Be Who You Are with Todd Parr

If you're not familiar with children's book author and illustrator, Todd Parr then this post will introduce you to a colourful way to educate and entertain young children who love books. Todd has written and published over 30 colourful children's books that teach children about kindness, acceptance and feeling good about themselves.

todd parr

I first discovered Todd's books when a friend gave my daughter The Daddy Book as a third birthday gift. Like his other books, this story is told through simple yet colourful illustrations and easy to read and understand sentences. In The Daddy Book he tells the story of different dads, including how some "daddies work at home" and "some daddies work far away." 

All of Todd's books celebrate what makes someone special, whether that person be a parent, a family or a child - including the reader themselves! The books also encourage early literacy, multiculturalism, promote character growth and strengthen friendships and relationships. Every book is cheerful and leaves the reader feeling good about themselves - and who doesn't love that? 

Although my daughter reads chapter books on her own now, she still loves Todd Parr's books and we plan on passing on our love of his books to other young children in our family. It was with this in mind that I was excited to hear Todd will be publishing a new children's book in October called, Be Who You Are.

Be old. Be young.
Speak your language. Be proud of where you’re from.


I reached out to Todd and asked him a few questions about where he gets his inspiration from and what his new book is all about. Here is what he had to say:

Q. What is your inspiration for writing so many books about situations and lives that impact so many children? 

A. A lot of this stems from my childhood. I struggled with so many issues I write about. I was always trying to be like everyone else instead of just being who I was. I think the more you can help build children’s confidence and teach them about kindness, difference, and being different will make them better human beings. 

Q. Your messages for kids are so powerful! My daughter and I own several of your books, including The Family Book, The Daddy Book, The Mommy Book and It’s Okay to be Different - and just when I think you have run out of ideas you come out with another topical book! What is the inspiration behind your newest book, Be Who You Are

A. Thank you. This is something that took me years to learn when I was growing up. Finally, I realized that I needed to stop trying to be like everyone else and just be myself. Things got a lot easier after that. 

Todd Parr - Be who you are

Q. I love your use of humour and your colourful art style to get your message across - where does it come from? 

A. My dad, he was always doing stuff to make me laugh. I rely on humour as well as my simple art style to better help me deliver the messages I write about given that some are hard for younger children to understand. And the word underwear makes every kid laugh. 

Q. What is one of your favourite books from those you have written so far? 

A. "The Goodbye Book." It took me so long to come up with a way to help deal with loss. This book is so simple and matter of fact. I’ve seen how it’s helped kids deal with “goodbye” but also every year old adults. 

Q. Growing up, did you find it hard to be who you are? 

A. Yes, I did not fit in. I was not interested in most things that the rest of the kids were. I grew up in a very small town which did not make things any easier. 

Q. Who was your favourite children’s author growing up? 

A. Dr. Suess.

Q. Any chance of coming to Canada (Ottawa in particular) to speak to a few local schools who I know would love to hear you?

A. I love Canada! I’ve been to several cities there. In November I will be speaking at a teachers conference in Edmonton. Hopefully, I can make it to Ottawa one day soon. 

Special thanks to Todd for answering my questions!

I'd love to know if any of our readers are Todd Parr fans and if so, what's your favourite Todd Parr book? You can add Be Who You Are to your book shelves on October 26th.

Back-to-School Fashion Picks for the Clothing-Sensitive Child

From the time she was a baby, my oldest daughter has had what I like to call “clothing sensitivities.” I know I’m not alone in this, and that many parents have similar challenges. Although I could occasionally get her into cute jeans and t-shirts as a baby, by toddlerhood my headstrong girl was refusing any clothing with the following features: bumps, lines, zippers, buttons, elastics, seams and buckles. So basically, all clothing.

Now a big girl, my 7 year-old remains tough to buy for. We would love to rely on hand-me-downs, but the majority of stuff given to us is placed in the “reject” pile for reasons only my daughter seems to understand. The most common reason given is that the piece of clothing just “doesn’t feel right.”

We have also tried many brands of clothing, based on suggestions from other parents. For us, Carter’s OshKosh has won out. They carry so many styles, all of which are deemed comfortable by my sensitive girl (except the jeans of course…I have a feeling she’ll never want to wear jeans!)

