Reflections On International Women’s Day: MOTHERHOOD, WORK-LIFE BALANCE IN A PANDEMIC WORLD

“Women belong in all places where decisions are being made.….It shouldn’t be that women are the exception.”
-Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Never in my wildest dreams did I think that I would become a full-time employee and homeschool teacher at the same time. I am not going to deny it, but this was probably one of the most difficult things I ever had to endure. I was exhausted and anxious to say the least. It was definitely challenging trying to work and navigate online learning, but somehow, we survived it. As much as I was frustrated with the situation, I was fortunate in a sense where I had a very supportive spouse, employer and a network of friends online to talk to. The majority of people that I talked to regarding the school closure situation were actually women and I think everyone had the same feelings that I had. We all shared the same worries about our children’s future, we all vented to each other with how challenging it was to teach and work at the same time and how we were all worried about the mental health of our children and ourselves. At the time, I felt it was so important to advocate for the safe return to school and in doing so, I realized it was a very empowering and meaningful experience.

Unfortunately, the pandemic has brought out many inequalities within society, namely within racial, ethnic and indigenous communities, refugees and women. Women, who bare the burden of most household responsibilities, have been negatively impacted as a result of school and daycare closures. This in turn negatively impacts the workforce, creating an even greater gender divide on the economy. But the silver lining in all this is that women’s rights and equity have come to the spot light and change is happening: the conversation has started. In a post-pandemic world, we really need to ask ourselves how can we better support women? I believe the answer is simple.

Everything starts in the home:

I truly believe that any conversation must start within ourselves and within our homes. As parents, we need to start having conversations with our children regarding the value of women within society and provide them with the perspective of the world through the lens of a woman. Education is a key element in teaching our children about the values of gender equality as an important role within a democratic society.

Advocacy and support:

Continuing to advocate for things such as paid leave during an emergency for example or more equitable workplaces are important policies that would help women. Providing women with support, for example, during motherhood, could be extremely beneficial towards women who, for instance, want to further themselves in their careers. Today there is an array of online support groups and outreach services available within many communities to help serve women in such situations. I am also seeing more and more platforms on social media supporting women in various roles of society. It’s important that we continue to advocate for things such as parental leave, child care leave, flexible work schedules to help women move forward.

Supporting women through business:

Today, many women are taking on the roles of becoming business owners and entrepreneurs, however, only a small percentage of women are CEO’s throughout the world. According to Catalyst, although the number of women CEO’s have gone up in 2020, “there are still nearly 13 companies run by a man for every company run by a woman.” However, more and more women are stepping up to the challenge and starting their own business ventures. Today, I ask you to look around in your own communities and go out and support businesses owned by women. Even doing something small, such as tagging a female-owned business on Instagram or picking up a cup of coffee at a local coffee shop run by women, can go a long way in showing our support for women in business. Women supporting women is a very powerful thing!

Celebrating women:

Celebrating women’s empowerment doesn’t have to be only on one day, but rather should happen everyday and there are small things we can do to help celebrate women. Maybe its contributing towards a charity that is geared towards the empowerment of women or learning about an important historical figure within the women’s rights movement. We can also honour the women in our own lives, such as a parent, grandparent, a teacher or a friend.

In summary, given all the hardships that we have been through this past year, if anything, I have learned that as a woman and as a mother, I am strong, I am resilent and I am fearless. Not only will I continue to advocate for my children, but I will advocate for all women, to help create a more just society.

Why the kids need a village: thoughts on reopening schools in ontario

Schools throughout Southwestern Ontario have remained closed since the Christmas break. The original plan was for students to return to in-person instruction on January 11, 2021. However, statistics from the Ministry of Health released just days before the return to school indicated a spike in cases as a result of “holiday gatherings,” (which in my view was negligible because the amount of children being tested decreased during over the holidays and therefore the denominator was less). As a result of this, the provincial government made the agonizing decision to extend online learning for most parts of Southern Ontario until February 10th. Although I believe this was a difficult decision to make and as much as I appreciate efforts to curb the spread of the virus, this left many children and parents heartbroken, upset and confused.

