In February 2016, Brooke Monks had the life she thought she wanted.
She was working full time as an elementary school teacher. At home, she balanced a busy home life with her husband, two children and a wide circle of family and friends.
Then, her grandfather died.
“Looking back, everything started to change with his passing,” Monks says. “My grandfather had several strokes before his death. It became serious very fast. And, my family is tight knit. His illness and then death hit us all hard. I was particularly concerned about my grandmother and my brother, who was very close to our grandfather. Knowing they needed me and being an hour away was incredibly hard.”
Monks had a tough time finding flexibility in her teaching role. “Teaching is a very structured job. It has to be for the students. But I was riddled with guilt that I wasn’t doing enough for everyone I loved. And I just couldn’t take time off.”
Her frustration was not a complete surprise. “I knew teaching a full class demanded too much from me. I’d switched from teaching Grade 4 to doing prep coverage, which is when you give other teachers time to do their classwork preparation. I taught their French classes. I thought it would give me less homework and grading to do, freeing up my evenings and weekends.” She laughs ruefully. “My plan completely backfired. I ended up with more to do.”
At home, Monks’ two-year old daughter had also developed a severe case of eczema, which caused her tremendous pain. “Dealing with my daughter’s illness, my family’s grief and my job was overwhelming. It got to the point where I couldn’t recall any French vocabulary. Stress was impairing my cognitive function. I went on medical leave.”
While the break was what she needed, leaving teaching was a challenge for Monks. “I’d been a teacher for 12 years. I was so invested. I pushed myself to go back. But I was seeing a psychologist who just kept telling me I wasn’t ready. Then a friend of mine introduced me to lifestyle coaching.”
Stylish and outrageously positive with a mega-watt smile, Monks is exactly the person you’d like to have as a coach. Instead of driving to school each morning, she now works from home which gives her the flexibility to honor family commitments.
“Leaping into entrepreneurship was the right decision for me,” says Monks. “I feel like 40 is the perfect time to make a life change. My kids are still relatively young and my parents are healthy. Having flexibility in my life means I can shift gears when they need me.”
And, LifeTales has also changed the way she’s experiencing her children’s lives. “I’m around when they need me,” she says. “That’s the biggest difference. I’ve started using the LifeTales app to make sure I’m capturing all the special, cool little things they do and say. My daughter calls it her mini Instagram. My son calls it his YouTube. I love that they’ve got a private place to express themselves without scrutiny.”
Monks credits LifeTales as part of her effort to be more mindful in everything she does. “I’ve got this great prompt to stop and capture the ordinary and the extraordinary moments. They’re safely stored in the cloud. Knowing I’ve got our family memories so nicely organized makes me super happy.”
Experiencing Toronto is a highlight for families, couples, and single travlers.
It’s a funny time of year in Toronto. Spring hasn’t fully arrived (oh hey, April snow, nice to see you again, please leave) and summer doesn’t yet feel like it’s around the corner.
Rest assured that it is coming. Your next block of vacation time will be here before you know it. So if you’re wondering where to take the kids for your next vacation or living here doing the staycation thing, LifeTales has you covered.
Vacations almost always feel too short, but the memories they create can last forever—provided you jot the details down while they’re fresh
LifeTales Collections are the perfect perfect way to:
Anyway, back to Toronto spots you won’t want to miss.
Okay, we admit it. We’re completely biased. Toronto’s undeniably one of the coolest cities in the world (even the New York Times says so). Whether you’re visiting in winter or summer, Toronto has a huge range of activities to offer to families with kids of all ages.
We asked our team to kick in ideas for some fantastic Toronto family destinations, some mainstream and some a little off kilter. Here’s what they said.
So let’s get the obvious stuff out of the way:
You can’t visit Toronto without experiencing a neighborhood.
In spite of its hectic car traffic, Toronto has an ardent and growing cycling community. If you’re coming in from out of town, there are many places to rent bikes and gear.
