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Jul 4

Kids and Car Trips: Rules of the Road

road trip with kidsThe ants going marching one by one, hurrah, hurrah!
The ants going marching one by one, hurrah, hurrah!
The ants go marching one by one, the little one stops to suck his thumb.
And they all going marching down…

Whenever I hear that song I am immediately transported to the backseat of my parent’s car and one of our driving holidays. Gosh, I have a lot of good memories of those trips—and strangely, the time in the car is clearer in my mind than some of our destinations:

Falling asleep on my sister’s shoulder (and her pushing me off!); writing in the new notebook that we got for each trip as a travel journal; homemade sandwiches wrapped in wax paper and a little note inside with the initials of the family member it was intended for; the joke that someone was busy sightseeing (i.e. eyes closed, mouth open, fast asleep); and always the same thing said in unison as we drove into our driveway on our return—it was nice to go but it is nice to come home!

To ensure you and your kids have equally great memories of holidays on the road, we have come up with the four Ps: Planning, Packing, Pacing and Playing.

Planning

What do they say? Planning should be 80% to the 20% of doing. And that is true here too. Plan not only the route but all that follows well in advance. When it comes to directions, you likely have GPS to guide you. However, why not get the old atlas out and plan the trip with the kids? Then they can take it in the car and follow your progress.

If you are going on a long trip, you might consider driving through the night (only if you have enough drivers to make it safe) or plan deliberately to take advantage of nap times. Pack some small pillows and blankets, to make the kids more comfortable.

Packing

In addition to the main luggage in the trunk or back of the car, pack a backpack for each kid. Include some “clothing layers” in case there are temperature changes or juice accidents on the journey. Books, games, and snacks should be included too. And why not hit the dollar store and include some fun surprises for the kids to find along the way? You likely want to keep some in your own bag as an easy way to diffuse any backseat tensions.

Pacing

Try to balance your desire to get to your destination with interest in the journey. Get your kids to pick out some places they would like to visit along the way. If you see something—like a great public park or place to take a swim—pull over. You will want to provide ways for the kids to release some of their energy.

If you plan to stop and spend the night at a motel along the way, pack small overnight bags with the essentials so you do not have to do a full unpack and repack.

Playing

And no car trip is complete without the games and fun. The classics (license plate game anyone?) are good but there are lots more options out there. Look online for new versions of games to play together. And for some good songs to sing together. You will quickly remember that there are a lot of those ants marching one by one and will welcome some variety.  You don’t always have to play together—DVD players and portable games are great for making the time pass quickly; just be careful that “screens” are not the only things your kids see whilst in the car.

Happy travels! And remember – it is nice to go but it is nice to come home!

Whether you need help whilst you are away (pet sitter anyone?!) or when you get home (summer babysitters maybe?), you have reached your destination.  SOSitter.ca is a Canadian portal designed to help you find local caregivers in your area, easily and quickly. The caregiver who is right for your family is only a click away.

Jun 27

Summer Vacation! Five Wacky Ways to Celebrate!

Congratulations! Another school year is behind you and your family. For a couple of blissful months your kids can leave early morning alarms, school projects, quizzes and tests behind.  So why not mark the occasion! Here are five wacky ways to celebrate the start of summer vacation:

ONE: Host a “Year in Review”

Get each of your kids to share some of the highlights from their year – things they learned in school, awards won, sports played or progress made in learning an instrument.

Let each child decide how they want to showcase their year. It could be a play that covers some of the history they learned, they could pull out their science experiment and do an at-home demonstration, they can write a short story about something that happened in the year, or set up a stand showcasing all their achievements.

This a lovely way to share experiences as a family, celebrate the progress kids have made and draw the school year to a close.

TWO: Invent your own holiday

Isn’t it strange that there are not that many official holidays over the summer months? It would seem like the perfect Summer funtime. But no bother: invent your own this year! Give it a name (such as Summer Start! or First Day of Summer!) and make it an annual tradition.  Invite friends and family over to celebrate with a barbeque in the backyard. You could top it off with a watermelon seed spitting contest!

THREE: Throw a Festival of Colours!