I can see that heartbreak in my kids, everyday. My 4 year old son, cries almost every day and tells me “mama, I miss real school” and finds it very hard to stay engaged. My oldest son who is 6, sometimes gets frustrated because he feels as if he can’t keep up with the rest of the class. We are now into week three of virtual learning and my children are really starting to feel it. The stimulation from the screen time coupled with the frustration of navigating online learning is difficult for children in their primary years.

Don’t get me wrong: both of my children’s teachers have been phenomenal and very understanding of the situation. They have gone above and beyond to help my kids cope during this time, including one-on-one meetings, encouraging us to use meditation and breaks when needed. We really need to give our teachers a show of appreciation right now because they themselves are adapting to a new learning environment. Despite all of our efforts to make online learning a positive experience, I am worried about the impact of continued online learning in young children, specifically:

-The lack of interaction with their peers, especially during the formative years of development;
-The long-term effects of disruption in the school year and finally;
-That we are inadvertently creating a mental health crisis in all our youth.

I have been communicating with my MPP’s office on and off since the summer, writing letters and voicing my concern for my children’s well-being and quality of education. I understand that we are living in unprecedented times and I truly believe that they are trying their best to help protect a vulnerable health care system and the elderly. However, based on all the literature and data about schools, closing schools is the wrong policy choice. UNICEF recently came out with a statement and declared that children cannot afford to miss another year of school. The CEO of Sick Kids Hospital even stated that schools should be “the first to open and the last to close.” But even more disturbing are stories such as the New York Times report on the decision for schools in Las Vegas to reopen as result of increased suicides in youth.

This should frighten every parent.

I have come to the conclusion that despite all the academic evidence, children’s voices have not been heard at the decision-making table. This is where we as parents must come in and this is why I have been advocating for a safe return to school since the summertime.

Please don’t misunderstand me and I have to be explicit when I state this: I know first-hand how serious COVID-19 is and personally have friends and family on the front-lines of the COVID-19 crisis, but something in my heart tells me that keeping children away from the classroom is also wrong. When every peer-reviewed journal has indicated that the spread of the virus is extremely low in school-aged children and that schools are in fact, the safest place for children to be in right now, why are the schools still closed, knowing that the risks greatly outweigh the benefits?

It’s just plain wrong.

I recently read a tweet from the the CEO of the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) which stated that Ottawa had the second-highest rate of distress calls to the Kids Help Line. That tweet really resonated something inside me. As an NICU parent, I have my own appreciation around mental health awareness and as such, I decided I could not stay silent no more. As an NICU parent and navigating our journey through prematurity, I learned early on, that a parent is a child’s greatest advocate. Considering too that we are also approaching Mental Health Day here in Canada, I believe this conversation is appropriate. So last week, I reached out to my friends on my private account on Instagram via my stories to see if any one else felt the way I did.

The response was overwhelming and the consensus was…..children need to be in schools.

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on Pexels.com

The conversations I had with many of my friends inspired me so much because every person I spoke with was in a different situation, or they had a different view of the pandemic. But despite all these differences, I was able to engage with each person in a meaningful and positive way. I believe that engaging in this manner is what should be the foundation towards positive change and sound policy-making.

In summary, the response was overwhelmingly positive but also revealed a lot of sadness, fear and frustration. I spoke with people from all walks of life: from health care providers, teachers, early childhood educators, business owners, parents and non-parents, stay at home parents and working parents. Overall, everyone agrees that children need to be in school. Many parents told me that they have noticed a negative change of behaviour in their children, others said they felt tremendous guilt for leaving them to watch television while they had to work and others were concerned about the amount of screen time as a result of remote learning. Some individuals reached out to me and told me that they kept their kids home for the year, not because they were afraid of coronavirus, but they were more concerned about the possible interuptions to their child’s learning.

It was interesting to note that in other places in the world, like Croatia for instance, kindergarten is not mandatory, rather there is vrtić (daycare,) which is optional and is more for young children to socialize. A close friend of mine who lives in Paris, France told me that children have been going to school the whole time, while another friend in Australia told me that the measures were just too much.

