Tag Archives: Life

Coat Ban

Did you know Canada Goose winter coats have been banned at a school in the U.K?  Moncler and Pyrenex coats have also been banned at Woodchurch High School in Wirral, England.  According to this article: “It is not because kids are stupid, lose things or steal off each other…Rather it is because of inequality.”

Canada Goose Jackets

Checking Prices

The Canada Goose website advertises youth parkas starting from $350 up to $750.  Moncler has coats for teen boys (12-14) that are upwards of $1000. Pyrenex jackets are the cheapest of the three ranging from $200-350 for children’s jackets.

What is the priority?

When I have looked for a winter jacket for myself or for my kid – I go with one priority, to find something that will provide warmth for our winters without breaking the bank.  Canada Goose, Moncler and Pyrenex may be wonderfully warm coats, but there are other, cheaper brands that are also sufficiently warm by my experience.  Thus, I struggle to understand why anyone would spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars on a single item of clothing especially for a child who would outgrow that item even if they don’t wear it out, lose it or otherwise wreck it?

Does name brand matter?

Over the years there are many brands that have held the spot light and thus been in high demand: Nike, Polo, Levi, Gucci, Ralph Lauren, Prada, Tommy Hilfiger, Sketchers, Aeropostale, Abercrombie & Fitch and so on.  For some, sporting these names helps to establish the individual as someone who is ‘cool’.  The problem is that the popularity of a brand can influence the price tag making it harder for everyone to afford and thus reinforcing the difference between those who have and those who don’t.

“Poverty Shaming”

In a time when wealth provides a sense of status and entitlement and when people are famous essentially because they have money, those who are unable to ‘keep up with the Jones’ (or perhaps the Kardashians) are looked down upon and can thus become targets of bullying.  In essence, while status is associated with wearing the ‘right’ brands, stigma is associated with the absence of such brands.  The assumption is that if you don’t have those brands it is because your family is poor and can’t afford them.

“Wealth Shaming”

One Facebook post complained that banning expensive, name brand coats is the equivalent of ‘wealth shaming’ – making people feel bad because they have money and can buy (really) nice things.  All of this, however, depends upon seeing the brands you wear as a means to define who you are.  Is this really the ideal we should teach in a school?

What do you think?

How important is what a student wears?  Should schools ignore those ways in which students  define one another based on clothing?  Or should the classroom and playground stress character and other qualities allowing young people to define themselves beyond what they wear?  Is limiting the brands students can wear a way to achieve this ideal? We want to hear from you.

Thrive! A living manual for families uses the tools of social media and food and fellowship to facilitate conversation about the blessings and challenges of being family today.  Check out http://stpaulstrinity.org/?page_id=2100 for more information or visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ThriveFamiliesManual/

 

Financial Literacy

I recently completed the online survey about education reform.  This included a section regarding financial literacy expectations for students.  Namely, what skills should schools be teaching?  While I agree there are some technical aspects which can be taught in school – for example, how to calculate interest on a loan – there are life skills and a morality attached to the use of money that could and perhaps should be taught at home.

Teaching about money

There are toys appropriate for young children which can be used to introduce money.  There are cash registers that allow children to imagine shopping at a grocery store.  There are games that can be played that involve money – Monopoly (which has a Junior version), Payday, Life, and so on.  All of these can be fun ways to explore money choices and options.

Giving children an allowance

The government of Canada provides an outline to help parents reflect upon the extent to which giving a child an allowance can be a tool for teaching financial literacy.  Having access to their own money can be an important way to encourage children to save, share and spend wisely.  With their own money, children get to decide what purchases are priorities and develop an understanding of making choices about what, when and how to buy what they want or need.

Financial morality

Inherent in our use of money is a morality.  We make choices about our priorities including where, how and what to spend our money on.  These choices can influence our children’s priorities.  Consider, for example, those who choose organic and fair trade products or shop locally.  These options are often chosen intentionally and it becomes easy to share these priorities with our children, letting them know that there are consequences to what we choose to buy and the companies we choose to support.

Our relationship to money can also be reflected in our actions.  If all our children see is us spending in hap hazard ways, they may come to believe that this is appropriate thus developing a hap hazard approach to their own finances.  If we never show our children our bills, they may not realise the expenses that come with renting or home ownership.  If we never show our children what we do to save money, they may struggle to understand the importance and ways to save.

