Healthy Life Lessons

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Musings about life and parenthood as well as health information, fitness tips and healthy recipes for the whole family.

What's a great destination for a family vacation in Canada?

In what ways is your home town unique from other places you've lived or traveled?

What outdoor activity do you enjoy doing most with your kids?

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What's the best family vacation destination in Canada?

Erica

Honestly, even though most of the rest of the country hates us, I would say Toronto! We have the TTC, which makes it easy to get anywhere, and there are family day passes available. If you want culture, we've got it all: museums with activities for kids (ROM, AGO, Bata Shoe Museum, etc.), the zoo, the Science Centre, Harbourfront Centre, the CNE which regularly hosts family-friendly events, the CN Tower, Black Creek Pioneer Village, Ontario Place, not to mention lots of parks and natural attractions: High Park, the beaches, sugar bushes and farms that offer an assortment of activities for families including apple picking, hay rides, petting zoos, etc. Toronto also has a wide variety of accomodations, including chain hotels and small B&Bs to suit most budgets and there are local businesses that can rent you baby gear (cribs, car seats, etc.) for your stay at a great price. For example, check out: http://www.weetravel.ca/index.php Perhaps I'm biased because this is where we live, but we never run out of activities to do with the family!
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What's your favorite activity to do in the winter with your family?

Erica

I wish I could say we go skating, but when we tried that last year, we found the girls weren't ready for it yet. It would probably just be hanging out inside in the warmth with family...maybe baking cookies and making hot cocoa.
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What's a great indoor activity for kids that doesn't make a huge mess?

Erica

If it involves arts and crafts or cooking/baking it's sure to generate a huge mess - our youngest is nicknamed "pig-pen" for a reason! So our favorite no-mess activity is having a dance party. Our 2 girls love it when we turn on music and allow them to dance on our bed and we love watching them - it's hilarious and entertaining.
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What's your go-to snack for your kids?

Erica

I almost always offer fruit, cheese or yogurt first. If that fails to entice them I move to raisins or other dried fruit, or unsweetened fruit leathers (I know this stuff is bad for teeth!). For long car rides or trips I admit I will resort to popcorn, or whole grain crackers or cookies and if I'm really desperate I offer juice freezies or popsicles - my girls will eat them regardless of the weather!
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What is your favorite quick breakfast recipe?

Erica

I often make large batches of healthy, whole grain muffins or pancakes and freeze them so they can be pulled out when needed. A minute or two in the microwave is all it takes to have them ready to go. I also often make healthy rice pudding which can last us quite a few days. My kids also love breakfast parfaits: I layer yogurt, fresh fruit (usually berries) and some sort of whole grain cereal. For the kids, the presentation is as exciting for them as the yummy taste!
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Which is better for raising a family: city or suburbs, and why?

Erica

Personally, I believe the city is a better place to raise a family, but this, is, of course, dependent on what city we are talking about. Here in Toronto, it is very possible to live downtown and raise a family. There is a multitude of cultural activities, good schools, and family-friendly neighbourhoods. You can walk or take public transportation, and there are lots of green spaces. I also love that my kids are exposed to a lot of diversity and are consequently very accepting of differences. That being said, in other cities, it may be more difficult to raise a family in the downtown core. My famiily is originally from New York, for example, and trying to raise children in Manhattan can be virtually impossible, unless you have a lot of money!
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What's an affordable and fun family activity?

Erica

Local libraries and parks are always the best option. But here in Toronto, there are also many free cultural events around the city that are great for the whole family. The museums also usually have a time/day of the week when there is no entrance fee. My husband and I also look for good group coupon deals on family venues and activities.
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What are your tips for throwing a party that both adults and kids will enjoy?

Erica

Every year we throw a big party on New Years Day for parents and children. It works best when we provide both food and drink specifically for kids (fruit, cookies, popcorn, chips, juice, etc.), and some specifically for the adults to enjoy (sushi, cheese and crackers, crudites, wine, etc.), and we arrange our house to provide a space where the adults can socialize and a seperate area for kids to play. This past year we also set up some crafts and activities in the kids' space to keep them occupied and it worked great. This keeps everyone happy and prevents things from getting too chaotic.
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How do you balance your daily routine with kids and exercise?

Erica

As nutty as it seems, I get up before my kids every morning to fit in a workout. This means my alarm goes off at 5am and I have to try to be asleep by 10pm or so. But it is so worth it! I get some much needed time to myself and the exercise wakes me up and makes me feel alert and energized for the day. If I don't exercise first thing in the morning, I feel groggy and if I let my kids wake me up abruptly, I am completely discombobulated. For me, first-thing-in-the-morning exercise is as much a necessity as my cup of coffee. I also like the example my regular exercise sets for my kids. They know to come down to our basement rec room to find me when they wake up, and think it's very entertaining to watch me sweat it out on the treadmill or pumping iron. I am absolutely certain being fit helps me to be a better mom because I have the strength and endurance to keep up with my kids, sleep better and can better manage my stress.
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What to do when your child reacts badly to not getting what they want?

Erica

Sometimes you can avoid saying "no" by giving an alternative such as, "It is not time to play games on the Ipad right now, but you can play as soon as you get up tomorrow morning." If the child cannot be appeased, I find ignoring her often works. Often our youngest daughter will try to refuse to turn off the television and come to the dinner table when we tell her it's time. My husband will disconnect the satellite and she'll sit and scream and cry and say she doesn't want to eat dinner. The rest of the family sits down and starts eating and eventually she usually calms down and joins us.
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