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Friday, February 27, 2009

Ten Things To Know About French Immersion

My daughter is currently in French Immersion and my son is scheduled to start in September, so I thought I'd share some of what I've learned.

1) There are many benefits to French Immersion: children learn a second language; they develop a great ability to learn other languages as well; they have better career options for their futures; research has show they develop better problem solving skills and creativity; they become more flexible thinkers with superior listening skills, to name a few.

2) It is designed for kids who don't speak French at home, although frankly, knowing a bit of French does help. Even if you don't know any, if you are willing to learn the language along with your child, it'll make things much easier.

3) When the children first start Kindergarten, the French is introduced gradually. By the time they are in Grade 1, no English is spoken in the classroom (unless there is a comprehension issue - then English will be used briefly to clarify).

4) No English reading or grammar is taught until Grade 3, so it is recommended that your child be read to in English at home. When English is introduced, there is a "catch up" period, but by the time elementary school is finished, FE kids have the same, if not better, English skills as the English kids.

5) It's not for every child. It is the school's objective to provide your child with an education, so if he/she is not happy in French, you may be advised to switch back to English. This is in no way a negative reflection on the intelligence of any child - some kids just have other talents. Take a friend of mine, for example - her daughter is a gifted athlete, competing provincially at the age of six. She struggled in French Kindergarten, but once she switched to English for grade 1, she flourished academically.

6) Many kids will excel at both languages simultaneously. My 6 year old daughter, for example, is comfortable in the phonetics of both languages. She can tell you the pronunciation of individual letters and letter combinations for French and English. She can also look at the spelling of a word and tell you how it would sound in English as well as how it would sound in French.

7) It's FUN, and a self esteem boost. My daughter is constantly singing songs in French that she's learned in school, as well as voluntarily choosing the French versions of websites or DVDs. She also likes to correct my pronunciation (hers is already better - I have some core French learned back in high school, but because she's learning French with younger ears, her phonics are better than mine).

8) When determining if a child is a good candidate for French Immersion, two factors are considered. Are they comfortable with English (i.e. "how the first language goes, so goes the second"), and are they socially confident (if they can't understand something that is said, are they secure enough to try and figure it out and communicate somehow?).

9) While late immersion (near the end of the primary years) will still give kids an excellent grasp of the language, the earlier they start (i.e. Kindergarten), the better their fluency and pronunciation will be.

10) French Immersion follows the same curriculum as the English program. The same subject matter is taught, but in French as opposed to English.

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Monday, February 9, 2009

10 Things To NOT Feed Your Dog

I made French Toast the other day and gave my dog the left over batter to drink. For anyone who's never made French Toast, the batter consists of raw egg, milk, cinnamon and nutmeg.

AFTER he eagerly lapped it up, I thought, hmmm - maybe I better check about those spices...

Luckily for us, he had only a small amount, and at 75 pounds is a large breed. Here are some of the dietary no-nos for dogs that I encountered on my web search:

1) Nutmeg (oops). Apparently this can cause seizures and death (who knew? Geez. BAD dog mommy).

2) Chocolate - contains Theobromine, which can cause, among other things, diarrhea. I have personal experience with this one: ten liquid pools of the stuff on our carpet after our dog got into some Christmas fudge my mom sent one year.

3) Grapes and raisins - there's an unknown compound in the "fleshy" part of the grape, which can damage your dog's kidneys.

4) Macadamia nuts - Lethargy, vomiting. I also read that Walnuts can contain fungus that are bad for dogs - after reading that, I'm not so sure I want to eat them either.

5) Mushroom - the toxin varies with mushroom species, and can result in everything from hallucinations to death. (This is where a funnier blogger would insert a mushroom = hallucinations wisecrack).

6) Onion & garlic - fresh and dried. Cats appear to be more sensitive than dogs, and garlic appears to be less toxic. Supposedly they can cause hemolytic anemia. We're also advised to avoid baby food, which sometimes contains onion powder.

7) Cat food - too high in protein and fat. Hmmm. I guess our dog better stop snacking from the cat dishes.

