Friday, May 29, 2009


It's great that creators of children's shows recognize that education should be a fundamental element rather than a bonus. My favourite bilingual show is Ni Hao Kai-Lan which started production in 2008. "Ni Hao" essentially means "Hello" in Chinese. In honour of May being Asian-Pacific Heritage Month, I'd like to recognize this show for its colourful characters, frequent use of Mandarin, and simple lessons targeting its young audience. Kai-Lan is a lovable five-year old girl whose best friends are a cuddly tiger, energetic monkey, and loving koala. The little girl often turns to her grandfather called "Ye Ye" for advice and he readily shares lessons on tradition and culture. With singing, problem-solving, and references to Chinese heritage, this is a sure hit for any family living in a culturally-diverse world.

Check your local Treehouse and Nickelodeon channels for showtimes.

Thursday, May 28, 2009


Although potatoes are not the most nutritious type of vegetable, it is easily digested. Some moms love it as a weaning food, however, some like to use it as a base for a more complicated dish. Once your baby has tried several veggies and meat, you can make a shepherd's pie to tickle your little one's palate.

Ingredients are simple and readily available in your home: carrots, ground beef, green peas, and potatoes.

1) Cook the meat and drain away all the fat.
2) Boil the carrots until tender.
3) Boil the peas (fresh or frozen) until tender.
4) Peel the potatoes and cut into small pieces. Boil the potatoes until tender.
5) Using a hand-blender or food processor, mix the ingredients together.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


One of the best programs for babies is the Baby Goose Time program provided by the Markham Library. Since Hannah was two months old, I attended the weekly sessions at Angus Glen Library (Major Mackenzie Road and Kennedy Road). They were held on Tuesday mornings and Wednesday afternoons. It was a drop-in program so it was on a first-come first-serve basis. One is always welcome, but going earlier guarantees a good view and a comfortable seat. I usually go about fifteen minutes earlier to chat with the other parents.

Each session runs for thirty-minutes from start to finish. It's just enough to get in some singing, rhymes, and stories, but not too long as to have the whole audience crying and fussing about. Megan, their children's librarian, was running this program for the first time in 2009 and she does an excellent job. Always enthusiastic and patient, Megan follows a routine so that the kids (and new moms) know what to expect and what to sing. Along with familiar tunes such as "If You're Happy and You Know It", she introduces some new tunes every so often as well as songs that require movement and hand gestures.

Each week there is a theme and the stories relate to it. Megan introduces her audience to authors suited for the younger set and these books are readily availible for home use. Stories that feature rhyme and repetition seem to be the most popular. Not surprising since babies like sounds that are familiar and sing-songy. At the end of each season's session, there is an evaluation that welcomes parents' comments and suggestions. I've attended twice a week since the end of January and it's the most entertaining and educational program I've been to since Hannah was born. The parents there are quite friendly and I find myself staying at least thirty minutes after each class to chat with whoever stays as well. Not only do we talk about the session that day, but also about each child's development. Baby Goose Time not only provides entertainment for the little ones, but the parents also get a chance to learn from each other.

There is a break between sessions so check the Markham Public Library website for class days and times. There are Baby Goose Time classes at the Markham Village Branch, Milliken Mills Branch, Unionville Branch, and Thornhill Community Centre Branch as well. The next session is for Summer 2009. If you can attend, be sure to let Megan know what a great job she's doing. Tell her that Hip Teacher Mama said so.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


When it comes to toys for babies, sticking to the basics is what you should do. Baby stacking rings have been on the market for years and although the concept is simple (put rings on a cone), it's successful for a reason. They continue to be one of the most popular developmental infant toys today because it can be played on many levels. You can sort by colour if you choose, pattern if available, make a big picture with each piece (the newer styles have this capability), or the old-fashioned stacking bottom to top, largest to smallest.

Most baby stacking rings come with five or more rings. They come in different sizes and colours. They can be made of plastic, wood, or even cloth for a more chew-friendly feel. Since wooden ones are more environmentally-friendly, they tend to be the most expensive. However, if you pick a pricier item, reassured that it's an item that will last you a long time. It will help develop your baby's hand-eye coordination and develop their sorting abilities. Stack on!

Monday, May 25, 2009


This weekend, Hannah spent lots of time with her sister. Four months older and wiser, Alyssandra is a surrogate sister to my six-month old, Hannah. The child of my matron-of-honour, Aly is hitting all her milestones and melts your heart with her toothy grin and signature cry for "Mama" when her mom is out of the room. I'm carefully noting the details of her life and what to expect should Hannah soon follow suit. While I am one of numerous godparents to Aly, her parents are going to be the sole godparents of Hannah. Good people and positive role-models, we knew that they would love and care for Hannah as their own should we ever need their help.

