Wednesday, April 22

Tips For Success on Your Child's Field Trip (TV segment)

For those who are able, going on a class trip with your child can (and should) be a wonderful experience. You get to spend the day in a different setting with your little (or not so little) one, and you also get great insights about how he or she fits in with her peers and compares developmentally. And let's be honest - it's also a perfect chance to scope out future desirable playdates!

Last night on CHEX Daily I chatted with hosts Teresa Kaszuba and Mike Judson about the do's and don'ts of being a great field trip supervisor.

I'm at the 29:29 mark, and the video is also available here:

Of course, not all field trips go perfectly. One of my readers shared with me that she had a negative experience on an excursion because of a particularly difficult child assigned to her group. First of all, you should consider it a compliment if you're entrusted with a needier student, as the teacher must think you can handle it! However, there's a big difference between having to be extra vigilant with more activity from a child than you're used to, and actually feeling that anyone's safety (or even enjoyment of the day) is being jeopardized. In that case, you should definitely let the teacher know so a solution can be found.

Have fun, and never forget how much teachers value and appreciate any time parents can offer!

Friday, April 10

Barbie - "Be Super!"

I adored Barbie as a child, and my daughters certainly take after me. Maggie's Barbies are by far her favourite toys at the moment, and she and her sister love to play a game called "Barbie Ever After", where the Barbies join Frannie's beloved Ever After High dolls.

I was intrigued when I learned that a new superhero Barbie was on the market (along with a DVD, books, and website), and pleased that the Easter Bunny brought it for Maggie last weekend. The Barbie "Be Super" campaign is designed to celebrate girl empowerment, and I think it's great that there's an action figure with a cape and a mask marketed to girls.

As you can see, Maggie was thrilled with her surprise:

The Barbie Be Super website is also pretty neat, as they're calling on girls to use their "powers" (creativity, kindness, etc.) to do super acts and recognize the hero in everyone. They can check out a gallery highlighting how other girls around the world are being super, and also create their own comic with the first-ever Barbie Comic Maker game. Fans can download their official Super Squad Member certificate and handbook, filled with activities and tips on how to "Be Super" and participate in fun monthly Super Missions. Kids love a challenge!

I know that superheros and comics don't (or shouldn't) need to be "pink" to appeal to females, but from my experience as a teacher and mom of two girls, it sometimes can be an extra enticing factor.

I'm also impressed that there are Super Squad Leaders, real girls from across Canada (one is even from Peterborough!) who have made a difference in their communities and beyond (e.g., fundraising for charity, encouraging healthy eating, and working to help the environment). These are definitely the kind of role models I want my daughters to have.

Disclosure: A disclosure statement would go here, but the Easter Bunny brought the Barbie superhero doll to my house, so, you know.

Wednesday, April 8

When You Have a Concern About School (Video)

Of course I think teachers are pretty wonderful, but the time may come when you have a concern about something that has happened at your child's school, or in the classroom. What do you do?

In my latest CHEX Daily segment, I tackle this touchy subject with hosts Teresa Kaszuba and Mike Judson. Catch it here, at the 29:56 mark (or at this link:

This is one of my most personal segments yet, as I share some examples of parental concerns that I've been presented with - while maintaining confidentiality, of course!

Monday, April 6

My Canada AM Debut

It's 10 a.m. on Easter Monday, and I'm working away at my treadmill desk.

Oh yeah, and I've already been to Toronto, appeared on national television, and driven home again.

What a morning!

I was thrilled to be asked to join a parenting panel on Canada AM this morning to chat about babysitters, along with Maureen Dennis and Chris Boddy. (I do know a lot about this topic - we left our older daughter for the first time when she was three months old, and have been using sitters regularly for nine years now.)

After quickly saying yes, my next stop was a trip to the mall with my sister-in-law for a new dress and shoes, of course! (Quite a frugal shopping spree - the dress was on sale for $30 at Suzy Shier, the shoes for $35 at Payless.)

