Babies and Heat {A public service announcement}

I was a new mother once. I was a rookie. I am still a rookie when it comes to teens and growing up. Mothering is a job you never actually perfect but you sure learn a lot.  It is an education of decades. I wish I had known some things earlier instead of finding out the hard way.  But we’ve all survived somewhat unscathed ( I think). 

I have 4 kids. Which means I had 4 babies.  2 of my babies were summer babies: one born in the spring so she was small through a very hot summer and one born in the dead heat of August.   I love summer babies. You don’t have to bundle them up in snowsuits and piles of blankets on top of their tiny bodies.  Laying on picnic blankets in shady parks and lazy on sofas with diaper shirts and thin blankets is so much easier than cold toes and noses.

But lately I’ve been seeing some mommies who are rookies making mistakes that might have disastrous consequences.  It’s one thing to fumble your way through diaper changes and bottle feedings but it’s completely heart-wrenching to ignorantly or stupidly over-expose a baby to the elements. 

I’ve been at the beach and in malls, in restaurants and parking lots and I see parents doing things that are downright dangerous for their wee babies.  It’s scary and it’s almost criminal.  But what to do? Do you over-step and say something?  Sometimes.  Other times I wish I had but I chickened out. That was a mistake on my part. So, I will use this platform to share some things that I have learned in caring for babies over many, many years.  I hope it helps anyone out there who might not know or may have been ill-informed.

First of all, I am not a doctor or nurse. I’m a mom. And I speak from my experience not from text books or studies. If that bothers you, stop reading now. Also, I always suggest you confirm with a doctor, health nurse, your own mom , someone you trust  if you have questions.  And above all moms, trust your instincts but be willing to let others help you out too when your instincts might be clouded by lack of sleep. 😉

1. Babies at the beach-  I rarely took mine but if I did, they were in the shade if they were under 6 months.  The beach is not really a baby’s friend.  Loud noises, people running and potentially not looking out for tiny people and sand and mosquitoes can really be bad too.  If you insist on going to the beach with your baby, take her in a stroller with a mosquito net, have an umbrella for extra shade and if possible , sit in a shaded treed area. Direct sun is not good for babies especially by water and for long periods of time. Make sure the stroller gets ventilation. Babies can overheat quickly. They don’t need flannel sleepers and blankets piled on them. If you’re comfortable, your baby only needs one more layer than you to be comfortable( I will repeat this often).

2. Babies in vehicles~ I sure wish I didn’t need to say anything about this but I have already seen parents leave babies in cars in 35*C heat this summer. Try this: sit in your car with the windows cracked an inch. Turn off the engine. No A/C running. Watch the clock and record how you feel after 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 20 minutes.(if you even get that far). I can’t get past 5 minutes. Imagine a helpless baby, with no ability to get airflow, hydration or the ability to move away from the heat. Do this on a day when the temp is only 23* and you will still be shocked at how fast it gets hot in a vehicle. If you are not willing to do this experiment yourself then you should NEVER EVER consider leaving a baby/child in a non-airconditioned vehicle on a warm/hot day. EVER. This is Stupidity run amuck.  Remember, if you are uncomfortable, your baby will be too.

3. Babies in air-conditioned stores:  This is kind of the opposite but applies to hot weather.  If you have a small baby; I’m talking under 6 months old, and you go into an air conditioned grocery store on a hot summer day, chances are they will have the temp quite cool to keep produce fresh and crisp.  Very often, parents forget that a small baby doesn’t have the ability to quickly adjust from one extreme to another and they aren’t prepared with a blanket or something covering baby.  Do not assume that because your baby is comfy in her carseat with just a onesie on in the vehicle or outside that she will be equally comfortable in a very cool store. Take a small blanket to cover her legs  at the very least. Crying babies are uncomfortable babies and I hear a lot of them in stores in the summer time. Pay attention.

