A Uniform Double Standard

Eldest attends a school with a uniform, and I love it.  In September, October, May and June, he’s in khaki shorts and a navy blue polo shirt.  Easy and casual.  From November to April, he wears grey slacks, a belt, a white shirt and a school tie.  There’s a navy blazer, too, for special days.  Easy and crisp.

The uniform does everything it’s supposed to do: he looks good in it, it takes the thinking out of what to wear, it makes the kids look as crisp as can be expected for teen boys, it demarcates the school day as a time of work, it makes laundry easier and I don’t have to shop as often.

I love it.  For the boys.

The girls in the middle and upper school have to wear skirts and knee socks and, frankly, I don’t think anyone over the age of 10 should be in knee socks and a skirt.  It’s ridiculous.  The uniform, which is supposed to take how you look out of the equation, becomes about how to pull off a skirt and knee socks without looking ridiculous.  I would not want to appear in public in one.  Skirts, especially knee-length or shorter skirts, require a certain demure disposition that I have no time for.  Skirts require a level of prim and proper that makes the freedom of pants look all the more appealing.  I’d be happier to see all the students in pants all the time.  (It’s telling that when I looked for illustrations for this post, my search turned up more sexualized images of girls in uniform than I care to mention.)

So, while I love the freedom that the uniform gives me as the parent of a boy, I hate the way that a uniform skirt limits the freedom of the girls who have to wear it.

A uniform double standard.


Nathalie’s Parenting Hack: Google Calendar

It’s not a hack at all, actually, but it’s my most useful tool: Google calendar.

Our online family calendar is the alpha and the omega of all our planning.  It’s the first thing I look at in the morning and the last thing at night.  It’s the first thing I consult when making plans, and it’s the most-used app on my phone.  I’d be totally lost without it.

61lvzl2H+2L__SX258_BO1,204,203,200_I used to love my Filofax and my Sandra Boynton Family Calendar.  I loved the ritual of writing in all of the lessons at the beginning of each term, and seeing the months spread out before me.  I will not lie: the stickers in the Sandra Boynton calendar were a definite highlight.  The Kate Spade refills for the Filofax made my heart go pitter-pat, and I loved handwriting all of the birthdays of friends and family each January, when I replaced my Filofax pages.  The way the pages would gradually warp and soften as the year progressed was so satisfying.  All of that tactile and visual joy.

BUT, once the boys started hockey, not only did it become a challenge to actually fit all of the information in the little boxes, it became impossible to stay on top of it all, to effectively communicate it all, to make sure that something did not get missed.

So, while it gives me a lot less tactile and visual pleasure, my google calendar gives me enormous peace of mind and security.

The Almighty Schedule is its own entity, and we all feed it information constantly.  Between three boys, we have five hockey teams (two play House League and Select).  We subscribe to all five teams’ online calendars so that the information gets uploaded automatically.  Games, practices, meetings and tournaments all appear (in different colours for each team, no less, and with links to the maps to the arenas–double plus bonus).  Eldest’s school events and school sports teams also each have on-line calendars to which I subscribe, so those also appear automatically.  Lessons, after-school activities, swimming, playdates, doctors and dentists–they all go on as soon as I book them.  All of the Things are collected on that calendar, and if they aren’t on the calendar, they don’t get done.

Those of us with computers subscribe to the main family calendar, so everyone has access to all of the information all of the time.  This, by far, is the biggest advantage of an on-line, shared calendar.  I do not have to be the person responsible for reminding everyone else where to be and when.

It’s not very pretty, and it does not come with 500 nifty stickers or Sandra Boynton’s wonderful humour, but it gets the job done better than my beloved pen and paper.





Guest Post: Laura Brown-Bowers on Sending Her Daughter to Kindergarten

As I get ready for all the fresh faces to enter my classroom this year, I can’t help but be completely distracted. “Distracted” might not be the best word. How about FREAKED OUT!

