When Things are not Going Well

We all have days when things are not going well. You’re grouchy. You’re tired. You have no cream for you coffee. Whatever the reason, you find yourself spiraling and you know an explosion is imminent.  So what do you do? In my humble opinion, you have two options..

Option One ~

We all have days when things are not going well. You’re grouchy. You’re tired. You have no cream for your coffee. Maybe, like me, you spilled an entire bag of coffee over your kitchen floor, and you can’t really remember the last time you cleaned it.Whatever the reason, you find yourself spiraling and you know an explosion is imminent.  So what do you do? In my humble opinion, you have two options..

One ~

You can dig deep. Fill that empty well with all the self-care you have in your repertoire; meditation, a nature walk, a long bubble bath, a workout, or whatever wonderful thing you can do for yourself that you know will lift you back up.

Two ~

You can utterly surrender to your emotions. Surrender does not mean give up. It means give in. Accept your emotional state. Do you feel tears welling in your eyes? Let them fall. Crying is shown to release stress hormones after all. Put on your favourite sad song and belt it out.

Maybe you’re angry? Go for a drive and yell your loudest! Whatever is trapped inside, get it out.  Then give yourself a little down time. Watch your favourite feel good movie or break out your hidden stash of good quality chocolate and slowly savour each bite. Don’t just shove it in your mouth quickly so you’re children don’t know you’re eating chocolate in the bathroom again (who me?) Own it. Treat yourself like the tired, weary soul that you are and gently bring yourself back to equilibrium.

This is the way we regulate our emotions. This is how we model that very important work to our children so they know what to do when they come across those tough days. Because tough days come to all of us.

Let’s not lash out, stomp around the house, or slam doors. Let’s get to the heart of the matter by asking ourselves, “What do I NEED right now?”

Maybe you want to elevate, maybe you want to indulge. If you pause for long enough, you’ll know what choice to make, and soon enough, things just might be looking good again.

Why BabyWearing is your New Best Friend

When a baby is held in a caregiver’s arms, she is experiencing the world at the same physical level of adults; she sees more, touches more, feels more, and hears more than babies who are carried at knee level in a stroller or car seat.

It shouldn’t be a big surprise to hear that babies like (and need) to be close to their mothers or fathers. It’s kind of their thing. The feeling is mutual (most of the time!) My children were quite content to sit on the floor and amuse themselves, but only for a little while. Then, they wanted uppie (as it’s referred to around here).

I can sympathize. Being on the floor or in a high chair probably gets boring. Life is happening all around and a baby who sits on the floor is missing out on a lot of exciting sights, sounds, tastes, and sensations.

Having said that, babies are heavy. And, they just keep getting heavier. That’s where babywearing comes in!  Wearing your baby means using a sling, wrap, or carrier to keep your baby close while relieving your aching arms and impending carpal-tunnel syndrome.

Best of all, you’re hands free! Meaning you can get other things accomplished while you give your baby all of the love, stimulation, and support that he needs.

What the Research says about Babywearing:

Michael L. Commons and Patrice M. Miller at Harvard University, found that infants who are given more physical contact are more likely to develop a secure attachment to their caregiver, and, they will also be more likely to develop secure relationships as adults.

The ever popular North American “let them cry” approach may actually foster more anxiety and stress than independence and security. “I think there’s a real resistance in this culture to caring for children,” Commons says, adding that, “But punishment and abandonment has never been a good way to get warm, caring, independent people.”

Dr. Maria Blois, author of Babywearing (Pharmasoft Publishing, 2005), confirms that babies who are worn are also exposed to more stimuli and thus, tend to learn faster and achieve more brain development than babies who are not carried. When a baby is held in a caregiver’s arms, she is experiencing the world at the same physical level of adults; she sees more, touches more, feels more, and hears more than babies who are carried at knee level in a stroller or car seat.

Finding the Right Baby Carrier:

There are many baby carrier companies out there, and each parent will have his or her own preference. Most caregivers have a wrap and sling in their baby care collection and use each one for different purposes.

For instance, I tended to use a sling when I was baking because I didn’t want my baby to be able to stick his hands in batter (tested that theory). Instead I would wear him on my back or a side sling.When walking or hiking, I used my soft carrier, for even body weight distribution.

There are so many great carriers out there, my favourite happened to be Beco Gemini. I used it for over 3 years! Yes, even 3 year-olds want to be carried -especially on long hikes 🙂 Make sure to read reviews for the ones you’re interested in and then start your process of elimination till you find the right one for you! Definitely get one for your husband or partner because some carriers have sizing differences.

