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10 Unforgettable Fly Fishing Locations in the U.S.


Lists aren’t easy. We know because it was hard setting a limit when we reviewed five of Alaska’s foremost rivers. It’s probably impossible to narrow down the country’s best fly fishing to just 10 locations, but we’re giving it our best shot.

1. Manistee River, Michigan

Its 200-mile run through the northern regions of the state’s lower peninsula ends at Lake Michigan. The river produces great salmon, trout and steelhead action especially downstream from Tippy Dam. We really enjoy the year-round crystal clear water.


2. Penobscot River, Maine

Let’s swing east to the west branch of this river known for its world-class salmon fly fishing. The 11-mile stretch between Ripogenus Dam and the Abol Bridge presents some of the wildest angling available. We strongly suggest this one for fishing, not relaxing.

3. Connecticut River, New Hampshire

New England’s longest river offers more than 400 miles of fly fishing adventures. Whether you drift or wade, cast your luck, and sharpen your skill chasing trout, salmon and sturgeon. The Connecticut always looks its best when it’s wearing fall colors.

4. The Florida Keys

Obviously, this one isn’t a river, but we really recommend the action off Key Largo. Bogie and Bacall would definitely approve and join us for some of the finest saltwater fly fishing in the Western Hemisphere. We sound prejudice because we are.


5. Little Red River, Arkansas

As we head back up and across the country, we have to stop in north central Arkansas. Since their introduction in the mid-1960s, ‘bows and brownies have earned their reputation as the state’s favorite sporting fish. Be sure to try the river’s stretch between Greers Ferry Dam and Pangburn.

6. San Juan River, New Mexico

We love the high country and endless plateaus in northwestern New Mexico. We go crazy for huge river trout below Navajo Dam. The San Juan River makes it on our list because it consistently produces fish in one of the American West’s most beautiful settings.

7. Glenwood Spring, Colorado

We’re including one more non-river location. This is the Rocky Mountain State’s center for amazing fly fishing action. The Colorado and Fork rivers roar through town, the area enjoys 300 days of sunshine every year, and even winter fishing is fun in Glenwood Spring.

8. Yellowstone River, Montana

You know it’s the longest undammed river in the country. You know the headwaters are filled with cutthroats. You know downstream teems with huge populations of big ‘bows and brownies. We know we’d hear from you if we didn’t include this one.

9. Snake River, Idaho

Head for the Snake’s south fork, and enjoy year-round fly fishing just 45 minutes from Jackson Hole. We favor the canyon run through Magic Valley for cutthroat, brownies and rainbows. The scenery is breathtaking wherever you fish on this legendary river.

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10. Kvichak River, Alaska

From Lake Iliamna down to Bristol Bay the Kvichak River is spotted with some of the best fly fishing lodges in the world. The river flows wild and wide and did we mention that the world’s largest red salmon run happens right here every year? Enough said.

You might not agree with all our choices, but you have to admit it’s a pretty good list. It’s certainly reason enough to keep expanding your angling horizons and checking locations off your fly-fishing adventures list.

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An Insight into Fostering: The Myths and the Truths

foster children There are lots on uncertainties that circulate around foster parenting. It’s widely believed that marital status, age and personal experience are the deciding factors in whether you are allowed to foster a child. We spoke to Lorraine* to gain a better insight into the world of fostering and to have all of the common myths and truths brought to light.

Can I become a foster parent if I’m single?

There are certain qualities that a foster parent must possess, lots of patience, empathy, supportiveness and a big heart, but surprisingly having a partner is not included in the list! Foster children are working through what’s called a transition period when they are placed into care – this is a period where they will be waiting to be either reunited with their birth parents, or placed with the right “forever family”, so it is an extremely difficult time for them that will require the upmost sensitivity – if you can provide a stable and loving environment for the child, that will cause them as little trauma as possible, then you could be the perfect candidate. So it doesn’t matter if you’re single, married, male or female.

Lorraine* is a single mother of 3, who began fostering a little over 7 years ago and hasn’t looked back since.

Can I foster if I have my own children?

One of the most common misconceptions about fostering is that people who have their own children are not suitable foster parent candidates. When speaking to Lorraine, she said “I have experience of being a parent, with 3 sons of my own I believed that I had the experience to benefit a child’s needs”. If you have your own children, it demonstrates that you are able to provide a stable and loving environment that a foster child needs. Also bringing a child into a home that already has children, who they can speak to, play with and learn from, can actually help them to acclimatise to their new home better.


Am I too old to foster?

If you are 25 years of age or older you can be a suitable candidate to foster. As long as you are of sound health both mentally and physically, then you can foster a child regardless of how old you are. Lorraine* began fostering when she was 48 years old, she is now 55 and is planning to continue to foster.

Do I have to be qualified to become a foster parent?

Before you are allowed to foster a child, there is an extensive process that you have to go through. You will be paired with a social worker who can visit you up to 10 different occasions – in this time they will complete the Form F Report, which is an in depth assessment of your family history, medical records and overall suitability to foster a child. If you pass the initial stages of the fostering process, you will also have to attend a 3-4 day course, which will prepare you for all of the different challenges that being a foster parent will bring. Lorraine* told us that “nothing can fully prepare you for the challenges and difficult times that you will be faced with as a foster parent. I have looked after so many children and teenagers during my time and every experience is different. This is such a rewarding life choice, and as long as you remain patient, open minded and supportive, you can really make an impact on the child’s life”.

Lorraine* fosters through a private fostering agency called Lorimer Fostering, but you can also foster via your local fostering authority.

*Lorraine’s name has been changed to protect her identity and that of the children in her care.

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Outdoor activity, even napping, in winter leads to happier, healthier and more resilient kids…


Kids of all ages love to ride the toboggan down slippery, snowy hills

Well, its finally happening…

The cool, crisp air of yet another onset of winter has finally arrived. While it would be easy to light the fireplace and snuggle up inside for another long, cold winter— rather than retreat inside, we should actually be spending more time outdoors. Walking, hiking, playing, skiing, snowboarding, learning, exploring discovering and even… napping. Yes, napping. Outside.


Nordic (or Cross Country) Skiing is a great way to have fun, get fit and actually enjoy winter.

While it is easy to think that winter is long, and cold and hard to endure year after year, it really is more of a state of mind than a set of circumstances we have to endure. When you take the time to actively engage in activities that force you to dress up and get outside and move around for extended periods of time, winter can actually be really fun. If you set your mind to it, it becomes a great opportunity to seek out and find ways and things to do that build resilience, shorten the season, and put you in great shape emotionally, physically and mentally.

Outdoor learning is alive and well in Sweden – a priority even. The team at the Swedish think tank Movium has been able to advance a national agenda in support of outdoor play and learning, mobility and independence.


Get the kids outside skiing early on in life and you will give them a gift that lasts a lifetime.

Here in Canada, we see signs of movement in that direction. More schools and school boards are encouraging play and learning outside and creating school grounds that are healthy for kids living in cities.


Running, jumping and all around tomfoolery in the powdery snow is a great way to burn off steam and get plenty of fresh air. Dress them up right and they won’t even notice its cold outside.

Cam Collyer, Director of Programs at Evergreen, shares what Canadians can learn from outdoor education around the world…


Back Yard Hockey rinks are a bit of work in the fall, winter and spring, but well worth the effort if you can get a cold enough winter in your area. Here in Toronto, it is hard to believe we can actually do this in the city, but it is possible if you roll up your sleeves and are dedicated to the cause.

What are you waiting for? Bundle up the kids and get outside!


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Tips on Creating Inspirational Spaces for Kids


It always seems that a good part of every weekend is spent working on some home improvement project. Either we’re replacing the leaky kitchen sink, fixing the upstairs toilet that keeps running, or the usual sort of stuff like cleaning the gutters and raking the yard. Sometimes we guys get lucky and can work on something we actually want to work on, like a mancave or setting up a home office the exact way we want. Another project that is worth the time and effort, that is also fun, is making something for the kids.

1. The Tween Cave

As much as we try and deny it, our kids are growing up. The happy little twerp that was glued to your leg is now a moody teen who wants to be left alone in his room. Why not make him a dream room he will love? Ideally, the best place is a basement or an attic. It gives the budding adult a greater sense of privacy, while allowing you to still keep an eye on him.

The key here is to let them have a major say in how the room looks. If they want everything painted black and dark purple, like their favorite band (or whatever sort of music they like) then let them paint the room that color. It will show them that you value their thoughts and ideas. Did I mention that they also have to help? Working on their own room like that will give them a greater appreciation for what they built.

Remember, it’s during these years that a teen will be tempted to do things like drinking or drugs. If they have a cool place where they feel in control, that along with your guidance, make all the difference in what choices they make.

2. A Tree House or Fort

The treehouse has been a staple for boys and girls of all ages for a long time. This is one of those things that has gotten better over the years, because there are more options than ever. If a yard doesn’t have big enough trees to build a treehouse, you can build a fort. Pirate ships and rockets are also an option.

There are tons of YouTube videos that can give dads a step by step guide to build whatever they want. If you aren’t gifted in the carpentry arts, there are kits you can buy. These are relatively easy to assemble, but still give the dad an excuse to bust out the tools and let the kids watch while he builds something. Failing that, there are even professional treehouse and fort builders who will do all the work, but where’s the fun in that?

3. The Classic Playroom

The best thing about a regular playroom is that it can be used all year long, regardless of the weather. There is also a lot of flexibility in what can be done. No matter what the kids are into, building the perfect playroom is a cinch. It can be a rough and tumble superhero lair, or the ballroom in a castle.

Decorating the playroom is easier than most people expect. The main thing is to keep it fun and fitting with the chosen theme. Having custom chairs with the most creative upholstery fabric is a great way to bring a playroom together, and spark a child’s imagination. To them, you aren’t building a playroom. You’re building them a magical place all their own.

The list of things a dad can do is nearly endless. The project can be indoor or outdoor, and depending on the age of your kids, the scope and tone can go from princess in pink to rock stars in black leather. If there is enough of an age difference, you might have to do more than one project. Like that’s a bad thing. Use these few ideas to get you started. Take them, run with them, and make them your own.

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Growing things together with your kids outdoors

Screenshot 2016-03-24 14.16.07

If you’re anything like me, I’m on some level always feeling that I’m not spending quality time with my kids like I want to. But at the same time, I’m also somewhat incapacitated. Between work, the stuff on the calendar, and meeting the kids’ basic needs, I often collapse at the end of the day in one exhausted heap.

One thing we’ve started doing as a family is working outdoors together. From planting a garden to landscaping to planting new trees on our property, I’ve found it rewarding.

The nature of gardening and landscaping is that it is an ongoing process, not a one-time thing. You’re planting new life. It needs water, sunlight, and care. So at the outset, you’re committed. You’re going to get out there with the kids on a regular basis.

If you’re like me and can only handle so much (or not any) playing dollhouse or Star Wars light-saber fights or painful “Fine” responses as you try to engage your teen, this is a game-changer. I’m going to lay out 3 important lessons that getting outside as a family instills in your kids.


Unless you were born with a green thumb, working with plants is going to take patience. You’ll need to learn how to plant and care for plant life.

Getting a garden started takes persistence and patience. It’s not done in an hour. You have to prepare the soil, plant the produce and herbs you are going to grow, and prune and water what you’ve planted.

It can be tedious at times. In a world in which research papers are as easy as a google search and in which 200+ tv shows and movies are at my kids’ fingertips on Netflix at any given moment, working outdoors is a valuable character-builder.

Not everything worth having, can be acquired quickly. Often those things of greatest value take time and patience. It’s not always as easy as Tweeting an acquaintance for a job recommendation. Sometimes it is, but I want my children to be prepared for the times when it’s not. For those times when waiting is required in order to see results.



Your children know what is most important to you, by how you spend your time. Spending quality time with them will show them that they are important to you.

Working together with your spouse and kids will deepen the bond you all have. It will draw you closer. And this close bond will create trust.

When my girls are in the face of intense peer pressure, this foundation of trust will assure them I will always be there for them. That no matter what, I have been there and will be there for them.

Having a supportive and dependable family structure is vital for kids. These traits are indicators for success down the road. This falls on your shoulders.


My kids are skilled at finding the path of least resistance. Left to themselves, they would play video games all day, never bathe or change their clothes, and never clean up after themselves. An onlooker may wonder if the chores we subject our kids to our actually physically painful to them, judging from the sighs and grunts that leave their mouths.

All that to say, diligence and hard work do not come naturally. In part, it is up to us as parents to help foster these quality traits in them. They may hate us for it at the time, but in the long-run, they will thank us.

The most effective way to teach your kids to have a good work ethic, is not just to force them to work hard, but to get in there and work with them. Set an example. Get your hands dirty. Show them how it’s done.



Whether you are planting a garden in the spring or taking a Saturday morning to plant a tree to shade your front porch, these are projects that will guarantee family time and teaching opportunities in days to come.

Make the most of your time. Take advantage of those opportunities. You will blink, and these years will be passed. Slow down and determine what you want to instill in your kids now.

How about you? What benefits have you found from working outdoors with your family?

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camping in Ontario

Outdoor Adventure Show Is Made For Kids

Fresh back from the 2016 Outdoor Adventure Show in Toronto, I can report the attraction was designed with young families in mind and it really is a great place for Heads-Up Dads to spend Saturday with the kids.  It’s cost effective too. Adults pay $14, and children age eleven and under get in free.

There’s no sandbox, bumper cars or bouncy gyms here, and no food courts either, but the whole show is something of a play zone with every vendor offering up something cool for young people. The three-day exhibition has a wide array of adventure options for all age groups right there on the trade show floor.  Many booths have interactive games for 8-12 year olds, mostly puzzle challenges; smart dealers know they need to tie up young family members so they can talk shop with parents.

Here are some of the more interesting ‘youth engagement’ strategies I witnessed,

The Adventure Convention Organizers Included Activities for Young People

tradeshow passport for prizesThe show’s organizers had young families in mind when they created the Outdoor Adventurers Passport wherein kids can collect stamps (paw prints) from vendors for prizes at the end of the journey.  A completed passport could be turned in for both short term rewards and a chance of winning a much bigger prize later. The true benefit is for vendors of course as this tactic effortlessly draws in families with young children; this passport is an ice breaker with an easy greeting ritual and friendly exchange that makes it real easy to talk afterwards.

Everywhere I looked there were young people getting their adventure on; they were climbing rock walls, and in one corner of the show kids were zip lining between platforms overhead.  In this respect young people acquired a different perspective on the event than their parents.

Outdoor Adventure Show rock wall climbing
Kids climbing up the rock wall – photo by Rob Campbell

A Spinning Wheel Mesmerizes Kids and Dispenses Coupons to Parents

SpintheWheel1There were a couple Crown & Anchor wheels which had been repurposed into spin-the-wheel games for coupons.  The one on the right was operated by Tourism Toronto and dispensed SUP vouchers, gift certificates, coloring books and there was almost always a crowd of youngsters in front of this rig.

But the real pedestrian crush occurred in the main aisle just inside the front door where it bottle-necked around the Flight Center and a hot deals travel agency. If you were shopping for discount airfare for your next family trip then this was probably a good place to be. Regarding the crowd I think what happened was the new people coming in the door came up against the folks who’d been around once already and everyone jammed up on Main St there in front of Xcitelife.

Xcitelife is a Marketplace for Unique Experiences for the Whole Family

People could not get down the center aisle without encountering a list of fun things to do at Xcitelife; the booth attendants wore black shirts with red X’s. This is the company motif and the X stands for experience and not extreme. Their charismatic greeters stood near their company flags drumming up excitement for their experience marketplace and they signed up many influential new users.

Xcitelife at the Outdoor Adventure Show

Xcitelife asked families to make a Bucket List; their software helps decision makers source travel solutions in the coming months and years. Check out Earth Girl and another great profile from the show is Martin,  The new members wrote their aspirations on red paper X’s which they pinned to a dream board. The board soon displayed the collective vacation fantasies of the entire show and it was from this arena that a prize winner was eventually selected.

Paul’s own Bucket List – photo by Rob Campbell

“Everyone wants to live an Xciting life, but too often folks get stuck in the ordinary” says Paul Peic. “At Xcitelife we’ve made it our mission to transform lives through experiences.”

There was no food court, but there was protein available at the show.

D&D Meats from Alliston Ontario, venison sausages

Kids love cured meat! D & D Meats were among the only food vendors at the show. There were granola bars and trail mixes in the survival quadrant, but this booth was the only meat option.  This family-owned cured meat shop from Alliston Ontario had a wide corner all to themselves, and were doing a brisk business selling beef jerky, pepperoni, sausages and kielbasa.

All day long people streamed through the crowded event eddying about in open areas of the trade show floor and milling around the central water pool.  This aquatic attraction was also called the Demo Pool and frequently had young performers showing off their skills in the latest model kayaks.

The crowd also collected in front of three live theatres where experts shared stories and advice. This author came upon the Adventures in Paddling stage just as the float plane touched down on Rabbitkettle Lake on the Nahanni River and a flat water paddler unpacked stand-up paddle boards for the whole family.

Rapid Media Best Kayak Reviews 2016 Paddling Buyer’s Guide, also SUPs, Canoe Reviews.

Adventures in Paddling theatre was surrounded by the latest model SUPs or Stand Up Paddle Boards, canoes and kayaks for sale, and on the far side of the opening stood the Rapid Media booth with giant posters displaying their magazine titles.

Kayak buyers guide, rapid media
2016 Paddling Buyers Guide – photo by Rob Campbell

Elijah Liedtke pointed out the 2016 kayak reviews and then he gave me an insider link to the online kayak reviews, paddling buyer’s guide. which is free and considered one of the big secrets of the show.

Kayak1sharablemoment2Rapid Media had some all-ages engagement strategies at play, and in the age of shareable moments the magazine title cardboard cutouts were really busy, especially the ‘Wild Women’ Adventure Kayak magazine cutout seen at right.

Rapid Media has done well in the paddling space with four popular magazines, Adventure Kayak, Canoeroots, Kayak Angler, and Rapid the whitewater magazine. These publications are gorgeous print mags filled with real life travel stories, photos, videos and professional gear reviews from expert paddlers all over the world. At the show the editorial staff were selling half price annual subscriptions.

Each of the three live theatres was sponsored by one magazine or another, and besides the paddling magazine one was dedicated to scuba diving and another to hiking; and the land trekking theatre was sponsored by Outpost Magazine, which is all about getting geared up and making long distance journeys across vast scenic landscapes.

Outpost Magazine at Outdoor Adventure Show

History Exhibits Tell Stories at the Outdoor Adventure Show

Iroqoius Village tribal experience

First Nations storytellers enthralled kids by relating the Voyage of the Iroquois. The area attendants were dressed in native Canadian regalia, and the walls of their particular open attraction were filled with images taken by passengers inside the giant twelve person canoes. These pictures are from summer trips that spend two or three weeks paddling the historic trade routes of the Voyageurs!

Kids could indeed soak up a lot of history from the installations at the show, and at one exhibit in particular there was displayed stone axe heads, arrowheads and spear points from the Stone Age. At noon in the Survival Theatre on Saturday there was an expert from Parks Canada who was able to show crowds how the First Canadians could hunt and kill great beast with primitive weapons. One guy seen below actually assembled arrows and spears in front of a live audience.

collecting arrowheads from native Canadian settlements

Kids of all ages love the Toronto Adventure Show and the best part are experts like this guy who share first hand knowledge.  This is a family show that’s fit for outdoor adventurers of all ages – more information about the 2016 Outdoor Adventure Show on Toronto Guardian.

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The Perfect Family: A Nanny’s view…

As a nanny, you learn to work in less than perfect conditions. Bratty kids, angry parents, broken homes are all par for the course. But what happens when you finally find that perfect family you’ve been looking for, or, in most cases, they find you? What does a perfect family look like?

A perfect family doesn’t mean just well-behaved kids or parents who give you a raise on a regular basis. It is more than that. Perfect families can come with both parents or single parents. They can come with one child or four children. What sets the perfect family apart is one thing: respect. The children have respect for you and for their parents. The parents have respect for you, their children, and each other.

Strangely enough, you’d think love would be the necessary element for a perfect family, but really it isn’t. Of course, working for a loving family is great, but just love isn’t enough. Without respect, the system falls apart. How many single parents have you seen that love their kids so much, but their children hate them? How many times have you seen a parent give into a child’s tantrum because they love them too much to see them suffer? Love isn’t enough.

Respect is an overused and under-utilized word. Many people talk about respect, usually for authorities like police officers and government officials. But everyday respect is important. By respecting those around you, you create a world where everyone can get along. Sure, you still have disagreements, but they can be worked through calmly instead of being turned into all out wars. There is nothing worse than working for a warring family. Inevitably you are stuck right in the middle of it. Worse yet, the children often are forced to pick a side, or choose to rebel and go off in their own direction.

Parents blame the nanny for a lot of things. Rebellion in their children is one of them. But rebellion in children is often a product of fear, and fear a product of feeling out of control, of not being safe. A parent’s job is to make their child feel secure in a dangerous and unpredictable world. A nanny can only do so much. It is up to the parents to create a safe environment for their children and respect is a huge part of that.

In short, a perfect family is not measured by how many children they have, how much money they have, or how much love they have. A perfect family is one in which everyone, inside and outside of the family, is respected. That is the type of family any nanny would be proud to work for.

Author Bio

Sara is an active nanny as well as an active freelance writer. She also helps in providing information on nanny jobs through her writing. Learn more about her Learn more about her here.

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How to financially support your child’s cost of living while attending University

Saving for your kids education

With tuition fees alone for a three-year undergraduate course expected to reach £24,000 or more in the UK ($30,000 – $75,000 or more in Canada and the US) the cost of a university education for many may prove suffocating without some kind of financial aid provided by us as parents.

Tuition fees are only the tip of the iceberg for many undergraduate students. There’s also the not so small matter of accommodation and living costs to pay for. Student loans and grants are obtainable for students who qualify, but those who don’t are almost certainly going to require some form of financial supplement from the ‘Bank of Mom and Dad’!

Most parents are keen to help pay some of these costs but unless you have stored up plenty of savings over a number of years it can prove difficult to pay off large chunks of a tuition fee loan. It will leave students with crushing debts that may take many years to pay off.

A key component to avoiding debt is budgeting. Students and parents should make a detailed budget at the beginning of each school year. Figure out what money you have and when it’s available, rather than in February when you realize you’re out of money and then you have to scramble to go out and get a job and work 20 hours a week just to make ends meet. Financial worries can pile up and become extreme sources of stress at the very time you’re staring down at exams and midterm papers become due. Working between six and 10 hours a week really doesn’t have a negative impact on students scholastically, but when you are putting in too many hours, your studies and your success at school will suffer. Working just 6 – 10 hours per week tends to force you to become more organized and that will help a student across the board.

Credit cards are one of the easiest methods of accumulating unnecessary debt, and we caution students to consider the ease of accessing credit wisely, especially new students who are unfamiliar with the credit system.

If you are looking for creative ways to support your kids without the fear of accumulating unwanted or unneccessary debt, one of the best ways to supplement your child’s financial position at university is to give them a helping hand with their weekly spend on groceries, incidentals, utilities and occasional socializing. Giving them cash can lead to poor financial management, accumulation of unpaid bills and the inevitable ask for more. Giving credit cards can expose you and your kid to wanted financial liability. There is something in between.

One of the best ways to help your child become more financially responsible and manage their money more effectively while attending university is to provide them with a pre-paid credit card. The premise of a pre-paid card is that you simply load the funds you want to spend and once it’s gone, it’s gone! As one of the fastest growing consumer trends in the UK, prepaid cards are a fantastic money management tool with many other added features and benefits. Prepaid cards such as the Pockit MasterCard® a do not have an overdraft or credit facility attached, effectively reducing the risk of accruing unwanted debt. As a parent this could allow you to come to an arrangement with your son or daughter to provide them with a predefined amount of funds each week or month, giving them the responsibility to manage their money without the threat of going into debt or unlimited liability.

Better still, cards such as the Pockit MasterCard® are accepted anywhere you can use a MasterCard – that’s over 30 million locations worldwide – giving your child the convenience of a debit or credit card without the risk of being buried in reckless debt. With power and freedom comes great responsibility, but it also comes with a host of additional exclusive offers on utilities, car insurance, impromptu days out and more. Offers vary by provider and geographic location.

University is meant to be some of the best times in your kid’s life. Save as much as you can now to prepare for their future and when the time comes, consider a prepaid mastercard to cover some of the smaller stuff. Allow them to focus on school instead of worrying about bills with the piece of mind and financial security offered by a well thought out education savings plan.

Surviving college or university without incurring debt may seem impossible to most of us, but it can be done. Murray Baker graduated from the University of Western Ontario without a cent of debt. He wrote the book on it. Murray is the author of The Debt-Free Graduate: How to Survive College or University Without Going Broke, a comprehensive and amusing guide to minimizing post secondary debt.

Murray says that the best strategies for surviving postsecondary education without an avalanche of debt are preparation and knowing your resources. He has brought many of his useful tips and strategies to the Web via The Debt-Free Guide and an array of Financial Planning Tools which he developed in partnership with Human Resources and Development Canada. All designed to assist students and parents with planning their post secondary education.



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on Teaching Gratitude to Children

Hi Dads!

I am so thrilled and excited to be here with you all, and to be able to write for HeadsUpDad.

In fact, I feel so grateful about it that I think I’d like to write about Gratitude. Gratitude and Appreciation are enormously important qualities for parents to instill in their kids, but most often all that folks can manage to teach them is polite manners. And while it’s nice to see a kid say “Thanks” when someone passes him the butter, that’s not exactly what I mean here. This is especially true today, because parents don’t spend as much effort teaching polite behavior as they once did.  But your grandparents probably didn’t care too much about how deeply their kids felt appreciation – they just washed your parents’ mouths out with soap if they happened to not use the right words at the right times! No, this generation really tends to care a lot more about teaching values, rather than just prescribed behavior. But the problem is, how can anyone teach that?! The crazy answer is – you really can’t. Kids are kids, and there’s a certain level of unthinking selfishness that just comes with the territory (along with incredible sweetness, as you know). And if little Julie finds exactly what she wanted under her Christmas tree, she’s going to be a lot more interested in the immediate joy of playing with it than she is in the deeper pleasure of writing a beautiful thank you letter for it!

Your job, since you can’t really teach gratitude, is to help foster a growth of that sense for when the child matures.

Here are a few suggestions on how to do just that:

1. Teach by example.

Papas, you’ll hear me say this one over and over and over.  About 90% of what kids learn from their parents comes from observation (which is, of course, how kids manage to learn to walk and talk, two of the most astounding achievements of any human’s life).  If you live with a sense of gratitude, your children will pick up on that. When your babysitter makes the kids dinner because you forgot to leave something in the fridge, do you just accept that, or really thank her for going the extra mile?  When someone in traffic lets you cut in, do you give a ‘thank you’ wave?  Your kid will see what you do, and learn from it.  And even more importantly, do you show gratitude to your kid when they do something kind?  That’s the best lesson of all.

2. Talk about Gratitude when it is expressed by others.

When you throw a poker party for some buddies, and one of them emails you the next morning to thank you for it, mention to your kid how good that made you feel.

3. Let them help you with acts of gratefulness.

I know this is a bit phony, but it’s still good:  Let’s say you want to send out a bunch of letters thanking people who’ve helped you in your work this year.  Have your kid stuff the envelopes or put the stamps on.  They’ll get the idea that thank you letters are what cool grownups like Daddy do.

4. Apologize when you forget to be grateful yourself.

All humans make mistakes, and there will always be times when you forget to thank someone, or even to feel as grateful as you should. Let your child see you catch yourself in that error. And let them see you apologize and try to make up for it. That’s a huge teacher.

5. Teach them gratitude by rote.

Okay, and the boring one: Yes, I’m saying that you should teach your ungrateful little brats to say “Thank You” for getting the butter passed to them, and to write letters thanking Aunt Martha for the boring book she gave them, and even to thank their teacher for giving them extra homework to help them master something they’re having trouble with in school.  No, they won’t feel the gratitude at all.  But they will learn the right ways and times to express it when they do.

