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.



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