Reviewing 2014: My Successes and Failures

Yes, it is again that time when many of us decide to write about the year that is ending, in this case the year 2014.

Although I have not always done it during the last 5-6 years, I still think that it is a good exercise to write about the challenges, successes and failures of our year. I am one of those people who believe that we always learn something from both successes and failures. Writing about successes and failures forces us to think about our life in a critical way. It also helps us identify what we did, and what we didn't do as well.  

My Failures

Did not work out regularly (4-5 times) during most of the year. I was only able to keep a regular workout program for about 3 consecutive months (early in 2014). After that, it was very hard to motivate myself to exercise regularly. All my goals about losing some weight and exercising regularly did not last for much longer partially because I have trouble establishing goals for myself. I really need to work on these issues this year if I want to go leaner and focus on my goals.

Procrastination won the battle almost every single time. Whether it was an issue related to work or something that had to do with money/budget or paperwork, I was unable to dedicate the time and effort to these things when it was needed. The reality is that I simply avoided to deal with these issues as long as it was possible because I don't like to deal with them. I have to work on my procrastination problems this year because they caused me too many problems in 2014.

Not Enough Quality Time with My Husband.  This year, I failed in having enough quality time with my husband. With all the work- and children- responsibilities that my husband and I have, it is very difficult to find quality time for our couple. We have been trying to be creative, but sometimes even with lots of planing, things didn't work the way that we wanted or expected. Neither my husband and I want to give up with respect to this, so we keep trying to be creative and improve our current situation. From my part, I know that I have to work on this during 2015.

Improve How We Deal with Family/Marriage Conflicts. My husband and I are what many people call "type A" personality. We are both very dedicated, energetic and intense people. Unfortunately, we can also be very explosive and impatient, especially with each other. Very often, we don't know when to detach from issues or when to stop a discussion. The good thing is that we usually tell to each other our feelings whether they are negative or positive. So, we are capable to recognize our mistakes, although this may happen sometimes a little bit late. We both know that we don't always handle well conflicts or disagreements. Although we are continually trying to find new approaches or ways to deal with conflicts, we both struggle with our reactions. We certainly need to work on the issue this year. I don't know how, but I feel that finding more quality time may also help us to deal better with conflicts.

Communicate with my mother and siblings more often. It was my intention for 2014 to communicate with my mother and siblings more often, but I did not do it mainly because of busyness and possibly a problem of priority. I did manage to call all my mother and siblings for their birthdays and a few other occasions, but it was generally my mother who called me. I did not use skype or other similar communication method to talk with them. I want to improve this and communicate via skype with at least one of my siblings and my mother once per month. I miss them.

Not Enough time for Meditation and Silence. One of the things that I missed the most from the years that I was single is silence. Don't take me wrong, I love my husband and my children (including our puppy!), but our house is small and the moments that I am just by myself are rare. I feel that if I would be more organized, I may be able to find time for myself. I enjoy so much when I am able to close my eyes and free my mind of all thoughts. I need to work on this, so I can have more time for meditation and silence in 2015.

Speak Spanish and/or French to my Husband and Children. Although Spanish and French are my first and second languages respectively, I can't simply don't remember to include these languages in my daily conversations with my husband and/or children. The problem is that I feel that my little boy (5 years old) will never be able to speak Spanish fluently. Both my son and stepson started French immersion this year and are now focusing in learning French. Although I speak French fluently, I am not speaking French at home. I am simply too accustomed to speak English even though I am still very comfortable speaking Spanish or French. I definitely need to change this and force myself to speak French, and perhaps Spanish (I don't want to confuse the kids -- French and Spanish are too close sometimes) during 2015. I need to find tricks or ways to remind myself to speak French or Spanish at home.

My Successes

I should mention that it took me much longer to identify my successes than to recognize my failures. What did I achieve this year? I am not certain -- did I really achieve or succeed in something? I really don't know. Perhaps, I am too negative, but it's difficult for me to recognize or speak loud about my successes or achievement. So, most of what you will read below could be listed as "work in progress" instead of successes. Did I sound too negative?

Spending Quality Time with Elijah. I always tell my son Elijah that he is my gift from God -- and, I really mean it. I love to spend time with him even though I don't know the name of all his toys, video games or pokemon figures. I enjoy so, so much to be with him. It was not always easy, but I did my best to have quality mother-son time whenever it was possible. I really want to be an active participant in his life, so I need to make certain that there is even more mother-son time in 2015.

