Thursday, December 6, 2012

Financial Goals for the New Year for Income

Do you have any financial goals for the new year?

One of mine has to do with where my income is coming from.

An approximation of my income from 2012 is:
  • 79% from primary job.
  • 12% from secondary job.
  • 5% from self-employment.
  • 4% from EI (I was on maternity leave for the month of January)
This is gross income from jobs, not including benefits and gross EI payments. Self employment is income after expenses (but not including cell phone, and before out of home expenses)...otherwise it would currently be registering at 0% because my cell phone and out of home expense deductions would wipe it all down to 0 taxable income!
    I'd like to be able to have that first amount of income from primary job drop to about 70%.  My hope is that I can increase the self-employment amount from 5% of my income to about 15%.  Self-employment including cell phone expenses would be even better!

    Wednesday, December 5, 2012

    How to Make Your Kids NOT Believe in Santa!

    Do you need some tricks to make sure your kids don't believe in Santa after this year?!  Sure you do! :) Ok, maybe you don't, but they might help you anyway.

    All presents wrapped in the same wrapping paper!
    Use the same wrapping paper.  I believe in using what I have. At Christmas, this might not always work out though, since using the same wrapping paper on presents from Santa and from mom & dad will lead to some smart questions! "Santa buys his wrapping paper at Shoppers Drug Mart and Costco too, Mommy?" Um...yes. Yes he does.

    Your gift hiding spot is too easily found.  Uh oh. Your kids know where you hide the gifts! How do you explain that what they saw is from Santa and not from you when they saw the gifts in your closet on December 5?!

    Same handwriting from Santa and Mom & Dad. Oops!
    Use the same font/handwriting on gift tags.  Even if kids can't officially read yet, they can tell the difference between what looks similar and different.  All caps, same type of pen? Yep, that would be *my* mistake!  Try bringing some gift tags with you to your next coffee with a girlfriend and have them write out the ones from Santa.

    Santa's favorite drink and snack.  Convince your kids that Santa's favorite drink/snack to leave out for him just happens to be the same as yours! Santa likes egg nog and potato chips and not milk and cookies? Yep! You have no idea how many school yard arguments over Santa's favorite snack have occurred due to this one!

    Eating Santa's snack before putting out the presents.  You just ate those chips and eggnog, but havn't put the presents out yet. And, now you hear little feet coming downstairs.  Oops! Do you have crumbs on you?  Now Santa came and ate, but didn't leave any presents? Oh dear. You can see where this will lead!

    Hope you enjoyed my tips!  To be honest, I've done all of these, but we have purposely not made a big deal of keeping who Santa is a secret.  If you do want to keep his identity a secret, maybe you can benefit from my mistakes!

    Do you have any gaffes to add to the list?

    Sunday, December 2, 2012

    Tax Withheld on RRSP Withdrawals

    If you are in Canada, and are at a point where you need or want to withdraw money from your RRSP, please ensure that you are familiar with the rules of withdrawing it.

    I've had a few income tax clients over the last couple of years who have been surprised to owe money on their income tax.  The primary reason these particular clients owed money was because they withdrew money from their RRSP's but the bank/financial institution did not withhold enough tax on the withdrawal for their financial situation.

    Minimum Tax Withheld on Withdrawals

    The minimum tax that is withheld is dictated by Canada Revenue Agency.
    If you take $5000 or less out, they withhold 10% in taxes.
    If you take between $5000.01 and $15000 out, they withhold 20% in taxes.
    If you take more than $15000 out, they withhold 30% in taxes.

    (Note: These are the numbers for all of Canada, except Quebec, which withholds slightly more.)

    Add to Income

    The amount that is withdrawn gets added to your income tax as income.  If you have other income from other sources (employment, investments, etc.), it is quite possible you are will need to have more money withheld for taxes! Or, alternatively, ensure that you are saving the money that you will owe on taxes in something that is earning you a bit of interest in the meantime.

    Be Aware. Know Your Circumstances.

    As long as you are aware of your circumstances, there will be no problem! You will make sure that either the bank or yourself withholds enough taxes so that you are not surprised come income tax filing time.

    The problem is if you are not aware, and all of a sudden you realize that you owe a bunch of money as a result of withdrawing money from your RRSP's and you weren't aware that this would happen.

    No one likes finding out that they owe money to the government.

    Have you been surprised to owe money when filing your taxes?

    Thursday, November 8, 2012

    Online Shopping with World Vision. The Perfect Gift!

    Christmas is less than seven weeks away! Have you started your holiday shopping yet?  I have to admit that I am not a fan of going to the malls during the Christmas season.  I find it a bit of an overwhelming experience.  Ideally I would have all my Christmas shopping done before Halloween, but I think I've only been that organized twice.

    I *Love* online shopping.  Being able to sit at home, browse, order and know that the job is done is fabulous. But even with online shopping, sometimes there is just that one person that you have no idea what to buy for them.

