The Hunt for a Healthy Easter

When I was little, Easter was always a big celebration for the family. We would wake up, enjoy a large breakfast (my dad loved making us pancakes) and then head to church. Afterwards, the whole family would gather at one of our homes (we would alternate between my grandparents’, aunts’ & uncles’ and our’s), where all the cousins would wait in anticipation for the big Easter egg hunt, all of us ‘patiently’ hanging around outside. My grandmother would let us know that it was time to fetch our baskets by wildly running through the garden, trying to chase the Easter Bunny, calling on us to quickly look for the eggs.

Although I really want my son to have these amazing memories to look back on one day, I am very apprehensive about giving him a basket full of chocolate eggs to devour in one day.

(That was exactly what I did – and when they were all gone, my sister would get me to do her chores in exchange for her chocolates. My sister is cunning, I tell you. But, I digress.)

I have therefore come up with some healthy alternative treats, which he loves, and which will still allow him the excitement of an Easter egg hunt (without falling into the trap of bribery and corruption for the love of chocolate).

  1. Crunchy Oat Biscuit Easter Parcels

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I love these crunchy oat biscuits, not only because they are delicious, sweet and nutritious, but because Bean always helps me make the biscuits. For Easter, I decided to bake them in small ‘Easter’ themed baking cases, which I then wrapped in pieces of wax paper and tied with different colour ribbons.

Crunchy Oat Biscuit Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup Rolled Oats
  • 1/3 cup Almond Butter (any nut butter will work – I always choose an organic option which has no added salt and sugar)
  • 2 tbsp Maple Syrup
  • 1 tbsp Coconut Oil
  • 1 cup (approx. 100gr) Dates (chopped and pitted)

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 180°C
  • Place a container with the almond butter into a bowl with warm water, allowing the butter to soften
  • Combine the oats and the dates into a mixing bowl
  • Mix the almond butter with the maple syrup and pour into the mixing bowl, mixing the wet and dry ingredients together well
  • Using your hands, roll equal amounts of dough into little balls and place these into the baking cases. Place the baking cases onto a baking sheet.
  • Bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes
  • Allow the biscuits to cool
  • Place the cooled biscuits onto equally-sized square pieces of wax paper and wrap the wax paper using a ribbon

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Other treat suggestions for these Easter parcels are:

  1.  Refillable Easter Eggs

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I bought these cute little refillable eggs and plan on filling them with the following snacks:

  • Raisins
  • Cranberries
  • Dried Fruit
  • Nuts (broken into smaller pieces as they could be a choking hazard)
  • Popcorn (I make this using coconut oil and a low sulphur salt)
  • Pretzels
  • Blueberries

Bean loves opening containers and mixing all the ingredients together, so, for Easter, I plan on giving him a bowl so that he can mix his ‘own’ trail mix using the ingredients in the eggs.

The filled eggs also make fun rattles.

  1. Easter Toys

Instead of treats only (let’s be honest, a 2-year-old can only eat so much), I plan on hiding a few small gifts in the garden as well. As far as possible, I looked for Easter-themed toys, i.e. in the shape of a duckling or a rabbit, or with Easter-themed pictures stuck on the toy etc.

Here are some examples based on what Bean would love to find (note that these are only guidelines – you can get really creative and make something or buy different toys according to your child’s preferences):

  • Bubbles
  • Ball
  • Magic growing pets
  • Small stuffed toy
  • Rattles
  • Crayons (non-toxic) with an Easter-themed picture
  • Small Puzzle
  • Book
  • Play-doh
  • Stickers

It has been so much fun thinking of ideas to make this Easter special (yet still healthy) for Bean, instead of simply going to the shops to buy some chocolate eggs. I cannot wait to see the excitement on his face and his bubbly exclamations of,  ‘Wow!’ when he finds his treats.

Happy Easter all!

