Sunday, May 30

Emergency Kit Winner!

And the winner of the Red Cross Emergency Kit, courtesy of Public Safety Canada, is...

Carla C. of Toronto, ON! She was entrant number 36 out of 80, and her number was chosen by Random Number Generation at random.org.
FYI - If you're wondering why there were 88 comments, but only 80 entries, it's because some of those comments were mine. And my mom's. And I'm a super-ethical gal who didn't quite think it would be fair for either of us to win! There were also a few "Anonymouses" who left absolutely no identifying information and were therefore eliminated. (Some did email me with their details, and they were included.)

Thanks again to Public Safety Canada, and to all of those who entered. I'm glad you're all giving some thought to emergency preparedness and your families' safety plans...but I hope you never need them!

By the way, there's still time to enter to win a $25 gift certificate for Little Leggings N' More, and if you have a minute, sign up in the sidebar to receive This Mom Loves by email, to follow publicly through Google Friend Connect, or follow on Twitter @thismomloves. You'll never miss new info, and you'll always qualify for extra giveaway entries...so how can you lose? Watch for another terrific contest starting at the end of this week!

Saturday, May 29

Spring Closet Makeovers

Guess what I did on Victoria Day? Organized closets! Fun, eh?

It all started when we realized that we were running out of room in our kitchen. The food cupboards were packed to overflowing, and you had to be careful when opening a door that you weren't hit in the head with a falling bag of cookies or box of cereal. So I decided to repurpose some of our laundry room closet as a pantry.

Fortunately, we had an empty front hall closet which could be used for coat storage. Usually, we enter the house directly through the laundry room, so we've never needed to keep anything at the front door. Our guests are usually amazed when we offer to hang their jackets!

Anyway, this is what the front hall closet looked like before I started: (Is it just me, or is there something absolutely breathtaking about empty closet space? The cleanliness, the potential? No? Okay, just me then.)



I transferred over all of our coats, as well as the storage unit I use for scarves, mitts, hats, etc. There's still room for some pretty baskets on the shelf when I find I need more storage again.

This is what it looks like now: 



Now, here is the embarrassing laundry/mudroom closet before I began: (honestly, it is very hard for me to admit that I have had a space in my home that looks this disorganized...even though I always thought everything was in its place...)



Obviously once the coats and storage container were out, I had lots of room to work with. I also realized I was keeping some things handy "just in case" (e.g camcorder box), which could be relocated to basement storage. The skating bag was also hidden away until next winter, although the swimming bag remains. Bicycle helmets moved to the garage, to be closer to the bikes, of course. Next, I headed to Canadian Tire and picked up a couple of Black and Decker storage units which I assembled and stacked together to form a makeshift pantry. I then transferred canned and boxed goods out of the kitchen to their new home, leaving some breathing room in the kitchen cabinets. I'm thinking a couple of hooks would work perfectly on the remaining wall space within the closet, to hang swimming/skating bags, the girls backpacks, etc. Otherwise, we'll just save the room for each of us to keep our most-worn winter jacket handy, as it will be a pain always going to the front hall closet.



Come on, admit it: you can't possibily have enjoyed your holiday as much as I did! :-)

Tuesday, May 25

A Special Monthiversary - And A Giveaway For You!

Wow...it's hard to believe that I published my first post here at This Mom Loves four months ago -- although I didn't get the nerve up to actually give out the address until a couple of weeks later!

In honour of this monumental occasion, I wanted to direct your attention to some of the first posts which you may have missed! (Feel free to comment on them; older posts still do get viewed.)

