My New Year's Resolutions for 2014

The Things I Want to do Differently This Coming Year

My New Year's Resolutions for 2014

The year 2013 is drawing to a close.  You know what that means, right?

New Year's Resolutions time.


You don't do resolutions? You never stick to them?

Neither do I.

But I still like to start out the year with some delusions ideas in my head about what I'd like to do differently from the previous year.

You know — in case I run out of things to feel guilty about, I can rely on the fact that I made resolutions I didn't keep to beat myself up over.

So, in no particular order, here are my resolutions for 2014:

1.  To eat a healthier diet and exercise. A little. Oh, I know, so cliche. I agree. But my body doesn't care about cliches and my body is telling me that it is definitely time to shed a few pounds — aching back, sore knees — never mind the pants that no longer fit. There is painful evidence reminding me that my body was designed to carry only so much weight and I'm pushing it to the max. It's time to stop kidding myself about how long I can sustain an unhealthy lifestyle and not pay a price for it. I need to keep reminding myself that my sweet daughter needs me around.

2.  To have more fun. And to broaden my interpretation of what "fun" is. Looking back on 2013, I realized that fun wasn't a large component of my past twelve months.  It was a rough year in a few ways, but at the same time, I have also come to understand that I am not a fun person by nature. Yes, I have a sense of humour and sometimes even make people laugh, but "having fun" has some pretty narrow definitions in my world, so I'm going to try and change that, which hopefully will organically expand the amount of fun I enjoy.

3.  To have more sex. Oh, I know, Mom. You're blushing, and I'm sorry, but you ARE the one who told me that having sex every day helps keep a marriage happy, right?  And it seems to work for my parents, so perhaps increasing the frequency in my own marriage will give us a badly-needed boost in that relationship. It's easy to get mired down in work stress, extended family stress, children stress and then once the kids are in bed, turn to TV and social media to relax, instead of turning to each other. It's TOO easy. So I'm going to try to make an effort to ask Huzbo for headache relief. 

4.  To read more. My lack of reading books over the past year is tormenting me. I actually went out during Christmas shopping and bought myself three books I want to read and gave them to Huzbo to give to me as a Christmas present from the kids. Because then I will be forced to read them, with my kids asking every few days "Aren't you going to read those books we gave you for Christmas, Mommy?" It's a foolproof plan.

5.  To stop listening to my bully inside. Yeah, this is a huge one. HUGE. I hate that bully. She hates me, too, unfortunately. She's mean. She makes me feel like shit every time I hear from her. She depresses me often. She lies to me. If she were an actual real person, I'd have banished her toxic presence from my life ages ago — I'd never put up with that crap from a real person. Yet for some mysterious reason, I listen to this awful voice tell me the most horrible stuff about myself AND I believe her on a regular basis. Not cool. Not doing it anymore.

6.  To be more present with my children. Yep, I'm a mom who, despite the fact that I work at home without children present for six hours a day, still parents with my iPhone in my hand or my laptop in my lap much of the time. I see how happy my daughter is and how much better she behaves when I give her my full attention. It's time to put down the electronics and spend more time with my children. Not ALL my time  — that's unrealistic — but definitely more time than I have been.

7.  To let more things go. I read an amazing line recently: "I don't have to accept every invitation I receive to conflict." Powerful. I am a person who has never really missed a chance to defend my opinions or actions. This hasn't always done me well, so in 2014, I'm just going to try to sit back and avoid some of the conflict I'm invited to participate in.  It's not always worth the trouble it gives me, I've realized, and I seem to be having less and less stamina for these dramas as I get older.

8.  To create a 36-hour day. No, really, it's true. With all the reading, and having fun and spending time with my kids and exercising and having sex that I'm going to be doing in 2014, it's obvious that I'm going to need some extra hours in the day, so I will do everyone the favour of tackling this universal challenge to create longer days...or perhaps just simply better manage the time I already get. 

Happy New Year everyone! What are YOUR resolutions? 


