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Camping Connection

It’s easy to drift away from those closest to us. Even as we see them every day. We sometimes forget to take a moment to sit and chat about our thoughts, our hopes, our fears. Sometimes we get so caught up in parenting that we forget our children are people too. People with big ideas, brilliant minds, and easily bruised hearts.

I find it’s always a good idea to reconnect in small ways frequently, but sometimes we need more than just a few minutes here and there. We need to spend time focused on our family, with few distractions. It’s in these moments we see the patterns we’ve fallen into, the ones that have us saying ‘no’ more often than we should or lecturing about something that really just needed a hug. Camping, tenting specifically, allows our family the opportunity to connect in ways we can’t at home.

We don’t have appointments and obligations pulling us all over the place. We don’t have cell phones or internet to distract us. We don’t have bedtimes or alarms. What’s left is family.

Catching water falls
Exploring Upper Kananaskis Lake

On our most recent camping trip we found so many times to connect with our children, build them up, and also provide them with extra independence, and a whole lot of pride.

We like to tent at Elkwood in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park. The site we choose is large, surrounded by trees, and has a small field on one side. It provides the kiddos with tons of space to roam and explore where we can hear them, if not see them, at all times, but also where they can create their own little games, complete with forts. Adults are on hand when needed, but mostly they do their own thing while the adults set up camp, do the dishes, or other camping chores. For children who rarely have access to a forest, or wild nature, it’s a grand adventure!

We can tell by the number of times they come dashing over, faces glowing with pride, calling us to listen to the daring things they’ve done, or to show us what they’ve built, that they’re growing in ways they couldn’t at home. It’s one of the most beautiful things to witness!

On this camping trip we saw each of our children tackle new skills with wild abandon and we saw them settle into the peaceful love of our family. Before we went camping certain things were sure to start fights, other things would certainly cause crying, but during our trip those patterns melted away as our entire family took the time to connect and fill each other’s love cups.

To us, it seems so small. Jumping from stone to stone across a stream, but to a child, it’s a big adventure, filled with the knowledge they might slip. They wonder what might happen if they fall. They might worry about wet feet, a bruised knee, or maybe something else. But it’s a much bigger deal to them than it is to us. It’s so important to allow children the opportunity to make that leap. Even if it means they get wet feet and dirty socks!

 On our camping trip we ran into a couple moments we didn’t expect. On our first full day there, we hiked from the Interlakes day use area, around upper kananaskis lake to a water fall. It was about 7KM one way to Lower Kananaskis falls. On the way there, the kiddos learned how to safely go down steep hills, with loose rocks. The first hill meant Ryan and I each went up and down a couple times as we took turns holding hands, correcting foot placement, and helping them gain confidence. We needed the first aid kit a couple times, but over all everyone did okay. By the end of the hike they all declared themselves pros! hahaha When we arrived at the falls, we were surprised to discover Cordelia was really frightened, she didn’t want to pose for the picture because she felt too close to the rushing water. I snapped the picture as Ryan tried to reposition her, but she clung to the tree. As much as I wanted the picture, we didn’t force her. Instead, we knelt down, found out what she was afraid of (falling in), then I brought her over to where I was standing to take the picture. From there, she could see where everyone else stood was far enough away from the edge that even stumbling would be well away from the water. We talked about how important she was to me, and how I would never ask her to do something I thought would put her in danger. Then I sat and listened to her talk about her concerns for a few moments, then I asked her to look around and tell me whether she thought her fears might come true, we also talked about what she could do if they did.

dancing at the falls

By exploring her fear, she was able to overcome it, and when we hiked to different falls a couple days later, she was prepared! She felt confident enough to climb onto the stones, and to dance at the edge of the falls. As adults, we see danger where children don’t, but sometimes we also see safety where children see danger. It can be really hard to take a breath and listen, but it’s always worth it when we do!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Off the Path

Children love to go on adventures! There’s nothing greater than spending the day exploring the world, discovering new places, and especially facing fear and danger.