On Saturday night, they came over to spend a relaxing evening at home, enjoying some Chinese take-out and watching the Lakers game. The little girls sat on the playmat grabbing at all the objects around them and each other. Aly sat firmly exploring the new toys and a different environment while Hannah (for the most part) sat steadily observing her playmate. Certainly a familiar face, but I wondered what Hannah was thinking...playdates, sleepovers, study buddies, and double dates? No, probably not her thoughts, just mine. Nonetheless, it made me smile to think how great it was to have someone with her as she went through those rites of passage.

The following day we met up with Aly's family at Ashbridges Bay in downtown Toronto. In our Civic went the stroller, straw mat, bottles, food, and all the other stuff a trip to the beach required. Aly's brothers set up a tent that was perfect for the babies and Aly's cousins who were school-age and affectionate with their youngest relation. There, the two littlest girls were entertained with toys, books, and a little bit of singing. The mommies took turns watching the girls while the numerous volleyball games went on through the afternoon and into the evening. The girls took things that belonged to the other and then the other would cry just like sisters would. They laughed at my silly faces and were spooked by the same new faces who popped out of nowhere. Diapers were changed, bottles were fed, and eventually, one little girl allowed the exhaustion to consume her and closed her eyes. Hannah's first time at the beach kept her awake as she took it all in: sand, gulls, ice-cream carts, roller-bladers, dogs, and dancing bugs as the sun began to set. She watched as Aly took her nap.

We're sure that the two girls will grow up together and hope our daughter will appreciate having Aly around. From Game Nights to barbecues to more beach outings, they'll go through life together. Being an only child, having a sister is something I wish I had. It's a best friend, a supporter, and a confidante all rolled into one. Sisterhood is not about blood, but about something much deeper. It's a bond that begins with common interests and affection, but develops with time. While in the tent, one song in particular made the babies smile: "The more we get together, together, together, the more we get together, the happier we'll be." And certainly from this weekend's adventures, they seem happy to share in this friendship together and it's just the beginning.

Friday, May 22, 2009


Spring is here and so is the time for bundles of cutesy fluffy baby animals to be born. This is a quirky video version of "Six Little Ducks".
Mamas, before sharing with your babies, be aware that the goofy hunter (brief glimpse of a gun) is the one doing the singing.

Thursday, May 21, 2009


Squash is a popular choice for a first baby food. In North America, squash can be divided into "winter squash" and "summer squash" depending on when they grow. Squash has been described as having a nutty or sweet flavour.

Follow these instructions from on how to bake or roast squash. The most popular variety for babies is butternut squash.

1) With a sharp kitchen knife, cut the squash in half (lengthwise).
2) Scoop out the seeds from the round end of the cut squash.
3) Lay squash "face" or meat-side down in a baking dish with about 1-2 inches of water.
4) Bake at 400 degrees F for 40 minutes or until shell/skin looks puckery and turns a darker tan.

5) Afterwards, scoop out the squash and then puree the "meat". Add water as necessary.

If baking or roasting takes too long, you can also cut up the pieces and boiled them until tender. Puree.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


After our library program today, one of the mothers approached me and asked how I felt about the Montessori system. She had just enrolled her three-year old toddler, but was warned by friends that this was not the route to go. Instead she was told to enrol her child in a regular public or Catholic school. She wanted my professional opinion and I gave her an honest answer. Purely from my own experiences, I'm not a Montessori fan.

Several years ago, I ran an academic summer camp. In the mornings, I taught math. I remember having two girls in that class who were friends and classmates at a local Montessori school. One was quite mature, self-motivated, and could add and subtract in the blink of an eye. She was clearly thriving from her self-led environment. Her friend, however, was a different story. She struggled with the work, lacked social skills, and had difficulty asking for help. Was this because the Montessori method doesn't believe in lectures, but more in discovery? Maybe the lack of pressure from any tests and working at her own pace failed her? Perhaps even the mixed age groups in a class setting worked against her?

She wasn't my only experience with the Montessori method, but she was the one that stuck in my mind the most. Why? I could see her potential and how a little structure could've done wonders for her. I thought about math strategies and games that she would've liked. I remember talking to her parents about their choice for Montessori and they said because they paid a lot of money, they assumed it was good for their daughter.