And then, I also want to add a big “Don’t” to this list.  Do Not Guilt Trip!  Children live in a world that’s all about themselves.  They’ll grow out of it, and you should encourage that, but don’t make them feel bad for not being there yet.  Telling them things like “You ought to feel more grateful” or “You’re too self-centered,” or worst of all “You’re spoiled, you got too many presents” don’t teach Gratitude; they teach Shame, which is the total opposite (If you really feel your kid got too many presents for her birthday, then be the adult and tell her there’s simply been a mistake, and she needs to give five of her toys to others.  It’s not her fault!).

Then, of course, the best role model any kid can ever have for Gratitude is one of us!  We dogs will show how much we appreciate every treat, every scratch on the head, and every time you let us in the house – every time!  And oh do we let you know we appreciate you humans when you come home from school or work!  And the more that your kid sees us do that, and senses how much they love the way our gratitude makes them feel (yes I’m emphasizing that thought!), the sooner they’ll develop a healthy sense of empathy, which will lead them to the true sense of gratitude you want them to own.

So those are my thoughts. Good luck with them. And in the meantime, from the bottom of my heart…

Thanks for reading!


About the author:

Shirelle is a busy dog. In between her posts from the Dog House at HeadsUpDad, she hosts a great web site offering friendly, down-to-earth advice for kids, teens, and parents called AskShirelle. Please check it out.



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Tips On Safe Toys For Children Under Eight

Canada is a very safe place to live and raise children. And it keeps getting safer and safer. Statistically there are not as many drunk drivers anymore, and hardly anyone I know smokes nowadays.  But that trend toward safety isn’t happening in kid’s toys.

lean manufacturing in toy factory , South AmericaBuying toys comes with a lot of choices. There are so many considerations to make when purchasing play toys, especially those cheaper items that have been made and imported from all over the world. International companies have different assembly systems, lean manufacturing standards, distribution and marketing practices. When a kid’s toy in Chapters or Toys-R-Us carries a major label they are quick to respond to phone messages, emails and even tweets. But its much harder to hold a foreign company accountable, and many East Asian manufacturing centers won’t make any changes to their products until a scandalous incident blows up interest in mainstream media and there’s a ‘recall’ as happened when children became sick from lead poisoning from paint on toys.  African, Asian and South American companies, including Mexican companies are not on twitter yet.

stainless steel ice cube trays and popsicle molds are kid friendly toys for under 8 yrs oldWe need to be especially careful with the toys issued to children under eight years of age. Children in this developmental stage put things in their mouths all the time, and come in close contact with such items. There can be toxic side effects that alter the developmental progress of your child and effect their health. Often fancy toys are not always necessary for children under age eight, because they’d rather play with real life items. Plastics should be checked first before handed over to a young person. I know many people who have let their child have reign over the items in their kitchen due to their safety. Stainless steel kitchens are biologically safer and steel pots and pans make great drums, while popsicle molds and ice cube trays become wonderful xylophones. My family makes frozen treats to help us get through hot summer days and we play music. These items make for great interactive fun and are safe items for smaller children. They may be noisy and require clean up afterwards but they are a lot healthier for your child rather than the dollar store toy items you may think are harmless.

After a little research I found the The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) very helpful. It was founded in 1926 and is a good source for recommendations for purchasing toy items and considering the safety features for toys. It is the world’s largest organizations working on behalf of young children with nearly 80,000 members and a national network of more than 300 state and local Affiliates, and a growing global alliance of like-minded organizations.

Characteristics of Safe Toys

* well-made (with no shared parts or splinters and do not pinch)
* not painted, or painted with nontoxic, lead-free paint
* shatter-proof
* easily cleaned

Be sure to check the label, which should indicate the toy has been approved by the Underwriters Laboratories. In addition, when choosing toys for children under age 3, make sure there are no small parts or pieces that could become lodged in a child’s throat and cause suffocation. It’s important to remember that typical wear and tear can result in a once-safe toy becoming hazardous. Adults should check toys frequently to make sure they are in good repair. For a list of toys that have been recalled by manufacturers, visit the Toy Hazard Recalls page of the US Gov Consumer Product Safety Commission Website.

Older babies are movers – typically they go from rolling over and sitting to scooting, bouncing, creeping, pulling themselves up, and standing. They understand their own names and other common words, can identify body parts, find hidden objects, and put things in and out of containers. This is a great stage to allow exploration in the kitchen. Hide the sharp objects.

* Board books with simple illustrations or photographs of real objects
* Recordings with songs, rhymes, simple stories, and pictures
* Things to create with – wide non-toxic, washable markers, crayons, and large paper
* Things to pretend with – toy phones, dolls and doll beds, baby carriages and strollers, dress-up accessories (scarves, purses), puppets, stuffed toys, plastic animals, and plastic and wood “realistic” vehicles
* Things to build with – cardboard and wood blocks (can be smaller than those used by infants – 2 to 4 inches)
* Things for using their large and small muscles – puzzles, large pegboards, toys with parts that do things (dials, switches, knobs, lids), and large and small ball
* Things for solving problems – wood puzzles (with 4 to 12 pieces), blocks that snap together, objects to sort (by size, shape, color, smell) and things with hooks, buttons, buckles, and snaps
* Things for pretending and building – blocks, smaller (and sturdy) transportation toys, construction sets, child-sized furniture (kitchen sets, chairs, play food), dress-up clothes, dolls with accessories, puppets, and sand and water play toys
* CD and DVD players with a variety of music (of course, phonograph players and cassette recorders work too!)
* Things for using their large and small muscles – large and small balls for kicking and throwing, ride-on equipment (but probably not tricycles until children are 3), tunnels, low climbers with soft material underneath, and pounding and hammering toys
* Things for solving problems – puzzles (with 12 to 20+ pieces), blocks that snap together, collections and other smaller objects to sort by length, width, height, shape, color, smell, quantity, and other features – collections of plastic bottle caps, plastic bowls and lids, keys, shells, counting bears, small colored blocks
* Things for pretending and building – many blocks for building complex structures, transportation toys, construction sets, child-sized furniture (“apartment” sets, play food), dress-up clothes, dolls with accessories, puppets and simple puppet theaters, and sand and water play toys

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It was with great sadness that I read about the recent Norwegian terrorist attacks. A tragic ordeal for any country to have to experience, yet there was a point in the story where I found one Norwegian’s comment to be equally absurd as the attacks were cruel. A woman’s response to the killings was, “Why are they killing us? We’re the good guys!” Most of us think the same way; we are the good guys, the ones who know what’s best or what is right. Adolf Hitler was convinced that his Nazi movement was the best solution for the world’s problems. And through his eyes, it was. The same can be said for Osama Bin Laden or George W. Bush and it is with this lack of awareness upon which most of mankind operates.

Albeit slowly, an increasing number of the world’s population is adopting a different viewpoint (or philosophy, or truth) that there is no right and no wrong, there simply is. This is not to say that whatever happens in the world is acceptable. It is to understand that only the flow of nature exists and that everything happening is a part of that flow. It is the understanding that there are no shoulds or shouldn’ts, only choices. The difference is that should’s and shouldn’t’s are constructs of our mind, while clear choices (I will or I won’t) come from the heart.

I recently witnessed a parent become very frustrated, claiming that her toddler was supposed to listen to her, as if it were her child’s job. In reality, her child’s only job is to act naturally, which is to be aware in some moments and unaware in other moments. If the mother chooses to parent consciously, then it is in fact her job to find a way to be in relationship with her child, discovering ways to flow with both her child’s awareness and lack thereof.

Essentially, life is about relationships, or how we relate to each of our experiences. Have you ever experienced physical pain and thought “This shouldn’t be happening!”? When we don’t flow with nature, believing that something should or shouldn’t be happening, we create suffering for ourselves. A common reaction I’ve seen after reading of earthquakes is “Why would God make such a thing happen!?” Conversely I recall many comments made of the Japanese response to their recent earthquake/tsunami experience, as they largely exemplified acceptance around what happened, while then responding to what needed attention. When we flow with nature, working with what is, we create more ease for ourselves.

Consider that all the ‘unnatural’ deaths that have ever occurred are serving to build our global collective pain that is now bringing about our planet’s current shift in consciousness. Consider that every cubic ton of pollution we’ve created thus far is serving to awaken us to the point where we once again realize the true value of our planet. Many sacrifices have been made in order to create the opportunity that lies before us all. Consider that there is no right and no wrong—only countless opportunities to, through awareness, healthfully flow with what is. After all, we’re all the good guys, each of us sharing a common desire: to be happy, as each of us does our best to find our way.

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Movie Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II

Platform 9 3/4Waiting in line at the Scotiabank Theatre in downtown Toronto to see the latest (and final) film from the Harry Potter franchise, I was dumbfounded by the number of, well…adults in line to see the summer blockbuster. Granted, I was waiting for the 9:30 PM showing, and you never see too many kids downtown, but the turnout of the more, shall we say, experienced audience confirmed something I’d already known: Harry Potter isn’t just for kids.

Billionaire author J.K. Rowling can attest to that—she said she just wrote about characters she would want to read about; it was her publishing company that marketed her work to children. While in no way am I suggesting she’s a modern day Shakespeare like some fanatics claim, I shall say that the series is a fully realized work, highly imaginative and brimming with lessons for children to learn and for adults to revisit. Given that, and before I write about the film, I highly recommend reading the books prior to seeing the movies, as is usually the case. The books are gripping, funny, full of plot twists and, probably most importantly, concerning the lives of authentic and relatable characters. This is a story where adults err along with the children, where prejudices are passed down with generations, where the idealism of the young is the saving grace when it seems all hope is lost. There is something special, yes, even magical, about these books—there’s a pace to them that makes reading so enjoyable—you don’t want your eyes to leave the page! Just like any book-to-movie adaptation, the Harry Potter films are shallow when compared with their source. If you can, encourage your kids to read the books before seeing the movies, or better yet, read it to them!

As for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II the movie—it’s definitely not for small children. I have a seven year-old brother, and it would have terrified him! I wouldn’t recommend it personally for children under 11, but I suppose every child is different. For a comprehensive guide on the appropriate age for both the Harry Potter books and movies, see this article.

The film itself is excellent—by far the best of the lot. Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson return as Harry, Ron and Alan Rickman as Professor Severus SnapeHermione for the final time, and they all do a spectacular job, particularly Radcliffe. Having watched him grow up literally right before my eyes, the pride I felt upon seeing his earnest performance and how much he has grown in his craft, felt like a parent’s.

Backed again by a sublime supporting cast of British actors including Maggie Smith, Alan Rickman, Ralph Fiennes, Helena Bonham-Carter and Michael Gambon, among others, the standout performances of the film belong to Radcliffe, Smith, Rickman and Fiennes. As Professor McGonagall, Smith’s line “It’s good to see you, Potter,” was delivered with such skill it simultaneously broke the tension and my heart. Rickman, as Professor Snape, has always been a reason to watch the Potter movies, with his silky diction and nearly-vacant stare acting as blinders over his true motives. Rickman outdoes his other performances with this one; as for whether or not his character is evil, let’s just say he’ll keep you guessing until the very end. Ralph Fiennes plays Lord Voldemort with consummate skill, emphasizing the part of him that is still somewhat human, which oddly makes him almost pitiful, and certainly more frightening–I wouldn’t be surprised if this portrayal ends up on ‘Greatest Film Villain’ lists in the future.

The set pieces and visual effects were top-notch, the music beautiful and haunting and the story mostly true to the book.Lord Voldemort vs. Harry Potter

My only gripe, and it’s a big one, is that the significance of the Deathly Hallows (The Elder Wand, the Invisibility Cloak and the Resurrection Stone: whoever possesses all three becomes the Master of Death) was missed. The film was the shortest of the entire series at only 2 hours and 10 minutes and missing this very important, titular element.

The Harry Potter story is largely about life and death and about how one bad wizard feared death so much that he ruthlessly inverted the laws of magic in order to live forever. Opposing him was a wizard who would die to save the people he loved, just as his parents had for him. Which one is Death’s Master? The movie, preoccupied with big bangs and explosions, never touched on that, so if you want to know, you’ll have to read the books.


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How to save money when having a baby…

bring home the baby without bringing down the house

Bring home the baby without bringing down the house…

Saving Money on Baby

Having children can be expensive. When you’re just starting out with a baby, it can be easy to spend hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars on new baby gear, clothing, diapers and other necessities. Fortunately, there are many ways to save money with a little planning. I am expecting my first baby in December, and I have already acquired two car seats, a crib, a swing, clothing, pregnancy books, and more without having spent any money. Here are some of the ways I did it, as well as a few other tips for how to save money when you have a baby:

Get it for Free

Of course, this is what we’d all like to do. Fortunately, when you have a new baby, there are many ways to get items for free. Take advantage of all the inevitable offers you will get for hand-me-downs from friends and family members. You can upfit the items by giving them a good wash, paint where needed, or add new embellishments. Many times, you won’t have to do anything since the items will be in such good condition. Another option for finding free goods is to look at Freecycle, an online recycling community in which members give away unwanted or unused household goods. You can even post “wanted” ads. Another Excellent Option is to download the Bunz App and find stuff you can trade for. It’s a cashless economy but you can trade your stuff for other people’s stuff or trade it for Btz coins that are good for anything in the Bunz community on Facebook and beyond.

Buy Used

Goodwill, Craigslist, Kijiji, thrift shops, and yard sales are great places to find items for babies and young children. Children outgrow their things so quickly that parents don’t have much else to do with them besides give them away. Items will still be in good condition, and most likely not more than a few years old (meaning that some trends may still be holding up). The best part is that you’ll get items at a fraction of the cost.

Use Cloth Diapers

They are a bit more expensive on the front end – materials cost more and you have to buy pails and cleaners – but they will cost far less than disposable diapers in the long run. Disposable diapers will have to be changed more times than you think possible in a day, and you’ll end up spending hundreds in a few short months. Cloth diapers are no more messy than disposable diapers; they just require more upkeep.


It’s better for your baby, and it costs far less than formula. In fact, it costs nothing. (Obviously, you dads can’t breastfeed, but you can encourage your partners to do so.) Formula can also cost hundreds or thousands of dollars over a short period of time, and it contains chemicals and additives that can be harmful to your baby. Breastfeeding is free (unless you need to buy a breast pump to go back to work), and it allows you to be sure of what you’re feeding your baby.


Many, many companies offer coupons, discounts, and other deals to new parents. Take advantage of these deals, and sign up for newsletters or other e-mail clubs, which can entitle you to exclusive savings and giveaways. Sign up for the major daily deal providers like Groupon, Dealicious, DealFind, WebPiggy and EthicalDeals. There’s no shame in getting something for half price, especially when you were going to buy it anyway.

Get Crafty

Finally, many costly baby items such as custom clothing or décor can be made if you have a little imagination and some crafty skills. Even if you are a relative beginner, you can modify or upfit items to your liking: add applique to onesies for cute customs, paint furniture for your own unique look, or make your own wall hanging with cloth or construction paper. If you really don’t know where to start, look for tutorials online or in craft books.

What other ways have you found to save money when welcoming a new baby?

Have any of these tips worked for you?

Send us your money saving tips and we just might publish them here on HeadsUpDad.

Maria Rainier is a freelance writer and blogger for First in Education where she’s recently written about material scientist careers along with a guide to online electronics technology programs. In her spare time, she enjoys yoga, traveling, and working with origami.

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How to be “good” at waiting…


“Waiting is painful.

Forgetting is painful.

But not knowing which to do

is the worse kind of suffering.”

~ Paulo Coelho

Imagine never waiting for anything again. Ever.

For sure, life would never be the same, but not for the reason you think.

Realistically, to wait is to suffer. The suffering can come in many forms. It can come in the form of being or feeling irritated while waiting five whole seconds for a YouTube video to be buffered before it starts to play (Irritated—really? Its coming from outer space!). Or suffering may also show up as anguish while you wait for your doctor’s phone call regarding the results of your biopsy. Simply put, this suffering is your spirit’s warning system that you’re missing out on life in some way, because you’re not present. Your spirit (or soul or heart) wants you to enjoy life and is devoted to guide you there in the healthiest way possible–if you’re willing and able to listen to it.


My life changed in some way the day I learned that there are dialects in the world which contain no word for boredom. These would be languages (such as Hindi and Swahili) which emerged from a time when humans were much more interconnected with both their inner and outer environment. This is not to say that these old world cultures received everything they wanted through immediacy, yet were more in touch with their interconnectedness, particularly by way of their bodies being their guides. When one is connected in this way, one is aware, and when one is aware, one doesn’t wait. In a situation where we don’t immediately receive what we want, we can practice the art of being, or being present. And when we’re present, boredom doesn’t exist as there is no possibility of waiting.

Think of someone in your life whom you consider extremely patient. Your Mom? Your Dad? Your Grandfather? This would not be an example of a person who is ‘good at waiting’, but someone who easily finds acceptance around the things which take time to materialize. What other qualities does this person hold which can be related to their awareness? How about gratefulness, humility or wisdom? Interestingly the word patience has its origin in Latin, stemming from the verb pati or ‘suffering’. Meanwhile acceptance also has its origin in Latin; accipere or ‘to accept, or to take’.


The person who appears extremely patient is likely accepting what is happening, or taking that time, that opportunity to be in that very moment.

 Consider the gift that comes with having to wait. For the student on a conscious path, waiting is the opportunity to check in and notice how the suffering is being self-created.

How can you become more aware and in the present?

Have you tried meditation? Take twenty minutes each day to just “be” on your own. Studies show that individuals who practice meditation can clear distracting thoughts (like impatience) from their minds more quickly than individuals who don’t meditate. That sort of ability comes in handy when you are sitting in the Frankfurt airport waiting for your connecting flight which has been delayed—again.

You can prepare for moments when you need to wait by spending just 20 minutes a day meditating. You don’t have to do anything actually. Just sit in a quiet place and focus on your breath going in your nose and out your mouth. Whenever a distracting thought pops up, don’t allow yourself to go there. Just note the thought, let it go, and focus back on your breath. With practice, your mind will quiet down, and your ability to dismiss unwanted thoughts will improve. Being aware and in the moment will come to you.

Yoga? If you are practicing yoga, bring it back to your practice. Invite your awareness inside the body and notice it’s attempt to generate more ease, relaxation and stability. 

‘Wait and see’ is a commonly used phrase in the English language–one that often creates suffering. Rather than suffering, empower yourself by turning this phrase into a choice; ‘wait or see’.

What works for you? Let us know.

Haven’t tried any of these yet? Why not give it a try?

Until next time,


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Toxic Chemicals in personal skin care products?


I have been doing a lot of gardening over the past couple of months and it has been great. Lots of fresh air, hard work and I am learning a lot.

It’s killing my hands though. Shovelling, digging, gettting dirty, washing, getting dirty. Washing again has taken its toll. I use a lot of moisturizers but it does not seem to make much of a difference. It feels good once I put products on, but as soon as my hands are back in the dirt and back into the tap water, dry as a bone and chafing. It occurred to me that maybe these moisturizers aren’t really doing such a great job after all.

After looking into some other more effective options for skincare products that might heal my busy, abused hands, I learned a lot that really surprised and alarmed me. Did you know, that most of the products you buy at the drugstore, or at the grocery store, contain a bunch of nasty stuff that is toxic and harmful to humans? The more I dug, the more I discovered how everyday personal care products are laced with stuff you would never want in your bloodstream if you knew it was there.

If only we knew about the hidden toxic chemicals that can be found in everyday personal care products… Chemicals that are cancer-causing, hormone-disrupting and allergy-inducing.

The presence of these toxins isn’t new:

They have been there all along.

We think it’s time to shed the light on the hidden, dangerous toxins that exist in body care products for men. But we need your help. We need you to roll up your sleeves and help us flag the products that you would like to know more about.

Cologne, bar soap, deodorant, shaving cream. These are all common products that we use everyday. Used by us, by our sons, brothers, fathers or husbands. On a daily basis, these products are rubbed and absorbed into our skin, with very lax regulations on the ingredients used to make them.

Environmental Defense

Environmental Defense is an organization that looks after us, fights for us and helps make the government take action on our behalf. Their new Just Beautiful campaign is all about testing products we use everyday to see just how safe they are to put on our skin. How safe are the personal products we use on our bodies? The answer: nobody knows. The cosmetic business is a deregulated wild west.

They would like to test ten common products that are part of the basic morning routine many men go through on a daily basis. And, reveal their findings to you.

As a parent myself with a young daughter and two small boys, I want to know whether the products I use daily are safe for me and for my kids. We thought you might too. With our children’s health in our hands, we need to ensure that we are taking each step we can to protect them – today, tomorrow and as they grow older. When we can’t do it for ourselves, its great to know that people like Rick Smith from Environmental Defence has got our backs. He did it already with Bisphenol A in Baby Bottles and now he is on the case searching for hidden toxins that we know are lurking in our everyday personal care products.

By identifying the ingredients hidden in these products, we can continue to push for stronger federal regulations and accountability. But, this research will not be cheap.

As each product is put through a series of laboratory tests to detect different chemicals, testing will cost $710 per product.

Can we count on you to help Environmental Defense make men’s personal care products safe from harmful chemicals? Will you make a donation today?

Each gift will help cover the cost of a product to be tested. And, what better time than to do it today!

How to heal your dry, chapped skin without slathering on harmful toxins?

If you are looking for some great options for effective skin care products that are all natural, non toxic and free from dark, hidden secrets there are options out there. They are just not as easy to find. One place you can look is Made From Earth Organics.

I have been using some of their products recently and I really love them. I have a couple of bars of lovely soap that gets me and my kids dirty hands clean without drying them to a chafe. I also use an amazing face wash that cools, cleans and refreshes after a long day without stripping your skin of its natural moisture. I am a chapstick guy who always travels with one in my pocket and another in my car. You will love theirs. Blows the drugstore variety off the shelf. The only problem is, now that I am addicted to these, I will never be able to buy a cheap and cheerful drugstore product again.

Do you have any questions, products you would like Environmental Defense to test or men’s grooming products you would like us to review and share with our audience?

Please feel free to comment below, email me directly or send us a tweet @HeadsUp_Dad

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How to: Urban Back Yard Farming for Rookies…


Sprouting an organic garden is fun and easy

What’s this world coming to?

I have been thinking for the past few years that the amount of pesticides, herbicides and other toxic chemicals in food is getting out of control. Genetically modified foods, mass enterprise farming and the demise of the small family farm all over the world makes me sad. I read an article last year that mentioned how vegetables grown in 2010 had half the nutrients that they did 50 or 100 years ago.

No one seems to have time for dinner at home anymore and increasing numbers of families worldwide are eating in fast food restaurants. Obesity is on the rise, cancer is on the rise, mental illness and hormonal imbalances are screwing up families all over the world. What is going on? Have we lost touch with what is important in the pursuit of progress, bigger TV’s and fatter wallets?

Eating healthy and wholesome food that is nutritious and tastes great is important to me. As a parent of three very young kids, it is extremely important that I give my kids the types of fuel their brains and little bodies need to keep them healthy and give them the best shot for success in life.

So, with the options in grocery stores getting more and more toxic, generic in flavour and lower and lower in nutritional value, it seems obvious to me that something had to change. I have always been curious about organic food. More and more over time I started to do some research on this and felt it pretty important to adopt more of this into our family lifestyle.

Going Organic

Going organic is more of a lifestyle change than just a decision we make. Buying everything organic sounds great in principle, but once you get over the sticker shock, you realize that it is kind of impractical given the fact that not everything is available as Organic, and the corresponding enormous jump in your grocery bill when you factor in all the elements in your shopping cart. So, then it makes sense to balance out with some good choices to get what you need while minimizing your exposure to toxic intake.

  1. Buy organic the ten top things that are most obvious to avoid otherwise—the stuff that has the most toxic footprint (there is a top ten list or two out there) on the human body.
  2. Buy from local farmers (that do not put nasty chemicals and fertizers in their soil) where possible. Go to your local farmer’s market or take a drive in the country if that is easy for you.
  3. Grow some of your own vegetables (for those of us with a back yard or a sun drenched balcony). It s not that hard, and you would be amazed what you can learn in a pinch.

Urban Organic Farming

So it was that this year I decided to take the plunge into Urban Farming and attempt to grow some of my own organic vegetables in my back yard. It has been about two months since I started, and I put in a lot of hours into research, spent many a back breaking hour converting some of my yard into a vegetable patch, and have learned a lot.

Success is still a ways away, some time towards the end of summer when I can really begin to harvest many of the crops that I have planted, but there have been some small wins and a few setbacks. All in all, I have been having a great time with it, but the story is just beginning to unfold. I will my Urban Farming experience with you here, beginning today.

Growing your own vegetables is great

I took this challenge on this year, with no expctations other than I was going to give Organic Farming a try and see what happens. I have never been a green thumb. If anything, I was more of a plant killer than a grower. I have never intentionally killed a live plant, but most plants entrusted in my care do not seem to survive the long haul. This, I hope to change.

Start with Organic Seeds

I started with one of those seeding kits you get from the garden centre (plastic tray and a bunch of expanding growers medium (Peat Pucks)) and a bunch of Organic seeds that I purchased online from the Salt Spring Seed Company on Vancouver Island. I had a lot of questions and Dan Jason was really very helpful and super nice to do business with. I felt like my rookie season was in good hands and there was nothing he could not help me with.

Start with good quality organic seeds and a cheap and cheerful seed starting kit

I wanted this to be an experience I shared with my kids—a great way to teach them about where food comes from (other than the grocery store). From seed, to the garden, to their plate is a much healthier and more sustainable path than the one we normally take. It is easy for them to dis Daddy’s dinner when they have no idea where it comes from.

Starting out is not that complicated or difficult, just takes a good variety of seeds, some potting soil or cheap and cheerful a seed starter kit and some pots. You’ll need some time on your hands for a little bit (or a lot) of online research if you are like me and have never grown anything intentionally before. The rest is up to mother nature and it really is a miracle.

Plant seed, water and wait…

So one day in late April, one by one, each of my kids and I spent an evening planting 1, 2 or 3 seeds into each of the little pucks in a little plastic greenhouse tray that held 72 in all, watering them, covering them and stuffing them under the bed. Each had their own technique, and I tried not to get too worked up when they spilled seeds all over the floor or planted them too deep. All in all, the seeding was pretty painless. We planted Spinach, Kale, Arugula, Cucumber, Squash, Broccoli, Summer Peas, beans, two kinds of heirloom cherry tomatoes, Sweet Yellow Peppers, Carrots, Basil, Summer Savoury, Cilantro and a bunch of fancy lettuces. We watered, we covered and we waited.

Every morning we would get down on our knees, slide out the tray and see if anything had happened the night before. It took a few days, and a lot of anxious anticipation, but on the fourth day, surprise! Out poked a few little sprouts. Life!! We had given birth to a bunch of beautiful little seedlings. It was so exciting that we could not contain ourselves.

Sprouts everywhere!

By the end of the second week, we were very pleased to be staring down every day at about 100 little sprouts working their way up through the soil. We carefully set them out in the light, not far from the window, watered them every day or two, and constantly checked in on their progress. As the spring was moving along, we were anxious to get going on the planting part. There was no rush though, every day it was raining buckets outside and there was no break in sight.

We learned the hard way not to rush things. Earlier, we planted three kinds of potatoes right into the yard that all failed miserably. I was so sad about this, because all of the research I did said that Organic potatoes were so incredibly delicious and super easy to grow. Promptly after I planted four or five rows of these fantastic heirloom seed potatoes, it rained cats and dogs for days and days. By time the sun came out, and the soil had a chance to dry, the potato seedlings had rotted right in the ground. I guess maybe it just was not meant to be this year. I will definitely try again next year.


Once the sprouts became more like plants, I transplanted them to 4" pots and put them out on the roof to get some sun and harden them off (acclimatize) and get ready for transplanting into the ground ...

