Friday, December 30, 2011

Christmas 2011 Family Photos

This year, our Christmas was busy as usual!  We started off at Jeremy's parent's house and then headed towards my Grandparent's the next day to spend time with my family.  After looking at our photos, we clearly didn't take the camera out for the second half of the trip and we need to take more pictures in general.  We just get busy chasing kids around and forget about the camera!  At least we got a couple of each of the kids and they are the important ones at Christmastime after all.

One of the only photos of myself with the kids.  Must improve on this next year!

I hope everyone has a Safe and Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Gingerbread Man Cookies

I am soo happy to be posting a new recipe as it means I finally have some free time in my life!  I saw these cookies on Pinterest and Connor happened to be standing next to me.  Of course, he was excited to make them and I hadn't tried making Gingerbread Men before so thought I'd give it a try.  It wasn't too difficult except for finding the cookie cutter but fortunately a friend lent me hers.  I find that cookie cutters are really a hit and miss item.  You have to buy them when you see them.

The cookies were delicious.  I just bought the decorating tubes at Safeway and also used M & M's for the buttons.  I changed a couple things in the recipe and included the changes below.  You could also try the recipe with orange zest instead of lemon and use 2 tablespoons of dark corn syrup instead of the molasses.  I liked it the way we made it but that was the original recipe so they are also possibilities.  I also changed the cook time to 3-4 minutes less as I burnt our first batch and found that 8 minutes was just about right for our oven.

Gingerbread Man Recipe
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon zest
  • 3 tablespoons molasses
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  1. Cream the butter and the sugar together. Add the egg and mix well. Mix in the lemon zest and molasses.  Add the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, ground cloves and salt, mixing until well combined. Chill dough for at least 2 hours, I like to chill overnight.
  2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease cookie sheets. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough out to 1/4 inch thick. Cut into desired shapes using cookie cutters. Place cookies 1 inch apart on the prepared cookie sheets.
  3. Bake for 8-10 minutes in the preheated oven, until cookies are firm and lightly toasted on the edges. 
My little cookie monsters:

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Decorating the Christmas Tree!

My Masters class is finally over for the semester so I've got time to blog again.  We also finally had time to buy and put up our Christmas tree. This year, it was almost completely decorated by Connor.  He was really keen to put all ALL the ornaments so we let him...although I did move a few a bit higher so we didn't have fifty ornaments at the same height.

I am also excited to start doing some Christmas cookie baking today and we even managed to buy a couple more presents today too.  It wasn't quite as crazy as I expected although we only went to Canadian Tire and they weren't overly busy.  I'm sure that Walmart and Costco are a zoo.

I feel like I have possibly survived the hardest part of going back to work full-time.  The four months in the fall is a long stretch with only a few days off and it's been tough with the kids, sickness, and my university class.  We made it though and I plan on enjoying every moment of the next few weeks.  I have to give some credit to mother nature for being so kind with these mild temperatures.  It's so much easier not having to totally bundle up the kids in the mornings.  I know there will be super cold days to come but it's been a decent fall at the very least.

Finally, here's some lovely photos of our tree decorator this year!  Christmas with Connor has been a lot of fun so far this year.  He is so excited about it and it makes the holidays so much more special with that kind of enthusiasm around!

A sweet picture in front of the Christmas tree.
This is more like my child!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Another Christmas Stocking Mystery has been Solved!

A few readers have asked me about the patterns for the Christmas stockings I posted on my blog last year.  I don't actually own the pattern books but my Mom and Grandma do so I asked them and they came though for us!  The pattern books come from Mary Maxim and are available on their US and Canadian site.  They have most of the patterns that I am familiar with so hopefully this helps those of you who have been desperately trying to find them!  They are $14.99-$19.99 depending which country you buy it from.

Mary Maxim USA - Shows all patterns

Mary Maxim Canada Website - Same pattern books but only shows a few

Since I'm here posting, I just wanted to say that I am not taking a break from blogging intentionally.  However, I was battling various sicknesses last month and now I'm busy writing my final paper for my Masters class.  I hope to get back on track once that is done and post a few more Christmas cookie recipes and share the great gifts and items I bought in the past couple of weeks.  I also have a review and giveaway coming up that I am excited about.  We are just doing a very thorough review process this time around while I finish up my final paper!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

You don't look a day over 20...

..or so my students say!  Of course, I am quite sure my co-worker fed that lie to them when they made me birthday cards last week.  Most don't speak English very well so I know they didn't come up with that little gem on ther own.  Yes, yesterday was my birthday and I hit an age that sort of felt strange for me.  I am getting closer to 40 now and that is kind of scary.  No offense to the 40 year olds of the are fantastic people.  I appreciate the maturity and sense of self that 40 year olds seem to have in general. 