    Or maybe you have reached a point in your life that you don't need anything else in your home.

    I have an idea for you!

    Have you heard of World Vision?  They have a fabulous Christmas catalogue.  Don't know what to buy someone? Buy something meaningful for someone else in the name of the person you would normally buy for.  I bet they will be more delighted than you can imagine at how nice your gift to them is!

    Or, like a retired couple I know, encourage others to look and buy from this catalogue as their Christmas gift to you.

    The first time I heard of this program was in 2003.  Our son Colin was born, and then died on his third day of life due to a genetic disorder that had no treatment at the time.

    World Vision picture of gift of a goat.
     A few weeks afterwards, I received a card in the mail from World Vision, stating that my mother in law had purchased a goat in Colin's memory.  There was nothing she could do for our son (her first grandson), but she wanted to be able to help someone else in his memory.  How lovely! Much nicer than sending flowers.

    A goat provides meat, milk and income for a family.

    There are animals for everyone in the catalogue!  Take a look for yourself!!

    World Vision picture of the gift of a beehive.
    There are many fabulous ideas.  One of the most needed items is a beehive.  It provides up to 50kg of honey that can then be used or sold.

    For $75 feed 50 children lunch for a month!
    $75.00 doesn't go very far in Canada for food.  However, due to matching programmes, this same amount will feed 50 schoolchildren lunch for a month. 

    Had you heard of the World Vision gift catalogue before? If not, I hope it has inspired you with some new Christmas giving ideas!

    Saturday, October 27, 2012

    Almond Fresh Milk by Earth's Own - Delish!

    At the She's Connected conference I attended this past weekend, one of the sponsors was Almond Fresh.  They have a line of almond milk drinks in a number of flavors.  Original, chocolate, vanilla, and coconut.  They are even coming out with a new flavor for the holidays - Almond Fresh Noel Nog.

    They gave out drink box samples of the original flavor to take home.  I didn't get a chance to try them, because my daughter decided she loved them!

    I did get to to try both the chocolate and coconut flavors while at the conference.  Both were very good, but the coconut in particular struck my fancy.  I'm really hoping to try using the coconut almond milk as a substitute for water or chicken broth for cooking rice in.  I think it would be delicious!!

    Since I have a genetic disorder which means having a low protein diet, I am really excited about this product and being able to share it with others.  At 1g protein/250ml drink, this is an amazing product for us. Regular milk has 8g of protein for the same volume.

    I went to my local Sobey's this week, and was disappointed to not find this product there.  I will have to check the larger Sobey's to see if it is there, because I really want to try cooking rice in it, and my daughter would like more of it to drink!

    Friday, October 26, 2012

    Shes Connected Conference #SCCTO: The Panels and Speakers

    This past weekend I attended the She's Connected Conference at the Metro Toronto Convention Center.

    Up early on Friday morning in order to catch the 5:45am Greyhound bus to Toronto, I was pleasantly surprised to find that Greyhound has updated their services since last year.  The bus had wifi and each seat had a plugin for your phone/laptop/electronic device!

    I arrived! After registering, I sat down at a random table, to discover that I actually knew a couple of the people from talking with them on Twitter.  Before going to the conference, I had prepped a list of the people I wanted to meet that I have talked with online.  I was able to meet most, but they were all very brief introductions because the conference was so busy!

    She's Connected Conference Badge #SCCTO
    I went to the conference to learn, therefore I attended a lot of sessions. Content Curation and Content Management, Content Mix, Visual Elements, and the panel were the ones that I personally enjoyed and learned the most from.

    I thoroughly enjoyed the keynote session by McDonalds Canada, particularly hearing from the director of Ronald McDonald Houses across Canada.  I was able to talk with her directly afterwards, and told of our experience being on the waiting list for RMHC last year, and a suggestion based on our experience of needing a place to stay before our baby was born.  They needed me to be in Toronto in case of labour beginning since the baby needed to go to Sick Kids within minutes of being born.  At the moment, social workers cannot apply for space at RMHC until the day the child is born.  She was genuinely pleased to hear from me, and thought the suggestion was excellent feedback that she wrote down to take back to the company. 

    Here are my top 5 things I learned:

    1) Make a Content Calendar. When performing a social media job on behalf of a company, write up a calendar of upcoming tweets and posts to be vetted by management.  Arrange ahead of time whether you can respond to people without comments being vetted first.  Social media is new, and companies are not used to it yet. With experience the company can trust you to represent them.  Even if you aren't representing a company, a content calendar can be really handy for yourself personally as well!

    This has already come in handy, as I started a contract this week facilitating a group with the YWCA where social media will form a large part. We have arranged to have any planned posts/tweets sent ahead of time to management to approve, but I am able to respond directly to anyone who contacts me online.

    2) Pictures, pictures, pictures.  Pictures are extremely important in blogging. Yes, I knew this already, but I hate finding pictures to use through creative commons licensing.  It takes forever to go through to find one I want to use.  I'll have to try to remember to take more pictures. With a smartphone in my hands, this should be easy enough.

