Friday, January 25, 2013

Reality TV Gone Way Too Far: Parents, Please Read

People who know me well know that I have a love/hate relationship with reality tv. We don't have cable or watch television in our home, but I've definitely been known to stream episodes of Teen Mom on the MTV website.  For the most part, I just think they are silly and they make me feel sort of embarrassed for the people involved, but I know they are well loved by many of my friends and family.

Yesterday I came across this information posted by Reddit user Pixel8 about a new reality show that was released by the Lifetime Network in the United States and that is now airing in Canada as well.  Please:

- Have a look through this information
- Sign the petition
- Share this information with friends and family

photo credit: tochis via photopin cc
Josh Shipp, the host of new series on Lifetime, 'Teen Trouble', has sent 4 teens to 'troubled teen' programs with histories of death, child abuse and neglect. One is still currently detained at a facility with allegations of child abuse, and a fifth kid is likely. No telling how many kids will be sent to similar programs because their parents saw the show and thought it was a good idea.

Please sign & share this petition: Josh Shipp and Lifetime Television Network: Stop Placing Children at Serious Risk of Ill-treatment and Torture

Another way you can help is to use social media to voice your opinion and save more kids from harm.


NEW ARTICLE! How Effective Are Tactics Used on TV Shows to Treat Troubled Teens?

Article: 'Abused' teens take aim at Lifetime reality show

Teens 1 & 2: Josh sent two kids to programs run by Aspen Education Group. Aspen has one of the worst records of child abuse, six people have died in their programs, they are currently being sued by 31 people who say they were sexually and physically abused, and they have been the subject of DHS investigations and closures. Chelsea was sent to Copper Canyon Academy against her will and is still locked up there; kids who went CCA tell of physical abuse, lack of medical attention and punishment if they told their parents what was happening. Jacob was sent to Outback Therapeutic Expeditions. (Episodes 1 & 2; Clip 1 / Full Episodes N/A)

Teen 3 Josh referred Asmara to Axios Youth Community, which closed the program in June 2012 under allegations of sexual abuse of minors and attempts by management to cover it up. (Episode 4, Clip / Full Episode)

Teen 4 Josh referred Ashley to A Better Tomorrow in Murrieta, CA which had at least 5 related deaths 2008-2010. Four people died at one ABT Murrieta facility, and a fifth suicidal teen slipped out and hung himself from a bridge. (Episode 6, Clip / Full Episode)

Teen 5? There is a strong indication that another kid will be institutionalized by the end of the season.

Bonus He has locked up every kid on the show in one form or another. Episode 5 showed Lexi forced to lay in a casket while locked alone in a room at a funeral home, Josh threatened to leave her there overnight. She was having issues because she was traumatized by waking up next to her dead father, she was forced to wash the hair of a cadaver. Episode 3 showed Samm locked in a public jail, she was held in isolation overnight and Josh threatened to keep her there for 3 months. Josh claims to be able to be a great communicator; when you have to lock someone up to 'break' them, you have lost.

The kids on the show need help. Whether or not abuse is occurring, residential treatment is an outdated and dangerous therapy for children. There has never been an independent study that shows it helps kids, the Surgeon General doesn't recommend it, neither does the APA, GAO investigations found widespread abuse, torture and death and United Nations entities have issued a joint statement on compulsory drug detention and rehabilitation centres. It can be worse than doing nothing at all, there are more effective ways to help at-risk teens.

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Thursday, January 24, 2013

Surprise: Meat is a Dead Animal

One of my friends posted this article on Facebook today and once again I was reminded of something that people often don't want to remember:

Meat is dead animal. 

Plain and simple, if you are eating meat, you are eating a dead animal.  I was a vegetarian for the majority of my life and at the moment I'm not, so this isn't some sort of weird guilt trip I'm trying to put on people because I'm preaching about vegetarianism.  Just hear me out.

