Anyone else tired of chopping?

Not a good sign that we’re in week 2 of the challenge and I’m getting tired of chopping.  The benefits are outstanding – when I can quickly drop some veggies in a pan, in lunch containers or in the oven to roast.  We are eating well and it’s easy.  Lots of colours, lots of greens. Couldn’t be happier with the nutrition the kids are getting every day.

I tend to think of myself as a good cook.  A great cook?  But my knife skills are rudimentary – there’s no subtlety in my chopping.  If I had ninja knife skills it might be a different story, as it’s always more fun to do things when you’re proficient (or at least it’s more efficient when you have skills).

My friends think it’s not about the chopping – it’s about being a mom who is keeping it all together. I see the other moms and dads out there — rest assure if I see your kiddo having a meltdown in Tim Horton’s or if I overhear you snap when your munchkin gets a case of the ‘gimme’s’ at the checkout line.  There’s no judgement from me – only relief that I’m in the company of other imperfect but well intentioned parents – just like me.

But it if it is about the chopping –  I guess I’ll simply try to find a new Netflix habbit to turn on in the kitchen Sundays and Wednesdays while I’m prepping away.

Prepping for 21 meals a week

So I’ve figured out that when you are dairy-free, gluten/grain-free, legume free, and low sugar…what you are really doing is following a Paleo diet.  I like that frame of mind because it’s about what we are doing vs a list of things we aren’t doing.

Regardless of what you call it, there is a ton of meal prep involved.  We’re too new in the process to have the kids self-sufficient for breakfast – so that means mom is planning for 21 meals (ok maybe 20) a week. Of course Nom-Nom Paleo has a brilliant schedule worked out for meal prep.  Can you find this kind of time?  Not me.  Containers

That said , you can’t just start chopping veggies on a Sunday night – you need to plan to plan.  Without it you have cranky kids in the AM or when they get home from school and no one’s day gets better with that:

  • What kitchen tools do you need? Because I’m living in a furnished rental 6 months, I’ve been quick to identify what’s an absolute must have to get started with Paleo.  All the equipment here is complete rubbish – here’s the short list of what I’ve bought to make the 6 months manageable:
    • Baking Sheet & muffin tins
    • Vitamix
    • Cast iron pan
    • Chef’s knife
    • Sturdy cutting board
    • Kitchen grill – this was probably not necessary, but it’s fun
    • More glass containers than you ever thought you would buy

Stupid Easy Paleo – Meal Planning has some good tips on how to structure your time to the through week, so you aren’t cooking every day.  She also recommends a slowcooker as a must have.  I don’t think so – I’m making due with the oven.  When we were still eating beans – the slow cooker was huge.

  • When do you have time to grocery shop, that is followed by time to prep?  For me that’s usually Saturday shopping and Sunday afternoon prep.  I don’t schedule anything for Sundays – we get home from Church and the kids have free time until dinner.  I try to have some relax time, some time walking the dogs and my afternoons are spent getting the lunches, breakfasts and 1-2 dinners organized.  If you don’t have a specific list of what you need for the week, Paleo Leap has a great set of all purpose suggestions for things to get ready, so you’re not scrambling every day.  Of course, you can’t chop everything on Sunday or it gets squishy.  I try to carve out a little time Wednesday to get through what’s required for Thursday and Friday.  And Saturday’s is simply cobbling together the odds and end we didn’t get to or didn’t quite finish.

Don’t underestimate the value of your containers.  It’s an investment – but there’s value to being able to put together 10 little packs of olives, 10 little packs of chia pudding, and other additions to packed lunches in advance.

 

 

Sticks, Guns with a Side of Meat Eating Animals

We are fortunate that our kids get to spend some time with their grandparents.  After a visit we usually get an update: he ate, he did (not) sleep, he was (not) well behaved.  Sometimes we even get a handful of pictures from the day.

