Tuesday, November 29, 2016

20+ Simple but AWESOME Stocking Stuffer Ideas for Kids!

When it comes to the stocking, we are keen on small traditions and fostering some activities to help calm the excitement of the day. When it comes to affordable, and useful stocking stuffers, pick 10 for this list and you are set! Let just get right to it.. I have included links to products from Amazon so you could actually complete for stocking holiday shopping right now!

>>> The nice thing about online shopping, apart from avoiding the crowds, you can set a firm budget and it seems to be easier to stick to! From the list below, you can fill a fun stocking for $20... or more depending on the specific products.

Amazing Stocking Stuffers for Children - you'll both love!!
  1. Card Game/Playing Cards
  2. Dice - standard or learning dice
  3. Travel Style Board Game
  4. Book
  5. Bookmark - or pick up a bookmark craft set from the Dollar Store
  6. Colouring Book/Activity Book
  7. Crayons/Markers
  8. Shopkins or Pokemon Cards - these items can be individually wrapped to have some extra fun on Christmas morning!
  9. Water Bottle
  10. Puzzle
  11. Toothbrush
  12. Bubble Bath/Shampoo
  13. Stickers/Temporary Tattoos
  14. Hot chocolate mix
  15. Cookies/chocolate/candy
  16. Socks
  17. Lego Minifigurines
  18. Sport Ball  
  19. Christmas Ornament - a craft kit from an arts/craft store like Michael's or a personalized ornament are great options! 
  20. Orange --- if our family the stocking always included a Christmas orange (or three for a healthy morning snack!)
See the excitement of our kids opening their stocking last year in these quick videos - each are less than a minute:

Thanks for stopping by! From our family to yours, happy holidays! Until next time... have a wonderful day! xo

Thursday, November 24, 2016

50 lunch options as good as ice cream!

Scrambling for lunch ideas and faced with some adversity, i.e.:
  • your kid does not eat sandwiches
  • you're in a peanut-free environment
  • heating foods up or refrigerating foods during the day is not an option
  • you need something simple -- minimal (if any) prep involved
Here are over 50 kid-tested AND APPROVED snacks to have on hand for kids and lunches for just that circumstance!

A little prep on Sunday, dividing items into Ziploc bags, small Tupperware containers or a bento-style plastic container... pick - or let your child pick - 4 items from this list (perhaps 2 fruit/veggies, 1 protein, 1 carb) and you're set!

  1. Carrot sticks
  2. Cucumber slices
  3. Sliced red peppers
  4. Green beans
  5. Sliced or diced melon
  6. Grapes
  7. Apples
  8. Oranges
  9. Pear
  10. Banana
  11. Nectarine
  12. Broccoli (& dip)
  13. Sliced or diced mango 
  14. Peach
  15. Pineapple (I divide up a can into small tupperware containers for the week)
  16. Strawberries
  17. Blueberries
  18. Blackberries 
  19. Raspberries
  20. Dried cherries --- or fresh, pitted, cherries if you're up for it
  21. Seaweed --- you might be surprised!... nearly all children in my son's class ages 3-6 eat and LOVE seaweed
  22. Salad kit - lettuce, dressing, croutons & my 4 year old preps at school
  23. Corn (I divide up a can of corn kernels and my 4 year old loves them cold) 
  24. Sunrype dried fruit bar
  25. Raisins
  26. Dried pineapple
  27. Dried mango
  28. Craisins
  1. Yogurt -- freeze yogurt tubes and they are thawed by lunch
  2. Cheese
  3. Hard boiled egg
  4. Sliced or diced ham 
  5. Sliced turkey
  6. Sliced chicken breast
  7. Chicken nuggets/popcorn chicken in a thermos 
  1. Fish crackers
  2. Ritz cheese sandwich crackers
  3. Any other variety of cracker
  4. Bread slices or bread with butter
  5. Macaroni in a thermos
  6. Spaghetti noodles with Parmesan in a thermos 
  7. Snack pretzels
  8. Cold pancakes
  9. Muffin
  10. Cinnamon roll 
  11. Crescent roll
  12. Pita bread
  13. Naan bread
  14. Tortilla roll 
  15. Cold pizza
  16. Fresh German-style pretzel
  17. Dry cereal
  18. Granola bar
Do you have items to add? Comment below!