Somehow in the last ~hundred years  the distance between "us" and the raising, slaughtering, and processing of meat has grown greater.  If you had lived on a farm, you would have known that the cute little chickens that ran around your property were the same chickens you ate.  You'd know your meat had come from the body of an animal that was slaughtered, cleaned up, cooked, and served to you on your plate.  You may say "I'd totally be a vegetarian if that was the case!" but no, probably you wouldn't have been.  It would have been the norm for you.  Nowadays, that meat just seems to appear at the grocery store where you can keep it's origin out of your mind.

When you go to KFC, or McDonald's, or hell, the nicest and most expensive restaurant in the world, and you order meat, you are ordering the cooked body of a dead animal.  For some reason or another, over time certain parts of a dead animal have been perceived as less gruesome. A breast, thigh, or drumstick seem completely fine to eat, but an organ, brain, or leg is often perceived to be horrifying.  At the end of the day, there's seriously no difference.

So here we have people going to KFC and ordering dead animal and then getting upset and horrified when they are given just that... dead animal. Sure, it's a part of the animal you weren't anticipating, but at the end of the day, that's really all you ordered in the first place.

If you are given a piece of a human finger or shards of glass, well, that's quite a different story.

Here's a pro tip:

If you are like the vast majority of meat eaters and you'd prefer to not be given a brain, head, leg, or other part that looks too much like the actual animal you are eating or looks "like death" you should probably steer away from factory farming.  Get your meat from a place that offers local, free-range, organic meat and you'll probably decrease your odds of getting mystery parts.

Finally, I'll leave you with this video of Jamie Oliver showing kids what's in a processed chicken nugget and then being horrified that *spoiler alert* the kids still want to eat the nuggets anyway knowing there are bones in them.   People were mortified about this, but I wasn't.  If you are going to kill an animal, you may as well use all the animal's parts.  Various cultures have recognized this for centuries and it's really only until recently that our own culture has rejected this notion publicly, but clearly it's happening in the background, we just don't want to face the reality that we are eating dead animals.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

14 Days of Loving and Appreciating Your Body

I love the holidays and doing holiday themed activities activities with the kids.  When January rolls around, it sort of feels like the holidays dry up... maybe I get spoiled from Thanksgiving/Halloween/Christmas/New Year being so close together and easy to work with.  Coming up in a few weeks is Valentine's Day so of course we will have loads of pink, red, glitter, hearts, and lovey stuff around the house.

This Valentine's Day Aias is a bit older and showing interest in more complex subjects, so I was thinking Valentine's Day would be the ideal time to talk about love and appreciation; and the human body!

I'm going to have 14 Days of Loving and Appreciating Your Body, and do a different simple project with him on each day.  Here are the days and body parts I've chosen and a few sample activities we may do:

1. Eyes
- Talk about what the eyes do
- Identify our own eyes, other people's eyes, eyes on animals, etc
- Talk about different things we see with our eyes
- Explore different colours, brightnesses, being in the light and in the dark
- Talk about how it would be to not be able to see out of our eyes
- Teaching toddlers about eyes

2. Ears
- Talk about what the ears do
- Identify our own ears, other people's ears, ears on animals, etc
- Talk about different things we hear with our ears
- Explore different sounds
- Talk about how it would be to not be able to hear
- Teaching toddlers about ears

3. Brain
- Talk about what the brain does and where it is
- Talk about being careful and taking care of our heads (wearing a bike helmet, etc)
- Look at pictures of what a brain looks like
- Some of these brain boosting activities are for older kids but can be modified for younger kids

4. Arms and Hands
- Talk about what our arms and hands do
- Identify our own arms and hands, other types of arms and hands, etc
- Touch different textures, etc
- Talk about how it would be to not be able to use our arms and hands
- Talking about hand washing and the spread of germs
- 6 Toddler Sensory Activities

5. Muscles
- Talk about what our muscles do and where they are
- Lift different things, do different little exercises to explore muscles
- Talk about how it would be to have trouble with your muscles
- "Exercise" games for toddlers