Every August we take a trip to Carter's OshKosh to stock up on #Kidsentials for back-to-school. Despite her hatred of most clothing, my daughter seems to have a shopping bug that I never had as a kid. Her favourite thing to do is prowl the store, putting together outrageous outfits that define her awesome personality. Carter’s OshKosh is the perfect place to mix and match!

So straight from my daughter herself, here are her top picks from Carter’s OshKosh for this year (the three year-old also played a part, although getting her to pose for pics was a little more challenging!)

Summer Discounts

How is she so grown up?

How is she so grown up?

You can’t beat the sales rack, and at rock bottom price, we found this adorable sundress -  perfect for those warm September days.

School Chic


The ruffly tulle skirt and hearted top are similar to styles we found last year, so perfect for a kid who sticks to what she knows!

Laid-Back Loungers


Leggings are seriously the best invention ever for clothing-sensitive kids. You can often find the perfect length, so that there is no “bunching” of material, and they are great for young kids to be comfortable in for playtime. My daughter paired this floral print with a long-sleeved pink tee.

Hello 80’s

My daughter’s favourite piece in the whole store was a pair of lycra leggings, totally a throw-back from the 80s. I love that she paired these with a floral print long-sleeved tee!!


A must for all kiddos for when temperatures drop!! My 3 year-old also discovered a glow-in-the-dark Halloween t-shirt that she can’t wait to wear in October.

Daddy’s Girl

She had to try this one on for Daddy!

Sweaters with Pockets

If you want to try to convince kids to wear a piece of clothing, make sure it has pockets. Kids seem to LOVE the idea of putting small treasures into their clothing to save for later. This terry pullover is super cozy!

Mommy’s Picks

I don’t think I’ve ever considered myself stylish, but I have harboured a secret desire to dress my girls in matching outfits. There is only one time per year that my kids will wear what I choose, and it’s because of family pictures (and there’s usually a bribe involved!) So here are my favourite picks:

Matching onesie pajamas for cold nights (yes, those nights are coming!)

OshKosh B’Gosh Blue Jeans – oh how I wish she would wear these! Maybe she will agree to try these jeggings, which are really just leggings with a cool jean look!

I adore tunics, and this OshKosh Sparkle Tunic is so adorable!

What are your back-to-school #CartersOshKosh #Kidsentials? Share your favourites on social media. And be sure to enter the #CartersOshKosh #Kidsentials contest for your chance to win 1 of 6 $500 gift cards!

This post is part of the and Carter’s | OshKosh and the #CartersOshKosh #Kidsentials sponsored program. I received compensation as a thank you for my participation. This post reflects my personal opinion about the information provided by the sponsors.

10 Things You Can Do for Someone Going Through Cancer

cancer support

When I was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer, my daughter was only 6 years old. It was a difficult time, full of uncertainty, fear, anger, helplessness. I felt overwhelmed and exhausted most of the time, and so did my husband and our young daughter as well.  When cancer hits, it sweeps through the whole family.

After slowly coming to terms with the diagnosis, we began telling family and close friends. And as the news filtered out to our wider community of friends, neighbours, colleagues, and even acquaintances, we found people wanted to help but weren’t always sure what to do or how to ask. In the end, it was simpler and easier for everyone if we just let people know exactly what we needed and how they could help.

So here’s a list of 10 things you can do for someone going through cancer:

1.       Deliver a meal. It doesn’t have to be fancy or made of only organic ingredients. If you are making a meal for your own family, double it up and bring it over. Remember to not only think of the cancer patient but the rest of the family, which may include young children. A batch of pasta sauce that can be frozen for later use is a good option. Here’s a handy and free scheduling tool called the Care Calendar. Family and friends can use this to coordinate meals.

cancer support

2.       Show up on their doorstep with an empty laundry basket. Routine household chores are probably not high on their priority list, but still need to get done sooner or later. Returning a basketful of freshly laundered and folded clothes will be a tremendous help.

3.       Run errands or pick up a few groceries. If you are worried about showing up at the wrong time, have them leave a list in the mailbox that you can pick up in the morning, or pre-arrange a convenient time. If you are doing a run to the pharmacy or grocery store anyway, picking up some extra items is not a big deal.

