Thursday, September 27

Rainbow Magic Fairy Books: Get Girls Reading!

My six year old daughter (a strong reader) is absolutely addicted to the Rainbow Magic Fairy chapter books from Scholastic. They have been her exclusive library selections for the past year, and she has reread the titles she owns multiple times.

As a teacher, I see firsthand that series are a great way to motivate readers. Once they love the first book, it makes future selections easier, and kids love to revisit favourite characters and settings when they know what to expect. You can also find the Fairies in Easy Readers for those not yet ready to hit the chapter books.
Recently Frannie received a few titles from the Petal Fairies series arc, including Charlotte the Sunflower Fairy and Tia the Tulip Fairy (other 'mini-series' include Music Fairies, Ocean Fairies, Holiday Fairies, etc.)


Petal Fairies Series Arc


Each book finds human friends Kirsty and Rachel encountering a different fairy and helping with some sort of problem, while avoiding the evil Jack Frost!

Frannie's thoughts on the books:

"The fairy books have characters that are interesting. In the Petal Fairies Kirsty and Rachel have to help find the different special items, and it's an adventure every time. I bet a lot of boys wouldn't like them but lots of girls would. Oh, and if some people don't believe in the tooth fairy and they read these books then you'll start believing fairies are real." (Huh? Not sure where that came from.)
I find that many of my Grade 3 students love this series as well. When asked why, several mentioned getting to know the characters (Rachel, Kirsty, their parents, King Oberon, Queen Titania, Jack Frost, etc.) and meeting a new fairy in each book. The chapters are short and accessible (making it easy to read a chapter before bed, especially if you're the one reading aloud. Some books have chapter lengths that are downright painful for moms who want to get the kids to sleep and get something else done!)


Levelled Scholastic Reader
Another neat perk about the books is that each one is named after that particular fairy, which means that from Abigail to Zara, dozens of girls' names are included in the series. While I don't use my girls' real names on the blog, I will say that they are both represented by the fairy books (I was quite surprised to see Maggie's real name used) which really makes the girls feel special.

Frannie was unimpressed this month when I wouldn't allow her to buy the complete set of "Rainbow Fairies" books from the Scholastic book order (a steal at $19.99 for seven books, but she already read that arc last year from the library!) however I made it up to her when I picked up "Trixie the Halloween Fairy" with the book orders for my own class.

If you're looking for a series to get your daughter going (and to make library visits and book shopping very straightforward for a while) I strongly suggest the Rainbow Magic titles. Certainly not prize-winning literature (and I'm pretty sure author "Daisy Meadows" - a collective pseudonym - would not take offense to that), but there are valuable lessons in the books, and if you can get kids to love reading, what more can you ask for?

Disclosure: We received some Petal Fairies titles from Scholastic for review purposes. Opinions are, as always, our own.

Tuesday, September 25

How Much Do You Know About Your Insurance?

When I was presented with the challenge of answering some questions about insurance, I was pretty confident.

Having worked for an insurance company throughout university, I figured I would know a lot. I processed thousands of new homeowner policies, and typed countless descriptions for scheduled items. While the motorboats and furs didn't interest me much, it's always helpful for a 20 year old girl to be fluent in the language used to describe the 4 C's of diamonds: carats, cut, clarity and colour!


However, once the questions were posed, I was surprised by how unsure I was of my responses. Check out the questions below, with my answers and the actual truths about insurance from the Insurance Bureau of Canada.
Question 1: Are Ontarians paying more for auto-insurance, but getting less coverage? 

My Answer: Well, I know my rates continue to rise, but I honestly don't know about the coverage. I am going on the naive assumption that my coverage remains the same.

Real Answer:  Well, I was close! According to the Insurance Bureau of Canada, auto insurance premiums have gone up, and coverage has changed. The reason is the increasing cost of accident benefit payouts (would you believe it rose 180% between 2004 and 2010?) mainly because the costs of assessing, not treating, an injury, rose 235% during the same period. During the same six years, premiums rose, on average, only 5.6%. Yet despite the huge increase in accident benefit injury claims, Ontario roads are safer with a 12% reduction in severe collisions that require hospitalization.

