Thursday, March 23, 2017

18-month Parental Leave: Can You Afford It?

Canadian moms and dads will soon be able to choose an extended 18-month parental leave thanks to billions of dollars earmarked for child care in the federal budget. But advocates say that not every family stands to benefit from the changes.

The Liberals’ second budget, tabled Wednesday, includes $7 billion over the next 10 years to help Canadians with their child care costs. That includes creating up to 40,000 new subsidized daycare spaces by 2019, and offering parents a choice to extend the usual 12-month parental leave to 18 months.
But the extended parental leave comes with “a couple of catches,” Barbara Byers, the secretary-treasurer of the Canadian Labour Congress, told CTV News Channel Thursday.

Advocates say that not every family stands to benefit from extended parental leave. While the federal government had “really good intentions” in offering the extended parental leave, it comes with the same amount of money stretched over a longer period of time, Byers said.

Employment insurance benefits cover 55% of a parent’s salary over 12 months. That same amount will be stretched out over 18 months for those who choose the extended leave. “So that means that there will be a limited number of families that can actually take advantage of that,” Byers said.

The budget measures will also allow expectant mothers to claim maternity benefits up to 12 weeks before their due date, an increase from eight weeks. Regardless of whether they would prefer the extended parental leave, many moms-to-be are still not eligible to receive the EI benefits, Byers noted.

To qualify, parents must have accumulated 600 hours of insurable employment in the previous year – a criterion that remains unchanged in the latest budget. Previous research has shown that women who have low-paying jobs, work part-time or freelance often don’t meet that target.

“With employment insurance, the biggest issue is you have to qualify for it first,” Byers said.  “And we know that so many women do not qualify for employment insurance and so therefore this isn’t going to be something that’s really accessible for them.”

Byers said the lack of affordable, good quality day care spaces across the country is one of the reasons behind the extended parental leave offer. But $7 billion over a decade “is just not enough” to address the issue, she said.

There are almost a million children in need of child care across Canada, Byers added. Alvin Tedjo, a father of three young children who sits on the board of the Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care, called the federal budget “a great step” but said it doesn’t include enough money up front to help address families’ immediate child care needs.

For the last several years, Tedjo and his wife have had at least two kids in daycare at any given time, which costs them an average of $30,000 per year out of pocket.

“Part of the problem is finding quality spaces, licensed spaces,” he told CTV News Channel Thursday.
Tedjo said 40,000 extra daycare spaces over the next three years is good, but not enough nation-wide.

“We need more money up front and I think the discussion needs to pivot towards universal child care,” he said. “We’ve been talking about that for a long time and it needs to come back to the forefront again.”

Article Courtesy of CTV News 

Related articles 
Will 18 month parental leave reduces pressures on working families? 
Is 18-month maternity leave a good idea? 
Does extended parental leave hurt or help women? 

Delicious Picture Books for Little Foodies

Everyone loves food! Introduce your little ones to some of the world’s incredible culinary diversity with picture books and board books that celebrate delicious dishes from all around the world.

Bee-bim Bop! Written by Linda Sue Park, illustrated by Ho Baek Lee.
Follow along with a little girl as she helps her mother make the delicious traditional Korean dish bibimbap. This lively picture book has a great rhyming text and a rollicking, bouncing text that will have readers bopping along!

Dim Sum for Everyone Written and illustrated by Grace Lin
A little girl and her family visit a dim sum restaurant, sharing, laughing, and of course eating delicious traditional food in this fun, colourful picture book.

Soup Day Written and illustrated by Melissa Iwai
Nothing warms the heart and soul quite like a steaming hot bowl of soup on a cold winter’s day. A little girl and her mother prepare a delicious soup from scratch, enjoying each step of the process, before sitting down to enjoy it with Daddy at the end of the day.

First Book of Sushi Written and illustrated by Amy Wilson Sanger
Hot miso soup, soft tofu, spicy wasabi, yum yum! This sweet andstrikingly illustrated rhyming board book introduces the littlest readers to Japanese cuisine, a popular dining option here in Vancouver!