What do you think?

Do you believe that financial literacy in its entirety is something that should be left to schools?  In what ways do you think parents could and perhaps should teach about financial literacy?  What priorities do you hope to pass on to your children?  We would love to hear from you.

Thrive! A living manual for families uses the tools of social media and food and fellowship to facilitate conversation about the blessings and challenges of being family today.  Check out http://stpaulstrinity.org/?page_id=2100 for more information or visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ThriveFamiliesManual/

Picky Eaters

At a recent Thrive! Dinner we had paninis.  To accommodate vegetarians, I purchased an avocado hummus that I thought would be nice with red peppers, carrots, spinach and cheese.  While I have eaten garlic and roasted red pepper hummus, avocado was new to me so, I decided to give it a try with a carrot. 

The puzzled look on my face (the taste was not what I was expecting), led to a conversation that included inviting others to give it a try.  Initially there weren’t a lot of fans.  I followed up by making a panini.  The taste grew on me and another participant was really enjoying it as a dip.  In the end, it was an interesting experiment.

Food fights!

One of the challenges of parenting is getting our kids to try new things.  Picky eaters can be the norm for a considerable part of childhood and even beyond.  Sometimes the struggle is compounded by food allergies or anxiety making mealtimes a constant battle.

Tricks we tried

Over the years, we tried to get our picky eater to try new things.  For a while we used Jessica Seinfeld’s cookbook “Deceptively Delicious” which had me making purees, freezing these in ice cube trays and then adding them to a variety of dishes.  Our kid knew that I would do this, but the rule was that I wouldn’t reveal what was in the food until at least half of the serving was eaten.

Recognising that kids can be turned off at the sight of something new and different, for a time we played: “name that food”.  I would make dinner without telling my family what I was making.  Then I would blindfold them at the table and give them bites of food.  They then had to guess what I made.  This was done with the assurance that there would only be one potentially new food on the plate so as not to overwhelm the picky eater.  Interestingly, this is when I introduced long grain and wild rice.  To this day I believe that my kid would have picked out the wild rice because it is dark in colour but because it was first tried while blindfolded it remains on the menu to this day.

Peer Pressure

As our picky eater moved into the later teen years, we have encouraged hosting dinner parties and going to meals with friends.  Engaging with others has helped to introduce our teen to some new foods.  Of course, this process comes with its challenges too.  Giving teenagers free reign to make their own dinner had them ambitiously trying to make pasta from scratch which ended up being a horrible failure.  In the end, the group opted to order pizza which we still considered a ‘win’ in developing independence.

What is important?

In the end, we know there are those who will go through life and continue to be picky eaters.  I know seniors for whom restaurant choices are a challenge.  Perhaps the most important thing is that whoever we are and whatever our preferences might be, our body gets what it needs to survive and thrive.

Do you agree?

Are you a picky eater?  Do you know a picky eater?  What tricks have you experienced to encourage picky eaters to try something new?  What does it take for you to try something new?  We would love to hear from you!

Thrive! A living manual for families uses the tools of social media and food and fellowship to facilitate conversation about the blessings and challenges of being family today.  Check out http://stpaulstrinity.org/?page_id=2100 for more information or visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ThriveFamiliesManual/

 

Relationships

Romantic Comedies and Reality

Years ago, a boy that I liked asked me to go with him and his friend to a movie.  When 15 year old me asked my parents, they wanted to know if this was a date.  To which I responded that we wouldn’t be alone – a friend was tagging along.  When the boy showed up in a two-seater MG, however, my mother was not convinced and insisted that my younger sister go with us.  It might have made for an appropriate scene in a romantic comedy – the boy driving a two seater car with the girl beside, and her little sister on her lap.

Romantic Comedies

The genre of rom-coms seemed to hit its stride beginning in the 1980s with hits like Sixteen Candles (1984), Pretty in Pink (1986), When Harry met Sally (1989), Say Anything (1989), and Pretty Woman (1990).  These films typically feature some unlikely couple moving through a complex journey of circumstances that ultimately lead to a passionate moment when they realise their love for each other.