Any guesses how old I am yet?  I am also that age where women are supposed to start getting tested for all sorts of genetic abnormalities if they are pregnant.  Yep, I'm 35 and it makes me reflect on how I arrived here and what the plans are for the future. I didn't really expect to have a 1 year old and 3 year old when I was 35 but life seems to take us on unexpected paths and I don't regret a thing so this is where I belong.  Living in Australia for a year, then in Taiwan for four years and then doing a second degree for my second career in education all fit perfectly with what I wanted.  Really, if I just go ahead and subtract my years overseas, then I'm only 30 and that's sort of how I feel.  Aging overseas doesn't count, does it?

So Connor is standing next to me right now and said that his stuffed rabbit couldn't come to the party because it didn't have a present for me.  He's so funny.  Speaking of presents, I got Johnny Reid for my birthday.  Welll, I didn't actually get HIM but I got tickets to his concert next spring.  I am looking forward to an evening of country crooning from a cute Scottish Canadian.

Of course, I also bought myself a new sweater and jacket at The Gap.  I posted a photo of the new jacket on my Facebook Page since I pinned my new items on Pinterest.  I wasn't convinced it was a great deal when I was ready to throw my items on the floor and leave without them after standing in line for nearly an hour.   I was NOT impressed when I finally reached the front of the line and the manager told the cashier he needed to do an exchange on that till.  Ummm..hello!!  There are two tills on the other side and only one here.  He almost incited a pre-Christmas shopping riot.  I am usually a very pleasant customer since I worked in retail for a few months and know what a crappy job it can be at times.  However, when he didn't even address me before interjecting and then proceeded to use the till for ten minutes...I was not impressed and vowed to do the rest of my shopping online!  I have relaxed my views however and plan on doing some post-work, pre-daycare pick up shopping instead on weekdays.  I used to be more patient...but watch out world because now I'm 35!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Black Friday and Cyber Monday 2011

As promised, I am starting a post about these festive shopping days.  Most of the in-store deals can be found on Black Friday and most online sales occur on Cyber Monday but there are exceptions to this.  You will find several Black Friday sales online as well.  I am just starting with everything I had heard so far and will continue to revise this post as the dates approach and I see new information.  Please add comments here or on my Facebook page if you have heard of a special deal planned for those days so it can be shared!  If you find things you like on these websites, the best way to remember the sale is to sign up for e-mail alerts on their web pages or make sure to like them on Facebook.

Bebe Bella Designs - You can sign up for e-mails to receive news on their 6 days of sales.  Keep in mind that they often have sales for 60-70% off on various items so it's worth signing up for regular e-mails anyway if you want a nice, comfy blanket from them.  Aleena has one of their toddler sized blankets and it's still one of my favourites.  They are very well made and wash well.  Hers still looks like new after several washes and it's nice and thick.

Rufflebutts - They promise to have a Black Friday sale.  I'll post more details as they become available. - It's the weekend you wait for all year. The beauty here - kick back, relax, sip a cup of coffee or tea, turn up your alert tool volume, and wait...
Black Friday to Cyber Monday. Do we have some awesome plans to make your dreams come true - no need to battle lines, parking lots, crowds, traffic or chaos on the biggest shopping day of the year - we've got you covered! We don't want to give it all away, so let's just put it this way...starting at 12:01 AM Friday morning, if you're sleeping, you're going to be missing out on some seriously awesome stuff, and trust us, you do not want to miss out this year. Be sure to check out our Facebook Fan Page as well, for up to the minute updates and a sense of community that you will be happy to find - oh, and perhaps a giveaway or two as well. Did we mention giveaway? Like to the tune of $100 of sweet, cool, hard MB dollars to spend? Oh, and that's just the tip of the iceberg. We've got more, and you'll only know if you stay tuned on our Facebook page! - They started posting deals today and have some amazing discounts on a variety of products.  I am sure that the same can be said over at
Here's the post from last year.  You can look out for sales from these companies and I'll be adding lots more in the coming days.  Black Friday and Cyber Monday 2010

Also, be sure to check your mail box for The Gap coupon for Saturday, November 19th or ask a friend if they are using theirs.  You can purchase two items for 60% off and also save 40% on all purchases for three days starting on the 19th. 

By the way, I'd be happy to list smaller Etsy shop sales again this year too.  Many of us LOVE Etsy too.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Letters to my Grandma

Remembrance Day is a very important day for Canadians.  It has always held a very special place in my heart because my uncle died in World War II and my grandma was the Silver Cross Mother in Yorkton, SK for several years.  I am thankful for all Canadian soldiers, past and present, and for their contributions to our country in ensuring our daily freedoms.

Last year, my Dad gave me the letters that my grandparents had received from the Royal Canadian Air Force that document when my uncle was first reported missing and later presumed dead.  Reading these letters is heartbreaking as you imagine the grief that my grandparents must have gone through in receiving them.

Flight Sergeant George Alvin Keil

Royal Canadian Air Force

Service # CAN/R.86378

Age: 22 years, 4 months, 28 days.

Birthdate: May 22, 1920


1)      The 1939-1945 Star
2)      The Atlantic Star
3)      The Canadian Volunteer Service medal
4)      The War Medal 1939-1945

Other Information received by his mother, Mrs. Amalia Keil, Togo, Sask. Canada (Most of the Official letters were addressed to the mother.)