Until next time... have a wonderful day! xo

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Message for Mommas: Be Proud

There's a lot we can learn from our children: pride in the simple things - for one!!  My son built a single-block tower with Duplos nearly the size of himself and check out that smile!  Have you taken a moment today to be proud of a simple accomplishment?

Mommas, take this quick note as a reminder to pause, breathe and learn from your children. Be proud of the simple things: your children are safe and happy. That --- is enough. 


As much as we hear this message, I find -  as moms - we still don't take a minute to pause and give ourselves some credit. Not just give ourselves a break but give ourselves some credit. Rather then keep trying to check off the 562 boxes from the unwritten list that we have set out for the day --- you know that list that often seems oblivious to those around us?! --- take a minute to reflect on a small, simple thing you have done.

My husband and I had this discussion recently. I am seemingly the eternal optimist and he has been more of a pessimist. But, we have reached a crossroads where the influence of positivity is having a notable impact on our marriage. The ability to shift perspective to focus on the successes and achievements is transforming our marriage: the recognition from simple awareness and that moment of pause to --- taking the moment to be proud yields a meaningful impact - and that is empowering.

This photo of my son and the discussion with my husband also helped me reflect on the need, as a mom, to not simply pause as a strategy in self-care but to take a minute to be proud. I encourage you to take even 15 seconds to stop what you are doing during the day and just breathe. Then, reflect on one thing - no matter how seemingly small - and give yourselves some credit.

Look at that smile in my son's face... I hope he got your smiling, too! Accomplishments are not something to be swept under the rug. Put down the broom. Breathe. Be proud of the simple things: your children are safe and happy. That --- is enough.

Until next time... have a wonderful day! xo

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Parenting Perspective: The Chapter on Supporting Your Self-Punishing Child Begins

My son is sensitive and loving, a true old soul. But with this aspect of his personality comes the "self-punishment". Combine this with anxiety (I talk about his anxiety here) and numerous developmental delays and a typical day presents that many more opportunities for my own personal growth. This perspective is critical to save my sanity. My sweet boy is gift to teach me greater patience, a deeper love and to value and hold onto every precious moment...

I love this photo of him. I think you can see a bit of his precious soul through his eyes and smile.
My six, soon-to-be seven year old, has made frightening, devastating, comments. From "I don't want to live" --- and shying completely away from concretely discussing it only to comment, "I can't tell you what I sad again because it would make you really, really sad." This is certainly want breaks my heart the most but then there are moments like yesterday where he declares his own punishment.

He started crying, balling. In the moment I couldn't understand why but soon learned the trigger (within a series of items) was receiving cereal instead of toast for breakfast. Anything pertaining to making a decision, he gets COMPLETELY overwhelmed. Even the option of having both so that he does not necessary have to make another choice becomes, yes, another choice for him. The crying, red tears, tears streaming down his face --- after nearly 40 minutes he realized this is not an acceptable response for the situation and that there should be a consequence. He begins:
  • You need to take away my Pokemon card, forever.
  • When I get home from school, I am just going to stay in my room for the rest of the day. 
  • Don't have a birthday party for me. I don't deserve it.
And, he continues... continues declaring punishments for the next 20 minutes.

I had to leave for work and this stayed with me all day. Last night I spent the evening reading a spectrum of articles on "when a child self punishes"; "how to support a child who self punishes"; "understanding a child who self punishes".  Additionally, I have reached out to various local therapists to meet and discuss so I can better get out of my own head on this subject. I am by no means an expert but I can say, reading other parents' perspectives last night on similar circumstances helped so I thought I would share my situation, thus far, albeit with no particular resolve because sometimes I know you need to hear "I can relate"; "You are not alone". And, from the "expert" articles I read last night, a common them was:

"This is a surprisingly common issue for children." 

