Point in Time: Talking with Sen about Favourites

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You’d think with my blogging I would have kept better track of milestones with the children, but it seems I’ve mostly talked about other people on this blog. Such is my nature…I’ve always been bad with attention directed my way. In any case, I do want to keep better track of Ro and Sen’s development, and keep snapshots of them at different ages and stages. Not just photo snapshots (goodness I have plenty of those!), but snapshots of their interests, their vocabulary, their quirks and opinions.

So, when I saw a “toddler quiz” posted around on Facebook I thought this would be a fun and easy way to get a little snapshot of the children at one point in time. I’ve decided to use the quiz format for a documented check in with the kids. I won’t always use the same questions — I’d like to incorporate more opinion questions, but for now this is a good start.

Sharing some recent photos of Sen to go with his ‘Point in Time’ check in –> He found a broken fern leaf and said he wanted to wear it on his head. Because: obviously.

Sen – Saturday June 4th, 2016

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What’s your name? Seneca Otis Kid Flash Batman

How old are you? Five

When is your birthday? Today [ his birthday is in March, but June 4th, the day of this quiz, was his party day ]

How old is mommy? How old are you, mama?

What’s your favourite color? Blue

What’s your favourite food? I don’t have one yet

Who’s your best friend? Veevee

What’s your favourite show? That’s a tough decision

What’s your favorite movie? I don’t have one

What’s your favourite song? Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

What’s your favourite animal? Tyrannosaurus Rex

What are you scared of? Ghosts, because you don’t know which ones are nice or not

What makes you happy? Going to the pool and having my birthday party

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{ Sen’s shorts are from Nico Nico organic clothing }

I would love to know if you have ways of documenting ages and stages with your children. Please share in the comments below!

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City Adventure: Art, Nature, Seasonal Rhythms and Impermanence

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A variation on this post was originally published on the Enfants Terribles Magazine blog in 2015

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while or following me on Instagram you might remember that the children and I love to go on adventures in the city. For me, it’s a love for walking, wandering, people watching, art spotting and nature gazing. I’ve always been this way. For them, anything called an ‘adventure’ sounds like fun. And so, a few years ago I started taking Ro and Sen on what I call “urban adventures” or “city adventures.”

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Ready for an adventure!

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Aside from feeding my own interest in wandering, I wanted to find an activity that we all enjoyed but that was also active. Going to the parks with the children is great for them, they are doing more physical activity than a football player, however, I usually find myself sitting on a bench or picnic blanket for hours chatting with other parents. Definitely fun and social, but maybe not the best form of daily exercise. And since I have a desk job, I definitely need exercise when I’m not at work.

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Observing Canada Geese from a safe perch

As well, preferring human-powered modes of transit, I wanted to prove to myself, my children, and (yes) maybe friends and family, that you can have adventures and connect with nature simply by walking out your front door, keeping an open mind, and looking for the paths less traveled. Nature isn’t some far off pristine sanctuary, it’s all around us: the air, the sky, the grass growing in sidewalk cracks. And, you definitely don’t need to drive a car to get to adventurous places; with some creativity and an open mind you can make your own adventure anywhere.

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Sand on this side of the canal, snow on the other

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Enjoying the squint!

This might be a good place to explain what an ‘adventure’ is to me. For me, ‘adventures’ don’t happen according to plans. They happen on the margins, or perhaps, as ‘offshoots’ of plans. You set a course, either defined or general, and you see what happens as things unfold. Flexibility is a necessary aspect, and so is openness to the risk of ‘wasting time’ for an opportunity that holds promise.

I want my children to understand that there is an abundance of nature to be found in the city. But if we only ever walked down Main Street or drove to get to the places we visit they might think that we live in a concrete jungle. We don’t need to drive 20 miles to an apple orchard or a petting farm or to a “Nature Path” to spend time in nature, with plants, animals and waterways, these are all within walking distance, if you find the right path.

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I also want my children to develop a broad and flexible understanding of what art is, that art isn’t only hung in galleries. There is an abundance of free art to be found and experienced in the city. There are commemorative statues of people and events that tell the city’s story, and there is illegal art in the form of graffiti that tells the city’s story in another way. And then there is the abundance of performance art, street dancers and performers, buskers, chalk artists, that can usually only be enjoyed by sheer luck of timing. Being out in the city without a schedule of planned activities allows us to pause along the way for as long as we want to enjoy something we’ve found serendipitously.

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Finally, I want Ro and Sen to appreciate unstructured, unplanned activities. These are days where all you have planned is to walk out the front door with a water bottle and snacks, with little idea of where you’ll end up and when you’ll come back home. The day is not curated by a schedule, organized activities and events (or businesses), but thrives on open-endedness.

