Friday, July 29

BIC Prize Pack Giveaway - $100 Value!

Giveaway open to Canadians.


Sure, we know computers have their benefits, but a recent study by BIC shows that when Canadians write down notes in class, a meeting, etc., they tend to remember the information better if the notes are handwritten. The study also showed that 62% of Canadians actually prefer to handwrite with pen and paper when studying for school, preparing notes for a presentation at work, or just jotting down notes and making lists.

Handwriting is also good for the brain. “Writing by hand engages the brain and is a building block to learning that can actually help improve idea composition, expression and aids fine motor-skill development,” says     Dr. Steve Graham.  “Keyboards are not the most logical tools for memory-oriented communication, whereas handwriting is the second way we learn to communicate at a young age after we learn how to talk. From helping children to learn letters and shapes to baby boomers working to keep their minds sharp as they age, handwriting is food for the brain.”

Another interesting point from the survey: 65% of Canadians feel that people judge the quality of a note or ideas based on the handwriting. Handwriting should be smooth and polished and a good quality writing instrument is key!

Although I am a technophile, you can't tear me away from my old-fashioned datebook, and I definitely still make my lists with paper and pen. As a teacher, I know that parents, while aware of the importance of computer skills for their children, still want them to master getting their written word on paper as well.

One lucky This Mom Loves reader will win a BIC prize pack valued at over $100, filled with the Velocity Bold Pen, featuring the easy-glide ink system, a patented BIC technology providing up to 35% smoother ink (I received some samples and they live up to the promise), along with other pens, pencils, markers, highlighters, liners, and Wite Out. The promotional materials mentioned "back-to-s****", but I refuse to use that phrase on my blog until at least the middle of August!

All you have to do for your chance to win is fill out the form below (making sure to tell me one thing you like to write by hand) and click "submit". The contest will run until 11:59 p.m. Eastern on Friday, August 12th, after which time a winner will be chosen by random number generation. Good luck, and happy handwriting!

Disclosure: I got a free pack of pens for review purposes. Just thought this was a worthwhile giveaway...and an interesting study!

Wednesday, July 27

Wednesday Words from "The Last Lecture" by Randy Pausch

I've read some great books lately ("Water For Elephants": book club selection, incredible, couldn't put it down) as well as some good books ("From This Moment On" by Shania Twain: sad, from her upbringing to her split, but still inspiring) yet I've chosen a relatively old (2008) title to share with you today.

I'm sure you've heard of "The Last Lecture": facing a diagnosis of terminal cancer, computer science professor, husband and father Randy Pausch gave his "last lecture", full of the final thoughts he wanted to impart onto the world. The lecture become a phenomenon (it even made Oprah!) and a best-selling book followed. Here, I steal one of my favourite sections to share with you.

The Friday Night Solution

     I got tenure a year earlier than people usually do. That seemed to impress other junior faculty members.
     "Wow, you got tenure early," they'd say to me. "What was your secret?"
     I said, "It's pretty simple. Call me any Friday night in my office at ten o'clock and I'll tell you." (Of course, this was before I had a family.)
     A lot of people want a shortcut. I find the best shortcut is the long way, which is basically two words: work hard.
     As I see it, if you work more hours than somebody else, during those hours you learn more about your craft. That can make you more efficient, more able, even happier. Hard work is like compounded interest in the bank. The rewards build faster.
     The same is true in your life outside of your job. All my adult life I've felt drawn to ask long-married couples how they were able to stay together. All of them said the same thing: "We worked hard at it."

Randy lost his battle against pancreatic cancer on July 25th, 2008. Visit the website at

Winners: Shian Naturals and Scholastic

Congratulations to:

Melissa from Huntsville, ON

winner of the Shian Naturals Prize Pack


Shaunna from Edmonton, AB

winner of the Nick Bland books from Scholastic.

Enjoy your prizes, ladies!

Monday, July 25

Review Roundup: Rubbermaid FilterFresh, Puma Socks and Sof Sole Goodies

My mailbox has been overflowing with products lately (I know, it's tough), and I've chosen three I want to share with you today:

Rubbermaid FilterFresh Water Bottle

We filter our water at home, and every day I use the pitcher with filter from the fridge to fill up my water bottle. The new Rubbermaid FilterFresh Water Bottle makes this even easier: there is a carbon-based filter attached to the inside of the bottle cap, so you can fill it up directly from any tap. The filter removes chlorine and other large sediment particles, leaving nothing but great-tasting water.

Filter Fresh Water Bottle

The dial on the replaceable filter helps track when it is time to get a new one (approx. every three months).

The 600 mL bottles are BPA free and dishwasher and freezer safe, and fit easily in automobile cup holders. They come in four colours: blue, purple, green and black (which I have - always a classic). Another handy feature: you can remove the filter portion in order to put ice cubes in the bottle, should you so desire.

At only $9.99, they are very reasonably priced, and a 2-pack of replacement filters costs the same. A small price to pay to keep plastic water bottles out of our landfills (in fact, each filter gives you the equivalent of 300 bottles of water!) Pick them up at Real Canadian Superstores and Loblaws.

