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Sunday, October 21, 2012

10 Best Part-time Jobs for Teens


Unlike most Asian moms who made their kids play piano and do math homework all day, my brother and I were finished with piano early and Mom actually encouraged us to take on part time jobs.  As a teen, it helped me to understand the value of money and to learn some good sense and work ethics.  Here's a list of real jobs my brother and I actually did, you'll find quite a gamut of odd jobs!
Teen Money source

1) Army Reserves
Age: 17
Pay: $26 for half days, $55 for full day, all meals included.
Life Lessons Learned - Be all you can be, and never give up. Your team's success and failure relies on you. I joined up as a reservist in the summer after high school and completed Army Boot Camp before joining an armoured regiment.  My brother signed up the year after.  Despite all the military first aid, drill, weapons training, tying knots, Morse code, and hard core rucksack marches and lots of running at the crack of dawn, I ended up in the Musician trade as a trombone player in the band. My brother did additional training as a Vehicle Technician and even got a special license to drive the big army trucks. I stayed in the army reserves for four years until I graduated from University.

2) Oil Change and Tire Specialist (Assistant)
Age: 18
Pay: $10 an hour
Life Lessons Learned - Hands on experience with power tools and torque wrenches, how to safely operate hydraulic lifts and measure the age and tread of tires, and everything about tires.  It was the perfect job for my brother because ever since he was two years old he was fascinated with tires and rims and he could identify the logo and make and model of every kind of car.  He even converted our garage into an auto body shop where he refinished and repainted his first car - the Tomato Supra. He only quit this job because it often conflicted with the army reserves commitments.

3) Fast Food Restaurant Cashier
Age: 15 - 16
Pay: $5.50 Minimum Wage
Life Lessons Learned - Clean as you go, the Customer is always right, service with a smile.  I spent one week in the kitchen to learn about the sandwich construction and all the toppings for each order, before moving on as a frontline cashier. The manager also requested that when we spoke the orders into the mic for the kitchen staff, we had to say Please and Thank you.  I learned to be very efficient with my time, and to expertly clean and sanitize and rebuild a milkshake machine. Fortunately I never had an incident with the hot oil deep fryer or grabbing a sharp knife hidden in hot soapy water, but I have high regard for fast food workers because I was one myself.  Anyway, that was Arby's and it is still one of my favorite fast food places oddly, which speaks volumes for the food and preparation.  My brother worked there too after I left, and a couple of my friends too who were looking for jobs.

Why I hated it - The only thing I didn't like about it was that I often saw my friends or high school classmates at the mall. I kinda resented that I had to wear this ridiculous hat/ visor and this greasy uniform and apron while they could hang out at the mall all day.  And on other occasions, the got to go to summer school to pick up Biology and I had to work. (This really bothered me before!)

4) Laura Secord and Hallmarks Retail
Age: 16-17
Pay: $5.65 Minimum Wage
Life Lessons Learned: "Life is a box of chocolates, you never know what you're gonna get", Take time to wrap the most beautiful present with unlimited bows and tissue wrap, and How to sell chocolate by the pound.   Funny that I never bought any chocolate or snuck any free samples, but I really liked this job and it was a very friendly place to work. My most important task one day was to wrap a diamond ring in a box with a teddy bear that a young man wanted to present to his girlfriend for an engagement. My biggest sale one day, over $300 in collectible Hallmark's Christmas ornaments (wow!).  I had to sadly quit this job because it later interfered with the army reserve commitments and homework.

5) Superstore Cashier
Age: 18
Pay: I forgot but it wasn't too low or too high, maybe $12 an hour
Life Lessons Learned: How to scan 24 items per minute, how to name 50 species of apples, pears, squash and leafy greens and remember all the three or four digit codes. I also learned how to deal with a $1,000 bill. How many people can say they`ve actually seen or touched one. I also learned how to sort the paper bills with the heads facing the same way and count money very fast.  However I did not work the 500 hours required to have the 40 hours of Cashier training paid for; plus I didn`t like the irregular and unpredictable shift scheduling and I felt that the union dues were taking a huge chunk of my pay check. I quit and found a new job.

