Hawaii honeymoon

A summertime emergency kit

You know what’s fun? Shopping for crayons. You know what’s especially fun? Shopping for crayons you don’t plan on letting your kids use.

Staples is doing a promotion with Visa Checkout and I was offered the chance to build a summertime emergency kit. If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you’ll know that when it comes to this whole parenting thing, I’m pretty much always game for an emergency kit that will make this gig easier.

I’m a little anxious about school ending for Connor. He does better when he’s busy and active and challenged, and I’m concerned about what our days might be like when he’s not at school all day. Or more specifically what my evenings might be like, because I already get him at his most excitable and there are times I can barely get through dinner without eyeing the garage and wondering if anyone would notice if I duct taped him to his chair. With some stuff to keep him occupied, and some activities we can do on weekends when our time together is more, shall we say, in need of help, I’m feeling a little better.

So I went shopping on the Staples website. For starters, when I searched “Crayola” I got a ton of results. I had no idea.

I bought art supplies and paper and craft kits and paint and finger-painting kits. (I know. Paint. The whole idea of an emergency kit making me a fantastic mom might have gone to my head.)

I bought sketchbooks and glue sticks and construction paper. I might also have bought the 64-pack of crayons with a built-in sharpener and I might not let the kids use it. (Oh, who am I kidding? Connor claimed that one right away.)

6 pack crayons

But I did get them a crayon meltdown art set, so maybe they won’t notice.

Connor loves it when boxes are delivered and loves opening them, especially when he can get his hands on the goods, so this is a hit already.

colouring

Ethan likes to make stuff. He also likes to write on things like walls and floors, so I’m hoping the plethora of paper options will keep him from causing an emergency of another sort (the kind involving a Magic Eraser and mama saying some bad words).

doing crafts

I like to colour, so I figure the contents of the emergency kit will set us up for some good summer days. And if the finger-painting goes sideways, well, at least there might be a Mother of the Year award in it for me. Even if it’s just the E for Effort category.

***

I shopped online at Staples.ca and bought the supplies using Visa Checkout and a Visa gift card that was given to me. I’ll admit to being a bit wary about how easy it would be to use, but I needn’t have been. It was super easy.

It’s not finicky like other pre-paid cards I’ve tried, and Visa Checkout makes it especially easy because you can create a single account sign-in that can be used across all devices (and no need to keep re-entering the card number or address either).

VISA CheckOut Button_4

Here’s a quick how-to for all you Canadians out there. There are just three steps on http://checkout.visa.com:

  • Step one: Create a username and password.
  • Step two: Enter your payment and shipping information. (You only have to do this once)
  • Step three: Look for the Visa Checkout button when you’re shopping online, enter your username and password, and go!

That’s it. Seriously. It’s secure and Visa’s Zero Liability policy applies in case of fraud.

You can use Visa Checkout at many of your favourite Canadian online stores, with many more joining each month. For a full list, visit https://checkout.visa.com/shopping.

And bonus! If you want to create your own summertime emergency kit, there’s a way to stock it extra full. From now through May 12, 2015, Canadians who use Visa Checkout on Staples.ca will receive $20 off when they spend $100! More info at http://www.staples.ca/VisaCheckout.

Giveaway

Want to start stocking up with a Visa gift card of your own? Enter to win one here. (Just promise to keep some unbroken crayons for me.)

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#RBCFirstHome Twitter chat

Just a quick post to tell you Canadians out there that RBC is hosting another Twitter chat for first home buyers on April 21 at 8:30 pm ET. I participated in one of these a few months ago to help promote it, because I remember buying our first house and how angst-inducing it was. RBC brings in a whole team, including a lawyer, realtor, builder, designer, mortgage expert and other experts to answer questions from nervous first-time home buyers and these chats are awesome. People asked such good questions and got great answers. Totally made me wish Twitter had been around when I was buying my first house.

In any case, if you want to join in you can ask your questions using #RBCFirstHome on April 21 at 8:30 pm ET. I’ll be there too!

