Sunday, December 4, 2011

Time to Say Goodbye

Like all good things, Clever Mamas is coming to an end.  When we first set out with this blog project, Jill and I were 2 friends, living apart from one another, each parenting 2 small boys.  This seemed like a good way to support each other in our parenting ventures.  Along they way we each had another baby (both girls) and picked up a third contributor (Anna), herself a parent to 2 small boys. 
This past half year the blog has changed, kind of, for us.  We all have experienced several life changes.  I moved from a large city where I was running a home daycare, to a small town where I returned to my teaching job.  Jill also returned to the teaching workforce in her own large city and has found herself expecting baby #4 (coming Spring 2012).  Anna, went on her 2nd maternity leave with her own precious son.  All three of us are quite frankly, tired.  We had always maintained that this blog was to be non-pressure.  And now all three of us find we just don't have the time to contribute to it the way we would like to.  We have enjoyed the past 2 and a half years, but are ready to move on.  We hope that you have enjoyed our little blogging parenting venture and that you will continue to glean information from it in the future (be it a play-do recipe, or, some great breastfeeding tips!).
We all continue to blog on our individual blogs from time to time.
Anna can be found at:  Anna's Place.
Jill can be found at:  Life and Times of Jill
and I (Kris) can be found at:  Crafty Kris
Thank you all for your support!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

1st, 2nd, 3rd

I've shared before how I am the mother of three.  My eldest is now 7, my middle child is 4 and my youngest will be 2 in the New Year.  I was thinking this week how much we have changed as parents from child 1 to child 2 to child 3.  With Child 1 everything was new and exciting and sometimes nerve racking.  All stages were fascinating and we couldn't wait to move on to the next thing and note it down in the baby book.  Moments were shared very proudly with grandparents, great-grandparents and pretty much anyone who would listen.
Now that we are on Child 3 and knowing that she is our last I am finding we are holding on to every moment.  Not wanting her to get to the next stage just yet.  For example - my oldest was in a toddler bed at about 18 months.  It was exciting and he loved it.  Our youngest is currently 22 months and still in her crib.  I'm thinking probably around Christmas we'll convert her into the toddler bed, but there's no rush really.
We weren't nearly as relaxed with our first as we are now.  With our oldest there were lots of calls and questions to other parents and my own parents and our doctor asking, "Is he okay?", "Is that normal?", "Should that be happening?".  With our second and even more so with our third we would take note of their changes in behavior and think, "Oh that, you are doing that now".  And with those more frustrating stages of parenting knowing that there was an end in sight and it would probably take X amount of time to see it through.
It's so funny when I think back to the excited, nervous new parents we were taking our first home from the hospital in disbelief that they actually let us take him home to now when we feel like we know what we are doing.  We're now the people friends call to ask advice and ideas and spill their parenting questions to.  Somewhere along the way, we found our way and have become the so-called 'experts' - funny what experience does to you :)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Christmas Shopping Help! - Empire Theatres

My own personal deadline is quickly approaching.  You see I hate being out in crowded malls (some thrive on it, I know) so I try my best to get all my Christmas shopping done by the end of November.  I start planning early and give it a good go.  It still never fails, there is always someone on my list who I just can't think of anything really great and special for.  I'm sure you have those people too.  Maybe it's your Dad who really has everything and when asked what he wants says, "I'm sure whatever you get will be fine."  We have a 19 year old nephew who was much easier to shop for as a little guy who loved Legos, but now you just never know.  Even his mom doesn't know.  It's a mystery to all of us.  That's when I find gift cards come in handy.  If you don't know exactly what they would like, but have a rough idea about what they enjoy, why not get a gift card.
In the past we have found a movie gift card works great.  Who doesn't love to go to the movies?  That's why I'm pleased that Empire Theatres has brought back their Holiday Gift Pack this year.  In the past we have bought Empire Theatres gift cards for friends, teachers, co-worker gift exchanges and yes, our hard to buy for nephew.  We've even put them on our own wish list because, let's face it, date night is a rare and precious commodity as parents of three small children!  Here's what you need to know about how their gift card program works:

When you purchase $30 in Empire Theatres’ Gift Cards you will receive $30 in Empire Theatres Coupons. For example:
o If you purchase 3 cards for $10 each you qualify;
o If you purchase $60 you would receive 2 bundles.

The coupon bundle includes:
o BOGO Admission (January 9 to January 31, 2012)
o $2.00 off any Combo - excluding Kid’s Pack (January 9 to January 31, 2012)
o $9.99 (Admission, Regular Drink, Small Popcorn) (February 1st to February 29th, 2012)
o Buy a Large Popcorn, get a Large Drink Free (March 1st to March 31st, 2012)
o $6.99 General Admission (March 1st to March 31st, 2012)
o Get $4.00 off a General Admission Ticket (April 1st to April 30th, 2012)

It's up to you what you want to do with the coupon bundle.  You can give it as a bonus gift for your friends and relatives, or, keep it for yourself to enjoy.  

For another dollar you can also purchase an Empire Theatres gift tin with proceeds going towards the Kid's Help Phone.

Gift Card packs are availble now until December 18th online and December 24th in theatres.  You can purchase them online ( or at the theatres themselves.  I know I've bought them at a special kiosk in the mall too.

I wish you well in your Christmas shopping adventures this year, hopefully this helps you out with that gift for that person (or persons) that are hard to shop for.

Disclosure – I am participating in the Empire Theatre Gift Card Holiday Campaign by Mom Central Canada.  I received compensation for my participation in this campaign.  The opinions on this blog are my own.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Could this happen to you? - An Update!

A few months ago I first posted the sad, but true story of an autistic daughter in BC who was forcibly removed from the care of her loving, devoted father (original post here). 4 months have passed and little Ayn has still not been returned to her father, Derek. I have continued to follow the daily trials that Derek has been going through in attempting to have his daughter returned from the care of the Ministry of Children and Family Development on a Facebook page that has been set up, called "Help Bring little Autistic girl back to her Daddy"  Today, Derek posted a media release on that site.  It is with great pleasure that I share this with you all. 

"Nov 4 2011

  It has now been over four and a half months since I have seen my daughter. I have given my all for her, from the first moment I laid my eyes on her in the delivery room I knew my heart was hers. I would never harm her, nor am I accused of such, I have done nothing except dedicate my life to try to nuture and understand her. She has been ripped from her family for no other reason then the misperception that she was an unmanageable deteriorating child. Nothing could be further from the truth, Ayn is a wonderful caring child. She is autistic yes and as such often has a hard time explaining what she wants; she has an astute understanding of body language and a very strong will. Though verbal and possessing a large vocabulary Ayn still struggles to share with others her desires, fears, and thoughts. She continues to ask for me, she continues to assert that I am coming... She knows I would not abandon her. Yet the Ministry of Children and Family Development continues to hold her from me. On Oct 18 the government sought court approval for temporary custody for 90 days, again I refused to consent to this, and since this is my continued stance an effort will be made to determine if trial is necessary or whether mutual consent can be achieved between the parties. This step is called the Case Conference and has been scheduled over 90 days away.... on Jan 23rd. If this is the case why ask for 90 days? Why even pretend to ask? My reasons for refusal will not be heard. I continue to wait for hearing after hearing, never being given the opportunity to even speak... at the conclusion of each simply another is scheduled, in effect you go to the back of the line struggling to merge schedules to obtain the next soonest date. 
Ayn has escaped from the care of the Ministry twice now in four months, the second time naked, drugged, wet and wandering as far as the "main street", police were called, Ayn discovered and returned. I will be told nothing or rather I will be told whatever the MCFD chooses to tell me. "It is under investigation" I hear, but the first time she escaped was months ago surely something is known by now? She was being watched and drugged while under the care of the MCFD by a 15 year old fellow foster child.... "still under investigation". Why was the window not locked in the bathroom where she was bathing unattended?... "under investigation". The MCFD is supposed to be trained to identify emotional abuse is it not? How can they ignore it when they are the source. Ayn was in no more danger here than her disability engendered, all I am asking for is her to be returned to me immediately. If they would like to do an investigation by all means, but we are over 4 months in now and as of yet no-one has been asked how Ayn was in the Home, the very place she is being kept from. She has been returned to the school where the "deterioration" was observed. She has been returned to their care from where she has twice escaped. They have offered me unsupervised access effective immediately... yet will not return her to me. This is a nightmarish power struggle with an institution whose named function is family development. Whose guiding principles are: "a family is the preferred environment for the care and upbringing of children and the responsibility for the protection of children rests primarily with the parents" (CFCSA 2b) and "decisions relating to children should be made and implemented in a timely manner" (CFCSA 2g).  
My life has been dedicated to my children, I continue to care for my sons, I do so happily and have never once complained about the tribulations I face raising 2 severely autistic kids. They are both happy and thriving children and there is nothing to suggest otherwise... I am angry, I am in pain, I suffer... and do you know what it doesn't matter... Ayn is all that matters. She does not deserve this, she is just as much a citizen as: the social workers involved, the different judges overseeing this, You or I. Yet she is being treated as chattel, her sadness towards my absence used against me, my advocacy for her to get proper services used against me, all the while she sits in a basement wondering where her family went, not knowing why this happened. Did she do something wrong? Do we not want her anymore? She has no ability to comprehend the ministry's legal wranglings, all she knows is she has been forcefully removed from those whom she loved and had spent every day of her life... Does it make it any better that she has been placed with an assortment of caregivers who may be very nice people? Having good people do the wrong thing is not a benefit. They are kept in the dark, as is the public.... as am I. And now to wait past her Dec 14th birthday, past Christmas... and into the New Year.... for a "case conference" where even there I will not get to argue for her return but will receive a date where that could happen.... a date which could in all likelyhood be a year or more later..... Is this why we created such an institution? Please Help Ayn to come home, she is just as much a person as you or I and should not be treated in such a manner. We love her so dearly... I will never relent... this will have been all for nothing; the only net result being a little disabled girl who will never know why or when she could be snatched again."

