Sunday, November 29

Holiday Giveaway Bundle!

(GIVEAWAY OPEN TO CANADIANS)

Time for another great giveaway! The winner of this bundle will receive ALL FIVE of the prizes listed/shown below (worth over $125), and entry is super easy!


#1: Posterjack Acrylic Block (create your own, includes free standard shipping)


Posterjack is an amazing online source for all kinds of photo printing - acrylic, metal, canvas, custom framing, you name it, they do it. (I'm sure you saw the gorgeous canvas they made for my family room reno last spring.)



Posterjack makes gift-giving easy this holiday season with their Acrylic Block. The Acrylic Block’s small format makes it the ideal decor holiday gift as it can be easily incorporated into any mantel, shelf or desk display - no hanging required.


Acrylic Blocks can be customized to suit the personality of each person on your list. Simply choose a photo you feel best represents them and Posterjack prints the photo on a perfectly clear, thick one-inch piece of premium cast acrylic...and at only $49.99 Acrylic Blocks are a win for both the giver and the receiver.






# 2: MEGA BLOKS Big Building Bag – ages 1 to 5 years                             
                                      
MEGA BLOKS' original hero product, the award-winning Big Building Bag, offers amazing play value and endures hours of fun. Its bright-coloured blocks encourage hands-on exploration as children imagine and create. These unique blocks are big and easy for little fingers to assemble. When playtime is over, return the blocks to their eco-friendly bag and stash them in the toy box until the next adventure!




#3. Hallmark Kids Keepsake Tree

Perfect for little ones, this tree is made of felt with large buttons, perfect for the $7.95 ornaments you can pick up to go with it.




#4. The Boy Who Spoke To The Earth book by David McClellan

This is an exciting new children’s book by renowned adventure Photographer Chris Burkard and Disney Interactive artist David McClellan. While there are plenty of children’s books on the market, The Boy Who Spoke To The Earth shares a story that both educates and inspires youth. This story encourages happiness through opening the eyes of the young to the beauty of this world.  


Parents are offered an opportunity to connect with their children in a way that will prompt them to see more than what is immediately in front of them.  





#5. Pair of award-winning U-Lace No-Tie Shoelaces (choice of colour and Classic or Kiddos style)

U-Lace No-Tie Shoelaces has been awarded the Parent Tested Parent Approved (PTPA) Winner’s Seal of Approval. Also a winner on ABC’s Shark Tank, U-Lace is the world's first and only segmented shoelaces woven from real fibers to maintain the same appearance as standard laces -- without having to tie your shoes.


U-Lace gives kids a quick and easy way to spice up an old pair of shoes by expressing individual style through DIY multi-color designs and cool patterns. Parents are granted peace of mind with these no-breakage, affordable alternative to shoelaces that can save up to 7-10 minutes getting out the door when children are trying to get their shoes on and tied!



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All you have to do to enter to win all five of these great items is fill out the simple form below! (Bonus entries for following This Mom Loves on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.)

The giveaway will end Saturday, December 5th at 11:59 p.m. Eastern. Good luck!

Giveaway has ended.


Saturday, November 28

Back on The Social With Homework Help!

I'm officially on the guest roster of The Social now, and I was back yesterday answering parent questions about homework!

I was thrilled when I found out that Marci Ien was guest co-hosting, because of course she was my very first Momterview here on the blog back in 2010. Later we chatted about her Remarkable Teacher for Professionally Speaking magazine and I also went behind-the-scenes with her at Canada AM...the list goes on! I give her a lot of credit for launching my side career, and she was very sweet to introduce me in this segment as her friend!

As always, the hosts and crew were so warm and welcoming and I felt right at home backstage and on set (Melissa Grelo - a former teacher herself - and Marci couldn't have been more supportive). The makeup artist worked magic, and credit for my hair again goes to my sister-in-law Rose.




In case you missed it, here's the video of my segment (you can also find it here):








My dear friend Allison was in the audience supporting me (and because she's a big Social fan herself, of course!) and we got a fun shot with the hosts after the show.





I'll be pitching new ideas for my next segment soon...be sure to let me know (either here in comments, or on social media, or privately) if you have any suggestions!

Thanks for all of your support, everyone. As always, every single gesture of encouragement means so much to me!


Friday, November 20

My Favourites from Hallmark Christmas 2015

It's the most wonderful time of the year! (I mean, other than the cold and stuff.)

