Monthly Archives: November 2008

The Epic Correspondence

Dear Santa

Letter to Santa

The Girl finally finished her letter to Santa today. It was a long haul. A seemingly simple project that began 10 days ago has finally ended, letter sealed up and ready to mail to Santa Claus, North Pole, Canada, HOH OHO.

It started with a simple question.

“What do you want from Santa this year?”

Long pause. “I don’t know?”

Not the answer I was expecting. Considering that Christmas has been in the air in our house since the end of Halloween, I was expecting a laundry list of items. Not so.

So, the seeding began. After a few days, she decided upon a Leapster because her friend George has one and she had fun playing with it one day at his house.

Okay then, Leapster it is. Over to the Canada Post website we head to find the perfect stationary to create our epic masterpiece to the big guy. Thank goodness Canada Post limits the custom stationary options to 9, but they happen to be broken up in 3 groups of 3 items that you can mix and match in various ways. So long to an hour as we try out different versions of stationary until we find the perfect one.

Then the dictation. We thought it would be fun for The Girl to practice writing her own letter since she loves writing. So, we coaxed a letter out of her, her Mom painstakingly documenting it word for word.

Finally, the hard work began as The Girl sat down with various writing implements in hand to transcribe the letter, word for word, letter for letter from her Mom’s page to her Santa stationary. Credit to her, she has worked hard on it, putting a bit of time into it everyday before getting sidetracked by whisps of air.

But today, before I walked ou the door to teach my night class, she proudly handed it to me to inspect, seal and mail off.

Godspeed little letter.

Parents of soon to be born twins fight for extra parental benefits

I remember clearly when my wife told me that she was pregnant with our first. “Holy crap, We’re going to have a baby!!!!” This was followed about 30 seconds later by, “holy crap, we’re going to have a baby.” The difference between the two is in the tone. Excitement and joy for the first, fear and panic in the second.

I bring this up because a little part of me feels that the same fear and panic may be behind the lawsuit that Christian Martin and Paula Critchley are threatening to bring against the federal government should their request for twin parental leave be denied.

In Canada, we have a pretty good batch of parental benefits. We lag behind many European countries, like Sweden, Estonia and Bulgaria, but are far ahead of our American counterparts.

In Canada, birth mother’s get 15 weeks of maternity leave. Then there is an additional 35 weeks of parental leave that can be taken by one parent, or split up by both parents. Both these benefits are paid for by the federal Employment Insurance Program.

But whether you are having 1 kid or 4 kids, the time remains the same at 35 weeks. Christian and Paula are arguing that, since they are having twins, they should be entitled to double that parental leave – 70 weeks. And if you listen to the interviews they have been giving (the audio and video clips are available in Real audio format on the CBC site), I think you can hear the voice of freaked out first time parents going, ‘holy crap, we are having babies! WE NEED HELP!”

Still, the have a point. And you would be hard pressed to find me, a guy who believes parents should be with their kids as much as possible in the early, formative years, arguing that they should not get this. After all, if they had one baby now and a second a year from now, they would still be eligible for 70 weeks of parental benefits. So they happen to use them at the same time. Is there really anything wrong with this?

Economically, we as a country can afford this. Despite the fact that the incidents of multiple births have been on the rise, multiple births still account for only 2% of overall births. The effect this precedent will have on our national bottom line would be negligible.

As well all know, having kids is hard work. The first year with one kid was a haze for me, trying to figure out just how profoundly my life had changed. Yeah, people tell you, but you just don’t realize how much it does change until you are there. So, if bucking up a few thousand dollars is going to mean this family will have a better shot at riding it out, then so be it. I would rather my tax dollars go to this than bailing out failing companies with bad business models who refuse to create products that consumers really want. Oops, sorry…another rant.

Could this be the beginning of the end to multiple hand lacerations on Christmas morning?

Jeff Bezos

Jeff Bezos image via Wikipedia

Chances are, you have lived this scene, either post birthday party or Christmas morning.

