Tag Archives: parenting

Parents: Get back into the rhythm of the day with an exercise routine


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As a parent of young kids, it can be challenging to schedule in time for yourself each day. There will always be plenty of others things to catch up on and before you know it, you have spent the last few months or even years of your life, not having taken time just for yourself. Don’t become a victim of your situation! Even if it’s just getting in a 15 minute workout doing yoga, tai chi, qigong, a morning walk, or a simple stretch routine, I challenge you to try and schedule in that time just for yourself. Exercise helps flush toxins, rejuvenates and repairs your body, and boosts your overall mood. Wake up a half hour earlier or schedule it in after the kids have gone to bed. I promise you won’t regret it. And even if you miss a few days, get right back on it. You’ll feel amazing in no time. What things do you like to do just for yourself?

 

 

Teething cures under campfire lights: natural tips and not-so natural tips for your teething baby now


Do you have a teether in your family? Anyone under the age of 3 perhaps?

Is your normally smiling, happy, cuddly baby/child noticeably more irritated these days? Does she/he  experience any or all of the following symptoms: drooling, gum swelling, red cheeks, ear pulling, putting fingers in mouth, elevated body temperature, skin rash, tummy upset, sharp cries of pain, decreased appetite, loose stools, inability to sleep for long periods of a time, biting, swatting or pushing others away, and flailing?

Check, check, check!! Welcome to our world.

We made it to the last week of the school year before Miss G (our 3rd daughter), who is now almost 11 months, was struck with a serious bout of teething. It was so incredibly timed that it perfectly coincided with our long-awaited camping trip last weekend.

After setting up our six-person tent in the dark, not five minutes went by as we lay in our newly aired-out sleep sacks, when a large rumble from the interior of the tent was heard. In fact, it came from the little belly of Miss G. She was in serious trouble. And after two very smelly diaper changes in quick succession, we were well on our way to experiencing the full force of her pain. Her piercing cries were heard in sharp contrast to the quiet crackles of the campfires and calling loons…sounds more typical of a summer night spent camping by the lake and woods.

As she had had a few smaller bouts the week before, I brought all the ammunition I could to make sure our little lady was going to sleep peacefully. The first night we tried an infant pain reliever. Not much help. The next morning we went for a more homeopathic approach with Camillia Sinensis. This did bring some temporary relief but was not long lasting and I found it difficult to get her to take the vial when she was writhing in pain. Finally, the next evening when the teething monsters came out, I brought out my tried and true pediatric teething drops from a Chinese herbal medicine supplier. It was prepared with a sweetened base so Miss G didn’t have to contend with bitter tasting herbs. Followed by a proper nurse. Instant success.

Her pain relief lasted though the night and all I had to do was nurse her back to sleep once in the night. I myself woke up an additional two times when I heard the resident raccoon come by and sniff out our site.

I’m not sure why I sometimes question the effectiveness and efficiency of my chosen profession. Perhaps we all do this at times. Maybe it is healthy to second guess at times, so as to really make sure you are not biased to your own preferences or tendencies. Or maybe it’s just because pharmaceutical and even other natural drugs are that much more convincing with their gorilla marketing that even a herbalist questions her number one method of pain relief for teething infants!

In any case, the good news is that there are a range of remedies that you can choose from to get you through this seemingly endless phase in your child’s development when you’re right in the middle of it.

Here are some additional soothing options for teethers:

-a frozen terry cloth or toy such as a Ringley

-a mango pit to chew on (this advice was generously given to me by a friendly neighbour with Guyanese roots who mentioned that this is what they do in Guyana…what a brilliant idea!)

-cold water popsicles or fruit sweetened popsicles (Miss G can confirm that this is helpful and she would like more offered in future)

-frozen fruit such as strawberries (this is also a helpful treat for non-teethers)

-massaging your child’s gums with clean fingers (watch out for biters though!)

-a nontoxic rubber toy (the popular S. the Giraffe comes to mind…a friend of mine has noted that in Germany, only the new batches of S. the Giraffe are approved for use so you may want to investigate this further)

Happy trails, happy summer.

-m.

What if we could save the planet? Eco-friendly pitfalls and pickups from one parent to another


Last night, I thought about how I’ve been respecting the earth lately. Truthfully, I was not impressed.

I have always had more eco-friendly ‘leanings’. Anyone who is remotely tuned in to the state of the environment is too. Here’s a debriefer, if you need to review: http://www.greenfacts.org/en/digests/state-of-the-environment.htm

Foodwise? I was a vegetarian bordering on a vegan in my university years, and a pescatarian up until the birth of my second child. And now? It’s a real mix I tell you!! No red meat for me, however.

