Monday, April 29

This Mom's Recommended Reading

In addition to about 20 magazines (they are my motivation for the treadmill), I read three books over the March Break:

{Note: it didn't really take me this long to write the post - I had to hold off on publishing it until closer to the release date for one of the books.}

Confessions of a Public Speaker by Scott Berkun

Recommended on Twitter by Kathy Buckworth, I was hoping this one would have general tips about speaking, but it's actually geared more towards those on a professional speaking/lecturing circuit. (It's also a bit scholarly - there are footnotes, people!) I did pick up some good ideas though, and the anecdotes about the author's own speaking experiences are entertaining.

Everybody Has Everything by Katrina Onstad

This Canadian choice was also a Twitter recommendation (Cityline's Tracy Moore tweeted out one Saturday that she had spent the afternoon reading by the fire, so I asked what she was reading, and it was this). While the bare bones of this plot could go into chick-lit territory (infertile couple inherit friends' child after car accident) Onstad would never let that happen, and there is nothing light and fluffy about this story. It is heavy stuff...I actually felt physical pain several times as I read it (the anguish related to marriage, parenting, work, friendships). But Onstad is an incredible writer and I would definitely recommend it.

Don't Lick The Minivan and Other Things I Never Thought I'd Say To My Kids by Leanne Shirtliffe (release date: May 2013)


Another Canadian pick, this one's nonfiction, and a humorous account of the author's experiences, from being pregnant with twins while living in Bangkok, to dealing with delayed postpartum depression and the toddler years through kindergarten and beyond. This one (sent to me for review) is fairly light and fluffy and very funny (though we all know every parenting issue is tryingly real), and a good read as well (I'd suggest cracking it open every time you need a break from the book named above). The quote that resonated with me the most: "The best thing about being a teacher is having the summers off with your kids. The worst thing about being a teacher is having the summers off with your kids."  After nine days of family togetherness on the March Break (with a much-appreciated sleepover at Grandma's in the middle) we were all ready to get back to school!

Note: Leanne Shirtliffe is a fellow (and much better known) Canadian mom blogger, writing  at Ironic Mom. Check her out, and tell her I sent you! (She doesn't know me, but she will then.)

Since the March Break, I've also enjoyed:

Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg

As a mom with paid employment outside of the home (was that politically correct enough?) this book is eye-opening and motivational in regards to the status of women as leaders in the work force. As many readers and critics have noted, not all women want to "Lean In", and many are not only content but actually very fulfilled in a non-leadership role at work (just as many women are fulfilled at home full-time with their children) but I enjoyed the book and the glimpse into the life of the mom of two and COO of Facebook.

My most recent read was:

The Honest Life by Jessica Alba

I'm not embarrassed to say that I am a junkie for books by celebrities, but this one is less an autobiography than it is a how-to book for living a greener, healthier life. (Purchasing products from Jessica's "The Honest Company" is of course strongly recommended, but she mentions many other brands too). I'm going to be blunt and say that I am too lazy and/or picky to follow a lot of the tips, but those who are passionate about this type of lifestyle (with your food, home, fashions, etc.), especially those with young kids, will love this reference guide. Lots of colour photos of Jessica, her family and home as well.

Thursday, April 25

Jessica Mulroney: The Momterview

Jessica Mulroney is one busy woman. Wife and mother of twin boys, she is also a Style Expert for Birks Jewellery, and is helping spread the word about the new Skinny Cow lower-calorie chocolate treats. Jessica kindly agreed to answer a few questions for This Mom and my readers.


This Mom: You're from Montreal - a city I love to visit, but so far not with kids. Any recommendations for things to do in Montreal with my girls (ages 5 and 7)?

Jessica Mulroney: The Old Port of Montreal is a family-friendly destination with street performers, carriage rides and lots of great food -- but I would make that trip in the summer, otherwise the only thing that you will remember from that trip will be the COLD!

TM: Your husband is, of course, e-Talk's Ben Mulroney. Do you get the chance to meet many celebs through him, and are you still star-struck about anyone or does it all seem like no big deal now?

JM: I have met a few celebrities, like Michael Bublé, but when we meet, it is often in social settings: dinner or just hanging out, so they never seem like celebrities to me, just regular people.

Ben and Jessica with twins Brian and John

TM: Where do you go for parenting advice?

