All aboard the fun express! Our amazing trip to Exporail

The first thing I thought when we arrived at Exporail: Why on Earth aren’t there more people here?

train 4 Visiting the country’s biggest railway museum was a huge hit. We spent four hours at the museum and our entire family had a wonderful time.

We were lucky enough to stumble upon this gem right before Halloween, which meant this whole museum was decorated with spiderwebs, skeletons and vampires. The kids dug it!

The first thing we did after getting our passes, while we still had our coats on, was head back outside to take the coolest traintrain2train ride ever! It was a complete surprise that we’d be able to ride on the mini train. But there we were, riding in the open air  through the forest, Papa and I had a kid nestled in each of our laps. Babe left the ride, deciding her ambition in life was to buy a train.
We moved on to make a train mask craft. I made Bug’s for him while the boys explored some more and Babe happily did hers all by herself. By the time we were done, we lost the boys. Babe and I found the activity room in a train. There were costumes, a giant felt board and some games. We spent a while there but didn’t want to have too much fun before we found Papa and Bug. When we caught up to them, they were in the Model Train room. Kept up by volunteers, this room with wall to wall tracks and scenery delighted every child and adult that came in.
train3Poor Bug, true to his sweet self, cried every time the little train he was watching disappeared through a tunnel. He’d systematically yell “nooo” when it disappeared and squeal with delight when it came through the other side. He could have spent the entire morning just pushing the button and watching Thomas the Train do his thing.
Each train was its own experience–a surprise up every little flight of stairs.  I’m not even sure who had the most fun at Exporail– Papa was clearly reliving his childhood!
I can’t recommend this place enough. They were gracious to let us in on a guest pass this time but we will certainly be back! For more details, rates and fares, see Exporail.org.
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Giveaway! The Great Pumpkin Ball

Today was our third annual trip to The Great Pumpkin Ball. Much like the lanterns, the older she gets, the more Babe appreciates the pumpkins. We first took her when she was Bug’s age and Bug was in utero.

One of the greatest things about visiting the Botanical Gardens around Halloween is the outdoor activities. Babe is old enough to go completely crazy in there without us worrying about her too much. She loved the “Rattle me bones obstacle course,” and the “tricky river.”

a5Bug, on the other hand, has a few things working against him. He’s generally a little wobbly, so throw him onto the suspension bridge and he’s sure to take some tumbles. Like any younger sibling, Bug wants to do every single thing. Babe does. The good, the bad and the impossible. In a way it’s great because he is continuously challenged but it also leads to its share of frustrations. His favourite activity was “Feed the creatures,” a beanbag toss. He spent a while collecting the bags and popping them in the monsters’ mouths.

The most fun I think they both had outside was in the maze. Bug missed out on it last year. He was six months old, stuffed inside a baby wearing jacket. Today, like most days, Bug chased his sister through the maze. We played “cachette” as a family.

a6Inside the gardens, we spent lots of time scoping out the beautifully decorated pumpkins. Babe decorated her own at Communidee this week, so she could appreciate the hard work it took to create these masterpieces.

Her favourites: anything that was pink and purple or princess related. A few of them, she was convinced, were “her.” Many of this year’s pumpkin entires were inspired by Frozen.

As much as she loves Frozen and all things pink and purple, Babe is dressing as a lion this Halloween. This makes a mom very happy. She proudly announced her costume choice when Esmerelda the Witch asked the kids what they planned to be for Halloween.

a1The show, put on by Esmeralda was easily this year’s highlight for Babe. The very talented actress entertained hoards of kids, barely coming up for air. She was on the ball and answered all the silly questions thrown her way. She was even able to answer the Anglo kids in English which they really appreciated.

Our visit with Esmerelda was the last thing we did. Bug had long since passed out in the carrier and Babe was due for a nap. She was broken hearted when we had to leave her new best friend, so the sweet witch made Babe’s day with a great big hug.

Just like the lanterns, returning to The Great Pumpkin Ball every year allows us to clearly see just how much the kids are growing up.

For your chance to win tickets which can be used until Halloween, enter the copter below.

