Friday, January 31

School Roundup: January 2014

Despite kicking off the 2014 school year with two snow days, it's been a full, productive month in the Grade 3 class! To save my fingers from typing and your eyes from reading, I'll make this as brief as I can!


Reading Passages That Build Comprehension: Main Idea and Details. I love this book. Each page has a short text and three multiple choice questions (What's the main idea?, What's a supporting detail from the text? and What would the best title be?) I project it on the Smartboard using my document camera (every class should have one of those). Kids come to the carpet with their set of cards that say A, B and C. I read the passage aloud, and when I ask the questions, kids hold up a letter in response. I can keep a checklist of the number of errors they make, and taking the decoding part out of it really isolates the skill of determining main idea and supporting details. Plus, they feel like they're playing a game! As the year goes on, I get them to do more of the reading themselves.


We did a lot of letter-writing this month. First, post-Christmas thank you letters (to parents, Santa, etc.), and then letters to Canadian peacekeepers. (See here for information.)  From the list of current operations, we chose "Proteus" in Jerusalem, connecting it to the history of Christianity, and how they are carrying on the work there that Jesus did 2000 years ago.We're hoping we receive some replies! As with almost all writing tasks, we used the laptops, and kids participated in peer and self assessment before submitting their work.


Ripped-paper Penguins - yep, as seen on Pinterest:


Hannah Beach "I Can Dance": these are interpretive dance picture books and CDs. I would read each book, then play the CD as the kids danced around the room in whatever way they wanted to express each idea (e.g. elephant, fire, angry, pink, smooth, spaghetti). They did written reflections at the end (their thoughts are perfect to include in report card comments for extra personalization). I always ask them to come up with their own book idea, and one child suggested "I Can Dance Jesus, because he is everywhere and in our hearts and he is our Lord." Aww!

Health/Social Studies

If you teach in Ontario, you have to check out

Regional Dairy Educators make FREE visits to schools, with a choice of topics (nutrition, from farm to table, etc.) I like that there's the option of a presentation all about Early Farming compared to Modern Farming - a perfect complement to the Grade 3 Social Studies unit on Early Settlers


It's that time of the year again for the Family Life/Health unit, which in Grade 3 goes as far as egg cells and sperm cells. (I can talk openly with 8 year olds, yet I am blushing as I type this.) Of course, someone asked "But how do the egg and sperm get together?", a question I referred back to their parents. (You're welcome.) For this unit, the kids also bring in photos of themselves as babies and learn what they weighed, if they were early or late, etc., which they love to share.


We finished up Data Management (the kids - and I - always love doing surveys, collecting data and creating graphs). Now we're starting measurement, which includes time. Elapsed time is a particularly difficult concept for many of them, so I make up a sheet with our start and end times for every subject and recess. Kids draw the hands on the blank clocks and figure out how much time we spend on each segment of the day.

Social Justice

Our Student Government group led a used children's book drive initiative, which was an overwhelming success. We collected over 1200 books (board, picture, early reader and chapter). The books were delivered to our local Ontario Early Years Centre, where they are available free of charge for any families who need them.

There's a lot of research to show that the number of books a child has at home is related to their reading skills, and many families just can't afford to stock their kids' libraries, so this was a way we could help. Because the kids at our school come from a variety of economic backgrounds too, we're also trying to make sure that some of our social justice initiatives don't cost the kids a thing - all they had to do in this case was bring in items that they don't need anymore, which was free and painless, but could still provide them with the feeling that comes from helping others. And let's be honest - I'll do anything to get people organized and de-cluttered!

Book Orders

On the topic of books, I send home the Scholastic Book Orders every month, and I love how it earns us free resources for the classroom. For Christmas, I gave the kids each a $5 Scholastic gift certificate so that they could all have a chance to order a book, and most of them took advantage on the January order.

As a final note for the month, just so you know what kind of class I am blessed with, I wanted to share this note left by a supply teacher one day when I was out for a meeting: "Thank you for having me in today. Your class is so well behaved and very helpful. They were very good at staying on track, and knew exactly what to do when they finished activities early. I couldn't have asked for the day to be any better."

This earned the kids a period of free computer time on the class laptops!

