Monday, October 13

Halloween Fun From Hallmark

My latest Hallmark Press Pause Panel box arrived this week, right in time for Halloween decorating! Here's what I received, and where it's all going:

ALREADY UP

Halloween Door Frame Décor ($9.95)

I must say, I had never thought to decorate a door frame before, but these look quite spooky in the main area of our home. And it's the closest my girls will get to a pet cat.




Here's what it looks like on the door:





Boo Door Décor

This actually looks great hanging from our kitchen chandelier.




GOING UP WHEN I DO MY PORCH

Trick-or-Treater Greeter ($19.95 with any purchase)

This motion-activated decoration will be hanging on my front door, ready to greet the trick-or-treaters with fun phrases as they approach!





HOSTESS GIFT FOR THANKSGIVING AT MY AUNT'S

Beverage Napkin Basket with Napkins ($12.95)




CLASSROOM PRIZES

(Yes, I bribe. I mean, reward.)

Pumpkin Personalities Decoration Kit ($14.95)


This kit comes with a set of 3D eyes that light up and glow when you activate a switch, plus more than 17 stick-on decorations. A creative pumpkin with no cutting required!




Tricks the Toe-Tappin' Treat Bag with motion and sound ($15.95 with purchase of  3 cards)


My students are loving this guy! When you push the button, he shuffles from side-to-side while singing a Halloween parody of Mambo No. 5.





If you're looking for fun and festive Halloween decor, Hallmark has you covered!


Friday, October 10

I'm Heading To World Mastercard Fashion Week - What Do I Wear?

I'm very excited to be attending World Mastercard Fashion Week's "Fashion Saturday"  on October 25th in Toronto...though I have to say I'm a bit nervous about what to wear!

The Spring 2015 collections will be on the runway all week long, but "Fashion Saturday" is a bit different, giving the public an inside look at Canada's leading Fashion Week.

Here's what I know:

"Hosted by actor and host Lauren Collins (session one) and Cityline host Tracy Moore (sessions two and three) guests will enjoy a special Spring/Summer 2015 highlights fashion show featuring top Canadian designers, followed by a trends presentation with style expert Afiya Francisco, Maybelline's Grace Lee and Redken's Cindy Duplantis.

Attendees will also be able to shop the designer pop-up market, experience the Fashion Environment, participate in hair and makeup installations, sample VIP-style food and drinks and much more. Tickets to the three sessions (1 p.m., 4 p.m. and 7 p.m.) are available for purchase online. Student rates are also available."

I'll be at session two, hosted by Tracy Moore of Cityline - no stranger to This Mom Loves, as she's been a past Momterview as well as a behind-the-scenes feature. I asked Tracy about Fashion Saturday, and here's what she had to say:

"Fashion Saturday is a great way to get a glimpse of what is hot for the next season while schmoozing, sipping and shopping. Fashion is a passion I get to embrace every Friday on Cityline’s uber popular Fashion Fridays. Why not extend the fun into the weekend?"  






Thanks, Tracy! Looking forward to seeing you there.

Watch for a recap at the end of the month!


Wednesday, October 8

Getting Kids Involved In Charity/Social Justice: My CHEX Daily TV Segment

My latest segment on CHEX Daily is all about ways to involve your kids in charity and social justice, and why it's so important (plus I even found a way to make reference to an episode of Friends!)

I'm at the 32:14 mark if it's not cueing for you where I set it, and if you can't see the embedded video you can find it here: http://youtu.be/wUj1aTi6E98?t=32m14s




Video courtesy CHEX Daily

Whether your child is interested in animals (volunteer at a shelter, walk a neighbour's dog), the environment (start a recycling club, plant trees) or education (be a homework buddy or tutor), they're sure to find a way to help others that works for them. If they want to fundraise for a cause, the sky's the limit - there are tons of ideas out there for raising money for charity.

Something else to keep in mind is that Ontario students need 40 hours of volunteer efforts to graduate from high school (yes, some have noted the irony in "requiring" volunteer work, but I think it's a great component for the diploma). It's a good idea to get started early - they can even begin the summer before they enter secondary school - since as they get closer to graduation part-time jobs, teams and active social lives can make it harder for them to fit in the requirements.