6) Office Assistant at a Medical Clinic
Age: 18 - 22
Pay: I forgot but I had one weekly shift, Sunday noon to 5pm, possibly $50 for the day
Life Lessons Learned: That I did not want to be a doctor and deal with people with sniffles, sliced thumbs, mental issues, Tylenol 3 addictions, and warts.  I had to do filing, electronic billing, and answer the phone to schedule appointments or walk-in, and that was the problem, I never figured out how to coordinate that effectively so everyone had to wait 3 hours to be seen anyway.  The funniest thing that happened on my first day, I had to weigh a 6 day old baby boy on the infant scale. Remember that I was just a teenager and I did not have experience with babies before. As soon as a I removed the diaper, the little guy had a giant fountain of joy that shot really really far. My first reaction was to cover my face even though I was not in the line of fire. The dad just calmly grabbed some kleenex and covered up the baby jewels and that soaked up the mess somewhat. Really really funny at the time.  There was alot of waiting in between my tasks, so I did have some free time to crack open my Engineering textbooks though many of the Chinese patients insisted on calling me a Nurse.

7) Salvation Army Donation Pickup Truck Driver
Age: 19
Pay: Not sure but I doubt my brother would do it for less than $50 per shift
Life Lessons Learned: Yah, wear a mask and bio hazardous suit before picking up all that weird stuff people donate - toilets, rain soaked mattresses with mysterious stains, leftover construction materials, dusty toys, curtains or clothes from the seventies and dishes even though the bins are clearly marked as clothing only. My brother got really sick after his first shift, probably from coming into contact with some really disgusting germs or virus or mold. I believe he got this job because of his truck driving experience and it must have seemed something cool or noble to do at the time, but I think it was a very humbling experience. Not a suitable or recommended job for a teen.  The only reason why my Mom would even let him have this job is because she did not even know about it or she was trying to teach him a hard lesson about life and poverty.

8) Bus Boy (or slave) at a Chinese Restaurant
Age: 15
Pay: Minimum wage for the first 8 hours, and nothing extra or otherwise unreported
Life Lessons Learned: Yah, do not ever work as a bus boy or server at a Chinese restaurant.  My brother's first day on the job was a four hour shift that turned into a 12 hour job.  After the lunch rush, they asked him to vacuum the place before the dinner hour and a wedding banquet.  My brother agreed because he does the vacuuming at home anywayz. However the restaurant is over 3,000 square feet and can you imagine all the chopsticks, dried up noodles and rice and dim sum pieces that toddlers and messy children have tossed to the floor. Plus this was the task gladly handed to the newest and legally youngest member of the staff. Whatever, the back-breaking task of vacuuming is done but the Manager now decides that he needs all hands on deck for the evening shift. My brother also agrees because it is the first day on the job and he does not know about Canadian labour codes about working more than 8 hours. The dishes are heavy and dinner guests are asking for more of this and that, and please move faster.  Fortunately because of his youth and good looks, some are kind to him, others are not. Later he tells me that the only time he ever got to sit down all day was on the toilet for a number 2. When Mom picks him up at midnight, she later told me that he actually cried.  I have never seen this guy cry in my life except maybe when he was four years old when I broke his Easter egg.

9) Florist
Age: 24
Pay: $10 per hour
Life Lessons Learned: Create something beautiful and symmetrical with your hands, colour combinations, and the art of flower arrangements. Most importantly, what really happens to your long stem roses on Valentines Day.

