Jenn

Dec 192014
 

mus2Today we went into the picturesque town of Courtenay. Even though there’s been a downpour since we arrived on the island, and an active boil water advisory because of recent floods, visiting this town really made me want to move to BC again!

Courtenay is the perfect little town, main streets lined with the things I love– organic fair trade coffee shops and stores where one can purchase precious stones and books about Reiki. It reminds me of the many small towns I visited on my days off as a BC treeplanter.
Two years ago when Babe was almost two and Bug wasn’t yet born, we visited the Courtenay and District Museum and Palaeontology Centre for the first time. We returned today with both the kids who really enjoyed themselves.
We really went to check out all the dinosaurs and fossils, but the museum also exhibits geology, First Nations history, pioneer settlement history, social history of the Comox Valley, logging and lumber history, river way study and there is currently an exhibit on called Ties to Communities, about how the railway physically connected people, settlements and industry.And of course, Bug’s favourite thing in the whole building: the bear. “I wish he was real,” said Babe. “He is real,” I told her. “He’s just not alive anymore.” “If he was alive would he try to eat me?” “Probably.”
mus1This is not a gigantic, interactive museum like we’ve visited in Montreal or Ottawa. It’s not even particularly toddler-friendly. There were a lot of “ne touche pas” and “oh, be carefuls,”  coming from my mouth, which is a bit frustrating for everyone. The one thing I did let Bug get his grubby little hands in was the tiny stones set up under an old piece of a train track. When he tried to “chew chew” them, we called it a day.

With that said, the museum is beautiful. If you find yourself in the Comox Valley, it’s a must see, no matter what your age.
Admission is by donation and the museum is located at 207 Fourth Street, Courtenay B.C.
Dec 192014
 
Gramp's gluten free wonton soup

Gramp’s gluten free wonton soup

We’re visiting my parents in Comox, British Columbia and there are more than enough gluten and dairy free options in the fridge here. When cooking for all nine of us, they’ve been making a special gluten, dairy-free recipe for Bug and me. For example, Gramps’ Gluten-free wonton soup.

Warning: unlike most of the recipes on this blog, Gramps’ wonton soup is time consuming and hard to do if someone isn’t watching the kids!
Ingredients:
For filling
1 lb ground pork
1 tbs Braggs Soy Sauce
1 tbs sesame oil
1 mushroom diced
2 green onions chopped
1 egg
For wonton
1 1/3 cup gluten-free all purpose flour (the mixture we used was PC brand, a mixture of tapioca starch, modified potato starch, corn flour and xanthan gum)
3 eggs, beaten
5 Tbsp warm water
About 8 cups of homemade bone broth
About a cup of uncooked shrimp (optional)
4 bulbs of baby bok choi, pulled into three inch pieces
A cup of snow peas

How To:
Put flour in a bowl and make a well in the centre
Pour beaten eggs into centre
Add warm water and with a spoon, slowly mix edges so the flour fallsin to the centre and it becomes dough
Knead the dough and form it into a ball
Wrap the ball and let it sit at room temp for 10 minutes

won2Flour your counter and roll out half the dough with a rolling pin until it’s “fairly thin”
Use a pizza cutter or similar about 4 x 3.5 inches
Cut as many squares as you can and roll out the left over dough, making as many squares as you can
Use your hands to mix the pork, soy sauce, sesame oil, mushroom, green onions and egg

 Fill the dough squares with a spoonful of pork mixture. Dip your finger in water and generously wet all the edges of the square. Fold it into a triangle, sealing the edges well by using more water if needed. Wet the corners if the triangle and stick the two corners together to form a wonton!
Boil broth on mediuwon1m high
Add wontons
Cook until wontons float to top, and then a little longer. They take longer to cook than gluten wontons (7-8 minutes)
Add some uncooked shrimp and cook for two minute.
Simmer on low
Add snow peas and baby bok choi
Serve and garnish with chopped green onions and a drop of Braggs Soy Sauce and a drop of sesame oil
Enjoy!