    3) Keep writing.  Be yourself and keep writing.  Having good content on your site/blog is the best way to get readers and visitors.  No matter what your topic is, be yourself and keep writing!  I struggle with this because I've previously wondered what to write about.  The answer is to write about whatever your interests are!  That could be writing about a niche topic, or writing a variety of everything.

    4) Learn from others.  Ask people what personal experiences or people have influenced their lives.  You will meet fabulous people, and hear stories that you will not have anticipated.

    5) Community is amazing.  It was unfortunate that more people did not attend the panel.  It broached the topic of community, and how online communities in the face of adversity or difficulties can be life changing for people.  Although cancer is not part of my personal story, I was able to share about how being online was an amazing, humbling experience while looking for an organ donor for our infant son last year.

    My next post will be about meeting the amazing brands and companies that I was able to meet at the conference!

    Monday, October 22, 2012

    Have You Made the Most of Your Benefit Plan?

    Have you thought about your benefit plan at work recently? Most benefit plans run on a calendar year, which means the benefits you can use in one year end on December 31.  Even though we are only at the end of October, the end of the year will come quickly!

    I am extremely fortunate to work for an agency that still provides health benefits to their permanent employees who work more than 24 hours/week.  Ideally, I would love to work 16 or 20, but I work 25 hours a week with this employer in order to maintain access to the benefit plan.

    I realize that not everyone has access to a benefit plan, but if you do, you should make sure you are using it!

    By using your benefits, you could be using services like:

    • Accupuncture
    • Chiropractor
    • Dentist
    • Glasses or Contacts
    • Massage
    • Naturopathy
    • Nutritionist
    • Optical Services
    • Orthodontist
    • Orthotics
    • Personal Counselling
    • Prescription Drugs
    If you pay into your benefit plan from your earnings, make sure to claim this amount as a medical expense on your income taxes.  Sometimes the amount is listed on your T4 slip, and sometimes it is on your last paystub for the year.  Also, for any services that are not 100% covered, the portion that you pay that is not covered can also be considered a medical expense. 

    I've already booked monthly massages for November and December in order to make use of my benefit plan.  Take a look into the details of yours, and make sure you are using them!

    Monday, October 15, 2012

    National Infant and Pregnancy Loss Remembrance Day

    October 15th is National Pregnancy Loss and Remembrance Day.

    We are coming up on October 24th, which is what would have/could have been the 1st birthday of our son Kyle.  He died at Toronto Sick Kids last November from an E. Coli infection while waiting for a liver transplant, which was to be the treatment for a genetic metabolic disorder called Ornithine Transcarbamylase Deficiency aka OTC Deficiency.

    It's an extremely difficult genetic situation to manage with drugs until the point of transplant. But the doctors were hopeful. They were willing to try everything  possible for us. It was the very first time that Sick Kids was dealing with a case where it was known before birth that a liver transplant would be needed.  In order to have him on the transplant list immediately after birth and to help search for a living liver donor, we found out his blood type before being born, through the extra sample of amniotic fluid during the pregnancy.  There were high risk pregnancy specialists to look after my health to keep my ammonia levels low during the pregnancy and birth, genetic teams from four different hospitals, and transplant teams from two hospitals. It had also been arranged for us to fly with him to Yale university hospital for an experimental hepatocyte transplant of liver cells, and to be flown back to Toronto if a liver were to come available while we were there.

    Toronto General had more people apply to be a living liver donor than they had ever had apply for a child before.  Apparently many children have no applicants at all, and their only chance is with a cadaver liver. At the last moment, only a few days before I delivered, they even decided they would be willing to try a transplant with the wrong blood type if one came available because of the severity of the situation. Again, this was something that had never been done with a child at Sick Kids, only with adults. Pretty amazing preparation work behind the scenes with all the teams co-ordinating together.

    I'm still dealing with this death a year later. I'm angry. I didn't expect to still be angry after a year, but I am. I'd like to be rid of the anger.  Unlike the doctors, we didn't actually expect our son to come home because we understood how hard it is to treat OTC.  But in all the potential situations in my mind, one that didn't enter was that of an E. Coli  infection! E. Coli? Really? Found in the picc line, it most likely got there from one of the many many staff not washing their hands properly. There were dozens of staff handling him each day... Its impossible to say which person caused it.  The almost impossible to treat genetic condition was actually being managed successfully. Without the infection, he would have made it through to being transplanted. Long sigh. The infection was found on day 8. It became septic and caused brain stem damage.  Test results on day 14 showed the infection had caused damage to the part of the brain that tells your body how to move. It had also resulted in no response to sound or visual stimuli.  His last natural movement was on day 13.  His brain had actually atrophied (got smaller) from one week before. All from the E. Coli infection, and not the genetic condition.

