Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Brats without bribes? Nah, more like bribes without brats

I was worried about the latest instalment of my parenting column, The Mom Scene, because I know parents can get really uppitty about bribing -- rewards, incentives, whatever you want to call it.

I didn't want people to think my kids were little brats who only behaved with the promise of a sucker. That's just not the case. I'm one of the most strict parents I know. My kids are damn well-behaved!

Before publishing it, several friends told me they really disagreed with bribery, so I wondered if I was totaaaaally off-base.

So far, though, I've only heard from parents who totally get it. They're just like me, doing what they need to do to get through the errands unscathed.

My mom was an expect briber when we were kids — dangling exactly the right reward in front of us when it was time to buck up for vaccinations, or if she needed us to behave for a babysitter we didn’t like.
I don’t consider it any different from offering M&Ms during the potty-training process: it’s about encouraging good behaviour until it become a habit.
But if you say, out loud in 2014, that you have no problem bribing your kids? Hoo boy! I’ve had friends whisper that they bribed their kids in order to leave a store without a fuss, and they say it like they’re the worst parent in the world. When did bribing become so shameful?

Read the full column over here at the brand-new I'd love to have you!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Teaching an old couch potato new tricks

I was in a really bad mood yesterday.

There was no particular reason for it, really. I just felt like the whirlwind weekend (overnight trip + kiddie birthday party + lots of driving) had left me exhausted. I was craving alone time. I was swamped with work projects. I had to rush through errands in between preschool drop-off and Mommy & Me gymnastics. The kids were cranky. Darling Husband was sleeping all day after an overnight shift.

The perfect storm for Extreme Crankiness, really. It could have been a carbon copy of any shitty Monday from the last year or two, except for one key difference ...

All day, I was looking forward to my 5:30 Zumba class.

I changed into my exercise clothes hours before I had to leave, because just wearing them -- just KNOWING that the class was coming up -- was enough to improve my mood. As I plowed through my afternoon workload, I kept checking the clock to make sure I stopped in enough time.

I ran out the door at 5:10, zoomed to my class, and spent a few minutes chatting with the other women while we laced up our sneakers. (If you're a local, I go to Zumba with Heidi B, because she's the absolute best).

No kids. No dishes to wash. No clients (I keep my phone in my bag, and refuse to look at it for 60 minutes, which is basically a big deal in my self-employed world).

At 5:30 sharp, the lights went down, the music started pumping, and I fell into my Zumba trance. I couldn't think about work or the kids, because I was so focused on the instructor's every move. That's exactly the way I like it.

Actual video I shot of my class a few weeks ago

Dancing -- or anything involving coordination -- doesn't come naturally to me, which is why I love the ability to do nothing but copy someone else. When her arms go up, mine go up. When she kicks forward, I kick forward. No thinking required, just mimicking.

At the end of the hour, I'm sweaty and loose. I feel so much better than I did earlier in the day. I've always heard people talk about exercise being good for stress, or being something they "can't live without," and I used to roll my eyes. I honestly felt like it didn't apply to me, because, hey, I wasn't an exercise person. I was a sitting-and-read-a-book-is-relaxing person.

I mean, I tried running (on a few different occasions) and that didn't really work. But it turns out, wow, they were onto something?

Because lately I have been going to these hour-long classes three times a week without fail, and I feel like I *need* them. These classes have become a permanent part of my schedule -- in bold letters in my beloved Google Calendar matrix -- and I feel like I'm managing my stress better because of them.

I woudn't say I've turned into an exercise fanatic, but I'm definitely a couch potato who has seen the light. Regular exercise is for us squishy types, too, even though I wouldn't have believed it myself a year or two ago.

Now is it Wednesday yet? Because all this talk about Zumba has me itching for another class.


Friday, November 21, 2014

Get the Behavior You Want ... Without Being the Parent You Hate! {Book review}

I don't read a lot of parenting books. In fact, I think I've maybe read less than five -- unless you count Rebecca Eckler's Wiped and Toddlers Gone Wild, which I totally do.

