If you're looking to share a laugh with a friend, swap parenting survival tactics and generally feel affirmed that, yes, you're doing fine, then you're in the right place. Welcome!

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Sometimes It's Just Hard To Sit Still: Dinner + Little Kids

What is reasonable to expect of little kids at the extended-family dinner? For my four boys, a favourite activity is sliding off their chairs and disappearing under the table briefly, only to suddenly reappear on their seats again. Sitting across from them, they look like a pack of gophers popping in and out of their burrows.

NOT what dinner looks like at our house!

Due to this tendency, I usually allow my boys to leave the table between courses, so that they can play, away from the eating and conversing adults. Last year, my laxity produced a few critical comments from grandparents and some great-uncles and aunts: "They need to learn to sit still and eat together as a family!"

I certainly agree: kids can --and should-- learn to participate appropriately in various social scenarios, including siting for the duration of a meal, waiting to be served and enjoying conversation with others. However, I also think we adults need to be realistic about how and when that will happen.

At the time of the above story, my four boys were aged six and under. Let's put on the perspective of, say, a very normal four-year old boy and see the typical extended-family dinner through his eyes:

Mom said two minutes until I get food. That's forever! My tummy's sooo hungry, I'm not sure I can... Oh, good! She putting food on my plate.... Huh? What's this stuff? This doesn't look like what we normally have for dinner. What's that mushy brown thing? I don't think I want to eat that...

I really want a piece of that pie Mom and I made together. So yummy! It's my favourite. When's dessert coming?

Arrrgh, Uncle Somebody is asking me a bunch of questions. Things about school... I don't remember --I haven't been to school for days and days! Why doesn't he ask me about something cool, like the new truck I got? Wait, did I leave it in the other room? I can hardly wait to play with Cousin Jay with it... Is it time for dessert yet?

Seriously, can you say this is a four-year-old's ideal fun-time? So, yes, let's help our children learn the rules of social gatherings and the art of conversation. But, for heaven's sake, let's be realistic and do it in such a way that takes into account who our kids are and where they're at. Relax, all you relatives! They'll get there.

(PS -- For any of you who might be counting, yes, I've been away for several months. What can I say? Family life got overwhelming, and I decided to take my own advice and be Realistic about what I could manage. Now that I'm back, my aim is to post once per month --hey, still trying to be Realistic-- with breaks at busy times. Thanks for keeping on reading!)

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Realistic Self-Care: My New Pair of Pants

BTW, these aren't the pants I bought...

Today, I dared to take a pair of "regular person" (i.e. non-maternity) pants into a retail store change room. I'll admit I was nervous, because my experience has been that, even if I manage to shimmy them over my hips, my baby-induced extra weight and blown abdominals defy the closure of any zipper or buttons.

But, today, I am triumphant. Today, for the first time in over four years, a pair of off-the-rack pants fit me! Never mind that said pants are double what used to be my usual size; I bought them anyway. They are a symbol of my progress to-date.

When I originally began my baby-weight-loss journey, I told myself I wouldn't buy any new clothes in my plus-size. This pledge was both a cost-saving measure (why buy something when you're planning on it not fitting you in the near future?) and meant to provide extra incentive to stay focused on my end goal.

Or at least, so I figured.

Various people told me that positive self-perception would boost my commitment to losing weight, but I figured my practical side would wrestle my vanity into submission. Turns out, a little vanity is practical! Truth is, I make better choices to take care of myself when I feel good about my appearance: I'm more inclined to grab an apple than a chocolate bar, more motivated to head to the gym once again, willing to resist late-night urges to snack.

Whatever the psychology, when we feel good about our appearance, we work to keep feeling our best.

I'm not suggesting that every time we hit a stage of appreciable change in our transformative journey we should blow the bank on a new wardrobe. I bought two pair of very affordable pants, one that fits me right now and one that I can just zip up without slicing myself in half. That second pair of pants I am able to wear immediately, but they remind me that I mustn't slack off in my efforts, that the journey has yet to be completed.

So, if there's an (affordable) item that would celebrate your intermediate accomplishment and help you feel a little more chic or "together," then maybe you should get it! Over the course of a long haul, we all need some encouragement...

(On a related note, there are lots of "weight-loss journey" writers out in the blogosphere, many of them with people still part way along the journey and not using professional air-brushed photos of themselves --just very real. If knowing others are journeying too will help, check some of them out...) 

How about you? What keeps you going when you're in the midst of a lengthy work-in-progress? 

Thursday, 10 October 2013

My Fav Low-Fat Pumpkin Pie Recipe

I'm aiming to bring a couple of pumpkin pies to the extended family Thanksgiving dinner this weekend (ask me next week if they actually got made...). If your family is like mine, then pie is the only item I can count on my kids eating at Thanksgiving. So, I like to make mine as healthy as possible, y'know, relatively speaking.