I always know holidays are approaching when I find a Hallmark box waiting on my doorstep...and I can bribe the girls to do just about anything with the promise of "box-opening" later that day.

As always, we found some wonderful gems inside. Here are my favourites!


itty bittys Nativity Set ($39.95)

I love this one because as they say, He IS the reason for the season. This gives little ones the chance to play with Jesus, Mary, Joseph and the angel without breaking the fancier sets that might be displayed at home. I passed this along to a family with younger kids than ours, and the first night my friend was concerned to hear her five-year-old son exclaim "Jesus!" in the other room...until she remembered the new toys!




Time For Cookies Snowman Techo Plush with sound and motion ($17.95 with 3 Hallmark cards, or $32.95)

My girls can't get enough of these sound-and-motion plush toys, but since our collection is pretty full, this one became a coveted classroom prize last week. The characters sing a cookie-themed version of "Deck the Halls" and sway to the music.




Disney Frozen: Will Anna and Elsa Miss the Ball? Puzzle Book ($12.95)

For the Frozen lover in your life who just can't 'Let it Go' (sorry, I couldn't resist!), Hallmark has a hardcover story and 24 piece puzzle. You know how I take things to school to use as prizes when our family doesn't need them? Yeah, my daughter's name was drawn to win this one!




Holiday Boxed Cards ($9.99 - $19.99)

You may have heard that Hallmark sells cards? While I often share the wealth from my Hallmark care packages, boxed cards are something that I always keep. These nutcracker and Canadian-themed cards are beautiful, and I can't wait to use them!




Keepsake Kids My First Tree ($29.95)

Felt fabric with large buttons, and a variety of ornaments available for $7.95 each. (I'll be giving away one of these very soon!)




Nordic Clipboard Bundle ($14.95) and Guest Towel and Basket Set ($16.95)

Perfect hostess gifts! The bundle includes a clipboard, 60-sheet notepad, 2 magnets and a pencil, and the towel set includes a wire basket with 16 designed paper guest towels.




In other exciting Hallmark news:

From November 12th until December 13th, consumers can enter for a chance to WIN 1 of 4 prizes. The grand prize is a $2,000 Disney gift card, plus a $500 Disney prize pack! The gift card can be used at almost anything Disney, including Disney resort stays!  Consumers also have the chance to win 1 of 3 $250 Disney prize packs.

Enter daily to increase your odds!


Disclosure: The above products were provided to me by Hallmark for review purposes. Opinions are, as always, my own.




Tuesday, November 17

Samsung Tab S Giveaway and Solve for Tomorrow STEM Challenge

(SORRY, AMERICAN FRIENDS: CONTEST OPEN TO CANADIANS ONLY)

Okay, dear readers: I have a fantastic giveaway for you! Samsung is offering one lucky This Mom Loves reader a Samsung Tab S tablet (worth $399.99) as part of their mission to spread the word about the Samsung Canada National Education Challenge!

Whether you're a teacher or a parent, I'm sure you're well aware of the importance of STEM (more on that below), and Samsung's new challenge gives students in Grades 6-12 the opportunity to identify a challenge and use STEM to help solve it...with the chance to win some amazing grant money for their schools! This is definitely a project worth sharing.

Here are some more details about the Challenge:

Taking a passion for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) outside of the classroom and into the community was never this much fun for students! Samsung Electronics Canada today announced the launch of the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow Challenge, a national educational contest designed to inspire Canadian students to get closer to the real-world possibilities of STEM by applying them to help better their communities. Students in Grades 6 to 12 will be asked to identify an existing challenge or issue they are passionate about in their town, city or neighbourhood, and use STEM to help solve it.





Finalist schools will share in $500,000 in Samsung classroom technology grants. Solve for Tomorrow Challenge partners include Canadian YouTube stars Mitch Moffit and Greg Brown of AsapSCIENCE. With a passion for science and education, Mitch and Greg started AsapSCIENCE as a community for people to learn and be entertained through a unique online educational content that highlights the neatest aspects of science. Mitch and Greg will visit two grand prize winning schools and their communities to learn about their winning student projects and feature them in an AsapTHOUGHT video. They’ll also host a special and unique STEM lab experience at the winning schools.