Chaat and Sweets Written and illustrated by Amy Wilson Sanger
Dive into the delicious world of Indian snack foods with this celebration of sweet, salty, and spicy treats! The simple rhyming text makes this a perfect introductory board book for babies and toddlers.

Baby Food
by Margaret Miller
Margaret Miller’s board books are always delightful, and this celebration of food is filled with diverse pictures of adorable babies.  This is a great board book for the very youngest foodies.

Jane Whittingham is a librarian, educator and life-long book lover who writes about books for all ages on her blog

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Yummy Dinner Ideas with Yves Veggie

In our house, a staple meal is the trendy Buddha Bowl. It’s pretty safe to say that my husband and I eat one of these delicious healthy concoctions at least 2-3x a week.

It’s so easy and you can get super creative – all you need is a carb, such as brown rice or quinoa, some veggies, some cheese if you prefer, and a protein. We experiment and get fancy with new ideas from Pinterest, such as making the Thai Peanut Buddha Bowl (rice noodles, satay chicken, lots of green onion, carrots and bean sprouts, and a touch of cilantro to finish – YUM!!), or our staple favorite of Mexican, which involves a delicious combo of rice, black beans, corn, avocado, salsa and sour cream…and of course, my favorite…Cilantro!

I will admit thought that we were having trouble coming up with creative ideas for protein for our Buddha bowls. We like chicken, we use lots of legumes, and once in a while we’ll add tofu. We’re not vegetarian by any means - maybe more of a pescatarian type that still eats poultry – but we don’t really enjoy red meat. Nevertheless, it can get boring with the same old thing.

So it was very exciting when I received some delicious Yves vegan/vegetarian products to review – particularly the Falafel balls and the Kale and Quinoa bites. These both look like little meatballs, which excited me because my two kids LOVE meatballs, and I was certain I would be able to convince them that they would be delicious. They’re super easy to cook too – I spread them out on a baking sheet and baked them for 12 minutes on 400 degrees F.

I chopped them all in half, spread them over my Buddha Bowl, and dug in…to my delight, they were absolutely delicious. The falafel tasted garlicy, with lots of hints of cumin and coriander. I slathered my bowl with tzatziki and polished off half the bowl before I was nice and full. The kale and quinoa bites were just as good – moist and savory. I was pleasantly surprised. My children preferred the kale and quinoa to the falafel, but the fact that they ate them at all was quite an accomplishment, as they tend to be quite picky.

Overall, these bites were a great success and I’d definitely buy them again. When I pulled them out of the oven, they looked a bit dried out. Even though they tasted great, I think I would try a different method of cooking next time – perhaps steaming them quickly and then pan frying them in olive oil to give them less of a dry texture. I can’t wait to try the Yves Veggie Ground Round -  I’m going to make this delicious Sweet Potato Shepard’s Pie recipe with it!

Monday, March 20, 2017

How the Cost of Raising Kids Impacts Us

Can you afford to have (or more) children?  This is one of the biggest challenges couples thinking of starting a family are facing, and many Canadians are delaying starting families, deciding not to have children or choosing to have only one child due to cost.

From skyrocketing housing costs, to huge daycare fees (which are similar to one month’s rent in some cities), raising a child in Canada is expensive.

“We wanted to have three or four children, but we can’t because of the cost of child care,” said Gillian Bright. “We struggled a great deal with the expenses of childcare, which is just so overwhelming that it has kind of drowned everything else.”

The combination of struggling to pay for child care and challenges with employment and income have made it exponentially harder for Gillian to finish her PhD and get into the workforce.

According to an analysis by MoneySense magazine in 2015, the annual cost of raising a child in Canada is approximately $13,366 (averaged out over the course of the first 18 years of a child’s life). Parents spend the most money on child care, food and general household costs. Monthly day care fees cost the most in Toronto at an average of $1,150, while they cost an average of $905 a month in Vancouver, according to a 2016 report by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

While the cost of living is rising, salaries are not. According to the GenSqueeze, two income earners bring home what one income earner did in the 1970s, and Canadians need three times as long to save for a down payment for a house.

