Saturday, December 31

My Top 10 Posts of 2016

After eliminating giveaway posts, these were my top ten most-viewed posts of 2016! Clearly, readers are into Momterviews, with education, beauty and fashion thrown in there too!

#10 My New Eyebrows: Microblading from Permanent Beauty by Kalyna



# 9  Ask the Teacher: My Segment on THE SOCIAL (P.S. I'm back on the show January 23!)




# 8 Kate and the Replikate Trend



# 7 Kate Wells: The Special Needs Parenting Momterview



# 6 Kindergarten Advice From Parents (including some well-known faces) and Teachers 




# 5 Melissa Grelo shares Health and Fitness Tips



# 4 Angela Price: The Hockey Wives Momterview





# 3 marQ: Melissa Grelo and Shayna Haddon's New Children's Clothing Line





# 2 Kortney Wilson Talks Masters of Flip Season 2



# 1 Kortney Wilson: The Momterview





Thanks so much for all of your support in 2016! I can't wait to bring you lots of exciting, informative content in 2017! Happy New Year!


Thursday, December 29

6 Ways to Simplify Your Life in 2017

Whether it's an official New Year's resolution or not, I'm sure you would love to streamline, organize and simplify your life in 2017...and while there are lots of things I am not good at (let me know if you want to see those in a blog post) I am definitely a skilled organizer. Here are my tried-and-true tips to help make your life easier!

1. Finances: Ensure you're receiving bills by email (as little paper-handling as possible, people) and pay as many as you can using preauthorized debit (or a points-earning credit card whenever the option is available). While I know many are wary of online banking, I couldn't function now without e-transfers, and I am also in love with e-deposits...no more carrying cheques around until I can hit a bank machine!




2. Streamline appointments. Think of the year ahead, and book all routine dental, eye, and immunization appointments for you and your family members, as well as any others that fit your situation. Get them all in your calendar (believe it or not, I'm still in love with using a paper datebook). For years after moving to where I live now, I continued to drive to my former community for the dentist and optometrist, and a few years ago I finally switched to local professionals, which saves a ton of time, especially when appointments are multiplied once kids come into the picture. While I was sad to see my family doctor retire (he actually delivered me) the silver lining is that my new doc is 15 minutes closer and much more convenient.

3. Declutter. Yep, I'm hiding this one in the middle of the list, even though it is almost always my streamlining priority. Get rid of stuff. I know that not everyone gets an actual high from purging clutter like I do (I assume it's like doing drugs, though of course I wouldn't know), but I don't think anyone is immune to the good feeling that comes from paring down belongings. Take the altruistic angle if it helps: donating the clothing, toys, and household items that are no longer being worn or used in your home can help to bring happiness to so many others who may not be in a position to buy everything they need, and getting the kids involved also helps teach them some very valuable lessons about giving. Start as soon as you're done reading this post; just clean out a drawer. Maybe your underwear drawer, maybe the kitchen utensils - no, you don't need six whisks. I swear. Post the before-and-after on social media (maybe not of the underwear drawer, and tag me, of course!) and inspire others to do the same. I have a big donations delivery heading to Vinnie's this week; maybe I'll see you there!






4. Do a digital declutter. If you spend a lot of time looking at your computer screen, that desktop needs to be organized into folders with a nice wallpaper image...and again, delete as much as possible. If you're really ambitious, you can even delve into folders and look for documents and other items that are outdated, which I do about once a year. While some time-management experts don't feel "Inbox Zero" is worth the hype, I keep as little in my inbox as I can. Most emails I receive are deleted as soon as they're read (or even before), others get filed away immediately for future reference, and a precious few remain in my inbox as a to-do list (which, again, some advise against, but it works for me). If it's still in my inbox, whether for my work or personal account, it means I have to do something about it...so I do. You should also unsubscribe from any blogs or newsletters that you don't truly read and enjoy (keeping This Mom Loves, of course!) and brand mailings that you don't actually take advantage of. I even do a social media cleanout every so often, streamlining which accounts I'm following.

