Saturday, April 30

PUSH...One Mother of a Show: Guest Blogger Erin Keaney

Today I am excited to welcome a guest post from stage and television actor and writer Erin Keaney. Erin's credits include Comedy Inc., and the US tour of the musical Rent. She is also the creator and star of the hit web series Motherloadtv. Erin and her cowriters/stars will soon be presenting "Push...One Mother of a Show" in Toronto, just in time for Mother's Day.

Here's Erin (a.k.a. Resident Director of Bum Wiping and Snack Packing) on the lack of sleep, Mother’s Day + PUSH...ONE MOTHER OF A SHOW.

I didn't think about the amount of sleep I would lose having kids. I mean, before I had kids, I'd hear from women with kids, about how tired they were all the time. But I didn't really "hear them". I love sleep. If sleep were single, I would propose marriage. I would give sleep the most beautiful engagement ring you've ever seen. I wouldn't sign a prenup. That's how much I love sleep. I have two girls. The first one was a good sleeper, but I was soooo worried - she was my first child - so I never slept. The second one was a horrible sleeper so again, I never slept. I haven't slept through the night in seven years, mainly because now the two of them take turns getting up in the night and getting into bed with us. I do however love the "sleep in". This is when my husband and I take turns letting the other sleep in. It's so luxurious. This happens on holidays and the coveted Mother's Day. I get breakfast in bed and I have a torrid affair with sleep for two, maybe two and half hours. My husband is okay with my affairs with sleep. He has them too.

Clockwise from top left: Erin Keaney, Fiona Carver,
Precious Chong, Sarah Carver

This Mother's Day after you've had your sleep in, come and see PUSH...ONE MOTHER OF A SHOW, May 4th to 8th, at Tarragon Theatre Extra Space (30 Bridgman Rd at Bathurst + Dupont). It’s a LIVE comedy show written and starring myself, Erin Keaney, and Fiona and Sarah Carver and Precious And, we’re having a raffle with a portion of the proceeds going to Nellie's Women's Shelter. The prizes are geared towards making a mom's life easier. Here's a look at the prizes...a housecleaning, wash and fold pick-up and drop-off laundry, stripper pole classes, massages, waxing, facial and so much more.

Bring the girls, bring your mom, bring your husband, and see our comedy sketch show about motherhood. Feel good about the fact we're all just juggling – we all drop the ball sometimes – and take heart in the fact that we’re all doing the best we can.

Thanks, Erin...and good luck to you and all of your costars with the show! I'm so sad that I can't make any of the dates, as it looks fantastic! What mother out there couldn't use a good laugh? (And a good night's sleep...oh, how I agree with you, Erin...)

You can watch the hilarious opening number of the show on YouTube by clicking here.

Stars on Ice: Review

Last night my Aunt Sue (huge skating fan) and I hit the big city for Sears Stars on Ice Presented By Samsung.

The Stars on Ice team is four shows in to their Canadian run, which began on the East Coast, and is now continuing westward from Toronto. This was the first time either of us had seen one of their performances, and we weren't disappointed.

First of all, the music was fantastic. Lots of recognizable hits, both past and present.

While my interest occasionally waned during the slow, formal, as-seen-in-competition type of numbers, I was quickly energized by the more fun and casual routines with props and storylines (Shawn Sawyer was terrific as a businessman gone wild in one selection) and I particularly enjoyed the group performances.

Salé and Pelletier were definitely my favourites...and there still has to be a huge amount of trust between this now-split couple, since he literally holds her life in his hands during several "Oh my God, how is she doing that and please don't let her skull hit the ice!" moves. (Click here for my Momterview with Jamie Salé.)

Photo: Michelle Harvath

Kurt Browning, still a strong skater, shone as a true entertainer, offering comedic commentary and hilarious moves which engaged the crowd and provided some continuity and flow to the entire show.

Photo: Michelle Harvath

Other world-renowned cast members include Belbin and Agosto (until Virtue and Moir return from World's competition), Joannie Rochette, Evan Lysacek, Kyoko Ina, Sasha Cohen, and Jeffrey Buttle.

The running time was almost two and a half hours, with a 20 minute intermission halfway through.

If you're not at all interested in figure skating, I don't think I'll be able to convince you to see Stars on Ice. However, if you're even mildly enticed by the idea, I encourage you to check it out. It's a great show.

For the tour schedule, tickets and more information, visit the Stars on Ice website.

(And by the way, if you're ever headed to an event at the Air Canada Centre, the Real Sports Bar and Grill across the street in Maple Leaf Square is a terrific --and busy-- pre- or post-show eatery, especially for die-hard sports fans.)

Disclosure: I was provided with tickets to the show for review purposes. Opinions are, as always, my own.

Thursday, April 28

Piggy Paint Review and Giveaway

Giveaway open to US and Canada.

The chocolate was a hit, and the stuffed-animal-with-the-book is getting lots of love, but Frannie's favourite Easter gift, hands-down (no pun intended) was her new Piggy Paint nail polish (her shades shown below).


Angel Kisses
Angel Kisses

She was a little concerned that the Easter Bunny was contravening Mommy's you're-too-young-for-nail-polish rule, but fortunately for her Mommy finally caved because of Piggy Paint.

Melanie Hurley, mom of two fancy girls, was painting their fingernails one day and dropped a glob of solvent-based polish on a foam plate...and shortly after it began to bubble and 'ate' the plate! She tested out other "kid" polishes, which did the same, so she decided to create a water-based product that would truly be safe for children.

