Friday, January 29

Creative Ways To Volunteer at Your Child's School

This week on CHEX Daily host Teresa Kaszuba and I chatted about ways parents can volunteer at school, even if they work (or are home with younger kids, or otherwise unavailable) during the school day.

Teresa and spoke about using your skill set (she said she's been known to emcee a school event or two) or interests to get involved, and some ideas we didn't mention on-air also include tuning instruments, working in the library, or presenting to students about your career. There are so many ways to get involved, even outside the regular school day.

Just a reminder though: of course not all parents are going to have the time or ability to formally volunteer (whether during or after school), and there is no judgment on the part of teachers.

We get it, and unless you are completely and permanently inaccessible by phone, agenda or email to discuss your child's education (no one is THAT busy), there's absolutely no judgment from me.

Wednesday, January 27

Dread Grocery Shopping? Click & Collect from Loblaws To the Rescue!

Are you one of those people who actually loves to grocery shop, wandering leisurely through the aisles and savouring the whole experience, every single time? If so, this post is not for you. If not, read on!

I used to fantasize about having someone do my grocery shopping for me. In those moments when I daydreamed about ways to make my life more efficient and streamlined (other people do that too, right?) I would imagine the convenience and ease of handing my list to someone else and having that tedious chore taken care of for me.

Loblaws has made this dream come true with their awesome Click and Collect program.

Here's how it works:

From the convenience of your own home, you visit the Click and Collect website, and then "Click" to add every item on your list to your cart.  You place your order, and personal shoppers gather all of your items for you, ready to be picked up at the time you specified. Upon arrival at Loblaws to "Collect", you pull into a specially-marked reserved parking spot, call the designated phone number, and your bags are brought out and put in your vehicle. (I swear, I'm not making this up!)

Click and Collect is so easy to use, and I love being able to order my groceries on my laptop from the comfort of my own home (usually while relaxing in front of the TV, or at my treadmill desk - my loyal readers know I'm addicted to multitasking!) When I log in, the site remembers my previous orders and "My Favourites", so I can start by clicking on all of my regularly-purchased items, which is another time-saver. Once your order is ready, you get a notification which also lets you know if any items were out of stock, and if so what substitutions they suggest (which you can approve or decline).

This past weekend, I phoned to ask about a couple of substitutions before I arrived, and the personal shopper scooted around the store while on the phone with me, making sure that I got exactly what I needed. Now that's service!

I always pick up my orders at Loblaws in Lindsay, and I've been so impressed by how friendly the shoppers are, and how quickly my groceries are brought out. No getting kids out of carseats (or getting out in the cold myself!) By the way, you don't have to drive to use the service; you can walk up to get your order as well - no motorized vehicle required!

I've been raving about Click and Collect to family, friends and colleagues for a few months now, and the same questions often arise:

How much does it cost? The personal shopping service costs $3 or $5, depending on the day/time chosen, which I think is very reasonable (and tipping is not expected). Not only is that amount of my time worth the money, I'm also confident that I save at least 5 bucks every time I don't take my daughters into a grocery store with me. It's much cheaper to have them sitting in the back seat as our groceries get loaded! Prices online are the exact same as what you would find in store (no mark-ups for the service), and you get PC Plus points as well. (Another program I love - perhaps I'll share more about that in a future post!)

Do you get high-quality items? We've always been pleased with the produce and meat that has been chosen on our behalf, and the personal shoppers are actually trained to pick the best items for the customers. They want us to be happy with the service, so they're not giving us bottom-of-the-barrel merchandise. There's a box on the website to provide special instructions for your order and we always ask for green bananas, and so far have never had a problem.

What's the catch? There really isn't one! The only trouble I've ever had is that when you click to add an item to your cart, you have to wait for a quick second as the website processes your selection. Sometimes when I get ahead of myself and start clicking several items on a page I end up with something left off my order. If you're a touch more patient than I am, this won't be a problem (and my Loblaws contact tells me that they're working to resolve that minor issue).

Of course, the in-store experience is very different (my husband occasionally likes to walk through the grocery store for new ideas) and ordering online every week might not be right for you, but it's definitely worth checking it out!

Visit Click and Collect for more details, or to get started with your first order!

Disclosure: This post was generously sponsored by Loblaws. Opinions are, as always my own. Please note that I had already used - and was extremely impressed with - the Click and Collect service several times before partnering with Loblaws for this post.