I decided to take a part time job on the weekend after moving to Ottawa for an entry level government job in Engineering because I wanted something to do on the weekends. I did not know alot of friends at the time, though probably working Saturdays and Sundays made it hard to meet people!  I walked in with my resume (degree, army, retail and cashier experience) and was offered the job right away.  I learned alot about cut flowers and assembling bouquets and arrangements. I made a few good friends while working there and actually the Manager ended up doing all the flowers for my wedding at no charge as her gift to me. The owner sold the store and I was offered the same job again, but a mean girl told me rumours about the new owner which made me not want to take the job after all. (I would take this job again in a heartbeat, though it would have to cover the cost of childcare to be worthwhile eh)

10) Babysitter
Age: 12 to 15
Pay: $5 per hour
Life Lessons Learned: Taking care of kids is fun (when they are not your own kids!) plus do not offer the job to your brother because he is a better babysitter!
Image Source

A typical first job for many teenagers, I started babysitting at age 12.  I remember the 7 and 5 year old siblings I babysat, that was pretty easy because we just played board games or hide and seek.  I also regularly babysat a four year old girl and my neighbors eight year old son. He liked to sing MC Hammer songs and watch TV. Anywayz he was the little boy who liked my brother to babysit him so the parents ended up hiring him regularly instead. I never had any big Adventures in Babysitting like the movie but it makes me wonder, when will I be ready to entrust the care of my precious children to a young 12 year old with a first aid and babysitting certificate!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Cry it Out Baby

There is a divisive issue among parents.  There is the cry it out camp and there is never let them cry it out camp, and everything in between. I was the strictest cry-it-out Ferber method mom for my oldest daughter, but what works for one child might not work for the others even in the same family.
Starry Night by AJ

Here is a summary of what worked for baby Maggie and how much easier it is for her to fall asleep on her own, and what a wonderful sleeper she is nearly 100% of the time, versus her younger brothers AJ and LJ who are a little bit more troublesome now, possibly because I didn't or couldn't apply the same principles.

E-A-S-Y Baby
Means: Eat, Awake, Sleep, time for You! I will start off with saying that all three babies started off with the perfect three hour cycle of wake up, eat, play, sleep pattern.  I made sure to swaddle them tight and put them down to sleep without any kind of rocking or patting or staring. In fact I would just put them down and duck out of sight or even leave the room and shut the door, and they would just magically fall asleep.

I was adamantly against co-sleeping (because I read the books and the brochures provided by the nurses) and just believed it was more proper and safe for the baby to sleep in the crib, as the Bible story goes that King Solomon had to settle for two mothers and two babies.

Maggie - Dream Baby
At age 4 months, we moved her crib out of our room into her own room. There was a time when I had to do the Ferber method (putting the baby down, she cries, leave for 2 minutes, return and extend the time away gradually over  a period of two or three days etc). It was a little heart breaking to go through with it, up to the 12 minute mark, but it really worked for her.

In the middle of the night if she did wake up, I had a rule where I would let her cry at night for 10 minutes before actually checking in.  I did not even do night feedings or bottles at night.  There was one time I let her cry for 45 minutes and I think she fell asleep after I already fell asleep so I can't even be sure how long she was crying. On hindsight, this is rather dangerous because I should've checked on her to make sure she was not in any potential danger, or just had a simple request like wanting the door open or a sip of water. The next morning, I saw that her sippy of water was on the floor and I felt sad about that.

Now all three kids are sleeping in the same room they all share together, Maggie on her own twin bed. She is usually the first to fall asleep shortly after lights out or even before the story is read!

AJ the little brother
He was really good at falling asleep on his own as a small baby. I don't even remember doing Ferber method on him. The only problem was that he had a lot of grunting noises and loud farts in the night, as well as fake wake up cries. I was always worried that he would wake up Maggie in the next room so I would rush to his side to comfort him (first mistake).  It really messed up my own sleep patterns though. At one point, I figured out that if I kept a lullaby CD running he would sleep right through the night! However the CD player was not reliable so switched to the radio and the only channel I could tune to was Hot 89.9 So he spent a few baby months listening to Britney Spears (Circus) and Lady Gaga, and hip hop.  Anywayz that is not my kind of music so I ended up sleeping in a different room (that meant the couch, the basement, even the floor of Maggie's room).