I've had really good success working off the Best Light Pumpkin Pie recipe at FoodandHealth.com, but with a few changes:

Low Fat Pumpkin Pie Recipe

16 ginger snap cookies
2 tsp oil
water as needed
16 oz pureed pumpkin (2 cups)
1/2 cup egg whites (that's about 3 eggs-worth)
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cup 2% or no-fat evaporated milk
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp each nutmeg and ginger
1/4 tsp cloves

  1. Grind or crush the ginger snaps. Mix with the oil and enough water to moisten (not wet) and press evenly onto the bottom and sides of a pie plate. (I use either an 8" or 9" pie plate, depending on what's clean.)
  2. Mix remaining ingredients together. (Adjust the sugar and spices, if you like, according to your family's taste.) Pour into crust.
  3. Bake at 350 C for appx 45 min, or until centre of pie is set and knife inserted into middle comes out clean.
  4. Refrigerate. Enjoy!
If you like extra spice, try mixing in some chopped candied ginger or some ginger jam with the filling before baking. Yum!

Do you have a healthy pie recipe you love? Share it with us!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

A Clean Green Round-up: The Four Green Cleaning Products You Really Need

In an earlier post, I shared some tips on how to approach spring cleaning, Realistic-Mummy-style. An additional aspect of this is limiting the complexity of the job, namely simplifying your cleaning arsenal!

I find it boggling that there seems to be a separate product available for nearly every conceivable domestic cleaning job, in addition to the "general purpose" cleaner. At last count, I figured I'm supposed to truck in at least four different bottles of stuff for each room I tackle, plus find space to store the myriad of bottles when they're off-duty.

If you're looking to simplify, here are the basic tools that also work wonders in a variety of situations:

1. good-quality vegetable-based soap
I'm talking about some simple dishwashing liquid soap. It's amazing what some hot water with a little soap will clean. Almost everything! Walls, countertops, floors... It's the first thing I usually reach for.

What I use:
I've tried a lot of different dish soaps and found they are not all created equal. Citrasolv has impressed me with its long-lasting, hard-working suds.

Citrasolv dish soap

2. soap-scum removing antiseptic cleaner
In the bathroom, something to cut through soap scum is helpful. Look for a cleaner with some antiseptic properties as well --tea tree oil or orange essence are common ones. (And, if your bathtub works as hard as ours, a synthetic scrubbing pad or nylon brush in addition to the cleaner are unbeatable in removing that tenacious grime residue!)

What I use:
Nature Clean's Tile & Bath Cleaner for everything in the bathroom --tub, sink, toilet, faucets.
Nature Clean tile & bath

3. vinegar
Yep, plain ol' household vinegar is a great multi-purpose cleaner, especially for glass and mirrors. A lot cheaper than commercial glass cleaner, it also doesn't release toxic chemicals into your home. The secret of getting (virtually) streak-free glass? Use a small amount of vinegar and rub vigorously with lots of scrunched newspaper. 

4. water
I spritz a little water on a soft clean rag, just enough to dampen it, and use it for dusting. This has worked reliably for me, safely dusting even my grandmother's antique dining room sideboard!

(Okay, I lied; here's a fifth one:) 
5. laundry detergent
For cleaning clothes, we use a single, unscented vegetable-based detergent for everything: baby clothes, fine washables, darks, lights, etc. Got stains? Pour a little detergent directly on the stain, rub in and let sit for a few minutes; then wash in the hottest temperature water the fabric can take.

And, truly, skip the fabric softener and dryer sheets --for the cost and extra step, they don't add anything useful (plus, the conventional ones are purely nasty chemicals).

What I use:

Bio-Vert laundry detergent

With lots of companies offering green cleaners, it seems that part of our reluctance to banish noxious chemical cleaners is based on our fixation with pseudo-perfection. Let's just lay that burden down, sisters and brothers! (A few streaks on your mirror? Really, who cares?)

Plus, I've noticed that in our city, most large supermarkets now carry some natural cleaners, so they're even easier to get ahold of. Excuses, your time is up!

(That said, do read the label before buying a new brand... just 'cuz it says "green" on the package, doesn't mean it is "green"!)

How about you? What products are your best performers?

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Cargo bike: The No-Car Family Mover

With the arrival of good weather a lot of us start thinking about bike riding. My partner and I love peddling around, but after we went from one kid directly to three when our twins were born, I found I was out on my bike virtually never, as both of us needed to be available.

What to do for the urban mummy on the go with more than two kids?

The answer came via friends with three young children and no car: a cargo bike! I had not known these genius contraptions even existed, but apparently they're common in Europe.

Essentially, a cargo bike is a bicycle with an extended platform between the handlebars and the front wheel, making room for a cargo bin, flat hauler skid or numerous configurations of people seats. Online, I found styles that accommodate two, three or four kids, sometimes even with additional cargo space!

My interest peaked, our friends generously offered to loan it to us for two weeks. With my four kids (then aged one, almost three, almost three, and five) I took several trips with the bike, including to local parks and across town on a day trip.

What a blast! The kids loved it, and cars generously shared the road with us (presumably owing to our impressive width). Certainly it handled a little differently than a regular bike, but after taking it slow for a few minutes I caught on quickly. It was easy to get the kids in and out and wonderful that they were in front of me and up at car-window height.

Babboe: what our friends have...
One caveat would be regarding steep hills: cargo bikes don't seem to come with a great range of gears and, being heavier, can be a challenge to peddle up a serious incline. And that heavy weight means it's no easier to get off and walk it up.

But, unless you live in a super-hilly area, a cargo bike is a great alternative to a car for a multi-kid family.

(A helpful site to find local dealers in parts of North America is http://www.cargobike.ca/)

Have you ever tried one? Share your experience with us!
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