JM: My first stop for parenting advice is my parents and in-laws. After that, other family members, like Ben’s sister who has 4 kids. I have to admit webMD has saved me a few times! Although I try not to get answers from the web, there are some great mommy blogs like Savvy Mom that I do enjoy reading.

TM: What milestones have your twins reached lately?

JM: Counting to 10 in French was a big one! That was just today and I couldn't believe how quickly they picked up a second language.

TM: I'm sure when it comes to your in-laws, most people ask about Ben's dad (former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney), but I actually want to know how Mila is doing. When I was a kid, I thought that (next to my own mom) she must be the coolest mom ever. I even wrote her fan letters and still have the replies she sent me! So, what is she up to these days?

JM: She is absolutely amazing. She still travels the world with her husband, but finds time to be a grandmother to (soon to be) 10 grandkids! And when we spend time with them in Montreal or Florida, the house is always warm and inviting. Add to that her various charitable causes and she has more on her plate than most women I know.

Yep, still have 'em!

TM: While it seems like Spring has barely sprung, I know you took in Fall Fashion Week in Toronto not long ago. What are some of the trends for 2013 that caught your eye?

JM: I always enjoy Fashion Week in Toronto. Canadian designers are on the cusp of breaking through internationally. Supporting them and our Fashion Week is a major step in helping achieve that goal. If our designers can have a world class showcase for their talent, it won't be long before the rest of the world catches on. Here are some of the most wearable trends for fall 2013:

1) Green, green and more green... every shade to fit you need.

2) Statement Coats... Splurge on a great over the top coat next season as you would a pair of shoes! It will instantly glam up your look!

3) Rounded Shoulders... It sounds scary but actually looks quite elegant. Whether it is in a sweater or a cocktail dress, this look is definitely in for Fall.

4) Classic patterns... lots of pinstripes and plaids mixed with solid turtlenecks. A look that never seems to go out of style!!!

TM: Why put your support behind the new Skinny Cow products (I love them too, by the way)?

JM: I think it is important to remember to indulge, but to do so intelligently. If we deprive ourselves of decadence, then, in a moment of weakness, we can undo all of the hard work we have done. Skinny Cow gives us all the chance to feel like we are cheating, even though we aren’t!


Thanks, Jessica!

You can follow Jessica on Twitter here:
and check out her 10 Jewellery Essentials here:

Monday, April 22

Calling Guest Bloggers!

This Mom Loves is looking for some enthusiastic guest bloggers for the Spring and Summer seasons!

Do you have a particular area of expertise or top-ten-tips to share with my readers? Photos and ideas for a birthday party theme you've tried out? Perhaps you could post about the family attractions in the major city closest to you, or share information about a parent or child topic that's near and dear to your heart? Do you have before-and-afters of a great reno or project? Or maybe you're hoping to get some exposure for your own blog or business and you're willing to write about anything?

  • I'm open to a large range of topics, but please be familiar with my blog before making a suggestion. I often cover parenting issues, education, organization, decorating, health, books and other types of entertainment. (Pretty much the all-encompassing "Lifestyle" category, though the recipes are few and far between.)
  • The language here is clean and I don't get too incredibly controversial, but I certainly welcome opinions that differ from my own.
  • I'd be pleased to have you link to your own blog and/or business (which is usually the point for guest bloggers), but I'm not looking for any product reviews or pseudo-commercials.
  • Photos (of you and/or the topic you're covering) would be great to enhance your post.
For further information or to inquire, you can leave a comment below or e-mail me: katewinn77 at yahoo dot ca.


Thursday, April 18

ET Canada's Cheryl Hickey Welcomes Baby Number 2

Congratulations to Cheryl Hickey, husband Kevin Foley, and son Jaxs who welcomed baby girl Nyla to their family on Wednesday April 17th, 2013.

Cheryl tweeted out a photo of the new little 8 lbs, 1 oz sweetie late that evening:

Throughout her second pregnancy, Cheryl continued her hosting duties on Global's ET Canada, and was featured in a number of magazines, including Today's Parent, discussing her maternity style. She often tweeted out pics of her bump fashion, including these shots:

You can read my Momterview with Cheryl (one of my most-read blog posts ever) here:, and follow the now mom of two Cheryl on Twitter:

Wednesday, April 17

Wednesday Words From the Gospels

Wait! Don't surf away/delete this e-mail just because you aren't Catholic. Or Christian. Or a believer at all. Even if that is the case, I would be hard pressed to believe that there isn't a single tidbit of advice, encouragement or support for you to glean from any of the quotes below. Give the words a chance to change your day.
As you may remember, it was my New Year's resolution to read the Bible, and I have already shared my favourite quotes from the Gospel of Matthew. I have since made my way through the other three Gospels, and have collected here the passages that meant the most to me.


