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Canada 150

I grew up in the States, but I am Canadian.

I recall the first summer I lived in Florida. We went to a place called Manatee Springs for a family picnic. A bunch of other preteens were there and of course they asked where I was from, then proceeded to bash Canada. I had no choice but to defend the honour of my country.

As I grew older, I connected less and less to my country of birth. In high school I began interviews with the Army, Navy, and Air Force (though really that was mostly so I could get out of class – I’d rather take tests then sit through lessons I wasn’t interested in hahaha)! I contemplated becoming an American. But I came back to Canada for University.

Since being back in Canada I’ve grown more and more fond of my home and my country.  Yes, there’s a lot of work that needs to be done here to make it a place I want to leave for my children, but over all it’s a good place to live. It’s a place I’m happy to raise my children.

Today my children and I celebrated our country. We talked about the good things, and touched on the bad. But mostly they just ran around, ate sugar, and had fun. They’re little and have more than enough time to learn about the world. Today was a day held in time where they were children in love with life.

 

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Rhubarb Pudding Recipe

We’re hard at work on our next set of activities, but these ones take time. Our next movie is Beauty and the Beast – and our kiddos are inventing things! In the meantime, thinking brains and busy bodies need food! Unfortunately I’m not going grocery shopping until tomorrow and we’re out of store bought fruit. 🙁

The good news is my rhubarb’s been producing like mad for the past month and a bit! We’ve had rhubarb crisp and crumble almost every week, but today we wanted something different. Also I had egg yolks that needed using. So I decided to make pudding.

First, we LOVE pudding around here, it’s so easy to turn it into so many different things. It can become ice cream, custard sauce, pudding, crème brûlée or use it as a layer in trifle. YUM! So many options.

This one would be best, in my opinion, as crème brûlée, but my flame thrower is out of gas. It’s been out of gas for 3 years…

Anyhow on to the recipe!

IMG_6399  I used about 5 stalks of rhubarb – chopped up it made about 4 cups, feel free to use more or less depending on how much rhubarb flavour you want. Honestly, next time I’d use more, but I like a lot of tartness in mine. I think my kiddos were happy with the amount of sweet in this version.

Add the rhubarb, 2/3 C sugar and about 1 C water to a pot and bring to a boil. Boil for about 5 minutes. You want the rhubarb to break down so you don’t have any stringy bits. Boil longer if there’s still strings.

While the rhubarb is boiling begin making the pudding base.

I use about 1 C of milk to 1 egg yolk. For this recipe I used 4 egg yolks and 4 cups milk. Extra egg yolks are okay, extra milk will be too runny.

Heat the milk in a thick bottom sauce pan on medium heat, medium high at most. You don’t want this to burn! But my kiddos scream too loud for me to heat it slowly. It’s all about balance.

If you have egg yolks in the fridge, use 4-5 of them. Otherwise separate eggs, using the yolks and reserving the whites for future use.  IMG_6401

Combine the egg yolks with 1 C. sugar and 1 tbsp tapioca starch (corn starch also works). Once the milk is heated through and just beginning to bubble on the sides, pour a small amount into the egg yolks, mix, then add a bit more (about 1 tbsp at a time, maybe a bit more – I’m not an exact measurement kind of person when children are screaming for pudding).

About this point the rhubarb should be ready – scoop about a tbsp worth into a separate dish with about 1 tbsp tapioca starch – mix until the starch is wet through out, then add back to the rhubarb and mix well.
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Remove the milk heat, pour the egg yolk mixture into the pot, mix well. Add vanilla and almond extracts, mix well. Let cool both the rhubarb and milk mixture cool to room temp (this is the hardest part – I put mine in the freezer – did I mention the screaming children yet?)

Once cooled, pour the rhubarb into the pudding, mix to your fullsizeoutput_5273desired amount of mixed, then either serve or continue to cool until fully set. I served mine.

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This was such a refreshing dessert! It is very rich, but the richness combined with the tart rhubarb flavour was so good!

 

 

 

Rhubarb Pudding Recipe

Rhubarb Sauce

4 C Chopped rhubarb
2/3 C Sugar
1 C water
1 tbsp tapioca starch

Combine rhubarb, sugar, and water in a pot, bring to a boil.
Continue Boiling until all rhubarb strings gone.
Scoop about 1 tbsp of the rhubarb mixture into separate bowl with tapioca starch. Mix until starch is wet throughout.
Pour starch mixture back into pot and boil for about 1 minute.
Remove from heat and let cool to room temp.

Pudding 

4 C milk or cream (Cream make the pudding richer, the results is otherwise about the same)
4-5 egg yolks
1 C sugar
1 tbsp tapioca starch
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract (If using this pudding in a different recipe you may want to omit the almond extract)

Heat milk to just boiling (bubbles on edge of pot) over medium to medium high heat – stir often, careful not to burn.
In a separate dish, combine the egg yolks, sugar, and starch until light in colour.
Once the milk is boiling, remove from heat and temper the egg yolks by adding a tablespoon or two of the hot milk into the egg mixture. Mix well. I usually do this about 3 times.
pour the egg yolk mixture into he milk, mix well. Add the vanilla and almond extracts, mix. Then cool to room temp.

