Sunday, November 23, 2008

Gingerbread Trivia Question #1

Which would you choose?
1) A good night's sleep for 1 night

2) Dinner prepared - shopping, preparation and clean up - for 3 nights

Post your choice in comments below - I'm definitely curious...

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Lullabye...and good night...

Today, my DD - age 3 - was again helping me fold laundry. We had two basket-fuls splayed across the bed and one of our chihuahuas was sunk in a pillow watching our activity. Both DD & Dog have been slowly establishing a friendly relationship but it is still fraught with occasional turbulence - like DD bugging him while he sleeps and Dog barking at her to leave him alone. Well, despite this new-found camaraderie, DD still has urges to antagonize the dog and a sleeping dog sitting unawares while she is tossing about laundry - er, I mean folding laundry - is just too tempting. She threw a sock at the dog.

To Dog's credit, he actually just opened his eyes and peered at her to ensure there was no further garments heading right at him. I remonstrated DD with a gentle "hey, treat Dog nicely, he's not doing anything to bother you. Now, go get that sock and apologize". DD moved tentatively toward Dog and was fully expecting him to lunge at her in retaliation - instead, he blinked and held her eye contact. DD moved ever so slightly closer and tried to figure out how she was going to retrieve the offensive sock that was draped just behind Dog on the pillow. Dog sighed. DD gingerly stretched out her hand to see if Dog might make a move but promptly withdrew it when Dog moved his tail an inch to the left. DD was nervous... She paused in contemplation then (get this) ... begins to sing "lullabye, and good night..." I can't believe that she came up with that idea. Sing the dog to sleep and then get the sock. Brilliance!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The New "S" Word

by Andriana Mantas of Collaborative Minds

Coping in a stressful world can be tough on all of us, especially children. As our times are changing and we enter a fluctuating economy, adapting to environmental initiatives, and balancing work-time with family-time.
There are many 'stress contributors' that affect each and every one of us in a different manner.

In 1990, my second child who was 4 years old at the time began to blink excessively. Nothing had changed in our lives, but there was something that had changed in our world - 'operation dessert storm' had begun. Even though, the conversations in our home were limited, as was his exposure to any media coverage, he still required more information about this event. We provided him with certain details in order to give him a sense of reassurance that was necessary for him to cope and understand. He didn't want to know about the fighting in the other country; instead he wanted to know how this event would impact his family.

There are many books at the bookstore about stress - one of my favourites, which I often reference, is David Elkind, The Hurried Child, in his book he states that "stress is the wear and tear on our bodies that is produced by the very process of living." Elkind also states that one of the factors that contribute to stress in children's lives is the hurries - to get ready, to go from one place to another, to do well and to grow up. Family disruptions due to death or divorce, health problems, tension and conflict in the home may cause children to develop fear, anxiety and emotional overload, and may contribute to chronic stress.

Children display 'stress signals' that can sometimes go unnoticed and without their own or even our awareness. The more obvious signs are continuous complaints of headaches, tummy aches or neck pain. Nervous habits may become apparent (nail biting, hair twisting, thumb sucking). A child may exhibit a difference in their sleep patterns or excessive energy and trouble relaxing. Subtle signs are a child becomes lethargic, daydreaming and not want to participate in activities. They may also become a little introverted. If you ask your child what's wrong, they may not be able to connect their stress to their actions, or you may have to play detective and look for clues.

So let's look at some 'stress relievers' that can help alleviate the stress for both you and your child. One of the most effective reliefs is to hug your child; this relaxes them and builds self-esteem. It's important to listen to them and when doing so, make a mental note to track changes in moods. Use words of encouragement whenever possible; applaud your child's effort - all of it; help yourself and them to identify their strengths. Be as honest as possible and promote open dialogue for them to express themselves. Insert humour in your daily routine and allow for quiet time, where all you just sit and hang out.

Is stress really the new "s" word?

For more information, please contact Andriana Mantas of Collaborative Minds at 416-803-5321 or

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Jump In

Metaphorically speaking, this is an invitation – listen closely and you’ll hear it…”Jump in, dear reader, jump in”. Children bring an exuberance to our lives that we often ignore. I’m guilty of enticing my daughter outside just this past weekend with intention to rake the leaves into a pile and snap photos of the resulting mayhem. But as I search about for the rake, I begin to collect the toys off the lawn and this leads to gathering up the bigger things for packing away for the season, which leads to sweeping off the deck because, hey – now it’s empty, and this leads to, at most, a push on the swing for my daughter…but no great big leaf pile to blow apart with glee because mommy got too distracted by all the things I-want-to-get-done. Moment lost. We came inside then because we were starting to feel chilly (we’d been outside awhile!) and no leaf pile has been built in or around our home. I feel a little tap on the shoulder from the Guilty-Mommy Fairy and could really work this one into a full self-flagellation. My inner therapist is hard at work to keep me from wandering this road again. I’ve been down it enough since giving birth.