However at 13 months, I decided to move AJ and Maggie into the same room, which meant a twin bed for her and toddler bed for him.  Unfortunately that also meant mobility and so the both started walking around at bedtime after lights out and it was hard to get them to stay in the room. We had to Ferberize all over again, with the baby gate at the door. It was sooooo sad, because they would bring all their blankies and pillows and fall asleep right by the door beside the gate.  At least they had each other.

And Lincoln makes 3!
Baby Lincoln was also an excellent fall-asleeper and there was no Ferber or Cry it Out either. He just magically fell asleep for all his naps and nights like a magic baby. Then one day in the summer just before he was turning one, I took a one week trip to Las Vegas without the kids. I'm not sure how daddy got him to fall asleep but when I came back he only wanted to sleep in Maggie and AJ's room and he was no longer the magic angel baby that fell asleep without crying in his own room! And when I returned to work full time after mat leave, his nanny would even put him down to sleep with a sippy cup of milk! Eventually we were able to correct this early on considering it was two naps a day even after he was over 2 years old.

Though in the early morning hours like 4 or 5 am he would still wake up. Daddy seemed to think the quickest way to get him to fall asleep was to throw him a bottle (and tooth decay!) While he was away, I managed to dilute the bottle enough until he was OK with water.

We only used his crib at that point to store folded/ unfolded laundry or the unauthorized use as a trampoline. There is no third bed in the kids room so Lincoln just sleeps on the floor, on a mat with piles of blankies and pillows surrounding him. We have a night routine that begins with a bath at 7pm, followed by math homework time and playtime that ends about 8:30pm Unfortunately that means storytime and lights out is 9pm.Maggie is the only one who fall asleep quickly, and I am the nice mommy that sticks around until AJ and Lincoln both fall asleep. I sit just outside the door with the hall light on so I can "read my notebook" (work related reading, textbook, bible, novel, fashion magazine, whatever) Usually if only AJ is the only one awake I tell him I have alot of work to do in the kitchen or I have to pack lunches etc and he is good to fall asleep on his own. But it makes a very long night.

CAVEAT:  Because I perceive that they need me stay there to fall asleep, it also means that they need to find me at night to fall asleep again. Sometimes I hear Lincoln cry so I peek into his room and the minute he sees my sillouette even with the giant rollers in my hair, BAM! his face hits the floor again and goes right back to sleep. Other times, he grab his blankie and a pillow and climb into my bed without even waking me up, or other times I usually try to hold his hand and bring him back to his room (where I end up accidently falling asleep on the floor too). All of this is very bad habits, but what we do.

Good Habits from the Start
The most important skill for good sleeping habits for kids is to definitely to develop the ability to go back to sleep on his or her own. As adults, it's probably normal to wake up from a dream in the night, or with the need to have a cup of water etc, but it's relative easy to go back to sleep. I have to imagine if I was a kid how easy or hard that might be.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Alphabet Sugar Cookies

For the next birthday treat day at school, I could try to make these single serving Alphabet Sugar Cookies. It would be fun to decorate. I found this photo from another mom's website; she was making and selling these to order.  It was one of my projects to do the same too but I never got around to it.

Still looking for the Best Sugar Cookie Recipe Ever! Kid friendly too, any ideas?
The link above is one from the Food Network I haven't tried yet but it's got good reviews. Some say it's a bit bland so they added vanilla extract or lemon zest etc. Makes 3 dozen, 2 1/2 inch and it's good for cutouts!


3 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup unsalted butter, softened

1 cup sugar

1 egg, beaten

1 tablespoon milk

Powdered sugar, for rolling out dough

I bought the Wilton's ABC and 123 Alphabet Cookie cutters from Michael's with a 50% coupon so it ended up being half of $14.99 for 50 pieces. These are good for tracing and cutting and spelling words too. However I had them hidden away and I never used them for years so I ended up giving them to my aunt for her Kindergarten class overseas, but I can go to Michael's to buy them again.
If you trace the letters and numbers on cardboard or chipboard you could decorate them for a kids room. The letters in this photo were made from wooden letters purchased from the dollar store (about $1.25 each)
Just a few decor ideas to brighten up the room. Think of the possibilities!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Name that Baby!

