Thursday, 30 August 2007

Sappy Over Nappies

This may sound rather peculiar, but I actually classify “cloth diapering” as one of my hobbies. Some might conclude from this statement that I have slipped into a delusional state, triggered by the exhaustion and lack of sleep that accompanies mothering two busy young boys. They would be mistaken. My love and appreciation for cloth diapers is both genuine and enduring!

Long before Chi-Chi was even a tiny zygote in my belly, I realized cloth diapers would grace the bums of my unborn children. A good friend of mine introduced me to the wonderful world of cloth diapering. There was really no convincing required. Cloth was the only option that seemed logical from many different perspectives.

From an environmental point of view, choosing cloth over disposables is a no-brainer. Going the cloth route undeniably adheres to the principle of “Reduce-Reuse-Recycle”. I wash and reuse my sheets and dishes, why wouldn’t I adopt the same approach with my diapers? The frugal accountant in me also relishes the cost savings associated with cloth diapers. Our family will likely save a few thousand dollars by the time Muffy graduates to underpants. As a mommy, a chief concern of mine is the health of my children. I can’t help but feel concerned and skeptical about the materials and chemicals used to produce disposable diapers.

Many parents don’t realize the cloth diapering options that are currently available. Great Granny would no doubt be shocked by the fashionable attire today’s tiniest bums are sporting. Chi-Chi and Muffy are huge Fuzzi Bunz fans. These soft, fleece-lined nappies are super comfy and are available in a rainbow of fun colors. They are just plain cute! Luckily, cloth diapers are increasing in popularity and are becoming more readily available. A good friend of mine sells Fuzzi Bunz locally, along with many other beautiful and unique cloth diapering and natural parenting products. Check her out at

I realize that my cloth diapering days are numbered. Chi-Chi has been demonstrating a keen interest in the potty lately that I cannot deny. A few weeks ago, I purchased him a few pairs of underwear and he gleefully performed the “Underpants Dance” around the kitchen table. I tear came to my eye and a lump formed in my throat. Someday, in the not-so-distant future, I will run my last load of Fuzzi Bunz through my workhorse of a washer. It will be with a heavy heart that I pack up my beloved nappies and send them off to a new and worthy home. Until then, I will treasure each trip to the change table as a chance to tickle a soft bum, nibble a tiny toe and sing a soft rhyme to a dear little heart. Sniff....Sniff.....

Cheap Thrills

As a mommy, I am constantly wracking my brain to come up with fresh and stimulating adventures for my little ones. As an accountant, I am forever on the lookout for a great deal or bargain. A sublime sense of satisfaction overcomes me when the cosmos align and I am able to achieve these two goals in synchrony!

Since we live on the coast, Chi-Chi spends a significant amount of time gazing out to sea. He admires the seagulls soaring overhead and giggles when the cool sea breeze tickles his cheeks. He listens attentively to the ubiquitous sound of the foghorn. Chi-Chi has a deep passion for all modes of transportation. It is therefore no surprise that he delights in spotting the various boats and ships that cross our view plane - from local lobster boats checking traps, to military vessels performing training exercises and cargo ships journeying out to the open ocean. His enthusiasm for the transportation industry and his maritime surroundings assured me that a “Big Boat Trip” would be a sure hit in his books!

The day of our long awaited nautical adventure finally arrived and we were graced with sunny skies and a light sea breeze. We loaded into the family car and headed down the road to the Dartmouth Ferry terminal. I was rather pleased when I pulled out my change purse to pay our fares. My one-way ticket was a mere $2 and Chi-Chi cleared the gate free of charge. Our 12-minute voyage across the Halifax Harbor was both thrilling and scenic through the eyes of this little two-year old. He smiled shyly at the other passengers and marveled at the many “big, big, big boats” we observed. He was particularly tickled by his sighting of Theodore Tugboat chugging along the water. We received an enthusiastic welcome from Daddy upon docking in Halifax and enjoyed al-fresco dining on the wharf at one of the local restaurants. We meandered along the boardwalk hand-in-hand, stopping to browse in the odd shop or watch an entertaining busker act. We treated Chi-Chi to an adorable wooden Theodore memento. At $15, this was probably a bit of a splurge for a cheapskate like me, but I simply could not resist! How often does one stumble upon a souvenir that meets the criteria of a natural toy? As our ferry waited, I dug another toonie from my purse. Farewell hugs and kisses from Daddy sent us on our journey home.

A one-hour tour on Theodore Too would have set us back a whopping $56. That’s the equivalent of 28 one-way ferry rides! No doubt I will one day shell out that $56. Chi-Chi is now sleeping with his wooden Theodore. It may be the beginning of a new love affair. Regardless, if you are in search of a “cheap thrill” for your little one, a ride on the Dartmouth Ferry may just be the right ticket!

