Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Buying Gifts Online

Buying gifts online
I have been buying gifts online since 2001 because I wanted to buy my children unique gifts for Christmas and their birthdays.  I started off with Ebay and I would look at Feedback scores and read comments to see if the sellers seemed trustworthy.  I could learn a lot about a seller this way.   In the beginning I only paid by money order so there was no chance of having my credit information stolen.  I was a victim of identity theft in 1994 and I didn't want to go through that again, so I was extremely cautious.  As Paypal became more popular sellers stopped accepting money orders, so I started using Paypal in 2007.  I have been pretty lucky because I only got ripped off a few times and if the seller wouldn't refund my money I would open a dispute, and Paypal would refund my money.  Paypal has been wonderful because I feel that my credit is secure and if something goes wrong they will work with me.

As my confidence grew with online purchasing, I started branching out and tried buying directly from online merchants.  I poked around on Amazon a few years ago but it was difficult because there weren't many sellers who would ship to Canada without charging exorbitant shipping charges...if they shipped to Canada at all.  I also found that the third party Amazon sellers would often say that they had an item in stock, but when it actually came to shipping the item, they didn't actually have it.   Over the last few years I have purchased directly from several onine retailers, and in general I have had very good experiences.  I make sure to do a bit of research on the companies and read reviews about their customer service.  My preference has been to buy from Canadian retailers because the shipping charges are more reasonable, there are never any extra International charges tacked on, and returns are so much easier.

Buying online can be scary, but if you do your research, and purchase from reputable retailers you should be fine. Keep in mind that if it sounds too good to be true...it probably isn't!

Monday, 9 December 2013

I Love Online Christmas Shopping

Online Christmas ShoppingIt's 3 o'clock in the morning and the kids are all in bed.  I am staring at the ceiling in my bedroom and I can't sleep.  If only it was sugar plums that were dancing around in my head.  Sadly my mind is a buzz about homework, what's for dinner tomorrow, how do I get the kids out on time in the morning and thoughts of what to get my kids for Christmas.

I give up!  I can't sleep.  What should I do?  I could read but I am peeved at the current book I am reading.  I could do laundry but the washer and dryer are so loud.  So I head to my good old friend, my computer.  I check my mail and I see that my mailbox is filled with coupons, offers and flyers from retailers.  I start glancing through them when I see that one of them is advertising watches.  I remember that my son had asked me for a wind-up pocket watch for Christmas.  I had been through three whole malls and had no luck at all.  I found pocket watches, but they were all battery operated...and they were all quite expensive.

Online Christmas Shopping
I open up Google and type in "wind-up pocket watch."  Instantly I have a few thousand watches pop up.  I glance through the first two pages and I see that there are several on Amazon and Ebay, but I check the independent retailers first.  As I check these first sites out I see that there are so many options for wind-up watches...antique, steampunk, polished, skeleton, etc.   I get excited.  I never knew that there were so many different types of pocket watches.  I realize that I won't just have to settle for whatever I can find...I will be able to find the perfect pocket watch.  I am so thrilled.  I had spent a whole day futilely searching three shopping malls without any success, and within just a couple of minutes the possibilities grew immensely.

I took me about half an hour to pick out the perfect wind-up pocket watch for my son.  I purchased it for approximately 1/10th of the cost of the battery operated watches that I saw in the mall, that weren't even half as nice.  With that huge feat accomplished I was able to get back to bed and get some well-deserved shut-eye.

I saved time and money and found a present that was far better than anything I could have found in a physical store and I was able to do it all in my pajamas.  Now all I have to do is find a Sonic Screwdriver for my younger son and a sock monkey onesie for my daughter.  I won't waste time looking for those in stores and I will head straight to the internet and I will have my Christmas shopping all done before the beginning of December!

Monday, 4 November 2013

Giving Thanks Isn't Just for Thanksgiving

Turkey Time

In Canada we had our Thanksgiving a few weeks ago, so we are midway between Canadian Thanksgiving and American Thanksgiving.  I thought that this would be the perfect time to share a few things that I am thankful for.

In our family we each take one major holiday to host in our home.  My mother takes care of Easter.   My mother-in-law does Christmas Eve at her home (Hungarians celebrate on the day before Christmas so it leaves my husband and I alone with our kids on Christmas Day).  And I take Thanksgiving.  It works out well because we never have to worry about leaving anyone out, or trying to work someone in.  We have standing invitations to all family members on both my side of the family and my husband's side. So, I guess the first thing I am thankful for is having everything pre-arranged so no one gets left out during the holidays.  Hurray for being pro-active!

I know that this is an unusual arrangement because I have never heard of both sides of a family coming together on all of the holidays and celebrations, but I am so lucky that my parents get along so well with my in-laws.  My mother and mother-in-law are genuine friends and they even talk on the phone weekly.  So, the fact that my parents and my husband's parents are friends is number two on my list of things to be thankful for.