 

Dec 182014
 
phoMy entire front hallway at my home in Montreal, is filled with frames of family photos. Every time I come home, I come home to the smiling faces of Papa, Bug, Babe and myself. There’s only one other place in the world where our photos are up on the walls in this volume– my home 5,000 kilometers away in Comox, BC. And you know what, my mom has even more photos of my family on her wall than I do.
We’re here,in Comox visiting my parents. My sisters, who live in Toronto and Ottawa are here too.
We grew up in Ottawa, but our parents recently moved out to Vancouver Island into my Grandparents’ place. After my grandma died, grandpa was looking for a smaller place and my parents had been planning to move to BC for ages. So here we are. The backyard is the freaken Pacific Ocean.
There is enough room that we all have loads of privacy. This house is almost a mansion. I never lived here but have the best memories of driving out to visit throughout my teen years. My parents brought almost everything with them when they moved so it all feels so familiar.
pho1The very confident Babe ran into the house as soon as she was liberated from her car seat. My parents bought or borrowed everything we could possibly need to feel comfortable throughout our stay, including two rear-facing car seats, strollers, a highchair and bed rail. We’re almost better set up here than in Montreal!
Bug followed Babe in, a little less sure. He’d only met Nana once and never seen Gramps in person (though the kids talk to my parents almost daily on FaceTime!)
The kids were welcomed with more love than they knew existed. And more toys than they’ll ever need.
It might be the “role” of grandparents to spoil grandkids with crappy toys and junk food, but when we arrived we were served hot baked chicken, sweet potato fries and homemade coleslaw. The next morning, Gramps served up buckwheat and organic blueberry pancakes with real Ontario maple syrup. Tonight he’s making homemade wonton soup and has all the ingredients to make gluten free ones for Bug and me. I don’t know much more welcome we could be made to feel.
 Posted by at 12:55 pm
Dec 172014
 
Guest post by Jen Monk

Having been through labour once before, I recognized the signs immediately. I woke up with dull cramps and my familiar heightened senses. I went about my day as usual — I did some  groceries and had a picnic in the yard with my daughter — all the while very conscious of the cramps which had by now elevated into contractions, knowing full well I needed to cherish this one on one time with just my daughter that was very shortly about to end for a very long time.

I called my midwife to give her a heads up on my condition and, before I knew it, my contractions were growing more and more infrequent. I laboured at home for a few hours with my daughter, husband, sister and mom by my side. My daughter, rubbing my back, saying ‘it’s okay, mommy’… having decided long ago I was going to deliver this baby naturally and knowing I was probably only 3 cm dilated at this point, I sure didn’t feel like it was going to be okay.

jen2

photo by Jen Monk at playhousephoto.com

Tears poured down my face as I tucked my two-year-old into her bed, struck by the painful reality this was the last time it would just be her I was tucking in. I think every mother goes through that emotional conflict of trying to determine how you will love another tiny human as  thoroughly as you love your first born. I kissed her cheeks and tucked her hair behind her ears and worked silently through another contraction just to watch her close her eyes. She was completely unaware that by the time she would wake up in the morning, she’d be a big sister. As she fell peacefully asleep, I headed outside, unable to find any peace myself, and paced up and down the driveway until my husband and sister packed up the car for the dreaded trip to the hospital. Just like the first time around, the drive was about the second worst part for me. Being cooped up like a caged animal in the back of the Patriot, sprawled across the carseat, trying to breathe through each contraction, on my hands and knees, all the while hating myself for deciding to birth at the hospital instead of in the comfort of my own home where I’m free to pace and move and stretch. It was exhausting. And having done this once before — I knew I had to conserve my energy for the long battle that awaited me.

Finally, we arrived at the hospital and made our way up to the room. As my midwife greeted us inside, the contractions were now becoming more powerful and, more importantly, closer together. I was over 5 cm dilated at this point and scurrying around my hospital room like a starving hyena looking for his next prey. My dress was ripped off and thrown to the floor as my sister massaged my back, my husband held my hand and my midwife worked through every contraction with me. I knew this baby was coming soon. My contractions were closer and closer together and I was experiencing heavy back labour between each.

