Happiness

Parents Experiencing Anxiety Part 1/3

I have been experiencing very intense anxiety the last few months and I realized that I am experiencing exactly what I swore I never would, as a parent.

So… today I ask and explore the question

Why are parents so anxious?

Before I had children ( in fact, when I was deciding if I even wanted them) I took to google to ask this question, because I was genuinely curious.  As a clueless observer of parents, this was something I noticed.  Anxious, harried, unorganized, confused, stressed out.  I promised myself I wouldn’t become that.

So… let’s forward 5 years and three kids later. In the last few months, I – who swore I would never let that happen to me –  found myself on sick leave from work, battling anxiety, depression and complete and utter life overwhelm, despite my best efforts to get clear on my priorities, maintain boundaries and keep infusing my life with practices like meditation, nature immersion and crafts.

Once again I took to google.  Most of the internet results on parental anxiety talk about  fear-based anxiety and the fact that we live in a culture that is dominated by fear.  In the book Last Child in the Woods:  Saving our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, the author states “Fear is the most potent fore that prevents parents from allowing their children the freedom that they themselves enjoyed when they were young.”  There is “Fear of traffic, of crime, of stranger danger, of nature itself.”

I wanted to write this post today for parents who are struggling with anxiety, but feel like their anxiety isn’t rooted in this type of fear.

Yes, this type is widespread but I’ve come to the conclusion that there are different drivers of anxiety as a parent that don’t get mentioned as often.

Yes, I did struggle with a bit of fear-based anxiety with my first born (I couldn’t even walk the stroller down hills without fear of falling, letting go of the stroller, and it rolling down the hill.)

But… fast forward to the third born and the anxiety was more insidious and harder to pinpoint.  I’ve spent the last two months exploring my anxiety and here’s a few pieces of my own anxiety puzzle I’d like to share mostly to let you know

a.) you’re not alone in realizing anxiety is really complicated and not a one-size fits all solution and

b.) you can begin to tackle it as you unpeel the layers (with knowledge.)

What is contributing to this horrible sense of overwhelm, foreboding, a jacked up nervous system and fragmented sleep?

I believe the speed at which we operate, the lack of depth that we experience, and the move away from in-person interaction (feelings of isolation)  are very, very important pieces of the multi-layered beast that is anxiety.

Today, let’s jump into the first theme, speed at which we operate (and the expansion of… well, all the things.)

The Speed at Which we Operate and the Expansion of All The Things

We have become accustomed to high speed and rapid gratification.

Let’s start with TV.  It seems ridiculous now to wait for a show to screen at a certain time on a certain day, for us to record and watch later.  We can access it on demand with Netflix.  We don’t have to phone someone up, trek to the library, or remain clueless, we can google anything and get the answer on the spot.

It applies to our own life and goals too, we catch ourselves in gratification conditioning.  For example, we set up an Instagram account for our side business, or buy a book then we find ourselves wanting a successful launch with 500 followers, or an instant change in our life once we’ve finished reading a book.

We’ve become accustomed to things happening quickly because the internet speeds up our sense of time.   Unfortunately, REAL life still hasn’t caught up to the speed of INTERNET life, but because we spend a good portion of our day in the latter, we’ve simply become used to it.

You can’t will a house plant to grow instantly once you plant it… yet we catch ourselves taking on that mindset with so many pieces of our lives, right?

I noticed myself doing this with my childrens’ sleep regressions, especially my little dragon of a first born.  As the sleep struggles began, I began reading sleep training guides, implemented their step by step process and as disappointed that my child’s circadian rhythm, brain and sleep cycles didn’t adjust within a few days. Fast forward to the toddler years, after a few podcasts on discipline (which I confess I fast forwarded through to get to the main points) I implemented the advice, thinking my toddler would be a different boy in the next few days.  Nope.

Everything is at a faster pace.  You’re registering children for things 6 months in advance, your child’s teacher can instant message you instead of waiting for parent teacher interviews, people can make requests of you instantly via text message or email instead of waiting to see you. Shorter response windows and more requests because of increased mediums of communication.  That entire outside world can access you via several different platforms now, and if you try to hide (think social media detox or simply focusing on your family instead of community and social obligations) you’ll receive concerned messages from people asking if you are ok?

Instead of one paper calendar you can now manage 4 different ones on your ICal for different domains of your life, which then can auto populate the other calendars.  Because you can do more in shorter amounts of time, you are… doing… more.

Think about the rate at which you scroll through Instagram.  People used to read papers, one page at a time, just one or two images at a time.  Visual stimulation increased with magazines of course and more photos in a magazine than a newspaper, but we were still limited by reading speed.

Now, in the digital age, we are only limited by scrolling speed.  I googled how many images we see on Instagram in one session of scrolling, and I couldn’t find an answer, but I’m sure it is exponentially more than magazine images.  That’s a lot of visual processing and stimulation for our brains.  Next time you scroll through Instagram, try and observe how fast you scroll, do you stay at fast surface level scrolling, or do you intentionally stop and read each post before moving to the next.

Do you ever catch yourself writing with a pen, filling out a form, and thinking it’s SO SLOW and rushing to write faster? You’re used to being able to write at least 120 WPM on a keyboard in 2018.  Handwriting?  13 WPM.

