“The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

DSC_0431My best green tip?  It’s simple. Be more open-minded.  Being “green” isn’t a movement or a trend.  It’s not about not shaving your armpits and using a rock for deodorant.  Although I suppose it could be.

Being green is an act of social responsibility, being an adult, being a kind human.  It’s our duty to leave this world a better place than when we came into it.

Since my friendship with Carol has blossomed over the years, Carol has pushed me to consider how I live my life and raise my children.  She has encouraged me to be more conscious, more observant and more thoughtful.   She has shown me that’s possible to live a cleaner, calmer, healthier life.  That one size parenting, one size greening, one size simple living doesn’t fit all.  She doesn’t do this with an air of superiority rather she quietly encourages.

The changes that I have made to our day to day may be subtle but they are lasting and the result of thoughtfulness not a fleeting trend.

Theme Week: Favourite Green Tips

“Take care of the earth and she will take care of you.”

This week, in honour of the spring, the re-birth and earth day we share our favourite “green” tips.  We welcome Sara Vartanian, an urban, green mom of two little boys.  

Sara is the founder of Green Moms Collective, where she helps moms to take simple steps to add green living practices into their family’s lives through eco-consulting and workshops. If she’s not on Twitter talking all things green, she can be found wandering the city’s green spaces and farmers markets with her family.

As always we encourage you to join the conversation!  What are some of your green tips?  How have you made simple changes to your life to make it more eco-friendly?    

Favourite Springtime TV Binge: Call The Midwife

imagesI have been down and out with the flu, so forgive me if this post is less than inspired.  I have spent the past week living like a shut-in with hopes of containing this retched bug and smothering it with plenty of rest.

The result of a week confined to bed rest?  TV brain.

I am sure there is no need for me to lament the lack of quality television. The truth of it is even most commercials are painful to watch.  Who waves about a pregnancy stick, laden with URINE, in their friend’s face (husband’s face, okay) while proclaiming that they are 2 weeks pregnant?  I don’t know about you, but I tend to take my friend’s word for it when they tell me they are pregnant.

There are an abundant number of plot lines that focus on trying to get pregnant, looking good while pregnant, being pregnant, birthing babies, surviving baby . . . you’d think that babies were a relatively new phenomenon.

Most of these programs can’t hold my waning attention for more than a few minutes except for the BBC series, currently featured on Netflix, Call The Midwife.

Call The Midwife is based on the memoirs of Jennifer Worth, whom worked as a midwife in the late 1950’s in London’s poorest quarter.  Upon starting work with the nuns of Nonnatus House, Jenny is confronted by the reality of life in the tenements, a far cry from her sheltered middle class childhood: soiled living conditions, infestations, condemned buildings.  With each birth she’s present, Jenny’s pre-existing ideas of love and family are challenged and in time she begins to see the women in her care not as charity cases but as heroines.  These women are raising broods of children, and trying to make the most of their pittance, sometimes while overcome by illness or heartache.

Call The Midwife is a reflection on post-war England, the start of the National Health Service and the changing role of women in society – so much more than getting pregnant/being pregnant/having babies!

I happily devoured the first season while nursing my aches and pains and judging by the response on Twitter, I am not the only one!

 

Fabulous Things For Spring

It’s spring and it’s time to welcome the warmer weather and longer days.  The budding flowers offer encouragement that new life after a long, bleak winter is not only a possibility but also a definite reality.  For many the spring, and these changes, mark a time of re-birth.  Emerging from the heavy clothes and mundane routine of winter, spring offers the perfect time to revitalize all aspects of our lives.  Get outside: enjoy the sunshine, reap the health benefits, get fit!  Pack away the winter coats and gear: purge the closets, donate to those in need, assess what it is your wardrobe really needs (if anything!).

Here’s a list of some treasures and troves that may make your spring just a little bit brighter!

