Thursday, January 31

Discover More : Win Fantastic Non-Fiction From Scholastic

Giveaway open to Canadians.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: kids LOVE reading nonfiction. While I've seen many girls (in my classroom and home) who enjoy reading factual information, boys especially seem drawn to this genre, and Scholastic is ready for them.

I was sent samples of Scholastic's new Discover More series to check out, and I've been highly impressed. Divided into three age levels (more on that later) each reasonably-priced book also comes with a free digital e-book (which can be accessed online after purchase) full of more information.

You can find info about all of the books and e-books here: http://www.scholastic.com/discovermore/





Check out the following available titles:

Emergent Reader Ages 4+ (hardcovers, $8.99)

See Me Grow
Farm
Animal Babies
My Body
Puppies and Kittens
Emergency Vehicles

Confident Reader Ages 6+ ($13.99)

Penguins
Planets
Bugs
Dinosaurs

Expert Reader Ages 9+ ($17.99)

The Elements
Ocean and Sea
Technology
Night Sky
World War II
Disasters

While the ages provided by Scholastic are a good match for interest levels, I would actually put the reading levels a bit higher - for example, my 6 year old is a strong reader and the first set of books are just perfect for her, while my Grade 3 students  (aged 8 and 9) are loving the Confident Reader books, so don't shy away from purchasing below your child's age level if you want to be sure he or she will be able to read the titles (there are no age/grade levels printed on the books).

Jam-packed with fantastic content, these books have been great for teaching "features of nonfiction" (labels, captions, contents, glossary, index and tons of amazing colour photography) and for drawing reluctant readers into the magical world of books.

Scholastic is giving away three Discover More books (winner's choice!), and all you have to do to enter is leave a comment below letting me know which three you would choose. Perhaps three from the same level for one child or your classroom? Or a book from each level for three different kids? It's entirely up to you! This prize is worth up to $54 depending which titles you choose. Check out all of the books here: http://www.scholastic.com/discovermore/  Please make sure you leave enough information for me to contact you (e-mail/Twitter/Facebook/Google profile, etc.)!

For extra entries, my current system is based on the idea of rewarding my active readers, as opposed to looking for random follows/subscriptions/likes. For that reason, you can get extra entries by leaving a relevant comment on ANY This Mom Loves post, past or future (up to the contest closing date of Thursday, February 21st 2013). No need to mention this giveaway in your comment; I'll be keeping track. If you've entered my current "Win 3 Magazine Subscriptions" giveaway, additional comments will earn you bonus entries into both contests!

Good luck!

Monday, January 28

Canada: Win Subscriptions To 3 Magazines of Your Choice!

Giveaway open to Canadians.

Since I know you've all been anxiously anticipating the results of my "should I run more giveaways?" survey, I will now put you out of your misery:

Yes:  61%
It doesn't matter to me: 36%
No: 3%

The results actually surprised me a bit, as I was expecting a lot more "nos". Therefore to honour my readers, and also in honour of my recent blogiversary, I've decided to sponsor a contest that I would love to win myself!





As an avid magazine reader (it's genetic), I'm going to give away some Canadian magazine subscriptions...three in fact, and the winner can choose the magazines from the list below (I read every issue of every one of these great titles):

Canadian Family
Today's Parent
Parents Canada
Canadian Living
Chatelaine
Style at Home

I've gotten away from reading these ones, but they're up for grabs as well:

Fashion
Elle Canada




All you have to do to enter is leave a comment on this post letting me know which three magazines you would choose (I can order them as renewals if you already subscribe) and make sure you include contact information (e-mail address/Twitter/Facebook/something) so I can let you know if you win! 

For extra entries, I'm going to skip the whole follow me on Twitter/Facebook/Pinterest etc. (though I hope you do, and put the links there just in case!) and instead, every time you leave a relevant comment on a post at This Mom Loves, it counts as another entry into the contest. You don't need to mention this giveaway when you comment; I'll just keep track of every comment that is submitted on any post between now and the giveaway closing date which is Monday, February 18th.




