A #GreatList and Giving Back

I have friends who are teachers, and friends of friends who are teachers, and family members who are retired teachers, and I’m so glad there are people out there who can do that sort of thing. I certainly don’t have the patience. Heck, I can barely handle my own two children sometimes, never mind 22 others. But despite (or perhaps because of) this gratitude-at-a-distance, one of the things that has always completely annoyed me is how much of their own money teachers have to spend to get some of the basic supplies they need for their classrooms.

I asked some teacher friends about this and here are some of the examples they gave:

The teachers get a classroom budget based on a per-student amount. Then I get $50 to buy my teacher supplies (pens, tape, post-its, chart paper, whiteboard markers, staples, etc. etc.) For the whole year. Obviously it’s never enough and I always spend hundreds of my own $$ on my own supplies each year. Ditto for students’ supplies. I have already bought some stuff for my students next year, plus replenished some of my own stuff on my own nickel, and it’s only July!

I always spend a ton of money on extras and supplies for things like dance costumes, building supplies for big projects like mousetrap cars or trebuchets. I also buy things for myself like baggies, alligator clips, a paper cutter, special paper, sharpies(!), magnets, etc. those things add up but make a significant difference in my quality of life as a teacher. There’s a lot more… I ended up expensing over $900 in supplies that my admin insisted I do and they found money elsewhere because they knew how much I had been spending.

I spend more on “luxury items” (my term). Most of what I spend is for books for my classroom library.

Books! I mean, c’mon. Books! Yes, some of the items in the above lists are more nice to have than absolutely essential, but I just don’t understand how we think it’s okay that a teacher is given only $50 for supplies like pens, staples, whiteboard markers, etc. How are these things not supplied by the school with care taken to ensure the very basics are available? On average, teachers spend $1,000 of their own money just to make sure their students have the resources they need to learn. 

(You’ll have to forgive me somewhat for being so indignant. It’s been that sort of week.)

In any case, there is a reason for this rant. I had an opportunity to partner with Great Clips, who have teamed up with AdoptAClassroom.org to help deserving teachers AND give families some help with back-to-school needs. (I know, I know, it’s only July. Stick with me here.) 

Great Clips did a classroom makeover for two teachers, fulfilling their wish lists and helping their classroom vision come to life. If you need a pick-me-up, check out the video (though you might want to have some Kleenex handy, because oy).

Before and after classroom makeover

Help teachers

If you want to help more teachers, Great Clips is giving you a chance to do that simply by downloading their check-in app. With every download, Great Clips will contribute to AdoptaClassroom.org (up to $20,000) to support teachers and students. You can get info about the app on their site as well.

We take the boys to Great Clips to get their hair cut, and Rich discovered their app a while ago. It’s totally awesome, especially if you have fidgety kids, because it lets you add your name to the waiting list. It’s not an appointment, so there’s no pressure if someone has a meltdown as you’re trying to get everyone in the car. It just lets you put your name on the list so you don’t have to wait as long (or at all) when you get there. You can also look to see how many people are in front of you and time your departure appropriately.

Help yourself

Support teachers and win your school supplies

And that’s not all! Between now and September 5, 2014, you can upload your school supply list to the #GREATLIST site for a chance to win your supplies. Daily winners will get their back-to-school supplies shipped free to their front door (up to $100 value). The contest is open to individuals 18 and older who are legal residents of the United States (including the District of Columbia) or Canada.

As well, if you enter you’ll get a coupon for $2 off at Great Clips with your confirmation email the first time you submit a school supply list.

Good deeds and good deals for everyone, wouldn’t you say?


Thanks to Great Clips for sponsoring this post and giving me another way to do a little bit of good in this world.

Waiting for Perfection

Thanks to Grammarly for sponsoring this post. Use Grammarly’s plagiarism checker because it also checks your grammar, and no one wants to be the person everyone thinks about when they post bad-grammar memes on Facebook.

I haven’t been writing a lot lately. Largely because of time—I’ll put 75% of the blame there—but also because the topics swirl around in my head and I wait for them to position themselves just so before committing to putting words to my thoughts. I only want to write if it’s meaningful. I only want to write if I get it right.


There’s no such thing as perfection. I know that. And there’s especially no such thing as perfection in writing. Words are living, breathing things and a piece of writing is never truly done. It’s just finished, and the writer has to release those words to the world and let them continue to live on through readers. As you peruse the words and unravel their meaning, the words breathe. As you comment, continue to ponder, or share, the words’ breath, their very being, carries on.

Often, when I really have something to say, I will think and write and revise and think some more. I will edit and re-write and let the words lead me to making sense of my world. And when I finally let them go, I wait for the answer to one question: Did I get it right?

But there is no right. There is only right now. Whatever I write, whether I publish it or not, is my reality in the moment. It’s part of how my world evolves. The words I use and the paragraphs that form don’t have to be perfect. They don’t have to be right by anyone’s judgment. Not even by mine. Those words are merely part of the picture.