For all parents out there still in education limbo, please remember your child's personality and understand that high monetary value doesn't equal a good education. Kids who are independent, self-motivated, and consciencious may find success at a Montessori school, but should be prepared when they find themselves in the real world where standardized testing and pressure to meet deadlines exist on a daily basis. For parents who are not familiar with a regular school system, the use of manipulatives, visual aids, and critical learning are all integral parts of the teaching method. Some parents think that this exists only in a Montessori world and that's simply not true.

That being said, every child is different. You know your child best. Take the time, do your research, and visit the schools. Whatever choice you make, I'm sure it will be the right one for your family.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


Does your baby like to sing? Love to look in the mirror? Bang on things? My baby loves to do it all so the Fisher-Price Little Superstar Sing-Along Stage was ideal. It also allowed her to practice her sitting skills without her realizing it. She was having so much fun as the parts popped up and the lights flashed, she didn't notice how many neck and back muscles she was using. She will play with it in ten-minute spurts several times a day, hence, more frequent sitting practices.

There are two modes of play featuring five lively songs. After a few days, you'll know all the words! However, it comes with a set of song lyrics should you still have trouble with the catchy tunes. Babies can also create their own songs using the drum, xylophone, trombone or guitar keys. Baby voices and words of encouragement are bonuses to this small sit-down toy. I especially like the vibrant colours and the rattle microphone also keeps my baby busy.

3 AA batteries are included. Recommended age is 6-12 months old.

Available at Target (U.S.) and Toys R Us (Canada) for $49.99.

Monday, May 18, 2009


I've never been a drinker so this isn't about $2 shots or my local pub. My happy hour is spent on a warm covered table, undressed, and rubbed down by someone who used to be a stranger, but now, I consider a friend. Other hip mamas know what I'm talking about: the massage. Ahhh...

When I was pregnant, this was the hour I looked forward to the most each week. Why? Carrying an extra forty plus pounds gave me backaches. I had puffy feet from water retention and headaches from thinking about labour pains. Who wouldn't look forward to this ritual? Dim lights, soft music and someone to take the soreness away from your aching joints. Pushing away pain you almost didn't know you had. It was heaven!

Now that I'm a mama and not just expecting, this happy hour is far and few between. However, when I do manage to go, it is the hour I really treasure. I still have backaches and headaches, but thank goodness, the puffy feet are gone! The backaches are from carrying my ever-growing child and the headaches are from worrying about her next milestone. My massage therapist is awesome and asks what I'd like done each visit. On top of her physical work, she is also good to talk to. She's reminded me to do stretches and tells me which part of my back I've been putting too much stress on. It's good to know a professional is watching out for me even when I sometimes forget to take care of myself.

All Hip Mamas, take this advice: "Take an hour wherever you can get it and get a professional massage. You'll feel relaxed, pampered, and ready to take on the world...or at least another sleepless night!"

Friday, May 15, 2009


With the long weekend here, many people will likely set off fireworks in their backyard or the local park. Before pulling up to a store or trailer and spending hundreds of dollars on pyrotechnics, educate yourself. From Roman candles to Catherine wheels to sparklers and other novelty types, fireworks are enchanting, but also dangerous. Keep your babies at a safe distance and don't ever let children light the fireworks.

For a good time and a safe night, follow these City of Toronto guidelines at:

Watch this short safety video for further tips on how to handle fireworks the proper way. Happy Victoria Day!

Thursday, May 14, 2009


Mix up some greens in one hot-pot for your little one!
Broccoli is in season now and provides vitamins A, C, and K as well as fibre to keep everything running smoothly. Peas provide vitamin C, fibre, and iron. As they are not readily available fresh in the summer, frozen peas are just as good for this recipe. Remember that skins may be difficult for a baby to swallow so be sure to remove them before serving or only if your baby has some chewing ability.

1) Steam or boil broccoli and peas until cooked.
2) Add some of the cooking liquid and puree or mash together.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


From the minute your baby is born, the brain is creating thousands of synapses with every experience. We know that singing and talking to your baby is educational, but so is playing games like Peek-A-Boo and playing in front of the mirror. Check out these activities at Games with Baby. They list games appropriate by age for the first year of life. For those who would like to specifically target their baby's development, you can choose activities based on four categories: brain building, language and vocabulary, social and emotional, and movement and motor skills.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


For the first few weeks of life, babies only see a couple of feet in front of them. They rely on their other senses to explore the world around them especially using their sense of touch. This makes the Bright Baby Touch and Feel series of books a must-have item on your baby's bookshelf.