We are also multi-tasking more than ever before.

Podcast + Cleaning or Driving.

Working out + Texting or Catching up with People

Project and Role Expansion at Work

Making Dinner + Sending an Email.

Playing with kids + thinking about launching a side business

Waiting for the elevator + checking facebook

When is the last time you were waiting for something (elevator is a great example) and left your phone in your pocket and just stared at the wall?  Try – it is actually hard because of what we have become accustomed to.

Finally, another fascinating aspect of all of this, is that we have more access to information than any previous generation.  My grandmother would find a recipe by calling up and asking a friend, or going to a library.  Me?  Well, I can google it, save it to my pinterest boards, peruse 6 different recipes depending on my dietary preferences of the week (gluten free? Low starch? Dairy free?) or according to what groceries I have on hand, and then I can download several free guides to save for later to improve my techniques in preparing said recipes.

In the parenting world, this gets insane because we begin the parenting journey knowing NOTHING and having to learn EVERYTHING, but the problem is we don’t have a few trusted sources anymore, there’s a bajillion different sources from which we can get a Ph.D level of information, and we haven’t (yet) learnt to understand when to shift from acquiring information to acting on said information.  It’s like trying to decide when a painting is actually complete.  When is the appropriate time to act on the information we’ve gathered? (I can tell you my answer, it’s… keep googling and acquiring more information until finally I decide I’m being ridiculous and finally act on it.)

Research estimates that we have access to 15,000 times more information than our grandparents’ generation.  That’s a lot!

As I began to realize all of these things over the last month or two, I’ve begun to very consciously work at slowing my brain down.  Like the slow food movement, there’s now a slow living movement. It is not easy, let me tell you that.  I try to scroll slower through Instagram. I reduced my social media feeds to only those people who inspire me or whose feeds relate to my current priorities. I ruthlessly chopped down my goals and to-do lists and resist the urge to pick up new projects.  I try to be present with the kids, and to be in nature without feeling like I need to listen to a podcast.  I try to cognitively deload and not learn anything.  I’ve been trying to not pick up my phone while I wait for something, and simply retrain my brain to be comfortable with boredom or lack of stimulation.  I’ve tried not to rush my kids into the car, or walk fast.

It’s hard, but after two months I’ve noticed a gradual slowing down of my thoughts and less racing around in the physical aspect.  And you know what’s hard?  When you depart from normal things, people notice, and question it.  My husband still pushes me to hurry with doing things, my phone still buzzes with so many texts I can’t get to in the few minutes I am kid free, and I still catch myself speed walking with the grocery cart and not perusing the shelves at a relaxed pace.  I still feel guilty if I haven’t crossed off to-dos and I have slight existential crises when I realize I have nothing scheduled in a day.   I feel panicky if I have no ideas for what to do with my kids from 9am to 12pm and catch myself thinking that I need to do something.  When was the last time you asked yourself “when can I purposefully make my children bored or avoid giving them stimulating activities and force them to come up with their own entertainment.”  A client and I discussed this very thing the other day.

All things to think about, that I have certainly thought about the last few months.  Agree? Disagree? Which pieces of this land with you? I would love to hear what your challenges are and how you’ve tackled this (and begun to slow down, and bring anxiety levels down.)

Next up, we’ll talk about shallow living (especially in parenthood) and the feelings of isolation that arise (even if we see people on the regular.)  Two other drives of that insidious thing called Anxiety.

Families in Calgary, Family Activities, Kids Activities

What to Do in Calgary, Inside, in the Winter, With Young Children

It’s freezing out.  What do you do inside, in Calgary, with young children in tow and the desire to keep your sanity in check?!

 Today I wanted to present a list of options, ranging from expensive to frugal, that will help you get through those cold winter days with your sanity in check 🙂  This list is tailored for parents rolling with little ones under the age of 6. 

RECREATION (GYMNASTICS, POOL, OPEN GYM) ($2-$10) The City of Calgary provides some great drop-in programs at its recreation centres for a minimal cost.  The key is printing off and getting to know the schedules.  On Sundays at our local pool, Canyon Meadows, there is $2 swimming.  At certain days and times, you can access the facilities for much cheaper than usual.  

Since Calgary is a huge city, it is easier to search by location (quadrant) and then see what the offerings are each day.  Here is a link to search by location.

In the south of the city, we like the independently operated TRICO Centre which has a variety of drop in play, gymnastics and open gym programs for great rates. 

EARLY LEARNING SPACES AT CALGARY’S LIBRARIES (FREE) The Early Learning Spaces at Calgary Public Libraries. Our favourites are Fish Creek and the brand-new Downtown Library, and Calgary Playground Review has given an awesome preview of each of the Libraries, check them out here! 

DEVONIAN GARDENS AND INDOOR PLAYGROUND / THE CORE SHOPPING CENTRE

Explore Devonian Gardens and its fantastic indoor playground inside of the core shopping centre downtown.  A nearby foodcourt and stores to check out makes it a great option. 