The adoption of Lola; our beautiful puppy. This year we added a new member to our family, Lola. She is our adorable chocolate Labrador puppy. Although she represents more work for both my husband and I, the influence that she is having on each member of the family is very positive. I must give myself credit for the presence of Lola in our lives (I can't believe that I am saying this!) because I was the one who found the breeder. I am very glad that I was patient during my search for a puppy because it took me many hours, and numerous phone calls to find the proper breeder. It was so much work, but I am glad that I did it because Lola is a wonderful addition to our family.

I created a blog and a website. One of my biggest accomplishments this year was the creation of my blog, and recently my website ( -- will be working very soon!). It has been an amazing learning experience to write and publish posts, as well as to read the work produced by others. I learned so much about the positive sides of social media; just incredible! Although I have not been able to consecrate enough time to my blog over the last few months, I was able to write a post at least once every two weeks. Ideally, I would love to write a couple of posts per week, but it is simply not possible during the academic year.

I became better at accepting my mistakes. Although I always knew that we can learn from our own mistakes, I finally try to stop making excuses for my mistakes. This year, I tried to focus on accepting my responsibilities instead of blaming others. It is very difficult to do this because it is so easy to blame others for our problems and errors. Unfortunately, we often times create our own problems, frustrations and disappointments. Accepting and learning from my mistakes is work in progress even though this year was a good beginning. 

The One Skill: How Mastering the Art of Letting Go Will Change Your Life by Leo Babauta

One of my favorite websites is Zen Habits. This blog/website is the creation of Leo Babauta, a father of six kids, a husband and a writer from Guam (now living in San Francisco). 

What is Zen Habits?

Using the definition provided by Leo Babauta, Zen Habits is about finding simplicity in the daily chaos of our lives. It’s about clearing the clutter so we can focus on what’s important, create something amazing, find happiness. Clearly, this is something that we all want!

Zen Habits is also one of the Top 25 blogs and Top 50 websites in the world, with more than a million monthly readers. This fantastic blog/website features articles about simplicity, health & fitness, motivation and inspiration, frugality, family life, happiness, goals, getting great things done, and living in the moment. It's a website/blog that I highly recommend to visit.

The Letting Go Ebook for Free

Recently, Leo Babauta published an ebook (available for free) called "The One Skill: How Mastering the Art of Letting Go Will Change Your Life". The book is about learning the skill of letting go, and how that can help us with every problem in our life. Topics discussed in the book include procrastination, difficult people, fear, habits, distractions, change, loss, letting go, etc. 

Although I have not had the chance to read the book yet, I am certain that this book is worth reading. I have had the chance to read articles and other documents written by Leo Babauta and they are always very well written and filled with useful ideas and inspirational messages.

The book is free and can be downloaded here: The One Skill ebook (pdf). He has also exported the book as an epub (download), although the link was not tested yet. And here’s the mobi file for Kindle & other ebook readers.

I am certain that this is very good book that deserves to be read. 

Family Criticizing your Weight? You Might Add More Pounds

According to a recent study conducted by Professor Christine Logel from Renison University College at the University of Waterloo, women whose loved ones are critical of their weight tend to put on even more pounds.

The study conducted by Dr. Logel recently appeared in the December issue of the journal Personal Relationships. According to the research, "when we feel bad about our bodies, we often turn to loved ones -- families, friends and romantic partners -- for support and advice. How they respond can have a bigger effect than we might think,".

The study found that women who received a higher number of what the researchers called acceptance messages about their weight saw better weight maintenance and even weight loss than their counterparts who did not receive this positive messaging from their loved ones.

A team of social psychologists led by Dr. Logel asked to a group of univeristy-age women several questions, including their height and weight as well as how they felt about what they see on the scale. About five months later, they asked them if they had talked to their loved ones about their concerns, and if so, how they had responded. About three months after that, they tracked whether their weight and their concerns about it changed in that time.

Dr. Logel said that "On average, the women in the study were at the high end of Health Canada's BMI recommendations, so the healthiest thing is for them to maintain the weight they have and not be so hard on themselves". But, many of these women were still very concerned about how much they weigh, and most talked to their loved ones about it."

Overall, the women in the sample gained some weight over time, which is relatively normal for young adults. However, the interesting thing that the researchers noticed is that if the women got the message from their loved ones that they look fine, then they maintained or even lost a bit of weight. However, women who received few weight acceptance messages from their loved ones gained almost 4.5 pounds on average.

