Categories
Holiday

Holiday Shopping in Style and without the Stress

I often find the holiday season a very stressful time. The idea of hitting the malls to do my Christmas shopping makes me want to crawl straight into bed, so much so that I started doing most of my shopping online. Isn’t unimaginable that I don’t enjoy shopping?! It is true, it stresses me out. Problem is that sometimes I need to be able to touch and feel what I am buying and that means going into an actual store.

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Last week I had the opportunity to experience the RBC Avion Holiday Boutique VIP lounge, something exclusive to RBC Avion cardholders and available at certain malls across the country. My husband, Dave and I dropped the kids at school and headed to Yorkdale Shopping Centre. Our first stop was the valet parking, normally $15 at Yorkdale, but free for Avioners. So nice not to have to worry about finding a parking spot, anyone who knows Yorkdale knows that parking is always a challenge. Inside the mall we planned to head straight for the Avion VIP lounge so we could check our coats, but Dave the car guy quickly spotted the Tesla retail store so we had to stop. WOW that it was one impressive car!

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Back on track we went to the VIP lounge, immediately upon entering you realize how much attention was put into making it a very relaxing experience. You feel spoiled by the amazing service and luxurious offerings. They have a beverage and snack bar where you can fuel up and enjoy a snack (they have the best shortbread cookies and Purdy’s chocolates). There was a great selection of Second Cup coffee and tea for the adults to enjoy, kids had a hot chocolate bar that was full of every type of treat you could think of adding. I knew immediately that my kids would be over so excited to whip up there very own special treat. I did feel bad for a minute that there weren’t there to enjoy, but we had important shopping to get done! Drinks in hand we set out into the mall ready to go. It was so nice to not worry about lugging around our jackets, a big downfall to shopping during our winter season. I am sure Dave really appreciated this as he would have normally been holding his coat, my coat, and all of the bags.

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Hands full of bags and ready for lunch, we took a quick stop back into the Avion VIP lounge to check our bags and have some of the gifts wrapped. Yes you heard that right, you can check your bags too. No more carrying around heavy bags and hurting your back. I know my chiropractor is smiling!

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After lunch we did a little more shopping before heading back to the VIP lounge. We dropped off the last of our gifts for wrapping. This might have been the most exciting part for me, I am the queen of last minute gift wrapping. December is the busiest time of year for my business so my own personal stuff gets left until the last minute. Christmas Eve you will find me hiding in my basement at 2am wrapping gifts, grumbling about how next year I will be more organized. Dave usually sends me to bed as he knows I am way overtired and he finishes the wrapping. (Something he hates – he must really love me.)

Well not this year! Every gift that we bought that day was perfectly wrapped and ready to go under our tree. For once we will be able to sit down and relax on Christmas Eve knowing that everything has been done already.

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I grabbed myself another tea and enjoyed the comfortable white leather chairs while the last of my gifts were wrapped up. This might have been the best Christmas shopping experience ever!

If you are an RBC Avion cardholder we recommend stopping in one of the 4 participating malls across Canada (Yorkdale in Toronto, Mail Champlain in Montreal, Coquitlam near Vancouver or the Halifax Shopping Centre) to enjoy for yourself the host of “best in class” benefits this holiday season at the RBC Avion Holiday Boutique VIP lounge, now through to December 31, 2013. Don’t worry if you aren’t currently a RBC Avion cardholder, you can apply right there in the lounge with their concierge service and take advantage of everything that the VIP lounge has to offer, or apply for both the RBC Infinite Avion Card and the RBC Platinum Avion Card online.

RBC Avion Holiday Boutique VIP lounge services available for FREE to Avioners!

Valet Parking

  • Don’t worry about finding a parking spot – park your car, on us!

Avion Holiday Boutique

  • Coat & Parcel check
  • Gift wrapping service
  • Access to the VIP Lounge & Café
  • Concierge/Porter service
  • Food court reservations. See Concierge for details.

Additional information about the RBC Avion Cards.