Monday, January 25

5 Great Ways to Get Kids Out in Nature

Today I'm welcoming special guest blogger Alexa Hildebrandt from Agents of Discovery with super advice for getting your kids involved in the great outdoors! (I'll think about it...when the temperature warms up!)


When I see a toddler tackle tasks on a smartphone, I’m both impressed and alarmed. At that age, I was proud of my maneuvering around an Etch a Sketch! I’d move those toggles around with finesse, creating mini Jackson Pollock-esque masterpieces. Now, toddlers are like, “I see your Etch a Sketch and raise you! First, finding your phone is a cinch (I know where you hide it, mom), unlocking your phone is literally child’s play. Let me take a super-cute selfie, then I’ll throw in a quick conversation with an imaginary friend!”

The “job” of growing up has changed in the last fifteen years, as kids are now born into a world immersed in digital technologies. Time spent by kids on mobile devices has tripled since 2011, with 77% of kids under two years of age using mobile devices daily! Old school methods of entertainment, like exploring in the great outdoors, are overshadowed by glitzy, fast-paced video games and mobile apps. In fact, kids today spend 50% less time outdoors than kids did twenty years ago. More and more research is connecting disconnection to nature to childhood obesity and learning challenges. This phenomenon was coined “Nature Deficit Disorder” by Richard Louv. Our kids deserve all the benefits we can give them. As influencers in our children’s lives, we are responsible for encouraging time spent outside! To combat Nature Deficit Disorder, here are a couple of my favourite ways to get “plugged into” nature.

Go on a picture scavenger hunt

One of my favourite things to do on a walk or hike is take pictures. It teaches my eyes to appreciate the colors, textures and shapes around me. I look at the world in a critical way, and truly I feel it instills a deeper appreciation of nature in me. This practice is extended even when I don’t have a camera in hand, I still strive to see the beauty around me - often wishing I did have a camera nearby. I recognize not everyone operates this way, but I would argue that even if you don’t find a ton of enjoyment in life behind the lens, it is at the very least a great exercise to train your senses to appreciate what is around you.

The process is pretty simple, and doesn’t require a whole lot of preparation! Grab a camera and go exploring. It is that easy!  Challenge your child to look for patterns, shapes and colours, or find the most interesting things along a path. Snap a photo and compare the findings at the end of the adventure. This is a fun way to encourage their little eyes to be open and aware of their surroundings. If they find something particularly interesting, you can refer back to it and research it later. Those photos can then be compiled into a craft book, or in a hiking journal which I will highlight later.

Agents of Discovery

When I was a kid, I remember exploring nature centres and park trails, which in theory should be the perfect place to learn about nature. But, instead of feeling excited and motivated to learn, I felt disconnected from the interpretive material placed around the park. As an eight year-old, I was eager to learn about the birds that flew overhead, or frogs that bellowed in between the reeds, but the faded images and academic sounding paragraphs instantly lost me. The lack of relevant material for youth in these outdoor venues is a huge opportunity lost.  Parks have the opportunity to instill a passion for nature, and the disconnection for younger generations was a problem until now.

Agents of Discovery (available for free to download in the App Store or Google Play) has a very viable solution to this problem, and I wish it was around when I was a kid! Agents of Discovery is a mobile game that kids play in participating parks to hike trails and solve educational challenges that teach them about their natural surroundings!

The creators of Agents of Discovery found a way to address Nature Deficit Disorder, the growing concern of childhood obesity, and disengagement from learning. Agents of Discovery gets kids moving and learning outdoors with the technology they love! It is a mobile game that gets kids from sitting on couches with their eyes glued to screens to actually hiking outdoors, keeping their eyes peeled for plants and wildlife, and their eyes open for bird calls! Agents of Discovery is presently available in over 35 parks across North America, including 14 sites in Calgary, Alberta!

Click here to find the closest mission site to you! Be sure to snap a photo of your mission for your hiking journal, and share it to Facebook or Instagram with the #AgentsofDiscovery. You could be featured on their Facebook or Instagram page!

