Friday, February 26

Where Do You Stand on the Vaccine Debate?

So, earlier this month, the study which sparked the controversial vaccines-causing-autism debate was retracted. Will this affect your practice with your children? Have you always been confident in immunizations, or do you believe, despite scientific evidence, that they could cause autism?

Our current family doctor is the same one who delivered me, let's say "a number" of years ago. This gives you a clue as to his age and experience, and as you would expect, his pro-vaccine stance. Whenever it comes time for my daughters to have any sort of shots, I always check with my good friend, also a family doctor with young children of her own, to see what she's doing with her own flesh and blood. Armed with a recent education, the latest research, and an attachment to her own three living subjects, it's a pretty good second opinion as far as I'm concerned, and therefore my girls are completely up-to-date on their immunizations, including this year's H1N1 vaccine.

I feel slightly relieved by the retraction of this study, hoping it will guide some parents and researchers to a more fruitful path in terms of identifying the cause of autism. Perhaps, though, I am just another insensitive skeptic who has no idea what it would feel like to take your child for a routine immunization, and soon after have him withdraw, regress, and change forever. What conclusion would I make in that situation?

What are your thoughts? Do you get your children vaccinated? Does the retraction of this study do anything to change your mind about the MMR vaccine/autism link?

For more information on the recently retracted findings, go to The Wall Street Journal or CNN Health.

Wednesday, February 24

Amazing Crafts Site: DTLK-Kids


As a teacher and a parent, I love DLTK-Kids website. It's run by a Canadian mom, and offers more arts and crafts ideas than you could ever possibly use.

You can easily search by month, theme or holiday, and samples of finished products are shown, along with appropriate age levels. My favourite feature would have to be "Search By Material": perfect if you're wondering exactly what you can do with all of those baby food jars piled in the closet, or the collection of egg cartons you found in the art room.

In addition to crafts, you can find printables (math worksheets, bingo cards, writing paper, chore charts, doorknob hangers) and other activities (even ABC/123 stuff for preschoolers).

Though many faiths and cultures are represented on the site, there is a great collection of Bible crafts, printables and ready-made lessons, perfect for religious or Sunday schools.

DLTK also offers terrific birthday party ideas, complete with themes, cakes, banners and games (wouldn't little Dora lovers enjoy playing "Guess What's In Backpack!")

Another "must-bookmark" site to add to your favourites...right after This Mom Loves!

Monday, February 22

See It: New Rentals

Alternate Title: Guess What I Did All Weekend?

Here are three more DVDs to add to your rental list (please bear in mind that in general, I tend to disagree with movie critics, but I am judging films solely on their entertainment value).

The Stepfather (Dylan Walsh, Sela Ward): This one was better than I anticipated. I was annoyed when the trailers made it obvious that Walsh is a bad guy, but the movie makes that clear from the get-go. The suspense comes from waiting for his stepfamily to figure it out. Some sketchy plot details (I would have liked to see more about what made Walsh's character such a freak) and a few too many 'girlfriend-in-bikini-by-the-pool' shots for my liking, but otherwise a good watch. This is a remake of the 1987 original, and according to reviews, pales in comparison.

Friday, February 19

Are YOU a Hyper Parent?

Are you a "hyper parent"? Did you play classical music to your fetus? Have you competed for spots in prestigious preschool programs? Do you question your child's teacher over half marks on tests? Do birthday parties involve caterers and  lavish gifts? Have you already started writing your baby's university application?

If so, then perhaps you need to check out this documentary:  http://www.cbc.ca/documentaries/doczone/2010/hyperparents/index.html

Follow the link to a short article, accompanied by a 3-minute trailer and a complete 43-minute video: "Hyper Parents & Coddled Kids".

As an educator, I have certainly met some of these "hyper parents", but I can't say I agree with the article's statement: "Ask any teacher and they will tell you that the toughest aspect of their job is dealing with overbearing parents who fiercely intervene at the first sign of trouble." I have several pet peeves that would come in ahead of this one, and quite frankly, the practically non-existent parents concern me more than the overbearing ones.

Wednesday, February 17

Take The Challenge: Is Your Family Worth Five Minutes?

So, for us Catholics, Lent begins today, and we are encouraged to give up (or take on) something to help make us better people. Some stick to the old give-up-potato-chips standby (I mean, if Jesus ate nothing for 40 days, surely we can go without chips?) but now we are being encouraged to think a little more broadly about what we could perhaps start doing that would be more valuable (although let's be honest, no one will be hurt by the giving up of chips. Except maybe the Pringles company.)