Such films work best when the protagonists are portrayed as naïve and emotionally juvenile.  There is a need for the characters to grow in order for the relationship to develop.  They need to come to a new understanding of themselves, the object of their affections and the nature of relationships for them to come to a place where they can recognise that they are in love.

Life imitating art

I did date the boy with the MG for a short while but it wasn’t meant to be.  We didn’t have the kind of chemistry needed to go the distance.  These things happen.  It is rare to ‘get it right’ the first time.  In fact, I would have several relationships before finding someone with whom I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life.  Throughout the journey, there were several of those rom-com moments, zany times in which we laughed, learned and grew.

As I watch my kid grow into adulthood, I recognise a similar journey.  My teen has experienced the wonder of a first kiss on New Year’s Eve, the joy of an over-packed picnic in the park and the heartbreak of those moments when we realise it is not meant to be.  The story continues to be written.  We can’t predict where it will go but we will walk with our kid through the ups and downs of the journey, offering advice and the occasional shoulder on which to cry.

Offering Advice

Looking back on our relationship journeys, what advice have you received that has been helpful or perhaps just zany?  What advice would you give to those younger than you?  How have your relationships mirrored a romantic comedy?  What do you think it takes to make a relationship last?  We would love to hear from you!

Thrive! A living manual for families uses the tools of social media and food and fellowship to facilitate conversation about the blessings and challenges of being family today.  Check out http://stpaulstrinity.org/?page_id=2100 for more information or visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ThriveFamiliesManual/

 

Time – A Thrive! Dinner Review

Sept. 30th beginning at 5pm, a group from Essex County came together for a Thrive! Dinner.  It began by making quesadillas.  This was actually a new experience for some.  In fact, one person admitted to googling it ahead of the gathering.  As I think about it, we never had quesadillas when I was growing up either.  It is something that we have come to enjoy thanks to increased exposure to Mexican food.  Life changes as we open ourselves to new experiences.

Eating together

As we sat for dinner, we shared fellowship offering insights into the highlights of our summer and our dreams.  At times the room grew quiet as we munched away.  It was a mirror of family dinners with their ebbs and flows of conversation.  Sometimes we need a little help to keep everyone engaged.

We actually finished the meal early.  Knowing that one family would be late, we took the time to be a little silly as participants paired up and took turns trying to empty a bucket of balls that was tied behind our backs by shaking it like Shakira.  While there is video of this, we have opted not to include it here to protect the dignity of our participants  😉 If you want to see this in action, you’ll have to come to a dinner!

Playing with time

Once all participants had arrived, we broke up into teams and began a kind of obstacle course which explored the challenges of trying to manage time within families.  Stations included “last minute science project”, “I can’t find my…”, “slow eater”, “dinner dilemma”, “homework”, “quiz prep”, “late for the bus”, “walk the dog”, “two places at once”, and “scheduling”.  Each activity sought to mimic a reality in the life of families.  Click here for a description of these activities.

Going deeper

Breaking off into our groups, we took some time to talk about the activities.  When asked which resonated most with our lives, the parents recognised the scheduling as a regular challenge.  We also acknowledged the struggles getting children to school on time and dealing with homework.  It is frustrating that the way some subjects are taught are so different from what we remember.  Sometimes we need to admit we don’t know and tell our children to ask their teacher.

Homework help

Enter the Internet – did you know that the Ontario Ministry of Education offers free, live online math tutoring from an Ontario teacher?  Check out http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/elearning/homework.html for more information.  It is also possible to find videos and other helpful tools when you google a topic.

Time challenge

Family life today is surrounded by many challenges.  From busy schedules, to meal planning, to seeking to balance work and life, it is easy to become overwhelmed.  Still, as we gathered together at the end of the evening we recognised that there are those incredible moments when we are in our ‘happy places’, gathered together doing meaningful things.  Our prayer is that we continue to make time for those moments so that our lives continue to include the joy, grace and wonder that comes with being family.

