Forget the Flashcards

To be completely honest, I’m not a fan of flashcards. Interestingly enough, this video came up on my Facebook newsfeed today, because I shared it a year ago (thank you Facebook memories). I find them an inauthentic way to learn, as they aren’t contextual. I truly feel that the best way to learn anything, is in a hands on situation, with real life examples.

We’ve got colour and sight words flashcards because I thought they’d be useful at some point. I was also concerned, at the time, that Little Miss didn’t yet know her colours (or at least many of them). I think she was about two and a half at the time. But you know what? She’s got them down pat now. And it wasn’t because I showed her cards with colours on them, but because we talked about the colours we saw around us on our daily walks. The trees, leaves, flowers, signs – everything. Don’t you think that’s more fun than sitting at the dinner table, discussing what colour the strawberry is that Scooby Doo is holding? (Yes, they were Scooby Doo flashcards…)

I tend to worry, from time to time, that Little Miss doesn’t know this or that. Yet, I tend to forget that she has a remarkable knowledge of animals (she knows what an ostrich is), flowers, and My Little Pony characters. They will learn. We want to learn. Our job to not squelch that curiosity, but to feed it and encourage it. Today, we discussed magnetization, and the difference between The North Pole and the pole firefighters slide down at their stations. Conversations will naturally ensue, as long as you’re open to them.

So, currently I’m watching Little Miss as she learns her letters and numbers. She’s just started learning to play Dutch Blitz with my mom, which I hear has been quite fun. Now, in order to play, she needs to recognize her numbers. She’s been able to count to 10 for a while, and can pretty much get to 20, except for that pesky 15 which doesn’t always make it in there. But, it will come. I just don’t think I need to show her a card with the number 5 on it, versus going to a friend’s house, and finding the 5th floor button. Context has meaning, and dare I say, longevity for learning.

Blessings!

Liz

P.S. Have you ever played Dutch Blitz? It’s a Vonderful Goot game.

Dutch Blitz

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Go Big or Go Gnome

Here’s a little secret you may not know about me: I Love Gnomes. I think they are cute, and fun, and all around fantastic! So, when we were at the library this week, and I happened upon this book, I had to pick it up:

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It is a cute story about Al, the gnome who could not grow a beard, and how he was recognized for what he could do, instead of what he couldn’t.

The illustrations are fantastic, and we’ve read it every night since we picked it up – at her request, to boot! We highly recommend you check it out.

Blessings,

Liz

From Pinterest to Plain – A Birthday Party

Little Miss is turning 4 in a little bit, so we decided to have her first “party”. When I asked her what she would like to do, she said she wanted to go to the playground. Nice! Easy, and right within my budget. However, I must confess I was nervous. In today’s day and age of Pinterest worthy parties (you go, parents!), play places, and video game parties (that can run into the thousands), I felt like it simply wasn’t enough. I felt the need to do more.

Then I read, The Happiest Kids in the World, and I regained some perspective, and drew comfort that I didn’t have to “go big or go home”. We simply stayed home. (Actually, we went to another birthday party earlier on in the year, and my friend similarly kept it simple, and we had a great time, so that was also encouraging).

As I’ve mentioned before, we love reading The Berenstain Bears. We had been reading Too Much Birthday, and we drew some ideas from it.

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We went to the playground, as requested; yes, in Canada in November. We just bundled up, and the weather held out for us. Then we came back and played a few traditional party games. First, we played Pass the Parcel:

Pass the Parcel

Pass the Parcel

Essentially, it’s Hot Potato. I changed it up a little bit by adding a few stickers as a “prize” between each layer, so that everyone got a little something. I wrapped it up in newspaper, because I like to be Earth (and pocketbook) friendly. Next we played Going to Jerusalem, which is the name they gave a variation of Musical Chairs in the Berenstain Bear book. You have a mat (or in our case, a reusable shopping bag) on the floor, and everyone goes around in a circle. If you’re standing on the mat when the music stops, you’re out. The last one standing wins. Lastly, we played Freeze Dance. Dance, and when the music stops, freeze! If you’re caught moving, you’re out. Again, the last person standing, wins. They were simple, and fun.

