{FAMILY} How To Prep Your Kids To Stay Home Alone For The First Time

When I was a kid, playing outside and staying home alone without parental supervision was the norm. I learned from an early age how to fend for myself, recognize boundaries, and stay safe, and never found myself in harm’s way as a result.

I know it’s not the 70s anymore, but that doesn’t mean that we should trust our children, or our own intuition any less than our parents did when we were growing up.

My oldest daughter will be 10 years old in 3 months, and while the average family waits until at least the ages of 10-12 to leave their child home alone for the first time, we’ve decided to start a bit earlier. I believe that she’s old enough to start easing into the next step of independence, and with the right tools, I’m  confident that she can do so safely and successfully.

Here’s how I’ve prepared her (and myself) for this big milestone:

Suss it out.

The first step in determining whether or not your child is ready, is to ask them how they feel about it. For some kids, the mention of having the house to themselves conjures up images of them sitting in front of the TV watching inappropriate movies and stuffing their faces with candy-topped ice cream sundaes (thanks for that Home Alone). But it’s important to discuss the situation in more detail to really get a feel for your child’s comfort level. Ask them how they would feel if the power went out, or if someone they didn’t know were to knock on the door. Helping them to visualize the reality of the situation will help you to gage how ready they really are.

Related: Home Alone: How Young Is Too Young?

Hit the books.

My daughter and I were browsing the shelves of Chapters Indigo awhile back when we came across a great book that has become a valuable resource for us: A Smart Girl’s Guide: Staying Home Alone by American Girl. The book starts with a cute quiz called “ready or not?” where kids can take a self evaluation to determine their readiness, with real-life situations as examples of how they would react to sticky situations. Not only does the book highlight helpful tips on how to be prepared, responsible, and in control when home alone, but it offers fun tips like boredom busters and snack recipes that can be made without the use of appliances.  My daughter read the book from cover-to-cover, and likes to keep it by her side when we leave her home alone.

Establish rules and boundaries.

There are obvious rules and boundaries that should be established before you leave your child alone – don’t open the door for anyone, don’t use the appliances (unless they are seasoned experts), don’t leave the house without permission, and what to do in the case of an emergency. Not only is it important to list the do’s and don’t’s, but it helps to walk them through various scenarios. Quiz them on what they would do if they were hungry, or if someone knocked on the door and said that their parents gave them permission to come in, or if a power outage were to occur.

Practice makes perfect.

Before you leave your child home alone for the first time, do a test run. Do something in the yard and leave them in the house. Call to see if they answer. Knock on the door and practice a few scripts to see how they would respond in various situations. The more you practice, the more confident they’ll be when it’s really time to stay home alone.

I like to make sure that at least one of my neighbours is going to be home – just in case my child feels unsafe or unsure of what to do. We don’t have a home phone so I make sure to leave a fully-charged iPhone with my daughter so she can call or text me whenever she wants. We’ve been easing into it – leaving her home for only 15-20 minutes at a time, and never with her siblings.

Whether you decide to wait until your child is a teenager, or you feel comfortable doing so at an earlier age, independence is an important life skill that takes time to learn successfully. With the proper guidance, it can be a fun and easy transition for your family.

Check out these safety tips for more: American Red Cross Safety Tips 

{FAMILY} Why Moms Fail Miserably At Achieving Personal Goals

I may not believe in New Year’s resolutions, but I’ve become really good at setting personal goals for myself.

It’s just the follow-through that I haven’t yet managed to master…

When I turned 35, I shared 10 things I wanted to do before my 36th birthday. When I turned 37, I shared another list, this time 10 things I plan to do to remain youthful. My lists always seem reasonable: have fun, take time for myself, try something new – it’s not like I’m planning to change the world or anything. Yet every year when I revisit my list of goals, I’m left with feelings of regret. Feelings of failure.

This morning I received a comment on a recent blog post from a new reader (also a career mom of three), who asked if I manage to accomplish my annual birthday goals, and if so, what’s my secret to doing so. She then mentioned that when she fails to achieve her goals, she uses the same excuse: it’s because of her kids.