With that, again, you are not alone. Yesterday was not the first time we have gone through this situation. This has been going on for nearly two years and as he matures the consequences seem to be getting more in depth rather than lesser. 

I will update as we make our way through this parenting chapter... With some positive resolve, here are a few strategies I found from "When a Child's Guilt Goes Overboard" that we are going to try. 

"Here are a few suggestions, but you should find what works for your family:
  1. Change the self-talk. Tell him he may apologize but he may not “insult” himself. That is your son he’s insulting and you don’t want to hear it! Explain that it is not his job to give the punishments, it’s your job. He can express his feelings once, but then needs to move on to something on the list.
  2. Draw or write an apology note. No matter how small or large his mistake, this gives him a way to focus on the person he upset instead of himself, and express his remorse.
  3. Make a gift of some kind. This is a great way to use some creativity making someone else feel good, and he will probably learn that this makes him feel better as well.
  4. Spend some time alone. Separate from a punishment, he can go hang in his room or some comforting place.
  5. Use that energy as exercise. Running off his mad, even if it’s at himself, is a healthy way to get these feelings out. A punching bag in your basement, a jump rope, push ups or sit ups are healthy ways to push out his mood.
  6. Do a good deed. When he is feeling  like he is a disaster as a person, have him do something kind or helpful for the world. Clean up some litter, rake for a neighbor, do an extra chore around the house.
  7. Create art or music or stories. These are excellent media for ridding ourselves of negative emotions."
SOURCE: When a Child's Guilt Goes Overboard,  Ask Doctor G: Parenting & Youth Development Expert, http://askdoctorg.com/2012/05/14/when-a-childs-guilt-goes-overboard, accessed November 16, 2017

Thanks for letting me connect and being a part of your day... hold onto a positive perspective throughout the challenges of your own parenting journey. Each present tremendous opportunities for growth and development... through that growth and development, we can empower, inspire and support.

With gratitude... have a wonderful day! xo

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Recipe: Chicken, Bacon & Feta Pasta

I've already let you know the deal - I am a huge fan of easy and cost-effective recipes that are family-friendly. I function by choosing a base ingredient that is prepped in advance, can be used in multiple recipes and suits the freezer-to-stove top or freezer-to-oven style of cooking. I am also keen to batch up a single recipe so that I can then easily rotate through meals during the month. Not only is this more cost effective but it is significantly more effective on the clean up.... saving time and money- that's how I roll!

With my recipes, you'll find strict quantities are not always mentioned. The emphasis on EASY is just that --- most often I am just throwing the ingredients in and enjoying dinner 15 minutes later! Ratios might apply and I'll note those but I encourage you to enjoy a little taste as you go and alter occasionally. Find what works for you. Add in a strict "no kids in the kitchen when Momma is cooking routine" (we have specific times for kid-friendly cooking but this Momma needs some peace when prepping dinner after work).... this--- then gives me 10-20 minutes of relative tranquility. Self-care as a Momma needs to be infused into our daily living and this is one strategy I accomplish just that!

Back to the recipe! While doing a mass batch up of chicken, I talked about shredded chicken - here - I also batch up diced chicken. My preference is for thinly sliced chicken breast I let cool, portion the chicken out and freeze in Zilpoc freezer bags. Of course, opportunities for diced chicken recipes are nearly endless but here's a one-pot, 10 minute recipe I discovered when searching for recipes with slightly over-ripe tomatoes... Chicken, Bacon & Feta Pasta

One other note for batching up before we get started, diced onions! Another great ingredient to take 30 minutes one day to diced and portion out, freeze, and then make use of just as you need!

Great one-pot dish! Alternatives can included spaghetti squash instead of pasta noodles for a gluten-free option.