This sounds kind of ridiculous, considering I write a parenting blog (hi), I write a parenting column for six newspapers, and I used to write a parenting column in a magazine. (Does reading your own stuff count? No. Probably not.)

I dutifully read pregnancy and infant-care books when I was pregnant with D, back in the day, because I was determined to READ! LEARN! Totally MASTER this parenting thing from the get-go!

And then ... of course ... I had the baby and lost basically all of my reading time. Most of my parenting knowledge was suddenly coming from blogs instead of books.

Check it out here

Get the Behavior You Want ... Without Being the Parent You Hate! is like a fun parenting blog, in paper booky-form. Unlike a lot of parenting books that require you to sit down and pore over each chapter like you're studying for a test (hint: no one will get an A+), this book is full of quick notes and bullet points, broken down by age.

Parents with an eight-year-old and a 10-year-old don't want to read about toddler tantrums, and parents of one-year-old twins don't give a hoot that nine-year-olds are craving independence. We all just want some tips and advice about the exact stage of our own kid(s), right?

The table of contents makes it easy to quickly skip ahead to your Problem Du Jour, whether it's fighting or homework or whining or mealtimes. Everything is broken down into quick, manageable sections -- with fun names like "I'm Boooooooooooooreeeeed!" and "Forms: Don't Fill 'Em Out."

I remember thinking, when D was a baby, that I wish I'd made cheat-sheets back when I was "studying" to be a parent. Little highlighted index cards that I could refer back to, when I was stumped about why he wasn't napping, or how I could keep him off window-ledges and counters teetering stacks of storage bins.

Well, I've found my cheat-sheets, four years later.

Thanks, Dr. G!

Dr. G provided me with a review copy of Get the Behavior You Want ... Without Being the Parent You Hate! All opinions (and water bottles in the background of photos) are my own.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Canadian who hates to drive in snow

Snow is beautiful to look at. I get excited about the first few snowfalls, like everyone else.

When it's softly falling outside my window, it makes me want to put on a fire and light my (fake) candles and drink hot chocolate because snowwwwwwwwwww! *twirls around romantically in a long woolen scarf*

Of course, then I realize (A) I will have to drive it in, which makes me panicky, or (B) Darling Husband will have to drive in it, and I will worry myself sick.

Yes, I'm the lifelong Canadian who fears driving in snow.

I have never been a good snow-driver. In university, I spent two years tearfully navigating my tiny car 45 minutes (or three hours, depending on snow traffic) into Halifax to get to my classes.

I was so happy to live in Halifax for my final two years (in an apartment with Darling Boyfriend), because I could take the bus to university and not worry about driving in snow.

When we got married and bought our condo in Bedford, I mostly either took the bus (good ol' #80 or #82) to work, or Darling Husband drove me (score!).

(Sidebar: Remember when I took the bus in snowpants when I was pregnant? I was clearly THE COOLEST.)

We were DINKS (double income, no kids) and had a Jeep at all times. Jeeps have four-wheel drive and are total monsters in snow, so I actually became SOMEWHAT CONFIDENT driving in bad weather. Other vehicles would be skidding off the road, and I'd be plowing ahead gleefully in my Jeep, like I can get through anythinggggggg!

It was short-lived, though, because then we had Baby D, I stopped working full-time, we were totally poor, and traded our heroic Jeep for a crappy sensible car. POOF! My fears of driving in snow were back, with a vengeance, because now I also had a baby in the car with me.

Then, of course, we moved to the country, had Baby C, became even poorer, traded our sensible car for a minivan (also not great in snow), and then I suddenly had TWO kids to drive around in the snow. Plus, since we weren't in the city anymore, the conditions were usually even worse.

Yesterday morning, it was snowing hard when it was time to leave for preschool. I got three kids into snow gear (my two, plus my good friend's son), dragged them out to the van, buckled them in, and spent 10 minutes brushing off snow/scraping ice. I backed out of the driveway, spun around, and probably pulled back into the driveway.

Eff preschool! I thought, as I dragged the kids back inside and removed their snowgear. It's not worth it!