TELUS SPARK SCIENCE MUSEUM- CREATIVE KIDS MUSEUM + DOME SHOW $19

This is an expensive day out, but make your $19 per child last by taking in a Dome show and the creative kids museum at Telus Spark (in addition to the main museum.) 

Visit the Calgary Children’s Reading Place (free-reservation required)

An absolutely magical house in Inglewood, filled to the brim with books, secret nooks and crannies and magical themed rooms for your little readers.  There’s also a lovely little craft room upstairs for your creatives! Absolute favourite place of ours.  

Attend a Craft Workshop at Michaels Stores 
Michaels is always running crafts for all ages for a minimal cost (often a toonie for the Saturday Kids Club classes which run 1-2 hours)  – you do need to stay in the store, though.  Just try not to spend a gazillion dollars while you are there.  🙂 

Treehouse Indoor Kids Playground

I have a hard time with indoor playgrounds (read: anxiety) but Treehouse Calgary which has a north and south location, has quickly become a favourite of ours and is well worth the admission.  Includes a cafeteria and seating area so you can sip a coffee and let the littles free in the expansive playground (which is lovely and clean with friendly staff, btw.) 

Watch a $5 movie at Canyon Meadows Cinema

Canyon Meadows cinema is a hidden gem, which screens $5 movies.  It’s a great day out for the kiddos.  

Attend Family Yoga (or drop them off for Unparented Yoga or full day workshops) at Wymbin Yoga in Inglewood.

Wymbin runs wonderful kids yoga & activity programming and has a variety of options, including a 2 hour unparented class for ages 3 and up, with options to add on extra time.  It is a great opportunity to explore inglewood or gather your sanity at a nearby cafe or restaurant 🙂

The Esker Foundation Art Gallery often has wonderful programming and tours for children. 

They have a mini masters art class, as well as a “bring the baby” art tour of contemporary art. 

Go for a Skate (they have rentals and skating assist frames for the kids) at the Olympic Oval

Go cuddle the animals and gaze at the tropical fish at any Petland Store – we personally like the Deerfoot Meadows Location which has a cuddle room for their cat residents too.  

Take your crazy cat lady / man to the Regal Cats Cafe in Kensington and enjoy a coffee!

Load up on crafts at your local loonie store and keep a cold / rainy day craft box. 

Make an indoor obstacle course in a long hallway in your house, using pillows to jump over, shoe laces that are ‘snakes” and of course, red shirts that are ‘hot lava.’

Feed the baby Trout at Bow Habitat Station and get a tour. 

Feed the baby Trout at Bow Habitat Station and get a tour. 

Families in Calgary, Lifestyle Design

Great Canadian Stocking Stuffers for Your Husband, Husband Stocking Stuffer Ideas.

Today I present some great stocking stuffer ideas  and gift ideas for your husband that don’t completely suck (I ran them by husbands.)

Creating stockings is my favorite part of christmas, and I spend all year scoping out the shops here in Calgary and pinning, so you will notice many local items, but often you can find a comparable on Amazon.  

Enjoy these ideas, I hope they give you a creative boost!  I’ve linked to Amazon Prime where I can for convenience (and better price) but as always, shop local as much as you can!  I hope this gives you some great ideas – it was fun to put together! 

Award-winning Escuminac Maple Syrup set of 3 – Extra Rare, Great Harvest and Late Harvest organic syrups with 3 taste experiences.  
Endurance athlete in the house?  Pure maple syrup energy packs! 
Do you remember your parents having one of these moving sand art frames in the 80s, and how mesmerized / relaxed you felt?  They’re back! 
THIS WILL CHANGE YOUR CAMPING LIFE.  The aeropress.  Just get it.  Nuff said. 
A bag of Five’21 Roasters Coffee, delivered to your door. Subscriptions available.  Organic, locally roasted by a firefighter. 
Turtle Lights and Accesory Biners from MEC are less than $5, and they always get used!  
The GSI Compact Pot Scraper for Camping (buy two because you’ll wind up stealing one for your kitchen, they are THAT good.
The life straw emergency water filter.  This is all you need to access water in any place.  Cheap and life saving!
The guys I know all swear by this stuff, it works as shampoo AND shower soap. 
Admit it, this is secretly a gift for you! Your husband won’t ask where the keys are with the Tile set of 2 – your can ring them from your smartphone and find stuff!  No digging through drawers or pockets again 😉 
Your husband will LOVE these, these are the absolute best of the best in car care products.  Auto Glym is a British line, available at Canadian Tire.
If you have kids, your husband’s vehicle is probably being slowly destroyed, so buy the following:
Interior Vinyl & Rubber care
Leather Care Balm
The Odour Eliminator (Smells amazing and works)

