Ottawa parenting blogs we love: Refashionista

By Lynn Jatania 

Meet Melissa Dimock from Refashionista. Photo submitted by Melissa Dimock.

Meet Melissa Dimock from Refashionista. Photo submitted by Melissa Dimock.

It’s the little things that Melissa Dimock really values; little things, like three adventurous and nature-loving boys, always curious and funny and growing. Things like a great cup of fair trade coffee and a delicious homemade gingersnap on the side. Things like finding small ways to help the environment and live more naturally. You’ll find all these wonderful little things captured with great beauty over at her blog, Refashionista.

Melissa is a thoughtful, grounded mom who cares deeply about being gentle with this earth. If she can create, remake, or reuse an item, she definitely will – she wants to tread lightly in this world, and is raising her kids to do the same. She has great ideas for environmentally friendly baby care, tons of easy and delicious recipes for dishes to make at home, and lush photos of her wild and brilliant flower gardens. Her caring, crafty, and resourceful nature comes across in every post.

She has lots to say about parenting, too. There are charming stories of her boys – after a few reads, you’ll feel like you know them yourself. There are moving posts about her delight at being a mom – and her sadness at a recent pregnancy loss. You’ll find great book suggestions – both adult fiction (check out her Books Read lists from previous years for helpful one-line reviews) and fun titles for boys of all ages. Lastly, there are intelligent, kind, and gracious thoughts on how to be a good person in this world – with discussion of some examples on both sides of the coin.

Melissa can often be found on Twitter too (@refashionista) – she even live-tweeted the home birth of her youngest son. 

Be sure to find her online one way or another – you’ll feel a little warmer and a little sweeter just for having met her.

Noteable Quote

We natter on endlessly about how life is all about the little moments, the small things, those fleeting moments of kindness, but beyond the triteness how many of us pause to put those ideas into action?
On a particularly bad day, a nameless someone did a drop and dash at my door:
It was exactly what I needed to hear at that moment, because you start doubting your worth when you feel like the Universe is conspiring against you. That this person had no personal insight into what was going on in my life made it that much more touching. I won’t lie — this reduced me to a blubbering mess of tears — but the timing could not have been more perfect.
Like ripples on a pond, the kindness you extend someone has the potential to go on and on and on, touching others, making an impact, brightening a day, changing one’s outlook. Kindness is cheap and kindness is easy — so easy — and all it takes is a moment to open a door, to give that compliment, to thank someone, to pay it forward when someone pays consideration to you.
I will be paying this forward. In my experience, kindness begets kindness. It’s a snowball effect. No act of kindness is too small to be worthwhile.

Interested in checking out some of the other great Ottawa parenting blogs that have caught our eye? They’re all listed right here.


How do you raise good readers?

By Anita Grace

Giving children their own space to read, even if it’s just under the covers for a few minutes after bedtime, is a great way to get kids reading more. 

Giving children their own space to read, even if it’s just under the covers for a few minutes after bedtime, is a great way to get kids reading more. 

Parents often hear that reading is one of the most important skills for their children to develop. So they may worry if it doesn’t come easily to their child.

Amy Taylor, an elementary school teacher and mother of 5-year-old twins, knows it is common for parents, teachers and children to wish that one could learn to read “instantly.” But it’s a skill that takes patience and perseverance to develop. 

So how can parents help their children master the skill of reading? 

Elizabeth Thornley oversees the children’s programming at the Ottawa Public Library. She says it’s important to start early. Playing games, singing songs, making up stories – these are just some of the many ways to develop narrative skills and vocabulary. And no child is ever too young for books. 

“Read them everything,” says Rachel Eugster, author of the children’s book The Pocket Mommy, and mother of two. “Don’t make assumptions about what is kid suitable. Challenge their imaginations. Challenge their creativity.”

“Find something they like to learn about,” suggests Carrie Archibald, a constable with the Ottawa Police Services and volunteer with the OttawaReads program. “If they want to talk about trucks, read about trucks.”

As a mother of two, Archibald knows it can be challenging to find time for books. “From the time we get home to getting kids to bed, it can be hard to get time for reading.” So as with many families, her family has made reading part of their bedtime routine. “Our kids won’t go to bed without it.”

But while most children will enjoy being read to, how do we encourage them to read for themselves?