IMG_2453 (2)You see, my 3 ¾ year old daughter is going off to Kindergarten for the first time this September. My little, precious, bright eyed, feisty Beatrice is heading off on her own educational journey, and I will not be there to hold her hand at the very beginning. Instead, I will be greeting children who have done this before, many times. I have been an educator for 10 years, but it was not until or only when I had my child that I realized the amount of trust that parents put into my hands each and every day. For 10 months I see their children more often than they do, and it is my job to provide a space where the students will continue to grow and develop their love of learning. I need to make learning magical.

As Beatrice heads off to school, I am looking at that job and that magic from a new angle. Will my daughter enjoy learning at school? Will she find it exciting? Will she struggle? Will she develop a sense of trust with her teachers? Will her teachers see what I see and nurture her strengths? Change is huge for all of us, but I can’t help thinking how monumental this will be for Beatrice. As I said before, I can’t be there to hold her hand on this first day of school, but hopefully she knows that I am there to support her and set any teacher straight who doesn’t meet my standards come parent-teacher interview time. My husband has already said that I won’t be allowed to attend.


Laura Brown-Bowers lives live with her husband, daughter, and 4 month old baby bump in the west end of Toronto.  She loves to paint, walk in the woods, and eat good food.


Something to Try in the Lunchbox: Deconstructed Salads

You guys, few things move me to violent language like packing the lunches.  My husband had to listen to a string of expletives just a few moments ago, in fact, as I faced the week ahead with dread.  If, like me, you dread the lunchbox-related shopping, planning and packing, here are a few ideas to get you through the urge to curse.



Ha ha!  Just kidding.  Seriously, if you have time to make your kids’ lunches look like this, then we cannot be friends.

My friend Amy makes every Tuesday a Taco Tuesday, and Youngest has come to love her taco salad.  It’s infinitely customizable to fit your “eat up the fridge” offerings, and it’s the inspiration for these deconstructed salads.

Deconstructed salads are what, to my mind, bento boxes and leftovers were made for.  Slice a few extra veggies with dinner the night before or use up leftovers.  Picky eaters can keep the ingredients separate, nothing gets soggy, and the presentation gets top marks.  Five or six compartments, five or six ingredients, and you are good to go.

Taco Salad: lettuce, chopped sweet peppers, corn, black or kidney beans or chicken or beef strips, and, in the tiniest compartment, a few crumbled tortilla chips.  (They are like magic pixie dust!  Give them two chips’-worth of crumbs to put on top of a salad, and they think they’ve hit the jackpot!)

Salade Nicoise: tuna salad, hard-boiled egg, lettuce, olives and bread sticks.  Ooo la la.

Greek Salad: lettuce, grape tomatoes, black olives, feta and chick peas.  Mini-pita on the side.

We tried these snack-sized Li’l Oliver green and black olives from Sardo, and they are perfect for packed lunches.

LilOliver (3)


Fruit Salad: Why not?!  Send it with some greek yogurt and a mini-bagel, and breakfast for lunch is done!


Top 7 Reasons I Do/Do Not Want My Kids to Go Back to School


Maybe it’s because this was the first summer in 14 years of being a parent that I felt I had a real vacation, a real break from routine, but I find myself truly ambivalent about the kids going back to school.  I am not at all ambivalent about the packed lunches (shoot me now) or about the day full of silence (I will never, ever not want that.  Ever.  Don’t even try to tell me that a day will come when I will wish for more boys’ noise.).  Other than those though, for every positive, I can think of a negative, for every new freedom, a restraint.  I am, in equal parts, looking forward to and dreading all of these things:

7. After-school activities

6. Early bedtimes

5. Structure

4. Three square meals a day

3. No more digital babysitting screen time during the week

2.  Rules

1.  The Almighty Schedule


Mama’s Going Back to School, Too!

Exactly one week until my kids go back to school.  Can I get an “Amen!” sisters?!

We all know that Back to School is a period more welcomed by burnt-out parents than by kids, but this year, my kids aren’t the only ones going back into a classroom.  I have signed myself up for a drawing class at a local art school.  The class is called …. I Wish I Could Draw.  So, perhaps, I’m not so much going back to school as starting all over again from Kindergarten.