I wasn't surprised to learn that a lot of this claims money is going to many (opportunistic - my word) medical rehabilitation clinics, lawyers and paralegals, tow truck operators and body shops that make their money from Ontario’s generous auto insurance system. They believe that if the money is there, they should use it regardless of specific needs.

To stop insurance rates from increasing, reforms were made to the cap on minor injuries and the definition of catastrophic impairment. So yes, rates have gone up, with coverage adjusted.

*****

Question 2: Is the money I pay for insurance set aside just for me to cover any claims I may have in the future? 

My Answer: No, as I assume it all goes into one pot (where I imagine it is invested until any policyholder needs it for a claim).

Real Answer:  I was right on - there is no such insurance “account” building up with your name on it. But, don’t worry, you’re still covered. (Considering I have never made a homeowner claim, and perhaps one or two small auto claims, I kind of wish that there was a pot building up...and that perhaps I could get some sort of rebate for not using it!)

Every year, your insurance dollars go into a pool along with the dollars from other policyholders. Out of that pool, insurers pay the claims of the few people who suffer an insured loss – an auto collision, a fire, wind damage -- in that year.

*****

Question 3: Is flood damage caused by a spring thaw covered by your home insurance?

My Answer: I am guessing no...but maybe you can pay extra and choose to have that protection? I know when there was a huge flood in our area several years ago, people were able to make claims, but that's different from a spring thaw flood. I'm torn about this one.

Real Answer: Generally, overland flooding is not covered. This kind of flooding can be caused by a spring thaw. Here water overflowing from rivers, streams or other bodies of water flows onto dry land and causes damage to homes.

Flood coverage isn’t available because only a small percentage of the population is at risk. Since the purpose of insurance is to spread risk among many policyholders, this type of insurance for those at risk would be unaffordable.

However, water-related damage and insurance claims are rising across Canada due to the increase in severe weather. Damage from heavy rainfalls can be extensive to your home and result in the loss of irreplaceable keepsakes. (This is what happened in our area - record rainfalls led to a declared emergency, and homeowners were covered.)

The IBC stresses that it’s more important than ever for you to learn how you can protect your property and stay dry when the heavy rains come.

****

Considering the amount of money we pay for insurance, it's surprising how little many of us know about our coverage. I skim the paperwork when it arrives in the mail, but I also go on faith that information is accurate, and that we would be informed about any important changes. I think I'll be a bit more thorough now.

I'd also like to add, as a potential money-saving tidbit, that before your insurance renews each year you should shop around for the best deal (making sure you're comparing the same coverage) and consider contacting your current provider to see if there are any ways to save. Perhaps the distance of your commute has changed, or you've upgraded your home security system...there are many ways to get discounts, but you won't know unless you try!

For more insurance information and other myths debunked, please visit http://getintheknow.ibc.ca/Insurance-Explained.aspx

Disclosure: Although this post has generously been sponsored by the Insurance Bureau of Canada , the opinions and language are all my own, and in no way do they reflect the Insurance Bureau of Canada .

Friday, September 21

Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau: The Momterview

Update: Sophie and Justin are expecting their third child in March 2014.

You may know Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau as the wife of Liberal  MP (and son of former Prime Minister Pierre) Justin Trudeau. Perhaps you recognize her from her onscreen gig as Quebec correspondent for CTV's eTalk. My image of Sophie is based on her tireless philanthropic work, including her role as Ambassador for Plan Canada's Because I am A Girl campaign, which will celebrate the hard-earned first International Day of the Girl on October 11th.






Sophie kindly agreed to open up to This Mom Loves' readers about her charity work, family, and what she loves most.

This Mom: You're involved with many charitable organizations. Why did you want to add "ambassador for Because I am a Girl" to the list?

Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau: My heart can't say no when it comes to women's or children's issues. We are still living in an unbalanced "masculine-feminine" society and world. Women will and will always be the nucleus of the family. They foster democracy through their biology and their spirit. And as a mother, I have become even more aware of the importance to reach out to our youth and get them involved in what matters most. This builds enriching relationships from which they can learn, become more aware, and grow as human beings.