6. Mouth
- Talk about what our mouths do
- Identify our own mouths, and mouths of others and animals
- Talk about lips, tongue, tasting, talking, breathing, etc
- Buy different apples and do taste testing and comparison
- Talk about different spots on the tongue tasting different things
- Create a platter of different sauces and taste them
- Teaching kids about teeth and mouths

7. Teeth
- Talk about what our teeth do
- Identify our own teeth, and teeth of others and animals
- Talk about how to take care of our teeth and what happens if we don't
- Create a teeth felt story
- Teaching kids about teeth and mouths

8. Skin
- Talk about our own skin and what it does
- Talk about different colours of skin
- Talk about how to take care of our skin
- Talk about how important our skin is at keeping germs away, etc
- Teaching kids about skin

9. Hair
- Talk about our hair and what it does
- Talk about different types of hair
- Talk about how to take care of our hair

10. Bones
- Talk about our bones and what they do
- Talk about where our bones are
- Look at pictures of bones
- Talk about how we can take care of our bones
- Talk about what it's like if you hurt your bones
- Bones of the human body for kids

11. Blood
- Talk about what blood is, where it is, what it does
- Look at pictures of blood
- Teaching kids about blood

12. Tummy/Stomach
- Talk about our tummies and stomachs, what they are, what they do
- Talk about different foods and how they go into our tummies
- Talk about how we can take care of our stomachs and tummies
- Look at picture of stomachs
- Teaching kids "belly" breathing... which really has nothing to do with bellies, but is a good thing for them to be able to do to relax :)

13  Legs and Feet
- Talk about what our legs and feet do
- Identify our own legs and feet, other types of legs and feet, etc
- Jump, skip, climb, etc
- Talk about how it would be to not be able to use our legs and feet

14. Heart
- Talk about what our heart is, what it does, how it works, where it is
- Look at pictures of a heart
- Some easy heart-related experiments

I'm going to keep the projects really simple; remember, Aias is only three.  But I want to at least plant the seeds of awareness with regard to taking care of the body, appreciating the things your body does, the differences in bodies, etc.

Some other body-related activities:

My Body Felt Board and My Body Felt Board Templates

My Body Printables from 2 Teaching Mommies

I thought this lego minifigure body system chart was pretty rad :)

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Sunday, January 20, 2013

A Visit to the Stanley Park Ecology Society Nature House

We walk around Lost Lagoon in Stanley Park a handful of times every week, but it's especially exciting if we find ourselves there on the weekend because we can pop into the Stanley Park Ecology Society Nature House, located on the south-east shore of Lost Lagoon and under the viewing plaza at the corner of Chilco Street and Alberni Street.

The Nature House has a lot to look at and experience; of course, we like the kid's area best.


During Nature House open hours, Telephone 604-257-8544, at other times, contact Public Programs (telephone 604-718-6522).


September to June – 10:00 am to 4:00 pm weekends
July to August – 10:00 am to 5:00 pm Tuesday through Sunday

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Saturday, January 19, 2013

A Twirly Whirly Tutu-torial (A DIY No-Sew Tutu Tutorial)

This week I finally got around to making something I've been wanting to make for a long time... tutus!

Tutus are really easy to make, you don't even need to know how to sew.  The only skills you will need are cutting, tying knots, and being somewhat patient (is that a skill?).

Pretty, right? You NEED one... trust me!
Here's what you need:

- Elastic or satin ribbon: either will do, but this tutorial will be with elastic.