Start a Hiking Journal

Creating a place to document findings like “Alesha’s Super Secret Adventure Findings Journal” or “Tommy’s Toads” is a great way to encourage kids to be mindful while they explore the outdoors. (And can  be a fun craft!) Get a journal from the dollar store, a gluestick and some markers - go collect artifacts like leaves or flowers to glue to the front - you could also laminate the cover! Once the journal is complete, encourage your kids to remember the sights, sounds, and feelings they experienced when they were out exploring. Make note of fun findings! This fosters mindfulness and awareness while out walking. The hiking journal will one day serve as an amazing memento of time outdoors with your kids! 

SkyView App

As a child, I remember hiking to the middle of an empty field with my dad, brother and sister, telescope in hand, and equipped with my dad’s infinite wisdom.  We sojourned into the blackness for the sole purpose of stargazing. Standing there in the dark with our chins pointed up, I remember fondly admiring the dark canvas of sky splattered with stars above me. In an instant my little heart would be humble and a cocoon of awe would engulf me as I stared at the expanse before my eyes.  Many (many) years before The SkyView App (available in GooglePlay and the AppStore) was around, I would create and name my own constellations only to later discover the real names of the celestial shapes that became like familiar friends. The SkyView App is an amazing and fun tool that takes the doubt out of deliberating names and places of the stars. Simply point the phone in the direction of the star or planet in question and it will not only give you the name, but information about the heavenly orb.

Go Camping

Some of the best lessons in nature come when you are outdoors for an extended amount of time.  As a child I remember camping and falling asleep to the smell and sound of a crackling campfire. I felt so closely connected to nature as the rain drummed gently on a tarp above my head, or the wind swept softly between the towering trees. In the majesty of nature, I became hyper aware of the sights and sounds around me and found a strange sort of contentment in those moments even as a child. I look back on them now and find so much value in those special memories that have helped shape my love of nature.

Camping may not be for everyone, but even the experience of pitching a tent in the backyard gives a similar sensation of the simplicity that can only be found outside. I believe even the least extravagant outdoor experiences can still have the power to fuse a connection between a child and nature. The challenge is to just go.

There are countless ways to motivate kids to learn about, and develop an appreciation for nature in a fun and engaging way, these are just some of my favourites.  What are your favourite ways to get kids excited and learning about nature?


Thanks, Alexa! For more information, visit Agents of Discovery.

Wednesday, January 20

Stop Living On Auto-Pilot! (Guest Post)

Today I'm welcoming special guest blogger Kelly McCann from Your Formula For Life.


Do you ever just put your head down, nose to the grindstone, and tell yourself – it won’t be like this forever… I just need to get through this week… past this one deadline… beyond these toddler years… through the holidays… etc.? I lived my life like this for several years before I had an “a-ha” moment that made me realize I was wasting precious time just going through the motions of life rather than truly living it!

My name is Kelly McCann and I’m a mom to two not-so-little ones anymore. Zach is now 11 and Julia will be turning 9 this year. My husband and I juggle their activities around our own career pursuits — his as an electrical programmer with a local automotive parts manufacturer (where he’s on call 24/7) and mine as an accounting manager at a local electrical utility. Yes, that’s right – I’m an accountant who blogs! That’s part of what makes my message so unique. I’m not just about sharing some right-brain life design ideas with you — I balance those ideas with left-brain logical execution techniques; because if you can’t execute on the ideas that intrigue you, reading about them is really just a waste of time, isn’t it?

Growing up, my goals and dreams were substandard I suppose, looking back on them now. I thought all I needed to be happy was a stable career where I “made good money”. I also wanted to get married and raise a family. After that, I really didn’t give it much thought. I would work and take care of my family and that would be all I needed for a lifetime of happiness.

During the years 1996 – 2007 I marched through life ticking as many of those items off my list as possible — university degree in Business, career in my field, professional accounting designation, marriage, puppy, baby #1 and finally baby #2. That’s a lot of big changes in a rather short period of time; but in the years that followed, I was feeling a bit underwhelmed with life. While my days were certainly full, they were all relatively the same, jam-packed with my job and day-to-day responsibilities. I’d created exactly what I’d thought I wanted, and yet I found myself wondering… is this it?

In 2010, I attended a women’s conference where many sessions were dedicated to professional women in the workforce sharing their tips for success — in business, and life in general. I listened to speaker after speaker talk about her life and how she balanced family and career, yet I still walked away from the conference feeling deflated. Not one single woman had described living her life in a way that I thought would work in mine; a way that would allow me the space I was craving for myself, away from the day-to-day, doing something regularly that was just for me!