So when I found out about Because I am a Girl, Plan’s global campaign to end gender inequality focusing on girls’ rights, becoming a national ambassador seemed like a natural move for me since female empowerment has always been an issue close to my heart. In Canada, I want to be a part of raising awareness and addressing the issue of girls’ rights and to make sure that men are part of the equation as well. We would undermine the beauty of their spirit and intelligence if we didn't.

I’m a proud advocate for the cause because the idea that investing in girls can change the world truly resonates with me. In developing countries, girls face double discrimination simply because they are young and female. In particular, they are faced with barriers to a good education – something we all need to succeed.

Previously, right here in Montreal, I’ve worked with the Shield of Athena, a non-profit organization for victims of family violence, and I’ve witnessed how investing in the potential of girls and women can lead to positive impacts on our community. Research has also shown that by investing in girls we can support a generation of empowered women, mothers, workers and leaders who will improve the lives of everyone around them and lift entire nations out of poverty. I would encourage people to learn more about this issue at www.becauseiamagirl.ca.




TM:  After a great deal of campaigning from Plan Canada, and also through its innovative Because I am a Girl initiative, the first annual International Day of the Girl will take place October 11th. Why is this so important, and what do you hope it will accomplish?

SGT: I see it as a day of "heightened awareness"; for me and for all Canadians. Obviously, one could argue that it's kind of sad to "need" this day but I think it's proof that more and more people are coming together to fight against injustice and also to celebrate all the "female qualities" we possess, whether you are a man or a woman. I truly believe that the world needs more of it. Humanity longs for more compassion, more emotional intelligence, and less "ego-driven" super powers.

Also, I feel I should explain a bit of the history leading up to this day, because I want your readers to know that Canadians played a big part in making the day happen: As part of the Because I am a Girl initiative, Plan Canada launched a campaign in 2009 to establish an International Day of the Girl – a day to focus on girls’ rights globally. During the next two years, this campaign garnered huge support from thousands of young and adult Canadians, leading Canadian non-profit organizations, and girls and boys worldwide. Following unanimous all-party support by the Canadian Government, and a final vote at the United Nations General Assembly, the International Day of the Girl Child was officially announced on December 19, 2011.

The day is important to us because it’s about bringing world attention and focus to the barrier and challenges girls face but it will also draw attention to the fact that girls can be powerful agents of social change in their communities and countries. It’s a day to inspire and drive action.

I hope this day will advance equality for all girls and women, in developing countries and across the world. There are going to be quite a few celebratory events taking place to mark the first official day on October 11, 2012.




TM: Why do you devote so much of your time to philanthropy, and what inspiration or tips can you offer busy moms who just don't think they have the time to get involved?

SGT: I think for those of us in the public spotlight there is a responsibility to lead by example or bring attention to certain issues. We have so many opportunities to use our voice and our influence to create positive change for others and to serve those in need. There’s always more that we can do – it depends on how conscious we choose to be of what goes on around us.

I always say "think small"! I know how busy life gets and sometimes it can get overwhelming. But there is always a way to find balance within. Start by giving a small amount of time, even a drop-in into a women's shelter for half an hour. You will feel something moving deep inside you and that can become truly powerful. Nurturing a philanthropic heart starts right at home. Giving your children opportunities to perform small acts of service will develop their sense of compassion and kindness and only encourage them to want to connect with others, such as in their school or community.

I'm thinking of bringing my kids to help out this year to make Christmas baskets for those in need. My husband Justin does it every year and my kids are now old enough to understand. It's not about how much volunteering work you do, it's about human connection. Human compassion. Bottom line.

Whether it’s raising money for girls’ rights with a Because I am a Girl Pink LemonAID stand, donating hair for cancer patients’ wigs, or participating at an annual Cure for Cancer walk, starting small and building up from there can lead to valuable and amazing work.




TM: Justin is away Monday to Friday. Who do you count on for support with the kids, and what keeps you sane during the week when you're parenting on your own?

SGT: I miss him. The kids miss him. He also works on the weekends in the riding so it's not always easy. But we are slowly finding a "rhythm" and are trying to create more time to be just the four of us... in our little bubble filled with laughter, adventure, and love.

I don't have a nanny but both grandmothers are helping out. I also found an amazing babysitter who can help out at night time when we have events to attend.