The wonderful thing is that something that is scary to a child, is often seen by the adult as pretty tame. It helps ease parents into watching a life full of adventure.

On our walk with the dogs the other day, we found a little place to cross a stream near our home. It meant we needed to leave the path. It meant we might get dirty. In life we’re often told to stay on the path. Keep to the well marked trails. Sometimes it’s for good reason, but sometimes we need to let go of those reasons.

We left the path behind us. We stepped into the dirt, we pushed through the bushes (okay, there were only two bushes, but we pretended we were in a forest), we came to the river (okay, barely a trickle, but our imaginations told us it was a rushing river).

The first time we crossed, Brom was pretty nervous, he needed to hold my hand. At one point he slipped and his foot got stuck between two rocks. He wasn’t hurt. We crossed that stream maybe a dozen times after that moment. By the time we left, he was crossing on his own, and very proud of himself.

I wasn’t worried, I knew if he slipped the worst that would happen is I’d have laundry and he’d need a shower. The rocks were small, I knew I could easily lift any of them if they shifted. I also knew none of them were very heavy so wouldn’t seriously hurt anyone. In other words, the risk was very small. But to Brom it was the greatest adventure!

Sometimes we lose sight of what it means to go on an adventure. To us, we sometimes think children need grand outings, we think they need to go far or do big things, but often they just need us to let them explore off the path.

 

 

 

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Teasing to Connect With Children

A Great Big Beautiful is about creating more love, joy, happiness and magic in our lives, and hopefully inspiring others to bring a bit of that home too. This week we ran into a problem in our home that stopped the magic in it’s tracks! We had to explore the situations and figured out what happened, and made a plan to prevent it from happing in the future.

 

Ryan loves to tease. It’s a fun, easy way to connect with the children after a long day at work. Most of the time this works, everyone laughs, and they feel more loved and closer to their Daddy. Twice in the last week it resulted in hurt feelings. Ryan quickly apologized, but he was at a loss as to why some teasing was good, and some was bad.

Once we stopped and I repeated his words back to him, it was obvious where the problem was. But it took a little bit more digging to figure out why other teasing is okay. I won’t get into specifics used for our children, but I’ll talk about similar examples I’ve seen other people use.

Some people use easy subjects to tease a child, “Oh that looks like a nice toy! Maybe I should have it!” if this works, the child giggles and says something like, “No, you’re too big for this toy.” Or something like that. If it doesn’t work, the child cries and instead of creating connection, the child forms a bit of distrust toward that person. Further teasing results in greater distrust.

Teasing that would leave a child feeling sad or angry in normal circumstances (toy taken away, favourite treat gone, hair cut off, not allowed to play with a friend etc) should never be done. An adult may realize they don’t mean it, but a child often doesn’t understand the adult’s meaning at first. Once the child does understand the adults meaning, it lets the child know that adult is not trustworthy. It leaves the child trying to guess when the adult means what they say and when they’re teasing – or lying (from the child’s point of view). For more information google teasing and children – so many articles about why you shouldn’t tease, ever.

Ryan and I’ve read many of those articles and we both agree with them, but there’s one small problem. Teasing is a way of showing and sharing love. Yes, people can learn knew ways of showing love, but taking away a person’s primary method of loving can be hard and cause damage to a relationship as well. Ryan loves to tease, but he loves his children more. So he’s careful when he teases. Yet something still went wrong this week.

After carefully looking at the ways that created feelings of happiness and love as well as the ones that created feelings of anger and sadness we realized there are two ways to tease.

One is to pretend to take away or prevent a person from having something they want. Teasing about a situation that would normally illicit feelings of sadness or anger. This type of teasing should never happen to anyone, especially  children.

The other way to tease is about something the child is good at or proud of. Teasing in a situation that would normally leave a child happy and/or proud. “Wow, you’re getting so fast, did you just run round the yard faster than the dog?” Whether the child agrees they were faster than the dog or not, it reinforces positive feelings about themselves.