I set my alarm for 4:20 (of course I tossed and turned last night in anticipation, so I did not get nearly the eight hours that I usually insist on) and spent an hour getting ready at home. I left extra early, just in case, and arrived at the Scarborough studio (it's the CTV building you can see beside the 401) before 7 a.m.

The super-friendly guest coordinator Vicky (whom I met a few years ago when I went behind-the-scenes at the show) led me to the green room (where I grabbed a quick selfie) and then I was lucky enough to get a few minutes in a makeup chair. I must have done a decent job on my own, because the makeup artist only added a bit of eye shadow, some gloss over my fave Rimmel lip crayon and some powder, which took my skin a shade darker. (I'm guessing "Irish-girl-inside-for-six-months" complexion doesn't translate well on screen.)

At 7:40, we got to chat with the wonderful host (and my broadcasting mentor) Marci Ien for the segment, which went by very quickly (as they always do).

Here's a link, in case you missed it:

We've been so lucky with babysitters, since first my husband and then I have taught at the school, and have had excellent experiences with all of the students we've chosen to care for our girls (plus I now have very responsible nieces old enough to take over).

While I am pretty easygoing about some things when we have a sitter (I really don't care how many desserts the girls have, if they remembered to brush their teeth, or even if they're wearing pajamas in bed) but I did have to be honest on air about my neat-freak tendencies (after all, at least one of my sitters was watching!)

Our babysitter usage has actually dwindled lately, since the girls are so independent and can go places with us easily, or keep themselves busy at home when necessary (we hired a sitter many times when we were actually at home, in order to do yard work, write report cards, etc.) My younger daughter actually reminded me the other day, in a very accusatory tone, "You SAID we could have a babysitter on the March Break and we NEVER DID!"

When it comes to paying sitters, I'm really hoping that someone else who lives in a rural area of Canada like me will chime in and tell me that the parents in my community are not the cheapest babysitter-payers in the whole country (see video for details)!

Every time I try something new like this, I am overwhelmed by support from family, friends and colleagues. A parent of one of my students even sent me a message that her daughter assessed my performance as a level 4+, which is high praise indeed - though I did remind her that I would need some descriptive feedback! Thank you to everyone who helps encourage my dreams - every tweet, text and email means a lot to me.

I had such a fantastic experience at Canada AM this morning (even if you couldn't see my shoes on-air) and I hope to be back again! (Though perhaps not until I've caught up on my sleep.)

Wednesday, April 1

Is It Wrong To Ask About Women About Work/Family Balance?

When I did my very first blog interview with Canada AM's Marci Ien five years ago, I asked the "work/life balance" question, to which she gave this brilliant reply:

"My family, my friends and my job make me happy, and I want all of it. I'm not going to be as hard on myself as I have been in the past; I don't believe in balance. Everyone always asks me about this, and I really don't. I'm not perfect, maybe I'll get two out of five things right one day, because we can't do it all. It's not fair. I'm allergic to balance!"

I don't think I asked it again, in the same way, after that. However, that doesn't mean I think it's a bad question.

A few months ago, Jennifer Garner gave a speech at the ELLE Women of the Year event where she shared that she and husband Ben Affleck had recently both spent a day doing press junkets. While she was asked about balancing work and family by every single reporter, all day long, Ben was not asked once. Instead, he was asked about the breasts of one of his costars.


The thing is, when I (and I believe the majority of female interviewers) ask this question, it is not a judgment, and not meant to be negative. For me, it's "You're like me, with kids and employment - do you have the same struggles? Can we bond over this? Do you have any tips that might help me? Can your perspective help me do better in some way?" I always ask about their work, but while my readers may not identify with the specific project we're discussing, they will almost always be able to connect to the "mom" side of the woman. Whether we're humble bloggers or A-list journalists, we want to please our readers and ask the questions they want answered. Which perhaps says something about those who posed the breasts question to Ben Affleck.- and what they think of their readers.

It's kind of like the go-to "Who are you wearing?" question asked of women ad nauseam throughout the awards season. Reporters assume viewers want to know. (Quite frankly, while I love checking out the fashion, I truly do not care "who" they are wearing, but I get that it's an art form and an industry, and the question must be asked.) 

