Tuesday, 30 October 2012

How can we have a Healthier Halloween ?

When it comes to Halloween, I’m pretty sure what it is that kids enjoy most. When I asked my kids “What’s your favourite thing about Halloween?”, they confirmed my suspicions. “Candy!” was their enthusiastic response.

We all know that the power of candy at Halloween is pretty strong. Case in point: the Halloween when I was 7 months pregnant and my middle daughter was about 18-months-old, she was initially pretty terrified about trick-or-treating. In fact, I seem to remember that she didn’t want to go out at all. But we got her dressed up and out went, her 3-year-old sister leading the way. At first, our toddler was very timid about going up the stairs to our neighbours’ houses, and would only go if I was carrying her. But if I recall correctly, it only took two houses and two handfuls of candy to encourage her to do all the other houses of our route on her own!

The whole concept of Halloween seems a little off to me. I know that it’s lots of fun, but it also seems so greedy and gluttonous. I must have bothered me, at least subconsciously, even when I was a child: I actually remember having dream one year in early November in which all the kids were required to go back to all the houses they had visited on Halloween and give back the treats they received!

And ironically, no one really seems to want all that candy anyway. Well, except the kids, of course, but then the parents don’t want them to have it. So everyone buys oodles of candy to dole out to the trick-or-treaters, and then tries to pawn it off on all the kids and families that come to their door so that they won’t have any left. Then the parents go through the trick-or-treat stash that’s been collected and try to get rid of as much as they can to the late-night kids who come to the door, or take it in to the office the next day. And I confess to immediately throwing out all the toffee, gummy candy and gum.

Which leads me to ask: why do we bother?

And as I try to stress healthy eating to my family, and limit their exposure to sugars and treats, Halloween becomes very tricky indeed.

Fortunately, my daughter’s school teacher is on board. Along with the information about the Halloween class party came the request for healthy treats. While this might require a little more resourcefulness or imagination than sending traditional cookies or cupcakes, I give kudos to the school for putting nutrition ahead of sugar.

A little Internet searching turned up a number of great ideas, including these Healthy Halloween Snacks from Spoonful:

I really like the crudités shaped into a skeleton or cat or witch, but since I won’t there to set it up in her classroom for the party, I can’t see how I can make it work.


I also think the frozen banana ghost pops are a great idea, although I’ve read somewhere else about coating them with yogurt instead of chocolate to make them even healthier. But again, I’m not sure how we can manage the frozen treats at a school party.

The jack-o-lantern oranges filled with fruit salad look fantastic too, but I’m a keep-it-simple kind of mom, so we opted for tangerine pumpkin faces drawn on with marker. Plus, my daughter was able to help with this one.

And what about the hand-out for the trick-or-treaters? Having recently read that eating 9 mini chocolate bars equals 875 calories(!), I knew I had to stay away from candy I liked. But I also decided that somehow, I would avoid contributing to the I saw some great ideas for Halloween Candy Alternatives from Canadian Family, and since my daughter is currently obsessed with stickers, sticker books and sticker trading, stickers seemed an obvious choice.

My husband insisted that we also need to give out some sort of food treat. I decided on potato chips. Maybe because I don’t like them too much, I figure that they won’t be consumed 4 to 5 at a time, like chocolate bars. And at least they’re not chockfull of corn syrup and sugar.

I just hope we don’t get egged.

(However, given that Halloween is predicted to be a cold, windy and wet one this year, I think we should be safe from pranks. In fact, I may end up eating little bags of potato chips and filling my daughters’ sticker books for months to come…)

How do you feel about the sugar grab and rush of Halloween? Are you making any changes to make it a little healthier for your kids?

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

A Life Changing Event

Do you ever wish that some kind of monumental event would happen in your life?  Something that would knock you sideways and force you to change the way you live.  Something that requires you to reassess your priorities and really do something about them.  Something that might change your life.

Here's what happened this morning:

In an email from the CEO first thing this morning, it was announced that the company would be reducing and reorganising the workforce, and that each and every department would be affected in some way by these changes. 

