May 30, 2011

My Best Life: A Daily Dose Of Outdoors


Last Strategy
Prior to my screen-free week, I was trying to pay closer attention to labels on food and cosmetic products. There are many toxic chemicals in the foods we eat and the beautifying products we use. I've been very conscientious of the foods we buy and I have been researching the ingredients in a variety of sunscreens so that I can purchase the safest sunscreen possible for my family to use over the summer months.

This Week's Strategy
As an early childhood educator, I go outside with the children in my care at least twice a day. However, I find that I don't do this as much with my own daughter. During my screen-free week I learned the importance of enjoying nature and the outdoors with children.

This week I would like to start the habit of daily outside play with my daughter. I am hoping that rain or shine, we will be outdoors for at least one hour daily. With the recent planting of the garden, I'm sure this task should be manageable. Also, my husband and I moved some furniture around on our patio to provide some sheltered space for my daughter to play in.

There are a variety of activities we can embark on while we are outside. Bike rides through the neighbourhood, play time at the park, walks through our neighbourhood, trips to our local zoo, and our day trips to the lake can provide some wonderful opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors. It is my hope that I can provide even the most "routine" activities outside. Painting, drawing, gardening, snacking and reading are all wonderful activities that can be explored in our own back yard!

What do you do to ensure your children get outside? Do you have any special suggestions for activities?

Wishing you a wonderful week!
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May 29, 2011

The Play Garden

A play (or fairy) garden for children. #kids #activities #garden

As an early childhood educator I find some great activity ideas in a variety of places. A few days ago I discovered a fantastic blog which has served as an amazing source of inspiration! Let The Children Play had a recent posting about creating fairy gardens with children. My daughter isn't into fairies but we did our own little spin on this idea when we embarked on our afternoon of gardening yesterday! Here's how we created her Play Garden.

We first gathered our supplies. I gave my daughter a variety of choices when it came to the plants to place in her garden. All of the plants are drought tolerant (that way the garden doesn't have to always be moist). The plants she chose included; Spanish Moss, Turkish Veronica and Cordyline Australis. Some additional purchases included rocks and glass pebbles (both found at the dollar store).

Yesterday, I wanted to plant my vegetable garden and fill my planter pots with herbs and flowers. We kicked off the afternoon of gardening with my daughter's Play Garden. Here's a pictorial journal of what we did.

I gave my daughter one of our unused plant pots and let her fill it with dirt. 

Older children could spend time planning and drawing their designs but my daughter and I just went with the flow. She placed the plants in various locations of the pot. It took a bit of time but she eventually added and placed things to her liking. 

She then started the process of digging and planting her garden. She used her hands and a garden shovel to dig holes for her plants. 

After all the plants were in the pot, she placed the decorative stones. She informed me that the stones are "a road and sidewalks" and the blue glass stones are "water to swim in".

Once complete, she brought some movable characters into her garden (assorted toy lizards and Playmobile people).

The beauty of this activity is that my daughter stayed outside with me for almost four hours of gardening. She would play in her garden but then she would stop for a while to help me dig holes, pot plants, and plant seeds. As the summer progresses she could also add various elements to her Play Garden! Popsicle sticks would make for nice fences or houses, twigs could be added and assorted toy bugs and characters could visit the garden too.

I really enjoy sharing my passion for gardening with my daughter. It was a wonderful afternoon and her Play Garden will surely sustain her interest throughout the summer months.

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May 28, 2011

Fight Those Mosquitoes... Naturally

Mosquito bite

Summer is around the corner. Sunshine, lake days, campfires, starry nights... all wonderful elements of this time of year. But then there's the mosquito... the dreaded little bugger that tries to rob us of our enjoyment of this short season.

Early last summer I became prey to these awful little insects and decided to fight back (and ended up having some success)! This year, they've already arrived in hoards. Here's some strategies to avoid being sucked dry this summer.