Number three on my list of things that I am thankful for, is that my parents get along even though they are divorced.  They have been divorced for about 20 years, but they have come to terms with their parting of ways, and have an odd sort of relationship.  They are almost...friends.  They flirt with each other, and make jokes with each other.  Occasionally my mother does lose it and she will let fly with a searing remark, but my Dad usually just laughs it off.  It has been great for the children, because this means that my kids don't have to choose a grandparent for special events or school shows and they see that adults can still have a relationship even though they aren't together anymore.

I am thankful for so many more things and I could probably go on indefinitely and bore you to tears, but these were directly related to making our Thanksgiving so much nicer for everyone involved.  Oh wait, I guess I have one more thing that I should share...I am thankful that I served another great turkey.  See that picture of the turkey at the top? That was my turkey.  Looks pretty good, eh?  

Saturday, 2 November 2013

This is Halloween, This is Halloween

I have to say that the best thing about Halloween are the families that go all out, and decorate their homes like an amusement park.  You know the houses...the ones that your kids tell you that you have to visit on Halloween night.  Even though the kids are exhausted, and even though the people might not be handing out candy anymore, we still visit the best homes in the neighborhood at the end of our rounds.  There was one this year that was quite outstanding and it all happened over night.  On the 30th of October there were merely a few fall leaves on their front yard.  By 6pm on October 31st, it was this...

They built a full fence around their property with weather worn barn-boards.  They had corns stalks, hay bales and hand carved pumpkins everywhere.  There were scarecrows and grim reapers.  They even had an industrial fog machine that gave the whole property an eerie atmosphere once it got dark and the lights went on.  My children just loved this house.  It was their favorite house of the night.  And I have to say that it was mine too.  The people who live there have been doing this since they moved into the neighborhood six years ago, and all of the kids in the area look forward to see what they have planned every Halloween.  You can see how much this family likes Halloween by how much care they put into decorating their house for Halloween.  

The families that go to the expense and effort to decorate their homes to make Halloween night a memorable event for the kids, are what really makes Halloween one of my favorite holidays.  On the flip side, there are the Halloween Grinches that really can take the fun out of the evening.  Now before you react, please understand that I am not talking about people who just don't celebrate Halloween.  I am perfectly ok with that.  I am talking about the vertically challenged barbarians that go running about on Halloween without a care for protocol.   Really?  There are only a few simple rules...

1. Wear a costume. This is non negotiable. 
2. Ring the doorbell once and only once. You should not be trying to play Bohemian Rhapsody on the bell
3.  Greet the person who opens the door.  You can say "Happy Halloween"  or "Trick or Treat" or even just "hello"...don't just open your bag and grunt
4.  After the person puts the candy in your bag you say "thank you" because you are after all getting free candy

I don't know if I am just getting crabbier as I get older, but I have been developing some pretty well-defined pet peeves about Halloween...  

  • It feels weird going to a house that has their front lights on, but they don't answer the door.  If your front porch light is on, we will ring your bell.  
  • I really don't like it when to Teens come to my door without costumes.  I don't mind giving candy to teens, but teens please at least attempt to make sort of costume, or at least give me a song and dance.  
  • I am bugged by parents who carry their infants door to door and neither is wearing a costume.  This is purely a candy grab.  Not nice.  
  • And last but not least...children who don't bother to say "thank you." Last year I only had 2 children out of about 50 say thank you.  This year none.  \
Halloween should be fun, but that doesn't preclude some common sense with a dash of manners.  How were kids in your area?  How many thank you's did you get?

Friday, 1 November 2013

Goodbye October

As we head into November, and into the colder weather, I wanted to say a little goodbye to October.  In Canada we celebrate Thanksgiving in October, before Halloween, so for me, Thanksgiving is the ramp up to Halloween.  In my family I always host Thanksgiving...because my turkeys are blissfully awesome.  I make a rice stuffing that is always the first thing finished.  The house is filled to the brim with relatives from Grandparents to children, After thanks is given, the turkey is finished and leftovers are put away, I pull out the cobwebs and creepy decorations.

On Halloween we all get dressed up, including my husband and myself. I have a full cedar closet filled with costumes for children to adults, unicorns to zombie, Cleopatra to Cowboy.  You get the idea!  We like costumes.  Well, probably more specifically, I like costumes, and by osmosis my children love dressing up as well.  We visit all of our neighbors, friends, and family.  The kids are exhausted by the end of the night and they usually flop into bed without a grumble, 

I have to say that October is probably my favorite month of the year and I wanted to share a few things that I love about it.