5. Simplify lunches. No one knows as well as my colleagues how lazy I am when it comes to lunches, and I have absolutely no leg to stand on when it comes to promoting healthy eating. So when I tell you that you should keep simple snack and lunch items at work, you should take that as fresh-cut fruit and veggies, Greek yogurt and whole-wheat pitas (that's all healthy, right?) when what I really keep handy are a big box of Cheerios, milk, crackers, cheese and huge pack of granola bars...and rarely have to think about what I'm taking for lunch (leftovers are also a big hit, and working at a school gives me the perk of hot lunch days once a week as well!) My husband, however, is great at cooking up chicken breasts, vegetables, rice, etc. on the weekends and freezing individually portioned lunches to pull out each morning before work. Maybe try it his way.





6. Mobilize your children. Unlike the tip above, this one's a definite do-as-I-do. What chores could you train your kids to do at their ages? My daughters are 10 and 8. They've been making their own beds as long as they've been dressing themselves (at first I had to accept less-than-perfection, by now they're actually pretty good) and they also fold and put away their own laundry, load and unload the dishwasher, dust and vacuum their rooms, and do all bunny-related care. When they get in the door after school, they unpack their bags, leaving their agendas, notes, etc. in a designated spot on the counter, before making their lunches for the next day. This they've been doing since Eva started kindergarten and Liv was in grade 1, and they know the rules about what they need to pack. Next it's guitar or piano practice, then singing, and homework as necessary. Rest assured that my girls get tons of free time, and also more valuable time with mommy since I'm not wasting time on jobs they can do themselves. (Speaking also from a teacher's perspective: you're not doing your kids any favours by coddling them.)

I could go on all day about this topic, but I'm getting the urge to purge...so I may head to my closet and see what I haven't been wearing regularly (it's easy to tell, because I have a system where I move items to the right end of the rod once worn...is this gift a blessing or a curse??) I certainly hope these tips are helpful to you, and I'd love to know if you have any other ideas to share!

Hey, what are you doing, about to click on something? You have a drawer to clean out, my friend!


Monday, December 12

Help Your Child Learn to Read

When it comes to reading, my biggest piece of advice as both a teacher and a mom would be this: make reading as enjoyable as possible for your child. Start at an early age and help your child to associate books with cuddles and love from a caregiver. As soon as they are old enough, allow them to start choosing reading material (yes, even the same books over and over) in addition to new titles you want to share. Trips to the library or book store can be fun outings, and conversations about stories and characters show your child the value of what they read - because you think it's important enough to talk about!

That said, the time comes for every child (and will be different for each one) when they can begin to learn to read for themselves. It might surprise you to know that there's a lot more to it than letters and sounds - and many ways to continue the fun (even orally) as your child begins to build the necessary skills.

Today, Ruth Rumack (entrepreneur, veteran educator and creator of The Alpha-Mania Adventure Series) shares insights about the different components of reading, and how you can support your children at home.

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When it comes to learning to read, it’s important to identify the “Big 5” essential components of reading: phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension.


  1. Phonemic Awareness                                   

Phonemic awareness is the understanding that words can be broken apart into individual sounds (phonemes). It is important to note that phonemic awareness is an auditory skill; children do not need to know letter shapes and sounds (phonics) to develop basic phonemic awareness.
           
Phonemic awareness is one of the best predictors of future reading and spelling success. In order to develop phonemic awareness, several skills must be mastered, including rhyming, blending, alliteration, segmenting, and sound manipulation.

To help a child learn rhyming, use books and games that emphasize rhyme. For example, ask your child, “Which words sound the same at the end: sit, back, hit?” With picture cards, have your child match pictures of objects that rhyme.