Okay, we borrowed this one from India. More specifically, the Indian celebration of Spring and the victory of good over evil, called Holi. Each March in India, people take to the streets and throw brightly coloured powder at each other and have a ball doing it!

Why not celebrate the start of summer fun with your own “Holi”. Look online for fun and easy ways to make your own powder, get everyone dressed up in old white clothes and then let the fun begin! We would recommend keeping the celebration to the backyard where a hose down can easily clean this festive mess up.

FOUR: Build a fire pit in your backyard

I have no formal evidence to back this up, but it seems the world has gone fire pit crazy recently. And why not?! It is magical to sit outside, in the backyard, around a blazing fire.

There are many options if you are looking to buy a ready-made fire pit. But why not make your own as a family project. Look online for sites to help you – whether you are looking to have something simple to contain the fire or something fancy to elicit “oohs and ahhs” from your friends and family.

Remember to use good sense and take precautions when mixing kids and fire and check your local municipal laws before lighting one up

FIVE: Make a summer bucket list flag

There is no better way to start the summer than to plan out what everyone wants to do, experience and achieve. This is your summer bucket list! Your kids will likely be able to come up with oodles of things they want to do; help them add a few sensible items such as not leaving any school projects or required reading to the last minute. Find a balance between fun and educational, individual and things to do as a family.

As a twist, design a bucket list flag to fly in the backyard. This makes it fun and colourful and always present. And you can make one each year and keep it as a record of each of your summers.

Enjoy your summer!

And if you are looking to kick off the summer with some extra help in your home, look no further. SOSitter.ca is a Canadian portal designed to help you find local caregivers in your area, easily and quickly. The caregiver who is right for your family is only a click away.

 

Jun 20

Staycation Canada!

Should I stay or should I go? 

If I go, there could be trouble.

And if I stay it could be double. 

So come on and let me know.

Should I stay or should I go?

If you have had that famous song from The Clash on your mind since school let out and summer holidays began, Staycationleaving you plagued with “this indecision’s bugging me”, let us help. Stay! As in Staycation!

What? You have heard of The Clash but not a staycation? According to Wikipedia, “A staycation is a holiday spent in one’s home country rather than abroad, or one spent at home and involving day trips to local attractions.”

Staycations have likely been around forever but the label is more recent. In fact, it was the credit crunch in 2008 that really put gas in the staycation engine (pun intended) as most families had smaller budgets for vacations.

Staycations, although rarely free of charge, are a good way to save some money, particularly when exchange rates make travel abroad that much more expensive. They save you the stress of finding passports, packing, airports and navigating destinations in a foreign language. Staycations also afford you the opportunity to discover and appreciate the hidden treasures in your own backyard.

Convinced? Hurrah! Now… what to do?

Hometown Hunt

If you are staying in your local area, using your home as a base, start researching what is available within a two hour or less drive. Zoos, museums, heritage sites and amusement parks are obvious choices. But more offbeat ideas – such as strawberry picking, outdoor concerts and festivals or helping a local charity for a day – can also be fun and rewarding. Look to your tourism office for ideas. And ask around; some of the best ideas can come from friends and colleagues.

One word of warning – there are some staycation traps to avoid. Being at home can leave you at risk of going into work, doing personal administration, tackling DIY projects or abandoning plans at the last minute because the weather is bad or everyone is tired. Be committed and make your staycation memorable!

Explore Canada

With ten provinces and three territories in Canada, there are so many options. From the tip of Nunavut to the bottom of Ontario, from Victoria Island to St Princes Island, Canada is packed with wonders for your family to explore this staycation! Just a few ideas to get the wheels turning are:

Rent a lake house – There is no way around it, going to the lake is a guaranteed holiday success. And since Canada has more “lake area” than anywhere else on earth, it would be a shame to miss out!

Go camping – Whether you pitch a tent in your backyard or head out to one of Canada’s many campsites, the fun and adventure of sleeping under the stars and cooking on the open fire will make up for a sore back and squatting in the woods.

Visit one of Canada’s great cities – See the CN tower in Toronto, the Notre Dame Basilica in Montreal, the Capilano Suspension Bridge in Vancouver, Heritage Park in Calgary, the Rideau canal in Ottawa, the beautiful streets of Quebec City and much, much more!