Many teachers disclosed to me that online learning, especially for children in their formative years is not ideal and rather this was created more as a response for the demand for live learning at home. As pointed out by one teacher, the amount of time for synchronous learning also has no bearing on pedagogy. Another close friend who works in occupational therapy told me that the amount of distress calls, specifically with families who have autistic children, went through the roof.

Although I am not disputing the severity of the virus and agree that there must be an effort to slow the spread of the virus as a means to protect our vulnerable and our health care system, there also needs to be a balance, in my view. I too was for lockdown back in March when we knew very little of the virus. Images of Wuhan, Iran and Northern Italy frightened us and we had to do something about it. However, 10 months in, countless studies and research, vaccines finally arriving, we still aren’t doing any better for our kids. This is leaving many parents afraid that schools will be closed until March.

We know already that the results of prolonged lockdown policies are disproportionately affecting low-income communities, ethnic minorities, women and children. My question is, despite all the research regarding children and schools, why aren’t we doing any better? How come no one else has proposed a more sustainable solution?

But there is hope!

Photo by Ivan Samkov on Pexels.com

Slowly, the ideas are starting to come in. One example of an innovative solution was on a podcast I listened to called “Solving Healthcare,” hosted by Dr. Kwadwo Kyeremanteng. This particular episode that I listened to consisted of a panel of experts ranging from infectious disease, communications and public health. They discussed possible solutions to the pandemic and addressed areas of concern. I was particularly impressed by some of the ideas that they proposed such as:

-going back to the core values of public health;
-having a clear and consistent message;
-the need to address target areas that are greatly affected by COVID-19 such as workplaces and long-term care homes;
-making more use of available tools such as rapid testing and finally;
-paid sick leave for essential workers.

You can listen more to the podcast here and decide for yourself, but from my point of view, this was an excellent start for changing policy. Listening to a dialogue such as this one reminded me of the core values I learned as a graduate student in political science many years ago. Creating good public policy means coming up with sustainable solutions to handling a crisis, without harming other aspects of society. It’s about being efficient with the tools you have available for everyone to benefit from.

But going back to my main concern of keeping schools closed, please know, that I am not by any means undermining the severity of this virus. However, I am speaking as a concerned parent who wants what is best for her children. Its what we as parents, educators, health care providers alike want and should strive towards: a safe, loving, nurturing and warm environment for all children. Like the old saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child. We need to support our children during this time and come up with ways to help them not just cope, but to thrive, for they are our future!

Let’s be that village and let’s support our children!

Some of the conclusions I came up with during my Instagram conversation to help navigate during this time (and for you too):

  1. Remember that we are ALL doing our best;
  2. Remind your kids that they are doing their best too and give them breaks when they need it (i.e. outdoor play, going for a walk or bike ride, puzzle time, colouring sheets or watching a movie;)
  3. Be kind to yourself and remember that you can only control how you feel;
  4. Know that support is available if you need it (i.e. call a friend or a family member for mental support; know that there is also support available in your community;)
  5. Talk to your child’s teacher and come up with a plan of action if your child is struggling with online learning;
  6. Stay healthy mentally, physically and emotionally and stay safe.


With much love and gratitude,

N.

How COVID-19 got to me: stress, fear, uncertainty and self-care during a global pandemic

Friday was the first day that I cried….a lot.

I felt exhausted from homeschooling the kids, trying to get some work done as well as regular chores and I just couldn’t handle it anymore.  I buried my head into a sea of tears and had to walk away into a different room in my home to be alone.  I felt guilty for doing this, because I did not want my boys to see me cry.  My husband told the kids that mommy needs a few minutes to herself.

Before the pandemic, if I was ever stressed, I would go to the gym or go out to a local coffee shop to diffuse, but due to the current lock-down there is no where to go, which adds an extra layer of stress.

I never in my life imagined that we would live through a global pandemic, yet here we are.

