Wednesday, April 30

School Roundup: April 2014

Here's a sampling what the Grade 3 class was up to in April:


Beautiful Easter crosses, using chalk pastels and paint.

Here's the original Pinterest pin:

(I used to be able to embed pins into my posts to give clearer credit to the original pinner, but it doesn't seem to work properly anymore. Any tips would be appreciated!)


Students wrote interview questions for an adult in their lives, conducted the interviews, and wrote a min-biography. Photos always help to make the work attractive for display purposes. I won't show any of them here, as the adults may not want their photos shared on the web!


We finished our read-aloud of "Holes" by Louis Sachar, and I feel confident saying that it's the most engrossed in a book that I have ever seen a class. I had never read it either, and I was hooked. Then of course we watched the movie! Now we've moved on to "Frindle" by Andrew Clements.


For our measurement unit on Length, Area and Perimeter, the students were asked to plan their dream backyard on grid paper, and then calculate the area and perimeter of some of the items they selected (ranging from arcade to mall to Pizza Hut to hockey rink!)

Social Studies

We're learning about "Living and Working in Ontario", and one day we did Map of Canada puzzles to help kids wrap their minds around the geography of the country. These ones are from Dollarama, and the 100 pieces kept groups of students busy for almost the entire 30 minute period.

One of their final tasks was to design an Ontario city, planning it appropriately (e.g. keeping the dump away from houses, grouping shopping areas together, etc.) They loved this!

Field trip

We visited the Camp Kawartha Environment Centre and participated in a very fun filled day, including "Nature Art" and "Traditional Games". While I am SO not outdoorsy, this was a perfect trip for my class. The day was very well-organized and the instructors were fantastic with the kids.


I find Easter is the perfect time to work on the skill of questioning as you read. I shared the Passion story from each of the four Gospels, and students made lists of the questions that popped into mind during the reading. There were a few that I had the answers to, but they came up with lots of deep-thinking questions that we may never be clear about.

Now it's time to spend the next month gearing up for EQAO. If you don't know what that is...lucky you!

Tuesday, April 29

When To Let Kids Solve Their Own Problems -and- Does Your Child Have Performance Anxiety?

A quick writing update:

In the May issue of Today's Parent (or at the link below) you can find my latest article, "Problem Solvers", on when (and how) to let kids solve their own problems, whether it's an issue with a peer or an adult.

As a teacher, I certainly have strong feelings about this, and it took effort - and some editing - to avoid showing a bias against helicopter parenting.

With expert input from family therapist Jennifer Kolari as well as real-parent experiences, this article highlights why it's important to be there for your child for guidance and support, while at the same time encouraging him or her to take action to solve problems as independently as possible.

Check out the full article here:

Coming up next, I need more parent input...maybe from you?

*Does your child suffer from performance anxiety (recitals/concerts, class presentations, etc.)?


*Did you recently go through the "first bra" phase with your tween? (Thanks to one mom who already agreed to chat with me.)

I never use real names without permission, and I welcome input from moms and dad across Canada. We can chat on the phone or over email, whichever is more convenient. It's so important to share the perspectives of real Canadian families in these articles, so I really appreciate any contributions I can get! You can leave a comment below, contact me through Twitter or Facebook, or fire me an email at katewinn77 at yahoo dot ca.

As always, thanks to my readers for their continuing support!

Thursday, April 24

Confessions of a Celebrity Ageist

I'm 36 years old, and I am a celebrity ageist.

But not in the way that plagues most of Hollywood.

Perhaps it would be more accurate to say I'm more of a "reverse" celebrity ageist.

I'm not interested in the teeny-boppers and the twenty-somethings. I'm mere months younger than Justin Bieber's mother, for heaven's sake, and I really don't care who he's taking selfies with or where he's relieving himself, since he could have been my "Baby". (Sorry, couldn't resist.)

I used to devour entertainment magazines and TV shows, but I find I don't recognize as many of the faces anymore (and I don't mean the faces of the hosts, altered by Botox).

Even when I was young, I idolized celebrities who were older than me, starting when I was just a child (please don't judge my youthful choices): Alyssa Milano, Cady McClain ("All My Children" actress) and Miss Elizabeth, manager and one-time wife of WWF wrestler Macho Man Randy Savage, (It was the dreses, I swear. Did you know she died of a drug overdose in 2003 at the home of Lex Luger? But I digress.)

