6 Tips for Maintaining Your Sanity as a Parent

Parenting is an extremely difficult thing for lots of people. Infants don’t arrive with user manuals when they’re born, so many individuals are stuck fumbling around in the dark as they attempt to raise their children to be reputable grownups.

The following tips ought to give you direction when it comes to raising your youngsters.


Take advantage of carpools when sending your children to school. A carpool permits you to not have to shuttle bus your youngsters back and forth to school every day. It also offers your children some extra socialization time with the next-door neighbors. You save time, and save money on gas too.

Take Time for You

Being around your children a lot can be really difficult. Make certain you take time out for you. Plan a dinner date with a good friend, opt for a long walk to go to the films on your own. That little time away will certainly be enough for your to recharge and be the very best moms and dad you can be.

Keep Your Cool

You should stay clear of losing your authority no matter what. As soon as your kids realize that there is actually absolutely nothing backing up what you say, it can be tough to gain back control. In addition to this, you should not lose your cool in front your children. If you feel it’s unavoidable, send them to their room and calm yourself down however possible.

Positive Reinforcement

Children react better to favorable reinforcement than negative reinforcement. Parents also commonly ignore when a youngster does something well but have the tendency to snap and hand out penalties when a kid does glitch. A better environment would be where the moms and dads praise and reward the kid for doing something well. Kids are a lot more excited to obtain rewards than they are to stay clear of penalty.

Read Often

Read to your child often. Aside from the apparent home entertainment value a youngster gets from hearing a terrific story, studies reveal that from an extremely early age, a kid’s vocabulary is increased by leaps and bounds merely from hearing words being read to him. This helps to increase his success in school and in communication with others throughout his life time.

One of the most significant problems moms and dads have with their kids these days is getting them away from the computer, television, and computer game. One option to this is to show them just how much fun reading and other activities can be. A terrific method to go about doing this is to take them to story time events at libraries and bookstores. Here, they may learn to take pleasure in reading by paying attention to interesting stories, and communicating with other youngsters at the same time.

Don’t Forget to Have Fun

Have fun with your kids. Not only is it enjoyable for both of you, playing also has an amazing impact on minimizing children’s unfavorable habits. By spending time with your children in this manner, you are making them feel like they are necessary to you. That implies they will certainly be less likely to engage in negative behaviors to get your attention.

Parenting may be a tough and confusing, but it’s well worth it. These tips ought to assist give you a starting point for raising your children. While it may not have actually covered everything, you ought to at least come out with even more understanding and a better strategy than you can be found in with.

Next: Read Is the Generation of Selfish Parents Upon Us?

Opinions Aside, Time for Baking!

It’s my favorite time of the year… the Holiday Season!

I’m going to be spending a ton of time getting creative in the kitchen and I highly recommend you do too (talking to you too, dads!). There’s nothing more therapeutic for me than to have the oven cooked up to 350 degrees and the smell of fresh cookies, cake pops, and brownies baking.

My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

Being the opinionated person I am, I spend a lot of time making sure my baking turns out well because there’s nothing worse than having to eat rock hard cookies or dried out brownies at the holiday party or family get together. I don’t tolerate it from other people so there’s no way I’m going to allow myself to mess up the baked goods.

Truth be told, I’d rather throw out the end product and start over than give people bad baked goods.

This year I’m breaking out of my shell and going to attempt to bake some homemade pies. I didn’t get around to it for Thanksgiving so here are a few recipes I’m looking at trying for my first pie baking attempt.

1) Chocolate Cream Pie

This pie by tideandthyme.com made me want to run out to buy a pie for me to snack on while I attempt to make one from scratch. I’m a sucker for some Chocolate. And some cream. Ok, and Oreos. This one had me from hello!

2) Caramel Apple Pie

caramel apple pie

Photo credit: ericasweettooth.com/

This pie that Erica from Erica’s Sweet Tooth cooked when family members were coming in from out of town for a BBQ looks delicious. It might be more of a fall recipe but I’m thinking about giving it a shot. Apple pie and Christmas go together like spaghetti and meatballs.

3. No Bake Key Lime Pie

As much as I love baking, being able to put a great pie together without having to turn on the oven doesn’t sound too bad either. This key lime pie looks delicious and is sure to make my father-in-law happy since it’s his favorite.

Alright. I’m going to have my hands full with these recipes but it will be nice to have a few choices and have the kids and family try some new things. I may buy some pumpkin pies too since those seem to be pretty easy to whip together, as well.

Well, wish me luck and Merry Christmas (or happy holidays, if you prefer) to you all. We’ll chat next year.

Opinionated Cooking Tips

If your kids don’t run to the dinner table, maybe it’s time to take an honest look at your routine meals and make sure you’re offering variety and some new meals, occasionally. Get some additional dinnertime enthusiasm and more smiles on your family’s faces with some delicious new ideas. Here are some tips to spice things up a bit.

RESOURCE: Cookipedia

Change up your routine

Try to plan for a week’s worth of meals before the week begins and get in the habit of planning your weekly menus. Planning your meals in advance can be a huge time saver and help you avoid the “what am I going to cook for dinner?” debate. You’ll be surprised how quickly you’ll have dinner on the table rather than arguing about what you’re going to cook. This also helps you and your husband/wife stay on the same page reducing the “what do you have the taste for” debate every night.

Over the weekend – or whenever your free time occurs – think through the upcoming week and loosely plan four or five meals for the week. In addition to  saving time on grocery shopping, it will also reduce the stress of having to come up with meal ideas on a hectic evening, last minute. I try to keep a notepad on the refrigerator to jot down items I’m running low on or completely out of so I can keep my kitchen stocked and not be missing ingredients when I need them. This advance planning will keep you from running out of the ingredients you need on a regular basis.

Special occasions

Spicing things up isn’t a great idea on special occasions. If you’re cooking a meal for some important occasion, stick with a recipe you’re comfortable with and avoid the temptation to try a new dish. You ‘ll be more relaxed and less anxious while cooking. People will be able to taste the difference.

Weekend cooking

On weekends, try to make larger meals that leftovers can be eaten during the week. For instance, left over roasted beef can make great sandwiches during throughout the week. This will save time and money. A win-win situation for any family.

I recommend taking a good, honest look at your routine cooking and see if it could use some changes. If so, using some of the tips above can help reduce stress while still adding some new variety to the mix. It’s worth a shot. Worst case scenario, you have to microwave some chicken nuggets or whip up some pancakes for the kids if they don’t like your new dish. A little variety won’t hurt them but make sure you have a good stash of their favorites in the freezer in case they don’t care for the new recipes you’re testing.

If you took an honest look at your mealtime offerings and decided that they could use some help, start with the fresh ideas in the article above and you will have your family running to the table in no time. These practical tips will get you on your way to success.

My Daughter Got Braces (All Hell Broke Loose)

Daughter got braces at this Chicago DentistSo…. we had a quite an eventful month in March. We took the family to our bi-annual dental appointments for cleaning and xrays. Everything went smooth, except my daughter. She wasn’t happy with the information provided by our Chicago dentist.

If your dentist recommends orthodontics, you should seriously consider it. Getting your teeth straightened is often more than a cosmetic issue; incorrect alignment of the teeth or jawbone can cause serious dental health problems later on. Although children most often wear braces, adults can benefit from orthodontic treatment as well.


Even if you’re an adult, it’s never too late to get braces. It’s important to have a smile which looks good and keeps you happy, so it’s worth it to invest the time and money into getting the straightest teeth possible. This can open doors both socially and professionally, so consider it for yourself.

If you have braces or partials, you should consider using an oral irrigator to help keep your teeth clean. An oral irrigator should be used in addition to regular flossing and brushing. The oral irrigator effectively flushes food particles from between your teeth and brackets by using pressurized water.

Wisdom teeth are necessary in the mechanism of chewing food. Most people have their wisdom teeth extracted soon after they emerge. Orthodontist usually remove the wisdom teeth before installing braces or other corrective devices. If your wisdom teeth are causing pain, they should be pulled before they become infected.

If your teeth are crooked, you can get braces to straighten them. This procedure is usually done at a young age, but adults can also benefit from it. New techniques make it possible to wear braces that can be removed to make eating easier, and some types only need to be worn overnight.

To tell whether your child is going to need braces as an adolescent, one test is to check the gap between her two top front teeth. If there is a significant gap, it is likely that she will need braces later on to correct that hole. If not, it is more likely that the growth process will do most of the correcting of any problems in the alignment of her teeth.

Orthodontic devices can make eating a difficult task. Soft fruits, small fruits and cooked vegetables are easier to eat than raw, hard food. For example, apples should be cut into bite-sized pieces to make them more available for consumption. Avoid hard or sticky candy and don’t chew gum while wearing braces.

To get the most out of your orthodontic treatments, you have to follow your dentist’s orders after the braces come off. Wear your retainer according to the instructions that you receive; if not, you run the risk of having your teeth return to their former distortion, putting all of that money and time in braces to waste.

To ensure that you maintain dental hygiene while wearing braces, be sure to follow your orthodontist’s instructions about foods to avoid. Braces make it harder to give your teeth a thorough cleaning, especially if you consume forbidden foods. These foods can cause problems to your orthodontic care.

