LITERACY DAY: How to promote literacy with your baby & or toddler

When my daughter was only a few weeks old, I told my mother-in-law that I was already reading to her. I love children’s books and often give children’s books to friends or family as gifts. For example when I moved away from my parents, I bought them ‘The Giving Tree,’ by Shel Silverstein. Shortly after my husband proposed, I bought him ‘Love is You & Me, ’ by Monica Sheehan. And as a teacher on my students last day of classes, I would always read them ‘Oh, the places you’ll go,’ by Doctor Seuss.
My mother-in-law is not a big reader, so she was surprised I was reading to my baby so early. She wondered why I would start so young, when I have years and years ahead of me to read to her. She’s just not much of a reader (although at 75 she’s been reading on her new iPad a lot lately!), yet she did do it for her kids. When her children were young, she would skip pages (but her kids would catch her skipping words and pages and make her go back). All three of her grown children are now big readers.
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January 27th is Family Literacy Day. As parents to babies, infants or toddlers we have plenty of demands on our time and schedule that doesn’t always lend itself to sitting down and reading. But there’s lots of simple ways to promote literacy in your home with and or without books. Plus there’s no set amount of time needed to sit and read. Two minutes or twenty minutes, whatever you have time for, it all makes a difference.
Let’s start with babies, who even under a year of age, are capable of developing literacy skills. Tina Franchuk is an education coach for Bright Path Early Learning & Childcare. She says at this age it’s all about emergent literacy.
“Research has proven that children and infants who are introduced to books, stories, vocabulary and language skills at an early age perform better than those who haven’t been exposed to it.”
So what can you do with your baby to promote literacy? Here’s a few of Tina’s suggestions:
reading 12
* Read large print books, touch & feel books, lift the flap books – go to the library and find the books that entertain your child, or that interests them. Don’t be focused on reading every word, let them flip around the book, read in different voices – just show interest in reading to them – if you are involved then they will be involved too.
* Finger Plays – buy finger puppets, or read up on the different finger puppet songs that you can do without books (Itsy, Bitsy Spider – This little piggy, Round & Round the garden, etc.)
* Sing lullabies – There’s plenty of research that shows how this helps brain development, it also promotes literacy.
* Read signs, talk about what you see, use baby sign language – they may not understand but repetition is key to understanding!
*** Have fun with it! Whatever you do, remember if you are having fun, are involved, and enjoying the time together, they will enjoy whatever you do to promote literacy. Remember, if they are playing, that’s the best way they will learn.
If you have an infant or toddler between the ages of 1-3 here’s some of Tina’s suggestions for developing their literacy skills:
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* Books! Books! Books! They’re starting to speak, so find simple books with large print or just a few word sentences. Look at the pictures, help them associate pictures and words. (She recommends the ‘I Spy’ books)
* When reading – change up the names in the story (use their name instead of the name in the book) – use the name of your dog if there’s a dog in he story – try to make the story more relatable to them.
* Repetition breeds familiarity for children and a comfort zone – they may want to read the same book (for our family it’s the Cat In The Hat right now), over and over again. But change your voice, read it differently, choose different colours or names, etc.
* Let them SEE YOU reading – if you are enjoying reading and they see you do it -in turn they may mimick you and will start to do it too.
* Kids over a year and a half old: put up the letters of the alphabet and help them to make the sounds – if they sound out ‘aaaaa’ then repeat back what they are saying. If you say ‘bbbbb’ and they say ‘aaaaa’ don’t tell them it’s wrong – instead repeat back ‘aaaa’ to help and encourage them to keep learning.
* Put labels around the house (door, mirror, sink, cupboard) and help them sound out letters and words.
* If your child is interested in balls – draw them, buy a variety of them, play with them, do activities such as moving around and around in circles to help them learn all about them.
reading 1
Individuals learn at different stages so help your child learn the best way you know how, and know there’s no right and wrong way of doing it. Tina says English is one of the hardest languages to learn because of all the different sounds and exceptions to the rules. Learn what works for your child and be patient.
If you have older children, there’s plenty of web resources to help promote literacy in your home. ABC: Life Literacy Canada has a fantastic website with some ideas that for promoting literacy that take only 15 minutes.Here are some of their suggestions:
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* Write a joke book with your family.
* Make a new recipe together and post it online.
* Organize a book swap at your school.
* Create a family book club.
* Surf the internet and learn about your favorite animal.
* Make up a song about your day to sing to your family at dinnertime.
* Write messages to your family on sticky notes and post them around the house.
* Play a board game together.
As for our little family, both my husband and I have made reading part of my daughters nap and bedtime routines. As well, my daughter loves to go to the library. Sometimes it’s for the books. But at the prime age of one, she prefers to go to each shelf and throw books off them, one by one. That’s okay. We’ll keep going, at least until they throw us out for unruly behaviour:)
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***
If you are looking for something to do with your child on Literacy Day, here are a few things going on around Calgary:
http://abclifeliteracy.ca/fld/events/?id=144
http://abclifeliteracy.ca/fld/events/?id=239
For more resources to help your family celebrate literacy day check out a few of these websites:
http://abclifeliteracy.ca/fld/family-literacy-day
http://education.alberta.ca/media/4970645/literacyfirst.pdf
If you want some of those great touch & feel books, or lift the flap books, our resident Usborne Books consultant has plenty of ideas and suggestions:
Michelle Mericle: gmmericle@shaw.ca or call her at 403-457-6375