And safe it is. Melanie's Piggy Paint can boast the following:
  • Water based
  • Non-toxic
  • Natural ingredients
  • Free of formaldehyde, toluene, acetone, etc.
  • Hypoallergenic
  • Odorless
You can even purchase Piggy Paint Polish Remover which is also odorless and solvent-free.

Little did I realize how stylish my daughter is, as she immediately gave instructions that the colours were to be alternated on her fingers. We used two coats of the pale pink, but found that one of the blue was enough. (By the way, the skinny brush is perfect for little fingernails.) I used the blowdryer for a minute to set the polish, as suggested, since such a natural product takes longer to dry than the chemical-filled polishes we ladies normally use. The colour has lasted a few days, which is really all I want (and can expect) in a children's polish. (You can purchase Piggy Paint Topcoat and Primecoat for improved performance.)

Frannie's final result:

In addition to adorable individual colours, Piggy Paint also sells great gift sets, both everyday and seasonal, as well as products for older girls. They even have a new "Refined" line of chemical-free polishes, in more sophisticated shades for the grown-ups (safe for use during pregnancy).

Toe-Tally Fancy Gift Set
Toe-Tally Fancy Gift Set

If you're a celeb-watcher, you'll be impressed to know that Piggy Paints have been purchased by such stars as Jessica Alba, Marcia Cross and Allison Hannigan at the high-end LA Boutique Pumpkinhead's. The product made its Hollywood debut in 2009 at the birthday party of Stella McDermott, daughter of Tori Spelling and Dean McDermott, where the Piggy Paint ladies polished nails of guests and parents alike!

And guess what? Piggy Paint is giving a $15 gift code to one lucky This Mom Loves reader!*

To enter, simply visit the Piggy Paint website, and come back and let me know what your favourite shade is! Be sure to leave your email address if it's not on your profile. If I can't contact you, you can't win!

For additional entries, once the mandatory entry has been completed, leave a separate comment letting me know that:
  • You follow This Mom Loves publicly through Google Friend Connect
  • You subscribe to This Mom Loves through email
  • You follow @thismomloves on Twitter, and have tweeted (once in total) about this giveaway (feel free to use "US and Can: Piggy Paints gift code #giveaway")
  • You follow @PiggyPaint on Twitter, and have tweeted (once in total) about this giveaway (see above)
  • You like Piggy Paint on Facebook (you can look forward to special offers and secret sale info)
The contest is open to residents of the US and Canada, and will close at 11:59 p.m. on Friday May 13th, after which time a winner will be chosen by random number generation.

*Canadian entrants please note: Piggy Paint will cover half of the shipping costs, but the winner will be responsible for the other half. Canadian shipping rates to residences are a flat rate determined by Canada Post. They charge Piggy Paint $35 regardless of size and weight. Piggy Paint has discounted the rate to $25 for their customers. They will cover half of this for the winner of this contest. Canadian shoppers can save money by finding local retailers on the Piggy Paint website.

Tuesday, April 26

Voice Lessons To Go for Kids!

My girls love to sing. Their musical abilities come primarily from their father, so I have decided that my role is to be the supportive anti-stage mother. (Which is, of course, why I had Frannie on stage in March. That story will come later.)

Back to the point: whether it be kids' CDs, church hymns, or pop songs, the girls love to sing along, and we try to encourage this. (A particular favourite is Lady Antebellum's "Need You Now", or as Frannie calls it, "The Quarter After One Song".) They're far too young yet to even consider any sort of singing lessons, so at this point "practicing" just means standing by the piano and singing along while Daddy plays. (And Mommy supplies lyrics. He's a musical genius, but remembering words presents a bit of a difficulty.)

When I heard about "Voice Lessons To Go for Kids", I thought it would be perfect for Frannie, and I was right.

Voice Lessons To Go for KIDS!- v.1 Sing Out Proud!

Ariella Vaccarino is an accomplished Opera singer who created the "Voice Lessons to Go" CDs originally for adults, and has now expanded her products to include "Sing Out Proud", version 1 of her kids' line.

This CD is designed for young singers (pre-K through Grade 6) to learn how to warm up their voices and have fun doing it. The CD begins with insider advice on posture, breathing and diction, and moves on to vocal training exercises. I have used it with my Grade 3 students, who at first felt a little silly singing "la-a-a!" and "1-2-3-2-1!", but quickly got the hang of it. While based on expert music education, the program takes the intimidation out of singing lessons for young children.

Musical terms such as major scales, chords, octaves, staccato and legato are sung through and explained in a child-friendly way.

Frannie puts the CD on in her room by herself, and actually prefers to sing along without me there to prompt her. She enjoys feeling like she's a "real, fancy singer". (And when I told her I wanted to take the CD to school, the little monkey went and hid it on me!)

"Sing Out Proud!" nurtures children's music ability and familiarizes them with serious singing. It isn't a replacement for a rousing car ride belting out their favourite tunes, but instead a complementary product to help them develop their skills before they're ready for something more formal.

And believe me: these are the cheapest singing lessons you'll ever find, with the CD costing less than an hour of instruction. (Regularly $19.99, currently $14.99). For such a cheap price, I feel no pressure to schedule "practices" or drill my daughter to the point of tears. She can put it on when she wants to, and reap the benefits accordingly.