Zaccary Dyck, 16, remembers when reading was “a bit of a chore.” He preferred it when his parents would read to him so that he “didn’t have to do the work.”

But as he got older, somewhere between the ages of 8 and 10, his preference changed. “Reading on your own is much more liberating than having a parent read to you,” he says. 

So his advice to parents? “Encourage [your kids], but also give them space. Let them discover reading at their own pace.”

Taylor, who loves teaching children how to read, agrees that it should never be forced. She warns that insisting that kids read a certain amount each day can smother any pleasure they might have, and turn something enjoyable into a chore. 

“If it gets into a battle, then step back,” echoes Thornley. Return to the things that are fun, like the parent simply reading to the child. She also suggests that a reluctant reader may respond well to things like comic strips, graphic novels, or riddle books. 

Remember too that reading can also happen anywhere, anytime. It’s not just about books. Read street signs, recipes and posters. Make it fun. Then, as children master the skill and gain confidence, keep finding ways to challenge them.

Always read to them beyond the level that they are reading at, suggests Thornley. “Capture their imagination and they’ll understand the reason for reading.”

And don’t write off something because it is too long or too hard. “We have a tendency to make assumptions about children, like that they have short attention spans,” says Eugster. “Give them the opportunity to really engage. Let their imagination roam wild.”


10+ great books kids should read before they’re twelve

Thanks to Capital Parent Facebook fans, who provided some of these suggestions!

  1. Charlotte’s Web, by E B White
  2. Holes, by Louis Sachar 
  3. The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, by CS Lewis
  4. The Borrowers, by Mary Norton
  5. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, by Roald Dahl
  6. James and the Giant Peach, by Roald Dahl
  7. The Secret World of Og, Pierre Berton
  8. The Very Hungry Caterpillar, by Eric Carle 
  9. Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak
  10. The Harry Potter series, by JK Rowling



Pinterest roundup: goodbye forks and knives, this is all about hand food

It's Monday, and that means we're sharing some of our favourite pins from our Pinterest boards. This week we've been doing a bit of menu planning and talking to our kids about their favourite meals. You know what almost always comes out on top: foods they can eat with their hands. Whether it's for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, for some reason it's really appealing to lose the knife and fork every once in awhile. So with that in mind, we're sharing a few recipes that appealed to us this week:

Are you following Capital Parent on Pinterest? You can find us right here. Follow us for family crafts, great kid-friendly activities, recipes and more. You can read all of our past Pinterest round-ups right here!

Put a stamp on it!

Aidan (11) and Emmett (9) McCann show off their international post card collection.  Photo by Erin Ashton.

Aidan (11) and Emmett (9) McCann show off their international post card collection.  Photo by Erin Ashton.

By Andrea Tomkins

Kids are natural collectors. Hockey cards, interesting rocks, and sea shells from trips to the beach fill their pockets and the shelves of their bedroom, but some families have discovered that the mailbox is a great place to build a unique collection from around the world.

Postcard collecting has been around since the dawn of mail service, but it’s a dying pastime. Mail has been in a serious decline with the advent of Facebook, Twitter, and blogs –postcards even more so – but it’s not quite dead yet. 

There’s something really special about sending and receiving mail, and there’s no easier way to do it than with postcards, especially with early readers and beginner writers. It’s an inexpensive hobby, and curating a postcard collection is a collaborative project that can involve all members of the family. 

First, consider whether or not you want to buy your way to a postcard collection, or by sending and receiving via the post office. Shopping for cards when you travel can be interesting – that way you’re buying cards you know you like – but collecting them gradually over time by sending and receiving can be more satisfying. 

Sending postcards encourages both language and penmanship practice, which is a good thing for kids of all ages (and parents too)! For kids, writing on a postcard may be less daunting than sitting down with a pen and paper or a blank thank you note. The small space on the back of a postcard leaves just enough space to pen a quick greeting or witty message, or just leave a little doodle.

Whether your postcards are travelling to another part of the city or to far away places, it’s always a geography lesson. You can look up where the postcard originated and how far it travelled. It’s also an exercise in patience, one that happens to make the family mailbox a happier place. In an era of instant gratification, waiting awhile for a return message is a good thing. 

