Tuesday, April 25

"Walk in Their Shows": Bond With Kids Over What They're Watching

Not long ago, I had promised Eva that I would take her to see a movie at the theatre on a day that Liv was going to visit a friend. When I woke up that Sunday morning, what I really wanted to do was spend the day at home, however I didn't want to bail on my promise. So I gave her the choice:

"Do you want to go see the movie, or should we choose something on Netflix and cuddle on the couch together?" (Yes, the use of "cuddle" was pretty sneaky...she loves her snuggles and you can't do that the same in the movie theatre!)

Her response? "Let's stay home! We can pick whatever we want to watch, and it saves a lot of money too!" (Smart, right?)

One of the best things about that afternoon was being able to talk to her about what we were watching, and even pause the movie to answer her questions and ask some of my own. (She chose Maleficent, by the way.) Some questions were technical (about special effects or movie-making tidbits), or about plot points, but we also had some great discussions about the characters and their choices.

The girls are really into Heartland right now, and while my husband teases them, "I don't see any nine or eleven-year-olds on this show!", they counter that it was recommended to them by their Great Grandma, and therefore must be appropriate. It is, but many of the storylines are adult-based, and also lead to good conversations about relationships (how do you decide when you want to marry someone?), finance (why you can't just buy a farm on a whim), and responsibility (lots of that required when working with horses and other livestock).

While I can't always focus for long on children's shows (let's just say Lego Friends is another favourite in the house), and if I'm being completely honest, sometimes I'm planning a lesson or blog post in my head while nodding along to the episode retells my children excitedly offer me, I also try my hardest to remember this famous quote:

As my kids are getting older, I'm actually finding that we can watch more programs together that we enjoy, but it's even valuable to watch the same shows - at different times - to spark discussions later.

As Netflix tells us:

"You may not always understand your teen or tween. In fact, 70% of parents worldwide wish they had more to talk about with them. A recent Netflix study reveals a new place where you can find common ground: Entertainment. Canadian parents (82%) are already watching teen shows to feel closer to them and teens around the world (74%) are on board, saying they’d be interested in talking to parents about the shows they watch. With the majority (89%) of Canadian parents agreeing entertainment would give them something to talk about, let Netflix be the common ground and try taking a walk in your kid's shows."

P.S. An unrelated Netflix note - as this one is not for the kids - but Season 5 of House of Cards hits Netflix May 30th!

Disclosure: I am part of the Netflix Stream Team, and receive perks for my participation.

Saturday, April 22

Personal Photo Gifts From Posterjack: Win a $100 Voucher

I truly believe that the best gifts are personal ones, and you can't get much more personal than photo gifts.

Posterjack (a Canadian company) has a huge selection of options, in a variety of sizes and at a range of price points, which is why I turned to them in the past when redecorating my family room, and just recently for my husband's birthday gift.

We have a small music room downstairs where he and the girls spend a huge chunk of their time, but until now the only things on the wall were our framed Trent and Queen's degrees (still there from when we used the room as our home office). I wanted to put something personal on the wall, so I decided to take photos of the girls doing what they love to do: singing, playing guitar and playing piano. (I just snapped the pics on my phone, made some minor edits, and sent them off.)

I love the look of a row of canvases, so I ordered three identical 16 x 20 sized pictures. My husband always loves black and white photos so I went with that style, and added floating black frames for a bit of extra punch (thanks to a recommendation from my Posterjack friends). Their shipping, as always, was very quick, and I was thrilled with the results. (I just had to hide the large box from my husband for a few weeks!)

He was definitely surprised and very impressed with our new musical mini-gallery, and I just love how there's now a personal touch. It makes the room seem much warmer and "finished"...giving everyone even more motivation to get in there and practice!

If you're thinking ahead to gift season (Mother's Day, Father's Day, graduation, weddings, etc.) you can't go wrong with a personalized photo gift from Posterjack. From poster prints to framed photos to desk items, there's something for everyone you know and love.

Now one lucky This Mom Loves reader will win a $100 voucher from Posterjack to be used towards any item of their choice! To enter, simply fill out the form below with your email address (so I can contact you if you win) and what item you'd love to order from Posterjack (see their website for ideas). Bonus entries for showing social media love to Posterjack on Twitter and Instagram and to This Mom Loves on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. The giveaway will run until Saturday, April 29th at midnight, after which time a winner will be chosen by random number generation. Good luck!

Disclosure: I was provided with the above products for review purposes. Opinions are, as always, my own.

Monday, April 17

My Favourite Mother's Day Gift

Oh, I love my spa days, flowers, chocolates and jewelry. I especially appreciate the restaurant meals, so please keep those coming, honey. But after 11 years of being a mom, if I had to choose my favourite Mother's Day gift ever, it would be this.