Roger Priddy has numerous books in this collection such as Colours, Shapes, Numbers, and Words. These books are excellent in developing babies' first language skills as well as visually connecting concepts to words. The photographs are big and brightly coloured and the words are simple and common to everyday use. The tactile element is provided in each book, where the reader must feel around to find the patch of material embedded on the pages (not every page has a patch). When discovered, readers are delighted as to the realism of the patch. I know I was. My favourite patches are the wooden puzzle pieces and teddy bear's nose while my daughter loved petting the dog and running her finger over the truck's front grill.

Available at Chapters and Indigo as well as online at Amazon for $4.95.

Monday, May 11, 2009


Diaper bag? Check. Baby wipes? Check. Bottles? Check. Pacifiers? Check. Now multiply all those items by ten. Check.

This weekend our family went away for my first ever Mother's Day. We were very nervous because we wanted to be prepared. We didn't want to leave anything to chance. We brought Hannah's pureed food, ice packs, and lots of extra onesies. Can't forget her favourite blanket, disinfecting wipes, and toys. We checked and double-checked. Finally we were ready to go.

Left early on Saturday morning and headed across the border with our six-month old. I was worried about the weather as thunderstorms were predicted. Luckily, we only had a few minutes of light showers and then it cleared up. Whereas in previous shopping trips, I would head straight for the women's section, this trip was purely children's wear. It got to the point where my husband asked, "Are you going to buy anything for you?" I wanted to, but who could resist the adorable baby clothes? From Carter's to The Children's Place to Baby Gap and Target, it was sizes 6m to 18m for me. Although (in Canada) we have excellent sales racks for babies, I find that there is no comparison. I highly recommend the Fashion Outlets of Niagara Falls (formerly the Prime Outlets) and specifically Carter's and Osh Kosh. They were having a super sale from 40% to 70% off featuring summer apparel.

At Walden Galleria, the only hitch was finding eateries who would give us some hot water to warm up the bottle. They were very busy because it was a Saturday, but finally we found one place willing to take the time. Next trip, we'll probably bring our own hot water somehow.

After loading up on cute little outfits, we checked in at our hotel. We enjoyed a late dinner at Eastside Mario's (surprisingly not busy on a Saturday night) and then went up to relax in our hotel room. With wireless Internet and two cozy plush beds (in separate rooms, so we could've had guests), it was just like home. Turned on the basketball game until we fell asleep. We had an exhausting day.

The next morning we went across the street to Fallsview Casino and took a look at the shops. Came back and my husband gave me my Mother's Day gifts. Grabbed a Starbucks coffee and Tim Hortons' bagel and muffin just before checking out. Visited the Canada One Outlets, but they were hugely disappointing compared to the day before. The Nike Outlet had been reduced in size and the other shops didn't have the greatest of sales. The rain held out, but it was a little breezy. Early afternoon and it was time to head home. Had a short rest and then we headed out for dinner. Afterwards we took a neighbourhood walk to Second Cup to try out her new stroller and finally it was Hannah's bathtime and bedtime.

All in all, it was a successful first trip. Hannah slept in her first hotel room. No leaky diapers on either day. Finding hot water was a challenge, but making it was easy as we had brought our own kettle to use in the hotel room. Crossing the border was smooth and we were waved through once we declared that we purchased a stroller and baby clothes. We went to the Falls on Sunday morning and avoided the crowds of tourists.

Now that we have our first trip under our belts, we're more confident about doing it again. We were well-prepared and any little thing we missed are etched in our heads. Can't wait for the summer. There will surely be more of these weekend getaways in our future. Perhaps even earlier than the summer because it was such a fun mini-vacation. Maybe Father's Day? Hmmm...

Friday, May 8, 2009


Ten years ago, Brian Littrell of the Backstreet Boys wrote The Perfect Fan as a thank you to his mom. Take the time this weekend to thank your mom for being your #1 fan and supporter.

I dedicate Boyz II Men's "A Song for Mama" to all moms out there: soccer moms, stay-at-home moms, working moms, single moms, step-moms, foster moms, but especially to first-time mommies like me! Whether you're going on five-hour-a-day sleeps, having feeding issues, or feeling like you can't change another diaper, you know you'd never change this experience for anything. Happy Mother's Day!

Thursday, May 7, 2009


When your baby has tried cereals, veggies, fruits, and meat (around 7-8 months), it will be a treat to mix meat and veggies together in one dish. Chicken is a very good meat to start with as it is low in fat and easy to digest. Try this simple recipe of chicken and green peas. It provides protein and vitamins to help your little one grow up big and strong!