1. (C.F. King) Wing Commander, Commanding No. 407 Squadron, R.C.A.F., on 22nd of October, 1942.

Unfortunately, this letter is to confirm Air Ministry’s signal that your son, Flight Sergeant G.A. Keil, was posted missing on an operational flight which took place on October 20th, 1942.

Your son was acting as navigator for his regular crew and took off from this aerodrome at 7:30 a.m. on a routine anti-shipping patrol in the Bay of Biscay. In this case, as in most operations of this nature, no information has been received which would throw light on what may have happened. It is necessary that crews maintain radio silence unless in difficulties but in this case no signals were received at base.

Your son has flown a good many operational flights and both he and the crew with which he was flying on this past operation were considered very competent in their duties. You can rest assured that, whatever may have happened, your son carried out his duties in his usual  efficient manner.

2. B. McLean for (W.R.Gunn) Flight Lieutenant R.C.A.F. Casualties Officer, for Chief of the Air Staff, on October 23rd, 1942

Advice has been received  from the Royal Canadian Air Force Casualties Officer, Overseas, that your son was a member of the crew of an aircraft which failed to return to its base after air operations on October 20th, 1942. There was one other member of the Royal Canadian Air Force in the crew, Flight Sergeant Moses Zumar, and he also has been reported missing. His next-of-kin is his father, Mr. Israel Zumar of Ottawa, Ontario.

I desire to point out that this does not necessarily mean that your son has been killed or wounded.  It might be that he is a prisoner of war and inquiries have been made through the International Red Cross Society and all other appropriate sources.

3. Air Commodore, Air officer in Charge, Air Ministry Records, on October 24th, 1942.

I am commanded by the Air Council to express to you their grave concern on learning from the Casualties Officer of the Royal Canadian Air Force that your son, CAN/R.86378 Flight Sergeant George Alvin KEIL has been reported missing as the result of air operations.

The Hudson aircraft of which he was the navigator failed to return to its base on the 20th October 1942 from an operational flight.

The Air Council desire me to express their deep sympathy with you in your great anxiety, and earnestly hope that favourable news of your son may be forthcoming.

4. Minton C. Johnston, Chaplain, R.C.A.F. on November 5, 1942.

I have just learned with deep regret that your son F/Sgt. G.A.Keil, has been reported missing. I hope that before this letter arrives you will have heard that he is safe. Or if the news has not already come, and it often takes weeks to filter through, I hope that it comes speedily.  Meanwhile may I assure you of my deepest sympathy.

5.(L.S.Breadner) Air Marshal, Chief of the Air Staff, on 28th of June, 1943, in a letter to Mr. Jacob Keil, Togo, Saskatchewan.

I have learned with deep regret that your son, Flight Sergeant George Alvin Keil, previously reported missing on Active Service Overseas is now presumed to have died on October 20th, 1942. I wish to offer both you and Mrs. Keil my sincere and heartfelt sympathy.

It is so unfortunate that a promising career should be thus terminated and I would like you to know that his loss is greatly deplored by all those with whom your son was serving.

In 1952 Keil Lake was named after F/S George A. Keil R.C.A.F. in the Province of Saskatchewan, Department of Natural Resources. Latitude 59 degrees 25’ 30” and Longitude 106 degrees 00’ 00”.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Watching Daddy

I am not a huge fan of winter but I couldn't resist taking a picture of my adorable kiddos watching their Dad snowblowing the first snowfall of the year. It was the first and there is a lot of it!  It's the same photo below...I just did some cropping and played with the colour.

Also, I am definitely going to make another Black Friday / Cyber Monday post this year.  I know a lot of you plan on doing your Christmas shopping online and I am with you!  Even today, I went to shopping at The Gap and it was fun but it's so much less stressful to explore a website online and I am not great at visualizing clothes on people...I like seeing the photos of people actually wearing clothes.  I also like having a chance to check others' reviews of things like toys or DVDs before I buy.  I realize I could do this at home and then shop but that doesn't seem to work.  I can never find anything in the stores when I do this and it makes the shopping trip quite frustrating.  Here's the post I did last year to give you some background on these lovely shopping days: 

Black Friday and Cyber Monday 2010

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Playful Peanut Giveaway Winner is...

Lyne Grimes!  Congrats are one lucky girl!  You will receive $25 to spend towards Playful Peanut merchandise as well as a balloon cocoon as featured in my previous blog post.

Thanks for all the entries.  Playful Peanut is really a great place to look for stocking stuffers and Christmas gifts in general.  I may have to order one of those Super Hero capes for my son.  He would absolutely love it.  I am just a little afraid of what sorts of super powers he may acquire while wearing it!

You can order items through their Etsy Shop or website and ask lots of questions via their Facebook page.  Here are the accompanying links:  Website, Etsy shop and Facebook Page.  Also, Kari-Ann and Amanda have mentioned traveling around to some craft shows in Manitoba so keep your eyes out for them as Christmas approaches!

