Sunday, March 1, 2015

Break Up and Move - Part 1

Today is the first of a three-part series called Break Up and Move. But first, let me start with a disclaimer, as I so often do...

The term "break up" is not a bad thing! It does not have to mean a messy ending, a broken heart or a ruined dream. Breaking up doesn't need to be about a relationship at all - if it did, I'd have no reason to be writing about it at all (happily married and loving it!)

But we ALL have some breaking up to do in our lives. I can give you four examples that relate to all of the people in my cute little family.

Calvin, dear Calvin, loves his pop. The sound of a server asking for our beverage order in a restaurant and hearing "water, water, water, water, Coke, water, water" is etched in my mind. But he knows that the stuff is junk and does nothing good for him. He's given up pop for a year before (before we were married) and has done other short stints without it more recently. But, after successfully completing 21 days of only having salad for dinner (okay, okay, we only did 11, but we tried!) he realized that being healthy feels amazing! He decided it was time to break up with pop addiction. It doesn't mean that he'll never order another Coke in a restaurant again, or drink one with friends during band, but it's not going to have a permanent place on our grocery list any longer. You know what the hardest part of this break up was? Finding a replacement! Because we can't just cut something out and think that void won't feel empty. We need to fill the void with something better! We were able to find cans (that come in a 12-pack) of Dasani berry-flavoured sparking water that is carbonated, but have no sugar or artificial sugar. It doesn't taste sweet at all, but it fills that need for a bubbly beverage for him. I'm so happy he was able to break up with pop, and move on to something healthier.

Oliver loves the Power Rangers. He truly believes that he is the Red Ranger. Unfortunately, the downside to this is that he wants to watch the show on Netflix all the time (say goodbye to my bandwidth) and it makes him act more violent. Calvin and I have talked to him at length about how this show makes him act, and that being so addicted to tv makes you lazy and anti-social. He kind of understands. What Oliver needed in order to break up with his desire to watch Power Rangers 24/7 was an alternative. I took the time to really organize his toys into categories -- music, sports, cars, make believe, Dakota's stuff, stuffed animals, art/crafts, books, puzzles, and BUILDING BLOCKS. This was the ticket. Before when all of his toys were scattered about haphazardly it overwhelmed him and he preferred to just be in the comfort zone of the television. With this new organization I can say: Hey Ollie, I'm pulling your blocks out, do you want to build a robot? And he will for hours. In fact, when we went to the library a few days ago he asked the librarian to show him books about Lego. This kind of backfired as I now have to do all of my projects exactly to the book's specifications or else he gets ticked off, but I digress... He was able to cut off, or break up with, that habit and find something new that is so much better!

Dakota recently broke up with two things: sleeping in her parents' bed (hurray!) and relying on her soother. In this case, I think it's just a simple story of growing up. We came home after seeing a movie one night and our babysitter had Dakota sleeping in her crib, which I've never been able to achieve. We went to bed and woke up in the morning at 7:30 a.m. to her still sleeping. It just took trying! The soother was a different story. I literally forget where it was, or that she likes to use one, and three days went by. For Dakota, she didn't need a new habit, she simply broke up and moved on. Now she's an independent one-year-old and doesn't need anything to hold her down!

Lastly, my story! I have a nightly ritual of "going to bed" about an hour before I actually "fall asleep". I get in my yoga pants, take out my contacts, and then just lay there reading Reddit and browsing Tumblr or Instagram. I catch up on the day's blogs from people on my feed, I read my Facebook notifications, check my personal and work email, and by the time I'm done I've wasted so much time. If I'm going to be my best self in the morning, I need this sleep. So I've broken up with my phone habit. Now, when I hit the hay I pull out a book (thanks, library) and read a chapter and then crash. It's a lot easier to pick a place to stop in a book as the chapter ends and you can wait until tomorrow to read what happens next. I can't say I'll never check my phone in bed ever again, but I do feel like I've broken up with the nightly habit and having moved on to a reading ritual is so much better! I'm getting through those books that I've been meaning to, and I love it!

There are always things we can break up with in our life that are bringing us down. Bad eating habits, television habits, sleeping habits... how about a morning routine that doesn't work for you, a job that's going nowhere, a go-to outfit that doesn't make you feel confident, or a friend who drags you down?