I know this, and something someone shared recently (that originally inspired this post but that I can no longer find) has reminded me of it once again.

I don’t have to finish writing. I just have to start.

Embracing Easy with Just-Eat.ca

I’ve now been back at work for a month, and just about everyone I know has asked me how it’s going. The truth: It’s going pretty well. I’m enjoying using my brain in a different way again (and am pretty happy about having a Starbucks in the building too).

The other truth: Life is kind of overwhelming. No one told me being a working mom of two is infinitely harder than being a working mom of one, and I think I underestimated the logistical crunch having two kids would bring to my working life.

I think I’ve found a groove for the busy mornings, though of course now that winter has decided to come to Calgary I have to build frost- and snow-removal time into my routine. It’s the evenings that are tough.

My commute is 45 minutes each way, and I work until 5 p.m. Ethan is usually approaching meltdown stage by 6 p.m., which gives me a very small window to get home and have dinner before transitioning into baby-sleep-whisperer mode. (As we all know, tired babies do not necessarily easily transition into sleeping babies.) Then I still have to do dishes (Rich cooks) and tidy and walk the dog and ignore the unfolded laundry and so on before attempting to get to bed at a reasonable hour so I can do it all again the next day.

I won’t lie. I’m tired and most nights my brain is ready to explode.

Chinese food takeoutSo…I’ll happily take any efficiency tips you care to share and in trade I’ll offer you one of mine: I’ve recently been introduced to Just-Eat.ca and I think it’s absolutely brilliant.

On weeknights Rich has been fantastic at getting dinner ready in time to feed Ethan before he totally loses it and so I can eat before my second shift (as it were), but there are some nights we just don’t have our dinner ducks in a row. And when it makes life easier we don’t hesitate to order in.

We get a little sick of pizza though, so Just-Eat.ca has been a great solution. Enter your postal code on the site and it will show you the places that will deliver food to your area at that time (and if they’re not open then but will be for dinner, you can preorder). All the menu items are listed so you can add them to your order with one click, and you can add a tip for the driver as well.

The first time I looked at the site I got lost in all the possibilities. With Thai food, Mexican, Italian, Indian, and more, it was easy to break out of our pizza rut. In the end we ordered Chinese food on a busy Wednesday, which is the night I’m on the hook for all the evening stuff because Rich goes to an art house event.

Italian takeoutEmbracing the easy way to take care of a weeknight dinner saved a little bit of my sanity (and bonus – no dishes!), so we tried ordering in on a Sunday as well. Rich was working (he’s getting into freelance illustration work, which is very cool and which I will share more about another time) so I’ve been doing kid and dog and laundry and grocery and dinner duty (on top of trying to get a run in now and then and still blog and do other freelance writing) and some Sundays the last thing I feel like doing is getting dinner ready while I’m trying to prepare for the week ahead. On this particular Sunday we ordered Italian (and discovered a place we hadn’t tried that serves zucchini sticks, which are a sentimental favourite for me). It was delivered exactly when we had asked for it and for a reasonable price fed the four of us with a good amount of leftovers for lunches (another bonus).

Telling you all this – with my good job and a husband who stays at home and family in town who support us – feels a little first-world-problemish. But you know what? Life is busy and it’s never going to get simpler if we don’t embrace the things that can make it easier. So I say lean in to ordering in. Your sanity is worth it.


This post was generously sponsored by Just-Eat.ca, but the opinions and images are my own. For more information, including ordering information for Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto, Waterloo, Kitchener, Guelph, Ottawa, London, Montreal, visit www.just-eat.ca. (There’s also an app.)

Stealing Nemo

It’s tough being a younger brother. Especially when your big brother thinks your toys are cool and wants to play with them himself.

Poor Ethan. The older he gets, the cooler his toys, the more Connor steals them. We’ve taught Connor the art of distraction; originally intended to give him a tactic to use when Ethan has stolen something of Connor’s (find something else he’ll like and you can take your toy back), Connor has started using it to take Ethan’s toys so he can check them out. He’s not always terribly smooth, though, and we’re usually alerted to the heist by Ethan’s wail. Man, can that kid wail. I’ll have to try to take a picture at some point, because his facial expression [You stole that from me! How COULD you?!] is priceless.

I’ve started feeling a bit like a bodyguard for baby toys, but we had a bit of a win recently. A new toy for Ethan came in the mail, so he and I opened it while Connor wasn’t home.

I think he likes it.


Hey, there’s Nemo! 


It’s the Disney Baby Finding Nemo Amazing Animals Rollin’ Round Ramp, and when Connor got home later that afternoon, he was pretty excited about this new toy too. He scooped Nemo up, rolled him down the ramp to make the starfish sing, and then tucked him behind the open-and-close door. He greeted Bloat and gave him a spin. (The magic of Disney is strong in this house, I tell you.) Ethan watched, enchanted by all the toy could do, but behind the curious eyes I could see the wail building.