To find out how you can support Derek and Ayn please join this Facebook site:
You can also sign a petition in support of her release:
And support this family through your Tweets by following: @Justice4Ayn

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Soup Trick

Here's one of those "Mom Tricks" that will leave you thinking, "Why didn't I think of that?" (Of maybe you already did and I'm the one slow on the draw!)  Toddler Cup o' soup.  My daughter loves soup.  Absolutely.  But she's at that age of wanting to do it herself when it comes to feeding, and let's face it, a toddler with a bowl of soup is a mess waiting to happen.  So comes my brilliant idea of using the sippy cup for her own variation of cup o' soup.  Works like a charm!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Seventh Generation - Second Wave - Hestia House

I had a fantastic opportunity this week to visit a place I have never been to before. Hestia House in Saint John, NB, Canada is an unassuming place. I've driven by it many times and never knew it was there. I knew of it's existence, but not the location. The location is purposefully hidden. Hestia House is a safe place, a shelter and support for women and children in crisis. This year marks 30 years of Hestia House. It's a bittersweet marker. I'm glad it's there, but I'm saddened that it is needed.
The purpose of Hestia house is to provide safe housing for women and children who need to leave an abusive home environment. They are looking for a way out and looking to plan for a better future. It accommodates 24 women and children, complete with a playroom and a secure backyard. The home is staffed around the clock. They provide counseling, referrals to appropriate agencies and support groups for emotional, medical, legal, employment and housing needs. There is a 24 hour hotline as well. Though it mostly serves women in the Saint John area, any woman is welcome there who needs the support.
As I learned more about what Hestia House does, I was really impressed with a partnership program that they have. The Animal Rescue League of Saint John offers a temporary home for pets of the women who turn to Hestia House. It is just one more way to encourage women to leave an abusive situation. As you can well imagine, it takes a lot of courage for these women to leave their situations and turn to a place like Hestia House for help. It's not an easy decision to make and often they leave with just the clothes on their back. That's why Hestia House welcomes donations of all sorts. People can help out with monetary gifts, gift cards, or practical items such as toiletries, clothing and toys. During my visit to Hestia House I was able to donate a box of diapers for them to use whenever they are needed in the future. The diapers are part of Seventh Generation's Second Wave Diaper Donation Program. During this past month, many Mom bloggers around the country were approached by Seventh Generation and Mom Central Canada to take part in this campaign. Their aim was aiming to reach their goal of giving away up to 240,000 diapers to 40 shelters in Nova Scotia, Quebec, Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia. Additionally, they asked Mom bloggers to donate diapers to a charity of their choice. Hestia House was the organization that jumped out to me as a place that needed to be blessed in this way. And it was a very moving experience for me. I can only imagine the stories that lie in those walls.
There are ways that you can be involved in this great act of love yourself. You can "Buy One Give One" - Seventh Generation Diapers to an organization you know could use them. To learn more about Seventh Generation and the shelters that they have supported this fall check out
To learn more about Hestia House, visit
If you or someone you know is living in distress, please call (506)-634-7570.
To make a donation to Hestia House contact: Hestia House Inc. P.O. Box 22080 57 Landsdowne Ave Saint John, NB E2K 4T7
Disclosure – I am participating in the Seventh Generation program by Mom Central Canada. I received compensation as a thank you for my participation. The opinions on this blog are my own.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Do Something Little, Help Something Big

I have a mom admission to make.  I turn the radio down when the news comes on and my kids are with me in the car.  It's not to pretend these things don't happen, it's just to filter them from it for a while.  I don't want them to become jaded, where the headlines that should shock and horrify just become part of their every day life.  And that really is what has happened to us.  The headlines roll off our backs, and set into the background while we get on with our day.  We shrug things off and think, well what can we possibly do about it?  Exactly, what can we do?
Maybe it isn't something big, maybe it's something little.  There is so much negativity in our world that it seems incurable.  So why not start small?
Remember that old commercial, if I tell 10 friends, and they tell 10 friends and so on and so on.  Well, that's how I'm thinking these days.  If I show some kindness to our world and teach my kids to do the same, how will that impact their lives?  How can that little ripple effect our world?
We have a couple of story books that show that idea off to our kids quite well, the first is The Grumpy Morning by Pamela Duncan Edwards and the second is Have You Filled Your Bucket Today? by Carol McCloud .  

I think they are great starters to get your kids thinking about how what we do and how our attitudes can have an effect not just on themselves but on others.
The other way I can teach my kids this concept is by living it out myself.  That's why I was excited to be asked to join the Energizer Blog tour "Do Something Little, Help Something Big".  They are pledging to donate $100 000 to Evergreen to make cities more liveable.  For each person that visits their site and makes a pledge of what they will do to help this world out in any sort of act of kindness, they will donate a dollar.  As I write this the pledge counter stands at 35 808 - so there is a ways to go yet.  I'd love to see them max out.
For my part, I am pledging 5 things.  5 simple acts of Kindness.
1. Donate what I'm not using - clothing, outgrown toys, books on pregnancy/babies - all of that can go to someone who currently needs it.
2. Turn out the lights when we aren't in that room - my 4 year old has really picked up on this one and has become the 'light police' in our house
3. Hold open more doors - you know what it's like when you are pushing a stroller around and the person in front of you lets the door shut just as you are getting there - so frustrating!  I'm trying to be more aware of who is around me when I'm out and about so I can help them out.
4. Smile and manners towards service people.  I honestly would hate to have their job because people can be so rude to store clerks, serving staff and cashiers.  I'm trying to put myself in their shoes, and remember that they are people doing their job.  A kind word and a smile can really make their day and their shift a little bit easier.
5.  Take charge of our recycling.  We don't have curbside pickup where we currently live so I'm making a point to drive it in to a recycling depot when I go to work.
That's it.  5 little things that can make a difference.  What 5 things do you think you can do too? 
To take part in Energizer and Evergreen's initiative visit

Disclosure – I am participating in the Energizer Canada & Evergreen “Do Something Little, Help Something Big” program by Mom Central Canada on behalf of Energizer Canada & Evergreen. I received compensation as a thank you for my participation. The opinions on this blog are my own.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Hockey Mom