An important conclusion of this study appears to be that when women concerned about their weight heard that their loved ones accepted them as they are, then they felt better about their bodies, and subsequently they did not gain more wait like other women did. 

So, this study suggests that pressure from loved ones about weight loss is not helpful for women already concerned about their weight. In fact, it may actually have the opposite effect, causing women to wain some weight.


CHRISTINE LOGEL, DANU ANTHONY STINSON, GREGORY R. GUNN, JOANNE V. WOOD, JOHN G. HOLMES, JESSICA J. CAMERON. A little acceptance is good for your health: Interpersonal messages and weight change over time. Personal Relationships, 2014; 21 (4): 583 DOI:10.1111/pere.12050

What I Know for Sure about "Connection" According to Oprah

In this 3rd chapter of "What I Know for Sure", Oprah discusses the issue of connection in our lives. 

Oprah starts this chapter by saying that "Whether you're a mother in Topeka or a businesswoman in Philadelphia, each of us, at our core, longs to be loved, needed, understood, affirmed -- to have intimate connections that leave us feeling more alive and human". Throughout this chapter, Oprah emphasizes the fact that a basic human need is a desire for mutually empathic and empowering connection with others.

According to Emma Seppala, People who feel more connected to others have lower rates of anxiety and depression, higher self-esteem, are more empathetic to others and are more trusting and cooperative.  Social connectedness therefore generates a positive feedback loop of social, emotional and physical well-being. All of us need other people in order to be well and thrive. We feel better just being around other people. And we need close relationships in order to be happy.

When reading this chapter of Oprah's book, I was particularly touched by the following ideas or statements regarding connection:

"A lack of intimacy is not distance from someone else; it is disregard for yourself."

"If you don't already know that you have worth, there's nothing your friends, your family, or your mate can say that will completely convince you of that."

"You are the one best mother, father, sister, friend, cousin, and lover you will ever have."

"Look inward -- the loving begins with you."

"The key to any relationship is communication."

"Everything happens for a reason"

"Love is all around."

To know that people care about how you're doing when the doing isn't so good -- that's what love is.

Without any doubt, this was another inspirational chapter, filled with powerful statements about relationships and connection. So, I decided to do a little online search about the importance of connection in our lives. I found many interesting things and here is one finding regarding connection that I like to include in this post. 

Some scientists have have found that people are happier when they are with other people than when they are alone—and the “boost” is the same for introverts and extroverts. It appears that happy people are more pleasant, helpful, and sociable.

So being around people makes us feel happier, and when we are happier we are more fun to be around, creating an “upward spiral” of happiness.

What do you think about this? How important is connection in your live?

Zen Parenting

As a nanny for over three decades, Marva Soogrim has seen first-hand that chaotic households are more common than not. But, an interesting thing that she always says is the most important thing to do first is to fix the parents, not the kids. What is the best way to keep mom and dad more at ease?

In an article written for the Huffington Post, Marva Soogrim suggests six ways to bring more Zen into the life of parents. 

Mediation Is a Must: This is essential for new parents or veteran ones. By mediating once for twenty minutes a day, you will be taking a vital time-out for your body, mind and soul. It will help you to put things back into balance.

The Write Stuff:  By writing down your most important thoughts every day, you will keep them in your day-to-day awareness. 

Every Day Is a New Day: Each day comes as a new gift to you, so treat it as such. View each day as a brand new promise to a beautiful life. It will become easier to live in the moment and not be flustered about past woes. 

Ask for Help: A quality way of being and maintaining the person you are as a parent is also by learning to not carry the load alone. Ask the people around you to pitch in and they should be willing to carry their load, too. Keeping family peace requires a team effort. 

Take the Bad Days in Stride: Sometimes the responsibilities on any given day can be overwhelmingly harsh. Take a few deep breaths and carry on with your day by simply knowing that this is part of what it means to experience a bad day. Don't harp on it, as they are all little speed bumps that we hit along the way in life.

Here Lives the Love: At the end of your week, you will surely be tired from the bustle and hustle. The weekend is a chance to recharge in a Zen-like way that involves your family. On the weekends, sit down as a family to meals that you all prepared together. Let everyone know how much you cherish them and that you will never trade your life for anything else. 

Click here to read the whole article written by Marva Soogrim for the Huffington Post.

