July 25, 2014
by Mommy Gearest
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#OneNewThing from the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation (sponsored post)

Breast cancer has touched my life. I’m sure it’s touched yours, too, in some way.

My aunt had a very tough battle with breast cancer several years ago. She bravely faced a double mastectomy and ended up with permanent alopecia from the cancer treatments. And she remains a beautiful woman, made more beautiful by her courage.

In my life as a public relations practitioner, I’ve launched a pink facial tissue box from Scottie’s and one of Canada’s first coloured coins – the Breast Cancer Coin from the Royal Canadian Mint – both of which benefitted the good work that the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation (CBCF) does.

I am linked to breast cancer in my personal and professional life. I hope that’s as close as I ever come.

And as I near the big 4-0 next year, I’m hyper-aware that I’m about to become officially old enough to get annual mammograms. But after learning about the #OneNewThing initiative from CBCF, I’m going to do a better job of taking care of all of the risk factors that are up to me.

So I decided to create a breast health plan (it’s free!), and although it was hard to answer some of the questions with brutal honestly, I did. I admitted that my lifestyle has become almost completely sedentary thanks to blogging and that I drink alcohol more than just once a month (isn’t a daily glass of red wine supposed to be healthy, after all?). The good news is that I understand what healthy eating looks like (even if I haven’t been following the fundamental principles of late) and am very educated on the kinds of ingredients that should be avoided when it comes to skin-, body-care and household products.

Basically, it means that I’m only a 50 per cent mess. (Right?)

Among other things, my #OneNewThing breast health plan recommends that I take a walk every day, eat smaller portions of calorie-rich foods (hello, butter) and “be aware of how much (I) drink.” Trust me, I’m aware; this aging body doesn’t do well with hangovers anymore so I don’t binge drink very often these days. It congratulated me for not smoking and suggested I continue to steer clear of second-hand smoke, which I would really love to do if all you smokers would please stop smoking right outside of buildings and shops where I seem to encounter it the most.

The plan also reminded me to avoid “personal care products with formaldehyde, phthalates, parabens, alkylphenols, fragrance or parfum, and placental extracts” and included a link to EWG’s Pesticides in Produce guide, which is a downloadable PDF. Seems a tad more fulsome than merely a bulleted list of The Dirty Dozen.

Of all of the preventable risk factors associated with breast cancer, my activity level is what has to change. And that’s going to be my #OneNewThing pledge. I’m going to get active, every day. Even if it’s just significantly raising my heart rate for 10 minutes a day to start.

Because I don’t have the strength to face what my aunt did. I have a family who needs me. And if one-third of breast cancers can be prevented by living well, that’s a stat to which I need to pay close attention.

REMEMBER…

Image courtesy of #OneNewThing.

DISCLAIMERS: The Royal Canadian Mint is still one of my firm’s clients, but I haven’t worked on the team that represents it for many years. Although I was compensated for this post, I accepted the partnership because I want to help women take charge of their health. All of the thoughts expressed here are mine, all mine. Now stop worrying about me and go check your boobs.

July 24, 2014
by Mommy Gearest
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It’s the Happiest Party on Twitter: #DisneyFamilyTravel

(Scroll down to RSVP; you can also RSVP with Listen to Lena!)

In the mid-1960s, Walt Disney’s dream was to build a family resort destination like no other. The dream became a reality when Walt Disney World Resort opened in 1971, featuring Magic Kingdom as the centerpiece.

If you’ve ever wished to gaze upon Cinderella’s castle, hold Mickey Mouse’s hand or take a journey under the sea with Ariel, you’ll know the power of dreams. And today, at Walt Disney World Resort, you can experience the magic with your entire family. Walt Disney World Resort and its Cast Members deliver one-of-a-kind experiences to millions of guests annually, and if you’ve been planning a family vacation to this world-class entertainment and recreation centre, this one’s for you.

We’re pleased to invite you to the #DisneyFamilyTravel Twitter Party, on Tuesday, July 29 at 9 p.m. EST. We’ll share all the latest Walt Disney World news including the latest attractions, current and upcoming events, vacation planning tips and more. To thank you for joining the conversation on Twitter, we’ll be giving away ten (10) Disney Store Gift Certificates valued at $50 each. (Please see official rules here.)