“Samsung is committed to supporting schools when it comes to classroom technology, support and research, and we know STEM is critical for 21st century learning skills and the careers of tomorrow,” said Mark Childs, CMO at Samsung Electronics Canada. “In collaboration with our partners in education, through the Solve for Tomorrow Challenge we’re introducing a totally new and engaging challenge where Canadian students will be able to learn about STEM topics, work together as a team, have fun, and help their communities, all while working to win some very cool experiences and technology products for their school.”







Along with AsapSCIENCE, the Solve for Tomorrow Challenge is supported by The Learning Partnership, a national non-profit organization dedicated to advancing public education in Canada, and Let’s Talk Science, a charitable organization which looks to create and deliver unique learning programs and services that engage youth and educators in STEM subjects.




To enter to win the Samsung Tab S I have up for grabs, all you have to do is help spread the word about the Samsung Canada National Education Challenge on social media!

(NOTE: CONTEST IS OPEN TO CANADIANS ONLY)

First, do one or both of the following:

Share the following tweet on Twitter, then paste a link to your tweet in the form below:

Win a Tab S from @SamsungCanada @ThisMomLoves and learn about #SamsungSolve here: http://bit.ly/1WXde0i

AND/OR

Share the following post on Facebook (you will have to type in the tags - not copy and paste - for Samsung Canada and This Mom Loves to make them work properly), then paste a link to your post in the form below:

Win a Tab S from @SamsungCanada @This-Mom-Loves and learn about #SamsungSolve here: http://bit.ly/1WXde0i

Once you have completed one or both of the mandatory sharing entries above, you get bonus entries for:

*Following This Mom Loves on Twitter
*Following This Mom Loves on Instagram
*Liking This Mom Loves on Facebook

You have a total of five chances to win this incredible prize - and how great would a Tab S look under your Christmas tree?

Contest ends on Monday, November 30th 2015 at 11:50 p.m. Eastern. Good luck!

GIVEAWAY HAS ENDED



Monday, November 16

What I Love About the Cineplex UltraAVX

Cineplex is my happy place. It's right up there on the list behind my home, my parents' home and my classroom as one of my very favourite places to be. I love the atmosphere, I love the food, and I love losing myself in a good movie. Yes, I could wait and watch any movie at home (and I do that a lot too) but at least a couple of times a month I head to the cinema - most of the time Galaxy Cinemas in Peterborough, where a brand-new UltraAVX (Audio Visual Experience) theatre was just opened.

I was thrilled to have the chance to watch the new James Bond movie, Spectre, in UltraAVX this past weekend, and I was not disappointed. (My only other experience in this type of theatre was the latest Mission Impossible premiere at the Scotiabank Theatre in Toronto in the summer. You know, where I saw Tom Cruise.)




The highlights of the UltraAVX:

  • Even better sound
  • Massive screen 
  • Comfy rocker seats with tons of leg room (I could cross and uncross my Amazon legs without knocking the seat in front of me - a perk as far as I'm concerned!)
  • Reserved seating: this one is a biggie. As my usual movie companions would tell you (with a sigh), I kind of have a thing about getting to the theatre early. This was made worse by the the Bridesmaids fiasco of 2011, where my colleagues and I ended up in the front row...and I felt sick the entire time (and that wasn't even an action film!) With UltraAVX, you can choose your seats, which means if you buy online, you have guaranteed seating and can show up last minute with no issue - which is a big deal for me.

The downside:

An extra three bucks in ticket price. That's pretty much it. And it's well worth it for the reasons listed above...though perhaps not for every movie. Spectre was fantastic on the larger screen and with the enhanced sound, but for rom coms, I'll probably stick with the regular theatres...though if I'm going with any friend who has a tendency to run late, it might be worth $3 to ensure our seats for any film!




If you're looking for details about Spectre, it was exactly what I expected. I love Daniel Craig as James Bond (though based on recent interviews I'm not sure if Daniel Craig loves Daniel Craig as James Bond), there were some returning faces along with new ones, incredible around-the-world settings, something that passed for a love story, and of course a great theme song performed by Sam Smith...definitely a movie made for the big screen.

Thanks to Cineplex for giving me the chance to check out this new theatre!

Disclosure: I was provided with two free Cineplex passes for review purposes. Opinions are, as always, my own.


