children, Family, Life, Parenting

Our first ECHOage party.

This weekend, my family and I were invited to an ECHOage birthday party.  The birthday boy, my friend’s son, was turning two.  Typical of a two-year old birthday party, the event was held at an indoor playground.  But what was different, was the present.  In lieu of typical gifts, the parents decided to host an ECHOage party.

If you’re like me, and have never heard or attended an ECHOage party before, here’s the scoop.

1. Instead of using traditional invites or evite, you create your invitation on ECHOage’s website (

2. You then get to choose a gift.  Think BIG!  Maybe your child wants a play set for their yard, or an iPad, or even a puppy.  Whatever it is, you write down what big one item gift you want to buy your child for their birthday.

3.  Then, you select a charity.  Is there a specific charity your child loves and wants to support? Something that’s close and dear to your heart? Maybe “make a wish” or “WWF”. ECHOage will send half of the money contributed by your guests to the chosen charity.

4. The rest is straight forward.  You manage your party (event date, time and location) and you get to track how much money has been donated online. On your party date, half of the money will be sent to you directly (to be used for your child’s birthday gift) and the other will be donated to the charity that you selected.

My friend, who has a big heart and has always helped others in need stated that she picked this route for her son’s party because fortunately, he already has all the toys and clothes he could ever want due to the abundant of older cousins that he has.

John and I have always discussed a “no gift” birthday party for Kyle, but since he’s already at an age that understands that gifts are part of the party package, it would be hard to do away with it.  As well, our family and friends are so generous, they would probably bring gifts regardless.  This is why I love this idea.  It’s a perfect way to give back and teach your child about the community and helping out others in need.  I’m looking forward to hosting an ECHOage party for Kyle and our baby on-the-way 🙂

children, Family, Holidays, Parenting, Reviews & Giveaways

My favourite SPOT for personalized gifts; KidSpot. Review & Giveaway (open to all Canadians)

Growing-up, believe it or not, my name, MAYA, wasn’t very popular.  I always envied kids who were able to walk into any toy store and find their name all over various paraphernalia.  Whether it was a cup, lunch-bag, key-chains or pens, I wish I could get one with my name.

So when I had my son, KYLE, I was beyond excited to be able to purchase him various stuff with his name on it.  Perhaps I went over-board at times, but personalized gifts (to both give and receive) are some of my favourites.  Of course, I don’t buy it just for the sake of having my son’s name on everything ,but rather, I’m selective about what I buy.  Since selection, quality and customer service are important to me, I only purchase my personalized items from KidSpot – Unique Gifts For Babies & Kids (  A local store in the GTA that also sells merchandise online (ships anywhere in Canada).  The best part is that the personalization is free with your purchase!  You can select the font and colour yourself; they even offer Hebrew letters.  Here’s some of my favourite items; some of which we received as gifts and some we purchased:

Last month we celebrated Kyle’s birthday.  Instead of the traditional dollar-store loot-bag items (which end up costing a fortune when all is said and done), I’ve opted for a more personalized loot-bag.  I purchased pencil-cases and had each one personalized with the kids’ names on it.  I filled each pencil-case with crayons, stickers and a few candy items and tied it to a colouring book.  To say the least, these loot bags were hits with both the parents and the children.  One of the parents told me that their son even slept with his pencil-case!!

Not only are these great and unique baby shower and birthday gifts, but they’re also great for the holidays.  And believe it or not, the holidays are just around the corner, and KidSpot has some great items for you entire family including personalized x-mas stockings.  They currently have an online promotion where you can receive 10% off your purchase (use code kidspot during checkout).  Also, one lucky reader will receive a $30 gift-card to use towards their purchase of any item offered at KidSpot.

To enter this contest, you need to do one of the followings.  The more you do, the more entries you will receive in the draw.  Kindly leave me a message at the end of this post to let me know which of the following activities you have completed.

1. Like KidSpot on Facebook

2. Like Mayahood on Facebook

3. Follow my blog on WordPress.  Click on the “follow” button and enter your e-mail address to receive my latest blog posts directly to your mailbox as soon as I publish them.