I had lofty goals for my year maternity leave. Some professional. Some personal. But I would have to say the biggest one health wise was to get back in shape. I don’t want to speak for the masses of pregnant women, but from my experience, most of us have ‘getting back into shape – post baby, as one of the top things on our ‘to do list.’
Then baby arrives. And chaos ensues. At least it did for me.
Now I don’t want to sell myself short. I did manage to be more active in the year I had off. Mommy Bootcamp (indoor & outdoor). Mom and Baby Yoga. Mom and Baby water workout. Mom and Baby circuit training. And lots of mom and baby walking. It felt good to get back into shape again.
Let me rephrase that. It feels good to be active again. Because the ‘getting back into shape’ is still a work in progress.
That’s where Lana Brady comes in.
post pregnancy
We all have dreams that our bodies will snap back into it’s pre-pregnancy form and that’s just unrealistic (for most of us). That’s why Lana has so much success at PhysioFit Moms. Lana is a registered Physiotherapist and following the birth of her own two sons, she went about the same journey trying to get back into shape. That began her ten year journey researching and trying to find the BEST way for women to maximize their core strength after baby.
For example, here are some things you may want to know:
* Many changes take place in a woman’s body during pregnancy, labor and delivery – some occur slowly over several months and others rapidly due to trauma during labor and delivery.  
* Your posture and breathing patterns change during pregnancy to adjust to the additional abdominal weight and stretching/weakening of the abdominal wall, which affects stability of the back and pelvis.  
* The weight of the baby in the third trimester places strain on your pelvic floor muscles and the delivery process can also result in stretching/trauma of the pelvic floor increasing risk of future problems with incontinence and uterine prolapse. 
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*** Performing traditional exercises including sit ups and crunches can worsen Diastasis Recti, increase your risk of incontinence and make your belly bulge worse!
Hold up! No sit ups or push ups? Not according to Lana! And what is Diastasis Recti? Keep reading!
One of the first things that Lana does in her classes is assess if you have Diastasis Recti which is a separation of the rectus abdomens muscle (otherwise known as your six pack – or in my husbands case – the keg). According to Lana, if you are doing sit-ups and crunches you can worsen the gap (diastasis), increase the strain on the pelvic floor (which may cause incontinence or prolapse) and increase the risk of serious disc problems in your spine.
post-pregnancy-exercise
Typically Lana suggests the following to all her clients PRIOR to working out:
* Wait at least 9 months before doing any high impact exercises to allow your body to recover from pregnancy and birth
* If you are breast feeding then you need to wait 3 months after you stop (to do high impact exercise) – as your body continues to produce the hormone relaxin which causes your joints to loosen and relax
* See a Physiotherapist to assess you pelvic floor health and strengthen before resuming any high impact activities
* Check out a PhysioFit Moms class to work on targeting your true deep core muscles (all classes are taught by registered physiotherapists so you receive hands on assessment and guidance)
fitness-for-busy-moms
If you want to get in touch with Lana about what classes she offers both here in Calgary and in Okotoks, check out her website: www.physiofitmoms.com, email lana@physiofitmoms.com or call (403) 938-9515.
As for me, well I consider myself a ‘work in progress’. Check with me in another year:)
*** If you are looking for classes with Lana, she has the following sessions coming up:
New March Sessions!
OKOTOKS
Location: Complete Health, Okotoks
Dates: March 25 – May 6, 2014
Days: Tuesdays Only (no class April 22nd).
Times: 11:15 am – 12:30 pm or 7:15 – 8:30 pm.
Cost: $195 – Now accepting registration.
SOUTH CALGARY
Location: Copperfield Community Center (6 Copperstone Way, SE Calgary)
Dates: March 27 – May 8 2014
Days: Thursdays Only (no class April 24th).
Time: 11:00 am – 12:15 pm
Cost: $195 – Now accepting registration.
Location: LifeMark Health Center or Max Bell Center
Dates: March 26 – May 7, 2014
Days: Wednesdays Only.
Time: 7:15 – 8:30 pm
Cost: $195 – Now accepting registration.
NORTH CALGARY
Location: Crowchild Twin Arenas (185 Scenic Acres Drive, NW Calgary)
Dates: March 3 – April 7, 2014
Days: Mondays Only.
Time: 11:15 am – 12:30 pm
Cost: $195 – Now accepting registration.
Location: Crowchild Twin Arenas (185 Scenic Acres Drive, NW Calgary)
Dates: March 5 – April 9, 2014
Days: Wednesdays Only.
Time: 7:00 – 8:15 pm
Cost – $195 – Now accepting registration.

