I was never one of those kids who bemoaned the end of summer holiday. I was the one that was stalking the aisles of Zellers for three-ring binders and fresh stacks of lined paper in July. For me, September is the unofficial start of the year and I still revel in the anticipation of the new school year. I love organizing my supplies, charting the schedule and re-working our routines.
Here are some back-to-school products and tips that I like for this September. Sound off with a comment and let us know if you agree, what you’re planning for this back-to-school season and what you know is an absolute bust!
Let’s start with the backpack. Kids need a good, sturdy backpack. I am of the mindset to buy little packs for little bodies. I don’t think that kids should be carting around the entire contents of their desks, their gym clothes and their lunch. I tend to believe that if it doesn’t fit, you probably don’t need to carry it. Bigger kids – a completely different story.
Of course LL Bean does their classic knapsack in a variety of sizes. They are incredibly durable and can be monogrammed. The downside: three boys at my son’s school have the same pack and the same initial as my son. The first day of JK we had a mix-up and there were tears (his, not mine). That’s why I love these packs by Herschel. They are reasonably priced and come in a variety of sizes. This one is from Mini Mioche, a conscious, ethical shop located in the Distillery District in Toronto.
What goes in the pack is just as important as the pack itself. Staples is my go-to for office/school supplies. They’ve got everything that I need and even more that I don’t! I love these life-time guarantee three-ring Better Binders that they carry. I remember throwing away several binders at the end of each term when I was a student and they are probably wasting away in a landfill somewhere.
Colourful markers, like these neon Sharpies, are not only fun to write with, they are instrumental in keeping the schedule organized. I have colours for each child and everything is written in those colours.
I have budding writers at home and leaning on my experience as a classroom teacher, I know how imperative it is that children learn how to hold their pencil correctly. It seems like such a little thing but holding a writing tool the proper way actually assists in proper letter formation, and reduces muscle fatigue (among other things!). I have a package of these grippers and will be buying even more this year . . . they seem to go missing as often as socks.
Homework is never fun (unless you’re me!). My boys whine a little bit, but I created homework boxes much like this one. I keep it on the desk and when they’re doing homework on the go, it’s easy to toss into the bag. I like to put a checklist on the outside of the kit and it’s a weekly job to ensure that the homework kit is properly stocked and pencils are sharpened. In our kit: 2 pencils, 1 eraser, 1 highligher, 1 ruler, 1 mini-stapler, 1 pair of scissors, a few coloured pencil and a glue stick. Make sure to toss dried-out markers or broken pencils. Always, always, always have a stack of presentation boards available because it never fails that on Sunday night at 7 pm, someone says that they need a piece for a project due tomorrow!
Organized homework stations can help to alleviate homework anxiety and reduce procrastination. A homework station that is sufficiently stocked (not too cluttered, not lacking for anything), and neat might be what’s needed to reduce the entire family’s stress level. Consider using file folders and vertical boxes, one dedicated to each child to store on-going projects or paperwork that comes home from the classroom. Also,have a file folder for you too! You need one place to keep all of those permission forms that need your signature. Clare Kumar, an organizing expert, suggests going vertical instead of using horizontal trays or pegboards. I have to agree.
I don’t have any locker occupiers, but this kit speaks to my desire to organize and de-clutter. This locker kit, also available at Staples, comes complete with magnets, a magnetic pencil box, locker wallpaper, magnetic mirror and magnetic dry erase and marker. The kit is available in a variety of looks so your tween can express themselves. . .
and might look like this inside your tween’s locker . . .
Collect While You Spend!
Back-to-school hits the bank account hard. Other than Christmas, this is the time of year my credit card takes a pounding so why not shop online and collect points that you can cash-in to help with the holiday crunch that will be here before we know it. The best way to stay rewarded while checking-off the back-to-school wish list is to shop through AIR MILES Shops (airmilesshops.ca) that has partnered with brands such as Indigo, LL Bean, GAP, Old Navy, Toms and Roots. Many of these stores carry packs, lunch sacks, school supplies and uniform pieces that you may have planned to purchase already, so why not shop online through airmilesshops and collect? Come December you can redeem those miles and tick-off the holiday gift list.