Appreciate some of Canada’s natural beauty – Niagara Falls, Dinosaur Provincial Park, Quebec’s Magdalen Islands, Vancouver Island, Gros Morne National Park, Spotted Lake in the Okanagan Desert in B.C, Lake Louise in Banff National Park and the list goes on!

Explore Canada’s rich history – Prince Edward Island’s Charlottetown, Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Lower Fort Garry in Manitoba, Batoche in Saskatchewan, Dawson City in the Yukon Territory or the Grand Pré in Nova Scotia. Again, the list goes on!

Whether you are staying or going, if you need some additional help in your home, SOSsitter can help. SOSsitter.ca is a Canadian portal designed to help you find local caregivers in your area, easily and quickly. The caregiver who is right for your family is only a click away.

 

Jun 13

Let’s Hear it for Dad!

Parents: Two equal parts. But are they? Doesn’t it seem that there is a lot more talk (research, articles, Google searches, you name it) about mothers than fathers?

Why should that be? It might be because children develop in their mother’s womb for 40 weeks, creating an indelible bond. In many cases babies get all their nutrients for the first months of their lives from their mother’s breast milk. And there is that old “maternal instinct” and the popular view of mothers as the primary caregivers. Many women Happy Father's Day!say becoming a mother changes them fundamentally.

But what about dads? Fathers may not carry babies as they develop from a small number of cells into a human being but “a research study from UNC School of Medicine reveals that although we inherit equal amounts of genetic mutations from our parents — the mutations that make us who we are and not some other person — we actually “use” more of the DNA that we inherit from our dads.” It is our Dad’s genes who determine if we will be a boy or girl after all!

Wow! Our fathers have a huge impact on us even before we are born! But what about the impact of having children on men? Whilst fathers of newborns and young children might feel overly tired and exposed to every germ going, research says fathers are healthier and live longer than men that are not fathers. There is even research that says having children impacts male hormone levels and brains, although not as dramatically as mothers. Most fathers would agree it materially impacts the way they spend their time and money. And even though it is not easy to make these types of “sacrifices”, most would say the rewards of being a father more than compensate.

Current ideas of what being a father means are rather recent. The roles of father – including the amount of time fathers spend with their children – has changed a lot over the ages. Interestingly, Wikipedia’s page on fathers talks specifically about the impacts of the wars in the last century and government intervention on the role of fathers in Canada.

However, families – including the roles of fathers – are so diverse and society is increasingly accepting of whatever model is chosen and works. This is progress. But it also makes it impossible to describe what makes dads so great. Dads, like mom’s, provide security, support and discipline. They are serious sometimes, yet silly other times. They let us figure things out for ourselves in some cases, and guide us to the best answer in others. They love us unconditionally.

Hurrah for fathers! Whilst we should and do appreciate our dads every day, thank goodness there is a special day – Father’s Day – designated for us to take a moment to very deliberately celebrate our Dad’s! There are lots of ways to celebrate Father’s Day. One that we particularly liked is to celebrate Father’s Day with a book.

Well make that two books! One book that Dad has been dying to read. And one book that Dad can read to the kids. Reading to kids has so many benefits for their development but it is also a really special way to bond.

This Father’s Day, take the time to communicate all the ways that the dad in your life makes a difference, and say thank you!

No one can replace Dad, or Mom for that matter. But sometimes, families need a little support – whether it is with housekeeping or caring for a senior loved one, a loved one with special needs or the kids. SOSitter.ca is a Canadian portal designed to help you find local caregivers in your area, easily and quickly. The caregiver who is right for your family is only a click away.

 

Jun 6

5 Things Your Nanny Should Always Have Handy!

Now that the good weather is here to stay, your kids and their nanny will probably be spending a lot more time outdoors.

So make sure they’re properly equipped with some basic things:

5 Things Your nanny Should Always Have

 

May 31

Social Media and your Babysitter

So you think you are up on social media? You have heard about and may even use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, child and nannyTumblr, Snapchat, WhatsApp, and Vine.

But do you know the other social media sites and applications kids are using? Heard of Whisper, Yik Yak, Burn Note, ooVoo and Kik Messenger? That’s right! There are more and more outlets every day that enable us (and particularly teens) to communicate in new ways. Wikipedia’s alphabetical listing of social networking sites passes 50 in number by the time it gets to F, as in Facebook.

