The Mother of Adventure

A haircut, and so much more

cuts-for-kids

Ibraihim Musa, founder of Cuts for Kids.

One of the things I love best about freelance writing in Ottawa is the opportunity it brings to meet interesting, passionate people – those individuals who are working hard to make a difference, right here in my own community.

Ibrahim Musa is definitely a difference maker. This University of Ottawa political science student – who is only 18 years old – recently launched an organization called Cuts for Kids, which gives underprivileged kids a free haircut, and helps them feel better about themselves.

It was inspiring to talk to Musa about his motivation to give back and his desire to help new immigrants to Canada. This thoughtful teen is definitely going places in his academic and professional life – but he’s taking time to help those less fortunate along the way, which is something we can all learn from.

Read more about Musa and his work in Ottawa’s underprivileged communities in my recent article, “A haircut, and so much more” published in the latest issue of Parenting Times Magazine.

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Ticket giveaway – Ottawa Parent & Child Expo

Dora the Explorer“Maybe watch one Dora?”

Many moons ago, this was one of my daughter Elissa’s first phrases. Now that she’s 11 (going on 15!), it seems a lifetime away; but from time to time, my husband and I jokingly bring up that phrase; gently teasing her about her early obsession with Dora the Explorer. As a toddler, she actually bore a striking resemblance to Dora – she had the same bobbed hair and chubby cheeks. In retrospect, we totally should have dressed her up as Dora for Halloween while we had the chance!

These days, the mass appeal of Dora rages on, and if you have a little fan (or two) at your house, you won’t want to miss the chance to say “Hola!” next weekend at the Ottawa Parent and Child Expo. In fact, I have some free passes to give away for admission this Saturday, April 16.

RobotSponsored by Parenting Times – Ottawa’s most read parenting magazine – the expo promises to have something to appeal to kids (and parents!) of all ages. If your children have long outgrown the Dora stage, they might be enticed by hearing a performance from the Mini Pops, watching a magic show performed by Ottawa magician Ian Quick, or even test-driving a VEX IQ robot from ProBots (heck, even I would like to try that…out of the way, kids!).

For parents, the expo features about 100 different exhibitors, offering all sorts of parenting information from toddlers through to the teenage years. Talk with area experts about education, French immersion and tutoring options. Find out about summer camps and child care choices for the upcoming summer – or consider sport and music registration options. Find tips on family health and wellness, and shop new products and gifts.

Want to snag a free pass – valid for one parent and one child this Saturday, April 16? Just comment on this post – and let me know your favourite thing about Parenting Times magazine. You’ll be entered in a random draw (winners to be announced Tuesday, April 12). Good luck!

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Coming this spring…the Ottawa Parent & Child Expo

mini-pop-jojoDo you remember the Mini-Pops?? OK, I’m dating myself here, but I totally remember listening to the Mini-Pops record with friends when I was a kid in the 80s! Flashback!

Guess what? They’re still around (the songs have been, um, slightly updated, of course!) and they’re coming to Ottawa. Now, if you’re like me, you already have your eyes on the horizon for fun things to do this spring. What if I told you that you could check out the Mini-Pops and MORE (I know, I know…hard to imagine more, right??) at the 2016 Ottawa Parent & Child Expo?

In all seriousness, the Ottawa Parent and Child Expo is a fun event for parents and the kids, and a nice way to kick off the spring. When the snow melts, everyone seems to come out of hibernation. With kids – especially very young kids – it gets exponentially easier to get outside, get active and take in fun events around Ottawa. The expo is taking place at the Nepean Sportsplex from April 16-17.

For parents, the expo features about 100 different exhibitors, offering all sorts of parenting information from toddlers through to the teenage years. Talk with area experts about education, French immersion and tutoring options. Find out about summer camps and child care choices for the upcoming summer – or consider sport and music registration options. Find tips on family health and wellness, and shop new products and gifts.

Expo_Banner_2x6inKids can explore the Gymnastics Try-It Playzone and other fun, interactive areas. Create something silly at the Play-Doh Play Centre – and they’ll want to get their faces painted, too (what kid doesn’t??). For little ones, there will be a meet-and-greet with Dora the Explorer and Diego*. If you’ve already survived the Dora stage and your kids are older, they might want to check out the Mini-Pop Kids LIVE on the mainstage.