Once both the rhubarb and pudding are cool, combine, then serve and enjoy.

 

 

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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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A Cinderella Activity Day

I have a confession. Cinderella is one of my favourite movies. Admittedly you may hear this confession about several other movies as well, but that’s beside the point!

I LOVE Cinderella! What’s not to love? Her life sucks. It’s sucked for a long time, but still she dreams. She dreams every night, and dreams through the day. She just keeps on going each day. Yes, she feels anger, and even if she can’t take a jab at her step sisters or step mother, she still jabs at Lucifer when possible. She never gave up on herself.

Then when the step mother and step sisters were beyond horrible to Cinderella, ripping the clothes right off her body, when Cinderella herself said she no longer believed, her Fairy Godmother appears and says (paraphrased), “Of course you do, otherwise I wouldn’t be here.”

Not only does she continue to believe in hope, continues to dream, but she also believes in love.

She arrives at the ball, dances all night, and allows herself to love. Certainly we can talk about what happens a few weeks down the road when Cinderella and the Prince begin to get to know each other, but we don’t need to. This story isn’t about marriage. It isn’t about self truth or even reaching your personal best. This story is about triumphing over hate. This story is about believing, even when reality says it’s impossible.

Cinderella is amazing!

I’d love to focus on themes of love and dreaming with our children, and in a couple years we will, but for now we focused on fun.

For our first activity, we pretended to be Fairy Godmothers. We created pumpkins and pumpkin coaches. Our magic may not have the finesse of the Fairy Godmother in the movie, but I think the kiddos did a fine job.

Our second and third activities go hand in hand. In the movie, Cinderella needed to finish her chores in order to go to the ball. So our kiddos got to wash the floors, then they got to stay up until midnight partying.

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Their partying meant they ate cupcakes and  watched Phineas & Ferb (this is one of my favourite kids shows, I could watch it all day and still be happy)!

I do have pictures of the kiddos washing floors, but instead of showing the pictures, I think I’ll share the video with you. It’s hilarious, and since they discovered washing floors is so much fun, they now plead with me to let them wash floors daily. My children actually cry if I won’t let them wash floors!

 

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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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Peter Pan Activities

Peter Pan offers so many opportunities for activities. There’s pirates, fairies, adventure, flying and of course storytelling. This time we focused on the elements that are important for this movie and relate to the ride.

Our first activity was learning more about Big Ben and telling time. Telling time went a IMG_5735lot better than I expected! Well for the big girls anyhow 😂 Brom may have just ran around screaming random numbers, Cordelia used the digital clock, not that I blame her, I avoid analog at all costs! hahaha Though we do have a beautiful clock that was gifted to us for our wedding, this is the one we used, and even better: It plays the Westminster Chimes!

After playing with time for a while, we decided to learn more about Big Ben. We had so much fun watching different videos about the giant bell inside the clock tower. First, I had no idea the Bell is “Big Ben” I always assumed it was the clock tower. It turns out the tower is “Elizabeth Tower”.

We also learned that the clock is kept in time with pennies! How neat is that!?! And there are four faces with 312 pieces of glass each. There are 399 stairs to get to the top of the tower, but only 334 to the belfry. hahaha

Next on our list of fun things to do was to think of wonderful thoughts. We sang “You can Fly” and then giggled about the happy thoughts we have. Everyone agreed: Going to Disney World is the happiest thought. We’ve spent a bit of time looking at old Disney trip pictures and also dreaming about the next Disney trip. Whenever that will be.

With Peter Pan as a theme, we had to have a duel: Adults vs Children. The weapon? Pool noodles!

 

I’m not ashamed to say, the children won. Soundly. Just look at Brom go! He disarmed me, then went in noodles flaying!

Unfortunately, Ryan was at work for this activity, so you’ll have to thank the children for their amazing camera skills!

 

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Why Children Shouldn't Watch Peter Pan

Fantasyland at Magic Kingdom in Disney World has one ride that consistently has longer than average waits. Peter Pan’s Flight always draws crowds of people. It’s a classic ride from a beloved, classic story. Now that it has an interactive queue, it’s even more fun to check out this ride! The only problem is that my kiddos don’t really know the movie.

When they next wait in line and ride this ride, I want them to see the magic. I want them to know that they’re in the Darling children’s nursery. I want them to see Mermaid Lagoon as their ship sails overhead. I want them to live the experience as much as possible.

A few nights ago they watched Peter Pan for the first (second time for Ella and maybe Agatha). And they promptly declared they never want to see it again!

I wasn’t surprised, but a part of me is sad that a movie I once loved so much hasn’t aged well. Okay, the problems with this movie always existed, but the ideas were so pervasive throughout society that it didn’t stand out negatively. It’s the little things, the way Peter Pan treats Wendy. The way Tinker Bell behaves. The way the movie portrays native people. The way the movie places Wendy into the roll of caregiver. It’s the way Wendy goes on an adventure only to come home and declare she’s ready to grow up while the boys are ready for more adventure.