Thrive! A living manual for families uses the tools of social media and food and fellowship to facilitate conversation about the blessings and challenges of being family today.  Check out http://stpaulstrinity.org/?page_id=2100 for more information or visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ThriveFamiliesManual/

 

Busy Schedules

Now that school is in full swing, many families have returned to the hectic schedules that fill our

We interrupt your regularly scheduled life to bring you your child’s hockey season!

calendars. Meetings, appointments, lessons, practices, work, competitions and games can keep us busy from the beep of our morning alarms until the time we collapse into bed.  As a result, our priorities as parents often shift as we attempt to negotiate how to meet these demands.  Sometimes it feels like we spend hours of our day playing chauffeur to our children as they go from one thing to the next. At times, it can feel overwhelming, trying to ensure that our kids’ needs are met while also making sure that we get done what we need to do.

We have a calendar to track who is where when.  Our house doesn’t live 9am to 5pm as was once the norm.  Work requirements have both hubby and me at evening meetings and events.  The kid also has evening priorities.  We had dinner together Saturday and Sunday evening but Monday, hubby has a meeting, Tuesday the kid is in school until 6:30pm, Wednesday the kid has a dinnertime meeting, Thursday the kid is in school and at lessons until 8:30pm and I have an evening meeting.  So, it will be Friday before we can have dinner as a family again and we are only 3 people.  I can only imagine what it is like negotiating the calendar for more children!

Still, we try to make the time we have together meaningful.  Every effort is made to ensure that we have at least a little time each day to reflect together on what has happened.  Sometimes this is essentially limited to the moment before bed where we pray together, identifying something which makes us mad, glad, sad or scared, something for which we are thankful and what we hope to achieve tomorrow.  This typically provides some insights into our journeys individually and as family.  It is a moment in time, but remains something important for all of us.

We also pair off and connect.  Time in the car going from one event to the next is spent in conversation giving us an opportunity to hear from the kid about the challenges and blessings of life.  Hubby and I take time each day to share the challenges and blessings of work.  Sometimes these are small moments, but, for us, these moments matter.

I know, our schedules are not unique.  Families today face similarly hectic days that make it difficult to connect.  How does it work in your home?  How do you try to ensure that the needs of all family members are met?  In what ways do you try to connect with every person, catching glimpses of life as they seem to fly by?  What commitments does your family make to be together at least for some moments throughout the week?

Share your thoughts and practices in the comments.  Who knows, it might inspire something new for someone else.

Thrive! A living manual for families uses the tools of social media and food and fellowship to facilitate conversation about the blessings and challenges of being family today.  Check out http://stpaulstrinity.org/?page_id=2100 for more information or visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ThriveFamiliesManual/

Screen Time

Fun fact: there were a couple of years when our television mysteriously ‘broke’ during summer and my parents were ‘too busy’ working to get it fixed.  In reality, my parents had simply cut power to the television in an effort to ensure that we would not spend our summer in front of it. 

Unplugging today

As a parent, I didn’t have the opportunity to ‘pull the plug’ on television in the same way.  While we have only ever had one television set in our home, we have accumulated computers, a tablet and cell phones.  The number of screen options has grown exponentially over the years making it very difficult to surreptitiously eliminate the possibility of screen time.

That being said, following the pediatric guidelines we did try to minimise screen time while our child was young.  We have also taken a technology-free vacation where only one cell phone was allowed for emergency purposes.  This led to a particularly wacky weekend where board games had us laughing uncontrollably.

The reality of Screen time

With a cell phone and computer readily available, our teenager spends a lot of time in front of a screen.  During the school year, (as I wrote about here) we recognise that technology is a vital tool for research and development of projects and notes.  I know from my own experience that a fair bit of my work is spent on the computer – researching, writing, connecting with people and so on.  We would not want to get in the way of our teenager developing the necessary skills to use technology.

The challenge of summer

Summer, however, provides a time away from the rigours associated with school and thus the use of technology changes.  For our teen, some time is spent reading and being creative on Wattpad or writing music with MuseScore activities which we think should be encouraged.  We also know there are social media accounts to review including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.  We seek balance in the process but recognise that there is still work to do, including regarding the importance of validation via impersonal social media accounts.

Modelling balance

Balance is encouraged when it is also modeled by other members of the family.  Parents who are overly focused on technology and zone out while watching television or working on the computer, validate these actions for their children.  Banning technology during meals and at other meaningful opportunities can create space from which interpersonal interactions can take place reinforcing these skills as well.  This doesn’t require a special pepper mill to do so, but does need a commitment from family members to use this time together for conversation.