Add some extra polishing clothes in there for a very easy stocking stuffer win! Trust me this is an excellent present.
Burts Bees Chapstick 4 pack so he’ll stop stealing yours. 
If your guy has been to Thailand, not only will this give him flashbacks, but Tiger Balm is MAGICAL!  Insect repellent, pain reliever, burn reliever, headache reliever and it actually helps with restless legs.
Grab Facial Fuel Lotion from Kiehls – guys love this stuff (they give you tons of free samples, stocking stuffer win!) 
Main gift but a GOOD japanese knife from Knife Wear in Calgary, best investment!
The Beer Cozy line of Flip Flops from Sanuk (in Southcentre Mall or online – absolutely outstanding quality and the most comfortable / durable flip flops he’ll ever own. 
Silk Road Spice Market Black Truffle Salt – and any of their spices – less than $10 and he’ll love!  We recommend St. Laurent Steak Spice & Argentinian Chimmichuri
Incredible, big crystals of salt – you’ll never go back to any salt after trying this British salt. 
I have learnt that you can never have enough iphone chargers. For the car and the house and his work. 
If you are crafty this one is hilarious and fun 🙂
Did you know Alum stone blocks naturallyc lose shaving nicks? It is naturally antiseptic and soothing which also removes redness. This one is handmade in France. 
Stypic Pencils immediately stop bleeding from shaving cuts and nicks.  Fascinating right?!
MEC Dry Sleeves for active guys to put keys & phone in.
So cliche but I had to because these are really nice wool gloves at MEC
How fun are these?  All you need is your favourite spirit & these for a back country cocktail! At MEC
Walnut Docking Station – lots of options on Etsy and Amazon~this one is prime and better priced than the ones I found on Etsy and has good reviews. 
Portable, small, folding solar charger for electronic devices. 
Happiness

Why is Rachel Hollis so Popular? Why is Brene Brown a Bestseller?

Rachel Hollis. Brene Brown. Tony Robbins. These aren’t just public figures… they have massive movements behind them. I’m going to explain why.

I am often asked this and work with clients on this topic. They hate my answer ;). Why?

Because it is this.

Being busy doing “all of the things” is basically doing all of the other things for someone else and not for you.

Being busy doing all of the things means that you do not have quiet time … it is only in a quiet mind that we to can reflect, ponder and dream, as well as start to think about a future life and how we want to feel in our future.

I stress to people that you do not have to meditate, buy crystals or go on a silent retreat (though that is some people’s jam.)

Your practice can take on whatever shape or form you like – but there are two things that absolutely must happen for answers to be revealed to you.

1.) It SLOWS DOWN and then EMPTIES OUT your brain’s constant chatter.

2.) It ACTIVATES and LIGHTS UP the creative part of the brain that is able to think outside of the box and outside of the limited and outdated patterning your brain currently uses.

What activities get you these results? Most people know what they are but don’t take the time or space to do those activities because they aren’t labelled as productive or income generating.

I noticed this tendency, with making jewellery. It started out as a creative hobby but then I found myself thinking so much about how much money I could make and interestingly enough I lost the creative ideas & couldn’t make anything when I sat down.

I noticed that I struggled to come up with ideas at work, if I wasn’t taking the time to trail run out in nature – which is like meditation for me – because I didn’t create boundaries in my daily schedule and say no to people and requests in the hour that used to be run time. Stop treating it as sacred and an important practice in my day.

We so often let these practices go, because soul work cannot be measured. Purpose seeking doesn’t bring in $ (at first) and it isn’t measurable. Western society devalues introspection, inner exploration – hell even our inner world.

Western society is all about how you are showing up in the outer world and external benchmarks of success.

What we are seeing now is a massive movement, where people are beginning to push back and say “hey, doing inner work is a very important part of life. ”

It is why authors like Brene Brown and Rachel Hollis are New York Times bestsellers right now.

That excites me. When the world of self development and inner exploration becomes a part of popular society it means on some level society is ok with it, that there is momentum and instead of being a weird hippy / fringe / woowoo topic, everyone is realizing it is as fundamental as career development, or formal education.

People are realizing that if we ignore this part of the work we are supposed to do in our lives, it results in dissatisfaction, a sense of unfulfillment and perhaps contributes to a lot of the mental health struggles we are experiencing.

It’s also why the 30s are quite a magical age.

People begin to turn inward in the 30s – why? Because they have achieved a lot of the benchmarks that society lays out for us and realize something is missing – and they realize it’s not just about the house, a car, career accolades or educational accomplishments.

Another reason is: CHILDREN. This is the gift of children. Once people become parents, they are immersed in what I like to refer to as an “accelerated masters degree” in humanity. It is a deep immersion into advanced courses on:

Your own personal values

The legacy you want to leave

Your priorities and the kind of life you want.

And then, we compound that, with the fact that our children push us to live in EXACTLY the place we struggle to be:

Present, mindful and less bound to “to do lists.”

You may feel the opposite that with every child comes a massive list of to dos and a busier life.

I wanted this article to give you a way to flip that perspective (because that’s the popular society story, right? Frantic, lost & disoriented parents) – and look at the deeper underlying gift of children and how they are connected to your personal evolution.

Even the fact you are reading this right now means that everything is unfolding as it should.

Xo

Carina

Families in Calgary, Family Activities, Lifestyle, Lifestyle Design, Nature and Forest Play, Outdoors Activities

Winter Activity Ideas for Families (and Christmas, too!)

When we first moved to Canada, we were amazed by the snow, and very quickly became acquainted with frost bite, frozen eyelashes and all sorts of other classic Canadiana childhood moments.  25 years later, we haven’t lost our love of this magical season.  