And there it was. An excuse I’ve used many times, and one that I think most moms use far too often.

Sorry I’m late: kids.

I don’t work out, no time: kids.

I’ve always wanted to try that, but you know: kids.

There are so many things I want to do – so many goals I want to achieve that have nothing to do with my kids, yet it seems as though my kids are always my excuse for not achieving those goals. And that’s where I’m failing myself.

Having kids shouldn’t be an excuse for not doing things, it should be an excuse for doing more – achieving more.

Because when you set goals for yourself – and actually accomplish them, it’s a great lesson for kids. It teaches them how to master the follow-through, and shows them that you can do anything if you set your mind to it – even as a busy mom.

Children shouldn’t be obstacles on your road to success, they should be motivation. Yes they can be little time suckers, but if you’re creative, they can also be conduits for success.

I challenge you to set goals, and make them happen – not despite having kids, but because you have kids.

I’m going to start by carving out time to devote to working out, because if I can find time to watch my favourite series on Netflix, I can find time to sweat it out and work on developing a healthier body. What’s your next move? Let’s make each other accountable for our goals and achieve them together – because: kids.

Follow me on Instagram: @bitsofbee

 

{FAMILY} Teaching My 8yo Daughter About Self Confidence

Eight seems to be an age of self-awareness and unbridled insecurity. My 8-year-old daughter has suddenly become so self-conscious – constantly questioning her looks, her physical abilities and her mental intelligence. I always reassure her that she is beautiful, talented and smart, but it’s tough for an almost pre-teen to believe those words when they come from her mother, who of course loves her unconditionally.

I’ve always focused on teaching my children to be self-confident beings (and I do my best to be a self-confident mom as well, because it’s important to practice what you preach). But a big part of self confidence, is actually believing in yourself, not relying on others to believe for you.

The other day, my beautiful girl – eyes welling up with tears – asked me why she was finding it so hard to remember the steps in her ballet class. “I try so hard to get them right” she said softly. And I completely understood where she was coming from. Choreography is hard! I told her that I was also struggling to remember the steps in my adult ballet class, and that learning new moves is something that just comes more naturally to some people than it does for others. I went on to explain:

“Dancing is like learning how to play a musical instrument. You have to start with learning how to play the notes before you can learn how to play a whole song. With dancing, you have to learn the steps before you can master the choreography of a whole dance. Keep practicing, and before you know it, you’ll be playing your song.”

I’m not sure if she fully understood the message behind my simile (because I love a good comparison), but I think the empathy in my personal story and in my comparing dance to music, made her realize that she wasn’t alone in her struggle.

I hope that she’ll continue to come to me when she’s feeling down or insecure, and I hope that I can find the words to help lift her spirits.

self confidence

{FAMILY} 5 Reasons Why Having 3 Kids Doesn’t Suck

Usually when I tell people that I have 3 kids, their eyes widen, and in a horrified moan they say, “oh my gawd, I could NEVER have 3 kids, you must be SO busy!” And yes, I’m busy. We’re all busy, parents or not. But while having a full house may mean an increased level of chaos, there are also some benefits to having a trifecta in tow. Here are some reasons why having 3 kids doesn’t suck:

1) No more unsolicited parenting advice.

When I had my first child, everyone – stranger or not, was eager to bestow their all-knowing wisdom on me. But in my overtired, overwhelmed state of first-time motherhood, it was often more of a pestering annoyance than a helpful suggestion. When I had my second child, the “advice” was still plentiful, the content just shifted from how to do it, to how to do it with two. Now that I have 3 kids, I feel as though people just wouldn’t dare try to tell me how to parent, because – THREE. KIDS. And parents who have more than 3 are smart enough to know that it’s better to keep quiet than to try to tell a parent how to parent.

3 kids

2) Study shows that the more children you have, the longer you’ll live.