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Prenatal excercise ideas

Guest post by Ajay of UrbanWired.com

Prenatal yoga @ Studio Bliss Photo by Jenn Hardy

Prenatal yoga @ Studio Bliss Photo by Jenn Hardy

So the stork is going to visit and you are very happy about it. While pregnant you are snowballed by a lot of advice, tips on how to take care of yourself and the baby, what to do and what not to do. Well, you can definitely add exercising to your “what to do list.”

You can absolutely exercise during pregnancy. Keep yourself fit and active because a fit and active mother will pave the way for a healthy baby.

Here are some safe exercises that you can perform during pregnancy:

• Swimming: Swimming is a low intensity exercise and very good for women who feel bloated and heavy during pregnancy. It will ease the pain in your feet and back and you will get some good cardiovascular workout without straining yourself. With swimming you also reduce any risk of injury which is the main point of concern for mothers-to-be.

• Stretching: Stretching is a safe exercise during pregnancy which helps relax your muscles and also works them up. Some stretching exercises that you can do are: rotate your neck clockwise and anti clockwise, relax your shoulders and rotate them, sit down and spread your legs and lift them slowly, and rotate them.
-Stand on one foot and rotate the other ankle; repeat in the other direction. Stand straight and move your arms in a breast stroke motion.

• Yoga: Yoga is an ancient practice that can be of great help during pregnancy. Most yoga studios offer prenatal yoga, where the instructor will have been specially trained to show you the most beneficial asanas as well as important contraindications. There are many videos available on YouTube if getting out to a class isn’t an option.

• Kegel Exercises: Kegel exercises are very good for controlling the bladder and the

uterus during pregnancy. They strengthen the pelvic floor muscles which will be helpful in labour and in the postpartum period. To do Kegel exercises, stand still and concentrate on your pelvic area and imagine you are trying to control your bladder, contract your pelvic muscles as tight as you can and hold it for at least 5 minutes. Repeat this exercise for 5-10 minutes every day. Some women find the image of an elevator moving up and down helpful. It’s as important to control the muscles on the up as it is on the down.

• Tailor sit: Sit on the floor on your knees and cross your ankles behind you. Now, bend over and try to keep your back straight. This exercise is very good for your back as the lower back pains a lot during pregnancy. It helps ease the muscles around that area and relaxes them. Try doing this exercise whenever possible.

• Dance: Dancing is a great way to exercise yourself and you can dance for an hour or half a day to enjoy all its benefits. It will de-stress you and help you release good relaxing hormones. It will give you a good cardiovascular workout. Belly dancing was actually meant for pregnant and labouring mamas!

• Weight Training: It might come as a shock to you but you can weight train during pregnancy. You just need to use light weights and tone down your workout regime as you advance into your pregnancy.

Always consult your doctor or midwife before starting a new type of exercise.

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An email thief and a jar of Thieves Oil (giveaway!)

thieves-oil-with-logoI don’t believe in coincidences.

I do have some crazy things happen to me but I prefer to call them “meant to bees.”
A few weeks back on Facebook, a friend posted this article about winter flu prevention. I’d heard of Thieves Oil many times before and thought this season could be a good time to try it out.
But where do I get it? Pharmacy? Health food store? I texted and Facebook messaged my friends who are in the know about essential oils. We realized it had to be purchased from an independent seller from the company Young Living. The SAME day I was on this goose hunt for the Thieves, I received an email from Bret and Martha of New Life Oils. They thanked me for signing up to their info letter at Health Expo at Rockford First church in Illinois!
 I thought Google was spying on me and spamming me. But I replied to the email, explaining I live in Montreal but would love to try some Thieves. Martha wrote back, equally surprised about the email mix up. Someone in Illinois shares my name and has a similar email address.
How ever it happened, it happened, and Martha was kind enough to send me a generous sample pack of various EOs, including Theives, and a great book about EOs.
Martha’s also generously giving away a bottle of Thieves to a lucky mamanaturale reader!
There’s myriad of ways to use Thieves, for example, she writes:
  • My daughter, who works in a daycare center, rubs Thieves on the bottom of her feet every day to boost her immunity.
  • Thieves can purify the air, killing airborne microorganisms. Diffuse the blend for 15-20 minutes every couple of hours. It can be rubbed on the chest, or pour a few drops in your palm and inhale throughout the day.
  • While working, I like to diffuse Thieves on my desk.  I set the timer for three minutes on, five minutes off, and diffuse for about 30 minutes.
  • Thieves spray is excellent for sore throats. I sprayed it in the back of the throat last year when I woke up with a bad sore throat. I got immediate relief. Two drops on the back of my tongue also gave relief.