What a way to start the day.  

I got that sickening feeling in the pit of my stomach.   Dread.  Worry.  Anxiety.

I started to worry about how much I contribute at work.  How valuable I am to the company.  How often I cram in my work and dash off to care for my kids. 

I thought about all my colleagues in my department and in the organisation as a whole.  Who would be let go?  Who's role is redundant?  Who isn't pulling their weight?  Could I be one of them?

With each ding of email notification, my stomach dropped a little lower.

I couldn't decide if it was a good or not-so-good thing to be working from home today.  Working from home to care for my sick daughter.   Away from all the sadness and tension at the office, but also disconnected from it. 

And what if I was on the list?  Would I get a call at home?  Would they wait until tomorrow?

As I went out to walk the dog, I thought about it a lot.  What would I do if I lost my job?

I wouldn't be a working mom any more.
I wouldn't feel so rushed all the time.  Rushing to get to work, to get my work done, to get errands done and groceries bought, to pick up the kids, to make dinner.
I wouldn't be subjected to the terrible commute by car each day.
I would be able to pursue other goals, ideas, dreams.
I would be able to get some exercise and take care of myself.
I might be happier.

So, maybe losing my job wouldn't be such a bad thing.  Maybe losing my job would be just the kind of monumental event I sometimes fantasize about.  Something that would really shake me out of the day-in, day-out of my average life, and allow me to find and pursue a real passion.  Maybe it would change my life for the better.

I wouldn't have my income.
I would have lost my job.
It would be devastating.
I would be shocked and heart-broken.

Soon after returning from my walk, I got an instant message from my boss.

"Can you call me?  I'm in the conference room."


That sickening feeling suddenly swelled up again.

Breathing steadily, I dialed and spoke cautiously through the hellos and how are yous.

Mercifully, she quickly got to the point.

I'm safe.  I still have my job. 

I'm still a working mom.

My heart goes out to my colleagues who lost their jobs today.

Friday, 19 October 2012

The Wonders of Working from Home

Today was a good day.  I got to work from home.  Here's what I was able to accomplish:
  • Instead of the 45-plus minute communte, I managed to squeeze in a run.
  • On a little break this morning, I tidied up the kitchen, washed some dishes and put the breakfast stuff away.
  • During lunch hour, I made some banana bread and pastry for the quiche for dinner.
  • On an afternoon break, I changed the sheets on all the beds.
  • Instead of fighting traffic on the way home from work, I just walked to the kitchen and made the quiche.
With dinner already made, the stress of rushing home to make dinner was gone. So when picking up the girls from school, instead of gritting my teeth, taking numerous deep breaths and getting angry when they didn't listen, I heard about their days, listened to what they wanted to say and enjoyed their company. 
We ate dinner by 6:30 and had plenty of time to practice reading, read stories, play lego and tidy up the dinner dishes before beginning the bathtime-bedtime routine.

Everything just seemed easier today.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Losing It

I hate it when it happens.  Luckily, it hasn't happened for a while.  But tonight, I lost it. 

I lost my temper.  

My anger had been building up all day.  But there was no good reason for it.

By bedtime, I was tense.  My nerves were frayed, and my non-listening, talking back, whining, make-a-big-deal-out-of-every-little-thing children were getting on every last one of them.

(Hind sight being 20/20 and all, I can appreciate now that they were feeling the same way.  It's a long day for kids too.  I should have just put them to bed.)

Right before turning out the lights for bedtime, (If only I could have held out a few minutes longer...) the unfortunate target for my outburst was my oldest daughter. But of course, all girls were scared by my yelling.

Quickly stepping back from my tirade, I snuggled with all the girls, and apologized for losing my temper.  I tried to explain that it was okay for me to feel angry, but even if I was tired and grumpy, I shouldn't have yelled.  That the way I behaved was wrong and not acceptable.  That even though I was angry and that I yelled, I love them more than anything in the world.

Here's how they reacted:

2.5 y.o. Daughter -  "When you're naughty, you have to go in cave with Spider-Man.  Then you can come out".  Big hug and kiss.