4. Babies in un-airconditioned houses/buildings~ When I had my 3rd baby in August of 1998, it was over 30*C every day. We lived in a townhouse that was quite old and had no A/C. The two kids bedrooms on the south side of the building were always hot. We used fans and whatever measures to keep the air flowing but it was too hot. Bringing a baby home, trying to get rest, be hydrated enough to nurse and keep baby’s temp normal was challenging.  We had to move to the basement or the main floor.  Babies are like us; they need airflow. They need a cool breeze. They need a room temperature around 21 or 22*C to be perfectly comfy in a sleeper and swaddled. Remember, babies like to be swaddled and cozy so when the temperature goes up, you have to figure out what adjustments need to be made. Instead of a sleeper, maybe a onesie. Instead of a thick receiving blanket, maybe a thin one.  Instead of upstairs sleeping , maybe downstairs or move in with a family member with A/C for a while.  Babies who are overheated are lethargic and lazy. They may not nurse as well which means they’re less likely to stay hydrated and able to cool themselves down by sweating. If your baby is sweating, he’s hot. If he is flushed and red, he’s hot.  If he has heat rash…..

Think of it this way: in the winter when it’s cold out, most of us turn up our furnace thermostat to about 23-24* in our houses.  That is a comfortable room temperature.  We would never think of turning our furnace on so that it heated our houses to 35 or 40* in the winter! That would be crazy. We would be so hot and uncomfortable. And yet, people will endure it in the summer, not use A/C because of fears about the air being too cool for a baby. But it makes no sense. If 35* is too hot for you or your baby to be comfortable in the winter , then it’s certainly going to be uncomfortable in the summer.

Babies who are overheated have died of heat exhaustion and SIDS. Babies who are well ventilated, comfortable like mom and dad( remember , I said I would repeat that)  eat well, sleep well and respond well.  Moms and dads who are comfortable and not overheated also sleep better and are much more able to provide the care their newborns need. 

It breaks my heart to see babies on beaches crying and sweating.  I cringe at tiny newborns in carseats with barely any clothes on in very cold air conditioned stores.  I get frustrated with parents who sit in closed up houses, without a breeze, fans, or air conditioning working while their babies helplessly suffer in the heat. 

Parents, if you’re comfortable, your babies will be comfortable. Trust me. I’ve been there.

Some tips on dressing baby for hot weather: http://www.parents.com/baby/care/newborn/making-baby-comfortable-in-summer-heat/

And a few other tips about keeping your baby cool: http://www.cyh.com/HealthTopics/HealthTopicDetails.aspx?p=114&np=305&id=1605

And one more: 10 Ways to Keep your Newborn Cool

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Of Diary Entries and Facebook Statuses

Are you 12? Because 12 year old me would write a diary entry like this:  Today I got up and went to school. It was boring. I have homework now and then I have to do the dishes. I hope I can watch TV tonight. And then bed.

Ummm.  12 year old me was pretty normal for her age but really, it’s kind of embarrassing to read now.  Sadly, this is the type of Facebook status I see on the pages of 20-something and 30-something year olds.  I’m not even kidding you.  I wish I could cut and paste them into this post but I have a feeling you have similar posts from some of your friends.

So, what gives?  Is Facebook a diary where people feel the need to record their days’ events  so that they can go back and look at all the very mundane things they did?   I kind of think it’s not.  And anytime I find myself falling into that trap I delete, reorganize, refocus and sometimes ban myself from posting at all until I grow up and act my age.

Facebook is a conversation.  That’s what I love about it and that’s what it should be used for.  You would never go up to your friend and say, ” Hi, I just washed my dishes and now I’m going to go do a load of laundry.” Or at least I hope that’s not how you talk to your friends.   A conversation with friends is engaging and should draw them in.  As in~they will actually respond.  If your statuses are often left with no responses then you’re not really engaging a conversation. Now, that’s not to say that every status you post is going to have comments but certainly more than 60% of them should or you may have to rethink if you’re the talker or the listener.  Do you engage people or is it all about YOU and what YOU’RE doing in YOUR life?  Are you writing to your diary?

Let me make a suggestion to you.  If you want to record your days’ events so that someday you can look back and know what the weather was and what you had for supper and if your toddler pooped on the potty , go buy a notebook and start recording.  Leave Facebook to the conversationalists.

Break My Heart {Open My Eyes to the Things Unseen}

I wonder sometimes if I have grieved the heart of God by turning my back on the things He cares most about.

And then I begin to wonder if I really know what He cares about.  Do I? Do you?  Do we actively pursue those things that God has asked from us?  Do justice, love mercy , walk humbly with our God…do we?