If there are fewer children being born due to the cost of housing and child care, then there are fewer people paying taxes and contributing to the social safety net.

“If families are choosing not to have children because they can’t afford care or they can’t find care, that’s going to come back to us as a society,” Nora Spinks, CEO of the Vanier Institute of the Family, told The Globe and Mail.

Coping with the stress of child care is one of the biggest challenges families, like the Bright family, face in BC. Gillian Bright is one of the approximately 3,000 people who filled out the BC Council for Families’ second Let’s Talk Families BC! survey in the summer of 2014. Many respondents echoed Gillian’s sentiments with 25% indicating that child care was one of the biggest issues their family struggled with. The only issue that trumped child care was income, with 35% of respondents saying they frequently faced income challenges.

Ruby Banga is the Provincial Coordinator of the Nobody's Perfect Parenting and the My Tween and Me Programs in BC. She has worked in the non-profit sector for over 20 years. Ruby believes that parenting education and support makes a difference for families; and that although it can be super challenging, being a parent is also very rewarding and the most important job there is!

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Reading Starts Early: Books for Toddlers

Learning to share can be hard, and with good reason - giving a beloved object to another person with no guarantee that you’ll ever see it again can be a daunting prospect for anyone, let alone a two or three-year-old child!  Toddlers are just beginning to explore cooperative play, and sharing is a skill that takes years to develop and fully master.

Picture books about sharing can be a great way to start positive conversations with little ones, and can help make the learning process more enjoyable for toddlers and their grownups alike. Endearing characters can model positive behaviors, and their stories can help children work through their fears and emotions around sharing in supportive ways. With simple plots, adorable illustrations and limited, toddler-friendly text, these picture books might just help make mastering sharing a bit more fun for everyone involved!

I Can Share by Karen Katz
This simple lift-the-flap book is a perfect introduction to sharing for even the littlest readers. Bright, colourful and charming, and featuring Katz’s signature happy little toddlers, I Can Share is a lovely way to initiate conversations about sharing and playing collaboratively in a warm and positive way.

Blocks by Irene Dickson
Ruby plays with red blocks. Benji plays with blue blocks. But as Benji and Ruby discover, sharing and playing collaboratively can actually mean having twice the blocks and twice the fun! Not only is the story relatable and approachable, the illustrations are wonderfully diverse, too!

Pigs and a Blanket by James Burks 
Siblings Henry and Henrietta love their special blanket, but they don’t love to share. When they accidently rip their beloved blanket in two because they won’t share, Henry and Henrietta discover that playing collaboratively is actually much more fun than keeping something all to yourself! This is great story for little ones learning to share with siblings.

It’s Mine by Tracey Corderoy
Baby Bear doesn’t want to share his favourite toy with Lulu when she comes to visit! But with a little help from Mummy, Baby Bear learns that sharing can actually be a lot of fun. This absolutely adorable book not only has the sweetest, most toddler-friendly illustrations, it’s also softly textured, which adds another fun sensory element.

Jane Whittingham is a librarian, educator and life-long book lover who writes about books for all ages on her blog

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Celebrity Mom: The Weather Network's Saphia Khambalia

Saphia Khambalia has been welcomed into thousands of Canadian homes from coast to coast. They rely on her to tell them what jacket to wear and if they should grab their umbrella as they head out the front door. Khambalia is a National Weather Anchor for The Weather Network. She is also mom to Jacob, age two and daughter Layla, who was born May 15th, 2016.

Khambalia says the weather is the one thing that touches all our lives every single day and it’s pretty cool to be able to share that with Canadians. “Nothing compares to Canada’s weather. From coast to coast, there is an incredible story to be told and I am so lucky to tell it to viewers across the country every single day.”

Urbanbaby and Toddler Magazine recently got the chance to talk with Saphia about her broadcasting career and life as a busy mom.