Christmas Traditions Around the World

Christmas all over the world is celebrated on Christmas Day which may, or may not fall on the 25th of December. Most of the world uses the 'Gregorian Calendar' implemented by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582. Before that the 'Roman' or Julian Calendar was used (named after Julius Caesar).

The Gregorian calendar is more accurate than the Roman calendar which had too many days in a year! When the switch was made 10 days were lost, so that the day that followed the 4th October 1582 was 15th October 1582.

Many Orthodox and Coptic Churches still use the Julian Calendar and so celebrate Christmas on the 7th January (which is when December 25th would have been on the Julian calendar). In some part of the UK, January 6th is still called 'Old Christmas' as this would have been the day that Christmas would have celebrated on, if the calendar hadn't been changed.

Although all Christians celebrate Christmas, traditions and celebrations vary throughout the world.

Image taken from
​In Russia:
In the traditional Russian Christmas, special prayers are said and people fast, sometimes for 39 days, until January 6th Christmas Eve, when the first evening star in appears in the sky. Then begins a twelve course supper in honor of each of the twelve apostles - fish, beet soup or Borsch, cabbage stuffed with millet, cooked dried fruit and much more.

In Peru:
Nativity scenes with Retablos inside are very popular. When priests were first taken to traveling they would carry small altars around with them for festival days. These gradually developed into portable boxes with saints above the altar and scenes from everyday life below it. Now the retablos depict Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus, with local people crowding around.

In Canada:
In Canada the traditional Christmas dinner is roast turkey with vegetables and sauces. For dessert it is rich, fruity Christmas pudding with brandy sauce. Mince pies, pastry cases filled with a mixture of chopped dried fruit. In the province of Quebec, people display Crèches or nativity scenes in their homes as the Christmas decorations. After attending midnight mass, families may be served tourtiere or pork pie. Another favorite food is Boulettes or small meatballs. A Christmas banquet is called a reveillon. Masked mummers are a Christmas tradition from Newfoundland.

​If you want to celebrate Christmas a little bit different this year, or if you want to start a new Christmas tradition, you may want to use the links below to know how is Christmas celebrated in other places. 

Teaching Children to Be Generous and Givers

Image obtained from

December is one of the best times of the year. As you can easily guess, the main reason is the holiday season.

December encompasses several important holidays, including the Christian and Jewish celebrations of Christmas and Hanukkah. It also includes Kwanzaa which is a week long modern African-American and pan-African celebration of family, community and culture. In our house, we celebrate Hanukkah and Christmas because my husband is Jewish and I am Catholic. We all enjoy the holidays and the time that we spend together.

The Holiday season is a wonderful time, particularly for our two boys who get presents, too many presents! Our kids receive presents from us, their grand parents and other relatives. So, when you do the numbers, our kids end getting many, too many presents!

Although as parents we all want big smiles on our kids during the holiday season, we also don't want to feel that we are spoiling them. We also don't want to go broke after the holidays. Don't get me wrong, like most parents, we're looking forward to seeing our children's excited faces as they tear into that special item they've been longing for. The problem is that when children get too many presents, they often stop enjoying playing with them and focus more on opening presents. 

I may appear a little bit old fashion or too traditional, but I  would sincerely prefer to see my kids forget a little bit about the presents, and focus more on the real meaning behind both Hanukkah and Christmas. 

Tips to Teach Children About Generosity and Values

My husband and I always take the time to explain our kids the stories behind both Hanukkah and Christmas. We also remind them that this time of the year gives us an excellent opportunity to be generous and appreciative of what we have in our lives. But, are there other things that we can do?

I did a little online search to find simple ideas or ways to teach children to be generous and focus less on the presents during the Holiday season. Here is what I found. 

Family Traditions: If you think your kids are too focused on gifts, Beverly Cathcart-Ross, a certified parent educator and founder of The Parenting Network suggests you emphasize the family traditions around the holiday season. It's important to establish family values around the holidays early in your children's lives, "because it's harder to go back." Before your holiday dinner, hold hands and have each person tell something for which they are thankful. 

Be a Model of Generosity: If you want your children to have the true holiday spirit, you need to display a good example of that spirit yourself. Model the spirit of generosity and giving that you would like to see in your children. If we want children to view the holidays as a time of giving and loving, then we must demonstrate giving and loving behavior in ways that they can recognize and understand.