This week in one of our sessions, the discussion around connecting to your spouse after baby, came up. How do you keep your relationship strong and healthy after the baby arrives? Yulit Price, who is a psychotherapist, spoke to our group on the ‘Transition to Motherhood.’ She said that studies show marital satisfaction significantly decreases in the five years following the arrival of your child.
So how do you keep the fires burning? And your relationship flourishing? The answer to that is not an easy one. And it certainly won’t be solved in this blog post. But I can offer you something. A night out with your spouse. Make it a date night. Everyone says it’s important to have a night with just you and your partner, it’s just finding the time to do it that’s the difficult part.
So thanks to Paramount, we are offering you a movie date night, for FREE! Bring your spouse, hire a babysitter, or get grandparents to come over, and get out of the house! You can bring whoever you want, but the movie ‘Labor Day’ is a love story … So it might just help with the reconnect with your spouse! Love stories are one of my favourite movie genres. And what’s even better about this movie … it’s a love story that is not perfect! (Love it)! The synopsis is below, but it’s about a woman who falls in love with a convict. If that isn’t trouble I don’t know what is.
Here’s what you need to know about how to enter and win the free movie passes, (we have FIVE pairs of tickets to give away for FREE). It’s very simple:
1. You need to ‘like’ our Facebook page (if you haven’t already) OR sign up for our newsletter (on this website)
2. If you already ‘like’ our facebook page and want to be entered to win passes – write in the comments section your idea of a perfect ‘date’ night out. (this can be in the comments on this page below, or on Facebook).
It’s that easy!
*** If you are enrolled in one of our current January classes or our March/April classes … you will AUTOMATICALLY be entered into the draw!
That’s it! Now for more information about the movie:
Labor-Day-2013-Movie-Poster1-650x961
ENTER TO WIN
A double-pass to the Calgary advance screening of LABOR DAY:
When: Wednesday January 29
Where: 7pm at Sunridge Spectrum
“Labor Day” centers on 13-year-old Henry Wheeler, who struggles to be the man of his house and care for his reclusive mother Adele while confronting all the pangs of adolescence. On a back-to-school shopping trip, Henry and his mother encounter Frank Chambers, a man both intimidating and clearly in need of help, who convinces them to take him into their home and later is revealed to be an escaped convict. The events of this long Labor Day weekend will shape them for the rest of their lives.
*Contest ends on January 26th at 11:59pm. Winners will be contacted via Facebook/email.
LABOR DAY releases in theatres on January 31, 2014!
***
GOOD LUCK!

This past weekend we celebrated my daughter’s first birthday with a big bash! A bouncy castle (mini one), free animal rides (on a stuffed ladybug), and a professional cake we made from scratch that has now spruced up my resume (cake decorator, why not?!)!
It was a beautiful day, but it was the family and friends that made it memorable. That and the gifts. Okay, not the gifts, but it was such an interesting thing to see the various gifts given for a one year old.
My aunt and uncle bought her a race track and race car. She LOVES it. She’s not crawling yet, but she races the car around the apartment giggling at the sounds. A sleep sack. Yes, that one came from a mother of two (very useful)! Books – honestly you can never have too many books in a child’s library (Her first Winnie-The-Pooh and Green Eggs and Ham). Clothes – and the cute, matching outfits too (hello baby jeggings!). Imaginarium foam building blocks (more chewing than building, but it will come) and a case of diapers. How fantastic is that?! Diapers. Yes that one came from a mother of three, and grandmother of five. Thanks Oma!
She also received some money, which had me wondering what are some of the best gifts to give a one year old? She does have lots of toys, but her relatives out east wanted us to buy her something fun, so I happily obliged.
I contacted Parent Tested Parent Approved for their suggestion on top gifts for one year olds. After all, the company is based on feedback from parents like you and me. If anyone should know, I would think they do. So they gave me a list of five toys. And not just regular toys. Award winning toys. They are as follows:
1. Fisher-Price Little People Animal Sounds Farm (12 months +)
fisher price little people
http://ptpa.com/product/animal-sounds-farm/
With fun animal sounds all around and plenty to do, little ones will discover what a busy place the farm can be. Then, as toddlers grow, they’ll learn about life on a farm that’s just their size, with Farmer Jed and his animal friends! Perfect for kids who are learning the names of animals and the sounds they make. They’ll love all the stories their imaginations can dream-up with a busy day on the farm!
2. Playskool’s ABC Adventure Elefun Toy (ages 8 months +)
playskool elefun
http://ptpa.com/product/abc-adventure-elefun-toy/
Little ones can learn to build vital connections between first words, sounds and the alphabet with this toy! The adorable ELEFUN character can teach infants 100 first words through 75 sounds effects, tunes and activities! With one easy press of the trunk, scroll through the images to start the play! When the image stops it will light up and the ELEFUN character will say a related word and phrase followed by a sound associated with the image. With this and even more learning fun young boys and girls will be amused and educated for hours with this one adorable toy!
3. Big Hugs Elmo (ages 18 months +)
big-hugs-elmo-1
http://ptpa.com/product/big-hugs-elmo/
Little ones are sure to fall in love with Hasbro’s first feature Elmo toy that can hug them back! When tots give their red furry friend a hug, Elmo will wrap his arms around them to show how much he loves them! This cuddly 22-inch lifelike Elmo has flexible arms and a soft head. He sings a sweet song about hugs and a bedtime lullaby, and encourages pretend play. This all new design makes the HIG HUGS ELMO Hasbro’s largest, cuddliest, most lifelike Elmo interactive plush ever!
4. Vtech Alphabet Activity Cube (9 – 18 months)
vtech cube
http://ptpa.com/product/alphabet-activity-cube/
An interactive learning cube that has five sides of fun to discover! Little builders will love the 13 building blocks that also teach the alphabet. The blocks can be stacked on the top of the cube or they can be inserted into the slot on the electronic side to learn more about each letter. The electronic side also features five piano keys, a number keypad, and telephone. Other sides of this electronic learning toy feature fun mechanical elements such as a peg maze, put-and-take holes that lead to a storage area, sliders, gears, a mirror and more! Learning has never been so much fun!
5. VTech Go Go! Smart Wheels Playsets (1 – 5 years)
smart wheels
http://ptpa.com/product/go-go-smartwheels-train-station-playset/
Miles of learning fun! Each set comes with different track shapes that let you reconfigure this set or connect to other Go! Go! SmartWheels playsets (sold separately). Kids love the SmartPoint technology and how it recognizes and responds to SmartPoint vehicles with sound effects! For hours of creative and imaginative play, teaching cause and effect and other important learning skills. Every single Go! Go! SmartWheels playset features VTech’s unique technology so the add-on options are a great way to keep this toy a favourite!
It was a good list, but I still wanted more ideas. So I went to the forum. Mothers Opposed to Boredom here in Calgary. Lots of good ideas like:
* Train sets from IKEA (can’t beat the price point!)
* Usborne Touchy Feely Books (My daughter has a few of these, and she LOVES THEM – that and the flap books)!
* A Ball Pit – who doesn’t love a good ball pit!
* A box of tissue – admittedly my daughter just found her first box of kleenex and opened a whole new world of joy. And a whole new cleaning project for mommy:)
* RESP Money – My parents gave my girl money for her education savings plan – honestly this is a very good, thoughtful, practical gift. Two thumbs up!
* Melissa & Doug Puzzles – Must give these a try …
So in the end, it wasn’t me who decided what toy she got with her birthday money. My daughter decided what she wanted. It went a little something like this … (side note: this was BEFORE I read the list from PTPA or got any feedback).
We were at a toy store and I put my daughter down to do some browsing. She was very attracted to the four storey smart wheels playset, which was a little too large for our apartment. Then she made her way down the aisle and stopped at a massive toy. At first I thought absolutely no. This thing is too large. We have enough little toys that make loud noises, we don’t need another one. So I picked her up and we went to another area of the store. We played this game not once. Not twice. Three times. Always going back to this block.
At one point another mother with a toddler wandered by and gave me the sympathy nod. We have one of those too, she said with a knowing smile.
So I picked it up. Paid for it. And now I listen to the alphabet all day long. As well as manoeuvring around little alphabet blocks! It turns out, it was the VTech Alphabet Activity Cube (as listed above) and it is by far one of her favourite toys. Lots of things to do, play with, throw, eat, bang and smash. Might be a little large but it’s what SHE wanted for her birthday.
What did you get your little one for their first birthday? Comments below …
***
For more information on toys and recommendations go to PTPA:

