Are “Girl Geeks” Cool?

by Samantha on April 22, 2014

Back when I was a kid, it wasn’t cool to be uncool. 

Back then, the tech revolution wasn’t in it’s infancy; it hadn’t even begun. To be called a “Nerd” was to elicit scorn and its accompanying exclusion. You see, the “cool” kids had no time for those who were more interested in pocket protectors, slide rules and puzzles. This was particularly the case for girls who had a penchant for all things that were deemed “masculine” – subjects such as math and science, in particular.

The cirriculum at school did nothing to help shift perceptions of what girls and boys “should” be doing. Girls, for the most part, were steered towards Home Economics and boys were encouraged to participate in Shop. God forbid if you were female and had a burning desire to become a carpenter. Ditto in the reverse – males who liked to cook and sew were looked at with suspicion and were often treated with downright hostility.

During this time, there was still the subtle and not-so-subtle steering of girls towards more “feminine” types of endeavours such as sewing, knitting, cooking and -ugh – cleaning. These areas were the supposed landscape of the XX chromosome, the domain of those who were to be relegated to a life of domestic bliss and servitude. Cooking and cleaning – likely while barefoot and pregnant – were the supposed aspirations for any young girl worth her salt. Conversely, young boys were supposed to like making things, building things and bringing home the bacon. That’s just the way it was.

The millennial shift seemed to bring on more than just a fear of Y2K. The Internet generation was waking up and in a few years, there would be blogs to speak of, upload and download speeds to assess and apps to help both young and old manage their lives, their interests and so much more. Being “online” became a way of life and knowing how to navigate the Information Superhighway was something that got you noticed. The gender divide that was the longstanding benchmark of student life was starting to change.

Fast forward a decade or so and we’ve found ourselves in a world that is markedly different from the one in which “girls who wore glasses” and other “undesirables” were ridiculed and scorned. Look at any elementary, high school or university class and you’ll see geeks – girl geeks – who wear their nerdiness with a certain panache. In the new world order, HTML, CSS and coding are the technical currency that will make a girl (or young woman) stand out from the crowd. And it’s not just high-school aged teens who are jumping on the bandwagon. There is a new trend towards teaching kids – girls in particular – coding skills in a growing number of cities.

Young girl with glasses reading book

How the tables have turned and the tides have shifted. What was once considered an impediment – to be considered nerdy, uncool or, God forbid, smart – has now become the goal of both parents who realize the value of “geeking out” and of young girls alike. As a parent, I’m both heartened and encouraged by what appears to be a societal shift in “acceptable” behaviour. Girls can be sugar and spice and everything nice and smart, to boot!

Which leads us to the obvious question that now arises: are “girl geeks” the new aspirational model for parents these days? Has the tide shifted so far that the idea of what it means to be a girl now includes the requisite “sugar and spice” as well as the ability to write some wicked code? Have we finally shed our collective fear of “smart girls” and the power that they may yield? I, as the parent of a growing girl, certainly hope so. The idea that young girls may now be able to realize their true selves – geekiness and all – is a time for celebration. The prevalence of digital technology and tech gadgets in our daily lives can only add to young girls’ curiosity about how things work and technology in general – both topics formerly considered outside of the realm of femaleness.

What this new reality means is that young women now have the opportunity to lead with their brains, not their beauty. The old standby of a foregone era dictated that if a woman couldn’t get ahead with her skills, well…she could always rely on her looks. No more. This is not to say that this reality doesn’t continue to occur; one must only look at popular cultural figures to underscore this fact. However, there is certainly less of a focus on a woman’s “female charms” than there used to be and a greater acceptance of girls’ and women’s abilities to go head-to- head with males in the brains department. I, for one, am relieved.

Raising a girl in this day and age is hard enough and eliminating some of the biases that have challenged the female contingent will make it easier to raise the smart, confident and successful women of tomorrow. Many thanks to Tim Berners-Lee for getting the ball rolling.

To read this article on HUFFINGTON POST, click here.


Image courtesy of www.sheknows.com 


Top 10 Tips For Surviving a Road Trip With Kids

by Samantha on August 1, 2013

Get to your destination without the stress with these simple, proven tips


“Are we there yet?”

