Wednesday, October 26

More Recommended Reading For Kids

Of the many children's books that have come through my mailbox over the past couple of months, here are four that made the cut:

"I'm Adopted"
by Shelley Rotner and Sheila M. Kelly

With gorgeous photographs and simple, sensitive text, this book is a great way to talk to your child about adoption. The authors acknowledge at the back of the book that not all arrangements are described within (e.g. open adoption, adoption during adolescence) but the information that is there is valuable, and the photos alone are worth it. It sparked many questions for my girls, and I plan to use it in class when we reach the appropriate Family Life unit.

"The Boy From The Dragon Palace"
retold by Margaret Read MacDonald, illustrated by Sachiko Yoshikawa

The only thing I didn't love about this book was the frequent use of the phrase "snot-nosed boy". Other than that, this funny and cautionary Japanese folktale about the dangers of always wanting more (and forgetting to be thankful for what you have) is retold with humour and wisdom. Another one to rotate between my girls' collection and my classroom (my students loved it, for the moral as well as the "snot-nosed boy" part!)

"The Wizard of Oz: A Scanimation Book"
by Rufus Butler Seder

This hardcover gem combines ten classic quotations from the movie with the beauty of scanimation: as you tilt the page, the images appear to move. A must for any little Wizard of Oz fan.

"Pirate Boy"
by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Julie Fortenberry

Less about an actual pirate boy than about how each question a child asks can easily lead to another, this is one title the parents can relate to as well. (Our school librarian compared the flow of the story to the "if...then" pattern in the classic Runaway Bunny.) Plus, it's Eve Bunting. How can you go wrong with the author of over a hundred books, including "Fly Away Home" and "The Wall"?

Friday, October 21

Flashback: Make It A Green Halloween

How the time flies. It was two years ago that Peterborough, Northumberland and Lakeridge Kids first published my "Green Halloween" article, with tips for celebrating the holiday without harming the environment.

I will admit that I haven't embraced all of the advice I shared (I'm not much of a 'homemade-costumes' kind of mom, and living in the country requires some carbon emissions in order to trick-or-treat) but I am a big fan of pumpkin seeds, my girls use reusable bags, and we are sure to recycle as much packaging as possible.

As for tangible goodies over edible treats...the jury's still out on this one. Obviously there are downsides to junk food, but as a clutter-phobe, I'm not sure we need any more stickers, erasers, etc. around the house...and once November 1st hits, anything Halloween-themed goes away. (Okay, fine, I also want the kids to bring home candy because they're still young enough that I can steal some. I said it!)

Check out the article, and try to find even one tip you can use as your goal for this year's Halloween.

Wednesday, October 19

Wednesday Words on Balance

Judging from the responses I received from my recent article on Work/Life Balance, this issue stuck a chord with many. For all you fellow jugglers, I offer these words, which may give you a slightly different perspective today:

"My candle burns at both ends
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends -
It gives a lovely light."

Edna St. Vincent Millay

Monday, October 17

Heartland's Michelle Morgan: The Momterview

You may know Michelle Morgan as "Lou Fleming" on the hit CBC show Heartland. Averaging over a million viewers an episode, this Alberta-based show is the network's most popular family drama.

Not only did her character give birth at the end of last season, but Michelle is a new mom in real life as well. Somehow she found time to chat with me about Heartland, her daughter, and the ever-popular "balance" question.

The cast of Heartland

This Mom: You've been open about how you moved around a lot growing up, and what a challenge that was for you. How did you handle that, and how did the experience help you?

Michelle Morgan: It always just was, and it actually got to the point that when we didn't move for a few years, I got restless. And I'm still like that. If I'm in the same place for a long time, I get a bit restless, and I need to sort of shake things up. But now that I've had a child, I'm actually really excited to plant some roots and have a home. I've never really had that instinct before, so it's an interesting change for me.

TM: You studied drama at the University of Toronto. Do you feel having that background has benefited you as an actress, and that it's something that actors should have?

MM: It's funny, because Tommy Lee Jones is an actor who, for example, never did any acting classes and says you don't need it, and he's an exceptional actor. So I don't think it's necessarily for everyone, but what I would say is having that training, especially in the theatre, gives you a really strong foundation and builds your confidence. The thing that happens is that some actors are amazing, and they have no training but they have tons of confidence when they're young and full of energy, but sometimes they lose that confidence and they have nothing to fall back on, whereas when you have your training, you can go back to what you've learned. You've got techniques: breathing, physical, vocal, and you can go back to that, which I think is something I need, for myself anyway.

TM: You've done some Q and A's through the Heartland blog, and mentioned how you've auditioned for many roles you didn't get, which I know is true of all actors. Is there a particular "one that got away" that you still think about?