What do you do?

So then, how does it work at your house?  Do you place limits on technology and screen time for your children?  How do you balance positive use with potentially problematic usage?  What advice would you give to others in regards to the use of technology in youth?

Thrive! A living manual for families uses the tools of social media and food and fellowship to facilitate conversation about the blessings and challenges of being family today.  Check out http://stpaulstrinity.org/?page_id=2100 for more information or visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ThriveFamiliesManual

Is our value in what we own?

Minimalism: Consumer Culture and the Family

A long-time friend (we were roommates in University) has decided to simply her life.  After moving from a large home to an apartment, she is now moving a second time and simplifying again.  As a result, she posed the question on Facebook: “Who is it that decided that we needed different types of drinking vessels? I have 23 glasses of 4 types plus 13 mugs/cups. I’m pretty sure I don’t need 36 vessels from which to drink. ‘Tis a sign of successful marketing for certain. I’m now debating how many to purge without my friends thinking I’ve gone over the edge in my embracement of minimalism (or my use of the word vessel).”

How many glasses are enough?

She has a point.  Through effective advertising, social norms evolve.  These norms suggest that different glasses serve different functions and, depending on the meal, you may need more than one glass per person as illustrated in these table setting guidelines.

There is considerable pressure for people to conform to social norms.  We want feel a part of the group and desire the approval of others.  This, then, influences the choices we make, including what we choose to buy.  Thus, we may have wine glasses with ones suitable for white wine, others for red and others still for champagne because advertisements have told us the differences matter.  We have juice glasses, water goblets, mugs, highballs, shot glasses and more depending on our drinking style and preferences.  Indeed, I wonder what might happen if we stop to consider how much cupboard space is used by vessels whose primary purpose is for beverages.

How much stuff is enough?

If we are honest with ourselves, we might have to admit that the number of drinking vessels we possess are merely one example of the plurality of things we buy because we think we need them.  What might happen if we challenge ourselves to consider how much we really need?  What we could do without?

While it seems trivial to even have this conversation, the fact remains, wartime homes are far smaller than what is popular today.  We have amassed so much ‘stuff’ that we require more space to store it.  There are those who have garages that are filled with stuff to the point where it is impossible to park a car.

What are we teaching our children?

This is the norm today.  We are told over and over again to buy our happiness.  In the process, some complain that Millennials are an ‘entitled’ generation because they expect to have things.  To some extent, they are merely conforming to the expectation that we all have a role to play in consumerism.  Have we considered what this might mean for the next generation?  How will our children relate to ‘stuff’?  What pressures will they feel to buy?

Listening to our children…

How often do we hear from our children that they ‘need’ this gadget or that piece of clothing?  How often do we recognise when they reflect back that willingness to conform to a norm that says we must buy and buy and buy?  To what extent do we want our children to see our ability to participate in consumer culture as a sign of our value in society as a whole?  What might we do to introduce values which focus more on the gifts our children have within themselves so that they can find value in sharing their talents, time and treasure in meaningful ways?

There will always be advertisements telling us to buy.  What can we do/what are we doing to teach our children that their value is about something other than what they own?

Thrive! A living manual for families uses the tools of social media and food and fellowship to facilitate conversation about the blessings and challenges of being family today.  Check out http://stpaulstrinity.org/?page_id=2100 for more information or visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ThriveFamiliesManual/

Heat Wave

On July 2nd, a portion of highway 3 near Windsor was closed after the road had buckled in the extreme heat (click here for the article).  Reports at that time indicated that the temperature had reached 34C with a humidex of 43C.  Environment Canada continues the heat warning proclaiming that this is the most significant heat event in the past few years.

Windsor is hot

I grew up in Windsor. I remember hot humid days. I remember begging our teacher to have class outside because we didn’t have air conditioning in our school.  I remember unbearable nights before our home had air conditioning.  And I remember the powerful storms that often signalled relief.  Windsor is at the top of the list in Canada when it comes to heat and humidity.  This has been the case for decades.

Is it getting hotter?

