Wednesday, June 22

Win an Outfit from marQ Designs - Plus a Discount Code!

If you haven't yet heard of the hot new children's line called marQ, let's get you up to speed!

Founded by Melissa Grelo (co-host of CTV's The Social as well as the upcoming CTV's Your Morning) and her savvy business partner Shayna Haddon (owner of Haddon Strategy), marQ is a line of stereotype-free clothing for children.

Named for Mel's two-year-old daughter Marquesa (who has also been a cheerful model for the new line; see photo below), marQ is both gender-neutral (meaning it works on both boys and girls, perfect for handing down within families) and fashion-forward (plus all the fabrics are made of 100% organic cotton, bamboo and recycled polyester).




A few weeks ago I caught up with the two entrepreneurs, and they spoke candidly about where the idea for marQ came from, the importance of "Made in Canada", deciding on a price point, and the pros on cons of going into business with a friend.




As a special treat for This Mom Loves readers, marQ is offering a 15% off code for their website, which will be in effect for a limited time, so don't wait too long to use it! (If you get nothing from reading my blog but an aversion to procrastination, I will feel I have served the world well.)





Plus, while my lips are sealed about the details, there's another big prize announcement coming from marQ soon, and you're going to want to be ready to be part of the action!

Here it is, the not-so-secret code for 15% off (drumroll, please):


THISMOMLOVES 


Now, as they say in the best infomercials, that's not all!

Melissa and Shayna are also generously offering a complete marQ outfit (top and bottoms) in available sizes (their line ranges from 0-3 months to 4T) for one lucky Canadian This Mom Loves reader!





All you have to do to enter is visit marQ and come back and fill out the form below, letting me know which item would be at the top of your list! Maybe the Noble tee, perfect for warm summer days, or the Sovereign pullover for those cool evenings? No matter what you choose, your mini-royal will be comfier than ever...and of course, oh-so-stylish!




You can earn extra entries for following marQ on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, as well as following This Mom Loves on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook (max seven entries).

The giveaway ends on Tuesday, June 28th at 11:59 p.m. Eastern, after which time a winner will be chosen through random number generation. Now it's time to make your marQ! Good luck!






Tuesday, June 14

This Mom Loves: TV Segments on YouTube

So, if you've ever missed an episode of Teacher, Teacher on CHEX Daily, now's your chance to catch up!

CHEX Daily no longer puts their videos on YouTube, so fortunately I had already downloaded the episodes I appeared in, and I have cut the clips and uploaded them to my own channel.

The list includes:

*Inspire Budding Writers
*Using Children's Books to Teach Social Justice/World Issues
*Non-academic Ways to Get Ready For Back-To-School
*Tips For Home/School Communication
*Make Math Fun
*How To Handle School Concerns
*The Importance of Attendance
*Help Your Kids Get Organized

....and a whole lot more!

It's also interesting to look at the thumbnails all in a row to see how my hair has grown since the start (which was just weeks after "Hair Donation Day"), how very little I change my hairstyle (hey, there was one ponytail!), and which outfits I may have repeated a couple of times. I will acknowledge that perhaps this may be slightly more interesting to me than it is to you, but still.

I have always hoped that these segments are helpful to parents in some way, so please feel free to watch anything that interests you, and don't hesitate to ask if you have any questions!






Wednesday, June 8

Home to Win Designers Offer Tips For Kids' Spaces (Including Kindergarten!)

HGTV's fun new series Home to Win features 20 of the network's stars (you may have heard of Sarah Richardson, Bryan Baeumler, Scott McGillivray and Mike Holmes, for example) who have come together to renovate one home from top to bottom...oh, and did I mention you can audition to win the house?!

Since my pending job change has kindergarten on my brain, I was excited to get the chance to ask a couple of Home To Win's designers for their tips for ideal children's spaces...whether it's a dream kindergarten classroom or a room in a home! Jo Alcorn and Tiffany Pratt were up for the challenge, and here's what they had to suggest!