As Martha mentions, not all essential oils are created equally. Living Oils is supposed to be pure enough to ingest, while whatever your local drugstore carries, might not be.

EOsWe’ve been seeing a naturopath for Bug (more on this one day) and the day she suggested lavender EO on his liver is the day my package from Martha arrived. Coincidence? Not at all.

We’ve been using the lavender that Martha sent me and I’m going to start using the precious Thieves stat!

Enter the copter below to win your own jar!

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Square pegs

cropped-r.jpgOur family isn’t like other families. But whose is? We’ve been feeling even more different these days. Our attempt at getting Babe to go to a conventional, convenient and inexpensive daycare was a #fail.
When we told the director Babe wasn’t coming back she made me feel like a failure. It was fault things weren’t working.
Babe, who started her new daycare as a motivated, happy Big Girl, after a few weeks, started crying on the way there. She told us, using Big Girl words that she didn’t want to go.
The last time I brought her in was the tipping point. She wouldn’t stop crying when we got there. There was no one willing to pick her up and hold her so she sat there alone, crying. So I took her home.
The people who worked there told me I was making it worse. Teaching her all she needs to do is cry and she’ll get what she wants. I like to think I taught her that her parents are there to love her and listen to her.
Leading up to this, it seems, she had been crying at lunch because she was dreading nap. She didn’t want to sleep alone, on the floor.
There must be something dreadfully wrong with this child. Who, used to cosleeping, always the warmth of a mom, dad or brother, didn’t want to sleep alone on the floor. Something wrong with her parents too, for allowing this to happen.
Now we’d been presented with the opportunity to make her adjust. She’d be fine, eventually. She’d stop crying, eventually. Sounds way too familiar. I am completely against “methods” of CIO and that’s what this would have been.
So my Babe is back at home with me, Bug and Papa and she’s acting like her old, gentle self again. We saw a change in her when she started at this place. Though she was going a few hours a day three or four days a week, every moment at home was a struggle. We knew she was acting out because she was adjusting but didn’t seem like it would let up. She said she didn’t want to go and we listened.
A child does not need to be broken. Institutionalized. I will not break my daughter. Her heart or her spirit. Yes, I will take her out of daycare without fear that she will never “be able” to go to school. Her healthy attachment to her mom and dad will serve her well in the years to come. I’d rather keep the attachment intact than try to break it.
I will not use daycare, at 3.5 years old, as a means of training her to conform. If it worked and she was happy, then great. But it didn’t and in pulling her out I feel way more like a winner than a failure.
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Relax-a-bye Baby book Giveaway!

coverReceiving mail and parcels is a big part of our day-to-day. Sometimes we’re home and Babe excitedly runs to the door to see what has been delivered. Sometimes the doorbell rings just as Bug has fallen asleep and I get a little frustrated! Other times, we make an outing of getting to the post office to pick up an unknown package.

When Relax-a-bye Baby arrived at our door, Bug had just gone down for his nap (at 1.5 years old I still nurse and rock him to get him to sleep. It’s quite the process). Luckily, his transfer into out family bed is quite smooth. There’s often a carrier lodged beneath him but he doesn’t seem to mind. Once Bug is asleep I’ll nurse or read to Babe. Preferably the latter.

Back to the day that Relax-a-bye Baby arrived at our door. Bug had fallen asleep and I was reaching for a book to read to Babe. Doorbell. Bug didn’t stir. Babe and I ran to receive the package. We opened the envelope and then settle back into bed to read it.

relaxAs a mom and yoga teacher, I don’t think I could appreciate this book any more than I do. The beautifully illustrated book walks parents (or older readers) through a full body scan, interjecting positive affirmations for our babes.

“Take another big breath
Let go of the day
Be grateful for everything
That came your way”

Author Mimi Sommers also teachers readers a few Pranayama (breathing) exercises– one of our favourites: Lion’s Breath. We have to be sure not to roar too loudly if we’re reading the book while Bug is asleep.