And 25 years later, I still hold to the philosophy that if you are going to live in a country where winter runs from October to May (we had snow in September this year) – well, you might as well learn to love it, right?

I bring to you a list of really fun things to do as a family in winter.

First, go on a Christmas decoration hunt!  Print off this PDF I made for you and have the kids cross off each item when they see it!  We grab hot chocolates (and peppermint mochas for the parents of course) and it’s a fun evening! 

Pick up some toboggans and google toboggan hills in your area.  In Calgary check out the brilliant toboggan ‘bowl’ in Mapleridge, just off Acadia Drive.  In Canmore, the toboggan hill at the Canmore Nordic Centre.  

Watch the Grinch (Jim Carrey version) and have popcorn doused in butter. Or, grab a bag of that DELICIOUS Boom-Chicka-Pop peppermint popcorn.  Don’t forget to put mint lindtor chocolates in the freezer.  A christmas classic! 

Play Christmas light bingo.  Grab a happy meal, and drive around locating different christmas lights and decorations.  

Try making Maple Taffy in the snow.

Build a Gingerbread House

Make Christmas ornaments with supplies from the loonie store – pipe cleaner christmas ornaments with beads strung on them, popsicle stick snowflakes with jewels stuck on, there are so many options!

Bake some cupcakes or cookies, have the kids decorate them and take them to an elderly neighbour. 

In Calgary, go skating on Bowness Lagoon (North), Olympic Oval (Central) or Spruce Meadows (South) – feeling ambitous?  Skate on Grotto pond just before Canmore. 

Make a bird feeder with a pinecone, honey and wild bird seeds.  Even better, in Calgary go to Fish Creek and find the chickadees.  Curious, friendly and very happy to flitter onto your arm. 

Print off 12 days of kindness cards and divvy among the family.  Each day, a family member does something kind, writes it on the back of their card, and puts it into a kindness jar.  It is a lovely ritual to read all of them out. 

 Make hot mulled wine, and go out for a winter walk with it in your coffee mug (not for the kids lol)

Have a winter time charcuterie picnic.  Ice wine, cheese, bread, crackers, meats and some nice dried fruits.  Don’t forget the blanket and snow pants 🙂

Fill squirt bottles with food colouring, and set up snow in a container for the kids to colour.  They can also ‘colour’ their snowmen. 

Make Poppycock and then try not to eat it all. 

Visit Santa at the shopping centre.  In Calgary, you can decorate a gingerbread cookie and watch a disney movie as well!

Write letters to Santa, go on a forest walk and hang them in the tree.  Replace them with Candy Canes so that the kids find them on the return walk.

Make Pinecone christmas ornaments with glitter glue and sequins, tie with a twine and hang in the tree. 

Go outside with a black cloth and look at snowflakes up close.

Sleep under the christmas tree!

Have a family photo shoot – in the winter!

Make an extravagant breakfast.  Waffles, pancakes, fruit – or perhaps german style with fresh bread, meats and cheeses. 

Take ALL of the pillows off the couches and make the best.pillow.fort.ever.  

Get walnuts and a nut cracker (for the older kids) and consume half your body weight in nuts by the end of the night. 

Make a frame out of twigs in the snow and make a scene using twigs, berries, pine cones, leaves, etc. 

Attend an event where carols are sung.  

Make smores on a fire pit or in your own living room.  Another option:  Roast Chestnuts.

Go to the library and pick up winter and christmas books. 

Mix up and sprinkle “Reindeer dust” on the snow on Christmas eve.

Dance to christmas songs

Watch Home Alone, of course!

Happiness

Life Coaches Use This Powerful Technique in their Own Lifestyle Design (and you can too)

Most people think of their future goals or lifestyle as this thing in the future that is coming as long as they work at it.

in coaching we really focus on an extra piece: you walking, thinking, talking and acting the way that the future version of you will.

In my climb out of depression, I know I can’t rely on forcing or willpowering myself to go out of the house, because in depression your feelings become like a thick fog in muted greys.

However I DO know (journalling and visualizing got me there) exactly what I want the future me to be like and what that future lifestyle is, how the future me feels. You need that for this crucially important strategy of deciding, what part of this future life CAN I live or talk like, right now.

Does that make sense?

I have an image in my mind of writing, a flexible schedule, active outdoorsy lifestyle. So what do I do now? I sneak off to cafes to write in my journal to be in that future life. It’s not often but I dress up glam some days as I want to in my future life and really take a moment to appreciate, and let that steep in my mind.

I call this technique “trying your future life on for size.” – and if you are not clear on what you want in 2019 yet, try little activities on for size. Successful people often do this in the form of mini challenges, projects, or goals. Some you won’t like, others you will discover something new about yourself you never knew. This past year I ran an online konmari method group challenge among my friends where we got rid of 1 item day 1, 2 items day 2 and so forth. I discovered (and I never knew) that though I hate cleaning, I LOVE organizing.

What piece of your future life will you try on (and love) – you need to mix it up and challenge yourself or you’ll never know. Look at this tree. That was a seed that was planted. What seeds are you planting now? 🌱

Gear for Kids, Happiness, Toddler Gear

Christmas Gift Ideas for a Five Year Old Girl and Stocking Stuffer Ideas for Young Girls

Today I give you a whole bunch of ideas for christmas gifts for a five-year-old girl.  Every year I have an absolute blast christmas shopping and creating awesome stockings, so I thought I’d share some of my favourites with you as well as some huge hits in years past! 

