Me In A Tree

Over the last week, I've been asked to beta-test and try the new online app for organized and harmonious families, Me in a Tree.

The idea behind this website is to help families, not only to get better organized and help them with time management and responsibilities, but also to encourage open communication about the family, its members and how to better function as a healthy unit.

I tested the following features:
  1. Calendar
  2. Family assessment
  3. Family huddle
  4. Family challenge
  5. Pledge stone
  6. Gratitude journal
  7. Duties

1. The Calendar (free)

You can create your own events and activities and get to specify which family member is involved in every event and a colour code will then provide you with a full family calendar that shows what everyone is doing when, and can still easily show the events that only apply to you (your own colour).

Things to do
Based on your location, a list of available activities, places to see, volunteering activities is available to to pick from and add to your family calendar. If you want. You can also create your own and will soon be able to report an activity you judge inappropriate.

The calendar can also be integrated to your Google or Outlook calendar.

2. The Family Assessment

No family is perfect and a family assessment is exactly the kind of analysis that will help you identify in what area you excel and what area needs to be improved on. The idea is to answer as honestly as possible a serie of questions that cover different aspect of your family life, such as: do both parents have a clear and united approach in regards to discipline?  do you give your children a weekly allowance? As the weeks go by, you can always return to the family assessment and see what your new results are and how far you've come along. 
The quiz is not too long and most questions are simple enough to answer. I really liked seeing the areas that need improvement in a bar graph that showed a clear contrast with other areas that are mastered. Unfortunately, my kids are both under the age of 3 so a couple of the questions in the assessment simply didn't apply to our situation. However, I was told there will soon be more assessments added to the list, and some will be better suited to target different age groups. Sweeeeeet!

3. The Family Huddle

What an amazing idea! The family huddle is a weekly activity you can schedule to all sit together and discuss your business of the week, priorities, highs and lows of the week, a fun family topic and get challenged.

Everyone gets a role during the huddle (e.g.: your son might be in charge of making sure people are polite and courteous to one another while your job might be to make sure nobody exceeds their time limit to speak). Then, everyone has a turn to talk for 2, 3 or 5 minutes (your choice) and nobody can interrupt that time. We get to share our highs as well as the lows of the week, and after the timer is over, those unresolved issues go to the "sandbox" which means you get to choose a time that is non confrontational to open it up again (e.g. while driving the kids some place or while playing cards).

To end on a more positive note, random fun family topics can be asked such as "where would you like to go on vacation?" to encourage dialogue and open communication.

The huddle can then be conveniently printed-out for future reference if you so choose.

4. The Family Challenge

Then, every huddle finishes with a new challenge for the week to come. A superhero character challenges the family to stay away from t.v. all week, or skip the candies and chocolate for a week, or spend one hour doing outdoor activities as a family everyday. These challenges are NOT easy! Throughout the week, every family member can confirm if the challenge was a success on that day and get some encouragements to keep up their good work.

5. The Pledge Stone

Is an area where every family member will write down what he thinks makes his family special and cool. What are our strengths as a family? What do I appreciate the most about us? This exercise is done pretty much when we feel like it and on an individual basis. The answers can be kept private to that member or shared to other family members.

Thumbs up! My husband came up with much better ideas than me for this one... I loved reading his thoughts as he would never have otherwise taken the time to say them out loud. :)

6. The Gratitude Journal

This was not a new concept to me as many personal growth book there is probably talks about the power of gratitude. Taking time to consciously be thankful for the positive things you have in life is the best way to attract more positive into your life. Everyday, each family member would log into his gratitude journal and write down 5 things they are grateful for today. Another great habit to introduce your kids to that will stay with them for life.

Another thumbs up!

7. Duties

Truly impressive work here to keep track of duties. When you click on the Duties menu, you get transported into a different universe that feels like a video game. Mom and dad can log into the setup toolbox and create and delegate chores based on recurring schedules or one time specific duties. When the duty is created, they get to attribute the reward attached to completion of this task. Seeds and stars are the 2 reward measure units so for a very big task you could grant 5 stars and 5 seeds while a more basic and daily activity may be granted only 1 of each.