PUMA Lifestyle Socks

It's amazing how we are so brand-savvy. I received a package recently, and pulled out a paper bag from inside. As soon as I spotted the wildcat logo, my brain registered "PUMA"...and I couldn't wait to see the contents.

I found a selection of their new lifestyle socks (for men and ladies, available at all major Canadian retailers, including Sears, The Bay, and select sports stores). The 3-pack ankle socks come in a variety of colour combinations for men and women. (As I type this, I'm wearing the bright pink...which totally clash with my red nails, but you won't tell, right?)

The coolest thing, however, was at the bottom of the bag. At first glance, it was a simple, Lance-Armstrong-style plastic bracelet, with "Get Social!" and the PUMA logo. (I imagined it being an extremely popular item in my classroom treasure box!) However, upon further inspection, I realized that the bracelet snaps apart at the back, and is in fact a USB key! Is that neat or what? The above photo was found on the key for my convenience...and I'll certainly find other uses for it, too.

Sof Sole Products

Sof Sole makes an extensive line of performance insoles for men and women to help reduce foot pain and increase comfort.

My favourite: Airr Women's Performance Insole

My husband likes: Airr Arch Men's Performance Insole (which has a 4/5 design, making is a good fit for not only sport but also dress and casual footwear).

I received so many samples in various sizes that I ended up sharing with staff at work (they're so good to help me out!) and I have only heard positive feedback.

These Sof Sole products provide moisture-control technology and maximum air cushioning for high-impact activities...and although I'm more of a low-impact girl, I do notice a difference with these in my shoes. Sof Sole also makes the Airr Orthotic, Airr Arch and Airr Cup (a tailored gel heel device).

The products range in price from $12 to $30 a pair, and are available at select SportChek and Mark's Work Wearhouse stores across Canada. I'm off to go for a run in my new PUMA socks, with my new Airr Insoles cushioning my steps and Rubbermaid FilterFresh Water Bottle in hand. Or I might just go check my email for a while first; whatever.

Friday, July 22

Using Google Docs For Giveaways

I recently started using Google Docs for giveaways here at This Mom Loves, and I've found a number of advantages:
  • It still works even when there are glitches with Blogger comments
  • It keeps entrants' email addresses private (they appear on my spreadsheet, nowhere else)
  • It can be filled in and submitted much more efficiently (several entries all on the same form, click "submit" and you're done)

Readers must be appreciating it, since entry numbers are definitely rising. I don't know if Cars 2 (my Google Docs launch) was just a really popular contest, but I had more entries for that one in the first 48 hours than I had by the end of any other giveaway in the preceding few months.

I got the idea from my friend Jen at Mom vs the Boys who had been using the format for a while, and I followed the instructions on this tutorial over at Family Friendly Frugality to get started.

It takes a few minutes to create each form, and I'm still working out the most efficient way of numbering the entries, but it's definitely worth a look. I've had several people leave comments in favour of the new system, and a lot of friends and acquaintances have mentioned that they've never entered contests before because the commenting system took too long, but now they're entering everything.

Feel free to ask if you have any questions, whether you're a giveaway blogger or a contest junkie, or let me know what you think about the new contest format here at This Mom Loves!

Tuesday, July 19

The Marilyn Denis Show: Behind-the-Scenes and a Momterview

Marilyn Denis' official bio describes her as "one of the busiest, most fun-loving - and quite honestly, one of the nicest people in broadcasting", and my experience last week certainly confirmed that.

I had first seen Marilyn at a taping of Cityline almost five years ago with my husband's sisters, and as a getaway this summer, we decided that we wanted to see her again on the new, appropriately named, "Marilyn Denis Show".
Photo Courtesy CTV

Everyone I dealt with at the show was truly "nice" (an overused word, I realize, but very appropriate), from the audience coordinator to security to the publicist and publicity intern. When we arrived we were escorted to a waiting area, and then at about 9:30 we were seated in the studio and given instructions: smile, clap, and act excited, none of which were problems for all of the enthusiastic women (and two men) in the audience that day!

On the lineup for our show: legendary actress Gena Rowlands (in town for a retrospective celebrating the work of her late husband, director John Cassavetes), tips for grocery shopping and food storage, creating summer planters, and updating rooms with paint. (After remarking that a coat of paint can really provide a facelift, Marilyn quipped: "And you know how I feel about facelifts! I love 'em!")

I have to say the only thing I was disappointed about that day was that there was no big giveaway! Quite often on the show the entire audience will get an awesome prize like $100 gift cards for various products and services, but no such luck the day we were there. We did walk away with a fan deck of paint swatches and some notecards from Sherwin Williams Paint.

I was impressed that Marilyn took the time for a meet and greet with the audience after the show, and this was no special media perk; she sticks around to say hello and get a photo with any and all interested audience members every day.

Marilyn, me and my sisters-in-law

After the meet and greet, the show's publicist escorted me to the green room to wait for the host...and when she walked in, she was warm and kind, complimenting my outfit and appearing honestly interested in knowing my name, and hearing about the blog and my own kids before getting started with the interview.