Friday, November 6

"Our Turn" by Kirstine Stewart

Lately most of my book recommendations have been shared as short items in my monthly "Favourite Things" posts, and not as full posts on their own, but when I reached the end of Kirstine Stewart's Our Turn and realized how many pages I had dog-eared, I knew it was worth some extra attention here on the blog.




My friend Sarah Newcomb (from Sleeping is For Losers) and I were excited to attend Canadian Living's evening with Kirstine Stewart (now the VP of Media for Twitter) last week (yes, I'm a sucker for events with "VIP" in the title), and as part of our amazing swag we received a signed copy of Our Turn. (Um, yes, I just used three sets of parentheses in one sentence. I have a problem!)





I cracked the book open as soon as I could, and while there's lots of reading material out there now about women and leadership, there were many new gems in Stewart's book.

For me, with a career in education, I feel like the sexism that's seen in other sectors isn't quite as apparent. Even when it comes to advancement, our current Director of Education is a woman, as are five of our Board's six Superintendents. I have worked for strong women as well as strong men, and I don't feel that my gender would be a detriment, should I decide to pursue higher positions of leadership.

While I don't currently feel as compelled by the work associated with the jobs higher up the educational ladder as I do with the front line work in the classroom, I love Stewart's point about being a leader anywhere:

"But what's truer today than ever before is that the dispersal of power within business" (and, I would add, education) "means you don't have to be the boss to be a leader...A career worth having is not about collecting titles, but about the experience you get along the way."

The only thing I would say I didn't like about the book (which is strictly personal opinion) is that I wanted even more of Kirstine's own stories. I totally understand that research is helpful to back opinion, especially in a book like this, but since I'm much more interested in personal narrative than data, I skimmed over some of the "According to a 2008 study..." tidbits. However, I soaked up every word of sentences that opened like "When I arrived at Alliance Atlantis..." (Throughout Stewart's career in television, she made household names of talented folk like Debbie Travis and Sarah Richardson, which I found fascinating.)

Some of my other favourite words of wisdom from Kirstine Stewart in Our Turn:

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"Leading involves the ability to inspire others to contribute," (so true in education) "but to do that, I think first you have to be inspired yourself."

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"The first thing a leader" (teacher? principal?) "needs is the trust, respect and support of her team, because trust encourages constructive criticism, disagreement and healthy debate. And though trust and respect is a two-way street built between leader and team, it's up to leaders to set the example."

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Stewart added "collaboration, trust and communicating with co-workers" as performance indicators in executive senior staff reviews (no one could earn a bonus if they didn't pass that test) and feels these soft skills "should be considered part of any performance review."

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"To me, that's how we need to lead today: being there at the top to clearly express the aims, set goals and expectations, ensure people have what they need to get to work, and then get out of the way so they can get the job done." (Somewhat like being a teacher, perhaps?)

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"If you never fail, it means you are never trying anything new."

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"When people, usually women, ask about my professional achievements, I can honestly say they have had more to do with taking chances than setting a career goal...I am anti five-year plan because in my experience the best things do not flow from making  plan and sticking to it."

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"Why would I give more weight to the negative comments than those that were supportive?...Use the positive support around you to build the resilience you need to deal with the negative." (Who doesn't need to remember that?)

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I actually tweeted the author to ask her if she had a tip for primary teachers, trying to raise little leaders. Here's what she replied:



Finally, I love how the writer and researcher who helped Stewart with Our Turn made it, by name, into the acknowledgements section at the end of the book, which affirms that we don't need to be ashamed to say that we all have help. "I pride myself on the ability to build great teams," she points out. That's leadership.


Wednesday, November 4

Ace Your Parent/Teacher Interview: My Today's Parent Article

'Tis the season for parent/teacher interviews, and in the latest issue of Today's Parent you can find my article about how to ace yours!

You can read the Parent/Teacher interviews article online here as well, but it doesn't do justice to the amazing work of the Today's Parent art team, who turned my list of tips (which incorporated ideas from other teachers as well) into a neat report card:





I'm looking forward to chatting with my students' parents very soon!

Thanks as always to the amazing editors at Today's Parent - and did you know they just hit the mega-milestone of 1 million Twitter followers?


Sunday, November 1

Kate's Favourite Things - November 2015

Happy November! Time to share my latest faves!

