Friday, December 30, 2011

New Year’s Resolutions

I have struggled with the idea of New Year’s resolutions for the better part of 10 years. I used to make them, and then decided against it, after many fell by the wayside less than a month into the New Year.

Resolutions are funny things – if you don’t make any at all, you feel guilty; if you try and fail, you feel guilty. This guilt was enough to make me swear off resolutions for a few years. What I had forgotten, though, was the immense pride I felt when I actually followed through; how bettering myself, and achieving my goal, gave me such an amazing sense of accomplishment. What a feeling!

So this year I’ve decided to start fresh and get back to making some much-needed resolutions for 2012. It’s a great opportunity to teach my kids by example, to show my kids that Mama really can stick with it; that if I set my mind to do something, by golly, I will do it!

I know it won’t be easy, but I’ll have my little ones cheering me on. They’re my biggest fans and I don’t want to let them down.

Wishing you joy, health and happiness in the New Year – from all of us at Oliver’s Labels.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Best Gift

My daughter asked me for a present this morning. I told her she had to wait.

Kids are impatient by nature – heck, I’m impatient by nature! But, there are always lessons to be learned and this was the perfect time to teach her one. I asked her why she wanted a present now and didn’t feel she could wait until tomorrow. She simply said, “Because I really want one!”. That’s a typical 4-year-old response, and I couldn’t fault her for it. But, I explained to her that many kids don’t even get one present, let alone many, and that she is very fortunate to have everything she does – a healthy family, a wonderful home, great food to eat, and lots of love! It’s simply a bonus to get special things like presents at Christmas. I reminded her of the baskets for the Salvation Army we contributed to at her school; of the toys we gave to kids who are less fortunate than us. She looked at me and I could see a glimpse of understanding in her eyes - that she realized she was luckier than many children – then she gave me a huge hug. That was the end of asking for a present “right now”.

As parents, we are always looking for ways to instill gratitude in our kids, and there’s no better time to do that than at the holidays. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or nothing in particular, it’s a festive time of year - ripe with opportunity to reach out to others, show a little kindness and be great examples to our kids. 

So, if you see the charitable bell-ringers on the street this holiday season, give your kids a few coins and let them drop them in the kettle. It will make their hearts swell - and teach them that they can experience that amazing feeling, not just at Christmastime but any day of the year, by giving to those less fortunate. Now, that's the best present they could receive!

Happy Holidays from all of us at Oliver’s Labels!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Things I Said I'd Never Do...

1. Let my kids watch a lot of TV… check.
2. Occasionally resort to bribing… check.
3. Eat sweets before dinner… check.
4. Play with plastic bags (albeit while I’m sitting next to him)… check.
5. Miss bath night - again!… check.

This is a checklist of things I said I’d never do. I promised myself I wouldn’t resort to any of the above to get through the day.

Until. I. Became. A. Mom.

Wow, what an eye-opener!! It is so much easier being the fun Aunt or babysitter than it is being the responsible parent, isn’t it?

While I don’t espouse to be the best mom ever, there are some facts of life I can’t ignore – I work from home and I parent my children full-time (no nanny!), so something’s got to give. That’s where the list above comes in.

1. They say the TV becomes the babysitter and, whoever “they” are, seem to be right. That being said, each day I set aside time to do an activity with the kids (crafts, drawing, etc) or take them out to play. And, every night without fail, we read together for 30 minutes (or more, depending on if they sucker me into another story!).

2. Bribing (or compromising, as I like to call it) happens when my toddler has just been put down for the night and my daughter wants/needs/has to have something… another story, a drink of water, a few more minutes before lights-out. That's when I occasionally give in and let her have what she wants. I'm too tired to fight it.

3. Picture this… it’s right after Halloween and I’ve already promised (see “bribing”, #2) that my daughter could have a Halloween treat after school. Technically that’s before supper, which breaks the “no sweets before dinner” rule. You can’t win!

4. Sometimes a plastic bag is what my toddler wants to play with. It may be the only thing that will keep him quiet and occupied. So what do I do? I sit next to him and let him play with it because it makes him happy.

5. I don’t know when my daughter’s disdain for bath time started. Actually, she doesn’t mind the bath, just the washing part. (Make sense? It doesn’t to me, either.) So, sometimes I let it go… it’s not going to kill her to miss a bath, yet it saves my sanity occasionally. A decent trade-off, no?

I know of a lot of moms who would never admit they do the things on my list because there are a lot of other parents out there who would judge them. I, however, believe in laying it all out there… foibles and all. None of us are perfect; we do the best we can. Yes, there are times when I question my parenting choices, but there are just as many times when I’m amazed by my kids' kindness, wit, compassion and manners.  People even comment on those things, which makes me think I’m not doing such a bad job after all.

So the next time you find yourself doing one of the things you said you’d never do... take heart - all those "judgy" parents do the same things, they just don't admit it!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Winter Fun & Frivolity

Whether your child’s school break starts before the holidays or after, odds are you have a two-week stretch of vacation that will test your creativity and push it to its limits! So, we at Oliver’s Labels are here to help!

1. Bake cookies with the kids  - yes, we know, it’s been said before (many times before!). But that’s for a reason – it works! What kid doesn’t wanna get elbow deep in cookie dough and chocolate chips? ‘Nuff said.

2. If you’ve got snow/cold weather, take full advantage of it. Tobogganing, skating, snowball fights, snow angels…whatever floats their boats. If they’re old enough, send ‘em out fully insulated and let them go wild outside with all the neighbours’ kids. Just make sure when the frozen crew decides to come inside, there’s hot chocolate waiting for them! (And maybe some of those cookies they made…) Bonus – your child(ren) will probably sleep like a rock; snowball fights are tiring!