Now, I'm sure if I were a true entertainment reporter I would have started with "Who are you wearing?" so I could lead in to this piece with all the fashion details...but I didn't. So we'll get right to the questions!

This Mom: I asked my readers what questions they had for you, and a lot of them are still hung up on why you left Cityline. Can you sum that up for us?

Marilyn Denis: There was a company merge. CTV, at the time, bought the CHUM Radio Station, and so I had to go with them, I was part of the move. Then a year later, Rogers came in and they bought CityTV but I still belonged to CTV because I'm with CHUM Radio, so it was decided, and rightfully so, because I love radio, that I stay with CHUM-FM, and CTV wanted me to stay with CHUM-FM, and so that's what I did.

TM: I'm not interested in comparing you to Tracy {Moore, current host of Cityline}, but I'm curious--- how is "you doing The Marilyn Denis show" different from "you doing Cityline"?

MD: We're a talk show. We're a talk show - slash- lifestyle show and Cityline is a lifestyle show, and that's the difference. I think there's a lot of "how-to" on that show and we have that too because it's part of lifestyle, but we also have a lot of celebrities coming in, and we're really out in the field doing a lot of things. Tracy does her own thing because she's Tracy. No matter who hosts the show, it really starts to morph into who that person is, and their interests, and the audience that they're going after, that sort of thing. I don't know what they're doing now, but I know what we're doing. The show's named after me now so it's kind of custom-tailored to what I like and what I think my audience will like, that's really the most important thing. So it's celebrities, fun, information, you don't have to buy anything, but if you want to, we let you know where the best deal is. I look at it as a girlfriends' show, because it's like "Oh my gosh, did you see what happened on The Marilyn Denis Show today? Did you see those shoes?", "Yeah, they're $350 but I know where to get them!", that sort of thing. Also, you can take our show and lift a piece of information out and use it immediately. That's what I like about it.

TM: Your mornings must be crazy. Give us a quick run-through of how you get from home to radio show to TV show every morning.

MD:  I get up at 4:00 in the morning, and I watch a couple of newscasts, I have breakfast, I go to CHUM-FM, I barely make it for 5:30, and then I deal with - not "work with", "deal with" - Roger and Darren, and happily so. Then at 9:00 I walk across the bridge that connects the two buildings and get my hair and makeup done, get a review of what the show is that day, and then we're live to air at 10:00. Then I'm done by 11:00, I have meetings and have lunch and whatever. In the afternoons I try to work out three to four times a week around 2 or 3:00, and then I try to see or be near the bed by 8, 8:30 and once I'm in there I will fall asleep. Sleep is really important to me. It does everything for me. {Sounds like a woman after my own heart. But I don't have the 'waking up at 4 a.m.' excuse...} So that's pretty much "a day in the life".

TM: Any favourite celebrities that you've interviewed?

MD: {Enthusiastically} YES! I have a lot. Thrilled to meet Christopher Plummer. Gena Rowlands was on today, and God, she's a great actress. I don't know if people know how great she is. I've met Shania Twain before, she's always good. And you know, everybody has a story. Like Donnie and Marie, as happy as they both are, they've had some tough times. We're all real people, and they're great about sharing the stuff they've gone through. And Bradley much as he's stunning and wowing all the chicks, he really loves his mom. That kind of information is really really good. Another one I thought was great was Mackenzie Phillips. Through all the trials and tribulations she's gone through, she is a good mom. She's got demons, and she knows she's got demons, but she's helping people with addictions now, and boy, she loves her son. We had a great chance during commercial breaks to talk about our sons, who are approximately the same age. What you see on the show is great, the camera comes on and we have this interview, but sometimes if I have them on for a couple of segments, I continue to talk to them and I find it so interesting, it's like a little piece of them that they feel comfortable talking to me about. And people are usually very forthcoming.

Marilyn and Bradley Cooper, Photo Courtesy CTV

TM: You mentioned your son. What is Adam doing these days?

MD: Adam is in radio, and he's doing very well. He's in Western Canada. And that's all he'll want me to say!

TM: That's something I wanted to ask you, because you've been talking about him on-air all his life, and I was wondering how he feels about that.

MD: He is making a name for himself, he just doesn't want me to say anything more than that. He wants to be known for what he does, and not for being Marilyn Denis' son. He's always been that way.

TM: Has he been against you talking about him on-air?

MD: He hasn't been against it, but just doesn't want me sharing too much information. He's very proud of what I do, and he doesn't know me to do anything else but this; he was brought up in this broadcasting world. But he's also very aware of people trying to get in on things where they didn't earn it, and he wants to earn it, and earn having the doors opened for him. He's a great guy, 23 years old, he has a girlfriend, and they're having a good life.

TM: Any tips for moms, especially single moms out there like you were, who are trying to raise kids and have a busy career at the same time?

MD: I think sleep is really important. Networking and finding other mothers where you can take time trading off childcare. I have a particularly good friend who I met at the dry cleaners. I was new in the neighbourhood and I asked her if she had any children, and she had a five year old boy, I had a four year old. At that point, we connected, because mothers do that, and I invited her over for coffee and what would eventually emerge from all of that was that on Tuesdays I'd take both boys from after school until 7:00, and she would take Thursdays. So I would go grocery shopping on Thursdays, or go home and take a bath and shave my legs, I would do something for me! It wasn't about going "out". But you know how you just can't seem to find time to get to the drug store, those types of things.