Areas we recommend include:
The skiing north of Toronto won’t impress visitors more accustomed to the Rocky Mountains or other notable mountain ranges. But, the hills in Barrie and Collingwood are as good as it gets for Southern Ontario. They’re perfect places to learn for kids and teens increasing their skills. Check out Blue Mountain, Mount St. Louis Moonstone and Horseshoe Valley. The resorts also offer warm-weather activities like hiking and golf.
Don’t enjoy hurtling down a steep pitch on two fibreglass planks? No problem. Ontario’s ski destinations also provide cold-weather alternatives. Snow Valley has a tubing course. Blue Mountain has a figure skating ring at the top of the mountain through a wooded trail. And, you can opt for snowshoeing or cross-country skiing, weather permitting.
Albion Hills is also within day-trip distance of Toronto. The conversation area is known for its cross-country trails.
Season depending, you can also try the skating trail under the Gardiner Expressway, check out the holiday lights at Ontario Place or visit the Christmas Market in the Distillery District (December only).
More of an indoor person? We get it.
Visit Toronto in late January and early February during Winterlicious. You can eat your way through the best restaurants the city has to offer as part of this annual gastronomic celebration.
Missing summer days in the water? Try your Tarzan skills with the rope swing at the Pam McConnell Aquatic Centre (also known as the Regent Park pool).
Want more suggestions for experiencing Toronto? BlogTO has a great list to get you started.
Have more suggestions? Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to feature your vacation destination or hear about other topics we should explore.
Dinner’s over. The table’s cleared and dishes are done. Now, there’s just one thing between you and an hour or two of peace. Bedtime, also known as The Witching Hour.
We all know how it’s supposed to go:
And that’s exactly when the stall tactics begin.
Finicky sleepers are enough to push anyone to their wits’ end. But who do you call?
Dead European composers!
Seriously. Listening to classical music at bedtime is a
surefire way to get your kids relaxed and ready for a good night’s sleep.
Music helps to calm, quiet, engage, distract and transport human beings of all ages to the drowsy state that is the gateway to a deep and restful sleep.
As a pianist, composer and PhD in music composition with four children of my own, here’s what I’ve learned through experimentation and hard experience.
When picking classical music for bedtime, the piece should have:
Before we get into particular recommendations, I want to note that many fine, well-meaning music lovers have made small fortunes writing about “The Mozart Effect,” “The Bach Effect,” and even “The Alternative Art-Punk Emo Hardcore Effect.”
Regardless of composer or period, these advocates promise that playing certain specific classical music to children, both in utero and post-birth, produces smarter, happier and well-rounded children.
Sadly, such promises are utter nonsense.
What works best for bedtime is instrumental music with a steady beat and a steady harmonic rhythm. While this definition eliminates most Emo Hardcore music, it does include the bulk of European instrumental music composed between roughly 1700 and 1800, and much of the instrumental music written to the late 1800s.
That block of time spans the High Baroque and Classical periods, including notable composers such as Johann Sebastian Bach and Wolfgang Mozart. But it also captures work from hundreds of other worthy composers, whose music will just as easily put your children to bed.
So rest easy that if my selections don’t work for your family, you could also choose music by:
any of their compositions will also improve your children’s SAT scores is a
conversation for another post.
Are you a believer in music as a gateway to better bedtimes? What kind of music plays well in your family? We’d love to hear about your journey. Drop us a line at email@example.com.
Do you have professional expertise of value to families? Would you like your expertise featured on our blog? Send your pitch to firstname.lastname@example.org. We can’t respond to all inquiries, but we’ll be in touch if there’s a fit.
Have you heard about growth mindset parenting?
It’s based on a popular psychology theory in in education. Articles on growth mindset also get a lot of buzz in magazines and blogs for the entrepreneurial and self-improvement communities. Even pro athletes like the NBA’s Steph Curry have even talked about taking a growth approach to their careers.
Why should parents care? Because exploring a growth mindset may give you new tools as you take on the responsibilities that come with having kids.
Think back: one minute you were living your adult life, working on your career goals, deciding if you should join a recreational soccer league, or debating whether to try that new takeout place down the block.
