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

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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

Go Home and Learn (About Camouflage)

This morning, we went on our morning walk. It was a somewhat typical September morning, other than the fact that it’s been in the high 20s (Celcius) the last few days, which is unusual for Toronto at this time of year. As we walked along, we came across this little guy:

He’s a leaf insect! At first, I thought it was an ant, carrying a leaf. The insect’s colour was so vibrant! It was quite beautiful. It even had veins to accentuate his “leafy-ness”. This nifty creature then sparked a discussion on camouflage, naturally.

As we were talking, our neighbour was walking by, and said “hello”. As typically happens lately, he asked Little Miss if she was starting school next year (our walks tend to happen mid morning, during school). I commented that we were homeschooling (she would have technically started school this year), and we continued our conversation about the housing market in our area. As we ended our conversation, he turned to Little Miss and told her that she had better “go home and learn”.

I thought it was a little funny. Here we were, outside in God’s creation, learning about camouflage, colours, and construction equipment (they’re doing work on our street), but he thought learning only happened at home. Learning happens everywhere! If we simply keep our eyes open, there are many opportunities to learn naturally, and dare I say it, more meaningfully.

Perhaps we’ll pick up a book at the library that discusses camouflage. Maybe we’ll take a field trip to the local pet store, and see what the chameleons are up to. Or, maybe we’ll simply look for more instances of camouflage, as they come up naturally, in our day to day lives. However, we won’t be working on a worksheet about it. Nor will I make Little Miss create a science fair project, that requires 5 examples of camouflage, while she dresses in military camo gear. If she chooses to dress up, and cover herself in mud, then so be it (and probably more likely than less, actually…), but I want to avoid forcing the subject. I don’t want to crush her natural curiosity by over extending our natural lesson.

I want to encourage you to look for opportunities to learn naturally, because they are everywhere. And I firmly believe that naturally occurring learning is more meaningful, and will have more staying power, than preconceived unit studies.

What have you learned lately?

Blessings!

Jillian Jiggs

“Jillian, Jillian, Jillian Jiggs! It looks like your room has been lived in by pigs!”

“Later, I promise. As soon as I’m through,  I’ll clean up my room. I promise I do.”

For my 5th birthday, my parent’s coworkers bought me this book:

Jillian Jiggs by Phoebe Gilman

They all signed the inside cover, and I now read that book with my daughters, nearly 30 years later.

I have always enjoyed Jillian Jiggs. Her imagination runs wild, as her make believe play continuously evolves into something fresh and exciting. There are 5 Jillian Jiggs stories, and they are all fabulously written, and illustrated with remarkable detail and creativity. I highly recommend them.

Blessings!

Her Journey Stick

As I may have mentioned before, we are part of a Forest School Playgroup. We meet once a week, year round, in the forest. We have a beautiful creek that the children can explore, as well as fallen trees that are great for climbing. So, if you happen to see photos of us in the forest, they are likely from our playgroup.

One of the leaders brought yarn last week, so the children could make Journey Sticks. My mom had told me about them a few months ago, so I was eager to see if Little Miss was interested in making one. The purpose of the Journey Stick is to attach items you find along your journey – a collection of sorts – to a stick of your choice. Here is hers:

She chose flowers, weeds, leaves, and grass, because she felt they were beautiful. Some children decided to attach acorns, while others wanted a rock – creativity was needed to attach those items.

A journey stick is a fun way to have a momento from the forest. However, please be aware of your impact on your surroundings. This is not an activity we do every week, nor do we regularly pick items from the forest. Some flowers are protected in Ontario (like the Trillium), and if you pick them, you can face hefty fines. We generally take the approach of take nothing but photos, leave nothing but footprints, but occasionally, we create something from the forest. We try to be as hands on as possible, while also minimizing our impact as much as we can.

Blessings!

What Letter Is That?

Yesterday was our “first day of school”. Although, for us, it was no different than any other day. We opted to spend the day with friends visiting Riverdale Farm, in downtown Toronto, and we made a pit stop at the bank.