 

Marriage and the Little Things

My husband and I are celebrating our 5-year wedding anniversary this week and, as usual, we almost forgot about this significant milestone, my husband frantically phoning the latest must-visit restaurant for a last-minute booking. Neither of us was surprised that this day almost passed us by without even a mention – this is exactly what A and I do after all. We never make a big deal out of our love; we simply do not do big displays of affection. Instead, we focus on the small things, the small acts of love which show us that despite our routines, child- and work-driven lives, we still care.

This morning, for example, A could go into the office a bit later than usual, so instead of our normal, rushed, morning routine, he got up, fetched Bean from his cot and made us a cup of coffee, letting me lie in for an extra 5 minutes. Not only did this give me a little bit of much-needed peace in our busy lives, it showed me that he cared – he sacrificed his extra lie-in time to give me a break.

And that to me is the crux of a good relationship. It’s not about the big displays of love, the extravagant outings or the expensive gifts, it’s about the daily acts of kindness, the spontaneous kisses, the gentle touch of a hand. Sure, the big things are also important – they give those special days that special feeling. But a relationship cannot survive on the big things. No, relationships survive on the little things.

It’s that extra shared cup of coffee in the morning even when he is running late, it’s cooking his favourite meal even though she doesn’t really like it, it’s unpacking the dishwasher so that she can have an extra-long shower. It’s the shared smile across the room, it’s the joint laughter at something silly and it’s telling her that she is beautiful. It’s the sheepish smile and the bad joke after a fight and it’s his gentle hug when she is crying.

These are the things that really matter. These are the everyday moments of sacrifice and gratitude, the small acts of love, which make me choose A, and our joint lives, over and over again. It’s these small, seemingly insignificant things, which make me look forward to the next few decades, because, when I look back on our marriage one day, our lives so inextricably linked, I want to remember the way we made each other feel, the moments of laughter, joy and love, not the fancy restaurant we visited.

16 Easy and Affordable Toddler Activities – Holidays & Outings

My Bean is now 15 months old and although he is mostly running around exploring, keeping himself entertained for short periods of time, he tends to get bored quickly. At home, this is fine, because we have a variety of toys and activities available for him, but when we are going on holiday or on a day trip, it is simply not possible to pack all of his toys into the car. So, for our last trip, I put my creativity to the test and packed only 5 items. These items were affordable and lightweight and they could be used for a variety of fun (and educational) activities. Here they are:

Empty Cardboard Boxes

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For our trip, we packed a lot of the food which we needed for the week into empty boxes. Instead of discarding the boxes once we arrived, we kept them and they became Bean’s toys. Here are the activities we used them for:

  • Build a tower with the smaller boxes
  • Use the box as a drum
  • Make-shift car: Bean loves sitting in boxes while we push / drag him around
  • Build a little house with two rooms and a tunnel

Coloured Ice Cream Sticks & Pipe Cleaners

I simply bought some at our local arts and crafts store and used these for the following activities:

  • Cut slits or holes (should be slightly bigger than the ice cream sticks / pipe cleaners) into one of the empty boxes and let your child post the sticks / pipe cleaners through the openings
  • Place ice cream sticks and pebbles into a bucket of water to see and experience the difference between floating and sinking
  • Thread the pipe cleaners through noodles
  • Sort the different coloured pipe cleaners and ice cream sticks into colour order

Balloons

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Who does not love balloons – they are just so much fun! Remember to pick up the pieces once they have popped as they can be a choking hazard.

  • In summer, make water balloons and play a game of catch, or hide and seek, with these
  • Blow the balloon up (without tying it) and let it blow away (or make noises) as the balloon deflates.
  • Throw a blown up balloon into the air and let your child catch it.
  • Use as a make shift ball

Food Colouring

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  • Use 500ml water bottles and fill each bottle with water and a specific colour. Then mix the colours in a bowl / bucket / bath to create a science experiment. Blue and yellow make green, red and yellow make orange, and blue and red make purple
  • Mix plain yogurt with various colours to create a finger paint.
  • Mix various colours with water and freeze these into different coloured ice cubes. Let your child play with these as they melt.
  • Alternatively, freeze one large ice block and create tunnels into the ice with running water.

Bean loves these activities and I love the fact that I can entertain him without having to pack all his toys! What activities do you do with your children while on holiday?