It's important to find a really great babysitter, like I certainly did, after a few trials and tribulations, and I found her at Shopper's Drug Mart. I went to the pharmacist and said "Out of all the young people who work for you, can you give me two or three names who might want to do some part-time babysitting?" and what I would do sometimes is I would be in the house and I would watch the person take care of Adam and play with him and this one turned out to be terrific.

The other thing I say to mothers, single or not, is that honestly: to keep the house really tidy, and to have it looking like Canadian House and Home - though I love that magazine with all my heart - is truly a bit much. Really spend time with your kids, when it's time to spend time with your kids. The laundry may pile up, but it's OKAY!

TM: Yeah, yeah, I know I need to hear this. {Loyal readers, you were thinking the same thing about me, weren't you? Don't worry; I wasn't too proud to admit to Marilyn Denis that I have this issue!}

Marilyn and me

MD: And also, spend time with your husband. Send the children away so you can have a romantic weekend with your husband. If you spend all that time planning a girls' weekend, and you never put that effort into your husband, you're in trouble. And don't fill every weekend with having people over for dinner, just get out and do something together. It doesn't have to cost a lot of money. These little things, I can really see a difference between families that do that and don't do that, and it's pretty amazing.

We're all going to have troubles. There are a lot of expectations through magazines and television shows about how it should be, and you think "Oh, they look really together," but people in Hollywood look really together because they have a day nanny and a night nanny. Okay? They do. And they have oxygen facials every day, and they go to the gym every day, and they have a husband, and they're doing a movie. At what point are you spending time with your kids? Just know that that's the reality of it. And it's okay if you get a little heavy, don't be hard on yourself. Just be as healthy as you can, have some "me time", because that's really important. Children time is really important. Dinnertime is really important. And don't overbook the kids with soccer and hockey and dance. Pick one thing. Sometimes the kids are in hockey and they get to the next level and they've got seven games a week, and you know what? Bullshit.You're not doing that. If you're going to play hockey, you're going to play once a week, and practice once a week. That's it.

TM: Oooh, I come from a community that would disagree with you on that one!

MD: But you know what, give yourself a break. Family time is more important. I know, my community was like that too, a hockey community. I let Adam do one year like that, but then he decided "I have no time to just play!" So you know, don't overbook yourself, don't overbook the kids. And watching TV is okay, just monitor that stuff. You can't be too rigid. I'm not good friends with people who are "professional parents". They drive me up the wall. I think you have to let it be -- I hate the word "organic", but you have to let it flow. Be mindful of what's going on, and listen. I've made a lot of mistakes with Adam, and he's forgiven me, but you know, I worked two jobs because I had to work two jobs. But I was home for him after school, and his dad was great because he would take him when I had to go to bed, and take him to school the next day, because we were divorced, but it worked out well. It wasn't easy, but it worked out well. Don't forget about your mate, make sure you have some me time. Make sure the kids really play, and that you get family outings and just do something fun.

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

MD: This mom loves it when her son calls, which is very rare! {For those of us still at the "Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!" phase, it's hard to believe it will eventually come to this.} This mom really loves the man he has become, and it wasn't without a lot of hard work. And this mom loves to go get facials whenever she can, and manicures and pedicures because they make me feel good! And this mom loves radio and television.


Then we took a couple of photos and wrapped up. Marilyn joked about using the word "bullshit" in the interview, I told her I would definitely be printing it. She graciously said how nice it was to meet me, I graciously offered to be on the show should she ever need me (I know, I'm generous like that. I'm not trying to spark a campaign here or anything, but if if this goes the direction of Betty White/SNL, well, really that's out of my control),  and we parted ways.

There are many public personalities out there who can pour it on thick when they have to be "on", but Marilyn comes across like the real deal. It was a pleasure.

Be sure to watch The Marilyn Denis Show weekdays on CTV; check your local listings for times. You can also find out more at The Marilyn Denis Show website.

Monday, July 18

Girls' Getaway in Toronto!

To celebrate my recent birthday, my husband's three sisters and I headed to the big city for some bonding time. Tomorrow I will bring you the main event: The Marilyn Denis Show, and my post-show interview with Marilyn.

For today, here are the rest of our trip highlights:


We stayed at the fantastic Marriott Toronto Downtown Eaton Centre Hotel. The room was excellent, the service incredible, and the selling feature: a not-so-secret passageway directly into the Eaton Centre. We also used their valet parking service, which was a reasonable $30 considering the cost of parking in Toronto for two days. This way we didn't have to worry about finding a spot, and we just called ahead to have the car (okay, minivan, whatever) brought to the door when we were ready to head out again. (It's also a great place to stay with kids - ours loved the pool when we stayed there last on the March Break.)

Double/Double Guest Room


We took advantage of our proximity to the mall to dine at one of the Eaton Centre landmarks: Mr. Greenjeans. All four of us enjoyed our meal (though to be honest, three of us ordered the same thing!) and the desserts were both monstrous and tasty. I'd strongly recommend the Caramel Chocolate Cake!