PTPA – Homepage


Our fabulous sponsors at Fisher Price can be found here:
http://www.fisher-price.com/en_CA/index.html
To order Usborne books contact Michelle Mericle:
gmmericle@shaw.ca
www.usborneonline.ca/michellemericle

Returning to work after a vacation is hard. Try returning after a year off with your baby. You have to adjust to new role at home, work and society. It’s a juggling act you have everyday getting baby to their caregiver. Anxiety over leaving baby. Fear baby will love your caregiver more. Fitting all job tasks into the day to get baby on time after work. Guilt over making time for yourself at the gym/working late/girls night/vacation. Plus the usual list: Cooking, cleaning, laundry, organizing.
Saying it’s not easy, is a massive understatement.
On one side, there’s those who say you can have balance, you just have to work harder. Not helpful. And on the other side, there’s those who say no such thing exists. Not encouraging. So where is the middle ground? Because more and more these days mothers are choosing to return to work. So what does it look like? How do we stop competing with each other trying to do it all? And can we let go of mothers’ guilt?
My job entails I work both at home, as well as outside of my home. I honestly (sitting here surrounded by work yet to be done, clothes waiting to be folded and bathrooms that need to be cleaned), have not found the secret key to this so-called-balance yet. But last week, the heaven’s parted and an answer came.
mom return work
“I don’t have balance, I have blend.”
Jennifer Derzaph knows.
When Jennifer spoke those words, I knew she understood. Jennifer is an organizational consultant and the owner of ‘Modern Planning.’ She’s like a fairy godmother whose job it is to help new moms and dads with organization, support and coaching before baby is born, and when mothers decide to go back to work.
When working with families, particularly mothers who are deciding to go back to work she says there’s usually the following concerns:
* Daycare concern: Nobody can take care of my child better than I can!
* How can I be both mother and corporate woman?
* How do I do both without lacking in one area or another?
* What stigma’s will I face when I return?
* How do I find work and life balance?
* Body management: How do I fit in my health goals now as a working mother?
* Mental management: How do I deal with the pressure of mothers guilt?
daycare baby
Plan it. Plan it. Plan it. That’s the first step says Jennifer.
“I have a two year old son. I don’t have balance, but I have blend. When I was pregnant I planned everything – which may be been slightly obsessive compulsive but it worked. My husband and I equally share in the parenting. We both created 50% of this child, so we can both contribute to taking care of this child 50%. Before my son was born, we planned what our family dynamic would look like.”
Blend. I like it. Balance to me, means everything has to be perfectly balanced. Whereas blend is like a mix of everything. Nothing perfect. More realistic. More real life.
It’s blended. That may be my new mantra.
So when it comes to the actual returning to work, Jennifer has some tried and tested tips for mothers to blend better:
START WITH A PLAN: If you are going back to work, figure out what your family plan looks like. Create a plan specific to you and your family with strategies and steps of what it looks like when you return. Make it less overwhelming.
FINANCES: Look at your finances, forget the guilt or the labeling. Can you afford to stay home? If you can what does it look like? If you want to go back to work and need childcare, what does that look like?
GET SUPPORT: Set your support network during your pregnancy and the first year your baby is born. Whether at home, outside home, with your spouse, your friends, your family. Find out what is the support you need and make sure you have it established if/when you return.
mom return work 5
SOURCE IT OUT: If you are not able to cook or clean and you can afford it, hire someone to do it. If you can’t afford it, try sharing with someone or hire someone on a monthly basis. Or set aside the time to do it on a weekly basis to do it. If cooking is an issue on weeknights, do a weekly cook on the weekends, ask family for meals (hello Grandma), switch nights you and your spouse are responsible for meals. (My daughter and I have a ‘cleaning day’ – which makes each task much longer. But at least it gets done eventually!)
REMEMBER, IT’S YOUR FAMILY: You may not feel guilt yourself, but you do from other mothers. *** Remember that you have a plan that works for your family. Don’t let yourself feel guilty from another mother who baked cupcakes from scratch, just because you were working and bought some from the store. Only you can make yourself feel guilty. Don’t fall into this trap.
As for the childcare piece, this one rang true for me:
“Nobody will take care of my child as good as I can.”
Jennifer said she hears it all the time. She agrees the care of your child, will never be as good, as what you provide. But consider it with a rational mind. Nobody will take over your job as a mother. They won’t love them more than you. Your role will not be eliminated. You are the best mother your child can have. That won’t change. Find a quality caregiver and above all you need to develop trust. Know that your child will be okay once you leave them. Tears will come. But they will eventually go away, and your baby will be alright.
mom return work III
This works for me. I like to be organized. I want to be balanced. But I think in the end, it makes more sense to try for blend, rather than balance. A mix of everything that doesn’t have to be perfect. For our family, we have the vision and a plan. Some days are easier than others to get it all done. But it works for us. And that’s all that matters.
If you want more information about Modern Planning or want to reach Jennifer aka the Fairy godmother of returning to work, she can be reached at: www.modernplanning.ca