We live in Ottawa, Canada which experiences a very cold winter (minus 20 Celsius / minus 4 Fahrenheit is totally normal), with lots of snow, so we don’t do a lot of adventuring in the winter. So, when spring time arrives sometime in April, like it did yesterday, we are excited to get out and revisit the paths and favourite spots we haven’t been to since last fall. At this time of year, what the children notice most is the contrast of seasons; their memory of a spot in its fall incarnation and how it looks after a long cold winter. Plants have died or gone dormant, birds and squirrels are not actively working and playing about, and so on. I hope this brings to life a rhythm and broader understanding of the seasons beyond their own perspective of: winter means snow suit and summer means sandals.

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As the spring progresses and flowers start to bloom, we will continue to explore and find new spots, that we can add to our repertoire of wanders. But also, understanding that each path and favourite spot is never the same twice we try to make the most of each experience, savouring the temporary nature of a field of wildflowers or a graffiti wall that will likely change within a week. I am hoping to awaken that sense of living in the moment and appreciating its fleeting nature. Whether it is conscious or not, I hope my children are developing a sense of appreciation for the impermanence of things and that this will prove useful in living a full life.

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Thank you to our kind sponsors for outfitting Ro, Sen and me:

Ro’s dresses by Grain de Chic, removable grey collar by Halo Luxe, laced shoes by Soft Star, slip on shoes by Mikoleon

Sen’s shirts and jacket by Grain de Chic, laced shoes by Mikoleon, sandals by Salt Water Sandals

My dress by Nico Nico Clothing, my mala by Mama Malas

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How to Make All Natural Flower Tattoos for Children

Read dried flowers for temporary tattoos

When flowers are blooming over the spring and summer, the children and I are constantly picking up fallen petals and blossoms for little projects. We press them, dry them, make mandalas and do all sorts of creative things. Something both kids love to do is wear flower petals as an alternative to face paint. I’m fairly particular about what goes into and onto their little bodies so I generally discourage face painting and temporary tattoos because I’m not sure of what’s in them. A fun, easy and beautiful alternative has been using flower petals applied to the skin with a little coconut oil or a salve (I used this one). We just apply a little to the face and then the petal adheres easily. Depending on the rigidity of the petal they stay on for longer or shorter periods of time – but no matter what they have fun with it! We’ve found that more supple, flexible petals work best because they can easily ply to the contours of the face.

When I was on Pinterest a few months ago I came across a photo of an arm covered in flowers. The tattoos looked so realistic I clicked through the link and discovered that a makeup artist, named Verity Cumming, had in fact used real flowers as temporary tattoos. For her process, she had dried flowers and then applied them to the arm using synthetic glues, such as eyelash glue, to keep the flowers in place. I knew a glue would not feel great on the skin, especially for children who tend to be more touch sensitive, but also that glue isn’t the healthiest on the skin, so I decided to develop my own technique to affix the flowers as temporary tattoos.

Real dried flower temporary tattoos soft star shoes

Real Flower Temporary Tattoos Soft Star Shoes Hippie in Disguise

First, there were a few failures. (I thought I’d share them here, so you don’t repeat my mistakes) I tried using some flowers that we had pressed and dried and no matter what we tried they were simply too brittle to hold together on the skin – they crumbled. I realized they were too dry. Next I tried using some fresher flowers and petals, but these were either too heavy (from water content) or not supple enough/too rigid (from water content). They needed to be drier. But, have you ever noticed that if you let flowers air dry they tend to dry from the outside to the middle? I knew that if I let them dry naturally they would still crumble at the edges from being unevenly dried. So I tried to accelerate and even out the drying process. I adapted Verity’s technique of drying the flowers with paper towels in the microwave (using fabric dish towels instead of paper towels, because zero waste is a good thing right?).

Through trial and error I figured out the best way to make all natural temporary flower tattoos. Here’s what worked:

1)      Gathering: Gather fresh flowers and petals of any and all sorts available to you. We don’t generally buy cut flowers or pick them, but we still have an abundance of sources of fresh flowers. Do not pick! Be resourceful! You can find fallen flowers and petals in gardens all the time. In the winter I visit the florist and ask if I can pick up blooms from the floor or use their floral “waste” from bouquets. They are always happy to share and curious about what I plan to do with the flowers. An opportunity to have a conversation about using flowers creatively!

2)      Preparing: Cut as much of the stem off as possible, this is easy with flowers like hydrangeas and pansies. You want to end up with a very flat flower for application. For flowers that have a hard or thick stem I recommend pulling the petals off and drying them individually.