It's that time of year again! My son's first practice is tomorrow and it's an early one (of course). This is year 3 of hockey season for our family and the last one with just one player on the ice. Our 2nd son wants to play next year when he's 5 (they don't start them earlier than that where we live). We are starting this season a little bit differently than before. My husband happens to be out of town this week, meaning I'm the one to make sure he has all of his equipment ready and sized properly. Thank goodness only the gloves need upsizing, they are still okay for tomorrow's practice, but we'll be hitting the sporting goods store shortly after that.
One thing I quickly realized is that the new stick needs to be sized and taped. In my head I was thinking, under the chin if he's on his skates, at his nose if he's not wearing them. But then I thought, well, is it if the blade is down? or, up on the toe? Thank goodness for Google. It is up on the toe. And yes, that was me in the carport with a hacksaw cutting the stick down.
Next on my list was taping the stick. Another hockey parent job my husband has always done. And again, thank you Google! I found a very helpful site complete with a video demo of what to do and what all the differences in taping a stick meant for the player.
I found the stick length guide at
The How to Tape a Hockey Stick videos were at 
Both sites look great.  They are clear in their pictures and directions.  I'm sure they have many more resources in there.
I've also realized that this is the first year that our son doesn't need help with his equipment (with the possible exception of making sure his skates are tight enough) - he can do it all himself now.  So fantastic when I think on the 5 year old he was a couple of seasons ago who wobbled out onto the ice.
One more place I want to direct all of you hockey moms too (if you haven't yet found it) is Hockey Mom in Canada (  That's a great online community of Moms just like you.  I'm part of their Facebook community as well.  They often have good articles, blog posts and discussions on the go.   It's a great way to connect with other hockey moms and issues around the sport.
I hope you all have a great season!  See you on the ice :)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

2nd Time's a Charm! Seveth Generation Giveaway Winner!

Congratulations to Andrea at Mama in the City for winning our Seventh Generation Giveaway!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Contest Re-Opened!

Unfortunately, our winner of the Seventh Generation Giveaway has also won on another blog site. So we are re-opening the contest for a couple more days. I urge you to make a comment at the original post of how your family goes green! The original post is found here!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Seventh Generation Giveaway - winner!

Out Seventh Generation Giveaway is now closed - congratulations to our winner RBM - you will be receiving an email notice shortly from us and Mom Central!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Seventh Generation - A Giveaway!

We have recently moved from the city to the country, which has been great. It's fantastic for kids, lots of open space, it's quiet, it's relaxing, it's great. One thing that has stuck out for me though that I haven't quite been able to get over yet is that there is no curbside recycling here. In fact, the neighboring city doesn't have it either. Really! I know! It doesn't stop our family from recycling though. We still clean and collect it all and bring it into town every two weeks, depositing it at the recycling station. It's just one way that we are trying to help the environment. I know it's just a little thing, but the little things can add up. The way I see it is that kids learn best by watching their parents. They too know how to recycle now. They are my designated sorters at the recycling centre. They especially love the change in their pockets after we hit the bottle depot :) A little incentive to help the earth.
Because it truly is the little things that matter, I was pleased when Mom Central asked if I would like to try the Seventh Generation products. Seventh Generation's goal is to make products that are environmentally friendly, even diapers. Sounds good doesn't it? You can join the 7th Generation as well! As a Nation member, you’ll have access to coupons, special offers and great tips for green and healthy living. Check out
We would love to share some of Seventh Generation's products with you too. Simply tell us what your family is doing to become a 'green family'. One Clever Mamas reader will win a gift from Seventh Generation of a 100% organic cotton Seventh Gen Eco lunch bag as well as coupons for a FREE package of Seventh Generation Free & Clear Diapers, Free & Clear Baby Wipes and dish washing products!
Contest is open to Canadian residents and runs until September 16th.

Disclosure – I am participating in the Seventh Generation program by Mom Central Canada. I received compensation as a thank you for my participation. The opinions on this blog are my own.

Friday, September 9, 2011

My Daughter's first crush

It's official, my daughter has her first full on first crush. She's 19 months old. Her crush? Elmo. Yep, Sesame Street nailed it when targeting the toddler crowd. She goes absolutely nutty when she sees him anywhere! And I mean anywhere. If she gets even a glimpse of that furry red face, her own face breaks into a wide smile and she shouts, "Elmo!" with squealing delight. The problem? We have one Sesame Street DVD. That's it. And we don't have cable. We don't want it. We're not getting it. First thing in the morning my daughter asks for Elmo. Yep, even before her sippy cup of milk. If we go out, when we come home, she asks for Elmo. The Elmo disk finishes and she says, "mo Elmo" (more Elmo). Because I'm so completely tired of this DVD, I decided to go to the Sesame Street website with her. Big mistake. Now, when she looks at the computer, she points and says, "Elmo". My husband has also played Elmo for her on his iPhone on YouTube. To answer all you supermoms who say, "just say no" and "why are you letting your 19 month old watch TV", really...I don't mind my kids watching a little TV. That's a whole other blog post anyway. And we do say no to her about it. You should see her super style fits when we do say no. They are quite amusing. She's completely heartbroken about it. It's curious to me that my boys never went through big loving Elmo stage. They liked him, but it wasn't a big deal like it is with her. The last kid I saw with an Elmo crush was my friend Jennifer's little girl (now 9). She was exactly like this when she was a toddler. Which makes me wonder. Is Elmo the first 'perfect boyfriend' crush for little girls?

Friday, September 2, 2011


Congratulations to Clever Mama Anna and her husband Andrew as they welcomed their second son to the world this week!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Siblings and new babies

I am 38 weeks today and I am scheduled to have this baby by C-section next Tuesday morning. It's a bit odd to know this time around when the baby is coming, but at the same time, sort of nice to be able to plan and not have this big unknown event hanging over me waiting to go off like a time bomb. I saw my Dr. yesterday and this baby still has not dropped, she said its likely this baby would not be born naturally either (my first labour failed to progress likely because my son's head couldn't/wouldn't drop down).
 As we live in a small town, our Hospital won't do VBAC's and if I had wanted to go that route, would have to have our baby in North Vancouver (an hour away), meaning all my prenatal appointments would have had to be there as well, meaning more time off work etc. etc. I did consider a Midwife as we have 1 in Squamish, but when I called her at 9 weeks pregnant she was already full for all of September (My due date was the 8th). She would have had to deliver the baby in North Van as well, but at least all of my appointments could have been closer to home. We are getting 2 more midwives, but they won't be practicing until October. Squamish is having a bit of a baby boom, for example my own Dr. had 10 babies due./born in August alone.

Anyways I guess I just provided all this back ground info on why I am not going for a VBAC, as people usually assume you should at least try. I am a little sad about not at least having trial labour, but based on the above I think this is the right choice for us.

Things that are occupying my thoughts this week are mostly about my first son, who is VERY excited about the baby. He now sleeps with his doll instead of his 2 puppies and wakes up every morning asking about his baby brother. We don't actually know the sex of the baby, but his friend Caleb has a baby brother so I think he just goes with that. At 2 (26 months) I am not sure he even gets the boy/girl thing (the concept in general), we remind him it may be a sister and that we have to wait and see.

Things we have done in preparing out first son for the new baby:

6 weeks ago we moved him into his room full time (he was co sleeping) into his own twin bed (I will blog about this process some other time).

Read stories about new babies. Mostly ones from the library; not just books about bringing a new baby home, but about babies in general. I did buy him the New Baby Little Critter  book, which has a little sister, I try to keep it gender neutral and just say "baby".

A doll- I bought him one at Christmas when we were first planning this baby and it is just a cabbage patch doll that actually ended up in the closet for a long time, but now we change it's diaper and swaddle it together.

Remind him about the routine for the day the baby is born: he will go to Nana's house, Mummy will go to the hospital and the Dr. will take the baby out from my tummy, and then Nana will bring him to hold the baby (he is very excited to hold the baby). Side note: We have been using this routine trick in other parts of his life as well, such as bed time or leaving somewhere, talking about 3 things that will happen so that he know what is coming. For example," we will read a story, then sing some songs, say our prayers, and then Mummy will leave the room for you to sleep",  we remind him during the routine this is what we are doing and we find that it works really well in avoiding melt downs.

I have also stocked up on little gifts for him so that when the baby gets gifts, he doesn't feel left out.

