Posts Tagged ‘stuff we do for our kids’

Every Lego has its place

You may remember my son’s Lego obsession. He loves these little blocks. He likes to build cities and cars and buildings and robots and secret hideouts and…well I could go on and on. There really seems to be no limit to my son’s imagination when it comes to these little blocks.

And like most parents, when you child finds something they like and can do well (assuming it’s legal of course) you encourage them; in our case we buy more Lego sets and Lego pieces.

The problem with this of course is my son’s collection has exceed his current containment set-up. Originally he had a drawer in his toy cabinet. That drawer expanded to two drawers. Then it took over his little table, then his dresser, then is storage bench (which is really supposed to be for dirty laundry). But when it started to creep out on the floor so we were stepping on it and vacuuming it up I knew something had to be done.

Off to Ikea!

I found a storage unit with buckets that fit perfectly under his bed (we raised his bed so he has a play area underneath). Now my son had various buckets to store the different Lego pieces. It took my son and I almost an entire afternoon to go through all the Lego hiding places in his room and sort it into the new containers: one for Lego people, one for small pieces, one for big pieces, one for those pieces that don’t seem to fit into one category and of course he needed one for work in progress. We also set aside three drawers for the bigger Mega Bloks that his younger sister likes to play with.

A drawer for the various Lego blocks

...the small pieces go here...

Now to build the holding cells for secret spies

Pay no attention to the builders behind the curtain

Now my son can find that long triangle piece when he needs to build a jet or the hinge piece when he’s building a trap door or an army of Lego guys when England is invading France. Plus the top of the storage area makes a great construction, display and play space. But the best thing is I’m not pulling Lego blocks out of the central vacuum system or the washing machine anymore.

And in this corner…

School’s in full swing, the weather is colder and the flu bug seems to be creeping around every corner, time for the flu fighting gloves to come off.

Before I had kids I never got sick, okay that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but I certainly didn’t get sick as much as when I had kids. There’s something about kids and bugs. And with this new flu strain, the H1N1 virus, you can’t help but worry about your child’s health and well being.

We haven’t changed our routines any when it comes to staving off the flu and colds and so far this season we’ve been lucky (knock on wood). Some of the things we’ve been doing to keep us bug free are:

  • Drinking plenty of water to flush the system and a good nights sleep so the body can re-energize (sadly that doesn’t seem to include me lately).
  • Keeping the fingers out of noses (which is much harder than it sounds) and ensuring finger nails are always clean and trimmed short (it’s amazing what can hide in my oldest daughter’s nails if not cut).
  • Blowing the nose to get ‘stuff’ out instead of sniffling and keeping it in.
  • Increasing the body’s immunity system. Checkout my review of Nayla Natural‘s Anti-Monster Spray immunity system booster
  • Regular and proper hand washing. This is a big one. To ensure my kids spend enough time scrubbing with the soap they now have to sing a song. A chorus of Happy Birthday and We Wish you a Merry Christmas seem just long enough. Only after the chorus can they rinse. Here are my two youngest to demonstrate (though my shy two-year old seems to have lost her voice, especially when she realized the camera was on her):

But sometimes even with the best intentions and practices kids get sick. If your child does get sick here are a few simply measures you can follow from The Ontario Ministry of Health:

  • Treat your child’s fever. Take off heavy clothing/blankets. Dress your child in lightweight clothing and keep the room temperature at 20C (68F). Give acetaminophen or ibuprofen for fever and muscle pain in the dose recommended on the package (unless your doctor says other wise).
  • Treat your child’s other flu symptoms. Encourage your child to get plenty of rest. Use salt-water nose drops to treat a stuffy nose. (See my review of the non-medicated Breathe Right nasal strips for kids we tried.) As your pharmacist about over-the-counter medicines for cough.
  • Protect others from the flu. Keep you child at home until his/her fever has been absent for at least 24 hours and he or she is feeling well enough to resume normal activities. It’s important for your child to stay home if there’s a fever so that the virus doesn’t spread to other children. Your child can return to school 24 hours after the fever has resolved and he/she is feeling well enough to get back to normal activities.