My priority is my family. Everything else comes second. So I have to decline many invitations, work opportunities, etc. I know and feel that it's the right thing to do.

I've been practicing yoga for six years now and I'll become a certified teacher this December. This discipline and mean for "expanding and exploring our consciousness" has helped me create balance in my life—a true blessing that I want to share with as many people as possible. Imagine what kind of politicians we could have if more of them meditated and practiced yoga! Trust me; I'm on my husband's case!


Justin Trudeau and Sophie Gregoire Trudeau with kids family
Sophie with Justin, Xavier (5) and Ella-Grace (3)


TM: I'm an anglophone with a French major, so I'm curious to know if both English and French are spoken in your home, and whether the kids are bilingual?

SGT: Yes. This was a given for us. We were both raised that way. We speak to the kids in French but they are also learning English as they -and we!- have many anglophone friends and family members! I also try to teach them a bit of Spanish, which I love to speak. They're like sponges at that age and learn so quickly.

French is my mother tongue and Justin's father, Pierre Trudeau, always told him "Tu es plus élégant en Français!" It's just such a poetic and romantic language...

TM:  How would you complete the sentence "This Mom Loves..."?

SGT: My children glancing at me from their backseats through the car mirror when I'm driving and seeing joy and love in their eyes...pure bliss!

Gardening with Ella-Grace and Xavier; they helped me "seed" this spring and are picking their own carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, beets, beans, etc. They love it and eat everything!

Spending time at the beach in New Brunswick this summer building sandcastles...for which Justin won a contest!

Swimming with the kids, biking with them, hiking with them...anything in nature!

Singing with my daughter - she has a beautiful voice and sings "in tune"! She learned my Sanskrit yoga invocation chant and surprised me with it! I thought I was going to faint when I heard her!

*****

Thank you so much for taking the time to share your inspirational message, Sophie! We will be thinking of you on October 11th, the first International Day of the Girl.

Wednesday, September 19

Nitwits: If Head Lice Hits Our House, I Am So Going Here

So far (knock on wood) we have not experienced head lice in our household. If we ever do, I likely won't blog about it anyway, out of respect for my children's privacy.

But man, if one of my girls ever gets it, I will totally be banging down the door of Nitwits...which I just heard about today! Here's their press release:

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Head lice removal clinic, first of its kind to open its doors in North Toronto


It is a lousy job, but someone has to do it!

It’s that time of year again: the back-to-school season when parents brace for homework, teacher meetings and, yep, lice. Fortunately, Nitwits Toronto Lice Clinic, North Toronto’s first one-stop shop for lice treatment, prevention and education, opened its doors, Monday, September 10th.

Why waste time combing the city for ineffective, off-the-shelf lice kits? At Nitwits Toronto Lice Clinic, our highly trained professionals will provide accurate diagnoses and swift removal of head lice in a private and professional environment. The clinic features superior lighting, hydraulic chairs and TVs at each station for your comfort and convenience.

Shawnda Walker, Founder and Chief Nitwit, is the first Canadian certified by The Shepherd Institute – a research, education and lice removal treatment centre. Our professionally trained staff utilize The Shepherd Method™ of Strand by Strand Nit Removal. We take the time to remove nits properly from each and every strand of hair. Furthermore, our non-toxic products are designed to help facilitate lice removal. Our services are guaranteed!

“People want a safe and comfortable setting for the efficient treatment of head lice,” says Shawnda Walker. “Nitwits Lice Clinic is a natural extension of my two years’ of helping families deal with head lice and providing home services to across the GTA”

Head lice are more common than you think. In fact, nearly 10% of students contract lice at one time or another. Unfortunately, many of these cases go unreported because of the social stigma surrounding these pesky insects. That’s why Nitwits Lice Clinic is a place where people are encouraged to talk openly about lice. We also work with students, parents and school staff to provide proper education on prevention and treatment strategies.

Go to www.nitwits.ca for more information.

******************

Disclosure: I'm just sharing this information out of the goodness of my heart. But I'm also hoping that if I ever need them, they'll do me a favour! :-)

Monday, September 17

How To Save an iPod That's Been Through the Washing Machine

Let's cut to the chase here: an iPod went through the laundry at the Winn house just recently, unnoticed until the wet clothes were pulled out of the washing machine. Whose was it? Now that doesn't really matter, does it?