8) Green sprouts on raw potatoes can be toxic. This is true for humans as well, so unless your dog will be grazing on the potato greens in your garden, there's little chance of exposure here. Supposedly cooked white potatoes are fine for dogs. Good thing, 'cause ours gets a fair amount of this leftover.

9) Xylitol (artificial sweetener) - can cause a liver reaction that can lead to liver failure in a few days. This supposedly is really dangerous. (Another good reason to eat the sweets yourself instead of sharing, if you ask me ;)

10) Milk & other dairy - adult dogs are lactose intolerant, and can get diarrhea. (I guess the French Toast batter was a really bad idea! Now I know for next time).

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Friday, January 9, 2009

10 Ways To Get Your Kids Some Exercise While At Home

Ewwww... winter slush!!! Who wants to go outside anyway. Stuck in the house with restless kids? Here are some ideas to get them moving and work off some energy:

1) Laundry: our laundry room is downstairs and my four year old is always eager to help carry items upstairs. As I fold most of the clothes, I give him one item at a time to bring upstairs and put away. He loves it and keeps coming back down for more.

2) If your child is old enough to follow instructions and can be trusted with a spray bottle, fill one with water only and have him or her wash the walls. My daughter enjoys this one. There is enough reaching, bending and squatting with this task to provide a bit of a workout.

3) One word: Wii!!! We don't have one yet, but it's on our list.

4) Two words: Smart Cycle!!! We have this and love it. For the uninitiated, it's an exercise bike with game cartridges that plugs into the TV. They "race" and play other games, having a grand old time as they furiously pedal away.

5) Create a "running zone". For us it's the hallway by the bedrooms. If it's clear of toys and other obstructions, it's a safe place for them to run their sillies out. They are allowed to run there, but not anywhere else in the house.

6) Make putting away toys a game, such as a race. Require that they take the toys to a different room, such as from the living room to their bedrooms, so that there's walking involved. One of the rules of the game can be that they can only carry one toy at a time, to increase the number of trips they have to make.

7) Do some exercise yourself and make room for them to participate with you. I have an exercise video that my kids love to follow along to, with or without me!

8) Encourage them to play hide and seek - it's more active than computer games or watching TV.

9) Silly dancing: clear enough room on the floor and play one of their music Cd's, and see who can be the silliest dancer.

10) If they really want to watch TV, encourage them to watch "get up and move" shows such as "Bo On The Go" or "Yo Gabba Gabba"
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Sunday, December 14, 2008

10 Things To Know About Dog Behaviour

We had our dog professionally trained a few years ago, and learned some really fascinating stuff about what makes dogs behave the way they do. Here are some of the things we learned.

1) Eye contact can be seen by dogs as a threat - never stare down an aggressive dog. (This was surprising to me, considering the fact that the opposite is true for humans. Avoiding eye contact is threatening to us, and making eye contact is a way for us to connect. Who knew dogs are bothered by it!)

2) Where everyone sleeps at night is a big indicator to a dog of pack rank. If your dog doesn't listen well, stop letting him sleep up on the bed with you - as long as he is allowed to do this, he sees himself as your equal.

3) "Alpha" is earned not just by superior brawn, but also by superior brains. If your dog can manipulate your behaviour, he will think he is smarter than you and therefor alpha (an example of this would be if he stands in your way and makes you walk around him - in doing this, he has manipulated your actions).

4) All attention, even scolding, is a reward to most dogs. The quickest way to curb undesired behaviour (assuming it's not dangerous or destructive) is to walk away and ignore it. Once the bad behaviour has ended and the dog is doing what you want, THEN you pay attention and smother him with lots of praise.

5) The reason that dogs "bow down" to the person who feeds them is not only because they like food - it's also because the distribution of food is done by the alpha. (Also, the alpha eats first). If you are having issues with your dog not respecting your kids, an effective way to change this is to, as often as possible, have the kids be the ones to give the dog food.

6) Tug of war is a bad game to play because it teaches dogs that it's OK to play with humans using their teeth.