We also opted to make our own birthday cake, although I was quite tempted to buy an ice cream cake, when I saw that Dairy Queen had them on sale for half price the day before. But, we’d already bought the cake mix (no, we didn’t make it from scratch…), and Little Miss was looking forward to making it. So, although I don’t think I’ll be winning any cake decorating awards, ta da!

Cake

The characters are her toys, so we just utilized them as decorations for the cake (it’s in the shape of a heart). Also, if you plan on making your own cake, I suggest buying 2 containers of icing, or the big one, otherwise you’ll be using chocolate icing to finish it off on an otherwise vanilla cake. It tasted delicious.

Lastly, the favours. I found this part to be the most stressful. I was planning on getting everyone a book (from the Dollarstore) as a thank you. Actually, I liked the idea so much that I had recommended it to other moms whenever the topic came up in my Facebook groups. However, apparently that’s easier said than done. I wasn’t fond of the book choices when we went, so there went that idea. I’m not a fan of stuff just for the sake of stuff, so I wanted something practical. In the end, we had some leather keychains at our store (spoiler: in the clearance section), and a friend of ours put each child’s initial on them in fancy writing. I figured parents could put them on a backpack, or even give their child a house key when they’re a bit older.

So, all in all, we had a great time. If you’re feeling guilty about keeping it simple, don’t. We all have different styles, and one is not more valid than the other. For us, this was right up our alley. I wonder what we’ll do next year…

Blessings!

Liz

P.S. Do you have your child open their gifts during their party, or after once everyone has left?

 

Lest We Forget

This evening, my daughters and I had the privilege of planting Canadian flags on the property of Sunnybrook Hospital here in Toronto.

Remembrance Day 2017

Raise a Flag at Sunnybrook Hospital

This is our third year participating in this project. The goal is to plant 30,000 flags across the grounds, so that on November 11th, Remembrance Day, the veterans at the hospital will wake up to fields of Canadian flags and know that we will remember.

Although we’ve been doing this for a few years, this is the first year that Little Miss has had so many questions about war. Why do we have an army? Why do people fight? Why? Questions that really make you pause, and think.

I happened to have purchased A Poppy is to Remember, by Heather Patterson, way back in my teaching days, so we brought it out this evening to help explain.

poppyposter

Given that Little Miss will soon be turning 4, this was right on her level, and she wanted to read it twice! Although the topic of war is tough, I think it’s important, and possible, to address it on an age appropriate level. Do you have any other suggestions for books about, or related to, Remembrance Day?

Blessings,

Liz

Nests

Fall is upon us! Or, my preferred name – Autumn. I love just about everything about fall – the smell of decaying leaves, the cooler, sweater weather, Pumpkin Spiced Lattes (don’t try the M&M’s, they’re disgusting), and of course, the leaves changing colours. Fall gives us a wonderful opportunity to see the hidden homes of our neighbourhood animals.

Here is a tree that housed both paper wasps (I’ve got an exciting post about them coming up soon!) and a squirrel, right around the corner of our home.

Nest 3

I don’t think it was only me who noticed the numerable wasps in Southern Ontario this year. It felt like they were everywhere! In fact, here’s another nest that’s clearly visible with the changing colours. I know this looks like a photoshopped image, but I assure you, I have no such skill to trick you.

Nest2

And here is a bird’s nest we found on one of our walks, again right in our immediate neighbourhood. It used to look much more pristine, but I think Little Miss has been exploring its components, hence its more disheveled look.

Nest

Fall offers the exciting opportunity to more easily observe animal habitats. With the trees bare, we can observe various types of nests in our area. Squirrels tend to have larger nests (basketball sized, or larger) made of leaves, and are also often closer to the trunk of the tree, to provide additional protection from the elements. Wasps, on the other hand, tend to have their nests on the outer perimeter of the tree, making them easier to spot throughout the year. Perhaps they do that so they’re easier to find and access? Birds nests are harder to see, as they are usually smaller (of course, depending on the bird), and are also closer to the tree’s trunk.

It’s truly fascinating to observe the intricacies that go into how nests are made. One day, I would love to be able to differentiate the different birds’ nests based on the species of bird. One day…

Blessings,

Liz

What’s an “LOL”?