For transportation? Rode my bike wherever I went, took the subway, carpooled my rowing crew (I sure do miss that crew!).

Clothing? Bought my clothes at Kensington Market in high school (the trendy place downtown to shop for used items). Reduced, reused, recycled when possible.

Fast forward to my child-bearing and child-rearing years and what has happened? Of course I’ve maintained my passion for eco-friendly living. But there have been really significant compromises. We’ve done the cloth diapers, the infant pottying, the hand-me down clothing, the eating local and organic. I’m currently doing my best to stick with non-toxic cleaning agents for the home and environmentally friendly moisturizers, cleansers, deodorants, and shampoos for us. The most eco-friendly of the ecoshampoos do leave some product residue, but all-in-all I’m willing to make a few sacrifices for the sake of the earth. David Suzuki Foundation’s Queen of Green has these helpful tips on green cleaning products if you’re interested in adopting a few: http://www.davidsuzuki.org/what-you-can-do/queen-of-green/

Of all this, I am pleased.

Now to the disheartening part. We’ve also done disposable wipes and diapers (for the times when we’ve run out of clean cloth diapers because we fell off the cleaning schedule), the school drop off and pick ups for the kids in a car that ‘resembles’ an SUV, the cool outings that you can only get to by burning that liquid gold to keep the kids entertained, or show them ‘nature’ not seen elsewhere. The countless dinners wasted on picky, picky eaters. More water consumption with additional laundry loads. Disposable cups, plates, utensils, at a park or big party venue with frosted cupcakes and instant pizza delivery. Over-packaged baby mum mums and granola bars. Over-processed foods for immediate consumption when the family is just plain hungry already, three kids are melting down, and there are mountains of chores still left to do before dinner.

The truth is, having kids makes being eco-friendly exponentially more challenging. Even if you are not a parent, the life we all live right now is a fast-paced and overburdened one. If I were going to be the person I need to be to really do my part, I would definitely need to do some prep work after the kids have gone to bed, in addition to what I already do to keep afloat for the next day. ‘Cause otherwise, we’ll just be heading to that terrible Golden Arches drive-through again on our mad rush to the next XYZ class. But the truth is, we are all just plain tired. Tired!! And cranky. Yesterday was especially an evening to forget. And that does not bode well for helping out our planet these days. But that doesn’t mean we can’t keep trying.

Teaching the next generation to respect their environment is no longer enough. We really have to be part of the solution so that they can inherit a world full of promise. So today, I am challenging myself (and anyone else out there who thinks they’re up for it) to take on a day (or even two or more!) where you consider what you’ve done to help out your ‘mother’. Mother Earth that is. A day to walk rather than drive. A day to eat local, organic, a little less of the foods that burden our sacred lands. A day to use less water. Less electricity. Do we really need ALL this ‘power’? A day to pause on how we can teach our children to really love this planet we’ve been given and walk the talk. Will we one day rise up to the challenge and really be the stewards that the planet needs to survive? Here’s hoping.

-m.

 

For more on how your diet affects the earth, you can find some enlightening resources here:

http://www.ceeonline.org/greenGuide/food/upload/environmenthealth.aspx

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Environmental_impact_of_meat_production

 

How transportation affects the environment:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Environmental_impact_of_transport

 

Another blog about eco-friendly parenting:

http://www.ecofriendlyparenting.net/

-m.

Singing Our Way Through the Day


Hands up if you like to sing throughout the day (e.g. in the shower, in your car during your commute to or from work, school, etc.) If not, here let me get you started – Madonna’s ‘Material Girl’ has been playing on our XM radio 80′s station quite a bit lately and J, R, and I enjoy boppin’ to the beat of the tune in our car:

“Material Girl” – Madonna

Some boys kiss me, some boys hug me
I think they’re O.K.
If they don’t give me proper credit
I just walk away
They can beg and they can plead
But they can’t see the light, that’s right
‘Cause the boy with the cold hard cash
Is always Mister Right, ’cause we are
[Chorus:]
Living in a material world
And I am a material girl
You know that we are living in a material world
And I am a material girl…[continued]

Note: the lyrics leave much to be desired so feel free to pop another tune in your head!