Hope your January has been as worthwhile and exciting! With Spirit Week and Valentine's Day ahead in February, 2014 shows no signs of slowing down!

Monday, January 27

"The EveryGirl's Guide To Life" by Maria Menounos

I just finished rereading another gem from my bookshelf: The EveryGirl’s Guide To Life by television reporter Maria Menounos (you may know her from ExtraTV, or her time on Access Hollywood, Today, or Entertainment Tonight).

In her book, Maria covers a huge range of topics, from decorating and organization (this gal could give me a run for my money!) to hair and makeup to work and travel, with an incredible number of tips for women.

You might think that as a television personality, Maria’s suggestions might not exactly apply to you (and I will admit her closet is to die for) but as the daughter of Greek immigrants with incredible worth ethic, Maria keeps it real and stretches her time and dollars in the same way most of us do. Not only does she do her own hair and makeup for her daily TV appearances (most of her counterparts spend two hours getting “done”; Maria does her own in less than half an hour) but she, her partner Keven and a friend set up and photographed the cover shoot for her book, with no additional staff required.

Of course I’m fascinated by the lives of those who work in broadcasting, so I had a particular interest in the book, but I took away all sorts of practical ideas ideas (cleaning tricks, packing tips and work suggestions) as well as soaking up Maria’s “famous reporter” lifestyle.

Her sections on diet and exercise are very thorough, and while she’s much more dedicated than I am in these areas (she details how she lost 40 pounds several years ago) she’s also pretty realistic and practical about health and fitness – again, very accessible for what she calls “the EveryGirl”. Though I have to say that I could never get on board with one carb per day! (Her second book is coming soon, focusing specifically on diet and fitness.)

The book is packed with photographs of not just Maria, but her gorgeous home and many of the interesting people she’s met or interviewed (the Obamas, for example).

While I feel a bit old/experienced for a few of the topics, I still pick up new ideas every time I read the book (which is why it gets to stay on my shelf, rather than being passed along as most of my books are).

The EveryGirl’s Guide To Life would be a perfect gift for a young woman starting out – maybe someone entering the work force, or someone who just rented her first apartment or bought her first house.

You can follow the hardworking Maria Menounos (as I do) on Twitter at:

Sunday, January 26

Valentine's Day Decorations: Quick, Easy and Cheap!

What better way to celebrate my fourth blogiversary (why, thank you!) than by sharing some festive holiday decorations?

Before having kids, I didn't put up too many knickknacks for Valentine's Day, and even now I just put touches here and there in the main area of the house. I highly recommend Dollarama for family-friendly seasonal décor, as well as Pinterest for tons of great DIY ideas. Here's what you can find in my open-concept main floor area this year:

I love wreaths, especially on the mudroom door in my very neutral-toned kitchen. From Thanksgiving to Easter, there's a pop of colour in that prominent spot (if not dollar store, this one may have been from Zellers).

How can you go wrong with little dollar store hearts hanging in random places?

This was one of my first Pinterest-inspired projects (I blogged about it here) - 
my XO frames, on the half-wall right inside the front door.

I've gone a bit crazy using old photos to decorate for each holiday. These ones show Frannie 
and Maggie, each on their first Valentine's Day, in front of their traditional gifts from Daddy - 
a single rose for each of his girls.

Again, a Dollarama find:

This one's a new addition as of yesterday. I saw something similar on Pinterest, only it was larger and the candy hearts formed a big heart. My visual spatial skills aren't that good - I couldn't get the heart to look the shape I wanted it. Plus, I have this thing about rows and symmetry, though I tried not to be too careful with this piece. (Frannie: " sure are into using frames for decorations, mom!")

Holiday window-clings are a must at our house. I will admit (to no one's surprise) that when the girls were really young I kind of micromanaged this task. And by micromanaged, I mean that I would let them do it, and then fix it all when they were done. Now, even five year old Maggie is able to space the hearts and Cupids in a visually pleasing way.

I've written before about my organizational strategy of holiday-themed bins, which include seasonal books. The girls are currently enjoying these stories, just pulled out of storage and unseen since last Valentine's Day. Any books that they've outgrown are passed along to a coworker with younger children.

A small bit of storage for the Valentine's Day greetings that will be arriving chez Winn 
(yep, it's from Dollarama).

