Saturday, January 29, 2011

Celebrating Great Dads!

We are a long way off these days from shows like Father Knows Best and Leave it to Beaver.  You know, shows where Dad was king and always had the right answer.  The most consistent father image on TV is Homer Simpson, the bumbling idiot, who is good for a laugh, but not for a role model.  As a whole, I think dads get looked over a lot.  We live in an age where many kids don't live with their own fathers.  I had a kindergarten class a few years back of 20 students.  Of those 20, only 5 lived with their fathers.  One of those was a single dad who just melted my heart.  He had 3 girls and he tried so hard to do right for them.

Really, I just wanted to take a moment for dads.  So often they get the short end of the stick.  We know mom is there.  Moms get celebrated and loved.  Believe me, I've seen the all out madness that overtakes a school near Mother's Day, of crafts and cards and poetry.  But Father's Day often gets neglected because teachers don't want kids to feel bad if they don't have a dad around.  (I would argue that the reverse could be true as well).  I had a fantastic teacher friend who still acknowledged Father's Day and had crafts, cards and poetry associated with it.  She asserted that there really was no good of ignoring the existence of a holiday.  Most children if they didn't have a father in their lives, usually had a grandfather, uncle or step-father around who they could celebrate in the father role.  I agree with that.

I was struck this week by how determined my husband is to be a good, involved father with our children.  His own father often worked away, consequently he doesn't feel that he was fathered well.  His dad wasn't one to sit him down and ask how his day was.  He knew that when he had kids he would do his best to do better than that. 

Here are some things that make me happy to know my husband is there for my kids. 

Bedtime is Dad time.  They have a whole routine down of talk time, devotional time, prayer time and cuddle time (and goodness help you if you try to leave out one part of it).  We first picked this up from watching friends of ours who started having children a couple of years before we did.  The mom took charge of getting the baby down to bed, and the dad took charge of the other child's bed time.  It works.  My husband loves that our kids open up to him at bedtime, telling him their troubles and celebrating successes.  It's great.

Hockey practice is also Dad time.  He takes our son outside and works with him on his shots, stick handling and goal tending skills.  Not every day, but he tries to get out there once or twice a week.  He's not easy on him either.  He encourages our son, teaches him tricks, but doesn't let him get away with laziness.  He pushes him to keep trying, keep getting better.  He certainly applauds him, but is trying to find a balance between tough on him and too gentle on him.

Ever since our first child was little and old enough to go out for the day, my husband has made a point of having a special outing with our kids once every couple of weeks.  It may be as simple as a muffin at Tim Horton's or going for a ride on the subway line, but our kids love it.  I love it too as it gives me a nice hour of quiet time at home.

I brought up the idea that maybe we need to have another 'sex' talk with our oldest child, just because of some of the questions he's been asking lately.  I said I was totally happy to do it, but my husband said he would.  He remembers that his dad never talked about that kind of stuff with him and he wished he had.  Boys need another male perspective.

My husband volunteered to read to our son's class this week on Family Literacy Day.  Before we had kids he would often come down to read to my classes as well.  He thinks it is important to see that men can play a positive role with kids.  I taught in high needs schools where most of my kids didn't have positive male role models around.  They loved when my husband came in to the classroom.

I know these are just little things, but they do start to add up.  We know we have a long way to go from being perfect.  But this week, I was just struck by how much I appreciate what my husband does to be a good father.  How about you?   What ways do you see your kid's dad engaging with your kids?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

School Lunch Ideas - Mid-year successes

I started off this school year seeking to find interesting school lunches for my first grader.  It's a double challenge as it has to meet the school parameters of being nut-free, healthy, filling and litter-free (or close to as possible).  I have a stash of small plastic containers and aluminum water bottles to assist with the litter-free part.  Our school is known as a green school and is famous for it's 'boomerang lunches' weeks where everything that goes to school comes back.  My son is also not a big fan of traditional sandwiches (he loves peanut butter and banana, but you can't send peanut butter to school).

Here are some lunches that my son loves

hummus and pita
bagel with cream cheese
pizza pinwheels (recipe here)
cracker sandwiches (Ritz with cheese whiz or cream cheese)
meat roll ups, cheese and crackers (rolled up lunch meat slices, usually turkey)
meatloaf sandwich (slice of leftover meatloaf in two slices of bread)
leftover cold pizza
pizza sticks (recipe below)
English Muffins with cream cheese and jam
English Muffins with pizza sauce, pepperoni and cheese
ham and cheese muffin
tomato soup in a thermos
spaghetti in a thermos
macaroni and cheese in a thermos

apple slices
other seasonal fruit
veggies and dip
goldfish crackers
dried fruit snacks (eg: fruit to go)
raisins and cheerios mix
granola bars (watch for nut content)
banana bread
zucchini loaf

orange juice
apple juice
fruit plus veggies juice

I make a point to stay away from chips, cookies and candy for school lunches.  I like to pick a good mix that represents each area of Canada's Food Guide so that my son gets fueled up for the rest of the day.