Bottom line: if it isn’t comfortable, you won’t wear it. And you really need to wear one because babies want to be carried a lot. If you can, spend the extra money to get the one that gets the best reviews, it is so worth it!

Make sure to read the instructions and safety tips that come with your carrier. Even though some things seem like common sense, it’s best to double check when it comes to your precious cargo.

No matter which one you choose, your baby will experience a secure, safe, and nurturing environment that will ultimately liberate both you and your child.

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Reference:Powell, Alvin. “Children Need Touching and Attention, Harvard Researchers Say”. The Harvard University Gazette. April 1998.

How to Cook with your Kids

There are so many things we want our kids to learn; Sports, languages, dance, gymnastics, pottery, karate, swimming, piano. The list is pretty much endless. All of those things are great and have their place, but cooking is one thing that gets overlooked a lot.

There are so many things we want our kids to learn; Sports, languages, dance, gymnastics, pottery, karate, swimming, piano. The list is pretty much endless. All of those things are great and have their place, but cooking is one thing that gets overlooked a lot.

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If you already read kids belong in the kitchen, then you know all of the research and reasoning behind the importance of teaching our kids kitchen skills. It is a really important life skill and one that can directly benefit you and your family (that’s right YOU!) Sharing kitchen responsibilities is very helpful and liberating in a family.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind when you are getting started:

  1. Go over the Kitchen Rules: Since it’s your kitchen, you get to make the rules, but make sure everyone feels comfortable and informed NOT terrified of all the potential danger.  In our house we have a gas stove, so one of our rules is that hair is always tied back.
  2. Respect Age and Ability: We have to have reasonable expectations for our children. Choose age appropriate jobs and be encouraging if things are tricky for them at first. If your child is doing really well, don’t be afraid to challenge them even more by having them create a recipe or learn a new skill (like handling a real chef’s knife!)
  3. Timing is EVERYTHING: Make sure that you pick opportunities where you have a nice reserve of time and patience. If you are feeling rushed or irritable, or your kids are cranky or tired, that’s not the best time to work together. If you set yourself up for failure, you might get discouraged (and your kids will too).  Sometimes my kids want to lend a hand but I’m not in the mood for help. I let them know I appreciate their offer, but this time I’d like to work alone. There will ALWAYS be another meal to help with.
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  4. Start Small and Simple: When your children are first learning, they don’t need to be involved in EVERY step. They can begin with something as simple as stirring the pasta as it boils, or pouring in liquid ingredients. It’s better to let them do just one job at first so that they feel successful and build from there.
  5. Divide Jobs: If you’re working with multiple children, give separate jobs so there is no bickering (Yes kids can even argue about who is going to help you!) If I am baking, my son will get the dry ingredients bowl and my daughter will get the wet ingredients bowl. I once made the terrible mistake of asking “Who wants to beat the eggs?” And both children answered, “ME!!” That did not go too well 😦DSC_0019
  6. Encourage them to touch “yucky” stuff like meat and fish and poultry: Cooking isn’t all cupcakes and chocolate chips (but those things are pretty great). If you want your kids to one day cook you a chicken dinner, you better show them how! I know adults  who STILL won’t touch raw meat, but they will eat it once it’s cooked (how fair is that!) Exposure to these kinds of experiences quickly eliminates all fear or squeamishness.  In no time at all, you’ll have your kids happily rubbing butter and salt and pepper over a whole chicken.

Last but not least, have fun! You will be surprised how quickly children become an asset in the kitchen, once they learn safety, patience, and a few basic skills like cutting vegetables!  For me, a recent triumph was when my son learned to turn off the gas stove when the kettle was boiling. Now if I hear the kettle whistling I don’t have to tear down the hallway because Fynn will say “I can get it!”

5 Reasons you Want your Kids in the Kitchen

When we take the time to teach our children kitchen skills we are giving them a gift that will have a positive impact on the rest of their lives. And, as an added bonus, one day when they have acquired some real skills, they won’t just be “helping” us in the kitchen, they will be preparing us dinner. Now imagine that…

When my children first showed an interest in helping bake or cook, a few things typically happened. Something would get spilled or dropped. Too much baking soda would be added. Muffin batter would ooze out of the muffin cup onto the pan. I would inevitably get annoyed. After all, on my own I could do these things MUCH faster and tidier. But is that all that matters?

That depends.

I think there are times when we don’t want our children cooking beside us.  If we get in the door at 5 and everyone is hungry and cranky and  short on patience, I would definitely take a hard pass on any kind of assistance.