A Newborn Marriage Challenge

We attended a wedding last weekend and as I was listening to the pastor deliver his sermon, I was transported back to my own wedding day and the feelings of joy and elation I experienced in anticipation of something great. I remembered our priest saying that we had committed to being together, to finding strength in each other through times of abundance and happiness (and lots of wine), as well as through times of drought (and only water). As I took hold of my husband’s hand while we witnessed our friends committing to a life of happily-ever-after, I realised that our own fairy tale had recently started to fade, our marriage being characterised more by drought, than by abundance.

Don’t get me wrong, we are not broken, a piece of shattered glass which cannot be repaired. We love each other, our family and our life. But, having a child has put a strain on our bond, which, if not nurtured, will shatter. Having a child has meant that there is an extra person, a little blessing who needs constant love and attention, in our life and in our marriage. It has meant that we are always tired and it has meant that we have placed Bean first, letting our marriage fall into the background. Nobody functions well when they are tired and an exhausted person can easily become unreasonable, snappy and bitter. Combine this with a lack of fun, romantic activities and added financial pressures and it is all too easy to fall into a cycle of blame and fighting.

Because of this, I have put together a challenge, a few daily actions focused on strengthening our relationship, and as I am sure that most couples (whether married or not) experience this, that A and I are not the exception to the rule, I have decided to share this challenge. So here goes:

  1. Remember that your relationship comes first

Being a mom, it is so easy to place the needs of our children first. That is what being a mom is after all – it means that our children’s needs, their growth and their emotional development are of paramount importance. I am guilty of this a hundred times over. I have however realised, that there would be no child, there would be no family, if it were not for us, for our relationship, for our marriage. I would not be able to give my child the stable family home environment I believe is so important in his upbringing, if A and I are not in a stable, happy and strong relationship.

Do something for your partner every day: whether it is making a sandwich for work, or it is taking 5 minutes out of your day to hear how her day went, do something which is only for him/her.

  1. Tell your partner you love them

This should be done every day, at least once. And not in parting, out of habit, as you say good bye. Look your partner in the eye and say it. Mean it.

  1. Choose your partner

Being in a relationship with someone is a choice, a choice we make every day. Whether it’s an easy subconscious choice (as you wake up in your partner’s arms with a smile) or a more difficult conscious choice (after a fight), it is a choice. Be sure to always choose your partner, your relationship and your family.

  1. Give your partner a compliment

It is so easy to criticise and to harp on the negative as the pressures of daily life get too much. But instead of focusing on the negative: the fact that your partner is not helping with the dishes (again) or that he or she is late from work (again) leaving you with all the house hold chores and kids to take care of, for example, focus on the good. Tell him how much you appreciate him working late to provide for your family. Tell her how beautiful she looks today.

  1. Be grateful

Take a moment every day to say thanks. There is always something to be thankful for.

  1. Take care of yourself

My mom always reminds me of the oxygen masks and their rule of use in an aeroplane: the air hostesses always say that in an emergency, first place the oxygen mask over your own face before helping others to fit theirs. The reason: you will not be able to help them if you pass out due to a lack of oxygen. Similarly, you cannot take care of your family, if you are not taken care of. Every single person has needs and desires, dreams and aspirations and they are all equally important. Do not lose sight of yours simply because you have a family to take care of. Find a balance and be sure that you are happy – a happy parent leads to a happy family.

Do something every day that makes you happy (even if it is just a hot cup of coffee).

 

 

Bean’s Moustache Bash

My Bean turned one a while ago and to celebrate this milestone (he has lived an entire year!) and because I love getting together with family and friends, we decided to throw a party!

Party Venue

We decided on Smile Cafe, a child friendly restaurant in Fourways, Johannesburg, with a large outdoor play area and a baby changing station. Their service is excellent and their food is yum!

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Party Food

We ordered pizza and salad platters as well as kiddie snacks and party packs in advance. We also had buckets of wine and beer on the tables for the adults and juice and water for the kids.

