100 Blogs

And You're Still Here!

100 Blogs

A little over two years ago, I met Erica Ehm in a coffee shop in Ottawa and pitched her an idea for a blog about a woman who stayed at home to raise her children for six years and then suddenly went back to work. I’m going to be honest here and tell you that I completely pulled that one out of my ass. I did not wake up that morning thinking I would start writing and I had no fully formed plan when I walked in to meet her that day. Instead, we had a great conversation and somewhere in the middle of it, I thought “If I started writing on Erica’s site, it would be a great way to promote my business to my target audience.....mothers”. So, in one of those totally compulsive moments I threw it out at her. Imagine my surprise and horror when she said yes.

I held it together as we talked, but when I got home the self-talk started in earnest.

“Stupid, stupid, stupid!”
“You’ve never written before idiot”
“Nice one. Look what you’ve done now?”
“Ok, ok, I’ll send her a sample blog and the jig will be up. No harm, no foul, right?”
“Oh dear God, what have I done?!!”

I spent the next couple of days writing my first blog and sent it off to Sharon and Erica. Then, I waited, and waited for what seemed like an eternity. After a day I had convinced myself they hated it. After two days I convinced myself they hated me. On the third day, I couldn’t take it anymore and I talked to Erica or Sharon, I can’t remember who and said “So, you hate it, right?” and the response was totally not what I expected. It was something along the lines of ‘we love it’ and I almost passed out from relief. They were building me a page of my own. A place where I would have to write a second blog, and my relief turned to terror again. “Do I have this in me?” I thought. One hundred blogs later, it would appear that I do.

I question my worth as a writer daily, and am still genuinely touched when someone takes the time to comment on my blog. It is a humbling thing to realize that someone other than yourself wants to hear your voice. I try hard to stay true to my own voice and share that here. I can be goofy, a little earnest, brutally honest, and sometimes I can get a little uptight about things. I’m on a journey, as we all are, and I am going to change and grow along the way. What will my voice be like after I’ve written two hundred blogs? Wiser I hope, still goofy and still genuinely me is my goal.

You may have guessed that being here is no longer about promoting my business, it’s become a passion. Writing was something I had secretly thought about for many, many years but lacked the confidence to pursue. I recently heard a friend of mine say, “Leap and a net will appear” and I thought "Damn right it will". I’m glad I leaped two years ago. My world has become an infinitely better place because I did.

If you are reading this right now, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for taking time out of your busy day to hear what I have to say. You are my net.

“This picture was actually taken that very day. Look on Erica’s left to see who else was there...our own KelliDaisy! Kelli and I have since become each other’s lobster. So lucky to call many of the ladies here at YMC good, good friends.”


The Pressure of Standardized Testing


The Pressure of Standardized Testing

For some time now, actually since about September, the EQAO drums have been beating for my oldest daughter. For those of you who don't know, EQAO stands for Education Quality and Accountability Office and is the Ontario Ministry of Education’s standardized testing to gauge if children are learning what they should be from the curriculum put forth. These tests are administered in Grades 3, 6, 9 and 10. It is truly a test of the system, from those who set the curriculum to those who teach it.

The problem in all of this is it that those who take the test, the kids, are feeling the pressure. Too much pressure.

My daughter woke up this morning and the first words out of her mouth were “Oh no, EQAO starts next week”. She’s eight. As far as I’m concerned, no eight year old should be waking up stressing about testing a week away. But it wasn’t just this morning. She’s been stressing about this for months. I also know that it’s not just my daughter fretting about it. Kids around the province are having major anxiety attacks about this. This represents a huge fail on the part of the province. I think evaluation of the system is a great thing, but the Ministry is placing the pressure squarely on the shoulders of little kids whose biggest problems right now should be hopscotch or tag.

I have been telling my daughter endlessly that she has nothing to worry about. That this is not her test but rather her teacher’s test. I tell her that she needs to go in and answer the questions to the best of her ability. I have said over and over again that I don’t care how she does on these tests and that I’m more concerned with the results of last week's math quiz. And this  seemingly falls on deaf ears as I see the anxiety building within her. Clearly there is pressure coming from the school.

Results of EQAO tests have become a big deal in this province. Each year local papers proclaim the big winners and losers in a huge expose that either leaves you feeling proud or deflated depending on what school your children go to. The Fraser Institute issues a yearly report card that ranks schools using EQAO as one of the key indicators. This means that parents can choose the school with the higher test results in their neighbourhood to send their child to. It is not a terrible thing for parents to be armed with this knowledge, but it creates a vicious cycle. Schools with higher test results get more students, who in turn are able to raise more funds in the schools for things like smart boards and library books. These schools obviously benefit from these extras and continue to do well. Schools that perform poorly see attendance drop, not to mention morale among the educators.