I am one of those people who could happily take classes for the rest of her life.  Education is wasted on the young, and I regret so much not taking the Intro to Art History course in my undergrad years.  Lascaux to Rothko, it covered it all.  The textbook weighed five pounds.  My roommate took the class, and, honestly, at the time, it was not something that appealed.  But now, now that the same roommate has taught me how to really enjoy how to walk through a gallery, now that I have a much stronger frame of reference for all of those historical movements, now that I have a vocabulary for techniques and media, I am full of regret.

At least I have learned to love looking at art.  It is such a treat to go to a gallery and soak up all of the work on the walls.  I come away from craft fairs and art shows with a buzz from all of the creativity, and I think, “I wish I could draw.”

“I wish I could draw” is something I’ve thought and heard myself say so often that it feels slightly surreal to think I am finally doing something about it.  I do not expect to emerge as an artist ready for her own art shows, but I am so excited to begin learning.  I’m also excited to sit down with my kids at the museum and open my own sketch book with a little less self-consciousness, a little less trepidation, a little more abandon.

taken in London, where we spent part of the summer

This photo was taken in London, where we spent part of the summer.

Having a baby? Going to a baby shower? We’ve got the latest in baby gear!


It’s safe to say that the three mothers are past the stage of babies, diapers and midnight feedings but we know that not all of our readers are. We’ve relied on our own experiences and we’ve tapped some 4th mothers … Continue reading

It’s in the Bag!

Here are some things that are going along with us on our travels this summer.  Things to keep us happy, safe, and sane!

You guys, I get so many compliments on these shoes.  I love them.  They are not only fun and funky, they are really comfortable and practical.  I have walked all over the city in them, and the support and comfort cannot be beaten.  They are also light, making it a no-brainer to throw them in the suitcase.  I was sent this orange pair, but now I am tempted to buy them in every colour of the rainbow.  Check them out for yourself at Uneek by Keen.



I find it tricky to pack for kids when we are travelling: how to combine comfort, fun and respectability?!  I found an answer at The Children’s Place, where I stocked up on some new threads for summer.  Your money goes a long way at The Children’s Place, and with clothes so reasonably priced, it’s easy to find the kids something new and special for a trip.  I bought Youngest this Skylanders shirt, which he wore non-stop in the last weeks of school.  The shirts I bought have held up well through many washes, and he got so many compliments, I even picked up extras as gifts for his friends.



Keeping kids occupied on flights and drives is one of the hardest parts of travel, and this deck of cards has been doing the trick.  Personalogy is a situation card game that encourages discussion and imaginative thinking.  It comes in two editions: one for adults and one for the whole family.  I got a sample pack of the family edition, and I used it on a subway ride with seven ten-year-old boys heading to a movie.  They loved it, and it kept them busy while we got from A-B.  If anything, they were so eager that they rushed to get through the questions, eager to get to the next question rather than answer the “why” part of the question fully.  Next time, we’ll have to reinforce the why component.


Staying sun safe has never been so important, but what do you do if you are super-sensitive to sunscreens?  I have had the hardest time finding a sun screen for Middlest, who reacts with a rash to every single one.  I think I have finally found an answer for my kid’s unhappy reactions to sunscreen with Aveeno’s Sensitive Skin line.  We’ve tried it several times, and so far, so good!  Peace of mind, finally, under the hot sun.



And speaking of hot, I am seriously in love with Consonant’s brand new dealkalizing deodorant.  I was given a free trial with the purchase of their skincare products.  As a lifetime user of anti-perspirant, I was really, really skeptical about switching to deodorant, but I tell you, this stuff works.  I’m amazed at its odor-busting abilities, and I really haven’t felt like I’ve given up on anything with the switch.  Seriously–magic in a stick.



Throw it all into a bag from Tom’s, and you will be doing good while looking good.  Tom’s has an extensive charitable aspect to the business, and you can give the gift of maternal health and safe births with every bag purchased.