Moments Like This


Moments like this leave you breathless. – Haleakula, Maui July 2015.

Our guest today is Sonya Davidson, known as The Culture Pearl.  If you’re looking for something inspiring you may want to visit Sonya (@theculturepearl). Life is about being open to new experiences and learning something new each day. You can find her on instagram (highly recommended) as well as her posts on national sites including,,, and

The Trip of a Lifetime

IMG_5236The way I see it, marriage and family are two sides of a scale and sometimes the kids trump over the marriage but it’s foolish not to restore the balance. As much as sharing milestones and spending time with my children is the bedrock of our family, I don’t believe in moving my marriage down the priority list. Not all trips are meant to be enjoyed as a family.

Our tenth anniversary trip was such a trip.

Corsica is a French island, rich in political history, south of mainland France and west of the Italian peninsula where the land offers everything from rugged mountainous terrain to sweeping vistas, breathtaking coastlines and crystalline beaches. Located at the southern tip (on a clear day Sardinia beckons) is the most spectacular place I’ve ever visited.

Domaine de Murtoli is a family estate. Since the 16th century sheep and cows graze the land and in 1994 the current heir married his love for his ancestral land and his passion for the environment with his talent for creating beautiful spaces.  Murtoli as it’s known today was born. A series of villas reconstructed as much as possible from the original centuries-old building materials coupled with modern-day luxury are the jewel of this working estate where agriculture still prevails.


We spent a week in our villa, a tiny sheepfold, nestled away from everyone and everything. Our daily trips to the market brought about the finest in local ingredients, and foraging at Murtoli’s garden was as picturesque as bountiful. Our days started with a basket of fresh pastries delivered each morning and then we’d spend the rest of the time hiking the impressive land dotted with cork trees and fields of lavender or lounging on a 5-kilometer stretch of isolated beach where a restaurant served the best of local cuisine. When we felt up for it, we’d venture off the estate and explore the neighbouring villages and even spent one glorious afternoon at our proprietor’s family vineyard.  Most memorable  are the dinners that were prepared over hours, and several bottles of French champagne.


The highlight of the trip was the evening spent listening to a small orchestra play classical music on the beach, illuminated by 5,000 candles. Just the memory alone is enough to give me goose bumps.

We came away restored and with a great appreciation for a landscape and culture that previously we knew nothing about.

To see more pictures from our trip-of-a-decade be sure to follow 4Mothers on Instagram.

Hot Wheels & Summer Learning

The summer slide: it’s not just about losing ground.  Get your kids racing their Hot Wheels cars down an inclined plane, and you could help them keep their math and language skills in gear all summer.  And who doesn’t love a toy that gives extra mileage?  (I’m all out of slide and car puns now.  Promise.)


Hot Wheels has great resources available to parents and teachers to help kids from JK-Grade One maintain their learning through summer play.  From making predictions to taking measurements, there are endless ways to incorporate math and language skills into car play.  Hot Wheels sent us some of their sets, and we took them to school for the kids in my son’s Grade 1 class to build and share in the last days of the school year.  The kids read the instructions, assembled the kits (with a bit of adult help) and then played with the fruits of their labour.  (Your kids can get in on this too!  Hot Wheels has a programme to get their toys into schools.  You can apply here.)

More and more, education in preschool and the early grades is play-based, active, and tactile.  By teaching math and measurement through play, we can engage tactile and kinetic learners who thrive on movement and touch.  By asking a few simple questions during organic car play, we can keep learning alive and active all summer long.  One of the most magical things about putting this kind of thing into practice is seeing how quickly it becomes part of the kids’ own method of play.

If your house is anything like mine, the Hot Wheels cars appear to reproduce like gremlins over night.  Put those toys to work!

  • Ask, “How many cars long is your bed?”  (Estimating, then counting and measuring)
  • Line up some cars in a simple colour pattern and ask, “What colour comes next?” (Patterning, colour recognition)
  • Line up the cars at the end of play time and ask “How many cars in the parking lot?” (Counting, patterning, estimating)
  • Take the play outside!  Use sidewalk chalk to create city streets and landmarks (school, library, hospital).  Give driving instructions to the Hot Wheels driver: “Take the first left.  Drive two blocks.  Turn right.  Where are you?”  (Orientation, instructions, reading and writing)

There are lots of ideas on the Hot Wheels FUNdamentals web site, as well as activity sheets to download.  Both incorporate learning so organically, the kids won’t even know you’re sneaking some learning in with their summer fun.