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Party Decor

The party theme was Little Man’s Moustache Bash, because there is nothing cuter than a toddler in suspenders, a bow tie and a little moustache! Smile Cafe arranged all the decor (with my guidance) as well as themed party packs and cupcakes.

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Party Cake

My beautiful sister baked the delicious carrot cake.

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Party Photographer

Lately, I insist on having a professional photographer on site for special occasions. I always get so involved in the actual party that I forget to take photos and I am always disappointed afterward when we have hardly any photos to look back on. Alke-Merique Photography is well -priced, professional and, best of all, they take great photos! They also brought a backdrop as well as props for a photo booth to match our party theme.

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A special thanks to all involved! We had a wonderfully fun afternoon.

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Magic and Cynicism

‘Where is my Bean?’ I call into our living room, as I see the swaying movement of the curtains behind our sofa stop. The scurrying noises I heard just a second ago stop as well and I hear a stifled giggle as I make my way to the area where he is hiding and call out his name again. I peak behind the sofa and see my 13 month old on all fours ready to dart away should I come too close, with his head bopping up and down as he is trying to contain his loud laughter. I burst out laughing in child-like delight and pick him up in one swoop. ‘I’ve got you!’ I declare loudly as his laughter resonates through our house. He wriggles in my arm trying to free himself so that we can start the game again and as I place him on the ground, I realise how wonderfully adventurous it must be to him.

He is able to communicate, not with words, but with sounds and actions. He is walking and crawling with the purpose of exploration. He has his own sense of humour, allowing him to laugh out loud in arbitrary moments, sometimes making me wonder what it is he is laughing about. He stares at cars as they drive by, making a ‘brrrrrmmmmmmm’ noise and he waves at lights as they go on and off. When he sees an empty bowl, he lifts his hands as if to say, ‘where have the contents gone?’ and he squeals with delight, waving his arms excitedly, every time he eats somethings he likes.

Everything he does, he does with a vibrant energy, a sense of adventure, of learning something new; and I often wonder staring at the openly curious look in his eyes when he sees, feels or smells something new: at what point when we grow up do we lose this sense of magic and replace it with the cynicism and bitterness so prevalent in adults? When do we stop being delighted by the simple things in life in an attempt to be more, have more? When is it that we become so entrenched in the drama and politics of everyday adult life? When does our ego become so important that we forget to appreciate the beautiful –  the vibrant colours of a sunset, the soothing sound of a breeze blowing through trees, the gurgling sounds of a river, a child’s laughter?

We are going to the Vaal river for a weekend getaway soon and as I was telling one of my friends about the trip, I jokingly mentioned that before I had Bean, I used to travel the world (for work) and now I get excited about a weekend to the Vaal. To be honest, sometimes, when Bean is being difficult and the day to day routine of being a mom gets a bit much, this little sentence makes me a bit depressed – I really miss getting on a plane wondering what adventures the next couple of weeks will have in store. But then I remember the drama and the politics this life brought with it: my own ego often getting in the way of happiness, being so easily swept up in unnecessary drama. So, despite no longer travelling the world, I really am excited about our little trip! It is a place I have never been to and although it is close to Johannesburg and by no stretch of the imagination an exotic break away, it is something new: a new experience and a new adventure which I can share with my little family.

It is the simple things that really matter: to be surrounded by the people you love, to enjoy a good glass of wine and a delicious meal, to partake in a lively conversation with strangers, learning something new. We need to see the world through the eyes of our children to know that every day is magical, every day is an adventure.

When you see your children changing into cynical, bitter and ego-driven adults, remind them of their inner child-like wonder, joy and magic. Remind yourself and your children how easily they got back up after they had fallen, how quickly they forgave you when you were having a bad day, how pure and unconditional their love was.

Children are simply and wonderfully magical, and we as adults have the inherent ability to be like this too – we were once simple and magical, after all.

Help! I need to Discipline my Child!