My conclusion… there simply was no way to have it all. I should just resign myself to life as it is in any given moment, put my head down and plow through; essentially, make life bearable by going through the proper motions. I concluded I would have to wait until life “slowed down” before I could spend more time on pursuits that were just for me. But, I rationalized to myself, what was I complaining about anyway? I had a good job, a healthy family, great friends – it was all good from anyone’s outside view looking in; and so… I resigned myself to life on auto-pilot.

My “a-ha” moment came a few months later when I was sharing my story of the conference — and my conclusions from it — with a mentor and she simply said to me, “Kelly, if you believe you can’t have it all, you never will.” Such simple words but they had such an unbelievable impact on me. It was in that moment that I knew the answer was not to put my head down and accept life as it was just because it looked good from the outside – but to consciously and purposefully design my life so that it felt good on the inside.

It seems so straightforward to me now why I didn’t find any “one-size-fits-all” life design at that women’s conference. We all have our own unique formulas for living a life that truly makes us happy; while we can certainly embody suggestions and success techniques we learn from someone else, really… not a single one of us is going to have a formula that fits exactly for anyone else.

From 2011 through to 2015 I was driven to find my formula. A way of living that was just right for me (and most importantly, made me feel alive!) No more auto-pilot for this girl! I took courses on defining my priorities, seeking out the origins of my personality, improving my relationships, creating systems for efficiency so I could work smarter – not harder – both at the office and at home, and I read a bazillion self-help books on a multitude of topics! I was obsessed with learning about and implementing new habits that could be the missing puzzle pieces for my life formula.

Once I got really comfortable with the idea that I was absolutely the only one in charge of designing my life, I began to more clearly identify other women around me who were following ‘the auto-pilot guide to life’. I could sense the boredom and dissatisfaction… but I wasn’t yet great at articulating my message. I’m still learning how to do this as I regularly hear from other ladies that they do not have a formula for living their life; then I fumble over my words as I excitedly try to convince them that they can have their own formula, and that I can help them define it!

You don’t have to spend years of self-discovery and self-development to begin implementing the concept of creating a formula for living that’s just for you. If you take these first small steps that I’m about to describe below, you will be on your way… moving from auto-pilot to consciously living each day with your own happiness in mind:

1.       Create the space to do something that is just for you every single day.
2.       Then do something that is just for you every single day.

Um… is that it? Yep! It’s super simple advice that you’ve read or heard a bazillion times before, but I have to ask… have you taken it to heart and truly executed on it?

Because — I’m going to be pretty direct here — I’m as much about execution as I am about self-exploration. When I think of creating more space for my own happiness, I think of being super-efficient at the “must-dos” that come along with the life I’m currently living. What this means is that I have systems in place in my life that allow me to: be efficient at the office so significant overtime isn’t a constant factor; keep up with household chores; stay on top of our personal finances; and manage our full calendar of activities and to-dos.

Certainly when you learn about creating space in your life you are most likely told to: cut back where you can, delegate where possible, and eliminate things you are doing that are just time-wasters. Yep, I agree — all of those suggestions are good pieces of advice! But the fact remains there are elements of life that, as a responsible adult you need to have a handle on — like paying bills, cutting your grass regularly, and getting your kids to and from hockey practice! Rather than waste time avoiding these things or beating yourself up for procrastinating on them – why not put your mind to use developing systems (your own formula, if you will) for managing these “must-dos” efficiently! Create space by being smarter about your responsibilities.

Once you’ve nailed step #1, step #2 is the fun part... using the space you’ve just created to add daily activities that are all about YOU! Some things that hit my “just for me” list (and I do have a lengthy list that may appear to make me seem quite selfish… but also very happy!!): I include walks every day with my dog, yoga, writing in my journal, bubble baths with light easy reading and a glass of wine, reading blogs and listening to podcasts that intrigue me, and — the biggest passion that now consumes the space I created when I developed my own formula for life — connecting with women like you through my website:

I think you can recognize if you’re on auto-pilot. I also think you are the only one who can decide if this is the way — or not — you want to live your life. Start small by taking action to create just enough space to be able to do one thing that’s just for you every single day! Say goodbye to auto-pilot and hello to living a life that fits YOU!

