Family Dinners?

Do you have them? Do you have them every day? Every week?

Here’s an episode of The Current on the topic from last week. The interviewee is Laurie David (Larry David’s wife) and she’s a huge advocate of family dinners and how to get your family back to the table, and why you should want to put forward the effort. No surprise she’s on the show to promote her new book: The Family Dinner: Great ways to connect with your kids one meal at a time. Laurie’s discourse on the radio reminded me of an episode of Oprah from a season or two ago in which she spent time with families to reform their dinner times. Oprah saw families that were ordering takeout and each taking their food to a separate part of the house to eat on their own with their digital device of choice (texting, TV, laptop, whatever). The Oprah episode horrified me, but even Laurie’s interview seemed to indicate that the family dinner is a challenge.

More nights than note, we have dinner as a family. My kids are 2 and 5… so I can’t really imagine how they would get fed if we didn’t sit down with them. That said, we have friends whose nanny feed the kids before the parents get home from work, or whose kids get a big snack at daycare and don’t eat dinner, or who simply don’t enjoy the toddler meal and have a husband/wife dinner after the kids go to bed. I’m inclined to think that the latter is a great idea for us to try, at least once or twice a week.

But for now, we’re still the old fashioned four of us sitting down for dinner. It might not be fancy – in fact it’s definitely not fancy, but we’re there. I’ve been warned that this will get harder and harder to do as the kids get older. We’ll see. For now, Monday’s are definitely a challenge, as both boys have classes as 6pm. So we usually have eggs and crudités at 5:15. When the boys are older, I expect they’ll have more activities, but I’m also hoping we can push our dinner time back to 6:30 or so. Now if we have dinner at 6:30 the boys are falling asleep by the time we finish at 7pm.

I would love to hear success stories of how you’ve managed family dinners? Who’s able to get their 7/9 or teenage kids to the table for dinner more nights that not and how did you do it?

29 Days of Giving?

At first this didn’t sound like much, but then I started asking myself what would I do every day for a month, or from now until Christmas. My quick mental tally didn’t hit 29.

Where is this coming from? Well I was reading Body&Soul magazine last week (I had the flu… my reading selections deteriorate) and there was an article about this woman who started a with a challenge to herself to do give 29 gifts in 29 days. Christmas with a large extended family did not count. From that one month of giving, she started doing it again, and again and then started sharing the idea with others. Now there’s a whole web site dedicated to the whole idea of 29 days of giving. The idea behind why she started this campaign resonated with me. The focus was to stop being so internally focused. I’ve been finding myself saying “when I get through this patch, I’ll start doing XYZ again”. Well that was the plan in August, and September. I don’t even know what happened in October, and here we are in November. Clearly that “patch” is longer than anticipated and I need to find another way out. Perhaps 29 days (or 38 until Christmas) would be one way.

I couldn’t find the article from this month’s Body&Soul, but here’s one about the benefits of giving. Apparently it’s good for you (the old better to give than receive notion come true).

Needless to say, this article got me thinking: thinking about the toys I’m supposed to give to my nephew, about the friend I was supposed to call, about what to get my dad for Christmas. These people, and so many more give me a lot every day – chores, advise, shoulder to cry on, and lately I’ve been focused on me and my little family, just trying to get through work.

I’m not ready to commit to publishing my daily gift, as you likely don’t want to know that I gave the guy outside my office $5, and I’m not sure my ego could take letting the world know that my big gift for the day was returned a phone call after 2 months. I will however try to have regular updates, in the vein of: “things are going great, I love this giving thing”, to “what giving project? I’m not doing that any more.”







Love the Library

I’m a library geek and I’m not ashamed to admit it. The library is a great diversion for my kids, we can wander over and get some excercize along the way and once we’re there there is a lot to keep everyone entertained. I never browse the adult section, but simply order my books ahead of time. I get an e-mail letting me know they have arrived, and my kids know that the last thing we do before check out is look for ‘mommy’s books’.

Our local library finally has the kids backpack program. It’s been available at the big branches for a long time, but now you can walk into almost any Ottawa library branch and pick up a backpack full of kids books. The books have been selected by librarians to be age appropriate. When I’m short on time, this means I can pop into the library and pickup a bag of books to bring home as a quick, happy and super cheap package for the boys.

As the librarians have vetted the books, this program also prevents me from bringing home any of the doozies that have accidently graced our shelves of late. These include:

  • The boy whose dad has died and whose mom gets a new boyfriend. The new boyfriend likes sailing and moves in with the mom and boy. When I flipped through the pictures it looked like a happy story about a family that liked to go sailing. I missed the details that the man was the new boyfriend.
  • The story about the little pig that spent lots of time playing and learning about the ‘old days’ from grandma. Again, didn’t pay close enough attention to the end of the story, where the grandma gets sick, can’t move and eventually dies while the little pig holds her.

These are only some of the winners that have escaped my editorial eye as I pile books into the stroller that my older one picks out.

All that to say, drop into your local library and see what book bags they might have for you.