Yet the minute you learned there was a baby coming, your priorities shifted. Before you know it, that tiny, vulnerable human being is in your arms. And during your child’s early years, it’s your choices that have the biggest impact on how they learn and grow.
New parents can read all the baby books in the world to get ready (and some parents do). But nothing prepares you for that humbling moment when you look into your child’s delicate face and grasp your new roles. There’s no going back—and no manual.
It can feel pretty overwhelming.
Don’t worry. All the research suggests that parents are made, not born.
According to Wikipedia, a mindset is, “a set of assumptions, methods, or notations held by one or more people or groups of people.” In other words, it’s all the ideas we’ve picked up from family, friends and our experiences about how we’re supposed to think and act.
Growth mindset theory is credited to Dr. Carol S. Dweck, an American professor of Psychology at Stanford University. Over the course of her accomplished career, Dweck and her fellow scientists developed a theory of two distinct mindsets. They found that people basically fall into two groups with very different approaches to life, including what they think about failure.
From Wikipedia: “Those with a ‘fixed mindset’ believe that abilities are mostly innate and interpret failure as the lack of necessary basic abilities, while those with a ‘growth mindset’ believe that they can acquire any given ability provided they invest effort or study.
So, here’s a quick graphic overview:
Dweck’s research showed that people who believe in growth are more likely to continue working hard despite setbacks. Through determination, learning, training and persistence, they improve because they believe that it’s possible for them to change.
If you think about qualities like intelligence as being fixed, like the number of jelly beans in a jar, then you have whatever you’re born with and no more. Your ability to learn and change is set, along with your ability to solve problems or rise to situations. Which means if you fail, the failure results from your abilities.
Kind of bleak, huh? No wonder people with a fixed mindset avoid situations where failure’s on the line at all costs.
On the other hand, if you think of intelligence as something more like a muscle you can build with practice and repetition, life becomes less all-or-nothing. You’ll spend less time obsessing over mistakes and what they mean if you believe it’s possible to learn from them and improve.
To Dweck, openness to this fundamental belief in your own ability to get better means you could “live a less stressful and more successful life.”
Food for thought, huh?
Parenting is hard. Co-parenting with another person can be even harder. You and your partner may have very different ideas about how to raise another human being, and there’s no way to know until the baby arrives.
You may not feel like you have an immediate talent for parenting if:
If you didn’t grow up in a family where other adults showed you how to cope with these challenges, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Even people who come from big families may feel they have no idea what they’re doing. Comparing yourself to friends or skimming the feeds of parenting influencers intensify those feelings.
Everyone’s life looks shiny on the outside.
But as Joe Hirsch writes in his INC Magazine profile on Curry, “Success comes as a result of effort, learning, and persistence–not just inborn talent, intelligence or strength.”
The good news? You don’t have to be a rockstar right out of the gate. Parenting is nothing if not an opportunity for persistent learning.
So, adopting a growth mindset may help you think about parenting as a multifaceted skill at which you—and your partner—will get better.
You don’t have to be experts or achieve someone else’s level of perfection. You just have to commit and be open to achieving what works for you and your kids.
The Huffington Post’s Parenting blog has some great ideas for getting started, including monitoring your self-talk and being conscious of the messages you’re sending about learning and growth to your kids.
Based on our experiences, the LifeTales team is how our app can act as a feedback mechanism for you.
The Personal Collection gives you a completely private space to jot down your thoughts about how you parent. And if you’ve noticed tendencies that you’d like to change, it’s also a perfect place to note your habits without judgement.
In the spirit of Professor Dweck, you can gather data about your choices and impartially assess where they’re leading you. Ask yourself:
Over time, you may see you’re doing a better job than you thought. And someday, when your kids are grown, you’ll be able to reflect on your experience and share your wisdom.
Does adopting a growth mindset to parenting appeal to you? What are the skills you struggle with?
Get in touch at email@example.com. We’d love to feature your growth experience or hear from you about other topics we should explore.
It’s a common question: when should you start thinking of your baby as a toddler?