Great!! And do you also have a song or rhyme for a special part of each day? Well, it seems one of my daughters has recently decided to make this a daily practice for our family. Not only will she insist on rhyming everyone’s names (e.g. Alex Balex, Rosie Posie, Silly Lily) but she delights in listening to all sorts of rhymes throughout the day that we manage to create (I will spare you these particular rhymes as they are probably only funny to us, potentially embarassing, and therefore best kept in the family).

I have to admit, singing and rhyming more regularly has been a pretty fun experience for us all. When J and R were just a toddler and infant respectively, I did come up with a few of my own made up rhymes or short songs just to giggle our way though transitions such as a diaper change, meal, bath, or attempt to get out the door. On days where I was less light-hearted and didn’t, things always seemed to be that much more challenging and my patience with the children would be lost that much faster. In fact, this is still the case even now!

At the end of the day, the girls will often request that I say a special verse, song and/or prayer (especially just after turning the lights out). A favourite verse is Star Light, Star Bright ever since we put up some glow in the dark stars just above their beds.

Star light, star bright, The first star I see tonight; I wish I may, I wish I might, Have the wish I wish tonight.

Comet Lovejoy

Photo credit courtesy of Jia Hao, TWAN

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2012/05/pictures/120515-best-earth-sky-pictures-2012-comet-milky-way-space/

For the different seasons and weather there are some great rhymes as well. We have a lovely resident robin who visits our front lawn each day and sings ever so sweetly at just a bit before 5am. This is naturally a time when most of the family should still be asleep, but I may or may not be (depending on how the pregnancy insomnia is going that night or on which kid decides to pile into our bed before sunrise).

Photo courtesy of: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Turdus-migratorius-002.jpg

So in honour of our friendly, little Robin (and courtesy of J’s wonderful teacher who reminded us of this song in her song and poetry reading book), here’s what we’ve been singing lately:

Robin in the rain,
Such a saucy fellow.
Robin in the rain,
Mind your socks of yellow.
Running in the garden on your nimble feet,
Digging for your dinner with your long strong beak.

Robin in the rain,
You don’t mind the weather
Showers always make you gay.
Bet the worms are wishing you would stay at home,
Robin on a rainy day — don’t get your feet wet,
Robin on a rainy day!

Lyrics can be found here as well: http://www.grandparents.com/gp/content/activitiesandevents/sing-alongs/article/robin-in-the-rain.html#ixzz20CANeDUz

What about songs inspired by what you do or see that day? On an expedition to the local bank machine the other day, we came across a bunch of cyclists riding bicycles built for two, which of course brought the following song Daisy Bell by Henry Dacre in 1892 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daisy_Bell) to mind:

Photo courtesy of: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Daisybell.jpg

Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer, do,
I’m half crazy all for the love of you.
It won’t be a stylish marriage –
I can’t afford a carriage,
But you’d look sweet upon the seat
Of a bicycle built for two.
-Henry Dacre, 1892

Singing and rhyming with your children throughout the day may not only provide you with laughter and enjoyment, but may actually improve your health and well-being according to this article by Alice Wignall:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2008/aug/26/healthandwellbeing.fitness

Singing can also increase your children’s language development, academic performance and emotional well being. According to an article by Amelia Hill published in the Guardian (May 08, 2011):

Singing traditional lullabies and nursery rhymes to babies and infants before they learn to speak, is “an essential precursor to later educational success and emotional wellbeing”, argues Blythe in a book. “Song is a special type of speech. Lullabies, songs and rhymes of every culture carry the ‘signature’ melodies and inflections of a mother tongue, preparing a child’s ear, voice and brain for language.” Blythe says in her book, The Genius of Natural Childhood, to be published by Hawthorn Press, that traditional songs aid a child’s ability to think in words. She also claims that listening to, and singing along with rhymes and songs uses and develops both sides of the brain. “Neuro-imaging has shown that music involves more than just centralised hotspots in the brain, occupying large swathes on both sides,” she said.

For the full article click here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2011/may/08/singing-children-development-language-skills?fb=native&CMP=FBCNETTXT9038

Here’s to more sing-song, and carrying on thoughout your day today!

Happy Mother’s Day! The collective thoughts of some special mamas out there


It’s a beautiful Sunday morning and with lots to do today, so as I have limited time to write, here are some inspiring posts on Mothers and Mother’s Day. So if you’re not out enjoying the weather with your loved ones, sit down, relax, and enjoy with a cup of tea and cake!

