My kids are lucky in that they seem to escape most viruses going around. Their general health has always been good and I'd like to think it's because we are such an active family - we ski in the winter, they participate in summer run clubs and triathlons, and I'm always sneaking spinach into their brownies. I'm thankful for their health and I try to ensure they remain that way with regular dentist and doctor check ups, and by staying on top of any changes in their health as they get older. So when I got the phone call from school that my eldest daughter - 9 years-old at the time - had a headache, I was concerned.
Headaches are not a typical thing at our house, so this was unusual. She came home for the afternoon, rested on the couch and was well enough to go back to school the next day feeling fine.
But then I received another phone call, another headache. This was now more than mildly concerning. Instead of bringing her home this time, I took her to the swing set beside her school to chat. I thought there may be trouble with a classmate, her best friend, or the math class she wasn’t fond of. None of these things were the problem.
Then I asked her if she could read the message in GIANT letters on the school sign not 40 feet from where we were sitting. Nope. To her it was all blurry.
How did I miss this? My child couldn’t see anything clearly in the distance. It was then that I had my revelation: the headaches were from straining to read the black board and tired eyes reading books and papers at school.
After our conversation, I booked her an appointment with our Doctor of Optometry, and sure enough, she needed glasses.
There is so much more than just eating healthy and staying active that goes in to raising healthy kids.
Here are some things I learned that all parents should know when it comes to kids' eye health:
My daughter is now 13 and on her third pair of glasses which she LOVES. She is super proud to wear them, treats them as a fashion accessory, and loves how they look in combination with the multi-coloured elastics on her new braces.
Did you know 75% of vision loss is preventable? It’s time to open your eyes to maintaining healthy vision.
Take a few minutes to scan these articles that will teach you everything you need to know about eye health.
Kids love going away to camp - the outdoor freedom, the lake, the canoes, the cabins, the bugs, campfire songs, tie dye, and their parents making them lunch.
Wait . . . what?
Since when do your parents get to make your lunch at Summer Camp?
Have you always wanted your kids to get the Summer camp experience but they are not quite ready for sleep away camp . . . or maybe YOU are not ready for them to go to sleep away camp?
Then Family Summer Camp might be perfect for you.
I didn't realize there was an affordable option for families to go to summer camp together until we visited friends at a YMCA run camp and all of us fell in love with the 100 year old cabins, the Craft Shoppe, the dance hall, the kayaks, the running trails, tuck shop and energetic camp counselors.
Summer Camp for one child including lodging and meals can run anywhere from $500-$1500 a week per child depending on the camp and camp experiences offered. Having three kids, these prices always seemed out of reach for us. We were thrilled to learn of other options that include weeks where the whole family can bunk in the cottages or pitch tents, can eat in the dining hall or bring their own food and can participate in all the same camp activities that the kids can (. . . or not! ) for the same price.
Some days I will admit my husband and I just hang out at the beach while the kids are kayaking, sailing, at drama or dance, on a nature hike or playing tennis, capturing the flag, shooting baskets, or trying to float the lifeguard. We always have a great time and always meet up with them for lunch!
Summer camp has been our family tradition now for over six years and for a reasonable cost for the week our family of five gets to stay in a cozy cottage, has access to tons of counselor led activities (for kids as young as 3), camp wide activities, a beach, all the water sport toys we could want and more memories than we can hang on to. Our cottage has a kitchen and we enjoy cooking our own food, although the option is available to eat in the dining hall and choose lodging that is more up to date with rooms that include a bathroom!
Many options are available at Family Summer Camp – do some exploring and find one that is right for your outdoor family.
Every single song you remember and tons of new ones are sung at either the Camp Wide welcome night while kids roast marshmallows or while the kids are playing games with counselors at the beach. Camp traditions live on!
Most family camps offer a boat dock and wind sports – I learned to wind surf (its not so easy!) with my oldest daughter last year and all us girls attempted paddleboard yoga – that’s us falling off . . again. My kids are expert canoeists and can kiss the kayak, something I might try this summer.
The Craft Shoppe is the place to be. There are organized crafts where specific projects are made out of recycled plastic bottles or bracelets out of gimp and special days devoted to candle making or sun catchers and open craft times where the kids can just go hang out with the counselors and make stuff.
Bring your rubber boots and bug spray cause the swamp tromp is the best way to find hidden treasures and frogs.
Depending on the camp you choose not only can your kids sign up for daily tennis lessons, but you can enter into the singles or couples round robin and perfect that swing with kids your own age! Archery in the field, yoga under the whispering pines and basketball in the gym – there is something for everyone.
Many camps have end of the week family fun night or talent shows that is usually super informal and crazy funny. Watch your kids – and in some cases the whole family – get creative and put on a show. We did a number with hula hoops one year. Parents got up on stage demonstrated how we can’t do it and our kids then took over center stage and did it with three hoops on their waist and one above their head. Show offs!
Something as simple as looking for the family of baby ducks and shoeing the chipmunk out fo the cottage so you can eat dinner are just as memorable as the sunset paddles and lunch you enjoy while on a floating picnic table.