Hope everyone had a fun I just need to get ready for Christmas and Black Friday in particular.  I am going to create another post again this year regarding Black Friday so watch for that!  It's a great way to get your Christmas shopping done online and take advantage of some amazing deals.

Lastly, if you could take a moment to visit the Circle of Moms website and vote for my blog, I'd really appreciate it!  You can technically vote once per day for any (or all) of the Canadian blogs you enjoy!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Hubby went shopping for the kids!

So Jeremy went to California last week when I posted about my Gap purchases on my blog.  He teased me about how he would know what I purchased if I put it on my blog and Pinterest!  I wasn't too concerned since I have barely bought anything for a few months and buying some clothes that fit was long overdue, especially clothes that fit since Aleena has grown a LOT in the past six months.  Her summer clothes don't fit, let alone any of her winter clothes.

I asked Jeremy to buy some clothes for the kids if he had a chance but really didn't believe he would.  I am surprised, impressed, and happy to say that he did very well!  He went to Gymboree and bought a few clothes.  I would have done a lot more damage but I have to give him full credit for doing any kids' clothes shopping since that's usually my thing.

Here are the clothes that he bought.   I love the school related t-shirts he bought for Connor, especially the math one since I've been teaching integers for the past month.

A fall outfit for Aleena.
Halloween shirt that glows in the dark.
"Positive Beats Negative"!

There's just one day left to enter the Playful Peanut giveaway. I will announce a winner on Monday.  Click on the logo to go to the giveaway post!

Monday, October 24, 2011

My Online Shopping Problem via Pinterest

Okay, I admit that I bought a few things online this weekend.  I had wondered why Aleena didn't fit in many of her clothes and that became quite clear at her 18 month shots when I discovered that she had jumped from around the 50th percentile for height and weight up to the 85th percentile!  I thought it'd be fun to share the items I have bought online via Pinterest.  I am not sure if everyone can view them or not.  You might need a Pinterest account which is easier enough to get.  If you don't know what Pinterest is, it's an awesome and addictive way to bookmark photos you find on the internet.  It also allows you to follow others' photos which are categorized on various virtual boards.

For example, I have boards with recipes, favourite places, items for the home and now "My Online Shopping Problem" which will feature all items I have bought online.  I don't think my husband will like that board very much but at least he can keep up with the items I am buying.  I anticipate that I'll do most of my Christmas shopping online so I'll update as I purchase things but might have to screen certain things so I don't ruin any surprises.

If you are interested in Pinterest, just leave a comment with your e-mail and I'll send you an invitation.  I think I've still got a couple left and I am sure some other readers would be willing to help out with invitations if needed.  It's a great way to check out what other Moms are finding online.  That's my favourite aspect of Pinterest.  I love following other Moms to see what they have found online and then you can "pin" those same items for yourself.

Here's the link to my new board with the items I bought from The Gap on the weekend.  I am excited to receive them!  My Online Shopping Problem Board via Pinterest

Also, don't forget to enter the Playful Peanut giveaway that I posted yesterday.  They've got a $25 gift card as well as a balloon cocoon up for grabs.  The contest is open to the US and Canada until October 30th at Midnight.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Playful Peanut Review & Giveaway

I am excited to tell you about an adorable Canadian company called Playful Peanut.  Like many small mom run businesses, Kari-Ann and Amanda started their business to stay at home with their little ones and to create handmade boutique quality products.  The item that I noticed first at Playful Peanut was their "I Spy Bags".  They are a fun and unique toy for toddlers who can seek out various items in a bag with a small window for them to seek through.  I think the words "fun" and "unique" are the best way to describe Playful Peanut.  For this review, they sent me a balloon cocoon to try out with the kids.  Admittedly, I had never heard of a balloon cocoon before but it's a cute idea that makes playing with balloons a bit safer for kids.

The Review

I let Aleena and Connor try out the balloon cocoon in our living room yesterday.  Of course, as soon as a balloon came out, mayhem ensued and they turned into crazy monkeys.  They certainly tested out the resilience of the product by poking it, prodding it, throwing it, squishing it and even jumping on it.  I realize it's not immune to be popped or broken but I imagine a balloon popping inside the cloth cover would be less traumatic than one popping without one.  Actually, the balloon is still fully inflated inside the cocoon today so the kids were able to play with it again.   It wasn't so crazy the second time around and they mostly just tossed it and chased it around.

Aleena eating the balloon cocoon..better than eating the actual balloon!
The Mayhem!

Aside from cute unique toys, Playful Peanut sells a variety of handmade items including the following list that I borrowed from them: Toddler Belts, Snap Belts, Nursing Covers, Hair Clips, Bibs, Burp Clothes, Sock Monkeys, Car Seat Canopies, Soother Clips, Chalk Place-mats, Quiet Books, Quilts, Change Pad Covers, headbands, Balloon Cocoons, Snack-Loc Bags, and Wet Bags.