On My Night Stand: July 5

There are times when I go to the library to pick up what ever it is I’ve ordered and I figure I must have picked up someonelse’s books from the shelf.  Last week was one such week.  Here’s what I picked up:

  • Quantum Wellness: A Practical Guide to Health and Happiness: When I flipped through this, I couldn’t imagine what had possessed me to order it. Then I saw that the forward was from Oprah’s Dr Oz, and it became clear. I must have seen this on the show at some point, ordered it, and then like with all Oprah books it took forever to arrive.  This book is not for me:  It’s prescription for being well is:
    1. Listen and learn
    2. Set an intention
    3. Come up with a plan
    4. Make the move

      To help with this process the author recommends journalling, avoiding lactose, analyzing your relationships to determine which ones are require rejuvenation and of course de-cluttering your environment.  Life’s to short to wade through the minutia of recommendations in this book.  The book ends will a collection of recipes and recommended eating.  Highlights of the list include: tofu sausages with scrambled tofu, sandwiches with fake meat and vegan meatballs from the frozen food section.  I’m ok with this stuff if you want to eat it, but don’t delude yourself into thinking that your eating well just because it’s vegan:  if it’s in a box it’s fresh from the factory.

  • What Men Don’t Tell Women About Business:  Good title, but what a weird book.  I was expecting it to be about tips and tricks, or attitudes or something relevant to me as a woman in the workplace.  So far, it’s about this guy from Vancouver and his transition from working for other people to starting his own consultancy business.  His tale is not self aggrandizing, he makes himself out to be quite a mean guy and by his own account an unpleasant acquaintance with whom to do business.

Perhaps I’ll have better luck with next week’s reading.  I think I’ll go back to fiction for a while.

Books for boys

We are all avid readers in our house.  Our boys always go to bed with 2-3 bedtime stories and they try to negotiate for more.  At times we find it hard to pick-out great books for our sons, as we find that there are often stories in which the dad characters are a bit goofy (or just plain stupid), or characters where the girls are well behaved and the boys are the trouble makers.

Last year, I was using the Canadian Toy Testing Council as a guide for books.  Their suggestions were great, but limited in selection. I found a site with suggestions specific to boys, appropriately called: Guys Read. The site has a great list of books for young boys, including some Richard Scary, the Frog and Toad books and many others with which I’m not familiar.

Meanwhile, we’ve just finished Charlotte’s Web and I’m going to try and find something that won’t make me cry.

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!).

On my night stand: June 21

This week I have two new additions to my night stand:

  • Stephanie Meyer's 'Adult' Book
    Stephanie Meyer's 'Adult' Book

    The Host: A Novel: This is perhaps a bit too scary for me. The first chapters gave me a nightmare. But as with all scary books that I start, I must now continue through the adventures of the two main characters to find some kind of happy or at least acceptable ending, so that I’m not left wondering. It’s not a testament to Ms Meyer that I can’t put the book down, I’m just like that with anything suspenseful. It’s why I usually read fiction and not thrillers. The Host: A Novel got added to my reading list when I found out that her earlier works (The Twilight Saga Collection) were targeted at tweens and young teens. This knowledge explained why  I was able to speed read them, but not my fascination with the good vampires.  Long story short, I decided to check out Meyer’s book targeted at adults.

  • SAD no longer Vegan saves the day
    SAD no longer Vegan saves the day

    The Vegan Diet as Chronic Disease Prevention: Ok. Last Vegan book. I promise. This one tries to scare you into becoming a Vegan, by attributing North America’s rising rates of cancer, osteoporosis, diabetes, obesity and other serious illnesses to SAD (standard American diet). While I love the SAD moniker and appreciate that this book is thoroughly researched, it’s tough slogging through this book. I’m happy it’s Father’s Day today and that our family will be having a meat based BBQ. The vegetarian entrees will likely continue to dominate menus, but they won’t take over completely

On my night stand – June 14

Vegan LivingAt the moment I’m perusing a couple of vegan books.  

  • Complete Idiots Guide Vegan Living: This is fairly instructive and clearly highlights that anyone who wants to label themselves ‘vegan’ had better be prepared for a whole slew of lifestyle changes. But if you’re like me and you’re looking for ideas for vegetarian substitutions, this has the bases covered.  I’d always heard that vegans had trouble getting the write kinds of proteins and that it was complicated to get the right mix of amino acids.  This author indicated that soy offers a complete protein, and that soy together with other protein (legumes, beans, watercress — 80% protein… who knew?) and you should be more than covered.  
  • This Crazy Vegan Life: This one will not be on my night stand for long. It’s a quirky anecdotal book about a vegan who ate vegan ‘junk food’, got sick and then became a natural food junky.  Thriving on mushroom teas and some kind of carrot + chinese radish tea.  If I was looking for a rambling story, or a quirky diet plan, this might be of interest.

No, I’m not planning on becoming vegan.  At the same time, we’re not eating a lot of meat and someone asked me if it was ok for my kids.  I like to be firm in my answers when it comes to health and safety of my kids and I had no idea if a vegetarian (or mostly) diet was good for kids.  It turns out it’s great for them.  To the next person that asks I’ll be firm and point out that not only is it good for them, but it’s also good I’ve never taken my kids to McDonald’s (for shawarma, but not McDonald’s).  

Early this year, the Globe and Mail had an article about patients who needed to reform their diets; those who followed a vegan plan were better able to stick to their ‘nutritious’ eating plan.  While no one in my family has a serious illness (knock on wood), the point made in the article stuck with me.  Would a vegan diet make it easier for us to more consistently make healthy choices?