The supplies were purchased at Michael's, but many of these items could even be picked up at a dollar store, so the cost is certainly not prohibitive.

The project definitely did require some time. My husband sat the girls down one afternoon when I was out and got them to decorate the box, and then the really personal part began: he asked them to tell him all of the things they loved about me. Liv was five at the time, and Eva almost three, and six years later their answers still bring tears to my eyes. (Plus it's cute to see what their printing looked like at that age.)

I'm so glad to have proof of that one! 
The sentiment has changed over time.

"Brighten" is putting it politely. My father used to always
tell me to put my eyes back in my head...

If you can't read five-year-old, this one says,
 "I love when you read in funny voices"

Even at age three her passion was evident!

As the queen of decluttering, there aren't a lot of things that I keep - especially indefinitely - but my special little box of love will be with me 'til the end.

This Mother's Day gift is not only great for moms: there are many grandmas, aunts, godmothers and stepmothers who would appreciate the personal touch as well.

Wednesday, April 12

How To Handle Online Negativity

I have officially made it. I now receive mean tweets.

Now, that's not to say I've never faced any negativity as a blogger before.

On a couple of occasions over the years I have been called to task because I didn't ask tough enough questions of my celebrity interviewees (for example, about political/religious beliefs that don't mesh with mine, or about alleged indiscretions of theirs), but I explained that I keep things light here (the blog is called "This Mom Loves" after all). Most of those commenters at least made their point in a respectful way, they just disagreed with how I handled something, which is their right.

There have also been a few other incidents here and there, but when someone insults you publicly you don't necessarily want to relive it by sharing it with your readers after the fact.

Lately, things seem to have picked up. Just hours after one of my appearances on The Social, someone sent several very critical tweets about the way I spoke...from an anonymous account with an egg for a profile photo, of course. The account had just been set up and those were the only tweets, leading me to believe that someone created an account strictly for the purpose of hurting me. Classy, right?

A couple of promoted Facebook campaigns have also been interesting. When sharing a contest for a drug store, there were several "Scam alert!" comments, as well as a few, "If it's really {pharmacy name} running this contest, why is it on your page and not theirs?" Well, because that's how blog campaigns work. While these sorts of (paranoid) comments are really no big deal, I still don't appreciate my integrity being called into question. (And really, it's a sad commentary on our society that people have to be on such high scam alert.)

I also worked with a razor company and shared a Facebook post for their brand. Do you have any idea how passionate women are about shaving (or not shaving)? I mean, sure, leave a critique of the product if you want. But the fact that I shared shaving safety tips with my daughter led one commenter to launch a full attack on my parenting, my messed up idea of beauty, and the fact that I am raising my daughters to judge others by an unattainable standard. (Several others came to my defense, and the woman later apologized, explaining that she thought it was an ad. Which it was. Marked with #ad. But I'm still a real person.)

The biggest question for me as I navigate all of this is how to respond to the negativity. I turned to my much-more-famous-than-I-am friend Cynthia Loyst, co-host of The Social and creator of FindYourPleasure.com for her philosophy:

"When it comes to negative comments, there have been times I have blocked, times I have ignored and times I have responded and engaged.  But then I came to the realization that I would much rather spend my time and energy focusing on the positive comments, rather than the snarly ones. The people who leave awful words are generally miserable - why should anyone waste their energy on that? As a wise person once said: don't feed the trolls. 

Oh and one more thing: sometimes I try to find the humour in it. There is a lot of power in humour so rather than getting upset, when I can see the comments as something ridiculously funny, it immediately takes the sting away. Sometimes it's good to just lighten up. Life is way too short to be bothered by the words of someone you don't know nor care about."

There are some who choose to look on the bright side, like writer Alicia McAuley who recently shared this tweet:

I've seen Cheryl Hickey, host of ET Canada, use the "kill 'em with kindness" approach, replying to mean tweets with things like, "I'm sorry to hear you're having such a bad day," or "I hope your day gets better!", responses which always make me smile. Engaging, yet defusing. Because really, you're never going to make a hater see something your way. (And Cheryl is likely on the right track - someone who is truly happy would not feel a need to bring someone down that way.)

If we want to go really high-profile, we can take a cue from superstar Jennifer Lopez, who told Glamour magazine:

"I always joke about letting the haters motivate you. Everybody has that in their life, people who doubt them or make them feel less than they are. It just takes faith and belief in yourself, and you’ve got to dig deep into that. That has to come from you—nobody’s going to give you that."

As for my own haters, while my instinct in the moment is often to reply to them in my own defense, I have seen much better results by just letting it go (and blocking when necessary).