"Let the children come to me, do not prevent them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these." 10:14

"For human beings it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God." 10:27-28

"One of the scribes, when he came forward and heard them disputing and saw how well he had answered them, asked him, 'Which is the first of all the commandments?' Jesus replied 'The first is this: Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these." 12: 28-31


"Love your enemies and do good to them, and lend expecting nothing back; then your reward will be great and you will be children of the most high." 6: 35

"Ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you." 11:9

"For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted." 14:11


"Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her." 8:7

"I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die." 11: 25- 26

"I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another." 13:34

And the final words of the Gospels:

"There are also many other things that Jesus did, but if these were to be described individually, I do not think the whole world would contain the books that would be written." 21:25

Monday, April 15

Look What I Found: The Kelly Ripa Edition

I recently cleaned out our filing cabinet and was excited to come across an old file marked "Autographed Photos".

The back story: when I was a kid, I loved getting mail. When I was eight, I even put an ad in the kids' section of the Toronto Sunday Sun newspaper looking for penpals, and received over a hundred responses! Eventually that whittled down to a few with whom I corresponded for years, and I think I finally lost touch with the last one during university. Are you out there, Kristi?

But another way to receive mail, as I discovered, was to write fan letters...and you may recognize the young All My Children star whose 1991 response is shown below:

While I assume the writing isn't hers, the response was personalized to the questions I asked, and I'm pretty sure it's an authentic autograph (not shown - couldn't snap it without showing you my parents' home address!) It's also postmarked New Jersey, where Kelly is originally from.

Little did the gorgeous Ms. Ripa know that 20 years later, not only would she still be gorgeous, but she would have the opportunity to meet me in person on the set of a little talk show called Live With Regis and Kelly! (Gelman took this photo; just FYI.)

This will be such a neat artifact to pull out when I'm a special guest co-host on the show in the future, right? I'm actually still holding out on doing a Momterview with Kelly some day. She fits right in with my other celebrity Momterview subjects as a woman who's talented and successful in her career while also raising a family, and I'm sure her Canadian fans want to know more about her. Come on, Kelly, what do you say?

How about you, dear readers? Have you ever written a fan letter? To whom? Did you receive a response?

Thursday, April 11

Promoting a Facebook Post: Is It Worth It?

This Mom Loves has 1325 fans on Facebook. (More or less. More once you click on over and "Like" it. See how smooth I was there?) Anyway, the number seems pretty respectable, doesn't it? But with the way Facebook works, most of my posts are seen in the timelines of only 50 - 100 people, which to me does not seem at all fair. If people have clicked on "Like", I'm pretty sure they're agreeing to allow my headlines to pop up in their feed. But that would be too easy.

Facebook does give business pages the option to have posts "promoted", which means you can pay them to show your updates to more people. While opposed to the idea in principle, I decided to experiment with this option and see what results I would get.

After the show Big Brother Canada got off to an amazing start in the ratings, as well as on Facebook and Twitter, I posted a Momterview with the show's host Arisa Cox. I figured there would be a lot of interest out there, if only people knew the interview existed.

I posted an update on Facebook with a photo of Arisa and her kids and a link to the interview, and then made a commitment to spend $5 to promote the post, with an estimated reach of 1190 to 2210 people (compared to the 60ish people who usually see my updates).

The final results:
  • 1486 people saw the Facebook post pop up in their timelines.
  • 10 people clicked on it (yes, 10. Out of 1486. Obviously my fans are not all Big Brother fans.)
  • There were 4 "Likes", 1 "Share", and 1 "Comment"
  • Total cost of $4.28 to my Paypal account
My analysis:

While $5 is a small price to pay to have that many people see a Facebook update, I think it would be most worthwhile if it was some sort of announcement or information contained right in the Facebook post that you wanted people to see. What I really wanted was for people to click on the link and visit my blog to read the interview, which it appears only 10 people did. That seems like an incredibly small percentage to me.