  • Leaves changing colours
  • Hot days a thing of the past
  • Pulling out fall clothes
  • Pumpkin spice lattes
  • Apple picking
  • Waking up to foggy mornings
  • Kids working in a good school routine
  • Walks in the forest
  • Seeing the squirrels getting ready for winter
  • Shushing my feet through the fallen leaves
  • Carving pumpkins
  • Cardigans
  • Decorating the house for Halloween
  • Mulled apple cider
  • Thanksgiving (for Canadians)
  • Cranberry sauce
  • Pumkin everything
  • No more mosquitos
  • Picking Halloween costumes
  • Pumpkin patches
I would love to hear what you like about October or what you are thankful for.  

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Sunshine Award

I want to thank Pre is for Preschooler for nominating me for the Sunshine Award. Please check out her blog, she has so many fun activities for preschoolers.  Although they are labelled as crafts and recipes for preschoolers, I know my teens would have fun with a lot of them.

Here are the rules for the award:
1. Acknowledge the blogger who nominated you. (Pre is for Preschooler, thank you so very much!)
2. Share 11 random facts about yourself.
3. Answer 11 question the nominating blogger has created for you.
4. List 11 bloggers who you believe deserve to be nominated and recognized.
5. Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer and let all of those bloggers know that you nominated them for The Sunshine Award. (You cannot nominate the blogger that nominated you).

Here are 11 random facts about myself...

  1. I still love to stomp in puddles.
  2. I love to crochet.
  3. When I was a kid I used to catch frogs in my backyard.
  4. I adore anything Coach (purses, shoes, jewellery, perfume, etc.).
  5. I don't like to wear socks and I will wait until there is snow on the ground until I dig them out.
  6. I always read before I go to bed.
  7. Aspertame causes me to go blind temporarily.
  8. I have wayyy too much yarn (but it's ok...see number 2).
  9. I was named after Lisa Marie Presley.
  10. I like for toilet paper to roll from the top
  11. I have moved 14 times in my life.

Pre is for Preschooler asked these questions:
  1. If you could be any animal, what would you choose - and why?  I would be a penguin.  They are wonderfully social, they are pretty and papa helps with rearing the babies...how wonderful is that? 
  2. How do you unwind?  I crochet...it always relaxes me (unless I am trying to design a pattern and it isn't working...then look out!)
  3. What is your greatest strength?  I am great at problem solving
  4. Have you ever been to another country? I have been to the U.S., England, Germany, Austria, Italy and Mexico.
  5. When did you start blogging?  <looks at watch>  about two months ago
  6. What is your social media or blogging pet peeve?  spammers who comment on my blogs solely to promote their replica shoes.
  7. What is your favorite time of year?  I love October because I love seeing the leaves change colour and getting ready for Halloween (I think I see a blog post here!)
  8. What's your favorite fall activity?  going to the pumpkin patch, picking the perfect pumpkin and then planning the design and carving it.  We also toast the seeds and enjoy them :-)
  9. What is your favorite Disney Movie?  If I had to pick just one, it would be Beauty and the Beast...the love story about how a woman can turn a beast into a great husband (bwaahaaa!)
  10. What post have you written that you're most proud of?  I would have to say that I am most proud of my very first blog entry because that was when I decided that I really wanted to blog and I figured out the direction that I wanted to go with my writing.  http://thehappym0m.blogspot.ca/2013/08/hi-my-name-is-lisa-and-i-am-mother-to.html
  11. Favorite fruit?  hmmm...kiwi

And my nominees are...(drum roll please...)

Here are my questions for the new nominees: 
  1. If you won a million dollars but couldn't spend it on yourself, what would you do with it?
  2. What is the most unusual thing in your purse?
  3. It's cold and raining outside and you are home alone.  What movie and snack would you choose?
  4. What is your favourite song right now?
  5. What is the oddest thing you have said to your spouse/children/significant other?
  6. If you could meet anyone in the past, present, or future, who would you choose?
  7. How would you describe yourself when you are angry?
  8. What makes you laugh?
  9. What is your favourite colour?
  10. Ballpoint pen, fountain pen, marker or pencil?
  11. Which of your blog posts was the most fun to write?
Congratulations on being nominated for the Sunshine Award.  Have fun!

Friday, 18 October 2013

Easy Crochet Pompom Hat

If you have basic crochet skills, then you can make this Easy Crochet Pompom Hat.  I have made the instructions fairly easy to follow, and you don't have to know any special crochet abbreviations. I made a crochet video that you can crochet along with, or if you need a little extra help with any of the stitches in the pattern:  How to Crochet an Easy Fall Hat

First collect the items that you will need...