Matthew 5…these are Jesus’  words and although you may have heard or read them a thousand times before, I challenge you to read them again and let them speak to your heart and your soul:

3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

   11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

We lack conviction so often to speak up. It’s easier to stay silent.  It’s often personally detrimental to enter into a conversation about abortion, Creationism, God, morality, the Bible…it’s uncomfortable.   I get that.  I have been silent for a long time about things that are completely against the Word of God.  This WORD that I say I cherish.  This WORD that I read and find comfort in; it is also a word that admonishes and convicts.  And I turn my back sometimes because it’s easier.   But what is the point then?   Why read it or cherry-pick what is convenient if we are going to completely ignore the very words of Jesus?  I always say and I have always believed that the RED letters trump all others.   Jesus’ words are life-giving, freeing, but they’re also the words of our teacher and our Lord and they bear paying heed to.

~~ do we HUNGER and THIRST for Righteousness?

~~ do we stand up for Jesus? Do we defend Him?

I’ve read several posts and blogs lately about following your heart and passions but not in the way you might think. Did you ever consider that those things that make you cry and make you angry are perhaps the things that God has called you to advocate for?   What makes you so crazy you feel like you might explode?  What issues  get you on your feet?  We’re not all called to the same ministries but we are ALL called to MINISTER.  All of us.

Right now I know of people building houses for orphans in Haiti and Africa.  I know of people feeding the hungry in the Phillipines, in Croatia and in LA.  The need is great and it is everywhere.  There are 27 million people enslaved who need help, NOW.    There are 4000 babies a day dying in the US because they are considered dispensable .  There are women being beaten and forced into loveless marriages.   There are children being raped.  There are coaches and teachers abusing their students.  What are YOU going to do about it?  What am I going to do?  We cannot sit by and watch and wait.

For every Starbucks coffee you think you have needed this week, you could have saved a life.  For every new pair of shoes in your closet you could have fed a family.   For every holiday you take, your money could have provided clean running water to a village.  The need is everywhere; the need is great and we have the means AND the opportunities.

I cannot make you do anything.  But I can write and I can use words to bring light to the needs of this world.  And that is what I am going to do.  It is time for all of us to stand up and ask the Father to break our hearts for what breaks His.

I see the king of glory
Coming on the clouds with fire
The whole earth shakes
The whole earth shakes

I see his love and mercy
Washing over all our sin
The people sing
The people sing

Hosanna
Hosanna
Hosanna in the highest

I see a generation
Rising up to take their place
With selfless faith
With selfless faith

I see a near revival
Stirring as we pray and seek
We’re on our knees
We’re on our knees

Heal my heart and make it clean
Open up my eyes to the things unseen
Show me how to love like you have loved me

Break my heart from what breaks yours
Everything I am for your kingdoms cause
As I go from nothing to
Eternity

Let them fall, Let them fail, but don’t [Push them over the edge].PART 1

I’ve been stewing over this topic for quite some time. I really don’t know where to begin because  for me it encompasses years of dealing with the public/separate school systems, various teachers, administrators and not just one of my kids but to varying degrees, all 4 of them.   The education system is a failing/failed system.  This ain’t yo’ mama’s school anymore.  The brave new world of high-tech, high expectations and low morale for students and teachers is upon us and we are not coping very well at all. I say “we” as the collective parents, society and government WE.    We are lax in our dealings with things that are not working.  Face it~we don’t care.  Or at least, that’s how it looks.

How many parents show up to parent-teacher interviews anymore?  How many parents are involved in their school council? Does your school even have a council? Ours doesn’t or if it does , they are a secret society meeting under the cover of night so as not to attract any new blood into their inner circle.  And this, THIS is the problem.  Apathy.  Good enough.  Don’t change anything.

*sigh*

I am tired.  I guess when you get to the 4th kid in the system and years of dealing with the same issues you just kind of give up the fight .  But I can’t.  And I didn’t.  I sat on this issue of a heavy-handed teacher for over a year.  I told my kids to just get through it~don’t rock the boat~do your work and behave and soon enough you’ll move on to another teacher .   After all, every school has at least one teacher that feels it is their God-given right to be dictator, judge and jury in their classroom and even into the hallowed halls of their institution.  They’re bullies and it’s time parents, students and administrators stood up to them.

