Seven Years And Counting

In my memories on Facebook today, this memory from seven years ago popped up. Today marks seven years since my daughter and I left Nova Scotia.  For those of you who haven’t been readers for years, you may not know Common Cents Mom had its roots in rural Nova Scotia.  Seven years ago, we boarded the Ocean train and headed west.  I had two goals when I left Nova Scotia. Get my daughter away from the extreme bullying that had plagued her and get her the medical help she would need to recover. The second goal was to start working in the social media area. It was a field in its infancy.  

First, that trip on the Ocean was beautiful. Thanks to a lucky win at an event and an invitation from  Via Canada we have been home twice since we left. Both times we have taken the train. It really is our favourite way to travel. The one thing though about that trip that was not pleasurable was our arrival. We arrived as the G 20 was ending and they stopped the train in Oshawa. Nothing was getting into downtown Toronto or beyond and we were going to Waterloo to stay with friends till we found temporary accommodation. It was a nightmare as we worked our way around the the city but thanks to GO Transit we got to Mississauga and our friends picked us up from there.

Now let’s look at all that has happened in those seven years:

Meeting Goal Number 1:

Getting medical help for my daughter took time. We were here for almost 2 years before she saw the doctor who could diagnose her and get her the resources and medications that would allow her to flourish. It was a battle. A battle we can say we won.  My teen graduated at the top of her class as an Ontario Scholar and Love of Literacy winner. She even got accepted into the program that was first on her list. She will be attending Seneca College soon.

New life goals are on the horizon for her and with her tenacity and creativity, I know she will do great things. As for her mental health. she has been quite stable for the last few years and that has been such a blessing.

Meeting Goal Number 2:

While in Nova Scotia, I worked in a call center and then virtually for Comcast. It was while working for them I saw how vital it was for a brand to have an online presence and to have that presence managed well.  I handled my first customer care case via social while Twitter was still in its infancy. Long before the title community manager and social media manager were known job titles. I grew a blog and community based around personal finance starting the first personal finance chat in Canada long before the banks and many others. They followed the path I started.

My blog has been acknowledged on many sites, and on many lists over the years and I have been blessed to work with many brands.

As for working in the world of Social Media, Donna Marie Antoniadis gave me my first break when she hired me to work for Connected Multi Media, it was there I learned how to do social research, competitive analysis, how to teach social to employee teams., and how to grow communities for brands.  With her, I got to work across seventeen verticals for TeleTech, work with my first app as I worked on Yoddle campaigns, and then work on campaigns for Canadian Beef and the Chicken Farmers of Canada.

Shortly after I broke out on my own as a freelancer. One of my first brands that I pitched and gained as a client was Flipp. You know that app most of us have on our phones today.  I hosted their social launch with a great Twitter Party and shortly after that became their Community Manager for eighteen months. I also worked freelance for brands like Blow Me Cool, Silver Compass, and the last app that I launched was Caddle. It even had four of the Dragons from Dragons Den wanting a deal.

I have also been blessed to speak on the topic of Community Management at Podcamp Toronto, ShesConnected, Blissdom Canada and Be Connected.

Then last fall, after one of my main income sources ( an ad agency) went bankrupt, I got a contract job that I love with Spin Master.  I am doing exactly what I set out seven years ago to do.

I would say we have met both of the goals I set out with for that I am thankful.

Now it time for me to celebrate with my girl as she returns home from writing her last high school exam ever.  Here is to the next seven years and whatever they bring!

 

 

 

Flipping for Father’s Day

On the third Sunday in June, most families will be getting together to celebrate their Dads. I wish I was, I miss my dad so very much but I am forever grateful that I got to spend the time I did with him.  Sometimes it’s is hard to find that perfect gift for your favourite dad or father figure and we buying a gift we think our Dad will want or will need.

How can we find a special gift for Father’s Day? What does your dad like? What makes him happy, aside from spending time with his family? If you have small children and they like to create, have them make a special handmade gift from the heart.