RBC First Home Twitter chat April 21

Eating Like a First Grader

With Connor in Grade 1 this year, we’ve entered the world of making school lunches. Rich was excited about this on the first day of school and insisted on making Connor’s lunch, and I happily allowed that to turn into the new routine. But I’ve started doing them lately in an effort to make mornings easier, and it helps with my own plan to not feel like crap anymore. If I’m making lunch for Connor it’s easy to put together two containers of veggies and two of fruit and two of crackers and hummus (and give myself a pat on the back for eating healthy while I’m at it too).

Connor, of course, has a cool lunch kit with coloured containers that all fit nicely in his Batman lunch bag (which even has a cape), but now I do too, because I got a Rubbermaid LunchBlox set.

LunchBlox kit

This has been awesome for a few reasons. For one, it encourages the above-mentioned healthy eating. We have a great market in the building I work in, but it’s a little too easy to wander down and get some chocolate banana bread when the 3:00 hunger hits. I’ve swapped that habit for a different one – filling the orange container with veggies and the green with hummus. My veggie intake (definitely the hardest part of healthy eating for me) has gone way up.

LunchBlox small container

The blue section can be used as one big container, or there are a couple of inserts you can use to split things up as well. I’ve been taking a salad mix to work, so this works well for that, and I can add salad toppings (nuts, seeds, cranberries) to the other containers and mix it all together at lunchtime.

The containers snap together, and the whole lot snaps onto a layer of Blue Ice, which is handy when I don’t feel like putting my lunch in the fridge.

LunchBlox snapped-on Blue Ice

I’ve struggled for a long time to get in the habit of taking a lunch that has more things that are good for me than things I like. (Hi, my name is Robin and I’m a carbaholic.) I don’t know why this helps (maybe it’s similar to how fun-coloured pens always made doing homework seem easier), but it does.

Got any lunch tips for me? Sooner or later the carrots and snap peas are going to get boring, and I’d like to find ways to keep things interesting.

Disclosure: I am part of the Rubbermaid Blogger Campaign with Mom Central Canada and I receive special perks as part of my affiliation with this group. The opinions on this blog are my own.

The Definition of Luxury is Survival

A couple of weeks ago Connor was sitting at the kitchen table with a pencil in his hand. “Mom,” he asked, “how do you spell ‘Dear’?” I spelled it for him. “How do you spell ‘Santa’? How do you spell ‘Christmas’? How do you spell ‘Ewok Village’?”

He was writing a letter to Santa, of course – actually writing it, on his own, and spelling some of the words himself, which made me incredibly proud. After I finished laughing, of course, because this child is nothing if not specific in terms of what he wants. A LEGO Ewok Village. For Connor, that’s the ultimate gift.

I’m aware of the luxury of this, of course. Not all kids, even those in my own city or country, are going to get something as fabulous as a LEGO Ewok Village. (Mind you, neither is Connor because that particular set costs $300 and there are limits to what I think a six-year-old who already owns at least half the LEGO in the world needs to get as a Christmas gift, but there will be LEGO under the tree for him.)

For many children, even the most basic items are a luxury. The simplest essentials, such as clean water and nutrition, are necessary to help children survive in unforgiving environments. As most of you know, my particular pet cause is mental health (followed closely by ovarian cancer, which my mom had – and beat!). And I’ll tell you a secret: I find it hard to relate to some of the developing-country stories. It’s not that I don’t care, or don’t know anything about the challenges many developing countries face. I guess it’s just that those challenges are so far from my own experience that I almost can’t imagine what it would be like. But today I want to share some of those challenges and offer some help, because if there’s one thing I do relate to is the desire to make this a better world. (I even have a whole category on my blog for it.)

Here’s the deal: Your kids might want LEGO or…whatever it is that girls want this year. But for many people in the world the ultimate gift is not the hottest toy or trendy tech item, it’s possibilities. UNICEF has a campaign they’ve dubbed “unBOXing Possibilities,” as in unboxing possibilities to give children the opportunity to go to school, protect newborns from illness and provide children with the basic nutrition they need to survive.

That’s quite a different sort of gift, wouldn’t you say? One that can literally change a child’s life.

UNICEF’s Survival Gifts are the actual products children will receive. Once purchased, UNICEF will pull the product from the warehouse in Copenhagen and send directly to people in the field.

I shared this idea with Connor (explaining why it was necessary) and asked him which gift he would choose to purchase. He chose therapeutic milk.