I’d be lying if I suggested I didn’t scream for someone to get me drugs or that, in my head, I didn’t think I was strong enough to do this. I’d be lying to you if I said I wasn’t scared. I was very scared. I wanted to quit. Knowing full well it was too late for drugs and that I was, in fact, going to deliver this baby without them, I had to find a place in my mind to accept this and delve deep into my inner strength I didn’t know I had yet. My midwife held my hands as I laboured, hunched  over the hospital bed, standing with one leg wrapped around the other. I’d lay my head down and moan. A moan that started from the tips of my toes and moved through my body like a shockwave. She held me and said “breathe through it, Jen, and then let it go. Let it go when it’s gone. Let it go.” And I did. After each contraction, with only seconds between the next one, I let it go. I accepted the pain and learned to rest in-between each one, cradling my head on the hospital bed as I built up my energy stores for the next wave that was inevitably going to strike again very soon — sooner than the last. I crawled up onto the bed and sat there, letting my feet dangle to the side. It had been less than four hours of labour at this point but I knew I was now at least 9 cm dilated and that I’d soon have to start pushing. apparently this new position on the bed triggered my water to break and as quick as I heard it splash to the floor, my baby had me involuntarily pushing. I remember hearing my midwife say “you’re pushing Jen, you need to lie down and spread your legs.” I also remember my response. “No, no, no, no, no!” I wasn’t ready. I couldn’t do this. I pushed for over three hours with my daughter. I couldn’t do this again. Grabbing hold of my legs my midwife said she could feel the head and that I needed to push. Whether or not I wanted to push the baby pushed for me. I flipped onto my left side and gripped my midwife’s arm like i was hanging from a cliff. I remember hearing my sister scream “I can see the head!” Then, I pushed again and felt my baby’s entire body move inside me and then suddenly flush out. Just like that.

Four hours and two pushes later my beautiful baby boy was handed to me. The old romantic adage “I only have eyes for you” rang very true at that moment. He was all I could see. I was delirious from the pain and high from exhaustion and in complete shock of what my body had just done, so naturally. Everyone around the bed I had once seen so clearly were now all just a blur.

jen

photo by Jen Monk at playhousephoto.com

The only thing I could see clearly was my son. I saw his 10 little fingers and his 10 little toes. I couldn’t cry. I couldn’t talk. I couldn’t move. He nestled his way onto my chest and let out a tiny little whimper. My birthing room fell silent and everyone left my side to let me be. A few minutes later I started crying uncontrollably. My midwife came to my side, gave me a kiss on the cheek and said “welcome back.” I continued to hold my baby boy for close to an hour before my midwife took him away to measure and weigh him. I was now only a few steps down off Cloud 9 and a little more lucid.

A woman’s body is a beautiful thing. A woman’s mind can be a scary place, but only if you let it be. Not only did I give birth, unhindered, I learned how to control my mind and protect my body against fear and the unknown. I was able to bring my son into this world on my own terms, in my own control, without drugs or chemicals, feeling every second of it. I am stronger than I knew. A million times stronger than I ever thought I was. I’m so proud of myself. I was home, in my bed four hours after giving birth and, my daughter, she did wake up a big sister that morning after all.

Sawyer John Nixon Monk – born at 12:33 a.m. on September 9, 2014 – 5 lbs, 12 oz

 Posted by at 12:00 pm
Dec 152014
 

reindeerWe were a little reluctant to head to the Ecomuseum Zoo last Thursday, as we had just been hit by a whole lot of snow. But really, we couldn’t have picked a more beautiful day.

