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Minnow Hamilton
January 28, 2011
Minnow Hamilton
What's the most popular baby name in your neighbourhood?
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What’s your favourite baby name? With a name like Minnow and a husband named Rupert, we thought it was important to go traditional with our kids names (Ryan and Michael). I always wanted to use the name Molly—but I had to have a girl to use that one so I was out of luck.

I often marvel at how well people suit their names. How does that happen? Parents spend hours and hours thinking about what to name their baby before it’s born; before it has a personality. Then once the name is decided and the child is born, it’s a perfect match. It’s like we already know our kids before they arrive.

Whether the name or the personality comes first, the fact is the name game is a really popular one. So much so that Openfile.ca, one of my favourite new sites (just launched this year) has implemented a handy baby name tool that allows readers to see what the most popular names are in their neighbourhood. It’s pretty cool. They also ask readers to share their own baby name stories and you’ll find lots of good ones.

Check out The Baby File yourself, it’s fun—and if you’re thinking of what to name your next baby, you might get inspired, or at least you’ll be sure not to name him after every other Tom, Dick or Harry.

What’s your favourite name?

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Tinted Sheen App
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Yes.

What do you think? There’s even an app for it.

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The business of Mommy Blogs
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There is an interesting topic being discussed on the Mom blogs right now. I first read about it in a post by one of our SavvyExperts and author of The Mother of All Parenting Books (as well as many others), Ann Douglas.

With publishers like Babble.com producing lists like ‘The Top 50 Mom Blogs of 2010’ comes a big debate on the issues of competition and compensation for mom bloggers. Such things are apparently rarely discussed in open among the mom bloggers as they are deemed contrary by some to the very nature of the organic and collaborative blogging community.

In a post written by Katie Allison Granju, a top US mommy blogger, her version of that culture is explained well: “Those of us mamas who blog—whether or not we happen to make these ‘best of’ lists—really aren’t in ‘competition’ with one another in the same way an MBA student would understand business competition. Although we do operate within the same media category, we are part of a uniquely interconnected and highly organic ecosystem of relationships and conversations. The independent mommy blogosphere is a living example of how a ‘rising tide lifts all boats.’ If one of us attracts a certain amount of traffic to our blog, and we link to another blog we like—or even to a blog post with which we may disagree that day—our traffic becomes that other blogger’s traffic, and so on and so on. That’s how it works. We depend on one another, and we like it that way.”

Meanwhile, Catherine Connors, a prominent Canadian mom blogger who has made a successful business of her blog, Her Bad Mother is sheepish but honest about the actual business of blogging, and her view is that mommy blogging should be regarded and accepted as a serious enterprise. Her reasons for not openly discussing the topic of success are as follows: “There are, I think, a million reasons why we don’t talk about it (success) in these spaces—for me, these include fear of being attacked for what some might think is my undeserved success, and a certain prissy squeamishness about talking about my success or about anything that might be perceived as a veiled-but-nonetheless-self-congratulatory discussion of my success—but whatever the reason, the lack of conversation hurts us.”

Andrea Tomkins, our Ottawa SavvyScribe and esteemed blogger, sums up this entire debate on her own blog, Inside the Fish Bowl if you are interested in reading more on the topic.

My two cents? After reading these honest and heartfelt posts (common on the mom blogs and at the core of their success), I am left with a few thoughts. Firstly, I congratulate all mom bloggers for their success and their efforts. Whether they intended to do so or not (some did, some didn’t), they have attracted the attention of mainstream media, top brands and advertisers. They have become a powerful and highly sought after influential voice.

Here’s the thing. With that voice comes responsibility and choices. Every single mom blogger has the ability to make a choice and be honest with herself about what she intends to do with her writing. If she is writing for personal reasons, to work through some of her own life/parenting questions, develop online relationships and hopefully become a better mother, then all the power to her. But if one chooses to make a business from one’s blog, I have a huge amount of admiration…and a little bit of advice. Building a community and a loyal audience is hard work. It’s not a part-time job and it’s not a job to be taken lightly. Any mom who has built that kind of community by delivering quality content should be proud of herself and should never be shy about that success. She should also be able to monetize the value of that audience, because if she doesn’t, then brands will figure out a way to take advantage of her influence.