“EEEEE!!! LOLs!!!” screamed two young girls at Toys R Us this evening.

I turned to their mom and said “I have no idea what an LOL is.”

“It drinks and pees,” was the response.

“So, a doll?” I reply.

Yes, a doll. This is what these girls ran up to:LOL Display

I had no idea what they were. I still don’t think it’s particularly clear by their packaging either, but I digress…

So, with Little Miss asleep in the shopping cart (YAY!), I went on my merry way, wondering what the big deal was. However, I assure you that had she not been catching a few winks, she would have gone by these unassuming balls of dolls without so much as a peep. Why? Because she doesn’t know what they are, either.

We don’t watch much TV. We try our best to be a low media household. When we do watch one of her favourite programs (Paw Patrol, Berenstain Bears or My Little Pony), we watch it on Netflix or YouTube. We don’t have cable – we haven’t since we moved into our house 8 years ago. (Psst… We don’t miss it!)

We only watch TV on the laptop through Netflix (I’ll explain in another post why we did away with the iPad – and it’s probably not what you think), and because we don’t have cable, we’ve essentially eliminated advertising directed at her, thankfully.

But Liz, you said you also use YouTube, what about that advertising? When we used the iPad, we had the YouTube kids app, because the world of YouTube is so vast, and parts of it are quite dark. There are so many instances of videos that look like they are for children, but have very disturbing, disgusting context. I implore you to be vigilant when using it! However, since using the laptop, we only have access to the regular YouTube website.

Now, we very seldom use YouTube, and when we do, we sit with her. It’s so easy for the auto play to suck you in to the next video, so we do our best to avoid that black hole and quit while we’re ahead. Because the sea of videos aren’t at her finger taps (see what I did there), she hasn’t seen anything outside of the selected programs we watch together. Although there is some advertising, most of it isn’t necessarily directed towards children (car commercials or cereal), and I can’t think of a time I’ve seen an ad for a toy. Please correct me if I’m wrong, but I think that most of the advertising on YouTube is done through… Those Darn Toy Reveal Videos!!! Dun Dun Duuuuun!!!

Oh my goodness. These are the most ridiculous videos I’ve ever seen. These, and those videos of children playing with toys. One mom commented that she bought her daughter a toy, and before she started playing with it, she went and watched a video of another child playing with it for half an hour first! Oy…

So, how did I research these LOL Dolls? I watched a toy reveal video, naturally (on my own). So, let me tell you a bit about this “hottest toy”. You get a ball (seen on the second shelf). It is wrapped in layers of plastic (garbage). As you peel back the layers, there are papers that reveal “clues” about what doll you have received. As you get closer to the centre, you get 4 bags (more garbage) with a 2 small accessories (think the size of your fingernail), an outfit, and finally, the doll (4 bags, after about 8 layers – plastic, plastic and more plastic). Seems wasteful, and silly, to me. And I’ll be darned if I want a whack of little doll pieces all over my house. Please see exhibit 1, the purpose of our voyage to Toys R Us in the first place:

Rarity

Did I mention we have a dog? Anyway, as I was saying, I have no desire to have little things all over the house, especially with a newly cruising 8 month old crawling around. (I’m SO thankful we missed that whole Shopkin craze). Now, go back up to the first picture for a second. See the big gold globe at the top of the display? That there is an LOL Doll with 50 layers. Five Zero. That’s a lot of garbage. And, 50 dolls and/or accessories! Yee… Haw… And $100. It costs $100. $100!!!

Anyway, if you have ever found yourself with a child who is begging you for an item that you have never heard of, ask yourself how they heard of it. Maybe it was from friends. But, many of these “new crazes” get their footholds through YouTube and cable advertising (Hatchimals!). How many ads are children exposed to? The American Psychological Association states, “it is estimated that advertisers spend more than $12 billion per year to reach the youth market and that children view more than 40,000 commercials each year.” Read the full article here.

Personally, I think it’s important that we limit our children’s exposure to advertising, and encourage them to be content with what they have. We often read The Berenstain Bears books, and one of our favourites is Count Their Blessings, which addresses just that.

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Blessings!

