From online shopping to on-demand video, our lifestyles have evolved drastically over the last couple decades from simple pleasures to instant gratification and handheld convenience. As a new mom, I often find myself wondering how I’ll ever explain life pre-iPhone to my children; it sounds borderline unconscionable even as I type!

I rely on technology as much as the next person, but I’m still nostalgic for a simpler time before social media governed our lives and things weren’t handed to us on a smartphone silver platter.

Below are just some examples of the bygone era we adults once enjoyed, I wish you luck as you try and describe them to your kids!

Libraries

Who remembers the Dewey Decimal System? If you answered yes – congratulations! You’re old.

Believe it or not, kids, there was a time when ‘Googling It’ wasn’t an option and these ancient edifices known as Libraries housed all the available research on a particular subject. Mind-blowing, I know!

Video Rental

Just for the fun of it, try explaining to your child how you once left the comfort of your couch to rent a movie, only to realize that your first choice was out of stock and you had to settle for second best.

Report back on their dumbfounded look as they come to terms with a world before Netflix.

Home Phones

What do you mean there was one phone for the entire house and everyone shared it?” I can practically hear the horror in your teenager’s voice as you explain this wildly outrageous concept.

Snail Mail

Back in the day, people used actual paper to send notes back and forth in a process that also involved walking to a mailbox. Mail that was sent it off on a Wednesday usually arrived circa the following Friday.

Your kids are probably Snapchatting their friends right now about how prehistoric and strange you are.

Milk Delivery

They’ll flip out when they hear there was such a thing as home delivery by someone other than Amazon.com.

Cameras

Once upon a time there was completely separate device used to take photos that you couldn’t also use to call your best friend and play Angry Birds. Inside this so-called camera was something called film, a sheet of plastic with a finite number of images that had to be developed and printed in a process that took about a week; is their mind blown yet? Wait until they find out there was no Instagram!

For all the conveniences of technology, I’m grateful to have been raised in an era before anyone uttered the phrase “there’s an app for that.” I maintain there’s nothing more gratifying than getting a piece of handwritten mail and no replacement for a photo you can put in a frame. We can’t stop the world from moving forward, but every so often we can take (a humorous) look back on what once was and bring our kids in on the tale of a simpler time.

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Keeping Up in the Era of Social Media

Study: Parents Use Facebook More than Non-Parents

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How to Protect Kids Online

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I was four the first time I danced in front of an audience. Dressed head-to-toe as a penguin waiter in our studio’s adaptation of Mary Poppins, I did my best attempt of a tap-dancing waddle while carrying an invisible tray around the stage. I remember feeling so proud because I was singled out for a mini-solo during that performance; a sequence in which I danced up to Mary and Bert and offered them both an invisible drink from my platter.

From that point on, I was hooked, in-love with all aspects of dance from choreography to creative movement, costumes to classical music.

I danced for the next 14 years straight, with each subsequent year becoming increasingly more intensive with competitions, recitals and graded exams. My schedule often meant going to the studio immediately after school and missing social gatherings on the weekend to attend class or an out of town festival.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but now, more than 15 years since my amateur dance career ended, I credit it with being one of the most positive influences on my adult life. Here’s why:

Healthy Sense of Competition

I began competing in local and provincial festivals from the time I was eight years old until I stopped dancing at 18. I’ll never forget standing before the adjudicators as they critiqued our numbers and the feeling of anticipation as they doled out gold, silver and bronze on-by-one. Competition is a reality of adult life and whether it’s contending for a spot in university or a new job, it’s valuable to have a healthy perspective on rivalry and the risks and rewards of putting yourself out there.

Sportsmanship

Competing was not always synonymous with winning, not even close. In retrospect, learning to lose gracefully – particularly in solo competition when I couldn’t slink into the background of my fellow group members – was the most instrumental skill dancing taught me. At this point, we’re all aware of life’s unexpected twists, turns and occasional disappointments and learning to deal with defeat early on was an invaluable lesson in humility and sportsmanship.

Body Confidence

Was I ever going to be a prima ballerina? Definitely not. I was too tall with too-prominent an hourglass figure to ever make it into a professional company; nevermind that I lacked the turnout and enviable arch of a professional dancer.

Did lacking the ideal “body type” ever once stop me from donning a tutu or set of pointe shoes and dancing my heart out? Not event once. On the contrary, I participated in at least three competitions a year for more than a decade, dancing at least five separate numbers in each one.