1) Boil or simmer the chicken until cooked.
2) Boil the peas.
3) Using a food processor and adding a bit of
cooking liquid, pulse. Do so until it is mostly smooth.
4) Let it cool and serve.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


English is one of the hardest languages to learn. Teachers, please share this little exercise during your Language class. Parents, please confuse your little ones learning to read.

1) The bandage was wound around the wound.
2) The farm was used to produce produce.
3) The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.
4) We must polish the Polish furniture.
5) He could lead if he would get the lead out.
6) The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert.
7) Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present.
8) A bass was painted on the head of the bass drum.
9) When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.
10) I did not object to the object.
11) There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row.
12) They were too close to the door to close it.
13) The buck does funny things when the does are present.
14) A seamstress and a sewer fell down into a sewer line.
15) To help with planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009


Although having hardwood is classy, it's not too practical for babies and kids. We decided that instead of using an area rug for the family room, we needed something soft, child-friendly, and easy to clean. In preparation for our baby rolling and crawling soon and that we'd have many friends over with kids, the Fun Years ABC/123 foam mat was the ideal purchase.

Covering a 6' by 6' space, it includes all 26 letters and numbers 0-9. The squares fit easily together like puzzle pieces with finishing borders to give it an enclosed feel. The pieces also have fun textures like waves, bumps, honeycombs, diamonds, and lines that babies love to touch. Keep in mind that the set will smell like plastic for the first couple of days so it's best to air them out in the basement or garage until you are ready to lay them out in your desired room. We had such great success with one set that we bought another for the living room.

It is available at Toys R Us for a new regular price of $34.99 (the old regular price was $39.99), but we waited for a sale and got both sets for $21.97 each.

Monday, May 4, 2009


The sun was out, the breeze was light, and the streets were quiet. I decided to take a stroll with Hannah just before noon on Saturday. We were smiling and chatting away (I told her about our plans for later and she screeched out her replies). We didn't have a care in the world. Then I had a heart attack.

I had just rounded the corner to head home when a larger-than-life black Pit Bull lunged at me, growling loudly and drooling. I jumped, cursed, and gripped the stroller tightly. Thank goodness for the six-foot metal fence between us, otherwise, my baby and I would have been fresh tartare. My heart was going into overdrive and a split second later, his partner-in-crime ran towards us, snarling and barking even louder than he was. They took turns running and pounding against the fence obviously protecting their territory.

My first reaction was to veer as far away from the fence as possible, but on a sidewalk, space was limited. I picked up my pace, but kept turning back to make sure they WERE NOT somehow going to get through the fence. What didn't make sense to me was their owner in the yard, standing at the barbecue who made NO attempt to do anything. She just stared at me, dumbfounded, as if it was normal and okay, for anyone walking by to have some sort of heart failure. She continued to flip her burgers (no, I'm not kidding) and no apologies for her barking beasts scaring the number two out of me.

There was NO calming of the dogs down. No calling them back, coaxing them into the home, throwing a ball to distract them. Even after I was a block away, I could still hear those beasts yowling. I kept thinking what could I have done if they escaped from the sidegate? I felt so helpless. How could I have protected my child? I called my husband on my cell just to tell him what had happened. I hadn't felt that shaken in a long while. The good news was that out of the two of us, I was the only one who felt any terror in this situation. My baby girl was calm, didn't cry, and dozing off.

Now my following appeal is not for all dog owners. (I used to have a Shih-Tzu, who would rather lick strangers than attack them, and only barked a couple of times in his life. He was clearly not meant as a guard dog.) If you have an aggressive or extremely hyper dog, please take a moment to think about people who will pass by. Yes, your dog needs fresh air and exercise. Let your dog roam around in your yard as you wish, but out of human decency and common courtesy, don't just stand there while your dog pounds against the fence threatening your neighbours as they walk by. Put down your barbecue tongs and do something. Walks are supposed to prevent heart attacks not induce them.

Friday, May 1, 2009


Do you remember feeling nervous when you were on stage in front of thousands (okay, twenty) and ready to perform that Mozart piece you practiced months for? I remember my sweaty palms and the steady thump-thump-thump of my racing heart. Even now, I get anxious whenever public speaking is involved (odd though since I'm never nervous in front my students). On One Tree Hill, Jamie makes the most of his recital moment with quick thinking and charm. He is THE cutest kid on television.