3)      Drying: Lay a fabric dish towel over a large plate. Lay the flowers out on the dish towel. Place another dish towel on top to sandwich the petals between dishcloths. Then place a second plate over the dish towel. This will help to flatten the flowers. (The layering is: plate, towel, flowers, towel, plate). To dry them evenly I heated the plate and flower stack in the microwave for 40 seconds. I found that some flowers needed longer. If you are using many different types of flowers I recommend drying similar flowers together, they are more likely to require the same amount of time, and therefore you have less risk of over- or under-drying some flowers. To know that they are dry enough, just lift up the plate and towel and do a visual check, you will probably see some wet spots (flower sweat!) on the towel. Touch the flowers: if they feel limp and look flatter than before they are good. If they still seem rigid, then heat them a little longer. Once they are flat and limp, lay them out to finish drying in the air. They will still feel somewhat soft and moist, but I found they can’t be completely dried, they need some moisture for them to stay intact when tattooing. It sounds complicated, but once you try it I think you’ll see it’s pretty easy.

  • Warning: Some flowers will transfer their colour to the dish towel, so use a towel that you don’t mind getting a little stained.

4)      Applying: I used a beeswax salve with lavender oil in it (because I know it’s soothing on my children’s skin and they love the smell!), I applied it to the skin where the flower would go, then gently applied the dried flower, gently smoothing the flower onto the skin and letting it adhere to the salve. For most flowers and thin petals this is enough. In some cases you might want to add a little salve to the exposed part of the flower (the part facing out/visible) to help smooth the flower onto the skin more.

The flowers and petals stay on pretty well like this. The smoother the petal is to the skin the longer it will stay in place. These are certainly not as long-lasting as a temporary tattoo that is glued on but it’s still lots of fun for the kids (and yourself!) and provides a fun way to decorate your child that is natural and encourages them to learn about flora. You could try experimenting with using natural glues like honey, agave, or syrup, I’ve heard these work well too. The advantage of salves is that it’s good for the skin.

Flower tattooing is a great opportunity to learn about flowers with your children, for example:

  • You can teach them the names of the flowers as you apply them
  • You can talk about which flowers retain their colour through drying and which change
  • You can feel and talk about the different petal textures

As with all of my “how to” posts and DIYs please feel free to ask questions in the comments or share your feedback, there’s always something I’ve forgotten to include in my explanation!

UPDATE: This tutorial was recently included in the publication Project Calm: A magazine for mindful creatives. You can read more about it here!

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If you are interested in Ro’s shoes they are from Soft Star and are available through this link. Soft Star is an American shoe maker (men, women, children and baby shoes). All Soft Star shoes are handmade, using end-to-end environmentally friendly processes and materials. Ro’s shoes are the Hawthorne model (adults). Sen has the Swift model from the children’s range.

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Shop Love: Little Heirloom

Last season I had the honour of working with a small Canadian shop, Little Heirloom, to help spread the word about their lovely shop. Little Heirloom is an online store specializing in small ethically produced children’s wear brands. The shop is a little dream come true for Taralyn, a lifelong dreamer and entrepreneur, who took inspiration from her new motherhood to leap into the unknown and follow her interests in a way that would allow her to be more present with her young toddler. The shop is still very small and working to establish itself, so I wanted to help get the word out about this excellent shop, with a most excellent woman and family behind it.

Honestly, I’m not someone who cares much about fashion trends and season releases, but when I started to see sneak peeks of the Nico Nico Clothing fall line I got really excited. Something about the colours and textures spoke to me. I was immediately inspired to capture beautiful moments of my children in the clothing. I’m telling you, this has never happened before! So I picked up a few of my favourite pieces from Little Heirloom and let our adventure-seeking ways take their course, what resulted were some beautiful moments.

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I’m really in awe with how the Nico Nico line seems to form a dialogue with the landscape, whether we’re in the city or the forest or on the beach, the clothing seems at home, making you feel like you are exactly where you should be. I’m so happy to have invested in this line of organics. And, now I understand a little why some people get excited about fashion.

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I love to learn from mothers who have started their own business while raising children. So I asked Taralyn if she could share her story here. Read on to hear from Taralyn, herself, and to see more photos of the children enjoying themselves in clothing from her store.

Tell me a little bit about yourself, the person behind Little Heirloom. What is your background? What are you passionate about?

My name is Taralyn Fodor, and I am the founder/owner/operator of the online children’s apparel website Little Heirloom. I was born and raised in Vancouver, BC, but recently moved back to the city with my family after living in Montreal and Toronto for almost 8 years. I have a background in Art History and Design, but I also work as a buyer for a local apparel brand here in the city. I do a lot of juggling as a mother, business owner and buyer, but I wouldn’t have it any other way! I am passionate about my family, first and foremost, but I also have a soft spot for design, travel, and art.

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same denim poncho fits both kids, winning!

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How many children do you have and how would you describe them?

I have one son, Levi, who is 2 and a half. He is the wildest, most engaged, energetic, fearless, hilarious and social little person I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. He is truly chock-full of personality, and he never stops talking. Any moment spent awake for Levi is full of dialogue – be it with us (his parents), a friend, or someone imaginary. I love hearing him chatter away while playing with his toys, listening to him re-enact scenarios from earlier in the day, or talking about something I had no idea he even knew existed. It gives me fantastic insight into his little mind.