Chicken, Bacon & Feta Pasta

- Diced Chicken
- Diced Onions
- Garlic
- Spinach, optional - if frozen cubes, we just use 2; if fresh, 2-3 handfuls
- Diced (cooked) Bacon (we buy from Costco). 1/4 cup is sufficient
- Diced Tomatoes
- Sliced mushrooms, optional --- we love mushrooms!
- Feta - 1/4 cup is sufficient... really depends on your taste
- Parmesan
- Spaghetti noodles (spaghetti squash is a great gluten-free alternative)

1. Thaw your chicken
2. Boil water for spaghetti noodles
3. Sautee onions and garlic in a dash of olive oil
4. After 1 minute, add spinach
5. After 1 minute, add mushrooms
6. After 2 minutes, add tomatoes
7. Add bacon
8. Once water is boiling, cook noodles for 10 minutes; drain, rinse with warm water, and add to wok; toss current ingredients
9. Toss with feta
10. Add in Parmesan or serve and add the Parmesan at the table

Great as a one-pot dish or serve with garlic bread or salad.

Side note: I will also batch up the spaghetti noodles so make a spaghetti night that same week a little easier --- one less pot to wash!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Recipe: Chicken Quesidillas

Switching the tone after my last post and back to sharing another recipe. Is that how parenting works? --- one minute consoling a child, the next minute - getting dinner on the table, the next minute - reading stories, the next minute...

I let you know I am a huge fan of easy and cost-effective recipes that are family-friendly. Here is another great one!

I am keen to choose a base ingredient that is prepped in advance, can be used in multiple recipes and suits the freezer-to-stove top or freezer-to-oven style of cooking. I am also keen to batch up a single recipe so that I can then easily rotate through meals during the month. Not only is this more cost effective but it is significantly more effective on the clean up.... saving time and money sounds good to me; how about you?!

Shredded chicken offers just that! I throw chicken breasts in a crockpot overnight with a small amount of chicken stock... shred in the morning and divide out for a variety of different recipes. Today, let's talk about delicious chicken quesadillas!

Family-friendly chicken quesadilla
- Shredded chicken
- Sour cream
- Grated cheese
- Tortillas shells
- Cumin

1. Mix shredded chicken with sour cream, dash of cumin (as needed for your taste) and small amount of grated cheese
2. Fold tortilla in half to give you "the line"
3. Spread approx 3 tbs of chicken mixture on half of the tortilla; top chicken mixture on tortilla with grate cheese
4. Fold tortilla over and wrap tightly with saran wrap. For good measure, I then groups and store all wrapped quesadillas in a Tupperware container.

1. Unwrap portions; thaw/heat for 30 seconds; turn; heat for 30 seconds in microwave
2. Pan fry in a non-stick skillet

We serve with Spanish rice or a taco salad.

The cost breakdown on this (based on current Canadian dollars) - 20 quesadillas:
Chicken: $10
Tortilla Shells: $10
Grated Cheese: $5
Sourcream: $3.50
Cumin: $3.50

Keep in mind, you'll have sour cream and cumin for plenty of other recipes based on this grocery list (you may even have chicken left over as well!), $1.60/serving.

Until next time... have a wonderful day! xo

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

A Hug Across the Border

When this appears in my Twitter feed:

I need to say something. This is not okay. I am not judging Trump supporters; I have heard the exact same statements be said about Clinton - specific to being "scary, scary, scary" and "having nightmares".  I honestly do not feel well informed to comment on anything meaningful pertaining to politics. I do feel "informed" though, as a human being, to reach across the border and hug this child.

"Informed" I use in the latter loosely. I don't need to be informed to do so... I live with compassion and integrity. I know this child does as well. This raw emotion, shows his heart and soul... a heart and soul that is so pure, so authentic and so, inspiring. You, stranger whom I do not know, your heart is gold. Your family and loved ones are as well. The influence of your compassion is powerful. You have reached the heart of someone thousands of miles away and you should be very proud of who you are.

Much love. xo

Monday, November 7, 2016

Cooking on a Budget: Rice

Extending your buck. That's how I try to live life both because of a personal desire but also, out of necessity. I am sure you might be able to relate.

My friends are always surprised at how we keep our monthly food (including toiletries, etc.) to $500 for our family of four. We do so through meal planning and relying on a few core staples. Rice is one of those staples. As I begin to share some of my favourite - quick and easy and cost-effective (relatively healthy) - recipes, I thought I would start with a basic...