Disney Family Travel

For your chance to win, RSVP below. In the words of Mickey Mouse, See you real soon! Continue Reading →

July 23, 2014
by Mommy Gearest
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Wordless Wednesday: NERF Super Soaker Water Blasters!

NERF Super Soaker Water Blasters

We’ve been having a “blast” this summer with these NERF Super Soaker Water Blasters! Thanks, Hasbro, for sending them over for us to test out. The clear winner among all of the neighbourhood kids is the cross-bow version (called the NERF Rebelle Dolphina); it’s the easiest one for little kids to manage when filled to the brim with water. The NERF Super Soaker Barrage also gets rave reviews, but even for the strongest six year olds, it’s just too heavy when the water reservoir is completely full; but it does hold a lot of water, so we just do it half-way and that’s easier to manage. I’ve seen them for sale all around town – like Real Canadian Superstore, Target and Walmart. Happy watering!

July 23, 2014
by Mommy Gearest
1 Comment

NuuNest app (guest review)

“Saskmom” is a mother of two from, you guessed it, Saskatchewan.  When she wrote this review, her oldest child was 28 months and her youngest was just five weeks old.  She is on maternity leave and quickly learning what life with two kids is like.  This lucky lady has a helpful husband at home and a newborn who sleeps well (nice).

Saskmom was provided with the NuuNest app for free in exchange for her honest review.

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Everything was new with my first child.  I found the first few weeks with a newborn really tiring and a huge adjustment. I am an A-type personality, so was diligent the first couple of weeks tracking each feeding and diaper change on the sheet with which the hospital sent me home.

However, life got busy and soon I forget to track it or didn’t have the paper handy. I found myself forgetting half the time when I last breastfed and what side I ended on, especially for the night feedings when I was half asleep and I would just typically look at which boob was larger and decide it must be the one!

When I heard about the NuuNest app, I was excited to try it; I always had my iPhone with me which I knew would make tracking a breeze. With a toddler in addition to a newborn, I needed to be even more organized this time and I was hoping this app was the solution for that.

I also discovered that the app was created by two nurses from Saskatchewan which made it appeal to me even more.

Since I started using NuuNest, I have noticed it advertised at my doctor’s office and the hospital. I should warn you that I am not an app savvy mom, and therefore don’t have a lot to compare it to. I use my phone for basic needs (email, phone, calendar, Facebook);  I don’t have any music on it nor do I use many apps so keep that in mind as you read on.

THE GOOD

NuuNest is very user-friendly. It was quick and easy to set up an account; all you need is an email and password.

The app is thorough and divided into the following helpful sections: feeding (breastfeeding and/or bottle-feeding), diaper changes, tracking the baby’s weight, expressing milk, daily vitamin D intake tracking and reference materials.

NuuNest

Image belongs to www.collegemobile.com.

The breastfeeding section allows you to track the start time and the side that you ended on and also allows you to add comments with each feeding. I really appreciate being able to track the feedings and have become very dependent on it.  I feel lost when I don’t have my phone handy to recall which side I last fed on and when it was!  I didn’t discover the comment section until a week into my review period (it was actually going to be one of my gaffes until I found it!).   The comment section could be useful to add notes in such as “fed on both sides,” or “didn’t drink much at this feeding.”  The bottle-feeding section allows you to identify whether it was breastmilk or formula and how many ounces were consumed.

NuuNest’s diaper change sections tracks both wet and dirty diapers and the time you changed the diaper. It also has a section that explains, with pictures, what to expect to see in diaper changes in the early days and the number of wet and dirty diapers you should have. I faithfully tracked the diaper changes for the first week or so until my newborn was regularly peeing and pooping.

There is an endless supply of information for mom on post-natal health and recovery including such things as emotions, nutrition, exercise, C-section recovery and so on.  Since this is my second child, none of the information was new to me; but, if you are a first time mom I think the information would be useful to review and refer back to.

