Kickstarting My YouTube Channel

by Samantha on May 26, 2015

youtube logo

I’m kickstarting my YouTube channel.

No, not that kind of “kickstarting.”

After a long hiatus, I’m restarting my video blogging in addition to writing on this blog. Life has been busy and sadly, I’ve neglected the channel for some time now. You know how it goes – life gets in the way, and between work, kids, laundry and homework, personal pursuits tend to take a backseat to more pressing items.

That being said, I’ve realized that vlogging (as well as blogging) is something that I enjoy, a fact that I’ve realized since being away from it for the past while.

As they say, “there’s no time like the present,” so here’s to taking a second jump into the world of video blogging on one of the Internet’s most popular sites.

On my YouTube channel you’ll find parenting tips, advice, opinion and insight, as well as previous and future media appearances.

I hope you’ll check it out and subscribe – I promise to update the channel regularly with interesting and informative information, as well as timely and relevant topics related to parenting and raising kids.

See you there!

Sam

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The simple pleasures of earlier times are now just memories in the age of technology

It was a certainly a different time, a simpler time, devoid of the constant activity that is part and parcel of life in our increasingly rushed, hurried, 24/7 digital age. With the rapid changes to technology and how we communicate with each other, simple, good-old-fashioned fun seems to have been left in the past.

As a child, “having fun” meant something completely different than what it means now. Back then, the  options that are available to kids now did not exist, which in many ways, was a good thing. We weren’t constantly distracted by an endless stream of text messages, online, video or smartphone games, iPads, the Internet and everything else that signifies life in modern times. Sure –  technology is great (my iPad has saved my kids from a meltdown on more than one occasion), but there’s something to be said for the simpler times that are now just a distant memory.

One of the most popular posts on this blog is this one: Is Your Refrigerator Running?” The Lost Art of the Prank Phone Call. The title of the post references one of the favourite pastimes of kids who lived  before the digital age and when Call Display was a thing of the future. The post discusses how technology as a whole has changed the way that kids have fun (as did this post – Can Kids Still Be Entertained?). It’s interesting that the post about making prank phone calls is one of the most visited on this blog, a fact that indicates that more of us than we may imagine are pining for a time when life was simpler and less frantic.

The comparison between then and now – how kids spend their time these days, compared to children in the past – is startling. With things moving so quickly these days, it’s no wonder that many of us wish we could go back to that time when everything wasn’t so fast-paced, and hurried. There’s something to be said for slowing down and throwing caution to the wind.

Unfortunately, however, we can’t turn back time. A return to the simpler lifestyles of days gone by is unlikely, leaving many of us who grew up in a different world to cherish the memories, because that’s all we have left.

Certainly times have changed and technology has advanced our lives in so many positive ways. However, while it’s great that our kids get to to reap the benefits of the Information Age, it’s equally sad that they’ll never know the joy that was provided by some of the simpler pleasures of everyday life. With not a pixel in site, kids survived and actually thrived without the myriad of options that they have now. Life may have been simple but boy, was it fun. I know I’m not the only one who is saddened by the fact that my childhood experiences of having fun will never be replicated by my own kids. After all – they’re used to a much faster pace, more sophisticated toys and gadgets and have a generally shorter attention span as a result. On a more practical level, it would be almost impossible to bring back some of the simple joys of being a kid during this earlier time as children today have greater expectations about how they want to be entertained.

“With not a pixel in site, kids survived and actually thrived without the myriad of options that they have now. Life may have been simple but boy, was it fun.”

Here are 10 childhood loves that my kids will never know:

1) Saturday Morning Cartoons – The days of waking up at the crack of dawn to watch a few hours of TV that only occurred on Saturday mornings are a thing of the past. DVRs, YouTube, downloading and streaming at will has ended this ritual forever.

The Jetsons

Image courtesy of http://www2.warnerbros.com

2) Metal Slides and Concrete Playgrounds – Ouch! They hurt our backsides and the backs of our legs when we were brave enough to slide down them on a hot summer’s day. Now, the plastic is much safer (and more comfortable) but we don’t whiz down quite as fast.

metal slide

Image courtesy of www.dailymail.co.uk

3) The Dewey Decimal System – Searching for information pre-Google was quite the feat, but one that was oh, so rewarding as well. Those small index cards, the beauty of Dewey’s categorization and the process of systematically tracking down that book or piece of information was a thrill in its own strange way.