  • Avoid using mosquito repellent. DEET is a dangerous chemical which should be avoided as much as possible. Last summer I made my own mosquito repellent (and it worked so well)! See my recipe at the end of this posting.
  • Wear light coloured clothing. Mosquitoes are attracted to dark colours... it's summer, all the more reason to brighten up your wardrobe.
  • Stay away from foods high in potassium (i.e. bananas) and salt (i.e. potato chips).
  • Avoid fruity & floral fragrances (not only does this mean perfume but you should also avoid using scented soaps, hair products, and laundry detergents that are fruity or floral scented).
  • Eat lots of garlic. Vampires Mosquitoes hate garlic.
  • Take a Vitamin B supplement. Mosquitoes hate Vitamin B.
  • Burn citronella candles in the area.
  • Stay out of high grass and bushes. Make sure the grass in your yard is kept short.
  • If you don't mind bats, make a home for them! You can buy or make a bat house. Bats feed on approximately 500-1000 mosquitoes/hour... that's a lot of mosquitoes in one evening! Free instructions on how to build a bat house can be found on this Free Woodworking Plans website. 
  • Avoid dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active.
  • Put plants on your deck and in your yard that repel mosquitoes. Catnip, basil, marigolds and rosemary are some of the best plants for keeping mosquitoes away!
  • Don't swat wildly at them. Apparently they thrive on your fear.

Homemade Mosquito Repellent Recipe
It's important to select 100% pure and natural essential oils when making your mosquito repellent. My recipe does not include citronella because citronella should not be used with children under two. I made my repellent child-safe (so my daughter could wear it too). For information on essential oils that are safe to use with babies and children, please check the Abundant Health website.  

40 drops geranium oil
20 drops spearmint oil
20 drops rosemary oil
2 Tbsp carrier oil (I use olive oil)
1/4 cup water

Shake well in a small spray bottle and mist on skin and clothing. It's most important to cover your pulse points (wrists, neck, inner elbows etc).

If you want to use citronella oil, add 20 drops citronella to the above recipe (just remember that citronella is not safe for use with young children).

This spray doesn't last as long as the commercial ones, so reapply every two-three hours.

Good luck in your battle against these beasts! Please feel free to share your tips and suggestions on how to keep your blood in your body this summer. I always love new ideas!

Photo Credit
Photo by dr_relling found in the Creative Commons on Flickr

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May 27, 2011

{this moment: mountain girl}

Inspired by SouleMama

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.

Wishing you a wonderful weekend!

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May 25, 2011

8 More Weeks Until My Life Changes Forever (Again)



Today I realized that there's only eight more weeks until the newest member of our family comes into this world... and I'M FREAKING OUT! I'm not ready!

That was then...
Before my daughter was born, at the 32 week point in my pregnancy, everything was "done". We had weeks of meals and baking stockpiled in the freezer. Her room was completely set up and organized. My hospital bag was packed as soon as my pregnancy was considered "viable". My birth plan was written. My house was spotless. The car seat was installed. I had read all I needed to read (several times) and I was ready to become a mom.

This is now...
It's different this time. Maybe things are different because I already have a child tying up my "spare" time. Regardless, I don't operate well under these kinds of circumstances. I need organization. I thrive on it. My daughter came three weeks early. If this baby comes three weeks early I'm screwed!

I really need to see a complete, ready-to-go baby room. The baby room is currently a storeroom of all our baby supplies. The high chair, bassinet, crib, car seat and boxes of blankets, bottles, toys and onesies are piled in the room. We don't even have the clothing bar hanging in the closet yet! Our car still needs to be serviced before we install the car seat. Our freezer is in need of a good purging so I can do some meal prep. I have no energy to clean. I still need to tweak my birth plan and pack my hospital bag. I wanted to sew my own birthing gown but it doesn't look like that's going to happen... a burlap sack (or a run-of-the mill hospital gown) will have to do. I also need to book a variety of dental, eye and therapist appointments before my health insurance policy ends. Lastly, call me selfish but I would like just one last massage and haircut before I'm the mom of two children.

What makes matters worse is everyone (including my doctor) keeps on asking me if I'm ready for this baby to be born. The answer is a great, big, emphatic NO!!! I'm not ready. I don't think I'll ever be ready. If I could cross my legs and hold this baby in until everything is done, I would!

What to do?
I'm hoping that by ranting about this I can get some motivation to do something. The other day I made a to do list and placed it prominently in the kitchen. I did this partially for my sanity (as I can't function without a list) and partially as a bold hint to my dear husband, as it's only a matter of time before I come unglued and I rear my ugly, freaking-out, stressed-to-the-max, face.

Regardless, this baby is about to enter the world. Whether it's tomorrow or in eight weeks time, I have to resign to the fact that not everything will be done and ready. I guess I'm learning my first lesson as a mother of two children... you can't, and never will, be able to do it all.