Thanks so much for sharing your story, Kelly!

Kelly McCann is a Life Design Coach and Lifestyle Blogger
Follow Kelly on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter

Monday, January 18

Melissa Grelo Shares Health and Fitness Tips For 2016

As promised, today I'm sharing a conversation about New Year's health and fitness goals that I recently had with cohost of THE SOCIAL, Melissa Grelo. 

I've decided we're close enough that I can call her Mel now, since we've interviewed each other so many times. Back in the summer of 2014 I went behind-the-scenes at THE SOCIAL and we chatted for a Momterview here on the blog. Then this past September, Melissa and Traci Melchor interviewed me when I made my debut on the show talking about school success for kids. Next, she and Marci Ien were asking the questions when I was back on THE SOCIAL in November offering homework help for parents. Just before Christmas, I was the one doing the grilling when I spoke with Melissa for a Parents Canada feature - coming soon.

This time around, Mel and I spoke - as busy moms do - during the morning commute! (Well, her commute - she was jealous that I live five minutes from the school and didn't have to rush!)

How do you feel about New Year's resolutions?

Generally I don't make them, only because I think I'm lucky in many ways that for the most part I live a pretty healthy lifestyle all year long. But I know oftentimes if you've been overindulging or doing things particularly around the holidays and you feel like you need to get yourself back in the saddle a lot more people seem to be pushed or enticed by the idea of a New Year's resolution - something specific they want to improve. Most years I haven't made resolutions, not that I'm against them because I'm all for people making positive change, but this year it was a little different. My daughter's going to be two years old this March and I thought there's one thing that I've always had in the back of my mind, and maybe it would lend itself to a New Year's resolution, and that is to get re-inspired by my once very fit self. In my early 20s I used to do fitness competitions and I thought that's the kind of shape I probably want to try to strive for again and this seemed to be a really good year to do it. 

So clearly health and fitness are big for you in 2016. How do you plan to meet your goals?

Anybody who has to make a plan is aware that you've got to just break it down into simple steps and then execute. It's really no more difficult than that. It's making a plan and then figuring out, how do I get this done in a realistic way? I asked myself okay, what's my end goal here? And then I broke it down into smaller pieces. The first thing I did was decide to sign back on to the Activia Challenge. It's something I did back in September after a particularly indulgent summer and it worked so well for me. I really enjoyed the product, I've been a longtime fan of it, and I thought this is something easy to start, so that was step one. All I had to do was enjoy some great-tasting yogurt.

Secondly was to figure out what else was I going to change in my diet to have it a little leaner and cleaner, keep it balanced, and that's what I did. Maybe it's not having that extra glass of champagne on the weekend! I just started to cut out little things.

Finally, it was figuring out my workout plan which includes getting back with my personal trainer. 

It's that simple. I wish it was grander and bigger and more complex but it's basically three steps and now it's up to me to actually do the hard work which I've started in earnest.

I am a real treadmill girl, but I can't often convince myself to do strength training. How do you motivate yourself and make it enjoyable?

This is a big question I get from women because I do a lot of strength training and I really enjoy it. There are a lot of misconceptions surrounding strength training, especially for women, and I think maybe that's partially why a lot of women don't have it as part of their fitness regimen. I think the first thing in terms of getting motivated is understanding what it can do for you and what it can do for your body, and I'm not just talking about aesthetics, I'm talking about preventing injuries, how it makes you feel throughout the day, how it can energize you to have a little more muscle mass on your body, and finally for some women it is to realize that wow, it can actually reshape your body in a way that you might find really really pleasing. 

I think the other part is intimidation. I think a lot of women don't know where to begin in the gym or at home with weights, so it's important to get educated to figure out basic, simple things you can do with weight training. Some of it doesn't even include other weights, you can just use your own body weight and you don't even need equipment, so I think it's getting educated to figure out how can you do it so you feel knowledgeable. I think a lot of women are perfectionists in some respects, so trying to go to the gym to the section where it's predominately men working out, that's intimidating stuff. If you don't feel confident with what you're doing, that's a big deal too. So getting educated, knowing what it can do for your body, all the benefits that come along with it, I think will go a long way, just to help you start to introduce a little bit of weight training.

Mel on THE SOCIAL with Traci Melchor and one of her favourite guests!