This is a unique gift for any child who enjoys singing and would love to enhance his or her abilities, whether it's for choir, the school talent show, or serious theatre performances...or even just for family room concerts for Grandpa and Grandma!

Click here to visit their website.

Disclosure: I was provided with a copy of the CD for review purposes. Opinions are, as always, my own.

Saturday, April 23

Room, Annabel And An Easter Thought

(Preface: If the following seems like a quick summary, it is in fact a quite accurate indication of how much time my friends and I actually spend discussing our reading selections at our book club meetings.)

My mother really questions the choices of my book club. Last time around, it was Emma Donoghue's "Room". Room is where five year old Jack was born and where he lives with his Ma, held captive within the four walls since she was kidnapped seven years earlier. (Great book, but I didn't like the end. Can't tell you why without spoiling it.)

This time, we're reading Annabel by Kathleen Winter. The first line of the publisher's description: "In 1968, into the beautiful, spare environment of remote coastal Labrador, a mysterious child is born: a baby who appears to be neither fully boy nor girl, but both at once." (Not my mom's type of reading material.)

I'm not quite finished, but so far the book is beautiful and moving, though definitely not a light read.

I've sent my regrets to my fellow members for this month's book club meeting (Stars on Ice is taking priority), but in their honour I'd like to offer one of my favourite quotes from our latest selection:

"She was not a person who froze someone's character in her mind, calling this one egotistical and that one not nearly confident enough and another one truthful or untruthful. To Thomasina people were rivers, always ready to move from one state of being into another. It was not fair, she felt, to treat people as if they were finished beings. Everyone was always becoming and unbecoming."

What a timely message of rebirth, renewal and redemption.

Happy Easter, everyone.

Winner: Scholastic Kids Cooking and More Pies!

Congrats to the latest winner from This Mom Loves and Scholastic, who will receive a copy of Klutz Kids Cooking and More Pies by Robert Munsch:

Crystal P. of Yarmouth, NS

Wednesday, April 20

$50 RONA Gift Card Giveaway: The BMO Eco Smart Mortgage

Giveaway open to Canadians.

I'm sure your home isn't in need of any updates, right? Okay then, move along. You certainly don't want to win a $50 RONA gift card, and I'm sure you have no interest in learning how to save on utility bills and possibly qualify for a fantastic mortgage (how does 3.89 % sound?)

Oh, you are interested? Well then, let's dig right in.

Right now, BMO is offering an Eco Smart Mortgage to qualified homeowners, in an effort to reward and encourage Canadians who are making changes and looking to reduce their energy usage. The BMO checklist varies depending on whether you own a house or highrise condo, but the idea is that you have to meet their energy efficiency criteria in order to qualify. Check out their website for details and FAQ. If you qualify, contact a mortgage specialist at your local BMO branch. Even if you're not looking for a new mortgage at the moment, it's still worth it to read on. Promise.

I completed the checklist myself, as I have an eight year old house that I assumed was pretty energy efficient. Though I'm not currently shopping for a new mortgage, I am certainly interested in learning about how to make home improvements, and let's be honest, save money. The results?

High-efficiency heating system: CHECK!
Our oil furnace is more than 85% efficient, which meets the criteria.

High-efficiency cooling system (or no cooling system): CHECK!
We don't have central air right now, although my husband keeps talking about it. We live in the country on a nice breezy hill, and there are only a handful of too-hot days each year that we can easily spend at my parents' pool. Why pay for AC? (On a more selfish note: I LOVE the heat. Listen up, over-air-conditioned restaurants, offices and theatres: one should not be required to wear a sweater in the summer.)

Energy Star qualified or metal doors with no cracks or air gaps: CHECK!
All of our exterior doors are metal.

Good quality attic insulation: NO
I didn't pay that much attention when we built our house (come on ladies, do any of you know your R-values off the top of your head??), but a quick look at our contract confirms that in our attic we have R40 blown insulation. The BMO criteria specifies R49 or higher, so I don't think we can check this one off.

Energy Star qualified windows with no cracks or air gaps: NO
I think our windows are great (no cracks/gaps), but I don't see an Energy Star sticker anywhere...

Energy Star qualified hot water system or solar or or tankless hot water system: NO
Again, no sticker..

At least three Energy Star qualified major appliances: NO
Can you believe the only sticker I found is on our dishwasher? I'm shocked that we didn't buy any other Energy Star appliances!

Do you think it's possible that I went around obsessively removing "Energy Star" stickers from every door, window and appliance after we moved in? Or maybe it was some sort of baby brain/"nesting" thing...I'm a little concerned.

Anyway, you need 6 out of the above 7 criteria to qualify for this special mortgage, so we would be out of luck with our three checkmarks...and we live in what I still consider to be a "new" house! We certainly won't be investing in new windows or doors any time soon, but of course the next time we do, we'll be going Energy Star all the way! We've also talked a lot lately about looking in to solar energy, so that might be next on the agenda.

How does your home rate? And more importantly, what about the giveaway I promised? Here you go:

To enter to win a $50 RONA Card, all you have to do is leave a comment about an eco-smart change that you have made, or plan to make, to your home. That's it! Be sure to leave your email address if it's not on your profile. If I can't contact you, you can't win!