I really like the summary section. It lists the number of feedings, diaper changes and milk expressions in the last 24 hours, and the time of those feedings, and also charts every feed on a bar graph so you can see trends from day-to-day and week-to-week.  The NuuNest app allows you to export the data to excel as well if you wish to analyze it further or save it.

The support provided by the developers is exceptional!  About three weeks in, all of my data seemed to disappear. I panicked because I was about to feed and couldn’t recall the side on which side I last fed.  More important, I was a bit sad that I had lost all of the data I had tracked — especially the feeding trends. I noticed that the developers tweeted so I sent a tweet to them letting them know I was having issues. Honestly, when I sent the tweet I didn’t really expect to hear back from them. Was I wrong! I heard back from them within minutes and had an email exchange going on shortly thereafter.  They resolved my issue very quickly and my data was back.  They also advised me that all of the data is stored on their network so if something was to happen they could easily retrieve and restore any historical data.  The personal touch made me an even more loyal fan of this product.  Since I don’t have much experience with other apps, I don’t know if this is above and beyond customer service… but I feel it is.

THE GAFFE

I have really had to scratch my head to come up with something negative about the product. I tried to start using it before my baby was born (so I could become familiar with it and hit the ground running), but unless you have the details (e.g. name, birth date, etc.), NuuNest doesn’t seem to let you past the first screen.  However, they did have tutorials that you could view without officially signing in.

There have been a few times when I go into the breastfeeding section to log my feed and it appears my data has been wiped. When this has happens, I usually exit out of the app, give it a couple of minutes, go back in and the data is there.  I am not sure why this occurs; it has been pretty random.

THE GEARS

4.5/5

July 17, 2014
by Mommy Gearest
0 comments

Pedalheads bike camp

I don’t really remember anyone teaching me how to ride my bike. I have only vague recollections of being on training wheels, but a very clear memory of the day they came off. I woke my Dad up at the crack of dawn and told him I wanted him to remove them. I think I was five or six years old.

After taking them off, he did what every other parent in the late-’70s and early-’80s would have done: left his kid outside to play on the street while he went back to bed.

It was a triumphant morning. Despite skidding down a (paved) ditch – sans bike helmet because this was simply not done back then – and scraping the entire left side of my body, I managed to figure out how to balance on my two-wheeler and ride off into the sunrise.

Fast-forward 30-something years and do you think my six year old wanted to get rid of his training wheels? Nope. Not even a little.

“They make me feel safe, Mommy.”

“I’m still learning.”

“I don’t want to feel fast because fast is scary.”

And this is the tip of the iceberg. There were tears, shrieks and full-blown tantrums. As I relayed these stories to a girlfriend one day, she mentioned that she hired a private bike instructor from Pedalheads to teach her six-year-old son to ride his bike without training wheels; he was off of them in an hour, she said. But we live in the boonies and Pedalheads said there was no way they were going to be able to send someone all the way out to us. Fortunately, though, we could go to them.

Pedalheads let The K Man try out its half-day bike camp for Level One riders, and I decided to make the most of our hour-long trek into the city where the camp took place, so I registered Miss Q for the three-year-old class that week, too. And I’m so glad I did.

Pedalheads bike campTHE GOOD

On day one, The K Man was on training wheels for all of 20 minutes. After a few trips up and down a strip of pavement at Blantyre Park in Toronto to test out his braking and steering skills, the instructor (Jessica) took off the training wheels. From then on, we’ve been training wheel-free, even though he still couldn’t ride it on his own. Miss Q arrived having been on a tricycle a few times but having NO CLUE how to pedal; by the end of her hour-long program, she could easily pedal about 10 feet if the instructor (Sydney) gave her a little push to get started.

The K Man’s class had only four kids, while Miss Q’s had but two. Amazing student-to-teacher ratios.

Kids can move up a level mid-week if they need to. That’s great flexibility when you’re paying a couple hundred dollars for your kid to progress, and we all know they progress at different rates.

The three-year-old program at Pedalheads was only $99 for an hour a day for five days, or about $20 an hour. To have someone else bend down for an hour, five days in a row, to get my kid pedalling. Over and over and over? Worth every penny. I’d pay them all over again in a heartbeat.