Vote With Your Dollars
I always go back to what Carol says, “We vote with our dollars.” Me to We has partnered with Free The Children and Staples to help make a difference in the lives of children and their families in a Free The Children developing community. The program is so simple. Every purchase makes a difference! For example, when you purchase a lunch pack, Me to We will donate food to feed a child. When you buy a water bottle, Me to We will donate clean water to a child. What’s more, Me to We products have a tracking number that is entered on-line so you’re able to learn more about the gift your purchase gave and how it changed the life of a child or family. Imagine the potential for change if everyone bought just one Me to We item for their back-to-school list this year. That’s voting with your dollars!
It’s first day of school today and so I would like to wish all of the students a wonderful year of learning, friendship and fun. I would like to wish all of the teachers a year of inspiration, engagement and fun. I would like to wish all of the parents, good luck!
I am obsessed with Elderflower. Obsessed. I discovered it a few years ago in a pop I found at Winners. Do you know, I sometimes go to Winners just to shop in the crazy impulse buy aisles they have you weaving through miles of just to get to the cash register. Seriously. Just for that. I find the best stuff in those aisles! It’s where I found this elderflower pop. It’s where my elderflower adventure began!
From a rare find at Winners to England, where elderflower pop is readily available at Tesco, and a habit was formed. I drank a lot of it in England and brought home a bottle of elderflower cordial in my suitcase.
From elderflower softdrinks, I moved on to a discovery of elderflower liqueur. St. Germain is available at the LCBO, and mixed with a splash of soda, it’s a little taste of heaven.
Also available at the LCBO is Rekorderlig elderflower and pear cider. Serve very well chilled. See above re: heaven.
Finally, a friend, aware of my passion, brought me a bottle of elderflower cordial from Ikea.
If you are feeling ambitious, you can make your own! Recipe here from the Tree Council.
So, I’ve got several ways to find it, and now I’m working on ways to mix it.
A really indulgent cocktail that’s perfect for summer, is a simple mix of Prosecco and St. Germain. Pour half an ounce of St. Germain into a champagne flute, fill with chilled Prosecco and feel the bliss.
I made this cocktail for my Mad Mums’ Martini afternoon. It was incredible. At the time, I left out the beer from the original Bon Appetit recipe because I’m not a big fan of beer cocktails. I’m thinking, though, that the Rekorderlig cider would be a delicious substitute for the beer and would amplify the elderflower flavour.
I also adapted the recipe by substituting vodka for gin and soaking segmented grapefruit in the vodka for a few hours. I then used this flavour-infused vodka to make the cocktails and used the grapefruit for garnish. Delish!
Just add Elderflower cordial to pink grapefruit juice and add a splash of soda water. Yum!
Please tell me about any other elderflower drinks you may know about!!
It’s August and even though the weather here in Toronto hasn’t exactly been summery these past few weeks, it’s definitely warmer than the wintery polar vortex that swept the northeast only a few months ago.
The month of July at 4Mothers was all about learning, but for the month of August we’re turning up the heat, and embracing steamy summer nights!
Let’s start off with an underwear refresh. It’s time to ditch those granny panties and discover some beautiful options that are made for real women by real women. I did it (you can read about it here) and you can do it too. Your partner will thank us.
Joanna Griffiths is the founder and hands-on visionary behind these high-tech knickers. Joanna learned about the realities of real women’s bodies, specifically the challenges many women face post-pregnancy, from talking with her mother, a doctor. When Joanna became aware that one third of women will experience some bladder leakage at some point in their lifetime, she set out to revolutionize women’s underwear. Not believing that a little bit of leakage should condemn a woman to wearing ugly panties to accommodate bulky drugstore pads, Joanna built-up a team of expert professionals to make her dream of creating seamless undergarments for women that don’t roll, have built-in leak resistance, have anti-odor and moisture wicking technology, all while still being beautiful and flattering to all bodies. Sound like a tall order? Well, Joanna succeeded with Knix Wear and now women can feel sexy and confident.