Blending involves listening to a sequence of separate word parts or phonemes, and combining them to form a word. For example, stretch the sounds in the word sun. Say sss…uuu…nnn, and then have your child blend the sounds together to say the word as a whole, sun. Practicing blending helps a child develop an understanding that words are made up of individual phonemes, a crucial component in learning how to decode, or “sound out” words when reading.

Segmenting is the opposite of blending. For example, say a word aloud, bus, and ask your child to say the word back to you one sound at a time: /b/…/u/…/s/.

To practice identifying alliteration, read stories with alliterative phrases and make note of the repeated sounds. For example, ask your child, “Which words have the same beginning sound: bed, box, kite?”

Manipulating sounds within words involves deleting a sound from a word, or substituting a sound in a word. To practice deleting a sound from a word, ask your child, “What’s fish without the /f/?” Your child would then answer, “ish”. To practice substituting a sound in a word, ask your child, “Change the first sound in rake to a /l/. What’s the new word?” Your child would then answer, “lake.”



{Ruth's book series focuses on the Big 5 components discussed here}



2.                  Phonics

Phonics is the understanding that letter symbols represent sounds. It is also referred to as letter-sound correspondence. Magnetic letters and foam letters are great for identifying sounds and building words. Children must understand that specific symbols (letters) match certain sounds (“This letter is a T, it makes the sound /t/”.)

3.                  Vocabulary

Vocabulary is necessary for comprehension. It’s important to ask a reader to determine the meaning of a word as used in the context of the story. Children should be taught word-learning strategies, such as how to look up words in a dictionary, or how to determine a word’s meaning based on its roots.



4.                  Fluency

Fluency is the ability to read with speed, accuracy, and proper expression. It is an essential, but often neglected, component of reading.

The most effective approach to improving a child’s fluency is repeated oral reading practice. This might include reading the same story aloud multiple times, practicing lines from a play or reader’s theater, or guided reading instruction in a classroom.

5.                  Comprehension

Comprehension refers to a rich understanding of the meaning of the reading passage. This includes being able to answer the who, what, where, when and why questions of the text, predicting what might happen next, and summarizing the main idea or message.


Following this list in order will create a confident reader. And remember, it should be fun! Use long car rides to practice blending and segmenting skills, and read Dr. Seuss for some rhyming fun. Happy Reading!



{I love how Ruth mentions Dr. Seuss - we just had a wonderful Trent University Teacher Candidate in the classroom, and he did a great series of mini-lessons on rhyme using Dr. Seuss books. The kids really enjoyed it, and have a much stronger sense of rhyme!}


Ruth Rumack is the founder of Ruth Rumack’s Learning Space and the creator of The Alpha-Mania Adventures Series, now available on Amazon, alpha-mania.com, and Ruth Rumack's Learning Space. For more information, connect with Rumack on her website and the series' site, as well as Rumack's Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram.



Saturday, December 10

Gift Ideas For Kids: from an 8-year-old

Not to be outdone by her sister, my 8-year-old daughter Eva wanted to make a contribution to the blog as well. Today she is sharing some (mostly) classic gift ideas - items that she has enjoyed for years, and would recommend for your children too! Take it away, Eva!

*****

I am an 8-year-old child so I would know what some of the best gifts are to get your kids, at Christmas or any time!


  • ·        Rubik’s Cube: This is very popular in my school, and it’s a nice thing for kids to try to solve when they’re getting bored.
  • ·        Zoomer Zuppie: I got this as a Christmas gift one year and it’s especially fun to pretend you have a pet when you don’t really have one. But now I do and I think you have heard about Thumper!
  • ·        Play kitchen: My sister got this before I was born and I have been playing with it as long as I can remember. I like to pretend that I’m working at a restaurant and making food in the kitchen.
  • ·        Build-a-Bear: You would want to give a gift card for this so your child can pick it out and decide on the details because it's a lot of fun to have the whole experience of picking things out and making your bear. You can also get all sorts of accessories for your bear and bring it to the store to visit the bear spa too. My Build-a-Bear is named Minnie Eva and even though I got her four years ago I still play with her and like to change her outfits.