The bacteria that can grow in your mouth are too much for mouthwash alone to handle. Brushing and flossing are important parts of your dental hygiene routine, because they physically clean your teeth. You may hear that mouthwash alone is enough to do the job, but that simply is not the case.

Be sure to ask your dentist or orthodontist about Invisalign (invisible braces), as well.

Use These Parenting Hacks to Better Connect with Your Child

Satisfying the demands of being a parent takes focus. Sometimes simply the simplest pointer from someone more knowledgeable than we happen to be can help us achieve that focus. That is the intent of the ideas supplied below. They will certainly supply the focus that numerous people have to step out there and fulfill the difficulty of being a parent.

Be Consistent

An excellent idea for any parent is to show consistency and follow-through in all interactions with children. Parents who continuously provide the exact same commands and possible consequences and fail to see them through will likely wind up with children who hesitate to listen or behave. Standing by your statements will certainly instruct children to pay attention and frequently do what you ask of them.

Have a day-to-day regimen or schedule as much as possible. Most kids prefer regular, as it means they know exactly what will certainly be coming next. Surprises can be enjoyable, however not every day. Having a fundamental schedule for activities, mealtimes, and naps, and a more detailed schedule for going to bed can assist your youngster remain calm and focused throughout their day.

They’ll Have Friends, Be Their Parent

An excellent parenting tip is to try not to be your youngster’s best friend all the time. If you’re constantly concerned about how your youngster thinks of you as his or her friend, your probably falling short in terms of being a moms and dad. Preferably you ought to strive for a balance between the two.

It’s simpler for children to get through their day if they know what to anticipate. It’s necessary to try to keep things the very same for youngsters. Delighted surprises are typically well received, however, things that are not delightful to them could make them feel ambushed and cause them to act out.

It’s important for a child to know exactly what is anticipated of them each and every day. A child needs to not have to wonder or guess what their moms and dads desire them to do. They must understand precisely what they are expected to do and exactly what the effects will certainly be if they do not do what is anticipated.

Having positive family guidelines can help reduce the amount of combating that goes on in your home, and help your children get along much better with each other. Instead of stating “no attacking” you might inform your kids to “touch carefully”, as it is a kinder way of stating the same thing.

Above All, Make Them Feel Loved & Safe

Give your youngsters a big hug as often as possible, and remind them that you enjoy them. No matter how upset they make you, or how severely they ruin your home, they’re still your children, and they will be for life. They will grow up to be well-adjusted grownups as long as they understand they’ve been enjoyed.

If your youngster is sick, especially with a fever or cough, it is vital that you not send them to school. Not just does your child have to stay at home and rest when they are sick, however sending them to school can increase the opportunities of your child spreading their disease to other kids.

If your child is afraid of beasts in the dark, acknowledge his fears, despite the fact that you might think that his fears are silly. In your child’s mind, the monster is genuine enough, and if you do not acknowledge that, he will think that you do not understand him. A much better way is to offer him a method to handle the imaginary beast, like telling him that his blanket offers him “magic powers” against the monster. In this manner, your youngster will be empowered to handle his own worries.

By concentrating on objectives and breaking them down into specific steps, we can achieve what might at first appear to be the impossible. Occasionally that is something as basic as instructing a toddler to tie their shoes. Other times it might be as complex as comforting our grieving teenager when they have actually broken up with their partner.

4 Opinionated Parenting Tips from Parents

Sometimes, as a parent, you need all the help you can get. No person is born knowing how to parent.

Although we do have parenting instincts that come natural, people also rely on research, read books, and get information from their experienced family and friends in order to discover how they’re going to parent and what types of parents they’d like to be. Here are some tips we got when asking others their best advice for succeeding as a parent:

Don’t Do Everything for Them

Too many parents get used to doing everything for their children at a very young age and never get out of that habit. Instead of enabling their children to be more self-sufficient and take care of their own things, many parents fall into the trap of doing everything for their kids because it’s faster and easier.

However, days become weeks which become years and these habits are hard to break, especially for the child that never learns to clean up for themselves or complete tasks alone. It’s much easier to teach at a young age than to make a drastic change when they’re older.

A good example of this is teaching kids to speak on the phone. My parents used to make us call to order food when we’d order takeout. This taught us how to interact over the phone at a young age. My roommate in college didn’t like to talk on the phone with anyone, which impacted his ability to find a job. We’re not saying they’re correlated, but he was never forced to order food as a kid. Couldn’t have hurt for him to make a call or two when he was younger.

Don’t Break Your Promises

My oldest child was once overheard explaining to his younger brother that he should trust Pa (his grandfather) because Pa never lies. When he says something, he means it.

This can have a big impact on a child and be a great example of how that child should be when they’re adults. Children develop many of their habits and mannerisms by emulating the people in their lives. Be a person they can look up to and develop great habits from. Start by saying what you mean and meaning what you.

As we say in our family, be like Pa!

Teach Them About Teamwork

This is especially effective if both parents are still in the house. Show them that you both are a united front. They can’t manipulate one parent against the other to get what they want. They’ll still try it from time to time so make sure you and the other parent are on the same team and can back it up.

Also, don’t be afraid to include them in joint tasks. Teaching kids that it takes everyone to keep the household running properly will them take care of themselves when they get older. Here are some tasks to include them in:

  • Cooking
  • Cleaning
  • Yard work
  • Grocery Shopping
  • Games
  • Talking with adults
  • Learning
  • Reading
  • And much more…

Don’t Stop Listening

Kids are pretty good at telling you what they want. If you’re listening, you’ll be able to solve many problems before they arise and will allow you to better understand your child, what motivates them and what demotivates them.

Parenting is a 24/7 job that you’ll do for the rest of your life. You’ll never be perfect but with the right balance of love and distance, you can teach your youngsters how to grow up to be great people that are reliable, self-sufficient , and can return the favor to their children.

Happy parenting.

Next: Read Parenting Plan: Post-Divorce

Parenting Plan: Post-Divorce (Just Divorced Image)

Just Divorced

Divorce can be one of the most difficult things for a child to go through.Ask any adult that went through it when they were a kid and they’ll tell you how difficult it can be and how it’s changed the way they look at relationships as an adult.

Unfortunately, divorce comes with a lot of emotion. You’re going to have to put your kids through the process. If you have a plan and dedicate time to it , there’s a great chance that your kids will look back and not have bitter memories.


Even newborns want consistency, it’s a basic need for most people. When you decide to divorce, you’re changing up that consistency, which is often the scariest time for children. They begin to ask questions like, “Will I still see mommy/daddy?” because they’re not sure how this is going to work.

The first thing you need to do is create a plan with the other parent and share it with your kids so they have an idea of what’s going to happen. Then, and this is most important… Stick to it! Nothing will scare the kids more than the unknown. Let them know that everything is stable and you guys have control of the situation, even if you don’t.


It’s going to be difficult to work with the other parent but it’s essential that you both make some compromises in the interest of the kids. This plan has to be made with as much logic as possible and try to leave your emotions out of it. This plan has to cover issues that you both find important, as well as the issues that are important to just one parent.

If you’re resisting the other parent’s requests, you need to ask yourself if you’re doing it for you or for the children. If you’re pushing back in the best interest of the kids, then you may be doing the right thing, but make sure it’s not due to spite or negative emotions towards the other parent. Most parents can’t work together to create a plan because they can’t get along. They spend more time pointing fingers than problem solving. Try to be the bigger person and get a plan created in the best interest of your children.

Outside Help

If the two of you can’t compromise, it’s in your best interest to hire a trained mediator or family law attorney who will work with both parents to get a plan put together. The mediator is impartial, they won’t take sides and they’ll help you both get setup for success by discussing implementation of the plan – an often overlooked part of a parenting plan after divorce.

Mediators are usually successful because they remove the power struggle between the parents and start by focusing on the items that both parents agree on. Once both parents have said yes a few times, they’re much more likely to say yes again. Mediators are also great substitutes to divorce litigation. If you’re just beginning to explore your divorce options, consider looking into mediation. Mediation is much cheaper than litigation which is a win-win for everyone, especially your children.

For more information on mediation, read Mediation Law in Cook County: An Alternative to Litigation


Your kids are going to grow and need different things from both of their parents. Your post-divorce parenting plan should change, as well. At the least, consider scheduling time to adjust the parenting plan once a year.

Keep in mind, what’s most important is making sure you take care of your children’s mental, physical, and emotional needs. Things are going to change over the next few years but you’re both parents and need to make sure you can work together and ensure your kids remain healthy and happy through this emotional transition.

Next: Read 6 Tips for Maintaining Your Sanity as a Parent

bcharmed = utterly charming

bcharmednecklaceHave you heard of bcharmed?

Neither had I!

This brand new company out of Utah has taken the bling world by storm with their handcrafted, totally unique and absolutely affordable jewelery line.

Jacquie Fleming, a stylist with bcharmed, has kindly provided me with my choice of bcharmed necklace to review. You’ll be thrilled to know I chose that one over there on the right, and it’s freaking amazing! It’s called the black pearl flower necklace ($35 – see? Affordable!) and I completely love it.

