Website: Children's Harnesses by Elaine, Inc. www.childharness.ca
and my other blogs about weight loss: Weight Loss Made Simple
and parenting my 2 boys: My Boys Can...

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Support a local store in your community and support people with mental illness

Today I made time to visit a local second hand store that I've been meaning to get to before I finished the book I was reading. And since I finished my book last night, today was the day.

The second hand store has soft cover novels for 25 cents each. Every time I scan the shelves I see books I've donated. Today I found 3 to bring home and when I paid I told the ladies that since I treat their shop like a library, I'd likely be bringing these back when I finished.

This particular store employs people with mental illness. It's a small shop with limited wall and floor space but they display very nicely a variety of clothes, kitchen items, bedding, knickknacks, etc. and in the back they have their book section with a few chairs to encourage lingering or for those who want to try on some shoes. The staff are warm and welcoming and quickly assisted by one supervisor if they happen to have difficulty helping a customer.

Chances are good there is a similar store in your community. You may have to search it out; places like this spend their donations and sales revenue supporting people with mental illness and not on things like advertising. If and when you have time, wander into some second hand shops you haven't visited before. Take your donations with you; clothes the kids have outgrown, books you've finished, sweaters you don't like any more. If you spend a few minutes looking around, chances are good you'll find some new treasures to take home. And the money you leave behind may end up helping someone in ways you didn't expect. 

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Price increase coming for my Child-to-Adult Harnesses

Well crap, this is not the sort of announcement I enjoy but it's inevitable I suppose. My prices have remained the same for the past 5 years but surprise surprise, my expenses have not and now I'm really feeling it. An adjustment is LONG overdue so in the next few weeks, maybe by mid-April, I'll be changing my prices.

My Child-to-Adult Harness for chest measurements of 26 inches or less will be $70 ($65 for the harness + $5 (at cost) for snap hook for the lead), up from $55 ($50 for the harness + $5 (at cost) for the snap hook for the lead).

My Child-to-Adult Harness for chest measurements over 26 inches will be $90 ($85 for the harness + $5 (at cost) for the snap hook for the lead), up from $80 ($75 + $5 (at cost) for snap hook for the lead).

My Child Harness price will remain unchanged at $35 for the harness + $2.50 (at cost) if you order a detachable lead.

As always, when dealing with me you are getting exceptional customer service to match an exceptional product made for exceptional children.

So that's it for the bad news. Don't shoot the messenger. If you or someone you know was thinking of ordering one of my Child-to-Adult Harnesses, please encourage them to do so during the next 3 weeks before my new prices take effect.

Thanks so much. Elaine

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Double lock buckles coming soon for my Child-to-Adult Harnesses

I" double lock rock lockster buckle
It's silly the things I get excited about but this little baby right here has become my new gold.

Think I've lost my marbles? Maybe, but since this buckle was incredibly difficult to find and took lots of phone calls and emails to track down, when I finally located a company that could order them for me, I felt like I'd hit paydirt.

Oh sure, a number of companies have 1 inch locking buckles on their websites but contact them to order some and you quickly find out that they don't carry that buckle, they don't make that buckle, they don't have that buckle and furthermore, they can't get that buckle. "Then why the heck is it on your website!!!???" "Oh well, it is available as a special order and you'd have to pay for a gazillion of them before we would ask the factory to make them for you but sorry, we can't send you a sample first to make sure you like them."

But I digress. The point is, I've succeeded and fingers crossed within the month I'll have these buckles listed as an ordering option on my website.

The buckle is called a double lock rock lockster and it takes 2 hands to open. You squeeze the sides with one hand and press the tab with the other to pop the buckle open. For those parents who know they need locks on the Child-to-Adult Harness they order for their child, this locking buckle will be perfect. Since the buckles on the harness are at the child's back, odds are good that the child won't be able to figure out (sight unseen) the two-handed process needed to open the buckle. Anyway, that's the plan. 

Right now I offer my customers locking carabiners as an option for their Child-to-Adult Harness. The locking carabiners have been wonderful and have done the job beautifully over the past 3 years but a few months ago when my supply was running low and I placed another order, I ran into difficulties. Essentially, I wouldn't be able to get any more of the small locking carabiners I use now.

But as with all things related to this business run by God, along comes a lovely lady by the name of Leanna who tells me about cop-lock buckles that need 2 hands to open. And the hunt was on. 99% of the industry uses 2 inch cop-lock buckles, hence the difficulty in locating 1 inch buckles that I need for my harnesses. But that's all water under the bridge now and I've nailed a supplier and placed my order. I've opted for the more expensive buckles made in the USA rather than the cheaper ones made overseas because I really like the quality of the American buckle and I want to support a company south of the border. I'm so thrilled that later this week I'm going to make a YouTube video to show off my sample buckle to the masses.

Have I lost my marbles? Maybe. But when I find something that I think will be GREAT for my customers, that's great quality, that's made by a company on this side of the pond, that's a reason to celebrate. Heck, it's even a reason to make a video.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Migraine management

If you didn't choose your parents carefully, you likely inherited their tendency for migraines. Even a history on one side of your family will tip the odds against you.

If you suffer from migraines, this won't be news to you. When you've been stricken with illness you've likely taken an inventory of your parents, aunts, uncles, even grandparents and in your mind pointed a shaking finger in their direction and thought "This is your doing".

Whereas a family history of migraines will increase your likelihood of experiencing them, it's the triggers that we sufferers need to identify. Prevention is key.
  • pay attention to what your body is telling you. Your body likely gives you a number of signals before a migraine begins. You may have that particular 'sick' feeling, you may see flashing lights (even hours or the day before). Be attentive. It's likely too late to prevent the migraine but at least you'll have time to get yourself set up to deal with it. 
  • if a migraine takes you by surprise, look at the previous few days. Did you over-exert yourself? Are you particularly tired? Did you eat something unusual? Did you not eat when you needed to? Be critical and try to think of anything and everything that was out of your normal pattern. Your latest episode was caused by something and it's important to figure out what. 
  • triggers can change over time. For me, this was indeed an upsetting and unexpected revelation. One thing the doctors fail to mention to new Moms is that along with a new baby, the mother may also get a new body. Sure you look the same on the outside, but all your inner workings that were turned upside down to make the baby may not reset to The Normal You. All sorts of inconveniences like depression, psychosis, suicide and infanticide may bubble up thanks to hormone levels that neglected to reset to Default post delivery. Sleep disruption and foods that never caused migraines in the past may now be triggers so no, you're not losing your mind, you just need to learn your triggers all over again.
  • along the same theme, fluctuating hormone levels can also be the culprit. Changing hormone levels may never have caused you grief in the past but now you may find yourself with a migraine in the middle of your month AND when your cycle starts. There are specific medications for migraine sufferers to combat one type of hormone spike but not both so if you get migraines twice a month, you're on your own. But once through menopause, you should be in the clear. 
  • watch for chemicals, bacteria and hormones in your food. Yogurt that you've been eating for years may now have you bedridden if you chance a spoonful. Preservatives in store-bought cookies that give them a shelf life of 10 years may now have you reaching for your pills. Remember that migraines are caused by something so if you don't know what that something is, put your food diary and your migraine diary together and think that Anything could be the culprit. It took me months to figure out the yogurt I was eating was causing the problem because the company had changed their recipe when they changed their packaging. But since I'd been eating that yogurt for years, it never occurred to me that it would be a problem now. 
  • migraines DO occur in children! Keep a close eye on your kids if they tell you they have a headache and don't feel well. If you have first-hand experience with migraines, one look and you'll know if they are experiencing the same. Tell your child's doctor about the episode next time you're in. Don't let the doctor blow you off and tell you you're wrong "because migraines are extremely rare in children". Make sure the incident is recorded in your child's medical chart, it's important to have a history.
Every day without a headache is a blessing, a reason to celebrate that right here right now I don't have pain in my head or nausea in my stomach. In the meantime, keep your supply of Advil gel caps extra strength liquid migraine pills, 400mg, handy. It takes 20 minutes for the medication to get into your system and take the edge off that crack in your head. Tomorrow will hopefully be better.