Phase two: Transplanting to pots…

Once the sprouts start to grow with their first set of real leaves, it is time to weed out the strong from the weak, separate the men from the boys so to speak, and plant the strongest plants into pots of their own, into organic potting soil. This is where you see the fruits of your labour begin to take shape. While not every seed turned into a plant, and some of the plants were kind of lame relative to some of the others, on the upside, I ended up watching about 100 seeds transform into well over 6o beautiful potted plants which I am proud to say, have all been planted in the ground by now and are doing just great. I have had a few setbacks, but all in all, things are growing just fine. I will talk more about the successes and failures in successive posts throughout the summer.

Phase three: Getting your beds ready
In my next post, I want to go over getting your planting beds ready. If you are like me, your back yard was not ready to just plant vegetables into. There is a lot of research to do and a lot of preparation to get everything ready if you want to do it right. It is a lot of work, but in the long run, success will be a lot sweeter at harvest time. What you do this year, will continue to give back year after year if you decide to carry on with your Urban Organic Farm. I am definitely looking forward to reaping the harvest.

Thinking about giving organic gardening a try?

It is not too late to get started. If this sounds like something you would like to give a go, then order some seeds today—you could be growing a green thumb by next week.

If you have started your own back yard Organic Garden, and have some success stories and or disastrous tales of failure to share, please post them here. We all can learn from what you have learned and then it will not have been for naught. For better or for worse, we are definitely looking forward to hearing from you.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to post them here as a comment or @HeadsUp_Dad on Twitter.

Until next time, be well!

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Men’s Health : A Decade by Decade Primer

Shawna and her best Man Magnus

You want to live a long and happy life? Live right by the decade you are in!

Happy Father’s Day to each and every one of you!

I sincerely hope that you enjoyed a wonderful day that was all about YOU!

How appropriate to reach out to you now with a new post this month, because not only is June representative of Father’s Day, it just so happens to be Men’s Health Month too! All the more reason to devote some time to reach out to all of you at HeadsUp Dad!

There’s an expression that says: “You are only as old as the Man you feel”. Wouldn’t you agree that a man’s quality of life is determined by how healthy he feels? At least that was the comment I received recently from both my father and my brother. They went on further to say that ultimate health to them does not mean resembling “The Rock” or simply exuding a fantastic physical shape, but that health is far more all encompassing than that. Feeling vital and virile is about a lot of things—maintaining a healthy body weight, eating right, supplementing smartly, being active with lots of stamina and putting in a good performance. Being fully engaged at work while also having the energy left over at the end of the day to make a meaningful contribution to your family life and certainly to exude a sense of self confidence through good times and bad. Wow—that’s not a lot to expect is it? Is it? How insightful. It got me thinking. We expect a lot out of you guys, not just in your youth, but throughout your whole life, so are you going to be man enough from here to eternity or what?

Kidding aside, the more I thought more about it, the more it occurred to me that life happens in fairly broad stages—doesn’t it? Decade by decade, your life, the demands placed on you and your own personal needs evolve.The roaring twenties so to speak, the thriving thirties, the “making it all happen” forties and the disease fighting fifties and so on. In order to sustain a long and healthy life, it might be worth at taking a look at what is really ideal for a man to concentrate on within each decade, so you can be your best and perform at optimum health, no matter what your age. Ready?

The Roaring Twenties:
For you guys in your twenties, savor the decade! You’re most likely very active, busy and full of energy, so feed the need. This is the time when you can generally out eat your older brethren and not see an ounce of evidence! You can afford slightly higher calorie/fat foods like nuts/seeds, cheeses, dried fruit and egg yolks with the exception of highly processed and deep fried foods of course. More calories doesn’t mean poor calories. You will also need more lean protein like chicken, lean meat, seafood, eggs and beans. And seeing as heart disease begins early, I would encourage eating fatty fish like salmon at least once or twice a week! Its a terrific source of Omega 3’s (Essential Fatty Acids) that are good for the brain, your heart and the prostate.


Thriving in your thirties:
Now that real life comes along in the thirties, a home, career and family probably eat up your daily agenda and you’re less likely to be throwing a football with your buddies in your not so spare time. So if you find that your activity has slowed down a little bit, remember that your appetite surely hasn’t! In order for you to keep your pant buttons from popping off, I suggest getting in the habit of eating more often. Instead of eating big, gorging meals a few times a day, consider about 4 or 5 healthy smaller ones. Less is really more.


Fab Forties
In your forties, you’re still feeling young and fantastic as you’re able to keep all of your plates in the air, but you also may notice that your health care practitioner is beginning to discuss your longevity and how to begin to pave the way to good heart health, strong bone density, hormonal health etc. Perhaps making a concerted effort to eat more soluble fiber is a good start such as peas, potatoes, apples and brown rice. Fiber acts like a sponge in the body and likes to soak up cholesterol. Your forties is the time to take heart disease seriously, especially of it runs in your family. So work your way up to 35mg/day of soluble fiber and consider adding Vitamin D to your daily supplement arsenal to encourage bone growth, strengthen immunity and improve circulation. Also, really try to work out hard with a well designed exercise program at least 3 times a week.


Fighting fifties:
Being in your fifties is about disease busting! Noshing on antioxidants such as colorful veggies and consuming plenty of blueberries, cranberries, strawberries and raspberries is a great way to add disease fighting antioxidants to your body. Be sure to cut down on sugar and fat and to remain as active as possible.


Six Oh! Oh My!
In your sixties and beyond, now your body really begins to tally the score. It takes a good look at how well you have taken care to preserve the temple in your earlier years. My best advice would be to wrap up all of the decades into one big healthy bow. Embrace active living, eat lean proteins daily to help counter losses in muscle mass, keep an antioxidant rich diet that is very low in fat and sugar and eat plenty of fiber every day.


As you can see, each life stage has its own nutritional emphasis. No matter what age group you are in, start now to make some healthy changes so you can cruise through each decade with strength and vigor.

As always, I’m here for you if you have questions. Your comments and concerns are always welcome—and I’d love to hear from you!

Until next time: eat well, stay fit.



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8 Super Cool Summer Camp Ideas for Creative kids:

design camp for Kids at the DX in Toronto

Design Camp at the Design Exchange (Dx) in Toronto

Every year as parents we scramble to find interesting stuff to engage our kids with over the summer holidays. For the lucky ones, its the trek to the cottage, for others it is a week or two away from the heat of the city up North attending a luxe summer camp at Camp Ooochi Goochi in Cottage country. For the rest of us, who may be lucky to get a week or two away from the office, we have to find some good stuff for our kids to do so they can have some fun and unique experiences to help them learn, grow as individuals and maybe even make some new friends.

Here in Toronto, everywhere in Ontario, right across Canada, all over the United States, and in practically every major urban centre all over the developed world, there are a ton of great options out there. Everything from sailing, swimming, music camps, art camps, drama camps, dance camps, science camps, math camps (seriously—isn’t summer holidays supposed to be fun?) and even the YMCA offers summer day camps for that perfect mix of everything a kid could ever want to do in a week or two. It is important to get your kids engaged in a summer camp if you can swing it. It is an excellent opportunity to get off the couch, away from the computers and video games, out of the house, out of your hair and into something new. A wonderful time to learn a new skill, meet new friends, gain some independance and try something completely different than the every day routine throughout the school year.

I hope to showcase over the next few weeks a random sampling of some of the excellent options available to parents with kids of all ages. If you have not made plans yet, you might be running out of time, so you may want to get right on it before it is too late. Many camps sell out fast and you don’t want to be the Dumb Ass Dad that has to break it to your kids that they won’t be going to camp this year because you left it to the last possible minute and everything is sold out.

While summer camp conjures up traditional images of campfires, tents, arts and crafts, canoe trips and the like, today we are going to focus on some of the more unique urban adventures that many kids would really enjoy, if only their parents knew they were out there. With so many options here in this great city, it is difficult to choose just one, so I am going to focus on one super cool summer camp that my 6 year old daughter attended in Toronto last year. She and her girlfriends absolutely loved it. So much so that we are doing it again this year and want to share it with you. We think your kids would love it and so if you live and work in Toronto, and are looking for a great summer camp idea for your kids, be sure to check this one out.

Design Camp is a real gem that is conveniently located right downtown. Hosted by the Design Exchange, the facility is situated at the base of the TD Financial towers on the ground floor of the old Toronto Stock Exchange. If you work in the downtown core, and even if you don’t, they make it really easy for you to pick up and drop off the kids right out front without even having to get out of the car which is a big plus in the morning when you are battling traffic to get to work on time.

design camp for Kids at the DX in Toronto

Projects at Design Camp are very hands-on and creative

Design Camp at the DX in Toronto is an amazing summer camp experience available to kids between the ages of 6 and 14. If you are lucky enough to live in Toronto and commute  to work every day downtown, this might be just right for you. There are at least 8 or 10 different camps held here every summer and each camp is offered at one or two separate time slots—you should be able to find at least one designed to fit your kid’s interest and your summer holiday schedule.

All projects are very hands-on and creative, using top quality materials. Each camp session generally goes on one field trip to a local design studio or other related site and will also be visited here at the DX by a guest speaker (dependent on scheduling).  These are both great opportunities for campers to meet real working designers and ask them questions. This list is by no means complete. There are more offered than I have listed here including Jewellery Design, Creatures and Comics and a bunch of other unique and original summer camp ideas all based around kids and design. If you are interested in seeing the complete list, as well as time and dates each of these are available, check out the DX Summer Camp website for further details.

Rock Star – ages 7 to 9 SOLD OUT!
Young designers will learn how to create band t-shirts, album covers and rock star accessories for their ultra-hip, fictitious music group, as well as film rock star interviews for DX TV.  We will also have a chance to meet a cool local designer and talk about design careers in the music industry. It sounds like a lot of fun, and I am really sorry that I missed this one for my kids this year. They would have loved it. It is now sold out.I am telling you this now so you can bookmark to remind yourself to get in early and pay for next year so you don’t miss it.

Fashion Basics – ages 10 to 12
The basics of illustration, patterns, and stitching will be covered in this camp, through hands-on projects that will include an a-line skirt, fashion tote, and a host of accessories.  An opportunity to meet a local designer and visit a working studio will also be included in this exciting week.

Retro Cool – ages 10 to 12
This blast-from-the-past design camp will look at some iconic pieces from yesterday as inspiration for super cool designs today!  Projects include terrariums, groovy lamps, old-school radios and much more!

Fashion TV – ages 10 to 12
This exciting week will focus on fashion for TV and film, including costumes and red-carpet glamour.  Participants will design and construct a garment inspired by their favorite TV personality and create a short segment for DX Fashion TV.

Superstructures – ages 8 to 10
From buildings to bridges and boats, participants will learn what it takes to design these amazing structures while building and testing their own models.  Campers will meet a Superstructure designer and visit some local marvels for inspiration.

Dine Design – ages 7 to 9
In today’s world of celebrity chefs, restaurant design is big business.  Young designers will create their own mock-bistro, from the graphics on the menu to the décor and layout of the space.  A visit to a local restaurant and a chat with the designer will round out the week.

Costume Design – ages 12 to 14
Working with the Drama + Design camp, participants will be the official wardrobe designers and work directly with the Canadian Stage crew and the cast to develop costume designs and then see them through construction and onto the stage.  We will meet with a visiting costume designer to hear about careers in this exciting field.

Drama + Design – ages 7 to 14
In partnership with The Canadian Stage Company, participants in this one-week camp will develop a performance, from staging to costumes, props, sets and makeup.  All enrolled campers will be treated to a performance on the Wednesday evening of the camp, for themselves and their parents to attend the Canadian Stage TD Dream in High Park, including a backstage tour.  Participants will perform their masterpiece for family and friends on Friday July 8th.

Design Camp at the DX in toronto

Learn something new, meet new friends and have a great time!

Where is the Design Exchange located?
The DX is located in the historic former Toronto Stock Exchange building at 234 Bay Street.  The building is situated on the west side of Bay Street, between King and Wellington.

When does Camp start?
Summer camps run for one week commencing July 4, 2011 and running right through until August 26, 2011. Please check the calendar for specific dates for each program.

What are the hours for Design Camp?
Camp activities run from 9.00 am to 4.00 pm each day. They offer complimentary before-care beginning at 8.30 am and After-care from 4.00 pm to 5.30 pm each day.  After-care is an additional $10.00 per day.

Who are the Design Camp instructors?
The Design Exchange hires post-secondary students studying design, who have at least 2 years experience teaching and working with children, who are CPR and First Aid certified and who have passed a criminal record check.  In addition, they also recruit student volunteers that have a passion for design, have experience working with children and have First Aid training to support the day to day delivery of the programs throughout the summer.

Please refer to the Design Exchange DX FAQ website for more information or contact the camp director, Katie Weber at 416.216.2138 or katie[at]dx.org. She’s lovely and amazing and she is only too happy to help.

Do you have any amazing Summer Camp experiences or recommendations you would like to share with us?

Post a comment or get in touch!

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How to Motivate Your Child…

hockey boys of summer

hockey boys of summer

without comparing him or her to others

As a father, you have an important role in your children’s development. You can be a strong motivator when it comes to their intellectual, emotional and physical development.

Unfortunately, many dads go about motivating their kids in the wrong way. They are excited to help their children grow and rush in to the process without considering their words and actions. Often, they slip into comparing their child to others’ kids, not realizing that this can actually serve as a de-motivator.

If you’d like to help your child exceed but are unsure of what steps to take, here are some tactics you can use to motivate your kids without slipping into comparing them to others. These steps can be used to motivate your son or daughter for both school and extracurricular activities.

Model good behavior

Instead of telling your son to act more like the neighbors’ kids, show him the behavior you’d like to see by developing new habits for yourself. One important area you can focus on with your behavior is how you utilize your free time.
It’s highly recommended that you limit your inactive activities – like TV and movie watching – and increase your physical and intellectual activities. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advises parents should limit their television time and choose appropriate programs that you would like your children to watch.

Set boundaries

It can be hard for your kids to be motivated to complete their homework or develop a new skill when they have the temptations of TV, video games and Internet. You can help take away those distractions by creating clear boundaries for your kids.

Provide your children with daily time limits for their electronic distractions. You may also want to set aside specific times that they are allowed to watch TV or play on the computer.

If your son or daughter has video games and TVs in their bedroom, you may want to explore moving them to other areas of the house. This is especially true if their bedroom is where they complete their homework and class projects.
Depending on the ages of your children, you may want to get them involved in creating the rules regarding entertainment. This will help get their buy-in from the start. They will also be motivated to show you that they can be responsible so they can work toward increasing their access to their electronics.

Have a heart to heart conversation

Dads are sometimes uncomfortable having one-on-one conversations with their children because they are unsure what to say. Take your son out for a snack and talk to them about the areas that you would love to see them exceed. Talk to him about what areas he currently struggles with and ask if he has any hesitations.
During your discussion you can devise a plan together on how he can tackle his homework and other areas that he needs motivation to complete. Compare each others’ expectations and explain to him why you expect certain behaviors from him.

You don’t have to be touchy-feely or flowery with your words. Just be real with your son and focus on making a connection with him. Your son will respond to this gesture of connection and will want to work hard to make you proud.

Do it together

If you’re hoping your kids will develop new hobbies and interests, you can motivate them by doing the activity together. If you’d like him or her to develop musical skills, enroll in piano or guitar classes together. If you’d like to see them involved in a physical activity, help them develop their athletic skills. If you are doing a group class, be sure to praise your kids for what aspects they are excelling at instead of using comparisons of them and others in the class.

Give an incentive

Many kids respond well to incentive systems. You don’t need to be elaborate with your rewards. Just focus on one or two things your son or daughter would like to do. This is something you can plan together so you can ensure the incentive is something that will motivate your children.

Once the two of you decide the terms of the incentive (what actions need to be completed to earn the reward). Remember to remind him about the incentive. Post a reminder on the refrigerator, their bedroom or bathroom door and in their school bag. Keeping it at the forefront of his mind will keep him excited and get him to work toward the goal.

When setting the goal, make sure it’s a goal that focuses solely on your son and his performance instead of comparing him to other children. For example, instead of saying you’ll take your daughter to mini golf if she gets the highest score in the class, you can say you’ll take her out if she gets a certain score on her test or if she turns in all of her homework on time for a month.

Daniela Baker is a social media advocate at CreditDonkey.

She blogs about credit cards and personal finance. Dads, read our latest article on the top 10 mistakes moms make.

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Environmental Consciousness and Bargain Shopping: Intertwined

A marriage of eco and commerce?? or just a more ethical way of doing business?

We’ve all heard of Groupon, LivingSocial, Dealicious, Dealfind, Webpiggy, and a host of other deal of the day sites promising terrific savings on restaurants, botox injections and hair removal, but have you heard of ethicalDeal? (affiliate link)

  • Do you think that going green is too expensive?
  • Don’t know where to find green products/services?
  • Not sure what green products/services to trust?

Those of you who are fond of the environment and looking for a good deal are going to love this.

Annalea Krebs has created an innovative Canadian company based out of Vancouver that uses the group buying model to introduce people to “green” alternatives in Toronto and Vancouver (with great aspirations to conquer North America and beyond)—making it easy for people to discover and save on everything “green” their city.

Prior to founding ethicalDeal, Annalea managed sales, marketing and community relations for various social enterprises and green businesses including: TheChange.com, Values-Based Business Network, Organic Islands Festival & Sustainability Expo and the Canadian Social Entrepreneurship Foundation.

EthicalDeal makes it easy to go green by finding local companies that offer eco-friendly products/services, ensure they meet some pretty tough standards, and then use the collective buying power of thousands of members to get you exclusive discounts on the best green stuff your city has to offer.

Part green city guide, part green deal site, part green action network … ethicalDeal helps you discover the best green stuff to do, see and buy in your city, at exclusive discounts, through the power of group buying!

The beautiful thing is, that you personally can help advance the environmental and sustainability movement across North America and while you are at it, get an awesome deal!

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The Father Study…

the father study at headsupdad.com

and then there were two...


Calling all fathers of newborns and children one year old or less…

A study out of Loyola University and Erikson Institute in Chicago is looking for fathers of babies under one year of age to complete an online questionnaire about their experience of parenting a baby. This anonymous questionnaire takes about 20 minutes and enters you into a drawing for a $100 Target gift card.

We have so much research about moms and babies – it’s time to learn about dads!

They are primarily interested in learning more about how fathers cope with fatherhood… what stresses them out and what we can do to create better services for dads. We are collecting data through an on-line questionnaire are that only takes about 15-20 minutes, so why not go there now and help them collect some valuable research and ultimately, help us all become better at this gig.

Take The Father Study and spread the word…

If you know a good Dad who might be interested in participating, please pass it on!

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Find your Whey to optimum muscle rejuvenation


Which Whey Protein is for me?

Which “Whey” Do I Go?

Just enough knowledge to choose the better protein for you!

Before I knew any better, nothing was worse than walking into my local nutrition house for protein powder, to be bombarded by a multitude of gargantuan, colorful plastic barrels— all promising variations on the same theme: muscle growth, faster recovery, great taste, improved energy and a leaner physique. Even some of the names sounded the same! Its enough choice to make your head spin. I’ve had clients tell me countless stories of walking in to these places, taking one look at the ominous stacks of tubs and barrels, turned around and walked right out. Certainly, the options can be intimidating.

While they all might look the same and many make similar promises…

Not all protein powders are created equal:

Protein is an absolute essential nutrient for great health and a strong body. I believe choosing a protein powder for your nutrition needs is like selecting a compatible wine with a good meal. Knowledge is power. Let me help you with the confusion, clarify the options and hopefully guide you towards the right protein for you and your fitness needs.

Always remember that the goal of choosing a good protein supplement is to maximize muscle protein synthesis and reducing muscle breakdown by ensuring adequate muscle tissue rejuvenation. So let’s look closely at our main options beginning with one that may surprise you!


Believe it or not, good ‘ol fashioned white milk is worth a mention. It contains a combination of whey which is fast acting and a greater percentage of casein which is slower acting, offering your body a pretty strong anabolic (muscle building) response. Both whey and casein are significant milk proteins. Milk also supplies a wholesome and healthy dose of carbohydrates which restore your muscle’s glycogen (or energy), some electrolytes, B vitamins and vitamin D which make milk a suitable protein to stimulate muscle growth! So if you’re in a pinch after a workout, grab a small carton! Simple and definitely cost effective!

Whey Protein Concentrate (WPC):

A very common form of protein. It’s comprised of approximately 65-70% total protein and around 35-30% lactose (a milk sugar) and lipids (fats). WPC’s are very widely used and are popular because of a generally lower cost and extra flavor from the added carbs and fats. Also, WPC’s generally digest quite quickly so they are a good choice when you want a scoop of protein before a workout. Quick energy, good calories and quickly digested.

Whey Protein Isolate (WPI):

This particular protein formula has about 90% total protein and very little lactose making it an excellent choice if you have a lactose sensitivity. I personally prefer WPI’s as I feel they offer a more effective result for improving muscle size and muscle integrity. WPI’s have a longer transit time in the gut, so this powder can almost act like a meal replacement if you needed it to. I always keep a dry scoop in a water bottle in my gym bag and I just add 250ml of water to it after my workout to immediately replenish protein sources. I also like it because it ties me over well until my next meal.

Whey Protein Hydrolysate:

A strong competitor and comparison to the whey protein isolate. If you are unsure, I would just cost compare at this point.

High Quality Protein provides for a solid foundation;

No matter whether you eat or drink it, good high quality protein is the “bricks” (foundation) to your “house” (your finely tuned bod) so please don’t neglect this vital macronutrient!

Vegetarian Options?

If you are a vegetarian or vegan, please let me know, as soy and hemp proteins are a whole other kettle of fish that I can write about too. I don’t want you to feel I neglected you!

Hopefully, I have been successful at elucidating some potentially confusing information for you. Don’t forget, if you are ever standing there, stuck and bewildered in the store, hop on line with your smart phone and send me an email via HeadsUpDad and I’ll try to get back to you right away!

Til next time… train hard, drink plenty of water and always refuel with a good quality protein!


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Tips to help your kids to the head of the class

Greetings my favorite Dads!

I sincerely hope that you have each enjoyed a fabulous Holiday season and are looking forward to a happy and healthy New Year!

You guys are typically the first on my mind when it comes to the various materials I compile to discuss on my blogs, and I know that we have extensively looked into proper supplementation for you as vital, healthy men! But I’d like to change gears and help educate you on what I feel are the ideal nutrients for your growing child! There are four that I believe are critical, not only for their well being but for their academic performance too!

Learning takes energy. Today’s lifestyles are on the fast track. Your child hits the books in the classroom, attends extra curricular activities right afterwards and has nightly homework. Like you, this hectic schedule can make a daily proper diet rather restrictive and sometimes close to impossible. What we do know as health professionals in the field is that poor nutrition accompanied by a lack of essential vitamins and minerals can seriously impede your child’s performance and productivity.

Incorporating more of the following nutrients into your child’s daily meals and snacks will help propel your favorite student to the head of class and feeling extra confident in their chosen activities.


balance the mind and body by encouraging proper brain function, enhancing the immune system, supporting the nervous system and maintaining muscle tone. Whole grains, eggs and plenty of vegetables are great sources of B vitamins

help build flexibility and fight infection by enhancing our immune system and maintaining proper hormone production. Encourage your children to eat plenty of colorful fruits and vegetables such as pineapple, tomato, peppers, mangoes and cantaloupe

helps promote the development of healthy bones and teeth, aids thyroid function and improves circulation and immunity. Think of low fat dairy products, eggs, fish and some fortified cereals and beverages. Don’t forget green vegetables too and at least 20 minutes of daily sunshine exposure as much as possible especially in the Winter months!

we wouldn’t have healthy blood or muscle tissue without iron. Nor would we have adequate energy production or a strong immune system. Look for terrific iron sources in eggs, fish, liver, meat, poultry, green leafy vegetables, whole grains and enriched breads and cereals. Legumes and nuts and seeds are also good sources. Taking extra vitamin C with iron rich foods really increases its absorption. So offer a glass of OJ to wash down their iron rich meal or snack.

comprised of different amino acids, proteins are the basic elements of all of our bodily tissues. Hormones and enzymes are also composed of protein. We need good lean protein intake for muscle growth and repair. Nourish your child with low fat dairy products, lean meats, nut butters or low fat peanut butter, eggs and fish.

I am definitely not opposed to also supplementing your child’s diet with a high potency, high quality multivitamin and mineral designed especially for kids for extra assurance for good health. I am here for you guys and welcome any questions you may have in this area if you are in need of some more detailed information and direction.

Cheers to a tremendous 2011! Stay tuned, as there is a lot more expert advice on deck for you as you embark on your leanest and healthiest new year yet! I sincerely look forward to being a reliable and dependable confidante on your journey to improved health and fitness. Please reach out and say hello, I’d enjoy getting to know you better!

Until then, train hard, eat smart and be happy!


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Teach Your Kids About Beauty With Lenzr’s Photography Contests

We’re often told that it’s not the destination, but the journey. Teach your kids how to find beauty in the unexpected, and it can prove to be an invaluable lesson for them.

Growing up, one of the greatest things that my own dad has taught me is that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. As the son of a beekeeper, it would always amaze me how perfectly organized the beehive was. The design of the hive comprised of perfectly engineered six-sided cells, created by the bees’ own wax. To me, that was impressive, and  this process of producing honey was far more beautiful than the finished product itself.

Though I’m not suggesting you to take your kids all the way to a bee farm to teach them about beauty and appreciation, I am suggesting that you improvise with a little creativity and a camera. Lenzr’s three new photocontests can help you teach your kids a thing or two about finding beauty in the unexpected.

Lenzr's Photo Contest: Broken Factories for Solarsoft ERP software, Making It Beautiful by Aveda Beauty School, Canadian Beaches for Bathing Belle designer swimwear

Making It Beautiful: Beauty as a Process

Making It BeautifulLenzr’s Making It Beautiful contest focuses on what it takes to make something beautiful. How is beauty created, enhanced, and reflected? Ask your kids what the same question, and have them capture it in a snapshot. Show them that there are many steps that artists make in order to create their works of art. Once they learn that beauty is a process, they’ll be sure to appreciate it that much more. Submit that photo to the contest website, and you could win $500 worth of hairstyling products from a beauty school.

Broken Factories: Beauty in Imperfections

Abandoned Factory Ruins For a NetbookBeauty can also be found in unexpected things. The Broken Factories photocontest tries to find beauty in the unexpected, the forgotten buildings and abandoned warehouses, and to bring them back into the light. See that crumbling building with the peeling paint? The boarded up windows and the slanted roof? These buildings, though abandoned, have countless imperfections but that’s precisely what gives them character. They have stood the test of time and there’s surely something beautiful about the history intertwined with them. Take a few hours and tour Toronto’s many abandoned buildings with your children, and show them how to find beauty in flaws, imperfections, and the unexpected. Your photo could win you the contest’s grand prize of a Toshiba netbook courtesy of an ERP software developer.

Canadian Beaches: Diversifying Beauty

Canadian Beaches Lenzr Photo Contest - win designer swimwearAnother unexpected place to find beauty is in the beaches of Canada. Though Canada may not be the warmest climate especially during our low-season months, our diverse climate provides some interesting waterscape photography. Bundle up and take your kids to the beach, and take some pictures of our Canadian beaches. Try to illustrate that Canada’s beaches are just as diverse as our culture, and then submit your photo to Lenzr’s Canadian Beaches contest. You could win three pieces of designer swimwear, which I’m sure the wife would appreciate on top of the profound lesson on beauty you’ve taught your kids 🙂

All contests have already started but good news – you still have time. Voting starts December 20th and will continue until the contest ends at 12:01am on January 1st, 2011. Open to all Canadians (excluding residents of Quebec) 13 years of age or older.

Take your kids out for an impromptu lesson on photography, and teach them to appreciate the beauty in the unexpected. Good luck to all contest participants!

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Lest we forget…

Lest We forget...

Graves of personnel from the Edmonton Regiment killed in the battle of Ortona, 7 January, 1944.

