Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Family Winter Wellness

We are in the thick of it...that dreaded time of the year when most people are sick with something and we all do our best to avoid joining them if we can.  Last year I wrote a piece for Pagan Pages about family winter wellness and I wanted to re-post some of it here with a few additions that I have discovered over the past year.  Feel free to add any tips in the comments that you use with your family to stay healthy (since we can all use all the help we can get!)

The dark phase of the year often brings with it lower immune systems and colds and flus.    I  have become more aware of preventing illness and remembering these tips I’ve assembled is helpful even though they can be hard to put in to practice at times.  Of course if we do get ill we know that it is a message from our body that slowing down and resting is in order. And speaking of rest...

Getting enough sleep is always important but since this is the darker time of the year it seems to be a better time to make that happen for yourself and your kids.   Let your evenings be as calm as possible.  If you can’t make every evening relaxing try and do it at least once a week.  Use candles or dim lighting to keep everyone more introspective.  Have some herbal tea for dessert and read together.  Have blankets on hand for getting cozy under and make sure that bedrooms are refuge-like for everyone.  

Wash those Hands
I know this one is about as basic as you can get but I am constantly amazed by how many people do not wash their hands properly.  The best way to prevent the spreading of illnesses is by washing your hands for at least 20 seconds with regular soap and water.  Many parents have hand sanitizer and wipes in case a sink is not an option before snacks when you are out and about.   You can help encourage your children to wash their hands by making it as fun as possible.  Soaps in fun shapes, colourful towels, and stools to help everyone reach the sink are really helpful.  Singing while washing always helps with my little one.  It will also help you to remember how long they need to wash.  Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star is our favourite standby for hand washing.

Eat immunity boosting foods
Remember to include immune system boosting foods like garlic and ginger in your family’s diet.   We love hummus which  has a healthy dose of garlic, this hot drink recipe looks great (although I would lessen the sugar replacing it with honey or maple syrup and just sweeten to taste)  broths are also great for health; chicken, beef or fish bones boiled down with water.   You can find a recipe here.  Also Mothering has a wonderful article about helping children with the flu that has stuck with me.  So much valuable information!

Colour Therapy
Grey days are hard for everyone but children can have a harder time communicating a feeling of sadness or moodiness that may be brought on by a lack of sunlight exposure.  One way to help that is to have sunny colours around your home for them to feed off of.  A bright wall hanging, throw pillows, making colourful art together and dressing them in sunny coloured clothing for daytime can all help with this often silent problem.

Skin Care
Staying hydrated is key in cold weather just like in the summertime.  Heaters and indoor re-circulated air dry out the skin.  Try using a gentle soap for your young one’s skin and use it sparingly in only the body creases or very dirty areas.  Otherwise use moisturizers and drink lots of fluids to try and keep your skin from drying out or cracking.  Also remember to use sunscreen if out on very bright days with lots of sun reflection.

Fresh Air
Fresh air is good for us and so is natural light.  There may not be much natural light to spare but it is a good practice to get out as much as you can.  The air indoors is never as good for your lungs as that from a brisk walk or an afternoon of outdoor fun.  Opening the windows for even a few minutes can help circulate the stale indoor air.   Light helps keep the winter blues at bay and makes your system function with the natural rhythms of the earth.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

the voice

A conversation that circulated through my group of friends sometimes before, but often after children began entering our lives was about "the voice."  This voice had a certain tone, a certain firmness and usually a look to accompany it.  Often it included your middle name or if you were really in trouble your whole name said slowly and succinctly.   For my friend Heidi Joy it arrived a year or so into her mommy journey but for me I must admit that while I used a firm voice with Ky many times before now I didn't hear "the voice" until just recently.  The first time it came out I was sure I was shouting, it took me by surprise and I stopped short.  But I was heard...there was a response to it.  With the addition of a brother to the scene and around turning 4 Kyan's volume level went up.  Loud voice, loud singing, loud samurai moves, shrieking, impressions, joke telling...it's all loud.  And then you add pulling off your brother's socks, tumbling bear hugs, toy destroying prevention, and a baby who has found his lung capacity and it's really freaking loud.
What did my mama instincts do?  Summoned up the voice.
The let your brother out of that headlock, he can't be a ghost under the blanket, and for the 10th time stop jumping off the couch voice.
For a while I questioned my attachment parenting philosophy and how it aligned with this sound emanating from me.  I asked myself are you sure you aren't yelling, are you sure this is not going to damage your child somehow?  The answer that I have come to many times is that when the chips are down and the top is blowing off your head there must be a game changer.  The voice is that game changer.  It sets the tone, it is a signal.  Definite, clear, succinct.  Heidi Joy calls it dragon mama, but regardless of its name it is from a deep place of parental discipline that all children no matter of culture or creed recognize as the final warning.  Just as our children are growing and evolving everyday we as parents change too.  Adapt or be left in the parenting dust of yesterday so to speak.  Adapt I have. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

dreamers and doers

On a recent evening Dave put on The Strombo Show from January 15th of this year.  George Stroumboulopoulos was talking with a long time friend of his, Bob Mackowycz Jr. about their career paths and how they were such doers that they needed to remind themselves to dream.  They spoke about this at length and with a rather wistful nostalgia for their driven youth in which they worked crazy hours to propel themselves towards their future goals.  They saw themselves as doers; working hard, for long hours and becoming so "good" at living the life that they had created that they needed to make time to dream or challenge if you will, their patterns and habits.  The downside of their doer lives being that they would neglect the more intuitive parts of themselves, too busy to listen to their soul's voices that may be whispering to them.