For extra entries, once the mandatory entry has been completed, leave separate comments letting me know that:
  • You follow This Mom Loves publicly through Google Friend Connect
  • You subscribe to This Mom Loves through email
  • You follow @thismomloves on Twitter, and have tweeted about this giveaway (once in total). Feel free to use the following: "Win a $50 RONA GC from This Mom Loves "
Contest will close on Thursday, May 5th at 11:59 p.m. Eastern, after which time a winner will be chosen through random number generation. Good luck, and get Eco Smart!

Disclosure: I am participating in the BMO Eco Smart Mortgage program by Mom Central Canada on behalf of BMO - Bank of Montreal. I will receive a gift card as a thank you for my participation. Opinions are, as always, my own.

Sunday, April 17

Jamie Salé: The Stars on Ice Momterview

Jamie Salé is a Canadian darling. As the arguably prettier half of the figure skating duo Salé and Pelletier, she won Olympic Gold at the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City following a major judging scandal. Jamie married on-ice partner David Pelletier in 2005, however the pair separated quietly over two years ago, publicly announcing their plans to divorce last June. Fortunately, the couple continues to do two very important things together: skate, and raise their son Jesse.

Fresh from the American Stars on Ice tour, Salé and Pelletier are set to hit Canadian venues as Sears Stars on Ice Presented by Samsung begins on their home soil later this week.

Jamie graciously took a few minutes to answer a few questions for This Mom Loves.

Photo: Stars on Ice

This Mom: What is the biggest sacrifice you have to make to be a skater, and what’s the biggest sacrifice you have to make to be a mom?

Jamie Salé: Right now, it is spending time with my child. It is always a struggle balancing your career and professional life. But you see… I can’t really call them sacrifices. I have to look at them as choices. I’ve chosen to be a professional skater who goes on Tours and I’ve chosen to be a mom.

TM:  Jesse is three and a half...what is he into right now? Milestones, interests?

JS: What isn’t he into!?! Oh…talking back – he totally has a mind of his own! He is very active - loves gymnastics, loves tumbling and loves the water. He’s potty trained, he feeds himself, he rides his bike with training wheels, which we are getting ready to take the off this summer. He is very courageous – he loves to climb things!

Photo: Jamie's Twitter image

TM: You’ve had two great seasons on Battle of the Blades. What has been the best part?

JS: The best part has definitely been getting to know the people. I’ve developed some great relationships. It was definitely worth it. You get to learn a lot about other people’s lives and experiences.

TM: Is commentating something that you can see yourself doing more of? {Jamie and David did some commentating for CTV during the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Winter Games.}

JS: I would love to, but there isn’t enough work out there. We only have one network that covers skating and it already has two great commentators. Until there is more work, I don’t know what my chances are. I really liked it though. But, I need to practise more…

TM:  I assume you have Jesse on the road with you for the show?

JS: Jesse tours with us at least 50-75% of the time. The rule is that we do not go more than 10 days without him, but really we keep it closer to five days or a week at the most.

TM: Tell us about the upcoming Sears Stars on Ice Presented by Samsung Tour. What can people expect?

JS: We will have two numbers, but you'll have to come to the show to find out what they are! Personally, I love doing the group numbers - they are so much fun! The music is popular - very fun, Top 40, sing-along type music.

TM: How does it feel getting ready to hit the ice for Stars on Ice, compared to getting ready to step out for a competition?

JS: It's very different. For a competition, there's training three hours a day, and it's really all you do, eat, sleep, and associate yourself with. Everything matters. The nice thing about doing a show is that we don’t take it as seriously. It's more entertaining and fun. We do work really hard to create a program that we think the audience will like, but it's more relaxed, with less panic, fear and nerves.

Photo: Stars on Ice

TM: How would you complete the sentence "This Mom Loves..."?

JS:  I love Yonka or Guinot facial creams. I love cuticle oil, body lotion and I wear Chanel Coco Mademoiselle. I love my MAC makeup! So much fun! There's a store I really love in Edmonton called "Who Cares"...and I also love BCBG and Lululemon.

Jamie and David obviously still have fun together, judging by this American Stars on Ice wardrobe malfunction, and David's blog entry on the subject!

Photo by Brittany Evans (Stars on Ice US website)

You're not going to want to miss Jamie's upcoming Canadian Stars on Ice Tour Dates. Salé and Pelletier will be joined by world renowned skaters Kurt Browning, Evan Lysacek, and Joannie Rochette, among others, for what Browning calls "one of the most spectacular shows that this country has ever seen!"  (Psst: I'll be at the Toronto show, and I'll give you all the details afterwards!)

Note that due to the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, and subsequent postponement of the World Figure Skating Championship, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir will participate in World's, and join the Stars on Ice tour in Winnipeg on May 5th. Audiences for the first half of the tour can look forward to a performance by Olympic Silver Medallists Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto.

Here's where you can catch all the action:

April 21: Halifax, NS
April 23: Ottawa, ON
April 27: Windsor, ON
April 29: Toronto, ON
April 30: Hamilton, ON
May 1: London, ON
May 5: Winnipeg, MB
May 6: Saskatoon, SK
May 7: Edmonton, AB
May 8: Calgary, AB
May 10: Victoria, BC
May 13: Vancouver, BC

For tickets and more information, check out the Sears Stars on Ice Presented by Samsug website, and follow Sears Stars on Ice on Twitter.

To learn more about Jamie, visit the Salé/Pelletier website and Facebook page, and follow Jamie on Twitter.

Review Roundup: Treats and Reads

The best of the best that I have to share today: Two great books and a treat to enjoy with them!

