‘Miracle on Voodoo Mountain: A Young Woman’s Remarkable Story of Pushing Back the Darkness for the Children of Haiti': A Book Review

Miracle on Voodoo Mountain

Ever thought to yourself ‘Oh no, I could never do that?’ I know that I have. For twenty four year old Megan Bourdeaux, it took months of God waking her up in the middle of the night before she realized she was the one He was calling to leave her comfortable American life and move to Haiti.

If you love children, justice and have a heart for the nations, you are sure to love this new book ‘Miracle on Voodoo Mountain: A Young Woman’s Remarkable Story of Pushing Back the Darkness for the Children of Haiti’. I don’t know a great deal about Haiti but I know that it is a beautiful, dark and poverty stricken island in the Carribean. Furthermore it is a nation that has suffered the trauma of a devastating earthquake five years ago.

Written by Megan Boudreaux, ‘A Miracle On Voodoo Mountain’ is a remarkable memoir of how as a young twenty four year old fresh out of university she sold everything she had and moved from the United States to Haiti in response to a unsettling God-given dream she kept experiencing. The dreams all featured the same tamarind tree that sat on top of Bellevue Mountain near Gressier, Haiti. Without a clear plan of action she trusted God’s leading, taking a leap of faith with a good dose of courage and bravery mixed in.

Megan had visited Haiti on a few missions trips and each trip heightened her impression that someone needed to help the people of Haiti,  —especially the children, many of whom were caught up in slavery. Rather than being alone in a foreign land, God guides her every step as she moves to a country without knowing the language, or anyone in the country. She becomes the adoptive mother of two daughters who were former child slaves, and she receives the divine gift of the Haitian Creole language. She meets and marries the love of her life and she plants and establishes a Christian school for more than 500 children.

Megan is certainly an inspirational and tenacious young woman. Coming from a somewhat challenging background herself, Megan is an overcomer. While missions folk in Haiti wrote her off as a naive young woman, she was not deterred. Of her passion for what God has called her to do, she writes: “Now I know what I can do. I can show these children love. I can show them joy. I can show them compassion. I can show each of these children Jesus. Fear will not affect Haiti. Politics will not have an impact on Haiti. Jesus will.” (p. 31).

Only three short years later, Megan proves her critics wrong, and today six acres on Bellevue Mountain in Gressier is the home of the nonprofit Respire Haiti. Ironically Respire Haiti is built on the former site of voodoo worship, and in the area that many still come to make animal sacrifices. What the enemy meant for evil, God has turned it around. Megan leads a 200 strong staff that are transforming this community through the love of God and their healthcare and educational initiatives.

This deeply touching book is a page turner that will break your heart yet build your faith. A must-read for any wannabe world changer. It is greatly encouraging to know what God can do with a small seed of our faith and a step of obedience.

* I received this book free through the Thomas Nelson Booklook Bloggers Programme. I was not required to write a positive review.

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Megan Bourdreaux with a Haitian child

‘Women Are Scary: The Totally Awkward Adventure of Finding Mom Friends’ – A Book Review

Women Are Scary Book Review

‘Get out there all you geeks and weirdos. The world is waiting and you are fabulous.’

Ever found yourself making awkward small talk with other mothers at the park? Well this book really was a breath of fresh air. Friendships with other women have always been important to me and the title of this book surely caught my attention. ‘Women Are Scary: The Totally Awkward Adventure of Finding Mom Friends’ is a catchy provocative title that really encapsulates the essence of what the book is about. This book was recently released by Zondervan this month, and it is funny. Really funny. It’s a light refreshing read, but more than that, it touches on the sometimes complicated topic of female friendship, honestly putting into words what many of us have found in motherhood – that we need ‘momlationships’.

In this book, Dale highlights the importance of mothers doing life together, journeying to each other, ‘finding our people and being other people’s people, and learning how to bless each other and not destroy each other’. This book is both humorous and honest. Sometimes the humour seemed a little over the top. I mean, I know that I can be clumsy, but is anyone really that clumsy? Sometimes humour itself can be a mask. But Dale does share vulnerably with her readers about her years as a new mother navigating for the first time the world of playdates, ‘mommy wars’ and social comparisons. She gives practical advice and tips for forming relationships that go deeper.