Since I spend so much time in the kitchen (sorry if I just made your drink come out your nose), it's a great place to add a festive touch. These are new from Target this year as well. (I also have my eye on another cute wreath there, but need to decide if it's hardy enough to hold up on the front door or not. With open concept, there's not a lot of place for hanging.)

Hope you enjoyed that quick little holiday tour. As you can clearly see, I don't spend a lot for these sorts of items, and they're more for the kids than for adult enjoyment, but I do love to have some seasonal touches around the house.

For more Valentine's Day ideas (including some classroom crafts), check out my Valentine's Day Pinterest Board.

Speaking of holidays, I guess I should get to opening all of my blogiversary cards and gifts now. The traditional fourth anniversary gift is flowers, so the vases are ready...

Wednesday, January 22

Deep Thoughts on My Blogging Voice

A very lovely and loyal reader e-mailed me earlier this week with some amazing feedback (I do know her in real life, but no, she's not related to me!)

The subject of her e-mail was "Thoughts", which could go in any number of directions, but what was on her mind ended up being very valuable to me.

She complimented me on my recent posts about writing (Adventures in Freelance Writing Volume I and Volume II), saying that they have a different energy than a lot of my other posts: "I just find that you are much more animated and the writing comes to life- your personality shines through," she wrote. "When you write about things that sincerely interest you, it changes your writing style." 

This really got me thinking, as I feel that most of the time I do choose topics that interest me - and it's definitely a freedom I appreciate, being able to write what I want when I want, especially when I also have the regular experience of writing to please editors - but there certainly are times that I write posts because I think there's a market for them, and not so much because I feel passionate about the topic myself. Definitely something to keep in mind when planning ahead for This Mom Loves. That's not to say that I need to close the blog off from ideas that are a bit out of my comfort zone, but I need to make sure that I'm letting loose and being myself if I'm going to put something out there.

Thinking about the things that I am passionate about, this friend went on to say: "I'm not suggesting you are square (hee hee)" - her parentheses - "but you are highly organized and efficient in your home life, as well as your career, and this is a talent that I think you should consider focusing on in your blog."

She did suggest that, based on what she knows about me (and what she would love to see as a reader) I should consider more organizational posts, perhaps incorporating questions from readers (she even threw in a few to get me started)! And you know what? I think that's a great idea. I am a very organized person, but in an efficient way, which may not be what some readers are looking for (not all organized people are efficient, which I will explain when I start tackling these questions!)

This was a slow blog week for me, with report card deadlines by day and magazine deadlines by night, so it was a great time for me to step back and absorb this feedback.

Thanks to this friend and reader...and to all of you who support me here at This Mom Loves! Hope you're ready for more organizational and writing posts, information about books and education in general, decorating before and afters (three projects being planned), more celebrity Momterviews and some fun products that my girls and I really like...because that's what's in store around here!

Thursday, January 16

How Do You Save Money For The Future?

How do you save money for the future? We have a few different systems, depending on our goals.

For retirement:

We are incredibly fortunate to have a strong pension plan (which I hope will still be there when we need it - 2031 is still a long time away!), but in addition, my husband and I each have RRSPs, funded by preauthorized withdrawals made from our chequing accounts each month. Every couple of years we take a look at our budget and decide if we're able to increase our contributions, but at this point we still aren't maximizing what we could be doing. One bonus with RRSPs is that they do provide a tax break, which means some money back at the end of the year.

For the girls' education:

As soon as Frannie was born, we opened a family RESP, and used the Universal Child Care Benefit ($100 per month, per child from the federal government) to get it started, since it was new income that we wouldn't miss. Once I was back to work full time after both girls, we increased our monthly contributions. It's smart to maximize, if you're able (the government will add 20% of what you put in, to a maximum of $500 per year, per child - which means if you can put in $2500 over the course of the year, you're making the most of your money.) We still haven't decided what to tell our daughters about this chunk of savings. My husband and I each paid for our own post-secondary education, while I admittedly had the luxury of living at home and using one of my parents' vehicles, but I did cover almost all of my tuition and books myself through part-time and summer jobs. I would never want their opportunities to be limited because of money, but I also don't want them to go through high school assuming they have some sort of free ride. I'd like to see them working and saving, just as we did. I'd love to hear others' thoughts on this one!