I have a LOT of bling (yep – a LOT…), and this one is unique. The fact that it’s black means it matches absolutely everything, and the triple strand really stands out but isn’t so big that my under-tall self can’t wear it. The flower is movable – and removable – making it an incredibly versatile piece. It is a simple safety pin on the back so can even be added to a sweater to spread the style around.

For this and other bcharmed bling, you can shop online at Jacquie’s store. There are bracelets, baubles, stamped charms, soldered charms, earrings and more – take a look!

Check out Jacquie’s bcharmed page or email her for more information. If you’re in Southern Alberta, consider hosting a boutique to earn your own free bling. No matter wear you live, you can join Jacquie’s team and make yourself some cold hard cash – and free jewelery too!

Jacquie’s bcharmed is giving away the pictured black pearl flower necklace valued at $35 to one lucky TOP reader. To enter, simply leave a comment on this post before noon mst on November 30, 2011 and we’ll contact the winner to get it shipped for arrival in time for Christmas! Good luck!

CONTEST CLOSED – Congratulations to Janaye!

This Great Reading Pillow is in My Bed

pillow-300x300My husband and I have been fighting over our Stress Ease Comfort Reader Pillow for a month now and I thought it was time to tell you about it. (And give one away – keep reading!) The pillow was developed by James Maas, a psych. prof at Cornell who studies all things sleep. He’s also the author of this book which I have not read, but one of you is going to get a copy of it with your fabulous pillow!

The pillow, which we received from United Feather & Down and which is available from The Great Indoors for $50, is incredibly comfortable to read with (and to watch tv with, and yes I know that’s terrible for sleep, but I so it anyway…). It includes a quality, very comfortable & soft pillowcase with a built in pocket for the hot/cold pack that comes with it. The pack is made very cheaply and it exploded and leaked scalding hot goo the first time I heated it so I can’t speak to that, but I love the design and I may get make a rice bag of similar size. (The package recommends twice the time I heated it at, so it was not user error – be careful if you use this and I do not recommend that you let children use the hot pack.)

The pillow has a nice lumbar support that especially fits my tall husband very well. (At a foot shorter than him, it’s still great for me, but it’s rare for things to fit him well). The only thing I’d love to see added is some arm supports to make holding my book up a little easier on the arms at that angle, but those might be tricky to make ‘one size fits all.’

What Are The Odds?

whataretheoddsMonkey Monkey Music, lead by NYC based musician & educator Meredith LeVande, recently released its second children’s CD, What Are The Odds?. It’s a super fun collection of songs for the 2-7 set that the littles in your life are sure to love. Merideth’s voice & style are totally built for the young child to love, and the children who live in my home are no exception. Neither are their friends, actually. A living room full of kids grooving to “Air Guitar” is enough to make any mama’s heart swell, and now that they know that their air guitars are always with them they pull them out at the most hilarious of times!

Yet another great addition to our regular musical rotation!

The Intellectual Ballerina

The Intellectual BallerinaA few little girls were granted the chance to review the beautiful new hardcover book from Prima Princessa, Prima Princessa’s Ballet for Beginners: Featuring the School of American Ballet [Hardcover]. Here’s what they had to say:

Kamryn (7) says: “I really like this book. It is easy to understand because there are really nice pictures, and I can read lots of the words too. I like to copy the pictures in front of the mirror in my bedroom. I like the hard cover too, so my sister probably won’t wreck it.”

Emelia (3) says, with the help of her mom: “I love my ballet class and I love everything pink. This book is great for any girl who loves ballet, from toddlers right on up to pre-teens. It’s an easy read for mom, too, so I can help her learn more which makes her class easier for her.”

Ashley (10) says: “Even though I’m kind of over pink, I still love ballet and this book is a great review for anyone who’s taken a few years of classes already. It has some definitions in it that I didn’t know before so that was neat. I think every beginning dancer should get a book like this before they start ballet!

Maren (4) says: “I love love love my new ballet book! I have both of the Prima Princessa DVD’s and have loved them forever, so I was really excited to get this book. The pictures are really nice and easy to copy, even if you can’t read the text without help.”

3D Movies, Pint-Sized

3D glasses for kidsThree dimensional movies are way cool, but the glasses that the theatres hand out are, um, questionable. RealD, a leading global licensor of stereoscopic (three-dimensional), or 3D, technologies, sent my children some ReadD kid-size 3D glasses of their very own with which to watch Toy Story 3.

They’re designed to fit kids 8 & under, and all theatres showing the 3D version of Toy Story 3 have received shipments of these little guys so be sure to ask for them. Bonus: they’re new so you don’t have to worry about the questionable cleaning methods of the recycled ones! (Tip: keep them and clean them yourself for re-use.) They’re made to the same high quality standards as the adult RealD 3D glasses for a bright & immersive 3D experience.

Get a Grip, Kid

Scoop food. Lift food. Dump 90% of food on lap. Lick spoon. Repeat.

If you’ve watched a toddler learn to feed themselves with utensils, you know it’s almost laughably ridiculous. Laughable if you aren’t the one that has to remove the stains from their clothing.

Thanks to a cool new toddler eating utensil, Mount St. Laundry just got a little bit less difficult to conquer. Little Grips for Little Hands were designed with your toddler in mind.

It has a no–choke safety handle that fits easily in the palm of your child’s hands and allows them to use their arms and wrists for better control. Other utensils require finer finger controls that are still undeveloped, creating a frustrating experience for your child. And you. The ergonomic design that takes advantage of a toddler’s stronger grasping and overall hand–movement skills, while still allowing them to learn proper feeding motions.

Kid feels better. Laundry gets easier. It’s a win-win!

Little Grips sell for $11 at the Little Grips for Little Hands website.

Invaluable Resource: The Green Guide for Families

green-guide-for-familiesI love to read, and always have at least 3 books on the go. Something fiction, something non-fiction, and something parenting. I also always have a stack of at least 30 (and sadly, I’m not exaggerating) books in my “waiting their turn” pile. The Green Guide for Families: The Complete Reference for Eco-Friendly Parents from National Geographic Books sat in that pile for a long time because it just kept getting buried. The poor thing. There were just so many series that came up in the meantime that I just had to finish. (Millennium trilogy, anyone? Begin with ‘The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo’ and see if you get any parenting books read before you finish all three!)

Now that I’ve finally read it cover to cover, I’m recommending it to everyone I know with a family. It’s extremely well organized and is filled with practical advice and great ideas. It addresses all of the key environmental issues faced by parents of young children today, and takes a straightforward approach to things like lead-painted toys; vaccinations, antibiotics, vitamins, plastics, managing food allergies, avoiding fat and sugar filled snacks and SO much more. It’s just an awesome book that is sure to become dog eared as you reference it for years to come.

The author, trained scientist, seasoned writer, and mother of two small children Catherine Zandonella combines both knowledge and experience as she helps parents guide their children through a society that doesn’t always make green lifestyle choices easy and offers advice on raising children to “think green” from the start.

POM Wonderful

pom wonderfulYou know pomegranates are a super food right? But if you probably also know what a pain in the butt they are to eat and to wash out of your family’s clothing after they’ve been squirted and wiped all over everything.

Solution? POM Wonderful.

Six different varieties of juice, teas, coffee, pills, bars…if it’s pomegranate, it’s there.

We’ve tried all of their juices now, thanks to some coupons they sent us to pick up free samples at our local grocer. I prefer the straight POM, but for those who like it cut there’s blueberry, kiwi, nectarine, cherry & mango as well.

Check it out – get your superfood & get hydrated too!


This post is sponsored by Mom Central Canada, but aside from the idea it’s 100% me.

SMARTloveoflearning.com is a community of people who share a passion for learning. From the teachers who make lessons come alive to the students who are eager to learn more and every parent, friend, aunt, and neighbor in between, there are many who share SMART® Technologies love of learning. After all, every good idea in the world exists only because somewhere along the line, someone cared enough to teach and someone was engaged enough to learn.

I’m a teacher. I’m a mom first and foremost, but I am and will always be a teacher. Before I had a B.Ed I was a teacher. It’s just the way I was made. Some people just are.

I remember very little about my “favourite teacher.” I place those words in quotes because I’ve had many great (and rather poor) teachers but she’s the one I really remember. She was my kindergarten teacher, now retired and going by a different name after a divorce, and it was her influence that inspired me to teach at just five years old.

I could read when I started kindergarten, and she did what not many would or could do. She put me into a grade one classroom for reading and math, and worked with the grade one teacher to have me put into grade two after kindergarten. That just doesn’t happen around here anymore, and it was the perfect arrangement for me. I remember her a a kind & gentle woman who really took the time to get to know me as a person, and as a learner. I remember singing with her on the carpet – The Farmer in the Dell, specifically. I remember my special cubbyhole. Everyone had one, but I sure thought mine was the best one. I remember bringing her homemade baked treats and watching them sit on her desk until Friday – the one day she allowed herself to eat junk food. I remember details like I don’t remember about any other year of school (and there were 20 including preschool and university, so that’s saying something) and when I think of her, I smile.