4. Share this giveaway on your Facebook page.  Copy and Paste the following sentences on your personal timeline: Great giveaway from KidSpot.  Enter here for your chance to win $30 towards a personalized gift:

5. Let me know (by leaving me a message at the bottom of this post) what you would want to buy from KidSpot ( if you won the $30.

Contest deadline is Friday, November 23rd.  Open to all residents in Canada.  Good-luck!




children, Family, Life, Parenting

My 2 year old son only wears brand name clothes

Most people assume that if they have boys, they won’t run into the same issues that girls typically have.  Specifically, issues relating to clothes.  Well, not so and I have a two-year old boy to prove it.

Kyle has decided to show us his independence through his choice of clothes.  Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as the colour.  In fact, Kyle insists on wearing brand name clothes only.  Now, I’m not talking brand name like Hugo Boss, Louis Vitton or Lacoste.  I’m talking, Elmo, Thomas, Cars and smurfs.  Unless it’s one of those, he refuse to wear it.

The problem is, 80% of the clothes he owns, are not his brand of choice.  About a year ago, when I went to Joe Fresh, I found tons of great shirts for him size 2T (about a year out).  They were all on sale for approximately $3, so I couldn’t resist buying them, and smiling to myself about what a great super saver shopper I am.  Well, I couldn’t have been any more wrong!  I’m lucky if I’m able to persuade him to wear any of those shirts.

Some of the tactics that I’ve used include: “The Elmo shirt is itchy, mommy needs to wash it so you HAVE TO wear this one until the Elmo shirt is clean”.  Or, “look, there’s a backpack on this shirt, just like Dora.  Don’t you want to be like Dora?” and my all-time favourite “look at the _____ (fill in the blank with whatever animal is on the shirt).  Let’s go and try to find this ‘animal’ today”.  I’m usually lucky enough that these work, especially if he hasn’t spotted one of his favourite shirts.

I’ve even decided to go and purchase a few more of his brand name shirts, but then my husband keeps reminding me that we have a closet full of clothes that he’s never even wore.  He’s right, I can’t justify spending more money on 2-year-old clothes.  I just have to do laundry more often I guess!!  During a more recent shopping trip, I just let Kyle pick out the clothes. While they didn’t have any of his favourites, he did choose two. One had a cool dinosaur on it, and the other was of a bulldozer.  And since he picked it out, he hasn’t minded wearing them all that much.

Girl or boy, do your kids have any funny / frustrating phases like this one?  I’m sure that just like every other phase, this one is sure to pass.  But in the meantime, please share your secrets with me.  I’d love to hear 🙂

children, Family, Life, Parenting

Why this 8 month-old baby needs your support!

Strolling my son down the street on Sunday I bumped into my neighbour.  After a few chit-chats, she held back some tears and told me about the horrific ordeal that her family is facing.

Her daughter recently flew to Greece for vacation with her husband and two small children.  My neighbour’s youngest grandson, Alexander, at 8 months old, started to show cold-like symptoms.  After several treatments and visits with the Doctors in Greece, he was officially diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy.  Unfortunately, he heart surgery that’s required to help Alexander is not available in Greece for children under the age of 5.

While it is (thankfully) available here in Toronto, the cost to fly baby Alexander here via air ambulance costs $100,000.  The family does not have travel insurance to cover this cost nor do they have the money to pay for this from their own pockets.  This is where you can help out.

Global Angel Charitable Organization is assisting in making all the arrangements for Baby Alexander’s return to Toronto.  Donations can be made online at: or by calling them at: 705-740-2645.  Tax receipts will be issued for your donation.  Even if all you can afford is a dollar or two, any amount will help if we get enough people to donate. 

You can watch the family’s plea for help on CityTv @:

and on Global news @:

You can also follow their story and receive updates on the following FB page:

Below is the information sheet put together by the family


8 month old Canadian baby critically ill in Greece requires immediate lifesaving treatment in Toronto

A Toronto family’s visit to Greece has taken a tragic turn when eight month old Baby Alexander developed cold-like symptoms and was taken to the hospital in Greece.

