boy reading on grass

School’s out and the kids are taking it easy. For many, the morning rush, homework and studying may now seem like distant memories. With the spectre of fun in the sun, summer camp or days filled with inordinate amounts of play on the horizon, schoolwork is one of the last things on the minds of most kids.

Yet, for parents, there’s often a fear that much of what has been learned over the school year will dissipate in the face of what the kids may view as more worthwhile activities. Let’s face it: there are competing priorities happening and as far as the kids are concerned, the fun and games are going to win.

For parents who have spent much of the year making sure that their kids are on track with their studies, there is often a fear that the summer break will “undo” all of the hard work and learning that was achieved during the previous school year. While the chance of this happening is unlikely, what is likely that kids will put much of what they’ve learned on the back burner, replacing it with more pressing pursuits.

Fortunately, the summer holidays don’t have to be a time where all learning goes by the wayside. There are many ways that parents can keep their kids on track for the coming school year without dampening the fun during the kids’ summer vacation. Parents who are interested in keeping their kids’ minds active over the summer break should check the September curriculum for their child’s upcoming grade so that they know what to expect when school starts again. Having knowledge of what will be on your child’s agenda is enough to start the ball rolling in terms of having your kids learn through the summer months. Just because it’s hot outside doesn’t mean that kids have to lose the momentum of learning that has been built up throughout the year.  With a little planning, children can still enjoy their summer holidays while continuing to keep their minds sharp.

Following are 5 things parents can do to keep their child’s minds active over the summer holidays:

1) Library Time – The summer months provide a great opportunity for kids to catch up on their reading or for new readers, to build their skills. To encourage a love or reading, make trips to the local library a regular occurrence. Many libraries have summer programs that are specially geared towards young readers that focus on the joy and fun that reading brings. Programs may include story time, reading in a group or incentive-based reading goals to inspire kids to pick up a book or two. For older kids, encourage them to spend a few hours at the library each week, reading for both fun and learning.

2) Outdoor “Classes” - The warm weather is the perfect backdrop for learning. Who said that schooling has to happen in a classroom? Visit your local park, have a picnic and encourage your child to kick back with a good book or learning-related materials in the great outdoors. Set up a picnic table with paper, pencils, and any workbook materials and watch your child become refocused on learning. They’ll enjoy the change of pace and will be more motivated in the new environment.

3) Fun and Games - Was your child struggling with math or spelling during the school year? Why not make it fun over the summer while encouraging learning? Playing card games that provide an opportunity to learn math or word games such Scrabble that support spelling are a great way of passing the time during the summer holiday break. Play one-on-one with your child to support and answer questions during the games so that you can focus on the areas of learning that your son or daughter needs. You can also encourage them to play these games with their friends for additional learning opportunities (and time away from screens!).

4) Science Learning – Use the great outdoors and nature as an opportunity to teach your kids some basics about science. Activities can include a nature hike with frequent stops to discuss plants, critters, bugs and anything that may cross your paths. Warm summer evenings are a great time for star-gazing and learning about the planets. As well, many cities have a local science museum that supports summer learning for kids. Check your local listings for details on child-friendly events that are available.

6) Community Events - Education doesn’t have to include classrooms and book reports. Children can often learn many important lessons through exposure to cultural and local festivals and events. Whether it’s trying a new food, learning about different cultural customs or even being exposed to a new language, attending these events will provide a great opportunity for discussion and learning. Make a plan to check out local community activities over the summer break with your kids and watch them learn while having fun.

What other suggestions do you have for keeping your child’s mind active over the summer holidays? Leave me your thoughts in the comments section below!

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The Sting of Disinheritance

by Samantha on July 1, 2014

Do We Owe Our Kids Our Money After We're Gone?


You think that kids of celebrities have it easy? Think again.

Sting’s surprising announcement that he’s not leaving any of his vast fortune to his children was a shock to many. How could this multimillionaire leave his kids to have to *gasp* work for a living? It just didn’t seem right.