  • ·        Twister: Now this is a really fun and active game to play, and you can do it with different numbers of people. That’s not the only game we like though, also Bounce-Off, Trouble, Jenga and the Game of Life are fun to play with your family.
  • ·        Play-Doh: I take this out and play at the kitchen table all the time. It’s nice to have lots of colours and accessories to use with it. I like to make food out of the Play-Doh too. (Yes I do like cooking and baking a lot!)
  • ·        Barbies: We have a LOT of Barbies because some were my great-aunt’s and some were my mom’s and now Olivia and I have even more. We play with the Barbie house and cars, and now our bunny Thumper likes to go in the Barbie house too which is hilarious!



I hope this helped you with your shopping list. Merry Christmas!


Wednesday, December 7

How Families Can Give Back This Holiday Season: Special Guest Post by Clare Morneau

A passionate advocate for girls’ education and refugee issues, Clare Morneau is a 17-year-old author and speaker who lives in Toronto with her father, Canada’s Finance Minister, Bill Morneau, mother, Nancy McCain, and siblings Henry, Edward and Grace Acan, who joined the family in 2010 from northern Uganda. Clare is compassionate, driven and committed to working for real change. As a student at Havergal College, she founded the Kakuma Toronto Girls Education Partnership. In the fall of 2016, she released her first book, Kakuma Girls (named one of "Heather's Picks" at Chapters Indigo shortly after its launch). She completed a four-week internship at the Global Humanitarian Lab, a partner organization of the United Nations, in the summer of 2016 and has been named a Global Humanitarian Lab Youth Ambassador by the organization.

I'm thrilled to have Clare as a special guest blogger today, sharing ways families can give back over the holiday season.

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I’m Clare Morneau, and I’m the author of Kakuma Girls, a book about refugee girls in Kakuma Refugee Camp in northwest Kenya. My book is about the challenges young refugees, particularly girls, face when attempting to get an education in refugee camps. More than that though, it’s about how we can mobilize youth to be engaged in our efforts to help refugees.




The story about how I got involved with these girls is rooted in friendship. It’s also about helping young Canadians understand the enormous gulf between our experiences and those less fortunate, and how a small local effort has the potential to lead to a great solution to a global issue.

There are so many amazing ways we can all give back over the holiday season through random acts of kindness rather than just by buying more things. Here are 5 ideas I love:

1. Buy a book for someone in your community – books change lives. I’ve always been inspired by the power of books. Everyone should have access to books and the right to read and learn. You can’t give a more impactful gift than the gift of education.

2. Donate to your local clothing drive. Clothing is a fundamental need, but for many, it’s also transformational. One of my favourite clothing donation programs is Dress for Success; an organization that promotes the economic independence of disadvantaged women by providing professional attire. Another great option is New Circles, a not-for-profit organization based in Toronto that gives local families and newcomers to Canada the clothing they need. With another cold Canadian winter approaching, it’s a great idea to donate your or your kids’ gently used winter clothing.

3. Bring school supplies to donate to the kids in the regions you’re visiting over the holidays. We are so lucky here to have access to new pens, binders, and notepads for every new school year. So many kids worldwide don’t have this luxury and it has a negative impact on their motivation to thrive at school. Popular holiday destinations like Mexico, Dominican Republic, and Cuba are examples of countries where kids are living in poverty. If you’re visiting these areas over the holidays, bring an extra bag of school supplies to leave with these children! It’s a small thing to do, and it will make such an enormous difference in their lives.



Photo: Storey Wilkins


4. Share a holiday meal with a new Canadian and/or a refugee. There are many new immigrants and refugees spending their first holiday season in Canada this year. It’s a huge blessing for them to be here, and also, a daunting reality since for many, they won’t be with their loved ones. Sharing a meal together will be an incredibly humbling and rewarding experience for them and you.