For Her

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Why not update your make-up for spring?  Make Up Forever sent me over their new HD Cream Blush that naturally sculpts and highlights the cheeks.  Easy to apply with just a sweep of a fingertip, this lightweight blush is long lasting and natural looking.  Mae Up Forever has quickly become one of my favourite make up brands.  The colour remains vibrant without fading throughout the day or smudging off. Their new blush is available in 16 shades and is available at Sephora stores across Canada.

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Carol bought me a punchy box of tissues from Ann Taintor but now that the winter has gone by the wayside hopefully so to has my need for tissues but this lip balm would make for a great substitution.  How great is this to gift to your bestie?

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With the warmer weather I notice more and more joggers taking to the streets.  4id Powerbudz sent me their ear buds that light up with movement.  If you’re so inclined to wear earbuds while exercising consider 4 id Powerbudz to help make you more noticeable in the early morning light and at under $15.00 they are worth the investment.

I won a contest for two tickets to the spring One of a Kind Show from The Homeslice (a fun and fabulous blog worth visiting) and as always I enjoyed taking in the sights of the show.  I am never less than amazed by the artisans, their talent and commitment, who make the show truly remarkable.  Here’s a round-up of some of my favourites:

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These gorgeous hand crafted mugs from Mena Dragonfly.

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This incredibly whimsical yet sophisticated dress from Aime.

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Whiteout Workshop was my favourite artist at the show.  I walked away with this (in a dress!) but could have easily taken the entire lot!

For Them

I always seem to be buying lots of baby shower presents.  I found this via The World According to Jessica Claire (new mom of twins!) and think that I may just buy the large one for myself!  I am sucker for Love You Forever and Carlymegan has made it into a blanket!

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And if you are buying for a new baby don’t forget about the big brother/sister too.  Two of my favourites for spring:

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Melissa and Doug sticker faces from here and anywhere they sell Melissa and Doug.

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Mealtime set from The Drake General Store.

Best of the Blogosphere

Grab a cup of coffee and enjoy these goodies!

Did you read Charlotte’s Web as a kid?  It was one of my favourites.  Last year, Letters of Note featured a letter written by E.B. White explaining why he wrote the book.  It’s a delightful letter and made me yearn for the days of typewriters and when the word “dandy” was used with more frequency.

If you’re a child of the 70’s or 80’s you may have been a latch-key kid or if you weren’t a latch-key kid, you were probably a child of the “laid back” parenting generation. Translation: your parents let you play with lawn darts, eat microwavable meals and watch pretty much anything on television. In today’s world people gasp and call child protective services if your toddler has a complete collection of Happy Meal toys, but in the olden days our parents were teaching us basic survival skills, like how to pour your own cereal.  Lady Goo Goo Gaga reminds us that those days are long gone in her blog post Pottery Barn Lunches.   If you are a mom that makes tic-tac-toe sandwiches or cheese into the shape of a daisy, you may be slightly offended.  If you’re like me and think that you’ve packed a killer lunch for the kids if it covers two of the food groups, then read on . . .read on!

This post by comedienne Kelly MacLean about Surviving Whole Foods made the rounds a few months ago but I recently re-read it and I can honestly say that after a good belly laugh about the craziness that is Whole Foods (even though I have only been to Whole Foods once), the gloomy, winter day was a bit brighter.  Best lines:

“Whole Foods is like Vegas.  You go there to feel good but you leave broke, disoriented, and with the newfound knowledge that you have a vaginal disease.”

“You know you’ve really made it in the world when you get Candida.”

And my favourite laugh-out-loud, snort your coffee line:

“I went on a cleanse once; it was a mixed blessing.  On the one hand, I detoxified, I purified, I lost weight.  On the other hand, I fell asleep on the highway, fantasized about eating a pigeon, and crapped my pants.  I think I’ll stick with the whole eating thing.”

