By Sue Cosh

The First Acquired Language: Music

The First Acquired Language: Music


Mishael discovering the guitar in his first months.


A pair of deep brown eyes stare into mine already so full of love and trust, and although I’m not sure I deserve such love and trust, they continue to gaze into mine and I am speechless.

Let’s rewind one year.  Here I am.  First time mom with a new born baby boy in my arms.  I couldn’t be happier and also more humbled.  Being in the child care field for so many years and working mostly with infants I assumed having my own would be a piece of cake.  Wrong.

Sure I already knew how to change a diaper and understand baby babble but what do I do with a newborn that, well, really just lays there and looks at me?


I rested my son, Mishael, on the living room floor and crossed my legs next to him with an acoustic guitar.  Delicately, I strummed chords and sang softly.  He seemed pleasantly content and at peace.  The next day I let him rest in the living room again as I played and sung to him.  The next day as well as the next, I did the same.

Finally, a smile.  Before I would even begin to play, Mishael would grin at the sight of me grasping the guitar from its stand.

And then a coo and a hum.  He was not only excited when he caught glimpse of the guitar but he had acquired a unique singing voice.

Next a wave of the arm and a shake of the leg.  As Mishael’s excitement grew every time I brought out the guitar, his body began to move and wiggle as well.

Music is a language he identifies with.  It provides him a way of expressing himself as his vocabulary grows.  It wasn’t long after incorporating music continually throughout the day that his expressions grew into many.  His babbling grew into words.  His waves became clapping.  And his legs began bouncing to the rhythm of a song.


Mishael has developed emotionally, cognitively and physically due to music.

I truly believe that every child can make meaning of the world in their own way through music some way or another.  And it doesn’t have to be with an acoustic guitar either.  Here is a short list of some places nearby that my son and I love to go every week.  They will provide your child with a wonderful start in music and you might just learn a thing or two as well!

~Kimberly Ngugi


Baby Time @ New Westminster Public Library.  Fridays at 10:15am (no charge)

Pre-school story time @ New Westminster Public Library. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday at 10:15am (no charge)

Mini Music ages 0-5 @ Music Box.  Fridays at 10am and 11am (no charge)

Music Kids Daycare @ Top floor of River Market. Occasional and flexible child care, music focused. Monday-Friday 9am-5pm. (Charges apply)


Summer fitness ideas for kids

Summer is the time of year we get the most inquiries about fitness/activities for kids and it’s not surprising with such amazing weather! (and no school, of course) Here are three of our favourite activities that we incorporate into our youth programs!




  1. Tic-Tac-Toe race


**This one works best with two groups of two-three.


  • To play, start with a tic-tac-toe grid (we use hula hoops but you could also use sidewalk chalk) with markers for each team (five of each colour)
  • Have the two teams stand at the other end of the playing field
  • The two teams will take turns running to the grid, picking up and placing their marker and then running back to tag their next teammate
  • The first to make a tic-tac-toe, wins!


2. Mini Fitness Circuit (station to station)


**Works great in small or large groups

  • To start, set up a number of stations (we like to use four to six), spaced out so there is room to run to each one
  • At each station, have a different physical activity (hula hoops, jump rope, balance beam, etc)
  • Have each kid complete the circuit and tag the next in line

Ways to win:

  • The fastest time; or
  • Break into teams and have the fastest team win


3. Yoga stories


**This can be done in groups, or one-on-one

  • Using yoga cards, a yoga poster (showing poses) or already established knowledge of poses, start a story with the group
  • Go around the circle having each kid add another part to the story
  • Every addition to the story will have a pose that goes with it
  • End in a relaxation pose


*Remember to stay safe and ALWAYS have a supply of fresh water and sun protection if you’re playing in the summer heat!



N.Y.A. Movement & Wellness

Debt Load



Debt Load – Can’t balance the budget

In 2015, Statistics Canada released figures on Canadian household debt:  For every dollar Canadians earn, they are carrying $1.64 in debt.

For some, carrying this much debt is crippling and impacts a family’s ability to manage their monthly finances and reach financial goals.

If you completed Step One and Step Two and found that you cannot balance against your income due to your monthly debt payments, then it’s time to focus on dealing with your debt.  Getting your debt under control so that you can realize your financial goals and balance your budget, is important for a healthy financial future.