Picture the scene: we are at my son’s first birthday party and I am holding Bean on my hip while talking to my cousin and his girlfriend, T. T reaches out for a slice of pizza and my son literally launches himself at her trying to grab the pizza out of her hand. In an attempt not to drop him and calm him down, I tell her that he wants the piece, take it from her and give it to Bean. The result: my son is now happily eating ‘his’ slice and T is staring at us with a very quizzical look on her face. Later on in the day,  once the chaos of the party has subsided and I have time to reflect on the day, I realise, that I, in an unguarded moment, indulged my son’s ill-mannered behaviour instead of using that moment to teach him something. I am absolutely mortified and I realise that Bean is no longer a baby who just needs to be fed and loved, he is growing up into a little boy and I now need to start teaching him discipline and manners.

Because, let’s face it, nobody likes an unruly and ill-mannered child.

This realisation has me perplexed – when do I discipline and when do I teach? In the scene pictured above, he was not being naughty, he simply wanted to experiment, learn something new. He wanted to see what T was eating as he had never seen a slice of pizza before. He did however need to learn that it is not ok to simply snatch. So that night, after talking to my mom and husband, we decided to teach him how to ask for things he wants instead of simply snatching.

What if he continues to snatch? Then we would need to enforce discipline right? But it is here where it gets really complicated. There is so much literature available on this and so many different opinions on which are the best ways to discipline and enforce boundaries that it has all become like a white noise in my head. There are those people who believe in physical punishment, those who believe in ‘time-outs’ and then there are those who believe in gentle parenting. A granny I met in one of the classes I take Bean to, mentioned to me that I should simply ignore naughty behaviour.

After reading all these articles and speaking to various moms and grannies about this topic I realised that there are certain core ideas on how to create a stable and peaceful home environment in which the need to enforce discipline is minimised:

Every child needs love, attention and devotion

A lack of attention often leads to negative behaviour in a misguided attempt to get the parents’ attention.

Children are like sponges

They are continuously learning and taking in what is shown and taught to them. You can therefore talk to your child and show them what it is you are trying to teach.

Be an example

To our children, we are the world. We show them in our daily behaviour and interactions how one should act. In the scene described above, I inadvertently showed Bean that it was ok to snatch without first asking. I have also found myself simply taking something I do not want him to play with, out of his hand without asking him for it first. I cannot expect him to ask me for something if I (as his mentor) simply grab things from him.

Children need boundaries

This is something that I come across in parenting blogs and articles as well as books, a lot. Without boundaries children feel lost.

Be consistent

Parents need to set boundaries together and consistently enforce these, together.

Even in a stable home environment filled with love, children will still push their boundaries and they will be naughty, because, well, they are children.Some form of discipline is then needed because there isn’t a point to a boundary if it is not enforced.

I take Bean to Clamber Club classes and in his graduation class last week, the teacher said something which really hit home. Children under five cannot form their own opinions of themselves and they therefore internalise the parents’ opinions during these formative years. Once they turn five, they form their own opinions using what you, as the parent, have taught them as a reference framework. This reminded me of a story my sister once told me: they had gone to a flea market one Saturday morning and there was a family of four walking ahead of them. One of the children, a little boy, was pushing a trolley suitcase in front of him (instead of pulling it) and the suitcase kept getting stuck on the uneven bricks. The mother ignored this for a while and then suddenly smacked the child on the back of his head and shouted, “you need to pull it, stupid!” This, to me, is such a powerful example of what the teacher said, as by the time this child will be able to form an opinion of himself, he will automatically include the description ‘stupid’.

As parents we need to realise that we form these little beings, whether by example, through what we teach, or how we discipline – we give them a reference framework which they will carry with them for the rest of their lives. They will use this framework, which we have instilled within them, to decide on important life choices (whether to go to university or not for example), or when they decide on how to act, which body language to use, how to express themselves when they are faced with a moral dilemma or when they meet new friends, a girlfriend, a boyfriend or even a prospective employer.

This to me is the crux when deciding on how to teach a lesson and on how to enforce discipline. How do I want my children to see themselves?