With that said, I think there is merit in reminding ourselves that we do need to pause and really be in the moment. Yes, I have been unusually busy and having even 30 minutes outside to tidy up and prep for the cooler weeks ahead was nice BUT that was not the reason I went outside in the first place! My daughter was quite content to amuse herself and sing songs along with me while we both tottered about outside BUT she would have been over the moon to land kerplunk into a waist high pile of leaves. I believe I lost my ‘moment’ and I implore you to not do the same. It’s what life is made of, these moments that come to mind when we are reflecting on happy times with our kids. When we might have actually created a memory for them to reflect on of their own.

Life is like this – my inner therapist won out in convincing me to not spend gobs of energy in the self-loathing department and rather look for (or create) the next moment to remember. It came today with the washable markers and the bath-time approaching disbursement of clothes. Without great detail, we’ll suffice it to say that it is a hoot to draw happy faces where happy faces are not normally seen and then jump into a mile high bubble bath to wash it all off. Too fun! My daughter was giggling like crazy and so was I and it was not lost on me that she, in fact, jumped into a pile of something – even though it was bubbles…

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Why I'm So Glad I Taught Myself to Knit Again

by Guest Blogger Margot Stevens of A Party Shade of Green

My grandmother was a prolific knitter. In every one of my aunts' and uncles' homes, you will still find her afghans in daily use. In every one of my cousins' keepsake boxes, a sweater knit especially for us. When the local paper in Port Alberni ran a story on her, and how she took in more than 20 foster kids, some of whom I now count as aunts, there are her knitting needles sticking up in the bottom of the photo. She didn't even put them down for the interview.

But like so many things, I didn't treasure her skills until she was gone. I could only remember the knit stitch she taught me, but not how to cast on or off, and without a beginning or an end, I had nowhere to go. So a few years ago I set out to re-teach myself the skill of knitting, and re-connect with my Granny's gift.

I started with The Complete Idiot's Guide to Knitting, which provided a very strong foundation for the skills I have built over the years. From this really excellent book, I re-taught myself to cast on, knit AND purl, how to increase and decrease stitches, the basics of lace and cables, and finally, how to cast off and construct a garment. After completing a few washclothes and scarves, I decided to try some more complicated projects, and learned how to knit lace shawls and mittens at a yarn shop in Kensington Market. I experimented with hats and baby sweaters, and even a stuffed animal or two.

Once I felt that I could produce knitted items nice enough for gifts, I started knitting mitts and scarves for family members, and I finally realized what drove my grandmother to knit. I have found nothing more satisfying than knitting gifts for others, because it is so much more than just buying a gift at the store. I carefully pick the right pattern for them. Then I choose a yarn that I think would suit them. Then as I knit it, I find I spend a lot of time thinking about the person for whom I am knitting, and this is such a wonderful way to spend the little spare time I can find in my day.

One of the most satisfying moments I had was last winter, when my father-in-law told me that he had been out looking for a new scarf, but could not find one that fit his needs. They were all too scratchy, too colourful, too thin, or too short. So together we designed a scarf that was in essence a very long tube, so that it was always double-thick, and it was knit with two strands of a very soft acrylic in a neutral tone. It took me weeks to knit, but once he had it, he wore it every day for the rest of the winter.

I also found, during my first year of motherhood, that knitting brought me some solace when I was afraid I was losing my mind. There is nothing like the exhaustion, overwhelming anxiety and paranoia of being a new mom, in addition to feeling like you've completely lost your identity in your new role and responsibilities. I found that having a simple knitting project that I could pick up in those few quiet moments, or when I needed to focus on something else so that I wouldn't completely lose my mind, was extremely helpful and relaxing.

If you are interested in learning, or re-learning, how to knit, or just want to find some other knitters to share a cup of coffee with, join us in November of Friday mornings at Gingerbread Lane. Starting Friday, Nov.7th, and then for the next 3 Fridays, I will be facilitating a beginner's knitting project class, along with an intermediate knitting motivation.

For more information on Margot's knitting club, launching Friday November 7th, email or call 905-271-2900

Margot is the found of A Party Shade of Green, providing parents with environmentally-friendly alternatives for kids' parties.