When you’re deep into the day-to-day experience of raising a young child, time is lightning fast. You see your baby everyday. Being so in the moment makes it harder to take a step back.
When you do, it’s easier to realize just how many milestones have passed since that transformational first week at home. As American author Gretchen Rubin once wrote about parenthood, “The days are long, but the years are short.”
So when should you start the mental head shift?
As the name implies, the toddler development stage is defined by “toddling” or unsteady walking. While all children take their first steps at their own speed, it’s common for children entering the toddler stage to make more effort to move under their own power.
You can expect them to become steadier on their feet and more interested in exploring their own ideas as they move through this stage.
The U.S. Center for Disease Control defines two phases of the toddler period, each of roughly 12 months.
See the CDC’s toddler pages for more information about safety tips and positive ways to help your child develop a healthy mind and body.
Popular culture is full of nightmare stories about the “terrible twos,” reflecting the growing adventurousness and, yes, willfulness your child will demonstrate through this period.
Strong, consistent boundaries will help you and your child to navigate this exciting growth stage together. You will also likely find you now enjoy more variety in your daily activities than you did during the infant stage, and more opportunity to experience the world together.
By the time your baby becomes a toddler, you will have helped them to explore their:
Living in the smartphone age means that it’s never been easier to capture the parts of childhood that speak to you. Starting a Child Journal is a great way to capture the stories inside your photos and video, and tell your child what they were like at each stage of their life.
What are the sweetest or most challenging moments of your child’s toddler stage? Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to feature your toddler memories or hear from you about other topics we should explore.
Ask any large group of adults what they most fear and their list will likely include:
While it’s entirely possible to live your life avoiding items one and two, having kids may push you to sing in public in ways you never thought you would.
The connections between music and other life skills are rich and varied. Scientists have long theorized that’s there’s a connection between music and math, for example, although Scientific American notes the exact nature of this relationship remains fuzzy.
Other associated benefits may include higher emotional intelligence, better social skills and a greater appreciation for tone and rhythm.
Beyond the possible skill benefits and a general appreciation for music, hearing a lullaby can form iconic childhood memories.
Whether your parents chose to sing pop songs by Joni Mitchell, The Beatles and Simon and Garfunkel, traditional nursery rhymes like “Mary Had a Little Lamb” and “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” or camp songs like “The Wheels on the Bus” and “Old MacDonald,” you may yet have strong feelings to that music and hearing your parent sing it.
Singing is an activity that parents and children can enjoy at any age, and it can also be a key part of your bedtime routine. A lullaby can help set the mood for the end of the day and help your baby’s brain to understand that it’s time to relax and wind things down.
Where to begin? We’ve compiled some quick suggestions as you get started.
Particularly in North America, it’s very easy to internalize cultural rules about who is allowed to sing (people with “good” voices, whatever that means) and who is not (everyone else). However you feel about singing in other parts of your life, try not to let that judgement into this process. Singing develops your child’s bond with you. What matters is that you do it, not how you sound. As Ian Mendes has written for Today’s Parent, “If the sound of mom’s gurgling digestive juices helped baby doze off, then the bar is set pretty low for you as a singer.”
If you can barely hum “Baa Baa Black Sheep,” then songs like “Memory” from Cats or Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” may not be the best choice for you. Longevity should be your guiding principle. When your child develops a fondness for your lullaby, it’s possible you will still be singing the same song 10 years from now. Have mercy on your vocal cords and pick a tune that you can sing easily and without strain at various volumes. (Seriously, have you considered “Ba-Ba-Black Sheep?” It works pretty well.)
Can’t remember the weird second verse to “You Are My Sunshine”, which ends with the heartwarming line, “You have shattered all of my dreams”? No sweat. Your baby won’t care if you know a single verse or just the chorus. In some ways, it’s easier to choose a short song that you can easily loop when it’s 3 am and you’re gamely singing while pacing their bedroom in a vain attempt to get both of you some sleep.
Keep a pair of earplugs handy if you’re got a fussy baby who’s fond of screaming along to your midnight (or afternoon, or morning) performances. You’ll still be able to hear yourself singing and it may help take the edge off.