Forging authentic friendships with other mothers requires intentionality. We are so busy after children come along, and friendships with other parents can be complicated by the fact that we all have different parenting styles. Have you found this? Many mothers feel alone in our individualized society, but it doesn’t have to be this way.

‘We don’t lack food, clean water, or clothing, but we lack relationships. Whereas my friends in northern Uganda reside in small mud homes and live life together, outside, as a community, gathering at the borehole for water, working their gardens side by side, and looking out for each other’s children, we live in elaborate homes with multiple rooms and water that comes out our own faucets. We drive our cars into garages and close the doors behind us, and we can go days and weeks without interacting with the neighbors unless we’re intentional about making friends.

And while I will continue to champion the orphans and widows whom I love, I’ve realized that it’s no less noble to reach out to the hurting moms and kids right in my own community. If we can learn how to develop real, soul-soothing relationships, there’s no stopping what we can do together for our kids, our families, and the world. But first we have to stop being scary and scared of each other. (Melanie Dale, Women Are Scary)’

‘Women are Scary’ is authored by the very likable Melanie Dale, who is a wife and minivan driving mother of three children, one biological and two adopted from across the globe. She describes herself as a ‘total weirdo who stinks at small talk’. Her laugh is a combination honk-snort, and it’s so bad that people have moved away from her in the movie theater. She adores sci-fi and superheroes and is terrified of Pinterest. If you are a Doctor Who fan, then this book is definitely for you! There are many references to Doctor Who in ‘Women Are Scary’. Melanie writes from a Christian perspective but this book isn’t just for Christians. In fact, any mother could receive something from this book as we all need relationships with other women. Dale blogs at Unexpected.org about motherhood, orphan care, adoption, and sometimes poo. She’s passionate about the power of people partnering together to make a difference in the world and loves her work with Children’s Hope Chest on long-term development projects rooted in relationships. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It provides light hearted yet concrete advice to mothers of young children who might be feeling a little isolated. Check out this clip about her new book.

*I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255

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‘Make It Happen’ – A Book Review

Make It Happen Book Review

‘You know all those things you’ve always wanted to do?
You should go do them’.

In a world where we constantly receive the message to ‘do more’, I must admit that the title of this book made me a little nervous. There are many inspirational books on the market today that aim to encourage people to live a life of meaning and purpose. Books that help people to live the meaningful life that God desires for us. But ‘Make It Happen: Surrender Your Fear, Take the Leap, Live on Purpose’ by Lara Casey is really worth a look. In ‘Make It Happen’ Lara, a wife, mother, business woman and ‘believer in the impossible tells her story of how she surrendered her fear, took the leap, and ‘got a life’. In her case, ‘a perfectly imperfect, fulfilling life as a mama, a working woman, and a grateful wife’. It is the story of how she chose to make “it”—a greater purpose than her own—happen, and how others can too.

Make It Happen is a great book to read for women who find themselves feeling overwhelmed by the unrealistic expectations that society places on them, those who are struggling to ‘do it all’, those who have grappled with the pressure to be perfect, and those who dream dreams and want to see the fruition of them. It is also a must read book for worn out women who want to slow the merry-go-round of life and find relief from ‘burning the candle at both ends’.
This book is an easy read and it offers God centered, practical tips for fulfilling one’s dreams and living a life of purpose and meaning. The book is ordered into four sections: Surrendering your Fear, Take the Leap, Live on Purpose and a workbook titled ‘Your Guide to Making It Happen. I’m often reminded of the author’s catch phrase – ‘Progress not perfection.’ and I like the way Casey encourages readers to clear through the clutter in their lives and to find what really matters. I also appreciated how she challenges the reader to think about their own goals and whether they promote God’s kingdom or their own. But what really won me over in this book was Casey’s raw honesty and vulnerability about the struggles that she has faced in her personal, professional and spiritual life. You won’t finish this book feeling overwhelmed but you will hopefully feel encouraged to live a life of purpose.
 *I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255
 

Joy for the Battle: Reclaiming Your Joyful Inheritance

Joy For The Battle

This week I was privileged to write a guest blog post on the topic of joy for the Joy360 series on the Peacequility blog. Check out http://www.peacequility.com for some great wisdom from Julie on a variety of topics.