About Me:




My Most-Commented-On Post (Giveaways Excluded)





My First Product Reviews (Before PR People Started Contacting Me):

Unique Artwork: Alphabet Photography

Momtrepreneurs: Little Leggings By Lynn

And speaking of Lynn, here's the giveaway: (come on, how many of you just scrolled through the rest of this post to see what you could win?) To celebrate my huge blogging milestone, Lynn has kindly offered a $25 gift certificate for her online store to be given away to one lucky winner! For that amount, you could buy three pairs of her functional and oh-so-very-stylish legwarmers! And guess what? That's not all she makes: $25 could also get you one of her adorable new pillowcase dresses (choose from a range of cute fabrics) that even come with coordinating non-slip hair clips!
Here's the deal:

The contest will be open to residents of Canada and the U.S., and will end at midnight on Wednesday, June 9th 2010. One winner will be determined by random number generation at that time.

To enter: You MUST leave a comment, simply letting me know you'd like to be entered. (Update: I had previously required entrants to link to Lynn's site and name their favourite product, but the site will soon be going under construction, so that requirement has been removed. You can continue to visit it for the next few days though!)

Be sure to provide me with enough contact info to find you (email, website) in case you win, or leave your first name only and send me an email at katewinn77 AT yahoo DOT ca with further info.

That's not all! For additional chances to win:

Leave a separate comment letting me know you are a This Mom Loves email subscriber. (You can't just say it, you really have to have an activitated subscription!)

AND/OR

Leave a comment letting me know that you follow This Mom Loves publicly through Google.

AND/OR

Leave a comment letting me know that you follow me on Twitter @thismomloves and tweet about this giveaway.

Good luck, and check back here after June 9th when I will announce the winner. (Of course I know you'll be back many times before that!)

Saturday, May 22

I'm A Feng Shui Failure

In  the staff room the other day, a couple of teachers were discussing Feng Shui, and on way back to class one of my colleagues suggested it would make a good post topic for my blog...so this is for you, J! (Although I'm not touching the whole 'hammer-under-the-bed-for-fertility' thing.)

I have to warn you that some of my points will be a little tongue-in-cheek. Although I certainly agree with several of the more practical principles, I'm not a huge Feng Shui believer. In terms of an "energy" in the home, I believe that the Holy Spirit surrounds us, but I'm pretty sure it doesn't discriminate based on cardinal directions or birth numbers. Now, to fully analyze my house, I would have to choose a particular type of Feng Shui and compare it to my floorplan, but for the purposes of this discussion I'm going to stick with the more general recommendations which you can apply to your own abode.

First off, a fundamental element of Feng Shui is that our homes should be clutter-free, and I am all over that one. Neatness and I go way back, and minimalism suits me...a little too much. Ready for another one of my true confessions? I have this thing about leaving some drawers and shelves empty...I consider it a sign of success if I'm not using every last storage option in my home (or classroom). So, check, I pass the 'clutter-free' criterion. (Mentally healthy? Maybe no checkmark for that one...)

Next: good air and lighting. We're in the country, and except in the winter when we shut the house up tight and crank the furnace, we get a lot of fresh air, and tons of natural light in the home. Another point for me.

Here's where my grade starts slipping: the importance of the positioning of objects within the home. Let's go room-by-room to assess my shortcomings.


Okay, fellow Moms, when you put blood, sweat and tears into the decorating of your baby's nursery, did you keep the principles of Feng Shui in mind?

The baby's room shouldn't share a wall with bathroom (whoops) or storage closet, and should not be over a storage area or a garage. It should have a window (an example of where Feng Shui = common sense), and bedding and products should be as natural as possible. Contrary to popular practice, primary colours are not the best choice; baby should be surrounded by pastel walls and a white ceiling. (Because, duh, if the ceiling is the same colour as the walls, the energy won't flow.) Our nursery has yellow walls...but they're a soft yellow. Half a point?

When decorating, you should steer clear of wild animals, and prints with sharp looking objects such as arrows, crosses, triangles or diamonds. Water motifs are also to be avoided. (We went with stripes.) Electronics are discouraged because of the subtle hum they give off, but when it comes to the crib mobile and CD player, I'm not worried about subtle; I'm actually aiming for noticeable and soothing.