What is your favourite thing to do as a family?

As Levi gets older, our choice activity changes. It used to be a visit to the Vancouver Aquarium or Science World, but now going to the beach is our favourite. We really love getting outside and taking advantage of the beautiful city we live in.

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What did you want to be when you were a child?

This one makes me laugh, because I have always wanted to own my own business. I used to set up these roadside stands where I could sell things. I’d sell drawings, flowers (well, they were probably more like weeds, but who’s keeping track…), and anything else I could come up with. I just loved interacting with people and selling them something that made them happy. I guess nothing has changed!

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Did your career aspirations change once you had a child?

Interestingly, I became more focused on making my aspirations a reality. I knew that if I didn’t try it would never happen. In the beginning, running my own business also offered me the flexibility I needed to spend more time with Levi.

What is Little Heirloom and why did you decide to start your own business?

Little Heirloom is a website dedicated to selling high-quality, stylish and ethically produced children’s fashion. We like to focus on smaller, independent brands that are a bit harder to find. I originally wanted to create an online store to offer brands I love to the Canadian market, as no one was selling them here, but the demand for our designers has us shipping all over the world now!

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I love the name Little Heirloom. What does that name mean to you? Why did you choose it?

When I was thinking of a name for the shop, I kept circling back to the core concept of the store: to offer timeless, high-quality clothes that can be passed down from sibling to sibling, and even generationally. The idea of a sweater, romper or pair of shoes becoming an heirloom, a special memento of childhood, meant a lot to me. The name Little Heirloom sprung from that.

How do you choose the brands you carry?

They have to be beautiful, un-fussy, ethically manufactured, and above all else: well made. I also put them through the “Levi Test” as I like to call it. If I don’t like how the clothes wear and wash with my little guy, I won’t carry them in the shop.

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What are your dreams for Little Heirloom?

I would love to add more labels to our roster, and build out the collection we carry to represent even more exceptional international brands. Maybe there will even be an in-house line someday!

When you are all caught up on work what do you love to do?

I’ve been trying to allow myself “alone” time. It’s harder than you’d think! But when I manage it, just getting to a yoga class or riding my bike is wonderful.

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Readers: Little Heirloom carries premium brands, such as Nico Nico (the clothing pictured in this post), Red Creek Handmade, boy+girl, Misha & Puff, Soor Ploom, Goat Milk NYC, at excellent prices and ships internationally. She also carries the most charming line of toys, Des Enfantillages, made here in Canada (adjustable skipping rope and felt pompom slingshot pictured in this post).

The Canadian dollar is low now, which makes it especially economical for international shoppers to buy from Canadian shops. You can find Little Heirloom online at www.littleheirloom.com and on Instagram @littleheirloom.

Sen’s salt water sandals and Hunter rain boots are from Mini Mioche. Ro’s moccasins are from Canadian Aboriginal-owned brand Manitobah, offering a complete year-round line of moccasins and mukluks.

A special thank you, as well, to the kind women at Nico Nico Clothing, who helped me source sizes 8 and 10, to fit Ro.

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Strawberry Picking

We live in Canada’s national capital, so Canada Day is a pretty big deal here. Lots of people, locals and tourists, congregating in the downtown like sardines eager to see bands and buskers, eat street food and watch the fireworks. As a couple, Matt and I always enjoyed partaking in the patriotic festivities. But with massive crowds, noises, sites and smells amped up to the max, we had a feeling we would need to find our own family tradition for Canada Day once we had children. Even for our outgoing social butterflies, Canada Day in downtown Ottawa was just too much for our children. (We learned the hard way through experience: tantrums and tears).

With strawberries in prime picking season and with the fields safely outside the downtown core, we happily adopted strawberry picking as our family’s Canada Day tradition. This year was no different, except that when we arrived at the farm to pick, there were only off-the-shelf berries available for purchase, as the farmer didn’t want people walking in his fields following overnight rain. We decided to go for a hike at a nearby lake instead and go picking at the soonest opportunity, which luckily was just a few days later.

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Sen thought it was pretty funny to fill his pocket with snacking berries

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While a rascally Sen runs off with the basket, Ro is charmed about using her skirt to gather

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But wait…”Mama, ooooh it’s getting heavy!”

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Tired kiddos getting silly

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Thank you to our kind sponsors for outfitting Ro and Sen:

Organic clothing by Nico Nico from Little Heirloom, a lovely Canadian shop, that ships worldwide. LIttle Heirloom is especially great for Canadian shoppers looking for premium brands and organic clothing with domestic shipping rates.

Leather sandals are by Salt Water Sandals and are available from Mini Mioche, another superb Canadian shop stocking organics, shoes, bags and much more, and shipping worldwide.

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