There’s something nice about the process too: choosing a postcard, picking out postage stamps, writing the card, and finally popping it in the mail. If you make it a family affair, everyone will feel like they’re contributing and have ownership of the collection. For example, you can make a point of choosing the stamps and postcards and addressing them together. If the child is too young to write, he or she can help decorate it, or stick on the postage stamp. 

There are a few different ways families can start their own postcard collections:

Make it a habit of sending postcards to people you know while you’re away on holiday, even if you’re just visiting relatives the next city over. Potential recipients include BFFs, grandparents, favourite teachers, or even your neighbours. If you’re lucky they’ll even write back!

Take it one step further and ask likeminded families to send postcards when they travel too. You can use Facebook for this very effectively because many people post updates while they travel. 

Sign up for a postcard exchange at a website such as It’s free. All you need to do is open an account and send postcards to members who are assigned to you. Once you start sending, you will start receiving. You can keep the postcards in a scrapbook or display them on the wall for everyone to enjoy. 




A bit about our busy beavers

Ever wondered why beavers are Canada’s national symbol? Read on!

Ever wondered why beavers are Canada’s national symbol? Read on!

By Katharine Fletcher

The phrase “busy as a beaver” perfectly describes North America’s largest rodent. But why?

Industriousness personified

Beavers hate the sound of running water, love quiet ponds, and are perfectly designed to build and maintain dams. 

According to Mike Keizer, a manager at Wood Buffalo National Park, Canada boasts the longest beaver dam in the world:

“It is not very high due to the landscape of this park, but it is 850 meters long. In fact, it was spotted on Google Earth which displays images taken from space. Although we have no way of knowing how many generations may have worked on it, air photos show it has been worked for more than 40 years,” says Keizer. 

Now, that’s commitment! It’s interesting to think about how beavers evolved to make them such busy builders.

Engineering adaptations

Beavers weigh up to 32 kilograms and may grow more than one metre long. Their sturdy physique includes prominent buckteeth and an oval, flat tail. Their fur is brown and thick, with an undercoat that keeps their bodies dry and cozy in the water and while overwintering.

Both their homes (called lodges) and dams are constructed in the water from tree branches, they fell using their teeth. It’s an amazing sight! They sit on their hind legs using their tails as supports, grasp the tree trunk with their “arms” – properly called forelegs – and just start chewing!

Once the tree is down, they drag it to the water’s edge and float it to their construction site, using their tails as rudders. They are vegetarians, and feed on herbaceous plants including tree leaves and bark. So, if you spy chewed, peeled branches floating on a lake – you know a beaver might be nearby!

How do they build?

Other adaptations assist beavers in building their lodges and dams. Their hind feet are webbed, enabling them to scoop up mud and secure it between sticks, cementing the dam with their dextrous front paws. Once the height of the dam suffices to keep water from escaping, their work seems done – but it isn’t. Just like our homes, lodges and dams require constant maintenance because they leak or break. Small valves located in beavers’ ears and noses are key adaptations for the beavers, because they close when the animal is swimming and performing their underwater construction tasks. 

Smack ’n spray

Perhaps most famously, beavers use their tail as an alarm, slapping the water with it to create a loud smack and accompanying spray as they dive to safety.

Talk about fur!

Beavers were the reason the English and French raced into Canada’s hinterland. Beaver hats became all the rage in the later 1600s and demand for pelts exploded. This is essentially how Canada became a country! 

National symbol

In 1621 when Sir William Alexander granted title to Nova Scotia, a beaver was included on its coat of arms. In 1678 the mammal was adopted as the Hudson Bay Company’s symbol. 

That was a long time ago, but beavers are still everywhere. Find a nickel, what do you see? A beaver! Also, in Ottawa we are famous for our delicious Beavertail pastries.

Where to find beavers around Ottawa

Look for beavers below Parliament Hill, swimming in the backwaters of the Ottawa River near Turtle (Victoria) Island. Gatineau Park lakes are home to countless beavers too. Check out Fortune Lake Lac Lapeche at dusk to spy them. Make sure you bring binoculars so you can see them clearly. They are good at blending in to their surroundings!

For its tenacity, engineering skills, and ability to survive cold long winters, the beaver is an apt Canadian symbol, don’t you agree?

The challenges of raising great little readers

By Lynn Jatania

Don't you love it when they get cozy with a book?

Don't you love it when they get cozy with a book?