I was obsessed with "Friends", but I really believe that's because they were half a generation older than me, and living the life I was (sort of) looking forward to. While I have the complete collection of episodes (no, not on DVD, but VHS tapes, on which I carefully recorded the episodes each Thursday night), I haven't pulled them out in years (and yes, I still have a VCR) because I don't think the impact would be the same now that I have surpassed the ages of the characters. The actors and actresses still interest me though, since they have aged. Some more gracefully than others. Is this weird?

Now as an adult, I continue to be interested in the work (and by "work", of course I mean "relationships/offspring/fashion/hair") of women around the same age as me, such as fellow '77ers Kerry Washington, Jessica Chastain, and Maggie Gyllenhaal, and the barely younger Rachel McAdams (35). "Older" actresses whose careers and lives I love to follow include Jennifer Garner (42, and I think we could totally be best friends), Reese Witherspoon (38), and Catherine Zeta-Jones (44).

An avid magazine reader, I make my selections carefully, and if the headline "Teen Mom" is on the cover, I'm not buying. Though since Garner and Halle Berry made their case against paparazzi photos of celebrity children, I have tried not to purchase magazines that use such pictures...but I will read them if someone else buys them. As long as there's someone born before 1982 on the cover (my random cutoff date to include Beyoncé and Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge.)

As far as music goes, while Taylor Swift is - at the date of this post - still an incredible role-model for my musical young daughters, her image doesn't compel me to purchase a magazine or click on a link. Faith Hill (46), Jennifer Lopez (44)... these women interest me, wrinkles or no wrinkles. (That's not at all to say I don't enjoy music by younger artists - they just don't appeal to me as "celebrities".)

The same goes for the men. While some young male stars are certainly attractive and talented, the first students I taught (St. Paul's class of 2001 - back when I was Mademoiselle Leahy) are now 27 years old. I could not possibly consider anyone below that age "sexy", though I am very appreciative of male actors right through their 50's. (I want a Fitz Phone. Gladiators, you know what I mean.)

Tomorrow night I'm going to see "The Other Woman", and looking forward to the performances of 42 year old Leslie Mann and 41 year old Cameron Diaz (twice the age of costar Kate Upton, yet all are involved with the same man!)

So tell me, dear readers: is this just as bad as the traditional form of ageism? It's not that I have anything against the younger stars, or that I question the quality of their work or glamour of their lives...they just don't interest me the same way.

Are you sitting there thinking "me too"? Or "this woman is crazy"? Please share either way. (But you probably shouldn't leave your age, because if you're under 35 I'll just be skimming your response. Totally kidding. I swear.)

Random final note to bloggers: I'm also loving the fact that Getty Images can now be embedded for free! I spent as much time choosing photos as I did writing this post!

Monday, April 21

About Time...Alarm Clock Time

We have reached a milestone phase in our family.

I have officially changed the time of my weekday alarm clock.

When I first went back to work after my mat leave with Maggie, almost five years ago, it was necessary for my alarm to go off at 6:00 a.m. I would enjoy one lazy snooze, reflecting on the previous day and all that was ahead for the current one, and hop out of bed at 6:09.

Maggie hadn't even celebrated her first birthday at that point, and Frannie was three. One needed a diaper change, both needed help getting dressed and fed, and at that point we were packing their milk and snacks for daycare. My goal was to get myself completely ready before even waking them up, so we could all be out the door on time.

Fast forward to recent days. I hit snooze at 6:00. Then again at 6:10. (My new alarm clock does 10 minute snoozes instead of nine, in case you caught that.) Then again at 6:20. Only after listening to the 6:30 news, (and waiting to see if by any chance it's another snow day), do I hit the shower.

This is my clock. This time just happens to be when I took the picture.

For months now, my husband has been asking me why I don't just reset my alarm. The thing is, every night I would go to bed with the intention of getting up at 6:10, but when it came time to either hit "snooze" or "off", I would remember that the day before we had been ready on time, even with an extra snooze. Which turned into one more. And one more.

Let me tell you, it is a huge change in your life when your children are independent enough to use the washroom, get dressed and make their beds every morning. While I still make (by which I mean pour or toast) their breakfast, they can eat independently...with forks and spoons! They even put their dishes in the dishwasher, and the lunches they packed the night before in their school bags. I do their hair (always put up, due to my lice paranoia. Though it shouldn't be called paranoia if it's justified, right?) and they brush their teeth, put on their own winter gear, get into the vehicle and buckle themselves in. Can you imagine how much mommy time is saved with all of that independence? I try to eat my "breakfast" (muffin/oatmeal bar) while they're eating, but then I'm off to get myself ready for work.