5. Sponsor a meal at a soup kitchen. If you’re based in Toronto, the Muslim Welfare Centre hosts a series of meals around the GTA, helping Torontonians get warm meals.

We all have the means to make a real difference in someone’s life. Whether your efforts are global or local, they matter.

Happy holidays! 

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Thank you, Clare! You can find Clare's book Kakuma Girls on Indigo and Amazon.
Follow Clare on Twitter @KakumaGirls and Instagram @Kakuma_Girls.


Sunday, December 4

The Flu Shot: Myths and Family Photos plus a Great Giveaway!

Our whole family gets the flu shot at Shoppers Drug Mart every year, and just a week ago we made an outing of it. (And by "outing", I mean we went out for dinner after. I'll use any excuse.) 

I know there are a lot of myths circulating about the flu shot out there, and I'm hoping this post can help encourage those who are hesitant about the vaccination. (I like to think I'm a pretty smart woman, and I do my research before any health treatments for myself or my kids too.)

Here are some common myths dispelled...plus some cute Winn family photos...if I do say so myself!

The flu vaccine gives you the flu.

FALSE. Flu vaccinations delivered via a needle are either made with an ‘inactivated’ flu virus that’s not infectious, or with no flu virus at all.

{Note: you're always going to hear someone who swears the flu shot gave them the flu, but more likely they had a different type of illness entirely - one that could have been present even before the flu shot - or happened to get a strain that wasn't covered. It was not caused by the shot.}




You don’t need to get the flu vaccine every year.

FALSE. In order to best protect yourself from the flu you need to be vaccinated annually. Getting a vaccine doesn’t need to be a complicated, time consuming process.  Canadians can drop in to their local Shoppers Drug Mart or select grocery stores at any time of day, without an appointment.




You should wait until the height of flu season to get vaccinated so you’re protected for longer.

FALSE. While it’s never too late to get vaccinated, it’s best to receive your flu shot soon after it’s available, likely  October. The antibodies delivered via the flu vaccine that protect you against infection take up to two weeks to take effect, and since the flu peaks between December – February it’s important to get vaccinated weeks before the holiday party season starts.

{Note: I don't know about your family, but from my experience at least someone in every household is sick at Christmas. I want to make sure my family and I are as protected as possible.}




Pregnant women need to get consent from their doctor prior to receiving the flu vaccine.


FALSE. There is no recommendation for pregnant women to seek consent from their doctor prior to vaccination. However, there are some people who should seek their doctors’ advice prior to being vaccinated, including those who have a moderate – to – severe illness and patients with a history of Guillain-Barre Syndrome. 




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Are you convinced yet? If not, perhaps this will help: 70-90 per cent of flu cases can be averted through vaccination! I like those odds.

Shoppers Drug Mart pharmacies across the country are making it easy by offering flu immunizations administered by an injection-certified pharmacist at all hours, without an appointment, just walk-in.

Now that we've settled that, it's time for a giveaway!






One lucky This Mom Loves winner will receive an awesome Flu Fighters pack from Shoppers Drug Mart valued at $150 containing the following:
  • Life Brand Hand Sanitizer
  • Cough Drops
  • Vaporizing Cold Rub
  • Electrolyte Maintenance Powder
  • Disinfectant Wipes
  • Vaporizer
  • PC Chicken noodle soup
  • PC Facial tissues
  • PC Feeling Soothed Tea
  • $100 gift card

All you have to do to enter to win is post a tweet or Facebook update that contains all three of the following:
1. A link to this post (the one you're reading right now!) 
http://thismomloves.blogspot.ca/2016/12/the-flu-shot-myths-and-family-photos.html
2. A tag for @thismomloves
3. The hashtag #SDMflufighters

For example:

Flu shot myths dispelled - plus win a $150 prize pack from @thismomloves
http://thismomloves.blogspot.ca/2016/12/the-flu-shot-myths-and-family-photos.html

#SDMflufighters

Feel free to use that exact tweet, but be careful with Facebook: if you copy and paste, you still need to type @thismomloves manually or the tag won't pop up and I won't be notified in order to count your entry!

