Monday, October 21

Mom/Daughter Bonding at Pretty In Pink Spa Studio, Oakville

I receive a LOT of press releases and information from PR reps every day, and the correspondence really has to stand out just to get me to read it, let alone respond with interest. When information on Pretty In Pink Spa Studio in Oakville hit my inbox, I was intrigued. It was titled "Spending time bonding builds self-esteem in children", and the email went on to outline how Pretty In Pink is the place for moms and daughters to spend some uninterrupted time together. Sure, it's a spa, but the release didn't push the beauty angle, instead focusing on the parent/child relationship, which I actually thought was brilliant marketing. I made an appointment right away for Frannie and I to check it out.

Despite the great info I had received, I was still a bit worried before the visit about how the Spa Studio would fit with the values I want to instill in my girls. I want them to know that it's important to take care of yourself and look your best, while always remembering that what's on the outside has little importance compared to who you are on the inside. I also want them to feel like it's fine to seek out and enjoy occasional pampering, but one never wants to earn the label "pampered child" - or worse, "pampered adult"!

My worries were completely unnecessary, because owner Sonia and her team absolutely nailed it.

Our drive was two hours, and while at first I wondered if I was crazy to spend that much time on the road, it really did support the goal of bonding with my daughter, as being in the car seems to spur conversation, and she confided quite a bit to be during the drive.

When we arrived at Pretty in Pink, we were greeted warmly and provided with a tour of the bright and clean spa, which was designed two years ago to serve a young clientele after Sonia realized she could address a need in the market. Her philosophy is that "a relaxing and age-appropriate spa environment, free from the unrealistic ideals that girls encounter daily in social media and advertising, can build confidence and encourage a process of healthy self-discovery".

While adult services were not originally on the menu when the spa opened, mom after mom would bring her daughter and ask Sonia "What about me?", which led to the expansion of services to meet the mothers' needs as well.

Behind the inviting storefront.there are two spacious rooms for parties (they can accommodate up to 15 young guests), with treatment areas sized just right for little spa-goers - meaning, they can actually reach the foot bowls! - as well as a small treatment room (with two beds for mother/daughter or friend treatments; one bed is removed for solo services) where Frannie and I were treated to facials to begin our spa experience. Frannie, all decked out in a cozy pink robe, received a chocolate facial, with the yummy stuff painted right on her face (it's edible, just in case!) I took an adorable photo of her covered in chocolate, but she was adamant that I not show that one on the blog so I am respecting her wishes.

During my facial, I didn't have to worry about asking any questions, as Frannie had it covered. Where do you get your products? (They're handmade in Hungary) What's in them? (Organic ingredients like acai berry juice, coconut water and shea butter) What happens if you run out? (We order more!)

I received the "Express Facial", with products targeted to meet my needs, and I confided that I'd like a bit of help with the signs of aging, so head esthetician Lucy used Eminence products like Firm Skin Acai Cleanser and Neroli Age Corrective Eye Serum

Frannie's facial ended with a mini massage, which she really loved. "I'm going to teach this to my friends at school!", she enthused.

Next, we moved to the manicure station. Frannie was asked what kind of music she likes and within seconds Taylor Swift was serenading us as our nails were tended to. My mani actually turned out very well with regular polish (instead of my usual gel), and in case you're curious, their nail polishes are free of DBP, formaldehyde and toluene. Sonia thinks of all the details: we received fancy glasses with pink lemonade, and there was a chocolate cupcake waiting for Frannie at the end of her bright-red-with-silver-sparkles mani.

The birthday parties and camps that Pretty In Pink offers include beauty treatments, of course, but I was pleased to see that there's so much more to them than that, like arts and crafts, music and drama. Even the questions the ladies were asking Frannie were right on, chatting about her friends, hobbies and Halloween plans. Other than asking her to select her nail colour, there really wasn't a focus on appearances at all, and the "beauty tips" she received were age-appropriate: Drink lots of water and wash your face twice a day. (When tucking her in that night, Frannie jumped out of bed and said "Wait a minute; I'll be right back! Lucy said to wash my face twice a day!")

The inspirational wall behind the pedicure station offers great tidbits for the girls too, like "No one is perfect, that is why pencils have erasers."

While we certainly received the royal treatment while there, I usually have a good instinct for when something is being staged for the sake of my "media" status, and that radar did not go off at all. I really believe that any little girl (or big girl!) who visits Pretty In Pink will leave feeling just as special.