3. Go to the movies. There are so many great family movies out at this time of year so why not enjoy a blustery afternoon inside with a bag of popcorn and your favourite little person?  Your local museum would also be a good bet… many have additional children’s programs scheduled during school breaks.

4. I Spy Nature Walk – kids love contests, so why not get outside and see who can be the first to spot items on a nature list? Items could include various species of trees (easy-to-identify varieties like Maple, Oak, etc.), birds sitting on a wire, acorns or chestnuts, a red car (or blue, or purple…), random numbers (try to spot them on signs or on buildings). You get the idea! When you’re done, the “winner” gets to choose what treat everyone will enjoy back at home – or the local coffee shop. 

5. Visit your local rec or community center.  Many community centers have programs for kids during the holiday break, or open up their facilities during non-program times for free play. My local rec center, for example, doesn’t run any regular programs during December, so they open up their gymnasium two mornings a week for families to drop-in and play. It’s a great way to get some exercise and let your kids get out all their energy while having fun.

6. Take your kids to your local home improvement center for craft/building projects, most of which are free (or very inexpensive). You need to register in advance, in most cases, so check out their websites, below, for more information. 

U.S.: Home Depot    Lowe’s  

Canada: Home Depot    Lowe’s

7. Have a “Random Acts of Kindness” Day, where you and your kids brainstorm ideas to make a difference in someone’s life. Ideas include: shoveling an elderly neighbour’s walkway, making muffins to welcome someone who just moved onto your street, calling relatives you haven’t spoken to in awhile just to say “hi” (it’ll make their day!). Kids love when their opinions are valued, so give them free reign to come up with a kind gesture that will put a smile on someone’s face – and make them feel great, too!

Whatever you choose to do, have fun! The options are as endless as your imagination so let it run wild!

Have a great winter break. J

Monday, December 12, 2011

Holiday Helpers

As the song goes, "It's the most wonderful time of the year!". And, for the most part, I agree. However, there are some days when (no matter how hard I try) the craziness of the season makes me, well, crazy.

If you read this blog regularly, you already know that I haven't yet stepped foot in a bricks-and-mortar store to do my Christmas shopping, so you're probably wondering, "what's she so stressed about?". I mean, really... no crowds and crying/whining kids to contend with; no racing around like a mad woman trying to track down that "must-have" gift of 2011... just web-surfing, mouse-clicking, credit-card-entering and voilá - you're done!

Well, it's not quite that simple. (But, you knew that! ;)

As parents, we know that instilling traditions in our kids and giving them the wonderful experiences we enjoyed as kids (or wish we did) is more important than any of the material things we could ever buy them. We bend over backwards, stay up late, do whatever we need to make the holidays special, because these are memories our children will have forever. We want to do activities with our kids, but sometimes need to get creative in order to get our tasks done but still have fun.

So, here are a few "holiday helpers" that just might take some of the insanity our of your schedule.

1. Baking with the kids 
Okay, when I saw this one, I laughed. You see, it's meant to be a joke, but I think it's a great idea. While I'm busy making cookies "with" my kids, they can be playing around with this and we're all happy! No little hands picking their noses then putting them in the cookie dough, yet they're having a blast "decorating" the cookies. (Yes, I know, it's a cupcake decorator, but they don't have to know that... cookies would work too, no?)

2. Crafts, crafts and MORE crafts!
My daughter can't get enough of crafts... and it couldn't make me happier. :) Visit your local dollar store and stock up on seasonal foam cut-outs, stick-on jewels, pom poms, stickers and whatever else your kid(s) will enjoy. Then, give 'em a glue stick, some washable markers and let them go nuts. Trust me, you will have a solid hour or more to yourself. If you haven't already tried this, DO IT! :)

3. Give them chores
This one sounds like it would go over like a lead balloon with the kids, but it's all in how you present it. First off, buy some of our Stick-eez™ clothing labels. Then on the next cold blustery day, make some hot chocolate, put on a holiday show (Frosty the Snowman, anyone?) and drop a huge pile of clothes and the pack of labels in front of the kids. Show them where you want the labels to go (on the clothing tags) and tell them you need stickers on all the clothes. Kids love stickers no matter what kind they are... they'll do it (and save you some time)!

4. Babysitter swap
Let's face it, babysitters are expensive. If you had to pay someone to watch your kids every time you wanted to step out to run errands or go grocery shopping sans kids, you'd be broke! Instead, get a group of neighbourhood moms together and work out a babysitting swap schedule. If there were five moms, each mom could take a day and, say, each afternoon a different mom could rotate watching the whole lot of kids after school. The kids will have a blast hanging out with their friends and, for only 2 hours of craziness, you'd get 8 hours of sanity in return!

5. Make meals in advance
At this time of year, I don't even think about making supper until 5:30 or 6:00... and by that time, I'm stuck! So, take one Saturday afternoon and make a few batches of the family's favourites - lasagna, meatballs, eggplant parmesan - and freeze them. It'll help you to enjoy mealtime with your kids and not get harried when life gets busy. (It comes in handy when unexpected guests pop by, too!)

Here's to a fun, memorable and, most of all, stress-free holiday!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Travel Tricks

I’ve never been a fan of (the idea of) travelling long distances with my kids. Car trips are one thing, but air travel… well, that’s a whole other ball game!

I think part of my apprehension comes from the fact that hubby isn’t the best traveller. There’s anxiety and stress around deadlines. Have we left early enough? What if there’s traffic on the way to the airport? What if the plane is delayed and we miss our connection? The list goes on…   So, the mere thought of travelling by plane with 2 kids under the age of 5 really stresses me out! 

It doesn’t have to be that way, though.  A good friend of mine flies with her two kids (under 4 years of age!!) all the time. She is my go-to resource for all questions air-travel-related. Over the years, I’ve picked up a few tips from her for those (rare) occasions when we fly.