Want ideas for recent posts you could visit right now to leave your thoughts and get bonus entries?

Blogiversary # 3: My Very First Post Flashback
Microsoft Surface Fiasco Update
The Great Swaddle Debate
Winter Getaway - The Wizard of Oz in Toronto
Christmas Gift Highlights
Immunizations as Gifts...and My Kids Were Excited!
To Give(away) or Not To Give(away)

You can also follow along and leave comments on any new post that comes out in the next three weeks. And hey, it doesn't even have to be anything recent. Comment on something from 2010 for all I care, as long as you're interacting with the blog!

Good luck!

Saturday, January 26

Blogiversary # 3: Remember My Very First Post?

In honour of my third anniversary here at This Mom Loves, I thought I would reprint my very first post, and you can let me know if I've done what I set out to do three short years ago!

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

January 26, 2010

And one more blog hits the net!


Welcome to This Mom Loves, a blog which is designed to share and celebrate the positive in life. Notice I said "designed to"...that's no guarantee that I won't venture into "This Mom Vents" (or worse) territory, but the goal is to highlight people, places and products that are worth writing and reading about.

Why a blog? Why, to make the world a better place of course. The truth? Julie and Julia. I've always loved writing, and in fact I freelance for parenting and family magazines, but it's much different to be able to put fingers to keys and share my own thoughts and feelings. I was looking for an outlet, and the movie based on Julia Child and Julie Powell was my sign that a blog was the way to go. It's a little more motivational to write with the hope that there is an audience out there than it is to scribble in a lined notebook. (Please note: despite the Julie and Julia reference, there will be little talk of cooking. The title of the blog is not "This Mom Abhors".)

This Mom Loves will explore issues other than parenting, but quite honestly, having children changed my identity (for the better...I think) more than any other life change. My marriage and friendships have been transformed, teaching has changed for me (in philosophy and in practice) and the way I spend my money and time is also very different.

I can't wait for you to join the discussion. I'll be asking for reader tips and thoughts, and am welcome to questions. You have the ear of a teacher -- anything you want to ask? Are you a new parent who is seeking the (ahem) "expertise" of someone just emerging from the baby trenches?

Take a look around my blog, and I hope you'll be back again. You're very welcome!

Monday, January 21

The Great Swaddle Debate

I came across an article in the February issue of Today's Parent that caught my eye, as it was all about swaddling ("The Right Way To Swaddle" by Lisa Van De Geyn). When our girls were infants, we were all over the swaddle. With Frannie, my husband mastered the blanket burrito, and then with Maggie, we invested in a "Kiddopotamus SwaddleMe" (picture below) and never looked back.





We used it only for nighttime, and found, through our own bleary-eyed research, that our girls would calm immediately once they were swaddled, and stay asleep longer. It was actually nice for me because as early as Frannie's first weeks of life, swaddling became a "daddy thing". I kind of helped cement that status with one of those "You swaddle her so much better than I do. Can you please do it?" moves which guaranteed that I would rarely have to do the bedtime routine alone.

At the time, I never considered that there would be any adverse health affects from being swaddled for a few hours a day. I'm totally on board with the pediatrician quoted in the article who asserts that "Swaddling has been shown to increase 'quiet sleep' and sleep duration. It can help babies become accustomed to sleeping on their backs, which decreased the risk of SIDS."  (Babies should not be placed to sleep on their tummies, especially when swaddled, which I would think is obvious but you never know.)

In this article I learned that there are viewpoints opposing swaddling as well, as a pediatric physiotherapist was quoted as saying that "swaddling can be interpreted as a form of restraint" and that it comes with worries about chest pressure which can affect breathing, hip dysplasia, and overheating.

We never wrapped the girls so tightly that they could not turn their heads to the side if spitting up (another concern) but we certainly tried to tuck the arms in (so they wouldn't fling them and startle themselves awake) which I guess wasn't advisable either, because then they couldn't put their hands in their mouths for self-soothing.