- Tulle: You'll need about 30 -35 yards of 6-inch width tulle ribbon. They sell this at Michaels in rolls of 10 or 20 yards, and they sell it at both Fabricland and Dressew as well, although they don't sell the roll, they only sell it by the metre there.  I'm not sure how much it costs at Fabricland but it's 49 cents a metre at Dressew which I think is really expensive. I've heard it costs more at Fabricland.  If anyone has any tips on where to get it for cheaper locally (Vancouver), please let me know and I'll update this entry.  Your best bet is to use a 40% off coupon at Michaels where the rolls cost $4.99 for a standard 20 yard roll.  It's more for glitter rolls; $6.99 for a 10 yard roll. It's possible to just buy tulle off a bolt and cut it yourself, but it will be a huge pain in the butt.

- Scissor: sharp!

- Measuring tape

- A hardcover book: Not required but will make your life a LOT easier

The blue is folded tulle from a bolt, then there are two rolls of the 6-inch tulle ribbon here as well.  The ribbons on the left are an example of what you could use in place of the elastic, and the ribbons on the right are for doing some final decorative touches at the end.  The elastic is pictured at the bottom.
 1. First decide how big you want your tutu to be.  Your best bet is to measure the waist of the person the tutu is for.  If you are making it as a gift, here are some rough average measurements:

0 - 3 months - 12 to 14 inches
3 - 6 months - 14 to 15 inches
6 - 9 months - 15 to 16 inches
9 - 12 months - 16 to 17 inches
12 to 24 months - 17 to 18 inches
2T - 18 inches
3T - 19 inches
4T - 20 inches
5T - 21 inches
Those are just rough based on some Googling and doing some averages.  Like I said, best to measure.  You don't really need to be exact anyhow; if it's too big you can just cut it and retie.

If you are using elastic, cut your elastic to the appropriate length and tie it to make a loop.  To make your life easier, pull this loop over a book that's about the same size.

Using a book as a workspace will make things a lot easier.

2.  Now you are going to want to measure and cut your tulle ribbon.  You can choose any length of ribbon you want, but remember whatever length you cut, your skirt will be half as long (if you cut your ribbon 12 inches, your skirt will be 6 inches long).  The book came in handy for me here too; I hate cutting and I'm not very precise about it, so I basically just wrapped the tulle around the book over and over and over again, and then when I felt like I had enough, I cut in 2 spots as pictured.  This was quick and easy which is exactly what I like cutting to be!

3.  Now that you have your elastic measured and cut, and your tulle measured and cut, you are ready to get down to business! All you need to do is tie the tulle around the elastic in rows. If you want the skirt to puff out (I love this style), use the knot I've used below.  If you want the skirt to be more "dangly" than "puffy," you can use a cow hitch knot.

4.  Keep going with this until you have made your way around your elastic completely, then you are done with your knot tying.  You aren't completely done making the tutu yet, though. You will likely get into the rhythm of tying the knot, scooting the tulle up, and then doing that over and over again.  While you are doing this, you will stretch the elastic.  When you are done, you may realize the tutu is way bigger than you thought it would be. Have no fear... move the knots around a bit to de-stretch the elastic and you'll find it's perfect. If it is still too big, no problem.  Just cut out the knot, and retie it to a better size.

This one seemed gigantic at first, and even fit me, until I adjusted it a bit.
5.  Once you've finished and you are satisfied with the amount of tulle, play around and groom the tulle a bit until it looks sufficiently fluffy.  You can add some pretty ribbon to it as well, if you want to doll it up a bit.

The completed green and white tutu I made in size 2T

I made this bright pink, light pink, and white tutu for a friend's newborn. 

The earlier stages of the one I posted at the top of this blog entry; purple, bright pink, and white
Playing around and deciding on which colours you want to make is almost torturous, lol!
Finally, a cute little model wearing the green and white one with some faery wings
Some Final Tips:

- The more tulle you use, and the shorter you cut it, the puffier your skirt will be.  The less tulle you use, and the longer you cut it, the more "skirt-like" your skirt will be

- You can tie ribbon between the tulle for additional glamour ;)

- You can use ribbon in place of the elastic, but if you do, remember it's not stretchy so you will want to skip the step of tying it in a knot and make it so the person wearing the tutu can just tie it around there waist to wear it and can untie it when they want to take it off

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Friday, January 18, 2013

Replacements for the Missing Gynosaur Breastfeeding Achievement Ribbons

What happened to the gynosaur breastfeeding achievement ribbons? They aren't showing up anymore!