It is currently week 6 of the lock-down here in Ontario and everyone is starting to feel it in different ways.

Up until this point, I was making the most of this situation.  I embraced the idea of slowing down.  I even wrote a blog post about it.  I started to do things that I normally wouldn’t have time to do:  participating in the wave of baking bread and sharing it on Instagram; drinking fancy wines on the weekends, pinning arts and crafts ides for the kids on Pinterest and purged a lot of old clothes and toys for donation.  I started watching foreign dramas on Netflix for fun and even contemplated downloading TikTok and get in on the bandwagon, but changed my mind because I am too old for it.

For the first time in years,  I had a break from rushing home from work to soccer practice and I really enjoyed this idea and yet, time went on…..

There is still that fear of catching the virus itself.  As my oldest has asthma and was born with a heart condition, I am extra vigilant.   I barely leave the house and if I do, its just for necessities.  On top of all this, I still worry that my husband may bring it home from the hospital where he works at.

As the lock-down here in Ontario continues on, it started to hit close to home for me.  Knowing that it will be months until I see my parents, my friends and colleagues again started to weigh heavily on me.  2020 was supposed to be our year.  Our family has been through so much over the past 6 years- premature birth, high-risk pregnancy, my husband’s residency and a sudden family death to name a few.  I know, many of you had plans cancelled too, so we aren’t alone, but I just felt like this was a big and crewel joke.

Now, I am starting to worry about the financial implications of the pandemic too.  Like you, many questions are going through my mind:  will there be massive job loss?  Will our taxes increase to support these benefits?  Will we ever recover from this?  

This created a perfect storm which culminated in me breaking down on Friday night.  However, this in of itself brought a huge relief as I let all that fear, worry and guilt out.  I’ve been positive throughout this whole process and on Friday night, I was extremely overwhelmed.  Trying to balance everything at home just got to me and I reached my boiling point. I needed that release.

What I can tell you is that I am learning more about myself and how to cope with such situations.  This time has also given me time to self-reflect and I gained a new perspective. My grandfather lived through three wars, Spanish flu and communism, yet he lived a wonderful life and passed away at age 101.  He endured and saw a lot in his lifetime but he survived.  He had hope and appreciation for life.

What I have found helpful during these times is reflection and mindfulness.  I have been journaling since I was 8 years old and I have found journaling so helpful during this time.  Staying connected on social media has become a blessing and watching all those good memes (the guy toasting to himself in the washroom is my all time favourite).  Self-care and taking breaks from homeschooling and work is so important too, I’ve had a few nights where I just had a face mask on while reading a good book.  I also find exercise quite therapeutic.

My advice if you are feeling overwhelmed, upset or frustrated, take that energy and turn it into something positive.  Find your niche.  Find something that sparks you, that makes you feel like you, no matter how difficult the circumstances are.

If you feel overwhelmed like I do, I want you to know, it’s okay, because you are not alone.  It’s okay to cry and let your feelings out.  We are all feeling this and is even getting to the strongest of us……and it’s okay to feel vulnerable.  I keep reminding myself to count my blessings and that this will not last forever.

As I have learned with experience, the human spirit is resilient, but this is a choice:  you have to choose that path and firmly believe in it because your mindset is what will get you through this.

Quarantine and chill: What slowing down has taught me

We are now entering week three of self-isolation here in Ontario, Canada and I must say that despite all the insecurity and fear surrounding the pandemic, for the first time in a long time I feel peace.

I feel peace away from the traffic.
I feel peace in the neighbourhoods and in the streets.
I feel energized.

For the first time in a long time, I don’t have to worry about rushing home from work to get supper ready on time.  I don’t have to worry about planning my day around the kids’ activities and worrying if I’ll be on time or not because of the traffic.  I am no longer exhausted from staying up  late at night to finish chores as I have a bit more extra time during the day.  I can finally enjoy that cup of coffee warm in my own home, in my pyjamas while cuddling with one of the kids.  It’s great.  img_6792Although the implications of the pandemic are scary, I feel somewhat at peace knowing I am at home, safe, with my little ones.  My anxiety levels have definitely decreased knowing that we don’t have to rush to go anywhere.  It’s a welcoming break.