Here are some awesome gift ideas for the handyman, sharp dresser and those who like to adventure about.

Father’s Day

Best Buy – Valid June 9 – June 17

Here are some great big gadgets for dad. Spend the day out making memories and staying fit and after a long da, sit back and enjoy a movie or two on a brand new TV.

Father's Day

Giant Tiger Valid June 7 – June 13

Set Dad up in style for summer with some additions to his wardrobe.

Father's Day

Canadian Tire -Valid Until Sunday, June 11

Is your dad handy? There are BIG  RED savings this weekend on tools and more.

Canadian Tire Valid June 9 – June 15

Father's Day

Plan a Father’s Day that Dad will love, including a BBQ with all the fixings.

Food Basics – Valid June 8 – June 14

What’s goes great on a BBQ? Yes, that’s right, Chicken and Ribs!

Try this quick and easy recipe for a sweet BBQ sauce.

  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 2 finely chopped garlic cloves
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 3/4 cup Balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt and pepper

Mix all of the ingredients together and add the meat.

Have you downloaded the Flipp app yet, you are missing out on savings. Download Flipp today from Google Play or the App Store and start saving.

How to Handle Hard Conversations with Your Teen

I am blessed. I have a teen daughter who is doing well. For us, life has not always been easy, we have had to tackle some hard things. Life has thrown a few curve balls. In all my years I never thought it would be my child who would suffer at the hands of other children, who would say out loud she wanted to die, who would need mental health assistance.  We have had to have hard conversations along the way. So how do you have hard conversations with your teens?

My teen and I have developed great communication skills over the years with a few bumps along the way. So how do you have those hard conversations with your teen? For us, those conversations often begin while we are watching some of our favourite tv shows. These are the ones we watch together. For us, that time on the couch together seems to bring on the perfect time to talk. Over popcorn, candy and soda come conversations that are hard to have. Because my teen and I are both so busy those times when we do slow down and have a Netflix chill night allow us to have real conversations.

For us, I normally let my teen take the lead. Often there will be a part of the show that she wants to talk about.  Currently, we have been watching two favourite teen dramas: Breaking Bad and the new Netflix teen drama 13 Reasons Why. Having a teen who has had mental health issues, as a mom, it was important for me to watch these with her so I could see if there were any triggers for her. For us watching shows like these have given us reference points for real conversations.

Recently Netflix brought parents and teens together to ask them what they would watch. The conversations can and will happen when we purposely put ourselves in our teen’s shoes. Shows like these allow us to connect deeply and powerfully.

If you are of my generation, you may remember the ABC after school specials or the episodes of Degrassi that tackled hard topics. Everything was dealt with from drinking, drugs, sex, rape, death and even suicide. For me, it was when watching a movie I first learned the word rape, the words childhood sexual abuse. It was while watching a made for tv movie I learned I was not alone. I learned it had happened to others and it was okay to talk about it. I was my daughter’s age when that happened and in my first year of university before I had my first hard conversation. It was not with my mom; it was a professor. I wanted my teen to know she was not alone. That she could always talk to me and we could have these hard conversations. Yes, having a community you can talk to is a need, but I wanted my teen to know they were loved and supported by me.Netflix recently released an infographic that talks about this.

Now Netflix has been criticized for 13 Reasons Why because it could trigger a young person. That is to be expected when you are bringing up topics like mental illness, bullying, rape and suicide. So as a parent I was glad that Netflix went a step further and not only produced conversation- starting content but met with mental health experts and created the 13 Reasons Why Talking points and the after show 13 Reasons Why: Beyond the Reasons and if you are concerned about your teen they also have the 13 Reasons Why Global Resource.

How do you have hard conversations with your teen? Yes, this mom wants to know.

*I am a member of the Canadian #StreamTeam which means I do receive free Netflix, some swag and often a sneak peek at what is ahead. As always though my opinions are my own. I have loved Netflix long before I was a team member and will watch long after I am no longer on the team. 