But according to research, there do need to be consistent opportunities for kids to get involved in food preparation. Here are a few compelling reasons you may want to clear some space at the counter for your kids:

  1. It makes them more receptive to new foods:  Kids who participate in meal prep are more likely to try the foods they make! If you have a picky eater (which I do) this is super good news. When kids are able to use all of their senses to explore something new like, heaven forbid, the skin on an apple ( I wish I was kidding) they may feel more of an interest in actually TRYING it.

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Eily making the green juice (Age 3)
  • It helps their emotional development: There is nothing worse than spending time cooking a meal and having your child NOT appreciate it. When children become involved, they learn first hand that cooking takes time, care, and patience. At our house, when a meal is finished, we always thank the person who made it. My children LOVE when they are on the receiving end of that thank you.
  • It teaches them organization and time management: Mis en Place is a thing for a reason.  Chaos in the kitchen is not fun. Learning to be prepared and organized are skills that help make things run smoothly and efficiently.  These skills can be applied to all aspects of life with excellent results!

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    Fynn assembling the pizza (age 5)
  • It encourages healthy eating: We know that meals prepared from scratch are healthier because we have total control over the quality of ingredients used. One study found that children who learn to cook before they are 8 years old are 50% MORE likely to prepare at least 5 meals from scratch when they reach adulthood!
  • It teaches them an essential and beautiful life-skill: Food is a source of energy, of course, but it can be so much more. Knowing how to cook gives us independence, confidence, and a really enjoyable and delicious way of bringing people together. The food we eat is part of our identity and culture. It’s part of our family history. Don’t we all have that favourite meal that our grandmother prepared for us? Food can transform and transport us. It’s not just calories in calories out. If our children don’t learn to cook, we are denying them their place in their culinary and cultural heritage.
  • When we take the time to teach our children kitchen skills we are giving them a gift that will have a positive impact on the rest of their lives. And, as an added bonus, one day when they have acquired some real skills, they won’t just be “helping” us in the kitchen, they will be preparing us dinner. Now imagine that…

    3 ways to Have Fun in January, Victorian Style

    Poor January. After all of the merriment and festivities of December, January often stretches out in front of us endlessly. But it doesn’t have to. Whenever the weather gets too cold or there’s a cold or flu running its course and we are home-bound, I always turn to one of my favourite books for inspiration: Mrs. Sharp’s Traditions: Reviving Victorian Family Celebrations of Comfort and Joy.

    Poor January. After all of the merriment and festivities of December, January often stretches out in front of us endlessly. But it doesn’t have to. Whenever the weather gets too cold or there’s a cold or flu running its course and we are home-bound, I always turn to one of my favourite books for inspiration: Mrs. Sharp’s Traditions: Reviving Victorian Family Celebrations of Comfort and Joy.DSC_0010

    Victorian’s were experts at amusing themselves indoors and out without any technology to speak of. Celebration was a way of life and because of this, life was very family focused. Certainly we could all take a cue from some of their simple pastimes, guaranteed to draw your family close together.

    1. Board Games:  This is such a classic way to spend time together as a family. I still remember a 3-day round of Monopoly that my family played during a winter power outage when I was 8. If you have young children, I recommend co-operative games. Dealing with winning and losing when your brain can’t understand that concept is NOT very fun (for anyone involved).  Co-operative games are great because they encourage sharing and working together, and victory feels so much sweeter when the whole family wins 🙂  We just bought Herbal Wild Craft (love it!) and are hoping to add more games to our collection.

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    2. Puzzles: Admittedly, I was not from a puzzle family, so this took me a little while to get into. However, my husband and children LOVE puzzles so much that I am starting to see why. Puzzles can be very meditative and are a great way to develop problem solving, reasoning, co-ordination, and spatial arrangements (especially important for girls).  Working on puzzles even encourages the production of dopamine, the feel-good hormone!

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    3. Tea Parties: Get out your good china (yes, seriously!) or play with a toy set. Whether real or imagined, tea parties are pure fun. Set a little table, invite favourite dolls or friends and watch the magic unfold. Get dressed up, make little invitations, and bake (or buy) a little treat.  Add a little classical music or even read some poetry to be extra fancy!

    You are not too Busy for Self-Care

    When there is a choice between doing another load of laundry or sauntering outside to enjoy an unseasonably warm October day, ask yourself which of those two options will lift you up and feed your spirit.  The choice is yours.

    “Pretend you are your own baby. Sometimes we have to be mother’s to ourselves.”

    ~Caitlin Moran

    More and more, we are hearing the message that care-givers need to slow down. We need to nurture and nourish ourselves in addition to our children.  Our own wells must be so full that when we give, it is only from the over-flow.

    We must stop this nonsense of giving to the point of depletion. Of giving to the point of total burn-out and exhaustion and anger. Being perpetually busy is not a badge we should wear proudly.