For her part, my teacher was careful to never make any comments about our weight; even during those pressure-filled days before competition or a ballet exam, her critiques were limited to our classroom work and never, ever about our outward appearance.

In a world that often expects women to conform to a ‘perfect’ set of proportions, being a dancer in a non-dancer’s body instilled a sense of strength and confidence in me that it really doesn’t matter what you look like, it’s the hard work and energy you put into it that really counts.

Time Management

Dancing practically every day after school and on weekends did not exempt me from homework or exams. Juggling academic responsibilities with a busy extracurricular calendar was an early lesson in how to prioritize, organize and be accountable across the board; procrastination was not an option when ballet class ended at 9:30pm.

Respect for Authority

My longtime Ballet teacher was pretty strict when it came down to it. Sure, we’d goof around on the odd occasion, but in general she ran a very tight ship. She expected regular attendance, punctuality, concentration and your utmost effort out of respect for her time. Learning deference from such a young age imparted a valuable life lesson about respecting authority that would surface again in my professional life.

Dependability, Teamwork and Follow-Through

I was at the studio upwards of five-days a week at the peak of my dancing career and during competition and recital season, that frequency swelled with additional practice sessions. I recall many afternoons spent bartering with my mom about wanting to skip out on class in favor of curling up on the couch after a long day at school, but it rarely worked. In hindsight, attending dance lessons day after day (after day, after day) instilled a lifelong sense of discipline in me that just because you don’t feel like showing up, doesn’t mean you don’t.

As a new mom, I hope to one-day enroll my daughter in ballet and watch as she explores the music in her first set of slippers. Nothing would make me prouder than to see her discover her confidence within the four walls of a studio, in the loving arms of dance.

I’m holding onto the penguin costume just in case.

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Light up the Floor Feature

 

Teaching a child how to advocate for themselves is one of the most important tools a parent can provide their youth, tween, pre-teen, teen or adult offspring. There is absolutely NO debate here, in my opinion.

Understanding why this is integral is also important. Showing them how this is done is a vastly different story. One things is for certain: the uses and usefulness of these tools are limitless.

With a solid understanding of right versus wrong, followed by the ability to think independently and make thoughtful decisions, the next natural step becomes advocating for oneself — on that all-important parent check-list of life lessons and wisdom to impart.

Let’s take the Jian Ghomeshi trial currently underway, involving a coveted, former CBC radio host, on trial for sexual assault. How courageous do you suspect those victims had to be to come forward? How much time, thought and fortitude do you think they needed to even decide to come forward, advocate for themselves — in the face of all forms of painful, targeted, likely harsh scrutiny from a variety of sources. IT TAKES COURAGE.

In the same vein, a child who is bullied at school, a student who may be the victim of some kind of wrongdoing (from assault to physical, racial or some other form discrimination) — a child who endures some injustice that clearly contravenes the law, school policy, basic respect and kindness — what do you tell that child about how to red flag their situation? It’s very easy to say ‘talk to someone’. That is just so hard to do.

The key, I believe, is who you talk to. Having enough respect, trust and faith that whoever that child approaches will act, and act rationally to address the issue, to move it forward, to seek a solution. Therein lies the greatest challenge. Finding THAT person.

Workplace bullying and harassment policies take up tons of bandwidth of the human resources staff in companies these days — big and small enterprieses. But when an employee experiences this, confides in a colleague, investigates and discovers others feeling the wrath of similar behaviour, then thinks about what approach to follow to red flag the behaviour — what should they be told? What should this employee be advised if they don’t have an avenue to seek objective counsel, within that company? What should they be told if they don’t trust any of their senior leadership enough to approach them with the situation? What if the HR department resources are highly politicized and would leave the employee feeling more like the perpetrator than the victim. Suddenly, you have someone who wants to advocate for themselves but cannot. Failure of the entire system. Point scored for the perpetrator and the enablers.

Sweeping serious situations as described above under the rug— whether at home, at school or at work —- simply creates more enablers and less accountability. And guess what, print and online media — the world we live in — are FULL OF STORIES of people who have been left unaccountable, who have been enabled to behave in disrespectful, unjust and in many cases illegal ways — likely because people either did not or weren’t provided a clear avenue to advocate for themselves and shine a bright light on the wrong.

