Friday, 29 November 2013

Parenting "choices"

We've all seen these articles popping up in our newsfeeds more and more often lately: the self-congratulatory blog posts and magazine articles justifying any and all parenting choices we can make.

To breastfeed or not to breastfeed our babies? To vaccinate or not to vaccinate our children? To be a stay at home mom or to put our kids in daycare? There are so many choices when it comes to raising our kids.

I call bullshit. 

These are not - or should not be - parenting "choices."

These are not questions to which there are valid arguments for each side being better than the other. These are not subjective issues. These are not choices - or at the very least, they are not equally balanced choices. They have been turned into choices by the incessant onslaught of mixed messages in the media. But they should not be.

I get absolutely enraged when I read these articles throwing yet another anecdotal argument into the mix as scientific proof, muddying the waters for easily-influenced sleep-deprived hormone-imbalanced new parents. Can we all just step back here and use common sense?

Breastfeeding is best for babies. There is no question of that. There are any number of reasons a mother might not be able to breastfeed - health issues, post-partum complications, mom's not producing enough milk, baby's not gaining enough weight, finances necessitate an early return to work - and that is absolutely fine. That's why formula exists. Formula is the best possible, healthiest, most nutritionally balanced and fortified alternative to breastmilk. We're lucky to have advanced scientifically enough that we have been able to create such a close alternative to what we should be feeding our babies if at all possible. Alternative. As in, the next best thing. As in, second best after breastmilk. You can argue and reason and explain away choosing not to breastfeed all you like, but the bottom line is that breastfeeding is best.

To vaccinate or not to vaccinate? That seems to be the biggest question these days, with arguments erupting all over social media between parents on either side, most armed with inaccurate information, the upshot always being "it's a parenting choice, you make your own decision for your own children." I don't even understand why this one is an argument. I suppose it is a parenting choice - in the same way choosing to clothe your child or not is a choice. Why anyone would choose to intentionally withhold vaccines for their child that could prevent them from contracting and spreading illnesses that have been all but eradicated by these very vaccines - contrary to all valid scientific research and against the advice of the world medical community - I will never understand. Talk about your first world problems.

Then there is the stay-at-home versus working mom debate. This one is a lot more subjective - there are so many factors to consider, from family finances to mom or dad's sense of identity and self-worth, to child care options and socialization for children, and right down to the personality type of the parents and children. Just as there are many valid reasons that would make a mother unable to breastfeed her baby, there are many good reasons to return to work and place that child in daycare. Maybe mom's not the type who can handle being at home with kids all day long. Perhaps both parents are firmly established in long-standing, important careers. Possibly the family simply cannot afford to live on one income. All are good reasons to make the choice to place a child in daycare; but just as, all other things being equal, breastfeeding is obviously and unarguably better for babies than formula, being raised by their own mother is obviously and unarguably better for children than being raised by daycare providers and seeing their parents for an hour or two before bed each evening.

I've even been seeing postings lately criticizing parents who separate and divorce because it's such a shame for the children. I get my back up about these posts, obviously - I divorced my eldest two children's father when they were infants - but I actually agree. Of course, in an ideal world, children would grow up with a mom and a dad who love them and each other and live in the same house; unfortunately, this simply isn't always possible. It's not healthier for the kids for their parents to stay together if the parents' relationship isn't healthy - if there's violence, or abuse, or anger, or dislike, or indifference. And it's this exactly that proves my point. Of course it would be best to keep the traditional family unit intact; in some circumstances that's just not possible, and that's ok. But that doesn't make it better.

Breastfeeding is best. If that's not possible, formula is the next best option and we're lucky to have such a healthy alternative. But that doesn't make it better.

In very rare circumstances certain vaccinations can have some risks. In those cases, those vaccinations should be avoided. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't vaccinate at all.

Mothers - or fathers - should care for and raise their children themselves. The march of progress makes this impossible much of the time, and we're lucky there are such wonderful, nurturing, safe facilities available to help care for our kids. But that doesn't make them better.