In the age of post-baby bikini bodies gracing the cover of every tabloid that line the grocery store check-out stand, it’s refreshing to see what a post-baby body really looks like for the majority of women.  Photographer, Ashlee Wells Jackson, documents several women in their 4th trimester for her intimate and evocative 4th Trimester Bodies Project.

The Truth about the Rainbow Loom by Kim Bongiorno for In the Powder Room had me thinking one thing: F’ing right!

I have spent years and years and years and spilled countless tears trying to get my husband to understand how to be there for me.  When I saw this video by Katy Davis and Dr. Brene Brown, I emailed it to him and do you want to know what he said?  Thank you, I get it now.

He said that he get’s it!

And the Heavens rejoiced.

And if you live somewhere that hasn’t experienced this ghastly winter, watch this video by Rick Mercer for a taste of what we’ve experienced.  I would like to say that it’s an exaggeration, but honestly he’s not that far off the truth.  Hang in there East Coasters!

The Ultimate Children’s Health Reference Book

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Since the advent of Google, I have determined that I have a brain tumor, melanoma, viral pneumonia, seasonal affective disorder, and fifth’s disease.  Don’t even get me started on what ailments I have projected onto my kids.  Admit it, we are all guilty of self-diagnosing.  We think that we’re doctors never mind the years of schooling and practical experience under the tutelage of a mentor that we lack.  With the exception of the fifth’s disease I have been, shockingly, wrong with my doctoring (the jury is still out on the SAD).

Step away from the keyboard and pick up, The A to Z of Children’s Health: A parent’s guide from birth to 10 years.  It is without a doubt the best resource a parent can have at their fingertips. It’s a comprehensive guide written by Dr. Jeremy Friedman and Dr. Natasha Saunders of the world-renowned Hospital For Sick Children.

More than 235 childhood conditions and illnesses are arranged alphabetically and described clearly and concisely with full colour illustrations. The advice offered is practical and current, nothing superfluous or condescending.

In the past two months I have used The A to Z of Children’s Health more than any other parenting resource.  That’s either a rousing endorsement of its usefulness or a dismal reflection on the health and well-being of my family.

How to treat an ingrown toenail?  Is this a cough that I should be worried about?  What is the difference between primary enuresis (bed-wetting) and secondary enuresis?

All of these questions are answered.

Do you remember when you were new to this parenting thing, and you were more invested in your baby’s poo than you’d ever imagined was possible?  Well, they answer all of those questions too and pictures of the various types of diaper rashes accompany at-home treatments and explanations.

It’s rare that I come across a reference book I feel is worth spending money on but The A to Z of Children’s Health is the exception.  So much do I like it, I plan on adding it to my go-to list of gifts for first time parents.

A Dream Trip: a visit to the past

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The summer after I graduated from university and my brother from high school, my parents realizing that a time of transition like this would likely never be repeated, took us on a three week family trip to Greece.

In the early 1950’s my grandparents emigrated from southern Greece to Toronto.  It is a typical immigrant story: leaving behind family and familiarity, with an infant in arms and a few coins in pocket, to escape a war-ravaged country for peace and opportunity.

Returning to Greece with my father, a first generation Greek-Canadian, and my grandparents proved to be a homecoming of sorts.  My grandmother proudly pointed out significant places of interest.  Interest to me, but nothing you’d find in a guidebook.

There was the church my grandparents were married, the rustic four-walls that housed them their first few years as newlyweds and the dirt-floor kitchen where my grandmother spent her childhood. There was the main street that was once lined with German soldiers and the fields abundant with food that proved crucial for their survival in the years after the war when famine devastated the entire country, killing hundreds of thousands.  Elderly men and women carefully navigated their porch steps to greet my grandparents and share stories from yesteryear.

But most welcoming was seeing my last name, nothing close to common in Toronto, on storefronts!  Butcher shops!

The trip was magical.  Sharing their early lives with me proved to be more revealing than I could have imagined.  My grandmother’s bossiness, unfaltering persistence coupled with her strong sense of family no longer seemed exasperating but formidable.  My grandfather’s shy, quiet demeanour was no sign of indifference but rather a testament to him being both assiduous and kind.