MM: Sure! Really early on I auditioned to play the lead in Gilmore Girls, so I used to see that show on TV all the time and think "Oh, man!" And I watched that actress's career and always thought that would have been a good one. I auditioned for a role that later went to Zooey Deschanel in The Assassination of Jesse James and it was a small part, but when I auditioned for it, the auditioner really made me feel like I got the part, as they do sometimes. She was like "That was excellent! Good job! Wow!" and she seemed so impressed with me that I walked home thinking "Oh my God, I got it!" But of course I didn't. So when I went to see the movie of course that was in my mind!

TM: When Heartland began five seasons ago, did you ever anticipate what a success it would be?

MM: No! When you film a pilot, you never know if it's even going to air. A lot of them just get shelved and nothing ever happens with them, so to be in the process of filming Season, I never imagined! It's been so exciting, and what a gift to be working on a project that has had this kind of longevity.

TM: Switching gears a bit now to your pregnancy...I know you were very happy with your doula experience. Can you tell us a bit about that?

MM: I didn't know what a doula was until I got pregnant, but my best friend-slash-naturopath said "This is what you need, it's support for the mother," and it was so great for me. I managed to have a natural birth without any drugs and I found the birthing process really difficult, and there were many points where I thought "I cannot do this!" and it was my doulas who gave me the strength and the physical support, like actually leaning on them, that actually got me through it.

TM: You've said that next time you'd like to try a home birth?

MM: I think I would. The midwifery program I worked with has just started a home birthing program, and I think that I would like to do that. I feel like if I was in the comfort of my own home, it would make the process easier for me.

TM: I assume your pregnancy was written into the show?

MM: No, actually it was a total fluke! I knew that I was going to be pregnant on the show, they told me a season ahead, so I knew it was coming, and then I found out I was pregnant, so it just worked. Isn't that funny?

Michelle Morgan as Lou Fleming

TM: Heartland held a baby-naming contest for your character's baby - and had tens of thousands of entries! {Catherine Marion Minnie Fleming won out.} How did you choose the name Mara for your daughter?

MM: Well, we were going through a million names and couldn't settle on anything, and I thought of Mara because it was my Grandmother's nickname, so it was a name that I liked, and I had talked about it with Derek, and he was like "Yeah, I like it," but we didn't settle on anything. Then when Mara was born, the midwife said "What's her name?" and I looked at Derek and said "Mara?" and he said "Yeah!" so we kind of agreed on it when she was born.

TM: Mara is over six months old now. What are her latest milestones?

MM: She's just grown her two bottom front teeth, and she just started eating solids, which she enjoys. She's also starting to get up on her hands and knees. It's so fun to watch her right now. Her dexterity has increased so much, you can just hand her anything and she'll play with it and bang it around. It's so great to play with her.

TM: I've read that this season Lou will have to struggle with going back to work early for financial reasons. You can certainly relate to the quick return to work. How did you manage it?

MM: Mara was only eight weeks old, and I was not ready to get back to work, but that's when the show started filming, so that's what I had to do. It was probably one of the most challenging times of my life but it's gotten a lot easier now that Mara's sleeping through the night, and I've got a great full-time nanny so things have gotten a lot easier, but it was very difficult at first.

TM: On your blog you wrote about being very active before and during your pregnancy - yoga, etc. How has that been going since Mara was born?

MM: Well at first I would be lucky to find time to do a little yoga at home by myself, but right now I just got out of a swim at the local rec centre, so lately I've been finding a little bit more time to do those things. It's hard for moms. At least moms I know. I mean definitely the first thing I sacrificed was time for myself. It's hard to find that time to do things like exercise and do yoga but I'm trying!

TM: I recently wrote an article about work-life balance...and whether "balance" is even the right word to use. How do you find you're doing with that? Do you think it's even a realistic goal?

MM: What I like to say is every day I am trying to achieve that balance and I have yet to achieve it. It's always a challenge, every day. You know, you just have to try to make things work. Enjoy the time you have with your family, your child, your husband, and when you're at work try to focus on that and enjoy that, and every day is different. You have to take it as it comes.

Michelle icing her baby shower cake.
Can you believe her own baby shower was the first one she'd ever attended?

TM: What are your work aspirations after Heartland, if someday the show should end?

MM: I would really like to just be challenged and to play a character that's completely different from Lou. A complete departure would be fun. I would love to do some straight-up comedy in the vein of 30 Rock or Arrested Development, that's always something that I've loved, and I'd love to do some theatre. I haven't done any since I started Heartland and I miss that.

Michelle with baby Mara Carmen

TM: You identify yourself as Chilean-Canadian. What aspects of Chilean culture do you hope to pass on to Mara?