I know that Kris and Jill have blogged on this topic ages ago, but I can't find their posts (will look harder later), but I thought I would share my thoughts and see if anyone else has any tips to add.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

My Love/Hate Relationship with Lego

My boys are right into Lego right now. I think it is a fantastic toy most of the time. It's creative, it's constructive, it's brilliant in its simplicity. It also has a lot of small pieces. Small pieces that hurt when you step in them. Small pieces that no matter much you try to contain them to just one part of the house migrate to pretty much everywhere.
We've tried various ways of organizing the Lego. In our last place our boys shared a room. We bought one of those Ikea 9 drawer sets to store their Lego in. That worked pretty well. The Lego for the most part was sorted by colour, so the task of looking for the pieces that were needed went pretty well. In the place that we've just moved into our boys have their own rooms; therefore, the Lego has been split into 2 making it a lot more mixed up. I don't know about you, but I go buggy eyed helping my kids build things looking for just that one specific piece needed.
The other thing about our Lego is that my kids were gifted a huge amount of it (mixed with some Mega Bloks sets) from our nephew who is now grown. I thought that was fantastic. I thought that would be all the Lego they ever needed. Apparently, I was wrong. Lego has gotten more complicated than that. When I was a kid my brother and I had a box of Lego to share from which we built whatever we thought of. Now, most Lego is sold in sets. So there are specific things that they want to build, for which you need specific pieces that you can only get in these sets. So all of their spending money and saving money has been going towards buying Lego sets. And the Lego sets are great and neat and cool and all that. Then they get destroyed and mixed up and you just know that the day is coming when one of them says, "Mom, I want to build the fire truck, or, the Police Station" and then you find yourself digging through piles of mixed up Lego looking for that one piece that you can't find, never mind the instruction booklet for it. I have solved the second problem. Lego has very kindly posted instructions of all their building sets on their website, as long as I remember to download them to my laptop, we're good to go. (you can find that handy tool here). My boys also figured out that their cousin's Lego is made up of sets. So one bored evening I set out searching for the sets. (I know I'm a glutton for punishment) and surprised myself by finding a few of them. Some were Mega Bloks sets (Mega Bloks is a Canadian version of Lego that costs a little bit less) and Mega Bloks also has building instructions on their website (Here).
The other part of having Lego is where to store all the creations without them becoming destroyed. Because you know with kids all their creations are extremely important to them. And toddler little sisters just don't understand that concept really.
As I get all this off my chest it's really just part of the preparation for what lies ahead. I've been promising my oldest that we would have a Lego day once I was finished setting up our new home and before he goes back to school. I'm about 1 day away from that (maybe 2), so wish me well that I don't go crazy, digging through all of that Lego!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Letter to the Editor - a guest post/re-post/response post

Last month, I joined in with the #BlogforAyn bloghop, telling the tale of the 9 year old autistic girl who has been removed from her home in BC, seemingly for no reason other than being an autistic child being raised by a single dad. The case workers stated that raising three children with two being autistic is a heavy load for a single parent, and that removing his daughter would lighten his load. One of our readers made the statement, there must be more to the story than that. That's exactly where I was when I first heard the tale. Like a lot of people who work with children I've (unfortunately) seen a lot. When you start to see repeating patterns of hurt, mistreated and abused children you tend to get cynical. And I'm sure that's where a lot of CPS worker are at. They see the worst of the worst. They work in a flawed system where there can be errors that lead to tragedy if they don't have enough information to go on to protect our kids. It can also happen in reverse, where a family can be broken up without a lot of recourse. Since I first heard about Derek Hoare's story with his daughter Ayn, I started to read about more families who have been torn apart unnecessarily. It is now 55 days since Ayn was removed from her home. Her father has yet to have access to her. Meetings have been cancelled at the last minute, frustrating this father who just wants his little girl back home where she belongs.
I'm fortunate that a good friend of mine (who initially made me aware of this case) has met Derek. She was touched by his story and has made it her mission to find out how this happened and what can be done to help this family. She has given me permission to quote her here on Clever Mamas. In her own words: "I have a copy of the hospital records, and I have met Derek, been in his home, and seen how he and his ex interact with their children. He is totally above the board, and doing a much better job than I think I could do."
My friend is a mother herself of two little ones. She is a qualified teacher who oversees homeschooling families in her area. She is a well educated, caring individual. I know for me, hearing a story in the news can cause a lot of questions and disbelief. Knowing someone whose opinion I trust completely being involved in the story in question sways my opinion of what is going on here.
My dear friend wrote a blog post that was originally published last month in her sister's parenting blog "I'm a Real Life Mom - Perfecting Imperfection". With her permission, I am re-posting it here. She captures better than anyone else I know the reality of Ayn's situation.

July 14, 2011

It’s the 29th day of torture. And she’s only 9. Is she in North Korea, Rwanda or Nazi Germany? No. She is in Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada. Has she been kidnapped? No. She was “legally” apprehended by the Minisry of Children and Family Development. Imagine if you will:

School is almost over. She is tired. The lights, the smells, the flashes of color, the noise. It is all overwhelming to a child with autism. She is looking forward to going home to her Daddy. She knows he will hold her and help her recover from her day. She knows what to expect at home. There is routine, boundaries, safety.

Strangers suddenly appear before her. They are saying lots of things. She doesn’t understand them. They are touching her. She hates being touched. They tell her to follow them. She doesn’t want to. She doesn’t know them. They pull on her arm. She fights. She cannot understand what is happening. There are 4 strangers. And two of the people from school that usually help her. They force her into an unfamiliar vehicle. She starts to cry for her Daddy. She doesn’t stop.

They have her by both arms, it hurts. They drag her into a hospital room. It is cold, bright. The smells are strange and overwhelming. The lights overhead hum incessantly. She is still crying, and tired. She lays down on the bed, but the sheets smell funny, and they’re scratchy. Someone comes in. She wants out. She wants her Daddy. So she kicks and bites and screams. Rough hands hold her down. She feels a sudden sharp pain in her arm. She feels strange suddenly. The lights spin. Her head feels funny. Her tummy hurts. She is weak. They lay her down, but she cannot sleep. She is too sad.

Days pass. People come and go. Each time she cries and screams and fights to be with her Daddy. They keep touching her, poking and probing. She hates it so she fights. Over and over, the stabbing pain in her arm and then the funny feelings. She is lonely. The food tastes yucky. They say they need her blood. But she sees the needle and knows the pain, so she fights each time they try. In this she succeeds; they don’t get her blood from her. They don’t give her her favourite things. She misses her brothers, her clothes, her toys, her room, her special blankie and teddy. She cannot sleep without them. The constant noises, the voices, the beeping. It makes her scream. She asks for Daddy. No one will tell her where he is. She’s cold at night. The blankets feel funny. Why are they doing this to her? Her name is Ayn Van Dyk.

Why indeed? The reason her father, Derek Hoare, has been given is that her behaviours are too severe, that he must be overwhelmed, that he needs to have his load “lightened.” This story is very close to what an innocent little girl is experiencing. Much of it has been taken from hospital discharge papers her father was given. In those records, they state unequivocally that there is absolutely no evidence of any neglect or abuse. In the records it states that she is being given 2 dangerous drugs. Drugs that require a family history before being given. Drugs with severe side effects. The records state concern that she is being given double the maximum recommended dose. Her parents are adamantly opposed to her being medicated.

Can this be happening in my country? Didn’t we fight a war and sacrifice millions of lives to stop tyranny like this? How does the MCFD suddenly have Gestapo-like power? They are performing experiments on a child who functioned normally in the home. At school, yes, she had great difficulty. But for a child with autism, school is a very overwhelmingly difficult place to try to cope. Ayn is a bright little girl. At school she was working 2 years above her grade level. Surely she herself knows that what is happening to her is wrong.

Evil prevails when good people do nothing. I would challenge you, that as a public figure, if you stand by while this happens, you are condoning it. There must be investigations into this at local, provincial, national and international levels.

This cannot be swept under the carpet. The supporters of Ayn Van Dyk and her family will not stop fighting until policy changes are made and disciplinary action is taken against those who have been responsible for this.
In defense of Ayn,

Sherilyn Klassen

You can help make a difference in this case. Please visit and sign the petition there to bring this child home.

You can also visit the Facebook page for more updated information and ways to help out.!/groups/152278868178942?ap=1 and
to donate towards the cause.

You can also repost these links, tweet and facebook this blog and spread the word yourselves.