Let's just apply a little bit of common sense to this great big muddled mess of information and opinions we're being bombarded with on a daily basis as parents. Sure, there are a million good, sound reasons for making one decision or another when we're faced with any of the million parenting choices we have to make. But just because there are different options does not mean that all of these options are equal.

Formula feed your infant if you want to or have to; but don't try to tell me it's better than breastfeeding because it helps dad bond with baby, it helps baby fall asleep, it lets mom get more sleep, it eases the transition to cow's milk, whatever else. Bullshit. Science says breastfeeding is best - and though I know a lot of women who couldn't breastfeed for one reason or another, not one of them would have chosen not to if the choice was hers.

Don't vaccinate your kid if you feel more qualified to make that decision than your child's pediatrician, Health Canada, the World Health Organization, and the entire scientific and medical community in the first world. I'm thrilled that group immunity granted by my child and the other children in our community will keep your kid from dying from a third-world disease. But don't try to prove your point using vague anecdotal evidence and studies disproved decades ago. Bullshit. Science says to vaccinate.

Send your children to daycare so you can go out and earn a living to support your family, so your kids can learn to play well with others, to keep your mental health and your sense of self-worth. I don't think there's anything remotely wrong with that. But do not try to argue that it is in any way, shape or form better than a mother staying home to teach and care for and learn and grow with her own children. Bullshit. Every instinct of human nature says otherwise.

Please don't misunderstand me: I'm not saying that choosing not to breastfeed, vaccinate or at-home parent is wrong. You may be making the right choice for yourself and your family, and kudos to you for doing so. What I am saying is that trying to argue that these things are not necessarily best for our kids any longer (in an ideal world and all other things being equal) is absolutely ludicrous.

No-one's judging you for the choices you make. But don't then try to justify those choices by trying to sell us on the fact that they are better than what scientific fact and basic common sense and history and biology and instinct tell us.

Let's not confuse the availability of alternatives with improvements.

Let's not confuse the availability of opinions with facts.

And let's try not to abandon basic common sense when we're seeking advice and making our parenting choices.

Phrases I never pictured myself saying...

"No swordplay on the stairs, guys."

"Don't use your brother as a skateboard."

"No nudity at the dinner table, please."

"Grapes are not ammo."

"The couches are not trampolines."

"The cat is not a pillow."

"No, sweetheart, I doubt your teacher's a Sith Lord."

"Penises are for private."

"What are you doing on the kitchen counter?"

"Well if you're really a Jedi you can use the Force. No hitting."

"Boys, where's Mommy's pink purse?"

"Stop eating your big brother's socks."

"Let's not eat the dirt. How about a snack instead?"

"Can we take soccer practice outside please?"

"Who would like to tell me why your baby brother's hair is purple?"

"No, there is no T-Rex under your bed. Yes, I will check."

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Wednesday, 27 November 2013

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

Christmas cookies, Christmas food
Last weekend marked the beginning of our family's countdown to Christmas with the Toronto Santa Claus parade.

We used to watch the parade in person, braving the crowds and huddling up on the curb of the city street for hours in our coats and hats and scarves and mittens, a blanket laid out to mark our territory and warm our legs as we waited for hours in the cold winter wind for Santa Claus to come to town.

Since moving to the suburbs, though, we've started a new tradition of watching the parade on TV. We turn on the fireplace, put on our Santa hats and curl up on the couches together with steamy mugs of hot chocolate and a big platter of Christmas cookies. It's a wonderful family memory made - and much cozier than six hours spent curbside in the cold and wind.

The Christmas countdown weekend started with endless Christmas baking, the kitchen a floury mess and every surface piled high with bowls of sugar and flour and dough and cookie sheets and cooling racks and plates and platters filled with my specialty shortbread and gingerbread (recipe here!). The kids love to "help" with the baking, making the project much less efficient but a good deal messier and more fun.

Then, while my husband pulled out the lights and ladder and climbed up onto the roof to put up the little white twinkle lights the kids and I dug into the crawl space and pulled out the boxes of Christmas decorations.

Our house was bedecked from top to bottom with glitter and gold.

