Thursday, June 27, 2013

With Glowing Hearts we Pass the Torch

Every summer we head to the cottage as many weekends as possible.  It is a place to gather, to spend time unplugged, to re-connect with family and enjoy the outdoors.  The cottage is the glue that holds the family together.

With Glowing Hearts we Pass the Torch - Preparing our kids for the future.

Throughout the summer we spend endless hours in the water; swimming, boating, floating, squirting, racing, water-skiing, windsurfing, etc.  But for all that fun to occur we have to get the cottage ready in the late spring/early summer.

Because of all the water sports my family enjoys, the ritual of putting in the docks is of course the most important.  For the last 25 years or so that job has landed on my husband and his brother.  The one thing about putting the docks in place is that you want it done BEFORE the big trips to the cottage begin for the summer.  That means COLD water.

With Glowing Hearts we Pass the Torch - Preparing our kids for the future.

This year the kids wanted to join in on the fun and get their hands dirty (well, wet at least).  Now you know as well as I do, a child's idea of 'helping' can sometimes make the task more challenging and take longer.  With the water SO cold (the first time I can EVER remember the guys donning wet suits) I wasn't sure how much 'help' they were going to be.  I began to picture my husband's teeth chattering and his lips going blue as he patiently waited for the kids to 'help'.

With Glowing Hearts we Pass the Torch - Preparing our kids for the future.
But the kids jumped in full speed and by lifting the back of the docks together, they were actually very helpful.  Frigid water wasn't going to get in their way, in fact they even took a dip to celebrate their success.

With Glowing Hearts we Pass the Torch - Preparing our kids for the future.


There is a special pride in contributing and taking care of a place that means so much to us all, the kids felt that this weekend.  In giving them small tasks we are teaching them skills, respect for the property, and showing them that just like in all of life, there is work to be done before we can play.  In essence we are preparing the next generation to eventually take responsibility for our family cottage.

While they still won't be able to do many of these job themselves for a few years, the torch is slowly being passed and well all feel good about what that means for special family gathering place in the future.

A special thank you to my amazing sister-in-law for these photos!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Our Generation of Girls are Growing Up

Some kids love their stuffed animals, some kids love a blanket, my daughter has loved dolls since she was a baby. She is naturally maternal and has pushed around a doll in a stroller since she could walk.

As she's grown she's wanted her dolls to grow too. She wanted a doll that was just like her; a girl who goes to school, plays sports, and dreams of a career in the future. That is why we were excited when we were introduced to the Our Generation line of dolls. These 18" dolls are little girls, not babies.

Our Generation Dolls - 18" Dolls for older girls.

Each Our Generation doll comes with their own identity, their own special interests and their own story.  Through these stories and their website, Our Generation is working to empower young girls, to teach them values, promote community, and encourage environmentalism. Sound like a tall order for a doll?

We have three dolls in our home; Sydney Lee, Jenny and Ashley Rose.  Both Sydney Lee and Ashley Rose came as deluxe sets with a chapter book as well as accessories or another outfit that you can interchange between the dolls.  Some dolls are sold just by themselves.  They are the same quality but a bit less expensive which opens them up to an even wider group of girls.  A good thing in my books.  They are readily found at Target stores in Canada and the USA which also makes them easy to find and buy.

Our Generation Dolls - 18" Little Girl Dolls


One of my daughter's favourite things to do with her dolls is to play school, often pretending that the dolls are her students.  The Let's Hang - Clip on Chair allows her attach her doll to the table or desk so they can work along side of her.  It also has a constant presence at our dinner table.  The dolls are her kids which means they eat with the family. We did encounter a problem with one table that was too thick to accommodate the chair but it fit most others with no problem.

Our Generation Dolls - Let's Hang Clip on Chair


The thing I love most about Our Generation dolls and accessories are that they allow my daughter to express her creativity.  She is constantly figuring out new outfits for them and she and her friends regularly get together with their dolls and creating elaborate games.  She even re-purposed the Clip on Chair as an extra seat on her doll stroller to allow her 'older child' to ride along with the younger babies in the stroller.