Then, of course, the snow let up and I felt like a total wimp for not taking them. Darling Husband got home from work half an hour later, and ended up driving them in. (In my defence, he said the roads were sh-t and that I "never would have made it." So I stand by my decision)

It's only mid-November, guys.

We will have snow until April.

It's supposed to be an extra-hard winter.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

That one time I was in a book ...

When I was four or five, my parents ordered me a personalized book as a Christmas present, and it kind of blew my mind ...

It included my name, my best friend's name (Steven, who remains a good friend to this day), and my pet's name -- a cranky black cat named Sardi (my mom's cat, technically, who hated me with a passion for "stealing" his mom). 

It also included my street name and neighbourhood name, which, THRILLING, right? To a four-year-old? 

I think they'd found an ad for this personalized book in a magazine or something from Typewriters 'R' Us, but it was the late 1980s, so technology wasn't exactly what it was today.

Even though the book was pretty cheesy, looking back, I dearly loved that thing. I'm 31 now, and I still have it -- and read it to my kids every Christmas. They, too, are pretty darn excited to read about Mommy in a real book!

The nice people at Put Me In The Story personalized books reached out to me to share their awesome personalized books, and I was pleasantly surprised to see how far this "genre" has come since the 1980s (you know, when VCRs were something you RENTED).

There are personalized books with beloved characters like Elmo, Hello KittyDoc McStuffinsSofia the First, and the Berenstain Bears, superhero-themed books, and classic books like On The Night You Were Born.

Guys, these books are really, really, awesome ...

I chose this one for C, my little firecracker!

I chose this one for D, because it looks really sweet. 

I can't wait for our personalized books to arrive, because I know the kids are going to flip out with excitement.

Now it's your turn!

You could win a $500 shopping spree from Put Me In The Story personalized books, and 50 winners will receive a free personalized book of their choice (there's so many to choose from!)

Enter now using Rafflecopter!

Good luck!

Thanks to Put Me In The Story for providing me with personalized books for C and D, and thank you in advance for supporting the awesome brands that support Laptops to Lullabies. All opinions and hilarious typewritten Santa stories circa 1987 are my own. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The hodge-podgiest of crafts (that actually turned out really well)

A leftover Halloween chip box.
Two bags of plastic spoons.
Hot glue.


Seriously, who knew those four items would help to make a really awesome-looking mirror for my dining room?

See the full tutorial in my weekly DIY column, My Handmade Home. 

(Seriously, it turned out really awesome. Let's hear it for projects made from crap you already have in the house!)

Monday, November 17, 2014

There once was a child who swallowed a screw

He confessed right after breakfast, as I was busy trying to get all of us out the door. His guilty expression gave him away.

I stopped in the middle of styling my daughter’s hair and asked him to repeat himself. “You ate what?!”

“I ate a screw.”

Life is never dull with young children, except I wish it wasn’t quite as exciting as a four-year-old swallowing a hunk of metal.

I put down the hairbrush, knelt at his level, and started firing questions at him. He couldn’t tell me when he’d swallowed it. He said it happened when I was at Zumba and Daddy was working, which was clearly not true because he’s never home alone.

Then he told me it happened “last week.” When I pushed him again, he said “maybe Sunday?”

Four-year-olds have no sense of time, which is frustrating when their stomach might be a ticking time bomb.

 My journalistic instincts took over and I started asking if it had been dark out or light out. Had it happened at naptime or after bedtime? Where did he get the screw? How big was the screw? Oh yeah, and WHY WOULD YOU SWALLOW A SCREW, CHILD?!

Continue reading in my weekly parenting column, The Mom Scene ... 

Saturday, November 8, 2014

All the chevron in the world

After months of keeping it a secret, I'm excited to finally be sharing C's new quilt today! It was the biggest quilt I've ever sewn, and I'm really happy with how it turned out.

I've got the full tutorial over in my weekly DIY column, My Handmade Home, if you want to see the details ... 

Click to view the tutorial

Chevron, I just can't quit you ...