It wasn’t the curriculum I learned – though I’m sure she did a great job of that even if I don’t remember. It was how she made me feel that I could be anything I wanted to be. What I wanted to be was just like her. The ultimate compliment for a teacher.

That was decades before SMART Boards became commonplace in all public school classrooms. I can’t live without mine and use it all day long. I can just imagine what we could have done as students if we’d had them. It would have been magical! (video link) SMART Love of Learning has a Facebook group you can check out. Join and you can enter to WIN a SMART Board interactive whiteboard for your child’s school or a school of your choice! Simply click on the ‘Win’ tab to enter. If you’re a parent or teacher interested in raising money for a SMART Board interactive whiteboard for a school in your area, click on the ‘Toolkit’ tab.

Welcome them to Motherhood with Books!

lbbWhat better way to encourage literacy amongst the population than welcoming babies into the world and women into motherhood with books.

THE LITTLE BIG BOOK FOR MOMS is a magic wand for new mothers. It instantly provides in one silver gilt-edge book a treasury of fairy tales, nursery rhymes, songs, games, and activities for new moms to do and read with their children. I recalls when my oldest child was a baby asking readers of my personal blog what I could sing to him other than the alphabet. I could have really used this book! I now keep one on a table close to where we read bedtime stories every night and it’s an awesome resource – the perfect book for every mom who doesn’t want her little ones to miss out on the classic tale of Princess and the Pea, or wants to be reminded of the words to Rub-a-Dub-Dub, play I’m a Little Teapot and Itsy, Bitsy Spider, learn how to create shadow puppets and who wants to make recipes that are especially yummy like Frozen Chocolate Bananas. In other words, this is a book for moms who want to be special moms and who want to bring memorable activities to their little ones. And, when everyone has finally gone to sleep at night, there are essays just for Mom by Anne Lamott, Susan Cheever, and Amy Herrick.

THE ULTIMATE ORGANIZER FOR MOMS is a one-stop, indispensable resource to encourage communication between parent and child. It goes from pregnancy through year five, and is a perfect gift for every new mom and mother-to-be. It will make her life easier with great organizational tools & places to record things like her child’s medical records, birthday parties, playmates, teachers, favorite toys, baby sitters, and those all-so-important “firsts” but it will also give her bragging rights to say “Yes! I’ve kept a baby book for my child.” The Ultimate Organizer for Moms comes with a front and a back pocket and is held snugly together by an elastic band.

What a charming gift the combination of these books would make for an expectant or new mother!

Play and Learn Toys ~ The Way It Should Be

play-and-learn-toysAt times in the Canadian prairies it’s tough to find those great natural & open ended toys that many of us believe in(toys that allow children to play…and learn…without getting overstimulated or ingesting nasty chemicals)without paying insane shipping charges and customs fees. We recently discovered a northern Albertan company, Play and Learn Toys, that solves that problem for parents all over Canada. Owner Narissa Singh, a UNB Business graduate, has lived in northern Alberta for nearly ten years and struggled to find Canadian sources for quality toys for her own children. She has chosen to offer a super array of products from some great manufacturers known for their quality & safety, and runs her business out of her home since her tiny town doesn’t have retail space for a store.

Play & Learn Toys carries many products that I’ve seen on European sites and been curious about, so I was thrilled to see that they’re available in Canada now – and being from a mom-run business makes it even better!

My children are absolutely loving their new Stepped Pyramid ($54.99) from Grimms. It consists of a square wooden base filled with blocks in a variety of colours, sizes and versatile shapes. With an open ended toy like this, the possibilities for learning are endless. We now use them daily for imaginative building play and they’ve been castles, rocketships, dragons, post offices, houses and so much more. That’s the thing with great toys – they don’t do the imagining or noisemaking for you, so they can be anything at any time. Grimms’ products are made in Germany of wood and non-toxic colourings.

Another super product the Play & Learn Toys carries is Contina by Bamboo($29.99). This is not just another sets of blocks. Contina includes a rainbow of colors, black and natural finishes on 100 bamboo sticks which are small and lightweight for children 3 years and up. Combine colors, create a rainbow, stack lengthwise like dominos or pile them high for tons of creative fun. The possibilities are endless with Contina. It’s no wonder that Contina won the Best Toy award from Child’s Magazine.

Join Play & Learn Toys on Facebook.

Oh, Those Little Chic Heads!

chic-peek-hatJust in time for back to school, the 30+ degree weather has finally hit. It’s time to put away the rain hats and pull out the oh-so-cute summer bonnet from Alberta based Chic Peek.

Echo Wells, a Medicine Hat mama, designer & entrepreneur, designed these hats with both function and fashion in mind. They cover the child’s entire head and many have a large extended bonnet-style peak that provides shade for their delicate face. The sample bonnet we received (pictured) makes my daughter look like a little pioneer girl! (We’ll be donating it, as we do with 90% of our samples, to a deserving child at our local shelter or another charity.)

There are currently twenty-four styles available and they vary in pattern and style. There are some awesome boy patterns, which are often hard to find, and some decidedly non-pioneer styles for the girls too.They’re sized from newborn to four years, and retail for $28.99.

Chic Peek makes functional, fashionable.

It’s a simple wish with a simple solution. Trust women to solve it.

simplewishesThough I’ve been breastfeeding for three and a half years, I’ve never been much of a pumper. Mostly because neither of my kids has ever agreed to take a bottle, and a little because it sounds like work. I have huge admiration for pumping moms who can’t breastfeed for one reason or another but still give their child the gift of breastmilk. Now that’s dedication.

New-ish mama Jennifer tested out a new product for pumping moms for us:

Simple Wishes, a company run by four sisters, has recently introduced theSimple Wishes Hands Free Pumping Bustier. While at first glance it’s kind of silly looking, it’s actually an affordable and quality alternative to (1) sitting in a chair and holding two cones on your boobs or (2) the highly unflattering and fidgety products of similar function that have been on the market for the past few years.

The design of the Simple Wishes Hands Free Pumping Bustier is quite innovative, with adjustable straps and the option to be worn many different ways to ensure a flattering fit no matter how full a woman’s breasts are at any given time. The two front zippers allow you to move the breast shields closer together or further apart by 2 inches, and the velcro back panel allows you to adjust the ribcage band size by a full 10 inches, creating a perfect fit just for you. It’s designed with elastic reinforcement at the top for a secure & slip-free fit, and it comes with two straps which can be worn in halter, tank or racerback style. The Bustier can be worn on it’s own or slipped over your nursing bra with the flaps pulled down. When you’re done pumping, you can just pop some nursing pads in and wear the Bustier all day long. It’s machine washable too! – by Jennifer

More From No Starch – Helping Regular People Do Amazing Things With Technology

art_of_rawNo Starch is one of our favourite publishing companies – I think of them as publishers for geeks. (And that’s totally a compliment. I married one.)

Many of their books aren’t of the parenting variety and don’t really “fit” here, but are applicable to enough of our readers that we like to share them anyway. Two titles that we’d love to share with you today apply to anyone who shoots with a D-SLR camera and wants to learn to shoot in RAW, and for anyone who becomes an “accidental administrator” of a network, whether at home or at work.

The Art of RAW Conversion: How to Produce Art-Quality Photos with Adobe Photoshop CS2 and Leading RAW Converters by Uwe Steinmueller and Jürgen Gulbins is a practical and beautifully illustrated guide that explains the advantages of working with RAW files (the digital equivalent of film negatives) and then how to use RAW converters to create the best digital image from each shot. It covers all of today’s most popular and innovative RAW converters, such as Photoshop Camera RAW, RawShooter, Lightroom, and Aperture) and how to get the best results from each one. As an amateur photographer (aren’t we all?) who shoots in RAW aboult half the time, I am really enjoying this book. Rather than reading it cover to cover, I leave it by my computer and each time I work on a session I’ve shot in RAW I use it to gather new ideas and streamline my workflow. With D-SLR cameras being affordable for the average parent now, almost everyone has the ability to shoot in RAW but almost nobody knows what to do with the files once they’ve been created. Thanks to this great & easy to follow book, anyone who wants to work with RAW now can do so without too much effort.

networks_covNetwork Know-How: An Essential Guide for the Accidental Admin by John Ross is just awesome for parents whose family members have two or more computers, because it will show you step by step how to connect them together and to the internet. No matter which OS you use (Windows, Mac or Linux), you’ll learn how to implement network addressing, configure adapters, hubs, switches, and your router, share music, photos, and documents, automate household appliances and stream digital audio and video to your home entertainment center and troubleshoot network slowdowns and failures. Sound like Greek? It did to me too, until I read John’s book. If I can do it, so can you!

Got Milk? The Very Best Lact-educational Experience on DVD.

simply-breastfeedingContrary to what I heard & read before my first child was born, breastfeeding isn’t always easy. Though I’ve exclusively nursed two children for a looooong time and it certainly got easy and wonderful and even blissful, it didn’t start out that way. Either time.

