Tuesday, April 26, 2011

BMO Eco Smart Mortgage & $50.00 Gift Card Giveaway

With rising housing and utility costs, it has become increasingly more evident to me that we really need to focus on making our homes more energy efficient.  It's not surprising that 51% of Canadian homeowners find that the biggest surprise of home ownership were the utility costs.  Which is why nearly half of Canadians are planning to invest in energy efficient upgrades to help reduce costs over the long term.   

BMO wants to encourage and reward Canadians looking to reduce their energy costs with a special rate.  This is where BMO Eco Smart Mortgage comes in to play.  The BMO Eco Smart Mortgage is a new mortgage product with a five year fixed rate of 3.89 per cent for those Canadians who meet BMO's energy efficient criteria.  That's an amazing rate, lower than comparable "green" mortgages. 

To see if you qualify for the BMO Eco Smart Mortgage, you can download a checklist from the BMO website.  The check list covers everything from your heating and cooling systems down to Energy Star qualified windows, doors and major appliances.  Once you've reviewed the checkless and feels that your home qualifies, you can then contact a BMO branch to talk to a mortgage specialist.  BMO will send an appraiser into your home to confirm the house qualification.

While I'm not currently in a position to re-do my mortgage, I reviewed the checklist.  Our home definitely does not qualify.  It confirmed what I already knew, that our house is very energy inefficient.  Sure we have Energy Star windows but two of them have this weird gap.

I'm not sure about our appliances, they are over 8 years old and we have baseboard heat. 

Still, it gave me great energy saving ideas such as a tankless hot water system or a Solar hot water system.  I had never heard of the Solar hot water system.  I also realized we really should check on our insulation in the attic and make sure it's the appropriate amount. 

So while I may not qualify for this special mortgage rate today, it's certainly something to be aware of because we intend to replace our old appliances and heating system in the near future.  At that point, we may well qualify and the additional money we save in interest will help pay for the upgrades, not to mention the savings in our monthly utility bills.

$50.00 RONA GIFT CARD GIVEAWAY 
 
CONTEST NOW CLOSED 

Disclosure – I am participating in the BMO Eco Smart Mortgage program by Mom Central Canada on behalf of BMO - Bank of Montreal.  I received a gift card as a thank you for my participation.  The opinions on this blog are my own. 

Friday, April 22, 2011

Home Movies

Who doesn't cringe when you are at someone's house and they break out the photo albums or the home movies.  Okay... you might like that sort of thing. 

I don't really mind when it's about people or places I know, especially cute kids.  I don't even mind flipping through vacation photos as long as I can do it quickly. However, I don't need the full 2 hour story per photo complete with re-enactments.  My inlaws used to torture us with album after album of their vacation photos of nothing interesting (seriously rocks are not interesting unless you're there in person to see their "special" colours) until they had kids and could no longer afford the expensive vacations.  Thank you baby!

However, when it comes to our OWN home movies it's a whole other story.  I love looking back at the old baby photos and playing those short 30 second clips of the kids.  I don't do it very often but when I do, I invariably end up with the kids on my knee, jostling each other for a better look at their wee selves.

It's amazing how much they love to see themselves and it just makes their eyes light up as I tell them funny or sweet stories about themselves.  Things we had forgotten like when Papa was handing out Christmas presents and he called for J, O came up to him and Papa asked "Is your name J?"  O solemnly nodded his head, looked Papa straight in the eye and said "Yup".   Fortunately, we have that on video or none of us would even have remembered it.

Of course, there are embarrassing things to be found on those videos too... like E singing Happy Birthday Stinky J through the entire rendition of Happy Birthda to J at her 3rd birthday party.  E is very upset about that and hates it when I talk about it or play that video.  I think it's funny.  Hopefully, one day she will see the humour in it. 

What strikes me the most is how much my babies are changing.  Unfortunately, our oldest can be so loud at times that the other two often get drowned out.  So I strain to hear little J lisp her way through the story of Goldilocks and the three bwears.  I had completely forgot how cute and babyish her little voice was. 