Materials Required

  • Medium acrylic yarn (#4 is best)
  • 8 mm acrylic hook
  • Scissors
  • Yarn needle

Stitches Used

  • Chain
  • Single crochet
  • Half double crochet
  • Double crochet


Chain 41 (do not join until end of 2nd row)
Row 1:  Single crochet across until you get to the end of the chain (40 stitches)
This is where you will form what you have crocheted into a circle and begin to crochet in the round
Row 2:  Single crochet into top of 1st single crochet of row 2, and then double crochet all around (40 stitches)
Rows 3 to 10: Double crochet all around (40 stitches)
Row 11:  Make 36 double crochets, 2 half double crochet, 2 single crochet (40 stitches)
Row 12:  Make  40 slip stitches (40 stitches) and tie off
To Finish Off:  Fold the hat flat so that the first half of the first row lies on top of the second half of the first row. Stitch the two halves together, matching stitch for stitch. Tie off and attach pompoms.
I hope that you have fun making the hat. I know that it is a favorite of mine...probably because it looks more difficult to make than it actually is! If you are having difficulties or are new to crochet, please feel free to post a question 

This post was originally published at MomItForward.com on October 3, 2013
DIY: How to Crochet an Easy Fall Hat

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Mrs. Strangelove...Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Yarn

I have to admit it. I have an obsession. I have a guilty pleasure that really has no rhyme nor reason. It started small, but now it has just gotten funny. I crochet. I crochet a lot. I make hats, purses, pillows, stuffies, scarves, you name it! They are all my own designs and patterns. I crochet everywhere, and everyone who knows me knows that my hook and yarn aren't far away. But crochet isn't my guilty pleasure although it sure is the cause of it. I love yarn.  I really love yarn. I love the different colours, textures and how every yarn crochets differently. 

Well folks, here goes. Here is my public admission:  "Hello, my name is Lisa and I am a yarn hoarder."  I currently have 15 storage bins of yarn, all organized according to type, colour, and thickness. You are probably wondering how much yarn can I actually use?  I would say that, on average, I probably use three to four storage bins of yarn a year. So, of course, I have to "feed" the bins regularly. 

I just finished another blanket, so I will head out next week (when the kids are in school) to a yarn store that I recently learned about to see what they have. It is will take almost two hours to drive there, but that isn't a problem.  I travel regularly to various yarn stores and spend hours (yes, hours) going through the stores to look at and feel their yarns. And during the regular course of a week, if I wind up in a store that just happens to carry yarn, I will inevitably stray over to the craft aisle and start groping the yarn.  I know it sounds kooky, but for some reason it makes me happy to wander through aisles of yarn, planning and dreaming about future projects.  

I can't help but think that my children's teachers are appreciative because I don't give them the standard teacher gifts.  I make them one-of-a-kind gifts that are created solely for them.  I made a poinsettia hat for a teacher that adored Christmas, but had a black thumb and kept killing her poinsettias.  I made a Hello Kitty hat for a teacher that decorated her classroom with everything Hello Kitty.  A few years ago I taught my daughter how to crochet and she crocheted a scarf for her third grade teacher.  Her teacher cried.  Not everyone can appreciate crochet, but how can you not appreciate an 8 year old spending a few weeks making a gift?

Sometimes if I find yarn that is unusual, quirky or just too beautiful, into the basket it goes. I may not see an immediate use for it, but I know that there will come a time when "it" will be the perfect yarn. I reserve these unique yarns for gifts for friends and family, because I want their gifts to be one of a kind.  

So if you happen to be in a store in the GTA and see a really unique yarn or even a really great sale on yarn, please feel free to let me know because my yarn bins are calling...

Friday, 4 October 2013

Things I Wish I Knew Back Then

Oh my goodness! When I was expecting my first baby I had so many questions that I could never find the answers to in any of the books I had. I was the first one out of all of my friends that had children--I was a pioneer amongst my peers. My mother never wanted to discuss the subject of pregnancy, let alone answer questions about the nitty gritty details of childbirth, and nursing. I voraciously read everything and anything that I could about pregnancy, childbirth, nursing and motherhood that could be found in a library or bookstore. I have to say that many of those questions were still unanswered by the time I had my second, third and even fourth children. It is only now that I can reflect upon the questions that I had almost twenty years ago when we first started trying to conceive, that I am able to piece together some answers. 

Number one on the list of things I wish I knew: listen to your instincts first and foremost over mothers, mother-in-laws and know-it-all strangers (that usually don’t have any kids). With my first baby I didn’t listen to my own common sense, and listened to the old wives tales spewed from various relatives whose children were as old as I was. It wasn’t until my son was three months old and he had stopped gaining weight that things turned around. The pediatrician told me that breastfeeding wasn’t working for me and that I should move to formula. My mother told me that I was just like her, and that I couldn’t nurse. Things had gone so well for the first few months, and things just stalled. It didn’t make sense that I just stopped being able to produce enough milk. I really wanted to continue nursing because of the number of allergies that run in my family, and I was well-versed on all of the other benefits, so I sought the help of a lactation consultant. When I went in for the appointment in her home, we spoke relatively briefly--perhaps only a minute or two--and she figured it out. My son was tongue-tied. It is a relatively easy condition to fix, and had I had a midwife like I had wanted, she would have discovered it immediately upon his birth. Basically, the tip of his tongue was shaped like the top of a heart because his frenulum (the little webby-thing under his tongue) was attached to the tip of his tongue instead of the middle of the underside of the tongue. He did not have the full use of his tongue, and so he couldn’t nurse properly. The lactation consultant said that this condition usually gets discovered earlier, but my milk “let down” was so strong, my son was able to survive on foremilk alone until he hit his third month growth spurt. My son had the five minute “operation” within two days and with the wonderful help of the lactation consultant I was able to fully nurse my son until he was over a year old. Take that! doctor who said I couldn’t nurse my son. Had I listened to this ignorant doctor I wouldn’t have been successful at nursing all four of my children. Nursing may not be for everyone, but it definitely was for me. Honestly, I would have taken it as a personal failure as a mother if I couldn’t have nursed my babies.