Along with teasing there is a crucial second step. It’s important to stop and let the child know you’re teasing, let the child know you’re trying to make them laugh, and let the child know that you will stop if they want you to. In our home we don’t always stop to ask after everything we say, but at least every couple of days I stop and double check that the child I’m talking to understands and is okay with teasing. Also, if a facial expression, or body language makes me thing something is wrong, I also stop and ask.

There are times when teasing shouldn’t happen at all. If a child is really upset about something, don’t tease them, not even in a positive way. There are other ways to connect with your child in that moment. If a child has been going through something that leaves them really upset frequently (for instance sick parent, new baby in the house, new school etc), don’t tease. If a child doesn’t like teasing, don’t tease. If the child is younger than three, don’t tease.

Teasing, when done respectfully, can bring people closer together. The key is respect. Understanding the other person’s point of view. And understanding that a child’s point of view is not capable of being the same as an adult’s.

 

 

 

 

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Adventures in Choking

Anyone that follows us on Instagram knows that Brom was in the hospital yesterday. Let me share a bit more about what happend and share some valuable information with you  at the same time.

For supper I snipped some fresh oregano from my garden, made some yummy pasta sauce and we sat down to enjoy supper after a fun and busy day.

We’d only taken about three bites when Brom began to choke. At first he was coughing, so we waited. But then his noises changed. His colour changed. Then my heart rate rose as I waited for Ryan to step in and rescue him. Only he didn’t. I breathed. In. Out. My pulse rose. Brom was red, purple, and turning blue.

I may have screamed at Ryan. I may not. Either way I jumped up, grabbed Brom, flipped him over my arm (good thing he’s still small!) and hit his bare back several times with the heel of my hand. I think the third blow dislodged whatever was blocking his airway. He breathed. He cried. he puked. We danced in joy!

Unfortunately a quick look in his mouth showed things weren’t as good as we hoped. He was complaining about something pokey in his mouth and when I looked, I could see a long, woody sprig of oregano lodged at the back of his throat. I started to try a finger sweep, but stopped. It seemed ridiculous to put my massive finger in his tiny mouth and hope to remove a thin twig.

Instead, we called 911. Brom continued to retch, and vomitted again. I paced.

When the ambulance finally arrived things had calmed down a bit. But Brom was still complaining about the pokey thing in his mouth. But when the Paramedic looked in his mouth, he couldn’t see anything. At this point, there was a lot of talking about what we should do  next, we decided to go to the hospital just to be safe. Honestly, I was terrified of putting Brom to bed with something still in his throat.

After we’d been at the first hospital for several hours and Brom wasn’t getting better, they decided to transfer us to the children’s hospital. They made the calls, and signed the paperwork. And then Brom retched one last time, and felt better. He perked up and became his usual giggly, silly self!

I suddenly felt so much more confident and calm. I was sure he’d be okay.

We stayed the night on an ER stretcher, in a freezing cold room, with too few blankets, and no pillows (though a lovely undergrad nurse did bring me a folded blanket to use as a pillow). By morning Brom was more than ready to go home! Luckily the ENT doctor agreed that sending us home was the best course of action.

Children choke. They actually choke pretty often – at least mine do, though only one other time was even closely this severe. It is vital that parents and caregivers know how to clear a bloked airway and how to perform CPR if needed. But also vitally important to know when to jump into action.

When a person’s airway is obstructed, they still make sounds. But depending on how much of the airway is blocked determines how much sound a person makes.

Ryan sat and waited for Brom to stop coughing – which you’re supposed to do! Coughing is the most effective way to clear an airway, especially for young, healthy lungs! But a person that’s coughing can quickly turn into a person that’s not coughing. The shift is marked by a change in noises and intensity.