I didn't even try to turn it on, which is VERY important (I know this because I have looked up the same information as it relates to Blackberrys, just in case the unimaginable ever happens to me). Apparently trying to operate it while it's wet causes the device to short-circuit and you're out of luck permanently. You also should NOT plug it into the charger while wet.


The most popular online suggestion was to put the iPod in a bag of rice, sealed tightly, which is exactly what I did. (Of course our pantry is stocked only with Minute Rice, but it didn't work any faster. Ha ha.) I left it for about five days, forgetting to change the rice every 24 hours as recommended.

When I finally braced myself and turned it on, of course nothing happened because the battery was dead. I plugged it into my computer and got a message on the laptop screen saying that the USB device had malfunctioned and the computer didn't recognize it. However - the low battery sign popped up (looking normal) on the iPod screen so I held out hope.

I left it to charge, and after about an hour I attempted to turn it on and play it and...HALLELUJAH!

Obviously I can't guarantee these results for anyone else, but I know for sure this iPod was completely immersed in water for the length of a cold permapress cycle and is now back in perfect working condition with all data still on it.

I hope this can help someone else...or perhaps inspire you to train all family members to check pockets before throwing laundry in the washing machine. That would be even more efficient.

P.S. Since originally writing and scheduling this post, the iPod user has discovered that our solution wasn't perfect, as he/she (not to implicate the negligent pocket-checker) has detected an issue with the volume...in that once the volume is raised, it cannot be lowered. Oh well, at least it's still usable.

Sunday, September 16

Yeah, I'm In the Right Job

It was Friday afternoon at 3:05. My students had their planners done, chairs up and were more than ready for the weekend. We still had a few minutes to kill before the bell, so I called them to their special spots on the carpet, sat down in my rocking chair and cracked open Roald Dahl's "Fantastic Mr. Fox".

I began reading, getting more and more into the story as I went along. At one point, I glanced out at my eight and nine year old audience and saw 21 criss-cross-applesauce-sitting bodies leaning forward and 21 pairs of wide eyes fixed right on me. There were even a few mouths hanging open. No fidgeting, no whispering, no nudging. No eyes on the window, door or clock. How could I possibly be playing a role in such rapture and captivation?

I could hardly keep my voice from catching as I returned to the story, so I stopped right there. "Boys and girls," I said, "When I just looked out and saw the expressions on all of your faces, you reminded me right then and there that I should never doubt that I'm in the right job."

After a momentary pause, the story continued and soon enough the bell rang. Whether any of my students are thinking about Mr. Fox this weekend, I'll probably never know. But I'm thinking about them, with tears in my eyes again as I write this.

Who cares about split-grade Math, standardized test scores and winter yard duty? Well, I do, but it's all worth it. Every last bit.

How lucky am I?

Friday, September 14

Dr. Marla & Friends Premieres Sept 24 on CTV News Channel

As a fan of Dr. Marla (I always have a soft spot for my Momterview subjects, and was excited to meet her in person on the set of Canada AM this summer) I'm pleased to share this recent release from CTV News:

********************

CTV News announced today the launch of DR. MARLA and FRIENDS, a new, half-hour national series airing Mondays at 7:30 p.m. ET beginning Sept. 24 on CTV News Channel. The show’s fresh, interactive format provides viewers a weekly house call with one of Canada’s most recognized health and medical experts, Dr. Marla Shapiro, looking at the most timely, current and news-driven medical topics and stories.




“This show is about taking charge of your health and incorporating any expertise you can to improve your life,” said Dr. Marla. “My aim with this show is to arm viewers with information so they can make wiser choices, take the confusion out of medical matters, and offer a point of contact for people with questions.”

“Our aim with DR. MARLA AND FRIENDS is to address the collective health and medical needs of viewers in a meaningful and accessible way,”said Jack Fleischmann, Vice-President, CTV News Channel and General Manager, BNN.

DR. MARLA AND FRIENDS also airs Thursdays at 7:30 p.m. ET on CTV News Channel, and weekends on CTV (check local listings).