If you’re concerned that your child has more than just a simple cold or flu, you can take The Ontario Ministry of Health‘s online Influenza assessment tool. The Ontario Ministry of Health has also set-up a pretty comprehensive flu section on their site. There you’ll be able to find details on the open flu vaccination clinics, tips on staying healthy, information on the H1N1 vaccine and more.

Here’s to winning the fight against the flu.

I wrote this post while participating in a blog tour campaign by Mom Central and received a Mom Central gift pack to thank me for taking the time to participate.

Call it a gut feeling

Yesterday we went to the cities big Santa Clause parade. It was a little chilly but the promised rain didn’t show so we were happy. The kids were happy because they didn’t have to wear their snowsuits like last year.


Hey mom, look at what I'm colouring

We arrived early to get our curbside seat. A family near us had brought a bag of chalk which was a great idea. They let the kids take a piece and cover University Avenue (at least where we were sitting) with pictures and messages to Santa. My two girls were right into drawing on the road (my son’s not very keen on drawing so he passed).

My youngest got right into her drawing by laying down on her tummy colouring away, oblivious of the thousands of people around her. A reporter from one of the community papers took a picture of her (with my permission of course).

But then a young man, maybe in his twenties, came up and commented on my daughter, saying she was such a cute baby (what baby, my daughter’s two, almost three) and asked if he could take her picture. He was with a young woman, but I thought it was a strange request. Yes my kids are cute, all moms think that and it’s a wonderful compliment if a stranger agrees, but I’ve never had someone not in media ask to take her picture.

Of course my instant mommy protector mode kicked in and a fained an excuse that she really doesn’t like her picture being taken (ha) and that was the end of it; they walked away. Of course they may have gone and taken a snap of her without my knowledge; having kids out in public, you can’t guarantee that doesn’t happen, but I didn’t see them even standing nearby.

Perhaps the request was completely innocent and they did just want a picture because she was doing something cute, but you can never be sure. And when it comes to my kids I’d rather err on the side of caution.

Has something like this ever happened to you?

Write a Review Wednesday: Adding With Sebastian Pig and Friends At the Circus

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 I talked about the first book in Chronicle Books’ delightful girl series Ivy and Bean (age 6-10), written by Annie Barrows and illustrated by Sophie Blackall. This week I’m switching gears and looking at the non-fiction book Adding with Sebastian Pig and Friends At the Circus (age 6 to 9), written by Jill Anderson and illustrated by Amy Huntington. I have to thank Lisa from Enslow Publishers for my review copy.


Sebastian the pig is off to the circus and wants to keep track of all the different performers he sees. He carries with him a handy notebook to record his numbers and add them up. Perhaps you can help him.

My daughter loves math. Yup, you read that right. I think that’s great. I remember loving math too. But math doesn’t have to be all about worksheets and drills. When I first read about the book Adding with Sebastian Pig and Friends at the Circus on Enslow Publishers website, I thought this would be an ideal book for my daughter. It incorporates math into a story.

I must admit they didn’t seem overly enthusiastic about reading the book the first time. I’m partly to blame. I think they were expecting more of a bedtime story and I pulled this book out. But as I started to read the story they started to listen. I did find some of the writing a little clumsy; I don’t think it was necessary to break the story into chapters. However, the simple text does make it ideal for beginning readers. As for the kids, they enjoyed the animal antics depicted in the illustrations. The inclusion of Sebastian’s notebook in the bottom corner of each page spread worked well and was a real help with the addition. The illustrations sometimes made it difficult to clearly count all the characters, so having the notebook with very clear images made counting and adding a breeze.

As we went through each page my oldest daughter asked me to cover the addition answers so she could figure out the problem on her own. My five-year old son got into the addition fun too. Even my young two-year old loved counting the animals. She could easily count the heads on Sebastian’s notebook page. The numbers written on each head helped reinforce the counting. A combination of the image on the page, the illustration of animal heads on the notebook as well as the actual addition equation helped with understanding how addition works. I also liked that some addition vocabulary was used and explained in the book too (like sum, and dozen). My daughter loves math, but this book might help explain addition to a child who isn’t so keen on math.