BOOKS

Clearly I OD'd on nonfiction this month, starting with:

Primates of Park Avenue by Wednesday Martin. While I expected this to be light chick-nonfic, there was actually a lot of real anthropological analysis of the moms of Manhattan's Upper East Side, with great anecdotes and experiences shared by the author, who moved into the habitat of these women. Just when I thought it was winding down, Martin threw me for a loop at the end with a very honest and vulnerable personal story.

Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling. I love celeb memoirs, and Kaling has a refreshing way of being self-deprecating and humble while also being confident and imparting a message of hard work winning out. Plus she's totally freaking funny.





Michelle Obama - A Life by Peter Slevin. When reading about a celebrity, starting chronologically with the story of her grandparents does little to hook me. I want to know about the main character, and this was one of those cases where I skimmed the first few chapters until arriving at Michelle's own story (though I totally see the impact of her ancestors in her life, and assume that someday my biographer will want to dwell deeply into my grandparental influences as well).

The Homework Myth by Alfie Kohn: This one's pretty academic and a bit heavy (we're talking 30 pages of footnotes) but an important read for educators and really for parents too. The main point: the author argues that there isn't any acceptable research (he analyzes tons of it) to suggest that homework, especially in the young grades, improves academic achievement or any other skills. While I agree that homework should not be assigned just for the sake of it (and that definitely should not be done in primary) there are some situations where it's appropriate, and I think the key is to base it on the individual learners. Since I know homework can be a struggle for parents at home, it's actually the topic I'll be discussing on The Social this month on the 27th!

MOVIES

The Intern: I was distracted by how much Robert DeNiro, in this character, looks like my father, but I did enjoy the story and I always love Anne Hathaway. I just wish that "trouble-in-the-marriage-because-of-woman's-successful-career" wasn't such a prevalent theme in the media.

See what I mean?


My Dad


Robert DeNiro


Sicario: It's pretty heavy (by which I mean intense and slightly disturbing), but this movie shows the amazing range of Emily Blunt - from The Devil Wears Prada to Into the Woods to this, as an FBI agent on a special task force on the war against drugs.

Jem and the Holograms: When sharing movies or books with my students, I often check the age recommendations on Common Sense Media. Since they tend to be fairly conservative, I know I'm safe with what they tell me. They suggest that the Jem movie is for ages 9 and up, so I felt confident taking my 7 and  9 year old daughters. They're real music lovers and performers, so they enjoyed the story, and it sparked a good conversation about the desirability and dangers of internet fame. And (spoiler alert) kids might as well learn early that most movies end with the girl kissing the boy. Even if they find it yucky right now.

TRAFFIC BOOST

While I don't make political comments on my blog, I was thrilled by the *huge* traffic boost I received here after the federal election on my past Momterview with Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau. (It also helped that the Huffington Post linked to my interview, too!) Whether or not you agree with everything Justin, his wife and his party stand for, I hope you can agree that learning more about our new "first lady" is still interesting.

INBOX TIDBITS

I receive a lot of press releases, and while I'm not always able to write a whole blog post about each one, here are a few worthwhile news items.

*November is Crohn’s and Colitis Awareness Month. The Canadian Digestive Health Foundation, in collaboration with Robbie’s Rainbow, has created a new, free resource to help teachers deal with students who have Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis - the two main types of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). The comprehensive resource, called Blackboards and Bathrooms, offers teachers a quick and easy way to learn all the key facts and issues surrounding IBD.

*Nasal spray flu vaccine available in OntarioThe new nasal spray flu vaccine and new injection flu vaccine, which are made to protect against four flu viruses instead of three, will be available for children and youth at health care providers’ offices, local public health units and—for children aged five years and older—participating pharmacies. Note:

  • The injectable flu vaccine is for kids 6 months to 17, the nasal spray is available for kids 2 to 17. For kids under five, health care providers’ offices and local public health units will continue to be the places to go for flu vaccines, including for these new products
  • The flu can be serious for children, especially for those under five years of age.Ten to 20 per cent of Canadians get sick with the flu every year. It is estimated that 12,200 people are hospitalized and about 3,500 die.

*Applebee's is offering active duty Canadian Armed Forces members and veterans a free meal on Remembrance Day (November 11th).

*Lainey Lui (from The Social, eTalk and LaineyGossip) has partnered with Saint Elizabeth Health Care to launch Elizz, a new caregiver support service - something to check out if you are one of the more than eight million caregivers across the country.

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Have a wonderful November, everyone! Time to go get out my Christmas decorations!