Monday, 14 March 2011

Charitable donations. Who gets my money

First of all, regardless of who makes the charitable donation, apply the tax receipts against the person in your household with the largest income. For example, if the receipts are in your name but your spouse has the larger income, your spouse would claim the charitable donation deduction to reduce their taxable income.

Here ends my income tax advice.

I have 3 charities that I support. The first is the school that my boys attend. Last year when my oldest was in Grade 1 he would come home and talk endlessly about the PASS Room where he would go each recess to sign out a shovel or some other play equipment. He LOVED the PASS Room. I made some enquiries and learned that the PASS Room was actually a safe haven where children with behavioural issues could go during the day to calm down if they were having difficulty coping in the classroom. These children do not have a diagnosis, they are just kids who are not valued by their parents and their behaviour and social development reflects this. The PASS Room was created by the school to address behaviour problems and is supervised by 2 Special Ed qualified teachers. It has desks and cubicles so students who have been removed from their classroom can sit quietly without distraction and complete their work. They also stock healthy snacks for children who are sent to school with little or no food. I donate to the PASS Room at the beginning of each school year and ask that my funds be used to buy books, play equipment, food or anything the children may need.

My church receives a monthly donation. The congregation is small but mighty in it's community outreach. It runs 3 breakfast clubs in 3 large primary schools where 100s of children who would not have breakfast otherwise benefit from a healthy meal served by church volunteers. The Visitation Committee visits shut-ins or people who are too ill to attend church and twice a year they organize a special luncheon at the church and haul everyone in for socializing, a service and a hot meal. Other committees provide support to people in hospital or families in difficult circumstances. When my sister died another committee whipped up sandwiches and had the hall decked out for everyone who attended her service - we didn't have to do a thing. The church committees seem endless and when I think about community impact return for my buck, the men and women who steer these committees stretch my dollars like only church people can.

The third organization I support is Special Olympics - Aurora, Ontario. I wanted to find an organization close to home that worked with people with Down Syndrome who will forever hold a special place in my heart due to my incredible years with my sister. Last year I attended their annual general meeting and I was overwhelmingly impressed by the volunteers, their activities and their community involvement. I know my funds go directly to the athletes and that's very rewarding and reassuring to me.

Chances are good you and everyone you know donates to charity. Some people with a lot of money may donate to the most popular organizations because their donation is more about easing their conscience and getting the tax write off than following the impact of their dollars. But for those of us with only a little extra to spread around, taking a few minutes to shop for a charity that will get the most out of our money is an exercise worth doing. After all, helping as many people as possible should be the priority rather than sending in our hard earned bucks to go toward inflated salaries for executives and catered Christmas parties for staff.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Charitable donations. Make your money count

The vast majority of us donate a portion of our hard-earned money to charity. But unlike sending your taxes off to the government and hearing later that it was used illegally for a partisan advertising campaign, you can pick and choose your charity and thereby have some control over how your donation is spent.

My husband used to support a well-know children's hospital. That was until he heard that the CEO of the hospital was paid a bonus of $500,000 last year on top of his regular salary of $400,000+. When I was in graduate school, we were told the operating budget of the Canadian Cancer Society was larger than the federal cancer research budget. Somehow I think the Canadian Cancer Society will persevere without my $50.

A few years ago a friend of mine told me that her newly retired father thought he might do some volunteer work for The United Way. One of his friends was already involved in the organization and invited him to a lunch meeting. My friend's father went and when the meeting was called to order, all the executives started taking their lunches out of their briefcases. He had not taken his lunch, thinking that sandwiches would be provided but nope, only some coffee and no styrofoam cups either because everyone had their own mugs. Now that's an organization after my own heart. No spending my hard-earned harness dollars on catered lunches.

I don't have much cash to spread around but I feel very strongly that my business is God's work and therefore some of my earnings will always support my charities of choice. Stay tuned to hear more about them.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

A close(r) look at my Child Harness design

A few days ago I had a Mom order a couple of my Child Harnesses for her twins. She told me she already had  harnesses for them but they were the kind where the strap went around their waist so every time they pulled and got to the end of the lead, they tipped over face first. She said she was excited when she found my design because the lead attaches higher up. 

Her comments got me thinking that maybe I should post an explanation about how and why I came up with my Child Harness design. All this info is on my site but it seems like it's worth repeating.

Some features of my Child Harness are no brainers. The really long lead for example. I'm tall. My baby was short. There was distance between us. The store bought harness I had almost yanked him off his feet the first time I tried it. When I developed my own design, a long lead was just common sense.

Coming up with the O-ring between the shoulder blades for the lead attachment was very much a eureka moment. I wanted the lead to attach ABOVE the child's centre of gravity, and the O-ring with the 2 support loops was the perfect solution. Like that other Mom, my store bought harness also had the (short) lead attach around the waist and when my little guy pulled on the lead, his big fat head tipped him over face first. That only happened once because I immediately reconstructed the harness so I could clip the lead to the leather higher up. No big deal. I had made a couple of changes to a store bought harness and I sort of had a product that worked.

Then it broke. In 2 places actually, but the hand strap was where it broke first. (The adjustment point on one shoulder strap was the other.) I was so annoyed. I don't know how long I'd been using it but since my son was only 2 1/2, I needed it for a whole lot longer and the last thing I wanted to do was buy another harness of the same design.

So in one afternoon I had my own design laid out, supplies purchased and a harness sewn up on my Mom's 1940's Singer machine.

The rest, as they say, is Children's Harnesses by Elaine, Inc.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Our words are numbered. I make mine count

Each and every one of us will speak a finite number of words in our lifetimes.

We will write a finite number of words.

We all die. And when we die we no longer speak, we no longer write. It's over. Those words could be totaled. It's a finite number.

What if all the words we ever spoke or wrote were sorted and piled up around us when our spirits left our bodies? How big a pile would the Dishonest Words be? How big a pile would the Swear Words be? What about Hurtful Words? What about the piles for Words of Kindness, Encouragement, Sympathy and Understanding?

If I take an inventory at this point in my life, I can tell you I haven't added to the Swear Words pile in a long time. I have my husband to thank for getting me out of that habit. Lately I've been adding heaps to the Kindness and Understanding piles. I'm not a 20-something any more and when I think back to the words I've caste around in my life, I'm ashamed to admit that the Love and Encouragement piles aren't as big as they should be. But I'm working on those and every day they grow to overshadow their more Hurtful Cousins.

In this day and age of anonymous internet, Dishonest Words can be flung around with glee and abandon behind fabricated identities, the owner never imagining that those Dishonest Words carry their DNA and maybe, just maybe, are being added to a pile with their name on it. I read an excellent article a while ago and the author referred to these people as Trolls, intent only on causing harm to others.

I consider myself incredibly fortunate. I haven't met any Trolls on the internet. I have wonderful and amazing customers who care deeply about their children. I love my business and I love helping others. Sure I've had someone here or there take advantage of me, but all of us can say that.