Photo Credit
Photo by Earls37a found in the Creative Commons on Flickr

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May 24, 2011

Rocky Mountain Highs

As I returned to work today, the high of my four day vacation in Banff sustained me. I love my job but I love the proverbial bliss that comes with a vacation. Our trip to Banff was our last road trip as a family of three (and somewhat a "babymoon" for us). Here are some pictorial highlights from the trip.

My daughter's face when she first saw the mountains... priceless!
She was such a pleasure to travel with and she did great on the long drive.

"Oh wow! Look at my bedroom! I have two beds!"

It was raining on our first day, but it didn't stop us from taking a walk by the Bow River.

Our first night in Banff, we went out for Chinese food.
My daughter insisted on using chopsticks to eat her dinner. She also enjoyed the Jasmine tea.  

What do you do when you're posing by a bear statue? You growl of course.

The rainy evenings made for some scenic misty mountain pictures.

My daughter loved this "cave" in Banff Central Park.

There's a great kid's room in the Banff Park Museum. My daughter loved touching the pelts and horns.
She also saw her first skull. She said, "Oh no, his face is broken. We have to fix it!"

Looking cool in our sunglasses by the Bow Falls.

Lake Louise was covered in snow and ice! This was the first time we ever saw this!
We had to take a few pictures.

Climbing the play structure in Banff Central Park.
My daughter kept on shouting, "Look at me, I'm climbing!"

The best picture we could get of the three of us. My daughter refused to cooperate with the "pedestrians"
we had asked to photograph us. She would play shy.

Other highlights from the trip included:

During our long drive I told my daughter we would have to stop in Red Deer. My daughter declared, "Yeah, you don't stop in Green Deer because green means go."

Upon arriving in Banff, it was a dreary afternoon and pouring rain. I asked my daughter what she thought of Banff so far. She said, "I think someone in Banff should turn on the lights." 

My husband took my daughter swimming at our hotel pool. Through most of the "swim time" (aka my husband swooshing her around in the water) she repeatedly exclaimed, "Hey everybody, look at me! I'm swimming! I'm swimming!"

We took my daughter to the school playground and watched her play skills and confidence grow during the one hour time frame at the playground. It was fascinating to see her master different areas of the park in such a short time period. 

Dinner at The Grizzly House (a fondue restaurant) is always a highlight. The cheese fondue is exquisite and watching my husband partake in the exotic meats fondue is always entertaining. What's in the exotic meats fondue you ask? Shark, alligator, rattlesnake, ostrich, buffalo, venison and frog legs of course! I stuck to my all beef fondue. 

*Sigh*... the majesty of the Rocky Mountains. I'm always sad when I leave. Hopefully we can return in a couple years (with two children in tow).  

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May 23, 2011

I'm Back... and I Did It!


It may seem odd or trivial to some... but I did it! I disconnected for one whole week and went screen-free! No e-mail. No internet. No computer. No texting. No television. No movies.

Guess what? I survived.

What Did I Do With All Of My Spare Time?
At first I didn't know what to do with myself. There's only so much reading a person could do. However, I did some baking, journaling and part of my seven-day screen "fast" included a four-day trip to Banff (can't beat that for reconnecting with nature). The majesty of the Rocky Mountains just can't be outdone. I'll make sure to share some additional photos within the next few days.

While planning for this screen "fast", I thought the evenings would be the most challenging. My daughter's bedtime is 8 pm. Normally my husband and I would switch on the television or watch a movie. Instead we played board games, talked, lounged about and read magazines. While on vacation, we made similar choices and it made for a wonderful vacation full of pleasurable and relaxing activities.

What I Learned 
I learned that I'm addicted to my e-mail and Google. It took me a while to realize that I couldn't check my e-mail every couple of hours or do a Google search on any random topic that popped into my head.

I also learned that my computer time actually detracts from my personal relationships. While I was disconnected, I listened intently to what people were telling me because much of it was new information! I had nothing to contribute or share about the current events, so I was an exceptional listener and I asked meaningful questions.

I became aware that there's a lot of wasted time in my day. I would spend time searching a topic on Google but then get distracted and spend hours watching YouTube videos or reading articles. These activities don't make me a better person, so now I have to figure out how to control the amount of wasted time I spend on the computer.

I also gained a heightened awareness of technology and screens. They're everywhere! While I was in Banff, my family took a stroll along the Bow River. Almost every bench we passed had someone sitting on it, texting or talking on their cell phones. I was disgusted and I felt like saying, if you're not going to sit on this bench and enjoy the scenery, then get off of it and let someone sit here who will enjoy the beauty of nature! Of course, I didn't say anything... but I wish I could.