Shopping Rewards: Earning is simple and easy. —You’’ll earn RBC Rewards points every time you make a purchase with your RBC Avion card. Great value and then some. Earn 1 RBC Rewards point for every dollar spent on purchases. Plus, earn bonus points when shopping through the RBC Rewards eMall.

Travel Rewards: Premium and Extensive Insurance package including trip cancellation and protection for your trip, hotel, rental vehicle, and purchases. Choose air travel rewards from the Air Travel Redemption Schedule starting as low as 15,000 points and fly on any airline, anytime with no blackouts, or seat restrictions. Book travel rewards instantly. Only the RBC Rewards program has an online booking tool that’s powered by Travelocity.

And many more perks!

Categories
Family Life

Making Baby Car Seats and Installation Stress Free with Baby Car Seat Installers

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One of the biggest challenges as a new parent is the car seat! We bought a Peg Perego infant seat and took it to a car seat clinic 2 months before our baby was born, just to make sure it was installed correctly. We were like any new overly cautious parent, super ready and excited for our son to arrive! I can then remember when he was only 4 months old and had already reached the height limit on his infant seat. There are so many manufactures and models on the market, how does one choose? We visited the store and tried 4 seats before we settled on the Britax with the cow print fabric, or until I convinced my husband it was the best and worth the extra money. It was what I wanted all along, I just need him to agree!  But the problem was we bought our seat on a Saturday and their installer was only in on Tuesdays, so now what? Everything we read and had been told was that you needed to make sure your seat was installed correctly just like we did with our infant seat. I sat on the computer for a couple of hours searching for car seat clinics in my area and the next one was in a month. That was 9 years ago and lots has changed.

One of the biggest changes are companies like Baby Car Seat Installers. I had to share all about them so that if there is anyone still struggling with installing their car seat like I did 9 years ago, they can rest assured that Mohammad is to the rescue – no need to stress! Read on and learn a little about them, what they do and their advice to anyone purchasing or installing a seat themselves.

1. Please tell us a little about Baby Car Seat Installers.

We install car seats and teach parents how to use their car seats correctly. We also offer free installation inspections for parents who have installed their own child passenger restraint systems. Baby Car Seat Installers was started after I experienced firsthand how difficult it was to install a car seat correctly and how few resources were available. Our child passenger technicians are certified through St. John Ambulance, and we aim to educate and promote the importance of child passenger safety through our services and resources.

2. What areas do you service?

Our drive-in facility is located in Markham. We primarily service the Greater Toronto Area, but our mobile team has visited parents at home, work and even the hospital all over southern Ontario. We do our best to be there—wherever “there” may be—when we’re needed most.

3. Why is it important to make sure that your car seat is installed correctly?

Health Canada indicates car crashes as the leading cause of injury and death among Canadian children. And Transport Canada studies show over 80% of car seats are not used correctly. These two statistics demonstrate a dire need for more child passenger education and services. On the brighter side, St. John ambulance states using a car seat correctly seat can reduce the chance of serious injury by 70% and fatality by 90%. This is why we do what we do. Baby Car Seat Installers is trying to make a difference one car seat installation at a time.

4. Shopping for a new car seat can be very overwhelming. What tips can you recommend to those who are shopping for one?

Rest assured that all new seats sold in Canada meet the Canadian safety standards. That being said, a good place to start is determining what stage car seat your child will need and your budget.

I highly suggest doing some research online first and finding seats you like, and then visiting the store so you can see them. Doing your own research is crucial because the staff at many retailers don’t have the experience to ensure you’re choosing the best seat for your child and vehicle. If you need help in the store, find someone that knows car seats; or visit another time, location, or store. Often seats at different retailers can sometimes look identical but can be different. It is important to pay attention to the seats’ features, weight and height allowances and infant support padding that come with the models.

5. What tips do you have for people who aren’t located in your service area and want to install their seat themselves?

Check with your local health department if there are any community car seat clinics you can attend. Do this well in advance because they are generally held only a few times a year, and they book up extremely fast.  If you are left without an option and have to do it yourself, consider the following guidelines:

1) Set aside time and do it well in advance. Doing it last minute will only increase the likelihood of errors.