The first step is to understand how much you owe and the time frame it will take you to pay it off when only making the minimum payment.  Your monthly statements should give you that information, here are some examples:

Debt Balance Monthly Payment Number of years it will take to pay off Interest Rate


Student Loan $15,000 $179.62 10 years 7.7%
Visa $10,000 $400.00 14 years and 1 month 19.5%
Retail Store Card $2,000 $80.00 11 years and 9 months 28.5%
Line of Credit $5,000 $200.00 2 years and 8 months 17.75%


What are your options in tackling your debts?

  1. Paying off the higher interest debt first: making minimum payments on every debt and but making larger payments to the higher interest debt first and paying off your debt one by one. If we use the example above, the highest interest is the retail store card.  If you can come up with an additional $100 per month to put on that debt, it will be paid off in 1 year and 2 months.  After that debt is paid off, then you can take that $180 per month and put it as an additional payment on the next highest interest rate debt and so on.
  2. Obtaining a consolidation loan from your bank to pay off your total debt within, say, a five year term. With the debts above, assuming you have good credit and are able to obtain a consolidation loan, the loan and cost of borrowing (5.5%) over a 5 year terms would be $36,674.22 with a monthly payment of $611.24.
  3. For home owners, it may be an option to borrow an additional amount when your mortgage comes up for renewal and roll your unsecured debts into your mortgage.
  4. For those who cannot get a consolidation loan and cannot roll their unsecured debt into a secured facility, such as a mortgage or secured line of credit, then it may be time to consider other alternatives in dealing with your debt. A Licensed Insolvency Trustee, such as myself, can provide a free consultation to discuss your options, which include:
  • Consumer Proposal
  • Bankruptcy

Consumer Proposal

A consumer proposal is one of the most effective ways to get out of debt.  This option allows you to make a legal agreement with your creditors, including income tax and student loans (with restrictions), which stops interest from accruing.  A consumer proposal is a legal way to settle the amount that is owed by paying only a portion of your debt.  Typically, a consumer proposal allows you to replay only 30% of your unsecured debt, interest free, over a maximum period of five years.


When a consumer proposal is not possible, bankruptcy is a legal way of obtaining a fresh financial start, often allowing an individual to become debt free in as little as 9 months.

The amount you pay back is governed by federal legislation and is based on your family income.

Both of these options immediately stop all collection activity and protect you from garnishment of your wages.



Get Budgeting!



So here we are, you’ve tracked your expenses and you’ve set your goals.  Take a look at the average or monthly amounts from Step One and Two and come up with a budget based on those numbers.

Before you can go any further, you need to ensure that your expenses are not higher than your income.  If your expenses exceed your income, this is where you need to make some choices based on what you’ve learned when you tracked your spending.  If you still don’t balance, then you will need to look at increasing your income.

If your income exceeds your expenses, then you may want to review your financial goals and either add another goal or increase your monthly contribution to existing goals to achieve them sooner.

Take a look at your expenses to determine where your needs are and also look critically at the expenses that fall into the want category.   Can you reduce the want spending?  You may find that you can cut back a little more by reducing any of the want category expenses, things like grabbing a cup of coffee every day, or eating lunch out every day.

If you have children that pressure  you to buy things; try involving them in your budgeting process to help them understand that money does not grow on trees, that things cost money… in some cases, a lot of money.  Helping them understand how to manage money and how much things cost.  If they are old enough to get an allowance, you can have them budget their money right along with you.

Stay tuned for Step Four tomorrow!



Realistic Financial Goals



Think about your goals. If you have a partner, talk about these goals with them.  As a family, you may have differing goals for your finances; use this as a tool to come together on prioritizing financial goals for the whole family.

Savings are so important in order to have a successful financial future.   I look at savings as similar to the foundation of your home: if your foundation is strong, it holds and supports everything else.  If your foundation is weak, things could crumble pretty easily.

Once you’ve completed Step One, you will have a good idea on how much money you have left over to set aside for savings.  If there is nothing left, then it’s important to revisit Step One to see if you can reduce any of your variable expenses to allow for some savings.

The important thing with savings is having a target amount.   How much? Over what time frame?  What does that look like as a monthly amount?