There was a sense of clarity after that trip.  I had a better sense of where I’d come from and who my family really was.

I will forever fondly remember that trip and spending time with my parents, my brother and grandparents.  Before life changed forever and jobs, weddings and children wove into the fabric of our family.  Before life itself ended for my grandfather.

My dream trip would be take my boys to Greece with their grandparents to learn about their family, experience their culture, be surrounded by their history and if nothing else, share a special moment in time with their grandparents.

 

image via pinterest

What’s In My Bag? A Whole Lot!

IMG_4279I love my over-sized tote, mostly because I am toting lots around at any given time.  Since it’s March break, my bag is looking a little empty.  There are usually a pair of ballerina flats tucked in for when I volunteer at the boys’ school, art work, notices, mail, snacks . . . and who knows what else?  Some times I surprise even myself.  Notably absent though, is a book/magazine.  I always carry around something to read but since we were stuck at home all day yesterday due to another snowstorm (yes, another!), I raided my bag for the latest issue of O magazine – one of my faves.

So what’s inside?

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1.    Flashcards with the grade 1 Dolch words for my SK son (a great time waster while we wait to pick up his older brother).

2.    My sunnies, for the days when the temperature drops to negative one hundred but it’s deceptively sunny outside.

3.    A USB stick, it’s surprising how often this has come in handy.

4.     Gloves that I am hoping to get rid of any time now.

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5.    An empty container and spoon that usually holds granola for my mid-morning snack.  I love this brand.

6.    Wet wipes.  I have kids, enough said.

7.    Epi-pen.  I never leave home without it.

8.   My purse within my purse so I don’t always have to carry everything with me.

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9.   Hand cream, essential for surviving a Polar Vortex.

10. Hair clips, an attempt to tame my mane.

11.  Three lipsticks  – a nude, a gloss and a fiery red and a lip balm.

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12.  My keys, a pen, ear buds and cough candies.

13. My exercise program alongside coupons for a fast food joint.  How’s that for two sides of a pancake?

IMG_4283PS – Where’s my phone you may ask?  I usually keep it in my coat pocket to avoid searching this bottomless pit!

 

Top Tips for Travelling With Kids

From Beth-Anne:

2fa7adcc8bcd97392cbaed01a38020b7For car trips, listening to music can grow tiresome.  Car BINGO is a great distraction and helps to make the time pass by.  This travel card is from iheartorganizing.blogspot.com, it’s also available here.

I absolutely loathe feeling like an in-flight air host when we are taking a road trip with the kids.  Our boys are growing up (faster than I thought!) so this tip comes to me a bit late, but it’s perfect for young families.  Repurposing a shoe bag organizer hung on the back of the front car seats serves as a simple organizer for everything your kids need on a road trip.  7b5c2132a54082331e56c520cff1cc29

Air travel or car travel, it doesn’t matter – always, always have Ziploc baggies on hand.  They are multi-purpose.  From housing small toys, art supplies and a change of clothing to the mother of vomit bags.  Trust me.

From Nathalie:

My mother-in-law is an old hand at long drives.  My husband and his four brothers drove 18 hours each summer out to the family cottage on the east coast.  That’s a lot of time in a car with five boys.  My mother-in-law made the trip special for them by delivering a treat every hour, on the hour.  Something small, like a comic book, a candy, a puzzle or a toy.  I’ve added that tip to our travel tool kit now that we do the annual drive out east.  Here are some of the things I’ve included: window markers, to draw on the car windows; harmonicas, because sometimes you just have to embrace the crazy; action figures, which then become part of the toy collection at the cottage; and invisible ink books, a relic from my husband’s childhood.

Really, though, I have to say that there is no substitute for Devices on long trips.  I limit screen time at home, but on long drives, the kids can watch as many movies as they want.  Here is our haul of devices from our trip to England last summer.  Tools of the modern traveling family…

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From Carol:

My goodness, Nathalie, that’s quite the photo.