Dr. Marla’s warm yet no-nonsense approach to medical and health care matters takes the confusion, mystery and fear out of topics that for many can be intimidating and in some cases, downright frightening. Each week, DR. MARLA AND FRIENDS tackles everything from diabetes, diet plans and exercise to eye disease, BOTOX and back pain. Dr. Marla draws upon the expertise of featured guests from the health community to debunk medical myths and debate the controversial issues that matter to you. No matter how big or small the question, Dr. Marla and her team have viewers covered.

Dr. Marla’s practical advice and dynamic approach to health care makes her a unique go-to source for medical inquiries. Viewers have access to the internationally acclaimed Dr. Marla’s medical and health care insights to address their specific situations. DR. MARLA AND FRIENDS features special segments including ‘Medical Misinformation', which offers an up-close look at a specific health care matter and helps sort the fiction from the facts; and a weekly segment ‘The Panel’, that features a round table of physicians discussing a specific health and wellness issue. And each week, the show connects with people in the community, offering them an opportunity to pose a health-related question.

Since 2000, viewers across Canada have tuned in to see Dr. Marla as CANADA AM’s Health and Medical Expert. Each week, Dr. Marla brings the latest medical news as well as practical advice to keep the entire family healthy on Canada’s #1 morning show.In addition, Dr. Marla is seen on CTV NEWS CHANNEL and as the medical consultant on CTV NATIONAL NEWS.

Wednesday, September 12

Monday, September 10

Our Backyard Reno (Pool and Deck) Phase Three

Perhaps you've been along for the ride as I've shared Phase One and Phase Two of our backyard reno: the deck extension and addition, the above-ground-decked-to-look-in-ground pool, the hot tub, and all related details.





In the final (for now) instalment of this series, I bring you this year's finishing touches for our huge venture.

You may remember the gazebo we put up above our seating area in July:




Yeah, well, it's gone. In fact, within a matter of days the torrential winds and rains of the summer (yes, I'm being sarcastic) had done a number on the piece of junk  item. We returned home after being out one evening and one of the support beams was so bent that it appeared as if someone had actually been hanging off it (perhaps the babysitter needed a place to do chin-ups while we were gone?) and random pieces of metal were twisted, mangled, and practically detached.

What I can say is that I was extremely impressed when Home Depot agreed to refund our money (hey, we'd only had the product for a couple of weeks).

We decided that we didn't want to keep assembling and replacing gazebos (especially considering the crazy weather we actually do get in the winter up on our hill), so back to the drawing board for my Dad and uncle, who came up with this amazing pergola (sheets of lattice provide the shade on top, and they designed ingenious tracks so the sheets can easily slide out for the winter and be returned in the spring).





And finally, what I think is one of the best features of the whole project, the pool house created by my brother's carpenter friend:



At the moment, it is home to the big bin of patio cushions and all of the pool and hot tub chemicals. Until the windows are covered, we don't actually expect anyone to "disrobe" in there, but starting next year it will be a very convenient changeroom, hopefully reducing the number of trips wet little feet take down the hardwood hallway.

Thinking ahead for next year:
  • Plants: we'll want lots of pots, and perhaps planters hanging off the railing in various locations
  • Pool house: how to finish/decorate the interior, how to separate the storage from the changing area, what to use for window coverings
  • Stain: yikes, I don't even want to think about how long it will take to stain all that wood....
  • Doors: I think I'd like to do the French doors to the house and the pool house door black
  • Light fixtures: replace the old white ones with new (black?) which point down, as one light is partially blocked by the pergola structure
  • Pray for the summer to be as pool-worthy as this one has been!

Friday, September 7

My Top 5 "New Year's" Blogging Resolutions

In June, I decided I was going to quit the blog. And my book club. Maybe even cut off all friendships, sell my house and quit my job. Teachers should not make major life decisions in the month of June.

Thankfully with the mind-clearing holidays behind me, I have the perspective (and rest) needed to make more rational decisions.

To start with, I will not be quitting the blog any time soon. However, there are a lot of other things I will not be doing, as they relate to the blog, which I am listing here as my "New Year's" resolutions. (Anyone who works in education knows that January 1st means nothing. Labour Day kicks off the New Year.)