Saturday, 25 August 2007

A Toddler's Tea Ceremony

I love a good cup of tea. There is nothing quite as relaxing and comforting as nestling into a comfy corner with a warm and soothing cup of my favorite tea. I’m pretty “plain Jane” when it comes to my taste in tea. I enjoy my Red Rose orange pekoe with a generous splash of milk. I indulge myself in this pleasure several times a day. As a stay-at-home mommy with two very active little ones, my daily tea rituals provide me with a welcome opportunity to put my feet up and unwind. That’s not to say I finish every cup to the last drop free of interruption!

I find the actual process of brewing a pot enjoyable. I don’t own an electric kettle, nor do I want one. The simplicity of putting a kettle on to boil is somehow more gratifying. An antique pine hutch houses my collection of eclectic pottery mugs. Each one reminds me of a special person, event or place we’ve visited. I carefully review my collection each time, selecting the mug that best suits my mood. I am very fond of each hand-made cup. The warmth and character that each one provides adds to the enjoyment of my “tea break”.

Chi-Chi also enjoys sitting down to a nice little cup of tea. His brew of choice these days is a homemade blend of peppermint and spearmint. As is common with most two-year olds, Chi-Chi is fascinated with the process as opposed to the product. The ‘tea ceremony” is the source of his entertainment and satisfaction. We have a little herb garden growing on our front step. He is “responsible” for watering these plants and takes his duties quite seriously. At such a young age, he seems to understand that he is caring for the plants that provide us with nourishment. He delights in carefully harvesting his mint leaves and enthusiastically runs them back to the kitchen for steeping. He rarely sits still long enough to drain his cup, but he certainly has fun along the way!

I suppose there is a lesson to be learned from Chi-Chi’s attitude and approach to tea time. As the saying goes, it is the journey and not the destination that should be cherished. This is definitely an area I can improve upon in my life. Hats off to Chi-Chi for reminding me of this!

Wednesday, 22 August 2007

Plug Into Nature

As human beings, I believe that we are inherently drawn to interact with the natural world around us. In today’s hectic and high tech environment, it is often easy to become detached from nature. Personally, I have a strong physical and mental need to spend time outdoors each day, absorbing the energy from the abundance of life that surrounds me. I witness this same need in my children. It does not take long for Chi-Chi to go stir crazy when confined by the four walls of our home. As soon as he marches out the front door, he becomes engrossed in his surroundings. Our backyard is a far more effective “babysitter” than any television program could ever be. Every morning I enjoy a leisurely cup of tea on the doorstep while Chi-Chi collects pinecones in his wagon or squeals at the discovery of a new rock. I try to make a point to “schedule” time outside each day where he is free to explore and lead the way.

On a recent business trip, my husband sat beside a woman and her 8 year old son. A scene of a child running freely through a lush green field flashed on the in-flight video screen. The little boy turned to his mother and asked, “Mommy, isn’t it dangerous to run through a field like that?” An hour later, while peering out the window, he asked his mother if the rural farm fields were golf courses. Are today’s children so “plugged into” technology and controlled scheduled activities that they have completely lost touch with nature? It concerns me that the potential leaders of tomorrow may not have a hands-on appreciation for the natural world.

I recently read a book that touches on this very issue – Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv. It is a must-read for every parent and really emphasizes the importance of providing our children with the opportunity to freely explore and discover the wonders of the natural world. Children need to get their hands dirty so to speak. From a parent’s perspective, this should be an easy goal to achieve. It can be as simple as clearing our kids’ schedules of a few organized activities and sending them out into a natural space to devise their own agenda.

I was very fortunate as a child to have ample opportunities to interact with nature. My sister and I spent endless hours beachcombing for treasures for our shell and fossil collections. We were quick to identify the name of every flowering plant during our family walks on the “country road”. I have my parents to thank for all of this. They provided the freedom we needed to explore and gentle instruction and guidance when required. At the tender age of two, Chi-Chi is showing a keen interest in the sea life at our doorstep. He has his own little shell collection that he sorts through on a daily basis. He is quick to correct anyone who attempts to call a quahog a clam shell! I'm so pleased with all he has learned in nature's classroom. I'm glad I signed him up for this one!

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

Logs Made With Love

In our day-to-day lives, many of us find joy in surrounding ourselves with beauty. We decorate our homes with art and furnishings that please us. We dress in clothes that suit our own personal style. We take the scenic route home to enjoy the charming architecture and landscape. It appears we are inherently drawn to an environment that is aesthetically pleasing. Why then, do we surround our children with loud, tacky and ugly objects? I love the natural texture and beauty of wool, wood, stone and cotton. It therefore only seems logical to believe that Chi-Chi and Muffy feel the same way!