Those four little words are ones that every parent dreads as the family makes it way on yet another road trip. If you’re planning to take a spin in the car, kids, parents, pets and all, you may want to read on for some tips and strategies for keeping your sanity while traveling down the highway.

Following are the top 10 tips for surviving a road trip with kids:

1) Map it Out – It may seem obvious but know where you’re going before you hit the road. Map out your destination through Google Maps or a similar, including where you’re going to stop (rest stops) and have technological backup. Make sure that your car is outfitted with a reliable GPS or similar navigation system that provides clear instructions on how to get to your vacation locale. And while technology is great, always have an old-school map that includes your full route available in the car. The last thing that you want to happen is to have a tech fail while you’re in the middle of a remote location with a car full of cranky kids.

2) Be on the Money  – Having financial troubles while traveling with the kids is the last thing anyone wants to experience. Being short on cash, maxed out or surprised at how much you’ve spent before even reaching your destination is upsetting to say the least. Have a solid budget in place before you hit the road and stick to it. As well, set financial expectations with your kids at the same time so that there are no surprises. If there’s going to be a limit on the amount of money spent on food and other miscellaneous items while traveling, it’s best to let the little ones in on the plan now.

3) Auto-Tune – Your vehicle – the one that’s going to take you and your precious cargo abroad – must be in tip-top shape in order for your trip to be a success. Before heading out on the open road, get a full tune-up to put your mind at ease. Fill the tires, change the oil and don’t forget to fill up the tank so that you can drive for a while before stopping for gas. The last thing you want to deal with is a flat tire or worse with a carload of cranky kids.

4) Juice Up the Devices – I’ll get to technology in a second, but remember: gadgets are no good to you if they’re dead. This is particularly the case when you’re in desperate need of your portable GPS while driving through the Mojave Desert or your three kids are having a monumental meltdown in the backseat that will only be quelled by their favorite movie on the DVD player or iPad. Charge everything to 100% before you head out the door so that you’re set for a time at the outset. And on a related note, don’t forget to bring along the car chargers, iPod cords and any other auxiliary connectors that can work  in the car as well. You’ll need them once the juice runs out of the gadgets after a few hours (or less).

5) Take the Tech – These days, having digital devices and gadgets to entertain the kids (and the parents) while on a road trip is a must. Arm yourselves like you’re going into battle and pull out all the technological stops. These include but are not limited to: headphones, a DVD player (if not included in the vehicle itself), a laptop/iPad/e-reader or smartphone loaded with movies, stories and games, a USB key loaded with movies, shows and games, etc. Yes – books – the old fashioned kind – are great, but your child’s favorite movie on a DVD player complete with headphones is sometimes greater 😉

6) Hit the Washroom – Before you leave, make sure that everyone – including the adults – makes a visit to the washroom. First off, the best way of breaking the road trip momentum is having to stop for a restroom break before you’ve even gotten your driving stride. On a related note, let’s not mention how gross some pit stop bathrooms can be as well.  You’ll have to deal with them during your drive, for sure, so if you can minimize the number of visits, you’re ahead of the game.

7) Take Lots of Breaks – This is both for the kids and the parents. If you’re splitting the driving between two people, it’s important that both parties are rested and comfortable. Alternate driving often, for sure, but stop to take a rest whenever possible. This could mean a quick five-minutes for everyone to get out of the car and stretch their legs to avoid cramping. While it may seem to make more sense to drive through with as little breaks as possible, it’s actually dangerous to do so. Leg cramps, fatigue and highway hypnosis are very real results of trying to do the road trip in as little time as possible. Avoid long bouts of driving for either party and get to your destination safely.

8) Old School Play – Sure – tech is great. What kid doesn’t love an iPad or the latest movie playing on a DVD while traveling down the highway? That being said, there’s something quite quaint and compelling about some of the ways that previous generations entertained themselves while traveling by car. These include  Highway Bingo, 20 Questions or a License Plate Bingo. Heck – even an old-fashioned deck of cards can go a long way for kids strapped into the back seat for a long drive down the highway. Bring some portable or travel-sized games: Scrabble comes to mind for older kids; for the younger ones, consider options like Go Fish or even things as simple as crayons and paper. And on this note, you’ll need what’s suggested in tip #7

9) A Flat Surface – It sounds so trivial but believe me when I say that without this, you will have problems. The kids will go out of their minds when they’re not able to balance their games, toys, DVD players and gadgets. Make sure to have a sturdy and usable surface on which the children can lay out their toys, games, gadgets. You won’t regret it.