  1. Always put a change of clothes and a few small packable activities, like crayons and paper, small travel games, storybook, etc. in your carry-on.

  2. Since kids get cranky when they are hungry or thirsty, make sure you bring lots of healthy, travel-friendly snacks, like applesauce cups (bring a spoon!), raisins and crackers.  Don’t forget to bring a sippy cup… but you’ll probably want to empty it prior to entering security (liquids restrictions) and fill it up with bottled water once you’re settled and awaiting your flight. 

  3. Buy one new toy or activity prior to your trip. Pack it away as a surprise for the plane ride. It’s your secret weapon when you need to keep your child distracted in a pinch. 

  4. Hand-held devices like iPods and other portable movie players are a sanity-saver - I can speak from personal experience on this one!! If your budget allows, buy one! If you don’t want to spend full price, Craigslist, Kijiji or eBay Classifieds have used ones for good prices, so check often. Rebember to grab a set of headphones so your child won’t bother those around him/her with the soundtrack to their favourite movie! 

  5. Car seats: every country (heck, state and province!) has different regulations around car seats. My personal opinion is that you can never be too safe, so I always ensure my kids have the highest level of protection while in the car, even if it’s not required by the jurisdiction we’re visiting. To make life a bit easier, there are companies who rent car seats at your destination. Many car rental agencies even have car seat rental as an option, so you know your child will be safe all stages of your journey.
  6. Label everything. I can't stress this enough!! Your toddler will drop his sippy cup while in transit to your connecting flight, and your kindergartner will somehow manage to leave her iPod on the plane. That's just the way it is! Make sure to get a Found-it™ code on your labels, so you have a better chance of any lost items being returned to you.

All of us at Oliver's Labels wish you safe, fun travels this holiday season!  Hopefully, these tips will help you while you brave the holiday rush!!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Giving Back: SickKids Hospital

It's amazing that, no matter how harried our lives become, when we take time out to help others, it changes our perspective and lifts our spirits. At some point, we all think about how we can give back in some small way, and with so many deserving charities and causes out there, it often takes a personal experience to help us focus on one.

Here at Oliver's Labels, that epiphany happened to our founder, Debbie, after a close relative ended up at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) in Toronto. She saw young patients going through a wide range of treatments, while the wonderful staff worked hard to keep up their spirits. This was an experience that made a real impact on her. And, as her company grew out of its infancy, so did her need to give back to SickKids.

Susie from the Child Life Dept. at SickKids (at right) with
Lisa from Oliver's Labels
Last week, that dream of giving back was realized. We now provide fun, custom labels to the Child Life Department and to some patients at the hospital.

Being in a hospital is no fun, but we hope that, in some small way, our labels will brighten someone's day. We're honoured to be able to contribute to such a wonderful organization that is not only a world leader in pediatric healthcare, but whose staff is known for their immense caring & compassion... making a real difference in the lives of kids.

If you volunteer, donate or give back in some way, we'd love to hear about it. :) We'll post stories of how our fans are making a difference in their communities on our Facebook page and here, on our blog, so that everyone can be encouraged and inspired to make their mark as well!

SickKids is always appreciative of donations, whether big or small. If you are able to give back in some small way, here’s how you can do it:

 Here is a list of some much-needed items:
·      Matchbox cars
·      Jewelry
·      Travel games
·      Dolls
·      Figurines
·      Decks of cards
·      Activity books
·      Decorative pens/pencils
·      Small craft activities


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Holiday Mayhem?

Usually at this time of year, I’m racing around from store to store trying to cross everything off my list. And, I’m not talking just buying anything. As a bargain hunter, I check flyers, search the web and compare prices in-store to ensure I’m getting the best possible price. While the price comparisons can be time-consuming and tedious, the fact is that I like the rest of it – the hustle and bustle of the stores,  hob-nobbing with other shoppers, inspecting all my potential purchases… even getting a hot chocolate to accompany me on my shopping journey. Christmas shopping really is a much-loved tradition of mine.

This year, however, I haven’t stepped into a store once. I have literally purchased every gift thus far online. The delivery people from Canada Post, FedEx and Purolator surely know me by now. J  It’s actually kind of surreal… I never thought I would enjoy doing it this way - breaking free of all my personal holiday shopping traditions - but I find it somewhat freeing. While I still miss the personal element of going shopping, I feel as if a weight has been lifted off my shoulders.  I know this isn’t something I’ll do every year, but at this stage (with two children under the age of 5), it seems to be the only way to go!

With all the time I’m saving, I may even be able to squeeze in a few more holiday craft activities with the kids. Now, that is something I can see becoming a tradition in my house!

Friday, November 11, 2011

We Remember

As a child, I have vivid memories of Remembrance Day ceremonies at school. They were solemn, thoughtful, touching and heart-felt. We not only learned about the many veterans who gave so much for our freedom, but also why their actions were needed in times when human rights and democracy were threatened. Even at such a young age, I understood these lessons because they were taught with such authenticity. We were visited by veterans, who shared their stories first-hand with us; we created poppies to be placed on our school memorial; we wrote thank-you cards to the men and women who served their country. These were powerful lessons that still resonate with me.

Fast-forward to today… my school-age daughter is being taught about our history and the important role of veterans. At the tender age of four, she is learning gratitude and respect through the experiences of real men and women who fought for us. And she, too, has created a poppy (her first!) to place in our window – a reminder that we should never, ever forget.

On this day every year let us stop, take a few moments out of our busy day, and remember the men and women, both at home and abroad, who have made sacrifices so we can be free. 

To them, we say Thank You.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Countdown Begins...

So, you survived the candy-fest! Well, there’s no rest for the weary because now the holiday countdown is on!  :)

Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or Eid-al-Adha, it’s a busy time of year. From parties and winter outings to shopping and gift-wrapping, there’s never a dull moment!