Photo Getty Images

When I ask women how they juggle work and family...

What I don't mean: You shouldn't be trying to have both.

What I do mean: I'm trying to have both, and so are many of my readers.

What I don't mean: You're getting it wrong.

What I do mean: Are we getting it wrong?

What I don't mean: You should be worrying about this more than your partner.

What I do mean: We may be worrying about this more than our partners.

What I don't mean: You should feel guilty.

What I do mean: Do you feel guilty? Sometimes we do. Or we don't...but then think we're supposed to.

However, I know that the question can sometimes hurt. Cityline host Tracy Moore posted on social media a few months ago that an older woman (not a journalist) approached her at an after-hours event and lamented something to the effect of "It seems like you're always working - when do you ever see your children?" Ouch.

While Jennifer Garner asserted that she thinks it's time to change the conversation, she didn't say that we can't ask women about their families. Perhaps what would be the most refreshing change is if we also asked men about theirs.

P.S. I'm hoping to interview Jennifer in the future, and I promise not to ask that question. Or anything about any of her costars' breasts.

Saturday, March 28

Lauren Holly: The Momterview

With a huge range of film (Any Given Sunday, Dumb and Dumber) and television (Picket Fences, NCIS) roles to her credit, actress Lauren Holly has enjoyed an extremely successful and varied career to date.

A busy single mom who has made Toronto home with her three boys Azer (13, short for Alexander), Henry (12) and George (11), she currently stars on CTV's Motive, and has recently partnered with Le Chateau for a fashion collection appropriately named Lauren's Closet.

Lauren recently took the time to chat with me for This Mom Loves and, opening up about not only her work, but parenting in the age of social media and video games as well as aging in Hollywood.

While researching for our interview, the first website I came across labelled you as an American Canadian. Is that how you would identify yourself now?

Yeah, I think that's pretty good! I'm not a Canadian citizen but I'm a permanent resident and I've definitely made Canada my home. But I'm red, white and blue USA too!

{Note: when spelling Azer's name for me, Lauren pronounced the letter "zee", which I told her means she's definitely still more American than Canadian. Though many of my Canadian students do the same thing!}

Why did you choose Toronto for you and your sons?

To be honest, I was living in Los Angeles and I was on NCIS, and I did not want to raise the boys in L.A. I don't know that it's the best place for me to raise kids. I wanted them to have a different upbringing, but I wanted to keep working. I picked Toronto kind of by a fluke, because I grew up in upstate New York about two hours away, I have family there, and I thought okay, it's close to my family, and it's a city where lots happens. I didn't want it to be Manhattan because of things that had happened with 9/11, so I thought I'm just going to try it and see, and I ended up loving it.

Photo Max Abadian/Le Chateau

You've joined with Le Chateau for a gorgeous clothing collection called Lauren's Closet. Could you explain how that partnership came about?

Such a fluke and it was so great! I was cast in a movie called After the Ball, and Le Chateau was designing the wardrobe. Having not lived here for very long, I wasn't completely aware of Le Chateau, and when I went to my first fitting, I loved the way the clothes were fitting me. I became aware of the brand, and I got close to the owners of the company through the making of the movie, and I used to tease them and say "You should rename yourselves Lauren's Closet because I'm spending all my money!" It just sort of happened. I think it was because they loved the way I discovered them as an adult woman, and I think there were things about me that they felt were representative of their brand and what they wanted to get out there. It's been great. I'm really excited about my spring collection that's out now.

Photo Max Abadian/Le Chateau

I love when you join the ladies on THE SOCIAL {Lauren will be back co-hosting in April} because you're able to dish about the celebrity lifestyle without actually throwing anyone under the bus.

I'd never want to do that, it's bad karma!

For sure! What do you think our readers might be interested or surprised to learn about Hollywood and celebrity life? 

I think the truth is that Hollywood tends to be like high school. There are the cool kids and all those different classes and even the bullies. The Hollywood star system is a little like a high school!

Lauren surprises Traci, Cynthia, Lainey and Melissa with handbags from Lauren's Closet.