2) Check YouTube for reputable installation videos—those that are current and done by technicians—for your exact car seat model. If you can’t find one for your model, watch a similar model seat. This will give you a general idea of pressure needed when installing and how a correct installation should look and feel.  Bear in mind each car and seat is different, therefore, you will have to install your specific seat according to your particular user guide and vehicle manual.

3) Read the manual. Read the entire car seat bible (manual) and the child restraint sections in your vehicle manual. If you skip this step—long as it may be—your chances of winning a lottery are higher than installing the seat correctly. Your time versus your child’s safety, it’s your call.

4) Prepare as much of the seat as possible out of the vehicle with ample space, then take it into your car for installation. Working in the confined back seat can be frustrating.

5) Check your install. Make sure the base or seat doesn’t move from side to side or front to back more than an inch from the belt path. Check to see if the harness system still operates smoothly. For rear facing seats, be sure to check the angle; and for forward facing, ensure the tether strap is secured correctly and is tight.

6. Do you have a favourite seat that you would recommend to new parents?

Some seats are better suited for some children and not for others, so it’s impossible for me to pick a favourite. There are many quality car seats on the Canadian market and all of them meet Canadian safety standards. The manufactures I prefer are Clek, Britax, Diono and Peg Perego because none of their car seat models is substandard. These brands, however, do cost more. There are other quality car seats out there that don’t cost as much as the name brands; nevertheless, I am not a fan of all of their models.

Categories
Family

What should you include in your birth announcement?

You’ve been blessed with a beautiful baby, now it’s time to announce it to the world. Sending a birth announcement to your friends and family is as important as sending a wedding invitation. Even in this new electronic age, mailing a physical birth announcement isn’t something that should be replaced by a quick email.

Many new parents wonder what they should include on their birth announcement. This is one area that a seasoned designer can offer their professional experience to make the process easier for you. Here is a list of my recommendations:

1. Photos – We recommend sending a photo birth announcement as everyone wants to see how cute your little one is. You can choose a design that uses only one photo of the baby or use a few, like close ups of their tiny hands and feet. You can also include a photo with siblings or the entire family.

2. Gender – This can be denoted by the colour used on the announcement. Pink for girl or blue for boy, but some want to use a gender neutral colour so we recommend that you include a heading like “it’s a boy!” So there is no doubt as many are using unique names that might not be so obvious.

3. Name – Using either the babies full name or their first and middle name. Many like including the first name or nickname in a script style font faded in the background.

4. Birth Details – Include as much or as little as you would like, the common details to include are; date of birth, time of birth, weight and length.

5. Parents – Including the parents names, if the mother uses her maiden name it is recommended to use only the first names. Common writing includes “Love proud parents, Max and Rhonda” there is no need to include the last name(s) here if you have included it as part of the babies name.

6. Siblings – If the new baby has siblings include them with the parents names. Putting them on the line below the parents name “Love proud parents, Max and Rhonda and big sister Julia” or include them in the introduction “Julia is proud to announce the arrival of her baby brother…” at the top of the announcement. This helps make them feel involved in the announcement.

7. A special saying, poem, or religious verse/quote. Depending on the amount of space left many chose to include something special to them. You can also order a double sided or folded style card which allows for extra space.

We recommend to keep it simple, less is more, is a good rule of thumb. Don’t over-crowd the design with too much information. This is where hiring a professional designer will ensure that your birth announcement is perfect, as their experience with design and layout will help guide you to a completed design that you will be proud to send to all of your friends and family.

Categories
Family Life

Saving for Your Child’s Education with RESPs Doesn’t Have to be Stressful

I was one of those kids who graduated from high school able to pick any school and not have to worry about how much it would cost, or where the money would come from. My grandfather was a strong believer in education and wanted to make sure that my brother and I could go to school. He knew that my mom wouldn’t have been able to save the money for both of us on her own. So he set up trust funds for our education. I know now that I was very very lucky, and so thankful for him.