Library cards

Image courtesy of www.businessinsider.com

4) Movie Anticipation – Waiting months or sometimes years for your favourite movie to be aired on TV made it oh, so much more special. The annual showing of the Wizard of Oz or The Sound of Music merited weeks of planning, from the snacks and treats that would be eaten while viewing down to the pyjamas that would be worn, along with the special stuffed toy who would also have a chance at viewing the movie, just this one time. Somehow, that act of waiting for the show that would only be seen once a year made us cherish it so much more.

1950s TV

Image courtesy of www.jerseymomsblog.com

5) Prank Phone Calls – “Is your refrigerator running?” If you know the answer to this question, you too are old enough to feel sad about the fact that these words are rarely uttered to strangers on the other end of the line like they once were.

rotary phone retro

Image courtesy of www.etsystatic.com

6) Test Patterns and the National Anthem – When these two items flashed across your black and white TV, you knew that it was time to hit the hay. There was no choice but to go to sleep, as nothing was on once the anthem was sung and the colourful test pattern (with the annoying, unending “beeeeeeep”) hit the air. No 24/7 TV, satellite, internet, YouTube or downloaded shows for all-night distraction.

Test Pattern 1

Image courtesy of www.wallpapermaven.com

7) Playing Outdoors and Long, Lazy Summers – With the increased fear of strangers and “Helicopter Parenting” becoming the norm, the days of kids wandering aimlessly or playing outside for hours with one’s friends are long gone. “Stranger danger” is the phrase du jour and many parents feel that it’s better to be safe than sorry, resulting in the reality that children are missing out on some of childhood’s greatest experiences.

kids 1970s

www.huffingtonpost.com

8) Sugar, Butter and Non-Organic Food – It’s great to be healthy but, let’s face it: sometimes the things that are the worst for you are the ones that taste the best. Enter sugar, butter and other foods that have been deemed unhealthy in recent times. Not too long ago, children (and adults, let’s face it) savoured the creamy richness of butter on bread, sugar in cereal and fruit that was not deemed “organically-grown, guaranteed.” It’s hard to believe, but people survived after ingesting food that is now considered unhealthy, sadly.

Tang mix

Image courtesy of www.cbsnews.com

9) Seatbelt and Carseat-Free Car Rides – Bette Davis may have warned us to “fasten our seat belts” but the act of being safe, not sorry, didn’t occur very frequently not too long ago. And baby car seats? Fuggedaboutit. (Fun Fact: The back of the station wagon was always the best place to be, preferably lying down, no seat belts in sight!).

1970s station wagon kids

Image courtesy of www.yummymummyclub.ca

Fasten Your Seat Belts – Bette Davis

10) Board Games and Kids’ Activities – Before Google, smartphones and the Internet took over our lives, kids found more creative ways to have fun. An exciting round of Monopoly with the family or more independent creativity via games such as Spirograph can’t be replicated. Sure, we have the updated versions of these favourites but somehow they’re just not the same. After all – the risk of poking yourself with the pins that came with the Spirograph set was half the fun.

70b-toys-spirographImage courtesy of http://motleynews.net

 What things from your childhood do you miss? If you could let your child experience one thing from your childhood that they have never done, or could never do, what would it be? Tell me about it in the comments section below.

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Lies, Lies, All Lies

by Samantha on April 30, 2015

Netflix offers a variety of shows that highlight untruths, tall tales and deceptions


DISCLAIMER: As part of the Netflix #StreamTeam, I will be providing monthly thoughts and suggestions about movies currently showing on Netflix. As with all content on this blog, opinions are completely my own.
Pinocchio's nose

We all know that kids lie.

Parents have been known to tell a little fib now and then, as well.

The question is: what do we do when our kids are less-than-truthful? Especially when we’re not completely on the up-and-up ourselves?

Parenting is a difficult task and it’s no wonder that we struggle with the old “do as I say, not as I do” philosophy because – let’s face it – sometimes it’s easier to tell a lie than to tell the truth.

Why do parents lie to their children? There are many reasons:

  • We’re scared of what telling the truth may do to our kids
  • We’re too tired or short on time and would rather make things easier by fibbing
  • Lying may buy us some time or postpone the inevitable meltdown that may occur by telling the truth
  • Sometimes, lying is fun!

Kids are equally guilty when it comes to the telling of half-truths and out-and-out lies. Remember “the dog ate my homework,” or that perennial classic “I didn’t do it!?