After repeated assessments Baby Alexander has been diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy, a condition in which his heart has become weakened and enlarged. As a result, his heart cannot pump enough blood to the rest of the body and without medical treatment in Canada, this will be fatal.

Sick Kids Hospital have accepted Baby Alexander when he comes back to Toronto however there is no insurance coverage or sufficient monies to provide for the cost of bringing him back home to Toronto where he can receive life-saving treatment.

Global Angel Charitable Organization is assisting in making all the arrangements for Baby Alexander to return via air ambulance with a specialized medical team at a cost of $100,000.00

Donations can be made by or by calling the Global Angel Charitable Organization at 705-740-2645. Global Angel Charitable Organization is a Registered Charity that offers valuable support to persons and families who requires medical transportation.

A Scotia Bank account has also been open in baby Alexander’s name:

Alexander Karanikas

Account # 87916 01362 20

You can watch our plea for help on CityTv @:


children, Family, Life, Parenting

Finding a nutritious balance for your kids

If there’s one thing my husband and I don’t agree on (ya right… 1 thing), it is with regards to feeding our two-year old son.

Our disagreement stems from years of being raised on different spectrums of food ideologies.  Growing up, my school lunches consisted of mostly either Nutella on bread or sour cream and olives / pickles on bread (I loved eating this!).  For breakfast we could have our cereal of choice, full of sugar or not, and dinner always consisted of soup, chicken and a side dish.  I never questioned this eating style and to be honest, I loved it.  No one in my family was overweight and we never had any issues with diabetes, high blood pressure, etc…

On the other hand, my husband was never allowed any sugary cereals growing up.  And they mostly had pasta for dinners.  John loves chocolate and candy and had only limited access to this food group growing up.  As an adult, he loves anything sweet and will usually make me “hide” any candy / chocolate we have in the house so he doesn’t finish it all in one sitting; and I’m talking about Halloween candy bag sizes here!  Similarly, everyone in his family is healthy.

Mommy… is ice cream and M&M part of the food guide?

We both believe that the food we ate growing up was healthy, so we had to compromise when it came to finding the right balance for our son Kyle.  While I focused on just getting anything into Kyle’s mouth (and tummy), my husband was obsessing about WHAT was going in there.  While it wasn’t always “ideal”, we managed to have a healthy two-year old.  Of course, our debate continues on a daily basis.

I was recently invited to join a six other fellow bloggers to discuss family nutrition with Lydia Knorr, mom of three, Registered Dietitian and Yoplait spokesperson.  My husband and I jumped at the opportunity and attended this event last week.  If anything, we were both hoping to learn something from a professional to prove the other wrong (yes, we’re both a little competitive).  Here’s some of the key take-aways that I learned that day:

  • We all need fuel in order to get energy. Food (of any type) = fuel. This includes sugar.
  • While some food may contain some sugar, it probably also contains a lot of other good nutrients that are needed for the body.  So go ahead and give it to your kids (i.e. not gummy bears that are pure sugar, but bear paws, honey nut Cheerios etc… are okay).
  • If you have a grazer, try to stay away from snacks (which are fillers for Toddlers)  and give your kids a “meal” instead every 2.5 to 3 hours.  If you do give a snack, try to give a healthy option that consists of either fruit and / or vegetables.
  •  If your kids eat plenty of fruit, but not as many veggies, try to hide it in your meals.  Steam or cook the veggies, puree them and stick them in whatever you’re having for dinner.  No one is the wiser!
  • In general, try serving two different vegetables with dinner and stay away from grain (which your kids probably ate enough of during breakfast and lunch).
  • When you read food labels, the three main things to look for are: sodium (low or not existing), saturated fat (the lower the better) and Fibre (the higher the better, most adults need about 21g + a day).
  • Offer water to quench your little one’s thirst.  Provide fruit or vegetables instead of juice.
  • Don’t stress when it comes to food!  If you’re relaxed about it, your kids will be too and eating will be enjoyable for them, instead of a “task”.