What ideas have worked for you this year?

Pizza Sticks

2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp dried basil
1 tbsp instant yeast
1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 cup hot water
1/2 cup flour (approx.)
2/3 cup chopped pepperoni

2 tbsp margarine (melted)
1/4 tsp garlic powder

Place oven rack in centre position.  Spray baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray.  Stir the first 5 ingredients together in the bowl.  Pour in the olive oil and hot water.  Stir until the flour is combined.  Work the second amount of flour until the dough is no longer sticky.  Turn out onto a lightly floured surface.  Knead for about 5 minutes, adding more flour as needed and a bit of the chopped pepperoni, until all the pepperoni is mixed into the dough.  Invert the bowl over the dough.  Let the dough rest 10 minutes.  Roll the dough out to about 1/2 inch thick.  Cut rows about 1 inch wide with the knife on the cutting board.  Cut crosswise into 5 inch long sticks.  Lay each stick on the baking sheet, about 2 inches apart.  Cover with the tea towel.  Let rise in the oven, with the door closed and the oven light on, for 30 minutes.

Remove the baking sheet from the oven.  Turn the oven on to 375*.  Combine the melted margarine and garlic powder in a small bowl.  Brush the sticks with the margarine mixture.  Bake in the oven for 20 minutes.  Makes 18-20 sticks.

 Recipe from Company's Coming - Kids Cook!  3 in 1 cookbook collection (After-school Snacks section)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Growing Boy! and ideas to help kids as they grow.

It's happening again, I'm being eaten out of house and home.  This time by my 3 year old.  Every time I turn around he's asking for a snack, or seconds of a meal.  This is highly unusual.  He's usually quite a picky little eater.  There's only one explanation:  growth spurt!  This suspicion was confirmed as he cried out in the night about sore legs (growing pains).  Fortunately Dr. Mom has a few tricks in her sleeve and uses regular aloe lotion as a special "cream" to rub on sore little legs, letting him get back to sleep quickly.
To help kids as they grow there are 3 things you can do as a parent.  First, make sure they get proper rest.  Kids need 10-12 hours of sleep a night.  Second, provide good nutrition with a balanced diet.  I use Canada's Food guide while menu planning for my household.  Third, make sure your child lives an active lifestyle.  Activity can range from neighborhood walks to playing in the park to organized sports.  *During the winter we try the following:  Playing in the snow (building, shoveling, sliding - it's all good).  Clearing a spot for hockey practice.  Even though we have a little yard with no room for a rink, we've made a hockey practice zone to shoot pucks at some plastic bins - they love it.  We run indoor races of all sorts (running, skipping, hopping, "Speed Skating" in socks...).  Finally, we have dance parties in the living room - turn up the music and just go for it!
I have to say with two boys in the house I'm a little scared for the future.  If this is how they eat when going through a growth spurt as little guys, what will my grocery bill be like when they are teenagers!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Trip to Emergency

Going to the Emergency Department is not something I look forward to (I don't think anyone does really).  But, as a parent to 3 small kids it has become a once in a while part of life.   My most recent experience was with our daughter who was vomiting uncontrollably (every 5 minutes or so for about 2 hours before I brought her in).  As she was under one, I went fully prepared to stay the night if needed.  (Dehydration is what was my biggest concern).  So I grabbed a change of jammies for her and a book for me and went in. 
Let me say that I have full and complete admiration for the nurses, doctors, security guards, techs and any other staff that work there.  I would not want your job for any money in the world.  They are the most patient people. 
The sheer volume of patients that come through always takes me away.  How people handle that just drives me nuts though.  I know when I go in that there will be a wait, probably a very long one (which is why I grabbed the book).  Chances are there will be someone (or a lot of someones) whose needs are greater than yours.  So be prepared for that.  Complaining about it doesn't help.  It doesn't get you in any faster.   Nights and weekends after the walk-in or after-hours clinics are closed are going to be even heavier in volume. 
One thing that got to me was the fellow who came in raging at the nurse about the parking rates.  Yes, I totally agree with him that they are ridiculously high, but what exactly do you expect triage to do about it?
Our E.D. has a great slide show in the waiting area that lets people know about their time in the emergency.  It's so clear about how patients are assessed and what to expect.  It's too bad people just can't pay attention to the notices and let the staff do their job.  Really, they are working as fast as they can.  But you want them to be thorough too don't you?  When it's your turn would you rather have a doctor rush through your time, or, take the time to figure out what needs to be done?  Also, once they've given you instructions, why in the world would you complain about them?  If you need to be monitored, let them monitor you.  They are trained professionals.
Sorry this has turned into a bit of a rant, more so than I intended.  Really all I wanted to say was, yes, going to the Emergency Department is not fun, but it is sometimes necessary.  You can help make it better by being prepared.  Prepare to wait.  Pay attention to the signs and instructions.  Use the kid-friendly space (most have them) to watch cartoons and keep your little one still.  Bring a change of clothes for them if you can, and a few small toys.  Remember to bring any medicines they have had with you to show the nurses.  Stay calm yourself, your child picks up on your own stress and emotions.  If you stay calm, it helps them to stay calm.
 As for my daughter...she was seen and given medication to stop the vomiting.  Yep, we had to wait 2 hours before she was seen by a doctor and another hour after to make sure the medicine worked.  I did appreciate the admitting nurse coming by to check on her while we waited, it was really kind of her. 
Thank you E.D. staff for what you do.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Eating Out with Kids