I wish I could describe to you every incident that led up to this week but there are too many. Here’s the short version:

My grade 8 daughter, who is very conscientious about her school work, preparation and studying came home last week and started to blurt out the events of that day. I have to filter through her rapid-fire high intensity chatter most days and usually I just nod and act like that guy in the  PVR commercial with one eye on the TV while the other eye pretends to be on the child(so silly but it’s true).    Anyways, in amongst the typical teenage gibberish and giggles a story emerged that I had to stop and take notice of.  The look on her face told me more than I heard in her words~ she was stressed, worried and not impressed.  Her phys-ed teacher had given the class a verbal tongue-lashing about their irresponsibility, how they are the “‘worst class [she’s] ever taught”‘ and then she went on to call them all dumb-asses along with a side comment about not putting any “smart-ass”‘  answers on the test she was about to give them.

A couple of notes that you need to understand: we don’t swear in our house and this is strictly enforced but even beyond that, the school has a no swearing rule(of which *ass* is a part of).  Along with the rule is the consequence that if you are heard or caught swearing you must write a full page essay on why swearing is unacceptable within the school.   The other thing to consider here is that this is a small town where most folks know each other, teachers are friends who grew up together and this particular teacher has been in the community her whole life.  She has a certain level of anonymity and she gets away with a lot because no one challenges her.  Her philosophy is one of hard work, cracking the whip and getting results that only SHE demands…I have a feeling she came from a pretty tough home where hard work was the number one priority and probably enforced in the strictest manner.

I e-mailed the principal and asked that my name and that of my daughter be kept out of discussions with this teacher. I’ve been here before and the worst thing that inevitably happens is that a child gets placed in the firing line of an angry defensive teacher.  We already have enough stress around here and my kids don’t need that.  I was simply asking for this teacher to be held to the same account as the kids.  I was also disturbed at some of the threats that were being doled out to the students.  Particularly the ones about anything lower than a 70% would require a re-write at noon hour ”or else”.

I am okay with re-writes in the case of grade 11 and 12 diploma courses where the teacher sees the potential of a student and offers the chance to improve a mark.  In general, I am opposed to re-writes just for the sake of 2nd, 3rd and 4th chances to do what was clearly stated as expectation from the get-go.  This is a topic I will address in part 3 of this little series(oh yes, there’s more).

When my daughter came home at the end of the next day and began to tell me what happened when test results were given, I was shocked and infuriated.  The teacher went into another ugly rant about how pathetic this class was and how terrible they did.  Out of 2 classes( a total of 40 students), only 9 had “passed”‘ ; getting 70% or higher. Among those 9, her own daughter and a few of her daughter’s closest friends who just happen to be the teacher’s pets and who also happen to be the children of the teacher’s  close friends.  The kids were not given their tests, they do not know their exact marks or what they did wrong.  They were told that they would HAVE to come in several noon hours to get study help(no options) and then they would be required to re-write on a noon hour at the end of this week.  All of this on their own lunch breaks , without option.  Detention.  Yes, they were being punished.

My daughter studied hard and was stressed enough the first time and now she was facing a week long punishment for doing what was asked of her.  She simply didn’t measure up.  To add insult to injury the teacher proceeded to force the class to do a rigorous workout of  what she calls “suicide drills”‘.  That’s her name for them because, as my daughter says: “you have to do them HER way or she gives you more and you feel like you’re going to die”‘ .  Jump higher, run faster, squat lower~do it again! You’re not doing it right…do it over.  You aren’t fast enough, do 20 more.  ….it never ends, they don’t get a break for more than 30 minutes.  My daughter was sore for 4 days after.    This is punishment.  Punishment inflicted because these kids aren’t good enough.  They never are. They never will be.  The next threat was this: You WILL get 75% or you will re-write again.  And that time they HAVE to get 80% or they will re-write again.  Do you want to know what this test/ unit is on? Weights and muscles.  Naming every muscle in the body, writing paragraphs of workouts for specific muscle toning.  Basically, if they don’t word their answer ‘just right’ in her mind, it is wrong.  This is not multiple choice.  I have looked at my daughter’s notes and it is very intensive, detailed material.  It looks like university level stuff to me.  These kids are in grade 8.  They want to play games and have fun in gym and now they are so miserable and fearful of their teacher they can’t possibly be expected to even enjoy what they’re learning about. (Part 2 of this series will be what a mess the phys ed curriculum is.).