A person that’s choking, but able to cough, typically has loud sounds coming from them, their body movements will be fairly minimal, they’ll be able to respond with either words or head movements (nod/head shake). They’re uncomfortable, but not panicked.

Once the person moves from effective coughing into the zone where they need help, their body movements become more wild, exaggerated, sometimes less coordinated. They may still make noises, but they will not have an effective cough, more a squeak (likely noticed on the inhale vs exhale). If you ask them a question like, “Are you choking?” or “Do you need help?” They likely won’t be able to answer, not even with a nod, this is especially true of younger children!

A third sign that indicates a person requires assistance is their colour. When choking, colour change is common. Coughing often turns a person’s face red. The deeper the colour, the more effort the person is putting into breathing. But the colour of the person’s cheeks doesn’t matter, instead the important colour is their lips and the skin right around their lips. This is the first place you’ll notice a blue tinge if a person isn’t getting  enough oxygen.

Unfortunately, the only way you really learn the difference is through experience. I’m hoping to help others understand that difference easier. The good news is that the difference between the time the shift in level of need happens and when a person reacts is often not long, but the sooner a person reacts, the better.

 

 

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When Natural Consequences Don't Work

Sometimes children do things we don’t want them to do. Sometimes that’s drawing hearts and stars on walls, doors, floors. Sometimes it’s possible to over look the art work, clean it up ourselves, and move on without mentioning it to the child. Sometimes something more is needed.

One of our kiddos likes to draw. On the walls. On the doors. On the floors. Anywhere she happens to be when inspiration strikes. The way we’ve dealt with this shifts each time we find new art adorning our walls.

We only cleaned it up ourselves once or twice. After that, she needed to clean the art work herself. Sometimes this meant needing to clean an entire wall because when she cleaned one spot it suddenly became obvious only part of the wall was clean. I didn’t like that, so the entire wall needed to be washed.

The art work continued.

She’s steam cleaned the carpet.

The art work continued.

We decided to change tactics.

Instead of continuing with consequences for her actions, we decided to prevent her actions. We realized she has a burning desire to create, she also had boredom, and limited personal craft supplies. Often she’d find something wherever she happened to be, and use it.

We decided to create a personal art kit for her, with nice craft supplies and a satchel so she can carry it with her anywhere and everywhere. We don’t know if this will protect our walls, doors, and floors, but so far she’s so excited by her special kit that the art has remained only where we’d like it.

It’s important to us to connect with our children even when we don’t like the things they do. It’s important to us that they know they, as people, are worthy of our love. It doesn’t mean we always like what they do, but as we guide them toward adulthood we want them to know we’ll help them find solutions to mistakes and know that mistakes do not define them. We want them to know we’re on their team, that means most of the time the solution doesn’t look like punishment. Instead it’s us looking deeper than the behaviour to find the root cause and dealing with that. Oftentimes that means just giving more love.

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Teaching Thankfulness and Gratitude

Sometimes it’s difficult to see the difference between a day and a whole life. Sometimes it’s difficult to see the difference between life and a moment. 

*The words in italics are about my spirituality. Feel free to skip that and just read about how we guide our children to being thankful and showing gratitude. *

Easter is such an important time for me. It has been a time of rebirth and new life in so many ways in my life. But over the past few years I’ve allowed myself  to drift away from the spirituality that brought huge blessings to my life. Not only did I drift aimlessly, truly without direction. I closed my eyes and refused to see where I was going or where I’d been.

Can you imagine a moment when  a great gift is given to you, only to realize you smashed it? 

I’m not sure when, but that moment hit me. Hard. I looked around and I saw my life in shambles. So many blessings that withered. Neglected. 

But the wonderful thing about God is that it doesn’t matter where we end up, He always welcomes us home. 

Easter is the perfect time to renew our faith and rejuvenate our spirituality. 

I want to invigorate my prayer life. And shift my perspective to see the glory of God.

I want to show my children the wonders of gratitude and thankfulness that I’ve known.