[A cheat sheet is included at the bottom for anyone scratching their heads right now!]

Technology and social media in particular opens up new ways for you to stay connected to your home – i.e. your kids and babysitter or nanny – that did not exist previously. That is wonderful!

But… You need to be clear about the rules of the road for its use. This should absolutely be one of the things to discuss in very clear terms and even better, document on your babysitter board or its equivalent.

And the first thing you should do is find out what social media your babysitter or nanny uses. Don’t be shy! Life is busy and social media moves fast. Find out what they are using and then how it is used. Then decide what you are comfortable using for communicating with each other or more widely.

Next, set the rules for what is okay for your babysitter or nanny to post that includes your kids. You want to consider whether you are comfortable with your kids’ image, name, location or situation (i.e. home without parents) being online. If you are comfortable with some combination of the above, ensure that you are notified of posts.

Agree what types of communication you want to have whilst you are away. Do you want those super cute moments captured and texted to you? Do you want a live stream of how activities are going (homework done, veggies eaten, teeth brushed, good night routine)? Set rules for taking images and photos of your kids away on their devices.

One word of warning – be sensible: if your babysitter or nanny is texting you every 5 minutes how is she or he paying attention to the kids? And what are you getting done? Also have clear rules on when devices should be down – like when driving or watching the kids on the playground or in the pool.

And don’t forget your children. Kids today are glued to their devices. Talk frankly with your nanny or babysitter about what apps and sites are allowed and when devices need to be put away.

Finally: Here is a quick run-down if you DID NOT know any of the social media sites we mentioned:

Twitter – 140 character microblogs called tweets

Instagram – app for positing pictures and short videos, both publically and to private networks

Tumblr – short streaming blogs (tumblogs) including text, audio, video and photos

Snapchat – app for messaging (including pictures and videos) that disappear after a set period of time; note that this is increasingly becoming a standard means of communications for kids today

WhatsApp – app to send text, audio, photos and images directly to one person or a group

Vine – app for posting short videos

Whisper – app for putting out messages (that are paired with an image) anonymously

Yik Yak – short messaging app that is accessible to the 500 closest users

Burn Note – app for messaging (text only) that deletes messages after a set period

ooVoo – app for messaging, voice and video, including a group chat function

Kik Messenger – app that lets you text for free

Facebook – if you do not know this one, well...more than 1.5 billion people on earth are using it so worth checking it out to be a little more current!

Do you need to find a babysitter or nanny before you even start thinking about this? You have come to the right place. SOSitter.ca is a Canadian portal designed to help you find local caregivers in your area, easily and quickly. The caregiver who is right for your family is only a click away.

 

May 24

Senior Summer Fun

It is time for some Senior Summer Fun! Just think how good it feels for you and your kids to get out and enjoy the fresh air, blue skies and warm sun after being inside for all those winter months. Well the same is true for seniors. Maybe even more so since they can sometimes have a more limited and indoor existence.seniors playing a game

Why is this a good idea?

Sunlight is a great source of Vitamin D which is important for bones, brain and muscle function. It provides the opportunity for some additional and varied physical exercise and can provide a mental lift as well. Getting out and about and engaging in a wider social group is good for the soul, no matter what age. I am hard pressed to think of any downsides to getting out to enjoy the fresh outdoors.

And if you or your senior loved ones need some encouragement to get out there and enjoy life to the fullest, get them watching Grace and Frankie! Netflix’s show, starring Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Sam Waterson, and Martin Sheen as seniors who are anything but retiring, has just started its second season. It is sure to inspire young and old alike!

So what are some fun things that seniors can do?

People watch!
Those who know me, will not be surprised to see this top of the list. I can think of nothing better than to find a bench in an interesting area and just watching who comes passing by. People are fascinating!

Play Ball!
Whether it is your ten-year old’s baseball game, the local minor league or the majors, games can be enjoyed by fans of all ages.

Take a stroll!
Or a roll if your senior loved one requires some mobility support. However you need to do it, get out and get breathing that fresh air.

