutes of digging out from the back of the Jenga game cupboard?
  4. Clean-up Chase. My 6 and 8-year old are pretty good at tidying up after playing with their toys. My 4-year old, however, is a work in progress. This usually involves me running around, looking under beds, in closets, behind doors, to find my hiding 4-year old. I think she takes the expression ‘out of sight, out of mind’ a little too literally when it comes to putting her toys away.
  5. The Clean-Up. Like I said in point four, my older two kids are pretty good at tidying up but no one’s perfect. This means there are books in the bathroom, boats and plastic sharks in the tub, pencil crayons and play dough pieces under the table and Lego everywhere. You can get a good workout slipping on, stepping over, bending down to pick-up, sorting out, reshelving these items all over the house.

Even if your kids are super tidy or don’t have toys, trying taking them grocery shopping. A trip to the grocery store can be a workout on its own (with or without kids). If you’re looking for more of a structured workout, checkout these hi-tech options on EverythingMom.

So next time you’re picking up the umpteenth piece of Lego buried in the shag carpet, remind yourself that this is for your own good, that you’re giving your body a workout so you can be around for years and years (and years) to come and your children are still living in your basement, unemployed. Hmm, maybe I’ll rethink this workout craze.