I am hardly one to argue when faced with hard research data or official health warnings, but at this point I would still highly recommend the swaddle for anyone who a) wants their child to stay asleep longer and b) is comfortable having their baby swaddled, which is obviously the most important point. If, as a parent, something doesn't feel right to you, then don't do it.

How about you? Were/are you a baby swaddler? Did you see benefits? Do these warnings change your thinking?

Thursday, January 17

Microsoft Surface Fiasco - Update

You may have read my previous post on How To Order a Microsoft Surface in 31 Painful Steps. (You would remember. It was pretty painful to read, too.)



Here's an update, as of today.

To begin, the tablet was a total hit as a Christmas gift, and all four of us love it and use it constantly. The girls use it just as they would an iPad for games and taking pictures and videos. We can also use it for work, as it comes with Microsoft Office and a built-in kickstand to hold it up. I purchased the type cover as well, which is a click-in keyboard also conveniently doing double-duty as a cover when you fold it up.

So you get the idea that product quality is not at all in question.

Customer service, however...

I returned the second tablet (which was sent to me in error) on December 12th, and as of January 2nd, the amount was not yet credited to my Visa. My next step was going straight to Visa themselves, and they began the process of disputing the charges, which means that they credited the money back to me while they investigate.

I let Microsoft know about this, and was told that once the dispute process has begun, there's nothing else they can do. I disagreed, and said that they still had not yet done anything to compensate me for the ridiculous waste of my time. (This is very much not like me, which tells you how incredibly frustrating the experience has been.)

So, after more time passed, I was sent a $50 code to use towards another online purchase (not valid in-store). I don't know what I was expecting, but trying to make me feel better by allowing me to once again shop online with them didn't exactly do the trick. However, they did make an effort (they could have done nothing), so I went online and chose a $34.99 case to use for the Surface. I went through all the steps and at the end was told that the code was not valid. I'm not kidding.

A couple of days and e-mails later, I was sent a new code (this one had a "CAN" instead of a "US" in it, which I assume was the problem) and the order went through. Three days later, the case was sitting on my front step.

A happy ending? I guess so...(she typed halfheartedly)...

Monday, January 14

To Give(away) or Not to Give(away)?

As you may or may not have noticed, it's been a while since I've had a giveaway here on the blog. I get lots of offers of products to review, and a few of them I've jumped at and shared the results. But when it comes to running giveaways, I find that they take a fair bit of effort to set up and oversee, and I'm wondering if they're worth it.

I know giveaways can draw lots of traffic, but I also know that many entrants sign up for e-mails they will delete without opening, Twitter follows that they will unfollow and Facebook likes that they will unlike or block, just to get entries. I'm not sure that that's the sort of "traffic" I'm eager for.

I also don't want to lure people in with the idea that there will be a prize every day, when really most days I just want to ramble. Isn't that prize in itself? No, I guess not.

However, just as my favourite magazines do, I want to honour what my readers are coming here for, so please see below one simple question to which I seek your response:

(If you're reading this in an e-mail, you'll have to click on the title of this post to bring up the webpage and vote. But if you're about to delete this message because it's - yet again - not a giveaway, realize that you're exactly who I need to hear from!)

Friday, January 11

The Heart Truth Fashion Show - Model of Health Contest

You may have heard of The Heart Truth Fashion Show, The Heart and Stroke Foundation's annual event where Canadian celebrities and fashion designers bring the Red Dress to life on the runway, raising awareness of the need for women to protect themselves from heart disease and stroke.
This year, they're shaking things up a little, and in addition to their roster of top-tier Canadian celebs, they're looking for a few good women - role models for the rest of us – who are living healthily and vitally into their senior years.

The Heart Truth is now hosting a Model of Health contest on www.facebook.com/TheHeartTruth  (ends January 31st) to find three Canadian women between 70 and 100 years old to walk the runway wearing a fabulous red dress at the Heart and Stroke Foundation’s Heart Truth Fashion Show this March!