For large purchases:

We have monthly budgets (including set amounts for personal shopping/entertainment), and the difference between our income and expenditures goes into a joint account at the end of the month. Originally we were very strict about what we would use it for, e.g. a big trip, purchasing a large appliance, etc., but now it tends to be used for Christmas shopping, repair bills, anything not in our monthly budget. Fortunately our tax return is timed perfectly to fund our March Break trip (I know the financial experts wouldn't approve of that but hey, I'm being honest!)

A great way to make sure that your future goals are funded is to pay yourself first (I can still hear Monica's dad on Friends telling her "10 percent, in the bank!") and a great way to do that is to have the withdrawals set up through programs like the TD Automatic Savings Plan. That way you don't have to worry about transferring amounts each month, and the money is out of sight, out of mind...and ready when you need it in the future!

As I mentioned above, I'd love to know what other parents plan to do about their children's post-secondary educations...are you saving for them or expecting them to do it on their own? Is it a choice you're making, or financial necessity? How will their opportunities be different from yours?

Disclosure: This post was sponsored by TD. Opinions are, as always, my own. 

Monday, January 13

Adventures In Freelance Writing: Volume II - Tips and More

If you missed Volume I of my Adventures In Freelance Writing, catch up here!

When I look back at my e-mails, I can see that I took a long (almost 18 month) break from pitching and writing in 2011/2012, starting back up again last January 2nd, almost as an unintentional New Year's resolution...and what a year it's been! I've been published in two major, dream-for-me magazines with six more articles submitted and ready to go to print in 2014, plus several more assignments either lined up or under discussion.

Based on my busy year, here are some more tips for writers looking to break into national markets:

Get to know/get known by editors:

  • Make contact with editors (not just editors-in-chief, but others from the magazine as well) in a VERY non-stalker way. I've started to follow many on Twitter, and I reply occasionally and on-topic when I feel I can contribute something to the conversation. For me, this is not some sort of phony technique, as I truly am interested in their careers and who they are as people. I can't say for sure if this has had any impact on getting assignments, but it makes me feel much more connected to the publishing world.

Do your research:

  • Skip the generic submissions addresses; you want to be sending your pitches to the right person. Check the masthead and figure out who covers the department you want to pitch to (Health, Travel, Features, etc.) If you can find one person's e-mail address, you can figure out the formula (e.g. 
  • Send all submissions through e-mail, and include links to your writing if possible. When I pitch new editors, I send links to two or three of my articles, but I also have a whole section in my sidebar with links to my published work. Right over there.
  • Actually read the publications you want to write for, cover to cover. I subscribe to every magazine I pitch, since my market at the moment is pretty narrow. At the least, read the most current issue. It looks good if you can say "this article would be a similar length and format to the piece about dental health in your October issue" - or whatever.

Be prepared for glitches and rejection (both active and passive):

  • You will face rejection. You will either be ignored, or they will say "thanks but no thanks", or if you're lucky they'll say "no thanks, because..."
  • One editor (who had never replied to my many pitches) e-mailed back once to say she liked my idea but was busy, could she get back to me later...and I never heard back again, despite a few follow-ups.This happens.
  • Here's what I mean by glitches: I pitched an idea to a magazine and an editor liked it. It got the green light at a meeting, but a different editor didn't realize that the idea had come from a freelancer, and assigned the story to another writer. The editor I had dealt with e-mailed me immediately, apologized, and offered me a different story right away. I suppose I could have been fired up about it, but mistakes happen and God knows I make them too. It was handled so well that I had no problem accepting it and moving forward. (Also - it wasn't an earth-shatteringly original idea, so I didn't feel that attached to it.) On a related note, don't be quick to think that one of your rejected pitches has been stolen. Editors receive tons of similar ideas, which is why it's best to be very specific with your pitch to set it apart.
  • Another heartbreakingly big glitch for me: From a PR rep, I had an inkling that I would have the opportunity to interview a major celebrity, so I contacted a comparably major magazine who was interested in running it...but after literally months of back and forth with the PR person, the interview didn't work out. While I really, really had my hopes up for that one (there may have been a tear in my eye, I'll admit), I had to take it on the chin and keep on going.