Lapgear Mydesk, Blue (45343)

10) Comfort Food – Yes, part of the fun of going on a road trip is the fact that the family gets to stop at various restaurants, truck stops and similar locales along the way. It’s exciting for a time, but the longer your trip, the more likely you’ll have pangs of longing for some “real” food from home. Luckily, there’s no law that says that you have to eat greasy fries and burgers for the duration of your travels. Pack a small cooler full of easily portable food and snacks: sandwiches, wraps, cold pizza, are just some examples of what to bring. Don’t forget those stop-gap foods that will keep the kids going in between stops as well: granola bars, veggie sticks and fruit are good examples. You’ll get tired of truck stop and fast food pretty quickly and some more healthy options from home will be a welcome break. Don’t forget to bring a good supply of fluids for the kids as well – juice boxes and water bottles will go a long way to keeping them hydrated as well as saving you money.

And ideally, you’ll want your road trip to look something like this. Here’s a picture of my kids on a recent trip. Ahhhhhh….heaven…..;)


 sleeping boy in car


Okay, so now that we’ve gotten past the “first day of school” jitters and “back to school shopping” it’s time to pull up our bootstraps, buckle down and get going with the school year. Your child has settled into some semblance of a routine even if you haven’t, and it’s quite likely that they’re now tackling another reality of the school year: homework.

Yup, that’s right folks – homework, that dirty little word is being foisted upon our precious babies earlier and earlier each year, it seems. No longer the domain of the upper grades, parents of kids in grades one, two and three have been surprised with the handouts and take-home assignments that have been given to their children. The topic of homework for the younger kids is a whole other topic that I may tackle at a later date. For now, let’s focus on the task at hand – getting your child to complete his or her homework on time, regardless of their grade. Having a plan of action early in the school year will guarantee less stress for both parent and child, and greater overall success for the returning student.

Following are 6 Tips to Help You Get Your Child to Do Their Homework

1) Provide Them With Tools – First things first: make sure that your child has everything that they need to make their homework experience a good one. There’s nothing more frustrating or stressful for a child than not having the right tools to get the job done. Accordingly, it’s important that your child feels confident that they can complete their assignments without having to worry about not having the items required to complete the task. Parents can assure that their child is ready to go by checking the course outline and/or speaking to their child’s teacher about the class requirements at the start of the school year. Then, a decision about getting the right tools, including any books (required or at-home support texts) technology (will they require use of a computer or tablet?), notebooks and more can be made. Having these items at hand will make it easier for your child to feel confident and engaged that they can complete the task at hand.

2) Make it Fun – Homework doesn’t have to be a dirty word. By making it an engaging activity, your child will be more likely to be motivated and to excel in their studies. Consider some engagement during your child’s homework time that will motivate them to exceed. For example, why not make some of their learning a game, a la “20 Questions?” Or consider doing some math games with your child to keep them interested and focused.

3) A Dedicated Place – Knowing that your child has a designated spot in your home to complete their work will help them succeed. Make sure to carve out a a specific workspace for them so that they know that you’re in full support in helping them achieve. Whether it’s in their bedroom, at the kitchen or dining room table, or in another central location, having their own little nook will show them that you are behind them all the way in helping them excel.

4) Help Them – There will be times during the school year when it’s not all smooth sailing. When it comes to homework, your child will need your support and guidance in understanding and completing the tasks at hand. Children can often become anxious and unfocused if they feel that certain assignments are beyond their comprehension. Always be available to help them through their homework by being close by and accessible when they’re completing their work. As well, if financially viable, consider hiring a tutor and/or providing additional coursework supports to give your child additional help.

5) Know What They’re Doing – It’s critical that you know what your child is doing in class to be able to follow along with the provided assignments that are given at the end of each day. Make sure that you’re “in the know” about what your child is learning in school so that you’re better able to help them when they come to you for answers or help. A discussion with your child’s teacher and a regular review of the course outline will keep you ahead of the game and better prepared to assist when required.