You're on live TV every day so of course your appearance is important. Do you put a lot of pressure on yourself, or is there external pressure to look a certain way?

I think it's both. I think the pressure on myself is because I've always been active and I know how I feel and look the best so that's definitely coming from inside of me, I just don't like when I'm not in my best physical form. It's interesting that there's a notion that television puts on an extra 10 or 15 pounds and that's actually true. What it does to someone on camera, it plays with your mind a little bit because you have the live studio audience who always says, "Oh my gosh, you are so much smaller in person!" and then you go, "What does that mean I look like on television?", and that plays with your head. I think if you don't have a really good sense of self already it can really mess you up. I'm very aware of that, and so it contributes to my motivation to stay fit for sure, but at the end of the day it's what I look like on television versus what I know is my reality, and that's where you have to keep yourself in balance. 

A photo posted by Melissa Grelo (@melissagrelo) on

Recently you posted a throwback photo from your honeymoon and had a lot of commenters weighing in about how good you look as a brunette. Any plans to go "back to your roots", so to speak?

Not right now, although I love reading people's comments! I posted that picture because I love the Acropolis and I thought, "Wow, Greece is going through so much turmoil but I love that country and I love Athens," and I didn't even think about my hair...and that's what everybody jumped on! I thought that was really interesting! For me, in many ways I still just think of myself looking like that, if that makes any sense, but at this point no, I don't plan on going darker, I really like my light hair, but you never know!


Thanks for sharing, Melissa! I have a feeling you'll be in the interviewer's seat next as I have just been booked to return to THE SOCIAL in February!

You can find more information at

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

Wednesday, January 13

Kate Wells: The Special-Needs Parenting Momterview

So far, you've probably recognized most of the subjects of my momterviews. Whether they're TV personalities, musicians or athletes, they've been well-known across the country.

I've decided to shake things up a bit, and start incorporating interviews with some parents who may not be as famous (no offense, Kate!) but who are equally - or even more - inspiring.

Today I'm profiling Peterborough, Ontario's Kate Wells, who describes herself on Twitter as "wife-mom-music lover - giggler - autism advocate - sleep chaser".

Full disclosure: Kate and I scooped ice cream together back in the 90s, but have been out of touch until we found each other on social media just a couple of years ago. I love her honest tweets about having a son with special needs (autism), and was thrilled when she agreed to share her family's experience here on This Mom Loves.

Tell us a bit about your family. 

My husband Jason and I have two amazing kids. Aidan just turned 13, and Emma is 10.5 (that half is very important!)

What is the impact of having a special-needs child on a marriage, and how do you keep your relationship with your husband strong?

The impact is huge. The early years were tough! When you get married, you don't usually know how your spouse will handle challenges. Having different styles of handling severe, daily stress, can make or break even the strongest relationship. It took us several years to figure it out.

But once we figured out how the other copes and respected that, we were able to come together and form a very solid team. We are totally united. It's not easy, but we know when stress is at an ultimate high,we don't take anything personally. After we have weathered the biggest of storms, we always come back stronger. We're the only ones who truly know what our journey has been like; we stick together. 

Date nights haven't been a regular luxury of ours for a long time, so every night,when everyone is asleep, it's our time to connect. Some nights we can't stop talking, some nights we sit in silence, side by side, melting our brains online. But we're together. And laughter has saved us many times!

What is the impact on your daughter?

Being an autism sibling is very difficult. She has made many many sacrifices - probably more than she knows. But she doesn't look at it that way. She is a nurturer. Her thoughts are always on her brother's care and best interests. 

Autism has never been "the elephant in the room". It's been an open dialogue since she started asking questions about her brother when she was 4 years old. We're honest with her always. We allow her get frustrated; to have feelings no matter what they are. But the connection they have is powerful and eye opening. Her experience is entirely different than ours. She has taught him so much; and in turn, he has taught her even more. Their deep connection makes my heart burst with pride.*Sniffs*

But it's important for her to have her own interests, activities and space where she can be a boisterous, giggly,energetic 10-year-old old girl without the worry of triggering her brother into a meltdown.

Dance and school are her places to just be Emma.

What do you think the most common misconceptions are about autism?

There are so many!!! There's a very important saying that sums it all up for me: "When you've met one person with autism, you've met one person with autism". Like everyone else, no individuals are the same. We're all unique. The spectrum is huge, every individual's needs vary!