Most of these recommendations, I found in person and loved, so there are links to Michaels, Walmart, MEC, Indigo, and more – but I’ve included Amazon where it is cheaper –  those links are through my affiliate account, so if you do purchase them, I receive a small referral that supports the blog. Thank you!   And if you have any awesome additons please add in the comments! 

Grow Unicorns & Sloths – these are really fun! (available in Beaners Calgary stores)

Water Pipes for the Bath & Your little Engineer!  By Boon on Amazon $17
Marble Run kit, also a hit with engineer types! 

Kindred Coast Children’s Clothing – Made on Salt Spring Island and amazing quality! 

Plasticine is a level up over playdoh – it doesn’t dry and you can reuse it.  This brand is the better quality of them all and every European kid has this as a memory! 
Mermaids and Kittens, the perfect combo for a little girl who loves both! haha. So cute. 

7″ Pusheen Mermaid Cat Plush $17.95 at Chapters, $13.59 on Prime. 

Melissa and Doug Water Wow!  Pads are amazing (really great for plane travel btw) and at 5 years old, she’s learning her letters and numbers and naturally enjoys it!  – This 3 pack makes a great gift.  These are often in Winners, YYC Locals! 
These are on sale at the bay. Huge hit and way better than loonie store temporary tattoos.
Hair chalk = way better than goopy hair gel or sketchy spray that stains their scalps! 
I cannot emphasize how AWESOME and good quality these adidas crops are, it’s all we use for our daughters’ activities.  They last 2 seasons at least since they are crops. 
Of all of the backpacks, we’ve been so impressed with Pottery Barn Kids’ Backpacks.  They fit the larger width requirements of kindergarten these days and we particularly love the travel one with the pull handle – it’s a great investment which you can stuff with goodies, especially if you are going away for christmas (we did last year) 
Also from Pottery Barn they have a huge selection of lunch bags, with hand handles or over the shoulder straps – they are so easy to clean, excellent quality and you can get food allergy tags for them (see below) 
Our Generation Kayak Adventure Play Set (for Our Generation Dolls) 

Alex Toys Tea Party Set $32.96

I’ve found Crayola Water Colours to be the best quality! $3.99
Melissa and Doug Drawing Pad $3.89
Ikea Mala Stamp Pens $5
Go to Michaels and get lots of fun cupcake toppers in the baking section for your little baker and put them in a pretty storage box!
This is a 40 ft slack line, but it has different monkey bar accessories, SO awesome for your little gymnast!! $139 but a great investment especially for camping / backyards!
6,5 foot kids’ climbing rope $32
Comfy Kids Teen Beanbag (Walmart $89) 
My daughter had these magnetic tiles at her preschool and it was incredible watching what the kids were able to build.  $$ but worth the investment. 
Kids. LOVE. Flashlights.  Headlamps.  Lights. Get them a headlamp for camping season (or evening walks) and watch them fall in love with the outdoors!
It’s a shame they are missing mummy and daddy’s beer / wine cooler. $25
Why not put some climbing wall holds on your kids’ bedroom wall? 🙂 Love this.  MEC. 
Magical Books by the Fan Brothers $13
The Puppy’s Wish  – beautiful imagery featuring a little girl of the same age!  $11
The Reindeer Wish, our favourite book 2 years running, beautiful imagery!

Hatley Pyjamas, they are SUCH good quality and so many patterns . On sale & they’ve lasted through three kids! $18-$39
Plush Toys from Ikea, so soft and durable! they’ve lasted several kids! $6
Fizzing bath colour drops – Walmart or most drug stores $6
Mouldable foam soap for the bath – my kids love making ‘hats’ and laugh hysterically!
Colour changing, floating LED bath lights – these are magical in the bubble bath! 
Melissa & Doug Stained Glass Window Made Easy Kits (so fun to do together and they turn out lovely!) 
Children’s ‘fairy mist’ aromatherapy spray for bedtime, from Saje
Aroma Fairy – Children’s Aromatherapy Roll On by Saje for the little lady who is eyeing up your perfume cabinet 😉 
Supplies to make your own fairy garden at the base of a tree or in a flower pot.  Fill it with doors, ladybugs and more!  Michaels has an amazing selection. 
(Our fairy garden)
Nail CHARMS…because we’ve all had nail polish disasters with a 5 year old girl!  Michaels
If your daughter is losing teeth these are cute! Beaners Calgary or online 🙂
ALL OF THE FOLLOWING STOCKING STUFFERS ARE AT CHAPTERS/INDIGO
(Not sponsored just a GREAT one-stop shop or free shipping)
Podcast, time management

The Great Parental Leave Podcast Episode 002 – Time Management, Overwhelm and Your Personality.

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On Episode 002 of the Great Parental Leave Podcast:

Time management, and when it goes wrong (aka THE OVERWHELM) – and why running out of gas on a highway was my moment I knew I needed to get back on track with boundary setting.