ADVOCATE: To support, encourage, back, promote, sponsor.
The dictionary definition is so neat and tidy. Acting on it requires COURAGE (bravery, mettle, valour, nerve, guts).

There is no need for a culture of tattling. There is a need for more of us, parents, children and everyone else to provide unbiased, objective support to people who seek our counsel because they have been wronged. And to provide that support —- without judgment and with courage.

Introducing solid foods into your infant’s diet can be a source of trepidation for parents. It seems health guidelines for what you should feed babies and when you should start are constantly changing, creating a feeling of confusion and even fear around the process.

One philosophy of introducing solids stands in contrast to other theories because it encourages novice eaters to self- feed rather than be fed by a parent or caregiver. This technique has become known as Baby Led Weaning (BLW), a term coined by UK healthcare professional Gill Rapley.

We spoke with Toronto-based dietitian and Baby Led Weaning consultant Amanda Lapidus who explained the basic tenets of this method and addressed some common misconceptions.

1. What is Baby Led Weaning?

Baby Led Weaning is an alternative method for introducing complementary foods to infants where the infants actually feed themselves, meaning they self-feed as opposed to being spoon-fed by a caregiver.

2. Please describe some of the research behind Baby Led Weaning?

In terms of the gold-standard of research (a double-blind, randomized control study) there hasn’t been any but I don’t think that type of research is possible or necessary for this. Observational evidence suggests Baby Led Weaning encourages improved eating patterns and can lead to healthier body weights because babies were able to self-moderate. They were also seeing in observational studies that babies were developing better chewing skills, better dexterity and better hand-eye coordination.

3. Will we see that type of “gold standard” research next?

I think randomized studies will be done which is what most of the studies have suggested in terms of future research in this area.

4. At what age are babies typically ready to feed themselves?

I recommend 6 months with Baby Led Weaning, which goes along with World Health Organization recommendations. The reason is at six months, babies have the developmental skills to get food into their mouths and should be able to sit upright.

5. Some parents are worried about the possibility of choking? Is this a concern?

The risk of choking goes along with feeding regardless of whether you practice Baby Led Weaning or you feed with purees. The risk is more related to what you’re feeding your child. If you’re feeding them foods that are choking hazards, then they will be at an increased risk. With Baby Led Weaning, as long as you’re offering them safe foods they’re not at an increased risk. Their gums are strong enough to chew soft food.

There is some observational evidence that you’re actually decreasing a baby’s risk of choking as you’re working with their gag reflex to improve their ability to handle foods. When you’re pureeing food, they’re just learning to swallow as opposed to manipulating the food on their own.

When they put the food in their mouths, they might gag a little but gagging is good. Gagging is a safety mechanism to prevent choking. It’s a retching movement that actually pushes food away from their airway. It’s mostly just scary for a parent to see.

The difference between gagging and choking is that with choking, the airway is completely blocked and usually there’s no sound at all and that’s when a caregiver would intervene.

Another key is that you’re never leaving a child alone. I would say regardless of what you’re feeding them, never take your eyes off of them when they’re eating.

6. What are common foods to introduce at the outset of BLW?

It doesn’t have to be complicated. My own daughter started with a piece of boiled carrot from curried soup. Avocado and cucumbers are also good examples. The important thing is the size of the food; it should be big enough that it’s actually poking out of the hand and not stuck in their palm. At that developmental stage, babies can’t open their hand to see that it’s in there.

7. What are examples of foods to stay away from?

Basically anything you might normally consider a choking hazard, for example: hot dogs, sausages, pretzels, popcorn, whole nuts or large pieces of nuts and boney fish. Grapes and cherry tomatoes should not be served whole; they should be cut lengthwise so they’re long and skinny.

8. What are some advantages of BLW?

If your child self feeds not only is it easier for you (especially if you have more than one child), but also they can join in on the family meal and you can eat too. Imagine that? They get to explore the food that they’re eating, making it more fun for them. They can explore textures and play with their food using their hands and their mouths. It helps them develop their hand-eye coordination and their pincer grasp.

Observational studies suggest that baby led weaning encourages improved eating patterns, leads to a healthier body weight and decreases likelihood of picky eating which can be a huge problem.

9. Who should avoid Baby Led Weaning?

Any child under six months of age should not begin Baby Led Weaning particularly if they are unable to sit upright. Children with impaired chewing skills or fine motor skills may not be able to self feed and parents of babies born prematurely should speak to their physicians to discuss whether baby led weaning is the right approach to take.