With 3 small children (and a limited budget) we've been pretty wary about eating out.  Going to a sit-down restaurant has become a real treat for my husband and I and we really don't want to spend it nagging the kids and entertaining them.  There's no fun in that. 
So we've been doing a little at-home training.  We knew we were going to try for one meal out as a treat over the Christmas break.  We wanted to be able to enjoy it.  Like any skill, eating with manners is not something that comes naturally to kids.  It takes some work.  As cute as those spaghetti sauce covered faces are, they are better enjoyed on the home front.
We started with the basics:  how to use a fork, how to use a knife, what napkins are used for (not your sleeves), how to wait at a table, taking your time to enjoy the meal, how to eat noodles in small get the idea.  And yes, it was work, but work that is well worth it.  As much as he balked at it, my 6 year old really started catching on.  He wanted to go out to a real restaurant.
Once he got it (and our 3 year old started catching on to some manners too) we knew the next challenge was to pick the right place and time.  Our daughter (11 months) is old enough that she won't sleep at a restaurant anymore, but busy enough that she doesn't want to sit for a whole meal confined either.  We figured post-nap would be best, when she was fresh and smiley.  We thought a late lunch at a kid-friendly restaurant would be best.  Late lunches are great because there aren't a lot of people in the restaurant to bother.  Kid friendly restaurants are easy to spot with their kid menus (and crayons), and high chairs.  We found such a place yesterday afternoon, and made sure we went over our good table manners reminders with our kids before entering.
We've found there is a good window of opportunity for ordering.  You don't want your little ones to run out of coloring space on their place mats before the food arrives.  You want them to stay happy, not bored.  While I like to experiment with new food ideas in my own ordering, I stick with kid favorites for their food.  You know they are going to be happy eating what they already know and like.  I also don't put the baby in the high chair, until my food comes.  I don't want her squawking just as I'm taking my first bite. 
Also, I'm not shy about bringing my own baby friendly food into a restaurant.  Keep the baby happy, and the table will be happy.
I'm also not shy about disciplining my kids if they start to act up in a restaurant.  They get a reminder, but if their behavior is unacceptable (screaming, fighting or whatever), I'll take them out to the car, no hesitation about it.  Eating out should be a pleasant experience for all and I want to be mindful and considerate of the other diners.  Fortunately, they were fantastic yesterday (I can only think of one time that I've had to carry this out, but it works)
Restaurants usually put drinks on the table ASAP.  We have a 2 or 3 sip rule for our kids with that.  They can have a taste and then put the rest of the drink aside until their food comes.  Kids are notorious for filling up on liquids.  I want them to eat the food they've ordered, not declare they aren't hungry anymore. 
I have to say I was really proud of my boys, particularly my 6 year old yesterday.  He was so diligent on concentrating to use his knife and fork to cut his meat.   He was very polite and we made sure to commend him for it.
 When it comes to the table mess and the tip, think through it carefully.  We try to tidy up as best we can with the extra mess that comes along with having little ones at the table.  We know it is extra work for the servers to clean afterwards as well, so we tip accordingly.  You want to be welcomed back for future visits, not have the staff go "oh no, it's them!" 
Eating out should be an enjoyable treat for all.  I think with some prep work before hand, it can be something that a family enjoys.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Watch them Grow

My 6 year old son took me by surprise last night.  No, he wasn't playing a practical joke on me, or trying to scare me (which is always a possibility), it was just the look of him.  He looked older.  Every so often, I notice that my kids have changed looks again.  Their faces are slightly different.  It's not something you notice every day, because you live with them, just once in a while I step back and think, "Oh my goodness, he's older again".  I know from teaching that the transition around 6/7 years of age is a time when kids really change their looks.  Any remaining baby fat kind of disappears, their baby teeth are replaced by their permanent teeth, they start to shoot up in height and you start to get an idea of what they are going to look like as adults.  It's so bizarre to see this happening to my first born.  He was my first baby and I feel like last night I had a glimpse as to what he will look like as a teenager.  Just another mom moment, where I want to hold onto him and have time stand still for just a little bit longer.



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