When troubles, trials or tribulations cross your path, is joy your natural response? I know that it isn’t mine. We probably all know that it isn’t what happens to us in life that determines our attitude, but rather it is our response to those events. If we are a believer, we also know that we are in a spiritual battle. ‘The devil goes around seeking whom he can devour (1 Peter 5:8). Ann Voskamp talks about ‘preaching the gospel to herself’. And I for one really need to hear this message about joy. I consider myself to be content most of the time, but I’m also a realist, I’m a glass half empty person. God doesn’t promise us a world of roses and rainbows, but he does want us to walk in joy. Read more here: http://peacequility.com/2015/03/11/joy-for-the-battle-7-steps-to-reclaiming-your-joyful-inheritance/

‘How to Motivate Your Child’ – A Book Review

Motivate-Your-Child-Book-Review

Recently I became a ‘Booklook Blogger’. This means that I can request paperbacks or ebooks of my choice for free, in exchange for posting a review on my blog. I’m not required to write a positive review, nor do I receive compensation of any kind, but I couldn’t rave more about the first book that I was sent – ‘How to Motivate Your Child: A Christian Parent’s Guide to Raising Kids Who Do What They Need To Do Without Told’ by Dr Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller. It’s a big title, and sometimes I avoid ‘How to’ books, especially on the subject of parenting, Sometimes I’ve discovered that books like this are all about encouraging us to do more with our children. And one can come away from such books feeling a little exhausted or overwhelmed. Like there are more things that we ought to squeeze in to our already busy schedule. I’m also a little wary of a titles like ‘Motivate Your Child’ as we seem to be pushing our children to do more and more today, when in fact they might not be ready to handle quite so much.

But preconceived ideas aside, I thought that it might be a good idea to read a book about encouraging motivation in children. While I’ve been pleasantly surprised that my eldest has been motivated with his homework this week, helping with chores around the house or tidying his bedroom however is a different story! Sometimes it feels like pulling teeth trying to get my kids to help with age appropriate tasks around the house. My children are only little, but my aim is that they would be able to do a few things for themselves without having to rely on ‘parental prompters.’ ‘We don’t want to do what we have to do’. they might say. Yet life is full of things that we don’t want to do.

Authored by the founders of the National Centre for Biblical Parenting in the United States, this book offers a rich toolbox of strategies – it is jam packed with gentle, down to earth, practical and manageable suggestions for motivating our children and imparting faith to them. Dr. Scott Turansky and Joanna Miller have a wealth of experience helping parents cultivate a healthy conscience and a vibrant faith in their kids.  It is a Christian parenting book woven with helpful scripture throughout, however if you aren’t a Christian, many of the concepts will still be helpful. It isn’t preachy, nor is it condescending, as some parenting books can sometimes be. The book is divided into two parts – Part One emphasizes the encouragement of moral development in children, and part two is about encouraging spiritual development in our children.

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Reading this book has enabled me to reflect on how to build intrinsic motivation in my children. I love the idea of heart based approach to parenting. We know that problems happen in the heart before they are seen in behaviour. Behaviour modification works to a point, because behavioural rewards appeal to the selfishness that is in our own hearts. However, this book demonstrates that there is a ‘large bucket’ of parenting tools that are heart related. The authors argue that a heart based approach to parenting enables children to make more progress quickly with what they need to do each day.

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The take home message that I received from this book is that we need to be intentional with our children about discipling their hearts, and praying about heart issues that come up. The authors argue that many of us have been influenced by secular humanism in the way we parent, and that perhaps we overemphasize rewards and punishments. I really liked the emphasis on relationship building with our children as a way to engage with their hearts. I liked the simple ‘Family Time’ concept, which is a family devotion over dinner once a week. It’s a strategy that is manageable, even within a busy family structure. And I liked the emphasis on teaching children to care for others, and not making life all about them.