In addition to the story, no pun intended, there is a handy addition table at the back of the book covering numbers from one to ten, plus some suggested reading and websites to further enhance your child’s interest in math. Adding with Sebastian Pig and Friends at the Circus is part of the series Math Fun with Sebastian Pig and Friends. You can get other Sebastian Pig books on subtracting, measuring, money, as well as counting and finding shapes.

You can add Adding with Sebastian Pig and Friends at the Circus to your own library by visiting Looking for other great books? Checkout past Write a Review Wednesday posts.

What did we do without it?

When packing for a trip, there are a few items that are a must on any trip: change of underwear, toothbrush and paste, clean socks, NDS portable gaming system and the video iPod.

Yes you read that correctly, an NDS and iPod are on my list of essential items. I think if I was enroute to my destination and realized I had left either of these behind I wouldn’t think twice about turning around to pick them up.

We have one iPod that contains all our kids movies and shows.  This saves countless hours of whining and fighting and the dreaded ‘are we there yet?’ And some hotels have inputs that enable us to plug the iPod directly into the TV. Now there’s no need to worry if there are any kid friendly programs on.

The NDS game system occupies my kids in the car, on the airplane, in the airport; basically anywhere the kids need to sit quietly for thirty-minutes or more.


Enjoying a quiet gaming moment


Even airport waiting is enjoyable with a NDS


Basking in the NDS glow

It does make me wonder how my parents survived when we travelled. I’m sure my sister and I weren’t the most patient and understanding tots.  I guess there were books to look at and songs to sing and games to play. I don’t know what we did because I don’t remember. But then again, maybe I don’t remember because we didn’t do a lot of travelling.

TSO: For the young and young at heart

When the weekend arrives, school and work is put to the side and it’s time to have some fun. So last weekend my husband and I took our three young kids (age 2, 5 and 7) to the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. Yup, you read that right, the Symphony. 

When I was in school, actually, even when I was out of school, I perceived the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (TSO) as a form of entertainment only snooty, rich folk attended. It certainly wasn’t something I could see myself attending, no matter how much I enjoyed live music. And I do enjoy live music, jazz, world, blues, folk and yes, even classical. Music is big in our house and we like to expose our kids to various types.

I had heard about the TSO‘s Young People’s Concert series, a program to introduce symphonic music to young people, age 5 to 12 specifically. But I still couldn’t shake my own TSO stereotypes. I just couldn’t imagine my three kids dressed in their finest, sitting quietly for an hour. I dreaded the thought of those stares from other parents, the ones with the super well-behaved kids. Or worse, being asked to leave because we were being too disruptive to other patrons.

So when we were invited to attend the TSO‘s first concert in the Young People’s Concert series, I left my stereotypes at home and packed the kids to head downtown for some musical fun. Before each concert, the TSO puts on a 20-minute pre-concert performance in the North Lobby of the Roy Thomson Hall. It’s been awhile since I’ve driven downtown so we arrived late and missed the pre-concert show. My oldest daughter and I were really disappointed since we were both looking forward to the harp performance.

We made it to our seat just before the show started and I have to tell you I was impressed with the seats. I’ve gone to live theatre and one of my biggest complaints has been the seats being very narrow and not well padded making for an uncomfortable evening. The seats in the Roy Thomson Hall were just the opposite and I noticed that right away. But what really impressed me, what I really noticed was how family friendly the TSO Young People’s Concerts are. The lights were turned down when the show started but to a low light versus plunging us in the dark. The conductor talked to the kids; she involved them versus just performed for them. I think that made a big difference in keeping the kids focused. The music was broken out in chunks and the selections were varied and fun. It was amazing watching the kids throughout the hall conducting and focusing their attention on the stage. Even my own kids, right down to my two-year-old, was transported on a musical journey; you could see it on their faces.