6) Get Into The Routine – There’s a time and a place for everything and homework is no different. From the outset, kids should know that you take their success in completing their work as seriously as they should. Showing them this means that you’ve carved out a routine that focuses on a specific time and place for homework completion. It may be after school before they sit down in front of the TV or play games; it could be after dinner and before bathtime. You, as the parent know your child and family routine best and accordingly can plan when your child would be most efficient and effective in getting their work done. Remember – kids thrive on routine, so apply this fact to their homework completion as well.

So there you have it – some simple tips to help your kids along the route to educational success. By employing these simple tools, you’ll likely see a happier and more engaged student as well as stellar marks when report cards are sent home.

For more discussion about how to inspire your kids to do their homework, check out my appearance on Global News Morning Show on the topic.

VIDEO: How to Get Your Child to Do Their Homework

Want more of my Parenting tips and advice? Click on the image below and download your copy of my eBook today!

Image courtesy of //cloverleafschool.org



Keeping Up With The Janeses - Grade School Edition

It’s not “keeping up with the Joneses” if you’re the parent of a growing girl.  It’s “Janeses,” not “Joneses” and as the  mother of a daughter who strongly wishes to keep up with the latest, at least when it comes to fashion and clothing, this post is all about girl envy.

“Jane’s house is really nice. She has such a beautiful bedroom and so many toys.”

“Jane has really cool new running shoes that are really expensive.”

“Jane wears really nice new clothes all the time.”

What do you do when your child has friend-envy and you can’t keep up? Here’s the scoop: my daughter has become increasingly aware of people, places and most of all, things. I guess it’s part and parcel of growing up and I should be thankful that my child is so observant. Of course, with any situation, there are always two sides to the story, and the flip side to this reality is that the “things” that she’s aware of are not always as easily acquired by moms like me.

The reality is that our family lives a middle-of-the-road lifestyle where discretionary income is just that: discretionary. If you’ve read some of my previous posts, you’ll know that I’m all about being frugal, saving money and getting the most bang for my buck as I can. They say that necessity is the mother of invention and believe me, saving money is a necessity in our household because there’s not a lot of it flying around.

That being said, I continue to stand by my love of bargains, saving money on purchases and general frugality. I’ve always been a bargain-hunter and, truth be told, even if I came upon a whole lot of money for some inconceivable reason, I’d still be looking for the best deal. The reason for this long preamble is to paint the picture about how money is spent around our home. If it’s not clear, I don’t believe in spending a lot of cash on what I see are unnecessary purchases. Sure – my kids get new toys and clothes and items that they like, but I’m loathe to spend hundreds of dollars on one pair of shoes for my eight-year-old that she will inevitably outgrow within a few months. This inherent value system is causing me great difficulties as my daughter strives to “keep up with the Janeses.” “Jane,” you see, has designer running shoes that cost three times what I spent on my daughter’s running shoes. She also dresses really well and I believe everything she wears is new. She looks great. She also has a beautiful home, three times larger than mine. Suddenly, I feel guilty and inadequate as a parent.

I know, it’s crazy, and my more logical side tells me to not worry about what others have and stick to my frugal guns. Even so, the twinge of sadness that I can’t provide the same goods for my girl is there, as irrational as it may be. I explain to my daughter that it’s lovely that her friend has so many wonderful items. I remind my daughter that she, too has many things, so many more than the average child outside the industrialized world (yes, I’m playing that argument now). In spite of these discussions and the truth behind these facts, I still feel guilty.


Is it because as a parent, I want to provide my child with everything they desire, and never have them feel like they are a “have-not?”

Is it because I can’t provide as “well” as these other parents, at least to the tune of designer clothes and shoes that, although impractical, do really look snazzy and cool?

Is it because my worth, my measure as a mom is being weighed in “stuff” – material goods – despite my better judgement? This mom should know better and she does, but it still doesn’t assuage the feelings of inadequacy about her ability to be the best parent she can be. Apparently succeeding at this title means buying your kid the newest, most expensive and best of everything, according to some parents. By their standards, therefore, I’ve effectively failed.
This situation exemplifies how we as parents (and moms in particular) put so many stresses and pressures upon ourselves to be perfect. To give our kids everything they want and to keep a perfect home. Even though we know better, that reality still remains in our heads and is brought to the forefront in situations like the one with my daughter. As a result, the scenario discussed here has forced me to reevaluate my family values, at least when it comes to purchasing.