Yes, we went all the way to Toronto just to go to the movies...but was it ever worth it. We saw "Horrible Bosses": definitely the funniest movie I've seen this year (I laughed even more than I did at "Bridesmaids") if not the last few years. I particularly loved Jennifer Aniston in a role that is a total departure from the Rachel-type that she seems pinned to. One warning about this one: it's definitely for grown-ups only!


After we saw Marilyn on Day 2 (more on that tomorrow!) we headed to the mall to make our trip complete.
I wanted to bring back something for Frannie and Maggie, but after all the work we've done to organize their crap belongings, there was no way I was buying anything toy-like whatsoever. Instead, I went with summer nightgowns and water bottles from The Disney Store, which were a huge hit when I got home.

My travel companions had all given me cash for my birthday so I could spend it as I I went straight to the jewelry store and picked up a new Pandora bead (the know, 'cause I'm a teacher).

I also loved walking past the Coach store without any of the usual longing or wistfulness...since I had my own gorgeous bag slung over my shoulder!

Thanks, ladies, for a fantastic getaway...and I'll be back tomorrow with all the behind-the-scenes scoop from The Marilyn Denis Show!

Friday, July 15

Girls' Rooms Reorganized! (Insert Sigh of Relief)

Thank you all for your concern and support during my recent difficulty handling the state of my daughters' bedrooms. (Click here if you missed that so-embarrassingly-sad-it's-funny post.)

On the last day of school, I headed home and started tackling Maggie's room. It had only been a mess for about a month, and wasn't too hard to get under control. One decision I made was to move her CD player (purchased for the nursery before Frannie was even born, and extremely handy for bedtime lullabye routines) to her low table where she can access it and play her own music. (There are two current favourites in rotation: Natalie MacMaster "Live" and 100 Best Songs For Children).

Then Frannie and I dove in to her disaster area...and by 7:00, neither of us having eaten, but only half done our daunting task, we decided to call it a night. (Half done meant half a movie before bed. My girls are very easy to bribe.)

The next morning it took another hour and a half to get everything organized. The final results:

Frannie's dresser top is now only for jewelry, and we cleared off the top of the
hope chest to make taking toys out/putting them away easier

CD player and all books-on-CD in a handy spot

Maggie's well-organized bookshelf

And her accessible CD player (CD's on her headboard)

Once everything was cleaned up, dealing with Frannie's art and writing was actually much easier than I anticipated.

On my previous post, someone suggested a website where you can turn a large number of pieces of artwork into one collage (see photo below) but the prices START at $ 750...more than I'm willing to pay, when a binder will do the trick for now. Frannie was surprisingly unsentimental about her random pieces of paper...I think trying to decide what toys to donate was a much more difficult task...but you know what, she did a good job with that too, and several bags went to the Salvation Army. I kept some of the best pieces of artwork, and a few pieces of writing (which she loves to do while Maggie is napping in the afternoons).

Collage by Jan Eleni

My favourite piece of Frannie's writing (I have adjusted the spacing for your comfort, but spelling and punctuation are hers):


(Apparently she really does take after her mother, as she used an abundance of punctuation, but not a period in sight! I mean, in sight. She also takes after her grandparents, who love flowers and books. You figured that out, right?)

My other favourite story (just to continue to test your ability to decipher the writing of a five year old):



Brilliant, no?

The ultimate reward for the girls was a new colouring book from Michael's (Frannie had her eye on a Star Wars edition) and imagine my surprise when I made it in to the store to learn that it only cost a buck. Can't beat that for my peace of mind (strange though it may be), which was my ultimate reward.

Next up? Tackling the storage area under the basement stairs. You gotta love "holidays".

Wednesday, July 13

Tooth Fairy Update

Well, I believe Frannie's first loose tooth got swallowed along with her chocolate cupcake at breakfast (thanks, Aunt Ash!) while camping last weekend, but a note to the Tooth Fairy alerted her to the issue...

...and she managed to find our tent and leave two shiny (oh, who am I kidding, dull) loonies under her pillow. When she woke up, Frannie told us they were each worth $11 (she was looking at where it said "Queen Elizabeth II"), but was perfectly satisfied with two bucks. And no, I did not make her share with her sister.

A few people have asked me what she got when she knocked her two front teeth out on the garage steps at 19 months old...and the answer is, I guess we owe her retro pay for those ones. Maybe next time the Tooth Fairy will leave a note and a bonus.

I like the comments that were left regarding leaving a new toothbrush under the pillow, or Chelsey's suggestion to set out a glass of water, and the Tooth Fairy will dip her dress in (food colouring) to let the child know what colour she was wearing. I just may use these next time!

Meanwhile, both girls visited the dentist for their first checkup this week (not counting Frannie's pre- and post-op visits in toddlerhood) and they're all clear. Their hygienist was absolutely fabulous with them (and coincidentally, was one of my French students when she was in Grades 7 and 8) and I think the television screen on the ceiling was a very important calming factor.

So...enough teeth excitement for this summer. Knock on wood. Oooh, maybe not a good choice of words.