Oh, another important tenet to keep in mind: hand-me downs should be accepted only from happy people -- so stay away from the Kijiji exersaucer unless you have a psychological assessment of the seller! Also, make sure not to keep anything your child has outgrown in his or her room, as it can stunt mental development. (Come on, seriously? I mean if you're forcing your eight year old to play with rattles while wearing a onesie there might be some damage done, but really.)

The head of baby's crib should be on an East or North wall for a boy, South or West for a girl...and here's the fascinating thing:  all this time I thought we had such great techniques for teaching our girls to sleep through the night from an early age, and instead I find out that the reason they sleep so well is because the head of the crib is on the North wall of the home...wrong for their gender, but perfect for deep sleep. West is also recommended, but early rising kiddies tend to have their heads on South or East walls.

Nothing should be stored under a child's bed, even if there is a storage compartment, as it may affect sleep. I don't have captain's beds for my girls for no reason, and there is a big Rubbermaid bin full of blankets under the crib. And how could my kids possibly sleep any better? I guess tonight I have to empty everything out and see. But wait! No sweeping or vaccuuming under the bed, for fear of disturbing the energy.

An interesting point I came across is that when baby is born, mom should stash away any unfinished products, in order to reduce stress. I actually did that, without even having any knowledge of Feng Shui. Our walk-in closet became the catchall for hospital paperwork, bills, baby gifts, and any other paraphernalia that piled up in the first couple of weeks before I had time to look at it. The whole out-of-sight, out-of-mind thing was actually helpful, rather than having a small pile of clutter in every room of the house.

As for other rooms, the master bedroom should be located far away from front door. Well, we have a bungalow, and although it's spacious, about a dozen steps would get you in to our room. I also learned that a
person sitting in bed must be able to see who is entering the room...I can't even visualize a room layout where that wouldn't be the case. And the foot of the bed should not face the door (check) or a mirror (which ours does.)

In the kitchen, Feng Shui proponents assert that someone using the stove should be able to see who is entering the room...I knew we went with open concept for a good reason! BUT the stove should not face the front door, which unfortunately ours does (it's on a peninsula). Don't worry though: I figure that you only get bad luck if you actually stand at the stove (i.e. cook), and I almost never do that!

Our regular-shaped (rectangular) living room is lucky. Our tables are wooden (wood and metal are good), yet angular (corners are bad)...but I have been thinking of replacing them. And finally, the dining room in the corner of the home, which is perfect, since of course we want to encourage the pooling of ch'i. Doesn't everyone?

So...are you already a Feng Shui master? Anyone out there who has applied the principles with great success and is now highly offended by how lightly I have treated the topic? Anyone worried about your luck now that you've read my blog? Anyway, gotta go rearrange my furniture. Or maybe just shop for new stuff.

Oh, P.S., I'm now on Twitter! Follow me @thismomloves!

Tuesday, May 18

Is Your Child Ready For Kindergarten? (Are You?)

Last week we attended Welcome To Kindergarten night at the school. Yes, our little Frannie is starting JK in 4 short months. Not only did we go to this function, but we actually argued over who was going to get to take Frannie, as siblings were discouraged from coming, and someone had to watch Maggie. Bear in mind that we are both teachers, (I'm even at the same school Frannie will attend), and we have a pretty good understanding of what goes on. However, we are clearly keener first-time parents who didn't want to miss it, so we ended up getting a sitter. I was glad we did though, as almost every child arrived with both parents, and everyone respected the "no siblings" recommendation.

Among the parents, there was a lot of discussion and many questions about kindergarten readiness. As a primary teacher, I am often asked by friends, family and my readers what kids need to know and be able to do before starting school, so I hope this post topic will be helpful to many. I also bugged Frannie's future teacher (who knows something about it, having taught the grade for 20 years) to get some insider information -- because let's be honest, we all want to know how our child compares.