The lesson here is that reevaluation isn’t wholly a bad thing. Stepping back and sorting out what your value structure is, what things are important to you and how you want to teach your children is always a good lesson. After taking a long hard look, this is what I’ve figured out: I’m frugal (some would say cheap) at the best of times and that’s not going to change any time soon. I enjoy getting a deal and appreciate a good bargain when they come around. Also, this family budget has a cap on it and the “latest and greatest” is not on the radar when shopping for my thousands of kids. Because of this, I’ll continue to pass on my thrifty values in the face of a child who wants to “keep up with Jane.” A difficult task, indeed, but I’ll keep trying.

Want more of my parenting advice and tips? Click on the image below to get your copy of my eBook today!

Image courtesy of www.savvymom.ca
Image of Marc Jacobs, Armani Juniors and children’s Dior dresses courtesy of www.NeimanMarcus.com


Back to School Tips For Parents

by Samantha on September 5, 2012

Simple strategies to save money as the kids return to school

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, isn’t it?

That return to school comes with a sigh of relief that the order that includes the daily tasks that both kids and parents have to do to get to class on time.

Along with back-to-school time, however, comes an additional anxiety, one that has to do with money.

Maybe you’re still holding out with hopes that you can save on the needed items.  It would be nice to not break the bank this year by purchasing everything under the sun to appease your child and your conscience. The good news is that you can do this, easily. Relax, mom and dad, because you’re in the driver’s seat despite what your kids may think.

Back-to-school season is a time where money quickly slips through our fingers if we’re not careful. I’ve learned from previous years that “Rome wasn’t conquered in a day,” and that money never grew on trees. This latter reality has made me a frugal and strategic shopper and back-to-school time is no different. If an item is on sale or reasonably priced, why pay more? In the short clip below, I discuss tips and advice for how to purchase inexpensive, quality back-to-school items for your kids by purchasing some of the staples at Dollarama. Who knew?

VIDEO: Back to School Shopping at Dollarama

In a related segment, I provided some advice to parents who were on the last legs of their back-to-school shopping the day before school started. The mall can be a scary place one day before Labour Day…

VIDEO: Last Minute Back to School Shoppers // The return to school doesn’t have to be expensive. By following some simple tips, you can save money and lower your stress level at the same time.

What are your favourite back-to-school strategies? Tell me about them in the comments section below.

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Tech, Tech and More Tech!

September 4, 2012

  Well, it’s been a pretty tech-focused week over here. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know that technology is something that’s near and dear to my heart, though I grapple with my usage of digitally-connected gadgets. Even more so, I struggle like you with my kids’ use of technology. How much […]

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Preparing Your Child For the First Day of School – Top 7 Tips

August 24, 2012

Ease your child’s back to school anxiety with these simple tips The first day of school is just around the corner and parents and children everywhere are preparing anxiously for their big moment. This is especially the case for children who are going to school for the first time. The thought of school with “big […]

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Back to School on a Budget – Top 10 Tips For Parents

August 18, 2012

Summer’s over and parents everywhere are stressing about “Back-to-School” shopping. With the pressures that retailers, marketers and children put on parents, is it any wonder that we’re feeling a bit anxious? Second only to the holidays, this time of year is one where moms and dads around the world feel a collective draining of their […]

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What’s in a Name?

August 18, 2012

Gender, baby names and society What’s in a name? This question has been asked many times over the years with varying responses. Some would say “not much,” while others would maintain that the “right” – or “wrong” name could change the course of a person’s future. When children are born, the oneness is on the […]

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Every Day is Groundhog Day – Why Kids Keep Watching the Same Movies Over and Over Again

August 17, 2012

Cars, Cars and more Cars. Mater and Lightning McQueen are kings in my household. We have watched Cars 1 and Cars 2 enough that I can recite the script, character by character verbatim. My sons are smitten. This propensity to obsess and repeatedly watch the same movies over and over and over again is, sadly, […]

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