Our Generation Dolls - Let's Hang Clip on Chair


She takes her dolls everywhere.  They go with us on holiday, to soccer games, to dance class and the cottage.  When we traveled south in February there were a lot of girls coveting the Doll Carrier my daughter proudly wore through the airport.  It was perfect because not only did it protect her doll, it also has pockets to hold an extra outfit or two, some of which I've made and some of which we've purchased from the vast selection of Our Generation outfits in stores.

Our Generation Dolls - Going My Way Carrier


While I will admit that most of the time my daughter is just focused on playing with her dolls, I don't think the eco-friendly packaging, the moral behind the stories, or the real life examples of philanthropy are being lost on her. She loves visiting the OG website to read about real girls who are making a difference in the world and I hope she will be inspired to think of the impact she can have on the world around her.

So, back to my earlier question about the ideals behind the Our Generation line of dolls being a tall order.  I think that any time we can try to empower our kids, teach them that differences make us special and to shoot for the stars we're doing something good.  Encouraging kids to get out from behind a screen and use their imagination is a great start in itself.  Will every girl get the message?  Nope.  But even if a few do, just think how much better the world will be.

While the Battat Company graciously provided the doll and clip on chair for review, the other Our Generation products shown are my own.  I have purchased many Our Generation dolls and accessories for my daughter and as gifts.  The opinions and personal images are my own. For more information on the Our Generation line of products, visit Battat Co.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Patriotic Canada Day Snacks

This Canada Day get patriotic with this simple snack (or dessert) that you can whip up in no time but fully conveys how much you love your country.  These are perfect for a backyard BBQ, a pot-luck dinner or just as a surprise for the kids.



You can use any red fruit for these but raspberries are likely to fall apart so I'd steer clear of those.  I found that strawberries and watermelon were my best bets.   By alternating with red fruit, a white marshmallow, a red piece of fruit, another marshmallow and more red fruit you achieve the same pattern as the Canadian Flag.

Alternative: Try substituting pieces of pound-cake for the marshmallows if you are making these for an older crowd.  Think of it as Strawberry Shortcake on a Stick.

Grab the kids and get them involved in making your snacks.  They love sliding the fruit and marshmallows on the skewers. I'd suggest having a little extra fruit on hand if the kids are helping.  There always seem to be a few swipers in my bunch.  Getting the kids involved is perfect, they can make dessert while you are working on another part of dinner for your Canada Day celebration!

Note:  We made a whole bunch of these as our soccer snack last week.  I added in pineapple to increase the fruit content.  They were perfect because each child grabbed a stick and had their whole snack contained.  No more dirty fingers touching all the food.  No more sugary snacks that don't refresh. The kids loved them.  The marshmallows made them feel like a treat but the fruit was the real star of the show.

Happy Canada Day!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Canada Flag Friendship Pins

Remember friendship pins?  I have vivid memories of buying beads and safety pins then spending recess together with my friends creating new patterns and sharing our friendship pins.  Our shoes must have weighed a ton with all those beads decorating them.

This Canada Day teach the kids an old craft and give it a patriotic spin.  These friendship pins form a Canadian flag that they can wear proudly.


Materials Needed:


  • 15 Safety Pins (standard size)
  • 1 Extra Large Safety Pin or large paperclip
  • Small Red Beads
  • Small White Beads
  • Pattern
Click the image above to download a PDF version


Instructions:


  1. Follow the pattern below to create your flag.
  2. Loop each friendship pin over your laces (or velcro) in order to create a flag.
  3. Once you have them all in place, use your large safety pin or paper clip to string them all together so they hang perfectly all the time. *Note: I folded the paperclip underneath so you never even see it.


Make extras and share them with friends and family.  Happy Canada Day!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Thumb, Thumb, Finger, Hand{print} Canadian Flag

This is a great craft for the little ones because it takes very little skill and provides you with a cherished keepsake you can keep up all year or pull out every Canada Day as they get older.