I've been on a mission to find something meaningful to do this year...give up swearing again? Not really a big problem of mine, so might not be the most worthwhile option. Do volunteer work? When?

My problem was solved when I read Catherine Newman's great article on multitasking in the March issue of Ladies' Home Journal called "Life Is Good...Don't Miss It". Like many moms, I consider myself a multitasker, but the article posed some great questions about why we're devaluing our daily activities, and what exactly we're rushing ahead towards. The lightbulb went off, and my challenge for myself (and all of you) was born:

Tuesday, February 16

See It (Sometime): Valentine's Day

Although critics seem to disagree with me, I really enjoyed Valentine's Day - the movie. It was exactly what I expected: a fairly light romantic comedy which sticks pretty close to formula, and ends (spoiler alert!!) with almost everyone happily in love. Although predictable, there were a few twists here and there: one I saw coming a mile (or should I say a flight) away, but another which totally surprised me.

With over a dozen A-listers, you really can't go wrong if you just want to soak up the star power, but there are certainly no Oscar-worthy performances. The movie attempts to portray a broad range of demographics: from teens to seniors, first-daters to happily-marrieds, and different races, socioeconomic groups, and orientations, but it doesn't feel forced.

As with any rom com, there are no "gotta-see-it-on-the-big-screen" special effects, so unless you have a girls' night out in the near future, you can easily save it for a rental. It's definitely worth seeing though, and leaves you feeling hopeful about love.

Have you seen Valentine's Day? Please add your thoughts!

Good Deeds: Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep

A photographer from the GTA asked me to draw your attention to "Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep". NILMDTS is a charity which sends photographers out to families who have just had a baby who will never come home from the hospital, to create beautiful portraits that will hopefully help to aid in the healing process. To raise money for this cause, photographers across North America are taking pictures of families and entering them in a contest to find "North America's Cutest Family". There are some great prizes including the grand prize which is a car. Last year they raised over $165,000 and this year they are hoping to do much more. For those in the GTA interested in having your family photographed for the contest, check out Annya Miller Photography.

Sunday, February 14

Murder Mystery Party: Meet Al Kohol and Brandy Chaser

If you're looking for a way to jazz up your next party, check out the Murder Mysteries at Host-Party. Last night we attended "A St. Valentine's Day Murder Mystery", which took place at [my brother's place turned into] a 1929 Chicago speakeasy (note the gangster and flapper attire on "Al Kohol" and "Brandy Chaser"). We had a blast!

The site has a great selection, with games for all ages and group sizes. There are even children's games (which don't involve murder) with themes like pirates, wildlife, Ancient Egypt, love potions, knights and fairies. An original birthday party idea!

You customize all of your party information on the website, and then print invitations which provide your guests with login details so they can access additional clues about their characters (and costume ideas) before the party.

The games are between $20 and $30, and you can choose from various time periods, settings, and holiday themes. (Wouldn't "Murphy's Wake" or "Paddy O'Really is Dead" spice up your St. Patrick's Day bash?) One caveat: the games are no friend to the environment, as my brother had to print out 111 pages in total for last night's event! (You can pay extra to have it printed and shipped to you.)

The game is really what you make of it, but with the right group it can be a lot of fun, which it was last night. Thanks, Ed and Ash! It was worth paying for a babysitter and staying up late, which I don't often say!

Friday, February 12

Peanut Butter Pie: The First of Few Recipes

Just so that no one thinks I am completely useless in the kitchen, I want you to know that I can bake when I put my mind to it, and over the holidays this year I actually whipped up this yummy dessert twice, both times to rave reviews. (Joan, Amanda and Allison: you are obligated to leave comments to confirm this statement.)


Part 1: The Chocolate Crunch Crust

Melt 1/3 cup margarine and one bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips
Stir in 2 1/2 cups Rice Krispies
Press into bottom and up sides of greased 9" pie plate*
Chill 30 minutes.

Part 2: The Filling

1 8 oz package of cream cheese
1 can Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk
3/4 cup peanut butter
3 tbs lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup whipped cream
1-2 tbs choc syrup

Beat cream cheese until fluffy. Beat in Eagle Brand and peanut butter until smoth.
Stir in lemon juice and vanilla.
Fold in whipped cream.
Turn in to crust.
Drizzle syrup over top, swirl with spoon.
Chill four hours, refrigerate leftovers.

Enjoy!

* Because no post is complete without some self-deprecation: the first time I made this, I had no idea that there was actually an item of bakeware to use for pies. Instead, I reused a little aluminum pie plate from a storebought dessert, which was far too small, and left me with extra filling. What's a girl to do? Don't worry, I didn't let it go to waste.