Frannie with Spa Party coordinator Megan, Head Esthetician Lucy and owner Sonia

On the way out (after the requisite picture-taking, of course) I had to stop and pick up a "Feeling Smitten Cupcake Bath Bomb" (one of Oprah's Favourite Things, don't you know?) from the display case as a birthday gift for a friend. (Even if you're not interested in the services, you may want to check out the shop: from kids' robes to loot bag goodies to organic spa products for adults, they have it all. I'm particularly interested in a natural deodorant they carry for tweens and teens, but we're not quite ready for that yet.)

When reviewing products and services, I really like to get feedback from my kids as well, and Frannie doesn't hesitate to share hers. The funny thing is, all of the things she "didn't like" about this experience were actually positives! "I wish we could have stayed longer and done more things!", "I don't like how you said we can't come back for their Zombie Halloween Party!" My two negatives: the fact that it's way too far for us to visit on any regular basis ("Hey, you're invited to Frannie's birthday party; meet you in Oakville!" wouldn't really fly) and...I could really have gone for one of those post-mani chocolate cupcakes myself!

More information about Pretty In Pink Spa Studio, including pricing, can be found on their website. The parties start at $290, which I know is more than some of my readers want (or are able) to spend on a fete, but I have no doubt that there is an abundance of interested clientele out there. Sonia takes care of everything from the invitations to the food, and because of her daughter's celiac disease, she is very conscious of dietary needs, and can provide organic and allergen-free products upon request.

The visit certainly spurred Frannie's imagination as well, as I walked in the bathroom the next morning to find her and her sister playing "spa" with the dolls:

While discussing the birthday party packages offered at Pretty In Pink, Sonia had mentioned using "The Melt", a grilled cheese bar in the same plaza, to provide the food, so after our visit we walked down there for a fantastic lunch.

As we headed back to the car, Frannie looked at me, completely unprompted, and said "Mommy, that was the most awesome day ever, and I loved getting all of those things done, but do you know what the best part was? Spending all that time with you!" With tears in my eyes, I agreed.

Disclosure: Frannie and I received the services described above for review purposes. Opinions are, as always, our own.

Friday, October 18

Kids Colouring Their Hair: Need Parent Input For Article

I'm working on an article for a national magazine about kids roughly between the ages of 9 - 11 colouring their hair (girls or boys), and I'd love to speak to some parents about it.

-Did you allow your child to get highlights/colour/bleach?
-Does your child want to but you're saying no?

If either of those describes you, and you'd be willing to speak with me (or answer a few questions over e-mail) please leave a comment below or send me an email at katewinn77 at yahoo dot ca. I look forward to hearing a range of viewpoints on this subject!

Wednesday, October 16

Taking the Laser Eye Surgery Plunge

I got glasses in Grade 3. The first ones were a cute little blue-framed pair. Then I guess I developed some "go big or go home" attitude, and ended up with what could very kindly be referred to as an "oversized" pair of black-rimmed beauties for several years.

By Grade 8, I was desperate to get contact lenses, and with my parents' support, I went ahead. The only snag: the optometrist wouldn't let me take them home until I demonstrated - in front of him - the ability to insert and remove them independently. Yeah, that was a problem.

Fortunately my uncle was engaged to a wonderful lady who was willing to help me out with this task (since my parents were too squeamish!) and actually allowed me to practice with her contacts...and her eyes! A bit above and beyond the call of duty of a soon-to-be-aunt, but it worked, and I ditched the glasses soon after. (Thanks, Aunt Lise!)

When I say ditched them, I can't use the term "literally" as of course I did not throw them into a ditch, but close enough. I don't believe I was ever seen in glasses at high school, university or teacher's college, and last year (my 13th year teaching) I wore them one day for the FIRST TIME. Sure, vanity plays a huge role. I don't like the way I look (note that I said "I", tons of people look amazing) in glasses. But there's something about wearing them that makes me feel...underdressed. If that makes sense. Because glasses have always been my ready-for-bed or just-got-up reality, and I don't feel polished and presentable with them on...kinda like being in pj's. And since the 90's jumbo-size pair is long-gone and a smaller, more stylish Coach version currently in its place, I also feel like I'm only seeing a small piece of the world, as my peripheral (and above, and below) vision is blurry while wearing glasses. (I'm pretty blind without a prescription.) Plus, there are all of the other glass-wearer issues - rain, fogging up indoors, what to do during vigorous sporting activities...of course that one's a joke.