4.       Provide childcare. If they have young children, invite them over for a play date with your children. If you don’t have kids, or their kids are older, take them on an outing. Going to a movie will be a welcome distraction. Even a sleepover may work if the child is okay with being away from home. The parent(s) may need a break, as young children don’t understand why mommy or daddy is so tired all the time. Or the parents may need some alone time to chat. And the children may need time away from home to have some fun.

5.       Accompany/drive them to appointments and treatments. Having a note-taker during medical appointments is crucial. Doctors pass on a lot of information and use a lot of medical terms, which may not be fully grasped in the moment. Sitting with them during a treatment may be reassuring and will help to pass the time. Even a friendly and familiar face out there in the waiting room can be a source of comfort.

6.       Do exercise, yoga, meditation with them. Any type of activity that is enjoyable and good for their well-being will be welcome. It will help them feel better and gives you both something to focus on besides trying to fill up those awkward gaps in conversation.

yoga for cancer

7.       Check in with their spouse or caregiver. They are often forgotten in all of this. They are usually doing double duty especially if there are kids involved so they can be physically and emotionally drained.

8.       Don’t be afraid to talk to the kids about it. Adults are often afraid to bring up bad news with kids. They don’t want to upset them but kids are intuitive. They know what’s going on. They will probably appreciate it if you ask how mom or dad or their sibling is doing. They may need someone outside of the family circle to talk to. If you’re unsure about this, check with the parents first.

9.       Just be there and listen. Don’t offer advice (unless specifically asked for) and don’t bring up stories about Aunt Mary who went through the same thing. Everyone’s experience is different. Sit, hold their hand, pass a tissue, give a hug, make a cup of tea, let them be the lead.

Helping someone with cancer

10.   Send a card. It will let them know you are aware of what’s going on and you are thinking of them. Emily McDowell’s empathy cards will hit just the right note.

It was truly heartwarming when so many people found ways to help us during my cancer experience. And it wasn’t only family and close friends but distant neighbours, friends of friends, people we know casually. We will always be grateful for the heartfelt support we received during this difficult time. It made the journey that much easier. As The Beatles sang so well, “Oh I get by with a little help from my friends”.

Colleen Kanna is a breast cancer champion and creator of coKANna designs, a line of bamboo knit, Canadian-made clothing for women touched by breast cancer. Please check out her website at




How to throw an unbirthday party

Is it just me, or have birthday parties gotten out of hand? I'm not one to rain on any kid's parade - I DO realize that birthdays are super special for kids. But are they special because the child is truly excited, or are they special because we parents tend to hype them up?

For the past 6 years, we have done some pretty epic birthday parties for our oldest. She was our first, so of course I went out of my way to come up with spectacular themes, order the most beautiful cake, and decorate the house in a style worthy for Pinterest.

The tea party birthday

The tea party birthday

My enthusiasm came crashing down last year when I threw a "tea party" birthday and accidentally invited 13 kids (ok fine, it wasn't accidental, but I didn't expect every single kid to RSVP "yes!") The beautiful scene was set, with miniature tables and chairs, porcelain tea cups and pots, mini sandwiches and cupcakes. And the result? It was really, really loud. And stressful. And messy. 

Not to mention the fact that these birthdays are often overwhelming for our little ones. They barely have time to look at one present before 5 small people are pressing their way into the crowd shouting "Open mine next! Open mine next!"

I swore up and down that I wouldn't do it again. My littlest has been totally neglected in this department, and often just gets some cake and a mini celebration with a couple of friends (it's also the fact that she has just started school now, so doesn't really have a network of friends yet!)

So this year, we are doing an "unbirthday" party. I asked my daughter to think of 2-3 friends she really wants to spend time with, and told her we would be going out somewhere. We decided on a $5 movie at Cine Starz, and will then walk back to our house for some snacks, cake and playtime. 

Have you ever done an unbirthday for your child? Check out some ideas below!

A special activity

Most places charge over $150 to organize/host a birthday party. Instead, ask your child to choose 2 friends to invite and just go! You can have parents drop the kids off at the location, or perhaps you have enough car seats on hand (and a bigger vehicle!) to pick everyone up. And if you want to offer some food, pack snacks and cake in a cooler! 