What matters is how we treat others. What we say, what we type, how we say it. Our words are numbered. I'm not going to throw any more of mine on the Hurtful pile.

Sunday, 27 February 2011

When to stop using my Child Harness with your child

Over the past 4 years I've had about 2 customers ask me when I stopped using my harnesses with my own boys.

The short answer is; when they were about 5 years old.

My boys had always worn harnesses and they only felt safe when they were wearing them so as they grew they would ask to wear them even though it wasn't necessary. My boys decided when to stop wearing their harnesses and because I trusted their behaviour, I left the decision up to them.

But in reality, there is a transition period that happens between using the harness every day with your child and leaving the harness at home for good.
  •  initially, when you first use my Child Harness with your toddler they discover that they can run only as far as the end of the lead. Before they were able to run as far at they wanted (which is why you ordered the harness!!), now there is a limit to their range. But they soon figure out that the harness gives them an immense amount of freedom and control over one aspect of their lives: they decide when they walk or ride and they are no longer strapped into their stroller against their wishes.
  •  next, your child will quickly associate the harness with outings. Putting it on is just like putting on their shoes or their jacket. It's part of the routine and they don't question it. The exciting thing is the outing and that's all they care about. For me, this phase lasted until the boys were about 4, 4 1/2.
  •  as your child grows and matures, you'll have more confidence in their ability to stay close to you during your outings, especially if those outings are to familiar haunts like the grocery store or the mall during a quiet time of the week. You're not dealing with an unpredictable 2 year old any more but you're also not dealing with someone who listens to you ALL the time. The harness is a good precaution in case there is a disagreement between you and your child and your obstinate 3 1/2 year old decides to take off on you. 
  •  as they mature even more, disagreements between you and your child become discussions of reason and compromise. You know their flight risk is close to zero so if they ask not to wear the harness, you agree. But you take it with you "just in case". My Child Harness is not bulky like an animal backpack harness, it bundles into it's own stuff sack so it's easy to tote along.
  •  transitioning into the phase of not using the harness at all is a signal to your child that they are mature and trustworthy and you take great pride in their behaviour to act responsibly when you are out together. You'll likely find yourself carrying the harness with you needlessly for months, then decide to leave it at home that one time when disaster strikes. That happened to me and from then on I always carried their harnesses with me, no matter where we were going and no matter how long.
You are the best judge of your child's behaviour. You will know when the harness is no longer necessary. If that happens to coincide with your child's opinion as well, so much the better. But in the meantime, it's a good idea to toss the harness in your bag with your keys when you leave the house. It may seem like this phase lasts forever but before you know it, they'll be asking for those keys.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Financial planning starts with paying yourself regularly

I was working at my desk the other day with the radio on and my jaw almost hit my sewing machine. The interviewer was talking with a financial expert about RRSPs and Tax Free Savings Accounts. The shocker for me was that the TFSAs were introduced in 2009 but it seems like it was yesterday. With the maximum contribution per year at $5,000, your TFSA could be sitting at $15,000 right now. And that's without any financial gains in the interim. The expert quoted one of her clients who had chosen rather well with some stocks and had a current balance of $45,000 in his TFSA. No capital gains on that baby either.

That 3 minute radio interview got me looking pretty closely at my own financial planning and more specifically at my TFSA. Suffice to say it's a far cry from $15,000 but a more honest admission would be that I have put very little effort into taking advantage of the TFSAs. It's been months and months since I've made a contribution.

The thing about the TFSAs is you can hold anything in there. Cash, stocks, bonds, mutual funds, treasury bills, guaranteed investment certificates, you name it. And those investments will grow tax free. Your annual contribution is capped at $5,000 per year so you could open 5 TFSAs at 5 different banks and put $1,000 in each if you wanted but since this would limit your buying power, it doesn't seem like a smart idea.

The thing about saving money is that a lot is better than a little and a little is better than nothing. This last part I'd forgotten. I always have a little but somehow it wouldn't feel worthwhile to actually put that little away someplace separate. That's going to change starting this month.

So as a stranger in your computer and someone you can delete or shut down or Unlike, let me risk asking you some politically incorrect questions about your own financial savings:
  • if you're in Canada, have you opened a Tax Free Savings Account for yourself? If not, I urge you to talk to your bank this week and tell them to get the forms ready for you. Tell them you want a trading account. Better to be set up at the beginning in case you want to purchase mutual funds or ishares down the road.
  • do you invoice yourself each month? I don't but I'm going to start. It might only be $50 but as I say, a little is better than nothing and nothing is what I'm doing now. Billing yourself a certain amount each month is extremely effective. Yes it's another bill and yes you're going to pay it. It's not optional. Treat it like your phone bill or your internet. It has to be paid to keep you and everyone else in the house happy. 
  • are your savings off limits? If you do have some egg money, do you view it truly as savings for your future or do you view it as funds you can access when there's an extra expense? Savings for yourself should be completely and entirely off limits to you and everyone else. No dipping. No withdrawing. When you're 70, you'll be grateful for your vigilence.
The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time to plant a tree is today. Maintaining financial independence as we age is surely what all of us desire and the smart ones among us likely started years ago. But the rest of us will start today.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Dorel car seat recall. Check the model number of your child's car seat.

Today on CBC radio they announced that Dorel Juvenile Group is voluntarily recalling approximately 800,000 child car seats. The harness strap at the base of the seat may not keep it's tension when your child is buckled in.

The seats in question were manufactured between May 1, 2008 and April 30, 2009.

If the name Dorel doesn't sound familiar, it didn't to me either. That's because they sell their seats under different brand names such as Cosco, Eddie Bauer, Safety 1st, Maxi-Cosi and Schwinn.

Here is the link to the CBC article: Dorel recalls 800,000 child car seats

and here is the link to the Dorel Juvenile Group's website: Dorel Juvenile Group Safety Notices

* You DO NOT return your car seat to the retailer.*

If you completed and mailed in the registration card when you purchased your car seat and your model is affected by the recall, you will be notified by mail. But if you didn't register your purchase, slip out to your car right now and write down the model number of your car seat. Then go to the Dorel website to see if your model has been effected. They have developed a fix so it's a matter of making sure that kit is sent to you as soon as possible. They have a link on their site so you can order your repair kit.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Vitamins, Minerals and Supplements. How much is too much?

If you stroll down the isle at the local drug store past all the vitamins, minerals and supplements for sale you'd think there were no nutrients at all in the foods we eat. And whether it's successful marketing on their part or guilt on our part, chances are good that some of those bottles are sitting on our breakfast tables right now. Not only that, but after consuming those pills we have florescent pee for the rest of the day as most of those vitamins pass right through our systems.

Recently I heard a commentary on the radio by a doctor who said that taking a multivitamin probably isn't necessary if you're someone who doesn't have an immuno-compromised condition. But if it makes you feel better (as in The Placebo Effect) then there's no harm in doing so.

Vitamins, minerals and supplements are not cheap, even when you buy them on sale. Chances are good there's between $60 and $80 worth of pills keeping you company each morning when you sit down for breakfast. Are all of them necessary? Are any of them there for the placebo effect only? Are you using any of them as a substitute for real food; "I had my multivitamin so I can eat this bag of chips"?

In the area of health and food, I'll never cut corners. But given the amount of vitamins that pass through my  system unabsorbed when I take these pills, I'm now looking at my collection of bottles with a critical eye.

What will stay?  