For kids (and parents) who think from a practical perspective, this sort of involvement always looks good on job resumes and school applications too (even if you don't live in Ontario and have to do it!)

The book I mentioned in the segment is this one, full of tons of ideas for making a difference, with and without spending money.


How To Be an Everyday Philanthropist by Nicole Bouchard Boles





If you're looking for ideas for classroom/school, here are the highlights of what our Student Government took on throughout last school year.

Thanks as always to CHEX Daily for letting me share!

Oh, and if anyone is thinking of leaving feedback that I look better when I wear brighter colours on TV (i.e. not in this segment), don't worry - I've already been told!


Sunday, October 5

Introducing OURS By Cheryl Hickey

When I went behind-the-scenes at ET Canada this past summer, host Cheryl Hickey shared a secret with me that I had to keep: she was developing a line of products!

Now that the official launch has taken place and I'm free to share, here's what Cheryl told me (while in the makeup chair, on her laptop and her phone!) about OURS By Cheryl Hickey:

"I’m coming out with my own brand of products: simpler, healthier, safer products for the whole family, so when you go into the bathroom you just need one shampoo, one conditioner, one soap, one oil, everything. It's coming out on September 30th and it will be sold at all Rexall stores across Canada. 

I’ve been working on it for three years and it was born out of necessity as I found I was using my kids’ products. You know as a mom that sometimes it’s because you’re busy, but sometimes it’s because of budget – it only allows for so much shopping so you just use their stuff. The problem was I was finding things that weren’t at safe and healthy as I wanted, and the organic stuff was so expensive you couldn’t buy it in large quantities. So Swiss Farm was looking to do something and we partnered up, so it’s very exciting! 

This has been the longest gestation period ever but we’re getting ready to launch and it’s something that I’m very passionate about with kids and family so I’m trying to extend that in a brand."




Photo courtesy OURS by Cheryl Hickey


If you're interested in knowing what's not found in any of the OURS products, here's a list of what this healthy product line does not contain:

  • Parabens
  • Phthalates
  • Sulfates
  • SLS
  • PPG’s
  • PEG
  • Dyes
  • GMO’s 
  • Triclosan
  • Synthetic Fragrances
  • Animal Products
  • Bisphenol A (BPA)
  • Formaldehyde
  • Petrochemicals
  • Most common allergens
  • Cruelty Free




Photo courtesy OURS by Cheryl Hickey


A huge congratulations to Cheryl on the big product launch. Be sure to check out OURS By Cheryl Hickey at Rexall stores nationwide

You can read my Momterview with Cheryl Hickey here.


Tuesday, September 30

Quaker Chewy For Charity - and a Big Giveaway!

As we approach Thanksgiving, I'm pleased to be able to share with you an initiative that was launched by Quaker Canada this past summer called Chewy for Charity, which will help Canadian families in need get the nutrition they need this upcoming holiday, and beyond.

Quaker Chewy is asking families across Canada to get creative for charity! Parents and children can get involved by creating a Canadian-inspired piece of art, and then uploading it at ChewyForCharity.ca. (You can even choose to turn your art into a unique and personal reusable lunch bag design, and have it shipped to your home!) 

For every design submitted and approved, Quaker Canada will donate the equivalent of 10 pounds of food to Food Banks Canada. 

This is definitely an important cause: in 2013, Food Banks Canada distributed over 17 millions lbs of food to its network of 500 food banks. Close to 850,000 individuals are helped by a food bank each month, 1/3 of whom are children. While it's wonderful that help is out there for Canada's hungry families, on average food banks are only able to offer 3-5 days' worth of food each month because the demand is so high.






A virtual art gallery of all of the lunch bag designs submitted so far is showcased on ChewyForCharity.ca as well.  The site will be live for this initiative until October 31st, 2014.