They have a lovely Website, Etsy shop and Facebook Page with LOTS of things for sale.  I love the designs and all the interesting items they've created.  They have great taste in fabrics for their products especially the cute girls' dresses.  If you're looking for some excellent handmade gifts for Christmas, there are some great options on their Facebook page in particular.  It has the most selection right now based on what I saw today.  I also noticed that they're making the rounds to some craft and Christmas shows in Manitoba so you can watch for them if you're from that part of the country.  They post their sale information on their Facebook page so that's the best way to stay up to date.

If you somehow don't find exactly what you are looking for on their site, you can contact Playful Peanut and they would be happy to customize an item for you.

The Giveaway

Playful Peanut is giving one lucky winner their very own balloon cocoon and $25 to spend on Playful Peanut merchandise.  (Shipping is additional or you can include the shipping in the $25 gift amount.)

I will be using to select the winner of the contest.  You must make each entry in a separate comment below.

How to Enter:
1.  Visit the Playful Peanut Website and/or Etsy Shop and let us know what you like the best! 
2.  "Like" Playful Peanut on Facebook.  Feel free to let them know I sent you!
3.  Follow A Sophisticated Mommy via Google Friend Connect.
4.  "Like" A Sophisticated Mommy on Facebook.
5.  Share this giveaway and let me know how.  (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Blog, Forum)

This contest is open to Canada and the US.  The contest will end on Sunday, October 30th at Midnight Saskatchewan Time.  I will announce the winner on Halloween Day.

Here are a few other things that I love from Playful Peanut.

Adorable Dresses
I Spy Bags
Personalized Super Hero Capes
The pattern of the balloon cocoon that the winner will receive.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Bedtime Little Monsters!

I was reading this book to Connor for the umpteenth time tonight and thought I`d share how much I love it on my blog.  I hadn`t even heard of it before but found it in the Safeway bargain bin when he was just a few weeks old.  I`ve read it hundreds of times since then and it`s still a favourite.  It`s also amazingly still in tact considering it has lift up flaps in it.

The book has lots of little monsters hiding in various places to avoid going to bed.  They are all different colours and the text rhymes throughout the book.  It`s not too long, the art is colourful and engaging and it has a good flow.  It`s easy to follow and doesn't have any unnecessary words like some children's books do.  I would highly recommend it!

I can practically recite the book by now..."Goodnight little monsters, but the monsters want some fun!  Scamper, scamper, crash and bang!  Quickly!  Off they run!"

What are your little one's favourite bedtime books?

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Advocating for Education and EAL Students in Saskatchewan

I attended the STF Fall Conference over the past couple of days.  It was hard to be away from the kids but also kind of nice to spend some time with adults.  It was the first couple of nights I've been away from Aleena since she was born so that was strange for me.  I did fine and she did great with Dad.  So did Connor although Dad had to deal with a phantom leg injury which miraculously cleared up this morning after a good night's sleep.  I am glad it did but wonder how a child can go from not walking and screaming in pain one day to feeling "all better" the next day.  I guess I'll just be happy he's okay and not worry too much about the "why".

Back to council now... I really enjoyed it.  It was one of those times in life when you end up in a situation where you feel like you belong.  There were lots of teachers just as interested in talking about collective bargaining, various educational issues, and all sorts of policies.  Some people might find it boring but I found it fascinating.

My favourite part of the conference was having opportunities to advocate for English as an Additional Language students.  I had a chance to do this with the election candidate at a luncheon on Thursday where our teachers' federation invited several election candidates to participate in a town hall forum on education and to join us for lunch for dialogue on educational issues.  If you read the papers, you may think it was all about teachers complaining about our contract negotiations.  Sure, we made the point that we felt disrespected by the government during the last round of negotiations.  That is a fact.  However, the majority of the forum was simply teachers advocating for public education and, ultimately, for our students.