We pause to honour the fallen on Remembrance Day

“The lessons learned from these terrible conflicts must never fade from our collective consciousness,”

Lieutenant-Governor Donald Ethell (Retired Colonel)

My generation grew up in a world that was oblivious to war. To us, war was something that happened a long time ago on another soil between people we will never know. Our parents used to tell us stories of what it was like to grow up during the war, TV and the movies brought us the visuals. Hogans Heroes, the Great Escape, the Battle of the Bulge. Frightening as it seemed on TV, we could never imagine the horror of ever having to endure something like that. The brave and gallant men and women who stepped up to the plate, swallowed the risk and ventured off on their own free will to defend our rights and freedoms on foreign soil. Many never returned, many returned home injured or maimed for life. All had made the ultimate sacrifice so future generations would not have to live in fear, would never have to know such violence and death. The ones that died had given up their lives and made it safe for us to feel that way. It was as if that kind of thing could never, ever happen again, and certainly not on our own soil let alone that of another civilized nation in Europe or anywhere.

Recent history has proven that theory wrong. It astounds me that we still find our sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers going off to fight wars in foreign countries—even if the premise is to protect the rights and freedoms of those that are left behind in the comfort of home. The supposed threats of today pale in comparison to the threats of Hitler’s aggression in 1939.

And yet all over the world, young men and women are out there, becoming the heroes and veterans of tomorrow. In Iraq, and Afghanistan, they are out there fighting wars that many of us do not agree with. The numbers are fewer, but the stories are just as humbling. For some, they come home to a life of opportunity and the prospect of a life full of promise and prosperity. For many, the story is not so bright.

In 1945, returning veterans were hailed as heroes, and had nothing but a world of opportunity ahead of them. Today, those that are returning from the theatre of war are returning to a completely different reality. Beyond the obvious physical traumas, broken bones and severed limbs, there lurks a much darker set of problems, the depth and severity of which no one really knows and may only present itself over time. Post traumatic stress and the effects on the individual and the families that live with these veterans is largely overshadowed by the politics of the day. Day by day, thousands of men and women around the world are heading into a tailspin and a common complaint is that the very system they put their lives on the line for, is not giving them the support they need in return now that they are home. This is happening in Canada, in the US and in other countries all over the world.

Today we take a few moments to honor and thank those that fought for our freedom. We remember those that died, and honor their sacrifice. Those who were not so lucky to return home and those that did. But after today, the women and men who come home from Iraq, who come home from Afghanistan, those who have come home injured, have to go back to their own realities. Home to fight their own battles. Home to heal the physical wounds, the psychological scars, the emotional traumas. Home to fight for survival, to get better, to find their place in the world they have returned to, and in many cases, they have to do it on their own, without the support you would think they have earned and would be entitled to.

Here in Canada, we hear a lot about veterans coming home and disappearing into the fabric to suffer alone and it is a terrible shame. Embarrassing really. Politicians are quick to use the rhetoric about heroes and bravery and defending our freedoms etc when it is convenient for their purposes and helps them get elected, but when it comes to giving them the respect and post theatre benefits they deserve, too often they fall way short.

So today, we remember and honour our fallen brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters from wars gone by—but also, we take a moment to honour the fallen soldiers and the surviving veterans from recent wars as well. We wish the injured, the traumatized and the maimed the courage and the strength to overcome their challenges, whatever they may be…


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ZERO TO HERO… One woman’s tale about male infertility

Shawna and Magnus

Dearest Dads,

Well, it has been a while since my last post, and I do apologize. Professionally, I seem to always be busy, I’m sure we have that in common right? While it’s my mission to deliver as much fun and informative fitness chatter as I can to keep you healthy and fit, today I am going to share with you something that is very personal and close to my heart.

I’ve had more on my plate than normal for quite some time. And it’s a particular ball in the air that I’d like to share with each of you today, because I sincerely feel I just might be able to offer a real life perspective about a very real  issue that effects many but is discussed openly by few, and that’s male infertility.

My husband and I are 35 and 37 years old respectively and have been trying to plan our family for over a year and a half. After trying naturally for over 9 months and getting nowhere, we began our quest for answers. After learning that all seemed well from my end, I forced my husband (who has no concept of time really, or interest in doctor’s offices) to make an appointment for his own check up.

Via his GP, his first semen analysis came back dreadfully low, practically nil. Astonishing!

Two more samples were immediately taken, as something must have gotten mixed up! My 285lb, retired professional wrestler and ultra fit husband who makes a living training competitive bodybuilders and helps me run a health and wellness business CANNOT be what he thought, was low in testosterone! Needless to say, we learned that testosterone levels in a man have absolutely nothing to do with infertility! Did you know that? There are a few causes such as genetic defects, hormonal imbalances, anatomical problems and another being that it can be unexplainable, just like it is for us. Nonetheless, we were told that luckily we can have a child together, but that In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) was our only choice, ($10,000  per cycle—pray that it only takes one!) yikes!

Did you know that Caucasian men of Northern European decent are the most likely to be carriers of, or have Cystic Fibrosis (a debilitating disease that affects the entire body, and has a short life span?!) Men, who are carriers of this disease, although asymptomatic, can have a low sperm count because of it, as there is a strong correlation between the two. My husband’s urologist thought for sure his Icelandic background was the culprit. That blood test takes 3+ months to come back by the way! Interesting bed of pins and needles we were on last winter! But all is clear. Not a CF carrier, or threat of spreading a congenital disease, but a hefty dent in the bank account was vast encroaching!

So, this past February, we decided to take some of our own control over this situation. After some researching, my husband began to make some changes. The “tightey whities” went in the garbage, he let his old pal Jack Daniels collect dust in the bar cabinet, he tightened his diet and I had him on an entirely new supplement regimen. One filled with extra Zinc, Selenium, Folic Acid, B complex, and a high potency multivitamin. Another sample came back and we reached 1 million. Cool. We were happy, up is always better than down!

But in mid March, I learned of a very powerful antioxidant compilation called OPC-3. This OPC-3 had “increased sperm quality” in its literature, so he took the maximum dose for his size daily and his next sample was in early April, a short 5 weeks afterwards and it came back a whopping 10 million! Out of nowhere! Our good friends at Mt Sinai Infertility Clinic in Toronto, Ontario were flabbergasted.  We cant explain it, but in our personal experience, we truly believe that without OPC-3 my husband’s sperm count would NOT have risen from an average 300-500,000 to10 million! We agree a combination of everything was ideal. But we don’t think that this exponential surge happened without the aid of this particular antioxidant. It was the only addition to our baby program since all of the other analyses. If interested, it would be my pleasure to tell you more about it—Just ask!

So essentially, we were able to take IVF off of the table, and begin attempting Intrauterine Injections (IUI) in other words, insemination. With his strict new regimen, my husband continues to produce samples anywhere between 3-10 million and we are presently waiting for the outcome of our 3rd IUI.  Wish us luck! Even though IUI’s aren’t covered in our province, they are a fraction of the cost that we thought we were looking at which made our journey A LOT more bearable! So this was very exciting news!

But guys, this is a tough road. It’s a journey with your spouse that brings you both to a totally different place. My guy suffers silently with horrible feelings of emasculation, lack, unworthiness and somehow he feels he has let me down. I used to get upset with him when he would try and express himself because we were always coached to regard it as “our” infertility. I never faulted him for any of this. I was mad that he didn’t understand how much I loved him and how proud I am of him as a human being. But as a man, he claims those feelings never really go away and they never seem appropriate to bring up in the locker room or while out with the boys. My husband feels lonely in this particular realm of his/our life, as male infertility isn’t talked about very much. Even though it’s the easiest infertility obstacle you can have, as a woman’s reproductive system is so much more complicated. But, as women, we always seem to have the ability and the place to discuss our feelings. And there are more support groups available. Our own medical clinic agrees.

However, we encourage you to talk about it, understand it, be open. There is no shame to this at all. We learned that 1/6 North American couples require ART (Assisted Reproductive Technologies). Make a visit to your doctor’s office if you’re struggling with conception. In this race, there IS time is to lose. It’s never an easy fix and a lot of time, effort and diagnostic testing goes on and you need to allow yourselves the time to fulfill your process of elimination. We’re here for you. Please feel comfortable to reach out for me or for Magnus, my husband, if you need us. We’d love to help and offer you or a buddy you know of our support!

I sincerely appreciate your time this week. I feel better sharing what I can. Don’t be afraid to speak up and share your stories, you will be glad you did.

Post a comment here or Email Me if you have any questions.

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Fall Harvest – Turn Losses into Gold?

The bad news is in, and the equity markets are up, but still down from two years ago this fall.  Investors are reeling from constant negative news, and are deeply concerned about the general state of the economy.  Some of these fears are well founded, as the world economy is going through a period where it de-leverages its market positions, and the effects will likely be a sustained global recession.  But, the prudent investor will remember that the markets will go up again, but it is still difficult to endure a portfolio loss.  It will take time to recover, but they will.

However, there is some immediate opportunity to be found, and it is not dependent on the markets.  The best way to make money right now is to take it from the taxman.  Since portfolios are generally down, you might want to take advantage of a concept known as “tax-loss harvesting.”

What is it?

Tax loss harvesting is the process of triggering capital losses to realize an immediate tax gain.  In the case where you trigger a loss in your portfolio, you have two options.

First, you can use capital losses to carry back against capital gains tax payable in 3 previous years.  So, if you have capital gains that you have paid recently, you can trigger capital losses and reclaim the taxes you have paid in the past.  At the highest marginal rate, this can mean that your current losing investments are worth as much as 23 cents for every dollar they have gone down.

Second, you can trigger capital losses and carry them forward indefinitely.  This means that you can “bank” a specific amount of capital losses and carry them forward to use against capital gains that you may have in the future.  This will allow you the flexibility to re-allocate portfolios in the future while limiting the taxes triggered upon disposition, or it could allow you the ability to take tax-free income from a portfolio through dispositions rather than through income or dividends.

How does it work?

Tax-loss harvesting can only be done in a non-registered, or taxable, account.  Transactions as described below will not work with assets held within a registered plan because you are not subject to tax on growth, and conversely, you are not able to take a benefit from capital losses.

Essentially, the point is to arrange a transaction to sell-out a position that is sitting with a significant drop in value, and then repurchase a similar holding in the same asset class.  This creates a loss, but maintains the desired asset class exposure so you don’t miss any potential upside.

In Canada, according to tax law, in order to take the capital loss, you must not reinvest in the same security for a period of 30 days.  So, assuming that you wish to stay invested, you do not want to be out of the market for a period of 30 days, specifically with markets as volatile as they are today.  This is why you sell one holding and purchase another similar one.

Mutual Fund Holders

So, let’s take for example that your portfolio holding, the XYZ Canadian Equity Fund, is down 25%.  The original cost of the funds was $100,000 – this is referred to as the “cost base.”  If you were to sell that fund right now, you would incur a $25,000 loss.  At the highest tax rate, this loss is be worth approximately $5,800 of taxes, either to be reclaimed from past taxes paid, or taxes payable in the future.

If you were to simply sell the fund and take the loss, you would have crystallized your loss, and if the market turned around, you would miss your gain on the upside.  Instead, you can sell the XYZ Canadian Equity Fund (“harvesting” your loss), and repurchase the LMNOP Canadian Equity Fund instead.  This will maintain your exposure to Canadian equity, but the two assets are different for tax purposes, so you will have gained a tax loss.

The good news for fund owners:  like it or not, most large cap equity mutual funds are essentially closet indexers (the secret is out).  So, it really makes no significant difference if you sell one company fund and buy another.  What does make a difference is the type of fund.  Do not sell a growth fund and repurchase a value fund – the return characteristics likely will not be the same.  So – do your research as far as the sector, but rest assured that broad market mutual fund managers are going to fall very close to the benchmark, making this a fairly reliable strategy for mutual fund investors.

Individual Stock Holders

For those who have specific stocks in your portfolio, the process is a little bit less ideal, but still viable.  You essentially have two options:

  • Replicate the strategy above, but instead of using funds that are similar, use stocks that are similar.  For instance, imagine that you own shares in Coca-Cola.  You could sell your shares in Coke and buy Pepsi instead.  These two companies are going to have very similar returns over the next 30 days: much of the risk in both stock prices is based largely on a global lack of liquidity, not whether people prefer one type of cola beverage over another. So, you can get out of Coke, crystallize your loss, move over to Pepsi for 30 days, and then repurchase Coke after the period has elapsed.
  • Or, you can replicate the strategy above, but instead of using funds that are similar, use an ETF or index fund to simulate the return of the asset class you have harvested losses from.  For example, you may have a holding in Bank of Montreal.  You could sell this holding, trigger your losses, and then purchase the iShares Financial Services ETF (XFN) to maintain exposure to the financial services sector.  While this is not a perfect replication of the BMO holding, you would still participate in the upside that the sector may experience while you are out of BMO for the required period.

In both the examples above, there may be fees involved for trading that should be factored in to the cost/benefit analysis.  Some brokerage houses have programs that will make a mass purchase of the losing assets in your account, and then resell them to you in 30 days – referred to as REPO programs.  These arrangements can help reduce the costs of this transaction if there are many holdings affected.

In all the proposed methods, you will note that I am not recommending one stock over another – in an ideal world, this is an impartial transaction.  We are simply trying to maintain the appropriate asset class exposure for the period following the transaction.

Best of all, this portfolio manoeuvre can create immediate value to your portfolio.  In the examples above, a $100,000 holding with a $25,000 loss will yield a $5,800 tax benefit.  On a holding that is now worth $75,000, that is an effective return of 7.73%, and can begin your portfolio as it works its way back to par.  The strategy is not perfect – it does mean more capital gains to accumulate in the future, but it may provide you with the ability to reclaim some lost taxes, and re-invest that money into the market to help ready your portfolio for market upside that will come in the future.

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When A Highschool Hockey Program Goes Hollywood

Educators will tell you that having a winning sports team can inject efficacy and enthusiasm into an entire student body. There’s a buzz in the halls, and a new energy in the classroom, because it’s myth making and on some level each school victory makes everyone feel special. Kids remember where they were when it happened; they’re now part of their school’s  history forevermore.

Here in Canada, we praise hockey achievement above all other sports, yet having the proper facilities to train players, and funds to provide equipment and pay qualified coaches is usually more than most public schools can afford. That’s why some parents, the ones who just know, or have been told enough times that their sons have real hockey talent, often elect to send them to private schools. In this decision they ensure their boys get a good education, and the best possible access to hockey arenas and advanced coaching.

There’s a list of all hockey boarding schools in Canada on HF Hockey Forums and conversation has started there about which is the best and has the best reputation.

St. Andrew’s College (SAC), an all-boys’ school in Aurora, Ontario made a video to showcase their high school hockey program, and it’s downright heroic.

St. Andrew’s College, Varsity Hockey video on YouTube

The video debuted during the Toronto Film Festival at The Spoke Club at King and Portland (an approved TIFF venue) and for the amusement of many noteworthy benefactors, board members, parents, educators and administrators. There was all manner of snacks and a wide selection of beverages, accompanied by soft music, the setting supported superb conversation between SAC’s most preeminent people.

SAC video release, snacks, trays, Toronto, Spoke ClubHere’s a glimpse inside the festivities.  More information presented in Videos Launch on new St. Andrew’s College website including biographical data on William Scoular who directed the videos, and appeared at Spoke Club on Friday September 10th to shakes hands and answer questions.

The Producer/ Director, William Scoular , Head of Drama at St. Andrew’s College for the past 23 years, described the making of the videos during a private viewing at The Spoke Club in Toronto last Friday, September 10th from 5:00-7:00 p.m.

Last year, in an effort to differentiate St. Andrew’s from its competition, Scoular set out to illustrate the meaning of the School’s mission statement: “the development of the complete man, the well-rounded citizen.”

Scoular also maintains a professional life outside of St. Andrew’s as a director and writer for both stage and screen.

A glimpse inside the festivities surrounding the completion and release of great media for St. Andrew’s College during the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). More information presented in <a href=”http://www.sac.on.ca/news/detail.aspx?pageaction=ViewSinglePublic&amp;LinkID=440&amp;ModuleID=89&amp;NEWSPID=1″ rel=”nofollow”>Videos Launch on new St. Andrew’s College website</a> including biographical data on William Scoular who directed the videos, and appeared at Spoke Club on Friday September 10th to shakes hands and answer questions.

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Lenzr Photo Safari For Kids – 3 new photo contests for iPads

Challenge your kids with cool photography assignments!

A great activity that will engage their creative side, develop new skills and give them something fun to focus on this fall.

girl with camera on a photo safariVisit Lenzr.com and choose a photography assignment. Lenzr challenges people of all ages and skill levels to upload specific images for a safe and friendly web competition in exchange for real prizes. At Lenzr, the membership picks the winners—Its super fun and easy, just shoot, upload, share with friends and family, get the most people to vote for your photo and you will win an iPad.

Parents looking to engage their children with fun and creative play activities can map out a Lenzr photo safari. It is a great way to learn, have fun and make memories by shooting photos of cool stuff where ever you live. You or your kids could win a nice new iPad for getting the most votes in the photo contest.

This month’s photo safari starts with a trip to the rooftop deck – or any safe vantage point upon which a young person with a camera might capture a view of a distant rural horizon or urban cityscape.

Industrial, flat roof, repair company, Toronto, View From The Roof contest plate on Lenzr, The View From The Roof photo contest on Lenzr hopes to collect and archive many different landscapes from all across Canada. Most will be from a vantage point about thirty feet or so above ground. Some folks who live in apartment buildings in big cities will have a much higher view from the roof.

The Apple iPad prize was provided by a flat roof repair service that puts new white ToughRoof systems to work in the greater Toronto Area.  Dan Sheridan is a white roof  specialist and an expert at remodeling roofs into the perfect (all white = reflective) terrain for increased solar panel production.

Lenzr photo contest plate for portable solar power company, Morning Sunshine, Win an iPadWhich brings us to the second assignment in the weekend family photo safari. The Morning Sunshine photo contest is a little tricky only because it requires getting up really early and taking pictures in the special light that first burns off the morning mist. Its a magic hour thing.

Special thanks to Michael Reichmann, the Ontario photographer who donated this Sunrise_Barn photo from his Ontario photography gallery .  The contest sponsor is a portable solar power generator (PSG’s) design and manufacturing firm in southern Ontario. The Solarline Power, Mobile Solar Work Units are quiet, reliable and deliver clean renewable energy, more info about these solar trailers on the Lenzr blog.

People Building Things photo contest is third and although it has the least pictures right now, its our belief this challenge is the easiest to enter and win. Although it seems like a very specific topic, anything constructive will probably be accepted in the match.

This third iPad prize to be dispensed was purchased by a solar powered deck building company. The sponsors of this challenge use green building programs and clean energy to (quietly) cut lumber and make your backyard paradise. Submit pics of People Building Things and tell us the story behind each picture.

In all three contests, the registered member that uploads the highest ranked image will WIN AN iPad! Voting begins September 20th 2010 – the highest ranked photograph for each contest automatically wins this awesome prize when the Contest Closes on Oct 1st, 2010. Contest is open to all Canadians (must be 13yrs old or older), not valid in Quebec.

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Cardiovascular Health and You: How to shop for your Heart!

First Time in the Grocery Cart

Hey favorite Dad of mine… I thought I might start this post with a bit of trivia…

Most men love their stats right? But I bet you didn’t know that just over 30% of all deaths in Canada are attributed to cardiovascular disease huh?

Ok, stop the depressing me Shawna!! (I know… I can hear you from here!) I have to tell you. I want to make sure that you have a solid grip on a great heart smart shopping list so that you can drive that cart around the supermarket with confidence and plan for heart pumping wellness for years to come!

In addition to the items presented here, there are a few very integral supplements that you should consider taking daily for even greater vitality and heart support. If you have any questions, post a comment here or just reach out for me directly and I’ll help guide you through the better choices! I’d love to hear from you!

In the meantime, be sure to feed your body all the goodness that your heart relies on.

A grocery list that is good for your Heart:

The following foods are selected because of their tremendous ability as well as being backed by sound research to keep cholesterol levels at bay, decrease blood pressure levels, minimize incidence of stroke, to reduce any hardening of the arteries and to improve overall heart function!

Happy Shopping!


At least 50 % of your daily servings of grains should be whole grains. Healthy, soluble fiber is a MUST to eat every day!

  • Whole grain bread

  • Quinoa

  • Brown rice (Good for you, good for the environment!)

  • Unsweetened steel cut oats (never instant!)
    For an added heart boosting punch; combine your oats with ground flaxseeds and antioxidant-loaded berries!


Jammed packed with powerful antioxidants, fiber, minerals and vitamins! The darker, greener and “leafier” the better. Kale, spinach and swiss chard are great choices and are full of magnesium! As well, consider carrots, squash and sweet potatoes, for beta carotene and antioxidant power. And don’t forget red grapes, apples, strawberries, and bell peppers too!


  • Rainbow trout, salmon

  • Pork tenderloin (much less fat than beef)

  • Lentils. Lentils are inexpensive and easily used for stews, salads and soups! If you buy them in a can, be sure to rinse twice with water first to let out the majority of the sodium!


Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO), it’s worth the price because the least pressed olives contain a greater level of antioxidants which are responsible for lessening cell damage in the body. Walnuts and flaxseeds respectively, are ideal for reducing cholesterol and deliver a bonanza of fibre!


Low fat 0% yogurt and skim milk are full of important proteins and vitamin D


Low fat popcorn and dark Chocolate (70% cocoa) did you know that compounds in dark chocolate have been linked to decreasing blood pressure and inflammation?


100% Orange Juice and green or white Tea are great examples of antioxidant heaven!


  • Chili peppers

  • Curry powder/Turmeric

  • Oregano

Interested in learning more about your health at the present? Unsure which body systems need more attention than others? Post a comment here or Email Me. I am happy to offer you a free personalized health screening questionnaire that is not only accurate, but quick and easy. We can discuss the results together once completed.

Did I mention FREE?

Just for you, oh dads of mine!


Stay well and let’s chant together shall we??? Train hard, eat smart, and be happy!

Oh, you know me so well!

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Bet the Farm – Or Lock It In?

I was recently asked by a client whether they should re-finance their mortgage, and if so, how should they do it.

Since there is no way to predict the future, that is a difficult question to answer.  However, the most reasonable way to approach that question is to look at it from the perspective of risk.  A simple search on the internet for mortgage rates reveals that, if an individual were to choose a floating rate right now, they would only have to pay approximately 2% interest.  That means only $2,000 interest annually per $100,000 borrowed.  Not bad.  However, the real problem comes if/when interest rates go up.

The general answer (likely denial) is that the individual will switch to fixed when rates start to rise.  This is a difficult game to play, and it involves predicting the future.  What makes it even more difficult, is that it involves not only predicting the future of interest rates, but being able to do so better than the banks.  The problem with the timing of “the switch” is that the banks set interest rates partially at their discretion.  So, when interest rates are set to rise, they are most likely to raise the long term rates first (making a long term mortgage seem less appealing), and then raise the short term rates later.  This pattern means that consumers will stay in their floating rate too long, and switch too late, once the lenders have had the chance to adjust the longer term rates in their favour.

Worse, if the homeowner is making their buying decision (and affordability) based on low interest rates, it will be unlikely that a higher interest rate later will be work.  This would be like going to a tailor and asking them to give you a pair of dress pants that do not fit because you plan to lose weight before you wear them.  That is not likely, as time tends to deliver weight gain, not weight loss (sadly).  In this market, time is most certain to deliver higher interest rates, not lower (sadly).  Locking in now might appear unappealing, might mean a smaller house and/or higher payments, but might just be the most prudent decision in the long run.

So, what is reasonable?  Right now (Weds Aug 4), a google search tells us that the 10 year rate is approximately 5.0% to 6.5%.  That is an unbelievably good rate.  If you are new to mortgages, find someone who lived through 12-15% long term rates in the early 1980’s to figure out how good that is.  My advice is to make as much of the mortgage fixed rate as possible, and for as long as possible.  Here are some tips:

  • If you think you can aggressively pay down the mortgage, then figure out how long it will take you to pay of the mortgage and match the term to that timeline.
  • If you feel your income will increase in the future and you will be able to pay down more aggressively than a fixed rate term will allow, then take a potion of the mortgage fixed, and take a portion of the mortgage floating.
  • If you are convinced that rates are going to remain low for a while, then take a look at some recent history:
    • The Bank of Canada site gives loads of information about interest rates:
    • if you could negotiate a 5.5% 10-year rate, this is lower than the average 1-year rate for the last decade – the decade with some of the lowest interest rates in history
    • As recently as 2007, the prime lending rate was as high as 6.5% dropping to 2.5% in as little as 14 months.  The reverse could also happen (and has!).

Could you afford to pay three times as much interest on your mortgage within the next 2 years?

One final point – the main issue here is not that the “average” floating rate over the next 10 years will be higher than 5the fixed rate is now.  What is conceivable is that, in that time, short term rates could rise for a period that makes it unaffordable to finance your home.  You don’t have the advantage of the law of averages: as soon as your home becomes unaffordable, you may be forced to make some tough decisions (either sell, or refinance and begin a vicious circle, now with expensive long-term debt).

So, paying a higher fixed rate right now is difficult to swallow, because rates have just been so intoxicatingly low, and it appears that taking a 5.5% mortgage will cost you something, at least in the short term.  However, it is reasonable that you will not be able to make “the switch” on time, and you might get stuck scrambling to get into a fixed rate mortgage at much higher than 5%.  Remember that mortgage debt tends to take 10-20 years to pay off, if not more.  A long-term approach (with some historical context) makes some sense at this point.

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Eyebrow Grooming: to pluck or not to pluck…

Martin Scorcese for Headsupdad.com

Every day when you get up in the morning and every day before you go to bed, you look in the mirror and you don’t notice it. With each new day, like the great Glaciers, the two bushy areas above your eyes have been creeping ever so slowly towards mayhem. Then you see it. For  the first little while you ignore it. Then one morning, you’re staring at yourself and there’s simply no denying it anymore. You are looking into the mirror and staring right back at you is Martin Scorcese himself. No one’s ever going to tell you, but it is time you took action.

The time has come to take control of and shape those pesky creatures above your eyes.

How to groom your eyebrows:

Brush your brows up, toward your hair with a toothbrush (please, not the one in current rotation to brush your teeth).

With scissors or clippers, trim any hairs that are a lot longer than the others—There is no need to pull them out, it hurts and you can quickly end up looking like Yul Brynner in the Kings of the Sun. If you do suffer from unibrow, in a pinch you can always shave the middle. But like the old wive’s tail goes: Shave once grow back twice. A better option is  to pluck individual hairs from the center of the space between your eyebrows until the area is the width of your finger.

If your brows look a little bushy, you can thin them from the bottom—carefully. Using tweezers, start in one corner and move horizontally, pulling adjacent hairs in the direction they grow until you’ve cleared out a line across. Start with one row and check yourself in the mirror before doing a second. Please remember men are supose to have eyebrows. Keep it simple and clean.

Next post: we move up your head to your work on your hair

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Management Fees – Are you paying for Bondage or Advice?

Each year, Canadians decide how and where they will invest.  Other than asset allocation, the fees that are paid will likely have the largest impact on their account.  For some, fees will be paid to an advisor involved at some point in the process.  That advisor might be a planner or a broker who takes commissions or trailer fees as a result of managing a clients’ account.  Or, fees may be paid to an investment manager, either indirectly through ownership in mutual fund, or directly as a result of a discretionary or segregated account with that manager.

Outside of fees, you may also want to explore whether or not your advisor has a fiduciary duty to you, and if there are any conflicts of interest in your relationship.  Conflicts can arise as a result of the business structure (i.e. only recommending products from that company), but can also also arise out of compensation structures.

Essentially, the amount and type of fees you pay are what determines the kind of practice your investment advisor runs.  Instead of just asking “how much” the fees are, perhaps examine the types of fees you are paying, why you are paying those fees, and what incentive it gives to the recipient of those fees.