On our way downtown, Little Miss (who we just turned around from rear facing in her car seat, but that’s another topic for another post) saw this logo on the back of a trailer:

“What letter is that, Mommy?” she asked.

“Oh, that’s not a letter. It’s a logo, which is a picture for a company. But it is made up of 2 letters smooshed together,” I replied.

Little Miss, 3.5, doesn’t know all of her letters yet. She knows some, but not all. But she did recognize that this one was somewhat familiar.

They’re always learning, aren’t they?

Blessings.

Solar Eclipse 2017

On August 21, we here in Southern Ontario had the opportunity to witness a solar eclipse, like most of North America. Well, part of one at least – we received 67% coverage. Not one to shy away from an experience such as this, we did not hide inside for the day. We spoke about the risks of looking at the sun early that morning, and we created a viewer using a piece of cardboard (everywhere was sold out of eclipse viewing glasses, plus I’m pretty thrifty. i.e. cheap). We simply took a piece of cardboard, and poked a hole in the middle of it. I realized quickly that we needed a solid colour surface in order to see anything, so I grabbed a shelf my parents had inside, and used that.

Little Miss watching the moon partially cover the sun

It was really neat watching the sun’s crescent grow smaller. We didn’t experience darkness, per se, but the best I could describe it is the world looked a brown/tan colour at its peak.

A few minutes prior to its peak.

 

The peak of the eclipse – 67% coverage

We did notice a brief drop in temperature (maybe 2-3 degrees Celcius), as well as increased winds. Little Miss did not look up at the sun, even though she knew what was going on. Truthfully, she wasn’t incredibly interested for more than a short period of time. Earlier that morning, we watched a brief video (about a minute or 2) about what happens when there is a solar eclipse. Interestingly, she inquired as to why there was pink around the moon. This was a great opportunity to discuss solar flares, which we expanded on. Another friend’s daughter asked about sun spots when they discussed the eclipse, and yet another friend’s family investigated why the eye’s pupil dilates, and how that is affected during an eclipse. All of these children are between 3-6 years old. I love how curiosity can take many different forms, and lead you down such varying paths.

Then this happened:

Can you make your broom stand on end?

While I was scrolling through Facebook that afternoon, I came across a post that read:

“Do you have a broom? When you get a chance try standing a broom up in the middle of the room. Only on eclipse day will a broom stand straight on its own perfectly straight. Let me know if it works for you…”

Well, naturally, I grabbed my broom, and lo and behold, it stood!

Fortunately for you, you don’t have to wait for the next solar eclipse, nor the next equinox (August 21st was the vernal equinox, so that was another explanation proposed). It actually has nothing to do with planetary alignment. Rather, it’s due to the broom’s mass distribution. But, give it a go none the less. It’s fun to leave a broom standing on end for the next person to find 😉

Blessings!

Snap Chat Continued…

A couple of days ago, I posted about our snapdragon experience. I shared some photos of orange snapdragons, and their explosive fun. Well, we went back down to the ravine yesterday, and came across these pink and purple snapdragons:

Pink Snapdragons

You’ll notice that the seed pod (the green “bean” in the top middle of the photo) is significantly different from the orange snap dragon, being larger and shiny. The leaves are also quite different (jagged, as opposed to the smooth edges of the orange variety). The large pods are also harder to pop, and you really need to wait until they are quite engorged. But, when they’re ready, brace yourself, because there is also a much larger “pop”! So much fun!

Another significant difference was the seeds:

Snapdragon Seeds

Can you guess which seeds belong to which plant? The orange snapdragon had 2-4 seeds, on average, per pod, whereas the pink and purple snapdragons had 10+! It was a really neat experience to note the differences among the species of plant, as well as practice our math skills of counting and addition. Learning happens everywhere!

Blessings!

P.S. The seed answer is: Left, pink and purple. Right, orange. We collected the seeds and will be planting them in the spring. I really hope they come up in our backyard.