What does baby sign language have to do with milk and cookies? Well, it all started with a catchy tune, that goes a little something like this:
“Milk and Cookies.
Milk, milk and cookies.
I said, Milk and cookies.
Milk, milk and cookies.
Mommy I’m so hungry,
May I have milk and cookies?”
Now imagine those lyrics to one of those easy beats that get trapped inside your head for long periods of time. As I write this there’s numerous moms in Calgary, that at one point or another have found themselves bopping their heads or tapping their toes to that song. I take some credit for that one, as it was played when I took my Mommy Connections class, and I loved it so much, I requested it be done for this new group of moms in our weekly Mom & Baby classes. (see below for the video and tune)
babysign
The song is actually called ‘Snack Rap’ and is one we learned in our baby sign language demo class. It’s not only easy to remember the words, but the signs are very simple to do and easy to learn. In fact learning about how to sign, and doing signs with my one year old was not only fun, but a great way to communicate with her.
Here in Calgary there’s two very talented women, Melody and Laura of ‘My Smart Hands’, who did the baby sign language demo for our classes. If you are interested in doing sign with baby, but want to know more, here’s a few of the intellectual as well as psychological and emotional benefits (information supplied by My Smart Hands: Educating Young Minds):
babymore
INTELLECTUAL BENEFITS:
* Learning sign language does NOT delay speech, but rather aids in speech development.
* Using signs helps babies to learn more quickly because they are able to express their thoughts/needs and move on to the next thought process because the parent/caregiver can respond appropriately.
* The kinesthetic elements of signing reinforce verbal skills and support the fact that we all learn differently.
* Studies have shown that sign language strengthens connections in the brain that are used for speech development.
baby-sign-language-2
PSYCHOLOGICAL AND EMOTIONAL BENEFITS:
*It gives your infant a means of expressing emotions.
* Frustration over the inability to communicate is greatly reduced (reduced frustration leads to less biting).
* Happy babies turn into happier toddlers.
* Confidence and self-esteem are improved.
* It enables your baby/toddler to engage in meaningful conversation.
If you are interested in taking one of these classes with your baby, I highly recommend ‘My Smart Hands’ here in Calgary. Both are experienced teachers, with a background in education. They both offer a variety of classes in various parts of the city.
baby-sign
For more information on Calgary South Classes – contact Melody at:
Melody@MySmartHands.com
For more information on Calgary North Classes – contact Laura at:
LauraSmith@MySmartHands.com
And if you want to watch the ‘Snack Rap’ as I mentioned above, you can find it here. But be warned, it is catchy and will get stuck in your head. In a good way!