My memories of learning to nurse my first consist of requiring a nurse, my mom, my husband, a stool and a huge pillow in order to get him properly latched, and heaven forbid the pillow slip or the footstool not be inexactly the right position. The creams, the pain – OhGoodLordInHeaven the pain – it was all normal (for me) but it’s a good thing I was so committed to my children never having formula or I surely would have given up. Once the first 6-8 weeks passed and I was able to nurse him pain-free anywhere & anytime, it was just as amazing as I originally thought it would be from the beginning. Had I had the Simply Breastfeeding DVD with Shari Criso of My Baby Experts prior to giving birth, I would have been much more prepared and well educated.

The “breastfeeding educational program” is incredibly thorough. It runs 2 hours and comes on 2 discs. Part one addresses the benefits of breastfeeding for both you and your baby, and helps you establish a strong personal reason WHY you want to breastfeed, and part two teaches you exactly HOW to breastfeed. It’s organized into helpful chapters so it’s easy to skip to the topic you want or watch it straight through in one sitting.

Some of what you’ll learn from Simply Breastfeeding, as stated on Shari’s website:

* Amazing Benefits For Both You & Your Baby – that You Might Not Have Heard Before
* Exactly How to Hold Your Baby – with real Mom & Baby demonstrations
* How to Prevent the Unneccessary Nipple Pain You Hear About in Other Mom’s Horror Stories
* Exactly How Much Milk Your Baby Needs Each Day During the First Few Weeks, As Well As Signs and Clues for You to Follow to Make Sure Your Baby is Getting Enough Milk
* How and When to Give Your Baby a Bottle
* How to Avoid the Biggest Mistake that Most Parents Make in the Hospital….

Whether you have a lactation consultant available to you or not, and whether you take a breastfeeding class or not (and no, the half hour devoted to it in prenatal class doesn’t count), this DVD will be invaluable to you in your quest to breatfeed your child. I’ve pretty much been nursing for three years straight, and even I learned some new things about those little newbies that make me feel like I’m in labour all over again.

The My Baby Experts blog has lots of great information for all parents – lactating or not.

Above and Beyond the 3 R’s

periwinkleWith Earth Day having just passed, there’s no better time than now to introduce you to the Etsy shop of Ruth Smith, a Winnipeg-based Canadian working mom of two, PeriwinkleDzyns. Ruth got tired of seeing all the obsolete electronic components go into the garbage at a local factory and was industrious enough to rescue them, combine them with her jewellery making skills and create her line of upcycled e-waste jewelery.

Her custom original geekery lanyard is the coolest geekiest. It’s 44″ total length (adjustable to your specification) and has a sterling plated chain around the back of the neck for comfort. It’s very sturdily made of new resistors (never in contact with solder or circuit boards) that have been rescued from going to the landfill. It comes equipped with a 0.75″ key ring for your keys, pass card or whatever you need to have within reach. She makes some cool jewelery that’s less function and more fashion as well. I love this one and this one.

Another cool find in Ruth’s shop are the vintage pinback 1.25″ buttons made by her daughter Kendra. She uses words from vintage dictionaries and thesauri to create these cute accessories which she sells for just $2 each, keeping the books out of the recycle bin, increasing her vocabulary and learning basic business skills all at the same time. What a great venture for an obviously smart little girl!

We love a find that allows you to have it all – shop online, support a mom, support a kid and protect the earth.

Babywearing 101 – Soft Structured Baby Carriers

When new parent discussions turn to baby carriers it is almost always the more modern pack-style baby carriers that first come to mind despite the great variety of baby carriers available today. There is no denying that pack-style baby carriers are one of the most popular options, and there are many reasons why parents opt to purchase a structured carrier.
Soft-structured baby carriers are essentially mei tai baby carriers with buckles. They consist of a main body and four straps that attach to the wearer and hold baby close. Rather than wrapping or tying the carrier to your body, quick-release buckles are used. Buckle carriers lack the versatility that wraps and mei tai’s offer as you are limited to strap and buckle placement when it comes to securing the carrier to your body, however the addition of buckles make for a very convenient option when it comes to a baby carrier.

As Many Unique Pack Carriers as There Are Babies

Unlike simple baby slings or wraparound baby carriers that have a very basic and similar construction between brand names, soft-structured baby carriers vary widely from one model to the next. There seems to be as many unique styles of structured carriers as there are babies, each with its own distinctive features. Differences between soft-structured baby carriers can be found in the number of carrying positions offered, whether or not a waist belt has been used for dispersing weight more ergonomically over the wearer, how a baby is suspended in the carrier, the angle at which buckles, belts and straps are placed as well as how much of your baby is supported by the body of the baby carrier itself, depending on the size of the panel.

This aspect of varying styles and features is important to keep in mind when selecting a buckle-style baby carrier. If one brand does not seem to be working well for you or your baby, you are experiencing discomfort, or a carrier lacks the versatility you are after in its design, there are many others to choose from that will fit and feel differently.

When selecting a soft-structured baby carrier one of the most important features to look for is a carrier that makes use of back-packing technology. Wider shoulder straps, padding in all the right places, and a supportive waist belt to help distribute baby’s weight to your hips and upper thighs for maximum comfort will aid in preventing strain on your neck, back and shoulders.

In-Arms Parenting – for Toddlers too!

Many parents are looking for a baby carrier to use with their older or heavier children. A soft-structured baby carrier is ideal for this. Because a structured baby carrier of the highest standards will adequately distribute a heavier child’s weight to the wearer’s hips and not put strain on the neck and shoulders, you can easily (and comfortably!) carry a child up to 40 or more pounds in many soft-pack carriers.

Advantages of Soft-Structured Baby Carriers:

• Easy for most parents to learn how to use as their concept is similar to that of a standard backpack.
• Ergonomic design in many carriers is more comfortable for wearers offering balanced weight distribution across both shoulders (choose brands carefully!).
One of the best carriers for older babies & toddlers (40+ lbs), most parents find they can carry a baby the longest in a soft-structured carrier.
• Many can be worn on the front and back, with some brands offering more flexibility than others in carrying positions.
• An excellent option for the active parent that hikes or walks often or for longer periods of babywearing.
• Some carriers are designed primarily for “hip” carrying, a natural position for many parents when carrying an older, heavier baby or toddler.
• Convenient to put on and off quickly and easily.
• No wrapping, knots to tie or dragging fabric.
• A one-size fits most baby carrier, soft-structured carriers can easily be shared by different users.
• Mainstream look and ease of use is highly appealing to dads.
• These carriers usually have the highest resale value.

Disadvantages of Soft-Structured Baby Carriers:

• Buckles and the adjustment of belt straps have a learning curve many parents are unprepared for. Carrier may be uncomfortable if adjusted incorrectly.
• Not usually recommended for newborns without head control (less than 4 months old), although some carriers may have additional accessories to accommodate infants.
• Not the easiest or most discrete for nursing an infant. Some may require additional accessories for nursing.
• Structured baby carriers don’t offer the same “hug” or hold some other carriers are well known for, so they are less than ideal for cuddling with an infant or young baby.
• Usually these are the most expensive baby carriers due to the great deal of extra hardware and workmanship involved in manufacturing.
• Buckles make this a bulkier baby carrier so it’s not as compact for travel and may not fit in a diaper bag.

Because of their unique design and the ability to transfer most of a child’s weight to the hips, structured carriers are among the most comfortable baby carriers with even the heaviest of children. Parents that plan to use their baby carriers for a long walks, hiking, back-carrying, or for extended babywearing with an older baby or child, may find a soft-structured baby carrier suits their needs best.

Soft-structured baby carriers are comfortable, relatively simple to use and stylish with mainstream appeal. If you’re looking for a way to get started with babywearing but traditional baby carriers make you nervous, using a soft-structured baby carrier would be a great choice. With their longevity and easy back-carrying options, pack-style baby carries offer a value in a baby carrier that is hard to match. Pair this style of baby carrier with a popular infant option such as a baby sling or wraparound and you’ll have a perfect baby carrying combination from birth to toddler and beyond.

A Pink Whale and a Very Tall Tree

apinkwhaleandaverytalltreeMy daughter is at the stage where her imagination is running wild. She is constantly coming up with stories, songs, games, and situations to reenact. Imagine her surprise when I introduced her to a CD with songs that are chock full of the same kind of wild imagery and ideas that she loves so dearly!

A Pink Whale and a Very Tall Tree is a CD that combines two of my daughter’s favorite things in the world, music and storytelling. Instead of irrelevant lyrics with no cohesive story, Shāna Barry has authored beautiful, weaving tales about an imaginary island inhabited by a family of fōfers (rhymes with gophers).

In case you were wondering (and how could you not?), a fōfer is a multi-colored furry creature that likes to ride bikes, explore the island, and climb trees.

Written and preformed by Shāna Barry, the musical stories of A Pink Whale and a Very Tall Tree inspired many conversations between my daughter and me. We sat at the computer, looking up pictures of the various animals that she mentioned, we talked about where those animals lived, and we learned what they liked to eat. And recently, she has incorporated those animals and concepts into her imaginary play!

While I would categorize this along the lines of folk music, it is by no means traditional. Reminiscent of acoustic Jewel, the soft guitar is all that is needed to provide a musical foundation for Barry to tell her creative stories. Barry’s hushed voice lends a peacefulness to the mix, while drawing in the attention of listeners. Listen to a sample track, A Pink Whale, here.