Materials Needed:


  • Tempera Paint - red
  • Plain canvas 
  • Painter's Tape
  • Disposable Pie Plate or other vessel for the paint


* If you can't find an inexpensive canvas (I got mine at the dollar store) then you can do this craft on a sheet of white paper and frame it with an inexpensive frame to protect it for years to come.



Instructions:


  1. Use the painter's tape to mark off the two vertical spaces at the left and right of the canvas that you want to be painted red by your child.
  2. Have your child use their finger tips to fill in the bulk of the tow vertical spaces you created.  
  3. When the spaces are complete, remove the painter's tape.
  4. Help your child dip their entire hand into the red paint.
  5. Carefully press their hand down in the middle of the white space left in the middle to form the 'maple leaf'.
  6. When it is dry, if your child can write, have them sign their name and date on the corner.  Otherwise you can do it for them.

Hang your flag in a place of honor.  Happy Canada Day!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Canada Flag Windsocks

With Canada Day just around the corner it is a great excuse to get crafting with the kids.  These windsocks are perfect hung from a tree our even the deck.  Show off your Canadian pride with some windsocks hanging at home and at the cottage.



Materials Needed:


  • Tin Cans - cleaned
  • Spray Paint or Craft Paint - red and white
  • Cardboard or wax paper for template
  • Ribbon - red and white
  • Craft Glue or Glue Gun
  • Twine or other string
  • Hammer
  • Nail
  • pencil (optional)
  • scissors


Instructions:


  1. Using the hammer and nail, poke two holes into the top of the can.
  2. Paint the can either red or white.  Let it dry.
  3. Using the opposite colour paint, paint a maple leaf in the centre of the can.  Let it dry.
  4. Meanwhile, cut lengths of red and white ribbon approximately 24 cm long each.
  5. Cut a length of twine approximately 2 feet long (or double the length you need it to be for hanging in your desired location).
  6. When the paint is dry, feed the twine through the two holes on the top of the can.  Pull them through the opening and tie them together in a knot.  It will be hidden in the can.
  7. Using glue, attach ribbons to the bottom of the can alternating between red and white.
  8. Hang your windsock proudly!
*You can see in the bottom row of the photo above that for step #3 we created a template for our maple leaf.  We used Elmer's adhesive to keep our template in place.  As long as you don't leave it too long, it can be removed and re-used.

Think the kids will have trouble painting a maple leaf?  Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Create a stencil that you can stick to the can and have them dab on the paint then remove the stencil.
  2. Pre-draw a maple leaf for them and have the kids fill it in with paint.
  3. Find a small maple leaf from a tree and use it like a stamp. 
  4. Hand them a bunch of maple leaf stickers and let them go to town.  They may not hold up as well in the long run but they'll look great on Canada Day!
Happy Canada Day!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Hair Guides, Make-up Maps - Oh My! - It's Recital Time

I'm not sure about you but the thought of a makeup map and hair guide scared the heck out me.  My daughter had her first ever dance recital last night.  Prior to the event we were given a few pieces of paper that outlined exactly how their hair and makeup should be done.  Now, as I mentioned a few days ago, I have been feeling a little overwhelmed lately so I tossed said instructions in her ballet bag and didn't give them a thought again until the night before her performance.



Yikes - sheer panic set in.  I wear mascara religiously but outside of that I might throw on a bit of blush and on a fancy day some lipstick.  I have NO idea how to apply eye shadow or worse yet, eye liner.  I know nothing about the crease of the eye, the contour of a cheek..  I've always thought it would be great to get a makeup lesson but there is no time now.  I even have a whole board on Pinterest dedicated to the craft but that doesn't mean I've had the chance to try them.

Lucky for me (well, really it is lucky for my daughter) I remembered that my neighbour is a makeup artist.  At the mere mention of this my daughter was begging to go next door to ask if she would help us out. Yippee, she said 'yes'!  Another crisis averted.