And, while this time of year is a lot of fun – buying gifts, dining out, splurging on the kids - it’s so easy to get caught up in all the craziness. It used to be that I was consumed with making sure there was a ton of gifts piled high around the tree… I love to shop and what better time of year to shop than now? But as the years go by, I realize more that it’s not what’s under the tree that makes for a great holiday, but the memories I make with my family. And, I don’t know about you, but I could really use more lazy Sundays (if there really are such things!), and less stress-ridden trips to the mall.

That’s why my goal this holiday season is to reduce the activities that drain my bank account and instead try to focus on those that replenish my soul.  I’m committing to spending time with family & friends, not spending money; making Christmas gifts with the kids, not making myself crazy.

Over the next two months, I’ll be sharing holiday tips on our Facebook page, on Twitter, and here on our blog – easy gifts kids can make, home décor that won’t break the bank, and of course, amazing recipes that the whole family will enjoy. 

If you’ve got any ideas, please share them with us by commenting below, on Twitter or our Facebook page  – we love hearing from you!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Two Against One

As of late, I've noticed the dynamic in our family slowly changing. There's an insidious element creeping in that I'm not sure I like. It's called independence.

My youngest, at 16 months, is just starting to exert a little independence - walking, screaming when he doesn't get his own way (love that one! ;), wrestling with his sister... you get the drift. Having gone through this stage already with my first child, I didn't fully understand how having baby #2 go through it would affect me - until now.

Last night, at bathtime, my two *angels* ganged up on me!  After supper they were both plopped into the bath and, shortly after, my little one started lightly splashing. That's all it took for my 4-year-old to instigate a full-on water war and, before I knew it, I was wet and both kids were laughing hysterically. It was like they were in on their own little plan... against me! It was a moment I'll never forget - not because I was soaked, but because I took a moment to enjoy their camaraderie and laughter instead of getting annoyed at the mess. My only regret is that I didn't get it on video. What an amazing memory to capture and show them when they're older!

I like the fact that my little guy is maturing and becoming his own little person, but I guess I didn't expect it to hit me like this. He really IS growing up. He isn't a baby anymore... and that makes me kind of sad. My baby years are over and, despite not loving certain parts of it (sleepless nights, seemingly endless diaper changes), there are other parts I wish I could hold on to forever. He's my littlest baby and his growing up signals the end of an era... but it's also the start of a new one. And, by the looks of it, he and his sister will have a lot more chances to gang up on me.

I guess it's two against one now (at least when hubby's at work). I'd better get used to it... and keep the camera nearby at all times! I don't want to miss another moment.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

You Live, You Learn

Sometimes I’m a bit of a helicopter parent. You know the kind – the parent who hovers near their kid at the jungle gym, just in case they fall; the kind of parent that has a hard time letting go (the exact opposite of a free-range parent) and usually ends up doing too much for their kid(s).  Ever since reading up on Positive Parenting, I’ve been trying to delegate more to my four-year-old and instill in her a sense of responsibility. Between daily chores (making her bed, setting the table, clearing her place after a meal) and making her accountable for keeping track of her personal belongings, I think I’m doing a pretty good job.

There comes a time, however, when the only lesson they’ll truly understand is one that’s learned the hard way.

Today happened to be library day at school. As we were getting ready for J-K, I mentioned that her library books were due. When all I got was a blank stare I figured I’d be a bit more direct, so I asked her to please go get her books from her bedroom so she could return them today during library period.  My request was met with a firm “no” and some excuse about not wanting to go all the way up to her room to get them. After asking again, I actually started for the stairs to get them myself. Then a funny thing happened… I stopped myself. 

The helicopter parent in me said it was the right thing to do (go and get the books), but the Positive Parenting principles running through my head won out in the end.  The natural consequence of my daughter not taking responsibility for her library books was that she would probably be gently reprimanded at school. In turn, I’d wager that the chances of this scenario happening again are probably pretty slim. However, if I robbed her of her opportunity to learn, we’d be in the same situation next week.

I’m so glad I didn’t rob myself of a learning opportunity, too. Because, no matter how much I want my kids to succeed, sometimes I’ve got to let them fail in order to truly grow. You live, you learn.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Halloween Tips & Tricks

Halloween is still a month away and my 4-year-old is already asking to make decorations to scare the neighbours! ("But not really scary ghosties, mama... friendly-looking ones!") Other than Christmas, Halloween has got to be her favourite holiday. I mean, the opportunity for decorating is immense (she decorates everything), so this is just another chance to dive in and have fun!

To put it mildly, decorations and other Halloween-related items (costume, candy to hand out, giveaways for classmates at school, etc) can really add up. And, in this economic climate, who has money to burn? So, I thought I'd share with you some great tips (courtesy of our amazing Facebook and Twitter fans) for having a blow-out Halloween without blowing your budget.

  • Do a costume exchange
  • Get a costume that your child(ren) can spend the next year playing dress up in; the cost won't seem so bad then.
  • Never buy a NEW costume; source them at thrift sales, consignment stores, etc.
  • Find a theme the whole family can do! The kids love when you get dressed up with them!
  • We always make a trip to the farm in late September for hay and corn stalks to decorate the front of our house. It gets the kids in the fall mood and they start looking forward to Halloween.
  • For classmates, make gift bags without candy for once - foam stickers and craft halloween paper from the dollar store did the trick! Parents and kids alike loved the idea.
  • With leftover pumpkins, my toddler loves hammering golf tees into them - a great way to practice his fine and gross motor skills.
  • Buy your costume at Old Navy the day before Halloween - all costumes are $2!