Friday, August 5, 2011

The Long Car Trip

We've just moved. Not from one house in town to another. But one house in one town to another house in another town, 2 provinces away. That meant 2 full days of driving...with 3 kids. It's a great time of year to do this sort of thing. It's summer, the weather is good for driving. (The last time we moved like this, it was December and there were snowstorms to pass through). But still, it's two days of driving with kids. Kids who don't like to be cooped up. Kid who to quote my mother, "run around like crazy chickens" when they are released for a break from it all. (Yes, God bless my mother who came along to help us out!)

There was nothing that this car trip didn't have, including one bout of car sickness, a few choruses of, "Stop it!", followed by the ever so popular, "Are we there yet?" sentiment. So here are my tips for helping your kids and yourself maintain some sanity when you must be locked in a small moving vehicle for hours upon end.

First, prepare for car sickness. Seriously, even if your child has never, ever gotten car sick before. I was anticipating that this may happen with one of my children who is notorious for it. I gave him the Children's Gravol before we left. Of course this would be the trip that his little brother threw up. Give all children Children's Gravol! And pack plastic bags and lots of wipes just in case! Have a change of clothes handy for them too.

As much as you may hate the idea of your children watching TV for hours upon end, a portable DVD player can be a lifesaver for a trip like this. They are going to be sitting there anyways, may as well have some entertainment handy. It beats counting the trees as you go by.

Have snacks ready. For this, and this alone we broke our 'no eating in the car' rule. It's amazing how many extra KMs you can get by saying, "who wants a fruit snack?"

Plan in time to pee. That may sound silly, but it was the pee breaks (not lunch) that saved our sanity. Just that 15 minutes out of the car, where everyone can stretch their legs a bit, breaks up the monotony of a trip like this. It rejuvenated us all and let us get a little bit further in the day.

Gramma's secret stash. My mom packed each child a few 'little somethings' for along the way. They were given at lunchtime and at the hotels we stopped at for the night. Those 'little somethings' were great incentives for my kids to behave.

Car entertainment bags are great too. My older kids each had a Where's Waldo book, an Eye Spy book, a Colour Wonder colouring book and a few favorite toys to play with. My toddler's bag had 2 stuffed toys, a few cars and a few little people.

Remember they are kids. The excitement of the 'car trip' wears off after the first day. The second day is always harder because they now know what it really means. As much entertainment and car games that you may have handy, they really don't want to be there any more. For this reason we tried to push in an extra hour that first day, to take away an hour out of the second, make it a little shorter. It's also a good reminder that kids will be kids and they may just get cranky, heck we as adults get cranky, so give them a little bit of wiggle room to get by.

Go with the old car trip classics. Think the alphabet game, the license plate game, 20 questions and I spy. They worked when we were kids. And they still work now.

So whether your car trip is up to the family cottage, traveling across country for pleasure or like us you are moving, trust me, you can get through it, and make some good memories while you are at it. Have fun!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Could this happen to you?

It's a parent's worst nightmare, you've discovered that your child has gone missing. You do everything right in looking for her. In desperation you phone the police for assistance. Thankfully she is found safely playing a neighbour's backyard just a few houses away. You breathe a sigh of relief and think all is well. Until a few days later when a knock on the door introduces a parenting nightmare never imagined. You must 'voluntarily' turn of your child to child protection services or they will forcibly remove her. Sounds like the plot to a novel or a movie doesn't it? It's not. It's an all too real nightmare that a father in BC is living right now.
His beautiful 9 year old daughter Ayn is autistic. Wandering is a commonly related to autism (it's estimated that 50% of children with autism wander). Upon inspection Ayn was reported to be a perfectly healthy 9 year old with no signs of abuse or neglect. She has not been returned to her home. She has been placed in a psychiatric facility for evaluation. Within 36 hours of her arrival she was placed on 3 anti-psychotic drugs (Ayn was previously not on any sort of medication). Her father (her primary caregiver) has yet to be granted any sort of visitation rights. After 18 days of straight crying from Ayn, her father was asked to provide a picture of himself for her. He complied. As soon as Ayn had it the tears stopped. At this point Ayn's father, Derek, is awaiting a hearing to have Ayn placed back into the home. The preliminary hearing is set for September.
So many questions enter my mind when I think about Ayn and her father. How could this happen? How can autism in this day and age be so misunderstood by Child Protection? How is she not back in her home? Why do they feel the need to drug her? The answer is, "I don't know". I really don't. I'm flabbergasted. If you are touched in any way by Ayn's story then I encourage you to join in helping her and her father out. I know we can't make the Ministry give her back, but we can let them know that we are watching. We can let them know that this isn't right. Here are a few ideas:
Sign the petition at the Petition site:
Join the Facebook group: - there are lots more ways to help listed there
Blog about Ayn on your own blog. The more who know that this is happening the better!
Tweet @Justice4Ayn #blogforAyn
Let's see if we can help this little girl get back to her daddy where she belongs!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

This is what summer is all about

We had dinner at a friend's place last night.  If you live anywhere between Alberta and Quebec you know how hot it is.  Today is the coolest day this week at 29 degrees celcius.  So after the kids ate last night, they went out to play in the backyard while us grownups could eat in glorious peace (great plan eh?).  We heard the water start running and looked out - what I saw absolutely delighted me and bought back my own summer memories.  There were all 5 kids fully dressed, fully wet, splashing in the mud puddle they had made, giggling their heads off.  My son was drinking straight from the hose, then dousing the rest.  They were chasing each other in a game of tag.  They were swinging on a rope hanging from the big tree.  They were kids, enjoying summer just the way kids should.  Fantastic!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Leader Mothers

I don't usually use this blog to promote programs.  This is one that really speaks to me and I see as incredibly valuable.  At the core of Clever Mamas is being a mom.  Today I received a letter in the mail from a charity I support.  Their overall mission is to assist communities in poverty, training locals to become self-sufficient.  The program/project that I read about today is called Leader Mothers.  FH (Food for the Hungry) is training Leader Mothers "to teach, serve and promote health and wellness to others in their communities, especially to pregnant women and mothers with children under the age of two...The Leader Mothers each train at least 10 women who agree to train 10 more until the knowledge has rippled out across the entire community."
Here in Canada we take for granted the ability to have a healthy pregnancy with medical care, to have a clean birth with a doctor or midwife present.  That isn't always the case.  We know how something as simple as handwashing can prevent infection or illness from spreading. 
If helping a Mom in another part of the world have a better chance at life for her and her family speaks to you as it does me then I ask you to consider sponsoring a Leader Mother.  For more information visit FH's website at  Imagine the impact just one person can have in her community.

*This response and post is entirely of my own initiative.  I do not work for or represent FH, it's just an organization that I support because they do good work!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

I didn't teach her that - more gender reflections

My 17 month old daughter currently likes to wander around sporting a furry winter hat with a bow and wear 2 rings from the fisher price stacking ring set as bracelets.  When I brought home a new set of onesies this weekend she immediately took one, held it up to herself and said 'mine'.  She cuddled the rest of them to herself.  I have two other children, both boys, none of them ever played like this.  The thing is, we didn't teach her this either, she just does it.  I wear very few accessories myself.  I don't think she's ever seen me wear a bracelet, so she's not getting it from me modeling it or teaching it to her.  She just wants to be fancy on her own.  Already I can see the gifts for her under the Christmas tree this year, my little girl is becoming a girly girl.  I foresee purses, tiaras and tutus coming her way.  And I'm fine with it.  I don't parent to fight nature.  I have two boys and one girl.  My boys wrestle and think farting noises are funny.  They are also very gentle and kind to their baby sister.  My daughter likes to dress up and twirl in a skirt.  She also like to zoom cars and play in the dirt.  I think you can raise masculine boys who are gentle in the same way I think you can raise a girly girl who isn't afraid to get dirty.  

Monday, June 20, 2011

Too Old For A Pacifier?