After today’s visit with my dad, I received the following update:

Scorecard:

Unprompted references to:

  • Meat-eating animals ~ 4
  • Meat-eating coyotes ~ 2 (included above)
  • Soldiers ~ 8
  • Weapons
    • Sticks ~ 2
    • Guns ~ 10  (more or less)
  • Bad guys ~ 10 (more or less)
  • The Living Christ ~ 0
  • Dead Jesus ~ 1

I laughed, and laughed, and laughed until my sides hurt when I read this.  My older guy, the one who’s about to start school, is having a bit of a love affair with all things church/God/Jesus at the moment.  While it can be a bit annoying to have a three year old proselytize you, he has a frame of reference that cracks me up.  When he wants to know how old something is, he asks:

Is it before grandpa, but after Jesus?
Or, is it before Jesus and after the dinosaurs?

 

Never have I wanted a camera more

This... only in my front yart
This... only in my front yart

Usually we’re pretty good about bringing the camera with us where ever we go.  However the nightly family walk around the block is usually occasion to leave it at home. Not any more.  After tonight’s trip it’s going to be part of the check list:  two kids, dog, dog leash, dog bag, toy, shoes for everyone, keys and camera.

 

Just as we arrived home, we stopped to talk to a neighbor in the street.  As usual, adult chit chat is not terribly interesting to a three year old.  So he walked the rest of the way to our front yard.  Found his way into the middle of the garden, pulled down his pants and started to pee, facing the street.

Saving Money & Still Having Fun

There are so many fun things to do in the summer, both indoors and out. But as you have no doubt already noticed, most of them cost money. I started thinking about this after we paid $17 ($15 family entry + $2 parking) to go to the Herb Fest. It wasn’t even my money (thanks dad!), but I didn’t like the feeling that I/we had paid $17 so that people could sell us stuff (turns out the Herb Fest is mostly sales stalls).

This is why I love the library (see yesterday’s post), but the library is not the only freebie out there:

  • My guys love the splash pads. Run by the City of Ottawa, you can find them in almost every neighborhood. If I remember to bring along some bubbles then we are set for a whole morning/afternoon.
  • Shakespeare in the Park: We haven’t tried this one yet, but I think it’s going to be a riot. There are only two weeks of performances yet, so get your fix now.
  • Picking berries: this has worked well for us from +18 months. There’s definitely more eating than picking at 18 months, but by the time my guy hit 3, he could fill up a berry basket all on his own. Strawberries are the easiest to pick, but it’s nice to go to a farm that has other selections at their farm store, so you can bring home a bounty. Here’s a quick summary of local u-pick farms
  • Kids Sports: We live close to a local soccer field. It’s a great venue for baseball games, soccer games, ultimate and even the occasional cricket match. There’s no need for me to pay to see a game, when it’s just as much fun for my guys to watch kids that are 10-15 run around. Not to mention that my guys can run/walk/crawl and generally entertain themselves along the sidelines. The kids on the field love to have someone that’s not mom and dad cheering for them.
  • Nature Walks: I wish we did more of these. When I’m at home and thinking about what to do for the day, it always feels like this is a big deal to plan. But that’s entirely not the case. You can start at any point along the NCC path system and have a great walk. If you want something a bit more rugged, you can go to any NCC nature conservation area (such as: Stoney Swamp, Green’s Creek or Mer Bleu) and go for a trail walk. There’s no need to lug your gang all the way up to the Gatineau’s to enjoy nature in Ottawa

This is by no means an exhaustive list. What are some of your favorites?

Lessons Learned On the Nanny Front

In an effort not to make the same set of mistakes twice, we’ve been doing a bit of research on the nanny front. I’m looking for ideas and tips on how to:

  • How to hire hire a nanny that’s a fit with the family?
  • How to integrate your nanny with your family?
  • How to quickly address any issues that might come up?
  • How to be patient when your nanny does something that drives you crazy, but isn’t something that endangers the kids?
  • How to come across as a normal family to your nanny, when really I’m learning that we are very particular about some things:  what the kids eat, TV, jumping on furniture, talking with respect, etc., etc.