I'd love to hear your story about breaking up with something negative and moving on to something positive! To hear more inspiring stories about breaking up with the bad and embracing the good visit www.breakupandmove.ca. Thanks for being a part of this series.

This is a sponsored post.


13 months // 43 month update

You know what the hardest thing is about these updates? Knowing what I've already written about in the last one! I'd really hate to have like 20 of these in a row that say: So, Oliver is super into making inventions right now..

I'll do my best.

As I probably mentioned in the last update, we held a birthday party for Dakota. For her birthday we bought her some new clothes, a bike helmet so that we can go for bike rides (Ollie won't likely fit in my front baby seat this summer, plus he has his own bike to ride) and a new kid-sized couch. The couch has been amazing for movie nights... it unfolds into a bed which fits both kids side by side, so we can put on a Disney move and cuddle them up together. They love it.


One day while my mom was watching the kids, Dakota had a dirty diaper that went pretty rogue. Like, she destroyed every item of her outfit. My mom stripped her down, threw the clothes in the wash, gave her a bath and then did what any sensible grandma would do: she found an old outfit of Oliver's that she used to keep as a backup and put Dakota in it. So here she is in some clothes meant for a 2 year old boy.


Dakota was so precious at church last weekend, she kept singing along and raising her hands. I had to snap a sneaky photo of it!


Oliver is working through a list of "Kindergarden readiness" items that I collected. Before September I'd like him to be able to write his name, recognize his name written out by someone else and be able to spell it outloud. I'd like him to be able to write, recognize and list more letters and numbers. I'd like him to be able to fully get dressed without asking for help, and we need to buy him some velco-closed shoes since all of his are shoelaced. I'd like him to be able to use the bathroom totally unassisted (he can for "pees" but...) and open packages, like granola bars, by himself. I'd like him to feel more comfortable sharing, and listening to instructions, and being okay with it when plans change from what he was expecting. And other things like cutting in a straight line, tracing dotted lines in different patterns, counting objects in front of him, and sorting patterns. Some of this he's already really good at... like this activity we did about sorting jelly bean colours. I wasn't sure if he'd get it right away but lo and behold...
 "What, Mommy? This 'posa be hard?"  You can also see the fishing game we worked on, which was a series of x's and o's with paperclips that he would fish up with a magnet on a string. O's are points and X's are GAME OVER. Every point gets a jelly bean. That's how he earned them, then I made him sort them.


Oliver has been doing incredible in his skating/hockey class. At his age they only offer Parent and Tot lessons, so I (or Cal, or a grandpa) need to be on the ice with him, but he's totally independent and can skate on his own... now. That wasn't the case at first.

We are considering putting him in Timbits next year. Or doing another year of skating lessons. There's a floor hockey program that runs through spring but unfortunately Cal and I are both reluctant to commit to it since it's every Saturday and we both rotate weekends at work.



And lastly, here is our family motto for the month:


Saturday, February 28, 2015

15 reasons why I love A&W -- I'm serious!

I bet you never thought I'd spend a whole post blabbing on about why I love fast food! Well I had you fooled.


I am obsessed with A&W. Everything I learn about them makes me love them more. I'm not a fast food eater, but a few months ago Calvin and I stopped in with the kids halfway through an intense day of shopping and errands. I was smitten from the first moment. They have so many incredible policies that are helping save the planet! Here is just a short list of things that are making me fall in love with them:

  • 1.       Their eggs are sourced through an “Energy and Environmental Awareness Program” that encourages waste-reduction, solar panel use, Bullfrog power, tree planting and preserving land for wildlife!
  • 2.       Their tomatoes are sourced by a similar program that reduces energy consumption by 35% (using special screens that preserve heat), uses rain collection for water needs, utilizes natural pollination and pest management (ladybugs and bees!) and grows in greenhouses to promote land conservation.
  • 3.       Their sweet potato fries are sourced from a farmer who is the first frozen food company to earn LEED Platinum certification, which means it’s a super green building.
  • 4.       The onions they use contribute to a clean energy plan that converts the onion waste (after cutting) into renewable electricity.
  • 5.       They use almost all reusable serveware – if you eat inside any A&W restaurant they’ll serve you on ceramic plates, on a metal tray, with a glass mug and stainless steel cutlery. This choices saves 266,000 lbs of waste from ending up in a landfill, annually. It tastes and looks better too. And don’t get me started on the adorable baskets that the fries and onion rings come in.
  • 6.       If you do take your order to go, the packaging is 70% recycled content and any of the materials made of paper (even waxed) is compostable (that’s why you don’t see any foil bags anymore).
  • 7.       The coffee they serve, which also comes in a reusable mug, is 100% organic but still a reasonable price. And it tastes great.
  • 8.       Recently they did an energy audit on one restaurant in Alberta and figured out a number of way that they’re accidentally using more energy than is needed, so this year they’re rolling out all new energy saving tricks to all 790 A&W’s in Canada. Already, their fryers are high-efficiency and use less oil and half the energy of other fryers.
  • 9.       The paper materials they use (like for coupons and other promos) comes from an eco-friendly supplier in BC that re-purposes sawmill wood chips into paper products. They are entirely carbon neutral. This process also saves water.
  • 10.   They also save water by running a better refrigeration system than other fast food restaurants and by installing eco-friendly dishwashers that use way less chemicals as well. It saves 4 million litres of water annually.
  • 11.   They’re currently implementing national systems to have customers sort their waste (i.e. seperating organics) so that only 10% of “waste” will actually go to the landfill.
  • 12.   They also keep their restaurants incredibly clean without using harsh chemicals. Their staff are totally on the ball with keeping the restaurant tidy, and can I just say: their staff are quite awesome at their jobs. I’ve never seen anyone there without a smile! I don’t know who choses the music but I’ve heard some really good playlists going when I’ve stopped in for lunch.

Friday, February 27, 2015

White chocolate, salted popcorn, toasted marshmallow "rice krispie squares"


This recipe was created about desperation. Oliver found a lovely, heaping bag of marshmallows deep in the recesses of our cupboards, and was very disappointed to find that someone had opened them, taken what was likely one marshmallow, and then thrown them back in the cupboard without properly closing them. They were all rock hard. (There is a great chance this person was me, although I seem to recall the family driving out to Sloan’s Christmas Village on a day I was working a 12-hour shift, and I’m pretty sure they described some s’mores they made there…)
We were flat out of rice krispie cereal so I substituted the next best thing: popcorn! Guess what? It was better than the original. So I got what I wanted: a sweet ‘n salty snack, and Oliver got what he wanted: some freaking marshmallows!

Here’s how we did it…

Ingredients

¼ cup popcorn kernels + 1 T butter + 1 tsp sea salt
¼ cup salted butter
1 small package, minus a few, marshmallows (3 ½ cups roughly)
¼ cup white chocolate chips

Directions

In a medium pot with the lid on, over low heat, warm popcorn kernels in butter until all are popped, shaking often so none burn. Then remove from heat immediately. Pour into a bowl, season with salt, and set aside.
In the same bowl, warm ¼ cup butter over medium-low heat until light brown, immediately lower heat to lowest setting and add in marshmallows. Stir often until marshmallows melt and get toasty, and everything is homogenous. Stir in white chocolate chips and remove from heat.

Working quickly, fold salted popcorn into marshmallow mix, making sure everything is coated nicely. Then press into a greased 8x8” or 9x13” (for shorter squares) dish, using the back of a spoon. Let cool then cut into squares.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Why we can be excited about Ontario's new "sex ed" curriculum

When I originally sat down to write this, my tone was much different. I have felt a wide range of emotions when viewing the arguments for and against Ontario's new Health and Physical Education curriculum, particularly for grades 1 to 8. At times I was decidedly angry that so many parents are opposed to their children receiving information about their bodies at a young age. At times I was genuinely confused why understanding basic concepts like this would be seen as disgusting and perverse. But overall I was hopeful, that our province could be a better place if everyone would take a step back and listen to each other. If both sides of this dispute would lay down their weapons and hear the other out, I think we'd see valid concerns from all parties, as well as benefits from each other's point of views.

If you are frustrated about the current situation I encourage you to read the entire document through and notice the differences between the actual revisions and the information being spread by angry people online. There are massive differences. I'd also love if you could read my thoughts below with an open mind.