O will be four next week and maybe it's because he's my last baby that I see how much he has changed.  Gone is the little chubby blonde haired baby with the wispy curls and instead I have a lean, sturdy little boy with slightly darker hair.  Sigh.

Of course, I couldn't possibly end this post without submitting you to a couple of my favourite home movies.  Got ya didn't I.  Heh heh. 

First one is of E at about 3 months old.  Check out her crazy hair.  What she was staring at was the ceiling fan above my bed.  It was the best baby entertainer ever.  I could lie her on the bed, turn the fan on and she'd be perfectly happy.  I'm so glad I have this on video.



And one of O....


I wish I had a good gone of J because I don't want her to feel left out but unfortunately, I think all her babyish ones are on the Sony camcorder which is broke and so we haven't gotten the tapes transferred. Back before we went digital.   Gotta get on that. 

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Embarrassing Health Details

I think most women will head to the doctor's office over almost everything except .... when it comes to "down there".  If you're like me, you'd rather have a root canal than discuss anything the least bit private to do with the nether regions. 

I know it's a simple little test and one that should be undergone every year or two but when you've been through 3 doctors in the last 5 years, it gets a little difficult to suck up the courage and just do it.  I keep thinking I'll develop a better rapport with the new doctor until I feel comfortable only I never do.  Mainly cause I generally put myself and my health issues last and I procrastinate on going to the doctor. 

Which is why it's been four years since I've spoken about this particular problem with my doctor.  Until recently that is.  I've hemmed and hawed and even googled my symptoms online trying out various weird phrases becasue it's just that bizarre. 

My diagnosis:  I have a prolapse.. most likely from my bowel.  Not a really serious condition but something that should be treated and looked at.

Of course, I can't go into my doctor and tell him that I've googled and found out what's wrong with me so now treat me.  No.  This is a new doctor for me.  I've only met him last August and while we've seen each other somewhat frequently the last 3 or 4 months due to my diabetes, I'm still trying to get comfortable with him.  It doesn't help to have my 60 year old MIL laughingly tell me that the Dr. kept calling her by my name at her last appointment. Uh, I know I'm aging but seriously equating me with a white haired 60+ woman?  I know he's busy and has a lot of patients but seriously!

Not to mention the call to make the appointment. They always want to know what you want to see the doctor for.  Let's see I have a lump coming out of me and I figured the doc should take a look.  Nope. I'm the more squeamish type.  I simply say bad back and "feminine problems".  I kid you not. That's what I said. 

Of course, as soon as I tell him what's going on he immediately says it could be a prolapse.  Good, this is a positive sign.  Until he decides that he needs to examine me.  Shit.  I was hoping to be referred to a gynecologist and so I could preserve the "you've never seen my vagina" relationship that I currently hold with my doctor. 

Fast forward, he examines me and thinks he might have felt it.  Of course, today was the one day that the lump was not immediately present like it has been for the past four days.  It doesn't matter that I point out that it's not as noticeable when I lie down.  It's when I sit or stand that it's the most present. 

So what does he do?  Sends me for physio for my back and recommends kegels.  I could literally cry as once again, I feel like the doctor doesn't take me seriously. It was difficult talking about this and now I'm going to have to go back in 2 or 3 weeks after I've done physio and kegels and go through it all again. Yeah, I know it shouldn't be a big deal but I've got hang ups I guess.

Not to mention we can't afford physio.  I prefer chiropractic care but haven't gone because we just don't have the money.  We have to pay up front for those costs, submit receipts to your extended health care and hopefully get something back.  When I tell my husband I'm supposed to go for physio I can tell he's immediately stressed about where we are going to get the money.  We need brakes for the van, J has another dentist appointment which we have to pay $300 for and the store is still just scraping by.  

So I go for my first physio appointment and find out my pelvis is twisted and most likely has been since I gave birth to my 12 pounder 4 years ago.  Considering that he got stuck and considering how the nurses jumped on me and pushed me around when I wasn't able to keep pushing, it's not surprising I have a bad back.  Still, the therapist was very encouraging in that we should be able to correct the problem in a couple of weeks.  Yeah.  No long drawn out treatment plans.  That makes hubby feel better.