Vitamin D, 1000 IUs. Research that was out last year indicated that we need to bump up our intake from previous levels of 250 IUs to maintain strong bones and teeth. And since some of us in these Canadian climes aren't getting that amount of vitamin D naturally from sunlight throughout the year, I'll keep my little white pills.

Glucosamine, 500mg, shellfish free. When I was running 100+km/wk a friend of mine suggested glucosamine to help maintain the integrity of my joints. Even when I was doing higher mileage for extended periods of time, I remained injury free. I can't attribute that definitively to the glucosamine but it's got such a great reputation with the arthritis crowd that I'm hedging my bets it will help me maintain healthy joints as I age.

Calcium Carbonate, 500mg.This will remain for a couple of reasons: osteoporosis is a nasty disease and whatever steps we can take to prevent it's arrival, so much the better. Even if the calcium from this pill is only partially absorbed, a little is better than nothing. Second reason; sources of calcium that I enjoyed so much in the past (yogurt, cheese, ice cream, frozen yogurt) have become migraine triggers so it's much more difficult for me to obtain a good amount of calcium naturally.

What will go?

Multivitamin. I'm not immuno-compromised and I will admit I sometimes use the multivitamin as a crutch. Ok, I'll say it. I don't always eat properly.

B100 Complex Time Release. This was an expensive bottle of pills that I bought as a trial to see if it would make a difference in my energy levels. We don't eat a lot of meat so it makes sense that we could be low in our vitamin B department. But time is up with this time release product because for me personally, it's had no effect.

Our bodies were designed to absorb what they need from the food that we eat. Lest we forget our primary source of vitamins and minerals, I'm opting to spend less time starting at the bottles in the drug store and more time staring at the fruits and vegetables at the grocery store. And rather than researching the amounts of nutrients in 3 different types of lettuce, I'll keep to the rule that keeps it simple for all of us:

Eat foods of different colour.

Friday, 11 February 2011

How about giving a gift of safety this Valentine's Day?

It's true that the chocolate and flower industries have the corner on Valentine's Day but this Monday how about giving a zero calorie, long lasting gift of safety instead?
No generation gap

Sound unromantic?

I suppose it does. But don't blame me for suggesting it, I'm just applying to Valentine's Day what I see in my business all year long. Need proof? Well, I have a ton of grandparents buying my Child Harness for them to use with their grandchild. Or they have me send the harness directly to the child's parents because they know their little grandkid is tearing up the streets and wearing down Mom and Dad. Then there's all the case workers who pay for a Child-to-Adult Harness for a child with special needs. This gift of safety is inevitably a life-changer for the whole family.

I can attest to the fact that there is a lot of giving going on all the time, not just on Valentine's Day. So if you're wondering what to do on the 14th, ask yourself this: how badly can you screw up if you give a gift that won't cause a complexion disaster, wide hips, or hyperglycemia and might actually be used every day of the year to keep someone you love safe?

Now that's what I call a gift from the heart.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Waiting

It's exhausting.
Waiting for news.
Any news.
Good news or bad news, just tell us something.
Help us cope with waiting.

We worry while waiting.
Will everything be ok?
What about pain?
Will there be blood?

Blood. We hope there won't be any. That would be wonderful. No blood and manageable pain. Dare we hope for such perfect conditions.

Time has stopped. Can that be possible? The clock says No. But there's no news. Nothing different, nothing that we haven't heard before. So time must have stopped. Wait until tomorrow to hear news. But I want good news now. I want news that everything has turned out fine. That everyone is ok. That there's been no blood. That it's been a great start to a new beginning.

But we haven't heard that yet.

And so we wait.

For the birth of democracy in Egypt.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Don't let bank fees drain your account

When I was in graduate school, one of our profs told us "The banks have no incentive to be efficient. As long as they can pass their expenses on to the customer in terms of fees, there is no need for them to change their practices."

Graduate school was more than a few years ago for me but this adage still seems true. Yesterday I received a pamphlet in the mail outlining the new fees associated with different accounts at my bank. My chequing account will be effected and as of April 1, there will be a $2 fee for keeping a bank book and a minimum balance of $1500 must be in the account to waive the transaction fees ($0.65 each).

You gotta love the banks. It's amazing I managed to read these tiny changes listed in their little pamphlet, written in a font of 2 with black ink on a grey background. A magnifying glass should have been included in the envelope.

I've ALWAYS avoided paying bank fees. They make enough off my money through their investments, I begrudge giving them more if I can help it. Other than purchasing my cheques, I always maintain the minimum balance required in my chequing account to avoid transaction fees. The minimum balance used to be $1000 so I'd always treat this as my $0. I'd maintain a float of whatever I needed above the $1000 to cover my monthly expenses. Transaction fees can add up! At $0.65 each and an average of 8 transactions per month, that's over $60 a year you can save just by keeping a float above their minimum balance. And don't fall below that minimum balance. If you go below by 1 penny for 30 seconds any time during the month, you'll be charged a fee for every transaction executed that month. 

I also go paperless. Doing good for the environment is incentive enough so sign onto your bank account and look under account settings to switch to paperless if you haven't already. It will stop the flood of monthly statements that you put directly into recycling anyway. And it will avoid any charges the bank may inflict for having a bank book. What's $2 you say? Well, if you saw $2 on the sidewalk, would you pick it up? So I guess it's worth saving then.

If you haven't done so already, have a look at your bank statements and see if you've been dinged any fees lately. How much have you paid in bank fees over the past 6 months? Add them up. Is there something else you'd have rather done with that money or does paying it to your bank give you a warm and fuzzy feeling?

With a little planning on your part you can keep a bit more of your money in your bank account where it belongs. I'm sure the banks will increase their fees to compensate. 

Monday, 7 February 2011

March Break and travelling with a 4 - 5 year old. Is it worth buying a harness for 'one' trip?

So you're headed out of town for March Break. You're all excited about getting away and you're making your lists and organizing your stuff for yourself and your kids and you've laid it all out on the livingroom rug.

Uh oh. How much of this can be crammed into regular checked baggage and how much is going to be additional baggage at a cost of $20 or more per bag each way? Do the airlines really need more of your money on top of your airfare and airport tax and whatever other taxes and expenses that balloon their "seat sale" from $299 to $600?

To take the stroller or To not take the stroller. That is the question. 

Your 4 to 5 year old has been walking all over the place with you for some time now and it seems like those days of hauling the stroller in and out of the car are over. But at the airport or just because you're leaving the country or just because you're going someplace you've never been before, maybe dusting off the stroller and taking it with you would be a good idea. You can strap in your independent one and keep a close eye on them. But the stroller is awfully bulky and maybe the times it will be used the most is at each end of your trip.

Now I must confess that I loved my stroller. It carried everything we needed for our outings and sometimes it even carried a child. It was an essential piece of equipment for us and I never stepped outside the house unless I had the stroller, drinks, snacks and their harnesses. If this sounds like you, then it's a No Brainer. The stroller is the first thing that's packed for your trip.

But if that's not you and you haven't used your stroller for a while, maybe you can get by without it. Hm. Ok, if leaving it behind is an appealing idea, how will I keep track of my kid?

Well funny you should ask. How about one of my Child-to-Adult Harnesses? It's not such a bad idea if you think about it. My harness bundles into a small pouch that is very easy to toss into a purse or day pack. The lead is detachable so your child can wear the body part of the harness all the time. When crowds come along, attach the lead to keep everyone together. And unlike paying more at the airport for additional baggage and having nothing to show for it at the end of your trip, you still have the harness. And chances are very good you'll use it more than once.