They're asking Canadians to nominate a special senior woman in their life who has reduced her risk of heart disease and stroke and can tell us how her heart healthy choices have benefited her life and her loved ones. Model of Health winner(s) and their guest(s) will receive the VIP treatment with roundtrip airfare to Toronto, 3 nights first-class accommodation, food, transportation, travel medical insurance, and an entertainment voucher to enjoy the sights and sounds of Toronto. Plus, if a woman you nominated is chosen you’ll win a Heart Truth Gift Pack worth $250!

If you know a senior woman you'd like to nominate for the Model of Health Contest, be sure to visit www.facebook.com/TheHeartTruth. The winners will be in the company of some fantastic celebrities, who are yet to be confirmed, but last year's models included (click on names for their bios):









Other former models have included some of my favourite ladies:











                                                     Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau

Through The Heart Truth campaign, the Heart and Stroke Foundation’s goal is to encourage Canadian women to protect their heart health in mid-life, in order to lead full, active and rewarding lives in their senior years. Women can put their heart health first by assessing their risk through The Heart Truth quiz, talking to their doctor and making heart healthy lifestyle choices.

I tried the quiz myself and took a look at the results. My "protective factors" at this point in time include my age, lack of family history, being a non-smoker, having a low Body Mass Index (BMI), low alcohol use, not being diabetic, and low cholesterol and blood pressure. My "risk factors" include not eating enough fruits and vegetables, not being active enough (I've been on the treadmill every day of 2013, but that hasn't been long enough to swear that I get more than 30 minutes of physical activity EVERY day), and eating high-fat foods more than once a week. That I can swear I do every day. Unfortunately.

Wednesday, January 9

The Bachelorette + Twitter = Huh?

I'll just cut to the chase here and admit that I love The Bachelor. And Bachelorette. And if I had ever actually watched it, probably Bachelor Pad too.

Every time a new season begins, I watch the first episode "just for fun". It's cheesy and predictable, and I never seem to quite like any of the contestants, or the "prize". However, they always end up growing on me as the show progresses, I become genuinely interested in seeing what happens. Will they forgo their individual rooms and stay as a couple in the fantasy suite? Will this, indeed, be the "most shocking rose ceremony ever"?

One of my favourite Bachelor/Bachelorette personalities has been Emily Maynard, who "won" Brad's season, broke up with him, had her own season and chose Jef, which appears to be an on-again, off-again relationship (if you believe the tabloids, which of course I do because they're always true. Almost. If you say Jennifer Aniston is pregnant every week for fourteen years, you're bound to get it right at some point.) I don't know what kind of mother or girlfriend Emily is, really, but she's great on TV, and that's really all I'm looking for from her. Which brings me to my next admission: that I follow her on Twitter. Which brings me to the point of this post: her hilarious Twitter exchanges from January 1st.




So, Emily tweeted:


An irate follower's response, along with Emily's reply to her:

And another:


Wow, people can be so quick to judge. At least Emily handled it with (what I thought) was a sense of humour, albeit so sarcastic that it may have gone undetected by her detractors. (Say that three times fast.) Seeing as one replied back "I guess what people say about you is true." What, that she's funny?

Anyway, the woman was a stay-at-home mom to now seven year old daughter Ricki, supported by the seemingly extremely wealthy parents of her late fiancé (he died in a plane crash the week before she found out she was pregnant at age 18) who rose to stardom on the Bachelor and Bachelorette and now has almost 400,000 Twitter followers, including This Mom. A recent website report states that she is now an event coordinator at a children's hospital.

Monday, January 7

The Things Kids Write...

At what age should I insist that my daughter remove this sign from her bedroom door (a thoughtful replacement to the "Girls only" sign that her father pretended to be offended by):


Friday, January 4

Immunizations as Gifts - And My Kids Were Excited!

Little children do not fully get the concept of "a donation has been made in your name". Nor would I really expect them to. But when they actually know what has been donated, it's a bit different. When they get to choose their donation...well, that's an authentic introduction to philanthropy.