6 y.o. Daughter on hearing what youngest said - Laughed.  "Just try to be nicer next time".  Lots of big hugs and kisses.

4 y.o. Daughter - Fell asleep.

Assuming that we all lose our tempers from time to time, how do you talk about it with your kids?

Monday, 8 October 2012

Giving Thanks

Gratitude the feeling of appreciation within us.
Being thankful is expressing that gratitude to someone.
And thanksgiving is the celebration of everything that we have to be thankful for.

I recently started a Gratitude Journal, hoping that by capturing little things from everyday I can become more appreciative of my busy and challenging but wonderful life.

And today, although it got left until the last minute, I didn't want Thanksgiving to pass without using this space to give thanks to the important people in my life...

I'm grateful to my parents for their unconditional love and support, and for instilling in me the values of hard work and patience.  I'm thankful for the wonderful childhood they gave me, which was filled with so many opportunities to learn and grow.  I truly appreciate the responsibility and independence they taught me, and how they provided me with a model for how to raise my own family.  On a practical note, I'm also thankful for the fun family visits at the big house or cottage, how they get up early with the girls and let me sleep in, and the holidays for the girls when we need help with childcare.

So many thanks are needed for my sister.  I am grateful for all the times she drops by to visit, sometimes with croissants or other goodies, but always ready to jump in and offer us another set of hands.  I am so appreciative of all the times she sticks around until bedtime to help with bathtime and stories, how she occupies the girls with creative crafts and activities, takes them out for walks or library trips or knitting lessons, giving us a break or a chance to get some job done.  I love how she feels comfortable enough in our midst to intervene in sibling squabbles, tantrums, whining, and other episodes of poor behaviour.  Not to mention all the babysitting she has provided for us, offering us the chance to get out some evenings to reconnect as husband and wife, instead of mommy and daddy for awhile.  And the effort she makes to ensure I get out on my own with trips to the movies or shopping.  She helps us out so often and so much, that it is hard to say thank you enough.

For my in-laws, I have so many things to be thankful.  Foremost are the weekly visits which include child care pick-up, dinner, clean-up, dog-walking, and bath- and bedtime assistance.  Every week that they come, I am so grateful for the extra hands, and the extra free time in the evenings that I believe I am noticeably more relaxed, more likely to crack a bad joke, more likely to laugh and enjoy the craziness of dinner time.  And yet, since it happens with such regularity, I fear that my appreciation is not communicated as clearly as it should be.  But I am so grateful.  I am also thankful for their generous financial support, family vacations and the general looking after us that they continually provide.  They are always offering to help looking after the children when they're too sick for school or daycare or when gaps in childcare arise.  And of course, I am also thankful to them for the great job they did in raising their son.

To my husband, I am grateful for his love.   He looks after my mind and my spirit, he makes me laugh, he inspires me to dream, and he encourages me to look after and love myself.  (Although I'm sure he sometimes doubts this,) He keeps me sane. Plus, he bears an enormous responsibility in raising our family.  Women may often feel that they alone do everything for their family. But although I may sometimes feel that our loads are not equally balanced when it comes to chores and responsibilities, I know that I could not do it alone.   He does so much more to support me than can be calculated on a chore chart.  He is a wonderful father, sharing many good values like self-confidence, healthy living and following ones' dreams.  He is fair and stern, but fun and loving.  He lights up our home, and my life.

So, although my life can seem repetitive and challenging on a day-to-day basis, I am truly grateful for  those people in my life who make it not just easier, but also more rewarding and more fun.  I know I don't say it often enough, but thank you.  Thank you every day.

This photo is added with sarcasm.  Although it is totally counter
to the theme of my post, I couldn't resist.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Shampoo, Rinse, Repeat (An average day) - Revised

My first post to this blog was a description of my average day.  Things have changed a bit since then: we no longer have a nanny, the girls to daycare, I've been attempting to gain some control of my days by waking myself up before the girls do, and the girls have become a little more independent while I've become a little less controlling.  

Alas, my Shampoo, Rinse, Repeat needed a revision.