Fast forward 7 years and I found out I was expecting my first baby and was going to be a parent. I started stressing about my kids’ education. Remembering how much it cost for me to go to school 20 years ago, sure I didn’t have to pay out of my own pocket, but I still knew exactly what it cost when I made my tuition payments. I couldn’t imagine what the current cost was, let alone in 20 years when my tiny fetus would be ready to leap into the world of post secondary education. Thankfully my family has a background in finances, my Mom was a financial planner and my Dad worked at the bank in loans & mortgages. So you could say I had a pretty good understanding of the world of investments. I started my own RRSP when I was 18 years old, and I withdrew against it under the Home Buyers Plan when I bought my first home. But all of this experience didn’t help relieve the stress, university costs a lot of money!

With my mom to the rescue, we sat down and started discussing a plan. I learned that it really isn’t that overwhelming, especially when you have the right person to educate you. Honestly how many times have you been to a baby show only to have someone jump in your face and pressure you into signing your kids up for one of their savings programs. That is not the way to do it. You want to sit down with someone you trust who will take the time to learn about you and your goals, and set you up with what is best.

We set up a family RESP plan which allowed us to contribute for both kids together. We would do regular contributions that automatically withdrew from my bank account, one less thing for my sleep deprived mommy brain to remember! RBC has their RBC RESP-Matic program to make this easy for you.  One of the main advantages of a family RESP is that the funds in the plan do not have to be shared equally among the your children, giving you more flexibility when it comes to making withdrawals. I knew this was a great plan as my brother and I both had the same sized education trust funds, but I attended a college and had money left over while my brother went to university and had debt at the end.

She taught me that the government gives you free money. Yes, you read that right! The Canada Education Savings Grant will match up to 20% of the first $2,500 contributed annually. That could mean as much as an additional $500 a year, up to a lifetime maximum of $7,200!

It is so nice receiving the yearly statements showing how their RESP is growing, and the government contributions. I am thankful that my mom was there to help me.  Sure there is still some stress, as I worry about having enough for them, but that is where sitting down regularly with your financial planner can help.

There are some really amazing facts that always helped me understand better so I wanted to share with you.

  • Invest $25 a week from the moment that your child is born, by the time they are 18 years old you will have over $50,000?!
  • Get up to $500 a year in government grants for a total of up to $7,200 (the government will match 20% of the first $2,500 contributed each year for eligible children).
  • You can get the right advice by sitting down with a financial advisor (like an RBC® advisor) who will take the time to understand your goals and recommend the best investment strategy.
  • You can invest in funds, savings deposits or Guaranteed Investment Certificates (GICs).
  • Tax-deferred growth – income earned on investments is not taxed as long as the funds remain in the plan.
  • The flexibility to choose either an individual or family RESP.

Sadly my Mom is now retired and she is no longer my trusty financial planner, so knowing that there are banks like RBC out there to help make this easy for busy parents helps. Why not visit the RBC RESP site for more information on the above facts – I know that sometimes seeing is believing.

Have you started saving for your kids education? Do you have a financial planner?

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Categories
Family

Back to School, This Mama is a Little Sad!

It is the last week of August and this mama a little sad. So much is happening and I admit I have shed a couple of tears here and there.

My baby, my first born, the little baby boy that changed my life is turning 9 in a couple days! How is it possible that my little baby boy is going to be 9 years old??? I feel like it was just yesterday that I was spending countless hours designing his nursery, rubbing my growing belly and buying every blue item of baby clothes the stores sold. Last week while doing some back to school shopping with my mom I teared up as I picked out some size 10 jeans for him. Size 10 just doesn’t seem possible, life moves far to fast. So all you with babies out there, hold them extra tight (and a little extra for me!) cause before you know it they will be all grown up.

The kids are back to school in a week which means that I will be back to the quiet days in the studio allowing me for serious work and creativity. Sure I am happy about that, but this week is a big milestone for our family. The kids are starting a new school. They are heading to the amazing public school in our neighbourhood. We moved last summer for the school as I knew that they would be leaving the Montessori system one day and wanted to make sure our home was in a great school district. I am excited about the changes, and the ability to be involved in my kids school, something that I didn’t have with the private school. I am also scared, I loved their old school and if money was no object they would stay there forever. Mr K asked me yesterday “what if my teacher isn’t nice” and I quickly answered with “of course they will be nice” but deep down inside I knew that there was a possibility that he might not love his teacher… and this scares me. He has always loved school, he would jump out of bed, throw on his uniform and be downstairs in minutes. This made me shed a little tear, so fingers crossed that he loves his teacher and his teacher loves him.