My daughter really enjoyed this CD. Her favorite track was Around the Island, which she now calls “The Animal Song.” And I must admit, the last track, The Peaceballs, is an incredibly relaxing instrumental number that I could easily use to melt tension on a high stress day! – by Christy

An Affordable Peek Into The World of Chic

chikpeekThere’s no doubt that we’re in the midst of a recession, and even if you’re one of the lucky ones who hasn’t lost any money or jobs you’re sure to be feeling the urge to be a little bit more careful with your spare cash. However, that doesn’t mean you’ve lost your desire to splurge for yourself and your babes on high quality and functional merchandise.

Medicine Hat, Alberta based ChicPeek, offers a great variety of incredibly high quality products at great prices. Owner & designer Echo Wells is a mom of three who has been creating beautiful items for over 15 years. Her experience is evident as soon as you see her products in person. They’re of a highly professional quality but sell for a handmade price.

The ChicPeek nursing covers(a steal at $24.99 without your discount – see below) is truly one of a kind. (Pictured in the two centre images at right.) Made of a gorgeous cashmere & silk pashmina (black or brown), it’s the required amount of discreet and modest, but unusually fashionable for a nursing cover. There are enough “Hey, guess what? I’m breastfeeding!” (a.k.a. ugly) nursing covers out there; it’s about time someone made one like this. Essentially just a long & wide scarf that’s strategically sewn with a head & arm hole, it covers all the way around, making it fully tug-proof. There’s an open side so one hand is always free to multi-task, and it’s the perfect weight to not swelter you or baby while you cuddle. If someone notices that you’re nursing, it’s likely either someone who has seen one of Echo’s great covers before or who spotted the gorgeous little toes peeking out from underneath. Even better is that when you’re done nursing or in between children, your nursing cover is a beautiful scarf that you can wear several ways without anyone having any idea that it once hid your boobs from strangers.

ChicPeek offers a large selection of Miklips hair bows & clips for newbies and right up to moms. From the most adorable corkers to gorgeous big bows, the Chic Peek clips are of top quality, stay in your hair and are absolutely gorgeous.

Most of all, though, I was thrilled to discover the ChicPeek buggie hugs shopping cart cover ($49.99 – two bottom images at right). I have looked everywhere – brick and morter as well as online – and ChicPeek is the first place I’ve found stylish looking covers with holes and belts for two children to share the front seat of a cart. (The standards is two holes and one belt, but just ask and Echo will put another belt in for you.) The design of her buggy hugs are brilliant. Aside from the extra wide leg holes to accommodate one leg or two, these are also the only covers I’ve seen come equipped with an attached caribiner to secure the cover to the cart. My kids ride in the different shades of red pattern, which is gorgeous and commented on everywhere we go – particularly Costco when both kids are germ free & buckled in the front seat of the cart. If you’re going to have a second child before your first turns four, I highly recommend you pick up a Chic Peek buggy hug and get a second belt put in. The longer you can contain them safely, the happier you’ll be. Trust me on that.

Cart-Stopper Gives Parents a Second Set of Hands

cartstopperHave you ever found yourself putting groceries in your car only to turn around and find the cart rolling away? It’s happened to me more times than I care to remember! I seem to find that one spot that has just the slightest incline and my cart won’t stay put. Oh and forget about the windy season…I lived in an area with really high winds that would blow the cart across the parking lot…it isn’t fun when you have your kid in the cart and you’re trying to chase it down when the wind is blowing! I got in the habit of hooking my foot around a wheel just to hold it in place.

Leave it to a mom to come up with a solution to the “run away cart” problem! Dyanne Houlihan put her son in a grocery cart and turned around to get her other son out of his car seat when someone yelled to her that her cart was rolling away. The cart hit a car that was waiting for a parking spot; thankfully her son was ok, but the cart could have flipped over or been hit by a car. That day she went home to find a solution and ended up developing the Cart-Stopper.

The Cart-Stopper is like having an extra pair of hands. It is very simple to use – it attaches easily with a suction to the side of your vehicle and the other end hooks through the cart. It’s small and light enough to store in your purse, diaper bag, or just keep in the trunk of your vehicle. At just under $10 it is definitely affordable and gives you that peace of mind. It’s nice to not worry about your cart rolling away with your child in it! -by Michelle

Kids Build Character with Life’s Building Blocks

lifesbuildingblocks-108x300One of the trends I’ve noticed in children over the years – in my classroom and elsewhere, and it’s not a good one, is that many of them are less than empathetic (insert your own pet peeve here – respectful of adults is another one I’ve noticed). I don’t know the reason. More parents working long hours? Parents trying to be friends instead of parents?

Whatever the reason, the things that are suffering are all character traits that we, as a human race, should be concerned about.

Life’s Building Blocks is a company founded by Vikash and Juli Sanyal, two SoCal parents. Their goal was to develop character building products that would be fun for kids and easy for parents to use and they’ve succeeded with their award-winning lineup of age appropriate products.

In addition to creating Zaki, my child’s favourite lovable, talking, plush “character chameleon,” they placed Zaki in the midst of the Spruce Street Six — a group of best friends in the third grade. In the stories, the friends who make up The Spruce Street Six encounter many of the common ethical challenges that confront children everywhere. The stories highlight both the strengths, weaknesses and virtues of each of the children making them seem very real to the children reading. Because of that, the ethical decisions made in the book are easily transferred to the decisions they are faced with in their daily lives.

Zaki himself is geared toward children aged 3-6. My three year old is just at the youngest appropriate age and he loves it, but I can see how he will grow into using it more often. Actually I can see us pulling out Zaki as a teaching tool when we need to readdress some of the basic character issues. He sings “Zaki’s song” and has six short stories and rhymes starring the Spruce Street Six programmed into his innards. The best part of “Storytelling Zaki”, in my opinion, are the fins on his back which change colors when the kids are in situations where they should stop (red), slow down and think (yellow), or go for it (green)! It was the first thing to get the attention of my son and definitely the part that kept it. It gave us the opportunity to chat about the situations in the stories and ensure that he actually understood the thought processes going on in the characters. Zaki sells for $30.

The Spruce Street Six Chapter Books, for ages 6-9, feature characters Honest Jake, Jessica the Brave, Calm Carlos, Lauren Never Quits, Jarrett the Just and Kind Shawnie who, with Zaki’s help and their own consciences, take readers on fun adventures that use real dilemmas & ethical problem solving skills teach character building while they enjoy a good book. They sell for $6 a piece.

The related Spruce Street Six Activity Books help reinforce the moral lessons learned in the books via puzzles, short stories, word searches and crack coded messages. They also sell for $6 each

I’m glad to see more products that do more than sing songs and blink, and character building is one of the most valuable goals for a toy that I’ve seen yet.

Kids Are Turning Green

imturninggreenIt was only a couple of months ago that we reviewed the first book from The Little Environmentalists. Their new book, I’m Turning Green, is perhaps even better than the last.

Retailing for just $7.95, the newly released I’m Turning Green is a great book to educate even the youngest of children about the ways even someone their size can make a positive impact on our beautiful planet. It gives kids tips to conserve energy, water, and natural resources. As a little girl turns green from head to toe, kids learn that the little things that they do around the home can actually help save the planet that they live on. Each page consists of a statement about something a child can do…“I help to recycle our glass, aluminum and paper. What do I see happening to me? All of a sudden I see my arms turning green!” and an additional ‘Did you know?’ fact that can start some great ongoing conversations around environmental protection at the child & family level. We’re thoroughly enjoying this book and I’m sure your family would too. Just be prepared to be nagged whenever you forget to be a good environmental steward.

Pediped – The Next Best Thing to Bare Feet

I’m the first to admit that I’m a shoe snob. Not for myself, as is evident by the worn out Birks in my closet, but for my kids. Pedipeds are an awesome combination of comfort, quality & style that passes even my perfectionist standards.

pedipedsPediped™ footwear is designed to be the “next best thing to bare feet.” They allow children’s feet to develop naturally and provide optimal support and protection during the developmental stages of babies’ feet – from initial crawl to the first steps and beyond. It’s made with premium, non-toxic, ECO grade leather and has foam insoles & padded heels for a comfortable fit & shock absorption. The distinctive styling – over 45 styles – is nothing short of exceptional. Whether you like Mary Janes, patent holiday shoes, traditional penny loafers, breezy sandals or ultra‐cool athletic shoes, Pedipeds is sure to have a style – or ten – that you’ll love and can’t resist.

Shipping is only $5 within the US and $10 to Canada.

Win it! You could win a pair of Pedipeds Originals of your choice. To enter, go take your pick and then leave a comment on this post with your fave style & size. Contest closes at noon mst on December 11, 2008.


Natural Creation – Just the Way it Should Be

teatreecleanmistNatural Creation is a Canadian company that hand-makes all natural products for women. It was founded by two doulas, Chelsea LaFrance and Emily Baxter. They specialize in products for pregnancy, labour & postpartum, as well as babies. In addition to making organic cotton and hemp ring slings, Natural Creation offers natural solutions for nausea, headaches,exhaustion, varicose veins, stretch marks, perineal healing, stress, teething pain, cleaning and more. All of their products are made in small batches to ensure quality and freshness and are vegan and free of synthetic perfumes, colours, and preservatives.

