Girls’ Trip to Disney: Classic Moments & Memories

I had the opportunity to attend the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration recently. Packing up my whole crew to do Disney is way outta my league, so I picked my three favourite children to bring along with me (Ok, they’re not really my favourites, but it worked with their schedules).

On top of the event being just out-of-this-world amazing, hanging with my three girls was pretty special. I’ll tell ya what – those Disney folks sure know a thing or two about hospitality. I got a lot of laughs and kicks over many things, but here are a few worth mentioning:

  • My Independent Girls:

My three girls are 10, 12 and barely 14-years-old. While I attended the conference, the three of them went off with their maps and bus schedules and explored the Disney Parks completely on their own. They didn’t even have cell phones. They worked together, problem solved and made memories. I’d say that is the sign of a good holiday!

Girls exploring Disney

  • Magic Bands:

My kids are fascinated by the magic that is the Disney Magic Bands. A wrist band that gets them into hotel rooms, on rides and buys them food? Unthinkable! So impressed by this technology, they had to dissect and autopsy my Magic Band upon our return home. Results not yet in.

Magic Bands

  • The Other Conference Attendees:

In addition to hanging out with so many amazing bloggers and their families, there was a special moment for my 10-year-old daughter while we were riding on the Magical Express to our hotel.  She spotted the genius family of “Cute Girl Hairstyles” YouTube fame. I did a quick google search as my kid was freaking out, and yeah, they’re a pretty big deal. And not only do they do cool hairdos, the family is amazingly sweet and friendly.

Cute Girl Hairstyles Family

  • The Negative Nelly:

Every family has one, right? My “Negative Nelly” had a wonderful time, but I picked this as her all-time classic Disney Downer Quote:

“It’s so sad that all these people have to FAKE being happy because they work here”. I suggested that maybe they weren’t faking and she claimed it’s impossible to be happy all the time. She says she sniffed out a few fakes, and claims, “You have to look into their eyes and not at their smiles”. OK then.

  • Crashed Out Kids:

Nothing makes this mama happier than knowing her kids played hard. Here is the photographic evidence. The flight home looked like this:

Crashed Out Kids

Has your family done the trip to Disney yet? I was delighted to have gone to be a part of something as exciting as the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration.  I only hope to get invited again so I can bring my other favourite children!

Tags: Julie Cole, big families, blogging, Disney, mabels labels, traveling with kids, working mothers

Creating Ways To Give Together

When Michelle, Montreal’s fabulous ‘Bead Lady’ from, agreed to deliver the fun at Audra’s recent ECHOage birthday party, she became so inspired by the generosity of this energetic little 6 year old that she just had to get involved!

Joining in on the giving with Audra’s kindergarten girlfriends, Michelle, decided to donate her party fee bringing the total raised to $500!

Audra chose to contribute her ECHOage funds to her best friend Zoe Saskin’s fund at the Montreal Children’s Hospital Foundation and she is also going to get a desk just in time for grade one!

Kids are inspiring the adults in their lives to help change the world!

Join the movement, ECHOage!Screen Shot 2015-06-08 at 10.15.00 PM

How to motivate an unmotivated kid.

Big brother helping little sister with homework.

I’ve always been fascinated by what makes some people super motivated, and others, not so much. I found this particularly interesting when I saw differences in motivation between my children.

Why do I have two kids who are equally clever, yet one is disappointed with a certain mark or grade in school, while the other thinks it is more than acceptable?

A few weeks ago I spent an evening holding a gun to one kid’s head forcing him to prepare for a math test taking place the next day. No gun to head, no study. Across the room was the other child busily typing on her laptop. When I asked what she was working on, the response was “I have a science test in two weeks so I’m just putting together my study notes to get a jump on things.”

Two kids – born only fifteen months apart with the same parents, same home environment, same encouragement, same role modeling, and yet so different. Why?

With no answer to that question, frustration was mounting. When you have a smart kid not working to potential, it’s enough to make any parent get twitchy. I usually rely on natural consequences – don’t study, then you fail. Better luck next time. Problem is – with this kid, doing badly doesn’t bother him too much. Not exactly what I’m looking for in a consequence.

I happen to be lucky enough to be pals with psychologist and parenting author, Alyson Schafer. She gave me a few quick tips that I’ve put into practice – and my kid and I are not as frustrated with each other.

Tip #1: Teach him the EFFORT IS NOT STUPIDITY. This is big. Whenever he actually had to TRY at something, he liked to default to “Oh well, I guess I just suck at this”. That’s a pretty easy out, so we’ve had lots of conversations trying to turn this way of thinking around.