Liz

 

Happy Dutch Kids

My mom is Dutch, so when The Happiest Kids in the World: Bringing up children the Dutch way was recommended on a Scary Mommy blog about raising a “wild child”, I chose to reserve myself a copy, along with all the others on the list.

Happy Dutch Kids

The premise behind the book is that Dutch children continuously rate themselves to be the happiest children in the world. This book delves into the whys and hows these children have found contentment.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It is written by two ex-pat moms who married Dutch men. Seeing as my mom is Dutch, I really enjoyed some of the stories, and felt almost at home reading about Holland in this light. In particular, I appreciated the reassuring comments about being comfortable with being normal (not striving to always be the best at everything). Even my oldest daughter’s beautifully simple birthday party has been inspired by this book (well, it will be when it happens in a couple of weeks).

The authors comment on the need for children to develop independence, and be given the opportunity to do so. Also, not constantly forcing your child ahead of their peers, instead allowing them to grow at their own pace. Remember: you can’t force a flower to open, it will bloom in its own time.

That being said (written?), I didn’t like the portion discussing controlled crying, simply because I don’t agree with it. I’m in no way an advocate of the Cry It Out method, and I am the first to encourage more gentle methods. One of the authors mentions that her sister-in-law (I believe) had her child sleeping through the night by 3 months by allowing him to Cry It Out (CIO). At the very least, children at this age still need nourishment throughout the night, and even proponents of the CIO method  say that it should not be used before 6 months. A new parent could believe that sleeping through the night should be the norm, when it is not, and may become frustrated, along with their child, when they simply aren’t biologically ready to do so.

Lastly, I wasn’t comfortable with the incredibly liberal take on sex (at a Children’s museum in Holland, they have a mock “adult store” section, will a full “display” for older children to peruse), but I know that the Dutch are incredibly liberal, so this didn’t shock me.

So, if you’re looking for a refreshing read on how the Dutch have raised “the happiest children in the world”, and you’re willing to take a step back from the rush of our North American society and critically assess how we might actually do things counter culturally to the benefit of our children, then I think you’d really enjoy this book.

Blessings,

Liz

Swing Low

You’ve read about our beloved experiences with our Forest Playgroup before, and here we go again.

This week, rope swings were of interest. A couple of weeks ago, one of our most adventurous forest friends tied a rope to a fallen tree, and made a rope swing which he thoroughly enjoyed. He learned to tie the appropriate knot, and got to swinging!

Well, since that time, Little Miss had had the opportunity to try out the rope swing at gymnastics. Naturally, she wanted to extend that experience to the forest, so I tied this rope to the tree, and away she went.

Rope Swing

Why is swinging important? Angela Hanscom has this to say in her book, Balanced and Barefoot, “in order to hold on to the rope swing, children must have a strong core, upper body and grip” (Hanscom, 2016), which the majority of children today are lacking.

Now, take a look back at that picture, and do you notice a string on Little Miss’ right side? The one with the stick tied to it? Well, our forest friend, after tying, and trying, his own knot (he forgot the one he learned a couple of weeks back), tied this stick onto his swing, to create a seat for himself. He did this all on his own – and he’s 5!

It is so exciting to watch these children learn together, encourage one another, and have fun. I went back to the head gymnastics coach last week, and told her that at first I thought the rope swing was just for fun. Then I learned that this is an essential part of developing a child’s core strength. Fun and developmentally necessary… who would have thought?

Blessings!

Liz

Mothering Through Mommy Milk

Milk, milkies, boobie, booba, or in our house, Mommy Milk. I love breastfeeding. I’m a huge advocate for breastfeeding. I have been breastfeeding for the last 3 years and 10 months, continuously, and for the last 7 months, tandem feeding. It isn’t always easy, but I count myself blessed that I have been able to offer this to my daughters. I don’t take it for granted. While I was pregnant with my first, I read The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding (authored by La Leche League International), and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to learn more on the topic.

It has made a two hour long flight home, after a busy long weekend, peaceful. It has brought comfort, and nourishment. It has provided antibodies, and greatly reduced illness severity and frequency. And, it has brought two sisters together.