I must say, its not perfect:  homeschooling the boys has not been easy; we have meltdowns and we have tantrums.  Sometimes they just aren’t that into it.  I am currently in the process of trying to get set-up to work from home. Like everything though, I’ll figure it out. With that being said, the kids’ bedtime routines have been a bit off, and I am working on creating some type of routine.  But overall, the big reward to all this is that we are spending more time together.  We are doing things that we would not otherwise have had the time to do and we are starting to get creative.  We spend time exploring the backyard in search for nature’s treasures.    We started baking almost everyday and it’s been a delight and sense of pride for the kids.  I made bread for the first time and a decent Croatian apple strudel.  Not bad for a novice baker.

In an odd way, the pandemic has taught me a bit more about myself and how stressed I really was.  Trying to balance a career and motherhood is exhausting.   But for the first time in a long time, I feel as if I am finally in tune with myself.  I adapted a more gentler and slower lifestyle, which is the complete 360 to the life that I was used to.  I found that since the pandemic started, I am exercising even more, despite the fact that the gym is closed.  The fact that I am getting an extra hour or two of sleep as well is another added benefit.  In addition, with malls being closed and whatnot, I found that I am less tempted to shop and waste money unnecessarily.  Since being at home, I’ve adapted a minimalist wardrobe and I actually think its suitable for me and my taste.  Perhaps living simply is the way to go.

Slowing down is a blessing in disguise.

We all need it from time to time.

 

 

 

 

 

The secret of happiness

“Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.” – Dalai Lama

What is happiness?

The past few years I’ve been on a journey to figure out what true happiness is.   Over the course of 7 years I’ve went through some pretty big transitions from being me -> to wife -> to mother.  If you think about it, that’s a lot change a person can endure in such a short period.  You go through many different changes: the stages of pregnancy, the hormones and sleep deprivation that comes with it, the stress of finances, parenthood, work-life balance and so on.  These challenges can certainly catch up to you!

For a while I was not feeling like myself and really started to ask myself some hard questions about life, namely what is true happiness.  

I’ve definitely endured some of my own challenges which affected my perspective on life.  We live in a world where things are becoming more and more materialistic, where we spend more time on our phones and less time talking to each other.  We are surrounded by images that mislead us to believe what happiness is – a designer handbag, a luxurious vacation abroad, a Friday night out and so on.  It seems as if today’s society is defining happiness by the amount of money we make or the the type of car we are driving.  Over the past few years this topic started to fascinate me and as a result, I started writing about it more and more.  It’s no wonder why so many young people are depressed- we have created for ourselves false expectations because of what we see on social media and television.

woman wearing grey long sleeved top photography
Photo by Artem Beliaikin on Pexels.com

Following my uncle’s sudden passing last April, I started to go through the many stages of grief and began questioning my own purpose in life and what is truly important.  I slowly began to realize that happiness isn’t the designer handbag I am wearing, but the people that surround me and the one life I have to embrace.

After my uncle’s death, I started to go through every memory I had of him because I did not want to forget anything about him.  It then dawned upon me what the true meaning of happiness was because he knew the secret.  What was it?  He valued life and lived it to the fullest.  He was kind to every person he met and valued each person for who they were.  He was extremely generous because he enjoyed seeing people happy.  He was always one of the first people to help- be it on a house renovation, a car repair, or volunteering at an event, he was always the first in line and he enjoyed it.   He laughed, enjoyed dining at fine restaurants and was very sociable.   He had an infectious smile that everyone loved.  My uncle lived for today, he lived for the moment.  In my homily dedicated to him I stated that “our world would be a much better place if we were more like him.”

The months following his passing, I started to realize what is truly important in life.  I realized that a lot of these material things that surround us, don’t really matter.  They are just that- things.  You can have a lot of things, but if you aren’t surrounded by people who love you, then you don’t know what true happiness is.  If you don’t have anyone to create memories with, then you are losing out on happiness.  If you don’t do things that are fulfilling, then you can’t find happiness.