I’ve found a couple of resources that are useful on this front:

  • Aunt Emma’s Blog:  The name doesn’t do it justice, but this is the rule book on what to do and not to do with respect to hiring, firing, and compensating your nanny.  It gets straight to the point and has no nonsense advice.
  • Nanny Network Parent Resources:  This one was helpful because they’ve posted a collection of articles from all over the web on the entire nanny process from requirements, interviews, initial days, keeping your nanny and taxes.
  • Short List of Government Links: No tips and tricks here, just a straight up list of government agencies and their forms that you will need to tackle when hiring a nanny.

Over the years, Canadian Living has run a couple of nanny related articles:

Canadian Living Tips:

How to choose a nanny agency

I know, I know, I’m supposed to be telling you about what I’ve been reading this week, and I have been reading a lot on the bus, but it’s mostly been “The Economist”.  Now that I have a few free minutes, I’m back to looking for a nanny agency and have found a couple of useful guides:

The Canadian Caregiver’s Association – a not for profit group that is trying to implement some industry standards has a guide.  So far the best guide I’ve found is from an agency itself.  I know it’s suspect to get the information “from the horse’s mouth”, but this site was full of great tips and tricks:  http://www.execunannies.com/hr_approach.html   If you click on the link, you’ll find the focus is more about hiring the nanny than the agency.  And that’s exactly why I think the list is so great.  I’m looking for an agency that can help me find a great nanny for my family, and this agency has suggestions on how to do that.

Navigating Nanny Agencies

As we started to look into hiring an live-in nanny, we’ve entered this whole murky world of nanny agencies.  While I’m sure there are many good agencies out there, I have yet to find one with which I’m comfortable.  The first ones I’ve found are the “No Fee” services?  No fees?  That doesn’t make any sense.  Who’s paying the bill?  It turns out the nanny.  She’s being charged $3-5k + usury interest rates.  I don’t want any part of that.

Further to my investigation I had trouble sourcing information about reviews for these agencies, or tips on how to tell if an agency is legitimate.  Some are independent agencies, some have 2-3 different company names, but are all really the same company underneath.

Nanny Agencies – my investigation

I’m going to start chronicling my research, in the hopes that others won’t have to do the same work.  If you know where this research is already done, please, please save me time on the web and point me in the right direction.

What are you going to do about it?

There are moments when I think I must be doing a terrible job as a mother ~ these moments include ones such as when my son yells that he is going to shoot me with a gun and throw me out of the house.  And then there are moments when I think: wow, he’ going to grow up to be a great man.

I had one of the latter moments last week.  My husband and I decided to fire our nanny (more on that later, but yes, we let her go after 3 days and no back-up plan in place!).  Once we let her know, it was time to let our son know that she wouldn’t be back the next day.

Sitting across the table from my son, I opened with:  I have something serious to talk to you about

Eyes look up at me, quiet OK, eyes back down.

Me:  Mommy and Daddy don’t always like the way the nanny talks to you; we don’t think she has enough respect for your ideas and your abilities.

Eyes up…pause…eyes down…pause…eyes up:  What are you going to do about it?

My heart fluttered.  To me that was a perfect response.  Reflective and thoughtful.  He knew he was important and he knew mom and dad would fix the problem.

On my night stand: June 28

This week I’ve got two great book on the go:

  • Same kind of differentSame Kind Of Different As Me: Is a fascinating story about the most unlikely of friends: a modern-day slave, turned homeless man and an international art dealer. Before starting the book I was a bit skeptical, as one of the quotes on the back is from Barbara Bush (George Senior’s wife).  It was exceptional, definitely a tear jerker in the middle.  I enjoyed the back and forth:  the chapters alternate between the homeless man and the art dealer perspective.
  • Why Gender MattersWhy Gender Matters: What Parents and Teachers Need to Know about the Emerging Science of Sex Differences: This is by far my favorite parenting book of all time. For any parents out there who’s kids are the opposite gender, you’ve no doubt found yourself saying: boys/girls really are different. I know I have. And the author of this book tells you why boys and girls are different and what difference it can/should make to parenting and teaching styles.  3/4 of the book is based on peer-reviewed research that the author summarizes for you, the last quarter, where there is not yet concrete evidence, you get the author’s opinion.  I’ve found this book enlightening and would recommend it to all parents (even if your kids are the same gender as you!).