My kids have been discussing baby names and what they want to name their baby sibling on the way. I've been mum on the issue as I have a few favorites myself, but here are the suggestions along with the meanings and origins.


Nolan - Irish origin, means champion. Boys name, but used for girls too. (AJ's choice)

Christoff - Christopher, Greek origin, means "bearing Christ". I'm just making life difficult by choosing a non-American spelling. (Hoping he'll grow up to be an amazing concert pianist)

Alexander - Greek origin, man's defender, warrior. Reminds me of Alexander the Great.

Felix - Latin origin, means happy and fortunate (Dad likes this name, but it reminds me of Felix the Cat a cartoon character)

Jason - Greek origin. means to heal. Biblical reference - He helped Paul and Silas on their journey in the New Testament.  Jason and the Argonauts in the quest for the golden fleece is a story from Greek Mythology. He does have a colourful love life though.


Rosabella - Maggie's pick

Isabella - Maggie's pick

Isadora - Greek origin, gift of Isis.

Alexandria - Greek origin, a great city in Egypt. Means "defending men"

Victoria - derived from Victor Latin word for champion

Mariel - I like this because it's like Ariel with an M. Also, Mariel Margaret Hamm (Mia Hamm) is largestly considered the best female soccer player in history (retired).

Cheyenne - Native American origin, means "unintelligible speakers". I always like the way Cheyenne Mountain sounds, the NORAD headquarters. However this name is not popular at all though I actually know one person (an older guy at work) who has this name.

Monica - Latin origin, means advisor, counselor; fourth-century saint known mainly by the writings of her son, Saint Augustine

Mable or Mabel - English origin, means lovable. Not a very popular name right now though, but it makes a good match for a Chinese name we have in mind.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Black Sharpie Pumpkin Designs

AJ was very excited about his first field trip with the kindergarten class at Miller's Farm.  Although he slept in a bit that morning, he was very keen to jump into his morning clothes, splash pants, rain jacket, and rubber boots all by himself. I did convince him to eat breakfast in the car without the mittens.  They took a tractor ride to the pumpkin patch, to choose their own gourd and pumpkin off the vine to take home. He chose a one-pounder about the size of small football; too small to carve but just the right size to do a black sharpie design.

Angry Bird Pumpkin source
He wanted something scary (but I think he meant scary but cute) so I told him I would think of something overnight. It would be nice to involve him with choosing the design, but I don't quite trust a four year old with a permanent black sharpie... those are off limits!

What can you do with a sharpie?

Ghoulish Face source
Scary Cute Face source

While searching for a cutesy scary pumpkin face, I found this neat craft and felt idea, like a new take on Mr Potato Head with pumpkin faces.

Pumpkin Face Game source

The kids are going to ask me why there has to be a face on the pumpkin and why there is a candle inside. I can explain that Halloween is a tradition of Celtic origin that used to be a scary and frightening time of year.  But it's changed quite a bit over the years, and in North America especially, the kids dress up in costumes and have lots of fun. They definitely know about trick or treating! AJ wants to dress up as a fruit or vegetable he says, most likely a Banana. (Really? Why not Spiderman or Batman?)  Maggie would like to be a Ballerina Fairy, and Lincoln will probably dress up warm in an Elephant suit and hand out candy with me.

But why the Jack o Lantern? The Irish children used to carve vegetables like turnips and potatoes with a light inside. The story goes, a naughty little thief named Jack who was so wicked that neither God nor the Devil wanted him. He was just a poor wandering lost soul looking for a place to rest, and the only warmth he could find was the comfort of a candle lit in a hollow turnip.  My kids are familiar with the terminology of God, Devil, sin, soul, forgiveness and even death, and skeletons in the grave and bugs and mold...