It’s easy enough for me to TELL you how much you will enjoy our mom & baby program. After all, I was a past participant before I decided to become the program director for Calgary South. Instead, I thought I would seek out other previous participants and get their feedback on how the program impacted their lives.
Here in Calgary South our Mom & Baby program starts this week (sign up under class dates). But all across Canada, Mommy Connections Mom & Baby programs will also begin. So here’s our list of top 10 ways the mom & baby program has impacted the lives of our past participants.
mom-and-baby-community
1. Connection to the mommy community.
This topped the list for numerous previous participants … and it’s not hard to see why. With many women choosing to take the year maternity leave and stay home with baby – you want to meet others who are also off, or have a baby the same age as yours and are going through the same things as you. For lots of our moms, they created friendships and or a new ‘group’ of friends because of these classes, that have lasted through the years!
momlearning
2. Learning.
This was a biggie for new moms. When you have your first child, it can be daunting. Intimidating. What if I do (insert anything in here) this wrong? Each week, an expert speaker comes in to talk about those key issues that you are facing in the first year of your babies life. Nutrition, sleep habits, childcare options, coughs & colds, returning to work, infant CPR. And with all the other participants going through it too, it’s that much easier to share and collaborate together. You can get support and find out what works best for you, your baby and your parenting style.
photo-of-new-mom-with-baby
3. Unique Bonding time.
Life is busy. Being a mother is busy. Staying at home is busy. Lots of moms felt this was an hour and a half of just mommy and baby. Just the two of you. Connecting to each other, learning about each other, focusing on each other. Playing and having fun together. Forget the laundry at home, or the dinner that needs to be made or the dry cleaning to be picked up. Just you and baby. For many, this was their main reason for the class.
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4. Saves time and money.
Again, this was high on the list. Maternity leave for the year is fantastic and we are lucky to live in a country that gives us a year. But the money is not fabulous. With the structure of the weekly programs – it means you can test out a variety of popular community classes like baby sign language, music class or mom and baby yoga. Decide what you like best, so you invest in things you’ve already tried and enjoyed. We do the digging to find the best experts and teachers and bring them to you. Money and time saved. That was a big bonus for previous participants.
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5. Beats the winter blues.
Getting out of the house especially during the winter months with a baby is imperative to maintaing sanity. For many moms, they said this was their one weekly activity they looked forward to. Got them up and going and socializing, instead of staying inside all the time.
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6. Stimulating Conversation.
By nature of having a baby, conversation is limited. Mostly one sided. Participants often commented, that you have real people to talk to, who can talk back! Bonus!
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7. Free stuff/Savings.
Who doesn’t love things for free! Each mommy who takes the class gets a swag bag with so many fantastic goodies, samples and coupons. Nobody ever says no to free stuff! Free? Yes please!
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8. Memorable Professional Photo.
In houses across Canada, previous participants have commented on their professional photo with baby. Yes, it’s great to have family photos. But there’s something particularly special about this mom & baby only photo. It serves as a reminder of not only the class you took, the moms you meet and the great time you had. It is a snapshot reminder of the year you had together, and the time you took to get to know each other. Right from the beginning. And its professional. So your guaranteed to get a good shot!
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9. Getting active again.
Pregnancy can take the wind out of your ‘exercise’ sails quickly. From the chorus of our past participants, this was a great feature. It’s hard to get motivated again after baby, but with the variety of activity based demo’s, it really helped lots of mothers to re-engage and get back into the fitness mindset.
10. Affordable Price Point.
Across North America, the price point for MC classes vary from city to city. But we’ve heard time and time again, the cost of our classes are very reasonable and affordable.
If you are a past participant, we welcome your comments as to how this program helped impact your life. If you are interested in taking the program in Calgary South, our Mom & Baby classes start this Tuesday and Wednesday. There’s a few spots left, so sign up today!

I was eight months pregnant when my husband and I took a pre natal course. As soon-to-be first time parents, we wanted to be prepared for everything. What to expect when I go into labour. When we should go to the hospital. How to cope with the pain. Types of pain medication. All of the regular questions. We quickly learned, that you can plan for everything, but at the end of it all, the baby will make most of the decisions (and as my daughter arrived 10 days early, I can attest to that). But the one thing I was uneasy about, and I thought I couldn’t prepare for, was the possibility of going through postpartum depression.
During a break out session, the fathers were separated from the mothers and we were to discuss potential concerns after baby had arrived. The first concern on the fathers list was (and I am not kidding you), was sex and what will it look like after baby. (No comment). As for the mothers the first few topics were sleep, routine, finding self again. But very close to the top of the list, was the subject of postpartum depression.
One of the pregnant mothers in our group who hadn’t up to this point been very vocal, confided in the group that she had already been seeing a counsellor about it. Her mother had gone through postpartum depression when she was pregnant with her, so she thought it wise to start early. It was very brave of her to share this with a group of strangers. But even stronger of her to know herself, and be honest enough about her situation to get help before it was too late.
According to PMDA, the perinatal mood disorder awareness website, “postpartum depression and perinatal mood disorders affect approximately 15-30% of Moms within the first few years of giving birth. It is believed that this statistic is in fact much higher as so many Moms do not come forward. The majority of these Moms do not get help for a variety of reasons: either they go undiagnosed, are unable to find help, or never come forward because of the stigma attached to PPD (postpartum depression) and PMD (perinatal mood disorders).” The month of January was declared Postpartum depression awareness month in Edmonton back in 2011, and the awareness is continuing to grow.
Across Canada, Mommy Connections is helping PMDA (Perinatal Mood Disorder Awareness Ltd.) in their goal of increasing awareness as well as providing resources for women going through postpartum depression or perinatal mood disorders. It is imperative that mothers, fathers and families are not only educated about it, but have the support they need from the community.
So what are the signs of postpartum depression? According to the Canadian Mental Health Association there are 3 types of PPD:
* Baby Blues: Minor form of PPD; Starts 1-3 days after delivery; Characterized by weeping, irritability, lack of sleep, mood changes and feeling vulnerable. This can last several weeks. It is estimated that between 50-80% of moms experience them.
* Postpartum Depression: This is more debilitating than the ‘blues’; women with this suffer despondency, tearfulness, feelings of inadequacy, guilt, anxiety, irritability and fatigue; physical symptoms include headaches, numbness, chest pain and hyperventilation; A mom with postpartum depression may regard her child with ambivalence, negativity or disinterest; This syndrome is understudied and is under reported; Estimates of its occurrence range from 3% to 20% of births; It can begin anytime between delivery and 6 months post birth.
* Postpartum psychosis: This is relatively rare; Symptoms include extreme confusion, fatigue, agitation, alterations in mood, feelings of hopelessness and shame; Hallucinations and rapid speech or mania; Studies indicate it affects only one in 1000 births.
One of my close friends went through PPD, and she pointed out that it’s easy to spot when the cases are extreme. But for many women, they are blind to it for many reasons. The subtleties are harder to see, but feel just as real. She said she didn’t believe she had it. She just thought she was a bad mother.
As for my prenatal group, the brave mother who found help early, did in fact suffer from PPD but she luckily already had a support group around her. She wasn’t alone either. I was watching the news one night, and saw another mother from our group who had gone public with her story about suffering from PPD. Shortly after that television segment ran, the group got together. She admitted she hadn’t expected to go through it, but started a downward spiral quickly after her daughter was born, and knew she needed help. She now has the support she needs and is doing fantastic.
Personally, I never experienced PPD, but it doesn’t mean that I can’t help. I think it’s up to all of us to reach out a hand of support. So if you know of someone in Calgary, who has a baby under the age of one and might really need the network of support from other mothers please email me. I’d like to sponsor a Mom who may be experiencing PPD. And I know it sounds easier said than done, but I promise total discretion. Take me at my word when I say, all I want to do is help.
I realize it’s not always easy to identify when women are going through PPD, or even for mothers themselves to admit to it. All I can promise is that I will support as best as I can. However I can. I may be a business owner, but my goal for running this program in Calgary is to build our community. With each other. For each other. Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned in this past year as a new mom, it’s that my some of my greatest support has come from other moms I’ve met.
Truly. We can do this together.
For more information on PPD or PMD check out the ‘Perinatal Mood Disorder Awareness Ltd. Website at: http://www.ppda.ca/resources/alberta
The Canadian Mental Health Association is also a great resource:
http://www.cmha.ca/mental_health/postpartum-depression/#.Us-CoDknjww
I can be contacted directly at: katherine@mommyconnections.ca
Our Mom & Baby programs start Tuesday January 14th and Wednesday January 15th. However, I can contact me anytime about this.