UBT:  How do you balance work and parenting?
SK: There is no balance. There is no perfect recipe. There is no “one size fits all. Things change day by day. You have to make a semblance of life that works best for you so you can honour all of those priorities and easily shift from spending time at home in your track pants building LEGO castles to making sure you have the village behind you, so you can continue your career path. And you want to make sure your kids are happy and healthy at the same time. I honestly think it comes down to just trying to live in the moment and stay grounded. There is no right and wrong. There is no balance. There is no comparison to somebody else. It is really about looking at your own life and really doing what makes you love every single second.

UBT: Is there one moment you can say that has been the most memorable one for you as a mom?
SK: It is a hundred thousand little moments. Every minute of every day you are just in awe about these little people with bigger-than-life personalities. Jacob is sweet and funny and has the biggest heart. Layla, is a gentle sweet soul with strong conviction. It is like a gift watching them every day.

UBT: Do you have any funny stories to share? 
SK: One day Jacob helped me get ready for work. I didn’t realize he had taken things out of my work bag including all of my reporter earpieces, little microphones and little technological gadgets needed to go live when out in the field. Jacob took them out of my bag replacing them with his LEGO and Elmo. And he actually hid my stuff around the house.

UBT: What is it like sharing your pregnancy with a television audience?
SK: A lot of viewers commented on social media and loved watching the pregnancy day by day. It’s so special being able to share such a beautiful moment with a lot of people who really care. When you talk about your kids on television, viewers really get to know you in a special way.

UBT: What advice would you have for a new or soon-to-be parent? 
SK: Trust your gut. I think you should rely on your instincts when you are really unsure of where to go. As parents, when we follow our instincts, we will always know what to do. Trust your gut with no regrets, because there’s always a different way to do things, and in that moment, you did the best you could.

UBT: Do you think being a mom has changed your perspective on your career path and being in the spotlight? 
SK: The minute you get propelled into that deep end of love,  everything changes. In some ways it makes your career skills stronger. You grow up a little bit quicker. You know what is important in life. You learn not to sweat the small stuff in so many different ways, which I think helps your career path as well. It also helps you realize you don’t have an infinite amount of time and energy to spend, so you really pick and choose the things that make your day great. You learn to really prioritize the important stuff.

Monday, February 27, 2017

UBT: Packing an Emergency/Earthquake Kit

With the recent earthquakes to hit BC last week we thought it was good idea to repost our most popular blog featured after the wind storms in 2015. We've added below where you can purchase a ready-to-go emergercy kit, dried food and extra supplies if you don't have time to make your own. 

With the largest power outage in BC Hydro’s history last week, many were left without power for 48 hours or longer. I heard stories of dead cell phones, spoiled food in the fridge and freezer and many people traveling to places with power to eat or hang out. People were going to local gas stations to get gas for their generators, only to find the gas stations were also without power and unable to pump fuel.

If a devastating event such as a large earthquake was to hit the South Coast, and car travel was not possible, nor was tap water or creek water drinkable, how many of us would find our families and ourselves in trouble?

Here is a list of basic necessities for any emergency kit

  • Water for 72 hours (2 liters per person per day is recommended)
  • Food for 72 hours (we like dehydrated food. It is light and only requires boiling water to cook it)
  • Can opener if you have canned food
  •  Toilet paper, tampons/pads
  • First aid kit
  • Money (we have $50 in $5 bills. With technology unavailable, cash will be the only option. Change for pay phones is also recommended)
  • Flashlight
  • Battery operated radio
  • Spare batteries
  • Candles and matches

Some not-so common items for families and extra supplies

  • Pot and stove to cook
  • Plates and utensils
  • Spare house key
  • Baby food and a spoon
  • A Tin of Formula
  • Diapers and wipes
  • Spare clothing for all members of the family
  • A baby carrier
  • Paper and pencil
  • A deck of cards / puzzle
  • Blankets / coats / sleeping bags
  • Dog / cat food
  • Rope / leash / harness / carrier
  • Bowl for water
  • Duct tape
  • Basic tools such as hammer, pliers
  • Rope
  • Whistle
  • Garbage bags
  • Prescription medication

Where put your emergency kit? There are lots of opinions about this, so I can only share my own. My emergency kit sits in the top of the closet in two bins. The closet is closest to the front door and the garage. There is also a backpack in there. Should we need to leave the house we could put the supplies into the backpack or into the trunk of the car.