In my opinion, savings goal number one should always be emergency savings. Experts recommend having three to six months of expenses saved, and of course you know what you need minimally to live each month because you’ve completed Step One!  Emergency savings will assist your family to stay secure if there is a job loss or an illness.  It will give you breathing room to make decisions and also give you a level of comfort that you will not have to borrow funds from family or friends or use a credit card or line of credit to get by.

Savings goal number two and onwards, are up to you!  What’s important for you?   Is it education savings, retirement savings, vacation savings, a downpayment on a home?   Once you’ve hit your savings target for number one, then you can redirect your monthly savings amount to something else.  Set some short, medium and long term goals and always set an amount for each goal.   Once you have some set amounts, try incorporating these into your monthly budget.  If it doesn’t work, extend the time for your goal, making a smaller monthly commitment.

Here is an example of a Financial Goals Worksheet:


Goal Cost Target Date Monthly Amount Needed Order of Importance
Emergency Savings $15,000 24 months $625 1
Weekend Getaway $1,200 12 months $100 2
Downpayment $30,000 60 months $500 3


Once you get to Step Four you can adjust your goals to fit within your budget.  For example, you may not be able to save $500 per month for the downpayment but perhaps you can do $300.  That means you can still reach your goal, but not in 60 months.  It’s very important to be flexible so that you do not get discouraged.

You may want to consider setting up separate bank accounts for each of your goals; this will allow you to segregate the money from your day to day banking account.

Stay tuned for Step Three tomorrow!



Family Budget


You know you should have a family budget, but where do you start? Let’s tackle it in four simple steps:


Tracking your expenses

First of all, do you know what your income is?  Are you self employed?  What is your average after tax earnings (don’t include overtime or bonuses, as those can come and go)?  If you are self employed, take an average of your net earnings after business deductions and tax for the last 12 months to determine your average net monthly income.  You can include any monthly government credits you receive, such as the Child Tax Credit or Rental Subsidy and child support or alimony payments (assuming they are consistent!)

Tracking your expenses can seem like an onerous activity, but it really gives you the information you need to set yourself up for success.  How many times do you go to the grocery store for one or two items and walk out with two full bags, or stop in at your favourite coffee shop for a little something on the way to work?  All of these things can add up to a shocking amount of money, money that you could be putting to good use for things like savings, a weekend getaway, or a down payment on that car or home you’re hoping to purchase “one day”.  One day these things can happen, if you focus your finances and spending.

You’ll need to figure out a way to track those expenses.  Set up a spreadsheet, find a budgeting app (my colleague uses “Expense Keep” on her iPhone), or go old school with a notebook in your purse.  If you are married or have a partner, it’s important for both of you to track your expenses regardless of how you have set up your day to day finances (a topic for another blog).  Do this for a minimum of three months and see what the average figures are.

You should have three main categories:


  1. Fixed expenses

These are expenses that don’t really change, for example your mortgage, rent or car payment.


  1. Variable expenses

These are expenses that do fluctuate from month to month, such as groceries, eating out and gas.


  1. Annual, Seasonal and Irregular Expenses

This category is very important.  There are often times throughout the year where you have to come up with extra funds that you may not have set aside.  If you are on a fairly tight budget, unexpected car or home repairs can throw your finances into a tail spin.  Other expenses that fall into this category would be school fees, summer camps, birthdays and other celebrations, not to mention dental expenses or annual insurance premiums.  The list can go on and on depending on your family.  Knowing what these expenses average out to over a year is important.  Take a look at your banking transactions for the last year or two and see what you’ve spent so you can come up with an average monthly amount to incorporate into your budget.

It is important during this step to get an accurate idea of how you and your family are spending as there will be time later to make adjustments and choices when you prepare to put your budget into action.

Here is an example of what a spreadsheet might look like after you’ve totalled your monthly spending:


Fixed Expenses Month One Month Two Month Three Average
Property Tax
Strata Fees
Cell Phone/Home Phone
Car Finance Payment


Variable Expenses Month One Month Two Month Three Average
Restaurants/Take Out
Public Transportation
Baby/Child Needs
Sporting Fees
School Fees
Laundry/Dry Cleaning
Hair Cuts/Grooming


Of course, this list is not comprehensive and you should add any regular expenses that your family incurs, such as child support payments or pet expenses.


Stay tuned for Step Two!