 

Photo credit:  www.canva.com

Travelling with a Baby

My beautiful sister is turning 30 and to celebrate this momentous occasion, we have decided to go on a mini holiday together, (yay, our first beach holiday with Bean) and seeing as we are only going for a couple of days, we have decided to fly instead of drive. Flying of course means that we are limited in terms of luggage and so I have decided to set up a list of tips to consider when packing lightly as well as a list of essentials to pack to make travelling with a baby a little easier.

5 TIPS FOR TRAVELLING LIGHTLY:

  1. Make sure the accommodation has a camp cot and book a car seat when renting the car. This saves a lot of space.
  2. Find out whether the accommodation has a washing machine and if yes, pack lightly – you can do washing there. My son is teething at the moment and we are replacing his bib hourly so although we are on holiday, we will end up having to wash his bibs every day anyway – we might as well wash one or two of our own items as well. If there is no washing machine, find a laundromat close by, having your washing done in hotels is often very expensive.
  3. Find out which shops are located near your accommodation (google maps is amazing) and based on this, pack only what cannot be bought at your holiday destination. We will pack enough nappies for two days and we will have enough bottles, formula, food and snacks with us to last 24 hours but I plan on buying the rest when we arrive. This means that we do not have to worry about finding space to fit bulky and heavy items like a bag of nappies or a tin of formula.
  4. Find out where the nearest Hospital is. If, as in our case, it is fairly close to your accommodation, make up a small first aid kit with sample sizes of each medicine you might need instead of packing up your entire medicine cabinet. This ensures that you have something on hand if necessary and in case of an emergency you are close enough to the hospital.
  5. Buy small travel containers for your toiletries (Dischem has nice ones here) and decant what you need into these. Toiletries weigh a lot.

5 ESSENTIALS TO PACK:

1. Good quality nappy sacks.

Seeing as logistically it is very difficult to pack your entire nappy bin into your suitcase (I have thought about it, believe me), make sure you pack something portable to contain those nappy smells. For me, the Angel Care On-the-Go works the best.

2. Stick blender, storage containers and spoons.

I prefer cooking for Bean instead of buying the ready-made meal pouches / jars. So, although we are on holiday, that is exactly what I plan on doing. Instead of cooking for him separately though, I plan on cooking sensibly (so that we can all eat the same food) and just puréeing his portion. I use the Kenwood Triblade and I have packed in these Snookums storage containers. They are lightweight and practical as I can serve his food out of these as well (saves me having to pack extra bowls).

Foods like Mango, Papaya, Banana, Avocado etc do not even need to be cooked and for the times that we are out and about, Woolworths has a freshly made baby food range with realistic expiry dates called Woolies Babes Fresh which I will buy once we arrive at our destination. I have also bought some Squish fruit puree pouches.

3. Portable Feeding Chair.

Here, there are two options: a clip-on feeding chair from Chelino, or a Feeding Chair Travel Pouch, like this one from Tom & Bella.

4. Toys

Over the last couple of weeks, I have packed away some of his favourite (small and lightweight) toys so that by the time we go on holiday he is not bored with the toys he has. I also kept some toys hidden which he got for Christmas for this and I will make sure to have some packed in my hand luggage to provide entertainment while travelling. Prevent packing the entire toy box by opting for toys which can be used in more ways than one. Stacking cups for example can be built into a tower, used in the bath or when packed into each other, the baby can learn to take them out one by one and put them back. These types of toys are also often compact and lightweight.

A good idea is to plan some fun activities ahead (read here), especially for bad weather days, and to pack accordingly.

5. Microwave Steam Steriliser Bags.

I use the Dr Browns Bags, they are so convenient, re-usable (up to 20 times per bag) and value for money. They are also packed in a small, compact little cardboard box ideal for travelling. Just ensure that your accommodation has a microwave readily available.

Do not forget sun protection and a hat. The effect of the sun on our skin is no joke and seeing as babies’ skin is especially sensitive, this is very important. I have opted for a wide brimmed hat, some spray-on sun protection and a UV protected swim suit.

The most important thing to remember when going in holiday is to relax and enjoy! And don’t stress if you have forgotten to pack something – there is bound to be a shop wherever you go.

Photo Credit: http://www.canva.com