Also, at one time professionals said - and many professionals still say -  that autistic individuals lack empathy. In my opinion, that couldn't be further from the truth. My son feels everything in extremes, including empathy.  He is very concerned about the well being of others. I could go on for days about many misconceptions, but I'll spare you the ranting! Lol!

What are the most important things you want other parents of special-needs kids to know?

Access every service that's available to you, even if you don't think it will help. It's important to cross every "t" and to dot every "i"; if not for now, for down the road to show "the powers that be" that you have legitimately tried everything possible. You never know what it'll be that works. 

Keep going and revisit things that didn't work previously. Also, keep those people that are in your corner close. They are your cheerleaders; they're your team and you need them! If possible, cut away any negativity. That will just distract and slow you down.

What's your most important advice for teachers?

Behaviour is a form of communication. Look for the "why" for the behaviour, then adjust and accommodate. There's no room for ego; the child's best interest always comes first. If what the teacher is doing isn't working, they must look deeper and be willing to say, "That didn't work, so let's look at why and try xyz". Ask for help, ask for advice. Communication is key.

You're very active on Twitter - how do you feel that has helped you? 

I started tweeting about autism locally as a way of getting some awareness out in our community after a very negative experience while out in the public with our son, and it just sort of grew from there. People wanted to know more! Then I began connecting to so many amazing autism families around the world who have become not only a great support, but also great friends.

What's the best way someone can offer support to a family which includes a child with special needs?

For us, very few people have been able to help us with our son (i.e., babysitting etc), but the emotional support is a huge piece. Be understanding,don't minimize their struggles,be a good listener, help with any other child in the house. Just let them know you're there. The smallest of gestures are the biggest. A hug or a text on a difficult day can mean the world.

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

This Mom Loves...Kawartha Dairy ice cream! Seriously, it's a big problem!


Thanks so much for sharing, Kate. Be sure to follow Kate on Twitter to learn even more.

Monday, January 11

How Are The Resolutions Going? Mairlyn Smith Offers Advice!

Ah, New Year's Resolutions. They've been a topic of heavy debate over the past couple of weeks, and while I'm always up for good-hearted discussions, the bottom line for me is that goals are good (some more valuable than others) but a random date of January 1st may or may not motivate people.

I'm excited to be working with Activia to bring you some information on keeping your healthy resolutions. Next week I'll be sharing some tips from one of my favourite TV personalities, Melissa Grelo from THE SOCIAL. Today, cookbook author and professional home economist Mairlyn Smith (you may recognize her as a Cityline guest expert) weighs in with her advice.

Turn healthy intentions into long-term success

When it comes to New Year’s resolutions, Canadians are a classic case of good intentions gone awry.

According to a recent survey by Leger and Activia, three-quarters of Canadian women typically make resolutions related to their health, including doing more physical activity (88 per cent) and eating a healthier diet (87 per cent).

The bad news? 73% of women who make resolutions will keep them for less than a year, abandoning for reasons including a lack of motivation and lifestyle fit.

The good news? For every challenge, there is a solution, and mid-January is the perfect time to get on track. According to cookbook author and professional home economist Mairlyn Smith, the secret to keeping resolutions starts with taking small steps towards success.

“Any resolution needs to be realistic and achievable, which means that it needs to fit into your lifestyle,” says Smith. “Think of a resolution as a personal goal, and remember that healthy changes aren’t about deprivation. In order to succeed at any goal in the long term, you need to truly enjoy the process and appreciate the impact it has on your wellbeing.”

Smith suggests the following solutions to overcome the most common barriers to maintaining resolutions:

The barrier: More than half (54 per cent) of women say they lack the motivation necessary.

The solution: Set measurable goals. For example, instead of simply planning to become more physically active, aim to walk 30 to 45 minutes three times a week. Another option for fitness first-timers is to set a goal to walk a minimum number of steps each day.

The barrier: Three in 10 (31 per cent) women set goals that are too ambitious.

The solution: Make smaller changes – especially when it comes to introducing new physical activity or dietary habits. This includes gradually introducing healthy food into a daily routine. For example, Smith suggests an activity like the Activia Challenge, taking place from January 11 to 21, which encourages participants to increase their daily intake of probiotics by simply eating yogurt twice a day for two weeks.