Alarm at 5:34 a.m. playing Christina Aguilera's Beautiful.  Hope that the song will boost my confidence and bolster me for the day before I even open my eyes.  Wonder if it might work subconsciously.  Turn the alarm off before she finishes singing the first phrase, and will myself out of bed.

Creep downstairs, trying to avoid the creaky spots.  Put on the kettle for tea and roll out the yoga mat.  Stretch out my back in an effort to keep it from going out on me again.  (Once I'm convinced that my back can handle it, return to a morning run a couple of times a week.)

Quietly suggest to the dog that it's time for a walk.  Hope that his yawny stretches, body shaking and ear flapping don't wake the children.   Curse the hinges for squeaking as we head out the door.

Try to relax and enjoy the walk instead of feeling frustrated at his numerous stops to sniff and pee.  Convince myself that this is a time for solitude and quiet reflection instead of another time-consuming chore.

Hope that the children are still in bed when we sneak back into the house.

Finish assembling breakfast necessities, packing snacks, water bottles, permission forms, lunch payments, swimwear, indoor shoes etc. into backpacks. Say good morning to the first little person to peek through the banisters on the stairs.


Give good morning hugs and kisses.

Finally drink some of the tea that I made in a travel mug when I first got up but forgot to take with me while walking the dog.

Brush and style daughters' hair with varying levels of resistance while they eat breakfast.  Silently hope that they don't ask for more toast.

Assist the littlest one and supervise the others with getting dressed, brushing teeth, making beds and putting away clothes. Shower quickly with at least one interruption from a daughter asking about something that daddy has already answered. Get dressed and brush teeth while asking children to put the markers away, get their shoes and backpacks and jackets on and/or stop fighting with one another.

Give 'have a good day' hugs and kisses to children and husband while helping to usher them out the door.

Get in car. Hope for an easy drive.  Listen to radio. Drive to office with a wandering mind

Arrive at work. Make more tea and breakfast for self. Work. If workload and timing of office arrival versus time of necessary departure from office permit, dash out at mid-day to quickly run errands or buy groceries. Leave office by 4:40 p.m. in an attempt to beat the worst of the traffic. Hope for an easy drive.  Get home, park the car, walk over to the school to pick up the girls. 

Attempt conversation with my daughters about their days while wrangling them away from the playground.  Coerce them to walk nicely together.  Persuade the littlest that her feet don't hurt and that she isn't too tired to walk the short distance home.  Attempt to discourage children from picking up any more rocks/sticks/leaves/berries.  Inevitably, carry the littlest girl. 

Enter the house.  Say 'yes, you may watch Wild Kratts' while trying to sound reluctant but actually ecstatic for the 30 minutes of (hopefully) relative peace during which I can put away backpacks and shoes, tidy up the kitchen from breakfast, prepare dinner, and possibly sweep the toast crumbs and pet hair off the floor. Feed dog.

Intervene in one or more sibbling squabbles.  Give praise and encouragement for the pictures coloured by at least one daughter who has lost interest in the Wild Kratts and come to the table instead.

Eat dinner. Listen to stories from children, encourage children to eat their meals, ask children to sit properly, clean up spilled milk, and attempt mature conversation with husband.

Bedtime routine.  May or may not involve a bath, depending on day of the week, how dirty they are or what sticky things they have put in their hair. Assist children with getting dressed into pyjamas, brushing teeth, and putting away clothes. Read stories. Sing songs.


Tidy up kitchen. Put away any toys, markers or craft materials left lying around. Move laundry from washer into dryer. Put a load of laundry in the wash. Walk the dog.  Sign permission forms, reading lists and cheques for school programs.

If time and energy permits, attend a yoga class, try to do a self-chosen activity, converse with my husband or watch television while folding laundry.  
Prepare snacks for school.  Organise lunch for tomorrow.

Put laundry into the dryer, and put another load in the wash.

(Ideally, but often left for another day) Put away clothes. Climb into bed. Hope that none of my children pee in their bed tonight. Collapse into sleep.