Knix Wear is available in a variety of colours, styles (bikini, boy short, thong and high rise) and fabrics, from athletic to lacy. Sizes from XS-XXL. Priced from $22-$38. Sign-up for their newsletter and get $10 off your first purchase!
I don’t think that I have ever met someone as passionate about women’s undergarments as Nadine, founder of Mayana Genevière.
After giving birth to her daughter, Nadine found herself disappointed with the selection of nursing bras: the one item a woman should never skimp on! Everything she came across was either frumpy or hyper sexualized. She took it upon herself to create something not only beautiful but functional. She designed the first of its kind, metal clasp-free nursing bra and when her friends caught a glimpse of it, they encouraged her to design a line of feminine undergarments, including shape wear, that are to be worn throughout the entire journey of womanhood.
Her Canadian designs are well constructed with attention to detail such an adjustable hook & eye that allows you to choose your desired level of compression and every garment is made of the highest quality fabrics including organic cotton gussets. Nadine maintains that a woman’s undergarments should never roll or shift and it won’t happen so long as they are well made and fitted properly. “You’ll always look fabulous when you dress the body you have!” says Nadine and she’s made it her mission to celebrate women’s bodies and at the same time instill acceptance and confidence in her clients. To further her dream of developing a socially conscious brand, Nadine established Maternal Goddess, an organization dedicated to the education and awareness of postnatal maternal health.
A portion of every purchase from Mayana Genevière is contributed to this incredible platform that supports new mothers.
The brand will be available in the Fall at 7 boutiques in the Toronto area. Check the website for details in the coming weeks.
Bras are available in a variety of styles, including nursing from 32B to 42D. Control panties available in sizes S-XXL.
File this under things I never thought I’d say: if I had it all to do again, I would let my preschoolers watch more television. At least, that’s how I feel after meeting some of the great minds behind CBC children’s programming.
I love meeting people who are infectiously enthusiastic about their jobs, and that was very much the case at CBC Kids’ Days when I met Kim Wilson, creative head of CBC children’s programming, and Dr. Lynn Oldershaw, child psychologist and children’s’ programming consultant for Kids’ CBC. They were introducing three new shows coming to CBC Kids– Chirp, The Moblees, and You & Me–and they invited 4Mothers along to their Very Important Picnic, where parents and kids could mix and mingle and meet some of the people in front of and behind the camera.
(Confession: I have a crush on Mamma Yamma and I got to meet her! In the potato flesh!)
Almost as exciting as that celebrity spotting, I learned a lot about their whole child approach to children’s programming and how their shows fill their mandate to educate and empower children.
“We are not just making content, we are making a difference.”
Both Kim and Lynn emphasized how television can make a positive difference to preschool-aged viewers, and, I confess, I was a bit skeptical at first. As a rule, I place tight limits on screen time because I’d prefer my kids to be active, but as Lynn pointed out, preschoolers do not watch television passively in the way that adults and older children do. Their minds are constantly working as they watch, and they are active consumers of what’s on the screen. If you make sure to put them in front of quality, interactive programming, then they will engage and learn.
The team at CBC ensures that learning happens with their Whole Child Development Approach to programming, in which five areas of development are being targeted in shows that are very interactive:
1. Cognitive Growth (science, spelling, numeracy, learning to read; Bookaboo, Monster Math Squad)
2. Social Skills (equally important in preparing for academic success is how to get along with other children; Daniel Tiger’s Neighbourhood)
4. Creativity (music, art, storytelling–children have an enormous capacity for creativity, and quality programming will stimulate it, not stifle it, by enabling kids to extend on what they see and hear; Artzooka; I noticed how simple the monsters in Monster Math would be to draw ourselves)
5. Physical Development (many aspects of the programming encourage, and even require, kids to move in order to propel the story; Bo on the Go)
I was thrilled to learn that John Mighton, of Jump Math fame, was a consultant on the numeracy content in Monster Math Squad, and Mary Gordon, who founded Roots of Empathy, was a consultant for the emotional intelligence content of The Adventures of Napkin Man. These are thinkers and activists whose work I have long admired, and to hear that they are contributing to children’s television is nothing short of delightful.