Take a dip!
Swimming and water aerobics is a good way for seniors to get exercise without taxing their body too much. If swimming days are long gone for your senior loved one, suggest sitting by the pool, dangling their feet in.

Go fish!
Literally, go fishing. Fishing is as low impact a sport as you are going to find, so if you have got the equipment and a place to go nearby, get to it! If that is not an option, what about playing “Go Fish” or another card or board game on the picnic bench in the backyard or in a park?

Celebrate!
There are tons of reasons to have a BBQ over the summer, national holidays and made-up holidays or just because! A BBQ or picnic always leaves family and friends with great memories and usually a good night’s sleep!

If you want to give your senior loved one some Senior Summer Fun but find you need some help, you have come to the right place to find a senior caregiver. SOSitter.ca is a Canadian portal designed to help you find local caregivers in your area, easily and quickly. The caregiver who is right for your family is only a click away.

May 17

Pet Sitters: The Questions to Ask

For someone who did not grow up with pets (Julius Augustus Caesar – our short lived parakeet, bought to fulfill a Girl Guide badge requirement – does not count), I sure do love my animals. I have: two horses, two donkeys, 1 beagle and 3 egg-laying hens.

As my partner says, pets are life enhancers. Boy is that true. The never-ending love I receive from this motley crew pet sitter questionsconstantly amazes me. And frankly, their love more than makes up for the hard work required to care for them. But don’t tell my partner that! I am forever complaining about said work and the fact that we can never get away for a much needed holiday because… the animals.

Here are the top four questions I ask to help my partner get comfortable enough with someone to leave our precious “children” in someone else’s hands:

Are you an animal Person?

What pets did you have growing up and what type of animals do you have now? Why do you love animals? This is a great way for you and your pet sitter to get to know and feel comfortable with each other quickly; people bond over their love of animals. And if your pet sitter does not seem to have a love of animals, that is a good indicator that he or she is not the pet sitter for you and your four-legged family members!

What are your experiences and your credentials?

What experience do you have a being a pet sitter? What type of animals have you cared for and for what period of time? What type of things did caring for them include? What did you like and what did you dislike? What did you learn from these experiences? Did you run into any trouble or emergencies and how did you handle them? Can you provide references?

What is your approach to pet sitting?

How do you go about making animals you are caring for comfortable with you? How much time can you give my pets each day? Will you play with them? Will you bring your animals over? How many other pets are currently caring for? What do you like being a pet sitter?

How will you keep us up to date on how things are going?

In today’s world, it is easy to be away but to keep up to date on how things are going at home. On a recent girls trip, my friend and a new mother, got texts and photos throughout the day from her Nanny with updates on how and what her baby was doing. Some of the girls on the trip initially rolled their eyes but we were all convinced by the end of the trip. The messages were short and the pictures cute and most of all, our friend was relaxed enough to get out onto the dance floor and boogie with the rest of us, knowing her baby was well. The same approach can be used to our furry and feathered babies!

If you are as crazy about your pets as I am, you will want to find a pet sitter you can trust. You have come to the right place. SOSsitter.ca is a Canadian portal designed to help you find local caregivers in your area, easily and quickly. The caregiver who is right for your family is only a click away.

 

May 9

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions….

Decisions, decisions, decisions….We make many decisions every day. It starts the moment we wake up (what to have for breakfast, what to make the kids for lunch, what to wear to work) and picks up a rapid pace from there.

too many choicesSo we know we make a lot of decisions each day, but did you know (make sure you seated for this one) that some reports say that the average adult human being makes 35,000 a day! That is a lot of decisions. Even if the figure is not that high, it is no wonder there is something called Decision Fatigue. Decisions Fatigue means that we become less effective at making decisions as the day goes on.

So what is one to do? Cannot decide? We recommend (1) minimizing the number of decisions you need to make a day; (2) Actively minimize and manage decision fatigue and (3) Just do it – make a choice. Easier said than done? Here are some ways to make this happen:

Minimize the number of decisions

We will always face a staggering number of decisions to make but we can make it easier on ourselves in many ways. Take clothes for example. If your kids are in a school that requires a uniform, you know the joys of not having to decide on a new outfit every day. This can work for adults too. Develop your “work uniform” such as a series of simply cut suits paired with scarves, and cut down on a number of decisions from the get go.