Life Goes On
I missed out on some stuff this past week. Macho Man Randy Savage died and apparently the world was supposed to end on Saturday. I'm not any less of a person because I wasn't privy to this information in a timely manner. I'm still me, living my life.

I guess this experience brings me back to the heart of the matter. Nature and our appreciation of it. Screens and technology are distracting us from appreciating this beautiful planet. I urge you to take a moment, consider your usage of screens and instead of flipping on the switch of the computer monitor, go for a walk, do some gardening or lie in the grass outside. This world is a beautiful gift. Technology will only gain momentum. It will never go away... but as I write this, our planet is fading. 

Wondering why I went on a screen "fast"? My original post can be found here:

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May 15, 2011

How Long Could You Go Without Screen Time?

This question was posed at a recent screening that I attended of the fascinating Ground Productions documentary, Play Again by filmmaker Tonje Schei. This film follows several teenagers as they are removed from a life of television, video games and cell phones and are presented with the opportunity to rediscover nature.
The 80 minute viewing was both gripping and immensely disturbing. Many of the statistics in this film are American-based but technology is gaining momentum worldwide. It's a matter of time before these statistics become a world-wide epidemic. Thus, I would like to take a few moments to acknowledge some significant messages I got from this film.  However, I must encourage you to see it for yourself, as I am certain it will have a profound impact on anyone who views it.

The average teenager has 7 1/2 hours a day of screen time.
That is more time spent daily looking at screens and monitors than in school!

Teens spend 5 months of the year in front of screens.
This sedentary behaviour is contributing to childhood obesity and increases in childhood illness and diabetes.

Children recognize more corporate logos than they do common plants in their own backyard. 
Increased screen time directly correlates with a detachment from reality. The interests of children have shifted from playing tag, building forts and climbing trees to playing video games, watching television and texting on their cell phones.

If everyone on the planet lived like the average American, we would need five planets to sustain us. 
The over-consumption of resources is frightening. We need to teach our children and future generations about the irreplaceable value of our beautiful planet.

The current generation is at risk of dying earlier than their parents.
The sedentary behaviour that is taking place in our homes could mean we may never see our children reach life's milestones. Happiness, marriage, longevity, grandchildren... these could become rarities!

Children are losing the ability to recognize emotions from facial expressions.
The current overexposure to false realities could have a grossly negative impact on the social, moral and ethical nature on this as well as future generations. The violence and living an alternate "life" through gaming is desensitizing our children to life, feelings, spirituality, compassion for humanity, and empathy.

Individualized and original play in children is being lost to reenactments of activities seen in movies, television and video games.
One individual in this documentary commented that play is like fingerprints and that no two children play the same way. However, exposure to media is destroying original play.

Environmental degradation is directly related to our detachment from nature.
Why care for something we have no connection to? Why care for the environment or the planet if we rarely connect with the beauty and wonder that nature presents?

One of the most profound messages I received from this documentary was; Television and video games tells us that we are the centre of everything but nature teaches us that we're a very small part of something that's larger. A respect and reverence for the natural beauty that surrounds us is real, it's thought-provoking and inspiring. Without it, what are we?

So, now I ask you and I ask myself... how long could you go without screen time? This week I hope to answer that question. Other than needing to electronically submit my time sheet to my boss, I will be disconnecting.... No screen time. No computer. No television. No video games. No cell phone. I will do this starting tomorrow (Monday) for a week (maximum) and will report back to you on how I did.  

For more information on the Play Again documentary, please visit the official website:
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May 13, 2011

{this moment: cold treat on a hot day}

Inspired by SouleMama

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.

Wishing you a wonderful weekend!

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May 9, 2011

My Best Life: Label Reading


Last Week's Strategy
Last week's strategy was to have more music in my life. Music can be so uplifting and it's such an easy way to boost my spirits. After weeks of driving and cleaning my home in silence, I spent the past week with the tunes cranked! What a mood booster!

This Week's Strategy
I recently became aware of The David Suzuki Foundation's "Dirty Dozen" report (common ingredients and chemicals found in cosmetics). A copy of the report can be found HERE. I was shocked at how toxic these ingredients are! To make matters worse, I became aware of two chemicals on this list that can be found in food products! BHT is a preservative in many cereals and sodium laureth sulfate can be found as a food additive (found in some frozen waffles and products with dried egg whites).