My quest for natural play objects led me into the woods early one Sunday morning, saw in hand. I had previously discovered “Tree Blocks” ( on one of my web searches and felt that this was a woodworking project I could handle, keeping in mind my limited skill set. Considering we live on 16 acres, the majority of which is either forest or alders, it only made sense to venture into my own backyard for the project supplies. I carefully selected a few alder and birch branches to harvest and towed them back to the house to dry out for a few weeks. My dear husband, who always seems to get dragged into my endeavors, used a chop saw to cut the branches into blocks in one-inch increments. I hand sanded each block and then polished them with a sweet-smelling beeswax finish. Chi-Chi enjoyed participating in the project, happily sanding alongside me.

Needless to say, the blocks were a big hit with both of the boys. At 10 months, Muffy is fascinated with dumping them out of their basket. I don’t have to fret over the threat of toxic paint when he chooses to taste test the odd block. Chi-Chi immediately set to work building various garage structures for his cars. I too love our new blocks. They make my housekeeping duties a little more pleasant. I don’t seem to mind tidying up as much when I am handling something beautiful. I occasionally take a moment to smell the honey scent of the blocks and enjoy the melodic clinking sound as they drop into the basket. Despite the fact that I am an accountant, I love the imperfect nature of the blocks. Each one is unique and this helps the children find more creative methods to build and interact with them. These blocks definitely rank highly on the "most played" list in our household!

The Clover Invasion

My husband and I are always dreaming up strategies to simplify our lives and reduce the amount of time we spend running errands and doing chores. We both enjoy various hobbies and projects. With two small children, it can be extremely challenging to fit in personal time.

This summer we decided to take an “au natural” approach to some of our landscaping efforts. We stopped mowing our front lawn completely and encouraged a natural meadow to take its place. A “clover invasion” on our front lawn was the catalyst for this idea. Over the last couple of years, we’ve witnessed a sea of clover thrive, while the grass seeds we carefully planted seemed to struggle in our harsh coastal environment. Clover is such a lush and beautiful plant and our brood of wild bunnies adores munching on it. In the back of my mind I deduced that if the bunnies found contentment on their clover farm, they would refrain from dining in my garden! As a result of our efforts (or lack thereof) the chore of lawn mowing has turned into a 20-minute quickie.

I certainly enjoy the benefits of the lawn space that remains. It‘s a wonderful place for the little ones to stretch their legs and run. It will no doubt serve as a great mini soccer or ball field in the future. I notice, however, that both Chi-Chi and Muffy gravitate to the wild and natural spaces of our property as opposed to the manicured areas. Among the sweet smelling clover, goldenrod and wild yarrow, there is a wonderful world to discover. Although the meadow plants are waist high on Chi-Chi, he traipses through the bunny paths, inspecting insects and admiring the tiny sparrows. He delights in his regular sightings of bunnies and pheasants. We literally have a natural playground on our front lawn! Who knew that our laziness would reward us with such benefits?!

Monday, 20 August 2007

A Visit from the Wool Fairy

My little guy Chi-Chi was greeted by a present from the “Wool Fairy” this morning. A perfect little woolen strawberry was resting on his pillow when he awoke from his sweet dreams. Despite being plagued by the effects of chronic lack of sleep and caffeine overdose, the “Wool Fairy” of Seaside Farms worked into the wee hours of the morning to create this little masterpiece.

Over the last couple of months, I have been searching for more natural and aesthetically pleasing items to place in our family’s toy box. The recent recalls in the toy industry have further fuelled my quest to find options that are made of natural, non-toxic materials. I have experienced a great deal of satisfaction and enjoyment in crafting some of these toys myself. This has been a bit of a challenge considering I have two small children at home, but the benefits are well worth it.

I recently became interested in learning how to crochet. I came across a wonderful book that included patterns for play food, which happens to be one of my weaknesses! Amigurumi – Super Happy Crochet Cute by Elisabeth Doherty includes a number of adorable patterns ranging from carrots to cupcakes to bunny rabbits. My friend’s mother, who is a master at the art of crochet, whipped up a bunch of carrots for me last week. They are simply gorgeous! The carrots and strawberries were all made with 100% wool, including the stuffing. They are beautiful, natural, environmentally friendly and made with love. What more can one ask for in a toy? It certainly beats lead paint and plastic parts that can poison our children and will eventually end up in a landfill.

As I write, Chi-Chi is busy in his kitchen, carefully cooking up a batch of carrot soup and strawberry jam for this morning’s snack. Sounds delicious!