Tip #2: Don’t dictate when he’s going to study, but task him to. Every Sunday he creates his own study plan for the week. No longer is it me nagging him to study, it’s him having to be accountable to his OWN plan.

Tip #3: Don’t argue when he thinks what he’s studying is useless. He’s likely right. Have the open conversation that there are bits of the curriculum that are outdated or won’t be relevant to him. Get on his side, but remember to teach that getting through this is all just a step to be able to have choices when it comes to post-secondary education and a career.

Do your kids have different motivation levels? How do you manage your expectations around the effort they do or don’t put into school or activities?

By Julie Cole, Founder of Mabels Labels.

Sleepaway camp: The best way to decide if your kids are ready.

I’m no stranger to sending kids to sleep away camp. My “biggie” kids have been going for several years and the benefits are countless.

This year, I have a new crop of kids who are great ages for sleep away camp, so for the first time in a few years, I found myself revisiting the age old question of “ARE THEY READY?” Of course, I’m not sure I’m ready, but as a wise Camp Director once told me, “Sorry Julie, this isn’t about YOU!”  Fine thing.

After setting my personal anxieties aside, I looked at my two little darlings and asked myself the following:

Do they want to go to camp?  If they want to go, it’s a pretty good indication that they’re ready. Of course, kids can be indecisive – one minute they want to go and another minute they don’t. When they say they don’t want to go, it’s likely that they’re worried about homesickness. So, I remind my kids that it’s completely normal and they likely will be homesick at some point. But it usually passes and doesn’t interfere with the overall camp experience. Besides, camp staff are trained to deal with this issue. A homesick kid is the biggest and most common issue they deal with.

As the parent, our job is to consider how severe the homesickness will be. So when trying to determine whether they’re ready or not, you can ask yourself these questions:

  • When at home, does your kid stay in their own bed every night? If you wake up every morning having discovered a little visitor migrated into your bed during the night, the kiddo might not quite be ready
  • Does your child feel comfortable having a sleepover with extended family or close friends? If they’d rather be glued to you than have a fun sleepover at Grandma’s house, this could be a sign that the kiddo is not ready for camp
  • Can you get a little friend to go too?  My kids like going to camp with siblings, but kids are put in cabins according to age so siblings don’t usually get to stay together. A familiar friend from home or school can sometimes help a kiddo feel more comfortable.
  • Have your kiddos had the chance to see camp for themselves?  My two kids that are up for camp consideration this summer have been able to visit their siblings at camp, which has familiarized them with the camp setting. This can be helpful.

After putting kids #4 and #5 through this little test, these were the results:

YES, this kid is ready camp! She’s signed up and ready to go!

Sorry buddy, maybe next year!

How do you decide if your little ones are ready for this experience? Do you have anyone heading off to sleep-away camp this season? By Julie Cole, Founder of Mabels Labels.



ECHOage is booming in Montreal. Party with us and support our growing list of wonderful Charity Partners.


Screen Shot 2015-04-02 at 11.38.09 AMIt’s finally springtime (sigh). Make your next event even more meaningful by supporting our

Montreal charity partners.

It’s a great way to celebrate the season.

Happy spring!


You’re Never Too Young To Make A Difference

When an 8 year old boy actively supports his mom’s recovery from Lymphoma, we know it’s time to celebrate.

Emil marked his 8th birthday by raising close to $500.00 for St Mary’s Hospital Foundation, the place that was pivotal in helping his mom, Danina, recover from Lymphoma last year.

In his mom’s words: “Emil is a devoted and loving son and played a major role in helping me to overcome Lymphoma. His ECHOage celebration was another way for him to say thanks for the loving care and support I received at St. Mary’s Hospital.”

At ECHOage, we are endlessly moved by children like Emil. Over and over we see inspiring examples of kids doing much more than adults had ever expected. Emil’s actions make these words come true.

Congratulations Emil! You are an ECHOage Hero. We know you will inspire many children to follow in your footsteps. The world is a better place because of you.

Hanna raised $130 for Canadian Diabetes Association and is saving for a brand new iPad.

Screen Shot 2015-02-18 at 2.01.24 PM

Way to go Hannah! Supporting Canadian Diabetes Association sounds like a very meaningful choice for you to support.

Happy, happy birthday!

Jonah – age 4, believes that NO tummy should be empty. He raised $182 for Blessings in a Backpack at his ECHOage birthday party!

Blessings in a Backpack

Blessings in a Backpack

We can’t wait to see what you do for your 5th birthday – Jonah!  Happy, happy birthday!

Tassie raised $432.50 for Share Our Strength AND got an iPhone 6 Plus for her ECHOage birthday party.