Make the best decisions possible by minimizing decision fatigue

The more decisions we make, the more it wears us out. So make your most important decisions as early in the day as possible. Go further and know what big decisions you are going to make; any new “biggies” that pop up the day should be put off, if possible, to another day. Limit the number of options you have… choosing between a few options is much easier than many. Fewer options also affords you the opportunity to get better “decision support information” on each option.

Just do it – make a choice

Every decision is a choice. Alexandra Stoddard, a philosopher of contemporary living and the author of many best-selling books, wrote on this subject in her booked titled Making Choices. She talks about the negative emotional impact that can come from leaving decisions unmade for long periods of time. A work colleague gave me similar advice – any decision, even one that you later think was not the right one, is better than no decision. Think about it. Can you identify recent decisions that you have given a lot of your time fretting over, only to feel relief (and a bit silly) when you have finally made it? Make that a lesson learned and face your decisions head on; you will feel better for it.

Making decisions – and a lot of them – is a privilege of modern life but also can be a burden. You will always have a lot of them before you. You will make some good decisions and likely some less good decisions. The best you can do is realize that decision-making is a critical skill set in today’s world and so it’s worth the effort to be deliberate about how to make the best possible decisions possible.

There is one easy decision to make – use SOSsitter.ca for all of your home support needs! SOSsitter.ca is a Canadian portal designed to help you find local caregivers in your area, easily and quickly. The caregiver who is right for your family is only a click away.

 

May 2

Celebrating Mothers and Stepmothers this Mother’s Day

Happy Mothers Day Moms and Stepmoms! We love you and appreciate all you do for us!

So, remember the days of the TV show Leave it to Beaver when families were made of up of one Father, one Mother, one boy and one girl and a dog named Spot? Well, whether that was a true reflection of families in the 1950s or not, it certainly is not a good reflection of families today.

Single mothers, single fathers. Stepmoms and stepdads. Two dads, two moms. And probably more combinations! Most people today would agree that families come in all shapes and sizes and should be celebrated no matter shape or size.

Easy right? Unfortunately, it is not always that simple. For example, Mother’s Day is coming up and it can cause mother's daysome questions and anxiety when considering how to include stepmothers.

Every family is different and each family has different circumstances over the years. There is no one answer or approach to Mother’s Days but there are some universal truths that we believe can be helpful as you navigate your particular circumstances: recognize and consider the feelings of all involved, act with kindness and talk it out. If you keep these in mind, you will do just fine! We have also included some tips for all the different players in Mother’s Day equation.

Teachers

When handing out materials for kids to make Mother’s Day cards, check to see if kids need materials for more than one card. You can no longer assume kids only have one Mom!

Fathers

You have a big role, you do realize that, right? Not only should you help your kids prepare for Mother’s Day for their biological mother but you should take the lead in helping the whole family navigate how best to honour the stepmom. This could mean that just you do something special for your spouse if your kids and ex wife are not ready to include your new spouse in Mother’s Day celebrations. It is your job to help find a comfortable solution for all – and that includes ensuring you recognize all your spouse does for you.

Mothers

You will always be your children’s biological mother and they will always love you. If your kids feel they want to celebrate their stepmother as well, do not feel threatened. Feel happy that your children have so many people in their lives that love them. And know a child’s heart has no limitations when it comes to how much love they can give.

Stepmothers

Some stepmoms can feel like it is a job that has all the requirements of being a mother – the time, money and worry – without the upsides of being the adored mother. Whether you have developed an good relationship with your stepchildren easily or it will take some time, recognise that they will see all that you have brought to their lives eventually and stay confident and up beat. Give yourself whatever you need to keep taking the high road.

Stepchildren

Like in all areas of your life, consider the people around you and how they feel. If you feel strongly that Mother’s Day celebrations are only for biological mothers, find another way to show your stepmom that you appreciate all that she does.

No matter how many mothers you are lucky enough to have in your family, you will likely still find that you need to some extra help at home. If that is true, you have come to the right place! SOSsitter.ca is a Canadian portal designed to help you find local caregivers in your area, easily and quickly. The caregiver who is right for your family is only a click away.