But is it fair to compare a school in the ‘burbs with a school in the city with a high concentration of students who just moved to Canada? Are your results going to be the same? Of course not. Are these kids any less smart? No. But the results are painted with a broad stroke and there are no caveats provided, such as “This school has a high concentration of ESL students and therefore they may have struggled with comprehension of some of the content”.

I have also heard of parents who pull their children from EQAO testing because they don’t believe in it. The problem with this though is that an unwritten test is marked as a fail which will then bring down the total test result. This reflects poorly on the school, yet,there is a growing movement of parents who refuse to participate precisely because of the stress is causes.

I’m not in that camp....yet. I believe that my daughter will have many tests in her life that will cause her stress and she’s going to have to learn how to deal with that. Coping is a skill that is learned best hands on. On the other hand though, I’m not thrilled with the delivery. It seems to me that Grade 3 is about teaching to the test and I’m fairly certain that no good can come from that. If EQAO is supposed to be an assessment of your child’s education to date, why put so much emphasis on it? Why even talk about it? Maybe tests should be delivered throughout the year with no forewarning if you want a truly accurate assessment of the system. With the whole year clearly focused on one test, no wonder the kids are feeling the heat.

What are your thoughts? Does EQAO and standardized testing in general need to be revisited? Is it simply the delivery method? Should the schools be teaching to the test? Chime in. I have a feeling I’m not the only parent scratching her head on this one.

Image Credit: Arvind Balaraman /


Lunch Math

Schneiders Country Naturals

Lunch Math

I find school lunches pretty easy. There I said it. Easy. Perhaps I’m missing something here because I hear it’s the bane of many a mother’s existence, but I have no problem with it.  Maybe it’s because I have it down to a mathematical equation now;  One drink + two fruits (or one fruit and one veggie) + a main meal + a snack = a healthy day at school.  My kids know the drill so well that they instruct their grandmother what to give them when I’m away.

Although the formula might sound bland, it’s really not. Fruit variations are endless. Cut up strawberries, grapes, cantaloupe, banana, apple, pear, kiwi, watermelon to name a few.  Vegetables can be baby carrots, celery, grape tomatoes, cucumber, peppers and sometimes a salad.

I used to throw a juice in, until recently, when I heard about a great way to cut sugar from your kids drink diet by serving them herbal tea, sweetened with a bit of honey and chilled. My girls love it and the flavours are endless. Blueberry, wild blackberry, orange and passion fruit are but a few of the types we’ve tried. One sugary juice habit broken in less than 5 seconds.

About a year ago, I stopped buying processed snacks and started making all my own. This might not be practical for everyone but here’s why I did it. First, it’s a HUGE cost-saver. Second, I control the portion size. Third, it’s eco-friendly; all snacks are frozen and sent in a reusable container. Finally, I don’t keep preservatives in my house or high-glucose fructose or any other chemical ingredient for that matter.  I know exactly what I’m serving my children when I send it from home.

So, as you may have surmised what’s in food is important to me. Which is why certain foods, like lunch meats for example, haven’t been in a regular rotation on the lunch scene for a couple of years, much to my husband's and children’s chagrin. When I was approached to write about Schneider’s Country Naturals I literally jumped at the opportunity because I too have really, really missed cold cuts. This is what I learned:

  Schneiders Country Naturals are all formulated with simple natural ingredients.There are no MSG, fillers or by-products – just the good stuff such as lemon juice, celery powder, sea salt, vinegar, cane sugar and spices.

  These great tasting meats contain no nitrites, artificial ingredients, flavours or colours.

  Schneiders Country Naturals ham, bacon and wieners were all formulated to meet the 2016 Health Canada Sodium Targets. 

  Country Naturals is the first line of prepared meats to be approved by Health Canada to carry the “made with natural ingredients” claim. 

It’s like Schneiders knew what I was thinking. They didn’t put anything in these meats that I couldn’t find in my own home.  Nicely played Schneiders, nicely played.  So, knowing all of the above I was thrilled to once again bring deli meats back to our midday meals. 

On Tuesday I sent this:

Don’t forget to include yourself when making your kids lunches. Chances are you serve them the healthiest food you can, which is good for you and keeps you away from the poutine truck at noon.

On Friday I sent this:

My youngest loves finger food. This lunch is right up her alley.  Pick up little slider buns for fun little sandwiches for kids.

And this week I’m going to give this recipe a go:

  • 8 slices Country Naturals Turkey
  • 4 whole wheat tortillas (7 inches)
  • 1 large tomato, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium green pepper, cut into thin strips
  • 1 cup shredded lettuce
  • 1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
  • 1/3 cup Ranch salad dressing

Place two slices of turkey on each tortilla. Layer with tomato, green pepper, lettuce and cheese. Place salad dressing in separate container for dipping if not serving immediately.  Roll up tightly and wrap with wax paper. 

So, find your own lunch equation and run with it. Once your kids know it, get them in the game. Slowly but surely I am passing the lunch responsibility on to my girls. They already know the math.