Gifts That Represent Your Child's Race or Culture

Why They Are Important and How I Struggle to Find Them

Gifts That Represent Your Child's Race or Culture

It's THAT time of year again.  Yes, Christmas!  The time of year when I scurry around the internet buying gifts for our children that are useful, fun and educational.  While also trying to teach them to not be greedy for too many presents.  Sometimes I even manage to squeeze in a little bit of Christian education about why Christmas even came to exist, like when Baby Girl really was a baby of eighteen months and just learning to speak, I kept telling her Christmas was to celebrate the birthday of Baby Jesus.  When my parents came to visit, I proudly asked Baby Girl to tell them whose birthday we were celebrating at Christmas and she just as proudly answered "Baby Cheetahs!"  

Our first Christmas with her was simple — every toy ever made that had any link to speech development was under our tree.  Baby Girl did not speak a word when we adopted her, in any language.  It was a mission of mine to get her speech up and running as quickly as possible.  I worked hard at it, and the work paid off — partly due to my gift-giving with a purpose that first Christmas. 

Our second Christmas with our daughter, her speech had fully developed, so my gift-giving took on a new theme — adoption. 

Again, I scoured the world-wide-web searching high and low for anything — something? — that was adoption-related.  We already conversed regularly with Baby Girl  about adoption  — as much as you can have "conversations" with a two year old! — but we wanted some play-item reinforcement of those chats. There are quite a few adoption-themed books available for children, but even the most literary child wants more than a pile of books for Christmas, especially at age two!  The task of finding toys or items other than books that were related to adoption was so challenging that we ended up buying some adoption books and then also buying some toys that represented our daughter's appearance. On that particular year, there seemed to be a bevy of toys available for that purpose.  We bought a group of black children hand puppets, each one with a different facial expression representing different emotions - also fabulous for teaching children who were adopted to read non-verbal communication, as this can sometimes be a challenge for them!  We also found another puppet — this one a black female doctor — that satisfied our need for a toy that looked like our child, but also provided a positive black female role model.  I was proud of our meaningful gifts, and she still plays with them now.

Last year, our search was not so fruitful — it seemed as though the well had dried up and even the toys that I had purchased the year prior were no longer available.  What was going on?  Were toy manufacturers suddenly forgetting that black children also want toys that look like them?   I went looking outside of the internet and inside stores and found next-to-nothing of toys that represented my daughter's race in appearance.   I was sad and angry.  I even phoned the manager of a local store and complained that in a community as diverse as the one I live in, I was disappointed that there was not better representation of that diversity in the toys being sold at this particular retailer.  He listened politely and said they would consider my comments in their future buying of stock, but ultimately, it was too late for the Christmas rush. 

I finally ended up finding, completely by chance, a doll created in the image of a young Ethiopian girl.  It was a fairly decent likeness, not like many "black" dolls that are simply white-featured dolls in various shades of brown instead of peach. The doll's manufacturer contributed a portion of its sale to a charity for girls, so I was thrilled to find it, yet disappointed that the search was so difficult. 

This year, I'm late getting started on shopping, but I've done the preliminary search on the toy retailers websites using the search criteria "black" or "African American/Canadian." Trust me when I say that the results are less-than-impressive.  I am worried that it's almost too late to go searching other places on the web — African art dealers, independent African toy-makers — to order gifts that I will receive before Christmas.   This frustrates me, that it is so difficult to find gifts for my daughter that represent her race and her appearance. 

Now, for those of you who are not parents of trans-racially adopted children, you may be wondering what all the hype is about.  This is a good question!  For parents who are the same race as their child, or part of a bi-racial parentage, the child can look to their parent(s) for validation of their own appearance.  For those of us like Huzbo and I, who are both a different race than our child — our child cannot gaze upon our faces whenever she wants and find identity and familiarity in our looks resembling her own.   My daughter's parents' looks are a constant reminder to her that she was adopted.  Despite what strangers in the grocery store say, our daughter does not strongly resemble either one of her parents, so we must find other methods to help her develop confidence in her appearance and to identify with her heritage. 