Some reasons behind their telling of tall tales include:

  • Fear of getting into trouble or being punished if they reveal the truth
  • The need for attention that may occur as a result of the lie
  • A method of gauging a parent’s feelings or reactions to a particular topic
  • An active imagination and life of fantasy

If you’re like me, dealing with a lying child is a reality of parenting that stresses you out. Who wants to face the music, confront the child and perhaps deal with the unpleasantness that comes with disciplining your kid? Sometimes it’s easier to just call it a day and watch a movie. Or two.

Enter Netflix.

Fortunately, the movie and TV streaming service has a number of shows that tackle the topic of lying without you, mom or dad, having to say anything about it. Of course, you can always use the shows as the beginnings of a “teachable moment” or discussion for your child or…you can just let them watch it and enjoy the show. Perhaps they’ll pick up the important message from the program of choice, but if they don’t, at least they will have been entertained.

If you’re looking for shows that have a “deceptive” theme, look no further.

For the younger kids:

Chuck and Friends

Chuck and Friends

 

CliffordClifford

Curious GeorgeCurious George

Super WhySuper Why

For the older kids:

iCarly

iCarly

Mean Girls

Mean Girls

H2O – Just Add WaterH20

Monster HighMonster High

For the parents:

Pretty Little Liars

Pretty Little Liars

Liar, LiarLiar Liar

Just Go With ItJust Go With It

BloodlineBloodline

What are your favourite shows about deception and lies? How about your kids’? Tell me about them in the comments section below.

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Image courtesy of www.disney.com

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The "Kylie Jenner Challenge" highlights the worst insecurities in tweens and teens

2014 American Music Awards - Arrivals

Have you heard of the #KylieJennerChallenge?

It’s a hashtag that’s become the call to action for young women who want to emulate the full-lipped look of the reality TV star.

One of the famous sisters on “Keeping up With the Kardashians” and the younger sister of Kim, Kylie has become admired for her full lips and fashion sense; is it any surprise that tween and teen girls want to emulate her?

Perhaps not, however the degree to which they want to be more like their idol is troubling, at best.

In an effort to emulate the young TV star, teens have responded to the “Kylie Jenner Challenge” call to action that involves “participants placing their mouth over the opening of a cup, jar or other narrow vessel and sucking in until the air vacuum causes their lips to swell up.”(Daily Mail) The desired result is the pouty look that their young celebrity idol sports, seemingly without such painful effort.

Kylie Jenner and young girls who have tried to emulate her look

kylie jenner examples

While it would be easy to write off such silly behaviour as harmless tween/teen antics, the reality is that this type of body mutilation in the quest for “beauty” is anything but.

The physical pain and frequent injury that results from the #KylieJennerChallenge are the least of these kids’ problems. Rather, as parents, we must look at the root causes of why kids feel the need to emulate their idols to such a painful degree.

So what is really going on here? Why are young girls risking physical harm in the unrealistic quest to look like a celebrity who has the means and ability to look “just so” without pain or discomfort?

Here are some of the reasons for this disturbing trend:

1) Celebrity Culture

We live in a society that is dominated by celebrity culture. Add to this fact our kids’ ability to access the latest information, gossip and trends related to their favourite stars and you’ve got the recipe for a beauty disaster – and then some. The digital age, including kids’ love of social media, smartphones and the latest updates about the celebrity of the day adds to the desire to emulate what they are seeing. The famous have also been sucked into the digital vortex, with many stars using Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other channels to connect with their fans. While this may be a great marketing tool and publicity generator for the celebrity, the focus on appearance, as well as an unrealistic standard of beauty is resulting in the damaged self-esteem of vulnerable kids.

2) Insecurity and Diminished Sense of Self

Perhaps spurred on by the constant feed of information about Hollywood beauties and otherwise, is it any wonder that impressionable tweens and teens – girls in particular – feel insecure about their looks and bodies? In the age of Photoshop, Instagram and unrealistically “ideal” bodies, it’s difficult for the average tween, who is often already sensitive about their appearance, to maintain a positive self-image. Our celebrity culture doesn’t help, highlighting the “perfect” and largely unattainable body types of the rich and famous, making young fans who are already vulnerable even more insecure than they already may be.