Fresh white snow blanketed the gigantic outdoor park where the Ecomuseum is home to over 115 animal species from Québec. Babe was on the lookout for an elephant or giraffe. I was in awe of the wolf. Bug started shouting “Loup! Loup!” Or maybe it was “l’eau”! The Snowy Owl was right in front of us, but until we got super close we could see just his eyes. And the Arctic Fox remains my favourite.
We were lucky to have our own personal (accidental!) tour guide, Michelle. with us. I invited her and her boy Pip to meet us there because they live close by and it had been too long since I’d been graced with her presence! Michelle is an osteopath now and I’ve taken her Pilates classes, but I totally forgot she had studied zoology at McGill. She knows the Ecomuseum inside and out. Not only do she and Pip seem to live there these days, but she spent lots of time volunteering there while she was in university.
eco1 eco2When I heard her casually speak about the animals with so much knowledge, I clued in. Our personal zookeeper walking around with us. And here I was, thinking the wolf was a coyote. I asked if she knew the wolf’s name so Bug could yell that instead of “Loup!” I still don’t know if she knows that particular wolf’s name, but I found her response amazing. She explained the animals aren’t pets. People need to know them as the animals they are.  Wild animals, not stuffed animals. This made so much sense to me. But I think his name is probably Peter.
Babe was very happy to be out playing in the perfect snow and she and Papa made a snowman. Carrot nose and all. Bug was tired and gassy and more interested in the John Deere and nursing than the animals. We spent time marveling at the reindeer!
With cold toes, we headed in and said our goodbyes to Michelle and Pip and we ate our lunch in the museum’s big eating area. Then we headed downstairs to check out the flying squirrels, snakes, turtles and fish. Our toes were warm and the kids just loved peering into the tanks to see what they could find hiding inside. Bug and Babe each left with a stuffed reindeer. Babe named hers Lucie and we named Bug’s Sven. Obviously.
Babe and her snowman

Babe and her snowman

deer

Bug cuddling Sven

From December 20th to January 4th, at 1:30 p.m. an animal will receive a very special gift. I’m so sorry my family won’t be in town because it promises to be very special. From December 26th to January 4th, children are invited to follow Santa’s trail. Year after year when Santa stops by to get his Reindeer helpers, he inevitably drops a few of his things along the Ecomuseum Zoo trails! Lucky children who find these items have the chance to win a gift basket filled with surprises inspired by their favourite animals!

The zoo is giving one lucky family the chance to visit this holiday season. The prize includes a family pass (2 adults, 2 kids, a $50 value) as well as an adorable stuffed reindeer for each child. Enter the contest below for answering the question: “What does the fox say?”

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 Posted by at 12:45 pm
Dec 122014
 

This veggie soup came together so quickly and the entire family had more than one bowl. I “jammed it,” as we say, so please use this recipe as a guideline and get creative.

Before even chopping the veggies I prepared the Paleo dinner rolls with tapioca starch and coconut flour. Easy, peasey, gluten-free.

Ingredients
Paleo Rolls, Veggie soup8 cups homemade bone broth
4 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 Tbsp minced garlic and ginger
Half head cabbage, chopped
2 cups pre-soaked and cooked small red beans*
Oil
Bay leaves
Sea salt
Couple handfuls of baby spinach
About 5 chopped mushrooms
A few Tbsp Braggs Soy Sauce
3-4 green onions, chopped
Red Miso paste (if you like it)

 

Method:

Fry carrots, cabbage, garlic and ginger in oil.

Add broth, salt, bay leaves

Cook until carrots are slightly tender.

Add green onions, mushrooms and spinach.

When the soup is done, add the soy sauce/miso paste

The timing was perfect for us–hot rolls ready at the same time as the soup. I love when Bug says “encore”!

*preparing your own dry beans by soaking them over night and maybe even cooking them in bone broth is more nutritious than a can, but impossible to swing if you didn’t plan ahead. I personally didn’t and was thrilled to have a 19 oz/540 ml can of small red beans on hand.

Dec 102014
 
a photo of all 4 cousins-- this is as good as it gets!

a photo of all 4 cousins– this is as good as it gets!

Twenty years ago, (haha! I can’t believe I can start a sentence that way!) we were supposed to go to a class trip to the Biodome. We were all pretty excited and then the Biodome was closed or striking or something. Our trip was already planned so we still made the trip from a Ottawa to Montreal. I have no idea what we did. The Biodome, I wouldn’t have forgotten.

I think my kids, as young as they are, will always remember the Biodome too. Last weekend was only the second or third time Babe had been but she remembered so much about it. She asked where the sloth was and couldn’t wait to see the lynx. This was a pretty epic visit because her grandparents

Birds of a feather

Birds of a feather

Babe in 2012

Babe in 2012

came all the way from Ottawa and her cousins, aunt and uncle came from Quebec City.