Trading Commissions

By far, the most common method of compensating advisors is still commissions.  However, all commissions are not created equal.  There are basically three types of commissions:

  • Brokerage commissions: when trading securities, a fee is charged based on the size and type of trade.  Some brokers will pre-arrange a fee schedule for their clients that provide a certain number of transactions for a fixed cost.
  • “Spreads” on Bonds:  Many investors are unaware that there is a commission paid on a bond.  That commission is called the spread, and it is the difference between the actual rate being paid on a bond, and the rate at which it is sold to you.  For most bonds the spread is between 10 and 25 basis points (0.10% and 0.25%).
  • Mutual Fund “Front End” commissions: when an advisor recommends a fund, the client is charged a percentage of their investment in order to purchase units in the fund recommended.

In all cases, the commission here is a fee paid as a result of a transaction.  Make sure that, when you are working with an advisor, you are comfortable with what those commissions mean.  The commission regimes mean that the advisor gets paid when you act on their advice.  Thus, it is reasonable to say that their bias will be to implement a portfolio solution that prefers action.  If you are an active investor, then this will compensate an advisor who continues to bring quality investment ideas to you.  However, if you are an inactive or conservative investor, you may feel that you are pressured to take action that you do not feel is in line with the objectives of your portfolio.

Deferred Sales Charges

Mutual Fund “Back-end” commissions are a contentious topic among investment professionals and the investment public.  These “deferred sales charge” occur when a client purchases a new fund within a mutual fund company.  The advisor is paid a commission by the fund company, but the client is required to remain with that fund family for a certain period of time to account for those fees being paid, usually 3 of 6 years.  After the first year, those funds pay a trailing commission to the advisor of roughly 25 to 50 basis points.

The upside is that there is no immediate cost to the client.  In addition, the commissions paid are usually either 2.5% or 5.0%, and this allows advisors to receive compensation from smaller accounts, and enables them to spend the appropriate time with those smaller clients to deliver proper advice.

The downside, however, is that the bias for a practice run with this compensation scheme means that the advisor is paid to meet and satisfy new clients rather than existing clients.  If an advisor is being paid 5% on a new client and 0.50% on their existing clients, the attention of their practice is likely biased towards the initial portfolio set-up, and not necessarily the ongoing management of your account.  If your advisor recommends the use of these charges, ensure that you are comfortable that you will continue to receive the same quality of advice into the future.  In addition, your advisor should not be asking you to re-invest in deferred sales charges again once the deferred sales charge period is over.

No Load

No load compensation schedules are generally by advisors working with mutual funds, and are intended to mimic the type of compensation schedule that investment managers receive (see below).  The no load schedule means that the advisor receives their compensation as a percentage of the assets they have under management.  This means that their bias is towards maintaining the assets they already have, as there is no extra incentive for them to attract new clients, and there is nothing stopping them from leaving if they are unhappy with their service.  These are a form of servicing commissions, as above, but are the only form of fees these advisors receive for clients invested in these funds.  Thus, their bias will be towards more inactive clients.

Servicing Commissions

Servicing commissions are fees that are paid by fund companies (generally) to advisors for maintaining the accounts that they have.  Servicing commissions vary depending on whether the advisor has recommended a front end load, no-load, or deferred sales charge fee options for their clients.  Reasonably, these are the fees that the advisor receives for maintaining your account over the long term.

Investment Counsel Fees

A direct relationship to a discretionary portfolio manager usually means a fee schedule much like the “no-load” schedule described above.  These fees are usually lower, as a result of the size and structure of accounts being managed.  In addition, it is generally accepted that these fees are tax deductible for non-registered accounts (although taxpayers are advised to consult their tax professional to ensure this is the case for them).  The fees paid to these managers can also be mixed with an incentive fee of some sort, such as a share in a percentage of profits.  This is more commonly found in managers with higher risk or specialty mandates.  There are a variety of “retail” solutions like this that are available to clients through advisors that mimic this relationship.  Two of note are offered by SEI and Franklin Templeton.

Your Objectives

Perhaps the best advice ever spoken on this topic was delivered by Upton Sinclair when he uttered the following: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his job depends on not understanding it.”  More specifically, if your objectives do not fall in line with the method in which your advisor receives fees, it will be difficult for you both to see eye to eye on an investment strategy.  While the fee discussion tends to raise the blood pressure of both clients and advisors alike (for different reasons), it is a discussion that should be had.

Regardless of the fee schedule, good quality advisors are likely going to give good quality advice to their clients, regardless of the fee schedule.   However, even good quality advisors are running a business, and the business decisions that they have made about their practice are going to impact how they deliver their advice in the future.

As far as I can tell, there has already been much written about fees, and a recent report suggests that Canada’s mutual fund industry may have the highest fees in the world, on average.  So what is an investor to do when faced with the costs of investing?

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Eat Often—Lose Weight!

Eat More, lose weight at www.headsupdad.com

show it in, in messy fist-fulls, originally uploaded by mufftycub.

Eat often and watch the pounds drop off…

Sound too good to be true?

Hi guys!

I hope you’ve missed me! This busy trainer of yours has been flying by the seat of her pants! That’s not to say that I have not been thinking of you, because part of my daily grind has involved compiling amazingly informative health and fitness info for your reading pleasure!

I suppose the title of my article might have you a bit confused, as eating more and weighing less sounds rather paradoxical doesn’t it?

However, it’s the truth. Eating 5-6 “mini-meals” a day boosts your metabolism and keeps your body operating on all six cylinders, all day long! What comes with a well fueled engine? That’s right, power and energy. You have to think of your body as a machine. Fuel it, move it and watch it burn rubber! No proverbial gas in the tank? And your buddy will be pushing you around all day in neutral, and that’s no way to treat a pal.

Here is some food for thought:

Skipping meals now = overeating later. Always and forever.

It’s a scientifically proven fact. If you skip breakfast and wait for a hunger signal, you’ll be far more likely to “binge” due to fallen blood sugar levels, and you are guaranteed to make poor food choices as your body and brain are dying to “feed the need.” And I bet my entire nonexistent retirement fund on the fact that you will likely choose fat and/or sugar. Ewwy gooey meat lovers pizza and pop anyone?

Choosing smaller, frequent meals will alleviate this problem altogether and keep you not only svelte but brain happy and productive too! Because spreading your calories throughout the day will better control your appetite and increase your diet success! Think of an average 2000 calorie per day diet plan. That’s three ‘square’ meals a day plus two snacks. Consider your meal times to consist of 500-600 calories each and snacks to consist of about 100-200 calories each. I’m not suggesting you calorie count per se, just be mindful of the lesser amount of calories that should be going into a healthier meal selection. If you are interested, I can write some about various tips for eating/dining out. Give me a shout out for any information that you’d like to see covered! For now, I thought I would offer you some 100 calorie, easy to pack, snack options for you:

• 1 mini whole wheat pita with 1 tbsp of hummus
• 1 medium apple with a tsp of unsalted peanut butter or almond butter
• A handful of raisins and a small piece of fruit
• ½ cup of fat free yogurt with some rolled oats mixed in
• 1 cup of grapes

I welcome any questions. I’m here if you need me.

In the meantime, please don’t skip breakfast, eat smaller meals and snacks more frequently, take the supplements we talked about a few weeks ago, train hard and love your life!

I’ll be back in no time!

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Yay—Summer is here!


Yay—Summer is here!, originally uploaded by HeadsUp_Dad.

Well, if you haven’t already noticed, summer is in full swing. Heat waves, power outages, traffic jams, highway construction, air conditioners, cold beer on the patio, burgers on the barbeque, weekends up at the cottage, beach time, camping trips, outdoor adventure, family fun, summer holidays! We have been waiting for this all year. Woo Hoo!

Get out there, enjoy the warm sunshine, beautiful weather, the beach, the cottage by the lake, your boat on the water, the golf course, the baseball diamond, the local pool, the back yard barbeque, wading pools in municipal parks, summer camp, canoe trips, sailing in the harbour, festivals and events, summer concerts, Shakespeare in the Park, the hiking trails, a road trip or a family adventure. Enjoy the company of friends, your family—and definitely, spend some time on your own.

Let your kids run loose in the park, ride a bike down a dusty road in the country, explore the ravine behind your house, wander the beach barefoot. All of these moments will create memories of summer that will last a lifetime. Soak it all in, write it down, take plenty of photos, shoot them on video and take time to just be.

Have tons of fun but be sure to put on plenty of sunscreen, keep an eye out for kids on the road, be safe around the water and keep your eye on the kids whenever they are playing in or around water. As much fun as they can be, and as great as they are a place to cool off, every year kids drown in back yard pools, lakes and rivers because somebody was not paying attention. Don’t be that guy.

Know what it looks like when someone is in trouble.

Most people assume that a drowning person will splash, yell, and wave for help; and why wouldn’t they? That’s what we see on TV. Without training, we are conditioned first to think of drowning as a violent struggle that is noisy and physical. In actuality, it is not.

The Instinctive Drowning Response represents a person’s attempts to avoid the actual or perceived suffocation in the water. The suffocation in water triggers a constellation of autonomic nervous system responses that result in external, unlearned, instinctive drowning movements that are easily recognizable by trained rescue crews.

Will you know it when you see it?

Characteristics of the Instinctive Drowning Response:

  1. Except in rare circumstances, drowning people are physiologically unable to call out for help. The respiratory system was designed for breathing. Speech is the secondary, or overlaid, function. Breathing must be fulfi lled, before speech occurs.
  2. Drowning people’s mouths alternately sink below and reappear above the surface of the water. The mouths of drowning people are not above the surface of the water long enough for them to exhale, inhale, and call out for help. When the drowning people’s mouths are above the surface, they exhale and inhale quickly as their mouths start to sink below the surface of the water.
  3. Drowning people cannot wave for help. Nature instinctively forces them to extend their arms laterally and press down on the water’s surface. Pressing down on the surface of the water, permits drowning people to leverage their bodies so they can lift their mouths out of the water to breathe.
  4. Throughout the Instinctive Drowning Response, drowning people cannot voluntarily control their arm movements. Physiologically, drowning people who are struggling on the surface of the water cannot stop drowning and perform voluntary movements such as waving for help, moving toward a rescuer, or reaching out for a piece of rescue equipment.
  5. From beginning to end of the Instinctive Drowning Response people’s bodies remain upright in the water, with no evidence of a supporting kick. Unless rescued by a trained lifeguard, these drowning people can only struggle on the surface of the water from 20 to 60 seconds before submersion occurs.

For additional information, visit “Drowning Doesn’t Look Like Drowning” by Mario Vittone on the G Captain Blog.

For more information, tips and resources about survival in the water, check out On Scene Magazine: The Journal of U. S. Coast Guard Search and Rescue.

Have a great summer…

Check in often. We’ll be posting photos, stories, video and other illuminating stuff to amuse and maybe even inspire. Send us your summer stories. Send us your photos and links to your videos. We just may share them with the rest of the HeadsUpDad community.

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Daughters gone wild—Tilt: The Movie

Happy Canada Day!

And now for something completely different…

Basically we’re looking for opinions (or information, or personal, real life experiences) about how fathers can connect with teenage daughters, especially when those teenage daughters are starting to get into things like drinking, drugs, or sex—daughters who have gone ‘a little wild. ‘Specifically, we’re hoping to hear from Fathers who are experiencing, or have experienced trouble connecting with their daughter, and women who are experiencing or have experienced issues connecting with their father at one time or another.

We are doing this to help out some friends who are making a cool, independently produced feature film that explores the complexities and nuances surrounding father daughter relationships. Its a thriller, with a twist.

Maybe you have a seventeen year old daughter who is experiencing teen angst full throttle and is pushing the limits of your patience and challenging you within an inch of your limit? Maybe you are a nineteen year old girl who is just waking up to your own new set of realities and find yourself butting heads and distancing from your parents. Do you know someone in this situation?

Maybe you know someone who was a little wild in high school or college years and has managed to work things out or someone else who never did? Maybe you have some insight into the complexities of this type of scenario and would just like to talk about it?

Maybe you think this is an interesting concept for a full length indie film and would just like to get involved or help out?

More about the Tilt—the Movie:

A feature-length dramatic thriller about a father, a daughter, tragedy, and revenge, Directed by Phil Holbrook.

The father and daughter characters in TILT started growing apart after the wife/mother of the house died 10 years ago. Now the daughter is 20 years old, a big partier, and completely out of control.

What would you do for your Family?

THE STORY: Paul hasn’t connected with his daughter for over 10 years, but when their world is turned upside down by an unthinkable act, he has to decide what’s more important: doing the right thing or setting things right? TILT is about revenge & forgiveness, betrayal & redemption, and second chances…small town style.

THE LOCATION: TILT will be filmed in my hometown of Brainerd, Minnesota, where many generous friends and strangers have already pledged essential services that are making this movie possible.

THE COLLABORATORS: In addition to Mr Holbrook, there are a few other core TILT collaborators you should know. Filmmakers / screenwriters Julie Keck and Jessica King (also known as King is a Fink) are sharing writing and producing duties, with Jessica also stepping up to try on the newly coined PMD (Promotion / Marketing / Distribution Manager) title. Cinematographer Jeremy Doyle has promised to make everything look pretty and scary and (sometimes) pretty scary.

THE MUSIC: With a really innovative twist, the makers of the film let the people have input on who actually got to write the original score for the film. They held a contest on their TILT blog for a composer, and the winner was the very talented Bill Finn. Bill got started by providing the music for the TILT pitch video, and we’re excited to see what he comes up with for the movie.

Interested in getting involved or helping the production out?

THE PERKS: When you contribute to this film project, you not only get the satisfaction of helping Phil fulfill a dream, you’ll also get perks ranging from DVDs, to film credit, to sneak peeks at special short films that give you insight into the characters of TILT. If there’s a perk that looks fun to you, go for it! We’ll make it worth your while.

WHAT YOUR CONTRIBUTION WILL GO TOWARD? Food, travel & lodging for cast & crew; lighting equipment; costumes & props; digital storage; and DVD production & marketing materials, which we’ll be sending, in many cases, to you.

Share your story, or send them money. It is fun, gratifying and very easy to send them even the smallest amount of money. Every little bit adds up with project crowd sourcing via Kickstarter.

If you would like to contribute your own personal experience, you can do that here by posting a comment on HeadsUpDad, or if you would prefer to do it in a more private way, you can contact the producers of the film by sending us an e-mail here at HeadsupDad. If you are just interested in sending them a few bucks to help them make this movie, I know they would really appreciate your support. Why not donate $25 today? Do it because you want to, or do it for the Perks, in any case, just do it—you can say you helped finance an independent film! Maybe one day it will appear in a very cool film festival near you.

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Watch a Movie, Send a Kid to Camp


Departures, a wonderful movie—a delightful journey into the heartland of Japan and a profound and sometimes comical journey as a man uncovers the wonder, joy and meaning of life and living.

At Hospice Toronto, where I was doing my original hospice and paliative care training, one of the presenters mentioned that the movie “Departures” would be really good for us to see in order to get more insight into the kind of work that Hospice is trying to do in our communities all across Canada. While I didn’t get a chance to see the movie at that time, I just received a notice from her that it is coming back, for 2 days only, as a promotional event for the re-opening of the Carlton Cinema at 20 Carlton St. (just east of Yonge) in Toronto. The dates are Wed. June 30 and Thursday July 1. It’s free except for a suggested donation of $2 to support the Toronto Star newspaper’s Fresh Air Fund, a summer camp program for needy kids.

There are lots of other great movies those days also, including Julie and Julia with Meryl Streep and Amy Adams and The Class, another foreign language film from France (Winner of the prestigious Palme d’Or at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival) with François Bégaudeau, Away from her with Julie Christie, Michael Murphy, Gordon Pinsent.

We are telling you this today because we think it might be a good movie for you and your mate to go out and see—a great idea for an almost free night out. If you are not a fan of foreign film, maybe go see one of the others and donate a few bucks to a very worthy cause. Why not spread the joy? Here’s a great opportunity to suggest a night out to a tired and frustrated Mom and Dad who you know needs a night out on their own and away from the kids. Do you need another reason?

Your night at the movies will turn Can’t to Camp by sending a needy kid to camp.

Departures will be shown both days at 6:40 and 9:20. You can find more details on the Carleton Cinemas website:


Japanese with English subtitles
Carleton Cinema’s: Wednesday  June 30, 2010 – Thursday July 1: 6:40 9:20

Academy Award winner for Best Foreign Language Film, Departures is a delightful journey into the heartland of Japan as well an astonishingly beautiful look at a sacred part of Japan’s cultural heritage. Daigo Kobayashi (Masahiro Motoki), a devoted cellist in an orchestra that has just been dissolved, is suddenly left without a job. Daigo decides to move back to his old hometown with his wife to look for work and start over. He answers a classified ad entitled “Departures” thinking it is an advertisement for a travel agency only to discover that the job is actually for a “Nokanshi” or “encoffineer,” a funeral professional who prepares deceased bodies for burial and entry into the next life. While his wife and others despise the job, Daigo takes a certain pride in his work and begins to perfect the art of “Nokanshi,” acting as a gentle gatekeeper between life and death, between the departed and the family of the departed. The film follows his profound and sometimes comical journey with death as he uncovers the wonder, joy and meaning of life and living. (Fully subtitled)

Director: Yojiro Takita

Cast – Major:
Masahiro Motoki, Ryoko Hirosue, Tsutomu Yamazaki, Kazuko Yoshiyuki, Kimiko Yo, Takashi Sasano

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Letters to my Father: Just a Word of Love

Christopher Davies at Headsupdad.com

Christopher Davies as remembered by Angelique Davies

On January 25, 2007 I lost my father, Christopher Davies, to spinal cancer. I think about him often, usually at times in my life when I don’t know what to do in a difficult situation and at times when I’d normally turn to him for his help and wise advice. Times like now.

He was the chief negotiator at the Toronto Star for nearly twenty five years and was known for conducting collective bargaining in high style and with humour. And always great food would be part of it. He’d likely make my worries more bearable by saying something very Billy Bragg, like “Kid, you’ve gotta learn to take the crunchy with the smooth.” But it would hardly be a tribute to his memory if I sent out a cosmic cry for help, especially on Father’s Day. My worries will still be there tomorrow.Anyway, I’d rather share a happy memory that would make him smile. This one is about the day my father finally unloaded his forty year old daughter.

Although he fought his two year battle with spinal cancer with tremendous courage and strength, it became clear at a certain point that my father was living on borrowed time. Our focus became quality of time rather than quantity. What could I do that would make my father truly happy? My partner and I talked at some length and decided formalize our relationship. My parents had always worried that I would never marry – I’d pretty much accepted that this was entirely possible, warty troll that I am – and that was OK. But against all odds, Frank came into my life and turned out to be a keeper who happened to like warty trolls. I knew that it would give my father tremendous peace of mind to know that I had someone to take care of me. I just didn’t want to raise a glass at my wedding one year later and say, “If only my father were here to see this.” The time to set things in motion was now.

So we planned a hasty wedding, while he was well enough to attend. It was a simple civil ceremony in Welland, followed by a nice luncheon. My father made the most touching speech, entitled “Just a Word of Love”, which I share with you now. He said, “It is hard to express the love and pride that I feel. Today is so very, very special, so full of happiness. My heart overflows with gratitude that I have been spared to see the day when my lovely, talented daughter has entered into the blessed state of matrimony. I don’t just speak for myself but for Helene who left this world too soon. She would have been so proud and happy. I am particularly pleased that Helene got to meet Frank and saw the goodness in him as I do, knowing that he will take such good care of Angelique. You are both special and may God bless both of you. May the love that you have for each other keep you warm on winter nights and cool when the sun beats down. May the good Lord bless and keep you both, now and forevermore.”

It was truly the happiest day of my life and I’m glad that my father was a part of it, and that the memory of it will sustain me, even on the dark days. I miss my father, but I know he’s always with me.

To others who are missing their fathers today, I hope your happy memories see you through.

Happy Father’s Day!

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Fathers Day Tribute: Sunday Morning Rock Star

Tribute to Dad on Father's Day at www.headsupdad.com

Julie Keck and Yep, that's her Dad, Henry...

Every Sunday morning at the Keck house, an epic battle was waged. No, it wasn’t my parents trying to drag my sister and me out of bed; we were up at the crack of dawn eating generic puffed rice (gag) and sitting in front of the TV watching the Three Stooges and wrestling. You know, like kids do.

The struggle started as soon as my mom woke up. “Go comb your hair, girls.” Jenny and I would pretend not to hear her the first time. And the second time. But Mom’s third request was usually accompanied by a swift twist of the TV set knob. Talk about a throw-down.

In his khaki pants and freshly ironed dress shirt, my dad would eat pancakes and drink coffee while my sister and I fought over what to wear to church. All bickering stopped, however, as soon as we heard our dogs barking at my grandma and grandpa’s car as it rolled up the driveway. Jenny and I would race to the door, because being left behind meant going to the laundry mat with Mom.

At church we had a very serious decision to make: go to “church” church with G&G or help Dad out in his Sunday school classroom. Jenny always seemed to pick one or the other with no problem. I, on the other hand, struggled with the decision every week. I knew I should want to go to church with my grandparents, because people would say things like, “Time with your grandparents is precious; they’re not going to be around forever, you know.” (Which was a little mean, don’t you think?) But what I really wanted to do was hang out with my dad. And usually, after a dramatic and completely unnecessary inner struggle, I did.

Tribute to my Father at www.headsupdad.com

the Keck Sisters, Julie and Jenny

Dad had started volunteering in for the Sunday school before I was even born, first keeping tabs on the younger children of his parents’ friends, then his peers, and, eventually, kids of some of the kids he’d watched as toddlers.

The routine was always the same. First, Drop-Off Time (aka Crying Time). Most kids toddled right in to play with the donated toys, but a few immediately burst into tears as soon as their moms and dads were out of view. Parents of those kids often poked their heads back into the room, but my dad always waved them away. If the criers wanted gushing or doting, they were out of luck. My mountain of a dad would scoop them up and let them hang out in the crook of his meaty arm while he proceeded to completely ignore their hiccupy tantrums. Dad would talk to other kids (the non-criers), build amazing Play-Doh animals with one hand, and only check in with his new best friends once the sniffling had stopped.

Part of the reason this move worked was because the kids wanted to play with the Play-Doh and partly because my dad looked like Santa Claus. Kids who had just graduated from the 1-yr old room would often spend their first few days with my dad staring at him. Soon they’d work up the nerve to touch his fluffy grey beard, pinch his red nose, or even poke his big belly. He knew what the kids were thinking, and he never tried to correct him. Even now when a little one eyes him from across a crowded restaurant, my dad will raise one eyebrow and nod very slowly, reducing the kid to wide-eyed wonder.

Play Time ended with Clean-up Time, which lead swiftly into Story Time. My dad would perch on a tiny chair that really should not have held his weight, possibly still with a pensive crier on his arm, and read a short Bible story from a colorful picture book. Whether there were 3 kids in the room or 20, my dad would quickly have them in a trance. His warm and soothing voice would have put them to sleep if there’d been mats to lay on.

After Story Time came Music Time, during which Dad would lead the kiddos in a series of animated finger plays, including “Tick-Tock, Tick Tock” and (for the more advanced) “Itsy-Bitsy Spider.” As soon as he finished one song, one of the older 2-yr olds would yell out another one, eager to keep the show going. From the back of the room, this crowd was hilarious and wonderful: a massive man on a tiny chair leading a crowd of ankle-biters in song. My dad was the biggest rock star on the Sunday school circuit, and more than one kid had a breakdown when it was time to move up into the 3-yr old room.

The hour always flew by. A few minutes before church let out, my dad would get all of the kids to sit at little round tables to receive their own kid-sized communion. Two or three Nilla Wafers or Saltines + a tiny cup of Hawaiian Punch or Kool-Aid. Then parents started to trickle in (the younger parents first) to retrieve their red-mustached, sugar-boosted kids. Most were carried from the room still pointing at my dad. The cutest part? Hearing tiny voices saying “Henry” all the way down the hallway and out the door.

Yep. Henry. That’s my dad.

About the Author:

Julie Keck was born and bred in Southern Illinois about 20 miles from St. Louis and just high enough on the bluffs that she could see the St Louis Arch from her grandparents’ back yard.  She’s lived in Chicago for the past 10 years but still misses the Arch.  Julie is a freelance writer and film maker whose latest screenplay, TILT, is slated to be directed by Phil Holbrook in Minnesota this fall.  TILT is a dramatic thriller set in Brainerd about a father trying to reconnect with his daughter and set things right after an unthinkable event.  Julie writes with her partner Jessica King under the name King is a Fink.  They also produce short films, several of which are currently on the film festival circuit.  For more information about TILT, go to www.Tiltthemovie.com.  To learn more about other King is a Fink projects, check out kingisafink.com.

Featured post

This father’s day, we’re going fishing!

Headsupdad.com - This Father's Day, we're going Fishing!

We caught a fish as long as my arm that weighed about 13lbs!

Do you remember when I’d write you poems like these for Father’s Day?
And I was probably about 7 years old
Dancing around when you’d come home from work…

Ever since I was young, I have loved going on fishing trips with my dad, even if it meant getting up at 6AM. It’s been a few years since we’ve gone, but I still remember how to cast and reel in a catch, so I think we’ll be okay.

For years my Dad took me to the Outdoors show, and fishing competitions just to spend some time outside with him. I remember the times I’d cast my line and hit a rock, and quietly wait to mention something, until he’d look over and laugh saying “I don’t think you’re line is strong enough to reel that rock in”. Countlessly untangling my fishing line, and unhooking the fish I’d caught brought us together, and we became voyageurs of the seas! (errr… Georgian Bay).

The moment I will never forget is at a fishing competition we went to when I was about eleven. We set up our chairs on the dock and put the fresh bait on the hook, ready to reel in that $1000 trout! A couple of hours had passed by, and I was so frustrated that we had not even had a nibble on our lines, I started to complain and wanted to go home. My dad insisted we stay for a little bit longer, because it was a nice day and we had nothing to rush home to. After about an hour of pouting I fell into a deep sleep, with my hat over my eyes.

KIMMY! I awoke abruptly to my dad hovering over me trying to grasp my rod, there it was, the big bite we had been waiting for! I was so startled and quickly my Dad and I brought in the fish together. It was huge to me, probably weighing about 13 pounds, I was grinning from ear to ear as we brought him in and up on the dock. My dad could not believe I had fallen asleep and managed to catch a trout, because he didn’t even get one. I bragged the entire ride home, claiming I was just a natural, and the fish gravitated to my fishing approach, he just smiled.

It seems like many years ago, but I still remember it vividly. It’s the moments that are spontaneous and unplanned that make for the best memories. And by the way, it wasn’t the $1000 trout we’d caught, but we didn’t care.

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Letters to my Father, a Fathers Day Tribute

Fathers Day Tribute to Dad at HeadsUpDad.com

This one's for you Dad...

Greetings to you a week from Father’s Day:

Love your Dad? Despise him? Miss him? Want to reach out and say something in a public place to reward his greatness, let him know what’s on your mind or even the score? Have something to say but can’t because he is gone? This month, we wonder if you might be interested in sharing a story on a special Daddy’s ‘n Daughters Father’s Day edition at HeadsUp Dad?

We are doing a “Letter to my Father” series where we are inviting women (Guys, you will get your chance too) to submit short stories to HeadsUp Dad in honor of their Dad’s on Father’s day. Feel free to check it out, and if you are up for it, get in touch with me to write and submit a letter to your Dad. While HeadsUp Dad is generally a positive space, we want and expect your honesty. We know that not every Dad is a hero, so tell us in your own words and experiences what your Dad meant to you. For better or for worse, we are all here to learn and grow from the personal experiences of others.

The first article is up, and there are many more to come, but we would really like to hear from you. Check out what Kim Samuelsen had to say in “Gone Fishing” her Father’s Day tribute to her wonderful Dad… Maybe it would inspire you to tell us a story of your own!

Here’s your chance to have your say just in time for Father’s Day!


If you have a story that you would like to share with us, then please send us an e-mail. While we can’t promise to publish everything, we will read all submissions and will gratefully acknowledge the contributions you make to making this a better place to learn and grow.