Each family member will see his duties appear on his daily To-do list that he can check as completed. The stars and seeds collected will then be used to grow magic trees and build special constellations based on the category of the tasks that have been accomplished (for example, there could be a constellation to complete with the "hygiene duties".

I'm sure this video game feel will truly appeal to kids and make them want to collect their stars and seeds on their own, hence saving a few vocal chords to mom. Very useful. It's never been so much fun to complete our chores!

Time Management

One aspect I needed to be careful about is time management. Those who know me know how much I love lists and charts and calendars (hello fellow virgoes!) and with a tool like this one, it would be easy for me to spend countless hours sitting in front of my computer everyday "planning my family life" instead of "living it". Many exercises are meant to be done on a daily basis and require a little bit of reflection, so I had to be careful and go against my instinct to have perfect answers in every area, or it would have been a huge time-eater.


A membership with this website will normally cost you about $19/month, but is currently reduced to $9/month for registration before November 30th.

If you have kids from 4 to 12 years old and plan on using the social worker's personal consultations available through the website this can have an amazing value for your family. You can ask your questions and get professional advice included with your membership.

If the price tag is something you just can't afford, you can continue using your family calendar for free with meinatree after your subscription is over. The videos, parenting resources including articles and the forum are also free. 

What you pay for with Me in a Tree is basically the communication aspect of your family. The gratitude, the positive thoughts toward one another, the team challenges, the whole cooperative attitude that is promoted with the use of Me in a Tree is truly what sets this app in a class of its own. It comes with free apps and will work on your tablet. The interface is colourful, fun, user-friendly, interactive and makes use of engaging cartoon characters that talk to you in every area of the site and family member custom avatars. All and all it is an amazing portal to keep as your browser's homepage as you will refer to it often during the day. 

Safely Helping Mom in the Kitchen

Call me ridiculous, but it's mid-October and Christmas shopping has started! I haven't bought anything yet, BUT the amount of mental energy put towards finding the best idea gift for everyone, and then at the best possible price would be enough to drain a car battery every hour.

For my girls, I was thinking about something I could use with them daily, that would be fun for them and helpful for me and that would help us bond and build lasting memories.

Kitchen Helper Safety Tower, by One Step Ahead

So, when I came across the OneStepAhead's Kitchen Helper Safety Tower Step Stool, I was delighted! You see? my 2 year old is always very eager to helping Mommy in the Kitchen but is unstable on the chair and it makes her (and ME) very insecure! This safety tower promises many hours of fun creative play while making the meal preparation process much easier on Mom and more interesting for my daughter!

It retails at $149.99 and has the following features:

  • Can be folded down to 7" thick, for easy storage
  • Light-weight
  • Adjusts to 2 platform heights
  • Comes in 2 colours (cherry or white)
  • Easy to enter and exit
  • An art easel (sold separately) can be mounted on its side
However, while most customers were very satisfied with their purchase, some others reviewed that when used in the highest position (for smaller children) it is impossible to fold. Other mentioned it arrived with scratches and dents and that the folding mechanism has no lock to "keep it folded". Also, this tour is meant for 1 child only.

Kitchen Helper, by GuideCraft

Then, I found the GuideCraft Kitchen Helper which looked equally cool. This one retails for $180 from the manufacturer's site but can be easily found at $149 on many online stores such as and  I was even able to find it as low as $114 on sale with free shipping on

The design is awfully similar to that of One Step Ahead's. Its features are:

  • Can be folded down to 7" thick for easy storage
  • Light-weight
  • Adjusts to 3 platform heights
  • Has a built-in chalkboard and whiteboard
  • Ships pre-assembled.
The critics against this model are also very similar to that of One Step Ahead's: some note a screw needs to be taken out with an Allen key before you can fold it, it arrived with some scratches and one dad even claimed that the shapes on the sides were very tempting for his toddler to climb on to so he had to cover them up with cardboard and duct tape to make it safe. GuideCraft recommends this from age 3 and up - at which age I'm guessing the temptation is all gone. The weight limit on this one is 150lbs and is also meant for one child at a time.

Little Helper FunPod, by Luca and Company

In the one-child-at-a-time category, I also came across the Little Helper FunPod by Luca and Company (or by Little Helper if you're in the UK). 