According to the rock legend, his decision comes from his personal philosophy about children not having things handed to them on a silver platter, even if  - as in the case of his own progeny – they come from Rock royalty. The rock superstar says that he will continue spending the money he’s earned as he has been doing all along, paying his staff and allocating it whenever and wherever he darn well pleases. He maintains that he’s spending his money now, not saving it up in a tidy sum to be disbursed amongst his children in the event of his death.

The news has gotta sting for his six children who are likely very aware of their father’s estimated $300 million net worth. After all, they’ve probably had more than comfortable lives as a result of their fathers’ vast income, in spite of what Sting maintains.

Even so, the idea of pending poverty or, at best, the life of a “working stiff” must be sobering considering the fact that the family home is an Elizabethan Lake mansion located on a 60 acre estate near Stonehenge. The obvious question that crosses many of our minds is “why?

Why would someone of such considerable means choose to make a decision that flies in the face of convention and leave his kids with bupkus?

Good-old mean-spiritedness, stinginess and general bad parenting attributes have been suggested as the reasons for Sting’s decision. But is he really in the wrong?

My initial reaction to his news was probably a common one: that his choice regarding money is hurting his children in more ways than one. Of course, they must feel incredibly pained, knowing that their father has consciously chosen to exclude them from a future windfall following his death. Having the knowledge that a parent has actively and purposefully decided to limit financial comfort for their children and instead, relegate the kids to a life of working for a living seems a tad harsh, particularly when the parent is of considerable means.

Yet, upon further reflection, it seems that Mr. Sumner has a point.

It would be very easy for his children to kick back and chill, knowing full well that regardless of their success in life or lack thereof, they’d be driving down “Easy Street” (likely in a customized and really expensive luxury vehicle) once old Dad had kicked the bucket. In many situations where incredible wealth is a foregone conclusion, this is more commonly the behaviour that kids of the well-to-do display, sadly. After all – why bother working hard and making an effort to achieve something in your life – at least financially – when a monetary windfall is a matter of course?

Not so for the children of Sting, however, as he had apparently advised his kids of their lack of inheritance early on. “They have to work. All my kids know that and they rarely ask me for anything, which I really respect and appreciate,” he explained.

As a result, all of his children have grown up knowing that they would not be handed an automatic ticket to la dolce vita and have planned accordingly. By most accounts, they are doing well.

Did the knowledge that daddy’s money would not automatically be disbursed to them give the kids more incentive to work hard and achieve something on their own? Perhaps. But, more importantly, one of parenthood’s most important lessons – that in the real world, nothing is handed to us on a silver platter – was demonstrated by Sting’s actions. In other words, the rock superstar prepared his kids for one of the harsh reality of life: no pain, no gain.

The fact of the matter is that without the solid values of good old-fashioned hard work, focus and intestinal fortitude that result in a strong character, parents are leaving their kids ill-prepared for life’s challenges. Living a life unfettered by the day-to-day hurdles that most of us experience may sound ideal but the reality is that those who have been given this “gift” have also been presented with a disadvantage as well. We all know that when the going gets tough, whether personally or professionally, that’s when we need to draw upon our inner strengths that have been cultivated over the years. Working hard, sometimes struggling, and building a thicker skin gives us the toughness that we require when life doesn’t go as planned.

For of those to whom much is given, much is required.” Except, that is, if you’re the child of a mega-millionaire. Then, what’s often required is very little as you reap the benefits of your parents’ hard work without lifting nary a finger. Kids in these circumstances are very often, sadly, unprepared for hard times or worse – they may never gain the emotional strength that results from the difficult life challenges that so many of us face.

Understood: Sting’s situation is atypical as most of us could only hope to earn $300 million in our lifetimes. But the point being made is still the same. The value and importance of hard work is something that all children should be taught; it is perhaps more pressing that children of the very wealthy learn these principles at an early age. Sting may not be leaving his children his earthly financial possessions but ironically, what he’s giving them is far more valuable. The lessons learned from his decision are beyond any price tag that even a man worth $30 million or more could afford.

Harsh? Perhaps. A lesson learned? Absolutely.

Do we owe our kids our money after we’re gone? No. What we owe them are the skills and abilities to navigate life successfully and (hopefully) happily. Money is not necessarily part of the equation.