Oh, and please note - I have had this printed on a recipe card since I was a child. If it comes from a source which I should be citing, please let me know!

Thursday, February 11

Icy Decorations

The daycare at my school did a really neat activity with their kids, so I repeated it with my daughters, and think it's worth sharing here. It's a fun and easy way to create outdoor winter decorations for your home.

1. Take empty containers (margarine, yogurt, etc.)*
2. Fill with water.
3. Add food colouring and mix until desired colour.
4. Place string in the mixture (tape to the side of the container if necessary; you want it to freeze inside the decoration)
5. Take the containers outside or place in your freezer until frozen.
6. Remove ice from containers, and hang outdoors.**

* I used a 6-pack muffin container from the supermarket. Of course usually I get up before dawn to make my own muffins, but just this one time I bought a package. No, I am not serious.
** If you live someplace where it's too warm to hang ice outside, I hate you.

P.S. The branches shown here are from the beautiful cherry tree my husband planted on the day of our first-born's baptism. Yes, it had to be planted that very day. It's not like we had anything else to do. Our second born? She did get a tree, but (surprise!) we didn't get around to planting it until a few weeks after her celebration. 
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Tuesday, February 9

Read It: Sarah Palin "Going Rogue" (really)

Now, if I were American, I'm pretty sure I would be a Democrat. At least that's what I would tell people, because right now it sounds so much cooler than the alternative. That said, I truly enjoyed reading "Going Rogue" by Sarah Palin. It was a learning experience, as I knew little about American politics, even less about the state of Alaska, and hardly anything about Palin's true story.

Throughout her autobiography, Palin shares valuable lessons about working families and about faith, as well as great quotations, including this one from Aristotle: "Critisism is something we can avoid by saying nothing, doing nothing, being nothing." Coincidentally (though Palin doesn't believe in coincidences) I read her book the weekend that I launched this blog to the public, and was second-guessing myself, and the words of wisdom hit home. Love her or hate her, Palin 'says', 'does', and 'is', and knows that some criticism may be the price she pays.

Saturday, February 6

Momtrepreneurs: Little Leggings By Lynn

I love momtrepreneurs (and in fact wrote an article on the subject, see sidebar) and I especially love the baby legwarmers from Little Leggings by Lynn. My youngest has been in them since she was a few months old, and my almost four-year-old still loves hers.

The best thing about Lynn's legwarmers is that they cost only $8, a fraction of the cost of brand-name pairs (and your little one certainly won't know the difference).  Lynn offers great customer service, and an excellent selection, which often includes holiday themes. This ups the cute-factor significantly --I'm a sucker for holiday-themed accessories!

Check it out; you won't be disappointed.

Thursday, February 4

True Confessions

Well, I can’t honestly say I love making confessions (although I am Catholic, so of course I see the spiritual value...) but for your entertainment pleasure I will return to this topic every once in a while.

Today’s shocker Part I: I pay someone to clean my house. It’s only every other week, just the heavy stuff, but it’s true, I am not able to maintain my home to my standards all by myself. Not so shocking? Here’s Part II: Every other Friday I insist on returning home before the rest of my family in order to replace all of the items that have been moved slightly out of place. There, I said it...

Tuesday, February 2

Junk Food in Schools: Whose Responsibility Is It?

I came across an interesting article by American Alex DiBranco, "Junkfood Unwelcome in Canadian Schools, Eh?" on change.org, and it got me thinking: at what point do we relinquish the responsibility of food choice to our children? I'm sure eliminating vending machines and removing the unhealthy foods from cafeteria menus will be a change for the better, but is out-of-sight-out-of-mouth the best way to teach the lesson we want our students to learn?

Monday, February 1

Getting Baby To Sleep Through the Night!

I thought this one would get your attention! Perhaps I am just the luckiest woman in the world, but I would like to think that my husband and I played some tiny role in our daughters’ sleep habits. Both slept through the night at an early age, and have been excellent nappers and sleepers ever since. My top 5 tips?

1. Be realistic: the first couple of months, let baby feed and sleep at will. Even I’m not that unreasonable. Do what you can to grab sleep in the daytime yourself, although I could never nap properly, and found it more refreshing to get something done rather than lay in bed and count down the minutes until baby was up again.


2. Swaddle! With our first, my husband mastered the art of the blanket-burrito, but with the second we invested in a Kiddopotamus “SwaddleMe” (pictured here; we used this exact same pink microfleece version) and it was one of the best baby purchases I ever made. Even in the summer heat we swaddled her up over her diaper and just kept the room cool. There is no doubt in my mind the swaddle bought us extra hours of sleep.