 

 

Flipp’s 5 Fab Deals – Healthy Choices

This week, it is all about making healthy choices in the food we eat. I have decided to eat more fruits and vegetables daily to become a better me. We all get to the point where some days we don’t feel like cooking so we order in or go out to eat. This can be costly and not always the best solution. Using Flipp always helps me find the right product for my needs, not my wants.

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Healthy Choices

Food Basics 

Healthy Choices

Perfect combo for adding to a salad or on their own

Healthy Choices

 

No Frills -$1, $2, $3 sale

Stock up the pantry and crisper.

healthy choices

Yes, No Frills alone has more than 5 deals but it is all on one page.

Giant Tiger – Grow your Own

Pick up some seeds and start your own mini garden.

Healthy Choices

All you have to do is plant the seeds and watch them grow.

healthy choices

 

There are many choices this week for us to make those healthy choices. What’s on your shopping list?

Three Words for 2017 #3words

3 words for 2017. #3words

For the past number of years, I have chosen three words to guide my year. Some of the words of the past have included creating, connect, cultivate, brave, trust, habit, choice, community, courage, and faith.  All helped guide my goals and aspirations for the year. This year I am choosing three words again: connect, health and gratitude.

CONNECT

I want to truly connect more in 2017. Relationships are important. The family is important. I hope to connect with mine in more meaningful ways in 2017. I also want to connect more with the blogging community and with my followers in ways that can have a positive impact on their lives.  I also want to connect more to grow business wise.

HEALTH

I will be making my health and our family’s health a priority in 2017. My daughter and I are committed to getting healthier physically, and you will be able to follow my journey on Instagram where I will be sharing my journey with the hashtag #healthyme. I will also share on this blog how to work on your financial health. You can follow my #cdnmoney hashtag to follow those posts.

GRATITUDE

Life is simply better when you are grateful. I want to record every day this year what I am thankful for. It helps me to enjoy the moments of the day. Again on Instagram, you can follow my gratitude or perhaps share your own with the hashtag #365gratitude.

Do you use guiding words? If you do, please share yours with me.

Teach Your Kids to Give Back This Holiday Season

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Chances are, your family has participated in countless fundraising events through school, church, and other groups. Your kids probably even have a few ideas of their own about how they can help out in their community.

The key to nurturing a passion for giving back is for your kids to feel a connection to their cause and the ability to make it meaningful.

Here are 5 great ways your child can learn to give back this holiday season:

1. Visit a retirement home to read books to the residents. Seniors at assisted living homes are often lonely. Their families don’t visit them often enough. They love having kids around to fill the air with laughter. Encourage your child to spend some time playing games or reading books to residents. Your child will enjoy making a new friend too.

2. Help out your local food pantry. Encourage your kids to start a food drive in your neighborhood. Or, let them volunteer at the local food bank. They can help stock shelves and pack meals. They can also volunteer at a local soup kitchen feeding the homeless.

4. For my friends in the US, send cards to members of the military. Through the American Red Cross Holiday Mail for Heroes program, kids can write and send cards to active service members and veterans. The Red Cross plans community events for making and addressing cards to members of the community. Get in touch with your local chapter for more information about participating. Here in Canada, we have a similar program but the deadline for sending cards in in October.

4. Create a special “pay it forward” day. Make it “Pay It Forward Sunday” and tell your child that they have to find a way to give back in their community or to someone who could use a little help every Sunday. This way they can choose for themselves what their good deed should be. And it will encourage them to keep thinking of new ideas.

5. Put together a care package for someone who is alone or sick. Is there someone in your neighborhood who could use some special attention? Possibly an elderly person who is sick or alone? Have your child put together a care package for them and hand deliver it. You can include small gifts like hot chocolate or tea, homemade goodies and magazines or a good book. Your child can even color a picture to add to the box.

Giving back can also mean giving their time or sharing a portion of their allowance for the causes they believe in. What others ideas can you and your child come up with to give back this holiday season?