    The treatment options they were using last year were very new, and as I already stated, we were extremely appreciative for the great attempts at treatment that were made.  We know the treatment methods are new, because in 2003, our first son Colin was born with the same condition. So, yes, you read correctly, this was the second time we went through a neonatal death.  Transplant was not a treatment option for infants then. We went through that pregnancy learning he was affected at around 20 weeks knowing there was no treatment.  We did "care by parent" at the hospital, and he was held the entire time he lived. He was a typical newborn until the 40 hour mark, at which point his system started shutting down from poisoning. We had been told to expect him to go into a coma, which he never did. His systems just gradually shut down, and he died at 52 hours old, on his third day of life.

    After this first death, I had a miscarriage the next year at 9 weeks. Physically more painful than any of my labors, and difficult in and of itself,  it also brought up all the emotions of Colins death. Our daughter was about four at the time, and I remember her crying harder than I've ever seen her cry before when I came home from the hospital and said the baby had already died inside of me.

    Between the death and the miscarriage it took many years before I was ready to try again. Which unfortunately didn't work due to the stupid E. Coli infection.


    People. The positive. People are amazing. The amount of support we had from others was unbelievable. When I miscarried, people phoned and said "I had a miscarriage too. I'm so sorry."

    The number of people who applied to be an organ donor for Kyle made us extremely humbled. Many others who couldn't apply because they didn't match the strict criteria (which included being under 150 pounds) signed up for the organ registry.

    People came to visit us at the hospital in Toronto, sent cards, brought food and gift baskets, cleaned our house, mowed our lawn, raked our leaves, gave us money, looked after our daughter, bought thoughful gifts for our daughter, and sent us on a needed and delightful family outing to a musical in Toronto after the fact.

    Many new friends were made. Acquaintances became friends. Both in real life and online.

    People. The negative.  As much as people have supported us, there are now groups of people I'm not very comfortable being around.  I can't be around people who talk about how difficult being a new parent is. Or around those who don't treat their children well.  I skip social events like baby showers unless they are family or already a really good friend.

    So many people around us have watched us go through all of this.  They remember each instance with "I was pregnant with X at the same time."  They have trouble being around us.  I completely understand because I would probably be the same way if the situation was vice versa.

    Medical Recognition. Due to the huge amount of background work for us last year, there are many more medical professionals who are now aware of this extremely rare disorder.  There have been two other baby boys born in Canada over the last year and a half with this disorder, and although their mutations were less severe than ours to begin with, both have survived.  The hepatocyte cell transplant that they were going to send us to the States for, is now offered in Canada as well due to our expression of concern as to how difficult going to another country would be for us as a family and that we would have no social support being so far away.

    If You Want to Offer Support.  If you know someone going through a loss and you can think of something to do for them, just do it.  People would ask all the time what they could do. To be honest, we were so overwhelmed I had no idea. I also didn't like asking for anything, even if it was needed.  We were told by our pastor and social worker to learn to just say yes.  So whenever someone had a concrete offer of something "Can I bring you a meal? Can I come visit you? Can I rake your leaves?" I said yes.  It was the best advice we could have been given.  Saying yes was hard for me, but it made our lives easier, and provided a way for people to help when they felt our helplessness.  We were overwhelmingly humbled by the love around us. So my advice, is to think of something concrete to do for your family/friends and just do it. 

    Final note: OTC is one of 6 different Urea Cycle Disorders. I am a carrier. If I get pregnant again, with each pregnancy there is a 1 in 4 chance that the baby will be an affected male, and with the specific mutation that we have, means that without treatment the baby will die at 3 days old from ammonia poisoning.  There is another 1 in 4 chance that the baby will be a female carrier.

    Friday, September 14, 2012

    Canada Learning Bond - Are Your Children Eligible?

    In 2006, only 4.7% of those eligible for the Canada Leaning Bond applied for this FREE money for their children's RESP.  By 2008, it had increased slightly, to 16.3%, and by 2011 had increased to 24.4%.

    You can see the totals of the participation rates broken down by province here.

    At less than 25% of those eligible participating in the program, the program is still highly unknown.

    I think post secondary education is important, so as a tax preparer, this year I am going to try to emphasize this program to my clients who are eligible for it.

    Directly from the HRSDC website, the Canada Learning Bond is:

    Introduced in 2005, the Canada Learning Bond (CLB) targets low-income families and provides them with a financial incentive to save. Upon applying, the CLB is given to all children who have an RESP account and are eligible to receive the National Child Benefit Supplement (NCBS) in addition to the Canada Child Tax Benefit, commonly known as “family allowance.” The CLB does not require any contributions from parents and is deposited directly into the child’s RESP. Specifically, the Government of Canada provides an initial CLB of $500 to children born after December 31, 2003 plus an additional $100 per year until age 15 and up to a maximum of $2,000.
    So...if you receive the National Child Benefit Supplement, your children are eligible for this! Head to your local bank and ask to open an RESP for your children and have them apply for the Canada Learning Bond for you.  The first year you do so, each child will receive $500, and each year after that you still qualify they will receive another $100.