Luckily I was able to use the distraction ploy on Connor: the jumbo-sized bubble wrap the toy was packed in was immediately appealing and we avoided any loud complaints from Ethan.

As long as I keep the bubble wrap handy I think Ethan will have Nemo to himself.



Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Disney. I received this toy and financial compensation in exchange for sharing it with you. Sharing the information, I mean. Not the toy. Because that’s Ethan’s. Oh, you know what I mean…

About the toy:

The Disney Baby Finding Nemo Amazing Animals Rollin’ Round Ramp is a fun play set for baby that features characters from Disney’s Finding Nemo, plus adorable tunes and SFX. The play set includes a brightly coloured Nemo character, complete with a fun roller-ball on his belly. The lively tunes & SFX are activated as Nemo slides down the ramp or as baby pushes the starfish button. The tote features an open/close door for put-and-take play, a roller-ball Bloat to bat at, and a seahorse slider. The richly detailed handle makes this play set perfect for play at home or on the go!


Freedom in a Bottle

I vividly remember the first time I left the house on my own after Connor was born. I went to a mall about 10 minutes from our house and it felt monumental. Significant. Almost like a prison break.

He was only two or three weeks old at the time, but we hadn’t introduced a bottle at that point and all I could think about was that I was carrying his sole source of food around with me. He was totally reliant on me and my body for his nutrition and there I was walking around a mall.

I got over that feeling eventually, of course, but breastfeeding made me feel tethered to him for a long, long time. He didn’t have anything else at all—no formula, nothing—until the day he hit six months and we gave him some rice cereal (and I cried because he was no longer dependent on me for nutrition. Apparently being a hormonal mom with PPD made me a little nuts in more ways than one).

We did introduce a bottle when Connor was five weeks old, and I remember the weird feeling of relief and pride. No, he wasn’t going to starve if I left the house and, yes, it was cool to see my husband feeding our baby. (And, oh, was he ever in love with giving Connor a bottle. I’ll never forget that first time.) Mostly, though, I was glad we had a way to feed Connor that didn’t require me to sit on the couch for an hour.

And then, when he was three months old, he started refusing to take a bottle. One night Rich did all the night feedings so I could sleep and after that, no more bottles for Connor. It was his way of protesting, I assume. He did start taking one again after we started solids, but the freedom ship had sailed at that point. For those months I was well and truly (and literally) attached to my baby.

With Ethan, however, it’s been totally different.

We started him on bottles slightly earlier and he has always taken them happily. I actually once came home right as Rich was feeding him and Ethan may as well have just said, “Hey, Mom! I’m having a bottle.” He was totally unfazed at me being there and finished the bottle happily. He’s still a champion nurser, too.

Naturally, I have taken full advantage of having a baby who will occasionally take a bottle. I’ll admit that I hate pumping as much as the next mom, but it’s been worth it in order to have some freedom.

In the early months, Rich gave Ethan a bottle in the mornings so I could sleep (and that right there is worth every single mooing sound the stupid pump makes). We’ve also used bottles a few times when I’ve gone out at night. I pumped when I got up or when I got home, and it worked beautifully. (The one Rich is using here is Dr. Brown’s, which we really liked – they’re easy to hold and easy to clean, and their bottle brushes actually get in all the little curves. My brother and sister-in-law have used this brand exclusively with their twins, if that tells you anything.)giving baby a bottle

But here’s where giving bottles has been really amazing: For the last several months Rich and I have been trading time off; we’ve each had two afternoons a week to work – time for me to write and time for him to work on illustrations. I wave goodbye to my husband and my baby and my freezer stash and happily sit at Starbucks. For, like, four hours. It’s new-mama heaven, I tell ya.

As I’ve sat there with my hot drink and my laptop and my headphones, I’ve often thought back to my time when Connor was a baby and wondered if I took for granted the freedom pumping and a bottle offered. Could I have bought myself more sanity? Maybe. But maybe not. We did what we could when we had the opportunity, but when a stubborn baby steadfastly refuses to take a bottle there’s not much you can do.

I try not to mourn the loss of freedom and sanity from that time around. I’ve just really, really enjoyed it with this one and I think, just maybe, it’s been one of the things that has made a difference.

Disclaimer: This post was generously sponsored by Dr. Brown’s, but the opinions and images are my own. And in thanks for the support Dr. Brown’s has given me, I have chosen Dr. Brown’s bottle-feeding supplies as part of my donation to community organizations helping with the recent flooding in Alberta, where I live. 

Some of the key features of the Dr. Brown’s Natural Flow bottles, which are available at retailers across Canada:

  • Helps reduce feeding problems – The Dr. Brown’s bottles are known for reducing colic, spit-up, burping, and gas.
  • Proven to help preserve bottle milk nutrients.
  • Vacuum-free feeding helps digestion - Good digestion is essential for babies, particularly newborns.
  • Patented Vent System and silicone nipple work together – Controlled flow so babies feed at their own pace.

For more information, visit www.drbrownsbaby.com/.