Dear Hollie: A Letter Inspired by the Ladies of Netflix

Netflix

What would you write to your former self? What guidance would you give? This month Netflix challenged the #StreamTeam to write to our former selves while watching some of the great shows that have come out this month. From a Young Queen Elizabeth who gets thrown into a role she was not expecting to the strong leading ladies of the Gilmore Girls to even the diverse ladies from Orange is the New Black. There is much inspiration that can come from watching some of your favourite Netflix shows.

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So what would I write myself?

To the University Student Me- have fun, build relationships, yes grades matter but do good. You were born to lead.

To the Young Single Me- Travel is good, so is giving. Do both.

To the Young Step Mom- You can do this, love given always comes back.

To the Broken Young Mom- Have faith, it’s okay to ask for help. You’ve got this.

To the Single Mom- Never Doubt Your Instincts. Be the Momma Bear. Money is not everything. Cherish time with your girl.

To the Dating Mom- Don’t kiss too many frogs. Look for quality, not quantity.

The inspiration for the lives we live come from many sources including the shows we watch. It comes from what surrounds us. So what have you been watching and how does it inspire you?

5 Habits that Can Bring More Gratitude and Joy into Your Life

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Today is Thanksgiving Day here in Canada. I have much to be thankful for and one of those things is knowing to have an attitude of gratitude every day. Every day of our lives we can.  It’s easy to have joy simply by being more grateful. Gratitude brings happiness, peace, and joy. I love this quote from Oprah Winfrey

Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.

How can you develop an attitude of gratitude? There are five simple habits that you can develop that will bring you more joy every day. I know in our family gratitude is one of the things we try and have every day. We are working on making these five habits part of our everyday lives.

1. Keep a Gratitude Journal

Take a few minutes every day to write down what you are thankful for. I know my journal has often reminded me of what is important. For me doing this in the morning starts my day off right. It sets my heart at ease, and I have a better day.

2. Appreciate Others

How often do you say thank you? By letting others know you are grateful for them, you not only put a smile on their face, but you often pass on a feeling of warmth and joy. That is a good thing, right? Here is a challenge for you tell one person each day why you are grateful for them.

3. Go Screen Free

With so much bad news going on around us, it is easy to get caught up in the storms, the crimes, the election. When we spend hours on end online, we can get frustrated and upset. By going screen-free, you can be more present where you are. It allows you to simply enjoy moments and be able to express your joy for that moment.

4. Notice the Little Things

Sometimes life can be overwhelming and a struggle in the midst of a storm. When you are in the midst of a personal storm I have found it best to look for something small to be thankful for. It can even be a warm cup of tea, the kindness of a stranger and the list goes on.

5. Help Someone

One of the things that bring me the most gratitude and joy is helping others. You can volunteer to help a friend, call a friend who needs cheering up, visit someone who needs a visit. Again, the list goes on.

Let me know what you are thankful for today as we celebrate Thanksgiving. I am most thankful for my family and my friends.

 

Scheduling Fun and Family Time is So Important

It is September, and our lives here are getting rather busy. My teen is adapting to a new high school that she loves, and I have been busy dealing with the business side of CommonCentsMom. We have also had lots of invites and activities this month. If you follow me on my social channels, you may have seen some of these. With life getting so busy this year, we had to make a choice. We had to choose to schedule family time.All summer long my teen and I hung out together, we did lots of fun stuff and connected. As life got busy this month, I found myself craving family time, so we scheduled it. What did we decide we wanted to together? Nothing exciting? We didn’t even go out, we got out our favourite junk food, baked a couple of pizza and did a marathon of movies on Netflix while cuddling on the couch and getting caught up. Making time to simply enjoy each other’s company is so important.


So what have we been watching?