Teach Children to be Generous and Givers: In the season of overconsumption, as the Holiday season is often called, it is essential that children learn to give back. Here are some ways to achieve this:

 - Ask children to help you select extra groceries to place in food boxes for the needy at food stores.

- Help your child chose a charity or cause that he/she is interested in and then get them involved. 

- Donate a turkey to a homeless shelter.

Visit a nursing home to sing carols.

Ask your children to help you wrap presents for those outside the family, so that they can learn that you believe in giving to others.

Invite people who are away from their families to share your holiday meal and traditions.

Encourage your children to call Grandma and Grandpa -- just to say, "I love you."

Adopt someone into your family who doesn't have any family.

Make sure your children send out thank you cards for gifts, parties, long-distance calls, and any small kindness.

What I Know for Sure about Resilience according to Oprah

"Strength comes from our ability to face resistance and walk through it" 
(Oprah Winfrey)

Photo obtained from

According to most dictionaries, resilience is the capacity to adapt successfully in the face of threats or disaster. The idea is that although we all experience adversity in many different ways, we are all capable to adapt. So, resilience is the capacity to withstand stress and catastrophe.

In this second chapter of "What I know for Sure", Oprah presents her inspiring ideas and experiences about resilience. An important message that I believe Oprah is trying to communicate in this book chapter is that despite challenging life experiences, we all have the capacity to adapt and bounce back. Even more important, she suggests that we actually need those challenging life experiences to develop strength and grow as human beings.  

Here are some quotes or inspiring words about resilience that I extracted from Oprah's book. 

"There is one irrefutable law of the universe: We are each responsible for our own life.", page 33.

"You must be fearless enough to give yourself the love you didn't receive", page 33.

"Every choice gives you a chance to pave your own road. Keep moving. Full speed ahead.", page 34.

"What I know for sure is that the only way to endure the quake is to adjust your stance. You can't avoid the daily tremors. They come with being alive.", page 35.

"Balance lives in the present.", page 35.

"Every difficult moment has its silver lining.", page 37.

"When you have nothing to be ashamed of, when you know who you are, and what you stand for, you stand in wisdom.", page 38.

"When you remove the fear, the answer you've been searching for comes into focus.", page 39.

"No matter what challenge you may be facing, you must remember that while the canvas of your life is painted with daily experiences, behaviors, reactions, and emotions, you're the one controlling the brush.", page 41.

"We are all the artists of our own lives...", page 41.

"I hope you, too, will keep encountering challenges. It is a blessing to be able to survive them, to be able to keep putting one foot in front of the other -- to be in a position to make the climb up life's mountain, knowing that the summit still lies ahead.", page 43.

"All of our hurdles have meaning. And being open to learning from those challenges is the difference between succeeding and getting stuck.", page 44.

"There is no strength without challenge, adversity, resistance, and often pain.", page 47.

What Does Being Religious Mean to Me?

A few days ago,  I read an article about religion that made me reflect about religion and my attitude towards it. The article is entitled "Religious Attitude". In this article, the author says that religious attitude is "nothing more than holding our beliefs - personal or collective, sound or unsound, such as God, free will, humanism, even kindness - as a general truth. That is to say, we are religious as long as we let our beliefs govern our reasoning".

I was particularly interested on the last part of this statement "we are religious as long as we let our beliefs govern our reasoning". In my opinion, this implies that when you are religious, you are actually not "reasoning". According to most dictionaries (e.g., Merriam-Webster), when you are not "reasoning", you are not thinking about something in a logical way and cannot make proper conclusions or inferences. But, is this really true? I am religious and believe that I generally try to use my "reasoning" when analyzing or judging situations.

I have to admit that I have always found interesting the dichotomy that people make between "religion" and "logic". But, is it really necessary to separate the two? Many people assume that when you are religious, you can't be logical. For example, when I tell people that I am a scientist (an ecologist who has to teach about evolution and natural selection) who believes in God...I know that I surprise a few people.

Can someone be religious and still think in a logical way?

A common belief is that science holds the ultimate truth of everything because is based on "logic" or facts that can be proved. But, is this always true?

Personally, I think that we sometimes tend to forget that the whole scientific enterprise is based on certain assumptions that cannot be proved scientifically, but that are actually guaranteed by some religious beliefs, especially coming from Judeo-Christian religions.  For instance, the orderly nature of the external world, the reliability of our cognitive faculties in knowing the world, and the objectivity of the moral values used in science are all based on Judeo-Christian principles or assumptions. Science could not even exist without these philosophical assumptions and yet these assumptions cannot be proved scientifically. But, do we ask ourselves if science exists?