10. How would you advise parents who are interested in BLW to go about it?

I always recommend doing research of your own. There are a ton of blogs and videos online that help empower parents and caregivers to use this method. Talk to other people you know who have done it as well.

I always tell people and encourage them to know that it’s not the only approach. You don’t have to stick to just Baby Led Weaning. I work with my clients to know they can do a combination. Speaking for myself, I provide finger foods and I spoon-feed my son, you don’t have to be strict about one versus the other, it’s really about what makes you comfortable and whatever decreases your own anxiety. Eating shouldn’t be stressful, it should be fun!

ABOUT AMANDA: Amanda Lapidus, RD, BSc. is an experienced, innovative and supportive dietitian, mother and wife, living and working in Toronto. She is one of the few dietitians who offers personalized and family focused care in the comforts of your own home. Amanda completed her Honours Bachelor of Science in Foods and Nutrition at The University of Western Ontario and her postgraduate internship in clinical nutrition at Mount Sinai Hospital. She is a member of the College of Dietitians of Ontario, Dietitians of Canada and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Amanda draws from a diverse career in the field of nutrition with a wide range of physical and mental health knowledge and a special interest in integrative and functional medicine. Amanda works using real foods and believes in making nutrition in your home simple, satisfying and sustainable. CONTACT: Amanda@simplynutrition.ca , 416-805-2584

Disclaimer: This is not a replacement for any advice or guidance you would normally seek when making decisions for you and your child. Intended for informational purposes only.

There are times when the wind is howling and the snow is whipping across your face, that it is easy to curse living in a winter climate. Being a new parent, I have often found myself wondering just how much easier it would be if I didn’t have to wrestle my daughter into a snowsuit before leaving the house or strap her into the car-seat with a handful of frozen fingers.

Then there are days like today, when the sun is shining and there’s only a slight nip in the air, that I can reflect on all that I love about living in a city that experiences four distinct seasons, including – yes – winter.

Here are just a few:

  1. Snowy Sports: Whether it’s hitting the slopes or taking in an outdoor game of shinny, there’s something so nostalgic and wonderful about frolicking outside in the winter chill – especially with kids. Can you think of anything more fun than climbing aboard a toboggan and sailing down a hill of packed snow? Nope!
  2. Hot Bevvys: When you’re done enjoying the outdoors, fix yourself a cup of warm cocoa and warm-up from the inside out. A steaming hot beverage just isn’t the same when your fingers and toes aren’t mid-thaw.
  3. Winter Fashion: During the dog-days of summer, my mind inevitably wanders to thoughts of scarves, boots and the deep hues that characterize winter fashion. Sandals, swimsuits and maxi-dresses just can’t compare.
  4. Comforts of Home: Nothing makes me appreciate a Saturday night spent indoors more than a Canadian winter. Give me a pair of warm socks and a movie and I am one happy Canuck.
  5. The Spring Thaw: Is there any more optimistic feeling than the one you have during those early days of spring? It’s magical to watch as sidewalks fill-in and a hibernating city comes back to life, ahhhh!

Winter doesn’t have to be a source of dread all year-round; it can actually be quite beautiful in its own right. I hope you take time to enjoy it because in the time it takes to spell F-R-O-Z-E-N, spring will be here!

 

RELATED LINKS:

The Perfect BLEND

Family Fun: Take it Outside

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Pregnant and postpartum populations should be screened for signs of depression, according to a study by an influential U.S. panel.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) updated its 2009 findings on depression screening for adults to include, for the first time, expectant and postnatal women. The panel also recommended treatment and follow-up plans post-delivery.

“The Community Preventive Services Task Force recommends collaborative care for the management of depressive disorders based on strong evidence of effectiveness in improving depression symptoms, adherence to treatment, response to treatment, and remission and recovery from depression” read the report published in The Journal of the American Medical Association in reference to the study’s findings of all adults. “This collaboration is designed to improve the routine screening and diagnosis of depressive disorders, as well as the management of diagnosed depression.”

The study recommends Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) as a form of treatment for pregnant or breastfeeding women because of the potential harms to a fetus or newborn from certain pharmaceutical drugs. According to the findings, the risk of harms associated with CBT treatment in postpartum and pregnant women is “small to none.”