Keep writing, be honest with yourself and make choices. But don’t be shy. Blogging is supposed to be all about transparency anyway, isn’t it?

Does anyone else want to join the discussion?

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Be careful how you tweet on Election Day!
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Don’t tweet, just vote.

Tweeting election results today could result in up to a $25,000 fine or up to five years of jail time.

Not tweeting (or being penalized for tweeting), some are arguing, is a violation of our rights to freedom of speech.

So what to do? Join in some of the ‘tweet-ins’ happening on Twitter as a protest? Use code names to post results in eastern provinces before the west-coast polls close? Or follow the code of law that prohibits the media from posting election results before the polls close?

These are some of the big discussions happening on this Election Day where the race definitely appears close and the leadership of the country is up for grabs.

What many people are asking is how the government plans to manage this Twitter blackout? What I would like to ask is how can the government expect the same standards of behaviour from individuals in the community at large as they do of the media? Particularly heavy social media users.

So if you’re thinking of tweeting out of turn, take heed and know the ramifications. We’re thinking we’d rather keep the $25,000 in our pocket for Mother’s Day.

What are your thoughts? Do you think this blackout will actually take place?

Now stop worrying about tweets and go vote.

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Amy Poehler's 2011 Time 100 Speech
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I came across this video online the other day and thought it was worth a savvy mention—especially around the time of the month when we are all celebrating being moms.

Amy Poehler made this speech as she was accepting an award for being named to the 2011 Time 100 (Time Magazine’s list of 100 most influential people in the world this year). Quite an accomplishment for a female comedian.

Her speech is a wonderful tribute to her extended family and caregivers who help her to ‘do what she likes to do’ (and do it so well I might add). That’s the part I like the most because the way I see it, doing what she does is also part of being the best she can be.

Amy makes a point of mentioning working moms in the speech, but I think it’s relevant to all moms—whether you’re a high-profile comedian, a part-time working mom, a stay-at-home mom or any variation of all the above. Every mom needs a little help from time to time, so grandparents, friends, sisters, date-night babysitters or full-time working nannies are the modern day ‘village’ we lean on to raise our children.

We might not be able to compare ourselves to Amy on a professional level, but her speech speaks to all of us.

This Mother’s Day, make a check list of all the people you want to thank for helping you be the best mom you can be. If your list isn’t very long, you might want to work on that. If we can learn a thing or two from this video, it’s telling us that it’s OK to ask for help from time to time… so you can do what you do…which in turn will help you to be the best (mom) you can be.

What do you think of Amy’s speech? Selfish or Super?

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Is our over-parenting making our kids miserable?
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June is almost over and I, for one, am not sad that the first summer seasonal month is coming to an end. That’s a heavy statement for one who likes to cherish every bit of summer, but I think most moms would agree that June is as crazy as December. End of school now means graduations (nursery school grads are very sweet but really?), then there are the gifts, the dance recitals, end-of-year parties, cupcakes and track meets…In fact, we are running a poll asking moms which month they find more exhausting and found that 30% said June was worse than December.

How many of us have asked the question (maybe not out loud)…“How did our parents live through this stress, or did they?” I can’t help but think they did not. And we turned out OK, right?

Then someone sent me this parenting-themed article from the New York Times about whether or not the amount we do for our kids has any impact at all on their happiness. It doesn’t speak directly to the June craziness, but it does allude to how much our generation does as parents.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think we should undo the good we are doing, but I think we could all use a dose of ‘keep it in check’. This article is an interesting read at a time when we are all gearing up for the summer months, and looking for ways to keep the kids entertained and happy.

Have a read through and let me know if you think we are doing too much for our kids? More importantly, answer me this: who are we really doing it for—us or them?

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Kids being banned from restaurants, co-sleeping and celeb baby names make the list this week.