But there is another factor in the argument to consider using one of my harnesses that is far more important than any sales pitch I can throw. The feelings of your child. It can be a little overwhelming for them dealing with crowds at the airport or shopping in an open market in another country. Wearing a harness in those strange places will give them a sense of safety and security having that physical connection to Mommy or Daddy.

My own boys continued to ask to wear their harnesses long after they were needed. For them it was their comfort level, their sense of security and safety knowing that I was holding their leads.

For them, it was like holding my hand.

Friday, 4 February 2011

Fast Twitch or Slow Twitch? Let your body dictate your workout

When I was in undergrad, my boyfriend suggested we play tennis. I stood with my racket at the end of the court and waited for him to hit the ball to me. He hit the ball to the side. No no no. You must hit the ball RIGHT to me. No, you're supposed to run for it. Well forget that. Tennis for me lasted about 4 minutes and it was 4 minutes too long. 

Many years later I read an article about fast twitch and slow twitch muscle and how everyone has some of both but some people have more of one type than the other. If you have a greater proportion of fast twitch muscle compared to slow, you're naturally good at moving quickly so sports that require speed and agility are your game. But if it's the reverse, more slow twitch rather than fast twitch muscle, endurance activities are your thing. Training can influence the proportion but not substantially and never to the extent of inverting what you have naturally. So basically, Mostly fast twitch = Always Mostly fast twitch and Mostly slow twitch = Always Mostly slow twitch. Thank your parents for how you're made.

If you detest your workouts, maybe you should have a close look at your heritage and see what they were good at in their time. Chances are you'll take after one of them and a similar activity today will be a good match for you. If you take a little time to narrow your workout options, you may save yourself some agony and find an enjoyable activity that you look forward to rather than dread. 

What were you good at as a child? That younger, smaller body of yours had the same proportion of fast twitch and slow twitch muscle that your body has today. What was your favourite game in the school yard? Were you good at tag or were you always the first one caught? Was standing around and skipping your thing or running the bases? Spending some time thinking about it critically will give you a good idea if the adult you would rather go to the gym and lift weights or jog a few times around the block.

What's your personality? Are you a social type? Then maybe going to the gym with a friend and chatting while you do your circuit is more your speed. Or suffering with a group through a spinning class. Not so social? Then going to the pool and swimming laps probably sounds very appealing. People are around but you're basically working out alone.

As for yours truly, that unfortunate brush with tennis told me all I needed to know and a quick look at Dad reinforced it. Slow twitch from top to bottom. 

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Going cheap with your kids is a good idea. But not all the time

Providing for children is expensive. From before they arrive until long after they've left, it seems an endless flow of money is directed their way.

This is why figuring out ways to save money when raising kids has become an industry of it's own. There is a plethora of websites and blogs and online stores with deals and coupons and tips on what you should do and where you should shop and cost-cutting measures you should take. All with the attractive goal of saving you money.

I've been a big money-saver myself. I have a lovely friend with older boys who passes on clothes her own kids have outgrown. Some of the things she gives me are brand new (really) and some are destined for the rag bag. Like my own kids, her's have their favourites so some items are worn until they don't fit any more while others remain in the drawer until they don't fit any more. What my own kids don't like or outgrow goes off to the local Value Village.

Going cheap on clothes makes sense on a whole bunch of levels. They outgrow things so quickly it's usually just one season of wear on those shorts and t-shirts, winter coats and snow pants. A few years ago I found a high-end winter coat at Value Village that lasted my oldest son one winter and my younger son 2 winters. When I donated it back to Value Village it was still in wonderful shape. But that's quality for you.

One's enthusiasm to go cheap with the kids can fall off the rails though, when we try to apply it to other areas like food or safety. Feeding those growing bodies with cheap food of little nutritional value has an extremely high health cost in the end. 

But what about going cheap with a safety harness when so many are available at such great prices? 

Believe it or not, I'm in the middle on this one. Part of me wants to call you crazy if you even consider buying any harness other than mine but the reality is those cheap harnesses do have their place. If you're going to use it only a few times, I mean literally a few times, then cheap is good. Cheap should be fine. After all, it's only for that one trip or that one outing or that one visit to the grandparents. It's new from the box so you certainly shouldn't have any issues with it for the few times it'll be used.

But if you think there is even a remote possibility that you'll be using that safety harness more than a few times as your child grows from 18 months to 3 1/2 years of age, in my opinion it's better to go with quality. And when it comes to quality you get what you pay for. Don't go cheap. Get something that will pay for itself in peace of mind alone. Get something you can trust not to come apart during the years you'll be using it. Get something that's say made by me.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Is your child kept indoors at school because they are a flight risk?

One area of my business that has grown nicely over the past year is my sales to schools and Independent School Districts (ISDs). 

They are looking for my Child-to-Adult Harness to use with one of their students so that student can go on a field trip or play outdoors on the school grounds. 

Some school properties are not entirely fenced so students who are a flight risk have to be kept indoors during recess and lunch breaks. Playing outdoors or participating in field trips off the school property was never an option for these kids.

I now have 29 schools and ISDs as customers. One school ordered 2 different sized harnesses to use with different children when the need arises. Another school ordered a harness with a 10 foot lead so the child could play on the outdoor equipment without running off the property. A number of schools have ordered harnesses with very short leads so the child could safely be walked from one classroom to another.

Many parents who use my harness with their child send the harness to school so their child can fully participate in the routine activities of the classroom. If your child is being kept indoors all day at school or being left out of field trips because they are a flight risk, you may want to consider getting them a harness so they can do what their friends do and go where their friends go.

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Thinking of buying a Special Needs stroller to contain your child? My Child-to-Adult Harness may fit the bill instead

This stroller costs $1,500+ USD
More than a few of my customers have told me that when their older child has become too much for them to manage, their doctor has recommended they purchase a special needs stroller, or push chair, to strap their child into so they can once again safely leave the house. 

These strollers don't come cheap. All of them cost more than my first car. If your child can't walk and a push chair is a better option than a wheelchair, then such an investment makes sense. You'll get years of use from it and your child will love it. 

But if your child can walk, I can't help but think that a special needs stroller is quite the luxury ride. 

A couple of other things come to mind besides the expense of a special needs push chair
  • Your child is accustomed to walking. How will they adapt to being tied to their new chair? Is this type of restraint new to them? Will it be accepted?
  • Will it take more than one person to get your child seated in the stroller and secured to the harness? Will you be able to cope on your own or will it take 2 people to get your child secured?
  • The seatbelts and harness that are stitched to the stroller will fasten at the front of your child well within their reach. Will your child undo the buckles so they can get out of the stroller to walk?
  • How will the use of the stroller impact the amount of exercise your child is getting? Safety first of course but will this mean your child no longer has the option to walk? Or only limited opportunity to walk? If they are accustomed to walking (or running!) most of the time, and now have to ride, will they have other opportunities to get exercise?
If you are considering a special needs stroller or push chair for your ambulatory child, I beg you to have a look at my Child-to-Adult Harnesses before you make your purchase. Maybe a walking harness is all you need to keep your loved one close at hand. My harnesses are:
  • made to fit your child but adjustable to last for years
  • buckle at your child's back. Replace the buckles with locks to increase security
  • the harness + any accessories + shipping and taxes (if any) would be less than $200
Two years ago I had a customer who had spent a huge amount of money on a second hand special needs stroller for her teenage daughter. Obviously her daughter could get out of it in seconds because all the buckles were at the front. Because of this problem she went looking for a way to keep her daughter seated. She found me and ordered one of my harnesses plus a chair strap. But once she had my harness, her daughter was able to safely walk again and the stroller wasn't used!