Know what you want:

  • I stopped writing for local publications, and I'll be honest about my reason: if I only have enough moonlighting time to write an article or two a month, and I can get paid $1 a word for doing so, I can't justify spending the same amount of time and making 12 cents a word (though I completely understand why the budgets are so different).

Keep perspective:

  • A "do as I say, not as I do" gem: don't continually refresh your Inbox. Get busy - spend time with family/friends, run errands, read (especially the publications you want to write for), and write - blog posts, more pitches, or something completely unrelated. 
When you're at home, whether on mat leave as I was when I first began, or because you're throwing yourself in to this career working from home, it can be hard to leave it behind, and to see it as a job.

Keep track:

Of course I'm a major proponent of organization, and I keep track of my pitches in one document with the date, name of publication, and date of reply (if any). When there's good news, I also track the deadline and invoicing date as well.

I keep my articles in a binder - and, yes, I know it's the digital age, but they're print magazines first and foremost, and I love having the tearsheets all in one place. I also realize it's pretty cutesy, but hey, it's just for me!

I have to mention that sometimes you do luck out with an editor who takes the time to give you feedback about your pitches. I asked one editor, who always went above and beyond with responses while working at a parenting magazine I was pitching, what her philosophy is about new writers. Her reply:

 "I always like to give new writers (meaning new to the magazine I'm working at) a chance to show their stuff. I don't mind passing along contacts and helping guide people's careers in any way I can. I have done this for many well-known editors/writers and even some popular book authors. I believe in paying it forward. It's always been my nature to do this. Over the years, I've seen young writers grow and prosper in their jobs or freelance work and have realized that it always comes back ten-fold." 
-Kerrie Lee Brown, former editor-in-chief of Oxygen magazine and executive editor at Today's Parent 
(On Twitter here)

How's that for perspective?

I am so blessed to be able to say that I'm at the point now where I'm getting all of the writing work I want and need, considering that it's a part-time endeavour for me. I'm hoping that through this series I can pay it forward myself and help at least one new writer looking to break into the world of freelancing!

In the next edition of my Adventures In Freelancing:

  • A sample of a successful query letter
  • You got the assignment: now what? (Including another mortifying personal moment)
  • How I made my blog work for me

If any aspiring writers out there have any questions, please don't hesitate to leave a comment or send me an e-mail at katewinn77 at yahoo dot ca.

Friday, January 10

School Roundup: November/December 2013

Yeah, yeah...I'm a little behind with this recap, but give me a break - it was a busy time of year!

Here are some highlights from the end of 2013 in my Grade 3 class (teachers, feel free to borrow for your own use next year):


Writing: As we continued to work on writing a well-developed paragraph, the kids were invited to choose a type of travel and write about why it's the best. Topics ranged from horseback to limousine to ATV, with tons of great examples. These guys are fantastic at staying on topic and many are able to give detailed arguments (including a great use of humour). Every year I find conventions (especially spelling) are the biggest challenge, but since we're lucky enough to have a class set of laptops (i.e. Spellcheck), work is much improved.

Social Studies: In November and December the kids explored Early Settlements in Upper Canada.

One website that's fantastic - interactive and related to the Ontario Curriculum - is Pioneer Life In Upper Canada. The first couple of years I used this site, I incorporated the worksheets, but I find that the kids actually retain more when we just sit at the carpet and follow along with the site on the Smartboard.

As a read-aloud to correspond with this unit, I read the kids Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia Maclachlan - a quick read, and it's always a bonus when there's a movie to go with it!

The kids' final assignment for this unit was a poster comparing Early Settlers times to Modern Times under four categories of their choosing (clothing, homes, schools, food, etc.). This is always a very popular assignment, and I'm able to use it for Social Studies, Writing and Learning Skills marks.

Here's are a couple of samples:

Remembrance Day: Each year our school holds an assembly to commemorate this day, and this time around our primary division (under the guidance of our musically talented Special Education Resource Teacher) performed a beautiful song called "I Dream of The Day" (the link takes you to lyrics and music). I played the song over and over for the kids while they were eating or working on art, and by the time we started rehearsals they had it memorized.