Soule Mama – Mama’s Day (love her work and her blog):

http://www.soulemama.com/soulemama/2009/05/mamas-day.html

The Magic Onions – Mother’s Day Crafts (love Donni’s world! Great fairy gardens displayed here as well!)

http://themagiconions.blogspot.ca/p/mothers-day-crafts-and-gifts.html

And a few from Alison Kramer of Reflections of Motherhood, a Canadian blogger and Waldorf mama who created this great video on motherhood:

http://www.reflectionsofmotherhood.com/

http://www.nummies.com/blog/2010/08/reflections-of-motherhood/

And her insightful comments on celebrating Mother’s Day:

http://www.nummies.com/blog/2012/05/1747/#more-1747

 

International May Day Celebrations Renewed


Well here we are. May 1st. Some exciting things are happening this month! While typically here in Canada we think of Mother’s Day and Victoria Day celebrations as the highlights of May, it seems that there has been a resurgence in the popularity of celebrating the very first day of this bright and cheerful month all over the world: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/May_Day

May Blossoms from the May tree. Photo Credit: ceridwen http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Queen_of_the_May,_in_June_-_geograph.org.uk_-_1346819.jpg

May Day, also known as the Gaelic festival of Beltane (May 1st) and the German Walpurgis Night http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walpurgis_Night (which is celebrated on the night of April 30 – and leads into May 1st),  is  typically observed in areas such as England, Scotland, Ireland, Germany, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Sweden, France, and even Hawaii (where it is more commonly referred to as “Lei Day”).

Historically, May 1st was considered the first day of summer in some pre-Christian pagan cultures.  This day was celebrated in pre-Christian times as the festival of Flora in honour of the Roman Goddess of Flowers. Following the conversion of Europe to Christianity, many pagan celebrations were either dropped or given religious undertones. In Roman Catholic cultures, May is considered Mary’s month and May Day is usually celebrated as a tribute to the Virgin Mary. Flowers are used to adorn her head in a May Crowning represented in works of art such as plays, sculptures and figure drawings. 

For many other people, May Day is recognized as a secular tradition where spring and fertility is celebrated with events such as dancing around a Maypole decorated with colourful ribbons, and the crowning of the May Queen.  

Maypole in Munich, Germany http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Viktualienmarkt_Maibaum_Nahaufnahme_1999.jpg

Queen Guinevre’s ‘Maying’ by John Collier. Photo credit: Andreas Praefke http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:John_Collier_Queen_Guinevre%27s_Maying.jpg

If you are looking to make your own May Pole check out this amazing blog on spring festival celebrations and Maypole ideas at Kleas: http://kleas.typepad.com/kleas/2011/05/spring-festival.html

DIY Maypoles with dyed silk ribbons. Photo credit: http://kleas.typepad.com/kleas/2011/05/spring-festival.html

Here are a few other great sites to visit for creating a Maypole and celebrating May Day with your children:

Maypole with Beads. Photo credit: www.gardeners.com

Maypole Nature Table. Photo credit: http://3.bp.blogspot.com

Fresh flowers and Ribbon Maypole. Photo credit: http://stillraisingthenextgeneration.com

Stone-tipped Fairy Ribbon Wands. Photo credit: http://paintcutpaste.com

A sweet tradition in the past (that is likely to gain new momentum) was to prepare May Day baskets filled with flowers or treats, and to leave them anonymously on the front door steps of a neighbour or friend. For tips on how to make your own May Day basket, visit Ben Partridge’s excellent post on The May Day Basket Refresher at Apartment Therapy at http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/may-day-basket-refresher-how-t-118478

May Day Baskets. Photo credit: Ben Partridge http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/may-day-basket-refresher-how-t-118478

May 1st is also International Workers’ Day  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Workers%27_Day which was officially recognized in 1891 and celebrates the International Labour Movements and marks the 1886 Haymarket Massacre in Chicago and the subsequent 1894 May Day Riots in Cleveland, Ohio when people rioted against the ineffectual measures the city officials carried out to reduce the skyrocketing rates of unemployment at the time. While this day is officially reconized elsewhere, here in Canada and the United States, Labour Day is recognized on September 1st (a move that was favoured by the then governor of Ohio so as not to commemorate the riots).

Currently, there is a resurgence in the United States and elsewhere to celebrate this infamous day in the context of supporting the 99% of the population who are not as well off as the remaining 1%. This planned day of protest is fuelled by the Occupy Wall Street (and other Occupy movements around the world) .