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This book is certainly worth a look if you would like to learn about:

  • How to encourage internal motivation so your kids don’t have to rely on you to get things done.
  • How to train a child’s conscience – ‘Courage without a strong sonscience can lead children into all kinds of calamity.’
  • Ways of talking about faith and spiritual truths in ways that are engaging and fun.
  • How to help children respond when they make mistakes.

review

When there are no words.

When there are no words This afternoon I made pancakes with Missy Middle and her just as miniature friend. Light and fluffy pancakes for Pancake Day. In the morning I enjoyed swimming with Miss Youngest in an outdoor pool overlooking the ocean. It was a glorious day. It wasn’t a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. It was a good day.

Yet while we made pancakes and swam on the cusp of the ocean, on the other side of the world, the ocean filled with the blood of twenty one martyrs. Almost on the eve of Lent, twenty one husbands, fathers, sons, brothers, were brutally murdered in the most barbaric way. That this occurred is unfathomable. Unthinkable even in the 21st century. And that in the age of the internet we see still images and video footage of this horror is surprising to me also. I haven’t watched these videos but the photo of the 21 men published on social media is now forever etched in my mind, imprinted in memory, much like a trauma. I know that our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 6:12).  Still, I find myself wondering why world leaders can’t take decisive action against these unspeakable crimes.

This is a hard and heavy topic to write about. Being a blogger and wannabe writer, I find solace and comfort in words. Words are nourishing. Words bring life. But this time I have no words. For what words are there to describe the depth of depravity that this crime encapsulates?  I’ve also felt short on words lately. I’m working on a manuscript, and with my energy poured into this project, there just aren’t any more words left over. And so I can only craft crumbs. I thought about writing a post on bloggers burn out, but then I felt too burnt out to write a post on burn out!

As I bring to the table the crumbs left over, I, like many others around the world, grapple with how to respond to the news of such evil. Atrocities happening in places far away can offer a new perspective on our own lives. But in the comfort of my home this Ash Wednesday in God’s own, I feel heavy with the horror and heartache of this world.  Yet I also feel hopeful. I know that His yoke is easy, and His burden is light. As we bear one another’s burdens, and weep with those who weep, Christ carries our burdens to so that we can live lightly, despite the depth of darkness we discover in our world.  1 Corinthians 12:26 says that we as the church are one body. And as we are one body, if one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. In times like these, it isn’t any wonder that people tremble with fear. Though I am reminded of the words of Jesus himself when he said ‘Fear not, for I have overcome the world’ (John 16:33).Hearing of unspeakable atrocities in faraway places gives us a gift – the gift of perspective.

The season of Lent encourages us to practice disciplines that are unpopular in our culture. Practices such as self-discipline, sacrifice and self-denial. Every year I give up facebook for Lent. For some it may be chocolate, others it may be coffee (if I could ever be that brave). My daughter offered to give up weetbix, trampolining and DVD’s (in that order!), and my husband has decided to give up procrastination….oh no, wait, he’s decided to leave that until next year! Jokes aside, I enjoy social media. For all the foibles of facebook, I enjoy keeping in contact with friends and family in other places. Yet I also waste time on facebook. And for all the time I waste on facebook, this Lent I want to spend that time in prayer. God seems to be calling His people to really exercise their prayer muscles. Lent is a time of lament, and perhaps this Lent calls for a prayer boot camp of sorts. To pray fervent and heartfelt passionate prayers for the persecuted church. That our hearts may be broken by the things that break His heart. Are we going to stand in the gap and be obedient to what God is calling us to?

Our minister has suggested that our church give up judging others for Lent this year. What a great idea. Imagine how our relationships and communities could be transformed if we prescribed grace instead of judgment for minor petty concerns. A word here, a slight here – insults that hurt, yet are possibly minor in comparison with the tribulations that our brothers and sisters are facing overseas. A merciful response to this evil may not come naturally, for me anyway. Yet I am reminded that these terrorists are someone’s son, someone’s daughter. They themselves may be trapped in terror and torment, the torment that is deception. God calls us to love justice and mercy, and I can only pray that I may come to the place where I am able to pray not only for justice, but also for mercy.  It’s a case of ‘Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.’ (Luke 23:24). beach

Set Me as a Seal Upon Your Heart: Poems for Valentine’s Day

heart wall

Happy Valentine’s Day! It’s a great honour to welcome Marcie Watson who has written these poems for Valentine’s Day.