What’s so topical about a restaurant in Pennsylvania banning children under the age of six, saying their boisterous behaviour bothers others patrons and is bad for business? I think it’s because the owners aren’t blaming the children, but rather the parents. Apparently, they argue that there is a noticeable decline in the behaviour of children aged 2 to 5, and after repeated appeals to parents to calm children down, their staff was ignored. It’s the parents who are being banned, not the kids.

I agree wholeheartedly with what Emma Waverman of Embrace the Chaos has to say when she asks why is this being talked about again? But I will be brave and say that it doesn’t surprise me when I hear owners wanting to ban the parents, not the kids. Small business owners have to make decisions to protect their loyal customers. If they don’t want my family in their restaurant, I don’t want to go there. Just don’t expect me to be a patron a few years down the road when our kids are older.

What do you think? Savvy or not so savvy?

Co-Sleeping was in the news this week when Erica Jong suggested in a New York Times article that co-sleeping was killing parents’ sex lives. Really? This is news? I ask you, what parent doesn’t know this?

Although it hasn’t been talked about voraciously on the mommy blogs, I noticed it did garner up to 160 comments on the Globe and Mail site at its most recent viewing. So even if it’s obvious, it’s also a topic that is close to people’s heart strings (and headboards). That is, it’s important enough to people that they are participating in the discussion. Not a shocker.

What do you think? Savvy or not so savvy?

While Harper Seven Beckham (Victoria and David’s baby girl) and Bingham (Bing) Hawn Bellamy (newborn son of Kate Hudson and Matthew Bellamy) get used to their new monikers, celeb baby names are on everyone’s mind once again. Here’s the scoop on the Today’s Parent blog.

I do understand that baby names are always a topical subject—especially for new parents. I also understand that people are obsessed with celebs (sadly). So put the two together and come up with a name like Bing (seriously) and you have something to talk about.

Think of the fun they can have creating rhyming nicknames for him… Bing a ling ding dong ding.

I suppose they don’t have to worry about getting busted in the schoolyard for being named after a sound their cell phone makes. He’ll likely be homeschooled. Lucky Bing… ding dong ding.

And by the way, I’m allowed to judge having grown up with a name like Minnow and being married to a man named Rupert. Just sayin’.

What do you think? Savvy or not so savvy?

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Savvy or Not So Savvy?
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$1,500 buys 20 goats for an impoverished African village, two months-worth of groceries for a Canadian family of three, or 50 French pedicures at the place around the corner from SavvyMom HQ. What else does it buy? A swanky, modern day stroller called the Donkey (we’ll omit any reference to a donkey’s rear at this point).

There was a lot of buzz recently around the launch of Bugaboo’s pimped-out Donkey stroller that comes with more accessories than a ‘tween girl on her way to a Justin Bieber concert. I had two strollers in the early years of raising my kids (a single and a used double) and they were just fine. The first was a gift, the second cost about $250. So you can imagine that I cringe at the thought of spending that much dough on wheels. As for Sarah, over the years she spent that much or more on the various strollers (single, double, umbrella, jogger, light for transporting, heavy for getting through the snow…) and wagons her family of three kids (born in 3. 5 years) went through. So I suppose there is an argument for both sides.

As a family (and child) grows, transportation requirements change and that first stroller might not cut it anymore. One of the purported advantages of the Donkey is that it grows with your family. And in her Embrace the Chaos blog, Emma Waverman raised another good point: ‘Your stroller represents that little bit of freedom to interact in the world…’ It’s tough to put a price on that but still, it’s open for debate. $1500 for a stroller? Savvy or not so savvy?

This month, police in Georgia shut down a lemonade stand. They allege the ‘perps’, three little girls who were trying to save money to go to a water park, didn’t have a permit nor did they have any kind of FDA approval for their product. We allege the police were just being cranky because the girls weren’t offering coffee and donuts along with the lemonade. Savvy or not so savvy?