In our table discussion with our candidate, I mentioned my biggest concerns with respect to education.  Since I am an EAL teacher, the issues I feel most important are as follows:
  1. You cannot bring in thousands of immigrants and expect the current educational funding to support this population of students.  English as an Additional Language (EAL) students require more resources, smaller class sizes, and more supports.  I am also wary of hearing the argument from both federal and provincial MPs and MLAs (candidates) that the other is responsible for refugees/immigrants.  I realize they need to communicate and possibly share funding but my impression is that there is a lot of passing the buck on to the other.  Neither seems to want to take responsibility for the additional funding that is absolutely necessary to ensure that immigrants and refugees receive a quality education so they can become educated, productive members of society.
  2. There is no EAL curriculum in Saskatchewan and this is unacceptable.  Once again, there is always a reason for why we don't have something as of yet.  In this case, the argument is made that we haven't needed one until recently.  Now, I would possibly consider this except that Saskatchewan has had EAL students for decades on Hutterite colonies.  Furthermore, the majority of Canadian provinces already have well developed ESL curriculums including BC, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, Newfoundland & Labour, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia.  I have looked through the Saskatchewan Curriculum documents and cannot find one reference to English as an Additional Language students, not even for some adaptations.  I recall the old curriculum made an occasional mention of ESL but the new document does not.  There is a real need to develop a curriculum guide for English as an Additional Language as there are different outcomes required for students learning English and simply differentiating is not enough.  I looked for research to support this argument but it doesn't exist because it just goes without saying that ESL students need a curriculum designed for their learning needs.  Is there overlap?  Of course, but it's language-based in that these students need to learn more than the outcomes and indicators in the existing curriculum which assumes students are native English speakers.
  3. We need EAs in our program.  I cannot stress this enough.  Yes, I have small class sizes but that's for a very good reason. In one class, I have students from several countries at varying levels of English and they may or may not have literacy skills in their first language.  We always have at least a handful of students who are non-speakers and could really use one-on-one support from an EA.  We used to have this support but lost our EA a couple of years ago when cuts to these positions were made.  Another example of how we used this support would be when the EA's attended a Canadian class with a group of EAL students and could provide support for those students and report back to the EAL teachers for further tutorial support.  We really miss that.  Actually, the STUDENTS really miss that because they are the ones suffering.
As I am sure you can tell, these are issues I feel strongly about.  They are political, yet they are directed at every political party. I care about making sure these problems are dealt with and would be happy to discuss them (and will be discussing them) with MLAs in the future.  

One last thing...and the subject of a future blog post since it seemed to garner a lot of interest will be a discussion of what we are doing at my school to support EAL students.  While there is always room for improvement, we are doing some great things and I want to share those.  I was flattered and excited to know that a principal in another school division is going to take my ideas forward in an attempt to change things for the better.  I want to share this information on my blog and maybe help others who are at a loss when it comes to supporting students from other countries.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

I'll take a helping of written feedback please!

My little "helper"!
Yes, I am spending my Thanksgiving weekend writing a midterm paper.  I am not complaining..okay, maybe a little bit.  I am sad I am missing my family Thanksgiving but it's been a crazy few weeks this fall and we're just a bit stressed out around here.  We just need to relax for a day or two.  Jeremy is going to take the kids to his family's Thanksgiving tomorrow so I can stay home and have some quiet time to work.  I will at least get some leftovers!  Honestly, I've been eating so much lately that it's probably a good thing I am skipping out on the main meals.  The last thing I need right now is a big Thanksgiving dinner.  I think the stress of everything has caused me to eat way too much which isn't a good combination since I'm taking some time off running due to a nagging leg injury. Well, this post sure has become depressing.  I promise to write a more positive post tomorrow about all the things I am thankful for because I truly am thankful.  I feel lucky to be so busy and have so many great things going on in my life.  It's just that it is busy and I don't get a lot of time to relax.  There's no magic here.  I just work a lot and don't sleep very much right now.  The good news is that I am enjoying everything I am doing so it's all good.

Of course, while I am working on my paper, I hope and pray that the kids sleep well.  They are also very helpful as you can see from the picture of Aleena with my journal article and outline.  So far, I've got a well developed table comparing journal articles that's fourteen pages long.  The write up has to be around ten pages so now it's just a matter of typing it out and adding a few other supporting articles.  I am sure that no one really cares about this except for me and possibly my professor.  Actually, my classmates might find this interesting since I know it's fun to compare progress with others.

I asked Aleena where Mommy was.  She was right!
In other news...I hope to post a giveaway on Monday.  I just need a couple photos of the product being reviewed so hopefully that occurs tomorrow with some nice autumn leaves and cute kids.  The company is a small Canadian business which features some adorable, unique products that would be great as Christmas gifts or stocking stuffers.  I am excited to write about them!

I hope everyone is having a great Thanksgiving weekend, whether you are at a big gathering or at home with your family.  

Thursday, October 6, 2011

A Gorgeous Fall Day

I am sad to say that today may have been the last really warm day this year.  In order to celebrate, I took my students outside for literacy class and they shared their stories in smaller groups.  The students really appreciated it since tomorrow is the start of a long weekend and I think they were ready to leave the school anyway!  Amazing how a few words can energize a class.  I should take them outside more often as they were really excited about it and stayed on task the whole time (okay, most of the time).

Took a picture of the school today.  It really is a beautiful building.
The lovely girls in my literacy class.  There are only four girls in a class of fifteen students.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Busy, busy, busy!

Aleena watching Uncle Curt run his first half marathon.
I sit here writing this as I should be working on a midterm paper that's due in a week and a half.  Seems like a lot of time but not really...not when I don't have any guaranteed working time and have to take advantage of every opportunity available to me.  This past week, I think all of this caught up with me and I ended up taking a sick day.  Yes, I am just a wee bit stressed with everything that I've taken on.  No, I'm not superwoman..not even close.  Actually, typing this reminds me of when I visited my minister when I was in high school.  They used to have clergy come into the school to do some counseling for students.  Wow, have times ever changed.  Imagine the uproar that would cause these days?!  (I went to a public school.)