Gold ornaments clustered in bowls on every available surface, adorning the branches of every house plant, and dripping from every mirror.

My favourite glittery retro-chic mod wire Christmas tree decorations on the fireplace mantel and in a corner of every room.

Santa's village, Christmas decoration, Christmas kitsch

And the ridiculously awesome kitschy-cool Santa's village train set complete with twinkling lights, tinkling Christmas carols and a moving train.

After the parade we wrote our letters to Santa and started in on a couple of fun Christmas crafts. Next weekend we'll bundle up and head to Main Street for the local Santa Claus parade and visit the mall to meet Santa himself. The following weekend is our town's tree lighting ceremony and the library's storytime with Mrs. Claus.

There are still another couple of weeks before we can trim our tree or hang our stockings - I have a fairly firm December first rule - but in the meantime it's feeling awfully festive around here. The countdown to Christmas is on!

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Monday, 25 November 2013

Sparkly snowflake craft

Toilet roll snowflake craft, kids craft, Christmas craft

These toilet roll snowflakes are a simple, fun craft for kids to make and a pretty homemade decoration to hang in a window or on a Christmas tree.

1. Cut four toilet rolls into five equal rings. Pinch rings to form pointed oval shapes.

2. Paint oval rings with metallic silver paint.

3. Glue five painted oval rings together to form a star shape for the centre of the snowflake. Continue to glue rings around the star in concentric circles.

4. Brush entire snowflake with glitter glue and sprinkle with craft glitter.

Toilet roll crafts are fantastic crafts for kids because they are easy, inexpensive (empty toilet rolls are never in short supply in a large family - all you need is the glue, paint, glitter and crafting supplies you probably already have stocked in your craft drawer), and environmentally friendly!

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Friday, 22 November 2013

Toilet roll Christmas crafts for kids

We almost never throw out empty toilet rolls in this house - there's always a craft or construction project in the works. From turkeys at Thanksgiving to bats at Halloween to knights and dragons and medieval castles and anything else our imaginations can invent, we're never short of ideas for craft projects using toilet rolls.

Here are some great ideas for easy, fun Christmas crafts for kids to make and decorate using toilet rolls.

Toilet Roll Christmas Wreath

Toilet roll Christmas wreath craft, Christmas craft, kids craft

1. Cut slits about 1/2 inch apart in several toilet rolls (depending on how large you want your wreath to be) leaving a portion of the toilet roll intact all the way around.

2. Gently bend the toilet rolls at the slits to create a curve. Paint the toilet rolls inside and out.

3. Tape the toilet rolls together on the inside to form a circle and decorate.

Toilet Roll Star Ornaments

Toilet roll star ornament craft, Christmas craft, kids craft

1. Cut a toilet roll into five equal rings.

2. Paint the toilet roll rings inside and out.

3. Tape together the toilet roll rings to form a star shape.

4. Cover in glitter and hang!

Toilet Roll Snowman

Toilet roll snowman craft, Christmas craft, kids craft

1. Cut a toilet roll into three equal rings. Glue together at sides.

2. Stuff the toilet roll rings with cotton batting.

3. Twist pipe cleaners for arms, cut felt for a hat and scarf, mold play clay for a "carrot" nose and glue glittery gems for eyes and buttons.

Handprint Toilet Roll Reindeer

Handprint toilet roll reindeer craft, Christmas craft, kids craft

1. Trace and cut out child's handprints for antlers. Cut two slits in the top of the toilet roll to slide handprints in.

2. Use play clay for the eyes, felt for the nose, and jingle bells for the collar.

Toilet Roll Christmas Trees

Toilet roll Christmas tree craft, Christmas craft, kids craft

1. Colour & decorate a Christmas tree with construction paper, crayons, ribbon, felt, glitter, gems and whatever else you can find in the craft drawer.

2. Cut a toilet roll in half and cut two slits at the top of the roll. Insert the bottom of the tree into the toilet roll base.