Rice. Now, slightly contradictory with the healthy comment I just made but using the "it could be worse" thought, we make use of Jasmine Rice. A $30 bag from Costco lasts 2 months and can be batch cooked in a set it and forget it approach. There are a few "wins" for this Momma there so, I am taking it. Of course, I am sure you can make use of your favourite brown rice with a higher fiber content should you prefer.

The basics...

No matter the quantity, the method for "plain rice" is the same:

1. Briefly "roast" stove top your desired rice, dry, in olive oil to enhance its flavour. This can be as quick as 2-5 minutes. Remember how many cups of rice you have scooped in!

2. Add water - the ratio is 2:1... 2 cups water for every 1 cup rice.

3. Cover; bring to a boil. Let boil for 5 minutes.

5. After 5 minutes, let simmer for another 20 OR, simply turn off and remove from heat. I use the latter if I am heading to work so I come home and the rice is set! Fluff the rice just once to keep it from turning to mush.

Now, what to do with this mass of rice you have just made?!? Let it cool and store in Ziploc freezer bags. I layer (and flatten) the bags, flat, on a cookie sheet maximize use of space in our freezer.

When the dinner-of-the-day calls for rice, I pull a bag and let it sit in the sink for the day. When I get home, in just 5 minutes, I can have it warmed - stove top.

I make use of this plain rice as a base or side for butter chicken, curried recipes (I used cream of chicken instead of cream of mushroom in this recipe), pork chops or shredded pork... I'll share these recipes later and hope to connect back to update the link. For now though, I have linked you to a few of my faves from All Recipes.

Jasmine Rice is a great base!

Spanish Rice...

So easy and always hits the spot! Perfect as a side or a base in a Mexican casserole dish, burritos, fajitas, etc.

- 1 can diced tomatoes
- 4 tsp Cumin
- 2 tsp Chili Powder
- Garlic, optional
- Chicken stock, optional
- Prepared Rice

1. Blend (we use a Blentec and love it!) the tomatoes, cumin and chili (I keep the ratio as 2:1 but you can modify for your preferred taste). Add garlic and chicken stock powder to preferred taste. With the Blentec, I blend for all of 20 seconds. This sauce also makes a great enchilada sauce!

2. Warm your desired amount of rice and add sauce. I typically use 2 cups rice with a 1/2 cup sauce.

The Spanish rice and be cooled and frozen as well for added ease in the future. The extra sauce can also be frozen in a Ziploc freezer bag.

Spanish Rice/Mexican Rice

Fried Rice...

If you're not sensing a theme yet, "quick and easy" hits again! We make use of fried rice as a main or a side depending on the extent of ingredients we add.

- Olive oil
- Onions (1 small, finely chopped)
- Garlic (3 cloves... we make use of the prepped fresh garlic from Costco and add 2-3 tsp)
- Sliced Mushrooms
- 2 tablespoons Soy Sauce
- Bacon Bits (I use the real bacon bits from Costco as the price is right for the amount... alternatively, cook bacon (oven or stove top - I always cook bacon in the oven for ease and chop)
- Prepared rice (approx 4 cups)
- Peas/corn/diced carrots, optional
- Chicken or pork - shredded or dice, optional (I only add chicken when make this a meal in itself)

1. Sautee the onions and garlic*
2. Add mushrooms  - if adding carrots, add them first
3. After about 5 minutes, add bacon
5. After about 5 minutes, add/combine rice
6. Add soy sauce, cook for approx. 5 minutes
7. Add peas or corn, cook for another 2 minutes... enjoy!

*Note: If adding additional protein (beyond the bacon), warm your shredded or finely diced chicken or pork in a separate pan with a dash of soy sauce as you begin to sautee the onions and garlic.