I might do it again in the future for a post if I have any reason to believe that it could appeal to a large number of people, but I post about three times per week, and even if I stick with the $5 per, that still really adds up. I don't think I should have to pay for people to read my blog.

And I really do resent giving Facebook money for this. If 1325 chose to "Like" me, I'm assuming they're open to having my occasional updates appear in their stream, so it seems pretty underhanded that I have to pay to have more of them see it. Especially since while I am a "business" page, I'm not seeking out any income or sales results from the people who read my posts. Just more traffic and reach, that's it. But what can you do?

What are your thoughts on paying to promote posts on Facebook?

Monday, April 8

Book Launch Party: Kathy Buckworth's "I Am So The Boss Of You"

Yeah, so I went to a Book Launch a couple of weeks ago. No biggie. Okay, fine, it was the first time I've been to one and I thought it was totally cool!

I follow parenting author and humorist Kathy Buckworth on Twitter, and I find her both entertaining and truly funny. (She has even made it on to my "Celebs" Twitter list of people whose tweets I don't want to miss.)

Her newest (and sixth, btw) book is called "I Am So The Boss Of You", and a couple of weeks ago I saw a tweet promoting a giveaway of tickets to the official book launch. It was taking place on a Wednesday night (you people know how seriously I take my sleep, especially on school nights, and Toronto is 90 minutes away at the best of times) but I figured I'd throw my name in, and if I won, it was meant to be. Which clearly it was!

And who best to take with me to such a fete? My former "boss", of mom!

We met after school and headed downtown. The drive was uneventful, and we found ourselves at the venue (Loblaws at Maple Leaf Gardens) with time to spare.

I have to admit that when I first learned of the location of the party (never having been there, mind you) I was a bit surprised. I was picturing the upstairs room at my local Loblaws, and while there's nothing wrong with it (for my children's birthday parties), it certainly isn't what I would envision for a major book launch.

Yeah, I was naive. This Loblaws is a Loblaws like you have never seen before. (Well, unless you've been there. Duh.) There's an Tea Emporium, Sushi Bar and an 18 foot wall of cheese, for heaven's sake! Mom and I had no trouble finding hot meals for ourselves (and I eyed the patisserie offerings for later) before following the signs to the "Private Event". (Yes, fine, it was exciting to be "on the list". You come here for honesty, not sophistication, right?)

The Launch was being held in the "Canteen" area - which again is much classier than the word would imply. The event was cordoned off by black curtains, and actually did feel very private and intimate - even though it was right in the middle of the store.

Other than an ill-timed photo right as the remarks were beginning (see above), I didn't get a chance to chat with Kathy, but certainly learned a lot about her as we had a lengthy and very enjoyable conversation with her parents! (Hope those bunny-folded Easter napkins worked out for you, Mrs. Buckworth!)

We managed to meet some other new people too, like the lovely Paula Wagner of Highview Communications with whom we spent much of the evening.

While I don't imagine book launches are considered celeb hangouts by most people's standards, I did see some talented TV personalities like Cityline's host Tracy Moore and design expert Kimberley Seldon (Kathy's mom was excited about her as well), and was starstruck by Karine Ewart, Editor in Chief of Today's Parent magazine. (Just as cool in my mind as Sarah Jessica Parker, who was also in town for the Target Canada Grand Opening. And this coming from a woman who took her four day old baby to the Stars and Strollers screening of Sex and the City: The Movie. Yes, that says four days.)

Kathy spoke briefly, and then we enjoyed some beverages and hors d'oeuvres (actually I passed on the hors d'oeuvres because I was too excited but they looked delish) and I ended the evening by purchasing the new book, but didn't get it signed as I couldn't decide whether or not that would be nerdy. (I didn't want to look like a "fan", I wanted to look like I belonged there!) It took me only a couple of days to devour the book, and I'm relieved to say that I loved it...otherwise this post might have been a bit awkward. Or wouldn't have happened at all. (My blog's not called 'This Mom Feels Ambivalent About", remember.)

"I Am So The Boss Of You" is a hilarious step-by-step guide to running your family like a business (think job descriptions, promotions and branding) and while tongue-in-cheek (or whatever the typing equivalent of that is) there are actually tons of practical parenting ideas to be gleaned from the book.