In a recent study on women and aging (conducted by SFU), it was concluded that “the more babies you have, the longer you’ll live” – associating the longevity of a woman’s life with DNA strands, estrogen levels, and cellular aging. Which means, basically, that I’m going to be around for awhile. I guess that also means that this mom will be alive FOREVER.

3) Extra hands.

One of the main reasons why the thought of having 3 kids freaks out so many people, is the thought of being outnumbered by children. 3 kids – 2 parents. Or 1 parent, 2 hands, 3 kids. No matter how you do the math, the parents always seem to fall short. Except, when you’re out and about with 3 kids, you’re no longer struggling with multiple bags and only 2 hands – you now have 6 hands to help you out. The same goes for folding laundry, and cleaning the house. More kids = more helping hands. And yes, even the little ones can help.

4) Better odds of having someone take care of you when you’re too old to take care of yourself.

With 3 kids, I feel like I have better odds of having at least one successful child who will be able to take care of us in our old age. More children, more chances to do this parenting thing right. Am I right?

5) Full house.

More children, more family fun! Having a full house can be a bit crazy at times (morning routines – gah!) but having 5 people under one roof to play games, have dance parties, snuggle on the couch, and share meals with – priceless. I grew up as an only child, so the constant hustle and bustle of a big family is a welcome change.

Have I convinced you yet? Come on, join the club!

Do you have anything to add to my list?

{FAMILY} The Benefits of Saying “No”

For many parents like myself, hearing the word “No!” is like hearing a small child drop an F-Bomb in a public place. It’s cringe-worthy. We teach our children to say “yes mom” or “yes dad”, and to only respond with a “no” when something harmful or unpleasant occurs. Perhaps this is why the negative response has such negative connotations (besides the obvious).

I was walking through a local market with my children recently, and as we walked past the bakery, my children began to chime in unison, “Please, mom, PLEASE can we have a cookie!?” I cooly responded with a “no kids, not today” and we continued on our way. As we passed the bakery, the man behind the counter exclaimed, “Wow, well done! You said no and your kids didn’t make a big deal of it. I rarely see parents say no to their kids these days.”

At first the comment surprised me. It seemed like a no-brainer – saying no to treats is a common occurrence in our family (although we definitely balance our restrictions when it’s acceptable to indulge on sugary treats).

As a self-employed business owner, I’ve also had a hard time with saying no. The unpredictability of contract work can be daunting, making it easy to accept every opportunity that comes my way. But I’ve quickly learned that saying yes to everything doesn’t always result in a positive outcome. I soon realized that overloading my plate would actually have negative results. Here are some of the reasons why saying “no” can actually be a good thing:

1) More time. If you reduce your yes’s and only accept tasks that you are sure you can manage, it will be easier for you to balance your busy schedule – and even set a little time aside for YOU!

2) Take charge. Saying no to your children teaches them balance, and keeps them well-adjusted. It is important for them to learn that they can’t have everything they want. Sometimes the answer will be “no” and that’s ok.

3) Do what’s best for YOU. Saying no to plans with friends, potential clients, or playdates for your kids can be tough. But being honest will lead to happier choices, and ultimately lead to a happier you. If you don’t think you can handle the extra workload, or night out, or kids at your house, it’s better to just say no than to commit to something that you really don’t want to do.

Saying no to your children can be a teaching moment – an opportunity to learn about responsibility and how to deal with disappointment. It can free up some time for the things that you really want to do, and can alleviate a lot of the stress that comes with being a parent.

saying no

Bringing Home Baby: The Only 10 Things You’ll Need

The baby products industry is so jam-packed with fancy-pants  thingamabobs and whatchamacallits that it’s becoming difficult for parents-to-be to determine what they will actually need for the arrival of their new little ones, versus the on-trend nice-to-haves of modern society.

Having done this new baby thing a time or two, I thought I would share with you my quick list of the only things you’ll need to buy before bringing home baby (and a few of the things that can wait until later).