And, on that note... happy money-saving to you all! :)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Having It All

When I hear the phrase “work-life balance”, I kinda chuckle. It seems to be this elusive thing that everyone wants (and some claim to have), but for me it’s a daily work in progress.

Years ago, I worked for a big corporation – and they espoused the merits of the work-life balance. (Despite the references to it in their HR manual, they actually didn’t do much to promote it… but that’s another story!) At the time, I was married with no kids, so it wasn’t much of an issue for me. Years later, I knew we wanted to start a family and made a move to a smaller company where, I thought, I would be able to have some work flexibility. And I did – for about two years – until my department suddenly had a new manager… who didn’t have children. 

Yes, that was the death-knell for my coveted work-from-home-two-days-a-week routine. It didn’t make sense to me because I had not missed one deadline, conference call or quarterly goal. In fact, because I worked from home part of the week, I actually worked harder – if only to prove that I could do it and not let my job slide. Yet, because of one person’s closed-mindedness, I lost my work-life balance. Oh, how I enjoyed being home with my little girl… it made me feel like I was raising her, not her daycare. I cherished those two weekdays, even if it was challenging to get work done; I’d gladly work into the night (after her bedtime) to finish my tasks.

Fast-forward two years, and another baby, later. Now, I can say with all honesty that I have it all – time at home with my kids, a wonderfully fulfilling career… and a dirty house and bags under my eyes! LOL 

I’m truly blessed to be able to spend so much time with my kids and still do what I love, but there will always be trade-offs. The bags under my eyes can be camouflaged, the crumbs on my floor and dust on my furniture can be (eventually!) vacuumed, but my kids won’t be kids forever. So, yes, I feel like I have it all. And, so can you – if you don’t sweat the small stuff. :)

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

I Could Do Without The Back-Talk...

What do you do when your kid talks back to you? Any suggestions?

I’m at the stage where my 4-year-old knows how to push my buttons...with the word "no". If you were to walk by my house on any given day, you may hear raised voices and defiant cries. In an attempt to better deal with these trying times, I’ve been doing a lot of reading about why kids do what they do. And, when it comes to defiance, it’s a completely normal developmental stage – more about kids asserting their independence than wanting to make us miserable. (Good to know!)

The experts admit that when power struggles happen, many parents feel a sense of urgency to gain control over their kids; they feel that this is a sign their child will run amok later in life. In fact, (and I quote Today’s Parent magazine) “obedience isn’t all it’s cracked up to be; after all, we want to raise a child who has the gumption to stand firm in the face of peer pressure down the road.”  True... but, isn’t it always easier said than done? I mean, when it’s YOUR kid who's refusing to leave the local pool when all the other kids have willingly done so, it's tough to think “hey, this is normal!”. I have definitely learned that I don't need to control my child, and when I loosen the reigns and give her a bit of slack, she's more open to my requests. I've also tried to make sure I devote a good amount of time each day to her and her alone; time she knows she has me all to herself (when her little brother is napping). This has helped build a more cooperative bond between us. 

This parenting gig is definitely challenging… and, one that doesn’t end at 5 o’clock! But, if I treat these moments as opportunities to build up my child's confidence, mould her wonderful, witty, personality, and help her realize her full potential, then it's all worth it. What an exciting and inspiring challenge, indeed.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Out of the mouths of babes…

Have you ever heard the phrase "Kids say the darndest things"?  Well, it really takes on new meaning when you have your own kids and they're the ones saying "the darndest things"!

The other day my daughter and I were driving past a…er…I guess we’ll call it a gentlemen’s club, and she spotted pictures of scantily clad women on its exterior. She looked thoughtful for a moment, then came out with a zinger - “Mommy, those girls are not very kind… they’re not following the rules. You’re not allowed to leave the house without your clothes on!”. Well, I laughed so hard that I almost cried!

Kids are so observant - more than we give them credit for. As we all know, it’s usually the stuff we don’t want them to see / hear / remember that they do. And they are honest, almost to a fault. I remember one time we crossed paths with a “biker dude” wearing a bandana over his long hair. My preschooler proceeded to point at him and announce proudly, “Look, Mama, a pirate!”.  (Just so you know, she LOVES pirates!) But what’s a mom to do? I kindly pointed out that he probably wasn’t a pirate and, even if he was, it’s not nice to point and stare.

Our kids have a knack for catching us off guard and doing inappropriate things at the most inopportune times. They really do keep us on our toes, don’t they? Sometimes I wish I could be that honest and uncensored. (Well, actually, some adults are and it’s not necessarily a good thing!)  My kids teach me to not take everything so seriously, make me smile when they notice something I’d never normally see… and, while it’s not polite to point and stare, that is the only way they’ll learn the rules of civility and courteous behavior. 
So, to all those biker types out there, please don’t be offended if you see a cute little 4-year-old pointing and calling you a pirate… to her, that’s the greatest compliment she could pay you! :)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

They Grow Up So Fast!

My daughter, with a "big girl" braid!
As the summer slowly comes to an end, I am reminded that this is the start of a whole new era for my 4 year old... she's going to "big girl" school in the fall and there's nothing I can do to stop it!  ;)

It's always bittersweet watching my kids outgrow one phase, while beginning a new one. Just the other day, my baby took his first (unassisted) steps. I actually teared up, saying to my husband that this is the last time I'll ever experience one of my babies walking for the first time (we're stopping at two...).

Don't get me wrong, I'm the proudest mama on the block when my kids master their latest skills, but sometimes I just want to slow things down and have some more time to savour the little things. My kids are growing up before my eyes and time is moving too quickly. (Wait! I haven't even taken hand and foot prints of my now-14-month-old! Arrrggghhh! What happened??  Add that to my to-do list!)