No one gets it right the first time all the time but if you do your research and mull things over, it usually pays off. Maybe even to the tune of $1300 in savings.

Friday, 28 January 2011

Do you write your cell phone number on your child?

Is he wearing a cell phone #?
I'll confess that I don't belong to any parenting forums but a few years ago when I first started my business, I wandered into one to see what the word was about harnesses. I quickly learned that the safety strategy of the day was to write your cell phone number on your child's neck before leaving the house. The idea was, if you lost your child they would surely be found by a Good Samaritan who would call your number and wait for you to come and collect your little one. This strategy was overwhelmingly preferable to using a harness with your child.

I got out of that forum and went into a few others and the word was the same. Writing your cell phone number on your child was hugely better than even CONSIDERING using a harness. Never use a harness. No no. Geepers, what would people say about you? What would they think?

 Sure I'm biased toward harnesses and obviously I'd be delighted if every little kid had one, especially one of my Child Harnesses LOL, but I must admit I was completely thrown by this whole "write your cell number on your kid" idea. It's a wonderful strategy if you could be assured that your child would be found by someone like me or you. Well, maybe not me because I don't have a cell phone so I'd have to track down someone who did so you could be called and told we have your child. But you wouldn't mind waiting a bit longer while I did that would you? 

Or would you? 

And this is where I know I differ from the women in these forums. I would be a complete and utter wreck if I lost sight of my boys in a crowd. Incoherent, hysterical, likely vomiting with worry. I can only imagine - actually, I don't want to imagine - my reaction if something like that ever happened. But the Moms in these forums were so cool about everything! Don't stress! Write your cell number on your toddler, it will all be fine! No big deal. If you get separated, you'll get called! Just don't ever use a harness!

Ok, but why not use a harness so you don't have to worry about losing your child in the first place? 

Call me crazy but I like to repair the fence while the horse is still in the barn. 

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Dr. Andrew Wakefield. I doubt we'll ever know everything

This morning as I was listening to Dr. Andrew Wakefield on CBC Radio 1's The Current, I couldn't help but be impressed by his well composed answers to Anna Maria Tremonti's pointed questions. And his refined British accent definitely helped his arguments sound convincing.

I don't think we'll ever know the whole truth around this incident. But since I spent a little time in research myself and I know a little about the process of submitting scientific research studies for publication in medical journals, I can't help but think that the Lancet also has some explaining to do.

From the interviews I've heard, the crux of the matter seems to be that Dr. Wakefield did not randomly select the children for his gastrointestinal research study; some children were referred. This of course would bias his results. Which would also render his findings meaningless.

What I don't understand is why the problematic method of selection was not identified by the peer review board when Dr. Wakefield initially submitted his research paper for publication. Considering the controversial nature of his findings, his research should have been - and I think WOULD have been - picked apart by a fine toothed comb. Data collection, methodology and statistical analysis is where peer review boards look the closest because the validity of the results rests 100% on the necessity that all these steps are carried out appropriately.

Peer review boards are notorious for challenging the researcher to justify their methodology and the interpretation of their results. It's their job. Correspondence passes back and forth between the board and the researcher for months, sometimes for more than a year before all the board's questions are answered and the research is either approved for publication or rejected. Maybe I misheard something but I got the impression that the Lancet only announced NOW (actually a few weeks ago) that there was an issue with Dr. Wakefield's data collection methodology. 

The paper was published in 1998. The Lancet makes their announcement in 2011. I wonder what more we will learn about this controversy in the next 13 years.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Winter Running

For those of you looking to add 30 minutes or so of cardio a few times a week, don't be allergic to considering a run around the block at night while the kids set the dinner table. Winter running can be a nice change from the summer sun and being out in the cold elements gives you an extra glow of inner toughness.

A few additional pieces of equipment are a good idea when running in winter: 

Wear a hat. Even if the temps aren't too bad, a hat is a good idea. You can always take it off and stuff it in a pocket but chances are you'll wear it the whole time. Make sure you can pull it down over your ears, otherwise wear ear protectors too.


Wear windproof mitts. Your hands will sweat so you'll likely only need the one layer. I have an old pair of windproof mitts from the Running Room that are a snug fit around the wrist (essential) and big through the palm to accommodate another layer underneath (that I never wear).

Wear a reflective vest. I'm guilty of not doing this every time I go out at night but at least I own one. 

Wearing wind pants over your sweat pants can be the difference between being miserable and thoroughly enjoying your time away from house and home. Find a light pair; their purpose is to act as a windbreak. It's your sweats underneath that keep you warm.

Lousy conditions = better workout. Snow and slush that fills your treads and pile up around your feet means poor traction so you'll have to work a little harder to make it around your usual route that feels easy in the summer. Winter winds can whip across open areas and make you count the seconds until the next turn. Don't think about pace. As long as your working, you're doing your body good.  

Do your lunges after your run. I always do 2 sets of 20, walking a bit between sets. Head up, eyes forward, hands on your waist or arms bent at your sides. Lunges are a great way to stretch, build leg muscle and strengthen that core. It's tricky keeping your balance and it's your core muscles that stop you from falling over. 

Walk home. This is a must. The worst thing you can do is run to the bottom of your driveway, hurry inside and sit down to a big meal. Stop your run 200 to 300 metres from home, do your sets of lunges and walk the rest of the way. You won't freeze.

Leave your shoes upside down to dry. Anyone who has put on wet running shoes when headed out the door knows how awful it feels. Make sure it doesn't happen to you. The treads are the last to dry so leave your shoes upside down so the dampness is pulled away from the treads. If you have space in the kitchen, lean your shoes against the fridge by the vent.

Winter running does involve putting on a few more things but it's worth the effort. Feeling the cold winter wind on your face when the rest of you is warm and working is a magical combination. That inner glow goes a long way to helping you cope with the less pleasant things in life. 

Like when you get home and the kids tell you it's your turn to do the dishes.



Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Money Matters: Going for quality is always a smart move

You've likely received your January credit card bill in the mail by now with it's long list of December purchases of food and gifts for the holiday season. 

The timing can never be good for bills but I always find January to be particularly difficult. Maybe because it's followed so closely by the end of March when we pay taxes that weren't deducted at source. Oh, and if you have any spare cash lying around it would be a good idea to make that RRSP contribution. And now that the new year has started, I'm free to put another $5,000 into my Tax Free Savings Account if I happen to have it stuffed in the mattress.

If money isn't already on your mind most of the time, it's likely front and centre right now. And if you don't have much of it, it's critical to be smart with the little you have.

This past weekend we went shopping for a new couch for our livingroom. The old one didn't owe us anything after 20+ years with my parents, my sister, then us. The first place we went to had a very nice couch but it was a bit outside our price range. The second place had a couch we liked but was also more than we wanted to pay. After some back and forth with the salesman, the price came down. And down. And down. Then the 5 year warranty was added, no extra charge. 

I asked for a few minutes to think things over and was sitting alone on the couch when I noticed the couch in front of me had a big rip in the back. Oh my gosh, was that the same manufacturer? I hopped up to check, couldn't see a label but it was a similar style and fabric so I was guessing yes. Then I had a closer look at the couch we were considering buying. Oh oh. I called over my husband and pointed out all the open seams, the way the legs were attached, my goodness it was not well made. Now it was clear why the price had plummeted more than $300 in less than 5 minutes of conversation.