We had a great day at the CBC studios, and I left feeling really grateful to have had the chance to look behind the curtain. It has given me a much rosier view of how the small screen can be a positive part of at home learning.
Our theme for our posts for July is, loosely, homeschooling: learning at home. Partly, we are talking about avoiding the summer slide, but we are also looking at how learning at home and outside of the classroom is important for broadening our kids’ horizons. And, yes, we include our trip to LEGOLAND in the learning category! You should have seen how the boys looked at each others’ car models and sought advice and inspiration from each other to make their cars faster.
One of my goals for myself and my kids this summer is to create more art. I am powerfully drawn to art supply stores in a way that totally defies logic because I can’t draw! All those gorgeous colours of markers, and here’s be barely able to draw a smiley face.
I’d like to change that.
Here are three sets of books that I have found really useful.
Ed Emberley’s illustration instruction is an outstanding place to start, not only because the method is so simple and fun but because results are so instant. Seriously, no one can mess this up. We have several of his books, but the web site is fun and useful, too. It has printable sheets and animated instruction. I really like the step-by-step method, but also how he includes ways to vary the basic image. We own a copy of his Drawing Book of Animals, originally published in 1970. It is dedicated to “the boy I was, the book I could not find.” That broke my heart a little. Well, your boys and girls can find both the book and the web site and can get busy making art right away. His fingerprint illustrations are particularly fun, and they even incorporate literacy into the method: if you can write IVY LOU, you can draw an owl.
Another series I love is based on shapes. Chris Hart has a whole line of illustration instruction books, but the ones I go to all the time are his very basic shape-based ones: Draw a Triangle/Circle/Square, Draw Anything.
Again, the key to the success of these books is step-by-step instruction and instant gratification. My son’s hockey team, whose logo was a deer, made it to the finals in their division a few years back. For luck, I decided to give them all lucky underwear (inspiration from the coach, who had a pair) and I went to this book to find a super-simple image of a deer to draw onto the underwear. Huge hit.
Finally, I have fallen in love with a great series of books that encourage artists not only to make art but to find a style that suits them: the 20 Ways to Draw series from Quarry books. The illustrations are a lot more advanced, but the books demonstrate various styles for illustrating the same object, from simple to more complicated. There is no step-by-step instruction, but there is a lot of inspiration!
Please head over to Toronto Mom Now and check out the other nominees. You can vote for your favourite three. Voting closes on Monday, July 14.
Carol is my go-to green expert. She’s most likely cringing right now because she considers herself anything but an expert on the topic. She is, however, the most environmentally conscious person whom I know and instead of wanting to stick my fingers in my ears and ride out the guilt wave whenever she talks about her latest greening project, I am inspired! That’s right folks, inspired!
This woman makes her own soap, grows her own mushrooms and boarded the eco-train long before it became mainstream yet she is anything but a green snob. Her quiet enthusiasm spurs me to try new things and step way out of my comfort zone.
A few weeks ago, Seventh Generation sent over a home detox kit and I figured why not give it a try? I have made strides to introduce more organic, whole foods in to our every day diet but I have been neglectful on the home front.
I am not easily impressed when it comes to “green” cleaners. The few that I have tried have delivered lacklustre results that left me wondering how clean the toilet/counter/floor really is?
I was pleasantly surprised with Seventh Generation’s granite counter cleaner and dishwashing detergent but the laundry detergent made me a convert!