Don't get me wrong, I am a scientist and I do believe in science. In my opinion, science and religion can co-exist, thus a person can be religious and still be able to use logic to make decisions.

A famous physicist, Richard Feyman, once said:

I do not believe that science can disprove the existence of God; I think that is impossible. And if it is impossible, is not a belief in science and in a God -- an ordinary God of religion -- a consistent possibility? 

I believe that what Freyman was trying to say here was that science and religion can co-exist because as scientists we need to recognize the limits of science. The reality is that we don't know everything, and often times what we know is surrounded by uncertainty. Many questions and phenomena remain unanswered or unexplained by science; so, there is always a possibility! 

What does being religious mean to me?

More than being religious, I think that I prefer to see myself as a believer in God. I am not the type of person who goes to the church every weekend. Personally, I believe that we can connect to God anywhere. But, I do have some rituals and special moments that have religious, precisely Catholic, foundations (e.g., sign of the cross, prayer before sleep, etc). Why do I do them? I don't know...I just like to have them as part of my life. 

I don't care, or question what God looks like; or, whether God is a boy or a girl. I don't even care whether other people believe or not on God. I don't see God as a person, but more as a force that we all have inside us. For me, God is a force, a sort of spiritual being that is there for us.

I never ask myself whether God exists or not; the same way that I don't ask myself what dark matter looks like. I believe in God because it brings me peace, and an anchor that keeps me afloat during difficult times. I believe that miracles occur everyday and they are not necessarily big things. Miracles are all those little things and moments that bring a smile to our faces.

Like many people, I have had my doubts regarding God, especially during difficult times when I felt abandoned and lost. But, I know that these moments don't last for ever if you believe in yourself, and in that force or spiritual being that I call God.  I guess, I just have faith. 

I am not certain if my "beliefs" govern my logic, but what I know for sure is that believing in God brings an energy to my life that is irreplaceable. 

The Trick is to Enjoy Life

Only a few hours away from the weekend. Many good, and other less good things have happened this week; but, they are all now part of the past. 

All I can do now is to enjoy the present because it's the only way to enjoy life!

Bullying in Elementary School

Last night, I posted a link about an article on bullying in elementary school published in Parents Canada. The main topic of the article was that bullying starts really early, thus it's essential to discuss with our kids about the issue of bullying early.

This morning, my 5-year old son acted a little bit different. He usually likes to get to school a few minutes before the bell rings, so he can have time to play with his friends in the playground area. But, this wasn't the case today -- he didn't want to go to the playground area today. So, I asked him what was wrong. After a few seconds, he told me that there is a kid in his bus who is bullying both him and his friend. Apparently, this kid (who is in grade one) makes fun of them and is also harsh. He has done this more than once. Although there has not be any bullying occurring in the playground area, I suspect that my son is a little bit scared that this may eventually happen there too.

I only had a few minutes to talk with my son because he did not want to be late to school. In a few minutes, I tried to explain him that what the boy was doing was wrong. I also told my son that it was very good that he told me what was happening because now I may be able to help him. My son knows that bullying is bad, but he is a very sensitive boy and doesn't always know how to defend himself. 

Of course, I went to the school and briefly spoke with my son's teacher who wasn't surprised by the story. Apparently, the school already knows that this kid is bullying other kids. The teacher said that they (school) have already spoken with the child and are currently doing something else with him. I don't know if they have spoken with the parents yet, but I will try to have a longer conversation with the teacher during the next few days because I want to make certain that a serious effort is being put to solve the situation. I told the teacher that I don't like to see that my son doesn't want to play outside because of the presence of another kid.

Besides talking to the kid who is bullying, I think that it's essential that we talk we other kids. So, I suggested the teacher to talk with the kids in her class about bullying. It's important that they know how to react when another kid is bullying them. I know that she has had this conversation with them before, but it's clear that kids need to be told about bullying more than once during the school year. Now some kids are very resilient, but others are very sensitive. It's a question of personality, I guess. Regardless, no kid should tolerate bullying.

Tonight, my husband and I will take time to speak with my son about ways to deal with bullying, and this kid particularly. We have a few books about bullying and I will also read him one of those books tonight. It's not easy to prepare kids for situations like this. But, at least, we can try to provide them with tips that can help them. I wrote a post about bullying some time ago -- I need to go back to my post and the sources of information that I used for the post.