Each of the TSOs Young People’s Concerts has a different focus. The concert we attended, the first in the series, was The Listener, featuring the Magic Circle Mime Company. The kids loved their antics. I thought the experience was amazing and very different from what I expected. I think my kids enjoyed it very much too:

(Note: I must apologize for the dark, shaky, video. My youngest was running around in the background, trying to peek into the camera.)

The TSO Young People’s Concert series has four more shows scheduled: Jack and the Beanstalk (Nov 14/09 at 1:30 and 3:30), Paddywak! (Feb 6/10 at 1:30 and 3:30), Spanish Fire! (Mar 27/10 at 1:30 and 3:30), and A Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra (Apr 24/10 1:30 and 3:30). Tickets can cost as little as $15.00 per child/adult when you buy three or more. You might also enjoy listening to the TSO podcasts too (including the Young People Concert series).

Separate from the concert, we were invited backstage to meet the mime’s and some of the musicians as well as play with some of the instruments. The kids thought this was great fun. My oldest daughter loved the exercise with the mimes. They picked an emotion (excitement) and tried to convey the various stages of excitement, from one being the least to ten being the most, all without making a sound. My son loved the percussionist and creating a rain storm by using parts of his body. It was an amazing time.

So next time you’re looking for a new experience with your kids, why not checkout the TSO Young People’s Concert series.

Mommy: Scary or Practical?

I’m excited about the new Motherhood movie coming out. I was fortunate enough to participate in a conference call with Uma Thurman about the film. I love that the movie plans to show realistic take on a typical day of a mom, Eliza (have you read her blog).

I think that’s why I love blogs and blogging. On the playground we’ll hear about how great our child’s playmates are, but the blogs tell the real truth, the hidden truth (at least the ones I read). And to honour this scary truth, Jill at Scary Mommy is running a little competition to see who among us is the scariest mommy. And if you read some of the submissions, there are some pretty scary mommys out there. I love it!

So I’ve been going over it in my head, how am I a scary mommy. And you know what, I don’t think I am. I mean, yes I’ve used threats to motivate my kids:

hairme: What do you mean you’re not dressed yet? we have to leave in 5 minutes and you haven’t even had breakfast.
5yo son: I have my socks on.
me: If you’re not dressed by the time I count to five, I will go to your younger sister’s draw and pick out the pinkest shirt I can find and put it on you and drop you in the middle of the playground for the kids to taunt you.

Now that may sound scary, but it worked; he was dressed by the time I go to three. So he’ll be in therapy for years with an identity crisis. That’s okay, he’ll be a grown-up then and not my responsibility.

chocolateAnd sometimes, sometimes I’ve given my kids an after school snacks from the sugar food group. Now before you go and jump all over me with words like unhealthy and unfit mom let me explain (because you know there’s an explanation behind every mother’s action). We usually walk home and I’m tired of hearing things like: it’s too far, I’m too tired, but I broke my leg and the doctor said I shouldn’t walk on it. Bla bla bla. It’s amazing how far a piece of chocolate will get my kids.

We’re not any different from most families; we have house rules that everyone has to follow too. They’re usually there to keep the kids safe (and maintain my sanity), But sometimes a rule is broken and it’s so ridiculous and makes me laugh that I will over look it or maybe even get the kids to do it again in order to capture it on video. I mean they didn’t kill themselves the first time right? And I don’t want to stifle their creativity too much when they’re young. And yes that is a broken kids wheelbarrow they are using. Creative huh?

I’ve used some of those dreaded mom phrases. You know, the ones you mom use to say to you and you swore you’d never say things as ridiculous as that when you became a mom. Things like:

Because! Because I’m your mother and this is my house and you have to follow the rules until you are big enough to get a job and live in your own house. Then you can make your own rules.

I get a larger slice of cake because I’m larger.

If you don’t put your dirty clothes in the laundry basket then wild animals will sneak in at night and carry them away to their nests.