Understanding the different approaches to managing and organizing our lives, and where you sit on the spectrum. 

How your personality influences what good versus bad time management feels like, and why time stress means different things to different people. 

The one question you should ALWAYS ask yourself before you commit to anything.  

The one sentence that helps you set boundaries.  Simple, effective, and for YOU.

Lifestyle, Lifestyle Design, Organization, time management

How to Reduce the Sense of Overwhelm in Parenting and Feel Less Rushed for Time.

Today’s blog post is designed to help you become more in control of lifestyle design, and a major question that comes up in lifestyle design is: “How do I feel less overwhelmed?!”

The second you are armed with the knowledge below, you are much better able to:

-Design your lifestyle

-Maintain time boundaries and get better at yes versus no.

-Reduce anxiety and that rushed feeling

-Feel less like time is slipping pouring through your fingers

Time management is like a sail boat in the ocean navigating to a destination.

Time Management is truly about constantly noticing when the winds of life (and your own management of the sails) blow you off track.  You have to then decide to stop, reassess the situation, decide what worked and what didn’t, and then adjust the sails to get back on course to your goals.  Equally important is we HAVE to know the destination, we HAVE to know what kind of lifestyle we want, and you know what, it looks very different from person to person.  Some people like a busy booked up life.  Others hate that.  We’ll get into that today.

A key point with sailing across the ocean, is that it will take constantly watching and adjusting the sails.  Sometimes you’ll slack off with the sails, like overcommitting.  Other times a storm will blow in (big life events.)  You don’t just get to sit back and sail to your desired lifestyle.

Even the best practitioners of time management find themselves saying yes to things, getting anxious, feeling frantic and overscheduled, and having to course correct when they realize they are passing that same rushed energy onto the kids… I can speak to this myself.

So, before we go further, let’s just note that this post isn’t a silver bullet.  This post is going to give you better awareness so that you can catch yourself before you are too far gone and rushing like a panicked parent chicken with its babies. I know you have that visual in your mind if you’ve ever been to a farm.

When I give you this tool, you’ll still be adjusting, correcting and feeling satisfied, then falling off track, adjusting, and correcting again.  But much less so than before and your goals, your destination will arrive sooner.

The Spectrum of Life and Time Management

Think of time management as a spectrum.  We are all constantly moving back and forth between two different styles of time management along the spectrum. We are going about, living out our lives using different styles, but we DO have a gravitational pull, or a preference to operate within a particular zone of the spectrum.  It’s what we like, what we are familiar with, and what suits us. It’s easy, accessible and familiar.  

But remember, when there’s a spectrum, there is an opposite version of what you prefer to do.  And lots of people prefer that different approach.  Even in the work world, there is a clear preference for how we are supposed to operate on the spectrum and we try our best to fit into that, no matter what our preference is.  It may be easy, or it may totally drain us.   

Ready to learn the styles?

The Organizer

The organizer likes a life that is has a nice structure.  They like to operate on some kind of schedule, with order.  Their lives are planned, well thought out and intentional, and the words definite or deliberate come to mind.  Their conversations are functional and effective, often inspiring action or takaways, or improvements in some manner. They like to come to decisions and take action, preferring to move forward with that plan – they don’t ilke to adjust or throw out a plan and in conversation, prefer to have closure and make a decision for action, than keep things open-ended.  You won’t hear them say “hey, let’s go for coffee sometime!” – they’ll ask “Would you like to go for coffee next week?” They will have the date set, in their calendar and they’ll commit (and show up on time.)  They prefer to have the say in decisions and get going on taking action and moving forward, often offering their opinion and stance in a matter and asking others for theirs.  They inspire people to set goals, plan and bring structure into their lives.

What makes an organizer tired, stressed, anxious, frantic, frazzled, overwhelmed and feeling like their life is slipping by too fast? 

Constantly changing situations, emergencies and unexpected events, changes of plans,  not having an input in the planning stages, lack of structure, disorganization, lack of clarity, lack of decision being made. Too few activities and underbooking.

The Adapter

The adapter loves the variety of life and emergent twists and turns that life brings. Though they live in structure as well (everyone needs it to some extent) they are very open to, and enjoy adapting to new information, situations or opportunities. And they are definitely not as structured as their counterparts.  Their conversations are open and speak of possibilities.  Not every conversation has to result in an action or takeaway.  They like to explore whether in life or conversation.  They will make decisions but know those can change, they understand the “diaper blowout in the car,” or the “running late” situation, and it doesn’t bother them in the slightest, in fact, they’re usually running a bit behind but don’t think it’s a big deal either.  Life happens and there are too many variables that can throw deadlines and times off. 

They are less willing to commit to too many things because of their appreciation of life and change, and they may tend to take a diplomatic middle stance in conversations, preferring to be open ended rather than decisive.  They are happy to roll with decisions – whether it’s theirs or others’ – because they know both lead to great places.  They are less quick to offer their opinion or stance, mostly because of their easy-going nature and preference not to pick a position.  They inspire people to relax, embrace life and spontaneity.

What makes an adapter tired, stressed, anxious, frantic, frazzled, overwhelmed and feeling like their life is slipping by too fast? 