It's really sad to see that bullying starts so early in the lives of kids; my son is only in kindergarten and the kid who is bullying him is only in grade one! 

Yes, it's never too early to bully-proof our kids. 

What do you think? What do you bully-proof your kids? Do you feel that you are doing enough?

King Pig Angry Bird Pinata

Few weeks, I wrote a post about the birthday of my 5-year old son, Elijah. My husband organized for him a fantastic Angry Birds birthday party that Elijah and his friends enjoyed very much. 

Among all the activities organized for the birthday, there was a pinata. It was a "pig angry bird" pinata that my husband made for the party. When I wrote the post, I only had an "after-party" photo of the pinata. I did not know that there was a "before" the party photo of the pinata. As you can see, there was one photo of the pinata!

What I know for Sure about Joy According to Oprah Winfrey

A day ago, I started to read "What I know for Sure" by Oprah Winfrey.

I am a big fan of Oprah. I admire her because she is passionate, strong, powerful, influential, funny, real and very generous. So, when I heard about her recent book "What I know for Sure", I knew that I have to read it.

"What I know for Sure" is a great book that is filled with lots of inspirational ideas to deal with daily issues associated with work, life, relationships, friends, family and even our relationship with pets!

 Although I have only read  the first 27 pages of the book, I have already found several inspiring and motivational phrases and ideas that I really want to incorporate into my life. 

I will write other posts as I read the book, but here are some phrases and ideas that I have found particularly inspirational in the first 27 pages of the book. In these first pages, Oprah deals with Joy.

"What I know for sure is that every day brings a chance for you to draw in a breath, kick off your shoes, and step out and dance -- to live free of regret and filled with as much joy, fun and laughter as you can stand", page 4.

"I hope that you aren't so wrapped up in nonessential stuff that you forget to really enjoy yourself -- because this moment is about to be over", page 5.

"I make an effort to do something good for somebody every day, whether I know that person or not", page 7.

"What I know for sure is that pleasure is energy reciprocated: What you put out comes back. Your base level of pleasure is determined by how you view your whole life", page 7.

"I need to practice what I preach and value myself more", pages 10-11.

"When was the last time you laughed with a friend till your sides hurt or dropped the kids off with a sitter and went away for an entire weekend?, page 13.

"Whether you flounder or flourish is always in your hands -- you are the single biggest influence in your life", page 14.

"Your journey begins with a choice to get up, step out, and live fully", page 14.

"Have you ever driven home from work, opened your front door, and asked yourself how you got there?", page 24.

"I know for sure that I don't want to live a shut-down life -- desensitized to feeling and seeing. I want every day to be a fresh start on expanding what is possible. On experiencing joy on every level", page 24.

"Delight in the Lord -- in goodness, kindness, compassion, love -- and see what happens", page 27.

Talking to Kids about Death: Where did Grandfather go now that he is dead?

Today, we talked to Elijah about death. This was certainly not the kind of conversation that I wanted to have with my 5-year old son, but it is sometimes the kind of conversation that cannot be avoided. 

 Explaining Death 

Today, early in the morning, we received a phone call that for an inexplicable or strange reason, we knew or sensed that would bring us bad news. It was a call from a family member to tell us that my husband's grandfather have passed away last night. Grandfather Albert was almost 97 years old when he died. Regardless of his age and the fact that he had Alzheimer's disease, his health was stable, so his death was unexpected.

Our 5-years old son, Elijah, asked me, Mommy, what happened with Grandfather Albert? Why is Daddy sad? As I was driving my son to school, I explained him that Grandfather Albert had died the night before. To make certain the he understood the situation, I told him that Grandfather Albert was very old and that he was a little bit sick. I also told him that Albert had a good life, worked hard during his whole life, and had certainly done many good things. 

As surprising as this may sound, I believe that at his young age, Elijah is capable of understanding that death is a normal part of life. He knows that people and animals have to die one day, especially when they get old or when they are sick. He is also able to comprehend that when someone or something dies, you cannot see the person or the thing anymore; they don't come back anymore. They are physically gone from your life, and all that remains are memories.

I don't recall exactly when it was the first time that we talked to Elijah about death. I think it was when he asked me about my father. My Dad passed away about 7 years ago, so Elijah only knows him from pictures and memories that I have shared with him. He often asks me questions about my Dad. He knows that he will never be able to meet him, but he is not scared to talk about him. I always share with my son the memories of the good moments that I spent with my father. I also tell him about all the things that my father taught me and how he helped me to love maths.