MM: I'd love for her to speak Spanish. And she's gotta learn to make a proper Chilean salad! She has to soak her onion in hot water and slice up the tomato! I'd love for her to have the cooking, and also to know my family. When I grew up, every few years we would go down to Chile and visit my family and I'd love for her to be able to do that too.


Next came the part where I said "That's all my questions, thanks for your time,." etc. However, the interview took an unusually nice turn when Michelle then said "Tell me about yourself!" She asked me about teaching, and my family, wrapping up with: "And you keep a blog! Good for you! I know from keeping my pregnancy blog that it's a lot of work. It may not seem like it, but keeping a blog takes a lot of time!"

Thanks for a great chat, Michelle, and for sharing your pics with us as well!


Season Five of Heartland premiered on September 18th. Find out what you've missed on the Heartland website, and catch new episodes of this multi-generational saga Sundays at 7 p.m. on CBC.
You can follow @MichelleMorgan_  and @HeartlandOnCBC on Twitter, and learn more about Michelle at

Friday, October 14

Free Movies at Cineplex: October 22nd

As a huge movie-lover (who has passed the quality on to both of my daughters) I thought the following was worth sharing. In a nutshell: free movies and $2 concessions...and it's all for a good cause! Read on for details!


SAVE THE DATE FOR FREE MOVIES! October 22nd is Community Day at Cineplex. Join us on the morning of Saturday, October 22nd at all Cineplex Entertainment theatres for Community Day in support of Starlight Children's Foundation. Doors open at 8:30AM with a great selection of FREE movies beginning at 9:00AM. Plus, enjoy a regular popcorn, regular fountain drink and selected candy for only 2 DOLLARS each with 100% of the proceeds donated to Starlight Children's Foundation! For more information, please visit:

About Starlight Children’s Foundation Canada:

For more than 20 years Starlight Children’s Foundation has been dedicated to improving the quality of life for children with chronic and life-threatening illnesses and life-altering injuries. Through a broad array of in-patient, out-patient and online resources, Starlight works hard to support seriously ill children and their families from diagnosis through the entire course of medical treatment and beyond. Whether it’s a trip to the zoo, a toy-filled playroom or an exciting sporting event, Starlight’s mission is to bring fun, joy and giggles right where they are needed the most!


My local Cineplex is showing great films like Yogi Bear (3D), Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 1, and Green Lantern. I have a feeling my two will be voting for a rescreening of Happy Feet. See you at the movies!

Thursday, October 13

Tween Titles From Scholastic: Giveaway

Giveaway open to Canadians.

Later this month I'm running a Beauty and Self-Esteem workshop for girls at my school (based on the Dove Real Beauty Campaign) and Scholastic Canada generously donated two copies of each of the following Klutz activity books for girls as draw prizes. Even better for you, they are also giving away a set of these books to one lucky This Mom Loves reader!

Me and My Friends: The Book of Us ($18.99)

"This is a book about you and your friends. And you and your friends get to complete it together. Leave no page untouched by your personal brand of brilliance. You'll find out more about your friendships than you ever knew you didn't know. Comes with keepsake envelopes and a perpetual birthday calendar. Includes activities for 2, 4, 8 or even 12 girlfriends to do together.  Comes with funny quizzes, fill-in-the-blanks, doodle how-to's, messages in code, and tons more. Fill it out today, keep it forever!"

My [Not-So] Perfect Life: A Fill-In-The-Blanks Journal ($21.99)

"This book celebrates a tween's real-life, bumps and all. The journal is filled with friendly, funny prompts to help document the good and bad of real life. Think about it: if everything were really perfect, what would there be to write about?" Comes with a glittery pencil.

The Truth About My Name and What It Reveals About Me ($18.99)

Klutz Book- The Truth About My Name-children, Klutz, book, gift
"A clever little book of secrets, games and fortunes, all centering around your name. Learn how your initials reveal your inner awesomeness, discover your vampire name, make up tricky nicknames and more. Plus, personalize the five included metal charms with your own designer monogram!"


All you have to do to enter to win these fantastic books (retail value $60!) is fill out the form below, and click submit. The contest will run until Thursday, October 27th at 11:59 p.m. EST, after which time a winner will be chosen through random number generation. Good luck, and thanks to Scholastic for their support! (By the way, I know we're not even through Halloween yet, but keep in mind that any tween girl would love to find these books under the Christmas tree!)

Tuesday, October 11

Halloween Goodies From Hallmark

As part of the Hallmark Press Pause Panel, I am lucky enough to receive care packages with samplings of their seasonal goodies, and I recently tore into my Halloween delivery.