As someone who cleans almost exclusively with vinegar and baking soda but often yearns for something that smells a little more pleasant, I was thrilled to discover Tea Tree Clean – a mixture of tea tree and lemon essential oils in purified water. The mixture is naturally antibacterial, antiviral, and deodorizing. While it’s technically labeled “for diaper bags,” Tea Tree Clean mist is awesome as a hand sanitizer or for cleaning change pads or toys. It’s perfect for wiping down shopping carts & restaurant tables, doorknobs and almost anything that could use a little bit of a clean up. It smells great and wonderfully clean, and the lemon lightens the strong tea tree scent just perfectly. The 120 ml glass bottle sells for $15.95 – a great deal since I’ve been using it many times a day for a few weeks and have barely made a dent in it.

Karito Kids – KidsGive Teaches Kids to Give

351How do you teach your child to be kind, especially to someone who looks, acts or talks differently then they do? How do you teach them to be empathetic and generous with time, talent and money? It’s tough, I know. I for one, can use all the help I can get helping my children learn these important life lessons.

So I was thrilled to hear about KidsGive LLC, which was created to “help kids in need, and to embed in our children a sense of social responsibility from an early age. By teaching children about different countries and cultures, KidsGive LLC hope to encourage understanding and acceptance.”

The founders of KidsGive LLC believe:

Kids want to give; they just need to know where.
Kids want to help; they just need to know who.
Kids want to save the world; they just need to know how.
So KidsGive created Karito Kids™ – a brand new franchise of dolls and books that makes a difference. Determined to identify the ideal first product to align with the KidsGive mission, the founders created a product line that will help children connect with and better understand other children around the world.

The initial products are dolls and books, launching with five characters that represent girls around the world who come to life through beautifully made dolls, fun adventure books and a whole range of interchangeable clothing and accessories. The Karito Kids™ dolls all stand 21″ tall, with jointed limbs and a soft torso and highlight the unique beauty of their individual heritage. They are made to represent 11-year-old girls who characterize a modern way of life in each country and culture, providing today’s views of fashion, events, and values that shape each generation and raise global awareness along the way. Take a look:

Gia from Italy

Ling from China

Lulu from Kenya

Piper from Australia

Pita from Mexico

Zoe from the USA

Through the purchase of each Karito Kids product, three percent of the retail price helps another child—and you decide how! Every item comes with a special code allowing you to log on to karitokids.com, play great games, earn extra World Change™ and direct your gift to one of four causes: school, home, health or food (through Plan USA, a worldwide children’s charity). By entering the unique code (found on every product) on the company website, you and your children will be able to select the charitable cause to which the donation will be directed.

But what about these dolls? Well, let me tell you, they are stunning. We received Agapita Maria Reña Corta to review: “Pita is an 11-year old girl of privilege from Mexico City who bucks the rules of her social class after her beloved horse goes missing. Pita comes with her own passport and a 123-page, hardbound fiction book that includes eight scrapbook pages about her native Mexico!”

My 4 year old daughter latched right onto Pita and hasn’t let go since! And who can blame her – the doll is gorgeous with incredible details. All of the poseable dolls are hand-strung and constructed from vinyl with no phthalates added (meeting the more stringent EU standards of toy safety). And to properly model their fashions, the dolls are constructed with a 1/3-vinyl breastplate. To ensure the much-desired “cuddle” factor, 2/3 of the torso is soft 100% cotton and polyester fill. The hair is wigged and can be washed and styled. The dolls are safety tested for children 3 and older under both U.S. and Canadian standards.

$99.99 – available for purchase at Karito Kids. Worth every.single.penny.

– by CPA Mom

Road Trip Tunes: Funky Mama’s Moo Juice

Thank you all so much for your emails and comments. Losing my Dad sucks butt, but we’re doing okay and I hear it gets easier with time, though I’m sure we won’t miss him any less. He left us with years of memories to talk and laugh about, and we’re doing lots of that.

Thanks, also, for hanging in there while I was away and unable to write or edit posts. I’m back!

moojuiceWe took a little road trip recently and used the opportunity to listen to a bunch of new kid-tunes. Each day this week will bring a review and giveaway of one of the CD’s that both the kids and my husband and I enjoyed on the trip. If we didn’t enjoy it, we’ll spare you. You’re welcome.

The first CD we popped in was the newest release by Krista “Funky Mama” Eyler. The CD Moo Juice is full of rockin’ tunes that made us dance in our seats. And made our two year old son demand that we continue to dance in our seats until the CD was over, at which time he demanded “Again!”

My Dad Rocks was a shoo in for my husband’s favourite song, obviously, and I had a hard time picking a fave. Down Down Baby and Multi-Taskin’ Mama are definitely right up there.

Check out Krista performing Moo Juice on KCTV news last year. Isn’t she just an itty bitty thing with a hugely soulful voice?

The Chatterbox – The Box That Has Families Talking!

chatterbox-300x243The Chatterbox is a new game developed by Kim and David Maksymuik, Canadian parents who were stumped by a lack of resources available to parents to assist them when teaching their young twins valuable life skills. Their mission is to empower families to communicate, work together and master key life skills by providing them with tools and information that will help them learn in a quick, easy, fun and interesting way.

Each box comes with 140 cards covering topics in six life skills categories: family harmony, building character, developing people skills, goal planning, achievement skills and understanding money.

The Chatterbox provides age appropriate questions for children aged 3-6 years, 7-11 years and 12 years and up that are designed to stimulate conversation within the family. The Chatterbox also suggests fun games related to the subject matter addressed on each card and reinforcing tasks to be completed over the next week to facilitate retention and family fun and to ensure that families gain experience with real life skills in addition to the hypothetical ones. We’re sure looking forward to using The Chatterbox as a tool to facilitate our family dinner table conversations when our kids are older!

As of August 1/08, The Chatterbox is available online at Please Mum.com and, if you’re not an online shopper, just head to the local mall and pick yours up at any Please Mum store across Canada!

Is that a Bug in your hair? (If it’s not, it should be.)

bugalugI am pleased to announce that approximately a week and a half ago my daughter grew some hair.

Like anything, there are positives and negatives about that. The great thing is that she can wear her fabulously fantastic Bugalug barrettes in the tuft on top of her head, but the bad news is that she’s getting closer to telling me to “Just back off and get your own accessories, Mom!” I admit it – I’ve been wearing her clips from Bugalug for weeks now. But I’ve gotten a ton of compliments on them so they must not look too bad on a grown woman.

Bugalug clips are based in Calgary, Alberta, Canada and are designed with an innovative non-slip grip like nothing I’ve ever seen. It’s a silicone type grip – and it works! The clips stay in both my daughter’s hair and my own. The clips are also glue free and can withstand the washer and dryer and never get bumpy with glue like many do.

I was most impressed with the quality of Bugalug clips. Everyone’s next door neighbour makes clips these days, but Bugalug clips stand out from the rest as some of the finest I’ve ever seen. There are no raw ribbon edges visible and the ‘crafts-woman-ship’ is worth every penny of the…oh wait – they’re only $4!

She’s not yet old enough for headbands, though, so I don’t have to share those for a while. At their new longer length of 26″, they fit any head and are fully reversible and adjusted via plastic toggle. They’re available in tons of gorgeous ribbon selections.

Bugalug is so concerned with safety and quality that they’ve declined producing the baby clips that many of their customers are asking for (after lots of research) simply to reduce the chance of a child choking on a Bugalug clip. That’s commitment.

Getting Jazzy – Cool Socks for Cool Babes

jazzytoesParents know that the best shoes for baby are no shoes at all, but that doesn’t make it any easier to resist the gorgeous footwear options that abound from birth on up.

I’ve got some good news for parents who just can’t leave well enough alone. The brainchild of Winnie Liu,
Jazzy Toes™ are socks that replicate shoes. They’re available in ten styles for both boys and girls and are completely adorable – so much so that I’d recommend the variety pack, available in both boys and girls styles. Who needs shoes when there are socks that look like this?

Jazzy Toes socks have an elasticized ankle and non-skid grip on the bottom. They comes in a ready-to-mail gift box and are available in two sizes.

Win it! Winnie Liu is giving away a boxed set of Jazzy Toes to one lucky winner. To enter, leave a comment on this post before noon MST on May 12/08 stating which of all the boxed sets you’d choose, and in what size.

Additional entries are always available. See contest entry information and rules.

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Here’s how to get those extra entries:

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The Baby Lottery -Totally Not Chick Lit

Kate Trueblood understands the complication of balancing a career and family. She is the mother of two children, a writer, and an Associate Professor at Western Washington University.Trueblood’s most recent novel, The Baby Lottery, was chosen to appear as a Book Sense Pick in 2007, and she was selected for the Jack Straw Writer’s Series in the Northwest. This book deals with many of the issues facing women today, including pregnancy vs. abortion, career vs. family, and marriage vs. divorce. The story follows five old college friends as they struggle to come to terms with their lives.

Kate sees The Baby Lottery as a piece of literature that challenges social questions and does not fit into the category of chick lit, and we totally agree.

