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

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


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.