Eating vegetables improves your eye sight so you can see better at night. What? Can’t see in the dark? Then eat more carrots.

Okay, I’ll admit, some of these lines I’ve created myself but with inspiration from my own childhood. But sometimes you want your kids to just do what you ask and you don’t want to explain or rationalize why. You’re the mom and mom’s rule, right? I never realized how smart my mom is until I became a mom myself.

Let’s not even get into discussing practical uses for the dead space under the beds or behind the washer and dryer (where else would you store those toys, old magazines and occasional dishes when your mother-in-law arrives unexpectedly, for the third time this week) or that my kids spend more time having a Starbucks breakfast on the weekend than at home (have you tried those pumpkin scones with fruit?).

I’m sure you would agree, these things don’t make me a scary mommy but rather a smart, clever and practical mom. So while I may not win Scary Mommy’s competition, I love the idea of promoting our real mommy sides.

What have you done as a mom that people might misconstrue as being scary?

Two year olds aren’t all bad

Look at me...I'm helping.

Look at me...I'm helping.

There are many things about two year olds that drive me nuts. The need to do everything themselves, especially when you’re trying to get out the door. The mimicking of conversations that probably shouldn’t have been heard the first time. The happy/sad/angry/shy/who cares mood swings that happen within the span of two minutes. I’ve recently read Character is the Key and I understand that some of these traits are things I’ll appreciate when my daughter is an adult (I just don’t know if I can last that long).

That said, two year olds aren’t all bad. My daughter reminds me of that every day, okay, maybe every other day. One thing I like or have grown to like about my two year old is that she loves to help. Sometimes this help doesn’t come at the most convenient times: helping to sort…sock…at…a…time isn’t always helpful when I’m trying to get the laundry put away before my mother-in-law comes over and discovers you’re not that great of a house keeper after all. Sometimes the help is counterproductive: dumping all the garbage out of the bathroom trashcan to find the piece of paper at the bottom that should have been put into the recycling container instead.

But once I got past these issues and embraced the little helper I have, I find things much easier. By letting my daughter help rake leaves or set the table or put things in the garbage, she feels like she’s doing her part. And I know that if I need an extra roll of toilet paper in the bathroom or a garbage bag downstairs, my youngest will get it and without any huffing or sighing.

And secretly I hope by involving her now she’ll continue to love helping when she’s older. Okay, maybe that’s unrealistic, but we all need to dream.

Review: PenPal Notes (and giveaway)

The love of books and the love of reading is big in our house. I think that’s one reason I love doing my weekly Write a Review Wednesday post. I love discovering and sharing new books with my kids. And now that my oldest daughter has discovered the joy of reading on her own, I love to find ways to expand on her love. Books is a given but then I stumbled upon a new product called PenPal Notes.

You’re probably familiar with the idea of pen pals. I know when I was in school we had a pen pal program with kids from different countries. I still have some of those letters, including a letter from Iran which caused a big stir with CSIS (also know as the Canadian Security Intelligence Service), but that’s another post. The point is I loved having pen pals.

Lunchtime pen pals

The idea behind PenPal Notes is a combination of lunch time notes and letters from friends. Instead of writing notes in your child’s lunch why not include a postcard from Tej, a panda who goes on adventures. There are seven different series, from dinosaurs to proverbs to world food, and each series includes 20 or 40 illustrated postcards and sticker stamps. The front of the post card is a message to your child based on whatever series you have. On the back there’s space for you to write your own personal note to your child.

My daughter is a foodaholic. She loves food, from everywhere. The folks at PenPal Notes were kind enough to send the Traveling Taste Buds set for us to review. My daughter loves, loves, LOVES food so these cards were ideal for her. The Traveling Taste Buds series has Tej visiting seven different countries. The first postcard from each country gives a little information on the country and subsequent postcards talk about a specific food from the country.