Walk Through Bethlehem: Since we're talking about performances, this year we strayed from the traditional concert format, and instead turned our school into Bethlehem. Older students were Roman Guards who led groups of parents and visitors through the school, making stops in classrooms along the way to their final stop at the Nativity. In our Grade 3 room, they got to take a peek at the shepherds hanging out in their field, who were then greeted by the angel announcing Christ's birth. Moved by the Spirit, they burst into song - "Let's Go, Let's Go - The Shepherds' Song". No offense to the enthusiastic gentleman performing here on Youtube, but it looked MUCH cuter performed by 20 eight year olds in shepherd costumes:

Writing: We did two pieces of Christmas writing - another paragraph, this time about a Christmas tradition (how heartwarming to read these and learn about all of the special traditions that take place in my students' homes) and a piece of fiction with a Christmas theme. A consultant from the School Board once visited my class and taught me (and the students) a great graphic organizer type of trick for retelling (or, as I have adapted it, planning) fiction.

Beginning: Triangle - representing characters, setting, problem
Middle: Square - representing approximately four events in the middle of the story
End - circle - representing the need to wrap it up and solve problem from the beginning

It certainly helps to have this organizer in mind at EQAO (provincial standardized testing) time, when the students are always asked to write a piece of fiction.

Read-Aloud: The Family Under The Bridge by Natalie Savage Carlson. This is a sweet story about a "hobo" in Paris who, against his better judgment, becomes entangled with a family of homeless children. I had to do a little on-the-spot tweaking of some of the scenes regarding Father Christmas, because...well, just because.

Art: As you may remember, we had a fantastic Christmas craft morning, with fake fireplace burning on the Smartboard and carols playing through the surround-sound system (don't you love technology in the classroom!)

I also used another as-seen-on-Pinterest idea, where the kids made Christmas carolers something like this (link to the original Pinterest pin is below the picture):

Although really, they turned out nothing like this. But as I told the kids, when most of the students have not completed the assignment properly, that means the teacher must not have explained it well enough. Live and learn!

Miscellaneous: The kids drew names for "Secret Santa" in the month of December, and some really got into it. On the last day of school, they brought a wrapped gift of $5 value for their chosen classmate, and we had a fun time unwrapping and guessing just who each student's Secret Santa was. I've done this (or something similar) six times, and never has a student been forgotten.

The last thing I do before sending the kids home for the holidays is gather at the carpet to read the birth stories from the Gospels, and then a couple of my favourite Christmas picture books, including this one, which I received from a student a couple of years ago (great teacher gift for next year,'ve started your shopping, right?):

Well, that's it for 2013! Looking forward to so much more in 2014!

Monday, January 6

Make Life Easier: Chores My Daughters Do - And Your Kids Can Too!

I think the title of this post is straightforward enough: I am a big fan of teaching kids independence (in my classroom as much as at home) and I thought I'd share which tasks we've assigned to our girls (ages five and seven) in the hopes that perhaps I can make your life easier too! (Or, you can just judge me and wonder why, oh why, I want my children to grow up so fast, and why I don't want to dote on them and single-handedly meet their every need. Whatever works for you!)

  • Set table
  • Assist with meal preparation as requested
  • Clear table
  • Put own dishes in dishwasher
  • Unpack school bag (take out agenda) and lunch bag (this is the point where I sign the agenda and read school notes) while they start lunches
  • Put agenda back in bag
  • Make lunch (evening) This is a BIG one. I slice buns (if that's a requirement on a particular day), but they do everything else, following the rules: 1 dairy (yogurt, cheese) 1 fruit, 1 carb snack, 1 meal, plus fill up the water bottle.
  • Put lunch in school bag (morning). I still get it out of the fridge so that it can't be missed. I'm not going to be the mom who works at the school and didn't send her own children with lunches.
  • Unpack and put away groceries. (Recently, we returned home from a weekend away, and had picked up groceries en route. I went to the bedroom to unpack my suitcase, and by the time I came out 7 year old Frannie had unpacked and put away five bags of groceries....and everything was in the right place! The fact that the kids clear the table and make lunches really helps them to see where things belong, though we did have one incident where I called the grocery store to see if I had left the fresh orange juice (listed on my receipt) at the till. A couple of hours later, Frannie heard me and my husband talking and spoke up: "We brought it home! I put it in the cupboard with the apple juice!" I'm sure it was fine.
Next up: I want to follow my sister-in-law's idea and get them each a little handbroom and dustpan so they can clean up their own crumbs! I haven't taught them how to wield a full-sized broom yet.