With the kids going back to school, it also means that my youngest baby is officially going into grade 1. OMG when did this happen?! I look at parents of toddlers and babies and feel like that stage of our family flew by so fast. I don’t have the big transition of her from part time to full time days, as she was always in full time at the Montessori school. But I no longer have babies, or toddlers, or preschoolers. I am now the mother of kids, and according to some one is a tween! So as I drop my kids off for their first day at their new school I will fight to hold back the tears… of course until I turn around and start walking back home!!

If you see me over the next week, don’t bother asking how I am doing. Just give me a hug and hand over a tissue as I am sure that I will need it!

To celebrate the fun side of kids going back to school, I wanted to do a giveaway of two sets of our Love Notes for Lunch Totes. Tell us if you are happy or sad that the kids going back to school and you can win.

Love Notes for Lunch Totes
Categories
Fitness

What IS Mummy Tummy Anyway??

No I am not pregnant and I haven’t had a newborn baby in over 6 years, yet I still get asked because of my ‘Mummy Tummy’. One night when my son’s guitar teacher asked if I was pregnant and I had to answer yet again with the “No I just had a big dinner” I knew that something had to be done. Thankfully Samantha Montpetit-Huynh of Core Expectations heard my frustrations on twitter and sent me a message telling me that I am not alone and she would help me fix this ‘problem’ of mine. I booked an Ab Rehab®for Diastasis Recti training session on her website that night!

Samantha was so helpful and informative during that visit, she told me that my separation was pretty bad (I think it was 6 fingers wide), but that there was hope. I told her she needed to let me share with my readers all about mummy tummy, something I knew so many new (and not so new, like myself) moms faced. I hope that by sharing this information with you as pregnant and new moms, that I can help you a lot sooner, as the earlier you start after your baby is born the better. But don’t stress if you are like me, we too can fix this problem. I am still at it, but I will be sure to update as I go along.

So What Is Mummy Tummy Anyway? Samantha explains:

Mummy Tummy is a term every mom on the planet can relate to after they have had a child. Now I’m, not talking about muffin top or “the shelf”, I mean the pooch, ball that sticks out right around or under your belly button and just continues to get bigger throughout the day? Yeh that.

And after countless attempts at sit ups (AHHHH), crunches (ouch!) and other useless forms of ineffective exercise a lot of moms eventually just get “fed up” and begin to seek help. This is usually a trip to the doctor who will tell them either “yeh, that’s the way it goes after you’ve had a baby” or “if you want, you can have surgery”. Are you kidding me?? Neither of them could be farther from the truth especially if or when they don’t know what they are dealing with in the first place.

Diastasis Recti (separation of the Rectus Abdominis) is most commonly the cause for the mummy tummy. Your abs are separated, your organs are exposed and the more you eat, pushes them out – plain and simple. But can you get them back? Of course you can! But don’t get any fantasies that it’s easy. If your only alternative is to “suck it up” or have a $10,000 tummy tuck, then you must realize that the work needed to do it naturally is going to be a lot. But hey, I have never met a mom yet who wasn’t used to hard work. It’s just a matter of how hard you want it. Sound familiar?

CoreExpectations

So there you have it! But it’s not just exercise, it’s also a way of life. If you have a diastasis and it’s significant, there’s a good chance you have chronic back pain. You need to change the way you move and use your abdominals in everyday life.

But if you don’t do anything at all, please stop the crunches, v-sits and all the other old school ways of creating a six-pack just to make your mummy tummy worse and more importantly, hurt your back even more.

Categories
Holiday

A Husband’s Guide to Mother’s Day

A Husband's Guide to Mother's Day

With Mother’s day only a couple of days away I thought I would share with all the new and not so new fathers how best to deal with this special day for the Moms in your life. Yes this not only goes for your Mom but also your wife.