Therapeutic milk

 

Unicef-therapeutic-milk

I suspect a large part of why this one appealed to him is that he is a big milk drinker, and his little brother is definitely in a milk phase right now. “Milky, milky!” is something we hear from Ethan often, so we make sure we don’t run out.

That’s not a luxury all parents have, of course. Heartbreaking, and quite scary when you think about the nutritional implications for those children.

Therapeutic Milk is a powder-based product that when mixed gives moms the ability to feed their babies. For 25 packets, it’s only $20. So we bought some therapeutic milk from the UNICEF site and helped 12 children and hopefully taught Connor something in the process. (I had asked Connor why he chose that gift, in particular. “So the babies have enough milk and don’t die,” he said. “It’s better to live than to die.” Sometimes the lesson really is that simple, I guess.)

Here are some other Survival Gifts that are in need this year. If you want to purchase one, you can do so in honour of someone and have that person sent a card letting them know of your donation.

Blankets for babies

 

Unicef-baby-blanketThis seems like a simple, cotton blanket that would be second nature to us, but it can mean safety and comfort for not only babies but moms too. Imagine if you didn’t have something like this to comfort your newborn.

Blankets for babies are only $22, and that gives 3 babies a cozy welcome.

Bed nets

 

Unicef-bed-netIn Africa, one in six child deaths is due to malaria. This insecticide-treated net is a simple, effective way to save so many lives. For only $9 you can send 2 bed nets to a family in need.

Plumpy’Nut

 

Unicef-plumpy-nutThis is another Survival Gift that seems so simple, but that provides much-needed nutrition to children. As we’re planning parties and holiday celebrations full of snacks and food, this is such a big reminder of how $10 can give malnourished children food just to survive. If a child has Plumpy’Nut 3 times a day, they can gain up to 2 pounds in one week!

Other options

On the UNICEF shop site there are tons of other options so you can personalize your choices, like soccer balls for a sport-loving child or Art-in-a-box to go along with the crafty gift you’re putting under the tree. While we’re buying the hottest new toys or stocking the fridge with extras this season, these are gifts that can feel like a luxury to moms and children who need them. 

To see what an effect UNICEF Survival Gifts are having for the recipients, check out www.youtube.com/unicefcanada for real-life experiences. You can shop from there too. Or join the conversation at #unBOXPossibilities.

If you do decide to add a Survival Gift to your Christmas to-do list this year, come back and tell me about it, would you? A better world gets even better when we share these good things we do with each other.

Disclaimer: I was compensated for this post, but I’ve chosen to put that money towards Survival Gifts for children in need. 

Automagic photo sharing (+giveaway)

A couple of weeks ago I posted about the Locket app and how I’ve been using it to collect memories and photos of the boys. I filled up the fall months and already have some tree-decorating pictures in there for December.

The other piece to this is a frame that will display those photos to a family member or friend who’s far away (or near by, I suppose – I don’t know about you but I don’t do a very good job of visiting people in the next community over…).

I sent this frame to my sister and her husband, who live in another city and don’t get to see the boys all that often. The photos I’ve added to the app appear (automagically, as Connor would say) on their frame and lets them stay up to date on what we’ve been doing.

Locket frame by NixPlay

Ethan bowling

It’s pretty cool, actually. Once my sister turned it on and connected to WiFi, that was it. I just add photos and they get all the new ones on their frame. She also set it up so that it comes on automatically when it detects motion and goes off if it detects no movement for 5 minutes.

Locket frame by NixPlay

Connor with his new cousin

We haven’t done this yet, but you can sync up to 10 users on one account, so my sister could get photos of my nephews and new niece as well if my other sister and brother used the Locket app (available on iTunes). Photo sharing made super easy – I love it.

Want to give it a go? The Locket app is free (and it develops an e-timeline and a photo book as you go – visit www.lifelocket.net for more information), and I’m giving away a Locket frame, which is designed by NixPlay. The Locket Frame is available in three different sizes: 8”, 12” and 15” and if you want to get straight to it (Christmas present, perhaps?) you can find those through the shop section of the Locket app.

 

Disclosure: I am part of the Timewyse Locket blogger program with Mom Central and I receive special perks as part of my affiliation with this group. The opinions on this blog are my own.

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