So I've been given stretches to do and I'm working on the kegels when I think of it but somehow I don't really think the kegels are going to correct the prolapse because of the type I think I have. 

But I'm willing to try and so I'm practicing the elevator.  If any of you have been through this.... you will know what I mean.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Life is A Special Occasion - Hallmark Review

For years Canadians have looked to Hallmark to help celebrate special occasions, holidays and milestones.  More than just greeting cards though, I have always enjoyed popping into the local Hallmark store just to see what new special items they have in. 

Which is why I was delighted to participate in a Press Pause Panel for Hallmark Canada.  In 2011, Hallmark is celebrating the fact that "life is a special occasion" and wants to remind Canadians to take time, pause and appreciate the everyday moments.

When I got my "Press Pause" package in the mail, the anticipation I felt on opening that box was akin to my youthful days of opening presents from Santa. 


First up was the Feminine Grand Bag:  a trendy bag featuring bright paisley designs on a pink background with fabric handles.  If you need a large bag to hold a gift or gifts, then this bag surely will fit the bill.  Everything that was in the box was inside the bag too.  MSRP:  $4.99.




Watson the Raccoon, Interactive Storybook & Buddy (with Plush):  Watson is a delightful plush Raccoon that reacts to different sounds and phrases while you read the book the aloud.  Watson and the Case of the Sneaky Stealer interactive book is FREE with each purchase of Watson the Raccoon with additional books available to purchase.  What I liked about this product was that it didn't take over my role of reading to my child.  It came along side and complimented our reading time together.  We had lots of fun "talking" with Watson.   MSRP:  $9.95

Memory Keeping Recordable Frame:  Hear the story behind your photo.  This lovely photo frame is made of solid wood and allows for up to 10 seconds of recording time.  What I enjoyed about this product was that it is perfect for that "hard to buy for" special someone.  In my case, the hard to buy for people always turns out to be the grandparents. They already have so much.  What doting grandparents do always love though is a nice photo of their grandchildren.  Hearing their adorable voices immortalized only adds to the charm.  MSRP:  $29.95

Easter Web Cam Greeting Cards:  Watch this card come to life on your computer.  Just take this card and visit www.hallmark.com/extra.  Webcam is reqired to view augmented reality.  Now I don't have a webcam so I wasn't able to experience this myself. However, after visiting the Hallmark link I was able to watch a demonstration video of how it works.  It looks pretty cool and I will be sending this card off to my niece and nephew whom I am sure will be delighted.  MSRP:  $5.99


Recordable Conversation Books:  Create memories with recordable conversation books.  Each page features one or two open-ended questions to prompt an imaginative response from your child.  With the touch of a button the conversation can be played back.   How much fun is that?  Here is a chance to record some of those cute things kids say.  Recording was a breeze and my daughter really enjoyed sitting down with me and having that one on one conversation.  As you can imagine with three children, one on one time can be hard to come by.  She also loved to hear her voice come out of the book. $29.95




Totally Ticklish Duck:  I've saved my favourite for last.  This plush duck is absolutely adorable.  With a press of the button on her webbed foot, she begins to sign a delightful "hippity happity it's spring" song while flapping her wings that is until..... she gets tickled under the her wings at which point she begins to giggle.  Well to say her giggling is infectious is putting it mildly.  The more you tickle, the more she laughs even pausing to gasp for breath before laughing some more. 

Well this duck cracked us all up.  If you're feeling down and blue, it's guaranteed to put a smile on your face.  It's just so delightful.  The other day, one of the kids had fallen and hurt themselves and was crying and sniffling away when I said.. get the Duck out. Sure enough tears were dried and smiles reappeared as Ducky began to sing.  I even let my oldest daughter take it for show and tell to her class and it went over with a huge success as she said... "even my teacher laughed".  Well couldn't help laughing at this adorable duck.  I can't wait to take it to my mother's this weekend, she'll get a real kick out of it.    MSRP:  $29.95 or $14.95 with the purchase of 3 cards.