For $12 for a family of four, it’s bound to provide some fun and entertainment for the day. Plus – visit www.ParentandChildExpo.ca – and you’ll find a coupon for $2 off. Hopefully, this year’s expo will put a little “pop” – or a Mini-Pop – into your family’s spring schedule.

* Note: A limited number of tickets to go on stage with Dora or Diego will be distributed daily, free with price of admission to the Expo, on a first come, first served basis!

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Winter reading (Parenting Times)

Shopping with a conscienceIf you’re looking for some upbeat, holiday reading material over the next few days, pick up the winter issue of Parenting Times magazine – available free at community centres, libraries and coffee shops across Ottawa (or read the full issue online).

The issue features 20 free (or crazy cheap) fun things to do this winter – which might just be your saving grace for keeping the kids entertained till Monday!

As a regular contributor to Parenting Times, I had the chance to write a couple of interesting feature pieces. In “Shopping with a Conscience” I spoke to some adorable Brownies and Girl Guides about their introduction to fair trade at the Ten Thousand Villages Festival Sale in Ottawa – and the beautiful, handcrafted items they purchased as Christmas gifts.

Kyram storyI also had the honour of speaking with an inspirational dad – Myles Dear – and his challenge to raise funds for his severely disabled son, Kyram. I wrote about this Richmond father-son duo in “A desperate dad’s plea for help.” Dear is campaigning for changes to provincial support for families like his, who must struggle to finance the demands of supporting a disabled child. The family is still in need of financial help for the upcoming year – pledges can be made through their online crowdfunding campaign to help improve life for this vibrant little boy.

Enjoy the rest of the holidays – and happy reading!

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Shades of November (Young Rembrandts)

Lily's American Gothic

AMERICAN GOTHIC: One of my all-time favourite drawings that my daughter, Lily created during her classes with the Young Rembrandts.

Well, Halloween is behind us and a new month lies ahead…happy November! Does anyone have a candy hangover today??

I don’t know about you, but autumn has *totally* been flying by at our house. I’m looking at November as a time to re-group and get ready for winter and, of course, Christmas (sorry…too soon??)!

At this time of year, many parents are also looking for engaging activities to take their kids through the winter. If your kids are anything like mine and enjoy creative pursuits, you might want to check out the Young Rembrandts in Ottawa. My girls have enjoyed countless drawing classes there, and the instructors have truly helped further their artistic abilities!

In each week’s new (and kid-tested!) lesson, the Young Rembrandts use a step-by-step method that assures every student is a creative success.  As they learn and use technical drawing skills, children engage their problem-solving skills, innovation and imagination to create their very own masterpieces. Instructors at the drawing school are also skilled at working with kids on the autism spectrum, which I wrote about in a past issue of Parenting Times magazine.

Check out the latest Young Rembrandt class offerings in Barrhaven, Kanata, Stittsville and Orleans. Your kids will be colouring November with all shades of happy as they discover art for themselves!

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The summer issue is here! (Ottawa Parenting Times)

Parenting TimesIt’s here!

The June/July 2015 edition of Ottawa Parenting Times magazine is now online — and on racks all around the city. It’s jam-packed with great ideas for summer food and fun with the kids. Read new and archived stories at ottawaparentingtimes.com and find the new digital issue here: http://bit.ly/1Kr3sLK

Readers can also download Ottawa Parenting Times brand-new app – for free – available on iTunes and Google Play.

Happy reading!

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5 ways technology is impacting education (Parenting Times)

Technology & educationIf you were a child of the 80s, as I was, you probably remember those first trips to the computer lab at school. When I was an elementary student, computers were so new – these big, huge boxes that you’d get access to on rare occasion as a class – but otherwise didn’t factor into the school experience a whole lot.

Now my own girls are elementary students, and their technology reality is certainly very different. I had the chance to talk with Ottawa Catholic School Board educators recently – on behalf of Ottawa Parenting Times – and was intrigued to learn about the philosophy behind the integration of technology into today’s classroom.