Just go eat

I don't know about your kids, but mine love eating out! So invite 2-3 friends for a nice dinner somewhere, and ask the restaurant staff to stick a candle in the dessert.

You could also consider a weekend brunch, or maybe fancy high tea at the Chateau Laurier

Forgo the party for a super awesome gift

Has your child been asking for a special (and expensive) toy? Ask them if they'd rather give up the party in exchange for the thing they desire!

Do the party, but forget the extras

If you really want to do a party, but need to simplify, consider these tips:

- ask everyone to bring a used gift; perhaps something they have at home that they don't want anymore, or maybe some books they're done with. It makes gift giving less stressful, especially for the parents of the kids who are attending!
- don't do loot bags
- order in pizza instead of trying to make food
- buy a cheap-o cake or just do ice cream in special sugar cones

There are so many ways to reduce the stress we feel about birthday parties, and I'm going to hazard a guess that this will also reduce your child's inevitable party meltdown.

It's my party
and I'll cry if I want to
cry if I want to, cry if I want to
You would cry too if it happened to you...

5 Back to School Tips

by Penny Mayo

It is THAT time of the year again. The time when the evenings get cooler, the days get shorter and we are winding down our summer activities. It is also the time when we are preparing for the transition to back to school. Some parents love the return to routine and the end of camps, while other parents dread the return to making lunches and stressing about making it to school on time. Some kids can’t wait to meet up with their friends and pull out all those new notebooks, while other kids worry about remembering locker combinations and the amount of homework they might receive. Which one are you?

But it really doesn’t matter which one you relate to since there is one uniting factor - that almost everyone has jitters about something as we transition to the new school year.   

How do we curb those first day/week of school jitters for you and your kiddos?

It is a challenging time for most parents and kids even if it is a time everyone is looking forward to. Here are 5 quick tips to make it through the first week or two.

1.     Keep it very simple!

We’ve all heard how important it is to Keep It Simple. You may be wondering how you can keep it simple when we have no choice but to get the kids to school for the starting bell after being fed, dressed and, hopefully, hair and teeth brushed. But we do have plenty of choice for the hours that we are not at work and school. Just simply keep the expectations for these times low, don’t stress about the chores or the elaborate meals, don’t take on extra commitments and be sure to leave more time to get to places and get things done.

2.     Keep it low key!

Especially for kids and parents who may be nervous or have some anxiety, try to keep it low key. Society and Facebook might make it look like you need to have special first day of school outfits, have a special routine for the first day, have perfect first day of school pictures, have a new school bag and lunch box, etc. Well, the reality is, this is not a true expectation. Your family might work better if you go to school in the clothes you already have in your closet, with the back pack from last year. Save shopping for when the stores are less busy.

3.     Plan ahead!

Planning is hard after a summer of less structured time but the rewards are worth it. During the upcoming long weekend, take the opportunity to cook a few pounds of ground meat, cook some chicken, and bake a couple dozen muffins or protein bars to put in the freezer. In the morning, grab something out of the freezer so you know there is something easy waiting for supper when you get home and some healthy snacks for lunches the next day.

4.     Don’t write a to-do list or make a to-do pile!

If you are anything like me, my house is full of to-do lists and piles of papers that need attention. It only gets worse in the first days and weeks of school when all forms need to be completed NOW! Instead of putting it on the to-do list or the to-do pile – just sit down and fill them out and send them right back to school. Since you are having low key evenings, there is time to just sit down and fill them out.

5.     Allow yourselves to be lazy!

How can we allow ourselves to be lazy when there is so much to do with back to school time? The lazy days of summer makes for a hard transition to the crazy days of fall. If you balance the crazy school and work days in that first week or two with some lazy after dinner times, it will be an easier transition. If you can avoid going out during the evening of the first week of school and instead go for a family bike ride, go to the park or play some video games or board games with your kids, it will really help the transition to when extracurricular activities ramp up. By then you’ll be ready for it since you allowed yourself this calmer transition time.

How are you going to be gentle on yourself and your family during this year’s school start?

Penny Mayo is a parenting coach at