Since my husband is in the routine of doing the morning dropoff, I usually stay home for an extra five or ten minutes to unload the dishwasher or fold a load of laundry, if something is ready from the night before. (If it was ready before bed, it would have been done then. Because I have a problem.)

So a few days ago, I officially changed my alarm clock time to 6:20. I still enjoy one luxurious snooze, and roll out of bed, so much more refreshed after that extra 20 minutes of sleep! (Hey, if I believe it, that's all that matters.)

There are many who warn that parenting keeps getting harder as the kids get older, but I'd like to share that some aspects of parenting do get easier. Independence is a wonderful thing.

Wednesday, April 16

Easter Hunt Tips and Tricks (and cute kid photo alert!)

I want to make it clear how aware I am of the religious importance of Easter. I'm a Catholic schoolteacher after all (I was going to use the phrase "for heaven's sake" but thought perhaps it would be inappropriate) and our yearly remembrance of Jesus' death and celebration of His resurrection is paramount to our faith.

I must confess though: I also really love the chocolate.

Cadbury Mini Eggs in particular. (With over 750 million sold in Canada each year, I don't think I'm the only one. Seriously, I don't eat that much chocolate.)

I'm a sucker for anything piece-y, that I can eat by the handful and still feel like it haven't had too much (it also takes longer this way, in my experience, which prolongs the joy).

So while I select sponsored posts for This Mom Loves very carefully, I couldn't hit "reply" fast enough to accept an opportunity to share some Easter ideas with you, courtesy of Cadbury.

First, I'd like to let you in on two very important Easter traditions that I have carried over from childhood:

1. The Easter Bunny leaves a special note to let the kids know how many chocolate eggs they are looking for

2. The Easter Bunny does not wrap gifts (nor does Santa).

I have found that following these guidelines helps to make Easter run very smoothly! The egg count is super helpful, as my daughters know how many they should each be finding (so one girl doesn't locate the majority of them, leaving fewer for her sister to hunt down).

Note: if there's an odd number when they're being hidden, then at least one chocolate must be consumed by the Easter Bunny to keep it even. But if two are consumed, it must be evened out again. And then the note with the total count has to be rewritten accordingly...

Providing a number to hunt for certainly doesn't guarantee that every egg is found, of course. A couple of years ago there was one last chocolate which none of us could locate, which was finally spotted several weeks later - perched on the baseboard trim in the corner of the room (there's a suggestion for you!)

Cadbury actually  conducted a survey of Canadian parents and children (ages 7-12), in part to find out some hiding and hunting strategies. 

·         One in four Canadian parents surveyed say the window ledge is the best place to hide Easter Eggs, along with behind the couch and in shoes.

·         When hunting for those Easter eggs, one in four Canadian kids surveyed first look on the window ledge which is interesting considering the same number of parents surveyed say the window ledge is the best place to hide eggs.

·         The majority of parents surveyed try to mix it up when hiding eggs, making some easy to find and others more challenging.

I'm sure that last point is related to age as well. You want the little ones to be able to have success, but for older kids to have a bit of a challenge as well. 

A gallery with more tips on planning an Easter egg hunt can be found here:

Just for fun, I thought I'd share with you some of my favourite photos from Easter mornings gone by.

Mullet-haired Maggie shows off an egg back in 2010 (this was the transitional year where she began to realize that she couldn't eat chocolate with wrappers still on - always a milestone for children):

The two little bunnies ready for their hunt in 2011:

Frannie makes a find in 2013 (the hunt had been officially moved downstairs, to allow the Easter Bunny to get started earlier without disturbing children sleeping on the main floor):

If you're looking for any last-minute Easter recipes (or something to do with the leftover chocolate next week), there are some great ideas here, including a delicious-looking recipe for Easter Chocolate Chip Cookies...with Cadbury Mini Eggs on top! (Yeah, as if I'll have any left over, with no idea how to use them!)

What's your favourite Easter tip or trick? I'd love to hear it! Now back to my chocolate...I mean, my prayers...

Disclosure: This post was generously sponsored by Cadbury Creme Eggs, but the opinions and images are my own. For more information, visit Cadbury Creme Egg Canada on Facebook.

Tuesday, April 15

Pregnancy Skin Conditions and Tween Celeb Crushes: My New Parents Canada Articles

I'm thrilled to say that I have two articles in the April issue of Parents Canada.