Monday, July 11

Watch Marilyn on Thursday!

Be sure to watch The Marilyn Denis Show on CTV this Thursday. I'll be in the audience with my hubby's three sisters (girls' getaway - yay!) and I'll be chatting with Marilyn after the show. You can catch all the behind-the-scenes info as well as my interview next week here at This Mom Loves!


Sunday, July 10

No More Sunscreen Excuses!

Recently, Prevention Magazine found that only 31% of women wear sunscreen, despite the overwhelming evidence that it should be applied every day. Many of those women who skip SPF said they feel guilty about it, so much so that 69% of women lie to themselves, saying they don’t need sunscreen.

Whatever your excuse may be about UV protectors, Prevention’s got you covered, with myth busting facts about common sunscreen misconceptions. In the June feature “No More Excuses” (see below); Prevention shows consumers that there’s really no good reason to skimp on sunscreen and with the F.D.A.’s new changes, it will be much easier to understand what to look for when buying sunscreen.

No More Excuses!

Excuse # 1 – “The chemicals in sunscreen are probably more dangerous than sun exposure”

Reality Check:

· Studies show that many of the safety concerns are not well founded—they’re based on Petri dish or animal data that doesn’t relate to humans.

· For example, in one study, mice fed a whopping dose of oxybenzone, a UV-light absorber commonly found in sunscreen, exhibited estrogenic effects, which the researchers believe could cause cancer cells to grow more rapidly.

· But the truth is it would take more than 250 years for someone who uses sunscreen daily to be exposed to the amount of oxybenzone used in the study.

 Still worried? Use a sunscreen like Beyond Coastal Natural SPF 30 Sunscreen ($16;, which has zinc oxide and titanium dioxide in lieu of chemical sunscreens.

Excuse # 2 – “I don’t get a lot of sun”

Reality Check:

· You don’t have to be on the beach to soak up rays. Most people rack up 14 hours of casual UV exposure per week.

· One study found that even short spurts of UVA light twice a week resulted in significant damage to the fibers that keep skin smooth and firm in just 12 weeks.

· Makeup and a daily lotion with SPF are great steps, but the protection is short-lived on hot, sunny says, use a swear-resistant sunscreen with at least SPF 30 on all sun-exposed areas to be safe.

Excuse # 3 – “It’s a drag to reapply sunscreen”

Reality Check:

· Five minutes every 2 hours—that’s all it takes to apply the 1 ounce (2 table=-spoons) of sunscreen recommended for protection when you’re in a bathing suit or outdoors for extended periods.

· And when it’s time to reapply, new sprays like Aveeno Hydrosport Sunblock Spray SPF 85 ($10; drugstores) makes it less of a hassle and even adhere to wet skin. Easy, right?

Excuse # 4 – “Sunscreen is too expensive”

Reality Check:

· As long as you pick one that clearly states it blocks both UVA and UVB rays, there’s no need to break the bank when buying. “

· Research doesn’t show any relationship between price and protection, try Banana Boat Ultra Defense SPF 30 Continuous Clear Spray ($10; drugstores)

Excuse # 5 – “I don’t need sunscreen because my skin is naturally dark”

Reality Check:

· Skin cancer is color-blind. In fact, skin cancer rates are increasing among Latinos—many of whom have dark skin.

· Hispanics are more genetically diverse than other groups, so even if they have dark skin, they could burn just as someone with fair German or Irish skin would

· Plus, those with dark skin may not recognize skin cancers as early in their development as people with light skin. (One study found advanced stages of melanoma at time of diagnosis in 18% of Hispanics and 26% of African Americans, compared with 12% of Caucasians.)

· Sun deepens dark spots common in all women of color. Try using sheer, nonchalky Neutrogena Ultra-Sheer Dry-Touch Sunblock SPF 30 ($10;

Excuse # 6 – “I look so good with a tan”

Reality Check:

· Think long-term: Saggy, leathery skin is not pretty.

· Instead of opting for none, try the subtle sheen of Hawaiian Tropic Shimmer Effect Lotion Sunscreen SPF 40 ($9; drugstores).

Excuse # 7 – “I haven’t gotten burned yet”

Reality Check:

· This is the skin equivalent of ‘I’ve never had a car wreck, so I don’t need a seat belt.

· Though a cavalier attitude toward sunscreen may not be a big deal when you’re young, skin loses its ability to produce melanin effectively as you get older, and that may actually make you more likely to burn.

· The fact is, sun damage—including wrinkles and loss of firmness—occurs whether or not you’re seeing red.

· And that’s a good reason to use a sunscreen like Avon Anew Solar Advance Sunscreen Body Lotion SPF 30 ($34;; it prevents burning and helps to heal past damage with a blend of antioxidant-rich botanicals.

Excuse # 8 – “Skin cancer is one of the most treatable forms of cancer”

Reality Check:

· UVB rays lead to the development of the two most common types of skin cancer, basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, and UVA rays penetrate deeper into the skin, triggering melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.

· While it’s true that melanoma is usually curable when caught early, it still kills 8,000 Americans a year. And those who are lucky enough to recover from skin cancer aren’t necessarily unscathed.