The first time we read Relax-a-bye Baby: A bedtime guide to help your little one relax and sleep tight, Babe immediately said, Mommy, I want to read this book everyday. We’ve been pretty good at sticking to it. As the author writes in the back of the book, we can read the book over and over until our little one is fast asleep.

Unfortunately, sometimes Papa falls asleep before Babe gets there!

I wish every parent could have a copy of this book. Mimi will give one away to a lucky mamanaturale reader. Just enter below!

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Giveaway! Gardens of Light at the Mtl Botanical Gardens

JBM010724

credit: Espace pour la vie (Claude Lafond)

There might not be a clearer way to notice how significantly your children are going than to create yearly traditions. This is our second year going to the Gardens of Light at the Botanical Gardens. It was every bit as magical as last year, but because Babe is a whole year older, she was that much more engaged. She oohed and awed as we walked through the paths of the Chinese Garden. This year, we noticed a lot of birds, and the central pond was filled with big, beautiful boat lanterns. This year, the Chinese Garden theme is Zheng He – A Voyage of Discovery. The lanterns highlight one of the seven voyages by Zheng He, Admiral of the Seas (1405-1433).

Babe with her own magic lantern

Babe with her own magic lantern

“Oh did you see the butterfly Daddy? Look at the baby giraffe!” “Monkeys, Mommy, Monkeys!” Bug, who hung out like a monkey on my back, was particularly interested in the tigers, dragons, and anything that growls. He thinks elephants growl. I guess the little guy was only six months old last time we went. I remember he was mesmerized by the lights but he certainly wasn’t growling at the lanterns. We were fortunate to have randomly wound up at the Lanterns on the night that musician

Warming up and listening to beautiful music

Warming up and listening to beautiful music

Chen Xiangzhao was there playing his seven-stringed zither, a Guqin. Traditionally it’s a high class kind of instrument. I wish my family was a classy audience but Papa and I sheepishly dragged the kids out of there when they got a little rowdy. Sorry, Chen. For the same reason, we unfortunately skipped out on the Japanese Garden this year. We just couldn’t bring ourselves to be “those people,” with a toddler and a preschooler ripping around the beautiful, serene garden. I’d love to go back there on a kidless date. The highlight for me, aside from watching Babe smile ear to ear, was warming up with a perfect cup of Jasmine tea. We’re already looking forward to visiting next year. If you’d like to experience the magic lanterns, just enter the Rafflecopter, there are four tickets up for grabs! a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

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Squoosh! Organic baby food giveaway!

2014-08-15 14.04.01 There is so much about my life that feels less than convenient. I use cloth diapers. A diva cup. I make my own yogurt, granola, kale chips. I compost. I breastfeed two kids. My husband and I both work and Bug doesn’t go to daycare. Sometimes life feels hard.

We don’t do frozen dinners or order pizza or KFC. We don’t have a Keurig.  (Have I made my point?) We do, however, sometimes throw pre-packaged snacks in the diaper bag! Because sometimes, something’s gotta give. And with all my love and respect to Mother Nature, I don’t feel too guilty about the packaged healthy snacks.

There’s no doubt that these convenience items cause waste. Obvs. So, moving on.

My kids love the Baby Gourmet Plus pouches and were thrilled to give the new Squoosh line a try.

2014-08-29 10.19.48The Squoosh pouches have saved me in moments of crisis. There’s something about them that Babe registers as really special. She’ll accept a “squishy pack” in times when nothing else will do. She seems to drink it back in a single slurp. Maybe she gets a natural sugar rush because the Squoosh usually leaves her in a much better mood.
Bug is 17 months and old enough to hold the pouch and eat properly. This works best if he’s in a highchair or stroller!

Squoosh is now available in the following four flavours:
•       BeetBerry – banana, apple, beet, blueberry
•       OrangoBango – mango, carrot, banana, apple
•       SquabbleBerry – apple, blueberry, squash, banana
•       Banango – banana, mango, apple, squash

The Squoosh product line contains no added sugars, salts, and is gluten-free, nut-free, housed in BPA-free packaging.