In my article, 5 ways technology is impacting education, I spoke with a forward-thinking principal who showed me how the “event” of visiting the computer lab – kids queuing up to march down the hall for a designated hour – is quickly becoming a thing of the past as schools seek new ways to enrich the learning experience through technology tools.

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The winter issue is out! (Parenting Times)

opt_cover_winter15It’s official – the Winter 2014/2015 issue of Parenting Times magazine has hit the streets across Ottawa, and I have to credit my editor, Kelly Roesler, for putting together yet another lovely issue. If you haven’t had the chance to pick up your copy, you can always flip through it virtually here (which is nearly as good…but makes it a bit harder to snuggle up with on chilly, winter days like today).

One of my writing highlights for this issue was getting the chance to speak with author Kristine Barnett, who wrote The Spark: A Mother’s Story of Nurturing Genius. If you’re looking for an inspiring read this Christmas season, it really is an incredible book – and in my Q&A article I had the chance to ask Barnett a bit more about her incredible journey with her son, Jacob, and her vast experience and insights in working with autistic children.

In this issue, I also contributed a lunchbox nutrition piece – chalk full of ideas from holistic nutritionist Stefania Moffatt about how to fuel your kids at school (page 58). In ‘Focus on Education’ I had the chance to explore the benefits of enrolling your child in theatre school, and in ‘Just for Kids’ I rounded up some of my fave toys to keep your little ones entertained indoors – on the coldest of snow days (page 54).

Last, but certainly not least, I was honoured to speak with some dedicated volunteers, current and former staff and alumni of CHEO for our ‘Community Profile.’ The highlight was talking to an incredible young man who survived cancer as a child – thanks to CHEO – and now lives an inspiring, athletic life with a prosthetic leg (he even teaches paraplegics to scuba dive!).

It’s hard to believe an entire year has already flown by since I first started contributing to Parenting Times magazine! It’s been a real honour to work with such a positive, encouraging editor and dedicated staff – and I’ve honestly enjoyed every piece I’ve had the opportunity to write. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I love being a small part of it.

 

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Taking the ‘alternative family’ mainstream (Parenting Times magazine)

fall-2014-feature-1When my two daughters were very young, I recall several situations where a complete stranger would blatantly look at the kids, then look at me, then look back at the kids. More than once, I was asked, “Are they yours??

When I answered that yes, indeed they were my children, another awkwardly inappropriate comment would usually follow. One woman abruptly said, “Oh!! Your husband must be very dark.” In exasperation, I replied, “Yes, he’s Indian and Portuguese, if you must know.” (Inwardly thinking, “Are you happy now? And are you *seriously* so socially inept that you’re asking a complete stranger these questions??).

These memories came back to me last summer, when I was interviewing Ottawa author Stephanie Kain about Emlyn and the Gremlin, her brand-new children’s book about a little girl who has two moms. As a new mother with a same-sex spouse, Kain is no stranger to awkward questions from strangers (I’m sure she has endured many more of them than I have!).

It is Kain’s hope that her book will increase awareness and understanding of alternative families, including those with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered parents. Click here to read the full Parenting Times article about Kain and her book, Emlyn and the Gremlin.

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Strike a pose for CHEO (Parenting Times)

fall-2014-community-profileWhat do you get when you cross a passion for fashion with a heart for helping sick kids?

The answer is Noémie Pound, the adorable, eight-year-old girl from Ottawa who is organizing ‘Happy Hearts’ – a fashion show dedicated to raising money for CHEO.

I had a chance to interview little Noémie last July – for a feature article in Parenting Times magazine. Inspired by her mom’s work at CHEO, Noémie hatched her very own plan to raise funds to help kids at CHEO and the CHEO Research Institute.

The event will take place on Friday, Oct. 3 at 6:30 p.m. at the Canada Aviation and Space Museum. Visit the Eventbrite page for ticket information – and consider joining Noémie and a line-up of child models (including past and present CHEO patients) for a fun-filled night of children’s fashions and a silent auction.

 

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