From Jo Alcorn (she designed the Children's Zone on Home to Win)




  • Durability is key! Use materials that are washable or easy to wipe down, like polyester fabrics, gloss paint and furniture surfaces. Outdoor rugs and pillows are great as they bring a comfy touch to the space and are easy to clean.





  •  Clever storage: An alphabetized cubby system also serves as a learning tool. Clear storage helps you see what’s in the bins. Or use a colour-coding system if you have a LOT of Legos or craft items.

  • Use multi-functional pieces! Brightly-painted nesting tables save space and provide a pop of colour in any space, magazine racks can be used for storing books as well as craft paper, storage ottomans are always a great addition as they add extra moveable seating as well as a hiding place for the clutter.  Display art easily and quickly with clipboards. It is decorative and user friendly for a wide range of ages.




  • Creating zones is important to any space but when it comes to kids it helps them understand how to behave. If a space is too open, you may find children running wildly. Set up shelves and other furniture to divide the room into separate learning and play areas. This will cut down on running and help children find activities more easily.



Oh, I so want this zone for my classroom. HGTV, can you help me out? Please?!


From Tiffany Pratt (she designed the Kids' Bedroom on Home to Win)




  • ACCESSIBLE:  Keep all workspaces low and easy to use. Coloured Plexi with bulldog clips is a great, easy to clean alternative to mini easels and also adds a fun pop of colour.

  •  VISIBLE: Peg board is brilliant for many reasons. Use it as storage with mini buckets, display art on clips and possibly the best part, make everything visible and easy to use.

  •  TOO MUCH STORAGE: A place for everything and everything in its place! Storage is the key to a tidy space and makes the clean up much more efficient. Long drawers are perfect for storing art and low sliding bins make materials accessible to everybody. A quick brush of blackboard paint on the front makes a great base label for personalized drawers.




  •  SHOW OFF: Keep it fun by showing off the masterpieces created in the space. String lines are easy to put up and washi tape is even simpler!

Thanks to Jo and Tiffany for your fun tips! If only I could have you with me as I create my new classroom!

Be sure to visit Home to Win for more information, and to enter their weekly contest - you could win products or a cash prize to use towards your dream home! Watch the remaining episodes of Home to Win Sundays at 10 p.m. Eastern on HGTV!


Wednesday, June 1

Masters of Flip Season 2: Kortney Wilson Gives Us the Scoop!


A while back, I had a chance to chat with Kortney Wilson, of W Network's #1 Reality Series Masters of Flip. In the first part of our conversation, we discussed parenting, adoption, homeschooling, Nashville attractions, and the pros and cons of being in business with your spouse.

We also chatted about the upcoming second season of her Canadian Screen Award-nominated series, and I saved that part of the convo to share with you now, as the Season 2 is about to air on June 7th at 10 p.m.


You were inspired to start flipping homes after renovating your own home. Can you talk a bit about that?

We found a house that we really wanted to move into, and we had just purchased another home on that street about six months prior to this, so we thought let's just buy it, and take a leap of faith and put our other one on the market, and we did all that...except the other one didn't sell right away, and it was around the time that the market declined, so we had two mortgages. Over the Christmas holidays we had some interest in the house, and after we came back from visiting our families in Canada the house was flooded. The pipes froze - in Nashville - which rarely happens. So we decided we were going to take the insurance money and renovate ourselves and after we did that project, and added on to the house, we thought, we can actually manage this, so maybe we should take on a flip, take another leap of faith. We took on one that was more cosmetic: counter tops, paint, ripping up the carpet, and I think at the time Dave may have been working as a waiter in downtown Nashville, in between a publishing deal and a record deal, and within a few weeks we had made something like $25,000 and we thought, this is way better than waiting tables!


What do you think are the most common misconceptions about house flipping?

That it's easy. Because it's not. That you can make quick money. I mean, you can make quick money but there are so many things that go into it. I would say that it's highly, highly stressful. If you were going to flip one house a year and you had all year to do it and didn't have investors to answer to, it would be a breeze. You'd just work on it. But time is money when you're working on a house and you don't know how the market could change so you have to get in and out and abide by the timelines that you set at the beginning, so it can be very stressful, which some people don't realize. They think it's just a creative process, which it is too.