We were sent samples of SquabbleBerry and OrangoBango. Babe tends to favour the purple ones (SquabbleBerry) but she just likes anything purple these days, and Bug really doesn’t care either way. OrangoBango has a tangier flavour to it. Oranges and mangoes are two of my favourite fruits, so it makes sense that I enjoy the taste. After sucking back the OrangoBango just now I’m finding SquabbleBerry bland. It’s really not– just less of a bold taste than OB. Fruit tends to be a pretty easy sell to toddlers, so I think it’s pretty nice that there’s a veg in each of these sweet packs.
If you’d like a stash of these for your diaper bag, just enter the Rafflecopter below! Good luck!

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Giveaway! Eczema Company could help your family

Check out Jennifer's son's eczema covered hands around 2.5 years old.

Check out Jennifer’s son’s eczema covered hands around 2.5 years
old.

Excuse me for the press-release sounding title, but it’s how I feel. I had eczema as a kid. I remember being really embarrassed about it. I remember using stinky cortisone cream. I don’t know when or why it went away but I don’t suffer from it anymore. My mother’s psoriasis seems to get worse as she gets older so I wonder if I might suffer the same fate? Methinks not as long as I have Jennifer Roberge on my side! Let me explain…

In one of my postnatal yoga classes I had a mama whose poor new born was–no exaggeration– covered head-to-toe in eczema. He’d scratch, it would bleed again and again. He (and his parents) had a hard time sleeping because of his discomfort. They tried everything.
I happily referred the student to The Eczema Company and she found her cure.
Montreal-based Jennifer Roberge, owns the company which has helped so many families get their skin conditions under control.
“Eczema is often thought of as a condition you just have to live with,” she told me. “But often eliminating certain foods and other triggers can help heal the skin and ultimately prevent flare ups from occurring down the road.”
Jennifers reason for starting the company reminds myof my yoga student’s story. Her son had severe, head-to-toe eczema that peaked around three years of age.
“He would scratch until he bled,” she told me. “My husband and I were up with him all night long holding his little hands and trying to sooth him to sleep so he wouldn’t lie awake scratching. After endless research, I ended up finding some really interesting products – tops to prevent scratching, some great, natural healing balms – but they were from all over the world and not easily accessible.”

So, she started the company to help parents who were in the same boat and now offers products for adults as well.

Her son is now six and she says his eczema is 90% better, and her four year old daughter only experiences very mild eczema on occasion.
One of the clothing options on Jennifer's site.

One of the clothing options on Jennifer’s site.

A few months ago, Jennifer gave me a delightful sample of Shea butter, which my whole family adores. Papa used it on the rough patches of his torso until they magically disappeared. Just tonight I used it on Bug’s cheeks and Babe put it on the bobo on her knee. Jennifer unfortunately doesn’t carry this particular product anymore ( though it gets used often, I thankfully have loads left. It’s very smooth and a little really has gone a long way.)

This Montreal mama is still in a giving mood and is going to offer $30 worth of products to a lucky mananaturale reader! If it was me, I’d go for her highly recommended Manuka Honey Cream. Just saying!
Enter in the Rafflecopter below! Good luck!

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Shavasanahhhh

Photo by Asami Martens, at Studio Breathe, where I often find myself in Shavasana asamiyoga.com

Photo by Asami Martens, at Studio Breathe, where I often find myself in Shavasana

I am a yoga teacher. A mom, a clown, a wife but also a yoga teacher. I teach children’s yoga as well as Yin yoga and postnatal yoga.

There’s a saying: those who can’t do, teach. But the way I see it, yoga is not one of those things. Yoga, to me, is not just an great way to exercise and stretch– it’s a way of life. If you don’t practice yoga in your day to day how can you teach others?
A daily yoga practice, the ideal, is not a reality for me these days, unfortunately. I work, and start school next week! I can do yoga with my kids around but they just end up climbing on me.
I try, at least once a week to get out of the house to an actual yoga class at an actual studio– my me time. I can leave it all behind, hop on my bike and go. Be. Alone. Any parent knows it’s hard to pee alone at home let alone meditate.
Shavasana, at a yoga studio, is the only place I ever get to lie down without a child glued to me. I like it.
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