I noticed the BFing achievement ribbons from gynosaur aren't showing up anymore, so here are some that were saved on my hard drive.  It's probably a faux-pas to repost them since I don't own them, but mean, we earned them ;)  They are uploaded below so you can save them to your own computers or you can go here to get the html codes where I've uploaded them to imgur.  You can also download them all at once, very quickly from that album.

Or to make it even easier, just copy the html code below each image and copy it wherever you want the images so show up. 

Anyhow, I've waited several months but I don't think they are coming back from gynosaur any time soon, so here you go:

6 weeks
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3 months
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6 months
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9 months
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12 months
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18 months
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2+ years
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3+ years
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4+ years
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5+ years
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Thursday, January 17, 2013

Lovable Labels Friendship Pack Review and Giveaway

It's no secret, I love Lovable Labels.  I literally tell just about everyone I know about them, and try to give my 10% off code (MonikaWLB1) to anyone and everyone who asks about Aias's many labelled items (and that's a lot of people!).

What are Lovable Labels? Lovable Labels are NOT simply "stickers."  Lovable Labels are waterproof, dishwasher safe, washer and dryer safe, sun safe, bleach safe, sunscreen safe, temperature safe, and kid safe stickers that you can put all over your kid stuff. Goodbye masking tape with writing on it, goodbye permanent markers that rub away over time... hello snazzy looking labels that make you at least LOOK like you have your act together!

We have the Back to School Pack, the Holly Jolly Gift Pack, and a various slimline labels.  It may sound absurd, but these stickers actually give me peace of mind.  I actually have experienced getting Aias's lost stuff returned *five* times since having these stickers all over his stuff.  We have lost and had returned:

- His pricey metal snack cups
- His boots (one fell off)
- His sippy cups (half a dozen times just on these cups)
- His Lego Crocs (one fell off)
- His Thomas the Tank Engine toy (huge drama over who it belonged to, but the sticker with his name on the bottom revealed he was the rightful owner)

Clearly I can't keep track of anything, and these labels were made for absentminded people like me.  It's no surprise that I'm in love with their newest pack, the Friendship Pack.  The friendship pack comes with:

30 Sticker Labels
80 Slimline Labels
10 Fun Stickies

AND... it comes with 40 slimline labels for a friend or family member who you think is worthy of such an awesome treat!  These packs come in four awesome designs:  Whimsical Love Story, You're Out of This World, Bedazzled and Majestic!  Aias loves "You're Out of This World" because he adores the fun stickies that are shaped like rocket ships.

I got a Friendship Pack for myself and a friend; here are the pictures of what we received.  The Aias labels are in "You're Out of This World" and the Elliot labels are in "Majestic" with the "train" logo selected.  If you select Bedazzled or Majestic, you can choose from dozens of images to add to your stickers.

Sticker labels in "You're Out of This World" and "Majestic"

Slimline labels in "You're Out of This World" and "Majestic"

Fun Stickies in "You're Out of This World" and "Majestic"
Remember, when you order a friendship pack you get sticker labels, slimline labels, and fun stickies for yourself, and you also get 40 slimline labels for a friend.  You can mix and match the prints; you can order "You're Out of This World" for yourself and "Bedazzled" for a friend, if you wish.

I truly love these labels, but I also love this company.  They are a small Canadian run business, and I can't say enough about the friendliness of the service.  If you have any issues or questions at all, you hear back immediately.  For example, we were concerned Elliot's whole name wouldn't fit on the labels (because it doesn't work if you try and order them online) but Beth from Lovable Labels was happy to edit them manually and make the order work perfectly; and the labels look amazing, don't they?  You'll also get them shipped to you in record time.