This revelation disgusted me and has motivated me to take the time to read the ingredient labels on everything! I will spend this week getting into the habit of label reading. I will also spend some time researching ingredients in cosmetic products. Skin Deep is a great online database which rates the safety of a variety of products.

As always, your comments and suggestions are greatly appreciated. Wishing you a wonderful week!

Photo Credit
Photo by Kanko found in the Creative Commons on Flickr

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May 7, 2011

On Being A Mom

With Mother's Day around the corner, I felt compelled to share my own views on being a mom. Even though Mother's Day is traditionally viewed as a time to honour the mothers in our lives, I find it's also a wonderful opportunity to reflect on my own personal journey of motherhood.

When I became a mom my life ended and began. The life of me became the life of you.

Before becoming a mom, I thought I loved your dad as much as I possibly could but my love for your dad has grown more than words can describe. Watching his journey as a father has made me fall more madly in love with him.

Goodbye to the days of sleeping in. Hello to the early morning cuddles in the big bed.

Shopping for me turned into buying just one more cute outfit for you.

When I became a mom I discovered that your hurts are magnified a thousandfold for me.

Spontaneity for me has changed from a weekend getaway to a game night for all of us.

My desire to live a long life isn't to accumulate wealth, to travel or to achieve fame... it's to see you live a rich and full life and to celebrate you reaching your milestones.

When I became a mom I learned how love can hurt because every time I look at you I feel like my heart is going to burst.

When I became a mom, I discovered a whole new me. As challenging as it may be at times... the rewards, the love, and the joy of having you in my life has made my life complete.

Happy Mother's Day to all my sisters in motherhood.

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May 6, 2011

{this moment: in the mouth of a lion}

Inspired by SouleMama

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.

Wishing you a wonderful weekend!

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May 5, 2011

Vegan Pancakes

1 comment:
What kid doesn't love pancakes? Having a daughter who's anaphylactic to dairy (as well as allergic to eggs) has motivated me to seek out vegan recipes. I found a great vegan pancake recipe online and I slightly modified it to make it more healthy. Here's the final version for your baking enjoyment.

The Ingredients
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
2 Tbsp ground flax seed
1/4 cup white sugar
1 Tbsp and 1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2-1/2 cups water
2 Tbsp oil

The Process
Sift the flours, sugar, baking powder, flax and salt into a large bowl.
Whisk the water and oil together in a small bowl.
Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, and pour in the wet. Stir just until blended; mixture will be lumpy.  

Heat a lightly oiled griddle over medium-high heat. Drop batter by large spoonfuls onto the griddle, and cook until bubbles form and the edges are dry. Flip, and cook until browned on the other side. Repeat with remaining batter.  

Enjoy your pancakes with vegan margarine and/or pure maple syrup. Or you can try my favourite way to eat pancakes... slather them with peanut butter and then drown them in syrup. YUM!!!

Additional Information
Blueberries can be added to the batter just before spooning the pancakes onto the griddle.

I clean my griddle with a piece of paper towel after every cooked batch of pancakes. I find this keeps the pancakes looking a perfect golden brown.

Make a huge batch of pancakes at once and freeze the extras. These warm up quite quickly in the toaster.

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May 3, 2011

Children's Books That Would Make Any Mom Cry

With Mother's Day around the corner, I thought I would compile a list of preschool picture books that would make any mom cry (and every Mom on Mother's Day needs to shed a few sentimental tears). Perhaps you know a mom who's celebrating her first mother's day... if so, consider giving her a special keepsake picture book.

*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*

Guess How Much I Love You
Guess How Much I Love You is a must-have addition to any library. I just LOVE this book. Once I read it to my daughter, I started saying, "I love you to the moon and back." She usually responds by saying, "... And the stars?"

I remember reading The Giving Tree for the first time to a group of three and four-year-olds. A coworker had scheduled it for group time and I was not familiar with the book. Well, I started bawling near the end of the book and barely finished it. A few of the children went home and told their families I cried at daycare while reading a book. How embarrassing.

Welcome Song for Baby 
Welcome Song for Baby is a beautiful book for the mom of a newborn. Gorgeous photos, text and the sweetest sentiments.
 Someday was written to make any mother bawl as there's no other purpose for it. Remember my words as you read the last few passages through blurry, tear-filled, eyes. This is a must-have, guaranteed tear-jerker.

Love You Forever
Love You Foreveris a classic. How could I not mention it?

Do you have any preschool picture books that make you cry? If so, I would love to hear your recommendations.

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