Yes I know that your wife isn’t your mom, but she is the mother of your kids. If those said kids are still babies or young kids who can’t get themselves to the store or make something special on their own, they either need your help or you to hire a personal shopper to help them. How would you like it if your wife said “oh you’re not my Dad so sorry about your luck” on Father’s day?!

So I am going to save you a trip to the “dog house” with some easy tips on how to help your kids show their mom how special she is to them.

1. Make sure that you get her a card, either bought at the store or hand-made from the kids.

2. Take some of the day-to-day responsibilities away from her. Either cook the meals that day or take the family out so that she doesn’t have to cook. If you do cook, please make sure that you clean up too. There is nothing worse than having to spend hours cleaning up after those wonderful cooked by someone else meals.

3. Treat her to something special. Maybe a trip to the spa for a massage or pedicure. Nothing makes for a happy Mom and wife, than a little bit of pampering!

4. Take the kids to the store and let them pick something out for her. Sure she might love something that comes in the special blue box from Tiffany, but those fuzzy pink slippers that the kids picked out at Target would also be special because she knows that it was a gift that her kids truly thought she would like. You know how you bought your dad a new tie or new box of golf balls every Father’s day and Christmas for 20+ years growing up, he would have loved every one of them!

5. Ask her what she would like to do for her day, and if she says that she wants to spend it alone, let her. Yes, you will let her go without saying a word and making her feel guilty. I am sure you don’t feel guilty when you spend the day on the golf course on Father’s day by yourself, without your kids or wife.

6. Don’t forget about your own mom! Give her a call, send her a card (there is still time – run to the store, buy one and put it in the mail right now) and better yet, grab her some flowers and take her out to lunch on Mother’s day while your wife is at the spa by herself. Because she is also a Grandma and will tell you that being able to spend time with her son and grandkids would be a wonderful way to spend Mother’s day.

Above all, Mom just wants to know that they’re loved and appreciated. So whatever you do for this one day, make sure both your Mom and your wife know this!

Categories
Family Life

Parenting the QBQ Way: Review & Giveaway

QBQ parenting book

Have you ever wondered to yourself why your kids do certain things? Do you find yourself asking questions like “Why is parenting so hard?” or “Why won’t my kids listen?” or “Who made this mess?”on a regular basis? I know I did.

If you answered yes to any of those questions (or many others) then you need to read Parenting the QBQ Way! Did you know that our children are the product of our parenting? GASP I know! Hard to take, isn’t it?

Accountable parents grasp the truth that it is their job to bring their child successfully into adulthood. We live in a society of needing everything now, but we are also the biggest excuse makers and procrastinators out there. We want everything fixed yesterday, but don’t want to do anything to fix it. It is so much easier to place blame on someone or something else.  This comic I saw on Facebook a couple weeks back explains it very well!

Teacher Abuse

When I was growing up and did the above, I was the one that got in trouble for it not my teacher!

So back to the book. The concept behind the QBQ is about personal accountability and asking the question behind the question. I was first introduced to that book through my brother in law and husband. So when I had the opportunity to read the newest book, Parenting the QBQ Way, I jumped at the chance. I have a library of parenting books that I have bought trying to make myself a better mom! This book however was different, this books looks at things in a different way. It teaches us how to be an outstanding parent and raise great kids by using the power of personal accountability. It is a tool that enables parents to practice personal accountability by making better choices in the moment, asking better questions.

QBQs begin with the words “What ” or “How” – not “Why,” “When” or “Who” like I found myself using. When you begin to understand this you learn that the answers are in the question. QBQ parents look at themselves and try to figure out how they can improve and what they can do differently. They let their children fail and instead of making excuses or trying to cover for them they ask what they can do to allow their child to learn from their mistakes.

One part that struck a chord with me is that John shows you how voicing our parental frustrations openly in front of our kids has so many negative consequences. They tear children down, diminish our joy of parenting, and interfere with our desire to learn new skills. We get stuck in the “I am too tired” thought process.

This book is a must read for all parents. It is short and to the point, perfect for any busy mom.

The wonderful people from the QBQ were generous enough to give me 3 copies to giveaway to my readers.