    Tell me:  Have you done this already? Are you planning to?  How can you go wrong!?

    Tuesday, September 4, 2012

    New Baby? Make Sure Your Income Taxes Are Done!

    Are you expecting a cute new baby in your life or have a newborn?  Are your income taxes all complete and submitted?

    You might be wondering what the connection between these two questions is!

    The Canada Child Tax Benefit (CCTB)  is a payment from the Federal Government to help families with the costs of raising children.  The majority of Canadians are eligible for this program, but you MUST FILE YOUR TAX RETURN TO RECEIVE THEM!

    Separate sub-programs that are also included in this payment are the:

    1) National Child Benefit Supplement (NCBS) for lower income families

    2) Child Disability Benefit (CDB) for families with children who are disabled and qualify for the Disability Credit.

    Also, each province may have programs as well.  In Ontario, there is the Ontario Child Benefit (OCB).

    Ok, lets get to what everyone wants to know.

    How Much Money Will I Get??

    Using the online calculators using 2011 net income, and assuming your children don't have disabilities, here we go.  For children age 6 or under you will also receive $100/month for the Universal Child Care Benefit (UCCB), and your amounts will be slightly adjusted from these, as these figures are not including the calculations if you received UCCB in 2011. The amounts include CCTB, NCBS, and Ontario Child Benefit. 

    These amounts are for people in Ontario.

    Net family income of $100 000/yr will receive$21.59/month for 1 child,   $ 43.18 for 2 children.
    Net family income of $ 80 000/yr will receive $54.92/month for 1 child,  $109.85 for 2 children.
    Net family income of $ 60 000/yr will receive $88.26/month for 1 child,  $176.52 for 2 children.
    Net family income of $ 50 000/yr will receive $104.92/month for 1 child, $209.85 for 2 children.
    Net family income of $ 40 000/yr will receive $144.60/month for 1 child, $335.95 for 2 children.
    Net family income of $ 30 000/yr will receive $271.27/month for 1 child, $594.27 for 2 children.
    Net family income of  < $ 20 000/yr will receive $390.15/month for 1 child, $759.40 for 2 children.

    To get an estimate of your own situation, go to the CRA calculators.

    File Your Taxes!

    You cannot receive this money unless you have filed your income tax return.  If you havn't filed for a few years and are eligible for these payments, you can go back up to 10 years and file and you will still receive the payments owed to you.

    Monday, August 20, 2012

    Retail Price Adjustments in Canada

    Have you ever bought something, only to be highly disappointed that it went on sale the next week because you purchased it at a higher price?

    Many stores in Canada, particularly larger chains, have a "price adjustment" policy.  This means that if something goes on sale after you have purchased it, you can go back with your receipt and receive the difference of the price.  As an example, if you paid $100.00 for an item, and a couple days later it went on sale for $60.00, you could bring in your receipt, ask for a price adjustment, and you would receive $40.00 back. Nice, eh!?

    Each store does have their own specific policies though, so it's good to research the policies for the stores you typically shop at.

    Not ideal if you live rurally and the item is $5.00 cheaper since your gas costs getting back to the store would outweigh the difference, but for larger items it can make a big difference!  When I bought my laptop at Futureshop a couple years ago, I noticed it in the flyer the next week on sale, and was able to go back in for a fairly substantial price adjustment.

    If it happens to be a store you shop at often, it might be handy to keep those receipts for smaller items in your purse to check back in case the items you bought is $5.00 less next week.

    Very occasionally, you might even find a store clerk giving you the heads up that your purchase will be going on sale soon.  If you know the policies, you can buy it at full price, ensure you get the product before someone else buys it off the shelf, and come back for the price adjustment.

    Knowing the policies for the stores you shop at is key! If your favorite store is not in my list of favorites, find the website, and the price adjustment policy is typically found within the returns policy, often in a link at the bottom of the website.

    Here is the research for some of my top shopping destinations.


    Price Adjustment Policy: We offer a one-time price adjustment within 14 days on items purchased at regular price. To receive a price adjustment for merchandise purchased online, you may call us at 1-888-385-8585. Note that price adjustments for merchandise purchased online can be received exclusively in this manner and cannot be received in-store.


    To receive a one-time purchase adjustment, present your original receipt within 14 days of the original date of purchase.

    THE BAY:

    Price adjustments will be made with the original receipt, within 7 days of purchase.  Price adjustments will not be made for clearance merchandise.  


    These two companies are both owned by Canadian Tire, and I couldn't find any info on price adjustments with them on their websites.

     If our own price was reduced in the last 30 days.
    • Present us with your original receipt.
    • We will refund you the difference.
    For purchases from, and if there are no Future Shop stores in your area, you can contact us at 1-800-663-2275 or by email


    Note:  The following is regarding online orders, but I'm guessing their in store policy is a similar 14 days. offers a one time only price adjustment on items purchased at REGULAR price within 14 days of invoice with your original invoice. Please include a note indicating the item and its new price.