How would you feel if one of your oldest and closest friends chose to have a late term abortion? How would you react? Would you support her? Would you judge her choice? And, what about your own choices; are you content with the choices that you have made?

Kathryn Trueblood’s second novel, The Baby Lottery, is a piercing, insightful examination of the decisions women make about motherhood. Told through the voices of five different women, the story centers around one of the women’s choice to terminate her pregnancy. The bonds of friendship are tested and strained as each woman reacts to the abortion based upon her own circumstances and experiences. Each perspective is profoundly different, but each reaches the same conclusion; there are no easy answers.

Kathryn Trueblood is a truly gifted writer. She has crafted a story that grabs you and won’t let go; each page leaves you hungry for the next. Also, the language in The Baby Lottery is stunning. I found myself rereading passages just to savor the words. The characters are well developed, and I could relate to each of the women in some way. Entertaining and deeply provocative, The Baby Lottery definitely deserves a spot on your reading list. – By Kelli

Nan, the non-judgmental nurse; Jean, the bitter and opinionated ex-social worker; Virginia, the overworked and underappreciated lecturer; Tasi, the detached career-oriented professional; and Charlotte, the alcoholic enigma – this is their story. Their friendship has survived over the years through turbulent relationships, lost loves, life changes, career upheavals, motherhood and failed pregnancies etc. But when Charlotte announces her decision to have a late-term abortion, it acts like an earthquake, arousing varying reactions among her friends and shaking their friendship to the core.

With poetic language and realistic imagery, Author Kathryn Trueblood takes the readers on an unforgettable journey into a woman’s life – the choices she has to make, the consequences she has to endure, and most importantly, the life she can bring into this world or take out. The viewpoints and experiences of the friends provide an intelligent and varied perspective into the hot topic of abortion and other issues close to a woman’s heart. The characters all act and react in a way that feels so true to life. It’s easy to relate to them, finding a bit of Jean’s longing or Nan’s pragmatism in ourselves. Their pain is our pain, their lives are our lives. What I liked most and what felt very real to me was that the problems weren’t resolved in a bid to provide a happy ending, but rather the hope of a better future was conveyed.

Simple and elegant, this is a story that will live long in my memory for being one of the most engaging books on female relationships and motherhood. – By Rashmi

Play Food That Won’t Give Your Kids Lead Poisoning If They Chew On It. (Not that my kids would do that.)

lillybeanlunchStarted by crafty mom Hilary Seabolt in 2004 when her son asked what kind of food his new stuffed animals were supposed to eat, Lilly Bean Market creates what is by far the nicest and most solidly constructed felt play food I’ve seen to date. She works closely with a small group of Amish and a machine seamstress to ensure that her business remains solely based in the USA.

It’s so great to have an option for the ever popular kitchen play that doesn’t involve plastic, wood with potentially lead laden paint or spit soaked cardboard. It’s amazing – almost so nice that you’ll be tempted to not let your kids play with it because it looks so nice arranged among the toy dishes. But that would be silly. I had Granny’s Breakfast just this morning, and it’s delish. Or, as my son says, “Petend delisus!” (That’s “pretend delicious,” for you non-parental types.)

Lilly Bean Market play food is available individually or as meals. Having played with these myself…I mean, with the kids (ahem), I can tell you you’re going to want to go with at least a meal. Chances are, you’ll get your first order and end up going back for more. I know I will.

Keep an eye on the new items – there are sure to be more cool creations coming soon!

KidsSave by Kidnexions

kidssaveKidnexions has developed a children’s money management program called KidsSave. I love the idea of teaching kids to manage their money while they’re young and guiding them in a way that will encourage financial success when they’re older.

From the website:

KidsSave is a kids’ savings and money management software program designed for ages 6 and up. KidsSave helps you and your child keep track of money, encourages saving through Reward incentives, and helps your child set and track goals. With KidsSave, kids can make deposits and withdrawals, receive automated allowances and Rewards (interest and/or matching funds), count money, and view their statement history over time.

The KidsSave program handles all Account management automatically so once the Account(s) has been set up, the Banker (typically the parent) has little to do. Unique features allow the Banker to have access to all Accounts, define interest, allowance, and/or matching funds, enable savings locks and require confirmations of all transactions.

Check out what some opinionated parents had to say about the program.

I am always looking for great ways to help teach my kiddos about money management. It’s important to teach them how to set financial goals and track their progress. Kidnexions has a wonderful program called KidsSave, a money management software program for the 6 and up crowd.

The account was super easy to set up and my twins have had fun tracking their savings, which to be honest, hasn’t been much. They currently do not receive allowance here at home, but they do each receive $2 whenever they loose a tooth… Something that is happening quite frequently these days! Every little bit have they added to their account, watching their balance slowly increase. It will be a happy day when they reach their financial goals!

This program has some wonderful features. Your child sets up an account by depositing his current stash. He can then make additional deposits and withdrawals, as well as receive his allowance and rewards, count his money, and view his statements. Mom and Dad act as Banker and can set KidsSave to automatically deposit allowance and rewards, including interest, so it’s easy for us, too.

Just the other day, we went through the twins current savings bank. They took turns adding bills and coins in to their KidsSave account using the money counter to help sort and count their money. They had a blast and learned so much at the same time. What a great way to reinforce what they have learned in their math classes. I love it when it works out that way!

Another feature with which we had a lot of fun was in the “What if?” section where we have played around with the endless possibilities… What if they earned this much allowance? What if they made this much in interest? It’s been neat to see what would happen should things change and what their little minds can fathom!

The Kidnexions KidsSave program would be a great addition to any money management system you currently have set up. And if your kiddos don’t currently have a plan, this would be a great place to start!

By Christine

I’ve been trying out another software program for The Opinionated Parent. This one is called KidsSave from Kidnexions. It’s REALLY cool!

Designed for ages 6 and up, it helps you, and your child, keep track of THEIR money. You can also set up numerous accounts so the program is good for more than one child. There is no limit to the amount of accounts the banker (parent) can set up! It has an allowance feature that you can set to automatically show the amount that they receive each week/month.

While kids don’t actually deposit their real money, they do make deposits into the program and statements are given each month to keep track of what they’ve saved. Kids can also make withdrawals and set goals. Goals can be for saving enough to buy something, save a certain amount, or reach a certain account balance.

There is a neat money counter to help kids know exactly how much they are depositing. All they have to do is click on a picture of the bill or coin they have in hand and the money counter adds it for them. But don’t worry, there is an “undo” and “clear” feature in case they mess up!

There are 6 fun colors that kids can choose from to make their account more eye appealing. Positively Pink and Posh Purple being my girls’ favorites!

Also included is a “What If?” feature that allows your child to see what would happen to their account over a year if they were to get a raise in allowance, deposit “x” amount of money each month, withdraw money, or earn “x %” interest. I, personally, LOVE this feature. It really lets a child see what they are able to save.

We have thoroughly enjoyed using KidsSave. It is well worth the $29.95.

By Gina

The KidSave program by Kidnexions is a great tool for teaching youngsters how to manage their funds. My seven-year-old son really enjoyed using the program!! We found it very user friendly and fun to use.

By Andrea

You can download a free 35 day trial of this program from the Kidnexions home page to try before you buy.

Scootababy – Natural, Comfortable & Hands Free Carrying

scootababyIf you read TOP regularly (and why wouldn’t you?) you know we’re all dedicated child wearers. There’s no shortage of great carriers out there, and each one serves it purpose and different carriers work for different people.

For the last few days I’ve been wearing my new Scootababy and have fallen in love. So has my 2 year old son. When it arrived, my baby was sleeping and he, who hasn’t been worn in almost a year because he’s refused since he learned to walk and became Mr. Independent, insisted in hopping right in. For being a 35 pound kid, he was surprisingly easy to carry! And it’s a good thing because he now considers it his so I haven’t had a chance to try it with my little one yet. When I want to wear her, she’s in the Ergo because he’s staked his claim on the new one.

The Scootababy, designed by babywearing mama Audra Meng, has a very comfortable padded waist strap that places most of the child’s weight on your hips and an easily adjustable shoulder strap with a fleece insert on the section that’s actually on your shoulder so there aren’t any of the usual pressure points that you often feel with a one sided carrier. It was notably easy to get on. Simply fasten the waist belt, pick up your child in their natural position at your hip and flip the body of the carrier up behind them. The shoulder strap then pops over their head and yours, and you can easily adjust it to support your child and be comfortable for both of you. Nothing to it!

It’s made of sturdy black denim, with your choice of a fleece or cotton liner, matches any outfit (like that matters when you’re that comfortable) and is machine washable.

I especially like the comfortable side carry position. It feels very natural and yet takes no effort to carry even a large child. I have other carriers, such as the Ergo, which allow for a side carry position but it takes so much work to adjust the straps that I never bother. It’s front, back, or not at all. Sometimes, though, the back isn’t ideal and you need the space in front of your belly for other things (and, honestly, once they hit a certain weight they don’t feel great centered in the front). With the Scootababy, it’s just like picking up your child as you always would, but they’re infinitely lighter and your hands are free. I love it!