Reese Minis 


When I was contacted by the PR rep for this new product, I replied within minutes and told her "you had me at Reese"! These treats are delicious yet dangerous: the Reese Peanut Butter Cups that you know and love, but just slightly bigger than a dime with no wrappers to slow you down.  Not for dieters, but for those who are willing and able to indulge, these are guaranteed to please.

Baby-Led Weaning by Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett

I was shocked to find out that "baby-led weaning" was a "thing", since it's pretty much what I did with Maggie, but called it laziness! It was time to start solids, but having gone through it once with Frannie, I already knew that I hated prepping the bland pablum and buying all the various baby food jars. The second time around it was more like: here are appropriately-sized pieces of what the rest of us are eating tonight. Have at it.

This book walks you through what Baby-Led Weaning actually is, and subtopics like how much food to offer, foods to avoid, and eating out (now you're talking).. Many common questions are answered (e.g. won't baby choke? aren't we "supposed to" start with cereal?) There's even a great section on containing (and living with) important factor for me!

If I ever had another baby, I would be following this one all the way.

This book, original and engaging, is a collection of essays which both celebrate and mourn the various kisses in the author's life. From the one that never happened to the one that was forced upon her; the platonic, the familial and the romantic, each kiss is a piece of the puzzle that makes up Claudia Sternbach's life. Literary yet an easy read at the same time, I agree with one reviewer that this one is "a book club's dream date", and another who says "you'll find yourself recalling (the kisses) that changed your own life". Definitely read it.

Thursday, April 14

Flashback: "Dear Easter Bunny..."

Have you ever wondered what the Easter Bunny brings to other houses?

I thought it would be timely to pull out a blast from the past: my post from last Spring entitled "Dear Easter Bunny: An Open Letter Waiting Reply". Click on the link to check it out, along with several great comments. (And FYI: "Mama of Seven" has since become "Mama of 8", and she has a great way of explaining to her kids why some of their peers get more extravagant gifts from the Easter Bunny, Santa, etc.)

This year, Frannie will be receiving some kids' non-toxic, odorless nail polish colours from Piggy Paint (full review and possibly a giveaway coming after Easter). To date, I have never personally painted her nails, as I hate to be one of those moms who lets her daughters grow up too fast, but I made a deal with myself that if I hold out on the ear piercing, I can let her have a little bit of nail colour...especially when I know it's so child-friendly. Colours shown below are from Piggy Paint's "Little Chick" Easter-coloured gift set.
The girls will also both be enjoying some gifts courtesy of my new role on the Hallmark Press Pause Panel. As part of this new panel, I received a huge box of goodies just perfect for Spring occasions (and non-occasions, because Hallmark wants Canadians to "press pause" and celebrate the everyday moments) and the Easter Bunny will certainly be dipping into it.

Maggie can look forward to a "Totally Ticklish Duck": adorable to look at, and she sings and giggles when you tickle her! (Regularly $29.95, but only $14.95 with the purchase of three cards.)

Frannie will love her Watson the Raccoon Interactive Storybook with Plush Buddy. Turn him on, read the story aloud, and Watson responds to different sounds and phrases. (You can buy various titles, and "The Case of the Sneaky Stealer" comes free when you purchase Watson.) For ten bucks, this is a really neat gift.

Watson the Raccoon Interactive Storybook Buddy

I also have a couple of activity books stashed away for the occasion, and I'll be shopping for some Spring p.j.'s to finish things off. This is, of course,  in addition to the requisite chocolate! And if there happens to be way too much and I have to help them eat it...then so be it. (I have a particular weakness for Mini Eggs.)

Feel free to leave your own comments on what the Easter Bunny will be bringing to your house this year.

{I was provided with the above-named items for review as part of the Hallmark Press Pause Panel. Opinions are, as always, my own.}

Monday, April 11

Dr. Marla Shapiro: The Momterview

{Update: In April 2012, Dr. Marla's daughter Amanda tragically passed away at the age of 25 from a sudden and unexpected illness. She died in Cambridge, England where she was studying.}

Dr. Marla Shapiro is a well-loved Canadian physician, known for her role as a guest medical expert on various news programs, and her own television show Balance. She also shared a very private side of herself with her book "Life in the Balance: My Journey with Breast Cancer", and corresponding documentary "Run Your Own Race".

We may call her "Dr. Marla", but Jenna (26), Amanda (24) and Matt (16) also proudly call her "Mom".

From the medical to the personal, Dr. Marla recently opened up to me about her work, her family and herself.

This Mom: Let's take advantage of your medical expertise right away to get this interview started! I asked some of my readers what their burning questions for you would be, and one of the most common concerns relates to ear infections. Antibiotics or no antibiotics?

Dr. Marla Shapiro: The recommendations have changed recently, and we now encourage parents not to go for antibiotics. They end up so often in walk-in clinics or situations where an antibiotic is given out too liberally when a lot of what we see is really viral. Many of these ear infections are in fact viral, so we'll tell parents to treat with analgesics for pain management, not so much for fever as fever is not necessarily a bad thing unless it is inhibiting them in some way, and if after 24 to 48 hours they're still not doing well, febrile, pain and so on, we'll elect to go on an antibiotic, but don't be so quick to reach for one.

T.M.: The next one is a very controversial topic: what's your stand on childhood vaccinations?