So what will we be doing this May 1st? Since I’ll be at home with the girls, we will be celebrating this special day as a tribute to spring and all its glory. My litle ladies love dressing up in their most desirable princess gowns and dancing around the living room or out in the front yard. So we will likely be doing some dancing (as per usual!) Not sure if we’ll have a little May Pole set up to dance around…although we could make a makeshift May Pole using our beautiful white hobby horse which would also double as a perfect companion to my two lovely little May Queens.

And perhaps a flower garland for their hair, or pansy flowers pressed into shortbread cookies in a basket would be a welcome activity to add to our day.

For a great shortbread recipe with pressed flowers to celebrate spring, here’s a great article on Stonegable: http://stonegable.blogspot.ca/2010/05/pansy-shortbread-cookies.html

Pansy shortbread cookies. Photo credit: http://stonegable.blogspot.com

Here’s to a very Happy May Day and a great start to your month! What does the month of May mean to you? Will you do anything special this May Day? Please share your thoughts.

How To Trim The Fat Off Your Laundry Load


Do you love housework?

Do you love that your weekends are often spent sorting and folding and colour blocking your laundry?

Or does the sight of your laundry loads, whether dirty or clean, often end up overwhelming you, frightening you, or sending you into a state of utter panic?

The last statement definitely applies to me. And for years now, I’ve been threatening to do something about the never ending pile of laundry that seems to be growing exponentially as my kids get older and as each day passes with me in an increasing tizzy.

The other day, I neglected all household duties and day- dreamed about another time and place when things were briefly much more manageable. I thought back to last summer when we we gave ourselves a ’6 weeks without-a-home vacation’ and travelled to the mid-northeastern frontiers of Quebec and visited the beautiful St. Lawrence River, Charlevoix and Tadoussac regions (will post more on this later). We were waiting to move into our new house and our old house had closed several weeks before. Therefore, with no home, we were forced to put away all our possessions in storage and minimize our daily necessities and belongings. All of this “storing away” felt incredibly liberating. And we managed to live very happily in those six weeks with nothing but a few essentials. When we finally returned and moved into our new place, I couldn’t help but wonder if we could actually do without most of the things we had placed in storage.

So…yesterday, I finally did something about it. I commited to reducing our laundry load to something more manageable. I decided to purge ourselves of all unnecessary items of clothing and limit the number of options. Already, I can breathe deeper knowing there are at least two laundry loads less to do! We are by no means living a completely simplified lifestyle yet. But I consider it one step in the right direction.

To pare down your wardrobe, start with what you love and ‘really need’ and work from there. For seasonal and hand-me-down clothing, label clear plastic storage bins with season, gender and age to refer to for future use, or consider passing along items to someone who may need it. For all other items that you’re not sure about, place in a very dark black plastic bag or dark rubbermaid bin. From here you have three viable options: Either store away and look at these items again in two weeks (and let me know if you actually decide to keep all of these items!), give to friends who may be in need of such items, or donate the clothing to a charity of your choice that picks up used clothing such as the Diabetes Foundation or Cerebral Palsy Foundation.

Essentials for each family member (this also serves as a great travel essentials list for those that don’t want to pare down their clothing list permanently….yet!):

-4-7 underwear tops

-4-7 underwear bottoms

-1-2 long underwear (for winter consider polyproplene/wool)

-4-7 pairs of socks (1-2 sport, 1-2 everyday, 1-2 dressy)

-1-2 pairs pajamas/nightgown

-4-7 tops/blouses (per season; 1-2 active wear, 1-2 of each of your favourite colours (approx. 3 colours), 1-2 dressier tops)

-2-4 shorts/pants (per season; 1-2 active wear, 1-2 everyday wear (e.g. jeans/khakis, 1 -2 dressier pairs)

-2-4 skirts/dresses (per season; 1-2 everyday wear; 1-2 dressier ones)

-2-4 cardigans/knit sweater/fleece (change according to season)

-1 blazer

-1-2 ties (men)

-1-2 jackets/coats (1 nice coat, 1 all season jacket/parka; change according to season)

-1-2 pairs rain pants/ snow pants (chnage according to season)

-2-5 pairs of shoes (1 runner/athletic shoe, 1-2 everyday, 1-2 dressier pair, 1 pair of slippers/warm knit socks, 1 pair rain boot/ 1 pair winter boot; change according to season)

-1 toque/sunhat (change according to season)

-1 scarf/neck warmer

-1-2 pairs of gloves/mittens

-1 pair of sunglasses

-1 pair of goggles

-1 swim vest/PFD

-1-2 swimsuits

-1 towel

-(1 toiletry kit) non-clothing related but essential!

-(Family First Aid Kit)-non-clothing related but essential!