Quaker products are a staple in our home, especially because the items are peanut-free and can be sent to school. Confession time: I actually keep a not-so-secret stash of Chocolate Chip Chewy Bars in my desk drawer. (I buy them in boxes of 40!)

We're also happy to be able to support a local company. The fact that Quaker has its head office and plant in Peterborough (where the Chewy Bars are produced!) means it has also provided a lot of local jobs. Our girls assume their uncle has personally made every Quaker product that comes into our home!

In addition to this fun and charitable initiative, Quaker is offering one lucky This Mom Loves reader a great giveaway: a Quaker Chewy for Charity Art Party Kit, consisting of $100 worth of Quaker Chewy products and children's art supplies (see the photo below). Wouldn't someone at your house love to see this arrive on the doorstep?






To enter, simply fill out the Google form below. All you need to provide is your email address (so I can contact the winner) with bonus entries for following This Mom Loves and Quaker Canada on social media as well. The giveaway will run until Wednesday, October 8th at 11:59 p.m. Eastern, after which time a winner will be chosen through random number generation.

Good luck, and get that art going!

Helpful links:

This Mom Loves on Twitter
This Mom Loves on Facebook
Quaker Canada on Facebook





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


Monday, September 29

The Happiness Project: September (Pursue a Passion - Guess What Mine Is?)

I've been following along with Gretchen Rubin's "The Happiness Project" month-by-month since January (though I read it at least twice before that). Her September goal: "Pursue a Passion".

Education is my first love. I loved being a student, and absolutely love being a teacher. Only two things I can strongly say I dislike about my job: winter yard duty and report cards (which you would think would come more easily to someone who writes, but I find them physically painful).

Because teaching is my hands-down first work priority. I've actually had to turn down amazing opportunities to pursue my other passions...but we all have hobbies, right? Over the past four years, I have been actively engaged in my passion for writing: both on my blog, and freelance writing for magazines. Thanks to this, I've had so many fun experiences, made incredible connections, and grown as a writer, which I believe has very much had an impact on my teaching as well, since writing is such a huge part of the curriculum.

I have another passion too, and it won't come as a surprise for many of you: television, and specifically news/entertainment/talk shows. I am addicted to watching them (and have been since my teens). To me, the hosts are just as interesting as the celebrities. I envy how they get to ask questions of both famous people and everyday experts/newsmakers, while at the same time having a media presence themselves.

I've actually had the chance to go behind-the-scenes at many of my favourite shows:




(See, don't I look right at home co-hosting with Marci Ien? Sure, we faked this shot, but still!)

This past August I took my love of TV one step further, joining the CHEX Daily team as a regular guest covering educational topics for parents.

Here's what I've chatted about so far:


While I have been asked before to make TV appearances (as a spokesperson for a company, or discussing non-education-related topics), I just couldn't prioritize that within a full-time teaching schedule. With the CHEX Daily spots, I'm thrilled to be able to head to the studio after work, plus I get to discuss my first love.

As Gretchen notes, "make time for it" is an important part of the goal to pursue one's passion, and it's much easier to do that when it dovetails with my day job, as well as what I'm living as a parent. As much as I enjoy researching and writing articles that are outside of this scope, I have a new grade this year and I can already see that I need to make calculated choices about my time.

Which brings me to the "How do you do it all?" question people often ask. (They seem to ask my mother as much as they do me, for some reason.) Well, I can start by saying that I am a very organized, efficient person, which helps in terms of getting things done. But really, I am writing and planning segments when you are knitting, doing Sudoku (do people still do Sudoku?), lurking on Facebook, cooking gourmet meals (or just cooking at all) or working out at the gym (I get exercise too - treadmill desk!) I would like to say that my passions never infringe on my sleep (which I mean in a really clean way), since I rarely stay up late or wake up early for them, but it's not entirely true as I have been awake in the night many times rehashing story edits or rehearsing what I want to say on TV!

Plus, let's be honest here: I couldn't get a thing done without the amazing support system I have. Knowing that my family, friends, and colleagues are all in my corner means a world of difference. (By the time I got to the car after my first live CHEX Daily appearance, I already had a dozen congratulatory texts/emails in my inbox, which meant more than those people may ever know. Unless they're reading right now, of course. Which, come to think of it, they should be, if they really care about me!)