My daughter is 17 months now and I'm starting the process of weaning her from her soother. All three of my children have used pacifiers and all of them under different circumstances.  (I've previously written about my sookie babies here) My first started using one at about 6 weeks of age. He was a constant nurser and I needed something to help him comfort suck. My second I transitioned to a soother when he was an older baby, as he started to use me as a pacifier. My third was put on a paci at the hospital as a preemie in the NICU. Preemies are often put on a pacifier to help their jaw muscle development so that they can have the strength to become good nursers.
My first was weaned from the soother at about a year and a half. He had been finished nursing at 12 months. I used a 'lovey' (stuffed toy) to as a sleep aid rather than the paci. And then when we moved we 'lost' the soothers in the move.
My second was a little bit older to stop using a pacifier. It happened around his second birthday. He nursed for longer (17 months) and never did take to a 'lovey'. Getting rid of his paci was tougher as we couldn't find a good transition sleep/comfort object for him.
My third child is still nursing and I'm hoping that she nurses until close to her second birthday. I think as long as she is nursing before her nap and bedtime I will be using the soother with her. Right now I'm working on making it available only for sleep time. So far, it's working. Out of sight, out of mind.
As I've been re-reading and re-visiting the idea of pacifier weaning, I came across some articles that for lack of a better term fall into the great pacifier debate: "How old is too old for a pacifier?" It reminded me of once seeing a child who was about 6 still using a pacifier, out with his parents for the day. The look just took me by surprise. As much as I try not to judge parents, I couldn't help the thought of, "that's just not right". I will confess that I was a long term thumb sucker as a child (till age 6). One of the reasons I like(d) having my children on a pacifier rather than a thumb is that a pacifier can be taken away, a thumb can't. My parents had the cost of orthodontic bill for me to fix my crooked teeth partly caused by thumb sucking.
Famously in the media is celeb offspring, Suri Cruise, who at age 4 still uses her paci. Toddlers and Tiaras star Mackenzie has been caught on camera more than once freaking out looking for her 'ni ni'. (As a side note, wouldn't you love to see the Supernanny take on Mackenzie and her mother?)

So what's the big deal? When is a good age to remove the paci? How old is too old for it?
A paci is designed for infant use. We all know that sucking is an important part of an infant's development. Most pediatricians recommend losing the paci by age 1, and definitely by age 2. The rationale is to allow for the child to find another way of comforting themselves and to allow the child to develop proper speech. Yes, I've seen plenty of older children trying to speak with a paci in their mouth and you can't understand what they are saying. There is also the danger of using the paci as a way of keeping your child quiet. Daycare centres who are successful in not allowing the child to use a paci all day are often frustrated that the first thing the parent does when they pick their child up is put 'the plug in the mouth'.  I think pacifiers have their values and benefits, but they are not something that should be used long term.  If you are having troubles getting rid of the soother, there may be deeper parenting issues there.  Look at the reasons why you are using it.  Is it to make your child happy at all costs?  Is it to make your life easier and quieter?  Or, maybe you just aren't bothered by it and it isn't an issue for you.  I'm interested to hear what other moms think on this topic.  It's a great debate.  There are those who wear their status of "my child never used one" with pride.  There are others like me who found them useful, but were happy to be done with them once their purpose was served.  And then there are those who have long-term paci users.  I could be opening a can of worms here, but I think that's a good thing, I love a good debate.

Monday, June 13, 2011

You gotta check everything!

Last week we came home to a flood in the house. Not an act of nature, but rather an act of a 4 year old. Yes, my child was playing with water post morning teeth brushing before we went out for the day and left the water running with a facecloth in the drain hole. Now that we are a week past it, I feel I can write about it a bit. As I was speaking with the insurance agent last week, she was quick to assure me that I'm not the only one this has happened too, in fact I'd be surprised how many people she speaks to who have had the exact same thing happen to them. So this is a friendly letting you know that yes keep checking the stove, the coffee pot and the windows before you go out, but also check the taps because you never know!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Mommy Moment Giveaway - A to Z CD

Mommy Moment is having a great giveaway right now of the God's Words from A to Z CD!
Description from their site:
When we memorize Scripture to song we are able to recall it more effectively.

The God’s Word A to Z cd is a cd with a variety of music (jazz, classical, bluegrass, pop, country, rock, celtic) that highlights 26 Bible verses that start with a letter of the alphabet – hence the name A to Z.

These 26 songs will take you on a journey that beings with the sinfulness of man, brings you to the cross, and ends with joy in heaven.

Abe & Liza Philip had their children, ages 2 & 4, memorize all the memory verses and they recite them at the beginning of each song.

Sounds fantastic and exactly what I would love to have for my kids, wouldn't you?
Hop on over! Click Here!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

God's Grace for Sleepy Moms

This morning at 5:40 my daughter awoke ready to nurse. The past couple of weeks that has meant nurse and then get up, but to my surprise she went back to sleep. As I unlatched her and went to go to sleep myself, she woke up completely. With a deep sigh, I said, "okay, let's get up". I checked the clock, it was almost 6:30. What?! How did that happen. She's an older baby (16 months) and rarely nurses longer than 5 or 10 minutes, and it really didn't seem like much longer than that. What happened here? Where's my missing time? I'm guessing we both fell asleep. Me sitting straight up in bed with a latched on baby.
This is not the first time this has happened. It just hasn't happened for a long time. I remember moments with my first child waking up in a rocking chair, baby still in arms 2 or 3 hours later. I'm so amazed that not one of my children has ever fallen out of my arms while I fall asleep with them. The only explanation I have for it is the grace of God. He must have guardian angels working overtime with sleepy moms and little ones. There are nights I recall waking up and thinking, "where is the baby?" because the last thing I remember was picking them up to nurse, only to find them sleeping soundly in their crib. I must have put them back in there, I just have no recollection of that happening. I'm sure I'm not the only one out there with tales like this.
Thomas Blackshears' Watchers in the Night

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Heat Wave - How do you keep kids cool?

My apologies to my friends living in other parts of Canada that haven't seen sight of the sun in a couple of weeks. Toronto right now is the complete opposite. It is climbing up into the 30's (celcius) but with the humidex it feels closer to 40 degree at its peak. So how do you keeps kids happy and safe in such weather? Here are a few ideas!

1. Take advantage of the early morning sunshine. Usually we enjoy time at the park when my son gets out of school. In this weather it would just be unbearable leading to the dreaded cranky kids syndrome (you want to avoid that at all costs!) I still want my kids to get fresh air and exercise so the past few mornings we've played in the earlier morning. Yesterday we took a nice long walk before it got too hot and today we headed up to the school a bit before school started to play on the playground nice and early.

2. Water, water and more water. I cannot stress this enough. My kids have water bottles with them all the time right now. And I just keep filling them up. It's a great time to play with water, in splash pads, wading pools, sprinklers or just drag out some rubbermaid tubs and fill them up. At night I cool my kids down with a nice cool bath before they get their jammies on too.

3. Keep the house cool. We have A/C but we don't put it on in the day (trying to save energy costs). We turn it on in the evening and shut it off when we get up in the morning. The house stays cool because we keep the heat out of it. When the sun beams start to heat up a particular room, I draw the shades in, then re-open them when the sun has moved on by (I still want to see those beautiful rays, I just don't want them to heat my house right now.) When we lived in a home that didn't have A/C we strategically used a combination of fans and open window to create a nice cool breeze inside.

4. Plan your meals well. Keep that oven off! This is not the time to bake bread for goodness sake. This is the time to BBQ or dust off that crockpot. This is also a great time for what my kids call 'snacky lunches' - a combination of apple slices, red pepper, cold chicken and goldfish crackers. A healthy balance without cooking.
Freezer snacks are also great for weather like this, orange juice pops, smoothies and frozen grapes are all great treats that kids love.

5. Cool clothes - light cotton jammies and a sheet or a thin blanket ought to be enough in this weather, shorts and t-shirts in the day. Don't forget that hat and some good sunscreen!

What kinds of tricks and tips do you have to help your kids beat the heat?

