Sep 28, 2010

The Poison In My Fridge

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Imagine opening your fridge and seeing a jug of windshield washer fluid or a brick of rat poison. This is a familiar scene to me... except the jug of windshield washer fluid has the label 1% milk and the brick of rat poison is mozzarella cheese. There's poison in my fridge and I don't know what to do about it.

My 2 1/2 year old daughter has an anaphylaxis allergy to all dairy. What is anaphylaxis? According to Anaphylaxis Canada, "anaphylaxis is a serious allergic reaction that can be life threatening. Food is the most common cause of anaphylaxis, but insect stings, medicine, latex, or exercise can also cause a reaction" (Anaphylaxis Canada, 2010, Paragraph 1).

We found out she had this life threatening allergy shortly after she turned one. A small taste of yogurt resulted in respiratory distress and a trip to the emergency. After a shot of epinephrine, we were sent beck home and told to avoid all dairy. That was it... nothing else. No literature on anaphylaxis, no referrals to specialists, no recommendations for support.

Up until now, it has been manageable.

  • We self-educated ourselves on anaphylaxis.
  • We have two Epi-pens that we carry with her at all times. 
  • We have provided Epi-pen demonstrations to family members who care for our daughter. 
  • She only eats food that is prepared by us.
  • We are very aware of cleanliness in order to avoid cross-contamination.
  • We have a fridge which has the freezer compartment on the bottom and the fridge up top, so she couldn't open the fridge by herself.
  • When we go to parties or dinners, she wears a large stop-sign shaped sticker on her shirt that says "Do not feed me - I have life-threatening allergies".
  • I prepare homemade breads, meals and desserts for her.
  • We talk to her about her allergies (e.g. "You can't have that cookie because it has diary in it - dairy makes you sick")

However, my little girl is almost three. She can almost open the fridge by herself. She wants the food that other people are eating... and unfortunately pretty much everything is made with dairy.

I feel overwhelmed by guilt when I open the fridge and see a container of milk or cream. My husband and I love dairy. I don't know what I would do without my coffee with cream or my snack of crackers and cheese! I've been asked by people if my husband and I avoid dairy as well. I cringe and I present the usual answer that we're still figuring things out. I have thoughts that I'm a horrible mom... other people with children who have anaphylaxis purge their homes of the contaminate... why can't I do the same?

We are still trying to figure out what to do. As every day passes we have new frustrations and challenges with allergy management. Should we have a locked-box in our fridge to store our dairy products? Do we try to convert to dairy-free? Will we have to attend all birthday parties with her? Will she be home-schooled? Why does it feel like there's no information on dealing with a child who has life-threatening dairy allergies? Will we ever have a leisurely, relaxed, meal-time ever again?

I don't know what to do. Naturally, like most parents, at one time or another we have feelings of gross incompetence. Lately, those feelings are exponential. We will continue down the path of self-education and hopefully, we will have a better grasp of what to do in this next stage of our daughter's life.

Anaphylaxis Canada. (July 26, 2010). Welcome to Anaphylaxis Canada. Retrieved September 22, 2010 from,

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Sep 26, 2010

The Best Board Books

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Literature is a big deal in our house. As an Early Childhood Educator, I can't possibly over-emphasize the importance of reading to young children. If you haven't read my posting about fostering literacy, then make sure to check it out... Little Readers.

One of the essentials to build a love for reading is to have a library of quality children's books. Whether you're researching books for your own child's library or looking for gift ideas, here are some great board books for children under two.

*This posting contains some affiliate links to some pretty fantastic books. All opinions are my own. For a full overview of my disclosure policy please go HERE*

What book could possibly be good for a baby? Check out Peek-A Who? by Nina Laden. The simple text and awesome illustrations are a guaranteed hit with infants.

Peek-A Who?

If you can't get enough of Peek-A Who?, then you can also peruse Ready, Set, Go! by Nina Laden. This is another great book with more simple rhymes and pictures.