This struck a cord with me and as George commented that he needed to be more of a dreamer I quipped that I do not have that problem.  In fact for most of my life I had the opposite problem; I was too much of a dreamer and not enough of a doer.  I could say that growing up in a rural area contributed to my dreamer state.  I spent hours in my room as a teenager, listening to music, drawing and imagining scenarios for my life.  Being a dreamer added to my t.v. addiction since I was able to imagine more future possibilities just by the flick of a switch.  I could be this, I could do that, I could meet....you get the drift.  I often tried things and did lots with school and friends but I certainly didn't have a drive to pursue my dreams at all cost.  Instead I waited for some magical day when all these ideas would manifest themselves.  And if there is one thing that I've learned in my 34 years it's that things practically never fall into your lap gift-wrapped and shining.  Instead you have to go and get them, work hard, try, fail, try again.  Push, nag, stop, start again.  In short you have to do it.

Being a dreamer is not bad or good or better.  Likewise with being a doer.  They are just different and can really change the way your life progresses.  An example of this can be found in Marion Fowler's book The Embroidered Tent: Five Gentlewomen in Early Canada.  Fowler describes the difference between Catherine Parr Traill and Susanna Moodie, sisters who both immigrate to Canada from England and make a go of it in the wilderness.  Catherine being the doer learns the trades of a pioneer housewife and deals with her fears and misgivings by mastering all she can control in her surroundings.  Susanna on the other hand is a dreamer, a romantic who revels in the solitude of the wilderness but fails to become a doer in her early attempts.   She struggles with her desire to dream and the expectations placed on her by her circumstances.

That push and pull makes a dreamer struggle in such a doer world.  Dreaming big is important to our souls and has brought many of the greatest inventions and art into this world, but dreaming can also isolate and paralyze.  And if you are mostly a doer you often fail to connect to something internal and bigger than your immediate daily tasks.   Those little ideas that need time to blossom or need to be fed with beauty and time  can be stifled by to-do lists or an over-filled schedule.

How is the balance achieved?  I'm not sure.  The dreamer in me is still a huge part of who I am.  I wouldn't change that despite the things I could have achieved had I been more of a doer.  Being a mom is about constant doing but I struggle in many ways to be more of a doer.  To stop reading blogs, pinning on Pinterest, listening to podcasts and just do, be, live my life.  Be here now.  Dream big, but be here in this moment.  Make more food, make more art, read more books, play more games with the boys.... I better get to the doing.

Oh, and just because I felt it was improper to not include the quintessential dreamer in this post here is a video of my favorite Beatle singing Imagine live.
"...I'm not the only one..." 

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Art of the Month: Memory Keeper 2011

Here we are again, another turn around the sun has brought us to the fourth block of the Memory Keeper Project.  To read up on the past blocks click here.  Since 2011 was a year of bringing another new life to this world for our family I chose another "Birth-Giver" image to symbolize the year.  This is a different variation of the image from the first one that started it all. 

The lotus fabric I used for the background is one that I've loved for ages.  The cream fabric is actually a toile and I quilted a spiral out from the belly.  The four beads are from a Korean prayer bracelet that I've had for many years.  Four beads representing each family member.   I named 2011 "The Childbearing Year" since I had dubbed 2008 the birthing year and didn't want to refer to them with the same name since two very different babies were born in each. 

This project becomes dearer to my heart with each year.  Around the end of November I start thinking about what the next symbol will be and searching for a name to chronicle the waning year.  In many ways this blog acts as my memory keeper too.

As I was taking the photos of this piece the subject arrived to inspect his first art piece.  It was great that I didn't have to worry too much about him handling it; the glory of cloth work (although I did stop him before he drooled all over it)  My little one is so curious and seems to be developing an appreciation for art already.  The symbol for 2012 has revealed itself and is cut out and ready to be attached and embellished.  And so another year begins...

Friday, January 20, 2012

8 & 9

Another combined month review for little Elliott today.  The last two months have ushered in pulling himself up on everything.

four more teeth.  (we are at 7 if anyone is keeping track.)

crawling on hands and knees at break neck speed

and checking out snow for the first time.  Verdict was cold but interesting.  

Sleep was still all over the place, there was tons of baby talk, laughing with his brother and a developing appreciation for knock knock jokes.  He may become the family clown, drummer or cliff diver as well but we are waiting for those traits to distinguish themselves further. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

then comes snow

Winter has officially arrived in the Lower Mainland.  Specifically we have snow and below zero temperatures which for us is cold.   Last year we didn't get any snow so this year has been very exciting for Kyan and he's been making snowballs and crunching down paths to pre-school and telling me all in the same day: "I love the snow" or "I don't like the snow" depending on whether the extra clothing involved in playing in it has been donned or not. 