“Stick to these smaller goals for a whole month, and by the end, those behaviours will have become new habits,” says Smith.

For more information visit

Stay tuned next week when Melissa Grelo shares her healthy tips for 2016!

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

Sunday, January 10

What Will You Share? (Call For Guest Posters!)

Hey, you! I'm offering an opportunity for guest posters on my blog...and I bet you have something to share!
-photos and details of a renovation/decorating project, craft or recipe
-a business or product you want to promote
-a blog or website of your own that you want to get more eyes on
-parenting musings or advice
-fashion or beauty tips
-something from a grandparent's perspective
-perhaps you're a fellow teaching colleague with stories or tips to share with parents
You don't have to be a writer/blogger or even have such aspirations - I love to share perspectives from a range of people (and I'm happy to do a quick edit if you're worried about the particulars!)
Feel free to leave a comment, connect on social media or email katewinn77 at yahoo dot ca and let me know what you're thinking - we can figure out the details!

Saturday, January 2

My Top 10 Posts of 2015!

Today I'm counting down my Top 10 (non-giveaway) posts of 2015! Did you miss any?

# 10  My Appearance on The Social (this was my very first appearance - the second one was too recent to rack up enough hits to make the list!)

# 9 Behind-the-Scenes at Global's The Morning Show
(You'll notice there have been some changes since I was there early in 2015.)

# 8 Ben and Jessica Mulroney's Wedding Flashback - my article for Today's Bride Magazine

# 7 Sangita Patel: The ET Canada Momterview

# 6 Part 2 Behind-the-Scenes at Global News Toronto with Alan Carter and Farah Nasser

# 5 Lauren Holly: The Momterview

# 4 Chantal Kreviazuk: The Momterview

# 3 Homework For Parents: Book Your Child's Eye Exam

# 2 Part 1 Behind-the-Scenes at Global News Toronto with Alan Carter and Farah Nasser

They even let me test out the anchor desk!

# 1 Liza Fromer: The Momterview

Thanks for all of your support in 2015! Every click, comment, like, share, tweet and email means so very much to me...and I'm already excited about what I'll be bringing you in 2016!

Friday, January 1

Kate's Favourite Things - January 2016

It's a short edition this month, but I do have a few great recos!


The life-changing magic of tidying up: the Japanese art of decluttering and organizing by Marie Kondo

I'm sure you're already aware that I am so on board with the idea of decluttering, but even I don't take it quite as far as the author does: I don't unpack every item from my handbag every night or thank my shoes for the work they did supporting my feet.

I do agree with Kondo that people should worry less about elaborate storage systems and label-making and just get rid of stuff! (When she writes of dozens of garbage bags she helped clients get dispose of, I hope it was actual trash - I am really big on recycling and donating everything I possibly can when I declutter!)

This book is a very interesting read, and just may inspire you to start the year fresh with a big tidy-up!


If you know me at all, you won't believe for a minute that I only read one book this month. The thing is, I actually read about seven...and this is the only one I liked enough to recommend! We'll see what next month has in store!


Star Wars: The Force Awakens

I was not at all hyped up about this movie. I watched Return of the Jedi in the theatre way back when, and I'm pretty sure that's the only Star Wars movie I had ever seen. However, my husband suggested we watch the first six together as a family over the holidays, and my interest was (slightly) piqued...and the girls got really pumped. Once we were all caught up on the stories, we were ready for the new movie. We splurged for the AVX theatre so we could select our seats in advance and not have to worry about the crowds, and I will have to admit that I enjoyed the film. I loved the reappearance of original characters blended with new ones (including a kick-butt young woman) and the storyline had a lot of "human" elements, if that makes sense. (Sci-fi is not my scene.) It was a special family experience that I don't think our girls will forget for a long time.


This is exactly what I expected from Tina Fey and Amy Poehler: funny and light, with sparks of depth here and there. I don't foresee it as an awards-season frontrunner (or runner at all) but it was a great girls'-night-out. Even from the second row, because being on time isn't for everyone. Ahem.


Powerful. Disturbing. That ends my commentary.

Winter Star by The Winn Sisters

And of course my favourite video: my beautiful girls singing Johnny Reid's Winter Star at the community Christmas concert (with Daddy on piano). If you missed it, you can catch it here!

Happy New Year, everyone!