I can take comfort in the fact that my daughter's life will be greatly enriched by all the new experiences she'll have at school - making new friends, learning new things and, most of all, developing independence and self-confidence that will help shape who she is as a person. I look forward to all the wonderful stories about her days at school and will revel in the fact that, while I'd love for her to stay little, it's magical to see her growing up.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Change is Good

My daughter won’t eat apples. (Or pears, peaches and melon for that matter, but don’t get me started.) What kid doesn’t eat apples? Really… that’s just weird. She’ll eat everything made of apples, but not an actual apple.  I’ve tried to explain that you have to try something to know if you like it or not. But she’s afraid of change, I guess. She sticks with what she knows and likes, and I can’t complain because she’ll willingly eat broccoli and asparagus (go figure, eh?). I find it ironic, then, in my quest to instill in my children that "change is good" – give up a bad habit because it’s better for you; make new friends because you’ll have more fun; try a new sport because you’ll like it – that I struggle the most with the idea of change.

Many people would characterize me as being outgoing, opinionated (maybe too much so, at times) and friendly, but I sometimes have a hard time moving outside my comfort zone. I try not to let my kids know, for example, that I’m afraid of heights (ladders = bad; airplanes = okay) and that I really don’t like bananas.  But, sometimes life throws you a curve ball and you’ve just gotta go with it! A few years ago, I was laid off from my job and had to seriously think about my next steps. I had never before been in that position, and it really scared me… the thought that I didn’t have a job to fall back on and didn’t know what the future would hold.

Fast-forward two years, and I’m happier than I’ve ever been. While I’m very busy with work and my family responsibilities, I realize that I am extremely fortunate to have the kind of flexibility that I couldn’t have achieved at my old job.

So, while my kids may not listen to me when I tell them change is good, I hope they can see by my actions that Mommy can roll with the punches, that change really IS good, and that we’re all better off for it. :)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Been Around The Block

French fries. Television. Large chunks of food. What do these things have in common? These are things I would have NEVER imagined letting baby #1 experience. But, guess what? I'm more relaxed with baby #2 and, at 14 months of age, he enjoys them.

Now, before you pass judgment and give me dirty looks, I want to clarify something – I’m a good mom. Not perfect (by far!), but good. I do not give my kids french fries on a regular basis, only occasionally. And, as far as television is concerned…well, it’s easy (they love Dora & Diego!) and it keeps the kids occupied at the end of the day while I get some work done or make dinner. Giving baby large chunks of food, on the other hand, was a tough decision. I have a real fear of my kids choking, so that was a big one to be able to let go of.  I do the best I can and am getting better each day at realizing that it’s okay to be imperfect.

One upside to this whole thing is that baby #2 is so independent, even at such a young age. My goodness, he feeds himself already (and has done so for the past month). The food actually makes it into his mouth! Yeah, I’m shocked, too! ;)

Why, just yesterday I took a few pictures (for posterity) of him playing nicely by himself with his toys. He was occupying himself…didn’t need me…and I couldn’t have been more proud.

With all the talk about Helicopter Parenting and the like, it’s great to know that my “imperfections” as a parent may just be helping my kids.  And, hey, did you know that lemurs come from Madagascar? I didn’t either... until my daughter told me. She learned it from watching Go, Diego, Go.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

“Sign” Of The Times?

I was taking my little guy for a stroll one day, when I noticed something in the window of a local pub. Upon closer inspection I saw that it was, basically, a cease-and-desist order for children.  Okay, maybe I’m being a bit dramatic, but you get what I mean. This is a pub, not a four-star restaurant. (Love the irony – it's called a “Public House”, but half the public isn’t allowed!)

What's the definition of a "well behaved" child, anyway?
Their version of good behaviour may not be the same as mine.

Then, today I came across a blog post entitled, “Hate Kids? Then the brat is you”. Naturally, I was intrigued! The author, Joyce Slaton, goes on to discuss her thoughts on why there is an abundance of (perceived) vitriol for kids these days. I think it’s a well-written, considerate article. But, some don’t agree with the author at all, as is evidenced by the plethora of comments on the article (94 at time of writing this).

The thing about this issue is that there will never be a “right” answer… only opinions from people who look at it through the context of very different life experiences. As a mother, I don’t expect a childless person to understand what it’s like to feel unwelcome or shunned from certain places because you’ve got kids. It’s hard to know what that’s like unless you’ve experienced it first-hand. It’s not fun, and it’s not fair – even if the establishment has a right to ban kids...or strike fear into the hearts of parents thinking of bringing them (and certainly not their strollers! LOL).

As parents, all we can ask for is some empathy when our kids act up. Even the best of days can turn into challenging parenting adventures (how’s that for positivity!), when a seemingly happy toddler spontaneously melts down.

I have an idea - let’s all use common sense, put ourselves in each others’ shoes and see how far that gets us. Maybe then there won’t be a need for that crazy sign. :)

Friday, July 15, 2011

Modern Storytelling

You know those rare occasions when you stumble upon something so cool, so inventive & so fun that you just can’t keep it a secret? And, when it’s also educational and FREE… well, my dear, you’ve got a winner!!

I had one of those moments recently when I came upon an email a good friend sent me some time ago, suggesting I check out a story-crafting website. It’s a wonderful concept, and I wish I had checked it out sooner - but sometimes there’s just not enough time in the day. :)

So, when I finally did check it out, I was completely astonished at how brilliant it was!

The website is, and it is nothing short of awesome! It offers so many different avenues for kids to explore their imaginations – and is beautiful, to boot! Not only can you send a story to someone (great for grandparents), but you and the special kid(s) in your life can craft a story together – even if you’re miles apart! It’s a great way to engage with them in a collaborative, fun way that also builds great memories and reading skills.

With Storybird the possibilities are endless! So, go online and start making a memory with your favorite kid.  :)

Also check out Storybird’s blog and follow them on Twitter (@storybird).