I want to come at this from a more positive place. I want everyone to pause and consider what good can come from this curriculum. Information is power! I want my children to learn as much as they can, before they encounter a situation in which a lack of that information would put them in danger. If that means it's learning something earlier than most parents are comfortable, I'd risk it. Here is what we have to be excited about:

Increasing accurate reporting of inappropriate behaviour
When children in grade one learn proper names for body parts, including reproductive ones, this is, first of all, a safety net. Children should know these words by the age of six, or long before. Adding it to a grade one lesson is simply making sure that no child is left behind. Children will be able to tell someone if they are hurt or needing help. I don't see a good reason to hold off teaching proper words. If children, of all ages, can accurately explain things that have happened to them, threats that have been made, or situations that made them feel uncomfortable, it means it can be dealt with. This is also helpful for hygiene.

Decrease feelings of confusion
I think we all can thank the sexual education system for easing the weirdness of puberty when we were growing up. Whether the information we were given was just a reiteration of something we had already learned at home or on the playground, it is undeniably helpful to have a teacher explain what changes a body goes through from infancy to old age. Children will be taught at age nine that the body goes through changes during puberty: this seems like a pretty reasonable age to me. The following year they begin to cover the other changes like thinking you might "like" someone else, as well as dealing with stress and mental health issues. When I read this I just want to yell THANK YOU for helping our children with these huge issues. Receiving mental health information beyond the home, by someone who is equipped with research to deal with the topic is extremely helpful. Having this information can save lives.

Reducing non-consensual activities
I have been teaching my children consent from the moment they were born. This doesn't have to be sexual. If Oliver wants to wrestle with his dad, he asks permission first. If Cal then starts a tickle war with Ollie and he doesn't seem to be appreciating it, it stops. We say "my body, my choice." Oliver even knows to ask before he throws a ball at someone while playing catch. This is of utmost importance in this day and age. This shelters both the person who escapes a situation that they did not whole-heartedly want to be a part of, as well the person who would have otherwise been the culprit of peer pressuring. I want to know that my teaching Dakota that she needs to consider whether she truly wants to do something, and to communicate that verbal "yes", will save her from making regrettable decisions in her future. I want this for Oliver too, but beyond that I want Oliver to be able to save someone from a future regret by knowing to LISTEN for a yes. Being the coercive one can be just as harmful as being the one who wasn't ready. I think children will actually get involved in sexual activities later in life if they're taught that they need to truly think about if they're ready. They're literally taught, word for word: It’s best to wait until you are older to have sex because you need to be emotionally ready.
 
Tackling social media safety
I love that there is material on keeping yourself safe on the internet. It really shows that they've taken into account modern issues that affect our children today. Unless we outright ban our children from the web, they are going to be in situations where they have to make good choices. Telling them about how photos they take can last forever, and be seen by people they weren't intended for, could prevent many embarrassing events. They also teach about the danger of "sexting" and please remember that teaching about the safety concerns of a certain topic does not encourage a child to experiment with it: if that was the case we'd need to remove the current teachings about being safe with electricity. And crossing roads. And running with scissors.

Correcting misconceptions about pregnancy and STIs
In recent studies it shows that teenage pregnancy rates are actually dropping, however rates of sexually transmitted infections is increasing. One reason for this can be lack of information leading to the use of safety measures that only affects pregnancy (i.e. using a condom, or choosing oral and anal sex.)  To clarify, the teacher has no prompt to explain what these acts are, how to do them, nothing. They are simply asked to teach that engaging in different kinds of sexual acts doesn't protect you from STIs. I feel like this deserves another collective: thank you! Modern, relevant information that will help our children avoid tough issues.

Avoiding harmful bullying
I am personally very happy that gender identity is being taught in school. I'm aware that some parents believe that this causes unnecessary questioning from children about what they identify as, but keep in mind that explaining that boys can still do stereotypically "feminine" things and girls can do stereotypically "masculine" things would actually reduce the frequency of children having confusion about what they identify as. If we stick to our conventional beliefs of gender roles, my son Oliver may see his love for makeup and Strawberry Shortcake cartoons as evidence that he is truly a female. This curriculum would show him that he can like whatever he wants! It also opens his friends up to the idea that it's okay for Oliver to like these things, and reduces bullying against him.