To read this article on HUFFINGTON POST, click here: Sting is Right to Deny His Kids a Big Inheritance


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 Image courtesy of, photo credit: Kevin Mazur



How the Internet Ruined Kids’ Fun

by Samantha on June 20, 2014

Instant Online Access to Toys Kills Kids' Sense of Anticipation


Once upon a time, kids experienced a few days a year that brought incredible moments of joy.

Birthdays. Christmas. Grandma coming to visit.

The knowledge that these days were on the horizon only added to the excitement that children would feel.

Oftentimes, the waiting was punctuated by a series of important rituals and planning sessions. There were birthday present wish lists to write, letters to Santa Claus with detailed instructions of which particular Barbie to leave under the tree and pronouncements of “good behaviour” that needed to be conveyed to the man in the red suit, in case he had forgotten. There were phone calls to Grandma, telling her in specific detail the size, cost and location of that toy we had earmarked for her to buy for us. We knew the score because we had meticulously researched the various department store catalogues with unparalleled fervor.

During the weeks and months leading up to these dates, we’d wait with bated breath and anticipation for the day to come, knowing that when it did, a bounty of gifts – or maybe just one or two really good presents – would be given to us.

Those were the days.

We waited – yes – waited. We knew that there was pleasure in savouring the sweet anticipation that would culminate in the arrival of that special day. And when that day did finally arrive, the gifts were so very appreciated.

Perhaps it was because that particular toy that we had seen on TV was sold out at all of the stores close to our home. With no Internet with its thousands of options, providing us with guaranteed delivery overnight or whenever we chose, receiving the gift seemed even more special. When Christmas or birthdays did finally roll around, the anticipation was almost too much to bear.

As a child, I remember fondly the experience of waiting as patiently as I could for one of these special days to arrive. With 364 days between some of these events, was it any wonder that I – as were many other kids – was “bursting at the seams” with anticipation?

Enter the Internet era.

With a few simple clicks, a child’s wish was fulfilled, packed, shipped and delivered, often within the guaranteed 24-hour delivery window.

The waiting was over.

The fun was gone.

As society became more accustomed to the instant gratification that came with the Internet era, we – our children in particular –  lost some of the many important virtues that build strength of character. One of these virtues – patience – seems to have fallen by the wayside. In its place, anxiety and frustration have taken hold. In the new digital world order, the idea of having to actually wait for a toy, game or desired item has made our kids (and their parents) very unhappy indeed.

In the digital era, patience is no longer a virtue; it is seen as an unnecessary vestige of a bygone era with little value. After all, why wait when instant gratification is just a few clicks away? Sadly, this perspective is more common than not with children who have grown up during a time where their wish was their parents’ immediate digital command.

Anticipation – knowing that something is on its way and being hyper aware of its approach is something that all children should experience. Anticipation is not a bad thing. Learning to wait and being patient are skills that will allow our kids to deal with life’s challenges both in their childhood and beyond. After all, any adult can attest to the fact that getting what one wants – immediately - is more rare than common in the “real world.” A life experience outside of the warm cocoon of their parents home will painfully prove this point to the younger ones who have never had to wait too long for their heart’s desire.

Our consumer culture and frenetic lifestyles may continue to dictate  all things must be done now, but waiting is not always a bad thing, especially for children. Learning to be patient is a skill that they will need as they venture into adulthood and its myriad of situations where immediate gratification is not an option. Whether it’s regarding their desired career, their desired partner or their desired big ticket item, getting what they want as soon as they want it is not always possible. And it is during these times that they will have to draw on the patience that they learned as a child, in order to succeed. The culture of instant gratification won’t help them when they have no choice but to cool their heels.

Good things come to those who wait.” Let’s not forget to teach our kids this valuable lesson.

To read this article on HUFFINGTON POST, CLICK HERE

The Waiting (is the hardest part) – Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

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Kick Back With These Netflix Picks This Summer

by Samantha on June 15, 2014

Parents can take a well-needed break with these titles

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. 

Summertime and the living is easy.

For some of us.