Number two on the list of things I wish I knew: be proactive. Don’t wait until things get out of control because when that happens you don't always think rationally and won't react like you should. Try to anticipate a problem before it arises, and then come up with a solution in order to avoid things go haywire. For example, learn your baby’s different cries. There are the: “I’m hungry” cry, “I’m tired” cry, “I’ve soiled myself” cry, “I’m just being Mr. Cranky-pants” cry, “I just need some loving” cry, and the “you didn’t figure out what was wrong the first (or second) time, so I am going to lose it on you” cry. Learn the cries, because pretty much every cry is trying to tell you something. Now this ties back to Number One, listen to your instincts. Have confidence. You need to believe in yourself that you can figure out the difference between the different cries. I can still hear the difference between many of the baby cries that I hear, so that must mean that cries are kind of...universal. Once you figure out the cries then you are able to avoid the “you didn’t figure out what was wrong the first time, so I am going to lose it on you” cry which can be the most upsetting of all because even if you figure it out, the baby is too far gone to settle down.

You should also be proactive when they are toddlers. Have you ever seen a family trying to leave a park? Is it all roses and sunshine? or does the child have a Jack Nicholson freak-out? I have to say that I have never had a child of mine freak out when we left the park, the pool, the zoo...anywhere. The only reason was because I was proactive. I had seen so many parents dealing with temper tantrums when they had to go home after a fun event, I wanted to avoid that situation so I came up with my own solution. When I first started taking my first child to the park, I would explain to him on the way there that we would be spending an hour at the park, and we would say “goodbye” to the park at the end of the hour, and if he said goodbye nicely we would come back again the next day. Sounds kind of silly, right? But it worked. I would give him a five minute warning that we were leaving, and then after five minutes I would walk him around the park and we would say goodbye to the slide, the swings, the trees, tell them that we would see them tomorrow and then go home. Without fail, I would keep my promise and we would go back to the park the next day. My son had no concept of time at that point, but the five minute warning was great because it gave him a few minutes to finish what he was doing and prepare himself to leave the park. The routine of saying goodbye was so he could make the transition from active play time, to going home. My keeping my promise that we would return kept him from feeling loss every time we left, because he knew we would be back soon.

When I was pregnant and my children were growing up, there were are so many things that came up on a daily basis that I really wish that I knew someone that I trusted that I could ask questions and bounce ideas off of...someone with the experience of having gone through it all. As my friends have children, I have become that trusted wealth of knowledge for them, and this is one of the reasons I have wanted to blog. I have so much to share. My children have all turned out marvelously, so I know that I have done a few things right. Sometimes it just takes common sense, but when you are bombarded by all of the literature that is available out there it is hard to figure out your own opinions, let alone make up your own mind. That brings us back to my first thing I wish I had known all of those years ago...listen to your instincts. Dig down deep and figure out how you really feel.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

How Sick is Too Sick to Go to School?

It's that time of year again when kids go back to school and their noses get all boogery.  I know that one of the toughest questions that I face on a regular basis when September rolls in is:  Is my child sick enough to stay home from school today?  One of the first things to check is your child's temperature.  They can't fake that. If they have a fever then they shouldn't be going to school because they are most likely contagious...and don't we normally badmouth those parents who send their sick kids in to school to infect our child?

But what if they don't have a fever and they aren't mucus factories?  It's hard to tell if they are too sick to go to school. I came up with the perfect solution when my oldest son was in grade one.  It was flawless. It gave no wiggle room for doubt or guilt.  How often do we, as parents, come up with a solution that can work every single time, and with each and every one of our children?  Never!  Well, practically never, because I came up with this little gem.  I have to admit that its genius lied in its simplicity. 

We all know that kids hate to take their naps...at least until their teens (and then they can sleep the day away).  If a child claimed to be sick, and didn't have a fever I would ask the magical question:  "If you are too sick for school, and you want to stay home, will you take a nap in the morning AND in the afternoon?"  Inevitably if they weren't really that sick they wouldn't want to stay home and nap so they would go into school.  But if they really were feeling sick and tired and groddy, then they would stay home and take the required two naps.  When they arose for lunch they would have some Chicken Noodle soup and they would get to watch an hour or so of tv. They would head back to prison for their second nap when they were done.  I didn't make it loads of fun for them to stay home. I kept it relatively low-key.  How perfect is that?  