The giveaway runs until Friday, December 9th at midnight Eastern, after which time the entries will be totalled and a winner will be chosen through random number generation. Good luck...and happy flu-fighting!

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


Thursday, December 1

Kate's Favourite Things - December 2016

Here's a list of my latest recos!

MOVIES

The Girl on the Train - I know not everyone agrees, but I thought the movie really did justice to the book, and Emily Blunt was fantastic.



Love Actually - I realize this isn't a new one, but it was new to me! (Don't ask me how I missed a romantic comedy in the last 20 years - this one's from 2003 - but somehow it happened.) Just days after Lainey Lui mentioned on The Social how this movie always gets her into the Christmas spirit, I was thrilled to see it pop up on TV...and I loved it.



Allied - Starring Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard, this is an excellent WWII love story/drama with a twist: is Cotillard's character really a German spy? If you're anything like me, you'll also appreciate the smattering of Canadian references - Pitt's character is from Canada, and when he attempts a Parisian accent he is nicknamed "Quebecois"; Medicine Hat also plays a role. I recommend it even if you haven't saved up M and M bags for free movie tickets!


BOOKS

The Wonder by Emma Donoghue - This book (from the author of Room) is about a nurse who comes to Ireland to supervise a supposed miracle: a young girl who is surviving without eating. It's a fascinating read, though I always have to remember not to take offense on behalf of the Catholic Church to every fictional (or perhaps semi-fictional) insult.




Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult -  Picoult's latest is about a black maternity nurse faced with a dilemma: does she take action to save a white baby after being ordered not to touch him?

I am so saddened when I read about racism (even fictional) as well as shocked, while I know I shouldn't be. I keep up with the news and I like to think I'm pretty well-read, but I don't want to believe that there are still parents raising their children to hate like this. Even though I grew up in possibly one of the whitest places ever (and moved to another one - I'm guessing a diverse population hasn't yet been drawn to our Irish-Catholic farming communities) I never heard a racist word from one of my parents.

Years ago when walking our girls to the Centre Island ferry, one asked, "Mommy, are a lot of these people not from here?" which certainly sparked a conversation, but I'd like to think that my children see past colour when looking for the beauty and value in the people around them.

I don't have a thick enough skin (sorry, best expression I could come up with) to take on any further racial commentary right now, but I was also not surprised to learn that Picoult (who is white) has been criticized for attempting to take on the first-person story of a black character, something she actually addresses in a separate section of the book.




Babushka: A Christmas Tale by Dawn Casey - If you're looking to add a new title to your Christmas collection, this lovely traditional Russian tale helps us all remember the meaning of the season. We've been working on "favourite parts" in the kindergarten class, and here were a few of their responses to this book:

"The picture with the cat because it was so detailed"
"The dream because Mary and Jesus were in it"
"The part where the boy didn't catch any fish because then he got food"
"The part where it said 'KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK' because it was exciting"




Bridget Jones's Baby by Helen Fielding - A companion to the movie (written after Fielding worked on the script to the third film), this book is as light and fun as you would expect - a worthwhile visit with an old friend. Be forewarned though - there is a one huge plot difference (which I won't spoil for you right now).



The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena - this is incredible work for Lapena's suspense debut. I could hardly put it down, and the twists kept on coming right to the end.

Unstuffed: Decluttering Your Home, Mind and Soul by Ruth Soukup - if you look up the definition of "preaching to the choir", you will see a picture of me reading this book. Basically, it affirmed much of what I already know and believe...but if you're looking for a decluttering jumpstart, this one's for you!

If my Christmas wishes come true, I'll have lots of time over the holidays for some more great books and movies, and I'll have a full update next month!