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Lenzr Celebrates 50 Year Old Dads In Time For Father’s Day

The 50 Going On 15 photo contest on Lenzr is set to collect, display and eventually grade a wide selection of photos of people, mostly men over 50 years old doing outrageous things like they were still teenagers. Is your father or anyone you know between the age of fifty and sixty years old? Do you have shots of your Dad acting crazy at a family BBQ? Or doing some rather risky extreme sports? Or just laughing and behaving like a kid? There are lots of great images already on display in this healthy online competition.

Is your Dad crazy? does he act like a teenager? Get chocolateThe pictures don’t have to be over-the-top, but they should be considered ‘outrageous’, and each image should tell a little story, especially when compounded with relevant text in a compelling 140 character caption.

Get creative with this challenge and win a huge amount of chocolate!

The prize is over 50 lbs of pure dark chocolate and that substance is also something every Dad appreciates – this is a lifetime supply for some lucky, and probably very popular local photographer.

Remember on Lenzr the membership picks the winning images by voting and commenting on other people’s pictures – you cannot vote for your own work, and yet you can only get to cast powerful ‘registered votes’ by uploaded an image.  It’s this kooky ritual that makes Lenzr popular.

Also available this month is an escape for Mom and Dad.  Win a Las Vegas vacation for two people courtesy of this portable toilet rentals company in a queer little photo contest called Portable Luxury.

Featured post

3 Fat traps to avoid on the job…

fat-traps to avoid on the job

Don't try this at work...

You may not believe it, but your job may be weighing you down.

Learn how to master these Fat Traps and you will thank yourself for it.

Hello Handsome!

I hope this post finds you and all of my favorite dads well and happy!

Maybe you guys have noticed that my previous posts all had something to do with acquiring fitness, debunking some common fitness myths, optimizing your health with vitamins and the better choices to optimize physical performance and endurance etc. But—what if I were to tell you that with all of your effort and positive results, the place where you easily spend 40 or more hours a week can potentially sabotage your mission to better health!  It’s a drag, but it’s the truth!

There are definitely some typical, every day habits that have become synonymous with the workplace, and I like to refer to them as “fat traps” because unless you are aware of them, the stubborn “final few” will always be hard to lose. So let’s break it down!

FAT TRAP #1: “The Java Jaunt”

We have to admit, that we live in a world of designer coffee! These snazzy coffees, not only cost us the equivalent of a small mortgage, but they hold the same value in calories too! Each drink packs 300-500 calories which adds up! Think of it this way, just 200 extra calories a day = 1400 extra calories a week and 5600 extra calories per month which is a gain of 1.5lbs. And that’s just from the coffee run let alone any other indulgences you may entertain. Note to self, switch to skim milk, downsize your cup, and skip the sugar and syrups! These efforts will go a long way. Coffee isn’t a bad thing per se, but you don’t need to dress it up!

FAT TRAP #2: “The Midday Snack Attack, aka Desk Dining”

Dining at a table for one most definitely instigates unconscious eating. Your mind is busy doing other things and you’re never really aware of how much you are actually eating. With deadlines, calls, emails, texts, a boss in a foul mood, all occurring while you are at your desk working, can spike your stress level. When that happens, access cortisol is released, the nasty hormone that makes you crave the wrong food and tells your brain to eat more! No matter what, eating at your desk can be bad news. What to do? Pack your lunch and try and eat it elsewhere and calmly, away from stress and distractions.

FAT TRAP #3: “The Food Court Nightmare”

Why is it that virtually every office tower is inundated with a vast array of fast food? I’ll make this fat trap easy and self explanatory. A Big Mac = 580 calories, A Whopper = 670 calories, A Taco Salad with the shell = 790 calories, French Fries = 500 calories and I haven’t even stated the fat content of each option! Guys, stay away! Subway, Freshii and Cultures are great in a pinch. Avoid all soda and drink lots of water with your meal! Your belt loops will thank you!

Stay in control by packing your lunch as often as you can. If there is a supermarket nearby, head there for a fresh salad, sandwich or homemade soup! Practice these fat trap tips, and you’re weight loss efforts will skyrocket! I look forward to reaching out to you next time with even more helpful health and fitness info!

In the meantime, train hard, eat smart and be happy!

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The Child Care Expense Derby

find out who should really claim child care expenses on their tax returns

Can't decide who should claim the child care expenses at tax time?

My wife and I earn similar (but variable) incomes, and so each year we engage in what we call the “Child Care Expense Derby.”  We have the government to thank for that.  Every year I am a bit suprised by who it goes to (“and the winner is…”), but I am glad for the opportunity to get some tax back for the money we put into child care.  I always like to go to some handy tax calculators to figure out where I stand before tax time to see if I can predict the winner.  Here are two: my website (not very complicated), and TaxTips.Ca (more complicated).

The reason for the derby is this – we are never exactly sure which income will be the lowest until we get our employers’ T4’s, and then the spouse with the lowest income is the one who receives the benefit of the child care tax deduction.  Also, thew winner of the Child Care Expense Derby will be the spouse who contributes less to their RRSP.  The child care expenses can cause a big swing: tax rules allow expenses to be deducted in the following amounts:

  • a maximum of $7,000 per year for each other eligible child who is under 7 years of age at the end of the year; and
  • a maximum of $4,000 per year for each other eligible child (between the ages of 7 and 16).

This means that a family of three children under the age of 7 has deductions of up to $21,000 – nice work.  You could notice significant savings on your taxes, approximately a $7,000 tax savings for the average Canadian, who earns income at approximately a 30% tax rate.  The eligible child care is defined by CRA as on their website follows:

  • an eligible child care provider;
  • a day nursery school or day-care centre;
  • a day camp or day sports school;
  • a boarding school or camp (including a sports school where lodging is involved); and
  • an educational institution for the purpose of providing child care services.

Note that this is not an exhaustive list expenses, and other expenses, such as advertising for a care worker, or agency fees to find a care worker are also included.

The downside here is for a family that only has one income, or when the incomes are far apart (i.e. one high income and one low income), the deduction may not be as great that two mid- or high-income earners.  But it is still powerful.  Imagine a family with one income of $75,000 and one income of $45,000.  (Let’s say there are two children under 7, so $14,000 of eligible expenses).  The lower income spouse at $45,000 would reduce their taxable income by $14,000, using the childcare expenses as a deduction against income.  This would be a tax savings of approximately $3,300 for the year.

You should also note that this deduction gives you the exact same tax relief  as an RRSP deduction, so if you have to make the choice between who does what, don’t let the lower income spouse do any RRSP deduction until the higher income spouse has maximized their RRSP contribution.  This will ensure that the higher income spouse gets more deductions against their income, and that the lower income spouse does not put RRSP contributions in at an exceedingly low rate.  Some planning should help you avoid this.

This should help when it comes to deciding what to do about care for your kids, to help and reconcile the finances at the end of the year, and to generate some other tax benefits while you are at it.

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3 safe and healthy ways to decrease body fat

Build muscle, burn fat, get fit with HeadsUpDad

This Dad from the fifties is no couch potato

Do you want a tight and ripped body?

Read on to learn 3 Safe and Healthy ways to Increase Muscle Mass and Decrease Body Fat

I purposefully did not include these “muscle builders” in my discussion of healthy supplement options for you, because talking about muscular performance, endurance and muscle repair truly deserves undivided attention. There is a lot of information out there and some heavy marketing for these goodies and it can get confusing. So I am here to help set the record straight, so that you can make your fitness supplement decisions with good, sound judgment! Your hard work during your workouts will show amped results by learning how to use whey protein, creatine and glutamine.

Half the weight of your lean body mass is protein. The structure of your muscles, organs, brain cells and even your genes are pure protein. Thousands of enzymes that control your bodily functions are protein and so is the hemoglobin that transports your blood! But none of these protein structures are fixed. Each are constantly being re-built, and your body has no protein store to draw upon. Body structure is re-built day by day solely from the proteins you eat. So if you eat garbage protein, you build a garbage body. It’s just that simple.

It takes a lot more protein for your body to build new muscle than to maintain the muscle that it already has, so you need to ensure that you’re eating quality protein everyday. Your best bet for great choices are whey protein, egg whites, cow’s milk, fish, extra lean beef and chicken. A good quality whey protein powder right after a strong workout is absolutely necessary. Invest in a tub of low carb protein powder and mix one scoop with 250-500ml of water post workout. Your muscles will thank you.

Muscle mags rave over creatine. Ads show bodybuilders bigger than bulls. Athletes declare their Pecs grow so big; they have to strap’em down so they can see to shave! Creatine’s revolutionary effects took the supplement industry by storm well over a decade ago. People were afraid of its immediate, gargantuan results, so it was often mistaken as a steroid. But you know what? The stuff really works, and it has NO relationship to steroids whatsoever. When taken properly and responsibly, creatine monohydrate will increase the amount of work your muscles can perform, it promotes lean muscle mass, increases muscle cell volume (“big pump”) and increases strength and endurance. Creatine is safe when taken as directed and in my experience powder form is better than capsules because it absorbs into the muscle much quicker. Just take the recommended dose with some fruit juice 30 minutes before your workout and watch your muscles have a mind of their own!

Glutamine is a non essential amino acid (an amino acid is a building block of protein and non essential means our bodies produce it) that plays a key role in protein metabolism. This means it prevents muscle loss by minimizing muscle breakdown and maximizing muscle repair as you rotate your workouts each week. Glutamine also increases your body’s ability to secrete human growth hormone which helps metabolize body fat, and support new muscle growth. There are no hard and fast rules on how much to take, but generally 10-15 grams of glutamine daily, broken down into 5g servings is a good rule of thumb. The best times to take L-Glutamine powder (or capsule) are in the morning, after a workout and before bed.

I hope this information helps you on your journey to the new you!

Is your job making you fat?

Next week, I’ll cover some answers to the latest fat traps in the workplace!

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Mothers Day Gift Ideas at HeadsUpDad

MothersDay.at.headsupdad, originally uploaded by HeadsUp_Dad.

With Mother’s Day bearing down hard (this coming Sunday fellas) many of us busy Dads cringe at the thought of it. Not that we don’t love our moms and significant others, we all do, but the fear that grips us as we start to think about what to get is what makes us tremble.

Lets face it, even though we are very grateful for all of the gifts we have been given with and since the birth of our children, we sometimes are not very good at expressing how grateful we are. While some of you have it nailed, many of us struggle with this. How do we show how grateful we are? Well, there are many ways, and we do this all the time, but the truth is, on Mother’s day, unless you have a death wish you will never get away with a hug and a kiss and a box of chocolates from Shoppers Drug Mart.

It is easy to go for the obvious (Card, Flowers/Roses, Chocolate) then fun activities (yoga passes, Craft classes at the girly fun places like the Workroom, AGO memberships, Theatre Subscriptions for Buddies in Bad Times, a year of off the beaten path nights on the town, dinner for two at one of her favourite restaurants, a night at the movies) that you need to get out of the way, but we can never stop there. These are just the basics.

The part that strikes fear into our hearts and stops us cold is the fear about never finding that ever elusive perfect gift that sums it all up. The one that says, Thank You—No REALLY! I could not have done it without you! Even if we are not getting along, or we are divorced, separated, or just not agreeing right now, it is the right thing to do to demonstrate to your kids how to respect and value the sacrifice and contribution that their mom has made to get us here and continues to make every day.


How do we do that? What to get?

We do things every day that support our wives and let them know how much we appreciate them, (they might not agree with us, but we know we try) but this is different. Mother’s Day is their Day. It is the one day of the year that they actually can claim for their own. They deserve it. We should make it nice. They like presents. We know they expect them. That being said, we have this fear that we always get our wives, partners and girlfriends the wrong things. Mostly because we almost always do. Not that we do not try. I see six previous mother’s day “gifts” still hanging on a hook (expensive purse) or the hangars (clothes/sweaters/dresses/coats) not used or worn yet. Am I really that bad at choosing good gifts for someone? Am I not really paying attention? Do we need help? Maybe.

With each new year, the fear gets even more compelling…

I am sure that I am not alone. In this, I bet that all of us Dads feel the same way.

With Mother’s day looming, I could not let this date on the calendar slide without writing something about Mother’s day, because without Mothers there would be no HeadsUp Dad—I love my Mom and I love the Mother of my children, honestly I do, but there’s something about Mother’s day that strikes fear into my heart every year.

I am not going to write a post about the fear that grips our hearts every year at this time—No, I do not want this to be a negative thing—I do not want to comiserate with all of the other guys who may or may not share my fear in this regard—I do not want to lament my own shortcomings or our collective misgivings—what I do want to do is provide my community of Highly Engaged and Active Dads some honest to goodness solutions with just enough notice that they can actually use this advice to get them out of hot water before they even get in it this year, not next.

Mother’s Day is this Sunday. Many of us have already taken care of this. Many of us are still thinking about it and some, poor boys, will not be able to do anything until they wake up this Saturday. Good luck to you! That gives us a couple of days to think about it. Get going. There are all kinds of amazing tools out there these days that can make this easier than ever before. Don’t wait. If you have not taken care of this by now, find a way to get out of the office early today and take care of business. You will be glad you did.

I hope to post some more ideas here over the next day or so, please come and check back in for more great gift ideas and suggestions. Need some more inspiration? Start here.

Good Luck Everyone!

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Sustainable Family Fun in Toronto: The Evergreen Brickworks

Brickworks_DV107, originally uploaded by HeadsUp_Dad.

The weatherman was not so sure about how the day was going to unfold, but this gang of boys and one girl was not to be dissuaded by the weather map’s ambiguity.

It was Saturday afterall, and the weekend warrior’s eco-adventure awaits. Another opportunity to seek out a deeper connection to the world we live in, in a spectacular natural environment. Today, we were heading out to hike, climb, walk, scramble up, slide down and get as dirty as we could in pursuit of fun and frolic in the urban Jungle. Destination: The Evergreen Brickworks in Toronto via the Don Valley Ravine.

The Don Valley Brick Works Park is awe-inspiring: a haven for wildlife and naturalists alike, it is at the heart of Toronto’s ravines. Opened in 1996, the park is managed by Toronto Parks, Forestry and Recreation. The Don Valley Brick Works Park is worth a visit in any season.

Here is how the day unfolded…


Evergreen Brick Works is a community environmental centre that inspires and equips visitors to live, work and play more sustainably.

Free and open to everyone, Don Valley Brick Works Park is the back garden to the revitalized industrial pad that is now Evergreen Brick Works. Spend an afternoon with your kids, bring your dog and a few friends. There is room for everyone. It feels more like a walk in the country.


From 1889 to the 1980s the Don Valley Brick Works was one of Canada’s pre-eminent brickyards. At its peak more than 43 million bricks a year were manufactured for use in the construction of homes and buildings across Canada. Many of Toronto’s most prominent buildings were made from Don Valley brick – Massey Hall and Old City Hall are two examples.



On Taking Risks…
When I see a pack of 3 and 4 years old boys and girls eagerly climbing over tree roots, walking through riverbeds, over stumps, under fallen trees, scrambling up and down steep inclines, it gives me a sense of gratitude. To know that my boys are taking on these small challenges head on with such enthusiasm tells me that they are going to do ok in life. These same photos may however cause some parents to stir uncomfortably in their seats. Isn’t that too risky? They are only four years old. Couldn’t they get hurt?

Risk is part of life.

We encounter it every day. We can avoid it entirely or we can learn how to manage it. Children need to learn about risk in moderated ways: One of the best ways to help children learn about risk is to teach them how to deal with difficult and tricky situations by allowing them to experience them in controlled conditions. How can kids, who are part of nature themselves, come to be fully aware and alive if they are not allowed to engage complicated situations and challenges outdoors? Everyone of those tree stumps, river beds, steep inclines and dirty bum adventures sliding down the big hill is an opportunity for your child to encounter, experience and manage risk for himself in a relatively safe, controlled and supervised natural environment. Your kids will emerge stronger, more capable and more confident with each new obstacle and a will to go on to the next one with renewed enthusiasm.



Evergreen Brick Works is situated in the heart of Toronto’s ravine network. Citizens and government agencies have been working to protect the city’s ravines from development since the late 1960s. Toronto’s network of ravines is much loved by city residents – for viewing nature, for hiking and biking. Author Robert Fulford once said “the ravines are to Toronto what canals are to Venice, hills are to San Francisco and the Thames is to London. They are the heart of the City’s emotional geography, and understanding Toronto requires an understanding of the ravines.” Evergreen Brick Works features programming related to and connected with the exploration of Toronto’s ravines.





The Don River Watershed is 38 km in length and 360 square km in area. While you were walking through here, you would not know that over 800,000 people live near here in and around the Don Valley – it is Canada’s most urban watershed. Citizen groups and government agencies have been working to “bring back the Don” since the late 1980s. Through Evergreen Brick Works, Evergreen is proud to be a contributor to the restoration of the Don.



Nature right in our own back yard
Many of us are blind to the nature that is all around us. We are a windshield generation. We see everything these days through the lens of a windshield. Time is so tight, and we are so busy that we rarely take the time to stop to smell the roses anymore. City dwellers often drive past it every day and never even know what is there just on the other side of the guard rail. We urbanites go about our daily routines and rituals barely aware that we live next door to the nature that is all around us.


Brickworks_DV45Just over there on the other side of the Guardrail

The Brickworks park in Toronto is a fine example. It is what exists just over the guardrail from the Don Valley Parkway as millions of commuters travel up and down it each and every day, with nary a moment thought about what exists down there. Well, as you can see, there is an awful lot to see and do. Stuff most people would not equate with the presence of a major commuter highway.


We are blind to what is just under our noses because we expect nature to be much wilder, and grander, farther away—a place we have to travel great distances to get to. Somewhere you can only go on summer vacation once a year.

To your children, the local ravine behind your subdivision or a mile away is its own special universe. So much to see, to do, to touch, sense and feel. Taking the time to walk through these areas, to stop, to notice and reflect on what you see around you—trees, plants, animals, streams, ponds and pools, rock formations and wildflowers can be very rewarding and highly restorative. Let yourself go, and give your kids the time to stop and listen. Just be. There is nothing more calming, more relaxing, more rejuventating. Feel the warm spring breeze, smell the freshness of the air, soak in the sunlight as it filters through a canopy of green, leafy treetops. Slow down. Pay attention and just breathe.




Schools can teach kids about trees, plants, wildlife, rivers, lakes, oceans and marine life in textbooks and encyclopedia’s. They provide education about geography, history and the environment, but it is personal connection to our natural environment that leads to an appreciation for the importance of and why we must sustain these spaces in our lives.

At HeadsUp Dad, we would like to encourage you to take time out this spring and summer to get outside, wander in the ravines, hike around your local park, drive out to the country and experience the healing powers of nature. Your kids just might (make that definitely will) come home dirty, with skinned knees and scraped elbows, but they will also most certainly have grown that much stronger, healthier and happier. They will come home glowing but tired, hungry and eager for a good home cooked meal and in the end a long, restorative night of deep sleep and endless dreams of adventure in the wild.



Follow the meandering paths up the North Slope and you’ll be rewarded with a spectacular view of the Toronto skyline. Your kids will want to slide all the way down on their butts squealing with delight every inch of the way.  At the bottom of the hill, there is a wetland area that offers a completely different experience. Walking along the boardwalks you are likely to spot a turtle or three sunning on a log and fish swimming in the ponds. Look for a great blue heron in the reeds, a family of ducks paddling along and songbirds too.


Evergreen is proud to continue to protect and restore this important ecosystem. They can not do this important work alone. Why not consider rolling up your sleeves, diving in and helping out. You and your kids would have a great time and they would learn all kinds of wonderful things about plants and wildlife and the eco-system we all share. You could spend a morning tidying up the path and waterways, planting native species, caring for our plantings and removing invasives. 

No experience required, just a willingness to get your hands dirty and enjoy nature in the heart of the city. Their Garden Group meets twice a week.






Heron and painted turtles in the Quarry Pond Water is central to the site. Evergreen Brick Works is adjacent to the lower Don River and within its watershed and floodplain. Mud Creek runs through the site and four ponds filter stormwater and provide habitat in the Don Valley Brick Works Park.



Plan to Visit

Evergreen Brick Works is open year-round. Summer activities start in May, and in September 2010 they will celebrate the grand opening with a suite of new features.

View on Google Maps


550 Bayview Avenue, Toronto, Ontario
Located between the Prince Edward Viaduct (Bloor/Danforth) and Pottery Road, just north of the Bayview exit from the Don Valley Parkway. Please note there is no access to Bayview from Bloor Street.
Bus. Bike. Walk.

Leave your cars and cares behind. They have limited parking until construction wraps up this summer.

Featured post

Protecting your Estate: Where there’s a Will…

To love what is lovely, but will not last

There are a variety of things that we don’t like to do. Taking out the garbage comes to mind, as a task that is unpleasant, but absolutely necessary to the proper functioning of a household.

So it is with a legal Will. Many families, particularly young families, put off the inevitable conversation about their Will. It is an unpleasant conversation, and there are a good deal of difficult decisions to be made and discussions to be had, to solve some problems that will (hopefully) never arise.

Its not about you…

At the end of the day, there is nothing more important than protecting your family and their future in the event of an untimely meeting with your maker. Everything you have done, every nickel you have saved, every asset you have accumulated does not want to be tied up in court while they try to figure out what to do with it. You don’t want your creditors, government, family, any of your beneficiaries to be arguing, fighting, negotiating over your assets at a time when they should be taking the time to deal with their own losses and come to terms with their new realities.

Bottom line: Drafting a legal Will and a Power of Attorney is a necessary and fundamental part of the financial planning process.

The downside to dying without a Will is that there is a time lag between that event and when your estate is cleaned up. When someone dies, the courts need to probate your estate, and then approve the passing of assets on, even if that person is a spouse. With a proper Will, the courts can quickly move things along. Without a proper Will, this can draw out and lengthen the process—which is already full of emotional burden.

There are two significant roles and responsibilities you need to appoint before you begin:

  1. Executor – this is the person that is in charge of carrying out the terms of the will.  Many spouses appoint each other, but often there is an alternate appointed in the event of a common disaster (i.e. both parents pass away).
  2. Guardian – this is the person that you appoint to take care of your children should you not be able to.
  3. Powers of Attorney – this is a person who will be able to make decisions on your behalf if you are incapacitated.

Once you have these roles determined, and before you see a lawyer, you should also take account of the following:

  • make a list of all assets (investments, RRSP’s, pensions plans, real estate, family heirlooms, i.e. anything you own of significance financially or emotionally)
  • make a list of all debt (mortgage, student loans, etc.)
  • identify all insurance policies (personally owned, group/employer policies)
  • identify any other legal arrangements that may impact your planning (pre-nuptial agreements, shareholders agreements, etc.)

Finally, when you go to see the lawyer to draft your will (I would encourage spending the money on a lawyer, and not using a will planning kit), you should also prepare your powers of attorney.  A power of attorney outlines who has the legal right to make decisions if you are incapable of making those decisions for yourself.  Usually people draft two powers of attorney: one is for their wealth (for decisions about their money), and the other is about health, (decisions about healthcare).

Identifying the key roles in your will and POA planning, as well as a thorough list of assets, liabilities and insurance in advance will go a long way to speeding up the process of drafting the will.  As with Life Insurance, a small investment of time and money well spent and a few prudent but simple and easy steps today, will make things that much easier for those that are left behind. The good news is that this will help you save some money on legal fees, even if you won’t be around to spend it.

In the end, you will have a document that will protect your family and will streamline a stressful process during what will certainly be a very difficult, tragic and traumatic time (unless by chance you are not only dead, but a Deadbeat Dad—but of course you are not one of those. You would not be here right now, sitting with that concerned look on your face, reading this post while looking up your lawyer’s telephone number on your Blackberry or your iPhone—there it is, that was not so hard now was it? Go ahead, hit the dial button).

Questions? Concerns?

Please feel free to post your comments and questions here. We’ll be happy to help.

Featured post

Technology makes Private Schools better than Public Schools

New technology like iPads, smart blackboards and sophisticated social networking applications have made Ontario private schools into awesome educational facilities.  I recently attended a theatre performance at a private school north of Toronto that was preceded by a walking tour of the facilities.  As many of you know from reading my posts here, I’m a science fiction fan, and I couldn’t help thinking about how much things have changed from back when I went to public school in rural Ontario. These high tech classrooms reminded me of the ‘school deck’ on board the Starship Enterprise – indeed private schools seem to be the Star Fleet Academy of our age!

Students in lecture hall with smart blackboard and instructor taking questions on laptops at St. Andrew's College in Aurora Ontario

A recent article on Lilith Galleries Technology eZine,  Five Reasons Why Private Schools Will Produce Tomorrow’s Tech Leaders nicely summarizes how Ontario private schools have adopted high tech gadgets as educational tools.  But more than just the equipment – which is almost always  less than two years old, it’s a well funded faculty’s willingness to experiment with innovation. And this same spirit of adoption is communicated to the students.

Globalization and Technology Are Changing Canadian Classrooms

Many of the printed textbooks in Canadian public schools, even if only a few years old, are already obsolete for the careers of tomorrow.  Most private schools require that their students use laptops the entire school day.  There are no textbooks to carry home, and no papers to mark as many reports are submitted via email – the instructor is just one instant message away, and so there is more accountability and a dynamic adaptation to today’s business technology.  This gives students a much different technological base than those who write and record notes using pen and paper.

International Students make Canadian Schools Special

Private schools are able to tap into a much more diverse array of academic and extracurricular programs than public schools. And the mix of international students is also something that adds to the charm of these institutions. Most Ontario private school offer a variety of exchange programs, courses with a global outlook, and more foreign language classes.

Private School Social Networking Scholars

St. Andrew's College has excellent computer science facilities for boysPrivate schools have always been unique in creating a sense of community, but now social networks encourage even closer-knit relationships between students.  Teacher / student relationships also improve as new communication systems promote mutual respect. The Journal of Educational Psychology noted that students are more likely to perform better on tests when they believe their instructors genuinely care about them.

Technology is changing classrooms all over Canada, but the public education system is less well funded.  They don’t have the budget to be bold.  Consequently they attract safe thinkers that are secure in what’s been tried, tested and true. That kind of thinking doesn’t produce innovation.

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Where can your kids play soccer or baseball?

HeadsUp Dad brings you organized soccer and baseball leagues in your areas with the League Selector by Canadian Tire

Want to get your kids engaged with sports in your community but don't know where to go? Canadian Tire has the answer!

Thinking of getting your son or daughter involved in an active summer, playing Soccer or Baseball in an organized community league?

Not sure where to go or where to sign up? Heads Up Dad spotted this today and wanted to pass it along to you.

The good people in the marketing department at Canadian Tire obviously believe in the many benefits of getting your kids engaged too, so have knocked their heads together and come up with an innovative community engagement idea in the form of a league finder tool. It does not need much more of an introduction than that.

Your child should engage in and play sports:

When you get your kids involved in any kind of sports activities, you are looking out for more than their physical well-being. Organized play contributes to a greater sense of self awareness, allows them to experience being part of a team, improves their overall health and happiness, whether your child is swinging a bat, swimming in a pool or kicking a ball.

There are many benefits of athletic activities for kids:

  • Physical Exercise: Running around, jumping, playing outdoors in the fresh air improves all areas of physical conditioning, including cardiovascular health, muscle development, coordination and weight control.
  • Self Esteem: Participating in organized youth sports is a confidence builder. Kids learn new skills, discover their talents and strengths, and enjoy an ongoing sense of accomplishment.
  • Community and Teamwork: Joining a local community sports league gives young kids a chance to socialize and make new friends. They learn the importance of working together with their peers to accomplish a common goal.
  • Passion and Dedication to task: Discovering a passion for sports not only provides an escape from everyday routines, it also helps cultivate essential life skills like focus, concentration, discipline, perseverance and commitment.

All in all it is a great idea to enroll your kids in organized sporting activities for many reasons. Make sure you get them engaged in activities that are right for them. Expose them to as much as they are interested in and remember not to push them too hard if they are not having a good time. Its all about having fun, getting fit and meeting new friends. When its not fun for them, they won’t do it. If they love something, they are more likely to connect with it and stick with it for a long time.