I do laundry like it’s my job. Well, it kinda is my job. I easily push through 10 loads a week of grimy, sweaty, stained clothes running the gamut from sporting uniforms to my beloved skinnies and EVERYTHING CAME OUT SPOTLESS with no soapy residue.
Thinking of “leaning-in” to become more green conscious when it comes to your home? Here are some easy-to-do tips from Seventh Generation:
- Open The Windows – avoid synthetic air fresheners and sprays.
- Leave Shoes At The Door – and wash those welcome mats!
- Plant More Indoor Plants – they help purify the air.
- Clean With Plant-Based or DIY Cleaners – or choose a brand that lists all of their ingredients so you can make an informed choice.
- Sleep On Organic And/Or Natural Fibres
- Detox Your Home From The Outside In – spray your lawn with white vinegar to combat those pesky weeds!
- Choose Toys Made From Natural Materials – and wash them with natural detergents.
Dads can be tricky people to shop for because they always seem to have everything that they need because they buy it for themselves with little fanfare. I am forever suggesting with a wink and smile that maybe someone can buy that apple tv/squash racquet/shirt and lo and behold, I find said item in the house a few days later. Dads can also be the easiest people to shop for. Food is almost always a home-run and so, come to think of it, are sporting events and experiences. And every dad, no matter how macho, is a sucker for a painted handprint and a simple “I love you” scrawled across the page.
Here’s a round of up of some gifts that may make dad extra happy on his special day.
I know that the hipster dads are rockin’ the beards but there are still plenty of guys (and their gals) out there who love a close shave. Son of a Sailor makes these beautiful, stained wood shave kits ($72) that may just make some hipsters rethink their look.
And because every daddy has their admirers, there is Harry’s father and son shave set ($36)
I know quite a few dads who can vouch for having seen every episode of Seinfeld, but that doesn’t mean they have to show solidarity and sport a Constanza-esque wallet. Thin card holders are the way to go and XO Bruno’s ($35) are simple, no-fuss and all that’s needed.
It’s a bummer when your phone or mobile device runs out of juice. Nomad, a company of spry young smartypants (seriously, I could have babysat these kids!) have come up with a simple, easy-to-use solution. The CHARGEKEY and CHARGECARD are sleek portable smart phone cables ($29) that either fit nicely onto a standard key ring or in a card holder (see above). It works by plugging one end into a USB port and the other end into your mobile device.
A guy that I went to high school, and whom I am friends with on Facebook, is dapper. There really is no other word for his style. His look is unique, well-put together and he appreciates the quality of fine craftsmanship. I love seeing how his little guy is following in his footsteps. When I saw this book, Vintage Menswear: A collection from the vintage showroom, ($58) I thought of him. Happy Father’s Day, J.G.!
Along the same lines, whatever happened to money clips? Are they making a comeback along with the pocket-square and slim-cut pants? I do love a nice money clip, so if the thin-card holder isn’t your guy’s thing, maybe a money clip ($262) is just what he needs. Besides a cash diet is a good thing, right?
My boys are baseball obsessed! Any chance they can get to a game, they are thrilled beyond belief. It would make their day to see their dad wearing this fan t-shirt ($38).
Or maybe he will rock an old-school look ($38).
It’s not just moms that have a lot to tote around. Dads have things too. Like their workout clothes and . . . .um . . . I am not sure what else, but this sailor bag ($79) would be an easy bag to toss workout clothes into.
Cufflinked out? This simple, leather ID bracelet ($42) is an alternative.
Have a dad that likes sipping on a drink on the back patio? Check out these glasses made from recycled beer bottles ($19). The artists have several to choose from – I bet your dad’s favourite brand is available too.
Here’s something that is on MY list (for me!) so I may just have to get it for him. Humans of New York by Brandon Stanton is based on his popular blog of the same name. He has 4 million followers. Wow!
Did this list not spark your interest? Why not try Urban Moms? Sonya has some great ideas for the hard-to-buy-for dad.