3) Unrealistic Expectations of Beauty

It should be no surprise that insecurity and diminished body image exist in this age of “perfect” beauties, photoshop and plastic surgery. With images of celebrities being digitally altered before they are shared online and on social media, is it any wonder that our kids have a skewed sense of how real people look? Post-baby bodies that showcase washboard stomachs and curvaceous figures that echo shapes rarely found in reality feed into young girls’ doubts about themselves and perpetuate an unrealistic standard of beauty.

Tweens and teens idolizing celebrities is nothing new, but the standards of “perfection,” made possible through technological and medical manipulation most certainly are. With the bar being raised higher and higher daily, there appears to be little hope for the average young person, insecurities and all, to ever reach the pinnacle of what they see to be the norm.

As parents, we have an obligation to counter the messages and images that our children are bombarded with, particularly now. If we don’t put a stop to it, we’re destined to have a whole generation that is not only insecure, but psychologically scarred as well. Instances of eating disorders, younger and younger children going under the knife in the name of beauty and worse will become more prevalent if this celebrity trend continues.

For parents who are concerned about the emphasis on looks and unrealistic expectations conveyed through celebrity culture, here are some tips on how to help your tween/teen:

  • Discuss their fears and insecurities – Talking to your child about how they feel about themselves and countering negative or incorrect perceptions that they may have about their appearance can help them to put things in perspective
  • Show them the “real deal” – The reality of how using Photoshop, plastic surgery and other methods of altering appearances should be shown to teens who are emulating the looks of their favourite celebrities
  • Encourage their interests – Self-esteem is often increased through success and activities; help your child refocus on an interest or skill that will support their feelings of self-worth. These could include sports/athletics, reading, art, music, cooking or more
  • Focus on their abilities, not their looks – If we as parents focus on our or others’ looks, so will our children. Support and encourage their abilities and what they do, downplay the importance of appearance and how they look
  • Give praise and support – A positive word of encouragement and praise for a job well done can go a long way – especially for a tween or teen who is struggling with their self-esteem
  • Encourage independence and decision-making – There’s nothing like confidence in one’s abilities to make one feel better about themselves. Support your child’s steps towards self-reliance and good judgement
  • Do unto others – A great way of taking the focus off of oneself is to give back to others. Encourage your child to volunteer and their feelings of self-worth will increase considerably, guaranteed.

How do you feel about the #KylieJennerChallenge and the focus on celebrity appearances in general? What additional tips would you give to parents who are struggling to help their children increase their self esteem? Leave me your thoughts in the comments section below.

 

To read this article on HUFFINGTON POST, click here

VIDEO: Under Pressure

Image courtesy of www.instyle.com

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What's the best course of action for educating twins?


twins in class

There comes a time that, as the parent of twins, one has to make a crucial decision:

Should I keep them together or should I separate them?

This is a particularly pressing decision to be made in the case of identical twins.

Think about it: they share the same DNA, they look exactly alike (to most people outside of the immediate family) and they are, by most accounts, at the same stage of development. The natural course of action that is taken is to keep them together, at least for the early days of preschool and Kindergarten.

My boys are figuratively joined at the hip, doing almost everything together including bathing, playing, sleeping and fighting. They are each other’s best friends and worst enemies, depending on the day and time. They love each other. They despise each other. And if they had the maturity to provide some perspective on their relationship, I have no doubt that they would not have it any other way.

Yet, like most parents of identical twins, I’m acutely aware of the natural inclination to treat the children the same. After all – it’s easy to get lulled into thinking that the kids are two parts of a whole, that they are more or less the same, because of the simple fact that, to the untrained eye, they look the same.

In spite of this fact, they are individuals, reality that becomes increasingly important to them as they navigate the world, correcting those who think that they are their brother – and vice versa. Without being an identical twin, it’s hard to imagine always being mistaken for someone else, or, on the flip side, having someone who looks exactly like you. It must be simultaneously annoying and amazing.

Fraternal twins are often grouped together by outsiders as well, though not as much, especially if the twins don’t look alike, or are of different sexes. While the incidences of comparison are not as high as they are with identical twins, the tendency to do so by outsiders exists nonetheless. Teachers who have a pair of twins in their class – identical or fraternal – often naturally make comparisons between the siblings, as it is human nature to do so.

During the early stages of socialization, e.g. preschool, daycare and Kindergarten, it makes sense to take the simple route and put them together in the same class. This way, there’s no trauma at the prospect of being alone in a new social environment without the comfort of that sibling that will be their guide, confidante and friend, no matter what.