Other medical associations, including The American Academy of Pediatrics and The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend depression screening at least once during the perinatal period.

RELATED LINKS:

Part 1: Understanding Postpartum Depression

Part 2: A Snapshot into Life with Postpartum Depression

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So the media has descended swiftly on the devastated community of La Loche, Saskatchewan, in typical fashion, to recount a horrific tale involving a boy with a gun, a killing spree, reeling families, a shell-shocked community.  All of which equal Canada’s worst school shooting.

Why are we the least bit surprised? And why are we pointing to bullying as a cause?  Bullying may indeed be found to be a contributing factor — that remains to be seen.

This is a story about hopelessness.  Plain and simple.  It has played out before and sadly will again unless leaders in this country actually execute a meaningful plan of action centred around how we treat First Nations in this country.  Stop talking. Start doing.  The conditions are appalling. That should be what shocks us.

Having visited a few reserves over the years as a journalist — none of them in remote parts of Canada, mind you — I can tell you about the decrepit conditions (lack of clean running water, overcrowded homes,  overpriced fresh produce — the list is long).  It all adds up to a lack of hope.  The face of hopelessness is something you NEVER forget.

We ONLY hear about these ‘third-world conditions’ when fatality strikes —- suicide, a murder , deaths — bigger story if these are alcohol-induced.  That’s the SAD reality.  So what happens in between these headline-grabbing events?  What are we doing to give so many of these children, adults, parents, grandparents and families living in squalor — HOPE?

The employment rate in La Loche hovers somewhere around 20%.  That’s the percentage of this community with a job.  Just imagine.

I’ve known many people over the years who have visited remote First Nations communities, including my husband, and literally stand there in disbelief as they tell you what they saw and experienced.  How can this be possible in Canada is usually a sentiment expressed at one point.

Surely there are some positive stories mixed in with the overwhelming negative, but the bottom line is we NEVER seem to deal with the root cause (a lack of hope caused by lack of basic resources), only the symptoms (suicide, murder, death).

The money past governments’ have allegedly freed up never seem to land directly where it’s needed in these communities — why is that?  Out of sight, out of mind?

I have long believed — and even put together and presented a proposal a few years ago to one of Canada’s main broadcasters — that the media has almost as important a role to play as government in writing a new story for the founding fathers of this country.

If and when a plan is crafted to improve conditions on these reserves, if and when the money begins to flow from the government — the media can play an integral, objective role in ensuring accountability and transparency — rather than just dispatching dwindling resources to do the SAME SAD STORY again and again — in a different place.

Whether you like it or not, giving birth exposes you to a myriad of tips and a mountain of advice courtesy of your fellow parents. From breastfeeding to sleep habits and everything in between, it seems everyone is an expert when it comes to surviving those postpartum days.

I found myself on the receiving end of many mommy pro-tips when I was pregnant and have to admit that some came in pretty handy (others not so much…others not at all). In my experience, the best advice was rooted in pragmatism rather than platitude, meaning anything in the vain of “Sleep when the baby sleeps” was pretty much useless.

It’s in that spirit of practicality and sensible support, that I give you my 5 easy tips for streamlining life with a newborn:

  1. Family room essentials: Keep a duplicate stash of necessities (i.e. diapers, wipes, etc.) in the family room to keep from running to the nursery every time the baby needs a change.
  1. Save Space: To prevent the bottomless pile of outgrown newborn attire from overtaking your house, invest in some vacuum bags that shrink when the air is sucked out, a real space saver!
  1. Dim those lights: Installing a dimmer switch in the nursery will avoid the need to turn on jarring overhead lights or bright table lamps for those overnight feedings.
  1. Pump-it: Baby shampoo, hand-sanitizer and anything of the sort should be in a pump bottle providing for convenient one-handed dispensing when you’re holding onto a squirmy infant.
  1. Hassle-free hydration: In case you haven’t discovered it already, breastfeeding can be extremely dehydrating. To avoid feeling parched in the middle of the night, keep a water bottle in the baby’s room and refill it after every use so it’s ready to go.

Having a newborn can be an uphill challenge at times, testing a parent’s patience and endurance beyond their wildest imagination. It is comforting in those early days to be able to draw on the wisdom and experience of the parenting community to smooth the way for all the amazing moments ahead; trust me, there are too many to count.

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Things I Never Thought I’d Miss About Having a Newborn

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