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Sheep Cupcakes

Aren't these cute! I don't often do this, but my post on my foodie blog this morning fits our Clever Mama's blog as well. These cupcakes were our Messy Church craft last night and all the kids had such fun making them, I thought I would share the idea with you. To find out how to make them, hop on over to Whatcha Eatin'

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Celebrating Your Child's Gender

This weekend the Toronto Star's front page story had a picture of a beautiful baby with the headline: "Is this a boy or a girl?" The article went on to detail how the parents of this child has opted not to share the child's gender with anyone but the immediate family. You can read the original article here. While that family has made a very unique, extreme choice in parenting their children, it does prompt me to question why they are so against celebrating their child's gender. I have 2 boys and a girl. For my husband and I, their genders are part of them. When it comes to gender it isn't about hair length and toys they play with. My 4 year old son just last week played dress up to be a mermaid boy, using a pillowcase. My 1 year old daughter pushes little cars and airplanes around making vroom noises. It is more about identifying themselves as being male or female. I believe this is a healthy perspective to have.
Boys are boys and girls are girls. It is what it is. It doesn't mean one is superior to another. It just means there are differences.
Case in point - the week before we were married, my husband and I each went out with our friends as a pre-wedding celebration. My girlfriends and I spent an afternoon at the spa having manicures and pedicures, followed by a nice meal at a restaurant where we traded stories of love over a glass of wine. My husband and his friends headed into the woods with and ATV and lots of meat to roast over a fire. They too shared stories of love and marriage, just in a slightly different way. We both loved these nights out we had and they are fond memories for us. I'll tell you what though, my husband would never, ever want to spend his day at the spa the way I did. Though I enjoy the outdoors, his pre-wedding celebration would not have been my cup of tea. Neither way was better than the other, in fact both celebrations were perfect, they were just different from each other.
During the 70's many parents rebelled against the idea of genderizing their children. They bought gender neutral toys and clothing in hopes erasing male and female stereotypes. To their surprise, their little boys still wanted trucks and their little girls still wanted dolls to play with.
I remember a chat I had with my oldest son's daycare teacher a few years back. She said she noticed something interesting with the dress up stacks they had. The younger kids (2-4) would dress up in anything, but somewhere around the 4-5 year old marker the boys would only choose costumes that were male oriented and the girls would only choose the female oriented costumes. Non-prompted, that's just what happened.
Reading I've done since confirms that age marker. Something happens inside children at about the age of 4-6 when they feel a need to confirm their gender. I know my boys have stated quite clearly to me that they are the same as daddy, but their sister is like me. This is an important marker in their development. I think they need that confirmation and it is part of our job as their parent to validate it.
One of the more popular books making the book club rounds in the past 10 years was The Red Tent by Anita Diamant. (Fantastic book if you haven't read it yet.) She touches on gender identification with the rites and roles associated with women in Biblical Times (She uses Dinah from the Book of Genesis as her main character). There is such a wonderful celebration of womanhood in this book. It serves to remind me that generations and cultures the world over celebrate male and female. The Jewish religion has their Bar and Bat Mitzvah's which celebrate the coming of age for young men and women. Other religions have their own coming of age ceremonies and celebrations , most of them gender specific.
I know my thoughts are flowing fast and furious here and I'm hoping to make some sense of them all. As a parent of both genders I can say that I've noticed subtle differences in them. Sure all my kids love to play in the dirt, but my daughter is the one who squealed with delight at the sight of a baby doll in the store and wouldn't put it down. My sons are the ones who think it is fun to spend the afternoon at the Harley Davidson store with their Dad checking out the motorcycles. I would rather celebrate who they are in their gender than pretending it didn't exist. Maybe that's why this article hit such a nerve for so many people. (You can read the follow-up article here).
To better understand my husband and my sons I read a fantastic book by John Eldredge called, "Wild at Heart". It is the best I've read in confirming and celebrating the masculine side of men. I've since learned that he and his wife co-wrote a follow-up book celebrating the feminine side of women called, "Captivating" and have just today put in an order for it. I look forward reading to what they have to say.

The Big Question

Now at 25 weeks with an obvious baby bump I regularly get the question “Do you know what it is?”. This question use to bother me as neither my husband nor I want to know the sex of our children before they are born, however it is becoming more and more unusual not to find out.
I have to say that with the second time around I feel like it would be easier to plan if I knew what it was, but at the same time it wouldn’t change much either. We live in a tiny apartment and the baby will sleep in the same space regardless of sex. I have a ton of unisex clothing from our first son, so I don’t need to buy much at first, and if it is girl, well l she will just be dressed a little more like a tom boy.

I do think that knowing what gender the baby is would probably help a mother feel more bonded with her child pre-birth. If you know what you are having you can choose a name and begin having personal conversations with your child.  I find it is a little challenging to feel a connection to a being inside me when I have no idea who it is in there.

But call me old fashioned, I never open a present early and I don’t want to know. We are having a scheduled C-section (a whole other topic), so will know when we are having our baby, but we still want a little mystery in the excitement of our new arrival.
Any other thoughts on knowing, vs. not knowing?

Friday, May 13, 2011

Simple Snack Ideas for Kids

I admit it, I get bored and stuck in a rut for feeding my kids. I am not one of those moms who makes a smiley face out of veggies. I get so tired and frustrated when parenting magazines show off all these fancy food ideas to get your kids to eat this or that when really my kids wouldn't touch any of it. I have 3 kids (ages 6, 4 and 1) and all of them have different likes and dislikes when it comes to eating. My 6 year old I consider to be an average eater. He eats well, he eats balanced, but he doesn't eat anything terribly fancy or different. My 4 year old is picky. He won't eat most fruits and veggies without me hiding them. My 1 year old will eat pretty much anything you put in front of her. So what is a mom to do? Here are a few snack ideas that my kids will eat (well at least 2 out of 3, sometimes 3 out of 3) that are simple to do.

1. Hummus and pita - hands down a kid favorite. They love bread, they love dipping. Hummus is a great dip for kids as it isn't too flavor weird. It is bean based which gives them a little fibre in their day.

2. Cut up fruit - apples, bananas, kiwi, grapes, cherries, berries, pears - the list is endless. Try mixing them all into a fruit salad too - or mix in yogurt or use a container of yogurt for a dip.

3. Cheese and crackers - I know it's standard, there's a reason it is standard. You can mix it up a bit by trying new cheeses. How about gouda or gruyere?

4. Meat and cheese roll ups - I prefer low-sodium deli meat (like turkey) and a slice of swiss cheese for this. It is as it sounds. Take a meat slice, put a cheese slice on it and roll up. Yum!

5. Dry cereal and raisins - my kids love munching on Cheerios, Mini Wheat Bites and Shreddies, the raisins add a little sweetness

6. Snack Mix Boxes - a fantastic idea for any kid kitchen. Here's how it works. Take a Tupperware kind of container (a tall one). Have your kids pick out snack things they like (non-perishable) to go in. Layer up and put a lid on it. The next time they are snacky there's your go-to. Ideas for your containers: nuts (almonds, peanuts, pecans, cashews...), dried fruit (raisins, apricots, mango, berries...), dried cereal (Cheerios, Mini Wheat Bites, Shreddies...), goldfish crackers, M&M's, and sunflower seeds.

7. Cut up veggies - have a Tupperware box ready in your kitchen filled with cucumber, carrots and peppers - don't forget the dip for dippers. Celery is great with peanut butter, cheese whiz and raisins too.

8. Yogurt. My kids love it - always have.

9. Applesauce - another crowd pleaser

10. Fruit to go - We called these fruit leather when I was a kid. Just dried fruit strips but they love them. (and they are easy to pack around with you too)

11. Mini Muffins - there are so many kinds of healthy muffin recipes out there that kids love (click this link so see some of my favorite muffin recipes here

12. Fruit smoothie - if you have a blender, this is so easy - a little bit of fruit, (I keep overripe bananas and a bag of berries in the freezer), some yogurt and blend. Delicious. (Not sure? try this one)

There are my top 12 snack ideas. I'd love to hear what your kids go-to snacks are.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Mother's Day Reflections

Being Mother’s day in a few days I have been reflecting on being a Mother and on my own experience. I have to say I thought it would be easier. I am the oldest of a family of 6, my youngest sibling is 15 years younger than me. I figured I had a ton of “mothering” experience, also part of the reason I was in no hurry to have my own children. We got married at 22, but did not start our family until we were 29.

In the first weeks, months, now years I am continually surprised in how much work it is to be a mother, and a wife and all the other roles required of me in my life.
To work 40 hours a week, stay on top of groceries, laundry, house work, spend enough time with my husband and child, requires so much more of me than I thought.