It took about 30 minutes to put on her face and pull her freshly cut short hair into a bun using hair extensions bought at the dollar store and a bun donut to add fullness.  I think it would have taken me about an hour to do the same on my own and I promise you the results would not have been nearly as pretty.

Proud of my bun of fake hair.


While the end of her dance year was a little rocky (long story) and we weren't sure we were even going to make it to the recital, I was a proud Mama watching her light up on the stage.  She had a magical night and felt like a prima ballerina.  Just goes to prove, sometimes you just need to ask for some help.



PS - my husband almost had a heart attack seeing his baby girl so made up.  Do dads ever want their little girls to grow up?  Probably not.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Overwhelmed... and Making it Look Easy

It was almost ironic that last week I was given the honor of being named one of Savvy Mom's Most Influential Canadian Bloggers.  While I was absolutely honored I definitely didn't feel that I was living up to the moniker of "Best at Making Having Kids Look Easy".

How life sometimes sounds and looks...not this month though!


The truth is that for the last few weeks I have been feeling overwhelmed, under productive (on the blog front), guilty and behind the 8 ball in all aspects of my life.  Best at making having kids look easy? It must have been smoke and mirrors my friends.

Everything began to get a bit out of control a month ago. I have never been one to sign my kids up for too many activities but suddenly we seemed to be going in a million directions.  Timing is definitely playing a part in my feeling of being over scheduled.  Many of our spring activities have not yet finished but some of our summer sports are already beginning.  Add to that school sports that started up again and I wanted to roll up into the fetal position and hide, our schedule seemed out of control.

To top things off my daughter's eardrum has perforated without any warning twice in the last 2 1/2 weeks.  So now we've added doctor's appointments, missed days at work and medication schedules to the list.  Poor little thing obviously  has an amazing threshold for pain.   I thought it was a stalling tactic at bedtime as she had just been doing cartwheels for the last hour with a friend, was fine at swimming and school.  I quickly kiboshed her complaints about having a sore ear and sent her back to bed saying we'd see how it was in the morning and call the doctor if necessary. There were no tears and she went back to bed.  The next morning she got up and it looked as though she had poured extra-pulp orange juice through her hair.  It was matted to her face.  Yup, her eardrum had perforated.  I pretty much knew right then that I was NOT winning the mom of the year award this year.

Add to my stress that the freak storm on May 28th, you know the one that closed 6 lanes of the DVP, caused a leak in our basement.  At first we thought it was just the unfinished storage area.  The advice we'd been given was to wait it out because there had never been any water before and it was such a heavy storm.  It meant a day of clearing everything out and drying the space.  We spent a full weekend of cleaning, purging, organizing and putting the things we kept back into the space, albeit away from the walls.  Crisis averted right?

That's what we thought but on that weekend we noticed a funny smell.  My husband's nose traced it to the finished part of our basement in front of our fireplace.  There was no doubt about it, the carpet was wet.  As we investigated further we realised that it was quite a large wet spot.  So, we pulled up the carpet and under-pad to get them out of the house.  The sub-floor was soaking too.  I'm scared to death of mold so I wanted that out too.  Bless him, my hubby spent a full day cutting it up and physically pulling it apart.  What he failed to consider until it was too late was that sawdust is messy.  Yup, we hadn't covered anything so I spent the better part of a full day vacuuming, dusting, washing, mopping, every surface, toy, wall, floor in the space.  This just led to more appointments, now with waterproofing specialists.  My mind is swimming.  We now have all the kids toys in our living room.  Yup, it is chaotic around here.

So, making it look easy is a true compliment but let's get real folks, being a parent is hard and sometimes life just gets in the way of the best laid plans.  I don't want to give off the illusion that it is all rosie here all the time.  I'm a mom just like you and I have my stellar moments but I also have moments I'd rather forget.  So if you're wondering why I've been MIA these past two weeks you now have a better idea.  I'm getting things back on track and let's face it, waterproofing and re-finishing our basement might just provide some great content.  Thanks for all your support!