My daughter loves these cards. She shows them to her friends and keeps all of them to reference later. She loves the idea of getting these notes and discovering new foods. Sometimes I’ve been able to tie food choices to the postcards too. When she was visiting France one card talked about croissants and I included one for her snack. She thought that was the best. One day I forgot to include a postcard (we agreed that Monday, Tuesday and Thursday would be postcard days) and I heard about it all that night. From that moment on my daughter reminds me the night before to include a postcard in her lunch.

I love the postcards. They’re easy to read. I have learned different types of food and I absolutely love food. I liked the messages that my mom wrote on the back too. I share the notes with my class. My teacher things they are neat. I still have all my postcards. I like to go back and read them again. I only get them on Monday, Tuesdays and Thursdays, but I’d love to get them every day. I get really excited on a postcard day. I usually remind my mom to put one in my lunch.

I love how the PenPal Notes get my daughter excited about reading and learning. It shows that reading is more than just for books. Plus she now has developed an interest in starting some real pen pals (she even created a mock postcard and sent it to me).

PenPal Notes for you

The amazing folks at PenPal Notes wants to get your child excited about reading too. They’re offering one set of postcards (winners choice) absolutely FREE. Isn’t that great! Checkout the sets they have available. So if you’re in Canada or the United States all you need to do is comment below and tell me if you have ever sent notes to your child or received lunch time notes as a child yourself. I’ll receive entries until midnight (EST), Sunday October 25, 2009 at which time I will randomly draw a name. Good luck!

Update: We have a winner. has selected and the winner has been emailed. Thanks for your interest.

Literacy Curriculum week 1: bubbles, cows and car racing

I mentioned earlier this week that I was trying out Raising Itty-Bitty Bookworm’s preschool curriculum program, the Bo program specifically (for age 3 to 5). Well we just finished our first week and what a week. This week’s program evolved around the book Mrs. Wishy Washy Farm by Joy Cowly . My kids had a great time, they were excited each morning to find out what we were doing.

I love how the activities, whether reading or science or math, all revolve around the story we read that week. The kids loved working with numbers by counting animals to put in the wash tub (plastic animals in a basket) or counting bubbles in the tub (cotton balls in a bowl).

One bubble, two bubbles...

One bubble, two bubbles...

My son especially loved the task of predicting events. We took different sized or shaped cars and raced them down a ramp (we recreate fast moving cars like in the story and try to predict which car would be the fastest and why).

Hey, let's race the small car and the big truck

Hey, let's race the small car and the big truck

I also loved how the story was included every day, in different ways: reading, predicting, acting it out. My daughter really enjoyed the creative elements of the day, like painting spots on the cow or drawing lines to create animal jail, but she especially loved creating her Mrs. Wishy Washy puppet. And then we used it the following days to retell parts of the story (a big hit).

Wishy-washy, Wishy-washy

Wishy-washy, Wishy-washy

The curriculum also included suggestions for recipes like roast on toast and chicken feed, again bringing everything back to the story. We even created bubbles with soap, water and food colouring and printed the bubbles on their wash tub page.

Look how big I can make these bubbles

Look how big I can make these bubbles

Everything but the books was included in the extensive curriculum package (a pdf I downloaded), including a daily lesson plan, suggestions for introducing the week’s letter and number, plus all the printouts needed for the activities.

The program seems to be designed with group instruction in mind, like an in-home daycare, but with a few small adjustments it worked great for just teaching my two kids. There are some great suggestions to set-up your space based on the week’s topic, letters that can be printed and given to parents, as well as evaluation worksheets and daily record keeping pages.

The kids are already looking forward to next weeks lesson.

If you’re interested in this program for your own kids, you can purchase either a CD or electronic version from the Itty Bitty Bookworm site. And since it’s by the month, you can purchase one month to give it a try (but I think you’ll find you’ll be back the following month. That’s the way we’re leaning and it’s only been the first week).

I’ve also heard that Carisa at Totally Tots and 1+1+1=1 is offering a giveaway of a whole year of either the Bo or Bailey curriculum (plus she has a great review of the program also). Contest closes October 18, 2009.

Until next week.