Anyway, back to the story.  I remember telling our pastor that I was extremely busy and stressed out and had taken on too much.  I really had.  I am starting to see a pattern here in my life.  I seem incapable of relaxing for very long but at least it does happen from time to time.  Ironically, I am often asked about my running as if it's an extra thing I do that stresses me out.  The good news is that running doesn't stress me makes me feel better.  This is why I am somewhat unhappy right now as I've got a nagging injury that I am making myself finally listen to.  It's time to rest now that my half marathon is over before I cause any permanent damage.

I realized the other day that I may have an addiction to being busy because I've stopped telling people everything I've taken on.  I'm actually embarrassed to admit it.  For example, how many people know I have helped coach cross country running at school this year?  I doubt anyone knew until I got sick and couldn't take the kids to a meet thereby canceling the event for our school.  Gotta love how the one extracurricular/volunteer aspect of my job made me feel the most guilty about going home sick.  And how many people know that I'm now a school rep for the RPSTA (RPS Teachers Association)?  I figure that if I don't like how some things are going in education right now, it's better to take action than complain.  This is my way of getting involved.

Of course, there's also my Masters class and it mostly just stresses me out because I am never sure when I'll have the time to work on the readings and assignments.  More good news though.  I enjoy taking my Masters as odd as that may sound.  It's so relevant to my teaching and I find it fascinating.  For example, I have 15 stories to correct next week and I am going to write a paper comparing a couple journal articles on giving written feedback for ESL students' writing.  I find it fascinating to learn what the research in the field is.  When you read a text or teaching guide, you get one perspective.  When you read a bunch of journal articles, you learn many sides of the story and get a broader perspective on a topic.

Of course, between all of this craziness, there are my two lovely children with contagious smiles.  They keep me smiling too.  They also remind me about what's really important everyday and that helps keep perspective on everything else.

Monday, September 26, 2011

It's Raining in Education

I listened to a talk by Dr. Michael Apple this afternoon at the University of Regina.  According to their website, he's a "renowned critical pedagogue".  I was going to make up a simpler name but couldn't think of anything appropriate so we'll go with their title.  Basically, he's a wise man who knows a lot about education.  How could  he not with a name so apt for the profession as "Apple"?  Of course, I mentioned this to my tech savvy hubby and his mind went in another direction.  I suppose Dr. Apple would be great at computer technology as well but I digress.

I arrived at the talk a bit late since it started at 3:30 pm and it was a bit rushed to drive from work and try to find a parking spot.  I won't get into the parking issues too much but I will say that I spent way too much time looking for a parking spot which was extremely far away from the lecture.  I also may have used a few curses along the way and feel badly for the parking attendant who was forced to listen to me vent about the whole fiasco.

Back to the talk...and because it's late and I still have a journal article to read, we'll go with point form.  Here are the points that resonated with me the most today.
  • Education is a feminized profession.  Because of this, we are constantly fighting for respect.  We make 5,000-10,000 less than professions that require similar educational expectations.  (I would argue the gap is much larger than this in Saskatchewan and there are plenty of statistics to prove it.)
  • Teachers are highly skilled individuals and yet everyone seems to think they can be a teacher.
  • Governments and educational stakeholders understand very little about what goes on in the classroom on a daily basis.  Only teachers and those who spend time in the classroom truly know what's best for the students.  
  • Standardized testing assumes that every teacher should teach every student the same thing.  This conflicts with the very basis of the Saskatchewan Curriculum which encourages inquiry based learning and constructivism especially in subjects such as Science.  In math, we are asked to teach understanding in many ways where different students connect to the material in a way that makes sense to them.  Yet, at the same time, students are writing standardized tests which assume they are being taught the exact same thing.  Sounds like a no-win situation to me.
  • It's always the teacher's fault when something goes wrong in education.  In fact, anything that goes wrong in education is automatically blamed on teachers or teacher education.  Apparently it has nothing to do with a lack of resources, diverse student needs, cuts in educational assistants, or a multitude of initiatives that would make a head spin.
  • For every 500 poor people, there is one rich person.  Dr. Apple then said that this stat was wrong...there are actually more poor people for every rich person.
  • In every nation where teachers have been paid based on performance, it has never been done with an intention to pay teachers more but with the intention of cutting jobs.
  • There is no research that supports the idea that paying teachers based on performance yields better results.
  • Paying teachers based on students' performance results in a greater divide between the rich and the poor.
Referring back to the title of this post, "it's raining in education" for everyone.  For teachers, for parents, for school boards, for governments, for private enterprise.  In other words, there are challenges for everyone when it comes to education and you have to stand under your own umbrella.  The private sector and those who are interested in a more market-based education system are trying to pull others under their umbrellas.  According to Dr. Apple, private-based education does not work.  He went into descriptions regarding various groups and their beliefs near the end of the presentation.  Unfortunately, I had to take off to pick up the kids at that point but felt enlightened by the lecture and am glad I took the time to attend.