But, I have to admit that it was the death of our lizard pet, Jumbi, that taught Elijah about the dead of a loved one. Elijah was used to see Jumbi in its terrarium. He enjoyed his presence in the living room, and certainly liked to feed him. So, when Jumbi died, it was really the first time that Elijah experienced a loss. Although almost a year have passed since the death of Jumbi, Elijah still talks about him. He knows that he will never see Jumbi again, but he still likes to talk about his memories of interactions with his pet.

Where is Grandfather Albert now?

So, where is Grandfather now Mommy? Where did he go? Is he in Heaven?

I am not certain what is the best way to approach these questions, but I like to use my cultural and religious beliefs for the answers. So, I said: "Grandfather is now in Heaven with God". My son said to me: "Oh! he is now there with Jumbi and your father, Mommy".

It may not be the best answer, or even the most realistic answer, but it is the one answer that works for us, my son and I, now. Religion plays an important role in our family, and we often talk about God in our house. So, I don't feel that I am confusing Elijah by telling him that when someone dies, he/she/it goes to Heaven to be with God. At 5-year old, I don't believe that my son is ready to talk about a spiritual place or any other abstract concept that is often associated with death.

If there is one thing we can be certain of in life, it's that eventually we will die. Thus, I believe that it's important to be honest and open with children when they ask questions about death. Having said this, I also think that it's essential that we're mindful and careful with the answers or explanations that we provide to them. Some children may be ready for big and more elaborate explanations, but others just need more time and simple answers. 

There's A Barnyard in my Bedroom

We recently bought the book There's a Barnyard in My Bedroom for our 5-year old son. With the help of their parents and their own imaginations, Jamie and Megan discover that nature is all around them, even in their own home. Sheets and pillows, fruits and furniture — they all come from nature. Here are some excerpts from the book.

"Oh no! It's raining! What'll we do, Dad?" "No problem," says Dad. "We can take our hike in the house." Jamie's eyes fly open. "How can we do that?" "We can start right here, with the sheets and blanket on your bed. Where did they come from?" "Oh, I know!" says Megan. "The sheets are made of cotton, and the blanket is made of wool..."

"That sponge used to be an animal. It lived at the bottom of the ocean."

"This flower smells nice," says Megan. "Yes. Bees can smell the flowers too. And when they come to get nectar to make their honey, they pollinate the flowers."

I have to admit that I initially thought that Elijah would find this book a little boring. I was uncertain whether or not he would be interested to know from where the food comes from, or that our house is filled with things that come from nature. The book is recommended for children aged 4 to 8 years old, but Elijah is only 5 years old, so I had my doubts whether or not he would find the topics/ideas presented in the book interesting. After all, we selected the book for him! We picked this book because both my husband and I really want Elijah to care about the environment and nature. We believe that it's important that he knows that we, humans, cannot survive without nature and all the services that it offers to us. 

Well, Elijah loved the book. I read the first story entitled "A Rainy Day Hike" to him in his bedroom, just before going to sleep. As I was reading the story, he started to look all around his bedroom trying to guess from where the furniture came from. For instance, he noticed that his bed and dresser came from trees and the curtains came from plants. He kept saying that nature was in his bedroom. I was so pleased to see him getting exciting about the story, and about the fact that nature was all over.  I took the opportunity to talk about other nature-related issues including recycling. He also enjoyed the other two stories "Seeing the Air" and "Time Travelers".

There's a Barnyard in My Bedroom is a great book for young children.  I like the fact that using imagination and curiosity, the stories help children to discover nature.  For example, they discovered the air they breathe includes water and life-giving gases. They also learn that the seeds they find will grow into vegetables. The main message of the book is clearly presented in each one of the three stories: nature is all around us, you just have to observe. With a forest growing in the living room and a stream appearing in the back garden. Each chapter ends with a page of related activities (answers are also provided!). The book is a great resource for parents and teachers interested in introducing children to nature and environmental issues. 

The author of There's a Barnyard in My Bedroom is the international renowned award-winning scientist, environmentalist and broadcaster David Suzuki. This beautiful book is filled with colour illustrations that give vibrant life to each one of the three adventures composing the book. In this book, David Suzuki really finds a captivating way to involve young children in learning how to be good environmental citizens of Earth.

I highly recommend this book!

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