1. PLAY. AND PLAY SOME MORE.

Before starting school, and even in kindergarten, play is preferable to flashcards and academic drills. A ton of learning can be done through exploration and  role-play, so you're a good mom if you let your kids play. A lot. Through play, kids also have a natural opportunity to learn about their environment (colours, shapes, nature, weather), so try answer their questions as much as possible as they explore. Play should be the basis of the development of the next four categories.

I know my girls play a lot, and learn while doing, both at daycare and at home. My weakness though is actually taking the time to engage with them. It always seems like there is something more pressing to do, but I am trying to make more time for fun with my kids. It's a pretty painfree investment in their development.

2. READING READINESS (NOT PROFICIENCY)

This comes as no shocker, I'm sure, but you should read to your children often. Research shows a direct correlation between kids' reading achievement and the number of books they have at home. Our principal mentioned at the Kindergarten night that a child needs to hear 3000 (yes, that says three thousand!) books before being ready to read him or herself. That said, your child does NOT need to be able to read before starting school. The teachers will look after the phonics instruction; your job is to help build readiness. It's great for kids to know what way to hold a book, that we read left to right, to be able to point out where the words are and where the pictures are, and to turn pages properly. Repetition is important, and there is a reason your child wants to hear the same story over and over (and over...) so indulge her, even when it's painful for you!

You can already start using orally many of the comprehension strategies we teach in school, such as questioning, predicting, and retelling. At the Kindergarten Night, one of our teachers was at the Reading Centre, and as she read a book (The Hungry Caterpillar) she encouraged the kids to make connections to their lives. At one point she asked the children what they would eat, if they could choose anything in the world, and my people-pleasing and fruit-boycotting daughter announced "apple slices"! Hmm. She's bright enough to know that she might get praised for that healthy answer...but also a bit of a liar!

You want to instill a love of reading in kids, and not make it any sort of chore or drag. If your child is ready, it's certainly valuable to work on letter recognition (there are many different games you can make or purchase to help with this - I love the Leapfrog Fridge Phonics and even cheap magnetic letters), and then letter-sound correlations, but don't rush. If your child can recognize and/or print his or her name before September arrives, that's a bonus. Games using rhymes will also help develop your child's literacy skills.

You can google all sorts of pre-reading activities on the net, but aim for the interactive and hands-on stuff, and try to stay away from workbooks and worksheets. I have to admit this one is hard for me even though I am well-versed in educational research, so in the interests of full disclosure I am hereby admitting that Frannie does use letter and number workbooks purchased from the dollar store. She has also learned to print her name, thanks completely to Aunt Rose and her fantastic daycare program.

Insider information: at our school, the majority of JK's entering in September can identify a quarter to half the alphabet, and very few know letter sounds.

3. NUMERACY:

Again, put the flashcards away. Number recognition from 1 to 9 is terrific, and a lot can be accomplished through counting games (discovering one-to-one correlation), measuring while baking, and looking for numbers in the environment (license plate games, on signs, etc.) Frannie has a Princess card game that she loves, where she matches the numeral cards from 1 - 10 with cards showing corresponding numbers of diamonds (they're princesses, after all!) You can also match up cards where the numbers are written in words, but she's nowhere ready for that yet. Knowledge of shapes also fits in under Mathematics.

Insider information: The majority of beginning students can identify numerals 1 to 5, and count to 10.

4. PHYSICAL SKILLS:

Here's what to work on before September:
-independent toileting
-opening and closing snack/lunch containers and packaging
-tying laces, zipping coats, doing buttons
-blowing nose
-gross motor skills such as skipping and hopping on one foot
-fine motor skills: use of pencil, crayons and scissors (working with play doh is fantastic for finger control and coordination, and helps prepare your child for writing)

On another physical note, you should ensure that your child has all necessary immunizations before starting school.

Insider information: Most students start school holding a pencil with a functional grip, and cutting with scissors properly, but not perfectly.