Canadian Tire has done a great job with this initiative. More companies should think outside the box like this. You win, your kids win, Canadian Tire wins. Everybody wins!

Go ahead, check it out, and after you are all signed up, remember to head over to Canadian Tire to pick up your gloves, bats, balls and everything else you need for a summer of athletic fun for your kids. Happy summer, here we come.

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How Evergreen is Rehabilitating our Cities—Brick by Brick


Evergreen Brickworks Toronto, originally uploaded by HeadsUp_Dad.

Happy Earth day Everyone!

In the spirit of tipping our hat to the place that gives us everything we need to sustain life, today’s post is going to relate to Environmental Stewardship of our planet. Specifically, the essential role we play as parents, cultivators and influencers of future generations.

We at Headsup Dad do not want to spend a lot of time protesting or complaining about things. We know what is looming. Lots of very bright and knowledgeable people are covering the story. We are more interested in learning from these people, learning from past mistakes (our own, and those that are made by others), seeking out the opportunities for positive outcomes and finding or creating the path towards the light at the end of the tunnel—and moving forward with purpose and conviction.

There is not much we can do to influence what has come before us, but we can influence what happens next.

With that in mind, its time we took a serious look what we have to deal with in terms of global warming and climate change, what we as parents can do to make the changes that are necessary to set the stage for improvement, and help empower our kids with the knowledge and tools to dig themselves out of the situation that has been created for them over the past 150 or 200 years. It begins at home, with our kids and in our own back yards. In our parks, and our forests and our fields. In our rivers, lakes and oceans. In the country, in our towns and in our cities. Everywhere we look there is opportunity for change.

HeadsUp Dad: Environmental Stewardship at Evergreen Brickworks in Toronto

Kidseye View from the Top at Evergreen Brickworks in Toronto

What we do today affects the cities we live in tomorrow.

Since 1991 Evergreen has been engaging Canadians in creating and sustaining dynamic outdoor spaces—in schools, communities and homes. By deepening the connection between people and nature, and empowering Canadians to take a hands-on approach to their urban environments, Evergreen is improving the health of our cities—now and for the future.

The Evergreen Brick Works is a unique environmental community centre and green cities centre for urban sustainability. Currently under construction in the heart of Toronto’s Don River Valley, this spectacular natural and industrial heritage site and its ongoing engaging programming from Farmers’ Markets to seminars and plantings, is already inspiring and educating the community to embrace a sustainable future.

When we celebrate its grand opening in September, 2010, the Brick Works will be a showcase for green building design, environmental stewardship and a model for sustainability.

The revitalized turn of the century Brickworks compound will feature an ecologically diverse area with lots of history, a fine example of urban renewal and naturalization, a bunch of really old buildings and one brand spanking new new structure—the Centre for Urban Sustainability—a five-storey LEED platinum (Leadership in Energy and Environmental design) office building.

Aspiring to the very highest standard within the LEED certification scale, this building will be an international destination for those interested in sustainable built environments. Evergreen, along with community partners, will be housed together in this hub of social and environmental innovation.

HeadsUp Dad visits the Brickworks in Toronto

Kids Adventure in the City at Evergreen Brickworks in Toronto

Evergreen’s mission is to bring communities and nature together for the benefit of both.

Evergreen envisions a sustainable society where individuals live in harmony with and contribute meaningfully to their local environment. Evergreen will be at the forefront of the movement to create this society, by empowering communities, by creating innovative resources and by transforming educational values.

No mind is too small to sow the seeds of change.

At HeadsUp Dad, we believe that the continued existence of the human race on this planet is going to depend on how well we educate and inspire our kids to become aware and in awe of the world that we live in. To know nature is to love it, love leads to respect, and to respect is to take ownership of and stewardship over the gifts that we have been given. Knowledge leads to action and that the more that people know about the effects of their actions, the more likely they are to think about what they do.


Wyatt's pal Milo having a blast at the Brickworks in Toronto

Evergreen is a not-for-profit organization that makes cities more livable. Corporate sponsorship, private donations and public support make its programs possible—Volunteers help drive its programs forward.

Volunteering at Evergreen offers you and your family a great opportunity to help the environment right in your own community. Come out and get your hands dirty, meet a few new friends and… make a difference. Evergreen has events planned in communities across Canada all summer long and they could use your help. Get outside, have fun, teach your kids about the wonderful world we live in and help a worthy cause.

Evergreen volunteers help out with a wide range of hands-on activities:

  • local plantings
  • community gardens
  • food gardens
  • invasive species pulls
  • greenspace stewardship
  • special projects and fundraising events
  • research
  • community or school presentations
  • outreach at local events
  • office and administrative work
HeadsUp Dad, Environmental Stewardship

What was once an industrial wasteland is now a vibrant ecosystem and nature park in the heart of the city

To learn more about stewardship and planting events and other volunteer opportunities in your area, visit the Evergreen Website.

Click here to see a list of some of their current volunteer opportunities. Take a look at their calendar. Please take your time and look for something you might enjoy doing with your kids on a sunny Sunday afternoon. See what fits into your life. Reach out, connect, let them know what you are interested in volunteering, or even better, apply to a role that suits you! You can complete and submit a Volunteer Application Form right on their website.

Together, we as parents can work together to create a culture of appreciation and respect of our natural environment. By getting engaged and supporting organizations like Evergreen, we all can look forward to a healthier, more sustainable future in which people and nature thrive together.

Do you have any photos of your kids outdoors, enjoying play and learning about the wonders of their natural environment?

Send them in to us here at HeadsUpDad, we’ll post them for all of us to share and enjoy—who knows, maybe it will lead to something fun for you and your family.

Go on, get out there!

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Brandkarma – Social media on a mission


Brand Karma was started in an attempt to help answer two basic questions – what kind of a world do you want to live in and what kind of a world do you want to leave your kids?  They’re important questions, far too important to leave to governments, regulators, experts and business leaders to answer by themselves. Time for another voice at the table that we can all be part of.

Enter Brandkarma – a social media platform on a mission – ‘to help everyone make better brand choices and to influence brand behavior for good’.

We all know that our purchase decisions have consequences. And most of us want to do the right thing, everything considered, if only we knew where to start.

Just like the underlying philospohy here at HeadsUp Dad, it makes perfect sense that we all should help each other.  More and more, we rely on family, friends, colleagues and ‘strangers like me’ to inform our decisions.

Brandkarma makes it easy for us to share, amplify and mobilize our opinions around brands.  I believe there’s wisdom in the crowd and that together we can make the world a better place – one Dad, one family, one community and one brand at a time.

Brandkarma – Social media on a mission – to help everyone make better brand
choices and influence brand behavior for good.

Go check it out, sign up and say your piece.

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Vitamins and Supplements for Optimal Health and Vitality

Optimal Health and Vitality

photo courtesy of Peter Argue

Are you looking to optimize your Health and Vitality?

I’m sure you have heard it. There are those that believe that taking any extra nutritional supplement is a very quick way to flush down expensive urine, and that all that our bodies nutritional requirements can come from the food we eat.

But vitamins and minerals are essential to life, and if we are not getting at least the recommended daily allowance of these micronutrients, our immunity and vitality is definitely compromised. Busy lives, high stress, illnesses, medications, poor diet and lifestyle habits or ANY one of the above can wreak havoc on our body systems. Therefore, let’s be safe, and add a few key supplements to your good health arsenal. Alongside a proper diet, exercise and a positive attitude, here are my recommendations. And please know, that the following supplements are generally extremely safe, but with any new addition to your daily regimen, always check with your physician to make sure there aren’t any contraindications to your present health profile.

Consider adding these top supplements to your daily diet:

A good quality men’s multi vitamin and mineral

Taking a daily multi is a good way to help reduce your chances of developing heart disease, diabetes and even stroke. A multi can help slow down the aging process, increase energy and boost the immune system. When you look for the men’s multi that best suits your needs, consider your age and overall level of health, and look for one with little or no iron. Men are at an increased risk of heart disease if/when they take too much iron. Centrum Silver is a good bet because it’s totally free of iron. And please remember to take your daily mutli after a big meal. Without a lot of food, a multi vitamin can nauseate you.

Essential Fatty Acids (EFA’s):

Omega 3-6-9 are called essential fatty acids because our bodies do not produce them, so we have to supply them. A good blend of “good fats” is integral for health as they help restore energy, aid in healthy hormonal balance (keeping a healthy level of testosterone is vital for optimal health), maintain good cardiovascular health and have been shown to lower cholesterol and decrease blood pressure. And they also have an anti-inflammatory response in most of our body systems and especially aid in better joint health. Find a supplement that combines all 3 of the EFA’s so that you are assured a good combination of each. I like Udo’s Oil. This can be found in any good nutrition store.


Take boron to protect your prostate. Most men do not get enough of this mineral. Not only does it fight cancer, it can improve memory and concentration too! With as little as 3mg a day, your prostate health can be protected. It’s a tough little mineral to find, but I know that GNC carries it. And if by chance you can’t find it, eat raisins and almonds and plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. These foods contain lots of boron.

Next week, I am going to change my emphasis from supplements for health to supplements for performance and muscular repair. I’ll offer tons of insight for increased muscle mass and lowered body fat.

Got questions or concerns about vitamins and supplements and your health??

Post your questions right here and I’ll do my best to get right back to you here in the Fitness Lab at HeadsUp Dad!

Shawna L. Marshall B.A.,BKin.,H.D

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Arts and Crafts: How to make coffee filter flowers

dancing the breeze, originally uploaded by HeadsUp_Dad.

Hello Dad!

At last, spring is finally here and what a great time to enjoy everything about it – the warmth, the sound of birds singing, and buds appearing on the trees. It won’t be long before you see the colours of flowers appearing in your neighbours’ gardens or before you begin to plant your own. Until then, here is an activity for dads to enjoy with your children. A chance to fill your home with the colours and aromas of flowers, and to welcome spring as you spend time together engaging in creative play!

Coffee Filter Flowers

For this activity you will need:

  • Coffee filters
  • Assorted colours of fruit flavoured gelatin*
  • Containers (e.g., small bowls)
  • Clothes pegs
  • Pipe cleaners

*This activity can also be done using regular food colouring, if you have some. The filters could also be coloured using scented markers!

How to do the Activity:
Prepare three or four small bowls of “dye” by dissolving a heaping spoonful of gelatin powder in hot water. The colours available are quite bright and produce good results. The gelatin also smells really yummy! Talk about which colour is your favourite, and why. Encourage your child to guess the smell of each different gelatin. Is it strawberry? Grape? Lemon? Children learn important concepts using their senses.

Next help your child to fold the coffee filter in half three times, until it resembles a small cone. Clip a clothes peg to it, to make dipping the filter into the dissolved gelatin easier and a little less messy. Dip the filter into the different colours until you have covered as much of it as possible. This part of the activity helps your child to practice using the small muscles in the hands and fingers and to co-ordinate movements.

Carefully open up the filter to reveal the “tie dyed” flower that you have created. Allow the filter to dry. When it is ready, pinch the centre of the filter, and wrap a pipe cleaner around this, to create a stem. Repeat this process with many filters to create a beautiful spring bouquet. Invite your child to select a container for the flowers and to make a display for the dinner table! This will build your child’s pride in his or her creation.

To extend the activity, go to the library and sign out of a copy of the book Dancing the Breeze by George Shannon. This is a beautiful book about a father and daughter dancing together in the garden by the light of the moon. You can explore the different names of flowers, while enjoying the author’s poetry. If you feel inspired to do this, put on your favourite music, wave colourful scarves and invent your own flower dance!

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Debunking 3 common myths about physical fitness

BeerBelly171, originally uploaded by Heavy Duty Bear.

Time to get fit?

Confused by bombarding fitness information? What’s truth and what is myth?

I never knew my life as a trainer could be so rewarding and so much fun. I have incredible passion for my work, and after several years in the business, I can honestly say that there are a few questions that I am always asked, and I feel it’s my duty to set the record straight and offer you guys the truth. Helping you conquer some common fitness myths will allow me to better serve you and your fitness goals!

Let’s rid of a few misconceptions together…

Myth #1: “If I do hundreds of crunches a day, my flabby tummy will disappear right?”

Answer: This is something we call “spot reduction” pick a problem area and do every isolating exercise under the sun and pray it goes away. It never works. To help alleviate any “laundry” on your washboard, you have to clean up your diet, lessen alcohol consumption, do a minimum of 30 minutes of cardio at least three days a week, weight train and add some resistance to your ab routine. One hundred crunches alone, just won’t “cut” it.

Myth #2: “How long will it take to turn all of my fat into muscle?”

Answer: Muscle and fat are two very different types of tissue. It is physically impossible for one to become the other. In order to stimulate muscle growth, you have to lift heavy things. To burn fat, keep your body moving, and trim your diet. Put both of these points together and you have a winning formula! And be sure to eat a healthful breakfast each day so that your metabolism is turned on and your body’s natural fat burning process has been set in gear.

Myth #3: “I guess I am wasting my time at the gym if I can actually walk after my workouts right?”

Answer: Always using soreness as a measure of training success isn’t a great idea. This could be your body’s way of telling you that you’re overtraining and overstressing your muscles. Hitting a plateau in your regimen isn’t ideal, but debilitating yourself each workout is going to slow you down to a halt soon enough. I’m not saying that some stiffness and soreness is wrong, because you want to feel that you have accomplished an effective workout, but I don’t want you on the market for walkers either! Change your workout routine about every 6 weeks to keep you on track and to offer some new challenges to your muscles.

I hope I have helped to clarify a few common fitness misconceptions for you.If you have any questions or other myths you would like to debunk, post your comments here. We’ll do our best to get back to you here in this space.

Remember to train hard, eat smart, and keep your eye on the prize! You CAN do this! Watch for the top vitamin supplements for men’s optimal health!

That’s coming up next on the Fitness Lab…

Shawna L. Hamilton B.A.,BKin.,H.D

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Creative Frugal – Try a Lenzr Photo Safari with Kids

boy snapping pics for lenzr photo contest

Sophisticated kids need stimulation. Some parents tell me their oldest boys and girls will ask ‘whats in it for me?’ when you propose family fun activities that don’t include shopping malls or Playdium type amusement centers.

Nature is becoming an increasing tough sell as kids resent being unplugged for any length of time. I know one ten year old that smuggles a hand held game device somewhere on his person, everywhere he travels. The GameBoy does a great job keeping him quiet in the back of the car, but it also keeps him ‘unengaged’ with the rest of society and inhibits natural learning.

Digital cameras are powerful toys for young minds

A family photo safari often is the natural result of equipping all participants with inexpensive digital cameras and issuing targets – Dad simply has to think of some interesting photographic themes that will unite the creativity into a fun assignment.

Take the photo safari idea one step further, and use the mandates set by the Lenzr serial photo contest website.  Suddenly its possible to have family fun and be frugal at the same time.  Breathtaking images that are snapped can be uploaded to Lenzr where they will compete for audience attention and win real prizes.

Today its possible to do all things more efficiently online, from ordering movie tickets to finding a Toronto dentist or even buying medicine from an online natural medicine store. And tts also possible to connect with a lot of opportunitiesthat can be incorporated in fun family activity.

Next outing, select a Lenzr photo contest theme as the blue ribbon target for a fun family photo safari.

Lenzr is packed full of photo contests in the spring of 2010 and they are all quite unique. And the prizes are better than ever. In this session you can win a battery powered lawnmower, an air filtration unit, a 10×10 pop up tent and and an AT&T business phone that’s years ahead of its time.

Take pictures of green ideas and learn some things as kids teach environmentalism to adults these days…

Lenzr photo contest plate, how green are you sponosred by grass cutting company

Kids are generally way more connected than their parents, and they are almost always better recycliers and more attuned to planet Earth’s new enviro priorities. Its safe to say that kids will have even more green ideas than adults, and they are uniquely skilled at spotting and lensing energy saving innovations.

The How Green Are You? Lenzr photo contest is already something of a Lifestyle challenge and the mission is designed to actively help spread the green message among adults. You might learn sopmething from your kids here, and discover truly that it doesn’t take much to be green. Its really just about making good choices.

organic lawn care service in Toronto Ontario uses solar power, grass cuttingThe new photo challenge hopes to collect one sentence stories and pictures of eco friendly concepts.  The better they are, the more likely they will inspire others to adopt green practices.  The photo contest could indeed become a repository of good, easy to impliment green solutions.

The How Green Are You? photo contest on Lenzr is sponsored by a solar powered grass cutting lawn care service company in the city of Toronto. The firm uses biofuel trucks and trailers to transport battery operated lawnmowers that are charged with solar electricity (see the pictures above). The firm offers sustainable, organic lawn care service and BONUS, their Neuton battery powered lawnmowers are very quiet.

grass cutting, Neuton CE6, battery operated lawnmower, Lenzr photo contest, how green are you

THE PRIZE for being green and uploading the most popular photo is Neuton CE 6 Battery-Powered Mower with DURACELL® battery technology.

The green friendliest and most popular snapshot wins a lawnmower where there’s no gas or oil to spill and no engine emissions to pollute the air. The 360 watt-hours of battery provide plenty of power. The Neuton CE 6 mower can cut about 1/3 acre (approx 15,000 sq. ft.) on a single charge. If you need more time, just swap in another battery and keep on mowing! Approx retail value $489.00 + shipping.

Geothermal is for super heroes. Take pictures of Fire and Ice.

Fire and Ice is geothermal photo contest on Lenzr for air filter prize Are you planning on visiting a sugar bush? or a midnight mass church service? or a backyard bonfire?  If so it would be easy to get good shots for a  in this geothermal theme simply by telling them that fire photography is very tricky, and requires lots of practice.

This would be a good target for a visit to a pioneer farm,  especially an old fashion sugar bush with an iron pan and hickory wood fire.

The Fire and Ice photo contest on Lenzr is probably the coolest theme, and will be no doubt be the hottest competition on the index as photographers show off their skills. GeoAir PCO air purifier unit that uses ultraviolet light to break apart organic molecules suspended in mid airThe Prize is GeoAir PCO air purifier that uses Photo Catalytic Oxidation (PCO) and is probably the most advanced air purifying technology available in the marketplace today. Unlike existing air cleaning systems that rely solely on ultraviolet light, the GeoAir PCO device integrates a titanium dioxide semiconductor to leverage photocatalytic oxidation allowing it to vaporize mold spores, bacteria, viruses in an 187 square-inch Ti02 grid. The system is cost-effective, maintenance-free and provides maximum energy efficiency with negligible resistance to airflow.

Going looking for fun at Backyard Party Events – this one is easy and ready made for photo journalists of all ages.

backyard party events photo contest on lenzrBackyard Party Events is a photo contest for the those super cool Parents who would rather be hosts than guests. This is a fun activity that could net an expensive pop-up backyard tent. Those tents arent cheap because there’s a lot of steel in the frame and hinges.

Toronto party rentals, kids enjoying backyard birthday party with applesThe contest sponsor is a Toronto party rentals company that wants to see pictures of people who stay home and host parties. The challenge is already building a central depository of tents and party appliances like BBQs and stereos, fences, chairs, tables, and even things you cant imagine like plastic chandeliers and that rigid AstroTurf green carpeting and heaters and buckets.

You can read about this company through the eyes of an employee, Laura the Absolute Tent and Event Services Blogger who writes about life inside downtown Toronto’s busiest party supplies and rentals house and you can read more about her on  the Toronto tent rentals on the Lenzr blog.

The prize for the Lenzr member that uploads the highest ranked picture is a spiffy new 10×10 Popup Tent, and $500 Gift Certificate * for anything in Absolute Tent and Event Services catalog.

Teach your children the meaning of the word ‘Obsolete’ by taking the photo safari to the town dump – you could win a $400 phone

Obsolete Office Equipment on Lenzr from business phone sponsor prize is advanced telephone equipmentObsolete Office Equipment is a photo contest that’s centered on old junk. The web challenge is great for kids and adults that are going out into scrapyards or junk depositories or anywhere that has old stuff ready to be lensed.

The sponsor of this challenge hopes to uncover lots of fun images that archive old, out-of-date office systems and esp communication mechanisms like old telephones.

Lenzr prize for Obsolete office equipment, business telephone, ATT 1070, The sponsor is a business phones consultant and designer and installation wizard.  The company believes that understanding each client’s needs is the key to helping them choose the right telephone system. The closer your chosen telephone system comes to meeting your specific requirements, the greater the value it will add to your business.

The Prize is a 4 Line office telephone AT&T Model 1070. This state-of-the-art communication device has 4 line speakerphone & answering system capability. With Caller ID / Page / Intercom / Call transfer / Expandable to 16 stations / 32 # speed dial / 3 party conference / 6 number redial, it has so many wonderful functions!

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Three Easy Steps to Put Your Fitness Routine in Gear!

Spring has sprung!
and with it, come the shorts, t-shirts and the bulges that have taken over since last summer…

Do you want to get fit and in better shape but are not sure where to start?
I’m not only an experienced, professional trainer, I am also a sister and a friend to a few good men, and I have to say that I am increasingly aware of what a busy dad contends with on a daily basis. With all of the demands that you guys juggle each day, its no wonder all aspects of your well being feel depleted. It takes a lot of energy to be the modern professional, a husband, dad, coach, disciplinarian, appeaser and your average household handyman. I’m sure plenty of you dads out there want to get in better shape just to be able to handle it all!

Lucky you—it’s my pleasure to help you get back in the game of fitness!

Let’s face it, without a strong, healthy body and a confident and happy mind, you won’t be able to put your best foot forward. It’s very important that you do what it takes to be your best at work, at home and with the kids! The key to our longevity is due much less to our genetics and more about how we take care of ourselves right?
So, my best advice to get you up and moving and feeling better involve a few easy “starter tips.”
These tips will help sway your scale in the right direction and help build a stronger you:

First; try a carbohydrate-cycled diet.

Alternate between days of low carb (intake is below 50g/day) and moderate carb intake (times 1.5 with your bodyweight to get your approximate daily grams) to maintain your muscle and lessen your level of fat. Cycle the starchy carbohydrates only, and include as many fruits and vegetables as possible.

Second; Plan to weight train three times a week and “superset” your weight exercises.

Super setting means performing two exercises back-to back without rest in-between. A good way to do this technique is by super setting opposite muscle groups like chest and back, and your arm muscles like biceps and triceps. I assure you, you’ll burn more calories in less time!

And lastly; just MOVE!

Get outside, walk or jog whatever you want at least 3 times a week at a moderate intensity for over 30 minutes. Include the dog, kids and/or your significant other. Exercising together is a great way to increase fitness and family fun!

So what are you waiting for?

Building a healthy, strong body doesn’t just happen over night! You need to empower yourself by setting realistic goals and begin with the good old fashioned basics. Clean up your diet, move some iron and get your heart pumping. I’ll be here with you along the way, and I’ll check in often to see how you are doing.

Stay tuned because next time, I will share the 3 most common fitness myths with you!

I’m simply determined to get you started off on the right foot!

Got questions? Comments? Specific requests?

Post a comment here and I’ll do my best to help you out!

Shawna L. Marshall B.A.,BKin.,H.D

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A natural approach to treating seasonal allergies

318/365 Sneeze, originally uploaded by mek22.


While most of us are quite happy to wave farewell to Old Man Winter, for those who struggle with seasonal allergies or hay fever, the coming of spring is likely to bring anxiety and perhaps even dread.  Over the past few decades, allergies are on the rise, especially in children.

What is Happening?

An allergy is essentially a hypersensitive or hyper-vigilant immune system reacting to something that is harmless to the body.  Common allergens include pollen, animal dander, house dust, feathers, mites, chemicals and a variety of foods.

With seasonal allergies, one experiences respiratory distress of all kinds: a stuffed up or runny nose; congested sinuses; sneezing; and red, itchy and watering eyes.  The immune system is reacting to the pollen of trees, weeds or grasses that are active in that particular season. Spring hay fever is usually due to the pollens from grass and trees, while fall allergies are usually due to sensitivities to ragweed pollens and molds.

In the presence of an allergen, the immune system releases histamine and other chemicals to fight what is perceived as an invading organism.  These chemicals cause a cascade of physiological events in the body, ultimately leading to the swelling and congestion of the nasal passages and increased mucous production.  This overreaction by the immune system causes more damage to the body than the perceived “invader”, which is actually harmless.

Allergies can contribute to other complications with health, as the immune system is under stress and the body is in a chronic state of inflammation.  In children, such conditions may include acne, asthma, chronic ear infections, eczema, irritability and behaviour problems and difficulty with concentration.  In adults, chronic inflammation can lead to a host of chronic problems, including fatigue, muscle or joint pain, and increased susceptibility to other infections.

Treat the Cause:

Common over-the-counter allergy medications provide symptomatic relief to many.  However they act temporarily and this approach isn’t addressing what is causing the hypersensitive immune system.  The best approach is to work to stabilize and strengthen the immune system, to promote resiliency and overall health.  There are many ways to do this.

  • One key is to ensure you or your child avoids anything in the diet that there may be a sensitivity to.  If you’ve noticed any foods that cause symptoms of indigestion or discomfort, avoid them to decrease any burden on the immune system.
  • Eat plenty of foods rich in bioflavonoids, such as apricots, cherries, paprika, grapefruit, lemons, as well as fresh fruits and vegetables, especially citrus, green peppers, grapes, strawberries, black currants, prunes.
  • Avoid eating melon, banana, cucumber, sunflower seeds, chamomile, and any herbal supplements containing Echinacea if you suffer from allergies in the fall, as they are from the ragweed family.
  • Supplementation with a bioflavonoid called quercetin, and high doses of vitamin C will prevent allergic conditions, as they stabilize the cells responsible for the histamine (allergic) response, thereby making the body less reactive.
  • Minimize exposure to triggers – minimize outdoor time on days with high pollen counts, and certain times of days when pollens are high
  • Create a healthy indoor environment – air purifiers, frequent vacuuming, steam

cleaners, dehumidifiers all have the capacity to improve air quality and minimizing possible allergens in the home

  • Strengthen the immune system – vitamin C, quercetin, zinc, bioflavonoids, avoid other stressors on the immune system (ie. food allergies), rest
  • Stay hydrated – after losing a lot of fluid, it is important to keep hydrated

Other Ways to Relief:

  • Try nasal irrigation with saline solution – you can buy at the drugstore or make your own with a squirt-bottle of 8-oz water with sea salt
  • Take a hot shower or bath – many find relief from the heat and humidity
  • Take alternating hot and cold showers – while in the shower, give yourself periodic blasts of cold water (tolerably cold), alternating with usual warmer temperatures.  This causes a pumping action of the cardiovascular system and stimulates a healthy immune system
  • Use cold compresses for itchy eyes to reduce the inflammation and irritation
  • Alternate hot and cold compresses over the sinuses to promote drainage
  • Enjoy spicy foods, which clears the nasal passage:  cayenne pepper, ginger, onions, garlic
  • Drink warm tea to soothe an irritated throat, especially with honey and lemon
  • Regular steam inhalations with eucalyptus to soothe and clear the nasal passages
  • Avoid milk and dairy, which are mucous-producing foods
  • Avoid emotional states such as stress and anger, which can affect the immunity and make symptoms worse. Practice stress management techniques such as deep breathing and mindfulness meditation.

Do you have any unsolved ailments? Looking for a remedy that does not include another prescription for pharmacueticals? Questions about natural solutions to everyday medical problems?

Ask our very own Naturopathic Doctor, Erin Riseing.

Please feel free to post a comment here or ask her a question.

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Timeraiser: Social Call for Social Purpose


Your Future can be anything you want it to be - by Daryl Vocat

When times get tough, they get tough for us all. When money is tight and people just can’t scrape together cash to donate to their favourite charity, Non profits, NGO’s and local community support organizations who depend on donations from good people like you, fall short on their obligations or have to cut back on the services they provide. The people who need it most just have to do without.