You’re going to get tired of singing the same song (trust us on that one). For mental variety, pick a secondary lullaby or two that are also easy to sing and toss them in now and then for you and baby. One of our team members used the classic song, “ABC,” as her back-up lullaby because it’s easy to sing at different pitches and speeds.
Want more of a challenge? Pick an easy song you like (“Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star,” maybe) and swap the words out. You can describe what you see in your baby’s nursery, talk about what you did during the day, or tell your baby about people in your family. Young babies won’t care, but it can be a fun game for you to play as they get older.
Still not sure what to do? Pity the parents who successfully raised children in the dark era before YouTube and run a search. You’ll quickly find over six million examples of lullabies you can learn from a range of cultural backgrounds.
Thanks to technology, it’s never been easier to record an audio file or video of you singing to your child. Adding your lullaby traditions to a LifeTales story collection gives you both have a soothing memory to reflect upon as your children grow and your voice inevitably changes.
What were the go-to lullabies in your house growing up? What are they now? Have a suggestion for a different blog topic? Get in touch at email@example.com. We’d love to hear from you!
The photo, “White and Wooden Wall Decor,” appears courtesy of Charles DeLuvio.
As social media platforms evolve, it’s getting easier to share your life with the people you care most about.
But for every genuine, two-way connection, there are the (sometimes) well-meaning folks who don’t respect boundaries. Some even take their social updates a little too far.
We’ve all got a few of them in our friend networks. They’re the people who:
Managing other people’s drama is challenging enough when you’re single or recently married. Add a pregnancy or a new baby to the mix, and the stress around oversharing can snowball.
Even being rich and famous doesn’t necessarily protect people from their oversharing friends and relations.
This week, Meghan Markle, now the Duchess of Sussex, returned to New York City for her baby shower. It’s the first time the former star of Suits has been back to the U.S. since marrying Prince Harry of Wales last spring. Their wedding ceremony was watched by 18 million people worldwide.
But their storybook day was nearly upstaged by the willingness of some relatives within Markle’s father’s family to overshare about her life.
Thankfully, few of us will face the same kind of media and social pressure as the new duchess. But we can take some helpful ideas from how Markle’s managed her oversharing relatives.
The Duchess turned to many long-time friends to organize her shower. They include tennis champion Serena Williams, international and human rights lawyer Amal Clooney, and stylist insider Jessica Mulroney. And Mulroney, who met Markle when she was filming Suits in Toronto, also acted as her defacto maid of honour when she got married.
Like the Duchess of Sussex, we all need to determine which friends are capable of reciprocal trust. If there’s someone in your circle spreading rumours or not standing by you, it might be time to introduce better filters on what you share.
Harper’s Bazaar reports that a small group of only 15 people attended the Duchess’ baby shower in the New York. This choice minimizes the risk of leaks to the press. Your life may not generate photos worth thousands of dollars to tabloid editors, but everyone goes through times where privacy and discretion make life more manageable.
You don’t have to rent the pricy penthouse floor at The Mark, as Serena Williams reportedly did (though kudos if you do, it’s beautiful). There are other ways to manage who sees what if you don’t want to show personal photos to everyone.
Facebook allows you to create friend groups that tier access to your content, Instagram offers private accounts and LifeTales always lets you decide whether your connections see a single story or a whole collection.
It’s not easy to be estranged from a parent. If your older relatives show a continued lack of respect for your space, as Markle’s father has done, you may need to put some personal distance between yourself and your boundary breaker. So, consider limiting the amount of photos, news and personal details you share with them until trust can be re-established.
Like the late Princess Diana before her, Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, is certain to live part of her life as a mother and wife in the spotlight.
But as Elaine Lui has observed in her ongoing coverage of the union, the Duchess is the first member of the royal family to bring prior experience with celebrity to her new role in public life. We’re most curious to watch how she’ll use digital tools to manage her new family’s privacy as she becomes a parent.
Got a suggestion for a blog topic? Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to hear from you!
Photo courtesy of the Northern Ireland Office via Flickr.