Best of The Blogosphere

home-office-336378_640Photography is one of those art forms that seems easy . . .until you try to perfectly capture a moment in time with a camera. Good photography manages convey emotion and beauty with one click and for this very reason, I remain in complete awe of good photographers. Elena Shumilova, a Russian artist and mother, photographed her boys with animals on the farm that she runs and the resulting images are simply breathtaking!

Someone I know recently lost her husband to cancer. She is a mom to three young children and for the past few years balanced caring for them and caring for her husband. There were times that I would snap myself out of a funk by thinking of her family and being inspired by the courage they demonstrated while faced with such incredible adversity. Paul Kalanithi wrote How Long Have I Got Left for The New York Times and so eloquently expressed his feelings about mortality, specifically his own. It’s a stark reminder of just how precious each day really is.

Have you ever called someone the wrong name, repeatedly? Even after being corrected? Or worse, like me, maybe you’ve chatted with someone so many times but have no clue what their name is? You can’t remember it for the life of you? I am guilty of this. I called my former neighbour, my neighbour for goodness sake, Michelle (repeatedly) but her name is really Sandra! It was comic relief for me to read Deanna’s account of Mistaken Identity on her blog A Mother’s Tonic.

Take a minute to watch this video by Kid President but don’t watch it alone; invite your kiddos to join. My middle one busted a gut laughing, and repeated “so true!” over and over, which begs the question, where on earth did he pick that up?

While your kids are at your side take a minute to flip through this slide show courtesy of Take Part. DIY World Change: 14 Kids You Should Know About and Their Incredible Projects is nothing but inspirational! There is the 12 year-old food blogger who is encouraging kids to eat healthy and the several teens dedicated to raising funds and awareness about a variety of worthy causes from Alzheimer’s disease to poverty. I was especially moved by Jessica Water’s Cupcakes for Camp benefitting kids and families with epilepsy – a cause close to my heart.

From Nathalie

Experience the power of a bookbook, a spoof commercial from IKEA for their catalogue (that paper thing that comes without cables or batteries).

We recently repainted all the boys’ bedrooms and included chalk walls for them to write and draw on.  Last year, Eldest did a unit in his art class about graffiti, and it’s been fun to seek out street art in the city and to think of ways to include it at home.  Here is a great article about ten female street artists from around the world.

We are going to try to keep up our drawing routine that we started in the summer.  (I’m going to need an intervention to stop me from buying any more absolutely adorable how to draw books.)  Good news: there is some absolutely adorable on-line instruction from Luke Pearson at The Guardian.  His is one in a series from children’s illustrators.  So great!


It’s Movember: A Fan”tashe”ic Month!

groucho-marx-401923_640It’s that time of year again, the first week of November.

There’s a chill in the air and men across the land are starting to grow a lower brow, a cookie duster, a bro-mo . . . a moustache.

These men are not trying to dodge winter’s wrath by sporting a lip sweater.  No, no.  These are manly men united in their upper lipholstery to raise awareness and money for men’s health.

Two Australian men started Movember over a pint, pondering the whereabouts of the “mo”?  Where’d it go?  Inspired by a friend’s mother who was tirelessly raising money and awareness for breast cancer research the gentlemen decided to “change the face” of men’s health.  Since 2003 Movember has gone international.  Last year 42.6 million dollars was raised by men (Mo Bros) and women (Mo Sistas) from just across Canada; benefitting organizations like Prostate Cancer Canada.

This month my normally clean-shaven husband and his male colleges have decided to team up, grow a fellowcrow and raise some serious money for Movember.

While I won’t be growing any facial hair to support the cause (oh God, please don’t let that ever happen!) I will be supportive by doing the following:

–       Not laughing in his face.

–       Not calling him names like Selleck, porn-stache or Uncle Rico.

–       As tempting as it sounds, I will not stop shaving my legs in solidarity.

–       I won’t wriggle away when he tries to kiss me while sporting his mouth merkin.

–       I will remind him every day how proud I am of him for making a difference to the lives of others and being a role model to our sons.

What can you do?  Join a team or go rogue and grow some lip foliage!  Support the men in this fan”tache”ic cause by donating some cash to the ‘tashe – even if it’s just your morning latte dollars.

If you know some bro that is sporting a “mo” this month, check out the 4Mothers1Blog Pinterest Movember board for some inspiration to show him that you care!