Well, I have a thing for Disney movies, so we did a night of those.

zootopia

First up was Zootopia which just came out on Netflix.  We had seen this movie in the theatre and just had to watch it again. I am in love with a certain sloth.

pirates-of-the-caribbean-on-stranger-tides-quad

After we had watched Zootopia, we got into the Pirates of the Caribbean Movies. We watched four of them. Yes, I have a thing for a certain Captain.

Both my teen and I love the assortment of Disney movies that are on Netflix. Have you checked them out yet?

We have also started watching a tv series together once or twice a week. There are some great choices on Netflix, where you can binge on a whole series. Currently, we are watching Breaking Bad which neither of us had seen. before. We have just started Season 2 and things are starting to get interesting.

Whenever we are relaxing and getting caught up though we have to have a snack? Is movie and tv time in your house snack time?  Here are a couple of recipes you might want to try for your next movie marathon.

First up are the Walking Tacos

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Second are the  Chocolate Chip Ice Cream Sandwichs

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If you try them, send a photo to me. Let me know what are your favourite movie snacks and what are you currently watching on Netflix?

 

 

 

 

The School Lunch Debate and The Role Teachers Play

school-lunch

This morning while watching Breakfast Television, there was a large online discussion about school lunches. It was also a featured story in the Toronto Star and well since I am a blogger with a kid with food issues I wanted to bring the discussion here. In the latest story out of Durham region, parents whose children have had food routinely confiscated spoke up to the Durham Region News. It was then republished yesterday in the Toronto Star and talked about on Breakfast TV this morning.

Can you imagine Goldfish crackers (the favourite snack of my daughter as a kid) are considered junk food? Granola bars that might have no nuts but a bit of chocolate no goes as well? Even string cheese has been confiscated. Let’s just say I am glad my daughter is in grade 12, and well there are no teachers to monitor her lunch choices now. You see my daughter was born with health issues that I am well aware. My daughter’s teachers knew her allergies but not her intolerances and what they did to her body.

The one day in grade 8, when teachers were making food choices for the kids in her class, my teen had a huge reaction. That reaction led to some mistakes on her part and a five-month suspension from school. Things happen.

Yes, I am for sending kids with a healthy lunch. Yes, I am for sending kids with a lunch and snacks that will fuel them for learning, but I am also a mom with a tight budget. I am a mom on a tight schedule as well. My budget, when Rachel was younger, was even tighter. Fresh food was not always available, which is why I was thankful for the morning snack program. I also had to cater her lunches to her dietary needs. I could not imagine what my reaction would have been if I got a not scolding my choices as a parent for my child.

Allowing teachers to become the food police takes away parental rights. We know our children better than their teachers. Yes, my daughter had McDonalds for lunch on occasion ( a treat meal), yes, she had pizza, yes she had banana bread and cookies in her lunches. So what. I knew what she would be taking in that day. She was a growing child, and I was doing the best for her that I could. I think as parents we all do the best we can.

The curriculum for grades 1-3 talk about healthy choices, and it was about grade 3, the teacher’s role is in the classroom not as the food police at lunch time.

I know my now teen has a healthy breakfast before she leaves, This morning it was waffles and an orange, yesterday it was eggs, toast, and juice, the day before oatmeal.  I know she may pack a couple of snacks (do to meds she takes at 8 am her appetite is suppressed for hours (something her teachers wouldn’t know). If teachers were all of a sudden taking away the bit of food, she could tolerate and give her something her body can’t handle I would be livid.

I think today; we are way too critical of each other and the choices we make. This criticalness brought into our classrooms and in the hands of our teachers can have dire consequences.  When food choices are picked apart, they can lead to issues like anxiety and worse especially if a child has any mental health issues. In other children, they will be embarrassed and perhaps left hungry as the “healthy food” often a piece of fruit is not enough to tide them over.  Let’s think twice before taking away provided foods. Let’s save those emergency lunches for kids who come to school hungry.

Right now we need to be supporting parental choices instead of policing one another. It’s a lunch after all and as long as by the end of the day and over the week there are healthy choices made that do help a child grow then parents be responsible for their children as they should be.