It’s taken me a lot of work and a lot of time to figure out how to see those moments as more than a blip on the radar of life. I want my children to grow up able to see the hardness of the world, the sharp points as mere moments, but the joy and wonder as  life. 

Until recently, I saw the hardness, the sharpness, the starkness and could barely see beyond it except in rare moments. But through a lot of meditation, mindfulness and guidance from others more experienced than I am, I was able to shift my perspective. 

In order to bring that fresh way of looking at things to my family, I placed a gratitude poster on the wall. 

IMG_4892

I didn’t say anything at first, but throughout the first couple days, I just wrote down things I was grateful for. I drew little pictures. And I moved on. They watched me, asked what I wrote, and listened with brilliant smiles as I read out words of love and gratitude for them. 

I invited them to write or draw on the poster as well. 

As our poster fills dup more and more each day, I let them know I had more posters and I’d just keep putting new ones on the wall as soon as we filled the old ones. 

It took  few days, but eventually one, then another added their own bits to the wall. It’s been so wonderful to see them noticing the moments more and more. But even more amazing, I’ve seen them looking to create moments to add to our wall!

So young and they already know more about life than I did as an adult. 

 

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So Busy, So Happy!

Our life has been so busy lately, but such a  good busy!

Some of you already know that I’m creating more and more wire sculptures, and selling them! It’s been pretty amazing! The desire to create with wire crept up on me last year, and then it just took over!

I’m spending all free time working with wire, though I will admit, free time is very limited in our home hahaha.

I recently launched a new website that focuses on my wire only. Feel free to check it out 🙂 at elsewire.com

 

In other news, Ella has a few wishes she’s saving up for, so she decided to launch her own candy making business. <3 She has a few things she needs to do before she’s really up and running, but she bought everything she needs to sell her first batch of candy!

She’s making candied oranges, candied oranges dipped in dark chocolate, candied lemons and limes, orange infused candied ginger, and old fashioned hard candies to start. I have to say, the first batch of orange candies sold in seconds. To me! They were so good!!! I think I may be in trouble! 😉

We’ll keep you updated as she gets things up and running!

 

 

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Admit When You Make a Mistake

Agatha’s been having such a tough time lately. It’s been so difficult figuring out what’s been going on and how to fix it. Over the past few days Ryan and I’ve both spent more time with her, talking to her and playing with her. It looked like things were going great, then bedtime hit. We’d already finished reading their bedtime story. It was late. I wanted to get on with tidying so I could get some work done on a sculpture. I was done.

She wanted another chapter of our book.

I said no. She was disappointed.

I didn’t see her disappointment. What I saw was a child who wouldn’t think of others (Cordelia was asleep and would miss the story). I saw a child who just wouldn’t let up. Always demanding more time, more attention. I snapped. I lectured her.

I forgot our number one parenting tool. Always assume your child has positive intent.

I forgot that number one parenting ‘rule’ and I hurt Agatha deeply when I assumed she was being selfish. I was the one being selfish, I projected that onto her.

Luckily, mid lecture I realized what I was doing. Got down on my knees. Apologized to her. And asked if I could start over more respectfully. She was hurt, but she agreed. Again she asked if I could read another chapter of the book. Again I said no. Again she was sad. This time instead of lecturing. I hugged her and said, “I know it’s an exciting book and I really want to know what happens next also. I know it’s difficult to wait, but Cordelia’s asleep and she’d be sad to miss the next part of the story. We’ll wait until tomorrow to read more.” We hugged and kissed, then I asked her if she’d forgive me for the way I treated her. I let her know she didn’t have to. But she did forgive me. And it was the greatest gift in the whole wide world!

The next day I needed to make it right with everyone else also. I called everyone to come to the table. I explained what happened, and pointed out that (both Ryan and I) I’ve been doing this in small ways for a few weeks now. I apologized to all of them because they were all impacted by my treatment of Agatha. I promised to do better. I explained our parenting ‘rule’ to them. And asked if they’d forgive me. They agreed.