Baby

1) A Car Seat. You’re going to need to bring your baby home in something, so a rear-facing car seat should be at the top of your list of must-haves (unless of course you don’t have a car, in which case, see #8 & #9). There are about a million different models out there, but I’ve found this one to be my favourite (or I’m currently using this one for baby #3 which I also like). These seats are both lighter than most (which is important because for the first few months you’ll be carrying them on your forearm like a purse), and they are quite compact (especially important if you have a small car or other small children). I’ve also found that they are adaptable to most strollers.

2) A Bassinet/Cradle. Because babies sleep. A lot. If you have the space, I would suggest starting with a little bassinet or cradle. In the first few months your new little baby will need you at least a few times throughout the night, and having baby nearby makes those midnight feedings a little more bearable. A smaller bassinet is also more mobile so you can move your baby’s sleep locations more conveniently. Of course, some parents co-sleep, or start putting baby in a full-sized crib right from day 1, so this one can be left up to your own personal preference.

3) Diapers. Whether you like it or not, babies also pee and poop. A lot. So you’re going to need something to catch it all. Whether you plan on using disposables or cloth diapers, you’re going to need to stock up. Babies do the deed an average of 10-14 times a day, so plan ahead my friends! You will not want to run out to the store for another pack of diapers in the first few days of bringing home baby.

4) Change Table/Surface. With all of those diaper changes, you’re going to need somewhere to actually change the baby. I like having a full change table with space underneath to store the supplies (wipes, diapers, creams, powders, cloths, etc), but I know many people who use dressers with change pads on top and this works too – you can just buy a basket or install some shelves above for the extras.

5) Wash Cloths/Blankets. I’ve grouped these together because basically you’re going to need some fabrics to wash, swaddle, and block your baby (block = defence against unwanted explosions, i.e.: pukes, spit ups and blow outs). You will need a lot of these too.

6) A Vibrating Chair. Some parents may challenge me on this one, but with all 3 of my children I found this to be a godsend. Because as much as you love to cuddle your baby, your arms will get tired and you’ll have other things to do. And while the dream is to have a baby who will self-sooth and fall asleep in their cradles on their own, this is rarely the case. I used my vibrating chair constantly – to keep baby happy while I did chores (easy to move from room-to-room), and many times to coo baby to sleep when rocking in my arms just wouldn’t do.

7) Sleepers. While there are endless drool-worthy baby outfits out there (hello adorable sneakers, bomber jackets, tutus, and baby denim!), you’ll really only need a sizeable collection of onesie sleepers (and zippers are a MUST). Cutesy accessories can come later, but for the first few months, the goal is to keep baby warm and cozy, and to regain your sanity from a long slew of sleepless nights.

8) A Baby Carrier. Some parents prefer this one, but I’ve always been happy with this one. There are a TON of choices out there, and the one you choose will really come down to personal preference, but you will need one if you ever plan on leaving the house or using your hands again.

9) A Stroller. Babies get heavy so you’re going to want one of these too. Especially if you have a dog, need to go to the store, or pretty much have to go anywhere that requires you to walk for longer periods of time. Not only are they great for transporting your kids, but you can put stuff in them when you’re shopping which is handy! My favourite strollers of all time are these ones (I was spoiled with baby #1 and received one as a gift from a group of family members – pricey, but THE BEST). Due to tighter budgets with baby #3, I now have this one which has been pretty good so far.

10) Poo Bags. This one might sound a little strange, but I’m telling you, you DO NOT NEED a diaper genie. The thick poo bags that were designed for picking up after your dog are perfect – especially these ones which are biodegradable, and totally affordable. We put the poopy dipes in the bags, tie them tightly, and toss them in our regular garbage can. No stink. I found the diaper genie to be a pain in the arse to change the bags, and it was often difficult to find the refills (not to mention pricey!). If you’re using cloth diapers, it’s still nice to keep these on hand for dirty baby wipes or blowouts when you’re out and about.

There are of course other things you’ll need as well, but you don’t need to buy it all right away! Here are some things that you can save for later.