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Getting Their 5-10 A Day

Some days it seems like my kids will only eat bread, pasta and crackers. Other days my kids want meat, little carnivores that they are! To be fair, my kids love certain fruits and vegetables... but I keep thinking about the other amazing vitamins and minerals they're missing out on because they refuse to eat (or even try) the rest of the food I offer them.

While I'll admit that I could've been a bit more adventurous with the foods I offered my older child in her early years, one habit I'm glad we got into was making smoothies. On those days when it seems I will never get more than one or two fruits or veggies into my little ones' tummies, I can always count on a smoothie to do the job for me. If you haven't tried it, I highly recommend it!  They are delicious, and despite the fact that there is a large handful of baby spinach in each one, my kids eat 'em up! My daughter even helps make them and thinks it's fun.

Smoothies make a great breakfast on-the-go and are fabulous at snack time. With the hot summer weather, they are very refreshing, too!


Recipe for kid-approved smoothies:

plain yogurt
frozen blueberries (I like wild ones best... small and sweet!)
frozen raspberries
frozen strawberries
handful of baby spinach (I buy the triple-washed, ready-to-go kind)
orange juice

*We make ours using the Magic Bullet because it's fast and easy, but you can do this in any regular blender, too. If using the Magic Bullet, put the ingredients into the cup in the order stated... for some reason it turns out best this way (we've tested it out a LOT!).

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Right Kind of Beauty

Lately I've been hearing a lot about kids' self-esteem and what we as parents can do to foster a healthy sense of self in our little ones. This topic is on my radar because I have a 4-year-old who loves princesses and has a great imagination. Whether she's dressing up as her favourite fairytale character or entertaining us with her rendition of Cinderella dancing at the ball, her idea of beauty is being shaped as we speak.

While I have nothing against playing princess (I loved to do that as a kid, too!), I realize how vital my role is in influencing her views on beauty and self-worth while she's still young. So, I've made a real effort to not stress outward beauty when complimenting my daughter. She's strong, smart, brave, helpful, kind, loving and a whole lot of other adjectives! And, when someone else pays her a compliment about her outward appearance, I try to talk with her afterward about how a person’s real beauty comes from inside. I remind her that if you're not a good person on the inside, your true beauty can't show on the outside. We put emphasis more on having a "beautiful heart" than external beauty.

Now, I’m not completely naïve in thinking I can shield her from superficial comments about her looks. But, I can do my best to instill in her the knowledge that, despite her lovely exterior, it's the stuff inside that counts - all of the wonderful traits that make her unique. And, I think it's sinking in because when I read the Mother's Day card she made me at pre-school, one of the fill-in-the-blank comments was "Why I love my Mom".  Her answer? "Because she's got a beautiful heart."  

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

My Most Important Job

Right now, I’m trying to get work done…but I’m just a little distracted. You see, someone decided to wake early from his nap and now I’m being coerced to play by a little crawling munchkin who alternates between climbing my leg and leaning in to plant sweet baby kisses on me. What’s a mom to do? :)

I could tell you this is a situation that is leaving me feeling torn, but that would be a lie. Truth is, there’s nothing I’d rather be doing than playing and cuddling with my baby. I want to savour this time with my son, because he won't stay this little forever and I’ll never get these spontaneous moments back again. 

It’s times like this when it really hits home just how much our kids rely on us; it’s up to us to ensure their happiness, security and well-being. The weight of that knowledge is tremendous, but the pride I feel in having such an awesome responsibility overrides everything else. This is the most important job I’ll ever do. Period.

So, yes, work is important; I won’t deny that. But sometimes you’ve just got to go with your gut and do what it tells you. And, at this moment, it’s telling me that my little guy needs his mama – and I’m happy to oblige. 

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Food and Family

It’s amazing how food brings family together. For as long as I can remember, cooking with my mom has been a tradition. Not only did I cook with my mom, but also my grandmother. It was something we loved to do together when my sister and I were young, and still love to do it to this day.

Now that I’ve got kids, I continue the tradition with them. I must admit, while I love to cook, my real passion lies in baking. Aaahhh, do I have a sweet tooth!  My kids’ favourite recipe has got to be chocolate chip cookies, but I really love trying new recipes in hopes of finding our next “family favourite”. This past year, I’ve tried to be a little more adventurous with meals, so that we don’t end up eating the same-old, same-old every week. In turn, I’m going to share a few of our new favourites. These are all from, which I happen to LOVE because of the rating/review system that helps me pick those recipes that seem to be loved by all. It truly takes the guesswork out of trying a new recipe!

With both the Canada Day and Independence Day long weekends coming up, I hope you will take some time to try something new – you’ll love it! (Especially if it’s a 5-star recipe!!)

Friday, June 24, 2011

Planning for Summer

June is a busy month! I hear all my friends with school-aged kids say that the summer is a nice break after the craziness of June.

With standardized testing happening in many school districts, school fundraisers, graduation (for some), summer birthdays, end-of-year events for cubs/scouts/brownies/guides… well, it’s a lot of work! Then, we get busy planning excursions, registering for camp & booking play dates in the hopes of ensuring our kids are sufficiently stimulated – mentally & physically – during the summer. It’s practically a full-time job!

It can be quite overwhelming and we, as parents, can tend to over-schedule our kids. It’s a very fine balance between planning too many activities and having bored kids. So, in an attempt to save your sanity (!), here are a few tips to help you plan your family’s summer.

Plan activities or outings with other families
If you’re a parent who works outside the home, this can be a great way to allow your kids to get out more often, by trading off child-minding duty with other parents. You may choose to lead an activity on the weekend, while your kids enjoy an outing with friends during the work week.