This rule is simple, and the most effective parenting tool in my toolbox. Just believe your child is a good person and always has good intentions.

It doesn’t mean they won’t make mistakes. It doesn’t mean we’ll always be happy with things. It doesn’t mean everything is sunshine and roses. It just means they aren’t trying to be mean or spiteful. It means that the root behind their behaviour is goodness. Even if one child hits another, there is some positive desire at the root. Find that goodness and most problems can be solved and fixed without any stress or fighting. It’s both that simple, and that hard.

It isn’t always easy to see the goodness. Sometimes it takes a lot of work on our part to sit there and talk to our children and actually understand them. But the pay off in the end is so worth it!

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Time and Attention

Right now our family is so busy with classes, crafting, and renos, I have few moments left over for anything extra. But my children often find themselves with nothing to do except notice all the moments I don’t spend with them. Agatha’s really felt forgotten a lot lately. Eight going on nine is such a difficult age at the best of times, but it’s particularly difficult for her because her older sister has grown and matured out of the things Agatha’s interested in, but her younger sister hasn’t quite matured into them yet. For a child who loves people so much and wants to be with someone all the time, this is so difficult for her!  She wants so much time and attention, but with so many people in the family with such widely different wants and needs, sometimes that attention has to be given while cooking, cleaning, or helping someone else. Often it means she’s left on her own.

It can be so difficult to meet the needs of everyone in the family, especially when life shifts as children get older. All she wants is me to spend time with her helping her with her projects, but the most I can give is 15 minutes at a time before Brom needs me. I feel so badly for her. All I want to do is say ‘yes’ to her requests, but reality has me saying, ‘I can’t’ way more often.

But, I’ve cleared the next two days, and Ryan’s home, so I can spend extra time and attention helping her with her latest clay project. Helping her with a sewing project, helping her play WOW, and generally just spending extra time with her.

I know two days doesn’t make up for the months of run, run, run we’ve had lately, but I know it’ll go a long way to filling her love cup because we have a pretty solid foundation to begin with.

I’ll post pictures of our activities on instagram, and post back here and let you know how it goes. 🙂

And keep your eyes open for our next movie theme post – Brom chose Big Hero 6 and Ella chose Peter Pan – activities for both of those will be coming soon!

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Toy Story Trouble

Over the past few months we’ve been getting rid of stuff and really looking at what we use and don’t use, so we can make our home more joyful. We want to be able to use the space (and the stuff) we have without needing to put a ton of effort into cleaning in order to do so.

While Ryan and I’ve been going through our stuff and the general household stuff, w e’ve also been encouraging the kiddos to also get rid of their old toys they don’t use anymore, or the ones they forgot they even had.

Things were going pretty well, until we watched Toy Story 3.

Brom was so taken with the idea of toys being sad that their children didn’t want them anymore that he cried for hours anytime he thought about his toys being given away. It was heartbreaking to watch. We spent so much time this week cuddling and talking about how hard it is to say goodbye. We talked about the movie and how the toys felt, and also how the children felt. We talked about the actions the parents in the movie took and how that impacted the children and toys. It took time. A lot of time. He was heart broken.

We took all of his toys he’d decided to donate out of the box and sent them back to the playroom. He cried some more. We talked some more. We cuddled some more.

Then just as suddenly he brought all the toys back, put them int he box, and said he was ready to give them to someone else who’d continue to love his toys as much as he does. He knows his toys will be happy because someone loves them.

As a parent it was an amazing thing to watch. To hold space for him while he was sad, to walk this journey with him. Not trying to change his mind or make him feel better, but just being with him while he was sad.

It can be so difficult when our children do something different than what we want. It’s absolutely painful to see our children sad. But those are both experiences that are so powerful and important not only to our children, but to us and our relationship with them as well.

My heart swelled with so much love and pride when Brom gently placed his toys in a box, told them he loved them, and wished them well in their next home.