The first is all about skin conditions that affect women who are expecting (e.g. stretch marks, acne, melasma), and what safe solutions they can turn to while they're pregnant (with thanks to dermatologist Dr. Shannon Humphrey for her expertise!)

You can read it here:

The second piece deals with tweens and their crushes on (obsessions with?) celebrities. Hey, I think we've all been there (can you guess who mine was? I share it in the article!) Mom Kathryn Howell was also kind enough to share her experiences with a celeb-obsessed daughter, and psychotherapist Alyson Schafer provided the expert input!

That article is available in full here:

As a sidebar in the print version, I also got several well-known Canadian personalities (Ben Mulroney, Tracy Moore, Marci Ien, Jessica Holmes and Jian Ghomeshi) to reveal which celebs they crushed on as tweens.

Thanks to Amy, my great editor at Parents Canada, for the opportunities. You can look for more articles from me in the next few issues of PC, as well as their sister publication, Today's Bride (yes, that phase is well behind me, but I can still write about it, right?)

Sunday, April 13

A Dress Intervention from my Personal Stylist, Lisa McLatchie

My personal stylist, Lisa McLatchie, is back for another critique of my closet! Two summers ago, she came to the house for a wardrobe makeover, and last year she took a look at photos of all of my coats and gave me her feedback.

This time around, she's tackling my dress collection! Here are the photos I sent to Lisa (the photographer was eight, so cut her some slack). As you can probably tell, I was working on my hands-on-hips-and-one-foot-forward red carpet pose. Which I will totally need. Someday.

Below, Lisa has provided her professional (and honest, as always) feedback, complete with recommendations for accessories.

Dress 1 - I would get in on the black and white trend for Spring 2014 and update this dress with some funky and feminine black and white shoes and accessories.

Dress 2 - I would get creative and do some mixing of prints/textures by adding a playful scarf in an opposing print or texture (but picking up a colour in the dress). I love this lace one because it does just that, and of course, lace is still super hot right now! As for footwear, I would stick to a nude when you are already mixing the prints/textures of the dress with the scarf. Mesh is a big trend for Spring 2014 though, so I picked these nude heels that include that trend.

Dress 3 - I LOVE this dress on you - the colour, the shape, and the belt details! The only thing I would add is a pair of super cute black ankle booties. I picked some open toe ones for Spring and to add a little extra edge. If you're nervous about doing that though, stick to a closed toe ankle bootie with tights. 

Dress 4 - I don't mind the shape for you, but the style and print is a bit dated looking. I would ditch it.

Dress 5 - I feel the same about this dress.

Dress 6 - I like this dress. It's simple and pretty, so you can play with it a bit. I would add a pastel scarf and some playful wedges in a fun colour to go with the scarf. Not too "matchy matchy", but it should still go together well. 

Dress 7 - WOWZA! You won't get lost in the crowd in this dress, but I like it. I would add a simple jean jacket to bring it down a notch, but still keep it fun with your accessories and footwear. I picked an iridescent clutch (VERY Spring 2014) and edgy sandals to juxtapose the overly feminine (yellow/fuller skirt/lace) style of the dress.

Dress 8 - Very classic print and cut, so I would just update with a trendy belt (I went for the mesh trend again), and some metallic heels. It could probably also be shortened about an inch. 

Dress 9 - Super cute style! I would pair the metallic heels with this, a little denim jacket, and a coordinating statement necklace (picking up the grey/silver and blue).

Dress 10 - Another dated print - I would get rid of it.

Dress 11 - I can't tell from the pic, but it looks like it is a little drawstring waistband? I would play up your waist more and put a thicker belt over the drawstring, and in a funky or edgy style - to again, juxtapose the classic shirt dress style. Add on a statement cuff bracelet and those nude mesh heels, and you're stylin'! 

The ones she suggested I pitch are already in the pile for donation...and now it looks like I need to do some accessories shopping!

If you're as impressed with Lisa's work as I am, you might want to check out her Ready Set Style program. It's an online program that can teach you how to develop your own personal style, figure out your best colours, dress for your shape, shop like a stylist and makeover your wardrobe...pretty much everything you need to know to get a handle on this style thing once and for all!

Plus, when you sign up, you become part of the private Ready Set Style Facebook group where you get support from Lisa herself, as well as former and current RSS participants! The next session starts on May 5th. Registration is open and spaces are limited, so check it out!