I got a call from the principal yesterday after relaying to her my further concerns about using lunch hours to “discipline” kids who aren’t even doing anything wrong.  She admitted this teacher “‘pushes hard” but assured me that she is “‘fair and impartial with all of her students” and is only passionate to see them succeed.  I wonder how much the principal really knows what goes on behind closed doors.

I got a call from the teacher too.  I sent a note to school with my daughter explaining that she would NOT be using her noon hours to “study” in a detention hall and would not be re-writing.  She tried her best for the first 2 minutes to hear me out but I could feel her blood boiling over.  She ultimately accused me of making poor choices for my daughter and setting her up to fail(I got the impression she was trying her condescending tone on me in an effort to force me to submit~boy, did she mess with the wrong parent!).  She was not happy at all and told me my daughter was going to fail the weight room portion of the unit as she clearly didn’t understand the concepts(things like the difference between a barbell and an Olympic weight? ) .  I assured her that making a judgment call on a student at this stage was unfair to which she sarcastically retorted “we’ll see”‘.  She’s got her panties in a knot.  And she’s a meanie.  She’s a bully and she doesn’t like being pushed back or challenged.  My daughter wants out but there is no option.  The principal has said that I am the only parent to raise a concern…this year.  Oh yes, did I tell you? This teacher needs “‘yearly reminders “‘ of how harsh she comes across.  I’m thinking teaching isn’t her thing.

Part 2…..forthcoming.

Jesus-ween vs. Halloween {I Feel the Need to Say Something Here}

I wasn’t going to post about Halloween this year.  I just wasn’t.  I did it last year and well, that’s enough.  But no, someone had to get my feathers ruffled once again and so I feel the need. (I know, you people are laughing at me now thinking I could just walk away quietly from this but hey, what would be the fun in that? So here I go.)

It seems there is a Christian group going around and promoting “Jesus-ween”. ugh.  When I heard this a couple of weeks ago I purposely did NOT Google it or check into it any further.  I tuned out.  Mostly because I personally find it offensive that my Jesus’ name is being reduced to something LIKE Halloween. Oh please, don’t tell me you’re in favour of this~ please!!!

Let me play Devil’s advocate for a minute(yes, here, on Halloween of all things).  If Christians really want to make a statement on Halloween, they’re doing it wrong by labeling it Jesus-ween and trying so hard to BE LIKE the world but just putting on a different coat.  I mean really~ if I wanted to be different than someone, I wouldn’t act like them, talk like them and walk like them but just with a different shirt on , would I?? That’s what this is to me~ it’s fake and it’s cheesey and I totally get why we’re the laughing stock of the free world right now.

I’m not going to get into the theology of Halloween or why it exists.  Plainly put, more than 95% of the people who participate in Halloween are doing it to have fun, dress up and get free candy.  As much as I (or other Christians) might like to TEACH them the truth~ they don’t care.  They really don’t.

I took my 2 youngest out trick or treating with a friend tonight.  We  don’t do it every year and after about an hour we’re done. They don’t need bags full. They don’t need to be greedy.  They just want to have fun.  I watched them go to the various houses and I watched other parents.  I watched reactions at doorways and I noticed something.  People are pleasant on Halloween.  People, whose doors are very often closed off to their neighbours, were visiting, smiling and hospitable.    Say what you want and be grouchy if you must, but people in Canada(and the US) love this day.  I don’t care for the gore. I hate the scary stuff.  I find that there is way too much over-kill(pun intended) with the horror movies, murderous scenes, gravestones and evil costumes.  There are definitely better ways to dress up and have fun.

But what are we, as Christians, saying to our neighbours when our lights are off, our curtains are drawn and our doors are closed?? What witness are we being when we are cheap with the treats and heavy on the dogma?   I’m sort of fed up with it.  Do I like Halloween ? NO.  Do I love my neighbours? Yes.  This is a command from scripture: Love your neighbours as yourself. (Matthew 22:39)  Church, we have to get this right.