Of course it doesn't stop there. Hallmark has many many other wonderful items for families to share memories together whether its for Mother's Day, Father's Day, Graduation or even to celebrate a new arrival. 

Disclosure note:  I received the above items complimentary from Hallmark Canada in order to conduct my review.  The opinions offered herein represent my real life experience with the products and are my own honest thoughts. .  

Friday, April 15, 2011

Garbage

Do your kids love garbage?  Mine do.  They pick up everything from straws, to candy wrappers to bottle caps to broken pens.  What's more, they want to bring it home.  You just never know what's lurking in their pockets or backpacks.  Of course, I ask them not to all the while trying not to sound like one of those germaphobe uptight people like my inlaws.  Which, of course, wars with the "let's help out and keep our school litter free" theme.  I teach my kids not to litter, I just don't see why mine have to pick everybody elses (and their germs) up. 

Still it almost came to a head today when I caught my oldest daughter trying to covertly hold a popcorn seed in her lap and buckle at the same time.  She picked the seed up in her dad's store.  Fine.  I get it.  I've saved seeds for her in the past, respecting her creativity and patiently fished them out of the bottom of the bowl for her.  I've smiled and nodded while they picked dandelions and carted nut shells and pinecones home.  I've even allowed them to bring the odd rock home. 

Do you know where all these "treasures" end up?  In some masterly creative art project? Nope.  They generally end up on the floor.  This item they just had to have gets dropped on the floor.  If not immediately upon entering the house then sometime shortly thereafter where it sits for days on end until I end up picking it up and throwing it out. 

The injustice of it all hit me this afternoon as I got after my daughter for picking up garbage at her dad's store.  I mean do they really have to bring more stuff home for me to pick up?  Do they really think that I don't have enough to do that I need MORE CRAP in the house?

Of course, they don't see it that way and think quietly to themselves "oh great, here she goes again". 

Rant, Rant, Rant. 

Somedays I'm like a 2 year old. Only I wish someone would give ME a timeout.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Somedays It's Just Hard To Love

I think one of the toughest things about being a woman is our emotions. 

I'm not talking about PMS. 

I'm talking about the rollercoaster of emotions that women experience on a typical day.  From being weepy over a sappy commercial to proud joy over my child's accomplishment, to anger over the peanut butter smeared on the cupboards, to the stress that lurks behind the tasks of getting things done, needing more money, paying bills, juggling quality time, preparing nutritious meals.  You have to admit that it can be mind boggling.  Add one more thing in there like an unexpected play date and I'm about ready to Calgon myself away. 

Most days I bump along handling what gets thrown at me.  I may not always be patient, I may yell, but I'm correcting myself, I'm trying to be a better person, to be a better parent.  I am even able to pull some good parenting moments out of my hat. Those are the days that I can put the stress to the back of my mind and not dwell on things that bug me. 

But then we get to the dark days.  I'm short tempered, I'm weepy over nothing, I hate my house, I hate housework, I hate running errands, I hate my life.  And I find it hard to love my husband and be patient with my kids.  Not that I don't still do for them all that needs to be done but some days it's just soooooo much harder to suck it up and show the love.  Some days I'm just too damn resentful to want to lean into his hug or kiss him goodbye.

There is no rhyme or reason to my moods.  They are just as apt to come before my period as after.  At least if it came once every 21 days I can put it down to PMS, hunker down, take some PMS medication and survive knowing that it's just hormones. 

It's like life comes in phases... this phase I am coping really well for months at a time and I can put the resentment aside and keep working towards getting ourselves out of this mess that we are in.  Other times, it's just so much easier to dwell on the resentment. 

And yet, I have a good life.  I have a good husband.  He's made some mistakes sure, but he's a good man.  My kids are good kids.  They drive me crazy but they are wonderfully adorable, funny, creative, active, passionate kids.  They do listen most of the time and I consider my standards must be so extreme because I got compliments on how well behaved my children were at the home show.  I have to admit that I was surprised that their behaviour was noticeable enough to comment on.   I wonder what the other kids were doing?