The world of contacts and their related paraphernalia has been my reality for 23 years now (quick, do the math) and I don't really complain about it too much. In the past, people have suggested laser eye surgery, but I didn't want to lay out that kind of payment for something that I didn't think I desperately needed. However, a few years ago our benefits changed, and I'm now eligible to have the surgery covered.

My mom had it done a few years ago, and my brother and his wife just this year...and they all rave about it, and the freedom from contacts, glasses and their accessories. I have to admit, I can't imagine traveling without having to pack those things up, and when I go away for more than a night I even try to remember a spare pair of contacts, because heaven forbid I need to put on my glasses while out and about on vacation!

A couple of weekends ago over dinner, my family finally convinced me, and I went on the LasikMD website to book a free consultation. They have an office located in Whitby for pre-surgery consults, and I was able to make an appointment for the following Saturday.

The whole thing took almost two hours, because they had to dilate my pupils to get the full picture, but the bottom line was that I am a candidate (I have to go with the "Advanced Custom Wavefront" procedure - where less corneal tissue is removed - since my prescription is too high to go the "standard" route). I thought it was a bit convenient that they asked about my benefits coverage in advance, and the total ended up being pretty much right on the amount I'm covered for, but I guess what do I care, as long as it's paid for? My package also includes a lifetime vision enhancement plan, so that I can get free "touchups" if anything should change with my prescription in the future.

I booked my surgery before even leaving the office (I went with the North York clinic, since it's the closest), choosing a Friday to limit the time I'll need to be off work (I should be more than ready to get back at it on Monday).

My particular surgeon has performed over 30,000 procedures, plus he's had LASIK himself, so I figure it's pretty safe to call him an "expert", which is comforting.

The fact that they asked me to remove my contacts a week before the surgery just may be my biggest challenge, but I will forego my vanity for seven days, as I think the results will be more than worth it.

I can't even imagine being able to see the alarm clock without picking it up and bringing it to my nose! Think about the seconds of sleep saved! As well as the additional perk of less clutter in my dresser drawer - lens cases, glass cleaning solution, etc,

Anyway, wish me luck! I'd love to hear about anyone's experiences with Laser Eye surgery (well, maybe not any one -in-a-million scare stories) and any tips you might have for the day of or afterwards. I'll be sure to update you after the big day!

Friday, October 11

The One Where You Get To Laugh At Me

I sometimes hear talk about how bloggers don't always present themselves honestly, and only share the sunny, polished, high points of their lives. It's true that, in keeping with the title of my blog, I usually post about things that I love, which means they are experiences or products that I've enjoyed and are worth highlighting here - translating into positive stories. But while I know I don't delve into my deep dark secrets here at This Mom Loves (you know, because I have so many), I'd like to think that I'm self-deprecating enough to give you the idea that I in no way am trying to present myself as perfect.

Just in case that's not coming through, I thought I'd share a couple of stories now just to make it clear that I'm willing to let you in on some of my not-so-good days as well. 

Exhibit A: Our school is participating in a magazine fundraising program, and I got my daughters set up online to make their sales. (I've done this for the past two years.) I imported my Yahoo address book, and selected the contacts whom I wanted to receive the promotional emails.

Yeah. Or maybe I selected the contacts whom I did not want to receive the promotional emails. Because at any rate, my entire address book - excluding the ten or so people whose names I checked off, of course - got the email. We're talking magazine editors, celebs I've interviewed, work contacts, friends and acquaintances I've lost touch with and haven't seen for ten years, and multiple friends/parents from our school whose children are - duh - also selling these magazines. Sure, sure, it's a little thing but I was mortified. I immediately went into Yahoo and sent an email of apology to all of these people, just in case they thought I was really bold enough to try to solicit funds from them. Then I was too scared to go back to the site and send the emails to the actual people I wanted to sell to, so it's likely my daughters will sell no magazines at all. (They will live without the prizes - in fact, there's less clutter if they don't earn any, so maybe this was all a subconscious thing on my part?)

Depending on your viewpoint, the funny part of the story may be the emails, or it may be how something minor like that could occupy my mind for pretty much a whole day. Anyway, then I got over it.

The irony is that I woke up this morning with the idea of writing this post, and upon checking my BlackBerry, realized that a "reminder email" had gone out to all the same damn people again! So I phoned the company and I have been told that no future emails will be sent from our fundraising account.

I'm all of you! (But if any of you are interested in discount magazines, please contact me!)