Every Christmas my parents give our family a gift from the World Vision catalogue. One year we supplied a classroom with educational items, another we provided piglets to a family in need. The gift always comes with a card and explanation so that the girls understand the impact.

This year's gift was even better. My parents purchased a World Vision gift card, and my kids (and my brothers') were able to go online and choose where they wanted that money to go.
Gifts start at $30 for Mosquito Nets, a Hygiene Kit for a Child, or to keep it closer to home, Feed a Hungry Family in Canada. $50 gets you contributions such as 2 Hens and a Rooster, Art and Music for Children, or Protect a Child Labourer.

For the amount we had, Frannie and Maggie considered a goat, a beehive, a bicycle and repair kit, or helping a family start a business. In the end, they went with "Help Immunize a Community", which had the following description: "Give immunizations and you give children life. 1.4 million children die needlessly from preventable diseases like measles and polio. You'll help provide enough of these vital vaccines to protect an entire community of children." My girls have had all of the standard immunizations, as well as flu shots and extra protection before our trip to Mexico. They could not fathom the idea that so many children get sick because vaccinations are not available to them.


Help Immunize a Community

Photo: Worldvision.ca


We made the final selection on Boxing Day, and now a few days later as I type up this post, Maggie is looking over my shoulder at the photo asking me if the children have stopped dying yet now that they have their needles. Now there's a gift.

I should be very clear here: if this were the only present my girls received (or even the only item they opened on Christmas Eve at Grandma and Grandpa's) they would have been disappointed. Visibly. And, if not in the moment, as I hope I've trained them better than that, audibly. But if funds are available to supplement a child's gift with a chance like this, I would highly recommend it...or any other opportunity for giving that fits your schedule and bank account.

Now since I never remember to mention this before Christmas when it really matters, please save this post for future reference...though of course any occasion can be a reason to give! For more information, please take a moment to check out the World Vision Gift Guide.

Wednesday, January 2

Christmas 2012 - Gift Highlights

I thought I'd share with you some of the most original ideas under our tree this year:

First, the drawstring bags that mom decorated for the girls with their photos, and images of all of the things that they love (their names are on them too, but I covered them to maintain the illusion of privacy that I convince myself we have). "Frannie" and "Maggie" adore their new bags!




My talented, woodworking father loves to take signs and turn them into cabinets. My sister-in-law and I each got this beautiful Paris design, which opens up to hold jewelery (and thankfully came with installation included!)





My favourite gift (besides my family, friends, health, home, job, readers who never judge me for my moments of consumerism because they know I'm about so much more than that) came in this little box:




It wasn't exactly jewelery, but a beautiful silver key ring, which was exactly what I asked for. Fancy jewelery is for special occasions...my keys I use every single day! See how it was a really practical gift? (Tiffany = practical, isn't that what everyone says?)

One of hubby's best gifts was a docking station for his iPod, and the reason I mention it here is because we were pleased to learn that there is an adapter (shown in front of the device) which will work with the new iPods and other i items, which have a much smaller charging spot. It's helpful to know that if you think two things are incompatible...there's always a way to make them work! Am I in a cheesy mood or what?




Most of the girls' gifts came straight from the North Pole via Walmart (dolls continue to be a theme) but one of the presents six year old Frannie is most excited about is the gift card for 25 prints from a photo store. So what if I I got it with my new camera; she doesn't need to know that. She just knows that she can now choose 25 of the four thousand pictures she has taken on my old camera and get them developed. Woo hoo! They also loved things like Cineplex gift certificates, because now we "have to" take them to the movies (which doesn't bother me at all, though I think the last time hubby attended a children's film he said something about preferring to poke a fork in his eye...) and were thrilled that their aunt and uncle didn't quite make it to Build A Bear and instead gave them cash to go and purchase new outfits for their bears.

In all seriousness, unwrappable gifts aside, I know very well how lucky I am for all of the blessings in my life. I'm not big on New Year's resolutions, but I intend to remind myself regularly how much I have to be grateful for, and do what I can to share some of my "gifts" with others.

Wishing you and yours a happy, healthy and blessed 2013.