In Praise of Anne Lamott’s “Why I Hate Mother’s Day”

No fewer than six people in my facebook feed linked to or quoted a recent essay by Anne Lamott that appeared on, “Why I Hate Mother’s Day.”  Anne Lamott’s Operating Instructions is one of my all-time favourite momoirs, and her Bird by Bird is a wonderful guide to the writing life.  She just has a down-to-earth, common-sensical approach to things, and this essay obviously hit a nerve with many in the run-up to Mother’s Day .

I have to confess, I said a quiet “Hurrah!” when I saw the title of her essay.  I don’t exactly hate Mother’s Day, and I really don’t mind getting older, but I do really hate being the centre of attention on my birthday and on Mother’s Day.  I have always hated New Year’s Eve because of the excessive burden of expectations.  If motherhood is imperfectible, so, too, is the fine art of celebrating mothers.

It can be easy in the time around holidays to question the expense and the sentiment and the baggage that goes along with them.  For every celebration there is a killjoy waiting to stamp out the light of the day.  But if it’s easy for killjoys to dismiss a holiday, it is also all too easy to dismiss killjoys as spoil-sports without attending to their very valid criticisms.  It’s a logical response to excess (of sentiment, of spending) to want to undercut it.  And we should.  We should be aware of excessive consumerism in December; we should examine the nature of patriotism in July; and we should examine the duties and the burdens of motherhood in May.

Lamott makes worthy criticisms.  She points to the ridiculousness of obligatory tokens of gratitude.  She points out that not only the mothers (n, pl) mother (v).  She decries the self-satisfaction of parenthood.  She argues that mothers should not be praised as saints because they work hard–lots of women’s lives are hard–and mothers should not be praised as saints because beatification is a double-edged sword.  There is a lot of sacrifice involved in getting a halo, and, she writes, not all mothers actually deserve it.

One of the points I think Lamott makes obliquely in the essay is a point about martyrdom.  At least, that’s the theme that has been ringing in my head all weekend.  The most important insight that I have taken away from the essay is that if we do not want our children and our partners to celebrate us out of guilt, then we also owe it to ourselves not to make the kinds of sacrifices that might induce that guilt.

The only thing I wanted for my Mother’s Day was a trip to the McMichael Art Gallery.  I wanted it really, really badly, and I put all my Mother’s Day eggs in that basket.  Months ago, I blocked the whole day BEFORE Mother’s Day off so that we could go.  I wanted a day, a whole day, for immediate family only, away from crowds and cliches, devoted to looking at and making art and winding up with a long hike in the grounds that surround the gallery and a dinner cooked by someone who was not me.  You can see where this is going, can’t you?  Three hockey teams did not have access to my wishes or my calendar, and slowly but inexorably, the day filled up with obligations that narrowed the window of time to visit the gallery to something that was possible, yes, but not at all desirable.  I was not going to clock-watch during the ever-dwindling window of My Mother’s Day Time.  On an ordinary day, on a Not-Mother’s Day, I think I would have gladly squeezed it in and counted myself blessed for the bounty.  But I had wanted of this day most of all not to be rushed, and that, in the end, is what killed it.  When one of the activities ran long and it became clear that time was dwindling, I just asked to go home.

I want to be very clear that I blame no-one, and I would not have cancelled any of the other events that began to fill the day.  You cannot argue with the calendar.  I do believe that the mother of a goalie does not get to say, “Sorry, Team, we have other plans.”  The mother of three Habs fans does not suggest that they go for a ramble in the woods on the night that the team faces Stanley Cup Playoff Elimination; this is not the kind of parenting decision that is likely to lead to happy Mother’s Day memories.

During the time we could have squeezed in a trip to the gallery, I sat in my back yard and read.  I ate a meal with my family that was not cooked by me, and I received and read my children’s perfectly imperfect Mother’s Day cards.  My husband, my amazing husband, gave me this


and I felt blessed.  But then, instead of joining them to watch the Habs in all of their playoff glory, as I am sometimes known to do, I watched two movies based on the novels of Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte.  I did things that made me happy, but a double dose of women in period dress will, I hope, communicate to you, dear reader, the depths of my sulkiness and of my anti-hockey sentiment.