I think that it is likely that in a disaster, we will be able to stay in our homes. But if there is a gas leak, or a flood, fire, or other damage to any of our homes, we need to be prepared to exit. With lots of time to prepare, we could empty our pantry and pack our bags, but sometimes that is not going to be an option. An emergency kit should be easy to grab and carry. A good suggestion is to put it into an old suitcase.

While everyone has their own level of comfort for what to pack and what supplies are essential and what are optional, this list should give you something to think about when preparing your own kit. If you are feeling overwhelmed, start with a case of water. Throw it in the closet. You have done something! Something is better than nothing!

Where to purchase an emergency/earthquake kit? 

  • Pacific First Aid: Vancouver, BC - Offering training and emergency supplies
  • Quake Kits: Victoria, BC - supplier of earthquake kits for home, office and schools.
  • Earthquake Kits for BC: supplier of earthquake kits for all residents of BC
  • Costco, Online Only 
  • Total Prepare: Victoria, BC - suppllier of freeze dried and dehydrated emergency food, 72 Hour emergency survival kits, water storage and filtration and more

Lindsay is a wife, a mom to two little boys, a soccer player, a lifetime traveler and a lover of learning. Lindsay resides in Langley and is currently searching out new ways to enjoy every minute she can with her family, while balancing the pressures of living in our fast-paced society. Check out Lindsay’s blog at

Saturday, February 25, 2017

How to Teach Your Child to Blow Their Nose

When you become a parent, you quickly learn that you take many skills for granted that you’re now responsible for teaching your little one. Something as simple as knowing how to blow your nose seems like an easy task for an adult, but it can be as complicated as learning a foreign language for a toddler. Yes – you’ll even need to teach your kids how to blow their nose.

Start trying to explain exactly how this task is executed, and you’ll quickly find yourself overly frustrated and dealing with a distracted and cranky child that never wants a tissue near his or her nose again.

Rather than creating an uphill battle for yourself, we’ve created a list of tried and true tips from parenting veterans that you can use to teach your child how to blow their nose.

Ditch the Tissue
It’s best to take teaching nose blowing in phases. Rather than overwhelming your child with a tissue in his face, capitalize on other opportunities to familiarize your child with blowing air through the nose.

Make it a game by seeing who can blow a feather across the table fastest – using only your nose.

Take Advantage of Bath Time
Bath time is a prime time to introduce your children to the idea of what it feels like to blow air through their nose and how to do it on demand.

Have your child put his nose just below the surface of the water and blow bubbles using only the nose.

Use a Mirror
While you might know that blowing your nose causes something to happen, it can be a hard concept for children to grasp. They may not know that a sneeze makes it easier for them to breathe and that something actually comes out of their nose when it’s blown.

Have your child stand in front of the mirror the next time she has a stuffy nose, and although it may be gross, have her blow until she can see the mucus coming out.

Set Up a Racetrack
Another way to make learning to blow air out of the nose fun is to set up a simple racetrack on your kitchen table.

Create a start and finish line, and line up two lightweight objects like a sequin, the corner of a piece of paper or a feather. Have your child position her face level with the table; you do the same; and then race to see who can blow their object across the finish line, using only your noses.

Make it Their Responsibility
Just like learning how to tie shoelaces is an accomplishment children look forward to conquering, mastering nose blowing can make your child feel just as important if you set it up properly.

Give your child his or her very own pack of Boogie Wipes to use whenever they need to blow their nose. Unlike other wipes, Boogie Wipes have no harsh or drying chemicals. The natural saline dissolves mucus without irritation – thanks to Vitamin E, Aloe and Chamomile. Even better? Boogie Wipes contain no alcohol, no chlorine, no parabens and no phthalates. Click here to learn more about the power of natural saline.

Article courtesy of Boogie Wipes

Contest: Enter to win at 1 of 3 Boogie Wipes Gift Package valued at $25.00.  Good Luck! Contest closes Friday, March 24th , 2017.