By the way, there are a few dresses that I didn't even show her, because they are either brand new and I would be pained to learn that they don't work for me, or I still love them even though they may be a couple of seasons old (I'm realizing I have gone through a bit of a stripes phase!):

My thanks to Lisa McLatchie, for once again sharing her valuable expertise with me! Be sure to check out her Ready, Set, Style program!

Friday, April 11

Family Fun at Courtyard by Marriott, Niagara Falls

Last weekend, our family hit the road to experience the newly renovated Courtyard by Marriott in Niagara Falls, just minutes from the main attraction itself.

We headed out on Saturday morning, and with a bit of a bathroom-break detour, arrived just before 1 p.m. Parking is right onsite, and the lobby was warm and inviting, with lots of cozy seating areas and a fireplace (I'm a sucker for a fireplace.)

I had emailed in advance and requested an early check-in, and our room was ready to go. We were in a "Junior Presidential Suite" on the 6th floor, and while that sounds very elite, the rates are surprisingly reasonable (it can't boast a view of the Falls, but how much time do you really spend staring out a hotel window? If it's a lot, I think you may be doing travel wrong.)

We had a king-sized bed in addition to a pullout couch in the sitting area, bathroom with shower, two-person in-room jacuzzi, and yes...a fireplace! There was lots of space for the four of us, and room at the desk for anyone who may actually need to do work while staying in Niagara Falls. While we were only there for a short stay, the complimentary WiFi, mini-fridge, coffee maker and safe are handy features of the room as well for those staying longer.

We took a quick walk to Subway for lunch, and then a drive down to check out the Falls. In nice weather, it would totally be within walking distance, and we would have wandered the touristy streets to show the girls, but it was a cold April day, and, know me!

Once back at the hotel, the girls were very eager to enjoy the indoor pool (which was comfortably warm), hot tub and sauna. They also have an outdoor pool with a small side, which will be open when the nicer weather arrives.

I think my only complaint about the entire stay was that the chlorine was super high in the pool that day, which stung Frannie's eyes, and totally changed the colour of her bathing suit! For a minute, I actually tried to remember if it was some sort of trick-swimsuit which was supposed to change colour in water, as the difference was that major.

Waiting for the elevator after our "swim" (I use the term loosely, as my time was spent in the hot tub, reading magazines. "In Touch" and "Family Circle" balance each other out, right?) we noticed a TV screen welcoming special visitors...and we were on there! Nice touch. Plus, one of our local hockey teams, obviously staying in the hotel as well, was mentioned right after us.

Next we relaxed in the room for a bit, where the girls enjoyed their pretend play: "Let's be two moms who have babysitters and we came to a hotel!" They loved playing in the empty two-person whirlpool, which, let's be honest, might have seen more use had the kids not been there.

We enjoyed a fantastic dinner at The Keg, located right in the lobby of the hotel (there's also a T.G.I.Friday's). Cody was an attentive server, and was kind enough to compliment our well-behaved kids. (They were warned that this was a very nice restaurant and switching places by crawling under the table wouldn't be acceptable, but they're generally good when we eat out. You'd think they had practice.) The Keg's prime rib with garlic mashed potatoes is probably my favourite restaurant meal ever, and they even let me have hot fudge instead of fruit topping on my cheesecake. Perfection.

Back in the room, it was time for PJs and teeth-brushing, and we all climbed into the king bed to watch "Frozen" together on the flat-screen TV. Hubby (not at all a fan of children's movies, even the ones that are supposed to have another level for adults) hadn't seen it yet, and the girls were excited to share it with him.

After the last rendition of "Let It Go", the girls were sent to their pull-out couch, where Maggie was very quickly asleep, with Frannie not too long behind. She *may* have seen a bit of the Saturday Night Live that they show before the new Saturday Night Live, but oh well. Maybe she'll be the next Tina Fey.

We took advantage of the buffet breakfast served in The Keg on Sunday morning, then it was time for a speedy checkout before programming the GPS for "home".

Niagara Falls Top 3 by Maggie, age 5:

1. The breakfast buffet
2. Swimming
3. Seeing The Falls

Niagara Falls Top 3 by Frannie, age 8:

1. The warm swimming pool
2. The cool room
3. The amazing Falls

I would definitely recommend the Courtyard by Marriott Niagara Falls for families travelling to this tourist destination. I'm not sure what it looked like pre-renovation, but the whole place felt warm and clean, and we didn't come across a single staff member who wasn't friendly and helpful (and most had no idea I was there to review the place).

Disclosure: We were provided with a free stay the the Courtyard by Marriott to facilitate this post. Opinions are, as always, my own.