I understand that the conservative and religious community, specifically are outraged by all of this. I would consider myself part of both of those communities but if you look at the curriculum yourself you will see that it will benefit our children by providing them with information that they need. I know that these topics are the responsibility of the parents, but we can all agree that not all parents take this responsibility seriously enough. I am excited that my children will be surrounded by peers who also understand all of these fundamental concepts, and who will be less prone to bullying, or being a perpetrator or victim of peer pressure.

I'd love for you to weigh in with your thoughts below!


Monday, February 23, 2015

21 days of salads

Recently Calvin and I decided to challenge ourselves to eating salad for dinner, for 21 days.

We learned that when we are at home eating salad for dinner is a lot easier than eating salad when you are out for dinner. We also learned that we are out for dinner a lot.

Here are the results:

Day 1: chopped kale salad with chicken and cranberries
Day 2: chicken Caesar with bacon
Day 3: taco salad with tomato, avocado and ground beef
Day 4: garden salad with cucumbers and tuna cakes
Day 5: in Toronto
Day 6: just home in time to eat some leftovers & then Cal had hockey
Day 7: salad with grilled steak and chimichurri sauce, goat cheese and red onion
Day 8: Cobb salad with ham and boiled egg
Day 9: cold quinoa salad with avocado and chorizo (this was soooo good!)
Day 10: souvlaki salad (chicken satay, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, feta, tzatiki)
Day 11: Buffalo chicken and romaine salad
Day 12: out
Day 13: out
Day 14: friend came over bearing pizza, couldn't resist
Day 15: out
Day 16: chicken Caesar
Day 17: Buffalo chicken and romaine
Day 18: leftovers
Day 19: out
Day 20: planned to be out but then some of us were sick so stayed home and winged it with what was in the house which ended up being shrimp and grits
Day 21: out in replacement of Day 20

So it looks like we only had 11 days of salad but we tried! And our groceries were glorious -- basically just fresh produce with a few extra items for protein. I had fun!

How would your family do on the 21 day salad challenge?

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Winter Sluggishness Tips


Guys, it's February. But, at least here in Ontario, it's like as FEBRUARY as it gets. It's cold, it's dark, it's damp, it's depressing. I am leaving on a tropical vacation in ONE MONTH and I can't wait.

I have eight tips for battling the winter blues... you know that, sluggish, sad feeling you get when spring is around the corner (it is, right?) and you just feel "blah"?

Try one or more of these:
  1. Exercise: physical activity gives your body a much needed boost by increasing blood flow which carries oxygen and nutrients through your body. In a study, one 20 minute work out on a stationary bike (low intensity) decreased fatigue by 65% in subjects. Try looking at fitness instagram accounts for inspiration.
  2. Get some sun: it's no wonder we feel low, our vitamin D is! Schedule a tropical vacation in the middle of winter, or at least make it a point to spend some time outside during peak hours. There are also special lights available for this exact purpose.
  3. Eat some super foods: anything with essential fats like nuts, seeds, fish and coconut oil will battle the winter blues. Also important: vitamin C, the B's and potassium, so up your intake of fresh fruits and veggies. I know it's not exactly salad season but your brain and emotions will thank you.
  4. Rule out thyroid disorder or other conditions: let your doctor know how you're feeling and see if they can spot any reasons in your blood work. If it's a year round feeling, it's not the winter blues.
  5. Eliminate draining foods: diets heavy in gluten, dairy and sugar can be taxing on your body's energy levels. High intake of alcohol and caffeine do the same. PS Did I actually just try to villanize coffee? Shame on me.
  6. Get tested for food intolerances: one of the biggest symptoms of food intolerance is fatigue! If you'd like a recommendation for someone who can help you with this, I know just the person.
  7. Try yoga or meditation: while it seems counter-intuitive to attempt to relax when you're already tired, quieting your mind can be amazing for awakening your energy. The key is to not fall asleep while doing it!
  8. Try a supplement: the most popular supplements for boosting energy are b-vitamin complex, omega 3-6-9 and co-enzyme Q-10, but even a multi should be a great place to start.
I hope this list will help someone out there turn into a peppy version of themselves!