We went back to Stop #1 to have a closer look at the first couch. Every seam was sealed. The quality far surpassed the other one, there was no comparing the two. So we had a re-think. We knew that whatever we bought was going to last us for a very long time and sure this one was more expensive but in the long run, it certainly looked like it would go the distance.

Sold. We opted for quality because I still believe you get what you pay for. So stay tuned. In 20 years I'll let you know if our new couch is still holding up.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Getting Exercise in the Winter. It's not as hard as you think

When I was training and I HAD to be out in all sorts of miserable conditions because the sky really would fall if I missed a workout, I didn't enjoy it I just did it. But now that I'm not training and I don't have to be out at all, I find myself thinking it doesn't look so bad out there and maybe I should venture forth with the kids.

Getting exercise in the wintertime may take a little more effort than throwing on a pair of runners and grabbing the bike helmet but it's worth it. A few phone calls or a few websites visited and you'll have options to lay out for the kids:
  • Family Skates at the local arena are usually scheduled on the weekends or on a Friday night. Sometimes they are sponsored by a local politician or a local coffee chain so entry is free. Even if you have to pay, it's usually inexpensive. You can go any time during the few hours that the Family Skate is scheduled. 
  • does your town have an outdoor skating oval? Outdoor skating ovals that are maintained by your town have arena-quality ice surfaces that make skating a bit easier for everyone. Evening floodlights and park closures at 11pm mean it's your schedule that determines when you go not theirs.
  • pond skating is always preferred over rink skating. Once the weather has been cold for a while, detour past your local pond to check the ice condition. Your town likely posts a board or coloured markers to let you know. They may leave the Caution marker up for weeks even though they're using the tractor plow to clear the snow off the ice. When conditions are safe, get your kids out on the pond. Learning to skate over bumps and cracks is a sure-fire way to improve balance and turn good skaters into great ones. 
  • If skating isn't your thing, build a snowman or a fort. The kids love it. Need proof? Go look at a local school yard to see what the kids accomplish during recess.
  • Tobogganing on some local hills is a thrill for everyone. Bring back your own childhood memories, assuming your kids will let you have a turn. And chugging back up the hill just makes that downhill ride all the more enjoyable.
  • Check the Family Swim schedule at your local community centre. They usually add more Family Swims during the Christmas Break and March Break. Watch the age limits for the kids; some Swims are for parents with young children only, other Swims are for children over the age of 6.
  • Go for a walk at night to admire the Christmas lights. This is by far one of my most favourite winter activities. Usually the wind has dropped so it's not as cold as during the day. Wrap the kids up and get them out there. Find the moon, look for the evening star. Everyone can have their own hot chocolate; a straw fits very well in the mouth slot for the mugs the kids are using. Choose different routes and check out what your neighbours have done.
There is no denying that exercise takes effort. But when the biggest effort is coming up with something to do, remind yourself that sometimes the simple things count the most. By the time everyone has their jackets and mitts and boots on, chance are your kids will have thought up a ton of neck-breaking activities to fill in the next few hours.

    Saturday, 22 January 2011

    Make plans for Family Literacy Day, January 27

    Yesterday my son brought home a notice about Family Literacy Day on January 27. The notice had a number of suggested activities that we can complete together as a family leading up to that date. The activities are laid out in a Bingo card format and the idea is for families to complete as many activities together as possible. The students return their sheets to school on the 27th for a chance to win a book and a gift card from Chapters. 

    The activities on the sheet are wide-ranging. Apparently Literacy can be a broad term. "Fix or build something around your home" is one of the boxes so I guess they're assuming you'll be referring to a manual if you decide to put up some drywall with your kids.

    Other suggestions were; Make a craft together, Count out the money together when shopping, Choose a book to read to your whole family, Make alphabet soup and make words out of the letters, Read at home for 30 minutes. 

    All the suggestions are excellent and they all have the underlying theme of encouraging activities that bring families together. But in some ways it makes me sad that these reminders have to be said in the first place. I often hear parents say "it's faster if I do it myself". True enough but before you know it, the kids will be grown and gone and you'll be doing it by yourself all the time. 

    For me, I try to make every day Family Literacy Day.

    Friday, 21 January 2011

    Traveling with your Toddler? Maybe you should pack a Child Harness

    If you are planning a trip for March Break you may want to consider packing a Child Harness for your little one.

    Since you don't use a harness at home, why would you need one when traveling? A couple of reasons come to mind. 

    If your trip involves taking a flight, you'll likely have to arrive at the airport early which may translate into an extended period of waiting before your flight boards. Furthermore, if  your child's stroller has been checked with the rest of your luggage, you won't have it with you while you wait. But filling in that time by going for a walk is an excellent opportunity for everyone to get some exercise, especially your little one, and having them on a harness while doing so will keep everyone together.

    Traveling is exciting for all family members, including yourself. There is lots to see and do. But you're likely to have a heightened sense of paranoia in a new place and looking around to enjoy the sites while keeping your eyes on your walking toddler may be more stressful than you thought. Having them safely on a harness at your side will allow you to walk with your head up and your eyes a-gander most of the time.

    Whether you're at home or away, your child's stroller still morphs into a magnet on wheels for all sorts of stuff that comes from nowhere. Before you know it it's carrying everything BUT your child. But that's fine if you have a harness for them. They can walk and you can continue to shop. When they're tired, they can lay on top of everything to keep it from falling off.

    Where you're headed should also be a consideration when thinking about whether or not a harness would come in handy. If you're visiting a major theme park such as Disney almost every child you see will be wearing a harness so you'll blend right in.

    small stuff sack
    If you have never used a harness with your child but are thinking of getting one specifically for a trip, it would be a good idea to order it in advance so everyone has a chance to get used to it prior to departure. My Child Harness comes with it's own stuff sack so it's easy to tote along and toss in your purse - NOT your luggage!! - to have on hand whenever the occasion arises. It may quickly become an essential item that you won't leave home without.

    Thursday, 20 January 2011

    Kids and Physical Activity. They should meet more often.

    Yesterday there was yet another report from Stats Canada about the inactive youth in our country and I must say the numbers were more shocking than I had imagined. 

    Of kids aged 6 to 19 years, only 7% were "active enough to make health gains".

    For children and youth, 8.6 hours (62%) of their waking hours were spent being sedentary and this increased to 9+ hours for children aged 15 to 19 years. The percentages of obesity among young boys and girls aged 6 to 10 was also disturbing; 8% and 5% respectively.

    Why has physical activity essentially disappeared from the lives of our children? What can we do to get it back? As a parent, what examples are you setting for your kids? Could you lose a few pounds yourself? According to the report, chances are you could.  

    Oh come on, don't shoot the messenger.

    Adding small doses of physical activity to your day can be as simple as walking to the end of the street with your kids after dinner. Ask how their day was. Ask questions so they tell you more. It's amazing how much happens in their worlds and when given the chance, they'll tell you everything. Soon that walk to the end of the street will turn into walks around the block.

    What about bike riding? Do the kids have bikes? If they are riding and you are walking, you'll be able to stay out longer and walk further while the kids ride ahead.

    Walk your kids to school if you can. Bizarre idea? What's bizarre to me is seeing the long line of cars at the front of the school every morning to drop the child right at the door. Can you park a few blocks away and walk at least that distance to school? Once a week maybe? For your kid's sake? 