The other thing is, as a realtor I often have people say to me, "Oh my gosh, my wife is really creative and she'd love to do this stuff," or - this is the best one - "My husband is so handy!" Anytime someone says "My husband would love to flip a house because he's so handy," I think, oh my gosh, that's a red flag, because doing the work yourself can be very stressful. In fact, I have friends who flip houses who used to do the work themselves and they finally realized they can do ten times the number of houses with a lot less stress by turning it over to the trades.


I read that unlike many other renovation shows, you and Dave don't make deals with tradespeople or companies for discounts in exchange for promotion on the show. Can you talk about that a bit?

We don't work a barter system with any of our trades. I am the first to say I am really perplexed when I'm watching other renovation shows and I see them gutting houses to the studs with a budget of $70,000. I don't know how they do that. In Nashville, that's certainly not possible. Why do we pay people? Because we would want to get paid. It's great to have a TV show and it would be great to use that but at the end of the day if I'm a tile guy I still have to feed my family. I hope their business grows from it, and if they're really good at it and we can endorse them it will, but at the end of the day they still have to feed their families. And we make good profit on the houses, and we believe everybody should not necessarily share in the profit, but get something from the experience and make money.

I have a few questions from This Mom Loves readers for you now. The first one is: You use so much colour in your flips. Is there as much colour in your own home?

That's actually a good question! I do love colour! I used to have a ton of colour on my walls. My previous house to the one that I'm now, which I've been in three years, had a lot of primary, it was actually really fun. Everyone who walked in said, "Oh my gosh, it's so energizing in here!" But recently I have neutralized a lot of my own walls and brought the colour in through accents and furniture. But I do go through phases! I am literally looking at paint samples on my kitchen counter right now that are teal and aqua blue and I'm considering painting a mantel in my house that colour, so that's how I'm bringing it in and that way it's easier for me to change rather than the entire room.



How many flips do you usually have going on at once?

Right now we're working on eight. We try to keep it under five or six but right now we have some overlapping because of the weather. People don't think we get bad weather in Nashville but we had really bad weather this year. When we get bad weather in Nashville, it literally shuts down the city. My kids have had 13 snow days this year...and we've only had snow on the ground for maybe two or three of them! If we're expecting snow, they shut the schools down, which means they shut the whole city down, which means our crews don't show...as a Northerner, it's really funny! So that has slowed us down a bit this year!

Last question - is there something people would be surprised to learn about the making of Masters of Flip - an insider secret?

Sometimes when we're walking through the houses that we're going to see and choose from, sometimes we have to get them from different angles, so that's probably an insider tip when you're watching shows. You'll see us from the front, with no cameras behind us, and then you'll see us the other way. So sometimes we have to see it for the first time twice! We always do the front first for the reactions but sometimes you have to see it from the other side as well.

****

Thanks so much, Kortney!

You don't want to miss the brand new season of Masters of Flip, premiering June 7th at 10 p.m. on W Network.

Friday, May 27

Why "Outsmarting Your Kids Online" Should Be Required Reading For All Parents

*You can win your own copy of this book - read on for details!*

Yesterday I purchased Outsmarting Your Kids Online: A Safety Handbook For Overwhelmed Parents by Amber Mac and Michael Bazzell.

I couldn't put it down, and I finished it before I went to bed.