For other great quick tips and recipes for kid meals check out Canada’s Food Guide for Children here:

If you’re looking for some healthy food ideas for your toddler, here’s some of Kyle’s favourites:

For breakfast: steel-cut oats with cinnamon and raisins, or plain Cheerios.

For snacks: any fruit (apple, bananas, raisins), cheese and edamame.

For lunch: peanut butter on bread (I know this may not be an option for those with allergies).

Dinner: chicken or salmon with a side of vegetable; usually green peas, avocado, tomatoes, cucumber or red pepper.  Kyle also loves corn and tofu, so we put that in any soup I make.

To sum up, I was right and John was wrong!!  Just kidding… I think we were both right and our compromise is probably the right balance that’s needed to keep our son healthy and happy.

children, Family, Life, Parenting

The deadly sins of sharing on Facebook, by the last person who should give advice on this topic

My high school acquaintance recently posted on Facebook the following status: “the less you post to Facebook the less you’ll have to delete later.” While I had a good chuckle to myself, it also made me think. I post A LOT to Facebook. Basically, I tend to error on the side of oversharing.  Of course, my love affair with Facebook started innocently enough.  I signed up for an account back in 2007 as a way to share my weekend at the cottage and birthday party pictures with a small group (approximately 25 people) of close friends. Fast forward 5 years, 100 plus albums and 713 friends later.  My small affair turned into a love obsession.  I am literally O-B-S-E-S-S-E-D with Facebook now.  It’s time I took a hard look at what I share and reevaluate.

For everyone else who might be like me, here’s a few reminders.
Baby pictures
1. Other than your partner and parents, no one needs to see more than 1 new picture a day of your super cute kids. I know, I’m at fault for this one (big time), but it’s true. Try to resist and share the other 10 cute pictures you have (with those that care), via email. Same goes for pet owners who treat their pets like kids.
2. Full frontal nudity, no matter at what age or how cute it is, is NOT okay.
3. Disturbing pictures of your labour (ie. Blood, placenta, half-naked pictures of yourself) are not and should not be shared with 700 of your closest friends. I mean, even Hollywood keeps those details under wraps.  Have you ever seen a “messy” birth on film?  TMI people.  T-M-I
4. Basically, anything that might be misinterpreted and be questionable by CAS should not be shared on FB.

Work-related posts
1. Don’t ever post any complaints you have about work on FB. No matter how bad your day was. Your friends can be your co-workers, but co-workers aren’t always your friends!
2. Don’t post a link to the new job you’re applying for. This includes “like”ing Workopolis, Careerbuilder, and any other job search site.
3. Ensure to limit, untag, make private or erase all together any incriminating pictures of yourself. These may include “wardrobe malfunctions”, binge drinking or days off (when you should be at work) pictures of yourself. Your future boss might look here first to see if you’re a good fit. So unless you’re applying to be a stripper, or a bar-mitzvah / bachelor party organizer, those pictures will probably allow Mr. I don’t have a FB account to get hired over you.

Status updates
1. No one cares what you had for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
2. Don’t announce or congratulate a friend on FB on the recent engagement, birth of child or other major life milestone before they’ve posted the news themselves or told you it’s okay to do so.  3. No one cares where you are at this moment.  Doctor, Dentist, Park or Home.  Save that kind of sharing for Twitter.

Facebook games
Don’t post or ask anyone to help you with one of your online games. Does anyone still play Farmville? I don’t know because I deleted all those people from my timeline.

While some things can’t be avoided to be shared, like a failed relationship or a loss, we can all do our part to keep some of our private life, well… private. Or do as my one friend does. She has a private account that she never posts to and doesn’t let others post to but she has all of creeping (uhhhhhh I mean staying connected with the people who matter :)) benefits the rest of us do. I mean, if I can’t overshare on FB, at least I can see what other people are.

Disclaimer: at one point or another I have probably overshared one, more, or all of the deadly Facebook sins noted above.