Take back the outdoors!

A few days ago, a stay at home mom in Canada, was visited by a child welfare agency.  The crime?

She let her kids play in the fenced in backyard.  (find the story here)

Not only was she supervising from her living room, but her oldest is 10 years old (the other two are 5 and 2).  A nosy neighbor,  too busy to be bothered to simply come by and chat with mom, called child protective services.

*Insert world’s longest eye-roll*

What was this anonymous neighbour afraid of?  A scraped knee?  Sibling fighting?  Imaginative play?  These things are all necessary for growing up…Amen?

This story hits close to home, because my kids are in our backyard for hours each day.  Admittedly, we have a very safe fenced in yard, windows running along the whole back wall of our home, and I am always very nearby supervising.  However, I do wonder if neighbours would ever be concerned watching our not quite 2 year old running wild back there with her 3 and 5 year old siblings.

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When I was growing up, I have very fond memories of my mom shooing my sister and I outside until dinner time.  Since I’m a millenial, (click to hear an informative song about millenials) my parents were either very early adopting free-rangers or we were just that annoying.

We currently live in a time and place that is one of the safest in history.  We should not be afraid of our kids getting snatched or getting bumps and bruises.  We should be afraid of our kids being useless because they have never experienced the responsibility of organizing their own play, mastering interactions with others without parental interference and improving physical coordination through free play.

With the current epidemic of obesity in youth and screen addiction, parents and communities should be rallying around children’s rights to access the outdoors, not limiting it!!

My favourite author on this topic is Lenore Skenazy who wrote Free-Range Kids.  She breaks down a lot of the crazy fears that parents share and puts them into perspective.  Mrs. Skenazy also gives many practical ideas of how to prepare your little ones to become an independent grown up at some point, because that’s the goal, right?

Another recent favourite is Julie Lythcott-Haims who wrote How to Raise an Adult. Mrs. Lythcott-Haims is a dean at Stanford for undergraduate students, and a parent herself.  In her book she breaks down our current culture of overparenting.  Readers learn about why parents these days are helicoptering over their children and how North American parents compare to our international peers.  The book also teaches strategies to help our children become independent adults.

Reading these books really inspires my husband and I to give our children more freedom.  We want our children to gain creativity by making up their own games, and finding fun on their own when they are bored.  We want our kids to have disagreements, and learn how to problem solve and work as a team.  We want to give them enough space that they can experiment with different activities and figure out what works, what they like doing and what inspires them.

However, hearing stories like this one, causes us not to fear for our children’s safety, but of overly nosy neighbours and children’s services.  At what point should a government be allowed to interfere with parental rights?

We will continue to let our children play in the backyard.  Do you dare to let your kids into the backyard?  *horrified gasp*

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Oh. .. did you want a minute of quiet?

20141216_104100…..sure mom….. but it’ll cost you!

After sending the kids out to play in the rain, while the baby napped, so I could finish scrubbing some dishes… this is what happened. … I was asking for too much, wasn’t I?

one good stink deserves another….

Lying in bed this morning, I had a spectacularly naive thought….the baby is just over two months old, maybe this is when things start feeling a bit easier…. (insert eye-roll)

9:30am, finish donating 75% of my breakfast to the kids.  …because for some mysterious reason, my oatmeal tastes much better than theirs.

10 30am, we’ve completed tidying the kitchen 3 times….Elise likes to empty cupboards.  nuff said.

10 40am We head to the basement, for some rainy day play.

10 50am, I smell something horrendous, and wonder why I feed Elise pickles….  I suddenly realize it’s not Elise… it’s the contents of our local sewer.  which is now running through our basement.

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11 30 to 11 40 am, many frantic phone calls to the hubby, to figure out what I should do…

11 50am I am finally on the phone with a plumber.  I happen to also be juggling the nursing newborn and a toddler who believes I am the trampoline.  I thank my God in Heaven that Caleb was quietly playing horsey.  But he would occasionally take a little break to accompany me to the basement of many smells; to assess whether more sewer was coming in or if the smell was indeed getting worse.

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12, We had bacon for lunch, because of course the smell of bacon could cover the smell of the sewer running through our basement.  right??

12 15, I swear the smell is getting worse. ….but just on the off chance, I check Elise’s diaper…. of course …she has bad case of diarrhea.

12 17, leave Elise to run around naked for 5 seconds while I get a new diaper and outfit. Pee. all. over. the. floor.

12 22….7 wipes, 4 paper towels, and an outfit later… we’re all a little happier.

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12 30, I notice paw prints on the floor…  of course the dog had been out. and tracked mud through the house.  Leaving me a Hansel and Gretel style trail.

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12 47… I start to wonder, had the dog made it to the white couch yet?? ….oh yeah… he was happily sitting right in the corner.  But before settling into his spot, he  (of course) walked over the whole couch, just to make sure.

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12 48  The dog had a time out on the back door rug, until I could clean him up.

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1 30pm Time to start stress baking…  Since it had been a tonne of messes today, I thought why not let Elise try baking brownies for the first time.  Might as well.

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She loved it!  And hardly made any messes.

3pm, We pulled these beauties out out of the oven.

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5pm, I grab some pizza crusts, top them with spaghetti sauce, cheddar cheese, feta, sundried tomatoes and loads of chopped baby broccoli.  Pop the 3 crusts in the oven, for 20 minutes at 400F.

5 30pm, we enjoy this deliciousness.

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6 30pm We end the day with brownies.  Because any day is better when it ends in brownies.  (even though it still smells like an outhouse in here….)

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Butter Tarts. I dare you to just eat 1!

For some families it’s chocolate cake, or chili, or lasagna, for us, butter tarts are the main attraction for the holidays.  Butter tarts are especially my dad’s absolute favourite treat.  This weekend, my parents came by for a little visit.  So I thought I’d invite the kids to make a mess in the kitchen and give my dad’s favourite a try.  I found this recipe, and it worked out fabulously.  In the end, it really ended up being easy enough for my 3 year old to do most of the baking!

You’ll need:

  • pie pastry (16 tarts, your own or tenderflake – I used tenderflake)
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup soft butter
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1/2 cup corn syrup
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
    1. Preheat oven to 400F.  In a small bowl, place raisins and cover with hot tap water; let stand on the counter for 30 minutes.
    2. In a large bowl, using a wooden spoon, mix together the soft butter, brown sugar, salt and corn syrup; stir well until sugar is dissolved and butter is creamed.  (Caleb and I just used the paddle attachment on the good old Kitchen aid)IMG_5338
    3. Add egg and vanilla and mix well.
    4. Drain raisins
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    5. Retrieve tart shells and divide raisins equally into all shells; then divide butter mixture into all tarts
    6. Bake at 400F for 15-20 minutes; filling will be lightly browned but still bubbling.  (We cooked them for 17 minutes, and they turned out a bit more consistent than we were looking for, we like them running down your chin.  Next time, we will cook them for 15 minutes on the dot.
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    7. Let cooked butter tarts cool in pans for 10 minutes after removing from oven; then remove and place on racks until completely cool.IMG_5379                                                                      ….and miracle of miracles.  I was able to stick to just having 1 tart!!  But I’m getting awfully close to my first post partum weight loss goal… and no butter tart can get in the way!!