Ella and Agatha both told us all the things wrong with this movie. Even Cordelia and Brom were able to share that they didn’t feel good watching this movie. They’re still too young to pick apart a movie and understand the messages being given, but they’re very capable of feeling and taking in messages, even if the message is unintentional.

This viewing marks the end of a chapter in my life. I can see the movie through the eyes of my children and realize they need happier thoughts and movies that are more respectful to women and girls. Movies that show boys and men treating girls and women respectfully. They need to see movies that respectfully depict native people. It’s time to walk away from these old movies in an effort to brighten the childhood of my children and future generations.

Now we hope the upcoming Peter Pan (live action) remake will bring this wonderful story a fresh life that will bring magic and pixie dust to a new generation!

 

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This got longer than I intended, so I’ll tell you about our related activities in a separate post.

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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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Sword in the Stone Activities

At Magic Kingdom, in Disney World, if you go through (or around) Cinderella Castle, you’ll see the carousel. It’s lovely. One of my favourites. But it’s the stone in front of it that we’re interested in today. Or more importantly, the sword within that stone.

Once upon a time Agatha was a little girl that succeeded in pulling that sword from that stone. In the pictures above, you’ll notice the last picture shows the sword being pulled out of the stone – I almost cried! I’d only ever seen one other child pull that sword from the stone, and I almost missed it when Agatha did it! I was so excited! We all tried again, and again, to pull the sword from the stone,  but it didn’t do any good. For all her excitement, she didn’t really understand what it meant, or the story behind the sword in the stone.

I want to be sure that the next time we go to Disney World our children will understand where the sword comes from. I want to see them rush over to try to pull the sword from the stone. I want to see the magic on their faces.

So we watched Disney’s “Sword in the Stone” the other day. I want to share some of the activities we’ve done that go along with the movie.

First, we went for a walk through the woods. We pretended to be different animals that we saw (and some we imagined we saw hahaha). To start with, we were all dogs, then pelicans, bugs, and squirrels. While in the woods, we stopped to smell the roses, and identify other plants we found. We also explored someone’s fort in the woods.

After playing in the woods, we took some time to play Wolf Tag. It was so much fun running around pretending to be wolves and prey. The kiddos, especially Ella, kept giggling and asking if she could drop boulders on the wolf (in the movie the wolf gets stones and branches dropped on it while it chases after Merlin and Wart).

Our last activity would be tricky for most people, but you could make your own version. Ryan’s Grandma had a Sword in the Stone board game from 1967(or somewhere around there). We weren’t sure if all the pieces would be there, but we decided to try it anyhow. The game is played with a single die. When you land on a merlin space, you take a card. The cards all have little events from the movie that move you around the board (move 5 spaces, move to the first bird space etc), the first person that rolls a 4 at the sword space wins. Though we kept playing until everyone rolled a 4 because winning, or more importantly, losing, games isn’t an enjoyable experience for a couple of our smaller kiddos.

 

 

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Embarrassment, Failure, Growth

Recently, I submitted some of my artwork to the Strathcona County Art Gallery@501. I hoped people would like my work. I hoped the county would buy my art to display. I hoped for a lot of things, but beneath, and on top of, that hope something else whispered to me.

Something whispered that I wasn’t good enough. Something whispered that people would laugh at my work.

I felt embarrassed by my submissions. I told myself the gallery accepted all submissions. I didn’t even need to be good and they’d still display my work. People would see my work. They’d see it for what it really was.

I saw derision.

In my head I picture people telling my they like my work just to be nice. In my head I see other people thinking my work is childish. They’re only saying nice things about my work to be – well – nice.

In my head I hear a lot of things.  In my head I hear all the reasons I should keep my art hidden at home. In my head I hear all the reasons I shouldn’t talk to real artists. In my head I am not good enough. In my head I do not deserve to have my art on display. In my head my art is not valuable to others. In my head I doubt myself. A lot.

I submitted my work anyway.

Even though I never received a phone call saying my art was selected, I attended the unveiling reception at the gallery. I talked to other artists. I praised other artist’s work. It was so hard to go. I felt rather sick while I drove to the gallery. I wanted to leave before they made the announcements. I wanted to leave as soon as the announcements were done and I knew my work wasn’t selected.

I stayed anyway. I was uncomfortable. But I stayed. I chatted. I looked at a lot of art. Particularly the art that was purchased. I wanted to see what the selection committee saw. I wanted to learn. I wanted to open my eyes a little wider.

I was sad my work wasn’t selected for purchase. I was sad my work didn’t win the people’s choice award. But in my sadness I was also happy I tried. In my sadness I see hope. I see growth. I see a chance to learn more and do better next year.

I don’t know if I’ll feel anymore worthy next year, but sometimes it isn’t about feeling worthy, it’s about proving worth just by showing up.