1. I am not going to feel pressured to write any more frequently than I can handle. Twice a week seems to work well for me, but I am fairly confident that if I drop it to once, or (heaven forbid) go a week without posting, none of your lives are really going to be affected. If any of you are actually thrown into the depths of despair when you must suffer through a few days without This Mom Loves, please let me know, as that would make my day. Quality is much more important than quantity, and family time needs to come first, with career second. Sleep slides in there as a close third. Blogging is simply my (amazing, rewarding, fulfilling, taxing and draining) hobby.

2. I will not follow back just to be nice. I just can't keep track of who my new blog/Twitter followers and Facebook likers are, and to try to track them down to reciprocate is impossible. However, I will certainly check out those who actually send me a message with that request. Sometimes there are new Canadian mom bloggers trying to get known out there (or people who are sincerely interested in having me in their circles), and I'd love to support them. Followers who have no interest in me or my blog and are just looking for followbacks to boost their numbers will have to look elsewhere.

3. I will, however, follow the trail of those who take the effort to leave genuine comments on my blog. (And by "genuine", I mean comments not referring to cash loans, erectile dysfunction medication or porn.) When a blogger leaves a comment, 99 % of the time I will return to her blog and reciprocate. If the home page is completely full of giveaways with nowhere for me to share, though, it won't happen.

4. I will continue to crack down on the PR end of things. I've mentioned before that I love having reviews and giveaways incorporated into the more "editorial" material here at This Mom Loves, but man - I don't know how some people run several giveaways a day! I also don't know why on earth some want to spend the time crafting a post for a $3 product, and I make enough at my day job that I'm not interested in cash compensation for writing about something I don't believe in. I updated my "PR Friendly" page to reflect the fact that I would prefer to be contacted only for review/giveaway opportunities, as you'd be amazed at the e-mails I receive (about a dozen per day) with lengthy press releases for (usually) American companies, with absolutely nothing in it for me. Perhaps they think I should feel lucky to be able to publish their advertising for free?

Finally,

5. I will remember that I am blogging for me. It's supposed to be a fun, door-opening venture (which my many celeb interviews and behind-the-scenes experiences can attest to) and it doesn't really matter what my stats are or how many people are commenting. (You lurkers out there know who you are! Help a girl out once in a while, would you?) I stay "vanilla" enough not to attract many haters, which is a wonderful thing as I abhor conflict, but I know my cautiousness also prevents any of my work from "going viral". I need to remind myself that it doesn't matter.

So, for this "New Year", I will forge ahead with my multifaceted hobby...and I'm glad that (at least for this second in time) you're here with me!

Tuesday, September 4

New Balance Kids Collection

This summer, New Balance released their 689 Kids Collection of shoes, in kid-friendly colours with traditional New Balance quality and fit, made of a mix of leather and mesh upper, Abzorb cushioning and a non-marking, rubber cup outsole.




My six year old daughter was lucky enough to receive a pair for review, which have become her "outdoor shoes" (although with non-marking soles, they would be perfect for indoors as well).

The shoes are very attractive, and I was relieved that her size (2) came in a velcro style. We've worked on the lace-tying thing, but when kids have to take their shoes on and off so many times during the school day, velcro is easier (on them, and whatever adult helps them prepare for outdoors).

Tip: The last pair of outdoors she had came with regular laces, so we picked up some "Quick Snaps" (see below) to convert them.




Frannie's review of her new New Balances:

"They feel really soft inside and they're pretty useful for a lot of kids for running and jumping and stuff. You should have good shoes like this because if you're in school you need them for all the running. You can't wear sandals or party shoes. The N is sparkly but it's hard to notice. The colours are really bright. If you don't know how to tie your shoes you don't have to with these shoes and you can get them on and off fast."




Time will tell how well these will hold up, but knowing they're New Balance does give me peace of mind that they'll be good for her feet and likely last long enough to be handed down to Maggie. (Poor Maggie, always getting the hand-me-downs!)
MSRP: $39.95 (infant/pre-school) to $54.95 (youth).

Disclosure: I was provided with a pair of shoes for review purposes. Opinions are, as always, my own.