    From time to time we may run promotions where a price adjustment will not be available. If a price adjustment is not available on any given promotion we will state that fact on Canada.

    Send your original invoice postmarked no later than 14 days of invoice to: Canada- Pricing Adjustments
    9133 Leslie Street,
    Unit #120 Richmond Hill, ON
    L4B 4N1

    Please note we cannot accept photocopied invoices or packing slips and we will only credit the credit card used for the original purchase.


    Note:  I couldn't find a policy regarding in store purchases, but I did find this one regarding catalogue and online purchases.  This one is interesting...will match not only their own prices but ones from other stores too, post-purchase!

    We'll match any competitor's advertised price for identical merchandise offered
    in Sears catalogues and on within 30 days of purchase.

    I hope this info has helped!  Have you ever used price adjustments to get money back on a purchase?

    Monday, August 13, 2012

    Overnight Summer Camp - You Can't Claim it All

    I loved overnight summer camp as a kid.  It was the highlight of my year to go to camp for two weeks each summer. The camp I loved was pricey, in the Muskoka region of Ontario. I requested the "going to camp" experience each year instead of receiving birthday and Christmas gifts. (Ok, I still received some gifts, but smaller ones!)

    My daughter started going to overnight camp last summer.  She also loves it!  But did you realize that you can't claim all of those overnight camp fees as childcare costs on your income taxes?

    Camp IS childcare for our family during the summer, as it is for many others.  We use a combination of daycamps and a week of overnight camp.  All daycamp fees can be claimed, no matter the price, but there is a maximum on the amount you can claim for overnight camp.  This maximum amount is in need of being raised to a more realistic current amount.

    The daycamp at the local university that my daughter looks forward to each year is approximately $200/week.  This can be claimed, no questions asked.  Even if it was $500/week it could be claimed, no questions asked.

    However, for overnight camp for the 2011 tax year:

    "The maximum you can claim for expenses that relate to a stay in a
    boarding school (other than education costs) or an overnight camp
    (including an overnight sports school) is $175 per week for a child
    included on line 1 in Part B, $250 per week for a child included on
    line 2, and $100 per week for a child included on line 3."

    Line 1 equates to children 7 years and younger.
    Line 2 equates to children under 17 who qualify for disability tax credit
    Line 3 equates to children between 8 and 17 years old, or over 18 who qualify for disability tax credit.

    For most "camp aged" children this means you can only claim $100 for the week of overnight camp, instead of the $200 that I pay for daycamp.

    I decided to take a look back to see when this amount was last updated.

    2001 (10 years ago).  Same amounts as 2011
    1999 (12 years ago).  Same amount as 2011, with no disability option.
    1998. (13 years ago)
    "You can claim payments made to: individuals providing Child care services; day nursery schools and daycare centres; educational institutions for the part of the fees that relate to Child care services; day camps and day sports schools; and boarding schools, overnight sports schools, or camps where lodging is involved."

    WAIT.  HOLD IT!!  What was that?? My parents could claim the full cost of overnight camp as a tax deduction for child care, but we can't?  UGH.

    I get it, I do.  It's because the whole thing is lumped together as the upper class sending their kids to boarding school, and why should the upper class get a tax break for something that others can't afford.  I'm not disagreeing with that.

    What I do think is that the rates need to updated.  That $100/week amount for children between 8 and 18 needs to be raised to $150 or $200/week.  There are absolutely no daycare providers in my area that would charge only $100 for full time daycare for one week, even for a school age child (infant and preschool spots typically charge more than school age to begin with). I've heard from friends that typical school age rates here (and I am NOT in a large city where rates can be much higher) are $30/day, or $150/week.

    Will you join me in writing to your MP regarding raising the amount you can claim on your taxes for overnight camp to match what you would pay for daycare or daycamp?

    Tuesday, February 7, 2012

    Article in Todays Parent Magazine

    I promised that when I found the online link for the article I was interviewed for in Todays Parent magazine that I would post it.  Here it is. :)

    Saturday, February 4, 2012

    Nominated for a Peter Tweeter Award! #petertweeter

    I live in Peterborough, Ontario.  It is an interesting town, unlike any other, particularly within the way people interact with one another.

    The newest award in town...the PeterTweeters!  Yep, awards for people who use Twitter!  March 1st is the night the awards are being given out, at Splice in downtown Peterborough. 

    I went to check out the voting, only to find that I was nominated in one of the categories...Category #6 Mommy Tweeter!  How the heck did I get nominated for this??!!  I think it's very amusing, especially since I'm up against some amazing people! (There's no way I should be up against these people, let alone nominated at all!)  One writes a blog for Todays Parent magazine, another writes parenting books, another has a fabulous blog, etc etc...