Listening to lectures like these reinforces how important it is for educators to continue to work hard to advocate for what we know works in the classroom.  Teachers are the ones in the classroom each day and there are a lot of good things happening.  As Dr. Apple said, about 19 out of 20 media reports are telling the public about all the shortcomings of our education system.  This struck a chord with me after the attack ads we saw on Saskatchewan teachers in recent months.

How often do we see positive articles about what teachers are doing?  Let's see more of those.  Teachers really are doing great things in their classrooms.  I see this passion for teaching everyday in my colleagues (and myself).  I see the caring and attention teachers give students everyday.  Let's start to talk about that rather than all the doom and gloom of how our educational system is failing children.  Teachers are doing great things and I truly believe that the public knows this.  Why are we trying to keep it a secret?  It's okay to celebrate our teachers and to thank them and to appreciate them. Above all, it's okay to RESPECT them.  That's what we really want.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Mabel's Labels Giveaway Winner is...

Caitlin! (All About the Chaos Baby)

Thanks to everyone that entered this giveaway.  Mabel's Labels really are a great product for labeling your little one's belongings.  You also get lots of them when you order so you can label pretty much everything that you send to daycare or school.  They stay on well and are easy to remove later if you want to sell something after the fact.  Here's their website again:

Also, I follow them on Facebook and Twitter because they often have deals.   If I see something come up, I'll post it on my blog page as well.  For example, I bought some earlier this year when they had a Groupon type deal on

I hope everyone has a lovely Sunday.  We are enjoying 30 degree temperatures at the end of September so I hope to get outside with the family at some point today!

Lastly, if you could click on the Top Mommy Blogs logo, I would appreciate it!  A click equals a vote and that's all you have to do.

Visit Top Mommy Blogs To Vote For Me!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

'Bloggin' About Everything Baby' for Over a Year Now!

Here were the kiddos around the time I started this blog.
It's hard to believe it's already been a year since I started this blog.  It has been a lot of fun to keep it up although it has been harder to post as consistently since I returned to work in the spring.  I thought it'd be fun to copy my friend Meghan over at Food and Whine (an awesome food blog) and share my top ten blog posts from over the past year. Meghan celebrated her "Blogiversary" in the same way and I enjoyed seeing what her top posts were so I hope you feel the same way!

Without further delay, here are my top ten posts of all time!

1.  Daily "Deal" Websites - I don't think this will surprise anyone.  This post still receives the most "hits" per month.  What this tells me is that I am not the only one with this problem.

2.  lia sophia Jewellery Giveaway! $150 Value- This was my biggest giveaway ever.  It still gets lots of page views even though the contest ended months ago.                                                                                         
3.  Kidco PeaPod Plus Review and Giveaway - I'd always wanted a Kidco PeaPod and apparently so did everyone else.  This giveaway received lots of attention along with the most entries for any giveaway I've done so far!

4.  Z99 Radiothon Auction Information - Again, not a huge surprise especially since this fundraising effort was advertised on the radio and received a ton of support.  By the way, I am going to do another auction again for the next Radiothon next March so keep this in mind.  I will need sponsors and bidders!

5. Taryn Laine Photography Review & Giveaway- Taryn is a very talented photographer and people love to look at her pictures.  This post has received a ton of page views and I hope it has helped to drive her business at least a little.  She deserves it as she works hard, does great work and provides awesome deals.

6. Baby Gourmet Review & Giveaway - Obviously Baby Gourmet is onto something because several people found their products interesting and tasty.  It only makes sense that baby food should taste good and Baby Gourmet has managed to do just that.

7.  Skor Shortbread Cookies - I love that a recipe made the top ten list.  These cookies really are addictive.  I believe a reader referred to them as Christmas "crack" so bake with caution.

8.  The Great Canadian Blog Bash - This was an awesome blog event where I connected with several other Canadian mom bloggers leading up to Canada Day.  We celebrated our country and its traditions and promoted lots of great Canadian companies at the same time with lots of product giveaways.

9. Haute Tots Review & Giveaway - I still absolutely love the hat that we received from Haute Tots for this giveaway.  We get compliments every time Aleena wears it.

10. TippyToesKnits Giveaway - I love the style of TippyToesKnits hats and was thrilled to do a giveaway for this small but fantastic Etsy shop.

That rounds up the top ten posts according to Blogger Stats.  Hope you enjoy and that you keep reading in the months to come.  Christmas is coming after all and I have a Kitchen Aid Mixer named Martha that is calling my name.

Finally, I just want to thank everyone for reading my blog and for all the kind words and support I have been given over the past year.  I love sharing all sorts of deals, giveaways and stories with you.  My favourite part of this blog was the Z99 Radiothon and the amazing outpouring of support that was literally received from across the world.  It just makes me realize how powerful the internet is at bringing people together and I truly appreciate that sort of global thinking especially since that's been a concept I have embraced fully in my life.

Thank you for reading and I look forward to sharing more in the year to come!
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