Here's why I think this book should be required reading for all parents:


  • It is SO thorough. There are chapters devoted to all of the most popular platforms: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc., as well as online video and mobile apps.
  • It provides info you won't get anywhere else. I consider myself moderately tech-savvy, but even I was blown away by all the great back-door methods for finding someone's profile on a social media site (because yes, lots of our children will create profiles they don't want us to see).
  • It provides the right balance of parental fear (the horror stories of Rehtaeh Parsons and Amanda Todd) and encouragement (including all of the amazing benefits of screens for kids - with some great fun and educational app recommendations)
  • It applies from preschool through the teen years (and while preschoolers likely aren't hiding Instagram accounts from us, parents of preschoolers are at the perfect phase to get ahead, and stay ahead of the Internet game)
  • It embraces practical and flexible - not radical or judgmental - parenting philosophies and advice: how much to trust your kids, how much to spy, how much screen time kids should have, etc. I especially love how they reference author Lisa Guernsey and her three Cs: Content (what's on the screen - educational games shouldn't be looked at the same as violent videos), Context (has your child been outside all day? are you on a road trip?) and Child (each one is different in terms of their reactions to and reasons for using screens - is she addicted? does a video help him relax?). 
  • It also provides a wealth of information that can also be helpful to teachers and administrators 
A final reason I really love it:

  • It includes lots of Canadian content. While Internet information really applies anywhere (it is called the www for a reason) and this handbook is just as helpful for American parents, the patriotic side of me always likes to see Canadian references included in my reading. (Come on, when watching a big TV show or movie you've had a "They just said 'Canada'!" moment too!)




I'm a longtime fan of Amber MacArthur, and know her best from all of her fantastic tech segments on The Marilyn Denis Show (okay, fine, when she followed me back on Twitter and Instagram I loved her even more), and her insights combined with Michael Bazzell's experience as a computer crime detective really provide comprehensive coverage of this huge topic. 


The book has already sparked a great conversation with my ten year old, which ended like this:

Her:  Actually, I don't think I really want an Instagram account yet anyway.
Me:  Really?
Her:  Nah. I'm not that interested anymore. But I do want guinea pigs...

It's always something. (I think I'd prefer Instagram.)

************

To enter to win your own copy of Outsmarting Your Kids Online: A Safety Handbook For Overwhelmed Parents, you can do one or more of the following:

Retweet this tweet
Like and/or comment on this Facebook post
Like and/or comment on this Instagram post

Total number of possible entries is five, and the contest ends Sunday, May 29th at midnight, after which time I will choose a winner using random.org.

Good luck!


Wednesday, May 18

What Parents Need To Know About EQAO

It's almost time for Grade 3 and 6 EQAO - Ontario's standardized testing! (Yes, I just used an exclamation mark.)

This will be my eighth year in a row administering the Grade 3 assessment, and last night I was back on CHEX Daily with Teresa Kaszuba to give parents all the information they need to know about EQAO, including:

  • What is tested
  • How parents and kids can learn more and see past test questions, with sample responses and scoring guides
  • The best way for students to prepare for the tests
  • What my biggest pet peeve is at EQAO time (it's a parents-on-Twitter thing!)

I'm at the 23:14 mark, and if you can't see the embedded video you can find it here. {Video no longer available}


Some points from my notes that we didn't have time for in the segment (yes, I'm always overprepared, even though I've been doing this TV thing for almost two years now!):

  • Tests are written and marked by Ontario teachers
  • Students with special needs can receive many of the same accommodations for EQAO as they do for regular classroom assessments (e.g,, scribing, use of a computer for word processing, and use of text-to-speech software which reads to them)
  • Elementary EQAO scores do not "count" towards students' report card marks. Scores are usually released in September, and parents receive individual student reports which indicate the students' level of achievement in the three areas: reading, writing and math. Scores for the province, boards, and individual schools go public each fall as well. (But please take scores at face value: they are snapshots of learning taken over a short period of time, and there may be a variety of circumstances in place which impacted the results - for better or worse. I don't recommend buying your next home based solely on a school's EQAO scores.)



While I do mention this in the segment, it bears repeating here: EQAO should *not* be causing stress for students. They should see it as a challenge, where both teachers and parents expect them to do their best, but without any undue pressure. Many students get butterflies before tests (as they would before dance recitals or hockey games) and that's totally natural, but if your child seems unusually anxious about the upcoming testing, I strongly encourage you to speak with the teacher.

At our school, we try to add some fun to testing days: the kids are encouraged to wear PJs or other comfy clothing, and they get to enjoy gum and hard candy as they work away. Many are actually looking forward to it! (No, really. I swear.)