The half-day camp, which is 2.5 hours a day for five consecutive days, is $179. Just a little more than $14 an hour. Terrific value for money. Especially if, like me, you’re an older mom who isn’t in the top shape of her life and who might very well pass out if she had to run up and down grassy hills for two hours.

There were a lot of balance and steering drills, which I think made a huge difference in terms of skills and confidence. Even in Miss Q’s group they had to steer through pylons or stop in the middle of a bull’s-eye.

At the end of the week, Miss Q was pedalling effortlessly up and downhill, steering like a champ and doing it all with a smile. The K Man could keep himself upright for a good 25 feet or so thanks to the momentum of the park’s massive hill, but he still couldn’t bike ride independently. However, with daily practice at home, he’s now biking at least 200 feet on his own with a tiny push from a grownup. We’re so, so close now. Without Pedalheads, I can say with total certainty that we’d still be using training wheels. In fact, I was so impressed with both of their progress and the quality of the programming that I’ll be taking them back next year.

THE GAFFE

OK, I’ll admit it: Pedalheads feels like a bit of a cop-out. I mean, isn’t teaching your kid how to ride a bike, like, a parenting rite of passage? This thought nagged at me until day two when I left while both kids were in camp and I went to grab a Starbucks and have a pedi. Then I got over it.

There may be annoying kids in your child’s class. Miss Q had an awesome little girl to hang out with, but The K Man had two disruptive boys who weren’t very nice. In fact, one of the boys wasn’t even nice to his own mother! Thankfully, I have a kid who would rather go hang out by himself and look at ants than be bothered trying to fit in. The instructor never seemed to notice or was too busy to care, so the behaviour didn’t get any better as the week went on.

The only time I ever felt like the kids weren’t getting as much time and attention as they should have was during ramp drills, where The K Man’s class would merge with another four-kid group and the instructors would work together to get kids up and over a ramp. While the drill itself was great, it really didn’t require the help of two instructors and it ultimately meant that each kid got a turn every eight times – or about every 10 minutes. After two to three rounds of this, half an hour was gone and your kid would get about three minutes’ worth of instruction during that time.

THE GEARS

4.5/5

THE SLIDESHOW

  • Pedalheads drills

    One of the many drills the kids practised every day; learning to steer and brake within the confines of pylons proved a fun challenge.

  • Goin' down a hill, part one

    Going down hills is pretty much the Pedalheads signature move. And it makes sense. Because there are kids - like mine - who are cautious and don't love to pedal enough to pick up the kind of speed you need to figure out how to balance on two wheels. The hill obviously builds in that kind of momentum and it was exactly what my little man needed to make it click.

  • Goin' down a hill, part two

    Still holding on...

  • Goin' down a hill, part three

    And, letting go! The instructor let go of him for the first time and he smiled through it. And then swerved and almost wiped out, but he got up and did a fist pump and went back to watching ants until his turn rolled around again.

  • Fun on two legs, too

    I loved that biking was broken up with other games and activities; it kept them more engaged and gave them a chance to do something else, like blow bubbles or read a book.

  • Think of it THIS way...

    There were many moments that I, as someone who doesn't have the most patience in the world, would have found frustrating, but the Pedalheads instructors turned them into teaching moments. I don't know what kind of analogy Jessica was using during this demonstration, but I saw a lot of nodding from The K Man's direction. He got her. 

  • Not just chalk fun!

    Even when the littlest ones were doing something fun like drawing on the pathway with sidewalk chalk, they were doing it for a reason. In this case, they were making (and decorating) a bull's-eye that would later be used to help them learn how to steer around in a circle and brake on command.

  • Around the bull's-eye

    Yeah, see all that uncomfortable bending that Sydney's doing as she turns Miss Q around in a circle? Worth $20 any day of the week. Or, in this case, EVERY day of the week.

  • Tattoo Day

    On the day I happened to be taking photos, it was Tattoo Day. Other activities throughout the week even included making streamers for Miss Q's handlebars! Clearly, she had a great time.