The artist and the foodie will all be happy when they find camp wide activities just or them. Traditions are what make camp so special and there is no way any member of the family is not waking up early to get those pancakes on the beach or sticky buns at the tuck shop before they run out.
The outfit is flip flops and bathing suits, the mode of transportation is walking or bicycle, there is no running hot water, the bathrooms are three cabins away and the furniture is right out of the 1960s. We couldn’t love it more.
The traditions that are established at summer family camp will be memories you cherish forever. Camp is about doing something new, something adventurous and at Family Camp, you all get to do it together.
There are still spots open for family summer camps near you. OurKids provides a great list to get you started and ask around. Check your local YMCA for family overnight camps they offer and make Family Camp something the whole family looks forward to every Summer.
Just sending the kids to camp and dealing with allergies? There's a camp for that!
Like many moms, the way I show my family and friends I care is through meals and the healthy (delicious!) treats I make. I have a couple of super easy, yummy recipes that I regularly prepare to surprise and delight the people who matter to me. So, in the spirit of kindness, I'm going to share the recipes for my famous DIY Instant Apple Oatmeal Packs and my Apple Cinnamon Granola Bars with you below.
I'm not a fan of processed foods, so when I hit the supermarket, I spend most of my time in the fresh produce section - to get the ingredients to make those healthy meals and snacks for my loved ones. Fresh apples are always on our grocery list and I also like to grab a few bags of Martin’s Apple Chips - one of the few packaged snacks I buy. The best part of these dried apple chips – besides the fact that they come in giant bags at Costco - is that they only contain one ingredient – apples.
Over the years, apples have become a symbol of gratitude in our home. When our family returns from our annual apple-picking trip at the local farm, we spend the afternoon baking pies to deliver as gifts of appreciation. What better way to show thankfulness than with something made at home with love - and apples?
Clearly, I'm on the same wavelength as the folks who make Martin's Apple Chips. They are running a Random Snacks of Kindness contest that I think you'll want to enter! Who wouldn't want to win a $2,350 stay at Ste. Anne's Spa? All you have to do is first, watch this video (which will totally make you smile):
Next, pledge your own random act of kindness and you'll be entered to win! After you've entered, enjoy some apple chips of your own or try them in these two easy recipes.
Apple Cinnamon Granola Bars
I like having dried fruit on hand for these bars. Fresh apples will make them mushy, so dried apples are a great addition to an otherwise fruitless bar.
7 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup healthy oil (I used extra virgin olive oil)
3/4 cup organic honey
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp vanilla
1/2 cup oat bran
2 tbsp chia seeds
1/4 cup ground flax
3/4 cup chopped Martin’s Apple Chips
2 tsp cinnamon
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and cover a large (18×13) cookie sheet (including edges) with tin foil. Mix the rolled oats with the oil until well saturated. Spread the oats evenly onto the cookie sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes, string often, until golden brown.
While oats are baking, mix honey, brown sugar and vanilla in a small pot and cook over low heat until all the sugar is dissolved. In a separate large bowl combine the oat bran, chia seeds, flax, Martin’s Apple Chips and cinnamon.
When oats are done remove from oven and lower oven temperature to 300 degrees. Transfer the cooked oats into the oat bran, chia mixture and combine well. Pour the melted honey over the granola and mix well.
Return the granola mixture to the tin foil covered cookie sheet and spread out evenly. Using the back of a large spatula or heavy flat dish, press the granola mixture firmly into the cookie sheet, making sure the oats on the entire cookie sheet have been pressed into place.
Bake for 35-40 minutes at 300 degrees. Remove from oven and let cool – but not longer than 10 minutes or they will be too hard to cut. Transfer to a cutting surface and cut into any size bars using a large sharp knife.
Store in the freezer and enjoy anytime.
Makes approx 40 Apple Cinnamon Granola Bars
Single Serve Instant Breakfast Oatmeal Packs
Including healthy ingredients in the most important meal of the day, breakfast, is all part of being kind to our bodies. Enjoy!
1/3 cup rolled oats
1 tbsp oat bran
1 tsp of chia seeds, hemp hearts, ground flax
1/4 tsp cinnamon
Assemble the following in a bowl:
Add any of the following dried fruits and nuts:
Dried blueberries, cranberries, cherries, raisins
Dried apricots, mangos, dates or Martin’s Apple Chips chopped into small pieces
Coconut, sunflower seeds, chopped almonds or walnuts
Store in a resealable bag or container.
When you are ready for breakfast, put oats in a bowl, cover the oats with boiling water and within 5 minutes you have perfect oatmeal every time.
Both of these recipes are easy to prepare and good for you. Make them for your family or make them to give as random gifts of gratitude to your friends to say "hey, I appreciate you and all you do." I'm pretty certain they'll be surprised and grateful!
Canadian made, Martin’s Crispy Apple Chips is the guilt-free snack that’s kind to your body.
Now, Martin’s Apple Chips wants to spread the kindness in their Random Snacks of Kindness Contest. One lucky winner will receive a two night trip to Ste. Anne’s Spa for two valued at $2350.
Good snacking that creates good karma. Enter the #SnacksOfKindness contest now.