Ready, Set, Go!

I Know a Rhino is a great book that cleverly illustrates the imagination of one little girl.

I Know a Rhino

Books can be used to introduce emotional concepts to young children. We especially like A Good Day Board Book. Kevin Henkes illustrates how big and little things could make a day good or bad.

A Good Day Board Book

Eric Carle has some excellent children's books but one of our favourites is
  Very Hungry Caterpillar Board Book
In this story, you follow a week in the life of a very hungry caterpillar.

In our household, we also love We're Going on a Bear Hunt (Classic Board Books). In this story, you follow a family as they go on a bear hunt adventure. The book presents lots of opportunities to make great sound effects and to get your child re-enact the story.

We're Going on a Bear Hunt (Classic Board Books)

Another classic "bear" book is Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? [BROWN BEAR BROWN BEAR-BOARD BK]. This is a great book that introduces the concept of colours.

A fantastic book that utilizes classic children's rhymes to tell a story is Each Peach Pear Plum board book (Viking Kestrel Picture Books).

Each Peach Pear Plum board book (Viking Kestrel Picture Books)

No children's board book library is complete without a few Sandra Boynton books. You can't go wrong with any of her books but our all-time household favourite is Fifteen Animals! [15 ANIMALS-BOARD]. The simple, repetitive text and cute, clever ending makes this book a hit with children and their parents.

Fifteen Animals! [15 ANIMALS-BOARD]

A fantastic bedtime book by Sandra Boynton is
Pajama Time! (Boynton on Board)
The rhymes and characters in the book make it a great evening read.

Speaking of bedtime books, Goodnight Moon Board Book is a before bed essential! Perhaps you, yourself, remember having it read to you before bedtime?

Speaking of bedtime books, Mommy Hugs (Classic Board Book), is a great book for mothers to share with their children before bed.

Mommy Hugs (Classic Board Book)

Don't forget about Daddy either! Daddy Hugs (Classic Board Book) is another great Karen Katz bedtime book.

Daddy Hugs (Classic Board Book)

Another favourite bedtime book is Counting Kisses by Karen Katz. In our house we follow along and give our daughter kisses just like in the book (on her toes, feet, belly button, etc.).

Counting Kisses 

I trust that with these titles, your child's imagination and enjoyment of reading will flourish. I would love to hear your list of must-have board books. What do you recommend?

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Sep 24, 2010

The Fun List: Activities To Do With Your Children

Sometimes, in the hustle of everyday life we find it challenging to think of or plan fun activities for our little families. Here's a quick list of some inexpensive activities to do with your children this weekend.