So does it all come down to that this is just part of life being a woman?  Is it too much to just ask for things to be on a more even keel?  Or should I just be glad I am living and embrace the rollercoaster? 

I don't know the answers to these questions but what I do know is that  rollercoasters make me vomit.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Ain't Misbehavin - Book Review & Giveaway

Catchy title, right?  Well hopefully you won't be too disappointed to find out this post is all about a review of parenting expert, Alyson Schafer's third book "Ain't Misbehavin".  Actually, I know you won't be disappointed because like me, most of you struggle with finding ways to deal effectively with your "misbehavin" children. 

Funnily enough, at one point last year I was so stressed out with this whole parenting thing that I actually took out parenting books at the library.  Crazy, right?  Okay, maybe not to those of you who like to read the manuals to your gadgets but crazy to me who is more of a fly by the seat of your pants kinda gal.  Unfortunately, that approach was not working with my kids.  Well, they just happened to be Alyson Schafer's first two books, Breaking the Good Mom Myth and Honey, I've Wrecked the Kids

So before I get on to today's review, I just have to drop in a quick word about the first two.

Honestly, I tell you the sense of relief I felt after reading Breaking the Good Mom Myth was incredible.  It's amazing how twisted our perception of what makes a good mom.  It was freeing to know that I didn't have to referee each and every argument between the kids. It was a good reminder that my marriage should never take a back seat and just how important self care is.  Honey, I Wrecked the Kids, showed me how to stand back and assess their behaviour and what could be causing it.  Were we in a headlocked situation or was my child crying out for attention any way she could get? 

So when Mom Central asked me to review Alyson's latest book, Ain't Misbehavin, I was very happy to receive a copy.  In fact, I don't think it sat on my counter more than a day before I had read half of it.  You see, while I feel I had benefited from her advice earlier, lately I've been sliding back into the yelling and having more and more of those "bad mommy moments".  Reading her book was like a refresher, reminding me and motivating me that I can do better, there is a way to do this. 

Alyson explains why kids behave the ways they do and then offers real suggestions on how to resolve the issues and promote family harmony.  Her book offers a quick Parenting Primer covering the concepts she bases her recommendations and techniques upon and then quickly moves into specific behaviour issues.  Don't have time to read the whole book?  You can simply flip to the appropriate chapter. 

Obviously, it makes sense to at least read the first bit in order to get the full benefits of understanding the parenting concepts.  For me, I found the book layout easy as there are some behaviours that my kids have already moved passed and so I can simply skip those sections. 

Every family is different but something that struck me personally this read is her repetition of "in a firm and friendly manner". Well, I can tell you there is very little in my parenting repetoire that I handle in a "firm and friendly manner".  Yelling is a common occurrence in my house and it's little wonder that my oldest has started to shriek at her siblings. After all, she's learning from the best.  Oh, I try not to yell but it's a slippery slope and it's amazing how quickly one slips especially when the kids aren't listening. 

So I've taken myself in hand, once again, and have been working at my "firm and friendly manner" and while I have failures, I have plenty of successes. I'm not going to change overnight but I am working at it.  AND it's making a difference.  We have definitely had less conflict in the house thanks to some of Alyson's techniques and we are planning on instituting family meetings.  Definitely a handy book to own because if you're like me, you will want to go back and reread specific situations.

Think you need this book?  Well, you can buy one of Alyson's Books through Amazon.com or Amazon.ca or could enter to win a copy of Ain't Misbehaving here.

To ENTER:
Simply leave a comment telling me why you'd like to read Ain't Misbehavin.

For Extra Entries: (leave a comment for each entry)

  • Become an In the Mommy Trenches follower on Google Friend Connect
  • Follow @Zeemaid on twitter and tweet about the giveaway
Contest open to Canadians only and ends April 21st. 


Disclosure - I am participating in the Ain’t Misbehavin’ program by Mom Central on behalf of Wiley Publishing.  I received a copy of the book to review and gift card as a thank you for my participation.  The opinions on this blog are my own.