7) Fence running can increase aggression. This is because the dog is trying to protect his pack by chasing the "monsters" away from the yard - he runs the length of the fence barking at the person walking by, and lo and behold it worked - they're gone! This perceived success reinforces the dog's aggressive behaviour.

8) Dogs should, and want to, spend most of their time in the house with you. The house is their den, and your family is their pack. They are social, group animals, and asking a dog to spend the majority of its time alone in a yard is a misunderstanding of his needs.

9) The quickest way to curb leash pulling is to understand why the dog pulls - he wants to go! As soon as he pulls, you should stop, and remain stopped until he lets the leash go slack, at which point you can start moving again. He'll soon figure out that in order to get anywhere, he can't pull on the leash.

10) If your dog growls at another dog, it's because he feels that it's his role in the pack to protect you. If you pet him to try and calm him down, he will perceive this as fear on your part (because you're rewarding his protective behaviour). If, on the other hand, you calmly take his collar and pull him past the offending dog, he will perceive you as being in charge and therefor not afraid, and it will help him calm down faster.

It's amazing how, once you have some insight into a dog's behaviour, how much more he will respect you. It's all about learning to speak the language of the dog so that they'll be able to listen.
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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The 12th Thing To Know About Breastfeeding...

Ohhh... I can't believe I left this one off my last post!! It made the world of difference to me:

12) Take prenatal classes that cover breastfeeding. We did a program that had about 10 classes. All the rest of the info we covered was interesting, but I could have lived without it. The class on breastfeeding, however, was critical to my success because there are very specific ways to get the baby to latch that are tricky to figure out on your own.

Good luck!
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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

10 Things To Know About Breastfeeding

Sorry guys!!! This one is for the Moms out there who've never breastfed and would like to do so. Again, some info from my personal experience... hopefully it will benefit some readers out there!

1) Babies need to be taught to latch, and it doesn't always happen the first day, but if you keep trying it WILL work.

2) C-sections can delay your milk, but it will come, so don't give up.

3) If your nursing staff have pushed formula on your newborn to get him/her to pass the first stool and now your baby is not interested in the thin colostrum, just dribble some formula on yourself before getting baby to latch. This worked for me and got my daughter back on the breast after she'd been on the bottle.

4) See point #3 - nipple confusion is a myth. Both my newborns switched back and forth from breast to bottle without skipping a beat.

5) An easier way to deal with thrush is to NOT use the cream they give you (that's the stuff that can't go in baby's mouth) and get an extra large bottle of the stuff for baby, and put THAT on yourself too. That way if you're exhausted and baby wakes up crying, you don't have to go wash toxins off yourself before feeding.

6) If you are on antibiotics and must formula feed while you "pump and dump", don't obsess about pumping as much as a baby would feed. As long as you pump some at every feeding, once baby latches back on after the antibiotics are done, it only takes about a day for your milk production to be back up to what baby needs.

7) If you must pump several times per day for an extended period of time, rent a hospital pump. For one thing, they're whisper quiet and won't wake anyone in the middle of the night. More importantly though is the fact that they have long tubes between the breast cup and the pump housing, which buffers you from the vibration of the motor (which is nothing for occasional pumping, but with regular pumping can become uncomfortable).

8) Drink LOTS of water :-) The problem I had is that I'd forget, get settled on the couch, baby would latch, and then THIRST would overwhelm me. "Honey... can you please get me some water? I know, I know, I'll remember next time.". NEVER ignore the thirst. Even if you have to pester your spouse or get up with a feeding baby in your arms, DRINK THE WATER.

9) If you pump, do both sides at once. You get letdown on both sides at once, so you'll waste some anyway if you don't have two containers in place. Plus you'll be done in half the time.

10) Breast milk will sour if it changes temperature too quickly. I was spoiling my milk by putting it directly in the freezer, until I figured out that it had to sit on the counter and cool to room temp first.