Even people who aren't officially in the public eye still receive mean responses to what they share on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and beyond. Has this happened to you? What do you think the best philosophy is?

Thursday, April 6

Ultimate Kids' Birthday Party Theme Roundup

I've thrown a couple of good kids' parties in my time. My friend Krista, on the other hand, has thrown a ton of AMAZING themed kids' parties, and over the years has generously shared her ideas here on This Mom Loves. (One has become my most-pinned Pinterest post!)

Today I'm providing a roundup of links to all of these great themed birthday party ideas for your convenience, and I hope you can find something to inspire your next child's party! Please pin, forward and share the love!

A Few Birthday Party Ideas
(Don't judge, this was before I had Krista for inspiration)

Cake cones

Bed birthday cake

The Starting School Party
(I'm a teacher, after all!)

School party loot bag

Rock star party

The Butterfly Party
(I was very proud of myself for this one)

Butterfly party cake

(We've done this three times now as hosts and more as guests - love it!!)

PC Cooking School Birthday Party

Science party

And now, for my most-pinned Pinterest pin, and one of my most-visited blog posts ever:

(By the way, this would make an amazing grownup party, too!)

Amazing Race party

Have you posted about any great birthday party ideas? Please feel free to link up in the comments so everyone can see!

Party on, Wayne! Party on, Garth! (Wait - did I just date myself there?)

Tuesday, April 4

New York City Travel Highlights

I am often asked what my favourite travel destination has been, and while I love the sunny south, and have had a wonderful time in many Canadian and American cities, my heart always goes back to NYC.

My husband and I spent a fantastic few days there (we traveled one August) and I have incredibly fond memories. Please check out the links to highlights of our three days in New York City, including a thisclose Julia Roberts sighting and a photo op with Regis and Kelly (yes, that says Regis - it was not a recent trip!)

New York City Day 1 (Central Park, Sex and the City Tour, Movie Premiere/Julia Roberts Sighting)

Julia Roberts

Magnolia Bakery

New York City Day 2 (Regis and Kelly, Top of the Rock, NYC Public Library, Empire State Building, Wicked)

Kelly Ripa and Kate Winn

New York City Day 3 (9/11 Memorial, Brooklyn Bridge, Circle Line Cruise)

Brooklyn Bridge

A random note for my Peterborough area friends: did you know Stewart Tours is running charters from the Peterborough Airport, including a 4-day April trip to NYC (with an air-only price of $399 + taxes, or an air and hotel package for $1199 plus taxes)? This isn't sponsored - just wanted to share a great deal!

Monday, April 3

Kate's Favourite Things - April 2017

I'm happy to share this month's recos with you!


My (not so) Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella

We all know and love this Shopaholic author, and as her readers grow up, I found Kinsella took an interesting angle with her newest book: the main character is still a relatable twenty-something, but she has also included an important character who is "older" (read: my age) as well.

"Part love story, part workplace drama, this sharply observed novel is a witty critique of the false judgments we make in a social-media-obsessed world. New York Times bestselling author Sophie Kinsella has written her most timely novel yet."

The Orphan's Tale by Pam Jenkoff

"A powerful novel of friendship set in a traveling circus during World War II, The Orphan's Tale introduces two extraordinary women and their harrowing stories of sacrifice and survival.

Sixteen-year-old Noa has been cast out in disgrace after becoming pregnant by a Nazi soldier and being forced to give up her baby. She lives above a small rail station, which she cleans in order to earn her keep… When Noa discovers a boxcar containing dozens of Jewish infants bound for a concentration camp, she is reminded of the child that was taken from her. And in a moment that will change the course of her life, she snatches one of the babies and flees into the snowy night. 

Noa finds refuge with a German circus, but she must learn the flying trapeze act so she can blend in undetected, spurning the resentment of the lead aerialist, Astrid. At first rivals, Noa and Astrid soon forge a powerful bond. But as the facade that protects them proves increasingly tenuous, Noa and Astrid must decide whether their friendship is enough to save one another—or if the secrets that burn between them will destroy everything."


Beauty and the Beast

Belle has always been my favourite Disney princess, and that did not change after seeing this movie. The girls and I absolutely loved it (the music especially - I'm still singing "Be Our Guest"!) I personally think preschoolers might be a bit young for the content: even if they've seen the animated version, live-action wolf attacks and gunshots are much scarier than their cartoon counterparts. 

Patriots Day

I thought I knew all about the Boston Marathon bombings but apparently I knew very little. This is an excellent, based-on-true-events movie that's definitely worth watching.

Manchester By the Sea

If you've heard anything about this Oscar-nominated film then you know it is depressing. I can't dispute that. But it has a beautiful story and the acting is certainly award-worthy.