Shan Roth and her husband knew they had hit rock bottom.
In the wee hours of the morning, two am to be exact, the new parents had packed up their little baby girl who wouldn’t stop crying, into the car and were driving around the Wal-Mart parking lot trying to get her to sleep. And to make matters worse, an RCMP officer started tailing them. Shan started practicing what she would say if the officer pulled her over. In fact she welcomed it, for the simple fact that perhaps he could take the baby and show her how to get her to sleep.
They got lucky. The RCMP officer didn’t pull them over. But it did set off alarm bells for them that something wasn’t right.
Fast forward eight years later, Roth now has three children ages 4, 6 and 8. All are fantastic sleepers. Shan knew there had to be a better way when it came to sleep, and was fascinated about the subject. She is now a Certified Sleep Consultant, and has been coaching families to better sleep for the past two years after opening her own business, Jammy Time Sleep Solutions.
With the start of our Mom & Baby programs in less than a week, and plenty of babies signed up for the program, we caught up with Shan to discuss when the best time is to start sleep training a baby. She will be speaking to our Mom & Baby groups on tips to better sleep. Here is my conversation with Shan:
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When should you start sleep training your baby?
I prefer to call it sleep coaching, rather than sleep training because you are really working with the parents and helping them coach their baby to become an independent sleeper.
You can start sleep coaching your baby from the day they are born. Lots of people think that sleep coaching means going without a night feed and that’s not what it means. Some babies CAN go through the night without a night feed but it’s always case-by-case for each baby. Depending on weight, medical conditions, or if mom had difficulty nursing. It’s always different based on the child and situation.
But many parents see that between 3-4 months is a turning point. Babies are not sleeping all the time anymore. Their sleep patterns change and become more adult like. Three months seems to be a common turning point, so it’s a good time to start sleep coaching.
Okay so when you start sleep coaching a three month old – what is the MOST IMPORTANT factor to helping them sleep?
The biggest thing I always advise my clients and especially new parents, is you need to put baby down awake. Not half asleep, not drowsy, fully awake. If you put your baby down and they are already sleeping, they will wake frequently and will look for whatever helped them get to sleep (i.e. feeding, rocking, patting – also known as props). Whatever external prop helped them GET to sleep, they will look for to help them fall back asleep again.
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Sometimes parents can get away with using props until they hit the 3-4 month range. But as their sleep patterns evolve at this time, they can start waking every 45 minutes to every hour. All night long. This is when I often hear of families starting to co-sleep, not because they want to, but because they’re so exhausted they don’t know what else to do. Consequently their situation doesn’t improve.
You are a mother of three children. What worked for your kids?
We didn’t know a lot back with my first daughter, and struggled in the beginning. The Internet wasn’t as readily used as it is now, so we read a lot and did the best we could. We put her down awake, let her do some fussing, picked her up and put her down and we also got counseling from our doctor. We had a goal and it took three nights before she was sleeping eight hours. It was giving her the chance to learn how to self soothe that made a difference.
With our second daughter who arrived 22 months later, I learned about the sleep sense program and with more confidence and knowledge we followed it and by three months she was sleeping 8-10 hours a night. By the time we had our third child, he had no choice. And now they are all good sleepers.
So how much sleep should a 3 month old be getting?
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At 3 months of age, babies should be getting approximately 15 hours of sleep within a 24-hour period. Most will be having 3-4 naps during the day, and I always remind my clients that daytime sleep is important. Don’t try to keep your baby up all day in hopes of them sleeping through the night. The opposite is true. The less they sleep during the day, the worse they will sleep at night.
The same is true about going to bed at night. At this age they should be going to bed NO LATER than 8pm. A newborn typically should go to bed around 9 or 10pm but at three months it should be at 8 AT THE LATEST. You want them to have between 10-12 hours of nighttime sleep, keeping in mind they may be up for a feed or two in the middle of the night, then back to sleep.
It’s also important to have this sleep time so that you have down time for yourself, to reconnect to your partner and to recharge your batteries.
What method of sleep coaching do you use?
Firstly in the initial consultation, I take into consideration the parenting style. I do have some bottom lines within the Sleep Sense program that I discuss with the parents. I won’t work with a family if they are not comfortable with the methods I use, as I don’t want to set anyone up for failure. I guarantee our program if you follow the plan as out-lined, as you will find great success.
As for methods sometimes the pick up, put down method drags things out. I typically advise parents to stay in the room to start out with. The parent’s job is to comfort but not to put to sleep. But the method depends on each parent and baby. Some babies do better without mom and dad intervening, while other parents are comfortable to stay in the room. Together we find out what method the parents and child will respond to best.
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With 3 month olds, I say give it 4 days and you will see progress. The first 2 nights you MAY NOT see a lot of progress. I often hear parents saying we tried this for a night and it didn’t work. You may not see improvement until night 3 or 4. It takes consistency on the part of the parents and if you are consistent you will see improvement.
What about all the potential crying? For a lot of parents the thought of letting their child cry for any length of time can be very disconcerting.