· Take basal cell carcinomas, for instance: They penetrate deeply and slowly destroy health tissue. Both the biopsy and the surgery to remove the lesions can leave a scar or, in rare cases, disfigurement.

· Still not screaming for sunscreen? A number of studies also show that having skin cancer increases your risk of developing other cancers, including breast, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, lung, and kidney.

· Even a little UB light can weaken cells in the skin and compromise your immune surveillance; it’s like removing the security guards from a bank and allowing robbers to come in.

My thanks to Prevention magazine for offering to share this information with This Mom Loves readers.

On a related note, I also recently heard of Seasons UV, the makers of 50++ UPF swimwear, now offering a new line of kids Solar Guard swimwear, called LOL, designed to alert parents with a color change when UV rays are getting dangerous. The ‘LOL’ pattern has a big white smiley face in the ‘O’ that changes from white to blue when it’s time to apply sunscreen. Moms, you might want to check it out.

LOL - Girl - Beach & Bike Shirt Long Sleeve

Disclosure: I received nothing for this post. Just passing along valuable info!

Thursday, July 7

Tell Me The Tooth...Quickly!

I'll be short and sweet: Frannie's first tooth (not counting her knocked out front pair - click for that "Bad Mommy Moments" post) will be falling out any day.

What is the going rate for the Tooth Fairy? When I was a kid, there were 2 quarters left under the pillow - one that I had to share with my younger brother. Of course, once he started to lose teeth, he wasn't forced to share his earnings with me, but that's another story...that I love to tell whenever the subject of the Tooth Fairy comes up.

Any special traditions, etc. for the whole loss-of-teeth milestone?

Comments would be greatly appreciated!

Wednesday, July 6

Nick Bland Kids' Books From Scholastic: Giveaway

Your kids would love Nick Bland's books. An Australian author and illustrator, he does fantastic work, with stories appealing to a range of ages. Three of my favourites, courtesy of Scholastic Canada:

A Monster Wrote Me a Letter:

This is a great resource for teaching point of view. We can easily relate to the little boy's anxiety about a monster's upcoming visit...but did you ever stop to think what the monster might be feeling?

The Very Cranky Bear (hardcover):

"When four friends encounter a very cranky bear, Moose, Lion and Zebra all think they know how to cheer him up. But in the end it is plain, ordinary Sheep who might have the answer."

With Bland's trademark engaging illustrations and rhyming verse, this story is sure to be a hit with younger readers.

The Wrong Book:

While my daughters loved all three books, this one entertained and inspired my Grade 3 class the most. In fact, they each wrote their own version of "The Wrong Book" - the story of a child who keeps attempting to share his story, but getting interrupted on every page by unwanted characters!

With complete credit to Nick Bland (since the format is all his), here is our class version of "The Wrong Book":

My name is Sally Student and this is a book about...garbage? Why on earth would this book be about garbage? You're in the wrong book!

My name is Sally Student and this is a book about...a horse? Seriously? How did that even get in here? You're in the wrong book!

My name is Sally Student and this is a book about...parents? What is this world coming to? I don't want to be bossed around in my own story! You're in the wrong book!

My name is Sally Student and this is a book about...snacks? Why would anyone want to read a book about snacks? That would so not sell! You're in the wrong book!

My name is Sally Student and this is a book about...erasers? What the heck? You're in the wrong book!

My name is Sally Student and this is a book about...magic? No, this book isn't about magic. Why don't you just poof away and be gone? You're in the wrong book!

My name is Sally Student and this is a book No, this book is more interesting than that! You're in the wrong book!

My name is Sally Student and this is a book about...grandparents? I'm sorry but you're just going to slow me down! You're in the wrong book!

My name is Sally Student and this is a book about...over.


Of course, Scholastic is going to send one lucky This Mom Loves reader ALL THREE of these terrific Nick Bland books (retail value $37), and all you have to do is fill out the form below and click "submit". Your email address is required (if I can't contact you, you can't win!) with bonus entries if you follow This Mom Loves through GFC, email or Twitter, or follow ScholasticCDA on Twitter.

I have recently started using forms from Google Docs for my giveaways, which has increased the responses, and also provides privacy to entrants, as other readers are not privy to their email address or other information. All submissions are accessible to me through spreadsheet form, which I use to find the winner.

The contest will run until July 20th at 11:59 p.m. Eastern, after which time a winner will be chosen through random number generation.

Good luck!

Disclosure: Books were provided to me for review purposes. Opinions are, as always, my own.

Tuesday, July 5

Moms Deserve Options: The Business of Being Born

Executive Producer Ricki Lake and Filmmaker Abby Epstein follow their landmark documentary, The Business of Being Born, with an all-new, four part DVD series that continues their provocative and entertaining exploration of the modern maternity care system. More Business of Being Born, available on October 18, 2011, offers a practical look at birthing options as well as poignant celebrity birth stories from stars including Alanis Morissette, Gisele Bundchen, Christy Turlington-Burns, Cindy Crawford, Molly Ringwald, Ali Larter, Kimberly Williams-Paisley and Melissa Joan Hart.