So, with all the joy that Christmas brings us, it is also sometimes a time of sadness and frustration for me, that not only can I not validate my daughter's beautiful physical attributes with my own appearance, but I also struggle to find toys for her that can play stand-in for that job.  I must work just a little bit harder to find gifts that are both fun and educational, but also meaningful and representative of my daughter's appearance.  Oh sure - I buy her lots of other gifts that have nothing to do with race or adoption, but as her parents, Huzbo and I feel a responsibility to provide these gifts, especially when she opens them and exclaims "Oh, she's black, just like me!" with pride in her voice.  It can't be easy for her, being the only black person in our family, and even black toys like her help her to feel less alone. 

Ultimately, a toy industry that provides diversity would be helpful, as well. 

How about you?  Do you try to buy toys that represent your child's racial or cultural heritage?  Do you find it difficult to find them?  Let me know your thoughts!


Why the New LeapFrog LeapReader Rocks

The Latest Member of the LeapFrog Family Is a hit in our home

Why the New LeapFrog LeapReader Rocks

Why the New LeapFrog LeapReader Rocks

I am a reader. I always have been. I learned to read before I started JK and loved it so much that often when I was a child, my friends would ring my doorbell to invite me outside to play and I would refuse because I was too engrossed in a book.

So naturally I want my children to be readers as well. 

My daughter, at age five, is not so sure about the benefits. Don't get me wrong — she's on the right track because she loves books being read to her.  She's just not so keen on doing the reading part herself. She's bright and she knows how to read, but she gets frustrated when she can't read or sound out a word that she doesn't know. So she tries to avoid reading. Did I mention she's a bit of a perfectionist? Now, you might think that at age five, being able to read at all is pretty brilliant — and you are correct. It is and we are incredibly proud of her!  One of the biggest reasons that she knows how to read at all and knew her letters and most of their phonetic sounds before she started JK last year is because of LeapFrog

I LOVE this company, and I would have said that before they gave me a new LeapReader for my daughter to try out. 

One of the first gifts Baby Girl got from us when we adopted her was the LeapFrog Tag Jr. that she called her "egg reader" because of its shape! As she grew, we moved to the LeapFrog Tag Reader, and last year Santa delivered the LeapPad 2. She has loved every one of these products and I give them HUGE credit for her literacy.

So when I was given the opportunity to review the latest addition to the LeapFrog family — the LeapReader — I was thrilled. I had already been considering it as a Christmas gift to encourage a love of reading in Baby Girl.

To say LeapFrog is a learning-to-read specialist is no exaggeration, and the LeapReader just takes the past 18 years worth of systems and rolls them into one fantastic new experience. With the LeapReader, my daughter is now able to do everything she needs to do for literacy development, because the LeapReader provides her with THREE educational experiences:


She can either use the LeapReader to help her sound out or read words or full sentences, as well as play education-based games and puzzles.

Listening Comprehension

Audio books, songs and trivia challenges increase my daughter's listening comprehension skills and vocabulary.


An often-overlooked element of "The Three R's" has been included in the LeapReader to help my daughter learn the proper strokes needed to create letters and numbers that she can practice on special LeapFrog Learning Paper.

The LeapReader is designed for the 4-8 year old club, and my 5-year-old tore it open with eager anticipation and it wasn't long before Baby Girl was deeply engrossed with the sampler book and 3 apps that come included with the LeapReader purchase. When I showed her online the 150+ books, flashcards, games, maps, and more that are available for the LeapReader, she actually asked if she could revise her list to Santa to include some of the ones that appealed to her! I was really happy to learn that the LeapReader is also backwards-compatible with her existing Tag book library — I knew I kept those books for a reason! With the ability to hold up to 40 books or 175 songs, the LeapReader has the capacity to keep Baby Girl interested for hours, and the USB-rechargeable battery makes it easy to keep the power flowing for her learning adventures!

So now we are almost a week into owning the LeapReader and today my daughter came home from school and refused an opportunity to watch TV, asking to use the LeapReader instead! She alternated between dancing around singing along to the songs, sitting and listening to the audio books, and following along in the sampler book that came with it.  She was especially thrilled that the book had a map of Africa with all the countries named, and made me sit with her to listen as she repeatedly tapped South Africa so I could listen to the LeapReader say those special-to-her words over and over again. I was thrilled to join her in this new adventure and I know, as I always have, that this new LeapFrog LeapReader will keep her moving along her educational path with excitement and entertainment. 

What more could a parent ask for?