I did not blame anyone, but I was very disappointed.

I was also very angry at myself for feeling disappointed.  Why had I saved for a single day a host of things that I value?  Art, creativity, learning, hiking, not looking at the clock, privacy, family time.  Why had I thought that the day should be devoted to these things to the exclusion of all others (hockey) when the very reason I so badly needed it was because the bulk of our schedule is devoted to the kids’ activities and interests to the exclusion of mine?  The solution to the problem of not having enough of what I want to do in our daily lives is not to try and make it happen on the one day on which the kids and husband will feel obliged to make it happen.  The solution is to make art, creativity, learning, hiking, not looking at the clock, privacy, and family time as much a part of what defines our whole family as the hockey schedule.  My martyrdom was not in sulkily asking to just go home when we could have gone to the museum, but in not having insisted that what I value must also have equal space on the calendar on every other day of the year.  This is not easy to do.  If I ever do manage to fit in all of the richness of all of our interests, I will have earned my halo, but I will have done it without being a martyr.

Get Out and Bounce!

OK.  I’m calling it.  Yes, it snowed in Toronto last night, but winter is over.  Officially.  The calendar and I both say so.  It’s now just a matter of mind over sub-arctic winds.

As hard as it may still be to imagine a summer’s day, the sunny weather IS coming, and with it, the chance to gather outdoors for your parties, fairs and assorted extravaganzas.

Adventure Mania has a great range of bouncy castles for your events, with products to suit toddlers to teens.

A brand new offering for 2015, they’ve just brought in a movie screen bouncer, so that you can transition from daytime bouncing to night-time movie theatre.  The rental comes complete with a PS3 console, a loud speaker, and a projector, with a movie screen that is 9 feet long, and 5 feet high.



There is a huge selection of bouncers with movie and game tie-ins, and you can combine them with various things, like slides and basketball hoops.  For your little Frozen fans, one of their most popular rentals is the line of Frozen bouncers.



There is also a bouncer that operates rain or shine, so if you want your bases covered for your event, this is a great, safe bet.



Haley Chiappino is the Event Specialist at Adventure Media, and she is a delight to work with.  Such a friendly ally in what can often be the stressful process of event planning.  You can reach her at (905)864-3290 or  Best of all, if you mention this blog post, you will get a 10% discount for your rental.  They rent everything from bouncy castles and slides to sno-cone makers and carnival games.  All you need for a fun day in the sun.  Based in Milton, they serve the entire GTA, and you can check out their full range of offerings here.



*Adventure Mania offered 4mothers1blog a rental for review consideration.  The opinions expressed are our own.

Ideas for March Break Activities Around Toronto

From Nathalie

I took Middlest to see National Theatre Live’s production of Treasure Island recently, and I really like the idea of taking kids to see plays at the movie theatre.  While we sat in a Cineplex theatre in Toronto, we watched a live production of the play being staged in London, complete with a 20-minute intermission.  Of course, seeing the play in the theatre lacked some of the fun and sense of occasion that goes with a night at the theatre, but that informality is exactly what appealed to me with young kids.  We ate our popcorn and drank our drinks and it was all very relaxed.  I’d like my kids to see as much Shakespeare as possible before they encounter it at school, and for the price of a movie ticket, you really can’t go wrong.  King Lear is showing tomorrow, Shakespeare’s Globe on Screen will be showing Macbeth and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and I am dying to see Benedict Cumberbatch in Hamlet later this year.

And if it’s fine art that tickles your fancy, head over to the AGO, which has fabulous programming for kids to complement their latest exhibition of the work of Jean-Michel Basquiat.


From March 14-22,  join the AGO for one of nine creative days of exploring the amazing art of Basquiat. The whole family can enjoy beat boxing, dancing and drumming performances; interactive storytelling; art making; films and family-friendly tours of the Basquiat exhibition.  As with every new exhibit, the AGO also runs Family Sundays, from February 8-March 29.  Each week families are invited to explore a new aspect of Basquiat’s work through art-making and hands-on activities (1 – 4 p.m. in the Weston Family Learning Centre).  For a complete line-up of activities, visit

If you are in Vaughan, you can hit three great destinations in one fun-filled day.  Start at LEGOLAND, where Carol, Beth-Anne and I took our boys a while back and loved it, then head over to Sky Zone Vaughan to bounce their sillies out.  It’s wall-to-wall-to-wall trampolines, and, yes, they can bounce off the walls.   You can pay to bounce for 30 minutes or in increments up to two hours.  There are special toddler times for the littlest ones, but generally, jumpers should be already walking and be able to follow the instructions of the staff.