Save for later:

– full-sized crib

– Bumbo chair

– bottles

– soothers

– high chair

– exersaucer

– toys

– clothes (beyond sleepers) & shoes

– baby foods & accessories (dishes)

If you have friends with kids, ask them if they have any of the items on your list before you go shopping, or add them to your wish list for baby shower gifts. Congratulations on your new babies to come, and good luck!

 Fellow parents, have I missed anything? 

Baby

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How To Win At Working From Home

As I nestled into the corner booth at a local coffee shop to begin my work this morning, I had an epiphany. It hit me like a slap in the face – I had suddenly realized that it has been just over 2 years since I left my corporate job to become a work-from-home mom.

2 years since I took the breath-taking, heart-racing leap from the cushy comforts of an in-office nine-to-five career, to a financially-risky, part-time, home-based job. I remember being anxious, scared, and hopeful about working from home – wondering if I had finally found the work-life balance I had been searching for. I remember writing about my first week as a WAHM and listing the challenges I anticipated I would face in my new work environment.

And now here I am – a recently self-employed mom of three, doing what I love from my home office. And while there are definitely days where I feel like the pendulum is vigorously swinging in one direction, I feel like I’ve come a long way from where I was 2 years ago.

working from home

 

So for those of you who are considering a similar transition, or who need some tips on how to make it work, here are some things that have been working for me (so far):

1) Schedule Time To Work. Like an outside office job, it helps to determine what your hours are. This will help you to manage your projects and complete them efficiently. Working with a young  baby at home can make it tricky to keep a consistent schedule so I have one day a week where I have my parents watch the baby for a few hours so I can work at a coffee shop – uninterrupted. It’s amazing how much work I can accomplish when I know I have 2 hours of time to myself. This also helps me to schedule business meetings – knowing I have at least one day/time when I won’t have to have a little one in tow. If you don’t have daytime help, allocate some hours in the evenings when your babies are in bed (I do this as well). Pour a glass of wine or stew a warm cup of tea, put on some quiet music and force yourself to focus.

2) Learn When To Turn It Off. Separating work from life is a difficult task – especially when the two are based out of the same location. One thing that I find helps is to have a room or space in your home that is allocated as your office space. When you’re ready to work, go to your place and do your best to stay focused. When your work hours are over, close the door, or leave that space just as you would leave your office to go home at the end of a work day outside of the home. Keep your family updated on your work hours, and keep your unwashed laundry and dirty dishes out of sight (out of sight, out of mind, right? – kind of).

3) Get Out, Get Connected, Get Inspired. When you work from the confines of your home, it’s easy to become an introvert. While communicating primarily by email is sometimes more convenient, it helps to schedule in-person client meetings and coffee chats. Having face-to-face interactions with adults can be rewarding – both professionally and personally. Take it one step further and join networking groups or workshops that hold regular in-person meetings. I’ve attended a few Mom CEO Academy and LOCO BC events and plan on making it more of a habit in 2015.

Are you a work-at-home mom who feels like you have it all figured out? If so, I’d love to hear your tips and tricks too!

working from home

Why I’m Using Cloth Diapers For Baby #3

Confession: becoming a mother has made me less ignorant about the world around me. I’ve developed a new appreciation for our planet and our natural surroundings, I’ve put more of a focus on eating healthy, and have taken into account my health and wellbeing – not only for myself, but for the sake of my children. I’m now thinking about the future and the long-term effects of my actions, and not as much about what is convenient and easy in the present.

With my first two babies, I opted for disposable diapers because it was the most convenient option. It’s not that I didn’t care about the effects they had on the environment, I just cared more about the easiest option for me – and I don’t necessarily think there’s anything wrong with that. When you’re a parent, you do what you have to do.

But with baby number three I’ve decided to try something new. It took a long time for me to even consider learning more about cloth diapering. I had received an array of comments (both positive and negative) when mentioning to others that I was considering cloth, and I was aware that I would be even busier than ever with three little ones under my wing. But I had to learn more before making the final decision.