But the time will come where a choice must be made: should they remain together, joined at the proverbial hip to offer support to their sibling, or should they part ways, venture into the world (or classroom) alone and gain their independence?

The right answer is not an easy one, and as a parent having to make this choice, its particularly stress-inducing.

Like any critical decision, the pros and cons must be weighed in order to make the right decision. This is a tricky one, as there good arguments on both sides of the fence – a fact that doesn’t make it easier for the parents in making a decision. As a parent struggling with making a decision about what the right choice is for my kids, I know I’m not alone. Knowing that the choice made will have long-reaching effects on my kids makes the decision to separate the twins – or not – even more daunting. To this end, I thought it would be a good idea to list both the positive and negative implications of separating twins at school. Here’s what I came up with:

Pros and Cons of Separating Twins at School

Pros:

  1. Each twin is better able to foster a sense of individuality
  2. Dependency on each other is decreased, allowing each twin to gain confidence in their own abilities
  3. The incidences of being compared to or confused with the other twin is eliminated
  4. The absence of the other twin provides an environment where each twin can “grow” into their own personalities and characters
  5. Competition between twins will decrease when they’re not in the same classroom daily
  6. The absence of the other twin as a “built-in” friend and companion will allow each twin to form friendships with other children

Cons:

  1. The comfort of knowing that their twin is immediately close by is removed, a fact that may increase anxiety amongst some twins
  2. Twins often rely on each other to provide support emotionally; twins who are separated may have increased difficulty relying on others for a certain level of emotional support
  3. The effect of emotional distress and anxiety that some twins may feel being separated from their sibling may affect their academic progress in school
  4. Parents of twins separated at school will have to navigate double the amount of school-related activities on behalf of their kids (two separate parent-teacher interview appointments, two separate parent volunteer days at school, etc.)

Conclusion: While I’d love to say what the definitive answer is to this question, unfortunately the jury is out. While it may appear that solely on the basis of pros and cons, the scale tips on the side of separating the twins, this is not necessarily the case. Each set of twins are individuals and their ability to positively advance in school, separated or not, depends on a number of factors. These include the personalities of each twin, their ability to adapt to change, and the level of mutual reliance on each other. It would be great to have a “one-size fits all” answer but as we all know, most important decisions related to kids are not ever simple.

On a related note, here’s an extreme case of twins being separated at birth with an incredibly positive outcome:

Separated at Birth, Reunited on Facebook

So what are your thoughts and experiences about separating twins at school? Is it a good idea to keep them together or better to separate them? What are your reasons for the choices that you made? Leave me your thoughts in the comments section below.

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Yeah, SCIENCE!

March 29, 2015

Parents can enjoy Netflix while also teaching their kids about science DISCLAIMER: As part of the Netflix #StreamTeam, I will be providing monthly thoughts and suggestions about movies currently showing on Netflix. As with all content on this blog, opinions are completely my own.  —- But, why, Mom, why?!? If you’re a parent, you’ve heard […]

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VIDEO: Huffington Post Live – Kids and Public Bathrooms

March 27, 2015

How old should a child be before they’re able to go to a public bathroom alone? We’ve all been there. You’re out with your young child and all of a sudden, he/she announces “I have to go pee!!” You know that this type of warning means that time is of the essence and that a […]

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VIDEO: CBC Marketplace – Checkout Charity Episode

March 2, 2015

CBC investigation reveals more questions than answers on this increasingly popular tactic Hmmm…seems as if I’m not the only one with questions about the charitable donations that are being requested at the checkout. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know that the trend towards “checkout charity” is one that gets under my […]

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“When I Grow Up”….Nextflix Picks For the Future Generation

February 27, 2015

Kids’ selections provide a variety of ideas for young imaginations DISCLAIMER: As part of the Netflix #StreamTeam, I will be providing monthly thoughts and suggestions about movies currently showing on Netflix. As with all content on this blog, opinions are completely my own. “What will I be when I grow up?” Way back when, kids […]

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CBC Marketplace – Checkout Charity

February 16, 2015

CBC program investigates the popular trend of soliciting donations at the checkout “Checkout Charity” is a thing. Love it or hate it, it’s here to stay. I’ve discussed the topic on more than one occasion, both on this blog and in the media. For details, click on the link below. IN THE NEWS: Is “Checkout […]

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