Toilet roll Christmas tree craft, kids craft, Christmas craft

1. Cut several toilet rolls into rings. Glue rings together in a pyramid shape to form the tree. 

2. Paint the rings inside and out.

3. Decorate!

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Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Five Fun Handprint Christmas Crafts

Handprint crafts are some of my favourite seasonal crafts to make with the kids. It's so much fun to come up with new and different ways to use a handprint shape - the kids have a fantastic time using their imaginations to craft their creations and they become wonderful keepsakes for Mom and Dad or gifts for Grandma and Grandpa.

Here are some of my favourite handprint crafts for Christmas:

Reindeer Handprint Craft

Reindeer Handprint Craft
Reindeer Handprint Craft
1. Trace and cut out the handprint on brown construction paper. Glue to another piece of construction paper for the background.
2. Bend pipe cleaners or Bendaroos for the antlers, crayon in the eye and mouth, glue a big red pom-pom or piece of felt for Rudolph's red nose and make a collar of jingle bells around the neck. 
3. Glue cotton batting for "snow" and decorate with stickers and glitter.

Santa Handprint Craft
Santa Handprint Craft

Santa Handprint Craft

1. Trace and cut out the handprint on white construction paper. Glue to another piece of construction paper for the background.
2. Cut out a face and hat shape and glue on to the background. 3. Crayon in Santa's face.
4. Glue cotton batting on the hat and around Santa's beard and mustache.
5. Decorate Santa's hat with stickers and glitter.

Snowflake Handprint Craft
Snowflake Handprint Craft

Snowflake Handprint Craft

Trace and cut out four handprints on white construction paper. Glue to another piece of construction paper at the points of the compass. (This one is best for the littlest ones with the littlest hands!)
Decorate with crayon, stickers, glitter, cotton, and anything else you can find in the craft drawers!

Handprint Wreath Craft

This one is great if you have more than one child because you can incorporate all of their handprints in one craft. 
For full photos and instructions, please see my Handprint Christmas Wreath Craft post.

Christmas craft, kids crafts, handprint crafts
Handprint Wreath Craft
1. Trace and cut out several handprints on different colours of construction paper.
2. Tape handprints together to form a ring of concentric circles.
3. Cut out ornament shapes from different colours of construction paper and decorate with crayons, stickers, glitter and paint.
4. Glue the ornaments on the wreath and hang.

Handprint Christmas Tree Craft

This is another craft that uses multiple handprints - great for a classroom activity or families with several children.
For full photos and instructions, please see my Handprint Christmas Tree Craft post.

Christmas crafts, kids crafts, handprint crafts
Handprint Christmas Tree
1. Fold a large piece of green cardboard into a pyramid shape.
2. Trace and cut out several handprints on green construction paper and glue on to the cardboard pyramid, fingers pointing down.
3. Trace and cut out two handprints on yeellow construction paper and glue together, fingers pointed out, as a star. Glue to the top of the tree.
4. Decorate with beads, tinsel, jingle bells, pom-poms, homemade ornaments, stickers and glitter.

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Monday, 18 November 2013

Handprint Christmas wreath craft

Handprint Christmas wreath craft
Handprint Christmas wreath craft

Handprint crafts are an all-time favourite, so I thought a fun Christmas craft for the kids this year would be to make a wreath from their handprints.

1. Trace each child's hand on a different colour of construction paper, then cut out several of each shape.

2. Tape the largest handprints together in a ring to form the outer edge of the wreath, then tape together the rest of the handprints in incrementally smaller circles.

Christmas craft, kids craft, handprint craft, Christmas wreath

3. Cut out ornament shapes from different colours of construction paper and have the children decorate them with crayons, paint, stickers and glitter.

Christmas ornament craft

4. Glue the ornaments on the wreath, hang and enjoy!

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Friday, 15 November 2013

Paper snowflake wreath craft

Paper snowflake wreath craft, Christmas craft, kids craft
Paper snowflake wreath

Paper snowflakes are a simple, fun craft for kids.

Here's an idea for turning those snowflakes into a decorative wreath for the holidays.

snowflake craft, Christmas craft, kids craft

1. Construct several 3D paper snowflakes (detailed tutorial and photos here) and traditional folded paper cut-out snowflakes. Let the kids go wild with their designs - the more intricate the better!