I began reflecting with my kids every night the good parts of our day and the bad parts of our day.  We would discuss some things we enjoyed doing, and if we made poor choices, how we could have handled the situation differently.  I started to laugh more when they goofed around before bed time, because I realized that stressing out before bed time is not worth it.  Sometimes parenting can be hard- there are highs and lows, so I started to tell myself to enjoy this time because time is going by too fast!

I slowly started to realize it’s okay to not have the “most expensive” wardrobe or the “perfect” body and instead, to embrace the one I have.  Now, I am thankful for my health-  I feed my body with healthy food and exercise because that is what makes me feel good on the inside!  I also enjoy a nice glass of red wine on the weekends (that’s what my uncle used to do!) and have a glass with my husband or some friends.

I started to live my life a bit more slowly.  I began to count my blessings and not focus on my shortcomings.  I slowly started to accept what I do have – and what I have is precious.

You see, my uncle knew the secret to happiness and lived it every day.  I realized that the secret to happiness is CHOICE.  You can create your own happiness.  You can continue to be miserable, to complain, to loathe and to be jealous of others….or you can choose to be happy.   You can appreciate the things you already have, embrace the good moments and reflect from the bad.

I have chosen to live my life in happiness.  What will you choose?

mitarfamilysession-9

Zagreb: a city where memories are made of

While planning our upcoming trip to Croatia this past January, my husband and I were looking at different routes from Toronto.   We had the option to either fly direct to Zagreb or fly with a connection to Split.   When my husband and I were younger, we used to start our trip in Zagreb and stayed at Hotel Dubrovnik, which is in the heart of Ban Jelačić Square.   I have fond memories of those carefree days where we would walk around the city and enjoy some coffee.   My choice was clear:   we had to start our trip in Zagreb and continue our tradition.

My husband on the other hand was not quite sure.  He considered driving straight to our family home in Vodice following the flight.   I quickly vetoed that as my rationale was we will all be hungry and tired.   But, deep down inside, I just wanted to stay in Zagreb and reminisce about a time before we were married and had kids, a time when it was just the two of us.  I wanted to simply walk around the streets of Zagreb with the kids and just take all the sights in.   In other words, my husband had no choice but to book a hotel in Zagreb.  We decided to book Hotel Dubrovnik, where we have previously stayed.   We love Hotel Dubrovnik and it is our favourite hotel in Zagreb due to its close proximity to Ban Jelačić Square and Ilica Street.   The staff there is incredible, especially with kids and their complimentary breakfast is second-to-none.  We booked two nights there knowing the first day would be a bit of a right-off with the travel.

Day 1
Following check in we got settled into the hotel and let the kids rest a bit.  We decided to venture outside for an early dinner and walk around Zagreb.   We made our way to Tkalčićeva Street and had pizza at Nokturno, which was recommended by the hotel staff.   Pizza sort of is the theme of this trip as that’s all what my kids have been eating.   You would think that Italians are only known for their pizza, but Croatians make a pretty good pizza if you ask me.  We thoroughly enjoyed our first meal and the kids were enamoured by the sights and sounds of Tkalčićeva Street.  We spent the rest of the evening walking around the city, namely towards Kaptol where we saw the Zagreb Cathedral (Cathedral of the Virgin Mary) and passed by the market, which was closed by the time we got there.
b751acb6-8765-4e50-8be6-98c7b0449432

Day 2
The kids were extremely jet-lagged so we let them sleep.   They slept probably for a total of 15 hours.   My husband and I took turns going out for breakfast so he went first and then I second.  It turns out that this day was a holiday, Croatian Statehood Day (Dan Državnosti) so most stores were closed.  The city felt quiet as most people went to the beach for the day.   By the time my husband returned to our room, the complimentary breakfast was closed, so I made my way outside towards the Ban Jelačić Square and purchased a fresh croissant from a nearby bakery and enjoyed a cappuccino at the Hotel Dubrovnik Kavana.  This moment felt like pure bliss.  Peace and quiet while I did some writing in my journal.   Processed with VSCO with c1 preset