Oh, am I on?  Ah yes.  Onto my tips.  My tips for travelling.  Yes, travelling tips… which I should have all lined up because I’m just about to leave on a 10 day trip with my family.

Except that I don’t, at least not anything practical that you haven’t thought of yourself.  My tips are a bit more philosophical…

1.  Keep your kids’ expectations low.  I almost never remember to bring along activity books, gadgets or toys for the boys to play with while travelling or even to a restaurant.  It can be a good idea, and I may try to execute this for our upcoming trip now that Beth-Anne and Nathalie have reminded me of the merits.  But my kids are used to being without entertainment (except for music and parental merriment) in the car for a few hours.  It’s usually fine.  (I’d try harder for a longer car trip, but then again, I’d try to avoid a longer car trip.)

2.  Keep your eyes trained on fellow travellers who are kind towards child travellers and their parents, especially on planes.  Berate and then forgive yourself for being the other sort in your pre-parent days.  Help your children to behave well and be respectful of others, but take little notice of the people who seem peeved just to have a little person in their midst.  I’ve met so many lovely and understanding people on my travels with children, that this isn’t hard to do.

Bon Voyage!

 

 

Living with Epilepsy

ref=sr_1_1March is finally here.  March is the month for re-birth.  The clocks spring forward, the days grow longer and the promise of warmer weather does not seem so far-fetched.

March is also Epilepsy Awareness month.  This year those words are not simply words written at the top of my calendar page.  This March marks 6 months since my youngest son was diagnosed with epilepsy shortly after his second birthday.

It was a harrowing several months for our family.  Unsure what was the cause of the seizures my toddler visited various doctors and underwent many specialized tests including an EEG and an MRI.  Most terrifying was the thought that my son had a brain tumor or a debilitating congenital disease so when the diagnosis of Epilepsy (Complex partial seizures) was handed down, the relief that I felt was unlike anything that I have ever known.

Despite the fact that more than 300,000 Canadians live with epilepsy, myths, misconceptions and stigmas still abound.

  • Epilepsy is a physical condition characterized by sudden, brief changes in how the brain works.  It is a symptom of a neurological disorder.
  • Each day in Canada an average of 42 people will learn that they have epilepsy.
  • It’s physically impossible to swallow your tongue, so don’t try to force something into someone’s mouth who is having a seizure.  You could cause them more harm.
  • The medication that exists today helps people with epilepsy live full lives but it is important to note that it is not a cure.  The medication acts like a goalie and will not be able to stop all seizures from manifesting.  Unfortunately for some people, medication does not work at controlling their seizures.

If you know someone who has a child that has been recently diagnosed with epilepsy, might I offer a few suggestions?

  • Moms are a crazy bunch.  Their fears kick into overdrive even though some of them are unfounded.  Don’t tell them to calm down, instead listen to their fears and be a shoulder to cry on.
  • Don’t suggest that it’s “no big deal” and go to list all of the people you know with epilepsy living full lives.
  • Don’t say, “It’s not so bad”.  You’re right, it is not so bad, but it will take some time for the family to adjust to their new normal.  As with any change, it will take time (and possibly a few tears).

I have found several resources to be helpful for our family.

Epilepsy Canada (this is where all of the facts for this post were found)

Mommy, I Feel Funny!  A Child’s Experience with EpilepsyDanielle M. Rocheford (author) and Chris Herrick (illustrator)

Growing Up with Epilepsy: A Practical Guide For Parents Lynn Bennett Blackburn, PhD.

Epilepsy: 199 Answers: A Doctor Responds to His Patients’ QuestionsAndrew N. Wilner

Seizures and Epilepsy in Childhood:  A Guide for Parents, 3rd Edition – John M. Freeman, MD, Eileen P.G. Vining,MD, & Diana J. Pillas