I love the messaging that has been coming from Kerry Clare at the 49th Shelf about their Father’s Day book recommendations: not all dads are only about golf, barbecue and beer. If you are looking for some great books to gift that go beyond the usual father’s day stuff, this is your list.
A while back, we were sent a label making kit from Epson. The first person I thought about when I got it was my husband! The custom label makers for wires is perfect for him! (Available only in the US.)
For Mother’s Day, my husband gave me a t-shirt that says, “I am silently correcting you’re grammar.” I wore it out today for the first time and was overwhelmed by how many laughs and comments I got. The shirt also comes in me’ns. From Arrant Pedantry.
Experiences. What does the dad in your life like to do? What does he like to do with the kids? Last year, my Father’s Day gift to Ted was a family chess night. We didn’t actually manage to host it until winter, but no matter. It was such a hit, we did it twice, the second time I also included my dad! Three generations learned and laughed together. It’s one of my favourite gifts ever.
Finally, another experience-based idea is to be a tourist in your own city. The rules: plan a family day out and about without going anywhere you have gone before. New parks, new attractions, new restaurants, food trucks or grocery stores for a picnic.
Being a contributor to this blog has given me the opportunity to meet fearless women charting new paths for themselves. I am always slightly envious of these women who jump into passion projects where they are pushed out of their comfort zones, learn new skills and ultimately carve out a business. The Doodle Post, Playjamas, Baby Robin’s Nest and Mail A Tale have all been recently feature on 4Mothers.
Last week I met with two mothers who for years would joke with each other while passing in the schoolyard about starting up a business together when their kids started school full-time. Much more quickly than they thought, reality was upon them and they were faced with a much quieter house during the hours of 9 am – 3 pm.
Armed with coffee and a notebook they sat down one morning to cultivate one of their ideas: pre-made care packages for kids at camp.
Notably absent in the Canadian market, Sarah Barbour and Josie Bohm set out to check one thing off mom’s busy summer to-do list. With a few clicks of the mouse, a personalized care package can be en route to camp; eliminating the hours spent traversing from store to store looking for just the right items that are also approved by the camp’s sometimes-strict rules. What’s even better? No more standing in the line-up at Canada Post while struggling with the hassle of packing the loot into the best-fit box. A busy mother-of-a-camper’s dream come true!
Parcelled with Love is a project of love. Barbour and Bohm have logged countless hours scouting toy shows and researching suppliers to ensure the best quality items fill their care packages. And their kids have given their picks a stamp of approval!
Having grown-up spending their summers at camp, both women value the experience of being campers: forging friendships, building confidence, testing limits and trying new things. Their experiences have meant so much to them, that Parcelled with Love has partnered with Amici Camping Charity, a charity committed to sending children to camp year after year until they are too old to be a camper or until the financial need longer exists. With every care package purchased through Parcelled with Love, a percentage of the proceeds are donated to Amici Camping making Barbour and Bohm’s dream to make a child a life-long camper a reality.
Visit Parcelled with Love and pre-order your summer care package today and make a Canadian kid a real happy camper!
You all know I’m nuts about perfume. I’ve sought out perfume that smells like paperbacks, perfume that smells like a library, perfume that smells like paper, perfume that smells like a specific scene in a Henry James novel.
So that’s the bibliophile in me covered.
My most recent craze was a perfume made by a famous perfumer for his beloved, and kept private for his entire lifetime.
That’s the incurable romantic in me covered.
What about my maternal side?
Hold on to your hats, perfume lovers, because there is now a room fragrance that smells like baby! Antica Farmacista has a new room fragrance, simply named Baby. They sent me a sample, and I set it up last week, and it is making my house smell gorgeous. This is my first experience with an oil and diffuser room scent. I have always used candles for room fragrance, but after trying this one, I’m a convert to diffusers.
“But what does it smell like?”, you ask. It smells warm, clean, white and soft. I get powder, a very light floral, honey and vanilla. It smells like a baby fresh out of the bath, wrapped in a warm, white towel. It is the kind of thing that makes me marvel at the horizons of human invention.