I do, however, have one exception to the rule.  Don't we, as adults, occasionally need a day off.  Aren't there those days when you just can't bear to go into work and you want to stay in bed and watch tv all day? or sit in the backyard and read a book?  You aren't sick, but you are sick of seeing your boss, co-workers or customers.  Sometimes, don't you just need a break?  I call these "Mental Health" days.  I allow my kids one Mental Health day per school year.  They don't have to provide an explanation, they just "call it."  I take advantage of these days, to spend the day talking about anything and everything with my child, in the hopes that they will reveal to me the reason they just couldn't go into school.  At times, they confide in me.  Sometimes they do not.  I understand that there are occasions when they just can't bear to talk about something with a parent, and then I try to make sure that if they can't talk to me, that they can find someone that they can talk to.

It turned out that these Mental Health days were extraordinarily important, because on two separate occasions I had found out that two of my children were each being bullied in their schools.  If they hadn't had the loophole of the Mental Health Day how much longer would they have put up with the bullying?  I count my lucky stars that my children were able to confide in me and we were able to bring it to the Principals' attention and have things turned around.  

Consequently if you have the Nap Time Method for determining if your child is too sick to go to school, as well as having the Mental Health Day option in place, you can cover all of your bases when it comes to a child not wanting to go to school.  The only problem is that this only works with kids up to grade 8.  After that, you are on your own.  You will have to trust your teen to tell you when they are too sick to go to school.  

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Be Positive When You Take Your Kids Out (...and not positive that things will end badly)

I am generally a very happy person, but one of my biggest faults is that I am an optimist. You may ask "how could that be a problem?"  Well, not only am I an optimist, but I am a Type A personality.  This means that when we go somewhere I naturally expect that it will go according to plan and everyone will be happy.  But, when it comes to children if you always expect the best possible outcome, you set yourself, as well as your kids, up for failure...even before you begin.  

I came to this epiphany when we were taking my first born to the zoo for the first time.  I had imagined that it would be a great day with me introducing him to all of the wonderful animals, we would draw pictures of them in the sketchbooks that I brought and that we would hear how they sounded and we could imitate them. Sounds like a great day, right? Is that even close to what happened. Nope. Did I see some animals?  Yes. Was my son able to see any animals?  Some, but so many of the animals were hidden by the greenery in their cages, or were camouflaged, or they were sleeping.  I tried to point them out to him, but at times it was quite difficult.  Could my son figure out the animals I was trying to show him? At times, yes--but otherwise, not a clue. 


My son knew all of the zoo animals, and could recognize and name them all in his books. The animals in his books were clearly visible in the middle of the page, defined by a great black key-line and a simple background. Put a live animal in a cage with some foliage and it's like playing "Where's Waldo?" with my dad without his reading glasses!  We made the best of it.  The animals were pretty quiet so we provided our own animal noises.  The sketchbooks were never brought out because as soon as my son discovered the playground he didn't want to do anything else except play in this new Utopia. 

So I made the best of it and sat with all of the other parents whose children had foregone the zoo for a mediocre park. We all tied to make the best of it.  There were, of course, a few snarky comments...me included. Did I have to spend $50 for an hour at the zoo to play in a park that wasn't even half as good as the park across the street from our house? Apparently I did because I learned a lesson that day that I carried through my years of parenting to this day:  don't have preconceptions about how an event should turn out.

If you bring them to the Science Centre with the expectation that it will be a learning experience to rival no other, and you wind up standing in line for an hour for the Aging Machine, this can put stress into a situation that would have been easier to manage if you had taken the Que Sera Sera approach...whatever will be, will be.  I am not saying to leave your "parent hat" at the door, but you have to go with the flow.  Sometimes on Christmas Day the kids just want to play in the boxes and the wrapping paper, and not the gifts that came in those boxes.  If the kids just want to wear their clothes backwards, why not?   It's not hurting anyone, and it is all for them isn't it?

This has been an uphill battle for me.  I have had to struggle to leave my expectations at home when we head out somewhere.  I have learned to be more flexible so that I can adjust to meet the inevitable hiccup in the day.  It's not always easy, but it makes it so much more enjoyable for the kids.  So, why not just let them have their fun, on their terms?  It's these funky days that create the memories that your children will remember. Look back at your own childhood memories and just see if this isn't true.  

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Back to School: Get Up and Get Out

Please check out my guest blog at Kiinzel where I talk about ways of encouraging your kids to assume some responsibility for waking up and getting ready for school in the morning.