Keeping warm is my goal these days.  Besides my slippers (which I just noticed are starting to come apart after close to 6 years of use) I've been warming with scarves and tea. 

Our new year routine is moving along nicely.  I'm on week two of the 52 Weeks to an Organized Home Challenge and what I'm gaining from this daily ritual of tiding up is some serious help in those crazy moments.  Being on top of the housework is extremely satisfying when spending so much time indoors.  January is working out so far.  Not bad at all.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

I want to remember...

the spontaneous development of the written word coming from his hands.  Asking about letters, spelling, numbers, time and dates.
Looking at a word I've written as a reference and copying it legibly the first time.  His smile of satisfaction, his sense of pride and accomplishment. 
How this all just arrived without any prompting, coercion or specific training, it just emerged.
It was just time for him to write.  Amazing.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Book of the Month: Money matters

In the gene pool distribution between my siblings and I the universe decided that I was not to get the money smarts.  Cut to the girl who bought a shirt with her $20 that she only wore once, cut to her sister that had a substantial savings account by 15, cut to her brother that usually pays with cash, cut to a 25 year old who suddenly had a light bulb moment and decided that in order to not live hand to mouth she should get a steady J.O.B.  Again, I would like to make clear that my parents were/are excellent with money, as is most of my extended family (many of whom came of age during the Depression and worked really hard to get all they had) but little old me has had to learn the hard way.  Repeatedly.  And becoming a parent has certainly helped me to learn it fully and take notes and get my act together.
Reading Your Money or Your Life: 9 Steps to Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Achieving Financial Independence by Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez has helped me to get a plan, and see money as a tool instead of in such an abstract way.  I still have a brain that balks at numbers, math, and the like (it still boggles my mind when people say they think math is fun...pardon?) But this book does line up with my values.  It is about not living the set dream that North Americans seem to adhere to, you know: big house, two cars, two paychecks, shopping as recreation, consuming to affirm your life choices.  Rather it asks you to work out what you want and make a plan to achieve it being resourceful, thinking outside of the box and being true to yourself, the environment and society as a whole.
We have yet to implement this book since I'm waiting for Dave to read it.  Our financial life is joint just like every other part of being married, so beginning without him on board seems pointless.  But it will get read and we will take the 9 steps it recommends and I have every confidence that this book will provide our map to a financial future that will be positive.
The new year is a great time to take stock and begin again.  Finances are always an area that can use improvement.  If you want to transform your lifestyle to match your values and reach financial independence I would recommend reading this book, it has the tools you'll need. 

Monday, January 9, 2012

so fresh and so clean

Through the fun that is pinterest I found a challenge that over 11,000 people have decided to join.  And for the first time in my search for help in this area I've found a step-by-step organization guide that makes sense to me.  The 52 Weeks to an Organized Home Challenge is following a schedule that I can manage (I think) and I already began week one today.  The kitchen is the starting point and  week one focuses on the counters.  Clearing them of things that don't need to be there and keeping them as clear as possible once you have decided what functions the kitchen serves in your home.  For us the kitchen is about food prep, storage and my mini life control center.
I think for many out there the advice on keeping the kitchen clean or organized may seem so logical that it doesn't need to be noted.  When it comes to my artistic, dreamy and some would say flaky mind these things are not so obvious and bare repeating.
I'm glad to have found this and just looking at my kitchen counters now I see that they are more enticing to me to cook on now that they have less stuff on them.
In other new year news I've finished up two projects and I'm excited to move on to finishing up a few more things before I get back to Ky's quilt and start the Memory Keeper piece for 2012.  Perhaps the New Moon energy would better suit the pace of these days rather than the full moon that shines on us tonight but I'm pleased none-the-less to be getting things accomplished.  2011 often felt like my feet were in mud and I was moving really slow.  Being in the land of baby will do that to anyone I suppose.
I didn't take a before shot of my counters but if you read my last post there is enough proof that this looks way better.


Wednesday, January 4, 2012


The key to my days these past two weeks has been to just breathe...that is when I wasn't coughing.  For someone who rarely gets colds this one that made its way through the whole family decided to linger with me far longer than I've liked.  Since we were so busy with birthdays, Yule and engagement and wedding festivities it has been lingering and has made my days feel oh so disheveled.  And while our home is starting to improve it too is painfully disheveled.

Because of course what our home needs is a complete overhaul.  But I am determined not to subject the boys to constant home time, so we must deal with the mess.  In small increments I'm putting away.  I don't want things thrown about in a desperate dash for perceived order.  Rather I'd like to know that things have a place and that they made it there when my head was as clear as possible so that I remember where they are.  I feel like this entire month will be about slowly getting things moving towards a new normal.  Kyan starts his winter classes next week (pre-school and a sports class) and I'm on a mission to finish several projects from 2011 before taking on my 2012 sewing projects.  The quiet of winter seems to be helping in my healing from the cold, allowing myself a slow pace at organizing and finishing projects one by one.  Lots of tea is helping a lot too.