Friday, June 7, 2013

What's Your Favourite? A Telling Question

A few weeks ago we were driving home from dinner at the grandparents' when one of the kids in the backseat piped up with "Let's play 'What's your favourite?'".  I quickly learned that this was a simple game that involves one of us coming up with a question then the rest of us simply providing our answers.  It was great, it passed the time in the car and kept everyone busy.



The questions can be about anything and we really have touched on as many topics as you can imagine.  As long as we follow the pattern of "What's your favourite?" then anything is fair game.  I've learned that by having the kids explain their answers I end up learning a lot more about them, my husband and maybe even myself.

Now the kids like to play it at dinner.  I have to admit that at first I was hesitant to play while we eat.  I like our dinner conversations.  I like to hear what happened in each person's day.  I was worried that we'd lose this but now I realise that this simple game has provided me insight into my kids that I might never have gained if we had just kept to our normal routine.



For example, when my son asked "What is your favourite tree that gives fruit?" I was expecting to hear 'apple' or maybe 'peach'.  I wasn't expecting my son's answer 'Truffula Trees', which in hindsight I should have expected as he is a HUGE Seuss fan.  My daughter's answer to "What is your favourite TV character?" was also well thought out.  Her answer; "Laura Ingalls Wilder because she she is a good role model for me because she was good at school and became a teacher."

I still limit the number or rounds we have at a dinner to 3.  That means we answer 12 questions in total as we each get to ask one question per round.  I still want to hear a little bit about what went on at school.

I highly suggest you try a game of "What's your favourite?" with your kids.   It is a great conversation starter and I promise you that their answers will be more than the typical 'fine' you get when you ask "how was school?"

Monday, June 3, 2013

A Blissful "Yoga" Birthday - Namaste

Last year we hosted a yoga party for my daughter's birthday.  It wasn't exactly the quiet meditative environment I had imagined but the kids thought it was fantastic and the party was a huge success.



Her big day falls in December which makes it a bit difficult to host home parties because everyone has to be inside and let's face it, like many people we don't have a huge house.  This party could easily be replicated in your backyard or basement if you had the space and the weather was nice.

I opted to host her party at a local yoga studio which definitely had its benefits but definitely isn't essential.  They had mats for each girl, a parachute, and  most importantly, an instructor.  That made my job even easier; show up with kids, ice cream (she doesn't do cake - weird, I know) and loot bags.



Our instructor was amazing with the kids.  She had great ideas to get them focused and excited about yoga.  She took them through some basic poses.  She challenged them as well.  Best of all, she had them pretending to be animals, trees, and even storytelling through their movements.  She captured their attention.



While I went in expecting it to be like a yoga class that I've attended (peaceful, quiet, meditative) the instructor and kids had a different idea.  They laughed more than I could have imagined and thoroughly enjoyed trying to contort their bodies into the different themes thrown at them.  They particularly loved the partnered poses.

How I envisioned the yoga party

The reality of 7 year olds doing yoga

As you can see by my daughter's face, the party was a huge success.  I was happy that the kids learned some new yoga poses, they were active for an hour and they all had a great time.


In keeping with the theme of the party I wanted to give one good loot bag item.  I looked at giving each child their own yoga mat to take home but the cost was too high for this mama.  Instead I found a yoga DVD through Scholastic that fit my budget and would continue the yoga theme at home.  Everyone was thrilled to receive it.



I hope you've been inspired to give a yoga party a try.  How can you go wrong when you end the party by saying "Namaste" which simply means "we are all special"? What a great message to send your guests off with.

Resources for Hosting a Yoga Party at Home:


  • The ABC's of Yoga is a great book to give you simple poses aimed for kids.  They also have a fun poster.
  • Rainbow Kids Yoga is a great resource.  They have games, story ideas, movements, etc.
  • Yoga In My School also has a great list of poses (some with videos) to get you started.
  • The Yoga Kids provides some fun partner ideas as well as good instruction on technique.

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