Breastfeeding Sisters

There are MANY benefits of breastfeeding, and this captures a mere 11 of them:

Breastfeeding Benefits

And no, your milk doesn’t lose it’s nutritional value after 6 months, as I so often hear. In fact:

Breastfeeding Toddler

Did you know that the World Health Organization recommends nursing until at least 2 years, and then beyond? Health Canada echoes those sentiments. My intention was to try to nurse until 2 years. Well, lo and behold we both enjoy it so much that we’re still at it at 3 years and 10 months later. I would be lying if I said it was easy. There have been times when I’ve wanted to throw in the nursing pads and give up, but I’m glad I didn’t. At the end of a long day, or when she’s exhausted and nothing else will do, it is so comforting to know that I can be her Fortress of Solitude.

It’s easy, convenient and portable. Here I am at the Brantford Twin Valley Zoo, with Sweetpea (6 months) as she nursed and napped happily.

Breastfeeding

It’s a lollipop. Don’t worry.

I do appreciate that I can nurse on the go, but this monkey brought it to a whole new level. She was nursing while swinging around! Kudos to you, momma!

Breastfeeding Monkey

A nursing monkey momma

And, as I mentioned above, I am currently tandem nursing. This is when you are nourishing, and comforting, 2 children concurrently. You don’t have to feed them at the same time – that can be quite intense, as you can see on this lemur’s face:

Breastfeeding Lemur

And, naturally, I converted the obligatory “Tree of Life” nursing photo.

Breastfeeding Tree of Life

Breastmilk is always the right temperature. It is a living tissue, and is constantly changing. On a hot day, it contains more water, to help keep your little one hydrated. It registers your child’s saliva, and creates antibodies for them when they’re sick. It will naturally make them sleepy, especially at night. It is comforting. It changes its properties as your child ages, to provide what they need as they grow. You can’t overfeed a breastfed baby. Breastfed babies tend to be less picky when they start eating solids, because the taste of your milk changes based on what you eat, so they’re used to varying flavours. It has just the right make up for your baby. It’s not called “liquid gold” for nothing. Oh, and it’s free!

And let’s not forget about mom. It helps contract the uterus after birth. It can help with weight loss. You burn, on average, an additional 500 calories a day while breastfeeding. No wonder you’re so hungry! Your rates of breast cancer decrease significantly. It helps you bond with your baby. There is no prep time, especially in the middle of the night.

Again, these are merely a few of the many benefits of breastfeeding. I want to encourage those who feel like they’re along in their breastfeeding journey. We have decided to practice natural term breastfeeding, meaning that we will end when Little Miss (and eventually, Sweetpea) is ready. She’s “still” getting nourishment, and “still” draws great comfort from her Mommy Milk. And until that time, I will cherish our snuggles, because I think we can all agree that they do grow up quite fast.

Did you nurse your little(s)? What was your experience like?

Blessings!

Liz

The Salmon Run

Today, a friend and I enjoyed watching the Salmon Run here in Toronto, at Charles Sauriol Conservation Area, with our girls.  This is our second year going, and we had a great time. Last year, we were a bit late in the season, and only saw a couple of fish, and plenty of salmon carcasses (a  great science and philosophical lesson). This year, there were more fish fighting their way upstream.

The salmon run is where salmon swim upstream, even jumping up over waterfalls, in order to lay their eggs upstream. You can see them all along the Don River, making their way to the top. A some points, they vigorously swim against the current.

Those white splashes of water are the salmon

In addition to the river, when you first enter the park, there is a large pond, that is home to a beautiful blue heron, ducks and some curious Canadian geese.

There is a beautiful walking trail along the river, but do be careful of the poison ivy! (Thanks Jena!) When our friend pointed it out, Little Miss exclaimed “It’s a good thing I’m wearing stockings!” as she traipsed through it. She did take notice though, and was careful walking along the rocks.

Poison Ivy

Lastly, a friendly grasshopper, that intrigued Little Miss.

If you get a chance, check it out! The salmon run typically runs from mid-September (earlier in other parts of Ontario) to mid-October. The weather does affect the salmon run, and with the ridiculously hot weather last week, it has delayed it.

We plan on going to another location next week, so we’ll see if there are more or less salmon. I hypothesize more.

Blessings,

Liz