Contrary to my clutter-phobe identity, I also have a cheesy side to my personality, and enjoy strategically placing holiday-themed items throughout my home. (Regular readers know that I decorate early, and take everything down pretty much by midnight on the day of the holiday.)

A couple of Hallmark items which will be added to my décor this year:

"Hokey Pokey" Skeleton ($14.95 with purchase of 3 cards): featuring sound and motion, this glow-in-the-dark skeleton "puts his whole head in" as he sings the hokey pokey song in a spooky voice. (Maggie gets a big kick out of this one.)

"It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" Book With Sound ($9.95 with any Hallmark purchase): Based on the beloved television classic, this new special book edition captures the story for all ages. Push the buttons to hear your favourite Peanuts characters!

Hocus Pocus Treat Presenter ($14.95 with purchase of 3 cards): Open this "book" if you dare, and hear unexpected, cackled greetings. It's too small to hold our household treats on Halloween night, but I plan to use this as my classroom "treasure box" leading up to the holiday.

An item I didn't receive which is now on my wishlist:

Hocus Pocus Countdown Calendar ($12.95): This wooden ghost and pumpkin calendar will count down the days until trick or treat time. Great for young kids, and again something I could use in my class.


Head to Hallmark, and pick up a new Halloween goody of your own. Be sure to tell them I sent you! Just kidding. They would have no idea who you were talking about.

Disclosure: I received some of the above-named items as part of my role on the Hallmark Press Pause Panel. Opinions are, as always, my own.

Thursday, October 6

Work/Life Balance...I Don't Know How Anyone Does It

Is there any mom out there who truly feels that she maintains a perfect balance between work and home? If so, she probably doesn't need to read my new article, "Work-Life Balance" from the October issue of Peterborough, Northumberland and Lakeridge Kids...but I would still love to hear from her. If she exists.

In the article I also mention that parents who have to miss bedtime may want to try recordable books, so I thought I'd share a couple of specific titles. Hallmark has some great ones:

The Disney books, like "What Makes a Princess?" and "Lightning McQueen and His Winning Team" ($29.95)
"What Makes a Princess?" Hallmark Recordable Storybook

"Lightning McQueen" Hallmark Recordable Storybook

Or, in the reverse, you might want your child's face and voice to travel with you, in which case you might want to have the little one record a message inside one if these:

"Kids Say The Cutest Things" or "Baby Talk" ($24.95):



Gotta go. My husband/daughters/students/family/friends/treadmill/blog/lesson plans/marking/writing project/bathtub are calling me. Who do you think will win?

Disclosure: I received a recordable storybook for review purposes as part of my role on the Hallmark Press Pause Panel.

Wednesday, October 5

Wednesday Words

"Let us not become weary in doing good,
for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up."

Galatians 6:9


Monday, October 3

Skechers for Kids: Twinkle Toes and Hot Lights Review and Giveaway!

Giveaway open to Canadians.

Frannie had the good fortune of inheriting her mom's big feet. At age five with a shoe size of 13 1/2, you can imagine how often we have to buy new shoes. When Skechers asked me if I wanted to try out their new Twinkle Toes line for girls, I didn't think twice.

The Skechers Twinkle Toes line features sequins, lights, and colorful tattoo designs. When it comes to the boys, there is the Skechers Hot Lights line - these sporty sneakers feature smooth leather, synthetic and metallic mesh fabric, zigzag straps, and flashy lights.

Frannie loves the light up design, and finds the shoes very comfortable. As soon as she saw them she wanted to start wearing them to school, but the only glitch was that her pair is the regular lace-up style, and my little girl hasn't mastered the tying of laces. (Though they do come with two neat interchangeable lace colours.)

No fear though, as my friend Crystal over at 3 Jewels In My Crown posted about QuikSnaps a few weeks ago, so I picked some up and solved that problem. (The laces tie into the QuikSnaps, which the child only has to snap together - no lacing required! See photo below.)

My apologies to Frannie's teacher for the frequent flashing light shows...but at least there's no audio involved! (Please, Skechers, do not take that as a tip that you should design shoes with sound. Please.) And coming from a teacher: if you think your kids already have their school shoes and you're set for now, just a reminder: they'll be complaining that they're too tight by Christmas!

It should be noted that these are not the controversial "Shape Up" toning shoes for girls; just a regular funky sneaker style. (Though I have to say that for grown-up ladies, the Tone-Ups are fantastic, as I wrote about here. )

And yes...Skechers is offering one Canadian This Mom Loves reader a chance to win a gift certificate for a pair of Skechers Twinkle Toes or Hot Lights shoes (retail value $40-50)! All you have to do is fill out the form below. Contest will close on Monday, October 17th at 11:59 p.m. Eastern, after which time a winner will be chosen by random number generation. Good luck!