You're on the CTV show Motive {a crime drama where the victim and killer are revealed moments into each episode; she plays Medical Examiner Dr. Betty Rogers} which films in Vancouver. Do you have a certain schedule for flying in and out to be on set? 

From September to February my life is a little bit ridiculous! An episode takes either seven or eight business days to film. Of those eight business days, I typically am busy four of them. I have a travel day, two shooting days, and a travel day. Usually two nights I'm gone, sometimes three nights, and then I'm home for four. I wanted to disrupt my boys as little as possible, so I go back and forth. The deal with my boys is that during the season each of them comes with me once alone, and we do one trip where all three come with me at once. It works out pretty well, actually. I have a tremendous manny - yes, I have a male nanny for the boys, and he's awesome, and he stays at the house when I travel, and the boys seem to think it's kind of fun because I'm here, but then they get a couple of nights when it's "guy night". The only frustrating thing is that trying to schedule things is a joke because I never know which days I'm going, every episode it changes, so that's hard to do, but their teachers have been super understanding and get that if I happen to be away on a parent/teacher night they'll make alternate arrangements.

Photo Max Abadian/Le Chateau

You've done so much on the big screen and the small screen. At this point in your career, do you have a preference? 

People ask me that, and I really don't. There are so many pros and cons to the two of them. With the small screen, if you're on a show that's successful and it stays on, it really becomes like a second family. You work together so much and get so close to your cast and crew, it's almost like home. It becomes very easy. But then again to do a movie is really fun because you get to go and play a character for a short period of time, and maybe you don't love playing that character, but it's great for that small amount of time. They really both have positives and negatives. 

A fan on Twitter, Franzi, wants to know what character you've played that has influenced your life the most.

I have two of them, for two different reasons. One is that in Picket Fences I played a character named Max. That influenced my professional life the most because I realized fully the relationship between the writer and the actor. That was an amazing experience because David E. Kelley wrote for me. He saw things that I could do, and then he would write those things for me, what I did well. It was really an incredible experience for me as an actor, and really fun. 

Personally, I'd say probably when I did Dragon and played Linda Lee. That affected me spiritually. It was an emotional experience for me. My younger brother died suddenly right before we began filming, and so they postponed and waited for me to get it together, and when I was in Asia it was very healing. My co-star, Jason Scott Lee, was really a healing person. It's hard to explain, but he opened my eyes to all of that, and it was really something to be in Asia going through my grieving process. That affected me a lot, and getting close to the Lee family, and having the horrible tragedy with Brandon Lee. It was just a very emotional and enlightening experience, that movie.

Lauren and her boys; photo by Babak

I know this next question gets asked a lot, but I really am curious about your perspective on women and aging in Hollywood.

Listen, it's difficult. But it's differently difficult for me living in Canada because the Canadian mentality is different than the L.A. mentality. It's so competitive, your physical body, in Los Angeles, and I don't really feel the same pressures living here which I very much appreciate. It's funny because I'm working so much right now, more than I did five years ago, which is kind of interesting to me. I feel like there's this little space you go through where you're a little too young to play the full-on mother of adult children, or whatever, and you go through these phases. My biggest problem about aging is matching what's going on in my head with what's going on on the outside! That's really my struggle. Inside, I feel like I'm 20, and I see my reflection and think "What the hell? Who is that?" or I don't understand why I would be cast a certain way or opposite a certain person and then I see myself and I realize "Oh yeah, I guess that does work", so I don't know when that gets married. That's what the bigger struggle is.

Your boys are 13, 12 and 11. Do you think being a teen or tween is harder now than it used to be?

One hundred percent. The struggles I have! First of all you have things like social media. I'm thankful I have boys, I think it might be easier for boys than it is for girls as it's not as important to them, but even so my oldest one goes through phases where there are different bands he likes, or symbols, and he wants to post pictures on Instagram. I'm thinking it looks really harsh, and you can't do that because these things that you put out there aren't just for right now, when you're in eighth grade and think it's really fun for a month, but when you're 48 and you're up for a big promotion...