I am so on board with Kathy's autocratic parenting style, so if you're more of a democratic parent (a phrase that Kathy proves to be an oxymoron, just so you know) you may find yourself up in arms about some tenets of her philosophy, but you certainly can't argue with the entertainment value.

As a child, it was made very clear to my brother and me that my parents - okay fine, my mom - was the boss. We were respected and valued and given age-appropriate choices and freedom, but "Because I said so, that's why" was the end of many an argument. Actually, just a look from my mom was the end of many an argument. I looked forward to becoming a grownup, so I could be the boss and make the decisions...and I'm not giving that up now just because parenting styles have changed and I'm supposed to be swinging towards serving the whims of my daughters.

I can also relate to the idea of having people at work following my instructions (for me, that's my students) and then having difficulty getting my own flesh and blood at home to do what I tell them. I'm really liking the whole family-as-business model. We might not have called it "job descriptions", but the girls have visual checklists on the fridge listing all of their daily tasks, and they won't get "paid" (in TV time before bed) if their duties have not been fulfilled.

No matter your parenting style, you'll recognize yourself and your kids in many of Kathy's anecdotes and tips, and whether you think of it as humor or wholeheartedly jump on board with the approach, you'll definitely enjoy the read. Pick up "I Am So The Boss Of You" today. Because I said so.

Thursday, April 4

Homework: Oui ou Non?

According to a tidbit in the April issue of Parents magazine, French president Francois Hollande has proposed a ban on homework. When Parents asked their readers, 65% were in favor of banning homework in the US, and 35% were against.

What do you think?

As a parent (note that my girls are only in JK and Grade 1) I have no concerns about the little homework they receive. I like getting them into routine at a young age, and any activities that come home help reinforce basic literacy and numeracy skills. But I also can acknowledge now, from experience, that it is an extra step each evening (and while just checking and signing planners takes only seconds, it is "one more thing" to get done on already busy weeknights).

Why are weeknights so busy? At the moment, our girls have dance lessons on Sunday evenings, and that's their only commitment, though Spring gets busier. I totally value extracurriculars, whether they're athletic, artistic or anything else, and I fully support the idea that school isn't everything. But is playing hockey a valid excuse for never doing anything academic at home? Do the two have to be mutually exclusive?

As a Grade 3/4 teacher, I generally assign two kinds of homework:

1.  Personal activities that require parental input (e.g. Religion sheet on 'The Day I Was Born' or Social Studies sheet on 'Where Our Family Came From').  These take no more than 10 minutes to complete, and I usually give several days' notice. When kids bring back this information, it gets shared with the class and sparks a lot of participation and discussion before being posted prominently in the room or the hall.

2. Work that is not completed in class, which only tends to be Math practice work. I'd say about 80% of my students finish practice activities (which aren't done every day) during class time, and the other 20% take some home, whether that's because the subject is challenging for them or they are still learning to manage their class time. I also encourage kids to take their books home anyway to review new concepts each evening or to prepare for tests. And I'll be honest: I push a little harder because Grade 3 is an EQAO (our provincial standardized testing) year, and there is an awful lot of Math curriculum to learn.
I feel like it would be a disservice to my students if either of these types of homework was "banned", as they would lose out on sharing curriculum with parents, and it would be harder for a few of them to consolidate our Math concepts without the extra practice time.

In (my) ideal world, kids would do a little bit of assigned work in the evenings, but then enjoy family time, with sports or other commitments a couple of times per week, and lots of time to play freely and read/write/draw whatever it is they feel like. (As long as they clean it all up after. Hey, this is my ideal world, I can make the rules.) But I know (because parents have told me) that it's hard to motivate some kids to read even for pleasure, and it helps if "Mrs. Winn says you have to".

I try very hard not to send things home that end up being the parents' project (though it is certainly tradition at our school for parents to help write the kids' Public Speeches). I can remember my own Grade 5 teacher asking us to build a Medieval project at home. A written report, I could have handled independently with ease, but "building" was not my forte (notice my use of past tense, as if implying that has changed). My parents (both teachers) had no interest in taking on my project, so I procrastinated (yes, me!) and on the last day my Dad agreed to cut a Coat of Arms out of wood for me to decorate. I brought it in...and set it on the table with 24 incredible, out-of-a-magazine-looking castles. I think that was the first "B" I ever received (okay fine, maybe I had a few in Art), and I was devastated. Did our home projects really reflect the students' understanding of the Medieval Times?