WHERE YOU ARE

If each moment I saw a cloudless sky,

Would it paint me a picture

Of you and I?

The times we’re together,

Moments we are apart

You replace all my worries,

And silence my heart

To know you’re beside me,

each path that I go

Faith will bind us tightly,

and strengthen all that we know

In this future together,

this relationship so dear

that has been built up by love,

though each moment you’re near

Your picture hasn’t faded,

Your touch is so clear

I just want to be with you,

through our golden years

And to be the one to make you happy,

the one to shine life’s stars

the one who wants to hold you,

and be where you are

Often we find them when we least expect

Sparking real curiosity, the memory of their message speaks,

We suddenly remember that moment in time, which makes us complete

Is this a sign, was it part of God’s plan for today,

In this rusty old shoebox with purpose to save

Were these words for your loved one, you wanted to say

Such letters take a person back to that place and time,

So young in love that the truth blesses your soul, bringing tears to your eyes

Dreams were swept up in emotion; love was in each word and embrace

History was being written between these two,

With letters one couldn’t replace

As you look to the present, and bring yourself back,

You realize the journey embarked together

And the words preserved and kept

But one thing remains which beats upon your heart

You have now built a life together with no reason to part

So I thank you for this letter, my love of my life,

I promise you today, I’ll soon reply

And I’ll only ask you sincerely for one gentle kiss,

To seal the agreement that you are loved and missed

To remind you that this letter holds beauty and soul

Your words to me and mine not to let go

So let’s revisit these again when we are very old…

Together, let’s take in the moment these love letters hold.

Heart Red Velvet Cake

WHAT I WOULD DO…

My heart seems to know,

Of what I would do

If you needed my love,

I would give it to you

If you wanted the world,

In the palm of your hand

I’d bring it to you

All oceans and land

If you wanted to fly,

I would give you my wings

If you were ever afraid

To you I would sing

If you wanted to climb,

A mountain steep and tall

I would always want to be there,

To catch you if you fall

If you needed just a shoulder

To deeply cry upon,

I would plan to stay with you,

Even until dawn

If you needed someone special,

To listen to your dreams,

I’d be there to follow them,

Just like a winding stream

If you chose to study the earth,

It’s dimensions so afar,

I’d be a poet just to inspire,

I’d travel with you to reach the stars

If there was any wish,

I would give it right to you,

For anything you ask,

You know what I would do.

 

LOVE LETTERS
Often we find them when we least expect

Old letters lie timeless, hidden but kept

Sparking real curiosity, the memory of their message speaks,

We suddenly remember that moment in time, which makes us complete

Is this a sign, was it part of God’s plan for today,

In this rusty old shoebox with purpose to save

Were these words for your loved one, you wanted to say

Such letters take a person back to that place and time,

So young in love that the truth blesses your soul, bringing tears to your eyes

Dreams were swept up in emotion; love was in each word and embrace

History was being written between these two,

With letters one couldn’t replace

As you look to the present, and bring yourself back,

You realize the journey embarked together

And the words preserved and kept

But one thing remains which beats upon your heart

You have now built a life together with no reason to part

So I thank you for this letter, my love of my life,

I promise you today, I’ll soon reply

And I’ll only ask you sincerely for one gentle kiss,

To seal the agreement that you are loved and missed

To remind you that this letter holds beauty and soul

Your words to me and mine not to let go

So let’s revisit these again when we are very old…

Together, let’s take in the moment these love letters hold.

heart wall hanging

Sacred Scars of Divorce: Why the Divorced Need the Church

Sacred Scars of the DivorcedIt’s a great honour to welcome my friend and fellow blogger Julie Holly all the way from the USA, as she writes about the painful topic of divorce.

She writes: I sewed the scarlet letter for shame to my heart in exchange for freedom because I thought I needed to. You see, it wasn’t that long ago that divorce was still uncommon, even scandalous for those in the conservative church.  And there I was caught between serving God or pleasing man.