    When I use to think of self-care it kind of annoyed me. How am I supposed to manufacture time (or money) for myself to achieve this self-care? Where do spa days, weekend getaways, and weekly massages fit in to my life? Well, they don’t.  But that’s not actually what self-care is.

    Self-care is a series of small rituals that you integrate into every single day of your life.  It is a statement you make to yourself and your family that you matter. That you will care, quite literally, for yourself. That your needs cannot be postponed until things have calmed down (because spoiler alert, things will never calm down).

    Self-care is not something that someone else can do FOR you. If you don’t take care of your needs, then you will go on indefinitely IN need. And that is an awful place to parent from.

    Anything done without rushing and with intention is an act of kindness to yourself.  Making a cup of tea can be self-care when you do it right. If you can take a few minutes to sip that tea slowly, while sitting down (maybe even reading a book you love) you have achieved self-care. When you take the extra time to feed your body something nourishing or head off to bed when you actually feel tired, that is radical self-care.

    Every morning, when I put on my 1000 roses day cream, I take 3 minutes to massage my face and just see myself in the mirror (sans judgement). I don’t rush through the process. I take the time to actually inhale that delicious floral scent. That simple daily task is like this little calming beacon for me. I don’t always want to do it though. Some mornings I have to force myself, and on those mornings, I am always so glad that I did force myself. Because the payoff of that little ritual is huge. It starts this tiny ripple of goodness in my day.

    Maybe you can find 5 minutes to meditate, have a bath, or go for a quiet walk. It doesn’t matter what it is as long as you feel invigorated by it. And it can’t be overly complicated or you won’t do it.  It may only take a slight shift in your perspective, to take something that you consider a chore (like putting on moisturizer), and turn it into a ritual, just for you.

    We lavish such care on our children and rightly so. But those children will grow up one day and repeat the martyrdom that we have modeled for them. Let’s show them, and ourselves, a sustainable place to parent from instead.

    When there is a choice between doing another load of laundry or sauntering outside to enjoy an unseasonably warm October day, ask yourself which of those two options will lift you up and feed your spirit.  The choice is yours.

    Lessons in Learning to Ride a Bike

    We worry over milestones constantly. And our adult minds are so quick to meet trouble halfway when all we really need to do is to wait and hope*.  Even when we aren’t sure, it is our duty to encourage the impossible.

    A few months ago, we bought my son a bike for his birthday. We tried the pedal-less running bike. It worked amazingly. In a few short sessions, he was zooming down the driveway, looking and feeling pretty confident about “riding his bike.”

    After a few weeks of that working, we decided to jump right in and put those pedals on. It did not go so well. It was much harder than he (and I) had expected to pedal and balance at the same time. Suddenly, riding his bike was not so fun and the bike started to get pretty comfortable resting in the corner of the living room.

    As summer was coming to a close, I realized if we didn’t do this soon, it would be another year before any bike riding would be taking place. So my husband suggested taking just 5 minutes every day to practice.  I think I was even more reluctant than my son about this regime. The thought of trying to practice something that you can’t do is kind of discouraging.

    After 2 days of holding on to the back of his bike while he focused so intently, I started to wonder, “Is this even possible?”  However, on the 3rd day of practice, I felt this moment where I could tell my son was balanced, so I just let go. And before he even knew it, he had ridden his bike for about 5 seconds.  He was so happy. was so happy. Deliriously. Because when our children feel joy, we feel joy 10 fold.  That is one of the sacred gifts of parenthood. The immense pleasure of being a witness to our children’s lives.

    The next day Fynn said he was going to try riding his bike by himself. And then he did. Up the street, down the street, and back about 20 more times, every single time, yelling out at me, “I can’t believe I can ride my bike!”

    I’m not sure why bike riding is such an important skill to master as a child. Maybe because it is our first taste of freedom, of feeling that our bodies can propel us forward. We feel the wind in our face and the strength of our limbs. We can move ourselves, in any direction we choose.

    The following Saturday Fynn rode over 20km in one day with my husband.  He is now a full fledged bike riding machine/maniac. As I watch those two riding down the street together, off on another adventure, I can hear a page turning in the chapter of Fynn’s life.  There is a new boys club in my house, a cool, special bike riding club that both father and son are getting HUGE amounts of fun from.  And my heart is soaring for both of them.

    As parents, we always want our children  to feel successful in their endeavors. We worry over milestones constantly. And our adult minds are so quick to meet trouble halfway when all we really need to do is to wait and hope*.  In each lesson our children learn, there is always a lesson for us as parents. On that day I learned that even when we aren’t sure, it is our duty to encourage the impossible.

    * “Wait and hope” ~ The Count of Monte Cristo