Inspired by their own unique birth experiences, Ricki and Abby teamed up in 2007 to provide a nation of mothers-to-be with insight into the process of childbirth and the various options available when preparing for life’s most special event. More Business of Being Born will be presented in four parts, each containing subject matters ranging from doulas and midwives to celebrity birth stories – all developed with the goal of empowering women by providing the necessary information to make the best birth decisions possible.

Ricki and Abby are proud to announce that they are using Kickstarter, the world’s largest crowd-based fundraising platform, to raise money for the completion and marketing of this upcoming, self-released documentary. Link to the Kickstarter directly at 

(At the time of this post, they had reached $62,000 of their $100, 000 goal, with a deadline of July 14th.) There are some very cool rewards depending on your level of contribution, including your name in the credits, signed DVD's, books, t-shirts, phone call with Ricki, Skype session with Ricki and Abby, two tickets to a private screening of the film with Ricki and Abby, and more!

"Every dollar raised through this Kickstarter campaign will help us pay for the release of the film,” says filmmaker Abby Epstein. “More important, however, is that all of the money contributed to the campaign helps spread the word about the various options expectant women have when planning their births.” Simply, by pre-ordering your DVDs, you can be part of the movement.

For more information, click here to check out Ricki's article for The Huffngton Post.

If you've been around since last summer when I wrote "In Praise of Epidurals" for Ingenue Mom's week of birth stories, then you know that I don't take huge issue with what Ricki calls the "highly medicalized climate of hospital births" (also important to note that I'm in Canada, and she's in the States).  However, I'm definitely all on board with "honouring and empowering mothers" and enabling them to choose birth options that work for them.

Winners: Cars 2 and Hallmark Recordable Frame

Congrats to my latest winners:

Virginia of Barrhead, AB will be receiving the Cars 2 Prize Pack, courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Canada


Holly of Vankleek Hill, ON has won the recordable frame from Hallmark.

Enjoy your prizes, ladies, and thanks to all who entered! More fantastic giveaways coming up!

Sunday, July 3

Shian Naturals: Review and Giveaway

Contest open to Canadians.

I was recently introduced to a fantastic new Canadian company: Shian Naturals Health and Beauty Products, based in Burlington, ON. They make premium quality, all-natural, unscented, skin hair and body products sold exclusively in Canada.

They sent me a trial pack to sample, and I was very impressed. A few highlights:

Just...Massage and Body Oil: How very clever of a company to include an item which will put the reviewer in a relaxed, positive frame of can you find fault with a product then? A great foot rub was enough to prove to me that the oil works just perfectly! (Note to companies: no matter what you sell - books, clothes, whatever - throwing in some massage oil when sending your product out can't help but improve the review!)

Just... All Natural, Unscented, Massage & Bath Oil

Just...Shampoo: The product feels a little different in hand (more of a gel consistency) but lathers up nicely and rinses well. 

Just... All Natural, Unscented, Shampoo

Just...Conditioner: Excellent

Just... All Natural, Unscented, Conditioner

Just...Organic Body Wash: Nice texture, leaves that squeaky clean feeling

Just... All Natural, Unscented, Body Wash

Just...Moisturizing Lotion: I used this as a hand/foot cream, and put on after my mani/pedi. It's not at all sticky or clumpy, and did the job well.

Just... All Natural, Unscented, Moisturizing Lotion

And by the way, when they claim to be unscented, they mean it. I have used other "natural" products with rather "unnatural" scents (in fact another brand that I didn't end up reviewing, because I told the company my overall take wasn't positive), but if you're someone who requires or prefers scent-free products, this is definitely the company to go with.

Shian also makes (and their trial pack contains) Lip Balm, Body Butter and Glycerin Bar Soap, which I haven't gotten around to using yet. 

Something else that really impresses me about Shian is their prices. Usually you have to pay substantially more for the clear conscience of "going green", but their products are quite reasonable. Full-sized shampoo, conditioner, body wash, moisturizing lotion or massage and bath oil retail for only $13 each...much less than other "natural" products.

Shian Naturals Sample Trial Pak

Now is your opportunity to win the same "Just...Trial Sample Pack" (pictured above) that I received, containing a trial-sized version of every Shian product. These items are great for overnight bags, purses, or beach bag...and also an opportunity to sample the wares and decide if you want to invest in the full-size versions. The items arrive in a pretty gift bag, with a bath scrubby thrown in for good measure. The prize is worth $25 (before taxes and shipping, which of course are covered for the winner).

All you have to do to enter is leave your email address in the form below, and click "submit". That's it! (Do not leave a regular blog comment.) For additional entries, click "yes" if you:
  • follow This Mom Loves publicly through Google Friend Connect (see sidebar)
  • subscribe to This Mom Loves through email (see sidebar)
  • follow This Mom Loves on Twitter (see sidebar)
  • follow Shian Naturals on Twitter
The contest will close on July 18th, 2011 at 11:59 p.m., after which time a winner will be chosen through random number generation.

Check out the Shian Naturals website for more information or to place your order! You can use the code "momloves" to save 15% on all purchases between now and July 31st, 2011!