New toys, unwrapped but still in their package, are strewn around the room. You sit down, scissors and a pair of pliers in hand, ready to do battle with the packaging and free the toys from their prison of rigid plastic and miles of twist tie wire. Your kids are doing the happy dance, watching you with glee and barely contained excitement, breathlessly waiting for the booty to spring forth. As you begin the task, your hand slips and catches on the hard plastic clamshell packaging. Off you go to stop the bleeding. Repeat many times, until you are red faced frustrated and require a blood transfusion while your kids are reduced to sobbing messes because they can’t play with their toys because some sadistic toy manufacturer has made it impossible to free the toys from their packaging!

It ain’t a pretty site.

Well, hope may be at hand, courtesy of, who have announced a new program called the Frustration-Free Packaging Initiative whose first two goals are to eliminate clamshell packaging and wire tie downs.

It certainly helps that Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of, is spearheading the companies drive. I haven’t looked closely at his hands, but, being that Jeff has 4 kids, I suspect they resemble my 9th grade shop teachers. Hence, the push.

Way to go, Jeff! On behalf of scarred parents everywhere, we applaud you!

Serves me right for not checking Junie B. Jones with Common Sense Media

I broke one of my Daddy guidelines with The Girl last night. Normally, I am hyper-vigilant about her media consumption and I try to filter as much of the content she sees and hears before it gets to her. I know we only have a few years where we are in control of the messages she gets, so I want to take advantage of it.

Last night, in a moment of what I can only describe as sheer technology enthusiasm, I let my filter down.

See, The Girl is a big fan of audio books. She uses them to help her get through the nap period at preschool. She hasn’t napped in over a year, but her preschool still has to have a mandatory period of quiet time each afternoon while the younger kids sleep. So to help her pass the time, I got her an MP3 player and have been loading it with audio books from her collection. Yesterday, I discovered I can download audio books from our local library.

Here’s where my geek enthusiasm took over. I was so excited to try out the process that I went straight to the kids books and searched for audio books for her. The only thing that looked vaguely age appropriate was an anthology called Junie B. Jones. My wife mentioned that the name was familiar, probably from the Scholastic book order forms that roll through pre-school every once in awhile. That was enough of a recommendation for me, and off I went and downloaded it, set it up on the mp3 player and handed it over to The Girl, who spent the next 2 hours mesmerized by the tales of Junie B. Jones.

It was only then that my own media filter twiged and I realized that I had no idea what my kid was listening to. So I went to my favorite source for all things kid media, Common Sense Media and read the reviews by both parents and the site editors.

If you are not familiar with Junie B. Jones, here are a few selected comments from the reviews.

Parents need to know that much of the humor comes from Junie’s bad behavior. Young readers are supposed to laugh at it, not emulate it.

I am left of the left when it comes to most anything in this world. And, I eagerly encourage my children to read and love books. HOWEVER, Junie B. Jones is the closest I’ve ever gotten to banning a book in our house. The grammar/language is just horrible and the stories of misbehavior are way too numerous and validates, for a preschooler,rude behavior.

Junie is a handful. If your child is ‘spirited,’ impressionable and/or highly dramatic and she reads this book, soon you will have a handful on your hands, too. I know several mothers who have banned these books from their house because their dramatic girls suddenly think it’s great to sock their little brothers and to back-talk like mad

Well, you can see why I was regretful for my lapse in judgment. I immediately listened to the audio book and realized I completely agreed with all the reviews. Junie B. Jones is terrible.

Needless to say, the digital Junie has been returned to the library. Nice thing about working with a 5 year old is that she stills believes me when I tell her the digital audio file needs to be returned to the library.

This highlights why I truly appreciate a site like Common Sense Media. Not that I neccesarily agree with every review they post, but their reviews combined with other parent reviews makes it a great starting point when it comes to evaluating age appropriate media.

The site has recently undergone a homepage makeover to make finding info even easier than before. If you need a good starting place when it comes to figuring out of something is appropriate for your kids to view, read, play or listen to, consider starting at Common Sense Media.