Please feel free to ask if you have any other EQAO questions, and be sure to check out eqao.com as well.



Wednesday, May 4

Canadian Cheese Awards - Giveaway!

Warning: this is my *cheesiest* post yet! (Sorry, I couldn't resist!)

My loyal readers know that I am very discerning when it comes to brand partnerships. I receive tons of pitches that range from not-quite-a-fit to wildly-inappropriate, and I don't hesitate to decline...a lot.

However, when contacted with an opportunity share information about Canadian cheese...how could I say no? (Only chocolate would be a better fit for me!)

I'm a fan of Loblaws (I shared information about their super-convenient Click and Collect shopping option not long ago) and Loblaws is the destination to purchase award-winning Canadian cheese, including more than 15 of the Canadian Cheese Awards Champion and Finalist cheeses. (Yep, there are Canadian Cheese Awards! It's the only cheese competition in Canada open to all milks used in cheese making – cow, goat, sheep and water buffalo – with only pure natural cheese accepted for judging.)

Some awards highlights:

  • Cheese of the Year Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar, which also took home Best Aged Cheddar (aged more than 18 months) and Best B.C. Cheese
  • Best Fresh Pasta Filata, President’s Choice® Formaggio di Bufala
  • Best Feta/Cheese in Brine, President’s Choice® Feta Light
  • Best Firm Cheese with Holes, Oka l'Artisan
  • Best Old Cheddar (aged from 9 to 18 months) and Best Goat Cheese, Lindsay Bandaged Goat Cheddar

Loblaws stores feature 300-400 varieties of cheese available in-store (would you ever have guessed the number would be so high?), including the best of Canadian and international Cheddar, brie, feta and more, and Loblaws is celebrating the incredible Canadian cheese featured at the Annual Canadian Cheese Awards by sharing them with Ontario’s biggest cheese lovers.

Are you ever unsure about what wine, beer or other snacks and condiments to serve with certain cheeses? This Cheese Pairings chart may come in handy!


And now...you have a chance to win a great prize pack (worth $50), which includes:

 A selection of Canadian Champion + International Cheeses
 PC Black Label Artisan Crisps
 PC Black Label Fruit Spreads, Jellies, and Preserves
 Section of nuts and dried fruit





All you need to do to enter is fill out the form below and name your favourite type of cheese! Extra entries for following This Mom Loves on Twitter (ThisMomLoves), Facebook (ThisMomLoves) and Instagram (KateThisMomLoves), or following LoblawsON on Twitter. CONTEST OPEN TO CANADIANS.




The giveaway will end Thursday, May 12th at 11:59 p.m. Eastern, after which time a winner will be chosen by random number generation.

Good luck!

Disclosure: This post was generously sponsored by Loblaws. Opinions are, as always, my own.


Tuesday, May 3

Hair Donation Day 2016!

We started in 2014 (the first and last time I'll have short hair as an adult!), continued in 2015, and this year we were back for the third annual Wigs For Kids event at our school.

This time around there were seven generous little girls (my Eva returned for round two), plus one teacher and one mom...and it was another great success!

Ready to go:



In progress: (I love this shot: one of my students - who just had her hair cut by her mom moments earlier - is returning the favour!)



The final results:










Again this year we had some very generous donors who helped to fill up gift bags for our amazing participants!

We want to thank...

McDonald's, for the gift card



Shout Factory, for an assortment of great kids' DVDs




Funrise Toys for the Gazillion Bubbles Hurricane Blasters






And a very special thank you to my friends at Hallmark for providing each little girl with a ceramic keepsake box and Mickey Mouse journal, and giving each of the two women an assortment of great Hallmark products. Plus, of course, gift bags and pretty tissue paper!









We had student emcees and DJs, and I always love seeing the school spirit and involvement from the leaders in our school. They make us so proud.

Congratulations to all of our participants...I already had several little girls tell me that they want to do it next year, so things are looking good for a fourth annual event in 2017!