2. Lay out the snowflakes face-down, mixing up the 3D folded ones and the flat paper cut-outs.

3. Tape the snowflakes together, making sure not to cover any of the paper openings or cut-outs with the tape (it won't look right otherwise.)

4. Turn the wreath over and sprinkle with glitter. 

5. Hang and enjoy!

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Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Tissue paper Christmas wreath craft

Tissue paper puffs - littletownhomelove.blogspot.caFor this wreath you will need to make a bunch of miniature tissue paper puffs.

See my simple step-by-step tissue paper puff tutorial here. (For these wreaths I cut the tissue to 1/8 the size of the giant puffs, which used full-size sheets.)

Next, cut a large circle out of craft paper to the size you'd like your wreath. Bunch the tissue paper puffs tightly together and glue onto the paper.

Christmas craft, Christmas wreath, kids craft, Christmas decoration

Once it dries, hang the wreath and enjoy!

Merry Christmas and happy crafting!

Christmas wreath, Christmas craft, Christmas decoration, kids craft

Monday, 11 November 2013

Pom-pom Christmas wreath craft

These pom-pom wreaths are great kid-friendly Christmas crafts and are pretty and festive to decorate the home during the holiday season.

Pom-pom Christmas wreath craft -
Pom-pom Christmas wreath

Wool pom-pom wreaths

For this wreath you will first need to make a bunch of wool pom-poms. 

crafts, kids crafts, Christmas crafts
Next, wire the pom-poms closely together in a line using a thin-gauge wire twisted around the centre of each pom-pom (the kids and I used pipe cleaner out of their craft drawers) and twist the ends together to make a loop.

Finally, decorate and hang!

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Friday, 8 November 2013

Christmas craft ideas

The Christmas season offers so many opportunities for crafting with the kids - wreaths, ornaments, decorations and handmade cards and gifts for aunts, uncles and grandparents. Here are some of my favourite finds for this year's holiday crafting. I can't wait to try some of these with the boys!

Merry Christmas!
Construction paper wreath
Construction Paper Wreath
Photo & instructions:
Paper cup ornaments
Paper Cup Ornaments
Photo & instructions:
Modern paper ornaments
Modern Paper Ornaments
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Salt dough hand print ornament
Salt Dough Hand Print Ornament
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Toilet roll star ornament
Toilet Roll Star Ornaments
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Glittery pinecone ornaments
Glittery Pinecone Ornaments
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Popsicle stick ornaments
Popsicle Stick Ornaments
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Handprint Santa
Handprint Santa
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Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer handprint craft
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Handprint Craft
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Simple cardboard Christmas trees
Simple Cardboard Christmas Trees
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Yarn-wrapped Christmas trees
Yarn-wrapped Christmas Trees
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Simple stacked rock snowman
Simple Stacked Rock Snowman
Photo snowglobes
Photo Snowglobes
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Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Christmas baking ideas

Christmas is one of my favourite times of the year, and one of my favourite things to do in the weeks leading up to the holidays is Christmas baking. I do dozens of batches of my tried-and-true favourites - shortbread, gingerbread, candy cane cookies and chocolate mint bars (recipes shared here!) - but I like to add some fun new ideas to the Christmas table each year.

I can't wait to try out some of these tasty treats!

Christmas baking
Christmas Tree Cupcakes - use an upside-down ice cream cone!
Photo & recipe:
Christmas baking
Strawberry Christmas Tree Brownie Bites
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Christmas baking
Almond Cake with Chocolate Ganache (Gluten-free!)
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Christmas baking
Cherry Ripe Fudge
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Christmas baking
Peppermint Bark
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Christmas Pinwheel Sugar Cookies
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Christmas baking
Cookie Cutter Fudge (give as gifts!)
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Christmas baking
Red and Green Buttercream Cupcakes
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Christmas baking
Reindeer Cupcakes
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Christmas baking
Buttery Sugar Cookies
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Christmas baking
Cranberry Christmas Cake
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