Wednesday, March 29

Are You a Good Receiver?

We know how important it is to be a giver, but what about the importance of being a good receiver?

Recently, my daughter went on a school skiing trip, and spent the day with her friend and her friend's dad. I had promised to give her a bit of cash to buy a treat, and of course in the morning bustle I completely forgot. When the time came and she was empty-handed her friend's dad kindly bought her a Kit Kat. She had the social graces to promise to pay him back, and of course he responded that it was his treat.

When she came home and told me, I was immediately embarrassed, and decided I should round up a toonie right away, maybe write a note to go with it...and then I stopped. It was a Kit Kat. How fortunate that Olivia had someone to get a treat for her, and how kind of that gentleman to do it. If he said it was his treat, why not let him treat her? (It's not like he had to pay for her lift ticket.)

With the "supermom" complexes out there, sometimes I think we all insist on being the givers, and try to pay people back right away when they've done something for us. The problem with always keeping the scorebooks even is that no one ever gets to experience the glow of giving. Someone had your child for a playdate? Invite their child back as soon as possible! A coworker covered for you when you had an appointment? Insist that she leave early the very next day!

Some moms (I personally find this is rare with dads) also enjoy polishing that martyr halo. Why would you host a potluck if you can claim the bragging rights for slaving over a hot stove all day long? Why let your parents watch the baby so you can have a date night, when you want to be able to tell everyone that you've never ever left the baby with anyone else? (That comment never impresses me, by the way, but certainly does arouse pity.)

I think we also receive better from some givers than others. I'm almost 40 years old (and extremely independent, by the way), yet still very willing to let my parents do things for me. Mom makes us batches of frozen dinners and proofreads my articles, Dad runs errands and does handyman jobs we don't have time for. I'm much less likely to want favours from my boss however, because I feel it's more important to look competent to her than to my parents. (They're stuck with me!)

It can also be much easier to receive when something is given anonymously. Someone at work (I'm pretty sure I know who, but I won't reveal her identity) has been leaving little typewritten notes and edible treats for staff members. When it was my turn, it gave me a little glow (and a small sugar rush) and I didn't have to worry about who to thank or pay back. I like to give anonymously for that same reason.

Liv has been taking sewing lessons (free of charge) from my generous aunt, along with another girl her age. We wanted to get my aunt a gift at the end of the last session, and as the girl's mother and I were deciding on a gift card amount, she wisely noted, "If we give too much, her charitable spirit may feel too well compensated." I thought that was such an interesting point. If she is "paid in full", she may easily lose some of the good feeling that she gets from giving her time to help these two little girls pursue a hobby. That said, of course we wanted to thank her for her efforts, but it's not always tit-for-tat. (The girls actually prepared a beautiful song to sing for her on the last night, which also provided a nice personal touch.)

On PsychCentral, John Amodeo argues that there are 5 reasons that receiving is harder than giving:

1. It's a defense against intimacy
2. You let go of control (there's much more control in giving than receiving)
3. There's a fear of strings attached
4. We believe it's selfish to receive
5. There's a self-imposed pressure to reciprocate

You can read the article for further explanations, but I think a few of these hold true for me, as does his point, "Giving and receiving are two sides of the same coin of intimacy." If you're always the receiver in a relationship, maybe you need to smarten up. But if you're always the giver, don't think of that as a point of pride. Have you ever been called "hard to buy for"? I'm betting a lot of poor receivers fit that bill (though there are many reasons that choosing a gift for someone can be challenging).

Receiving a compliment can even be difficult: do you immediately deny, deflect or turn to reciprocation? Sometimes it's only good manners to reciprocate: "You did well on your presentation!", "Thanks, so did you!", but there are many more individual compliments that can be taken at face value and accepted. "I love those shoes!" "Thanks!"

I want to make sure that I'm clear: I don't for a minute think you shouldn't thank someone, pay back loans, or make good on any promised reciprocation, but I think it's important to remember that putting good out into the world doesn't always mean that you're going to get it back from the same person you gave it to. Next time I'm with someone else's child, and they've forgotten money for a treat, I will be sure to buy them a Kit Kat, and continue to pay it forward.

To end with a quote:

"Receiving is often harder than giving. Giving is very important: giving insight, giving hope, giving courage, giving advice, giving support, giving money, and most of all giving ourselves. Without giving there is no brotherhood or sisterhood.

But receiving is just as important, because by receiving we reveal to givers that they have gifts to offer. When we say, 'Thank you, you gave me hope; thank you, you gave me a reason to live; thank you, you allow me to realize my dream,' we make givers aware of their unique and precious gifts. Sometimes it is only in the eyes of the receivers that givers discover their gifts."

Henri J.M. Nouwen