Nobody wants to hear their baby cry, but parents must remember that crying is a form of communication for your baby. It’s because they are experiencing something different then they are normally used to. I caution parents about what they read on the Internet about the long-term effects of letting your baby cry at night. A lot of it is guilt based, and not scientific. It can be very confusing as to what to do.
Bottom line: sleep is a very basic need. Don’t diminish the need for sleep. It’s a necessity to be a healthy family. A little crying is worth it for a lifetime of great sleep. And the effects of good sleep are proven. All three of my children had their share of tears, and they are all healthy, well-adjusted, intelligent kids.
What happens if I contact you for a consultation?
If you live in Calgary, I do the initial consultations at your home and if you don’t live in the city we do it over the phone. During the consultation, we will review the customized sleep plan and all your questions will be answered so you are completely comfortable and confident moving forward. You can also contact me for a free fifteen-minute consultation. Or for further information you can check out our website at:

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Thank you Shan for all the helpful tips! I look forward to your presentation to our Mom & Baby program starting next week.
Next month we will tackle infant/toddler sleep habits! Happy sleeping!

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I love to bake, but I am no Susie Homemaker. Regardless, I like to try. Make the attempt. Too bad pinterest has seriously shot down my confidence. When I didn’t have to SEE what the world’s elite bakers were capable of, I thought I was pretty good. Now, not so much.
Take for example this: pumpkincake
For my sister’s birthday, my sister-in-law and I decided we would make this Halloween Pumpkin cake. Looked easy enough. Bundt cake with carrot cake recipe. Two bundt cakes one side facing down, and one, right side up. Stick them together. Smoother with orange icing. Put a brown or green ice cream cone on top and VOILA! Beautiful cake!
You know where this is going.
For many reasons, my final photo never looks as good as the fabulous ones on the internet. My baking can always be identified as the ‘home made’ kind! Tastes delicious, but never looks like it’s one of the pros. I’ve resigned myself to accept it, taking solace in the fact, it’s still edible and my husband likes it. Good enough for me. But it still doesn’t stop me from trying.
Anyways, this is how the ‘easy’ Halloween pumpkin cake turned out. Tada! The final product.halloween 2
I could barely contain my laughter, as we sang ‘Happy Birthday’ while bringing in the warped pumpkin cake. She was utterly confused whether or not this was a gag cake or for real. But she bravely put on a good face and swore the sloppy appearance of the cake wasn’t as bad as we thought it was. This picture doesn’t do it justice. The entire back side of the pumpkin was patched together with orange icing. More landslide, than pumpkin side. We made up for it the next day with a chocolate sheet cake (graveyard) and lots of candy. So all was not lost.
Fast forward to today. My daughter is turning one in just over a week, and I decided I’d better do a test run of her cake. After all, these photos go into the ‘major milestone’ category, and I don’t want her to think I was slacking off on the job.
So my sister-in-law decided we’d go with something easy. The theme is pink ladybugs … so we settled on something like this … Pink-ladybug-fondant-cake-1st-birthday
Go big or go home, right?!
Instead of writing about how it went, I’ve decided to SHOW you how it went with a series of pictures. Because let’s be honest. If you’ve read this far, I know you’re waiting for it. The epic fail. Funny enough, my sister-in-law and I were both expecting it too. So here’s how it went …
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Buttercream icing goes directly ON TOP of the cake BEFORE the fondant. I know. Complicated!
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Starting to look like something …
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QUALITY CONTROL: We were interrupted by the person who matters the most … My daughter! She was consumed by ripping off the eyeballs and trying to eat them. To me, that’s success!!!
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And this was as far as we got for today. It’s somewhat smooth. Looks like fondant. And tastes delicious.Not bad I would say. Not bad.
Next up, working with food colouring, getting different size cake pans and finding a pink ladybug cake topper (yes we may cheat a little. Surprise, surprise). Doesn’t look anything like the planned photo above – but we’re close. Stay tuned for the final product in less than two weeks!
Bottom line … it tastes good. And right in this moment, that’s good enough for me.
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Here is the recipe we used for our marshmallow fondant. Written by a lovely lady, Peggy Weaver. We decided (my sister-in-law and I) that if we can’t trust a sweet looking lady like Peggy, then who can we trust?!
http://whatscookingamerica.net/PegW/Fondant.htm
And here is the buttercream recipe we used:

Easy Vanilla Buttercream Frosting


Any baking adventures you care to share? Or easier recipes? I am always open to suggestions!

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