Exhibit B: Just a couple of days after my email embarrassment, my husband was away at a conference, and I picked the girls up early to have a nice relaxing night at home. We pulled into the garage, brought all our stuff into the kitchen and dropped it. I provided my children with a gourmet feast (deli meat, crackers, grapes, etc.) in front of the TV, and I enjoyed half of a leftover cheese ball with a box of crackers as my meal, in front of the other TV. (Just wanted to add those details in there to show that I am not afraid to be judged by my readers.)

The morning rush the next day was a bit more difficult with my hubby not home (oh, who am I kidding, it actually goes a bit smoother when he's not there to mess with the routine) as well as because it was picture day and all three of us required a bit of extra maintenance. I never let my girls wear their hair down to school during lice season (by which I mean September to June) but I told Frannie I would curl her hair for the picture, as long as she pulled it up after. I hoped that Maggie wouldn't notice that she only got a simple braid, compared to her sister's more labour-intensive style (no way was my five year old with waist length hair wearing it down to school). Oh, but she noticed...and unfortunately didn't understand my logic. Let's just say the tantrum involved burrowing her head into a pillow, which then necessitated the rebraiding of the hair.

And that was just the warmup.

Once we were all photo-ready (except for Frannie's curls, which of course lasted less than 30 minutes), we were heading out the door. I texted my sister-in-law who provides our before and after school care and told her I was taking the kids right to school with me since we were running so late.

The thing is, it appears that a truck does not start if one is not in possession of the keys. (I know, shocker.) The keys that were taken out of the ignition the night before and brought into the house. The keys that weren't where they were supposed to be in the morning. Okay people, my things are always where they are supposed to be, so this was a bit of a stressor. I will spare you the details of how I checked and rechecked the vehicle, garage and house while frantically looking at my watch, but the bottom line is I couldn't find them anywhere.

I got a hold of my friend/coworker, also running late, who generously agreed to come completely out of her way to pick up the three of us (she was much more concerned about the Tiffany key chain than the keys themselves) and we landed at school with precisely two minutes to spare before the bell rang. Not exactly my usual time of arrival. Luckily we both had our days planned and just hit the ground running. My students were much more amused than I at the turn of events, but hey, might as well turn it into a good story for the classroom.

Fast forward through 8 hours of being fixated on where the keys could possibly be (when I went to grab a parcel from the front door, maybe my keys fell on the steps and overnight a wild animal picked them up and took off with them?), and another teacher kindly drove us home to begin our search. Promising a cash (or valuable coin) reward to the finder, the girls and I got to work, and hallelujah, our prayers to St. Anthony were answered, and what was lost was found.

Where, you ask? Well, right on the seat of one of the kitchen chairs, neatly tucked in under the table, where I suppose I should have served my daughters a home cooked meal the night before, and none of this ever would have happened.

Did I learn my lesson and head to the stove? Nope...I handed both girls a toonie for their seeking efforts, just before hubby arrived home early with some fresh and healthy subs from Subway. Okay, fine, and a bag of soft, gooey cookies, but come on, it had been quite a day!

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post, but every word is true. Seriously, why would I make this stuff up?

Tuesday, October 8

Hearts For Hearts Girls: Gifts That Give Back

Last fall, I wrote about the Hearts For Hearts dolls (Changing The World One Heart At A Time) that my girls would be receiving for Christmas, and predicted that they would be a hit...and they sure were! (A sign of successful Christmas gifts is when the kids are still playing with them in October.)

When I found out that two new dolls were available for this Christmas season, I quickly accepted the offer to check them out.

Let's start with the best parts: a portion of the purchase price of every Hearts For Hearts doll goes to World Vision to help children worldwide...and the dolls themselves help educate our girls about the lives of children in other countries.

This year's additions are Zelia from Brazil and Lauryce from New Orleans, USA. (Last year my girls got Lillian from Belarus and Consuelo from Mexico - especially neat since we had been to Mexico on March Break that year.) Other represented countries include Laos, Ethiopia, and Canadian doll yet.

The dolls are authentically dressed, and come with a storybook, friendship bracelet and comb.



I rarely let the kids keep packaging from anything, but these boxes kicked around for quite a while because of their educational value: photographs and tons of information about the represented girls.

Since receiving her doll, Frannie, my seven year old, has spent countless hours on  playing games and learning all about children all over the world - so great, especially when one of my goals for the girls is that they'll take an active role in charity and social justice.