I popped into a cloth diapering workshop put on by my friend Janelle from Yaya Baby, and I’m so glad that I did! She confessed to having tried over 20 different brands and styles of cloth diapers, and walked us through the pros and cons to each. She explained how to use, wash, and store cloth diapers, and shared some valuable resources on the benefits of using cloth over disposables.

Here are the top 6 takeaways that resonated with me:

1) Environmental Impacts: In Canada we throw away 4 million disposable diapers per DAY, and it takes about 450-500 years for a disposable diaper to decompose. From birth to 2.5 years, we go through approx. 7,000 disposable diapers (whereas you only need approx. 24 cloth diapers in that timeframe).

2) Money Matters: On average we spend $2,000 on disposable diapers (per child) from birth to 2.5 years. Cloth diapers (including all the essentials) will cost less than $800.

3) Rash-Free Rumps: No chemical gels means no rashes on baby’s tender bits. With Apple Cheeks specifically, the fleece liners keep bums dry.

4) Buh-Bye Blowouts: The Apple Cheeks diapers have a ruffle in the back designed specifically to make those messy blowouts virtually impossible.

5) Pain-Free Cleaning: Seriously. Despite what you might hear, the wash routine for Apple Cheeks diapers is super simple. To learn more, check out the link I’ve provided at the end of my post.

6) Cute Factor: So adorable baby won’t need pants. For real. The rainbow colours and adorable patterns are too cute to tuck into pants. Bring on Summer!

I’ve taken the leap and can’t wait to get started. Wish me luck!

To learn more about the benefits of cloth diapering, visit Why Cloth – Yaya Baby

Ask Mama Dina: Raising Boys (Part I)

My first child was a girl, and for almost three years I truly believed that time outs, positive reinforcement, and a set of house rules were all that I needed to maintain a well-behaved child, and a “parent that has it all figured out” status.

And then I had a boy. And while I completely disagree with the negative connotations that tend to coincide with the naming of this gender (from the old nursery rhyme that boys are “made of snips and snails and puppy dog tails”, to the comments I often hear today from parents who insist that boys are wild, destructible and out of control), I truly believe that boys are just made differently, and as a result, they learn differently as well.

Equipped with this thought, I went to an expert – my very own Mama Dina. I asked her: “Is it true that boys need to be parented differently, and if so, why and how can I do this effectively?”

She responded with these quick tips:

1) Boys tend to require more physical activity
2) When it comes to parenting, boys need less words & more showing
3) Despite what we may think, boys need to be given more slack & less rigid type parenting
4) Boys tend to show their feelings through actions as opposed to words; parents need to read their feelings through their actions
5) Boys learn most effectively when moving around (associating lessons with actions)
6) Most of all, boys need to be loved & accepted for who they are

 

She then handed me this book: Raising Boys: Why Boys Are Different – and How to Help Them Become Happy and Well-Balanced Men by Steve Biddulph. She said the book includes some great points on how boys learn and how to parent them effectively based on the knowledge that they learn differently.

I’m going to read the book and write a follow up post on my findings – stay tuned for a Part 2 post!

ABOUT MAMA DINA:

Mama Dina is a consummate mother, adoptive mother, stepmother, foster mother and grandmother. For over 30 years, she worked as an early childhood educator, and is fully trained and experienced in the Montessori educational approach. She has over 15 years of experience as a foster parent to children from all walks of life, many of whom have special needs. She provides emergency respite care for the foster care system, and acts as a ‘baby whisperer’ for preemie twins on a part-time basis. Her educational background includes training in child psychology, ECE, infant-toddler development, and various areas of special needs (ARBD, FASD, ADHD). Mama Dina’s lifelong passion has been children. She understands typical and atypical child development and behaviour, and combines her magic formula of unconditional love and consistency to enhance each child’s potential. She is also my beloved mama, and I am so blessed that she chose me to be her daughter.

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