Now, back to Jesus-ween…ewww, typing it just makes my skin crawl.  I think the intention is good but the execution is sort of off. I have no problem with handing out Christian tracts, stories, Bibles or whatever….WITH candy.  I have no problem with Christians being salt and light(we are supposed to) in a dark world…on a dark street, in a dark culture, on a darkness filled day. I have NO PROBLEM.  But let’s not draw so much negative attention that we actually defeat our own purpose!  Check out this article…we look like idiots:

This Halloween, a Calgary-based Christian organization is asking Toronto households to respond to trick-or-treaters with a simple phrase: Jesus Loves You.

JesusWeen, a non-profit founded in 2002, promotes the distribution of Bibles and other religious paraphernalia to trick-or-treaters. The movement doesn’t intend to deprive children of sweets, but wants parents to also consider doling out Jesus-themed postcards and pamphlets.

The initiative is an “alternative for anyone who chooses not to celebrate Halloween, and especially for most Christians,” according to the JesusWeen website.

For the past few weeks, Toronto organizers have been petitioning churches and canvassing at local shopping centres. Roughly 500 area churches have been made aware of the program, said John Crowne of JesusWeen’s Toronto office. Other grassroots marketers have posted flyers in grocery stores and on car windshields.

The website states that 2011 efforts are focused on Toronto, Calgary and Edmonton.

JesusWeen also encourages participants to forego “evil”-looking costumes in favour of all-white attire.

But anti-JesusWeen campaigners have taken to social media in the run-up to Halloween, criticizing the initiative for targeting children with religious dogma. “A Protest Against Jesus Ween” and “Stop the fascist Jesus-ween movement” are two Facebook groups. Late-night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel spoofed the program earlier this month, calling it “even lamer than it sounds” and depicting conservative Christian children promoting themselves as “Jesus wieners.”

Organization members are wary of being labelled as proselytizers, and instead see their work as an educational service.

“We feel that if kids get a postcard that says ‘Jesus loves you’ it expresses some form of information. They can embrace it or ignore it,” Crowne said. “They can have a choice.”

Jair Guerrero, the Kids Church director at Toronto City Church, which runs its own alternative, non-ghoulish Halloween event, said JesusWeen is an acceptable form of evangelization.

“I wouldn’t think that it’s invasive,” he said. “It’s what we as churches are supposed to be doing.”

Some of the responses on FB to this article were:

“Un-believable. Can’t kids be kids for one day of the year?”

” Give my kid a bible, and you might just get it rammed up your ass…”

“it’s sad when folks actually believe in demons, witches and ghosts”

…and a few others that I won’t bother quoting.

The point is this: we’re not making the point.  The media is all over this and when the media gets  a hold of something it doesn’t much matter if there’s a positive side because they will make it negative.  I suggest, if you feel so compelled to put Jesus on the face of Halloween , you start BEING Jesus: Work with homeless people on Halloween, feed your neighbours, volunteer your time, give, give and give some more. That’s how you make a statement and get noticed for all the right reasons.  Right now, Christians look like candy thieves. 

And as for all the comments that are nasty and very, very offensive to Christians; be forewarned…this is the world we now live in and it will get worse.  We are strangers in a foreign land.  People who do not have the Holy Spirit within them do not understand what we’re talking about.  We have to pray and pray and pray some more.  And we have to show love, be gracious and NOT judgmental.   Jesus was whipped and beaten and not once did he accuse or berate those who took delight in seeing Him suffer.

We  have a lot of work to do to be seen in the same light. 