    Anyway, if you want to take a look, and vote (or not!), here it is:

    I am @canadiancindyb on Twitter. :)

    Wednesday, January 11, 2012

    1 in 100 Canadian Births Conceived With IVF

    This past Saturday, the Globe and Mail newspaper had an article regarding PGD - pre implantation genetic diagnosis.  I plan on writing more about that topic in the future, but in the meantime, one of the statistics that was in the article was that approximately 1% of the live births in Canada were conceived via IVF - in vitro fertilization. 

    The 1% quote is pretty close.  In 2009, there were 380 863 births in Canada, and 3160 of these were via IVF based on the statistics stated below.  This is an overall rate of  0.83% of births were via IVF, which can easily be rounded up to state approximately 1%.

    I know a number of people who have used IVF in order to get pregnant, but I had never considered the overall percentage before.  I'd share one of cute pictures of friends children who have been conceived by IVF, but even for those who are open about the conception, it feels a little too public to request permission to use a picture.

    One in one hundred children being born are being conceived by IVF. This means that you probably know a child who was conceived in this way, but you probably just don't realize it, since infertility, like miscarriage, is considered a private issue by many Canadians.  Both are starting to be talked about a little more.

    I looked up some statistics on IVF in Canada.  According to the news release from the Canadian Fertility and Andrology Society (CFAS), the following are statistics that have been compiled from all 28 fertility clinics across Canada.

    "Live birth rates were reported for a combined total of 10,532 IVF treatment cycles (including intracytoplasmic sperm injection [ICSI]) undertaken in all 28 IVF centres in Canada in 2009. There were 3332 IVF/ICSI treatment cycles performed in 8 centres in Western Canada, 5015 cycles in 14 centres in Ontario, 1875 cycles in 5 centres in Quebec, and 310 cycles in 2 centres in Atlantic Canada.
    • The overall live birth rate was 30% per cycle started, 33% per egg retrieval procedure, and 35% per embryo transfer procedure.
    • 71% of births were singletons, 28% were twins, and 1% were triplets or more.
    • A healthy term singleton birth occurred following 16% of cycles started, 18% of cycles having egg retrieval, and 19% of cycles having embryo transfer.
    • The live birth rates per cycle started, by age of the mother, were:
    • 40% for women under 35 years old
    • 29% for women aged 35-39 years
    • 12% for women 40 years old and over.
    • The chances of a healthy term singleton baby per cycle started, by age of the mother, were:
    • 21% for women under 35 years old
    • 16% for women aged 35-39 years
    • 7% for women 40 years old and over.
    • The proportion of babies with congenital anomalies was not different from that in the population of women conceiving naturally.
    • The miscarriage rate of 17% per clinical intrauterine pregnancy is in keeping with that for natural conceptions.
    Preliminary results were reported for a combined total of 11,718 IVF/ICSI treatment cycles undertaken in all 28 IVF centres in Canada in 2010:
    • The overall clinical pregnancy rate was 34% per cycle started, 37% per egg retrieval procedure, and 39% per embryo transfer procedure .
    • 75% of pregnancies were singletons, 23% were twins, and 2% were triplets or more.
    • A singleton pregnancy occurred following 23% of cycles started, 25% of cycles having egg retrieval, and 27% of cycles having embryo transfer.
    • The clinical pregnancy rates per cycle started, by age of the mother, were:
    • 43% for women under 35 years old
    • 34% for women aged 35-39 years
    • 18% for women 40 years old and over.
    • The singleton pregnancy rates per cycle started, by age of the mother, were:
    • 30% for women under 35 years old
    • 23% for women aged 35-39 years
    • 12% for women 40 years old and over.
    • Complications occurred in fewer than 2% of treatment cycles.
    Live birth rates for assisted human reproduction cycles started in 2010 will be released when they become available.
    The CFAS makes these data available for reference and education."

    I'm sure these numbers would be even higher if it wasn't for the cost and accessibility.  The cost is much too high for many people to even be able to consider the option of IVF.  At thousands of dollars per IVF attempt, the costs are prohibitive to many.  Secondly, accessibility is a concern for those who do not live in urban areas where there is a fertility centre.

    For people who live where I do, it requires a daily 1.5 to 2.5 hour commute each way to a clinic for numerous days during a cycle.  How do you balance travelling that long for appointments while also maintaining a job? 

    Saturday, January 7, 2012

    Shanghai Girls - Book Review

    One week into January, and I've read not one, but three books!  The first one I already reviewed on my most recent post.

    50 Book Challenge.

    #2) Shanghai Girls, by Lisa See.  I chose this book for our monthly bookclub based on the website  I was trying to figure out what to read next and typed in "What Should I Read Next" into google, not expecting anything like this site to come up!  You type in the name of a book that you liked, (I typed in "Secret Daughter"), and the site comes up with a list of books!  I had read, and enjoyed, most of the list it provided, but this was one that none of us in our bookclub had read.

    This book follows the lives of two sisters who are sold into marriage by their debt ridden father from China into a life in the USA.  It talks about many political issues between the USA, Japan, and China as part of the historical context of the book, including the Nanjing Massacre, the rise of Mao in China, Angel Island in the US, and the Chinese-American issues and the way the USA treated Chinese citizens.