M.S.: Vaccinations are the biggest improvement to public health after handwashing for prevention of disease, so I'm a pro-vaccine advocate. There is evidence now that there is no link between any vaccines and autism and the safety and efficacy data on the vaccines that we use are excellent, so I am a great pro-vaccinator. I encourage my parents to understand that primary prevention is your best strategy, and this whole concept that getting a disease makes the immune system tougher -- there is no science behind that at all.

T.M.: How do you find technology and internet resources have impacted your practice? Are patients coming in well-informed or misinformed, and what effect does that have?

M.S.: It's a combination. I tell all my patients that knowledge is power, but that self-diagnosis is a very dangerous thing to do. You've got to be very cautious what you're using the internet for, and cautious of the site you're going to, always making sure that it's not a branded site in any way, they're not trying to sell you anything. I encourage my patients to use the internet as a resource when there's something specific they want to do more reading about, but I'm very nervous about patients misdiagnosing themselves and using the internet inappropriately.

T.M.: I just recently read your book, and until then I had no idea that you went through the tragedy of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome with your baby son Jason many years ago. Quite often we see research come about regarding SIDS, for example recently that babies who have died of SIDS have been found to have lower levels of the hormone serotonin. Does information like this help play a role in prevention?

M.S.: There has been so much information where there have been associations, but it doesn't prove causation. There may be some other missing link. As far as where we are with SIDS, the greatest steps that we've taken are in the area of risk-reduction. It was very difficult about 15 or 20 years ago to get parents to start bedding babies on their backs. We had to go through this whole generation where we had grandparents and parents who had already bedded one child on their tummy and didn't have issues with it and truly believed that their child slept better on their tummies. Positioning is really critical, and all the other things we know like breastfeeding, not overheating your child, keeping smoke out of the environment, crib safety...all of those are so important but I think we're still a long way off from knowing what SIDS is. It's one of the few diseases that presents with death as the only symptom. There's no warning sign or anything to look for. We've seen the numbers steadily decline with change to sleep positions, and we still see it more prevalently with boys than we do with girls, it's more common in the fall and winter months which had led a lot of people to think that there's a relationship with some type of virus. It's hard to know.

T.M.: You make the point in your book that when someone is faced with a serious diagnosis, as you were with breast cancer, often well-meaning friends can say or do the wrong thing. Based on your experience, what are some of the right or helpful things that friends and relatives can say or do in that situation?

M.S.: What made me the angriest was people who told me it was going to be okay, because you don't know that it's going to be okay! And you don't want false reassurances. I think what you can do is just acknowledge, and be there for your friend, and understand that reactions are going to change over time. I think for most people, when given any type of life-threatening diagnosis, there's a great deal of fear, and there's anger, and often that's when people come in, at that stage, wanting to reassure you, when you're not in a position to be reassured.

What was important for me was to get all the information, know where I was. I wanted my friends to acknowledge that this was difficult, and not to placate me in any way or try to reassure me when there was no reassurance to be had. It's also important to be there. Instead of trying to solve the problem for someone, which you can't do, what you can do is say to a friend "I'm here for you, I'm here to listen, to keep you company, to just sit with you in silence if that's what you want...or drive your carpool or take the kids to soccer, or get a grocery order for you or prepare a meal..." Something tangible. Those were the things that were most helpful to me. My friends who didn't try to come in and take  over my life, but let me know that whatever I needed, they were here, and as difficult as it was for me to accept that at the beginning, it became such a godsend.

T.M.: You're the Editor-in-Chief of Parents Canada magazine - and you gave me my first freelance assignment, by the way - how are you enjoying that role?

M.S.: I really do enjoy it, because I think Parents Canada is very evidence-based, it's not anecdotal. That's important for me, that information be evidence-based and it be reliable, and it speaks to our audience's needs, so that's what we try to do. We try to do it in a creative way, in an educational way, and a way that really meets what we hear from our readers in terms of what they are wanting to hear about and questions they have. I'm enjoying the "Ask Dr. Marla" page. The questions, I think, are very real-life and the type of questions that people ask all the time and it keeps me on my toes listening to our readers. I'm enjoying it quite a bit.

T.M.: As such a well-loved television personality, what do you find are some of the disadvantages of being so recognizable?

M.S.: First of all, I think that it's such a privilege to do what I do. It really is. You build, over years, relationships with your viewers and I know that because they email questions or comments, and the response when I announced I had breast cancer was just so overwhelming. I think that for the most part it's a very positive experience. When is it a negative experience? The odd time when someone doesn't know a boundary and is very intrusive.

When my kids were very little they found it frightening sometimes that strangers would approach me and that they knew my name. When the kids were young, we definitely kept them out of the spotlight. In fact, when I did the documentary I don't think we filmed Matt at all, or allowed him to be on air. One, because he was little and couldn't really make an informed decision as to if this was something he really wanted to do and definitely I was very protective of my children when they were young, keeping them out of the public eye. As my husband would remind me, this is something that I chose to do, not something that the family chose to do or something that the kids chose to do, so at the time when we did the documentary that was a family decision, not my decision alone.

Same thing with the risk reduction tour that I did across Canada for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. I had not been public about my son's death at all when he died initially. This was a family tragedy, a family event, not something that just happened to me. And it was only in 2000, seven years after Jason died, when Health Canada and the Society for the Study of Infant Death approached me to do the risk reduction tour that we made the decision as a family, as I would be telling the family's story. So it's very very different when it's personal as opposed to when it's professional.