Screen Shot 2015-02-09 at 12.12.21 PMSounds like you had a wonderful birthday, Tassie!  Congratulation for being such a young leader. Your contribution will mean so much to Share our Strength/No Kid Hungry.


I was 8 years old when my Uncle Jeffrey lost his battle with Cystic Fibrosis. His life was cut short at age 27 but characterized by courage, determination and impressive accomplishments including graduating from Dentistry School.

After his passing, my parents became active in preserving his memory through a myriad of fundraising efforts. From radio-thons to walk-a-thons, holiday wrapping to auctions, so began my early exposure to loss and to opportunities for effecting change. Looking back, I now know that the role I played and the contributions I made even at that tender age were as impactful as those of the adults I was surrounded by.

Philanthropy is a big word and one usually reserved for the adult domain. We can call it many things to make it sounds more universal: giving back, helping others, repairing the world, playing a part, but ultimately philanthropy belongs to everyone, young and old.

And if our role as parents wasn’t broad enough already, “raising charitable children” is a key one to add to the list. There is so much our children can do to change the world and to secure their future that we should not underestimate the value of youth and philanthropy and the tremendous impact it can have on the ‘adults’ we are raising.

Why Should Children Be Taught Philanthropy?

In addition to helping those in need, evidence shows that getting children involved in philanthropy has positive effects for the child, their families and society. It might also be the key to helping your children be happier, smarter, and more successful! According to developmental psychologists, children who perform acts of kindness experience increased well-being, popularity, and acceptance among peers.  This leads to better classroom behaviour and higher academic achievement. Now what parent doesn’t like the sound of that?

How Do We Teach Children About Philanthropy?

One of my favourite examples comes from a grandmother of three who when asked what she wanted for her birthday, told her grandchildren to “do something for someone else, draw a picture of what you did, and then tell me the story.” That’s how it all starts, simple and close to home! Teaching children how to treat others and how to give of themselves is one of the most important things we may ever do as parents. A few, small, tangible ideas, put into action early on in life, can really set the stage for a more charitably spirited and rewarding future.

  1. Start Small

Baby steps lead the way to giant strides! Ask your kids to do something small and kind hearted. Make a card for a loved one stating 3 reasons why they are so special.

  1. Lead By Example

Giving starts first thing in the morning. I always feel good when I give what I can to help my child’s day start with a smile. Giving to them encourages giving to others.

  1. Make Giving Imaginative

Kids are motivated by fun. Suggest they go through their gently used clothes and include a special note or wish for the child who will receive them. Personalizing the process can make it feel special and have greater impact.

  1. Watch and Learn Together

There are many inspiring videos on the web about young leaders in action. Watch them together and explore the topic of giving. Ask your child to image being a “giving” star in their own video and how they would make the world a better place.

  1. Allowance is for Sharing

Encourage kids to donate a small portion of their allowance. This helps open up the dialogue about giving and establishes it as an important part of their life.

There are many wonderful ways to bring giving experiences into your life and those of your children. Volunteer together at a local food bank (check out my girls washing celery!), get involved in a fundraiser, host an ECHOage party and incorporate giving into a celebration or check out websites like for ideas on how Canadians give back in their communities.

What Do Children Take Away From Giving?

Whether individual or family-driven, children benefit big time from giving! They learn about worlds beyond their own experience. They learn about tolerance and empathy. They build confidence in research, public speaking, fundraising, organizational and entrepreneurial skills – which they’ll need even if they are planning a lemonade stand! It is through these early experiences that they can also start to define the changes they would like to see in the world. Last I checked more change-makers are what we need!

How Can We Balance Living and Giving When It Comes to Kids?

We all enjoy doing things for our children – buying them something special, taking them on fun outings, throwing a great birthday party. But at the same time, many of us fear that without some balance, children may grow up thinking only of themselves. How many times have we heard complaints or felt that children have too many things and don’t appreciate any of it?

All it takes is a small shift. Whether you have a little time or money or have a lot of both, you can absolutely make a difference in your child’s life by helping to instill cherished values, and possibly creating a new family tradition or two. There are endless approaches to raising charitable children. It is clear, however, that kicking this off at a young age and close to home will have positive flow on effects for the world in which these children live and give.

Bonnie Levine – ECHOage Ambassador

About Bonnie Levine

Creating opportunities to inspire her children to be charitable has been a constant and something Bonnie was exposed to at a young age. This interest continued through her work in the healthcare and pharmaceutical sectors in a variety of business and management capacities. Bonnie is thrilled to be able to leverage her business consulting and communications background to help launch ECHOage ( across new Canadian markets and to play a role in fostering kindness and generosity among the next generation.

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*Family fundraising at the Light The Night walk in support of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Canada.*