I was surprised how empty the Biodome was for a Sunday, but we weren’t complaining. It was nice to get close to those “funny little monkeys,” and of course, everyone’s favourite, the penguins. We were lucky to see a six day old baby penguin! Babe, Bug, and their two cousins spent quite a while on the Otter Slide!
In the spirit if climbing and sliding, we were happy to see an indoor play structure is just about to open near the restaurant (it was a first for us, eating there this weekend).
We unfortunately we all too knackered to check out the Celebrate the magic of Christmas event going on at the Botanical Gardens December 5, 2014 to January 4, 2015. I’m sorry we didn’t make it– children (and adults) learn about confectionery plants (you DO realize mint, licorice and vanilla all come from plants?) Also coming up at the Biodome, December 20 to February 8, a Tropical Adventure, for kids 3 to 8.  At the Beaks and Bandaids rescue centre, kids can have fun playing, climbing, dressing up and, with the help of our animal keepers, learn how to feed and care for the animals. I can’t wait!
My family was invited to the Biodome but I did not receive financial compensation for writing this post.
Dec 082014
 

bed1We didn’t know we’d have a family bed or we’d have done some things differently. For example, when Babe was a few months old, we probably wouldn’t have bought the thousand dollar Queen pillow-top. King, no frame was the way to go.

When it was just Babe, Papa and I, the new Queen was plenty big. But when we were expecting Bug, we added on a sidecar extension simply made of a crib.

Some parents prefer products like the Arm’s Reach Co-Sleeper or the Snuggle Nest specially designed for bedsharing. We had an unused crib just sitting in the basement so this made more sense to us.

We envisioned Bug sleeping in the sidecar and Babe between Papa and me. For whatever reason, before Bug was born, Babe claimed the crib as her own. So we went with it. It allows us so much more space! But Babe is getting really tall! She’s also a kicker. A few times she’s woken herself up at night, foot jammed between the crib bars. Ouch!

What we needed was a barrier to prevent her foot from getting caught. Remember when bumper pads were a thing that everyone had on their cribs? Then we were told they’d suffocate our kids so no one used them anymore? Honestly, I’m way more worried about a leg being broken than a bumper pad suffocating a kid who’s sleeping right beside me.

I spoke with Dr. Jose Bensoussan, the creator of the Lifenest Breathable Bumper and he seemed to agree. He said, “According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), infants whose limbs are trapped between crib slats account for the second highest number of crib-related complaints and injuries. Crib bumper pads protect babies from this type of injury and also help children avoid head injuries resulting from contact with side rails and headboards.”

bedHe explained long ties and pillow-like bumpers can cause infant deaths. The CPSC therefore recommends that baby bumpers be avoided,  which has led to the prohibition by two US  states (Illinois and Maryland) of baby bumpers made of anything but light mesh material, which is what the Lifenest Breathable Bumper is made of.

I have very strong opinions about governments banning baby items which they deem unsafe. A few examples, the Cosleeper mentioned above, walkers, bath seats. What’s next, banning amber necklaces?! I think parents have a responsibility to keep their kids safe. So where was I? We needed a bumper…

“[It] was developed in response to the concerns with baby suffocation raised by the research, but also with the aim of preventing injuries that bumper pads protect against,” said Bensoussan. ” Made of breathable mesh material, the Lifenest  Breathable Bumper simultaneously helps prevent suffocation and injury while at the same time, with its soft padding, promoting baby’s comfort.”

So we use this new breathable bumper to prevent Babe’s limbs from poking through the crib bars. Of course, because our crib only has three sides, we’ve had to modify the bumper, but I still followed the recommended safety tips and tied the extra part of the bumper very tightly. Nothing sags and I keep an eye on it. It’s right beside my head at night–hard to miss. The one thing about the bumper–it’s not cute. If cuteness is more of a concern than safety then this wouldn’t be the best choice. It’s plain white. No elephants or teddy bears printed onto it. I actually like the way it looks–clean and safe!