That's what's frightening. I was able to go through and make my own mistakes totally in private, in my small town with my 10 friends knowing, and it's completely different now. That's kind of hard for them to understand, that there's a bigger picture. Also, all of the things that being online opens up. I hate the fact that they're so much more knowledgeable about sex, about violence, all that stuff than I was at their age. They've all seen images and I think it's such a shame. I've tried to be as protective as possible, but at some point it's just too easy for them to have access, or to have a friend with access, and I hate that. When it comes to sex, I think it's the unknown that made it more special, so I worry about that a little bit. I feel like parents now, we're the first parents to go through this, and it's going to be interesting to see how it all plays out. It's going to be hard.

Then the next thing is the video games! It's the biggest fight in my house. It's an absolute constant thing. Number one, they all want to play games that are rated M, they all have violence, guns, whatever, I can't stand them. In my house, my boys claim that I'm the only mother in the world who doesn't allow these games. They get so addicted to them, and I see complete behaviour changes. I've tried to do the thing where during the school week, there's none, and on the weekends, you have this limited amount of time. Also, living in Canada, we go through a lot of days when it's not nice to play outside. Who wants to go play in grey, cold slush? There's nothing to do, so they want the games. Even their schoolwork now is done on various "clouds" electronically, and I think they're doing their homework but then they click over and they're on a game, and you can't tell unless you're sitting right next to them. I just know that a lot of moms are like me, and this is what we talk about. Unless you're sheltered and live on some island where all the kids have the exact same rules, nothing matters when they leave the house. It's very difficult.

{I shared with Lauren that I already worry about this with my girls, who are nine and seven, and she warned me that "It's just going to get worse and worse. Wait until they're 12 and 10!"  Gee, thanks! I guess that's what I get for going off script!}

Photo Max Abadian/Le Chateau

What do you think is your biggest strength as a mom?

I think that I'm good at talking to them. Conversation is big in my house, and I learn a lot about them and I feel like from the fact that I talk so much to them, they feel they can come to me about stuff. I'm hoping that continues. Even with my oldest, his friends are starting to call me, which has been very gratifying. They have my cell phone number, and they call me to check in, and say "What are you guys doing this weekend? Can I see Azer?" and I like that it's open and not unusual.

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

I love cuddling with my boys. I love cozy blankets, big couch, watching a movie. Sometimes it gets me through the week!

Thanks for the chat, Lauren! You can catch Lauren on CTV's Motive, follow her on Twitter, or check out her website to learn more.

Thursday, March 26

Motivate Your Child In School (a.k.a Since I Don't Have Enough Jobs...)

I'm excited to share that I was recently asked to become a blogger for Oxford Learning, where I'll be writing monthly education-related posts for parents.

My first article discusses ways that you can help, at home, to motivate your child academically. Some of them might surprise you!

You can find the full post here:

As always, I love to hear (read) your feedback!

Wednesday, March 25

Spring Cleaning - Teach Kids To Declutter! My CHEX Daily Segment

Last night on CHEX Daily, I chatted with hosts Teresa Kaszuba and Mike Judson about what kids can learn from spring cleaning (responsibility, organization, social justice/generosity, etc.) I share what chores my girls do, and how I am teaching them to declutter their own belongings. I even managed to work in a reference to The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, one of my favourite books ever - no matter what my book club says!

I'm at the 30:28 mark, and if you can't see the embedded video you can find it here:

A few things we didn't have time for:

-Kids can be motivated by the thought of making money. While donating is wonderful, some items can be set aside for a yard sale, and larger items can be sold on Kijiji under your supervision. (Also a great lesson about Internet safety!)

-The one-in-one-out rule can work from toddlers to teens. No new toy/game/pair of jeans until you can find (at least) one to donate.

-Once items are purged, bins and labels are an organizer's best friends. I like the idea of putting photos (e.g., of Lego, Barbies, cars) on the bins so pre-readers know where everything goes too!

Feel free to leave other suggestions or links to kids' spring cleaning posts below. I'm always on the hunt for new ideas!