Let your kids plan one special outing per week
This could be a trip to the water park that your daughter has been talking about or a barbeque at the beach that your son is keen on… whatever it is, make it special by letting each child choose a special outing (alternate weeks between children).

Plan family movie nights and unstructured play days
Movie nights with popcorn and snuggles are the best – and they’re practically free, to boot!! And what's better than letting kids play in the yard or at a park, maybe bringing a picnic or snack, laying down a blanket and gazing up at a cloudy sky. ☺

Don’t underestimate the value of rest and free time
It’s okay to let your kids have some time to “veg” out… that’s what summer is for!

Whatever you choose to do with your family this summer, remember the number one rule – have fun!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Sun Safety - what's in YOUR sunscreen?

Summer is in full swing and there’s no better time to take a good look at what we slather on our kids (and, hopefully, ourselves too!) every day – sunscreen.  With all the information out there about what types of sunscreen are best, how often you need to re-apply it and the myriad brands to choose from, are you ever dumbfounded?  I am! 

So, when I stumbled upon a website a few years ago that helped me wade through the sea of information on this topic - and much more - I jumped for joy! Finally, no more trying to decipher labels by spending hours on the internet researching each ingredient.

This amazing website is from the Environmental Working Group, a non-profit organization whose mission is to use the power of public information to protect public health and the environment. They specialize in providing useful resources like their Skin Deep database, which scientifically analyzes ingredients in many of the products we use every day and, in turn, attributes a safety ranking to each. And, the database keeps growing!

So the next time you want to know how “natural” that sunscreen really is, check out their sunscreen guide

Some of their other helpful resources are listed below.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Are You Ready For Father's Day? :)

It’s that time of year again, when we show our gratitude to Dads everywhere. They BBQ, read bedtime stories, give piggyback rides and let the kids stay up past their bedtimes (well, mine does anyway!).  Ah, Dads… what would we do without them?

Yes, Father’s Day is just around the corner – this Sunday, to be exact. So if you’re stuck for gift ideas for a special Dad in your life, whether he's a techie guy, bookworm, a kid at heart or coffee-lover, you're sure to find something fabulous! Father's Day Gift Guide 2011 

Friday, June 10, 2011

101 Things To Do With Your Toddler

My last post was all about engaging with my kids in a more meaningful way. Well, today I stumbled upon a great blog - Counting On Me - and one of their posts entitled “101 Things To Do With Your Toddler”. What a fabulous idea! It’s like a bucket list for your summer with the family…

I am going to have fun with this and see if I can check each activity off the list! How about you? ;)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Being Present – A Gift to Our Kids

If you’re like me, there’s never enough time in the day to get everything done.
With all of life’s responsibilities, it’s almost impossible to carve out a few minutes of “me” time (for sanity!) each day. Throw in a special occasion to plan or a family illness...well, let’s just say that something’s gotta give. It’s at times like these when I stop and re-evaluate my daily priorities.

I’ve heard it said that kids won’t remember a dirty house, but they will remember the time we spend with them.  And it’s true – there’s nothing my kids love more than for me to hang out with them - and nothing I love more, either! In a few years they may not want to spend so much time with their dear old mom, so starting this summer, it’s my goal to worry less about the little things and enjoy my family more... to try and really be present with my kids – turning off the computer and iPhone if only for a few hours – so I can engage in a way that lets them know there’s nowhere I’d rather be. I want to take advantage of the beautiful weather and opportunities for family fun this summer!

I know what you’re thinking... sometimes that’s easier said than done, especially when you’re out of ideas. Well, that’s where our Summer Guide comes in. We hope it will provide some much-needed inspiration when your creativity doesn’t quite match your enthusiasm!

If you have a great idea, we would love to share it! Send us your suggestions so we can add them to our guide.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Making Memories Stick!

“We do not remember days; we remember moments.” (Cesare Pavese)

If this saying by Cesare Pavese is correct, then we are well advised to capture and harness the power of those “moments” in our lives. As parents, we are always capturing these moments birth, first birthday, first day of school, first soccer goal, spring concert – the list goes on.

Now, with our Photo Labels, you can make these “moments” or memories stick -- for just $9.99!

“Memory is a way of holding onto the things you love, the things you are, the things you never want to lose.” (The television show “The Wonder Years”)

Yours Warmly,
Deborah Miller, Customer Support Manager
and from all of us here at Oliver's Labels

Friday, May 27, 2011

Planning for Summer Fun!

Before we know it, school is out and summer kicks into high gear. With so many demands on families these days, summer is the perfect time to de-stress with family activities that are all about FUN! Get out those family calendars and book some weekends or days off with an eye to ensuring that your family participates in as many fun summer activities as possible.

- A casual backyard BBQ no matter how simple is a fabulous way for adults to get some much needed social time together while the children play and enjoy unscheduled fun!

- Day trips to Theme Parks – These are always memorable and very popular with little kids, bigger kids and Adult kids! To make the most of your day (and it will be a full day!) requires good planning and smart packing so that you don’t waste valuable time buying things like sunscreen, water etc. Consider stocking up on our Safety Wristbands -an excellent tool for theme parks or water parks.

- Camping – ambitious but SO worth the effort. Quality time in a natural environment without the interruptions of electronics. Campfires, hiking, swimming... a wonderfully simple but memorable experience your kids will love!

- Poolside – perfect for keeping cool on extra hot days. Some days it’s just too hot to move! Make sure to have well fitting life jackets if necessary and don’t forget those fun ‘squirty’ toys too!

- Picnic in the park! On a quiet day, pack a picnic and walk or ride to a local park for an outdoor lunch. Enjoy looking at clouds – what animals can you find?

Check out our Outdoor Activities Guide for more detailed tips and some great links. Have some tips of your own? Leave a comment below or leave your suggestions here! Summer can be fleeting, so get planning and have fun!