5. SELF-REGULATION

Many would argue that this is the most important aspect of preschool and the kindergarten program. Children at this age are learning to regulate their own behaviour, and therefore need practice with the following (again, remember that there are many games you can play at home to reinforce these skills, with a wealth of resources available on the internet):
-taking turns
-paying attention for short periods of time (e.g. for stories)
-using manners (kids love to role-play "don'ts", followed by well-praised "dos")
-sharing (socialization with other children is important for this one)
-following one and two step oral directions
-memory
-using oral language to converse with others
-cleaning up after self

Your child's future academic success will be determined in part by his enthusiasm towards school and learning, so get him off to a good start. Visit the school in advance, get as much information as you can from his teacher, and start him off with a routine right from the beginning. A good night's sleep and a full breakfast are always important, and kindergarten teachers recommend that if your child will be taking the bus, send her off that way right from Day 1. Personal drop-offs and pick-ups can be an occasional treat, but children do better without an emotional parent hovering at the classroom door. Teachers are well-practised in dealing with tearful little newcomers...it's the tearful big ones who pose more of a problem!

So, now that you've taken all that in, how do you feel? You're probably already doing most, if not all, of these things, and still wondering if your child is ready. By these standards, I know Frannie is all set, partly because she is a March baby, and a girl. She definitely requires some work on sharing and taking turns, though --- I think our little chatterbox is in for a rude awakening when she realizes that she won't be allowed to just talk when she wants to, and that she will have seventeen other four year olds vying for the teacher's attention! Let me be honest, though. I'm not aspiring for my child to just meet minimum standards, I want her to excel, (do any of you disagree?), so we will continue to work on letter and number recognition and printing her name throughout the summer as well.

We have to remember that kids develop at different levels. Although we are not "supposed to" compare, I note with interest of all of the differences between Frannie's and Maggie's developments, and how they compare to their peers as well, but the intellectual side of me knows it's okay that they don't necessarily achieve milestones at the same rate, especially at such a young age.

I sent this post to my colleague for her approval, and when she sent it back with the "thumbs up", she also made the following comment, which sums things up so beautifully that I will let her have the last word:

"As parents and educators, we always have to remind ourselves to let our children be children. There are so many pressures put on today's children, and they are little for such a very short period of time. I truly believe they will reach their potential in the early years with endless love, support, and kindness. The world is huge in their eyes, and it's sometimes the adults who have to be reminded how precious these years are, and to celebrate all their grand successes. I just believe in nurturing well-rounded children who have a great love and passion for life. I truly love watching children who believe everything is possible. It's so delightful to see."

So, now it's your turn. If your kids are already in school,  I'd love to hear your kindergarten stories! Did you feel your child was ready, unprepared, or overprepared? Do you have tips for making the experience less stressful for everyone? I'd also be interested to know what concerns you preschool parents have about the impending occasion, or if any other teachers can offer their perspectives. We're all in this together!

Saturday, May 15

Sweet Blog Award


Thanks so much to Tracy over at The Daily Mom Diaries for sharing this award with me!

I'm passing it on to Elizabeth at New Adventures of Motherhood, who's currently sharing with her readers the joys and challenges of being a new mom, and navigating daycare struggles while trying to launch a freelance writing career. Check her out!




Follow Me!

As a few of you have noticed, I have another new sidebar item: you can finally follow This Mom Loves!

I'm going to be totally honest: I did have this feature set up the first day I launched my blog, but the "No followers yet" notice was kind of a downer...so I waited a while to put it back on.

So, if following is your thing (I'm much more of a 'subscribe through email' girl) please, give it a click and follow away! Plus, future giveaways will offer extra entries to my readers who either follow or subscribe through email, so stay tuned for those.

Something to bear in mind:

Thursday, May 13

When You've Got Some Free Time...