Once the kids woke up we fed them some yogurt and krafne for breakfast and made our way outside. We walked towards Zrinjevac Park where the kids thoroughly enjoyed splashing in its many fountains. We eventually made our way to Kralj Tomislav Square where the kids were in awe of such a impressive monument to Croatia’s first king.

img_1952We spent most of the day walking around the city, namely to the Gornji Grad (Upper City) where we walked by the Croatian Parliament and St. Mark’s Church. To get to this part of the city, we went underground through the Grič Tunnel, which the kids found very interesting!

 

As written previously, pizza has become a favourite meal on this trip. We asked the kids what they wanted to eat and they cried “pizza!!” So we made the trek all the way to Karijola which is located directly across from Galleria Importane. The rooftop patio was lovely and instead of gemist I opted for a glass of rose which from my understanding is making a huge comeback this year.  I find the taste of rose crisp, and subtly sweet and when served cold it is the perfect summer wine.

img_1973

Following this we returned to King Tomislav Square where the City of Zagreb threw a free concert in honour of Statehood Day.  The performer was none other than the remarkable National Folk Dance Ensemble of Croatia, LADO.  Nothing is more Croatian than LADO, who performs traditional Croatian songs and folk dances.  As my husband and I were both very active in Croatian folklore in Canada, we were delighted to attend this show and share our love of Croatian culture with our children.   The  kids enjoyed it thoroughly and we managed to last the first hour of the show, until they got tired.

img_1983

Day 3
The following day we checked out of our hotel and walked around Ilica and Ban Jelacic Square.  We took the kids to the Budi Ponosan (Be Proud) soccer museum.   It’s a little museum located on Petrinjska off of Ilica which is dedicated to the Croatian National Soccer Team.  The kids enjoyed looking at all the jerseys throughout the team’s history and some of the displays.

img_2012

After our visit to the museum, we stopped for coffee and juice at the trendy La Bodega before departing to our next destination.   The first few days of our trip were a success, the kids enjoyed themselves, and for a small moment in time, I felt as if I was living a dream.    As a family, we created magical memories to last a lifetime and I am so happy that we started the trip how I wanted to, in Zagreb.

img_2024

 

Snow days and busy, busy bumblebees (aka toddlers and preschoolers)

The past few weeks we’ve had some wild weather here in Southwestern Ontario and for the first time in years, local school boards have cancelled school due to inclement weather conditions. The weather has been so bad that everything from government offices to your local coffee shop have been closed. I personally don’t remember there being this many snow days when I was a kid, but I’m glad that the boards did declare today a snow day because safety comes first.

It’s been nice having that extra day off with the kids. Getting an extra hour of sleep, watching some movies and staying in pj’s until noon is awesome. That’s all great and dandy, but if your kids are like mine, they get bored, easily.

I’ve learned with time that kids at the toddler and kindergarten age need structure. They thrive on it. They also want your attention and want to interact with you and their peers. Over time I’ve learned that simple activities can intrigue even the youngest of minds. I thought I’d share with you some of my kids’ favourite snow-day activities.

A little disclaimer: I’m not a parenting expert or an educator. I’m just a mom who is speaking from her own experience on what works with her kids. Keep in mind too that it’s never perfect and sometimes they don’t want to participate in the activity, but the point is to give them the opportunity and try.

1. Create in the kitchen: I started this with my oldest when he was about 3 years old as I noticed he was always following me in the kitchen. It’s usually something simple, like sprinkle cheese on a pizza or mixing pancake batter. Today they helped me prepare soup by placing all the ingredients in the pot. It’s a simple activity which is easy, a little messy and lots of fun.

2. Building: my kids love Mega Blocks, train tracks, Lego Duplo and Magformers. For instance, I’ll bring out a bin of Lego Duplo and place it on the coffee table and see what they do with it. Even if they just play for 5 or 10 minutes building things, then that’s great! This too gets messy but the idea is to present them with something and see if they roll with it! Today my boys made a farm with stables until my youngest started to chuck the Lego.