Climate change models indicate that the average global temperatures have been increasing since the onset of the industrial age with each year being hotter than the last.  In fact, 2013-2017 is the hottest five year period on record and while, technically, the average temperatures for 2017 were not higher than 2016, they are the highest on record for a year without an El Nino current to influence the temperatures.  See here for visual representations of this change.

In this article the National Collaboration Centre for Environmental Health suggests that by 2050 cities across Canada will experience four times the number of very hot days as compared to 2012.

How is it dangerous?

Complications from extreme heat can cause dehydration, dizziness, behaviour changes, headaches and more.  At the extreme, one could suffer heat stroke which requires immediate medical attention as it can be deadly.  Pets and other animals are also susceptible to the effects of extreme heat.  It is important to be diligent in monitoring ourselves and those around us to make sure everyone is comfortable and safe.

What can we do?

Water is life in these conditions.  Drinking plenty of cold water, a dip in a pool or cold bath or shower can be vital ways to help cool off.  Where air conditioning is available, it is a ready source of escape from the heat.  This means that as our children are off for summer, a large portion of their time will be spent indoors, at least until this heat breaks.  Board games, puzzles, books, movies, video games, crafts and more can help pass the time at home.  Trips to the library and other public venues can also provide access to cool environments that engage the mind.

What do you do?

We been through these conditions before.  It’s Windsor.  It gets hot in the summer.  So, what are you doing to keep cool?  What are the kids doing?  How can this still be a meaningful time during this break?

Thrive! A living manual for families uses the tools of social media and food and fellowship to facilitate conversation about the blessings and challenges of being family today.  Check out http://stpaulstrinity.org/?page_id=2100 for more information or visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ThriveFamiliesManual/

 

Inter-generational Families

My grandmother turns 98 today.  What a wonderful gift it is to be connected to generations before us.  I have been blessed to have a relationship with all of my grandparents well into my adulthood.  In fact, three of my grandparents and one of my husband’s all met our child.

Getting older

The 2016 Canadian census discovered that, for the first time since Confederation, the number of seniors 65 and older is actually larger than the number of children 14 and younger.  This change includes a significant increase in the number of those over 85 and in the number of individuals over 100.  (Click here for more information)

The times are changing…

My grandmother was born in 1920.  She was a child through the roaring 20’s and a teenager through the Great Depression.  She married during the Second World War and began to have children as it was ending contributing to the baby boom. She was alive when Neil Armstrong took the first steps on the moon and when JFK and Martin Luther King were shot.  She remembers when Trudeau senior was Prime Minister of Canada.  Her family is in the Guinness Book of World Records as one of two families where 11 children celebrated 50 years of marriage or more.  A lot has happened over the life span of my grandmother, the changes are incredible.

Honouring our story…

It is a blessing to have four generations come together to celebrate milestones.  From our grandparents we glimpse our past and connect to a story that is larger than ourselves.  Perhaps this is why there has been considerable interest in exploring our history through sites like ancestry.ca.  Having someone available to fill in the blanks for us can be a meaningful resource in discovering who we are in this larger picture.

Sometimes it helps to get creative in our efforts to keep family close.  Years ago, our child entered that phase when there are monsters under the bed around the same time as we lost my maternal grandparents.  As a result, one night I simply explained to my kid that it wasn’t monsters under the bed, but rather it was great grandparents visiting.  This became a fun game as my kid wanted to know what these individuals might be doing.  It created space from which to share a bit about my grandparents.  One of my grandfathers played piano, they were both teases.  I would say they were kibitzing around until my grandmother would yell: “Harold, Bernard, stop that! Don’t you know the child’s trying to sleep”.  That’s exactly what she would have said.  These conversations have helped to keep one generation close to another.

What do you do?

What do you know about your family’s history?  How is that shared from one generation to the next?  To what extent are you able to connect to the generations before and after yourself?  How has this proved meaningful for you?  Recently we hosted an inter-generational BBQ to celebrate graduation milestones.  Click here for a video of participants sharing their wisdom.  Watch for more opportunities to include all of the generations at our Thrive! Dinners.

Thrive! A living manual for families uses the tools of social media and food and fellowship to facilitate conversation about the blessings and challenges of being family today.  Check out http://stpaulstrinity.org/?page_id=2100 for more information or visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ThriveFamiliesManual/