Okay, the free time thing was a joke (you're here because you're a mom, right?), but today I'm sharing three sites that I like to visit just for fun. Obviously, if you only have a little bit of time you should stay right here, but if you happen to be on bedrest, or your boss is out today and you don't have to worry about the quick-minimize-move, here are some suggestions:


Lil' Sugar: This online magazine is a new Canadian startup, and there you'll find quick info bytes, fashions for you and the kids, contests (you still have time to get in on the free laundry service giveaway!), celebrity scoop, crafts and recipes. PLUS, right now they're featuring this amazing blogger named Kate Winn...


People Magazine's Celebrity Baby Blog: It's light and fluffy, and the go-to place if you just have to know what Suri's been wearing. (Suri and Shiloh were born the same Spring as Frannie, so I feel a real connection.) This site has all the news about expectant celebs and famous offspring, but there are also product reviews, parenting tips and giveaways. Consider it a guilty indulgence.



I'm An Organizing Junkie: I know, I know, sounds so totally fun, right?? This site is for my soulmates out there who could see themselves getting excited over titles like "Bathroom Storage", "The Laundry System That Saved My Life", and "My Peter Walsh Interview". If you don't know who Peter Walsh is, this is not the site for you. Though it probably should be. Plus, there are lots of menu plans for those of you who actually cook. (You people are so not my soulmates.)

There you have it: on days when I have no new content (and you have read through and commented on all archived posts, as well as checked out links to my published articles) you have my blessing to pop over and check out one of these spots.

And you? What's your guilty online pleasure? (Keep it clean, ladies, keep it clean!)


Monday, May 10

Mother's Day Moments

So I like gifts. Is that a bad thing to say? My husband is an excellent shopper (he strikes the perfect balance of responding to hints and using his own good taste) and it's nice to open something new and special and just for me. So while I will soon switch gears to the whole 'my-children-are-the-best-gifts-of-all' spiel, I would like to say that I was thrilled when Frannie and Maggie presented me yesterday morning with three little jewelery-store boxes containing the following additions for my Pandora bracelet:
The first one seems especially sweet because it's like four hearts gathered together...just like the four of us in our little family! Get it? (I said sweet, not deep and thought-provoking. No reading-between-the-lines for that one.) But wait a sec...the second one is actually comprised of five hearts. Uh oh!

I've been trying to remember what I have received other years for Mother's Day, but sometimes the Valentine's Day/Mother's Day/My Birthday succession blends enough that I can't distinguish one from the other. I can remember last year, when Mom asked Frannie if she had helped Daddy pick out a Mother's Day gift for me (seeking only a yes or no answer) she announced, too quickly to be silenced, "Yep! An angel for the garden!" And that's exactly what it was.

I have no recollection of gifts two years ago, but I vividly remember the four-generation photo taken of my Grandma, Mom, me, and Frannie. I had two weeks left before Maggie's due date and I thought I was lookin' good. I'm sure we all have that moment during pregnancy where we think "wow...the numbers on the scale are going up, but I still look pretty great!" And then we make the mistake of using a store dressing room, a poorly lit restroom, or in my case, looking at one of the most horrible photos in the history of time. I only have one thing to say: those of you who told me I was "all baby" were LYING!!! (At least my mother was always honest. Just the other day she was talking about an expectant mom who "is really wide from behind. You know, the way Kate gets when she's pregnant.")

My girls were excited to present me with a Mother's Day breakfast, but they're a little young for anything too culinary. (Plus I knew we were having a real brunch at my parents'.)  When asked what I wanted, I simply suggested that they pop the last Tim Horton's chocolate chip muffin from the day before (a leftover from the bribe we use to get fearful Frannie to take some risks during Saturday morning swimming lessons) on a plate. Mind you, it was cut open, buttered and warmed, so it was still more exciting than my usual morning fare.


This was my fifth Mother's Day, so I think my mindset has finally shifted into the mom-identity (mom and daugher and granddaughter at the same time!) but for the first couple of years I kept thinking about what I could do to honour Mom and Grandma, forgetting that I should be soaking up some of the mom-attention myself. Since we celebrated my husband's birthday throughout April (as in "Can you please take the recycling out?" "What? Me? But it's my birthday month!") I think I'll try to milk this holiday for another few days at least.