A tale of TWO hotels

We stepped off the elevator onto the 3rd floor.  This was to be our “getaway” night.  A little R&R~ escaping the kids, stresses and worries.  Absence does make the heart grow fonder….and fonder.  A night by ourselves was so long overdue.  But stepping onto that floor~ we gagged and choked.  Gasping, we walked down to our room.  We were told “one of the last 2 rooms left in the city”~ due in part to the Keith Urban concert in town.  Could there really be people smoking in this hotel? We haven’t had to request a non-smoking room for years!  Every hotel we have stayed in has been 100% smoke free~ it’s the law after all.   My husband left me in the hallway, choking to breathe.  He went down to demand a new room~ this just wouldn’t do.  In a few short minutes he was back and we were stuck~ this was all there was.  We entered the room and thankfully it was better than the hallway so we quickly opened the window and laid a towel at the base of the door.  So much for romance. We’d be lucky if we even slept headache free(we’re both extremely sensitive to cigarette smoke).   The kids came with us to swim.  Upon entering the pool area this is what we noticed: dim lighting, some lights burned out, slimy floor, a dirty diaper left on the floor, hot tub empty and not usable, tiny pool and no towels.    I requested some towels from Front-Desk-Boy but he was of no help and told us “sorry~ there are none”.   The lobby was filled with overflow from the lounge next door, partiers spilling out of every doorway, a few smoking in front of the doors.  Oh dear, this was not looking good.  Hubby found some clean towels in the weight room, kids swam for a bit and then left for the night.  We wondered if this was really worth it but we so desperately needed the time alone.  The cost for this casa-de-lameness?? $149 for the night! Yes, $149 for no hot tub, smoke filled hallways, apathetic desk clerk and oh, did I mention? No baseboards in our room~ I guess someone “forgot”.    To say that we were disappointed is an understatement but I mostly felt bad for the single mom down the hall, walking with her under-2 year old son in that toxic hallway at 11 p.m.  There is no way a child should be forced into such a situation.

Isn't this a fire hazard?? Open book of matches just begging someone to light it? Seriously was shocked by the complete lack of respect for paying guests.

Sunday afternoon~ we had checked out and gone to church.  We had lunch at our favourite restaurant (Red Lobster) with all our kids~ laughed, relaxed and now…time to check into the hotel we really wanted but it was booked.  The same hotel where nearly 20 years earlier we spent our wedding night! In fact, we walked by that suite on our way to the newly renovated room that was ours for the night.  A large , spacious room with a king sized bed. Big screen on the wall.  Separate washroom and prep area. Small fridge and a lovely sitting area. Down the hall the kids went to the pool area.  What is this?  A massive waterslide, warm swimming pool and very large WORKING hot tub.  Oh, and a pool boy with multitudes of towels!   We had a fabulous evening.  I whispered in my love’s ear:”I’m so glad we got to finish off our weekend here instead of the other way around!”

We had a wonderful sleep and when we inquired about the hotel’s policy on smoking the TWO front-desk attendants  were happy and proud to say that their hotel had been completely smoke free for years.  Of course.  You can tell.  There was care in every detail, every room, the lobby and the guests who stayed there.  This hotel caters to families and is all about customer service.  OH, and the price? $129/night.

1st hotel gets NO stars from me. Can we do negative stars?   Chateau Regina    Booooooo! (looks NOTHING like the pics or is anywhere close to what is represented on their website)

2nd hotel gets 5 stars from all of us! Can we give them more?   Travelodge South Regina    YAY!! We will stay again, and again. And AGAIN!( no kidding it’s one of the top 10 in North America!)

 

Back to School Lists Rant

You know those commercials from Staples about “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year”? The ones with dads and moms gleefully piling supplies into their carts, dancing down the aisles while dumb-founded children can only hang their heads in dismay?  Well, the only thing that really rings true in those commercials is the part about being happy to see routine return to our homes.  I used to love shopping for crayons and notebooks and so on.  But I have come to loathe this ritual.  Maybe it’s the fact that I’m counting my pennies once again, or maybe it’s just the over-commercialization of yet another sacred institution.

There once was a time~ a long time ago~ when a school list was memorized by parents.  Memorized because it was the same every year: pencils, pens, erasers, “scribblers” (as they were called) and a pencil case.  Geometry sets came later in higher grades but other than that, you could pretty much get the entire contents of one child’s school needs for under $20, maybe even under$10.  Sadly, those days are long over.  I just counted how many back to school lists I’ve had to check off, review, stew over and argue about.  41.  Yes, FORTY-ONE!  I have 4 kids  and counting out every year from kindergarten through grade 12, this is what I have come to.

I have met all manner of teachers~ the ones who could care less about the list set out by the school and the ones who have their own list to ADD to “the list”.  And those teachers are the worst perpetrators of parent stress in September.   They are the ones who send home notes the first 3 days of class outlining exactly what colour, type, brand and quantity of each item they expect…in no uncertain terms.  They send out reminders and reminders about the reminders.  They call, they e-mail and they write notes.  “Lauryn seems to be missing one of her required 12 notebooks, could you please forward that with her tomorrow so that I can clear her off the delinquent list?” ………..uhhh….ya….it has happened. I am so sick of these lists.  First of all, WHY do they need 5 red pens the first day?  Why do they need them the first month?? Who cares if their thesaurus is a Collins instead of a Websters!  Why do you need 3 boxes of Kleenex sent to school right away?  And what of those 12 notebooks that barely got used and thrown into a box at the end of June?? Why? I’m so done with these lists!!