Volunteers are one of the most important resources that local community service agencies, non profit organizations and NGO’s can tap into to help deliver their vital programs services. By donating time instead of your money, trained volunteers can help these small, struggling charities do what they do every day, on less money. By stepping up to the plate and getting involved, people just like you can make a huge difference in the lives of people here in your local community. Anyone who has ever volunteered can tell you, that volunteering has to be one of the most profoundly rewarding experiences anyone can share.

If volunteering is so important, and so helpful to so many people, and so rewarding for the people that sign on, then why don’t more people do it?

  • Many of us will say that we aren’t asked
  • Many of us (especially those with kids) feel like we just don’t have the time
  • Even those of us who are keen and willing to give up time, often don’t know where to find meaningful opportunities that make sense to them

Introducing Timeraiser:
One of the most innovative social purpose ventures we have seen in a while


Attend a lively and entertaining event in your city. Schmooze, network with your peers, socialize with your friends, bid on original art by local artists who really need your support—and if you win, you pay with your time instead of your cash. The struggling artist gets paid real money and you, commit to spend a little quality time with a local community support organization. There are some great agencies in there that need your support. The Canadian Youth Business Foundation provides start-up mentoring, financing and education tools for Canadians 18-34 to start and grow businesses which contribute to sustainable economic development in communities across Canada. The Cottage Dreams Recovery Initiative is a registered Canadian charity offering recent cancer survivors and their families a week at a private, donated cottage to refresh and reconnect after completing treatment. Another is Elizabeth Fry Toronto—their mission is to support women who are, have been or are at risk of being in conflict with the law. One of our favourites places to take our kids is the Brickworks in Toronto, just one ambitious re-vitalization project taken on by the wonderful people at Evergreen. Evergreen is a not-for-profit organization that makes cities more livable. By deepening the connection between people and nature, and empowering Canadians to take a hands-on approach to their urban environments, Evergreen is improving the health of Canadians by tapping in to the power of education at an early age and is supported in a major way by volunteers.

Future Possibilities’ specialized programs challenge and empower children from underserved communities to build character, valuable life skills and social responsibility with the inspiring support of trained, adult volunteer “KidCoaches”. Habitat for Humanity Toronto: Mobilizes volunteers and community partners in building affordable housing and promoting homeownership as a means to breaking the cycle of poverty.

These are just a few outstanding examples of organizations you can engage with at TImeraiser and support with your time, energy and enthusiasm. Its a win win situation for all and a fabulous idea whose time has come.

After the Timeraiser:
Create a plan and track your hours at Civic Footprint.
The Timeraiser supports emerging and mid-career artists like few other community events do: artists are paid fair market value for their work instead of being asked to donate their creativity. The art is then auctioned off at the Timeraiser to raise volunteer hours for the community. To date, the Timeraiser has invested over $310,000 in the careers of more than 450 artists across the country.
Timeraiser was conceptualized in 2002 in response to a group of friends wondering how it could be easier to find meaningful, relevant volunteer opportunities. Seven years and ten Timeraisers later, it is amazing that this grass-roots initiative has flourished into a well-known, annual event that operates in six major cities across Canada. The Timeraiser helps nonprofit and voluntary organizations, large and small, connect with potential volunteers.

Canadians in their 20s and 30s are one of the hardest demographics to reach. Timeraiser makes it easy to connect the organizations that need with the skilled and energetic volunteers that would make the difference they are trying to achieve.

Check out the timeraiser video:

The three main objectives of the Timeraiser are to:

  • Connect your organization to skilled and energetic volunteers
  • Raise awareness about your organization in the community
  • Bring together the arts and not-for-profit sectors to create community connections
To date the Timeraiser has worked with over 250 charitable organizations.
By the end of 2009 the Timeraiser will have:
  • Generated over 51,000 volunteer hours
  • Invested $300,000 in the careers of emerging artists
  • Engaged 5,000 Canadians to pick up a cause
  • Worked with 250+ charitable organizations
Taking the total financial and social community impact into account, the program’s return on investment is estimated to approach 220%, generating nearly $2.20 in ‘social good’ for each dollar invested in programming.
Check out this brief Timeraiser agency workshop video to understand what is involved in becoming a Timeraiser agency.
If you depend on volunteers to deliver your programs and services, maybe you should consider giving them a call.
On the other hand, if you have thought about or always wanted to volunteer some of your time to a worthy cause in your community, but were not sure how or where to begin, maybe you should check out the Timeraiser website:
Here, you can research the agencies that are supported and seek out relevant and meaningful volunteer opportunities that just might appeal to you and your gang of youngsters. Check it out, give it a few minutes of your time. We think is one of the single most innovative social purpose propagation ideas we have seen in a long, long while. We hope that you get inspired to roll up your sleeves and dive right in.
Better still, if you can squeeze in the time, maybe you and your kids can attend a Timeraiser event in your city. Who knows, it could be the start of something wonderful. Timeraiser is one of the most impressive social purpose ventures we have seen in a while.
For more information on innovative social purpose ventures, check out FRANK’s Social Innovation Blog published by the good idea people at FRANK Ideas and Execution Inc. If you are interested in the notion of harnessing the power of your skills and talents towards to the achievement of goals for the common good, maybe you are a New Radical. Check out Julia Moulden’s book “we are the new Radicals“: A Manifesto for Reinventing Yourself and Saving the World, published internationally by McGraw-Hill, New York (2008).
Feeling motivated to do some good ol’ community volunteer work for the common good? Get involved.
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Your RRSP and Long Term Wealth

Maximizing Your RRSP

RRSP’s are the central planning tool for many Canadians’ retirement objectives.  Say what you like, but the tax advantages of the deductible contribution are a powerful incentive to add to this tax-deferred investment vehicle.

It is important to note that the RRSP is just that – a tax deferral.  Most Canadians understand that their wealth accumulates tax free in an RRSP (more specifically, free from accrual taxation), however what most investors do not properly recognize is the effect of unwinding their RRSP.  If you are not careful, the tax that you are saving currently will be recouped by the government again later on.

So the bad news is that the RRSP is not a perfect vehicle.  The good news is that it does the trick up front, affording you tax incentive for savings, and defers tax on growth.  However, there are a variety of strategies that can help you maximize the after-tax value of your RRSP, both to you while you are living, and to your estate if/when you pass the assets to beneficiaries.

The Facts about RRSP’s

There are two main attributes of the RRSP/RRIF that we are looking to deal with in this article.  The first is the tax liability generated when the RRSP is converted into a RRIF and income is taken on an annual basis, and the second is the tax liability that exists when the RRSP/RRIF is passed along through the estate.

  • First – income that you receive from your RRSP is taxed just as though it were interest or employment income, meaning at your top marginal rate for the given tax year.  Most individuals recognize this in their planning.  The rules for RRIF payments is that there is a minimum amount that must be taken out each year, based on your age, or the age of your spouse (whichever is more beneficial).  This means that you can be forced to take out more than you need.
  • Second – in the year of death of the second spouse, the entire balance of your RRSP is included in order to calculate income tax payable on the RRSP/RRIF.  This income would come in excess of any other investment, dividend, and/or capital gain income declared on the final return.  This means that, if your RRSP was the only income you took in your final year (in Ontario), a $1,000,000 RRSP would have a tax liability of roughly $448,000, leaving your estate with only $552,000.

The tax treatment of the RRSP/RRIF at death is what we are most concerned about in this article – effectively, how do we reduce a tax liability that will erode almost one half of the savings you have worked so hard to accumulate?

Three simple approaches

Broadly defined, there are three different categories you can take to managing the ongoing and terminal tax liability in your RRSP.

  • Effectively manage your tax brackets while you take income from your RRSP.  Tax bracket management for estate planning takes a little bit of discipline.  Essentially what you are trying to do is remove income from your RRSP/RRIF at a tax bracket lower than what it would be at death.
  • Reconsider your asset allocation to reduce double taxation of Capital Gains in the RRSP structure.  Look at the tax treatment of the assets you have, and allocate the least tax efficient assets into your RRSP/RRIF.  Income producing assets are going to be taxed at the highest rate, so leave them in the RRSP/RRIF.  However, dividends and capital gains are tax-advantaged vehicles; leave them in your non-registered portfolio.
  • Use complimentary assets and strategies in combination with your RRSP to maximize the value that the RRSP delivers to you while you are living, and to your estate.  The first and simplest would be to incorporate a permanent insurance strategy into your planning, starting early if possible.  Simply put, life insurance will be able to fund the tax liability that exists within your RRSP/RRIF.  Furthermore, most permanent life insurance contracts allow you to accumulate assets within the contract on a tax deferred basis (returned tax-free if the proceeds pass on at death).

When considering a plan to minimize taxes, please remember that any tax driven strategy should be considered carefully by an independent tax professional.  The information presented above depends on certain assumptions which may or may not be relevant to all of our readers.

The long and the short of it is that the RRSP/RRIF is a great planning tool with powerful front end benefits that the average consumer enjoys – a tax deduction for savings.  But be careful: without proper planning, those savings will be eliminated by the government in retirement, or, at the latest, at death.  If your intent is to maximize your after-tax income during retirement, or to maximize the value of your estate to your heirs, careful attention should be paid to your RRSP/RRIF and how it is interacting with your tax rates and other assets and cash flows you have at your disposal.

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115 things to do in New York with your kids

Muppet WhatNot Workshop, originally uploaded by SummerSadie.

I love New York.

I have promised my almost six year old daughter that I will take her on an adventure there some day soon. I love the idea of the two of us hanging out in Central Park, shopping just for fun in a marvellous toy store, but it occurred to me, what the heck would we do for three days? Not that New York is short of things to do, quite the contrary—for my daughter’s first trip to the big apple, I’d want to do it right. I do not know the city well enough to plan out a hectic schedule of events and activities that scratch the surface much deeper than the obvious— the Museums, Galleries, Theatre, ESB, SoL, Staten Island Ferry and the usual tourist traps. I know that these things are all here, and that the best things are always free and that the locals would be the best bet for advice on all of the best things to do with a six year old, but if you only know a handful of people, most of them artists diplomats, actors and musicians—and none of them have kids, you may have a tough time getting any useful advice out of them, unless you were looking for a cool place to hang out at 3am. Pretty sure that is not the kind of advice I need for this trip.

Where do I get the best cupcakes? Where do we go shopping for little girls clothes, shoes, fun stuff that doesn’t need to cost a lot? Children’s Theatre? Music? Toy Stores? Book shops? Activities for kids? Kid friendly hotels and restaurants? The list goes on and on? Help!

I stumbled into a great Facebook group today that turned out to be a bit of a gold mine of great things you can do in New York, as seen by the cool and groovy people who live there. Even better, for those of us who want to stimulate our kids with a sense of awe and adventure on a big city trip to New York, they had a section just for us. I thought you might be interested too, so here I thought I might share it with you.

WTH do you do with kids during the winter????

and just for good measure, I’ll add a page from a mommy site that offers a Life List for Raising NYC Kids.: There has to be something good in here for you too.

100 things to do with your kids in NY before they grow up

I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait for spring. Nothing like New York city in April. I hope this inspires you to begin the process of designing a New York City family fun adventure of your own.

If you decide to go, don’t forget to check in and tell us all about it. We want to share your stories and photos.

10 Effective Ways to Get Rid of Rats

RatsRats are rodents found inside or outside the house. They appear from anywhere in search of food, water, and shelter. Rats can find your home a suitable place to dwell. Many people find them to be destructive, not only do they steal food, but they also contaminate food, devastate properties, bring plagues, and transmit many diseases. Because of these disadvantages that rats come with, it is essential to know of various ways to get rid of rats effectively. The following are some of the most effective methods for rat removal:

Clean House

Cleaning your house well is considered as the first and most effective way to get rid of rats effectively. You can clean by removing their sources of food and shelter as much as possible. You should cover remained dishes and pet dishes, keep the yard and home clean, close lids on the garbage cans. Proper hygiene will also help you know what is attracting rats in your house and know their hideouts.

Use Of Traps (Trapping)

Trapping gets rid of rats fast. It is done by taking a humane trap and putting bait like Peanut butter and cheese to attract the rat. As the rat tries to eat this, it will be caught in the trap.

You can then take it and throw it away from your home or in the woods so that it never comes back. A well-fed rat may not eat the bait used in rat traps. It will be wise to exhaust their food source before setting the trap or using rat poison.

However, we recommend only using poison as a last resort. As it poses a health risk to all of the predators that may decide to make a meal out of the poisoned rat. It could be a beautiful coyote, a wild fox – or even your own best friend taking his last woof.

If you do decide to use poisons – you will need to go the extra mile to ensure no other animals are harmed through ingesting the poisoned rat. Which means you will need to dispose of the rats properly in the trash.


Use Of Rodenticides

Poison baits should be used in areas where children and domestic animals cannot access them for protection against poisoning. Rat baits come in pellets, meal, and block forms. When the rat feeds on the bait, it dies of poison. It is essential to dispose the dead rats away from your house to avoid bad odor. The original rat poison is a chemical called Coumadin or hydroxycoumarin. The makers of rat poisons realized that one poison bite would make the rat ill and eventually die.

Black Pepper And Peppermint Oil

Capsaicin, an active compound in peppers produces a lot of heat. Amazingly, that heat becomes an amazing way of getting rid of rats. If you sprinkle, pepper where the rats reside it will make them leave because they cannot stand the heat. The pungent smell of pepper also makes it hard for the rats to breathe. Thus it threats their survival. Also, you can place cotton dipped in peppermint oil and put it strategically. It can be near your kitchen, dustbin, or an area that is likely to attract rats.


This is a natural remedy to get rid of rats fast. The smell of onions is odious to these stubborn rodents. Just slice an onion and keep it inside or near their holes. They hate the smell of onion and run away. This is an excellent home remedy.

Close All Openings And Dismantle Their Hideout

You can prevent rats from entering or re-entering your spaces, by closing any opening including vent holes and the smallest cracks. Sheet metal around pipe entrances and along door bottoms prevents rats from chewing through. You can fill gaps around pipes with cement to keep out rats. Take away any objects that rats can use as home or hideouts like old furniture and car bodies.


Mothballs can also repel rats. They are readily available in the market and are easy to use. Place a few in your attic to keep the rats away. Avoid placing these mothballs inside the house as it has a strong smell that is harmful to humans. Take proper care not to touch it with bare hands. It is advisable to wear protective gloves when handling these balls.


Sound not only hurts rats but also makes their ears bleed. Sound waves are said to be highly disruptive to the nervous system of rodents. One electronic sound repellent covers an area of 2,500 square feet per floor, significant coverage of all the areas within your house or residence. Garages, basements, and attics should be fixed with their own electronic sound repellent device.

Cow Dung

It is a stinky and dirty process but one of the best ways to prevent these rodents. Take some cow dung cakes and spread them in your attic or garden. When rats eat the cow dung, it will inflame their stomach and cause them to die. This helps get rid of rats outside the house.

Raising Natural Predators

A more natural method for eradicating rats is keeping a cat. It is natural to keep a cat and her kittens for long-term pest control. Most of the cats are excellent hunters and will tend to chase the rats away. The only problem is that cats create a territory and mark it with urine. Another setback is that rats reach some places in your home that are too small for a cat to squeeze in.

The menace of rodents can get disturbing especially when they invade your dwelling. The above methods can be used to get rid of them effectively.

Why Kids Need Sleep to Learn and Grow


For many children, sleep is an obstacle.

Kids of all ages resist sleep, often because they think they have more exciting things to do than rest. At a young age, children don’t want to slow down and sleep, preferring exploring and learning. Teens may have so many commitments, assignments, and social engagements that they don’t feel they have enough time for it all — taking time away from sleep.

Although kids often put sleep at a low priority level, it’s important for parents to encourage healthy sleep habits. Children and teens need sleep to learn and grow healthy, and establishing healthy sleep habits in childhood can help your kids maintain good sleep for a lifetime.

Good sleep is a secret weapon for school success
— and it supports healthy growth as well.

When kids sleep, their bodies work on growing, restoring, and mental processing. Human growth hormone, which supports growth and regeneration, is released late at night and is best supported by deep sleep. New ideas and information are processed into memories during sleep, helping kids retain what they’ve learned each day.

When kids get enough sleep, they’re more alert and able to face the challenges of the day. They can better retain and organize new information learned throughout the day, and they are more emotionally and physically prepared to bounce back from stress.

When kids don’t get enough sleep, everything is more difficult. Children may experience difficulty with alertness, learning, and memory, which can be particularly detrimental at school. They may struggle emotionally, resulting in tantrums and outbursts from feeling too tired to deal well with frustrations throughout the day.

The Trouble With Teen Sleep

Teens, in particular, are in a danger spot for sleep deprivation. Their circadian rhythms shift in puberty, pushing bedtimes back — but they still have to wake up on time for school. Most U.S. middle schools and high schools start the school day before 8:30 a.m. This often leaves teens without enough rest, building up a sleep debt every night.

Teens who don’t sleep well may experience moodiness and are more likely to face poor grades, obesity, and the dangers of drowsy driving. Especially dangerous is the increased risk of anxiety, depression, and suicide associated with sleep deprivation in teens. Teens who are sleep deprived are more likely to engage in unhealthy risk behaviors, such as drinking, smoking, and using drugs.

How Parents Can Support Healthy Sleep

  • Make sleep a priority. It’s easy to let a busy schedule chip away at sleep time, but it’s important that you make sleep a priority. Determine how much time your child needs to sleep at night, and plan your schedule from there. You may need to prioritize sleep over other activities.
  • Create a healthy sleep environment. Give kids a good place to sleep. Make sure their bedroom is clean, comfortable, cool, dark, and quiet. This can support healthy sleep, making their sleep environment relaxing and inviting.
  • Encourage healthy sleep habits. Teach kids good sleep habits at an early age. Encourage them to maintain a regular sleep schedule and bedtime routine. Help them avoid sleep pitfalls that can interfere with good sleep, such as consuming caffeine or heavy meals late at night, or using screens just before bed.

A Tale of two Musks

One of these kids, is not like the other…

Elon Musk is an impressive visionary and an agent for positive change. Founder of PayPal, co-founder of Tesla Motors and founder of Space X, he is a true renaissance man.

What Elon is doing to up-end the automobile industry and force the big three to do what they should have done 30 years ago is amazing. His ambition to bring humans to space and lap around Mars is equally impressive. Whether you agree ot not that this is an effective use of funds, you have to agree he is a visionary and will leave a lasting legacy on society.

While most recently Elon has had his and all of our eyes pointed at the sky, spending $90m to send a Tesla Roadster to Mars, his little brother’s passion is a little more down to earth. Kimbal Musk been busy with an entirely different mission here on planet earth. Quite literally, his eyes are looking down and his hands are in the dirt educating under privileged kids all across the United States about the benefits of growing your own healthy, wholesome and nutritious food in the heart of urban centres like Denver, Chicago, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh and Indianapolis.

Kimbal-Musk-at-the-learning-garden-in-Los-AngelesKimbal Musk at the learning garden in Los Angeles’ Camino Nuevo Charter Academy High School. (Photo credit: The Kitchen Community)

Kimbal and his team have built what he calls “learning gardens” in six American cities. Immediate plans are in the works for a $25 million expansion into 5 more cities — Detroit, Colorado Springs, Louisville, Long Beach and San Antonio, Texas — with at least 100 schools in each city. By the end of 2020, his goal is to install 1,000 learning gardens in those cities. If he can make his dream come true, he’ll eventually introduce every child in America to healthy food and environmental awareness.

Sending a few rich white people to space or teaching underserved kids about food, resiliency and self reliance? Which Musk is going to have a bigger impact on the future of children and adults living right here on planet earth?

Surviving A Camping Trip… With The Kids!!

The idea of heading to a camping trip with your kids is super exciting. You can try something new. If your kids have not gone camping before, this is their chance to enjoy an activity you might have enjoyed when you were growing up. It is not easy though and you have a lot of things to consider.

The first thing you should get is a permit from your local park authority. Even if you are heading to a popular site, you still need to get the permits and even inform them about the exact date and time when you will be there.

If your family is not routinely taking off to the backwoods, preparing your kids mentally for the camping trip takes time. They might resist or just say no to the idea at first.

Letting them know about all of the benefits of camping and tell them lots of great stories about all the fun you can have in the great outdoors will help them get used to the idea. Getting them excited about the trip is essential as it allows them to open up to the value of what they are doing.

Don’t forget to bring toys for the road trip, prepare games and activities, pack enough food and water and don’t forget a medicine kit with bandaids, antiseptic and other medical essentials for the trip. You may far from any kind of store and getting these essentials once out and about in the woods can be a real challenge.

Remember that it is all about having fun, getting outside and gaining an appreciation for nature.

Don’t forget to pack plenty of cold and wet weather gear. You don’t want to get caught unprepared. For more tips on how to survive a camping adventure with your kids, check out the infographic below…

Surviving A Camping Trip...With The Kids!!


Kids Love Riding Horses, and Dads Should Too!

Equestrian families know riding and caring for horses can be good motivation for getting kids outside and into something other than video games and bad music. Horses raise the bar, and ennoble kids’ outdoor adventures.  Grooming and caring for horses while practicing riding can be a good way to help kids defeat obesity, set goals, learn proper nutrition as they master horse-person ship to build confidence in and out of the ring.

Horse riding students

Kids, especially preteen girls dream about horses day and night, and they doodle these animals in their sketchbooks. Horses are in our nation’s blood. Canada has wild horses and our culture is filled with equestrian myths and ceremonies, like the Sable Island Horses and the RCMP Musical Ride. These creatures are magical to our children, even more magical than they are to the rest of us. Horses make wonderful childhood companions. Children are naturally attracted to them, and that makes horses great bait for boisterous boys and girls and reason enough to spend the day outside at the stables.

The cast of Heartland on CBC reminds us every week of the quality of life on a horse farm. The drama that perplex these characters fascinate our teenage children. One of the most compelling aspects of the character driven show are insights into Alberta regional horse competitions, and the way the horse people desire the glory of performing and winning trophies at these events.  As our children watch these young people perform and achieve their dreams, it motivates them to seek glory in their own endeavours, be that horses or performing arts, mathematics, creative writing; CBC Heartland is a model that encourages teens to seek excellence in any discipline.

Boy gets riding lessons indoors at riding academy

Children riding horses also come to understand and participate in the many activities involved in caring for a horse,. grooming, hefting buckets and saddles, and cleaning stalls. This  can make for a great upper-body workout as children learn how important good diet, veterinary check-ups, dental work, and regular exercise are to a horse. It may just cause them to consider their own health needs, and the disadvantages of choosing improper feed for their own bodies.

Horses are Huge in Every Child’s Eyes

Learning to ride and care for an animal that’s twice their size can really empower children.  The horse trainer turn riding instructor is primarily a human trainer who can boost the confidence of their young riders through encouragement and compliments, highlighting areas where they’re gaining new skills and rewarding them for showing improvement.

At the end of most six or eight week riding lesson packages there’s usually an option to compete in a horse show which formalizes the training and is a real gauge of proficiency. But competing in public doesn’t necessarily mean entering into formal competitions. For students taking riding lessons there are a dozen challenges everyday, and each horse is both partner and judge. The riding instructor is the facilitator and trainer – the best riding instructors plant goals in their – finality

But when competing the risks and rewards are doubled. The value of perseverance and dogged determination, hard work, the rewards of empathy, how to deal with disappointment and losing, while also experiencing the sweet taste of success are all aspects that come into play.girl poses on horse in riding academy

Our Child has a Pony and Friends at the Riding Club

Sometimes our child is just happy brushing his pony or helping to muck out, and that’s okay. Other days he’ll ask for a ride and we hope his confidence continues to grow. He’s made a good friend in his pony.

New environments are a great way to help them make friends. Riding can lead to social-life benefits and meeting new people that could develop into life-long friends.

2006 Research from American Youth Horse Council uncovered a significant positive relationship between horse skills and life skills development.

Sponsored by the American Youth Horse Council, the research found that equestrian activities do indeed enhance a range of life skills in children. The study looked at youngsters involved in 4-H, Pony Club, the American Quarter Horse Youth Association, and the National High School Rodeo Association.

Results of the study, published in February 2006, found a significant positive relationship between horsemanship skills and life skills.  A sample of 982 youth between the ages of twelve and eighteen, all active in the above youth equine organizations, found that handling, riding, and caring for a horse or pony can develop a host of positive traits in a child, including responsibility, accountability, patience, levelheadedness, empathy, kindness, and self-discipline.

When the whole family gets involved, the time spent together with horses can enhance the bond among family members and become the stuff of treasured childhood memories. Moreover, the benefits of horse involvement are enduring, as a child’s “horse habit” can evolve into a rewarding lifelong hobby.










oakville custom home builder

What I Learned Making DIY Backyard Ice Rink

“This isn’t the first time I’ve made a backyard ice rink on my property”, says Keith Travers Eastview Homes, Oakville area contractor, “we’re a hockey family.”

Its a breathtaking accomplishment. As I came through the back of Keith’s suburban bungalow, I spotted the attraction in the backyard. Behold twelve hundred square feet of ice, six inches thick, rimmed with plywood boards.

Keith Travers in his D.I.Y. backyard ice rink in Toronto

Proud of his accomplishment, Keith boasted “You’ve got to come back in the evening when its all lit up and we have all the neighbour kids over playing hockey, and free skating”. He pointed out the mercury vapour lamps (same as in the local arena but smaller) that he has affixed to poles on the perimeter.

“Next year I’m gonna add some benches on both sides.” Keith says, “That’s one thing I learned. There’s always a crowd here by the steps.”

Keith’s backyard is perfect because the contractor made it that way; the area was specially leveled and landscaped and all the small trees were removed when he first bought the property a few years ago.

The rink boards were cut last year. They’re 4×8 plywood sheets ripped lengthwise into eight foot long boards. Keith could have used cheaper materials, particle board OSB, but he had some 3/4 inch plywood left over from a job and he knew the ice rink was a project he’d be repeating for years to come. The braces, two on each board, are more perishable; they’re made from salvage cut from old pallets and other bits of scrap wood.

Keith learned last year to run the hydro for the lights first- the power cords are safe from sharp skates under snow and ice, right on the ground. Keith also evolved a sound system this winter; he has two small stereo speakers plugged into a radio in the kitchen.

TIMELINE of a backyard ice rink – first you clear the area and run power for lights and put up the boards.

“I leave the grass long in the fall in case we get a good snowfall, and I can do the snow pack method to save the liner.’ There are two methods of making a liner. First, if there’s a lot of snow the you can use the snow pack method, which involves tramping down the snow with your boots until its hard packed and will hold the water.

Or you can buy some very large sheets of thin plastic and fashion your own pool liner or in this case a ‘rink liner’. Painters’ drop sheets are too thin and the wrong size. They won’t work unless you can figure out how to bind them together with duct tape to create a watertight surface. The thicker the plastic, the easier the tape applies, right up until the plastic is too thick.

The hardest part for Keith this year was just waiting for the ground to freeze as the weather by the lake is so variable.

It wasn’t until late December before Keith had the courage to call the water truck service. He ordered three thousand gallons of water to make a six inch slab, and if readers are seeking to replicate this rink they can use this handy pool volume calculator to calculate their own needs. Keith learned last year that six inches is the ideal (or most efficient) ice thickness to avoid pressure cracks and create an immovable solid ice mass.

pool volume calculator



Safety is always top-of-mind when making a kid friendly backyard attraction.

Keith has evolved a more kid-friendly ice rink this year even though he claims his rink is entirely injury free. Despite the flawless safety record, or maybe to help ensure it continues, the building contractor took the time to eliminate protruding stakes and sharp edges that can cause more harm to anyone slipping, losing their balance and falling. The wooden perimeter rises about a foot above the ice surface and this year the corners and top edges are smoother and all the stakes have been hammered down flush with the top of the boards.

And finally, lets not forget, ice rink makers have to think ahead to the spring melt. Where is all that water going to go? Keith runs a line to his neighbour’s in-ground swimming pool, which is right next door and downhill. He made a deal with this friend after concerns were raised that the melting ice rink could otherwise flood both their basements.

Keith Travers – DIY Ice Rink in backyard.

Does having a property with a big backyard improve the quality of life for a young family in the summer and in wintertime? Absolutely.