If you’d like a brand new bumper of your own, enter the Rafflecopter below! Don’t forget to leave a comment about your nighttime setup.

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Dec 052014
 
day 3,2,1 in that order, Day 3 is still very rich and flavourful!

day 3,2,1 in that order, Day 3 is still very rich and flavourful!

I spent my teenagehood as a vegetarian. From an ethical and spiritual standpoint, I do not think consuming animals is… Acceptable. I just want to put that out there. With that said, I’ve been eating meat again for a number of years and do not think tofu is real food. I no longer think it’s healthy either.

Bone broth, as far as I can tell, is both real and extremely nutritious. I make broth weekly and use it in most of my cooking. It basically replaces water and is also used in any soups, stir fries, curries, sauces. I use it to cook beans, pulses and grains.

There are a number of ways to make bone broth but for the really nutritious broth, it seems to take more than just a couple hours on the stove top. I use a crockpot and leave it cooking for days.

What you need:
*Bones
Crockpot
Water (preferably filtered)
Tbs Apple Cider Vinegar

What you could also add:
Veggies
Onions
Garlic
Ginger
Herbs like rosemary
The peels of all the veggies you don’t eat. This was recommended by our naturopath and it seems like a great idea! Why compost it when you can first turn it into broth?

Instructions:

1- Put bones, water and ACV in crockpot

2- Press the ON button

It’s that easy.

broth 1I’ve read that it takes 24 hours of cooking to get the nutrients and gelatine to come out. So I leave it for about a day, adding water if it gets way too low. Then I remove some of the broth, either to immediately cook with or to store in the fridge or freezer.

I add more water and keep it cooking. The broth on days two and three usually isn’t any lighter (therefore less nutritious, I think) than the previous days.

After three days I usually put the remaining broth in jars in the fridge or in the freezer in muffin tin pucks (perfect for adding a little moisture and goodness in a stir fry for example) or freezer bags of 2 cups, great for cooking grains.

I have purchased beef bones to make broth but most of what we end up with is chicken broth. I roast a whole chicken once a week and when most of the meat is off the carcass it goes into the crockpot.

* A note on bones: obviously, whenever possible, organic chicken and organic grassfeed beef bones are preferable. Conventional meat could have higher levels of toxins like arsenic, for example. Is broth made from non-organic chicken better than no broth at all?

Dec 032014
 

Guest Post By Nan Strauss,
Director of Policy & Research, Choices in Childbirth

CiC Doula Care Infographic 10.28.14-page-0What would you guess is “one of the most effective tools to improve labor and delivery outcomes?”* It might surprise you to know that quote comes from a statement by the two leading obstetricians’ professional associations in the US and was referring to doula care.

This isn’t the only time that medical research has ranked doula care as one of the most effective strategies to have a healthy and satisfying birth – a 2008 article in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology concluded that doula support was among the top three most effective of 41 different birth
practices reviewed.**

Attention to the benefits of doula care has been on the rise.  Just last week, Choices in Childbirth released a new report on doula care, Doula Care in New York City: Advancing the Goals of the Affordable Care Act, to share what women have told us about their experiences with doulas.

This new report explores how doula care can improve women’s birth experiences and health, and makes recommendations on how to make it possible for more women to enjoy the benefits of doula care. The report considers the powerful role doulas play in empowering women to have engaged and satisfying
births and reduce disparities in health outcomes for women in marginalized communities.

Moms in New York City repeatedly told us why having a doula was “the best choice we could have made.” Moms talked about how doulas helped them through the whole process of preparing for birth, labour at home, in the hospital or birth center, through the birth, and then afterwards.  One mother summed up her feelings this way: “Having a doula means having an experienced guide to the most potentially surprising moment of life.”

All women have a right to a safe, healthy, and respectful childbirth, and doulas can be a key ally in making this a reality.

* “Safe Prevention of the Primary Cesarean Delivery,” Consensus Statement issued by the American  College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine, February 2014

** Berghella V, Baxter JK, & Chauhan SP. (2008). Evidence-based labor and delivery management. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. 199(5), 445-454. doi: 10.1016/j.ajog.2008.06.093.

 Posted by at 12:03 pm