One year, not that long ago, I spent nearly $1000 on school supplies for my 4 kids.   There were scientific calculators needed, non-marking white soled runners, new backpacks, zip up binders, lunch bags, locker accessories and more…..what a rip off! What a joke!! What a WASTE of money! This year I had a chat with my kids.  “Do you have binders left over from last year? If you do and they are not completely broken and falling apart, you will use them again.”

“Do you realize that stores market to children?” I asked my kids why they picked out certain backpacks and binders.  With the girls, it’s always about the design, logo, colour and pictures.  Of course it is! We picked up one of these very colourful binders.  I showed them the quality of it compared to a plain one.  Then I showed them the price difference~ double the difference. Ouch.  I asked what would happen come November when the pretty one was broken and in need of replacement. Well, it didn’t take long for all of them to realize that they were being duped. In fact, the light bulbs came on about all sorts of supplies from pencil cases and lunch bags to markers and looseleaf.  Do I really care if the looseleaf is recycled paper? Do I?? NO!!!!!!!!

3 weeks ago, Walmart had 150 packs of looseleaf for $.25/pack.  The exact same packages were over $3 each on Friday. The EXACT same ones.  We went to Superstore and got them for $.15 each….na na-na-na na WALMART! Take that!

“Jr. Kleenex” boxes with all of 67 tissues are being sold at Walmart for $1.77 each. They have cute cartoon characters and fun colours.  Parents will buy them. In fact ,the shelf they were on was nearly empty.  Right beside them were the Scotties brand with 127 tissues for $1.33.  Right below that was the store brand for $.98 each.  My friends; mothers, parents~  we are being hosed. And we’re falling for it year after year.

Your child does NOT need a new backpack every year if you will buy on sale at the end of September , the really good quality black ones that are regularly $60.  Wait, buy on sale and keep them for 3-5 years.  Your kids do NOT need 30 sharpened HB pencils the first day of school, 5 packs of looseleaf and most of the other 20 things on your list.  If you would just stand up to the teachers and the school and say , “my child will have what he/she needs to get started and we will have the rest by October”.  Stand up for yourself and your kids.  This back-to-school market is absolutely robbing us blind and they don’t even need most of it!

I decided several weeks ago that we would only buy the necessities.  My kids have paper and pens, pencils and erasers~ the binders are going to come from our collection at home~ pretty or not.  No new backpacks or lunch bags. New gym shoes but no new outfits(we’ll wait for the sales too).  I spent $150 and even that seemed too much.   Maybe I should have learned this a long time ago, maybe I just got smart, or maybe I’m just tired after 37 previous lists, but I’m saying “no” this year.  “No” to the 12 duo-tangs, 40 blue pens, 10 erasers , 50 sheet protectors, rulers, scissors, glue sticks and safety glasses.  Until my kid comes home and says “I need _____ for tomorrow”, the answer is “no”. I’ve seen too many supplies go unused or sent back for being the “wrong kind” or the “wrong size” or the “wrong brand”…like give me a break already.

My kids are starting at 3 different schools this fall.  Each one has their own version of what is needed for each grade. I find it rather interesting that one school’s list for grade 6 is half the size of the other school’s.  It makes you wonder what is being taught to our kids about conserving, sharing, being responsible for something that their parents have paid for.  Unfortunately I have seen our hard earned dollars go towards paying for someone else’s supplies.  I have no problem helping out families in need~ but I would like to know ahead of time instead of checking off what I think is my ONE child’s supply list only to find out that it is partly to “beef up ” the classroom stash.  Sorry teachers, I don’t have that kind of cash on me this year~ you’ll have to find another well to draw from~ this tank has run dry.

 

Incidentally~ every time I go by the aisle with the pencil crayon packs for $1.25 and the “scribblers” for $.88 each……….I really want to buy them. 🙂