  1. Bake a giant chocolate chip cookie.
  2. Make and play with some play dough!
  3. Play a board game.
  4. Play hide and seek.
  5. Go to your community playground! Don't forget to bring some great snacks.
  6. Go for a picnic.
  7. If it rains, get dressed up and splash in some puddles.
  8. Go to the library and pick out some great books to read together.
  9. Snuggle together on a big blanket and share stories with your child (e.g. the day they were born, their first words, etc.).
  10. Pretend to camp out in the living room. Build a tent, get out the sleeping bags and flashlights, and make camping food such as hot dogs and microwave s'mores.
  11. Colour a picture together.
  12. Build a fort out of some blankets.
  13. Go for a nature walk. Bring a magnifying glass and/or some binoculars.
  14. Check out the local events calendar. There may be an awesome activity happening in your community.
  15. Get dressed up and have a tea party!
  16. Build a Lego or Duplo tower together.
  17. Create a movie theatre... move your furniture around, get your children to help make the tickets, pop some popcorn and pick out a feature presentation that your whole family can enjoy!
  18. Blow some bubbles.
  19. Have a dance party. Turn on the tunes and dance until you can't dance anymore!
  20. Make a pizza together.
  21. Work on a magazine collage. Work together to cut out pictures from magazines and paste them onto a large piece of paper.
  22. Crack open a puzzle. Work together on the puzzle periodically throughout the weekend.
  23. Create some puppets. (Sock or lunch bag puppets are very easy to make).
  24. Put on a puppet show for your children. After your turn, let them put on a show for you.
  25. Look through a photo album of wedding, baby, or vacation pictures.
  26. Go to the airport and watch the planes landing and taking off.
  27. Check out a local construction site. Many children enjoy watching construction vehicles/machines.
  28. Work together on a letter for a family member. Don't forget to take a trip to the mailbox or post office to mail the letter.
  29. Go for a bus and/or subway ride. This is especially thrilling for children who get around by car.
  30. Photographs! Allow your child to take pictures of you, scenery and themselves. Print out the photos and work together to assemble the photos in an album.
  31. Start a stuffed animal hospital. Some blankets, bandages and medicine spoons can add to this great imaginative play activity.
  32. Plant some herbs together.
  33. Go swimming at your local swimming pool.
  34. Go for a family bike ride.
  35. Go for a walk around the community. Talk about the sights and the sounds in the neighbourhood.
  36. Fill up a bin with water and let your child play in it. Add some bubbles, boats, spoons, funnels, cups and colour for extra fun!
  37. Take a mini road trip to a town you've never been to before. Don't forget the munchies... and the camera.
  38. Fly a kite!
  39. Make some music together. A keyboard, tambourine, maracas, and your voices can make for a great sing-a-long.
  40. Take a trip to a local animal shelter. You can visit the animals but you can also bring a box of treats to donate to the animals residing there.
Whatever you choose to do, enjoy this time with your children. Be in the moment with them and have fun! If you have activity ideas, feel free to leave a comment and add to this list!
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Sep 18, 2010

Little Readers

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As an early childhood educator, I have had the opportunity to observe young children at various developmental stages in their lives. A universal similarity that I have noticed in almost all children is that they love books. What is it that makes books so appealing to young children? Perhaps it's the colourful pictures or the one-on-one time that is shared with an adult. Perhaps it's the rhythmic movement of a story or the setting that is cast in the story. Whatever the reason... children like books.

As a parent, it is our responsibility to foster a love for literacy in our children. How do we do this? Here are some tips on how to raise a child who loves to read!

*This posting contains some affiliate links to some pretty fantastic books. All opinions are my own. For a full overview of my disclosure policy please go HERE*

Introduce books and reading at infancy. It's never too early to start reading to your children. There are so many types of books that are especially made for infants. From board books to cloth books, the selection is great! Read daily to your infant. Let him/her interact with books. Whether your child holds the book or chews the book, their interaction with books is critical to building an interest in reading.

Build your child's library. It's important that your child has books that he/she can call his or her own. There are cost-effective ways to do this as well.
- Books can be purchased second-hand from a used book store.
- Consider having a book registry instead of or in addition to a baby registry.
- Request that people attending your baby shower bring you a book to help build your library.
- Ask friends or family who have older children if they would consider selling/donating their old books to you.
- From the moment you find out you're pregnant, make a commitment to buy at least one book every month and before you know it; your child's library will be overflowing!
- Request books as gifts. Sometimes the amount of gifts for birthdays and/or Christmas can be overwhelming. Provide family and friends with a book list so they can contribute to building your child's library.

Read the book from front to back. Your child will only understand the value of words if you read them. Read the title of the book. Read the author's and illustrator's names. Do not change text, read the book as it is written.

Encourage your child to interact with the book and be an active listener. While reading aloud to your children ask him/her various questions about the book while reading it. For example, "I wonder what's going to happen next?" or "I wonder how the little boy feels?"

Read the same book many times. Repetition of the story helps your child understand the link between the text and the story that is being told. My daughter had memorized her first book shortly after she turned two. She was able to do this because we read that book repeatedly to her. Even if you're bored with reading the same story over and over again, if your child wants it... read it!