Basic Fried Rice
To re-cap, if you want to make all rice bases in this post and batch up for 20 meals, below the potential cost breakdown. Keep in mind, you'll have plenty left over for other recipes from this grocery list! Based on current Canadian prices.
  • Jasmine Rice: $30 
  • Frozen Peas: $3
  • Soy Sauce: $3 
  • Bacon Bits: $12
  • Onions: $1
  • Garlic: $1
  • Olive Oil (I buy the 4litres at a time from Costco so this lasts awhile!): $20
  • Diced tomatoes: $1
  • Mushrooms: $3
  • Chicken stock (powder base): $5
  • TOTAL: approx. $80 ($4/meal; $1 per serving)

Until next time... Have a wonderful day! xo

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Parenting a Child with Anxiety

My son has anxiety. It is draining. It is exhausting. It challenges every ounce of my being. It tests me in ways beyond measures. It can most easily be recognized by the tears streaming down both of our faces. 

The other day was photo day at soccer. An environment which may not be comfortable for all but one that the 40+ other children they could cope reasonably well with. This is not me comparing or singling out my child. This is me being observant and open to learning how others handle such circumstances. The result: 2.5 hours of crying until he cried himself to sleep. Again, this not be comparing or singling out my child; this is me knowing my child and understanding from the dozens of medical professionals he has seen, he has anxiety.

When friends try to help - for me, a wall goes up.  A thick, impenetrable wall. I know people are meaning well but the reality is: we just want to dive into a bubble, my son and I, so we can talk; so he can express himself and I can remind him, without distraction, I am here with you. I love you.

It's not about whether or not it's going to be okay because in that moment, that is not a message he is able to hear; that is not within the realm of his reality...

If you are cornered by a lion and someone were to say to you, "it's going to be okay?" - you might have some choice words. For someone to think that by saying those words, in that moment, those "actions" are going to help with the circumstance?... Think about that. Really think about that. That is what a child with anxiety faces when they are triggered.

I relate my son's anxiety to being cornered by a lion

The reality is these situations that to most are simple decisions or day-to-day circumstances are completely overwhelming and outright terrifying for him. This --- this is anxiety.

On a day-to-day level, from public appearance, he can cope well. But, when he doesn't - and we don't always know what the trigger will be (yet) - it is not about whether or not he copes well; right now, it is that he does not cope. "Fight or flight" --- he takes off like a rocket-ship... and he is headed to a universe that is presently completely unknown to us but, guess what, we are along for the ride.

We've tried to talk with other parents about his anxiety but are often met with:
"He seems fine to me."
"He's learning at his own pace."

I can tell you these are not helpful or constructive comments. Although we appreciate the place these messages are coming from, I am writing this to share another perspective. When you know there is something "wrong" with your child it is not about labeling him - or perhaps more appropriately - feeling bad that he HAS a label. The "label" is a part of who he is. That is not something to be dismissed; it is something that must be acknowledged. It is a reality. It is his reality. It is a part of him and all of him is someone to be embraced.

We are new to this. This world of parenting a child with anxiety... it's not easy but we are learning... we are trying to keep breathing. We are letting ourselves cry. And we are reminding ourselves:

Until next time.. have a wonderful day! xo

p.s. I will keep you updated; if you have a child with anxiety, please do not hesitate to reach out.  Comment below or share some links to helpful resources to the comment section below.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

When Empowerment Comes from Unexpected Places

I recently talked about an empowering situation that occurred at the most unexpected place, a funeral (read here). I am embracing these emotions as we deal with another sudden death.

I like to think I am strong and relatively stress free; I can handle a lot but death, it breaks me. It shatters me. I can go in one direction and hold to an extreme end of being stoic and exhaust myself OR, let the guard down and be completely vulnerable. The latter is my preferred path and I am so grateful to be allowed to express this completely transparent honesty. I say "allowed" as this has not necessarily always been the case. I was at work and a blubbering me. Blubbering mess does not adequately describe my emotions... but, I didn't run and hide --- although, I was very much tempted to do so. By embracing this aspect of me and being that vulnerable, I was able to grieve and cope...

This blog is another extension of vulnerability for me. Although not many many read or follow, it's a platform for me to find my voice and express myself with more transparency than I have done before. More significantly, it provides a platform for me to not solely express myself through these mediums, but -- in person. In real life?!?  How about that?! ---

Until next time... have a wonderful day! xo

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