Because you're in people's homes every day, and when we did Balance we were on in reruns forever, people feel like they know you. And they do know a lot about me: what I look like, and what my thinking is. So some people who aren't particularly good with boundaries would think that they knew more than they really do know about me, or felt that they could approach me in a way that was not quite appropriate. That's sort of when you get the downside.

My thanks to Dr. Marla for sharing this family photo

T.M.: Your kids are older now. What are some of the joys that we moms of young children can look forward to as our kids grow up?

M.S.: It's been so interesting. I remember people asking me, "aren't you worried about this, or what is yet to come?" and you do it stepwise. Every day you learn something new about your kids. I see that with my own young moms, worried about the sleep patterns or what they're eating, and I always tell them "By the time you think you've got this thing licked there's going to be something else that's new." It changes, and you never know what the next day's going to bring.

It's been a real joy to see who my children are as people, and to watch them unfold. They're like these flowers that bloom and it's so interesting to see how different they are, the directions they want to go in, and watching them find themselves. It has been at times terrifying, and at times really exciting. You try to sort of calm yourself in the moments of terror when you're thinking "Oh my God, why did they make that decision?" It's hard to let them go. You have to remember as a parent that you can't fight their wars, you can't solve their problems, you're just here to give them the tools so they can do it on their own.

I was just away with my son, who is now 16 years old, on Spring Break. It's so different when you're travelling and you've got little kids, and you're sort of entertaining them and now that he's 16 he's a young adult, so I was really curious about how it was going to go.  Jenna is married and is a teacher and doesn't get the same Spring Break, and Amanda is in Boston, so it was just me and Matt. When I would go away with my girls it was one thing but going away with my son one-on-one was really interesting. We have some common interests, we golfed middle one called during the trip and asked "what are you and mom talking about?" and he said "there's lots of things for us to talk about!" It was really entertaining to see this young man spend time with me. It was really special.

You've got to enjoy it all. Even the times that are not so enjoyable, you've got to remember that those too shall pass.
Photo: Caroline Ryan, ParentsCanada

T.M.: How would you complete the sentence "This Mom Loves..."?

M.S.: I love to snowshoe in the winter. I love to find the time to get to the gym and work out. I love to cook and find cooking very therapeutic. During the time I was off for a year with my chemotherapy and my surgeries I mastered baking. I love to read. I love to take one-on-ones with my kids, and the uniqueness of what that's about, when you're not dividing yourself in three.

What else do I love, apart from the obvious things like my family? I love when it's quiet and I have time to myself. I love to travel and speak because I love to get out and meet people, and be able to put a face to who's on the other side of the lens that I don't always get to see.

I think that after you go through an experience where of all a sudden you feel like you need to think about the fact that you can die, because we don't really think about that, it's really taught me to pretty much stay in the moment, and not to think so much about the five-year plan or the ten-year plan. I'm a very organized person, and I'm a very planned person, I have to be with all the things I do. But at the same time, it's taught me to take a little bit of space, and one of the most important things I've learned is how to say no. I am liking the fact that I'm trusting myself to learn when I should say no, and understand what's on the other side of the no. We tend to say yes way too often.

T.M.: Well I appreciate you saying yes to me!

M.S.: It was a pleasure to say yes to you! I think one of the most important things we can do as moms, and I tell this to the moms in my practice, is to share your experiences and stories, and not only the good ones, but the bad ones too. It's so important to recognize that when we think we've done something wrong or we've been a bad parent, we're our own harshest judges, and there's always another opportunity. It's also important to know when you're sorry about something, and to be able to teach that to our children because we're not perfect.

That's why I did choose to speak to you because I think that blogging is such an important way for people to connect, because people do connect over the internet now, and social media has become so important in supporting some of the things we do, so when you find a site that is a reliable site, and an important site that you go back to, you should share your stories there.

Click here to follow Dr. Marla on Twitter!

Wednesday, April 6

They Searched What????

So, every once in a while I take a look at the stats for This Mom Loves (I use Google Analytics) just to see how much traffic I'm getting, how visitors are directed to my site, and where (geographically) they're coming from. It's also fascinating to examine the search terms that web surfers have used to end up at This Mom Loves. I have to say, some of them must have come away very disappointed.

Many people are searching for mom blogs, or searching me out by my name, but many others land here because they've Googled (or Binged, or whatever search engine they happen to be using) the topic of one of my posts. The readers looking for "why not to paint a room red", "Regis and Kelly show", or "executive functioning in kids" hopefully took something away from my experiences.

There are some funny misspellings, like "compar tracter joan dear" (and I don't actually recall ever discussing John Deere tractors here anyway, so I don't know how that one landed on This Mom Loves!) "Tucked old moms" is one that I just don't understand, nor do I get "gemes enteras". I even searched it myself to find out of it meant something, but to no avail! "Circus school" made me scratch my head for a moment, until I remembered that Marci Ien shared a pic of her daughter with that label.

Speaking of Marci (and YES, for all of you avid "Marci Ien pregnant" Googlers of late, she is indeed expecting her second child in September), a ton of traffic comes from web users looking for info on my Momterview subjects (to date, in addition to Marci: Laurie Gelman, Caroline Connell, Hayley Wickenheiser, Debbie Travis, Jessica Holmes, Tracy Moore, Sarah Richardson and Gail Vaz Oxlade). The readers wanting to find out more about their families and careers were hopefully satisfied. The surfers looking for any one of these lovely women in conjunction with the following search terms were likely not as happy: "topless", "in spandex", "lips", "bikini", "barefoot", "cleavage" and several more that are not fit to print. (And I'm not going to tell you which terms were searched for which celeb!)