And when you are done jumping, go chill with the cold-blooded creatures at Reptilia.  As Canada’s largest indoor reptile zoo, Reptilia boasts a collection of over 250 reptiles, amphibians and arachnids (!).  Reptilia is also taking the show on the road, and they will at Hillcrest Mall for March Break from March 19-21.    At Reptilia Live! there will be interactive meet-and-greet, and guests can get to see, hold and touch a variety of cold-blooded creatures and learn interesting and educational facts.


Show times are as follows:

[Thursday / Friday, March 19 and 20]

11:00 – 11:20 | Live animal show

11:20 – 12:00 | Meet and Greet

1:00 – 1:20 | Live animal show

1:20 – 2:00 | Meet and Greet

3:00 – 3:20 | Live animal show

3:20 – 4:00 | Meet and Gree

[Saturday, March 21]

12:30 – 12:50 | Live animal show

12:50 – 1:30 | Meet and Greet

2:00 – 2:20 | Live animal show

2:20 – 3:00 | Meet and Greet

If you go on the Thursday, look for Carol and Nathalie!  We’ll be there with some of our brood.

Toronto for Kids also has a great round-up of camps, shows and activities.  Check it out.

From Beth-Anne


The Young People’s Theatre is one of my favourite not-so hidden gems in the city. The productions are always top-notch and tailored for a younger audience. Over March Break the classic tale of Pinocchio takes the main stage and to enhance the experience theatre-goers can sign up for the Puppet Lab and learn from experts how to create their very own, unique puppet. Space is limited. For ticket and show information visit Young People’s Theatre.


For older children, The Heart of Robin Hood is a great bet! I have been a patron of Mirvish Productions for many years and The Heart of Robin Hood easily makes my top 5 list. The real story of Robin Hood may surprise you – Maid Marion is no shrinking violet, Robin’s not as generous as you may have believed and Friar Tuck . . . poor Friar Tuck. The original music is guaranteed to have your feet moving but it’s the transformation of the theatre into Sherwood Forest that is truly remarkable. If you’re looking into introduce theatre to your tweens or teens, this is the show to attend but hurry, the run ends on March 29. For tickets and show information visit Mirvish Productions.


For the dancers, The National Ballet of Canada’s Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland, looks simply magical. I have not yet seen it but judging how much the boys enjoyed The Nutcracker, it appears it would be a hit. The costumes and the staging are receiving rave reviews and the sneak peeks shown on the website justify why. On stage March 14-29. For tickets and show information visit The National Ballet of Canada.

From Carol


It will still be wintry, but hopefully just a notch or two higher on the temperature scale, which means perfect timing for skating.  I love outdoor skating whenever we can get it, and Toronto boasts both Nathan Philips Square and the Natrel rink down at at Harbourfront are wonderful urban settings for gliding on city ice.

Or head over to the Brickworks for a smaller, more intimate outdoor skating experience on their public rink, and then head over to one of their drop-in programs for kids over March Break.  Paper mache boat building, both for individual boats and a collective boat, caught my eye.  Suggested donation $5.

Boats make me think of not winter, and I’m feeling ready to move on to our next season with Canada Blooms, our largest flower and garden festival. The many events and workshops fall over March Break, and offer opportunities for children to get their hands dirty getting ready to garden.  Kids will also be able to take home vegetables and flowers to start their own gardens at home.


For a unique cultural experience, the Aga Khan Museum offers stunning exhibits and collections that explore Muslim civilizations – head over on the Wednesday of March Break to enjoy and explore for free between 4 to 8pm.

Do you have any favourite suggestions for the March break?  Please share them!

Gifts for Her

Here’s what we are crushing on and hoping to see under the tree!