3. Worksheets, colouring books, Boogie Boards: yes! I’m old school and love worksheets. My oldest is in jk and is starting to learn how to write and enjoys the worksheets with traceable letters. You can find them at Costco in the books section or online via Pinterest. Colouring books are great too and inexpensive. Boogie Boards are also a great alternative to traditional paper and crayon because they are erasable and clean (say goodbye crayon marks!)

4. Reading: this one is pretty self-explanatory, but reading is so important for child development. Research has shown that reading to children early on promotes imagination, establishes concentration, and exposes children to literacy and language. For me, it’s a great time to bond with my kids. I was an avid reader growing up and it’s my hope that my kids enjoy reading too. Experts recommend that parents read to kindergarten age children for at least 20 minutes a day. What we’ve done is included it in their bedtime routine. My kids are really into Dr. Seuss at the moment so we went through “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” a few times today. The point is, pick up a book and read.

5. Flash cards: this one is pretty self-explanatory but flash cards are a great way to engage with kids and teach them how to count, how to recite their ABC’s and recognize colours and words. My boys also enjoy Brainquest, which is a quiz-type or flash card. Again, even if you get 5 or 10 minutes out of it, it’s great!

6. Last but not least- play in the snow! If it’s not too cold and it’s safe to play outside, take the opportunity to build a snowman or make some snow angels with your kids and create winter memories for years to come. Following that, hot chocolate is in order!

I hope these are things you will consider to do with your little ones for the next snow day.

Moving in the midst of madness

It is no secret that moving can be the most stressful period of your life. The weeks leading up to our move were filled with chaos, confusion, optimism, tears and lots of red wine. Within six weeks, the last five years of our lives were all packed up in boxes. Moving certainly came with its challenges, namely a sick baby, a toddler fighting sleep and a husband busy preparing for yet another licensing exam. Despite all the obstacles that came my way, I somehow managed to get through it.

person giving keys on man
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

I knew eventually that “moving day” would come. When you are married to a medical resident, it is possible that relocation is in your near future. I am no stranger to this. I left Toronto in 2012 to follow him when he was matched for his residency program. I left behind the big city, my beloved job and friends. It was different though. We were just about to get married and I was excited to start the next chapter together. I was excited to embrace marriage, to leave a condo for a house and to move on to the next stage of our careers. There was a lot of positive change going around which we were both ready and excited for. However, this time around, I felt different. It was hard and I didn’t realize how hard it would be.

As he started counting down the final days of his fellowship, I too was counting down our final days in our beloved first home. Although I am extremely happy for him to embark this new chapter in his career, I couldn’t help but feel sad. I was sad to leave behind a home we built for nearly five years. It was also was hard for me to leave behind the many friends we had met over the years and the relationships we made. Furthermore, I had a difficult time coming to the realization that I had to start all over again: reacquainting myself in a new city, making new friends, and possibly trying to transfer my job. I couldn’t understand why I felt this way seeing that I knew that ultimately we would move once his fellowship was over. When we sold our house I cried every night for a week. It took a while for reality to sink in, but hey, here we are and we got through it.

As difficult the task of packing was, it gave me a chance to reminisce about our early beginnings. I will never forget the excitement we had as a newly married couple and entering our home for the first time. I remember the times when we went shopping to find accent pieces and decor to make our house more of a home. In this house we hosted many events and had many date “nights in” to ourselves. We also filled our house with love: it was in our first home we found out that we were expecting. But this was just one of many “firsts:” first birthdays and Christmases, first steps, first tooth and first words.

I guess you could say that the idea of moving is bittersweet. We simply didn’t live in our home but we created a life there. And as hard as this move was for me, I remind myself that this is not the end of our story, rather, the next chapter in our life together. Although I am a little hesistant to start all over again, its this excitement of the unknown that makes this journey special and unique: it is just one piece in the story of us.

 

woman in grey shirt holding brown cardboard box
Photo by bruce mars on Pexels.com