  • Brush and floss (with disposable flossers) teeth and put away toothbrush/toothpaste (morning/evening)
  • Replace toilet paper roll when necessary
  • My 7 year old is starting to take showers on her own, but sometimes still asks me to help. It will be a beautiful day when I can say "Go take your showers!" (Yes, they grow so fast and one day I will miss the fact that they wanted me to shower them, I know, I know.)

  • Get dressed (asking for assistance with tricky buttons, etc. Asking means coming directly to the adult and making the request, not sobbing "I NEED HELLLLLLLLLP!" from the bedroom.)
  • Make beds. They have been taught to do this properly and that they must do their best. I accept most day's work as "their best". This was hard for me at first.
  • Put dirty laundry in laundry basket
  • Put laundry away (I fold it in piles, they put items where they go). Frannie does slightly more than Maggie, as she now mixes and matches her own clothes. I still match up outfits for the five year old, and each day she chooses the one she wants from the hanging closet organizer. Because of hand-me-downs (from various people) she has WAY more clothing than her sister, and I'm not ready to relinquish total control because I want to make sure that outfits get rotated, holiday pieces are worn in season, etc. By summertime I plan to hand over the reins.
  • Keep room "tidy"...the definition of which continues to be negotiated.Again, this is hard for me.


  • Bring in mail/newspaper and recycling boxes (They only do this in nice weather. I don't want them slipping down our driveway in subzero temps.)
  • Put away all pool toys after swimming, and hang up swimsuits and towels to dry. Don't know how this one occurred to me in this weather...


  • Do homework (7 year old)
  • Put on/remove outerwear, hanging up/using racks as appropriate
  • Clean up one activity before starting another

It's important for me to mention that my daughters are not always gleeful when it comes to these responsibilities, and they do require reminders. Some days more than others!

I also want to make it clear that I don't have my children slaving away so I can get my Twitter fix (not usually, anyway) but if half an hour at night can be saved, that gives me lots more time for reading stories and helping with homework - without making it feel like those are chores as well. Plus how do they lose when they are learning to be responsible and self-sufficient young women from this age?

So...what am I missing? Is there anything else that kids this age should be doing themselves? I'd be glad to add it to my (their) list!

Thursday, January 2

5 Signs "Scandal" Might Not Be For You

Chances are, you're already watching Scandal. But just in case you're not, I feel the need to spread the word.

While I am fairly up on entertainment and had certainly heard two years' worth of buzz regarding the Shonda Rhimes drama (I love her work; having seen every episode of Grey's Anatomy and Private Practice), I didn't actually start watching until the current season (the third) and now there's no going back. Though actually, there's lots of going back. After the first episode of this season, I was desperate to see what I had missed, so I downloaded the first two seasons from iTunes, and I've been frantically catching up.

This show, however isn't for everybody. The following are my top five signs that Scandal might not be for you:

1. You like predictability. While occasionally I can see what's coming (I mean, I totally knew that aspiring politician was secretly with his brother's wife...which probably means that Shonda and the writers wanted me to get that from the start) there are tons of surprises that you truly cannot see coming, from the trivial to the downright shocking.

Scandal cast

2. You want linear, step-by-step plots. Scandal is not about keeping things in bland chronological order, though I'm sure it's not helping that I'm going back and forth between the current season and past seasons, all of which include flashbacks. It's just a big, beautiful scandalous blur. I would love to know how far ahead the master plan for the show was written, as the frequent flashbacks tie in so seamlessly it feels like it was all scripted before the show ever began.

Kerry Washington as Olivia Pope

3. You want to know who you're rooting for. Sure, Olivia Pope is the heroine...but man, can she mess up sometimes. And how is it possible as a viewer to fall totally in love with the guy who's having an affair? In most films and shows, it works if you hate the one-dimensional wife...but you just can't hate Mellie either, and she's definitely multi-dimensional. You also just can't hate the guy who is able to torture a close friend by removing her teeth. Seriously. Who's right and who's wrong? Everyone. Every character is a bad guy. Every characters is a good guy. Just like real life.