Oh, right, I almost forgot: having my daughters is truly the greatest gift of all. No, really, it is. We are so blessed that it has become all too easy to take our real gifts for granted. I am grateful for our health, our extended family and friends, our home, and our jobs, in this day and age when those things are not guaranteed. But while I am well aware that a charm bracelet pales in comparison to two beautiful little girls who want nothing more in life right now than to be close to their mommy, I will openly admit that it was kind of nice to unwrap a present too.

How did you spend your Mother's Day? Are there any other gift-lovers out there willing to out themselves? You can go by "anonymous"; it's okay. Come on - how many of you would rank some time alone as the greatest gift of all? I'd love to hear your Mother's Day stories, both the material and the memorable. And no one here is judging you if your ideal celebration wasn't all about your offspring. I'm sure we've all used the same line with our children: "Kids' day? Kids' day is every day!"

Saturday, May 8

Win a Family Emergency Kit - And Get Prepared!


Did you know that this week was Emergency Preparedness Week? Neither did I, until a couple of days ago! Read on for more information, and to find out how you can win a Red Cross Emergency Kit for your family.

Okay, so I consider myself a pretty organized person. Some people have other words for it, but to spin it positively, I am definitely a "well-prepared planner". You would think that emergency preparedness would be a priority for me, but for some reason I haven't spent much time worrying about it.

A few years ago, one of our Christmas gifts from my parents was an Emergency Kit, complete with items like a first aid kit, flashlight, AM/FM radio, and batteries, with instructions to add non-perishable food, water, and essential personal items. "Terrific idea!" we said, and then brought it home and stashed it in the basement between the punch bowl and the breadmaker. We'd have some warning before we actually needed it, right?

Thanks to a representative from Public Safety Canada who recently contacted me to let me know that May 2nd - 8th is Emergency Preparedness Week, I have decided it's time to get my household on board with the initiative. The organization has launched a web video, available here, which outlines in simple terms why having an emergency plan is important.

It's ironic that we spend a great deal of time at school on fire drills and lockdown procedures (my students know exactly which corner of the room to crouch in to hide from the hypothetical bad guys) but my husband and I have given little thought to our home plan.

Of course, I occasionally wake up in the middle of the night wondering if it would be safe to toss my daughters from their bedroom windows, or how I would get from the spare room in the basement to the stairs safely in case of a fire, but I wake up the next morning with something else on my mind, and never actually formulate a plan. Although Maggie is too young to get it, Frannie is certainly ready for some non-panic-inducing instructions...and besides, a little bit of worry now (e.g. "Can I take my dolls if we have a fire?") is worth it if it saves her life later.

I encourage you to check out their video, as well as other areas of their website. They take you step-by-step through creating your emergency plan online, and they also have a section providing tips about such topics as how to prepare if you or a family member has special needs, what you should do about your pets, and a very valuable section on how to talk to your kids about emergencies. This page includes info for teaching your children about 911, as well as some sample emergency scenarios and responses. (I might even use these in class.)

So...are you a step ahead of this self-proclaimed organizational guru? Do you already have a well laid out emergency plan for your family? Or have you ever been confronted with a sudden situation and wished you were better prepared? Share your stories...and then check out the website!

Oh, right, and about the contest: Enter to win a Canadian Red Cross Emergency Kit courtesy of Public Safety Canada! For a chance to win this deluxe kit, which contains nearly 20 different safety items including waterproof matches, multi-function knife, windup flashlight/radio/alarm, emergency rescue blanket, water purification tablets and whistle, simply leave a comment below. Make sure to include contact info such as a your email address or website, or email your info to me (katewinn77ATyahooDOTca) AFTER commenting. You can also check back on Sunday, May 30th when I will choose a winner by random number generation and make an announcement right here at This Mom Loves. Good luck, and happy preparing!