For others, it’s a crazy couple of months trying to coordinate camps for the kids and activities to keep them busy during the long, very long, break from school.

Suffice it to say that many of us are beat after a stressful day of working (at home or at the office), doing laundry and making dinners.

We want to kick back and relax because heavens knows, we deserve it!

One of my favourite things to do is to pour myself a glass of wine after the kids have gone to sleep and and turn on Netflix. I know I’m not alone here as the service is a staple for tired parents everywhere. After endless hours of watching kiddie programming and shows, one’s brain can start to feel a bit mushy, so it’s no wonder that parents immerse themselves in more adult-friendly programming after the kids are down for the evening, despite their exhaustion. It’s that “me time” that we crave that makes finding a great TV show or streaming movie so compelling.

This past month, I was invited to a pre-screen of one of my favourite Netflix shows, Orange is the New Black, which is now available in its entirely (Seasons 1 and 2) for streaming. If you haven’t seen it, I would encourage you to check it out as it’s a great form of escapism (into prison, no less, but trust me on this one).


Here’s a picture from the pre-screen with some of my fellow/fave bloggers (left to right) Deborah from Raising My Boys, Heather from TJZ Mommy and Erica from Yummy Mummy Club:

Mom Blogger Pic

Of course, I was late to the Breaking Bad party (what else is new) but I caught up really fast and devoured the full five seasons earlier this year. I’m still going through withdrawal about what is probably the best TV series ever (in my humble opinion) and am seriously reconsidering watching the whole thing again. Just because.

You can stream the complete Seasons 1 through 5 on Netflix but be forewarned: the show is addicting as…meth?

Breaking Bad Image

Another show I’ve started watching lately (yes – again – late to the party) is Mad Men. As some of you know, I work in the PR/Marketing field with many agency years behind me. For this reason, this show resonates on so many levels but you don’t have to be in the business to “get” the appeal of this program. Not being a fashion buff of any kind, there’s still fascination with the style of a bygone era which is displayed in the show. In other words, you could watch it for its clothing alone (and beware: some of the hats, shoes and outfits being rocked by those Mad Men women are to die for!).

But there’s more.

The show forces us to revisit some of the many archaic and sexist attitudes towards women that are a staple of the program. It wasn’t too long ago that women “had their place” and it was usually subordinate to men. And the constant smoking and drinking in the office are enough to give you a morning-after, smoke-imbued hangover from just watching. If you’re interested in not only the fashion but the social and cultural attitudes that are reflected in the show, check it out. You won’t be disappointed.

Mad Men

Of course these are just three of the many options out there, ready to stream when you’ve managed to carve out some well-deserved “me time” without the kids. Here are some other titles on Netflix that I haven’t gotten to yet but have heard great things about. I’ll be checking them out soon:

  1. Weeds
  2. Call the Midwife
  3. Freaks and Geeks
  4. Shameless
  5. Lilyhammer
  6. Wallander
  7. Suits
  8. Pretty Little Liars
  9. Sherlock
  10. Friday Night Lights

 What about you? What are your favourite “grown up” shows that you can’t miss on Netflix? Leave me your suggestions in the comments section below. I’m always looking for new suggestions :)


Let Them Eat Cake…From A Box

by Samantha on June 13, 2014

Cake mix part of many parents' secret cooking arsenal

vintage mom and child making cake

“Mom, remember?! I need cupcakes for my bake sale tomorrow!!”

A cold sweat broke out all over my body and visions of cake-making late into the night entered my head. I was tired. I was beat. I didn’t want to do it. But, like so many of us, I felt that pressure to “not be that mom,” you know – the one who never does anything for their kid’s school events. Truth be told, I was already nearly “that mom,” because my level of school engagement with my kids’ activities is woefully low. But I digress.

On my way home, I dashed into the nearest convenience store and bought some Betty Crocker Chocolate Cake Mix along with a jar of “frosting” (yes, the term for this chemical concoction is questionable). Yup. I was going to take the easy route with the boxed cake mix. The shame.