My parents have always been huge cheerleaders for me (and willing to drive 40 minutes to pick up my children and take them for the day when they get sick at school, which we all know is priceless). As for my husband...well, I guess if he doesn't want me to talk about him on the blog, he won't be getting all of the thanks and praise he deserves here!

So, there's where I am with my September goal! Find the time to pursue your passion. It's so worth it.


Wednesday, September 24

Teacher Tips For Homework

In my latest installment of "Teacher, Teacher!" for CHEX Daily, I chatted with hosts Teresa Kaszuba (who came up with the new name for my segments) and Mike Judson about the huge topic of homework.

There are many different theories out there now about homework (pro and con), from educational experts, teachers and parents, but the reality is that many kids are coming home with work to do in the evenings, and it can be a struggle for parents. How much should you help? Is it okay if they are "breaking the rules" by doing their homework at different times each day, listening to music, or in the busy kitchen?

I could have taken up their whole hour talking about this, so I feel like I barely scratched the surface, but here's what I had to say:

(I'm at the 32:05 mark if it doesn't cue where I've set it, and if you can't see the embedded video, you can find it at http://youtu.be/nXmZc0aAh54?t=32m5s)




I'm not sure if I emphasized enough (since I don't watch myself after the fact) how parents should do what works best for their family. Sure, kids thrive on routine and it would be wonderful if they could do their homework at the exact same time each night, but I see in my own class that some kids are going home on the bus twice a week but to daycare the other three days, most are involved in extracurriculars at least once a week, and some are back and forth between mom's and dad's...so don't beat yourself up over it. If the kids are getting the homework done, to the best of their ability, the logistics don't really matter. (My older daughter prefers to work kneeling at the coffee table...and sometimes the TV is even on!)

Some kids certainly struggle with focus, and for them it's important to remove distractions (siblings, screens, etc.) as necessary.

On a personal/professional homework note, I am trying to get away from it in my classroom as much as possible.

I am teaching Grade 2/3 this year, and I decided not to assign regular nightly/weekly work (especially because it's primary - I'm not sure I would do the same in junior/intermediate). The only tasks that go home are the ones that students should have completed during class time, plus Math test review for the Grade 3's (I give them written tests for each unit, since they need to be prepared for EQAO) and occasional activities that require family input (e.g. when they need to ask their parents about the day they were born).

I send home levelled books for students to read, as I know not all homes have just-right books available for the children, but without any log or tracking required, and just ask parents to return the books when their child is ready for new ones.





My hope is that kids are spending their evenings being active, pursuing other hobbies (e.g. in the arts) and having leisure time, which hopefully includes lots of reading for pleasure. Their teacher is attempting to do the same thing with her evenings as well!

But it may surprise parents to learn that for every one who feels their child gets too much homework, there is a parent in that same class asking for more (no, really!) Some believe the more practice the better, but then others worry about their families having balance. It's a tough call, and the research isn't conclusive enough to make any sweeping generalizations...so I'm using my professional judgment and doing what I think is best right now, with the information I have.

To wrap-up with a story:

As you may (or hopefully may not) be able to tell, I was pretty sick when I shot this segment. That day at school, I mentioned to my class that I hoped I didn't lose my voice, as I was supposed to be on the news that night.

One special little guy asked, "On the 6:00 or 11:00 news?"

"Actually, it's a show that's on right before the 6:00 news," I replied.

"Oh, you mean The New CHEX Daily?"

I thought that was pretty cute, from an 8 year old. See, if he had too much homework, he wouldn't be able to watch such quality television!


Monday, September 22

What You Might Have Missed This Summer: Volume II

I'm back with another repeat episode!

Here's what you might have missed in August, if you were (for some crazy reason) not keeping up faithfully with This Mom Loves. As you can see, it was a busy month! Click on the titles to go to the posts.






















Now you're all caught up! Hope your summer was as wonderful as mine, and that your September is even better!