Being controlled, no variety, the same schedule and events day in and day out, the same routine, lack of flexibility, no alternative approaches to plans that are made, being pushed to make a decision or share their stance on a topic they are not passionate about, not having places in their life where they can just say “surprise me!”  Too many events and overbooking.

We must honour our natural strengths and preferences, and make sure that we allow space for them in some domain of our lives (ie, if you are an adapter and have to be an organizer at work, honour your adapter nature with your kids and go on fun adventures.) 

Life becomes much easier, less stressful and less draining when we are kind and recognize our inner nature.   Honour who you are, what your preference is and if you find yourself becoming grumpy, stressed, rebellious or drained, ask yourself

Where have I been operating that moves away from my natural preferences?   What other areas can I put time into that will let me operate in my natural preferences?

When I am over-booked, over-committed and too structured, it crushes my soul and doesn’t allow for spontaneity and adventures.  I can’t commit to things 2 months in advance.  Life changes.  Right now, as a kindergartener parent I’m already not loving the restrictions on our day and where we can go in the 3 hours before school starts. A few months ago with my return to work I found myself with NO alone time, no unscheduled time, and no spontaneous creative expression or relax time.  Over two months that compounded and made me incredibly unhappy and almost militant in my approach to the day “kids we have to go NOW, because we have to be THERE AND WE CAN’T BE LATE.” I was stressed out, frazzled with no openings in my calendar to just be. Operating with a tight schedule and back to back events or bookings, I felt my mindset shift.  Previously, a diaper blowout or hard time getting the toddlers in the car was not abig deal, it’s just life with kids.  In a tightly scheduled day?  HUGELY stressful and I was getting so aggravated and rushing the kids out the door. I was keeping up to strict timelines without the natural preference or desire to do the planning and organization approaches that are necessary in a strict schedule, and I began to lose my spontaneity in adventures with the kids.  I had let myself go too long, forcing myself to be in a state that drains me and I got stuck there.  I was forcing my kids to and from the car to all sorts of scheduled events. Your kids pick up when you are not your best self, trust me!

I’ve spoken to parents who sit on the opposite side of the spectrum from me, and what is a huge stressor for them?   They  do such a great job of working on planning and structuring the family’s schedule and they are dedicated to making sure their lives cover a spectrum of experiences.  Life with kids throws so many wrenches into a day (sickness) and those last minute changes are not fun for an organizer.  They can be frustrated with late arrivals, cancelled RSVPs to an event, or the seeming lack of commitment from people for a plan everyone said they were interested in, that they are now working hard on bringing to fruition.

Wherever you are on the spectrum (and you can be in between!) it’s important to 

1.) Honour your natural strengths and make sure you commit to things in a way that honours your preference (structured or spontaneous.)  This will keep you content and less anxious/stressed/frazzled/frustrated. 

2.) Work to overcome weaknesses, improve and grow by ‘testing out’ or at least understanding the opposite approach. Walk in their shoes to appreciate both sides and elasticize your mind.

With this knowledge you can now be more aware of when you are in an environment that pushes you to work in your less preferred areas, which may drain you and stress you out.  

When it comes to time management these distinctions above are important because time management is NOT a one size fits all “hack” or “timetable” or “approach.”  Time management looks VERY different depending on where you are on, on this spectrum. As yourself, given my preferences, what is a great month for me?  How many events? What are they? Is there flexibility or is it more planned? Do I have time to plan and organize somethng (organizer) or do I have time to maybe do a random roadtrip; or fun activity with the kids (adapter) 

3.) Give people who frustrated you the benefit of the doubt.  Endeavour to understand their mindset. Nobody is ever doing something to upset you, they are simply acting from their philosophy of life, and once you ask them about it, you’ll completely understand why they act the way they do.

You don’t have to join them, but you can understand them and communicate better 🙂  You can state your boundaries and your needs, and honour your true nature instead of fit yourself to society which is telling you to be, act, and do a certain way.   That my friends, is a less stressed, less anxious, more in control parent who is mindful and intentional about everything they do, and is not mourning the loss of time. 

Crafts, Family Activities, Nature and Forest Play

Nature Crafts and Christmas Crafts for Toddlers and Young Children, Christmas Pinecone Ornaments

As christmas approaches, I have been thinking about how to combine getting outside with the kiddos in nature, and christmas crafts.  Today I present to you a wonderful craft activity that is suitable for ages 2+ – I will warn you, glitter is involved…

Supplies: 

Pine Cones, preferably gathered out in the beautiful fresh winter air, which will get you and your children outside and ideally in a forest.  the act of looking for and gathering pine cones is a wonderful mindfulness-based activity.

Get out there in the forest!

Glitter Glue and Sequins: 

+1 for Crayola glitter glue, I’ve tried lots of type and this stuff washes off of clothes great! 
I like this set of crayola brushes, the two bigger ones are great for crafts with glue, the two smaller better for painting.
I like this set of crayola brushes, the two bigger ones are great for crafts with glue, the two smaller better for painting.

With craft time I prefer to let my kids freely design, the younger (3) is a big glitter bomb and the older (5) did cool little blobs to make it look like christmas ornaments.

When you are finished, simply tie with cooking twine or ribbon that you have on hand!