"Mom loves (blank)" is another very popular search variation. And yes, "mom loves her daughters", and "mom loves saving money" are certainly relevant to this site. "Mom loves to party" might be questionable, depending on the context.  However, I absolutely refuse to tell you what some of the other terms are (especially since I don't want to attract more searchers!) and while I will not confirm or deny being partial to any of them, some are more of an "EWWW!" and certainly not topics for discussion here on my blog!!!

Oh, and P.S.:  My apologies to the poor soul who was looking for "mommy sewing blogs" and landed up here. Google Search must have a cruel sense of humour!

Saturday, April 2

Scholastic Review and Giveaway: Kids Cooking and More Pies!!

Giveaway open to Canadians.

I've made it clear before that I'm not much of a cook. I don't enjoy it, I like meals that are easy to prepare and clean up, and preferably containing only grains, dairy products, and select meats. I realize that I do not want to pass these issues on to my daughters, so "Kids Cooking: A Very Slightly Messy Manual" was a perfect choice to get me motivated. First published in 1987, this one has sold over a million copies, and has recently been rereleased with a fresh new cover.

This book is fantastic for parents and kids (about kindergarten age and up). It has a durable spiral binding (and can lay flat), with wipe-off pages. The recipes are step-by-step with lots of illustrations, and it even comes with a set of colourful plastic measuring spoons. Before you get to the recipes, there are helpful "Kitchen Rules" to share with the little ones.

And as for the dishes themselves, they are easy to prepare, with kid-friendly ingredients. The book is broken into sections:
Breakfasts (e.g. buried treasure muffins, eggs in a frame)
Lunches and Snacks (e.g. peanut butter popcorn, tuna cones)
Dinners and Salads (e.g. a better burrito, home-baked fish sticks)
Desserts (e.g. disgustingly rich brownies, frozen bananoids)
Not To Eat (e.g. play doh, finger paints)

Now if I attempted to make every recipe before posting this never would have happened. But I did jump right in and make the one that sounded best to me...any guesses?

Yes, this morning my daughters and I whipped up the "Disgustingly Rich Brownies"...and man, are they good. Five year old Frannie was able to help me assemble ingredients by looking at the illustrations, and Maggie enjoyed pouring and "stirring". (She couldn't quite understand why we couldn't start baking when there was more white flour visible in the mixture than anything else!)

My girls are young yet, but there are many recipes that older kids could tackle alone. Now that the girls have a "taste" (no pun intended) of spending time in the kitchen with Mommy, I know that I'll be taking a lot more requests, which will be a good thing. Maggie already spent a full five minutes giving Daddy the baking breakdown, from who stood on which stool right through to the licking of the spoons.

Now while we're on the subject of eating...
"More Pies" is a hilarious picture book by well-loved author Robert Munsch, a title that surprisingly we did not already have on our bookshelf at home. The book is about a young boy named Samuel, whose mother refuses to cook him seven fried chickens for breakfast, leading him to hop a bus and enter a pie-eating contest!

Frannie's favourite part was when Samuel, full from the ridiculous amount of breakfast he was given, goes outside and rolls around screaming "I'm starving!!!" It was a great opportunity to work on "making connections" (teacher-speak) to the fact that my own daughters often complain of hunger even when they have been very recently well-fed!

Almost three year old Maggie asserted that her favourite part was "the pies"...which was basically the whole book. It's classic Munsch silliness at its finest.

Of course Scholastic is giving away a copy of both books (retail value almost $30) for one lucky Canadian This Mom Loves reader.

To enter, simply leave a comment below letting me know what your child's favourite food is. (Remember to leave your email address if it's not on your profile. If I can't contact you, you can't win!) For additional entries, once the mandatory entry has been completed, leave separate comments letting me know that:
  • You follow This Mom Loves publicly through Google Friend Connect
  • You subscribe to This Mom Loves by email (see sidebar to sign up)
  • You follow @thismomloves on Twitter, and tweet about this giveaway (once total)
  • You follow @scholasticCDA on Twitter, and tweet about this giveaway (once total)
The contest will run until Saturday, April 16th at 11:59 p.m. Eastern, after which time a winner will be chosen by random number generation. Good luck, and get cooking!!

You Don't HAVE To Keep Checking...(and a question for bloggers)

This one is for the several friends, family members, coworkers and acquaintances who have recently mentioned that they wished they had a way to know when I had a new post up here at This Mom Loves, rather than having to continuously check.

The solution? You can very easily subscribe to This Mom Loves by email....just click HERE! (The link is also in my sidebar.)

You will receive a Feedburner Subscription Confirmation (which may possibly head to your Spam folder), which you must open in order to confirm the subscription, and then all new posts will be sent to you by email. You get the whole post (no linking necessary).

Some bloggers use only partial feeds, and give you the title and perhaps the first couple of lines, but you have to click through to the actual site to read the rest. I can see that this would be valuable in terms of increasing traffic to the site and getting stats up, but I know I find it annoying when I sign up for blogs I love, and then only get partial feeds in my email. I don't often link through, whereas if I had the whole post I would at least skim it all.

I'd appreciate if other bloggers out there could let me know what method they use and/or prefer, and if I'm missing any advantages of the partial feed?

If you're not already a subscriber, here's the link again. Go sign up now!