Are they Hyper-Parents or Tiger Mom wannabes? Or are they on to something that most of us aren’t (but really should be)? I’m talking about parents who hire tutors for their (very) young children. An article in the Globe and Mail last month talked about the trend of parents hiring tutors for their pre-school children in order to give their kids a leg up in their education. (I can`t help but wonder if these tutors get paid as much as the one who tutors Gwyneth Paltrow`s children.) Turns out that three- and four-year-olds face stiff competition when they enter preschool and kindergarten and by providing tutor-time to learn about things like sphere’s, cylinders and trapezoids, parents are giving them an advantage. At least these parents are being more proactive than the New York mom who sued her daughter’s pre-school because it was, ‘a ‘big playground’ teaching mere shapes and colours and therefore damaging her kid’s educational future.’

What do you think, Savvy or Not So Savvy? We’d love to hear from you, especially if you’ve hired a tutor recently for your toddler. (I could use a refresher on the difference between a sphere and a cylinder.)

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Savvy or Not So Savvy?
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It’s not surprising that these T-shirts were pulled off the shelves in JC Penny stores across the US last week. They had moms everywhere in an uproar.

To add more fuel to the fire, look at the descriptive message in the right hand box where the product information goes: ‘Who has time for homework when there’s a new Justin Beiber album out?’

True, girls are subjected to confusing messages about subjective beauty everywhere. It’s nothing new. What’s crazy to me as a mom, is that in this case, we are the ones being marketed to, not the girls. And they think moms will buy these T-shirts for their daughters? Where is the research these retailers apparently spend hundreds and thousands of dollars on? Surely there is something in there that would help them understand what moms are looking for when shopping for their kids—if their own common sense isn’t enough.

That said, there is still room for more bad messages for young girls—and boys for that matter. Check out this funny gallery for more really inappropriate ideas.

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Minnow Hamilton
October 19, 2011
Minnow Hamilton
Blissdom Canada Conference
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Sarah and I attended the Blissdom Canada Conference in Toronto last week and we’re still recovering from all of the excitement.

The second annual Blissdom Canada Conference brought together social-media-lites across Canada—bloggers, Twitterati, PR mavens, digital publishers and some brand sponsors all came together to share their knowledge and insights. ‘It’s all about sharing the love at Blissdom’, said the fabulous Catherine Connors of Her Bad Mother in her keynote speech. 

Here are some of the highlights:

I won a Samsung Galaxy 550 phone courtesy of PC Financial. It’s seriously ‘ill’ as my 14 year old would say.

We were driven around in one of the new Chevrolet Orlando cars—they’re pretty cool.

We mingled with celebs at a party hosted by CBC Live.

We learned a lot about why bloggers are blogging. Here are some:

  1. They have a story to tell and they enjoy telling it
  2. They want to be a writer and this is the first step
  3. They are interested in making money and turning their blog into a business
  4. They want to get noticed by other publishers and get paid for their writing
  5. They have a product to sell and they use their blog and twitter to market their product
  6. All or any of the above

We listened to discussions about different ways bloggers can work with brands.

We listened to the challenges faced by bloggers and brands in trying to work together and we listened to the discussions (like this one by Alex @Clippo on the evolution of bloggers and advertising.

We thought a lot about this disruption—the one where brands have crept into the natural, organic world of blogging; a world where there have traditionally been no ads, no contests or advertorials. 

Despite all of the discussion about why some bloggers accept ads, work with brands, run promotions, etc, my view is simple (in case you were wondering). Marketers are not going to leave bloggers alone at this stage because they know how much influence they have in the social media bucket. The good news is that this puts us in the driver’s seat.

Writers don’t have to accept anything from marketers but they should be aware of how the industry works so that they can learn to navigate it when they are approached. Bloggers need to understand their own intrinsic value whether or not they decide to ‘sell’ or not. They need to know what they are worth—to their readers and to marketers. That way, they can make informed decisions about what they want to do and where they want to go with their craft.

Conferences like Blissdom Canada help bloggers, brands and everyone in between understand the constantly evolving landscape we’re all working in. I think I can speak for Sarah when I say that we are both grateful to the organizers of Blissdom Canada for putting on a conference like this at a time when the speed of change is so rapid you can feel it happening with every tweet.

 

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