I was an avid reader when I was young; always with my nose in a book. I assumed my kids would be the same way. You know – eating while looking down at a magazine on their lap; ignoring relatives over Christmas visits to read in a corner; sneaking a novel and a flashlight under the covers at night. Aren’t all kids like that? Turns out: no, not so much, actually.

To my astonishment, my children seem to think that reading is actually work. Hard work. Sure, they’re into Paddington, Pippi Longstocking, and Winnie the Pooh – if I read it to them. Doing little voices for each character, pausing to show all the pictures, acting out major scenes with finger puppets – okay, maybe not quite that far – but it feels like that’s what’s required some days.

So with improbable dreams of molding them all into my library geek image, I gave the kids reading goals over the summer, with all the inspiration and encouragement of Ms. Frizzle in The Magic School Bus (my point of view) or perhaps more draconian, like Serverus Snape (the kids’ point of view). Either way, our house has plenty in the way of Intro To Reading books and flashcards as I attempt, like Helen Keller’s teacher Annie Sullivan, to become a Miracle Worker.

I’ve been working on the oldest for a few years now. He’s a rule follower, and there’s little that is more frustrating than trying to explain the so-called rules of the English language to a miniature F. Lee Bailey.

“The pie was all goooone…”
“Actually, that word is ‘gone.’”
“But you SAID that an ‘e’ at the end of the word…”
“Yes, I know, but this one word is different.”
“FINE. The pie was all GONE but you can have sooooome cake.”
“That’s ‘some’ cake.”

My middle daughter is not a rule follower. She’s a guesser, who takes one look at the first letter and tries to fill in the blank. Rules are for chumps, losers, and NFL linesmen. Even though she’s a pretty good reader now – Archie comics totally count, right? – she’s still mainly a Reader By Hunch and Conjecture.

“The bear went into the… C… C… Cabinet?... Car?... Church?... Cookie?”
“The bear went into the cookie?”
“Um… Yes?”
Come on bus, do your stuff! Indeed.

Now I’m on to the youngest and I feel like, with all the (sort of) readers around her, she should get the hang of it pretty easily. We’ve done everything you’re supposed to do. We read to her every night from a young age, faithfully chanting along to Barnyard Dance, beaming with pride when she used board books as tent-homes for her stuffed animals (she touched a book! FUTURE GENIUS.). We relived story details afterwards, and if you think it’s weird to be having a post-reading book club analysis of Goodnight Moon with your six month old, you don’t know parenting.

We have set a good example by reading ourselves (Pinterest recipes totally count, right?), and I’ve got my Bachelors of Electric Company. We encouraged them to ask questions and then helped them look up the answers in books, and now we totally regret it, as we can no longer get in a word edgewise between “Does Spiderman have a belly button?” and “Are Snap, Crackle, and Pop brothers or just good friends?”

Some days it goes well. She reads Barbie books about dresses and puppies, and remembers that soft C is followed by I, E, or Y. But then, due to the plethora of other budding readers at her disposal, she gets lazy. She’ll ask her brother what is written on the cereal box, or ask her sister what the sign at the park means, and not even attempt to read the captions on the foreign language film I got them from the library. SHEESH.

Take chances, make mistakes, get messy! Or at least consider it briefly during commercial breaks of Power Rangers Super Megaforce.

In the end, sometimes, you just have to chill, and understand that, as a parent, you’re mostly a bystander in this whole “bringing up baby” thing. Give them the tools – repeatedly – and then give them some space to let it all simmer together in that soupy mess that is a child’s brain until some quality chicken noodle pops out.

The other day my husband came home to find our middle daughter had received an early birthday present of books from her grandmother. He called to her, “Where are you?” and she said, “In my room!” Then he asked, “What are you doing?” and she replied, “Reading, of course!”

Sometimes this parenting gig is worth it, after all.

Read Lynn's past columns right here!

Pinterest roundup: 5 ways to use up spotty bananas

It's Monday! And that means we're posting some of our favourite ideas from our Pinterest boards. There was a sale on bananas the other day and we bought too many... hence the reason behind this post. :)  Here are five of our favourite ways to use up extra bananas! (Do you have a favourite? Share it in the comments below.)

Are you following Capital Parent on Pinterest? You can find us right here. Follow us for family crafts, great kid-friendly activities, recipes and more. You can read all of our past Pinterest round-ups right here