This one shows a very different design that is closer to a tower than a platform. More compact than the previous two when in use, it does not fold to be put away but is the only one I found that could slide underneath my lunch counter and take the space of a stool. For 190$, one child could have a very safe spot to play/work from without taking too much floor space in a small kitchen. When not in use, the unit can also accommodate some butcher's block top and be used as additional working space. The platform has 5 levels of adjustments to accomodate kids of different ages. It comes in natural (the original) or a variety of 4 colours. 

The only drawback (other that the price tag) is that the child will need your help to enter and exit the pod. When I showed this one to my husband his first comment was that it looked more plain (read boring) than the other ones, but if I do buy it, I am planning to paint one of the flat sides with blackboard paint to turn the whole area into a writable surface.

Learning Tower, by Little Partners

Last but not least is the Learning Tower, which retails around 199$ and can easily accomodate 2 children. It is by far the biggest one of the options I found online and cannot fold for storage, nor will it fit under your counter space. The quality of the construction is flawless and can support up to 500 lbs. It is also suitable for children as young as 18 months so it is a piece of furniture that will be an integral part of your kitchen for many years to come. An added convenience is that the platform can be adjusted in a few seconds without using tools. This can be particularly useful if your children are of different age and size. Different add-ons can be purchased to add a blackboard/whiteboard and turn it into a large easel, or a playhouse/puppet theater. 7 colours are available to choose from. 

Its one and only flaw is to be very large. Basically, if your kitchen can accommodate another piece of furniture like this one, go for it!  But if, like me, you have to be strategic about everything that enters the kitchen, you may want to look elsewhere...

The Custom and Always Economical, DIY Option

You think all these options though interesting are too pricey? I hear ya! If you're handy and want to make your own, I also found plans for a DIY (do-it-yourself) project that will take you a bit less than a the weekend to put together and will give you the satisfaction of knowing your child is safely helping you in the kitchen, for a fraction of the cost of the ready made safety stools/towers out there.

Ana White's website offers so many cool plans for the starting and the most experienced woodworker for free! The Little Helper Tower's plans are found in her Kids category for the intermediate level woodworker and the lumber costs are estimated to range between $20-$50. Because you are doing it yourself, it also give you an illimited choice of colours and the freedom to make adjustments to better suit your needs (e.g.: smaller floorprint or making it shorter to fit under your counter).

If you visit her BRAGS section, you can also find many do-it-yourselfers who accomplished the project and shared pictures of their own. This can surely inspire you to get started!

If you have purchased or built a safety tower for your child to participate in the kitchen and would like to share your views on the subject, please do! I am on the verse of making a decision for my own kitchen and want to hear from everyone's experiences good and bad before I commit to buying or making a tower!

Meet my family!

Over the last 3 years, I've been pregnant, stay at home nursing mother to a daughter named Naomi, pregnant again, and stay at home nursing mother of a second daughter named Julia. Here are some update photos of our beautiful family:

More recently, sweet little Julia (8 months old little brunette on the pictures) has been offered a spot in daycare. We were lucky to get a spot so we grabbed the occasion, but my heart was slightly heavy. Gone are my babies. On a more positive note: time to rediscover ME.

ME, the woman, the individual, the professional, the lover, the friend, the sister.

I confess, I thought motherhood only meant I was bringing a child into my universe. Boy was I wrong! It felt like my children actually brought me to a new universe of their own and my initial place in the world is no longer available. Now that they are in daycare on weekdays, I need to redefine myself on so many levels! 

Mastering motherhood seems to be an evolving and life-long quest I'm happy to undertake. So happy in fact, I believe it took all the time and energy I had in the last 2 years and a half to the detriment of other important roles are also part of me. How do you find the right balance when you want to give it all to your kids? I stopped blogging, the quality time I spend with my dog has become more scarce and personal time and activities for the couple have pretty much disappeared.

So, now that my girls are in daycare, I should be able to find that balance again, right? My new goals include:
  • Attending a daily exercise class
  • Bonding with new friends
  • Starting back my blog
  • Starting my own home-based business
  • Getting the home organized and under control
  • Finding a babysitter
  • Scheduling monthly night out with my husband
  • Get quality time with my kids on the weekends
  • Spending better time with my dog
New challenges ahead. It'll be fun!