I'll post a picture of what we come up with tomorrow, but here's something neat I heard of before,  a man who decorated his white mustang with a fancy black sharpie design.  Here's a project masterpiece but there is no room for any mistakes on this perfect canvas of a fine car.

Black Sharpie Mustang source

Monday, October 1, 2012

Manly Reminder for Breast Exam

Breast Cancer Exam Reminder App

Have you seen this before? Did you watch it twice and forward it to your girlfriends?
"Let this hot guy show you how to give your breasts some TLC.  Download the app for free today. For more info, visit"

Seriously though, I do this once a year (or so) at mmy annual checkup with the female family doctor. I still try hard not to grimace or giggle when she does the pat down, but it is a fairly serious matter in my family.  I'd like to take a moment to think about the survivors in my family as models of strength to look up to.


My grandmother who is now 97 years old was diagnosed with breast cancer in her early 40's and decided to do a single mastectomy. The cancer never returned and I only knew about this when I was a much older teenager when my mom and I had to go to a store to pick up a special insert for her bra. She is a remarkably sharp old lady with many amazing stories about other dangers she had survived in the past like the rise of Communism in China, the escape to Hong Kong, and even the invasion of   the Japanese in WWII.

My favorite aunt who runs a flourishing Kindergarten School in a small town in Cambodia, also survived breast cancer. Five years ago she had a double mastectomy and chemotherapy, but if you met her now you probably would not even know it.  I completely missed the year she returned to Canada for the treatment and recovery, but I think her inspiring faith and supportive family and friends really made things work. I remember her giving me a warm hug when I came to visit with my first child, and I was shocked by the embrace without bosoms and so I held back, but she reassured me that it was OK.


I see this proliferation of pink everywhere - Think Pink, Pink Ribbon Campaign, Run for the Cure or Walk, Run Ride for Women's Cancer. I don't own too many pink items myself, though I have been induced to "buy pink" when certain products are marketed for supporting breast cancer research. Below is the prettiest pink scarf similar to the one from Stella and Dot for eye candy.

Wendy's Lookbook
I haven't done a run to support breast cancer but I do sponsor my friends who sign up.  I was also inspired by friend who holds an annual fundraiser Yard Sale by collecting free donations for items from friends and colleagues at work.  That same year, I held my own garage sale and pledged to donate half of the profits. Worked out well because that was enough to cover my $50 sponsorship for my friends team, and pay for a $100 spot on a "Scrap for the Cure" event - full day of scrapbooking.  What will you do to support Breast Cancer Awareness this year?

A large portion of money from fundraising goes to Cancer Research. I have first hand experience working in a cancer research lab for my Grade 12 Science Fair Project years ago.  My classmate and I had the rare opportunity to work with a leading cancer researcher at the University of Calgary who also provided us with the lab space, materials and a grad student to mentor us on the project - to discover the synergistic effects of combined chemotherapy drug for the treatment of metastasis.  We learned many important techniques about the science of DNA, including PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) to replicate a large quantity of cancer cell DNA from a very small sample, gel electrophoresis and even radioactive tagging and gene insertion (I believe the grad student did this last part).  The goal was to isolate the MMP - matrix metaloproteinase enzyme to halt metastasis, the spread of cancer. We nuked cancerous and healthy mouse cells with various dilutions of four common cancer treatment drugs individually and in combination dosages. We were selected among the top 5 Science Fair Projects to represent our city at the Canada Wide Science Fair in Whitehorse, Yukon that year.

There are alot of fancy words and precise terminologies that I have since forgotten. One thing for certain neither of us were destined to be cancer researchers. My colleague had accidentally stabbed his hand with a pipette loaded with Methotrexate (or whatever) and the white powder in the latex glove immediately turned black. We were so freaked out we never told anyone about it (until now). Anywayz years later, we both graduated from Engineering; he even competed as a Canadian contestant on Jeopardy! and is now married with two or three kids. However that incident is probably the only thing I remember most vividly about this big science experiment, and the biggest reason that I decided not to be a Cancer Researcher.

Remember to download that App!