Recently Frannie mentioned wanting a different brand of doll for Christmas, one that a friend has, and was very quickly redirected when I told her that there were new Hearts For Hearts girls available. She was on the computer immediately checking them out...though I had to do some quick mommy-mind-messing to convince them that they both shouldn't ask for Lauryce (I'm hoping it's not the blonde thing)...because wouldn't it be better if one of them asked for Zelia so they could play with both?

The dolls retail for $29.99- 34.99, and can be found at Walmart, Target and ToysRUs.

If you're looking for a very special gift for a little girl in your life, I would highly recommend Hearts For Hearts girls.

Disclosure: I was provided with the above-named dolls for review purposes. Opinions are, as always, my own.

Wednesday, October 2

School Roundup: September 2013

I'm making it a goal this year to share a monthly roundup of all of the great things that have been happening at school, partly as a way for me to record what has gone well so I can attempt to repeat it again in the future, but also because I figure that I should try to get some blog mileage out of my day job!

Whether you're a fellow teacher, a curious parent, or a kind reader who who is willing to humor me and at least scroll through all of my posts, here you go, the highlights of Mrs. Winn's Grade 3 class from September 2013.

Art: "Despicable Me" Minions

I got this idea from Pinterest, and since we're a rural school it wasn't too hard for kids to bring in appropriate rocks for this task. As they waited for each coat of paint to dry, I showed a little Minions video from Youtube. The students were very excited to show these to their parents and guardians at our Meet The Teacher BBQ.

The pin that inspired me:

Writing: The Best Part of Me

Of course it's from Pinterest too! This is a great way to start working with my kids on paragraph format (introduction, supporting details, conclusion) and printing the photos out in sepia and putting them on a brown background gives a nice effect. (I had permission from this parent to share the work, in case any of you think I wouldn't be thorough enough to remember that!)

The inspirational pin:

Read-Aloud: Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo and A Light In The Attic by Shel Silverstein

Based on an internet recommendation, I'm starting the year with Winn-Dixie. Funny and moving, I've already had a particularly important teachable moment when one of the characters uses the word "retarded". (Even more important than when Willy Wonka says "ass" in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. That will come later in the year.) And if there just happens to be a feature film to go along with the book, then so be it.

I also like to incorporate poetry all through the year, not just as a distinct unit, and Shel Silverstein's work is very engaging for kids. If you're looking for something to read at bedtime, his anthologies are excellent and very funny.

Other picture books that have great themes for the start of the year are "Jeremiah Learns To Read" by Jo Bogart and "Beautiful Oops" by Barney Saltzberg.

Meet the Teacher Night: Thank You For "Popping" In!

One might argue that this little take-home gift is "cheesy", but I think "buttery" would be a more accurate term! (In fact, I think I went with "Super Buttery"!) I put a package on each desk, and it was easy to see as the evening went on which parents had not yet been in to visit. By the end of the night, I was 21 for 21 in terms of meeting parents, which is fantastic.

Thanks to Jodi from Fun in First Grade  for providing the free "Thank you for popping in!" printable here:

Terry Fox Run

I decided to head up our school's "Leaders Today" and "Student Government" groups this year, in part because I was looking for a way to give back without taking more time away from my own daughters (I'll explain more in a future post). Our first major endeavor of the year was our "Toonies For Terry" collection for the Terry Fox Foundation. We kicked it off with an assembly featuring a couple of videos and our challenge: if we could raise $362 - a toonie per student - the principal would allow us to have a movie morning on the day of the run. If we exceeded that goal and reached $500, he would dye his hair green and allow students to throw whipped cream pies at him. (The things that will motivate kids!)

Our final tally was an incredible $1000, and on Friday September 27th the principal made good on his word, and we enjoyed a fantastic day of movies, hair dyeing, whipped cream pie throwing, and running/walking for Terry.

Parent Involvement: Offer Prizes!

Another goal of mine for the year is to engage parents in a way that doesn't stress them - or me - out. In my September newsletter, I included a secret word for parents to write in their child's planner, and randomly chose one to receive a small Tim Hortons gift card. I did something similar with the first Assessment For Learning update I sent home, putting a very short optional quiz for the grownups at the bottom of the page to be returned and entered into a draw. Neither of these were mandatory, but I truly believe this sort of thing encourages more reluctant parents to get involved.


Of course, that's only the tip of the iceberg in terms of what's been read, written, studied and explored in the Grade 3 classroom this month, but those are a few highlights...with lots more to come in October!