You can only order this Friendship Pack until February 28th, and it costs only $24.95.  If you order this, or anything else from Lovable Labels, you can get 10% off by using the code MonikaWLB1.

Now, try your hand at winning a Friendship Pack by entering the giveaway below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

DIY Wool Dryer Ball Tutorial

I'll start by saying, there seem to be a variety of ways to make these things.  I got instructions from a friend who has been making them for 20 years now, and a bit here and there from various tutorials online.

We have shared laundry in our apartment building and while I love the industrial size of the machines, sometimes the dryers leave much to be desired.  I expressed this irritation with a friend and she said she's been making wool dryer balls for 20 years now and they've really helped to reduce the amount of time she has to pay for in her own shared laundry machines.

The price of these balls varies from $3 a ball to up to $10 a ball and you need anywhere from 2 to 10 of them to help  make a difference (depends on your machine, load size, etc) so I figured I'd try making them myself into sinking tons of money into buying them.  I like to support local artists who make things like these, but I also like to try and make my own stuff if I can.

Anyway, onto the tutorial.

What you'll need to make three dryer balls:

- ~3.5 ounces of 100% wool yarn
- washer/dryer
- darning or crochet needle
- old pantyhose
- scissors
- string or dental floss (optional)
- kitchen scale (optional)

1.  Start with your 3.5 ounce ball of 100% wool yarn.  It has to be 100% wool: it can't be anything else. No acrylic, no cotton, nothing else. It won't felt unless it's 100% wool.  This is critical. Any colour will do.
2.  Pull out the end of the yarn and start to roll it into a ball.  The best way to start it is to wrap it around your fingers or something else, and then tie it around the middle. Don't cut anything, keep it attached to the yarn ball.
3.  Keep rolling it into a ball. I'd roll them until they are roughly the size of a tennis ball, or a bit smaller.  In this case, I used the kitchen scale to measure the ball until it reached about 1.15 oz.  This size seemed to work well for me.
4.  When your ball of yarn has reached your desired size, leave a tail of about 8 inches and cut.  Take your darning or crochet needle and put it through the tail.

5.  Stick the darning needle right through the centre of your ball, and pull it straight through to the other side.
6.  Once it's pulled through tightly, cut it so that there is no yarn hanging out.

7.  Now, take the pantyhose and push your ball down through to the end.  Now you can either tie a knot in the panty hose (a little harder to undo later if you want to reuse them) or use a piece of string to tie a knot.  DO NOT use yarn to do this, because it will felt :)
8.  Keep going... you should get approximately 3 decent sized wool balls out of your 3.5 ounces of yarn.

9.  Now it's time to felt them.  You will do this by putting them in your washing machine for a full cycle at the HOTTEST temperature setting.  Now, you may have a front end loading washing machine OR a washing machine with an agitator.  Surprisingly, either will do.  An agitator will POSSIBLY do a better job, and you MAY have to do a second cycle if you use a front end loader, but both machines will be able to felt these no problem.

If you use a front end loader, throw some towels or other laundry in with the balls so that they get more agitated. When they come out, throw them in the dryer on a hot setting.  Please note: drying them is just to get them dry, not to felt them.  The felting actually takes place with the water and the agitation in the washing machine.  If you feel like the balls aren't felt-y enough, you can just keep washing them on hot.

10.  You are done!  Take them out and untie them, and you can use them for a very long time.  Mine are below; I like how they look but I'm probably going to do one more cycle in the agitator (I used the front end loader because it was the only one available at the time) just to see if I can get them looking more felt-y. 

For more information on using wool dryer balls, check out this article put out by the David Suzuki Foundation.  The article says you should use wool dryer balls because:

  • Depending on the make and model of your dryer, they decrease drying time by 30 to 50 per cent, saving energy and money
  • Decreased wrinkles = less time ironing!
  • No static
  • Safe for people with sensitive skin (works well with cloth diapers)

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