Tony Goldwyn as President Fitz Grant and Bellamy Young as First Lady Mellie Grant

4. You want actors to be on red-carpet pedestals, inaccessible to their fans. This cast live-tweets during the broadcasts, which is a major draw for viewers. I wondered if it was a contractual obligation, but I think that would spoil the effect, and none of it seems forced. I mean actors know that fans = ratings = contract renewals = more work = more money, but I truly don't get the sense that they're interacting for that reason. This cast really seems to appreciate what they're a part of, and they love the "gladiators" who share it with them. Even in interviews they appear to have fun together.

(Please note that Kerry Washington can sure handle the red carpet too. I've heard her mention a few times that she realized quickly that her red-carpet and editorial presence is her marketing department, and that philosophy is certainly working for her. On a related note, don't you think mom-to-be Kerry would make an excellent addition to my celebrity Momterviews here at This Mom Loves? What do you think, KW?)

And by the way - the acting on this show is incredible. Not only Kerry, but the whole ensemble: Tony Goldwyn, Bellamy Young (who is absolutely brilliant as First Lady Mellie Grant), Guillermo Diaz, Jeff Perry...I feel like I want to just list the whole cast, as they really are that good.

Fitz and Olivia

5. You like to feel comfortable while you watch TV. If you don't want to digest smart dialogue, squirm because you can relate exactly to a scene, feel a rush of emotions as you love/hate/fear someone...then don't watch Scandal. The dialogue is incredibly sharp, with episode titles (if not all, I haven't analyzed completely) being pulled from actual lines from the show. (I mean really, "Whiskey Tango Foxtrot"?) If your comfort zone only has room for nice old-fashioned characters, this show is also not for you. Color, gender, sexual orientation...who cares, with characters like these? Being a powerful black woman is not "the story", nor is a gay couple adopting a baby. But they're IN the story, which to me has a much more profound effect.

Olivia and Abby Whelan, played by Darby Stanchfield

Catching up on Scandal in bed has not exactly been helping with my sleep. Not only am I staying up late, but I have scenes going through my head while I'm trying to nod off and characters are even visiting me in my dreams. Well, a certain character. I'll just leave it at that. But I'm sorry, Mellie. And Olivia. See, I don't even know who to apologize to!

Season 3 of Scandal on ABC resumes next month. My PVR is set.

(Images used are courtesy of ABC. And by "courtesy of", I mean that I am borrowing their promotional shots and hoping they don't mind, since I am certainly trying to promote!)

Wednesday, January 1

Look What I Found: The Miscellaneous Edition

For your amusement: more goodies that have been dug out of basement storage!

Photos of the first two weddings I was in  - the first as flower girl for my mom's cousin Lisa in 1981, and the second as bridesmaid for my Aunt Sue in 1991. I vividly remember the minister putting a quarter on the floor right where I was supposed to stand as a flower girl - and I even got to keep it! For my aunt's wedding ten years later, there were a few tears when hairdresser insisted on doing my bangs in that whole top-curled-back, bottom-curled-under way...which even as a 14 year old I knew was going out of style. So I went home and fixed them, and all was good!

The next wedding I was in was my own, followed by my sister-in-law's in 2002, and my brother's in 2006.

Most recently were the back-to-back wedding parties in 2008. First I was matron of honour for my cousin Kerry when Maggie was 15 days old, and then bridesmaid for friend Allison one week later. Talk about crazy dress fittings...and I really should be including those photos here, as I filled out a dress like I never have before and never will again! 

My next sentimental discovery was this "guest book" page from my 5th birthday party in 1982, which I had plaqued many years ago as a keepsake. I love how all of my grandparents signed their names, and while it's such a silly little thing, looking at it makes me feel like they're all with me, even though three of them have since passed away.

Last but not least...does anyone want to know where I was on February 19th, 1995? No one? Because I could tell you, since I have every day planner I've used for the last 18 years! I thought with my new BlackBerry I just might be convinced to start using the electronic calendar, but there's still just something about planning things on paper that appeals to me. Good thing I have my 2014 Kate Spade calendar all ready to go! Happy New Year, everyone!