Curriculum and assessment have changed dramatically since then (in Ontario, teachers are instructed to assess only the work that students complete with us in class and B's are to be celebrated), but are we really ready to eliminate all types of homework entirely?

What are your thoughts? Would you support a full-out ban on homework? Do your kids get too much, the right amount, or too little? What homework gripes or questions do you have? I'd love for you to share here!

Monday, April 1

Nia Vardalos: The "Instant Mom"-terview

Nia Vardalos' new book, "Instant Mom", is about adoption. But let me be clear: it is not just about adoption. It's more of a hybrid parenting/humour/autobiography-she-didn't-want-to-write type of book. And you should read it.

I mean first of all, the woman is fun-ny. While I sobbed at several parts (when her daughter first calls her "Mommy", for example), Nia's trademark self-deprecating humour is everywhere: ("I don't want to get airtime by making a sex tape with someone in celebrity rehab. I mean, not right now.")

And while Nia asserts that she did not want to write an autobiography, the references to her projects (you may have heard of a little movie she wrote and starred in called "My Big Fat Greek Wedding") and some name-dropping (you know, Tom Hanks, Queen Elizabeth, whatever) are actually great vehicles for drawing readers in, and spreading the message about her path to motherhood.

In 2008, after several unsuccessful rounds of IVF and some false starts with the adoption process, Nia and her husband, actor Ian Gomez, adopted an almost three year old girl from the American foster system - a system surrounded in many myths that Nia debunks in the book. For example, many of these kids are, in fact, available for adoption: there are 129,000 children in foster care who are legally freed from their biological parents and waiting for a permanent home. She also discusses the misconception that kids from foster care (even those who come from backgrounds of abuse) are "damaged", pointing out that she has met many who are well-adjusted and successful adults.

Now, please be clear: Nia is not an "adoptive mom" - she is a mom. A protective mom, who has kept her child away from paparazzi (they used a kitten disguise when she was younger to foil the attempts of photogs trying to get a good shot) and is only now releasing the name of her daughter (Ilaria, who today is almost 8). This Mom sat down with That Mom for a Momterview.

Nia's Canadian-ness shows through right away when she apologizes for being two minutes late (with a very good excuse), and after I tell her how much I loved the book (because gushing is exactly the way professional journalists do it) we get to the questions.

This Mom: You write about really personal topics like infertility, IVF, and adoption and recount some of the insensitive or even accidental foot-in-mouth things that people have said. For well-meaning people out there who really just want to express interest or show support to a friend going through something like this, what can they say or do?

Nia Vardalos: I remember a friend saying this to me: "I hear you're going through something" - she didn't use any words - "If you ever want to talk about it, please call me." That really stayed with me because it was open, she didn't even make me blush, it just made me feel very loved. And in the book I talk about a friend who quietly placed a prayer card in my hand. So kind. And she whispered in my ear "This worked for me", which I just thought was so lovely. And the day that our daughter's adoption was finalized, I sent the friend, Donna, flowers with the prayer card in the middle of it.

This Mom: Without giving too much away, in the book you write about an error that was made by an embryo specialist, and how he apologized and actually put it all in writing, which is a bit of a surprise in today's litigious society. What did that mean to you?

NV: It meant to me that his soul was seeking forgiveness and he had no fear of retribution, he just knew it was the right thing to do. In him reaching out that way, I realized that the right thing to do would be release him of any guilt on his part, and I felt light. I felt as light as a I feel with the book.

I'm terrified to go public, terrified, and yet I just pre-taped the Katie Couric show {That Katie is always snagging my guests first!} and just to say my daughter's name out loud in that setting...I was shaking. In fact, Katie said to me on the break "You're sweating", and I was - on my upper lip! {Nia's upper lip sweat is basically a character in the book.} My heart was pounding. I don't get nervous about performing, I've met the Queen, I've hung out with Elton John, nothing makes me nervous. Yet, the protectiveness I feel toward my daughter is the only thing that can make me rear up on my hind legs like a mama bear!

TM: You wrote a great chapter on "Mother Nurture", since of course parents who adopt know that they can't credit - or blame - their own genetics when it comes to their children's qualities. Can you elaborate on some of the traits that you think Ilaria gets from you and your husband?