I always thought I would be a really laid back parent, but I find I worry about all sorts of things I never thought I would. More and more I realize that being a parent is learned, it is not a natural thing. Like most people I am sure, I like to be good at what I do, I avoid things that I can’t pick up relatively quickly, I hate to make mistakes, and as a parent I do….daily.

Anyways what I wanted to get at is that I like to feel sorry for myself, to think that I have so much to do, and not enough support from my husband. I catch myself when I start to do this, because I cannot help but think how good I really do have it compared to the majority of woman around the world. If I think about what my life would look like it I was a woman in Afghanistan, India, Africa, or any number of any countries where woman are barely considered human  I cannot even compare my complaints to what their reality is.

I read stories such as these here, and feel wretched that I ever complain about the lot I was blessed with in life. These women are faced with unbelievable treatment for circumstances that are fairly beyond their control, yet they persevere and do not give up in order to provide the best future for their children.

Really as a mother in North America, I have nothing to complain about.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

When would you let your child go to the park alone? - Venting a Parenting Frustration!

I confronted another parent at the playground today. If you know me at all, you know that I hate conflict. It makes me uncomfortable. I worry about offending people and hurting their feelings. But this was something I just couldn't hold in and had been stewing on for the past few weeks. I just hadn't done anything about it yet. Let me rewind to the last weekend of March. My oldest son (age 6) was invited to a school friend's birthday party. I was happy to send him for the afternoon. I do know the family slightly and have chatted with the mom off an on for the past year or so.
When I picked my son up later that afternoon I was surprised to hear that the kids had spent part of the afternoon at the park, alone. These are 5 and 6 year old kids. I was pretty shocked. And angry. My kids don't go to the park alone. We live in a pretty big city. Their place is less than a block away from a major busy road. I couldn't imagine what she was thinking that this would be okay. Maybe it is okay for her to let her kids go off alone, but that's a pretty big leap to send off kids who aren't hers off alone. Thank God nothing bad happened to the kids, but I can only imagine the fall out if something did.
There's a level of trust in sending your child to visit at a friend's place. You trust that the people will watch out for your child. I didn't think to ask, "Will my son be supervised while he's at this party?" I just couldn't imagine that he wouldn't be.
Today was the first opportunity I had to speak with the mother. I started off by telling her how pleased my son had been to attend her son's birthday party, and then I shared how I felt about the kids being unsupervised. I don't know if she really 'got it', and she didn't offer an apology. I can only hope that the next time she has children in her care that aren't hers, she takes more responsibility with it. I know I won't be allowing my son over there again any time soon.
This begs the question then, when is it okay for kids to be sent off on their own? When are you comfortable with it? In Canada there are no legal guidelines in place (as far as I can find out) but it is suggested that a child of 10 can be left for short periods of time, trusting that they are mature enough and responsible enough to deal with it. In the US, State laws vary, some states offering a suggested age (ranging from 8 to 12) with other having a firm age (in Oregon, it's 10). To see a list click here). The American National SAFEKIDS Campaign recommends that no child under the age of 12 be left home alone. So where are you at with all of this? What age do you (or will you) allow your child to be alone in certain situations?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

When to potty train?

I had a really interesting conversation with another mother last week. As I've mentioned I am currently running a home daycare. Two of the children I care for have parents who are from Eastern Europe. One of the children is a boy who turned two at the end of January. He came to me completely potty trained. I have to admit that I was both skeptical and impressed when his mother originally told me that. But it was true. He knew when he needed to go, had no accidents and only wore a diaper for nap time and for outings.
The little girl I care for won't be two until July. One of the things her mother was upset about at her last daycare was that she had sent her daughter to that daycare potty trained and that daycare worker decided it was too much work to keep her on the potty so kept her in diapers, never taking her to the potty. Again, I was a bit skeptical, but I figured if her mom is training her at home, I will continue on in the daycare and take her to the potty here. Again, I've been impressed. She will pee on the potty (not all the time, but at least once every day).
Back to last week's conversation. The 2 year old boy's mom asked me if any of my boys had potty regression. Mine didn't but they were much later to train. My oldest was 3 1/2 before he was completely trained and my younger son had just turned 3. This little guy was starting to regress at home. I hadn't yet seen it at the daycare, but sure enough a few days later he stopped letting me know when he had to go potty and started having accidents. This mom said that she thought regression was a common thing, that other mothers she knew experienced it.
I asked her about the early to train idea and what I discovered was really interesting. She told me that back home (Romania), children start training as soon as they can sit (6-7 months old). Most children wear cloth diapers and their parents just keep them close and keep sitting them on the potty to learn association. She said that she found it frustrating talking with her mother back home and having her mom get on her case for not starting this little guy on the potty when he started sitting. She said that she couldn't find a small potty here, as most potties are designed for 18 months plus. It was only when her mother came to stay with them for 6 months that he started to train. (at about 18 months old).
This is what is referred to as Natural Elimination (NE). NE is common practice throughout the world. Keeping your children close to you. Learning their rhythms and associating the potty at a very early age. Actress Miyam Bialik is a North American example of a mother who used this technique. Both her boys potty trained early on and were in underpants at about 15/16 months.
I can see where the idea has merit and I think it takes a lot of dedication to follow through with it. You have to be able to devise a way to communicate the need to use a potty very early on. Some parents are quite successful at introducing a sign for this.
The North American mindset for potty training is quite different than this. For me, the idea of training a child to go to the potty means a number of different factors, it isn't just the ability to pee on the potty. (As one mom who is training her daughter early shared, "sometimes you catch it, sometimes you don't"). It's more of a complete ability. Does the child have the ability to independently use the potty? Can they communicate their need? Can they undress/dress themselves? Can they wipe? Can they 'hold it'? When all of those things are happening at once, I consider them to be fully trained.
I don't know that their is a perfect age or perfect way for this to happen. If you are someone who believes in the holistic NE method and you have the time to do it, then good on you. I'm not.
The little girl I care for is a 'hit and miss' kind of potty-ing. She doesn't communicate to me any need to go. Sure she'll sit on the potty and sometimes something happens. But sometimes it is a trickle, which makes me wonder if we just got lucky. She doesn't appear to be bothered in a wet diaper. She doesn't seem to have the ability to 'hold it'. It seems like sitting her on the potty is more of an extra step in changing her diaper. I take her at regular intervals and I will continue to do so as that's what her mother wants.
I think the little guy I care for really and truly was trained by age 2, but is experiencing a regression, for whatever reason. But again, he had a very dedicated care giver to work with him young (his grandmother in this case).
For my daughter (15 months), I think I'll wait a little longer. When she shows me interest and capability, then we'll start. It's not a priority for me to train my kids young. It's more a priority for me to know that when they are trained, they are trained completely to be independent at it. In any case, I'm the one who has to deal with the diapers.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Easter Traditions

 Before children, my husband and I had very few holiday traditions that we kept as a couple; we have been pretty happy to celebrate holidays with the sale candy the day after. We don’t do too badly at Christmas, but for things such as Valentines Day, Easter and even birthdays, we have not had a lot of consistency in celebrating them with routine traditions.

I am thinking of this because my husband and I were debating the Easter basket with our son this year, who is not quite 2 years old, and will probably never know he is missing it, but we do want to start having traditions for our kids to look forward to.

This was something my mother did really well, with every holiday there were decorations, food and things to make it special. My parents were not really into commercially celebrating holidays- we did Christmas stockings and Easter baskets, but with the full knowledge that it was credit to my parents, not fictitious characters; it was still fun but we knew it was a game (and to respect our friends who did not know it was a game). I believe this is the same approach we will take with our son; as we teach him about the bible and our faith, we want him to be clear on what truth is and what stories are.

That got a little heavier than I intended especially for my first post.

Back to my main point, which was finding traditions that work for our family.

At Easter my mother would make Ukrainian Easter bread (we are not Ukrainian-but we lived where there are a lot of Mennonites), we would put up and Easter tree with ornaments from Holland (we are not Dutch- I think the ornaments came from friends of my parents). Of course we decorated eggs and went on hunts as most children do.

On a spiritual note our family would usually participate in Lent, go on a Stages of the Cross walk with our church for Good Friday and then to church on Easter Sunday.

As we are at point of making traditions for our family I am curious to know what other people do to celebrate the Easter season.



We'd love to hear from you. Email us with your feedback, suggestions and general blog love at