Contest open to residents of Canada. Contest closes at 12:00 noon Eastern Time, Sunday May 30th 2010.

Thursday, May 6

Our Little Banker: Frannie's Moonjar Moneybox

Is it ever too early to learn how to manage your money?

One of Frannie's favourite birthday gifts this year was her Moonjar Moneybox, purchased at a local retailer for $29.99 (less expensive versions are also available.) There are three compartments in this savvy-kids' piggybank are labelled "save", "spend", and "share".

At first I thought the easiest route was to teach her to divide by three, so I gave her three of the same coins at a time, and she distributed them equally. I have to be honest, though: in real life, my charitable donations, while existent, do not equal my savings. And they certainly do not come close to the amount I need (choose?) to spend each month. I'm thinking of giving her an allowance of $1.50 - the loonie for spending, and the quarters for the "save" and "share" compartments.

Check out Moonjar's website for more information on their products or for great ideas about teaching money-sense to your children. They also have great classroom programs, which I will be exploring in the future as well.

Frannie certainly recognizes the importance of money. We donate to our church each week, and Frannie loves to drop the envelope in the basket as it goes by, but we never realized that she was unaware of the contents of the envelope. That is, until one week we forgot the envelope and just got her to deposit the cash in the basket. As soon as the collector was past the pew, she shouted "Hey! I want my money back!" I guess we need to work on the "share" thing.

So, what's your stand on allowances? My brother and I always got a standard, no-questions-asked amount of money, dependent on our ages, and we were expected to make all of our own non-essential purchases. As I got older, I earned additional money by doing extra housework or bigger jobs, but the basic allowance was not related to our daily chores, which were just expected of all family members.

And how much is the right amount? Some of you might think giving a four year-old an allowance is ridiculous, but she is still at the phase where she asks for something in every store we visit, (even though I use the standard "Put it on your Christmas/birthday list" line, and have absolutely never given in and purchased anything more expensive than a bag of cheesies.) I think having some of her own money to spend would be good for her, and I love the share/save components of her moneybox as well.

Thoughts?

Monday, May 3

See It: Date Night

For those of you wondering what happened to all of my movie reviews, here's the issue: My blogging goal, lofty as it may be, is to focus on the positive and share experiences which I would recommend. For the last month, I have been sorely disappointed with movies. This Mom does not love wasting her time. We rent at least a couple of new releases each week, and usually make it to the theatre once a month, but I honestly haven't seen anything worth writing about.

Last Tuesday, however, I hit cheap night at the cinema with my husband's three sisters (my favourite girls'-night-out companions) to see Date Night. It was more than worth the $5.25 ticket price. My guess is that the vast majority of married couples could relate to the routine and comfort of the Fosters' family life, and although that is the undercurrent of the film, the plot is actually a funny case of mistaken-identity, try to outsmart the bad guys, completely implausible storyline. Sorry -- I hope you weren't expecting a Steve Carrell/Tina Fey picture to be a moving drama.

The only downfall of "Date Night" was the absolutely senseless nudity. I mean, really, how many viewers want to see Marky Mark with his shirt off? Several times? Showing off an extremely muscular physique? Tsk, tsk. Just terrible.

Where was I? Oh right. This movie would be a great choice for your next "date night", although I suppose it's kind of ironic that I went to it with the girls. I think I'll drag my husband to Sex and the City 2 to balance things out!

Saturday, May 1

You've Got Mail: Subscribe To "This Mom Loves"

I've recently added a new feature to This Mom Loves: an email subscription link.

If you want to save time and not have to keep coming back to the site to check for new posts, you can submit your email address and be automatically notified of new material. In fact, each new post will be waiting in your Inbox!

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Plus, I love getting new subscribers, so just think of it as a gift for your favourite blogger in the whole world. Or Canada. Ontario? Still too much? How about 'one of your favourite'? A blogger you visit often? A blogger you've visited at least once, since you're reading this right now?  Okay, I'll stop. Now go sign up!