Provide some variety. Too many books at the same time can be overwhelming. Our family has a shelf full of cardboard magazine file boxes. Each file box has ten to fifteen various children's books in it. We purposely divided up the books so that each box would have a variety of picture books, at least one book on emotions (e.g. Bear Feels Scared), a numerical book (e.g. Click, Clack, Splish, Splash) and an alphabet book (e.g. Chica, Chica, Boom, Boom). Every couple of weeks we put out a new file box of books. This rotation and variety keeps us and our daughter interested in the books.

Check out the library! Bring your child to the local library. Some libraries have group reading times that parents can attend with their children. This will provide an opportunity to hear stories as told by a different adult. Also, you and your child will get exposure to a variety of books that you otherwise would not have considered. Also, while at the library, allow your child to select a couple of books that you can borrow.

Investigate what experts say are the best books to read. Libraries and literacy groups regularly publish lists of the top books for children at different developmental stages. Investigate these lists and the book recommendations.

Be a positive role-model. Demonstrate your own interest in reading. Perhaps you can allocate 10 - 20 minutes of family reading time every night. During this time, family members gather in a room and read their own respective books.

Include books in your child's play. If your child is showing an interest in toy cars, perhaps you can provide a few interesting car books in their play space. There are some great resources available to parents and early childhood educators to help them extend the enjoyment of a book into various play activities. My personal favourite is Picture Book Activities: Fun and Games for Preschoolers Based on 50 Favorite Children's Books by Trish Kuffner.

Literacy is the foundation of future education. I hope that these tips help your family develop a love for reading.

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Sep 15, 2010

Play With Your Children

Motherhood brings so many joys. From the first smile, to the first word, to the first steps… we are hooked. Life is forever changed once we have children.

However, take a moment to consider something… when was the last time you played with your child? I’m not talking about handing your daughter a lump of play dough while you cook supper or the random artillery of questions you fire mindlessly at your son while flipping through a magazine. I’m talking about all out, completely engaged, play.

Play is how children explore and make sense of their world. As the adults in our son’s and/or daughter’s lives, we miss out on some wonderful learning opportunities if we do not engage in play with our children. Forgot how to play? Here are some tips on how to experience this meaningful activity with your children.

Follow their lead. Whether your child is having a tea party and handing out the tea or pretending to be a doctor, follow their direction. If they want you to eat and drink at their “party” then do so. If they want you to be the nurse in their clinic, then play the role.

Observe their play. Be a keen observer. Watch how they interact with their dolls, how they speak while they play. Listen to the tone of their voice. Try not to correct or interfere. Sometimes we might hear our child articulating things we ourselves have said. Although you may be uncomfortable that your child is telling his or her dolls “I’m too busy”, you are getting a wonderful opportunity to glimpse into the world as they are experiencing and interpreting it.

Extend their play. While playing with your child, you may notice that they hit a peak or a plateau in their play. By playing with them, you may be able to extend the experience by providing extra materials. For instance, if your child is consistently having tea parties, you may want to add a toy stove and plates to the space. They may deepen their play by baking cookies for the tea party.

Extending play can also be done with infants. For example, if you observe your infant lining up blocks, you can take some blocks and demonstrate how to stack them.

Focus on your child completely. Treat the play time with your child as if it’s an important business meeting. Turn off your cell phone. Don’t check your e-mail. Give your child your undivided attention.

Schedule a time. It’s obviously unrealistic to play with your child all day long. Set some time aside every day to play with your child. You can even set a time limit. You can tell your child, “Mommy is going to play with you for half an hour and then I will go make supper”. However, make sure that you are engaged 100% with your child during that half hour.

Reflect on the play experience. If you have a moment, write down a few thoughts about the play experience you encountered with your child. Were there any surprises? What did you learn about your child? What did you learn about yourself? What would you like to do next time?

By playing with your child, you are supporting their exploration of the world in which they live. Now, let’s PLAY!