From Nathalie

I’m all about books and one of a kind crafts.  And anything with images of houses.  Especially these.  Made by Stoneware Studio.  Again, all I did was enter “houses” into the search box at Etsy.  It’s a playground out there, I tell you.


If there is a woman on your list who loves her nails done right and likes a little sass with her spa, check out this new line of nail polishes from Trust Fund Beauty.  With shades like What’s a Budget?, this package has humour and good looks.  This is Kiss Kiss Darling.  Perfect for the holidays.


I think manicured nails look wonderful wrapped around a tumbler of scotch, and I don’t think that the guys should get all the booze.  I’ve grown to love a really peaty scotch.  (Check out this website that tells you how to pronounce the names of various types of scotch.  So funny.)


I also don’t think that the guys and the kids should get all the gadgets.

Beth-Anne and I had a tour of the new Blacks store at Yonge and Eglinton today, and we got a demonstration of this super-fun printer.  The Fuji Instax Printer ($199) allows up to eight people to wirelessly send photos to print, and out pops a little photo that develops in front of your eyes.  So much fun for a party, shower, or family gathering.


After meeting Avery Swartz from Camp Tech, who helped us with some issues with our blog, I’m feeling a lot more empowered to experiment, play and learn with and about my devices.  The folks at Staples very kindly sent us this Samsung Galaxy Tab.  I am very excited to have gadget of my own!  I have big plans for this baby.  I do all of my blog posts at my desk and from my computer, because my phone is way, way, way too small for my aging eyes the vast scope of my creativity.  This should help a lot!


From Beth-Anne:

I never seem to have enough totes and this sequin and linen maple leaf design from Indigo appeals to my Canadian spirit.  Indigo, $49.50.


I love this mug so, so, so much because reading is sexy! Maybe someone ought to pass the message along to some of today’s pop-starlets that booties are out and bookmarks are in! Indigo, $10.00.


I have been following Carrie Synder’s blog for years and loved her critically acclaimed book The Juliet Stories so when Girl Runner came out, I was anxious to get my hands on a copy.   Nominated for awards and praised by her fans this book is the perfect read on a snow-stormy day.  Need more convincing?  Read Nathalie’s review here.  Indigo, $19.76.


Not everyone is a fluffy slipper kinda gal, so if you prefer a more glam look, these Ruby & Ed velvet bow ballerina slippers in dusty plum do the trick.  Town Shoes, Ron White and Shop Vincent, $70.


Coffee table books can add an element of decor to your home, but if they are not absolutely enchanting, what’s the point?  Vogue and The Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute: Parties, Exhibitions, People is full of glamorous celebrities, trendy fashionistas, stylemakers and icons.  Eye candy and inspiration! Indigo, $37.95.


Personalized stamps appeal to anyone who loves stationery and/or organizing.  For the baker, the book collector and the monogrammed obsessed these personalized stamps go far beyond the standard return address stamp.  Available in a variety of styles, colours and fonts.  Pretty In Ink, pricing varies.


Canadian jewelry designer Jenny Bird has caught my eye.  Her designs are reminiscent of ancient times and reference powerful goddesses and rulers, and a departure from the dainty pieces and glittery statement necklaces that dominate the boutiques.  Wear a Jenny Bird and feel bold, feminine and graceful. Jenny Bird, a variety of styles and prices.

IMG_1539 IMG_1542

Bill Baker, the creator of Consonant , truly cares about what we’re putting on our skin.  His passion and commitment to creating safe and effective skin care is evident in his un-ending desire to learn more and improve upon his award winning formulas.  Start the new year off right and remember Consonant’s philosophy: what goes on your body, goes in your body.  Consonant’s Healthy Skin Detox For Face, $99.00. 


The Mophie, a mobile battery pack to extend the daily life of your smart phone is the ideal gift for the social media junkie.  Available in a variety of colours but it’s this champagne colour that has made my wish list.  Mophie, Prices vary.


A great gift for the cottager or the city dweller.  These hand-made vintage style map prints on pillows with 100% down-filled inserts are available with maps of Muskoka, Prince Edward County, Georgian Bay, Toronto and more.  County Cupboard $69.99.


Don’t forget to stuff her stocking with all sorts of baubles and treasures.  Be sure to add Make Up Forever Artist liner.  The colour palate covers the range from basic black to deep plum.  Sephora, $24