Monday, 2 September 2013

Crime and Punishment

Our neighborhood has been in the news a lot recently. A lady a few houses down from us woke up to find an intruder in her bedroom. She grabbed her cell phone immediately to call the police and the intruder fled on foot.  They didn't catch him. A few weeks later a couple found a man reaching through their bedroom window. The husband chased the "groper" down the street but couldn't catch him. I have been watching the news and there seem to be more and more crimes reported on the news every day.  We have been told to keep our doors locked and bar our windows, and we do. We take every precaution to keep our family safe.  We street proof our children. We have two extremely vocal dogs.  I wanted to think that we were protected.

As it happens we had a situation last week.  People react differently when they feel that they are in danger. Sometimes people become paralyzed, but this is often the most dangerous reaction as it actually is a failure to react that causes the most harm. Some people flee the situation and it would appear that these people seem to have the best success rate. But what if you are in the house, it is after midnight and all of your kids are in bed? You awake to hear the sound of the door. You aren't quite sure that you heard correctly so you get out of bed and you start to head to the door to make sure it isn't one of the cats, when you hear the door again. Paralysis. Did you lock the door?  Is the burglar picking the lock?  Is he just making sure that the door is locked and that he can't get in?  You don't hear anything again but you know that you have to see if he got into the house. Weapons?  What can I use as a weapon? No baseball bats, samurai swords or any type of weapons in the house at all. There's a broom in the kitchen!  You grab it and head to the door but you don't hear anything further so you head to the front window and see if you can see the burglar.

Well this happened to me just the other night.  After the paralysis subsided, I looked out my front window and saw a man wearing a jean jacket walking from my driveway and onto the street. What do I do?  Do I wake my husband?  No, he has an early morning meeting. Do I call the police?  I have never called the police about a crime in progress before. What if this is the guy who has been breaking into the homes of the neighborhood?  I figured that I had to make a stand and call the police and warn them of a possible criminal in the area. The police officer who answered the phone call was professional and efficient and she said that she would send a car out to check out the neighborhood and they would contact me if they needed more information. My phone rang within 15 minutes.  The police officer told me that they thought that they had apprehended the person that tried to get in our house. He asked if all of my children were home. I panicked. Did this monster hurt one of my children?  I told the officer that my children had gone to bed hours ago but that I would check to see if they were all in bed. The officer paused and said that it probably wasn't necessary as the young man they found said he was my son!  Why would a robber pretend to be my son?  It would be so easy to disprove. What was his game? Suspiciously I asked the officer to find out the man's name. When the police officer came back on the line there was a chuckle in his voice as he said my eldest son's name and that apparently my son couldn't sleep so he went for a walk.  What I had heard was my son leaving the house and not a burglar trying to get in!

I was mortified. I apologized profusely and I am sure I was rapidly turning red with embarrassment. The sweet police officer reassured me that it was all ok and the officers would bring him back home.  I turned on the lights on the front stoop and waited for the arrival of the prodigal son. As his foot touched the driveway I told him that he was grounded...forever!  He looked at me sheepishly and finally smiled when he realized that I wasn't serious.  He followed me inside where we started the discussion about what happened and how we could have avoided this situation.  I am of the opinion that it is very important for us as a family to talk things out after we go through predicaments.  But I never actually thought that I would ever have to call the police on one of my children!  What a night!!

At least we can laugh about it.  But isn't that the best way for everyone to handle difficulties?  

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

To Model or not to Model?

My daughter has wanted to get into modelling since she was about eight years old, but I was never comfortable with the idea so I did what I could to keep her busy. She danced. She competed in dance.  She socialized with dance friends. And she went to school and slept. But now that she is in an arts high school she is surrounded by talented people...many of whom act, sing or model professionally. It appeared that it was inevitable. The time that we would have to give in was nigh. 

My husband and I believe that there comes a point in children's lives when they have to start making major life decisions...with our guidance, of course.  If children don't start learning how to make decisions when they are small, and develop those skills as they grow, then how can we expect them to make the hard decisions as adults?  It is easier to learn about decision making when the consequences are less life altering and damaging. We started by giving them small decisions when they were young and then as they grew, so did their decision making skills, and we started to give them bigger decisions to make.  

In Kindergarten they got to choose the clothes they wore to school...even if the choice was a tiara or the occasional Snow White costume.  Let me tell you, there were a few of those days with our youngest daughter.  In middle school they got to decide on the future of their extra curricular activities.  Until this point we gave them access to as many extra-curricular activities as possible (drama, fencing, ballet, musical theatre, tap, Aikido, ballroom dancing, etc.)  so that they might choose their own path.  We guided them, but let them take the lead in the decision making process.  By grade eight they got to choose the type of high school they wanted to attend...mainstream, arts based curriculum or gifted curriculum.  So far they have all chosen an arts based curriculum (drama, dance and strings).  In each of the cases we addressed the pros and cons of each of the decisions, and then discussed how to weigh each of the pros and cons.  You remember the saying, "if you love something set it free"...wow!! I couldn't believe how difficult it was to do.