    TV, video games, computer time, there are lots of convenient excuses and pleasant distractions to keep all of us sitting around at home. But speaking from experience, there are lots of equally pleasant distractions outdoors too that are worth exploring at least a few times a week.

    Wednesday, 19 January 2011

    Introducing your older child to their new Child-to-Adult Harness

    If you are considering one of my Child-to-Adult Harnesses for a larger toddler or someone with special needs, you may be wondering how your child will react to wearing their new harness.

    Well, I've got good news. 

    Chances are excellent, even more than excellent, that they will take to their new harness like a bee to honey. 

    Shocked? Me too. 

    I'll admit that I have been thrilled with the feedback I've received over the years from parents who have told me they had no trouble getting their child to wear the harness. I thought surely there would be issues. The harness is Strange, it's New, it's Unfamiliar. But when the parents started telling me more about their child's reactions to their new harness, it all began to make sense.

    For the most part, before the harness arrived these children were constantly held in a death grip by their wrist, hand, shirt collar, pants belt, jacket, sleeves, hood, whatever was available. See my earlier post "Are you using your children's clothing as a harness?" These kids had NO FREEDOM. They never had their hands free. They never had the sensation of walking ahead of Mommy. They were constantly grabbed and being pulled along or they were constantly pulling against someone.

    And from the parent's point of view, you're darn right the child was clung too. When your child has a habit of running off in a flash, you're not likely to let go.

    Which is why the harness was necessary in the first place. And once the harness arrives and the child has a chance to wear it, all sorts of new sensations open up for them.

    They have their hands free! They can walk 'alone'! They can move around and Go Here and Go There without struggling against the weight of an adult immediately by their side. In many ways, their whole world changes and they have the chance to experience a sense of freedom they've not felt before. 

    Parents often tell me that their non-verbal child will bring the harness to them as a signal that they want to go out. I've also heard plenty of times that their child likes wearing it even in the house (see my earlier post "The Hug Factor in my Child-to-Adult Harness").

    So if you're thinking of ordering a harness but are not sure how it will go once you receive it, have faith that it's worth taking the chance. Odds are good it will work out just fine for both of you.

    Monday, 17 January 2011

    Kids have a poor diet? Let them make dinner!

    It's a miracle that neither of my children have scurvy. The statistical side of my brain highly doubts they are getting all the vitamins, minerals and fats their growing bodies need from the 3 or 4 items they agree to eat. But amazingly enough, they still have hair and fingernails and teeth and are still outgrowing their clothes. 

    I've always had the boys help in the kitchen, stirring flour and baking powder and mixing the eggs and butter, but recently with the cold weather I dusted off the slow cooker and implemented some Child Labour. Time for the 6 and 7 year olds to make dinner.

    And yes, I did have an ulterior motive. 

    I had a feeling the boys would be more likely than not to eat a dinner they had made entirely on their own.

    I suggested a turkey stew, they agreed (thank goodness) and before bed that night they went to work. Out came the slow cooker pot, the knife, chopping board, vegetables, spices, measuring cups and measuring spoons. The 6 year old likes to stand on the stool, the 7 year old prefers to squat like a Bedouin on the counter. They did everything, from measuring the water and spices to chopping the carrots, celery and onions. Pieces were big, mind you, because the vegetable was always secured with a foot at one end while the knife worked away at the other. Once, when the piece of carrot was particularly huge, I told them the pieces had to fit on a spoon so out came a spoon and each severed piece was placed on the spoon before receiving approval and entering the pot. Then they switched and the younger one cut the celery while the older one did the Quality Control. Cutting the onion was not a popular chore and they both decided that would be my role in future. 

    And so it went. 

    In the morning, I put in the turkey thighs and the youngest turned the slow cooker on Low. There was much discussion on the way to school about having the turkey stew that night. They were both so excited when I made such a big deal over them making dinner.

    And the results of this Experiment? First of all, it was absolutely delicious. Other findings: the oldest ate a full bowl; carrots, celery, onion, meat, it all went down like nobody's business. The youngest had the broth and most of the pasta letters. Strides for him, believe me.

    And me? Well, statistically speaking the results may not have been significant but I'm feeling better about the odds of their diets improving.

    Friday, 14 January 2011

    When Mommy has a Disability

    In this day and age of political correctness, I'm out of touch with the current terms used to refer to adults who, well, in the olden days like 5 years ago would have been referred to as 'handicapped'. So I hope I'm not upsetting anyone by using the term 'disabled', especially if it's been replaced by something more vogue for 2011.

    What does ANY of this have to do with Child Harnesses you ask?

    Well I'm pleased to say that I've had a number of parents with disabilities order my Child Harness so they could keep their busy little toddler with them while they were out doing their errands.

    In fact, a Mom who had one hand ordered a Child Harness so she'd be able to take her little one swimming. It worked out so well that she ordered another harness to use just for walking.

    Then there was the Mom who was a Paralympian (for Canada no less). She used her wheelchair when she traveled and she needed a harness so her daughter could walk through the airports while she rolled.

    Other Moms have been in wheelchairs or on braces, some have needed harnesses with leads they could attach to their waists, some were able to hold onto the lead themselves. But whatever their circumstances, they were all women getting on with their lives and using whatever they needed to do so.

     
    You Go Girl.

    Thursday, 13 January 2011

    Closing the Generation Gap

    Call me cautious, but when my 80+ year old Mom wanted to take the boys out on her own, I was strapping them into their harnesses in a jiffy. 

    And if she had been 60, I'd have done the same. My oldest was a temperamental little guy and all sorts of mundane and normal things could set him off. If he decided he was going "this way", forces of nature could not change his mind.

    The point is, with the boys on their harnesses, they could go for walks with Nana, go over to the park, go shopping and basically be out of my hair and I could relax knowing that Mom wouldn't have to chase them down if any "episodes" occurred. (Please don't spend any time imagining an 80 year old woman running after a 2 1/2 year old...)

    Thanks entirely to their harnesses, my boys were able to spend quality time alone with their Nana.

    An increasing proportion of my customers are grandparents who are the child's main caregiver during the day while Mommy is at work. These grandparents, being a rather clever bunch, realize their sprinting days are over and conclude that using a harness with their grandchild is a simple solution to problems that may arise when venturing outside.

    They are closing the generation gap with a Child Harness that keeps their loved one, who is already close to their heart, close to their side.

    Wednesday, 12 January 2011

    Choose your Lead Length, Choose your Freedom

    Among the many advantages to making my own Child Harnesses and Child-to-Adult Harnesses is I can usually bend to the whims of my customers.  

    And my clever customers know enough to ask.

    A few years ago I had a Mom ask for a 9 foot lead for her Child Harness.

    Why not! It had never occurred to me to offer leads of different lengths. But where she was going, there would be plenty of space for her little one to roam and More Freedom for him would be ideal if I could only provide a 9 foot lead....

    After that, I changed my order forms to give customers the option to order whatever lead length they wanted.

    And the requests have been many. I particularly loved the Smart Mommy who ordered a 15 foot lead to use at the beach. She'd be able to watch her son and read while he played in the sand but stayed safely out of the water. Lots of my customers who are going on a cruise usually order a 7 foot lead to use with their Child Harness. I've had schools order 10 foot leads for their Child-to-Adult Harness so the child could safely play on the outdoor equipment but not bolt from the school property.

    I love my business for many reasons but it's particularly rewarding when my customers come up with ideas and suggestions that make my (fantastic!?) product even better for Customers Yet To Come.

    The Evolution of my little harness business. Who knew?