My feelings of guilt and inadequacy as a mother were only superseded by my sense of relief that I didn’t have to make a real cake – you know, the kind that you painstakingly and lovingly make from scratch. To do it well, we all know that the right measurements, the right ingredients (real baker’s chocolate, no less) and the right amount of mixing will result in that perfect dessert.

After dinner, after the boys’ baths and well before I could hit the hay for the evening, I cracked open the box. Water? Check. Eggs? Of course. Vegetable oil? Got it. This was going to be a breeze.

The final product didn’t disappoint and, I figured, the kids at school would be none the wiser.

My guilt, however, hadn’t abated.

“What kind of mom am I, really?!,” I asked myself. “I mean, c’mon! I shouldn’t be making cake from a box for my kid’s bake sale!” Somewhere in the not-too-far regions of my psyche, making cupcakes from a cake mix equates somewhere along the lines of serving SPAM as part of a balanced meal.

Like I often do, I posted a picture of the cake box on my Facebook Fan Page with the following caption:

“My daughter needs cupcakes for her bake sale tomorrow and I’m taking the easy way out Tell me I’m not alone! #NotMomOfTheYear”

The post hit a nerve. Apparently I’ve been wrong all along. Cake mix is apparently part of the secret arsenal of moms and dads in the know. Contrary to popular belief, parents are not lovingly baking cakes from scratch, à la Martha Stewart. No, they are taking the easy (and possibly smarter) way out by cracking open a box and calling it a day. Guilt was nowhere in the equation as people gleefully responded about how this is the only way that they make cake for their kids, bake sale or not.

What a revelation. What a relief.

After being sold a bill of goods how “scratch cakes” were the obvious choice for “good” parents, it was heartening to learn that most of us have been faking it all along. We’re baking via the help of Betty Crocker, and doing so happily.

By guiltily admitting my “failure” as a parent on my Facebook page, I was relieved to learn that I’m not alone in my parenting strategies. After all, for those of us who have been parents for some time, we all know that “faking it” is a big part of the gig.

I’ve written before about the myth of the perfect parent, as well as about the guilt we often feel, trying to be all things to all people, especially our kids. Our collective fear of not doing right by our children, by taking the “easy way out” and the fact that we are often not meeting our own expectations of what it means to be a good mom or dad adds to our feelings of parental inadequacy. Yet, it appears that our self-criticism is not based in reality. We’re our own worse enemies, apparently. The reality is that other parents are doing what they need to do to get things done. Sometimes that means dinner at McDonalds. Other times, it’s cake from a box.

And so what?

Usually, it’s not others who are passing judgement on ourselves, it’s us. We are more critical of ourselves than any “perfect” parent could ever be. And if I may go out on a limb here, womenmoms in particular – are even more hyper-critical of their abilities to do things right by their kids, their families and their jobs.

We’re furtively making boxed cake late into the evening and then, many of us are passing it off as “homemade” because we can’t bear to admit that we took the easy way out. Why? Why should we care about others’ expectations of us, especially as it relates to our parenting abilities? The kids are happy, they have their baked goodies and we’ve made life easier for ourselves, not having to stress about the perfect measurements and techniques required to make that baked masterpiece. Betty Crocker has done it for us and put it into a box, no less. Let’s be thankful for that.

And so, the takeaway lesson from this whole experience is a simple one: the next time you have to deliver for your child’s bake sale, school event or birthday party, throw caution to the wind and unashamedly crack open a box of cake mix. Leave the guilt behind and save yourself from the stress.

Let them eat cake!

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Restaurant Owners: 5 Things You Need in Your Washrooms

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May 22, 2014

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Retro Entertainment For Kids – Family Netflix Picks

May 22, 2014

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Can Kids Still Be Entertained?

May 10, 2014

How do you entertain the kid who has seen and done everything? It’s a tough question but a real concern for parents these days. The idea of “kids’ entertainment” takes on a whole new perspective in the digital age. For those who have grown up in an age of video games, iPads and Google, the […]

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A Down-To-Earth Movie Guide to Our Planet

April 26, 2014

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. – See more at: DISCLAIMER: As part of the Netflix #StreamTeam, I will be providing monthly thoughts and suggestions about movies […]

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