We knew that it was inevitable that our daughter was going to get serious about modelling and bring up the topic at some time or other. But we thought we had more time. Truly we did!

Last week Katie pulled me aside and said she needed to talk to me. A feeling of dread washed over me. What could she want?  A dozen horrible thoughts rapidly rushed through my mind.  As I walked into her room she shut the door behind me. When she smiled I realized that everything was going to be ok. She wasn't getting a tattoo and she wasn't quitting school! She told me that she had done a lot of research about modelling and she had found an excellent modelling agency that had a great reputation.  She had filled out an application and they had called her back a few hours later. She missed the call because she had left her phone behind (quite a rare occurrence). She wanted to know what we should do.  I took a deep breath, looked at her hopeful expression and I quickly thought through the options.  I told her that she should try to call them back.  She had to leave a message because they were closed for the evening.  The next day one of the agents called us back and we made an appointment.  Was this the beginning of the end?  Was I going to lose my sweet darling daughter and gain a pretentious diva?  She has already ventured into dark depths of puberty and we, as parents, have been relatively unscathed at this point. Would modelling change her?  I believe my daughter has enough common sense to stay true to her sweet self.  Would this ruin her, or expand her horizons? Time will tell.  I will keep you updated.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Let Me Introduce Ourselves...

Hi my name is Lisa and I am a mother to four often wonderful children.  I am especially lucky because not only do I have terrific children...I am married to the man of my dreams.  I know this all sounds hokey but don't worry, we still have our ups and downs.  I would like to share some of our experiences with you.  We are quite a lively bunch and I am sure we can keep you entertained.  

Let me introduce ourselves...

I am a stay-at-home mom and a Mompreneur.  I like to keep busy and with our oldest heading off to University this year, we needed a bit of a boost to our income, so I started my own Face Painting and Henna party business.  I have a B.A. in Fine Art History from the University of Toronto.  I have worked as an art instructor, teaching assistant and tutor.  For years I have been doing face painting and henna at our parties and at our friend’s parties.  I started my business soon after a friend of a friend was looking for a face painter for their daughter’s birthday party and my name came up.  I have been having so much fun doing it, I was just sorry that I hadn’t thought of it earlier.  I love working with children and seeing their faces light up when they look into the mirror with their “new face.  It is so very rewarding.  

When I have a bit of spare time, I like to crochet, paint, write children's short stories, and try new crafts.  My happiest time of day is when we all get to sit down to dinner together and we talk about what happened in our days. I love spending time with my family and dinnertime seems to be the time when we are all able to talk openly and share our lives and there are no distractions.

My oldest son is 17 and is heading off to University of Toronto next year and he will be following in his father's footsteps and will be studying Philosophy.  He went to Etobicoke School of the Arts for Drama.  He has been studying drama since he was 6 and has been in several plays and was even in a short film.  When he was in grade 7 he was determined to be gifted.  One might think that being gifted means that his life will be forever easy, but in actuality it means that things get tougher.  Being gifted is a double-edged sword...yes, he learns quickly, but it also means he gets bored quickly.  We were very lucky because many gifted children aren’t very socially adept, but he is extremely charming and is so very funny. 

My oldest daughter is 15 and is an accomplished dancer and is currently at ESA. She started dancing when she was 4 and she competed for 7 years in ballet, jazz, tap, and musical theatre.  She has even competed in Cheerleading and Ballroom.  She has danced with Ballet Jorgen, Blake McGrath, and Tre Armstrong (A New DAEI).  She has danced in two promotional events for Ralph Lauren perfumes.  She wants to get into modelling but I am unsure about the safety of the industry.  She is a bright and lively young lady who has a wicked sense of humour.

My youngest son is 13 years old and he is going to ESA next year for violin. He used to dance with his sisters and he competed for 5 years in ballet, jazz, tap and musical theatre.  He was an amazing dancer, but peer pressure made it difficult for him to continue past grade 7.  Luckily he discovered his love of the violin as his love of dance waned.  He, like his older brother, was determined to be gifted and attended a gifted school.  It was here that they cultivated his talent for violin and he played in Massey Hall with the TDSB Strings Orchestra.  He has a gregarious personality and an off-beat sense of humour.

My youngest daughter is 11 years old and she started dancing when she was 3 years old and was in her first dance competition when she was 4.  She competed for 5 years.  While she was dancing she took acting classes and was in a few plays.  She appeared on “Artzooka,” a craft show for kids, and she was interviewed about the future of Toronto for a Discovery Channel special.  She has excelled at everything that she has tried, but hasn’t decided yet what art form she will focus on.  She is extremely charming and sweet and loves animals.

So that's us.  We are artsy.  We are crafty.  We are funny.  And we hope that you come back to read all about us.