Simple Gifts

With all of the hustle and bustle of the season, it’s easy to miss out on opportunities to share with our children the importance of giving. Here are a few simple ways your family can help others this holiday season:

  • Make a donation to your local food bank. Many grocery stores allow you to add a cash donation to your grocery bill, which allows food banks to buy food at wholesale prices and in bulk, maximizing your donation;
  • Donate a new, unwrapped toy, book or personal care item at your local shelter or fire hall. If you’re in the Toronto area, watch for donation boxes for the CP24 Chum Christmas Wish, or CTV Toy Mountain. Local agencies and organizations such as the Yonge Street Mission also accept donations which go to help families and children in need. Check with your local community center or house of worship for more ideas for how you can help in your community;
  • Donate your time. Volunteer to help out at your local community kitchen. Children over the age of eight can sort food at the Daily Bread Food Bank. Organize a food drive or toy drive at your child’s school or at your workplace;
  • Make your teacher appreciation gifts really count. Instead of mugs or chocolates, give your child’s teacher a Canada Gives Charity Gift Card in the denomination of your choosing, and let them make a donation to the charity of their choice.

If you’ve geared up for the holiday season already, consider heading out this weekend to Jake’s Gigantic Give, a fundraiser supporting Jacob’s Ladder, the Canadian Foundation for Control of Neurogenerative Disease. In this unique fundraiser, children visit the Giving Store, where they choose and create a gift to be donated to one of six Toronto- area charities chosen by Jacob’s Ladder. In return, they receive a gift, confirming that giving has its own rewards. Tickets are $25, (plus the cost of your choice of gift) and are available online.

** 4mothers1blog’s Beth-Anne is taking a well-earned and necessary break from blogging so there’s no At Issue post from her this week, but but she’ll be back next week with new posts.

Dear Santa

Custom Santa Suit,

Image via Wikipedia

I fear, my red-suited friend, that your days are numbered around our place.

You see, I think the boys are on to you. They may be little, but they’re pretty savvy. Sebastian used his mad interrogation skills to get me to confess to being the tooth fairy today. Two days of questioning and I crumpled like wet cardboard.

While I was laying there, prone, Daniel piped up with, “Yeah, and I bet Mommy’s Santa, too!” Yeah, I know. How’d he figure that out already?

You’ll be happy to know that I shut down that conversation as fast as I could. I sent Daniel my best “not NOW” look, changed the subject quickly (my stock reminder to them to hand in their homework works well for many occasions) and sent them on their way to school. Crisis adverted.

I think. But I swear I saw a look of triumph in Daniel’s face. My insistence in your existence may now fall on deaf ears.

So Santa, if this is to be our last Christmas together, I have to admit something.

If the boys are savvy to you, if our explanation about the physics of how you can be present in multiple shopping malls at the same time no longer seems plausible, if I can no longer use your exhortation to “be good!” as a crutch (“if you don’t stop that I’ll call Santa!”) then I really won’t be upset. At all.

As you know, you’ve hardly been an active participant in our Christmases. They boys only ever get one gift per year from you. Growing up, I knew kids who got nothing for Christmas except the Toronto Star Christmas Box . And it struck me, even as a kid, that this seemed inequitable. Why would you give some kids multiple presents, and others…..just one. And so, as parents, we’ve tried to even the playing field, intending that along the way, we’d also teach them about gratitude (that gifts are given and accepted and not just conjured up as by magic, so the gift requires acknowledgement) and about how blessed they are to live as they do. It’s hard to teach them to be gracious and modest about their blessings when Santa spoils them, but not other kids.

We’re not unimaginative grinches. We acknowledge the joy and magic that you bring to Chrismas each year. I once had a friend who refused to tell her kids about Santa, since she didn’t believe in lying to them. That always seemed to me to be a bit disingenuous. Parents lie to their kids all the time. I lie to mine when it’s necessary, to keep them safe, protect their innocence or get them to the dinner table. So we’ve willingly fostered a belief in your existence, brought the kids to see you, written you letters, and allowed the boys to be kids, to believe in your magic. And who knows? Maybe you’ll get letters from my boys this year, and I hope you’ll forgive their spelling mistakes.

But if not, please don’t be too upset. I’m kind of looking forward to a different understanding of what Christmas means. I love giving gifts. I love to spoil my boys – I really do, and I admit that we do spoil them at the holidays. But when we take our boys to buy a gift to donate to children who have less than them, when we teach them about charity and giving and volunterism – all things we feel are so important, it will be nice not to have to continue to explain how you fit into all this.

Merry Christmas, Santa.