NV: The strangest thing happened recently, and it's not in the book, I'm giving it to you. {Take that, Katie Couric!} So, our daughter has never seen us act, it's not like we do sketch comedy in our kitchen, even though it's a pretty funny house, she's never seen our movies or seen us in plays, nothing. Of course we sing all the time, but a lot of parents do. Well, she just performed in a local theatre production of "Little Shop of Horrors", and the kid has it. I know all parents think their kids are talented, but my friends and I - our jaws were on the ground. I looked at my friends - Rose, Tracy, the Core I talk about in the book - and I said "This is what our moms felt when they looked at us! They said 'When did you rehearse? When did you learn this? How were you able to do this?'", and they agreed, they remembered that. I remember my mom saying to me "How did you do that?" and I'd say "I don't know!" and it was fun. There was no pressure, I wasn't precocious, I was just very comfortable on stage, and I just saw my daughter be the same way. That's not nurturing, that's not nature, I don't know what it is! Is it in her DNA? Again, is it just the match made in heaven? We don't know!

TM: Being Canadian myself, I'm wondering if there are any particularly Canadian traits or traditions that are part of your family life with your daughter?

NV:  Well, we celebrate two Thanksgivings, we do things like that. Definitely manners and politeness. My husband is a New Yorker so he cringes when I open a cab door in New York and say to the driver "Are you for hire?" Yet, he now sees our daughter, when we leave a store, turn to the shopkeeper and say "Thank you!" and realizes that manners go a long way. You never really worry if you're doing the right thing or the wrong thing, you just know if you have a good foundation of manners you'll be comfortable in any situation. And of course, the thank you note. She writes thank you notes.

TM: You write about the fact that no matter how hands-on many modern fathers are, moms seem to always take the responsibility for the planning and scheduling of children's activities - why do you think this is?

NV:  I don't know if it's because we are able to multitask...I know that sounds sexist, but I have seen my husband flummoxed when he has to answer the door while carrying a beer and our daughter in the other hand. I see him like "What should I put down first?" "Um, the beer!"

Nia and Ian on Oscar Night (Source: Nia's Twitter account)

TM: In the book, you advise that when it comes to parenting, "Don't make everything a teachable moment". Can you elaborate on that?

NV: I think I learned that in my relationship. My husband has become a very good listener. At first in our relationship, when I would complain to him about a work situation or a friend that had said something, he wanted to fix it. And I would say to him "I don't need you to fix anything, I need you to listen." And that was such a lesson for the two of us because as I articulated it, it became clear to me and that's what I use for my daughter. She will pour out angst over a situation, all sorts of things, and I'll ask her, "Do you want me to do anything?" and she'll say "Nope!" Sometimes she says yes, she does want me to do something, but it never is about me. It's about her realizing how she feels as she articulates it. She's a talker.

TM: You write in "Instant Mom" that you always buy yourself a piece of jewelery to celebrate the signing of a contract for a project. I'm curious to know - what did you buy yourself to commemorate this book?

NV: I have a beautiful black onyx ring on my right hand that is on the cover of the book.

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

NV:  This mom loves purses. I love kindness. I am generally attracted to a person who commits random acts of unwarranted kindness. If I see someone on the subway reach out and help an elderly woman through a turnstile I gushingly want to be that person's friend.


As we wrap up, Nia asks if we've spoken before, as my voice is familiar to her. When I reply that we have not, she says "Maybe we're just supposed to be friends!" Since that moment, I have been referring to her as "my friend Nia Vardalos"...and will continue to do so until her lawyers request otherwise.

"Instant Mom" is being released tomorrow, so look for it in your local bookstore or order it online now. You can also follow @NiaVardalos on Twitter for more information or just pure entertainment.

As for the book, if you're thinking about adoption, there's a fantastic "How To" Appendix at the back with tons of information. If you have adopted, you will no doubt relate to a lot of what Nia says, though of course no two families have the same experience. And if your path to parenthood (or away from parenthood) is completely different, I promise you'll still enjoy the read.

The last thing I want to tell you about Instant Mom: at one point in the book, Nia talks about getting support from her own family, writing: "And now that my mom is here, everything starts to get better." I imagine that's exactly how Ilaria felt about her.