    I have to admit, that up until a couple of years ago, I was fairly ignorant of these issues, and until this book had never heard of Angel Island.  However, two years ago, we hosted a student from Nanjing in our home for 4 months.  She would become very offended if people thought she was Japanese (we had hosted Japanese students previously, so some of our friends assumed she was from Japan as well).  I must have asked at one point why she did not like Japanese people, and she was surprised that I did not know about the Nanjing Massacres where thousands of Chinese were raped or killed by the Japanese when they overtook Nanjing. 

    If you would like to read more, here is a link to an article about it on Wikipedia. 

    The 60th anniversary of Mao being instated in China occurred while she was with us, and she streamed part of the celebration online to show us, including the military parade.  The politics of China are fascinating to learn about, no matter which side you of the equation you belong to.  This book will allow the reader to read a little about characters who are both for and against Mao. 

    3) A Second Cup of Hot Apple Cider, collection of short stories.  This book was given to me for Christmas, and is a collection of short stories, both fiction and non-fiction, written by Christian Canadian authors.  One of the authors is a friend of the person who gave me this book, and she signed her story in the book.  My favorite stories were the ones that made me cry.  Lost: One Green Scarf, a non-fiction story by Vilma Blenman, about how losing a scarf brings back the memories of losing two children to stillbirth, as well as Live Life to the Full, a non-fiction story by Evangline Inman about her son dying were my two favorites.  They hit close to home having had two children of my own die neo-natally. 

    Wednesday, January 4, 2012

    The Virgin Cure - Book Review

    I joined the Random Reader Challenge!  The current challenge is in the genre of Historical Fiction. 

    The current challenge was to pick one of the following books, read it, and write a review!

    The book list was as follows:

    The Winter Palace by Eva Stachniak
    The Virgin Cure by Ami McKay
    The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
    Midwife of Venice by Roberta Rich
    The Salt Road by Jane Johnson
    Madame Tussaud by Michelle Moran
    Anything in the Outlander or Lord John series by Diana Gabaldon

    I had not read any of these books, and my first thought was that this would be a great way to try downloading a book from the library, which I have never done.  However, I found that all these books either had a long waiting list for digital copies, or were not available digitally from my library. So, scratch that idea.

    Next, I decided to look up the actual book copy availability of The Virgin Cure, by Ami KcKay.  I chose this book because I read her previous book The Birth House last year, and absolutely loved it.  I really appreciated the amount of research that had obviously been done for this book.  The main library has six copies, but again, there is a waiting list of eight people for this book. However, what many people don't realize, is that our library has a special "7 Day Loan Quick Book" section. 

    From this section, the books,
    1) have a 7 day loan instead of 21 day
    2) only two books can be taken from this section at a time
    3) no holds can be placed on these books
    4) you cannot renew books from this section
    5) there is a $1.00 per day, per book late fine for these books.

    Many books that have a long waiting list can be found in this section! So even though this book had a long waiting list, I was able to take it out! And reading it in 7 days is never a problem for me.  I finished this book in a 24 hour period.  I didn't time it, but I'm guessing the book took between 2 and 3 hours to read.

    The Virgin Cure is a book about the life of 12 year old Moth in New York City in the year 1871. Yes, that *IS* her name!  She lives in poverty, with a Gypsy mother and absent father, in the slums of New York City.

    She dreams of a better life, and her mother sells her to an upper class family where she becomes an abused employee of the household. With help, she escapes, only to go back home and find that her mother no longer lives in the home she grew up in.  She has disappeared.

    Living on the streets on her own, she is taken in by a home that trains young girls in the profession of being a "whore".  She meets other young girls in this home, and is trained in how to become a part of this profession.

    During her time in the home, she meets Dr. Sadie, a female doctor in a time when this was not a typical role for a woman to have.  Dr. Sadie attempts to take Moth under her wing to get her out of the home, as she realizes how young and innocent Moth is. Unfortunately, she is not very successful in her attempts.

    Dr. Sadie brings Moth with her to see a girl who is suffering from syphilis, which they got as a result of being with men who were afflicted with the disease.  In this period of time, it was thought that by having intercourse with a virgin, the man would be cured of his illness.  This is where the title The Virgin Cure comes from.

    I've never written a book review on here beyond whether I liked the book or not.  I don't want to give any more info away though, because then you won't get to experience the book for yourself.

    I did quite enjoy this book, and once again, appreciated the amount of research Ami McKay obviously did in putting this book together.  I also enjoyed the styling, where, although the book was written and told by Moth, there are side notes and additional pages added in by Dr. Sadie that give the reader historical information.

    Thanks to for putting this challenge together.  If you want more info on the challenge, or would like to try it for yourself, click on the link.

    I will be adding some, if not all, of the other books on the list into my "to read" list.

    First book of the year complete for the #50BookChallenge. :)