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Sep 14, 2010

Deliberately Clean

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The weekend… a time to relax, enjoy some free time and/or time with the family. Unfortunately, too many moms (like me) spend at least one day of the weekend catching up on much needed housecleaning and a long list of chores.

Have you considered changing your approach to cleaning in order to free up that much deserved relaxation time on the weekends? I used to spend my Saturday catching up on all of the household chores; vacuuming, laundry, toilets, etc. I would get so frustrated that before I knew it, my weekend was over and all I had to account for was a tidied home. I recently took a deliberate stance on cleaning and I have thoroughly reveled in the results. Here’s how I changed my approach to keeping my home looking clean.

1- I divided the house into five zones. I then placed each zone into a day of the week. For example, both bathrooms are cleaned on Monday. All the other rooms of the house are clean on their designated days.

2- I decided which tasks were most crucial when cleaning a particular zone. For instance, returning to the example of the bathrooms; cleaning the toilets, sinks, mirrors, tub/shower, counter tops and laundering towels are critical to the how clean the bathroom looks. Then once a month, I would perform a couple extra tasks such as cleaning baseboards, walls, and light fixtures.

3- Incorporate laundry into each of the cleaning zones. As mentioned previously, on the bathroom zone day, all the towels would be laundered and fresh towels would be put out.

4- Dedicate a time to cleaning. I clean every morning, Monday to Friday, for just one hour. The time limit helps me stay focused on the tasks at hand. Obviously the laundry for the zones takes a little longer but if the laundry tasks are started before the actual cleaning tasks, it should only take a little longer than the time it takes for you to actually clean your zone.

When selecting a time to clean, choose a time that works best for you. Uninterrupted time is the best (hence why I clean first thing in the morning while my little girl is still sleeping).

5- Organize your supplies based upon your cleaning zones. I have two cleaning buckets (one in the upstairs linen closet and one in the closet on the main floor). Each bucket has all of the cleaning supplies I could possibly want such as; rubber gloves, rags, vinegar, baking soda, and mirror cleaner. I save much time and energy since I don’t have to run around looking for supplies.

6- If lists are your thing, itemize all the areas you wish to clean in each of the respective zones, this way you won’t miss anything.

7- Loved ones can still be utilized to accomplish tasks. Children can pick up their toys and help put their laundry into the washing machine. Spouses can be enlisted to tackle the toilets or to clean the appliances. Plus by having a cleaning schedule, family members are more aware of when cleaning is to be done. They may even surprise you and do it for you!

What I love most about this cleaning strategy is that none of the rooms in my house accumulate more than seven days of dust or grime. Even with cleaning the house once a week, sometimes I would defer cleaning a room for another week or two because it looked okay. By the time I would get around to cleaning that room, it would take twice the amount of time because I put it off for so long.

Lastly, by taking this daily approach to cleaning your house, you will free up time on your weekends to do the things that you love most.

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Sep 12, 2010

About Becoming a Deliberate Mom

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We live in a rushed world. Whether we stay at home to care for our children or we are in the workforce, the pace of the world rushes us from one day to the next. Before we know it, we hear ourselves articulating the phrases that we can’t stand… “Where did time go?” or “Time flies by so fast.”

How can we slow down and enjoy the time we have with our children and families?

Being a deliberate mom means looking for ways in which to slow down, enjoy our children and navigate the schedules and expectations that motherhood thrusts upon us.

Being a deliberate mom means being intentional with what we do; how we relate to our children, how we maintain our homes and how we choose to impact the world around us.

Welcome to The Deliberate Mom… a blog dedicated to the various ways in which to enrich the experience of motherhood. Articles will cover a variety of topics such as;

- Being frugal

- Being environmentally friendly

- Planning activities for your children

- Time management

- Dealing with the struggles motherhood may present

- Things to help you relax

We can all be deliberate moms. Our time with our children shortens as each day passes. Embrace today and every moment in it. Let’s make a pact to make every day count.

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