11) I'm adding #11 'cause this is really really important... if you are having trouble, DON'T WAIT to consult a Lactation Consultant (NOT the same thing as a maternity ward nurse, who are usually wonderful but don't specialize in nursing). A friend of mine delivered her baby at a local hospital famous for labour and delivery - BC Women's - and she couldn't get her baby to latch. None of the nurses and docs at this hospital could help her and her milk all but dried up. It was a Lactation Consultant who finally told her that her baby was tongue tied. She underwent a simple snipping procedure and was almost immediately able to latch. Because of the delay in this diagnosis, she had tremendous difficulty getting her milk in again, and basically gave up.

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Monday, November 17, 2008

10 Things To Know About Having A C-Section

I've had two C-sections, so I just thought I'd share (for those out there heading into one for the first time):

1) You WILL feel normal again eventually, so if you feel like you've been hit by a train, don't panic.

2) The sooner you get up and move around, the sooner your bowels will begin working again after the anaesthetic.

3) The sooner your bowels begin working again, the sooner they will let you eat something other than green jello and clear broth (yum).

4) No your abdomen will NOT split open if you simply try and walk (although it might if you tried sit ups or gymnastics ;-)

5) This is important, and no one told me this: C-sections can delay your milk, but it will STILL COME. Any nurse who tells you otherwise (I had one) should NOT be working in maternity.

6) It is possible to have almost no scar. I'm not so lucky, but I have friends who are (and yet they're still my friends ;-)

7) Sleep makes a big difference in how you feel post-op. I know this sounds obvious, but I wouldn't let myself sleep because I was too wrapped up in my new baby :-) My nurse (a better one than the one who told me I might not get milk) finally had to give me a sleeping pill after four days (my Mom was there to watch the baby so I was ok with it). When I awoke I felt like A MILLION DOLLARS.

8) Ask if you can video tape. I never bothered, assuming they'd say no, and then heard of friends being able to after. I would have loved to have seen the surgery on tape.

9) Baby will be much prettier (no smunched head) but may have fluid in lungs (no trip down the birth canal to squeeze it out).

10) It won't hurt to pee!!!!

Good luck and have fun (and congrats :-)

Monday, November 10, 2008

Ten Things To Know About Keeping Food Fresh

Reducing food waste is a great money saver. Here are ten things to know about preserving your perishables to save money.

1. Use a vacuum sealer. This is a great way to virtually eliminate freezer burn, enabling food to stay fresh in the freezer for much longer.

2. Learn about the effects of ethylene on produce. Ethylene is a gas naturally produced by fruit and vegetables as they ripen. Some foods are more sensitive than others, and if stored in an air tight crisper drawer where the ethylene is trapped, will spoil faster. Store ethylene sensitive foods and ethylene producing foods separately (example: store apples on the counter - they are high ethylene producers and should be kept where the air can circulate).

3. Don't wash vegetables before storing. If they are wet (from being misted at the store) pat them dry before putting them in the fridge.

4. Milk stays fresh longer in glass containers than in paper or plastic.

5. Store eggs in the back of the fridge where it's coldest - not in the door egg keeper.

6. Eggs will stay fresh longer if stored pointed side down.

7. Eggs need to breathe - never store them in the plastic egg container that comes with your fridge - leave them in their Styrofoam or cardboard container.

8. Store bricks of cheese with 2 or 3 sugar cubes to delay the onset of mold.

9. Store dry ingredients (flour, oxo, pastas, grains, etc.) in airtight containers to keep them fresher and to keep the bugs out.

10. When storing cut up produce in the fridge, add a paper towel to the bag or container to absorb excess moisture.

Sunday, October 12, 2008


I am contemplating retiring this blog... not sure yet. I'll get back to you on that one.

Meanwhile, please visit my other current blogs :-)

Thanks and have a good day!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

I AM Back...

...although you'd never know it by the huge number of posts to this blog (note the sarcasm ;-) I have ideas for topics but haven't had time to put anything together in the last month or so.

LOL as I type this, my almost six year old daughter is copying me with her toy computer:

"Look, Mommy! I'm doing the same thing you are!!"

(Hey, maybe I can hire her as a writer? ;-)

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