You hear pastors say, “Church is for everyone.” Sometimes there’s a heartfelt, “Church is for the broken.” I thought those were just empty words intended to stir emotion. After all, I remember vividly the “prayers” for so-and-so going through a divorce. Gasp. Even as a child it seemed like a backhanded way to gossip and there I was, adding to the growing divorce statistic.

The thing about being abused is it kills you inside out and sometimes it breaks every part of you. Sometimes it seems like God couldn’t possibly love you let alone redeem the mess no matter how much you love Him.

But during this time I learned something new about God, He offers Holy Spirit life support. Isn’t that how God is, reaching down, pulling us out, sustaining us in our moments of spiritual hypothermia?  You see, it won’t ever matter how much we love God, He will always love us more. And what do we do for those we love dearly? We do everything in our power to sustain them until they come to, and when they do, we nurse them back to full health.

Like a courageous wounded soldier, each week I walked through the doors of the church. Fervently I held back tears (pretty impossible) because just being there was the most peaceful place my battered heart could be. I wished to become a chameleon and blend in so I could stay in that place for hours, singing, learning and absorbing medicine for my soul.

For the first time I realized the pastors weren’t lying, the church is for the brokenhearted, the weary and the healthy; the church is for everybody because we all need somebody. It begins with God but the in real life somebody’s there are an extension of Him.  They sincerely want to support, nurture and help restore others.

Putting the bit of residual pride aside (because really, how much is left when your entire world has been destroyed) was the birthplace of real relationships with people at church. Getting to know these people cemented in my heart that God will finish writing every story when given the opportunity, a brilliant ending impossible without trusting Him.

Don’t judge that person joyfully singing at the top of her (probably out of tune) voice because you don’t know the abuse, caner, MS, miscarriages, adultery…she is praising God for redeeming her from. (And well, it may be me, a happily redeemed child of God.) As impossible as it may seem, it can be you to.

You can read more of Julie’s writing at: http://www.peacequility.com

peacequility

Dirt is Grounding

dirt is grounding

I was recently asked by Kirsteen of ‘The Forever Years’ blog to write a post about dirt. Specifically, the topic of our kids getting outside, dirty, muddy and barefoot. As I write this, the kids are in the garden with the neighbourhood kids, making mud pies, and loving it! As there is research for everything these days, it may come as no surprise that there is also research to support the importance of children getting dirty and messy outside. It’s the idea that just maybe we are a little too clean these days.

In the popular book The Last Child in the Woods (Louv, 2005), the author coined the phrase “nature-deficit disorder.” to explain that people, especially children, are spending less time outdoors today, and that this may be associated in a wide range of behavioral problems. Nature Deficit Disorder is not a medical condition, it is a way to describes our lack of relationship to our enviroment. Some people call it ‘dirtphobia’ or ‘messphobia’. Call it what you like, but the dirt on getting dirty is that it is actually good for kids…and grown ups too!

One theory is the ‘Hygiene Hypothesis’ – this is the theory that our society today is a germaphobic culture, in which some children are being raised in overhygienic conditions. Without adequate exposure to different bacteria and microbes, it is thought that the immune system doesn’t learn to recognize it’s own cells. Some researchers believe that this could help explain the higher rates of asthma and other allergies today (although allergic conditions often have a genetic basis too). Researchers also believe that microbial exposures early in life may be important to reduce inflammation in adulthood.

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Dirt Can Be Your Child’s Friend:

Many parents are afraid of their child getting dirty and ‘catching something’. I can relate to this and I don’t like it when my son looks like he has been growing potatoes underneath his fingernails! And some children are also averse to the idea of getting dirty; one of my daughter’s is a little bit like this. I know that I can be a messphobic, but how much better is it when the mess is contained outside!

And did you know that the stress levels of children are reduced significantly when they are outside in nature and greenery? There is even research to support the importance of going barefoot outside. This goes for adults too. But it seems to be especially important for children.

‘Children need leisurely, unscripted, and exploratory hours to find the wonders in their own backyards and neighborhoods, from discovering the beauty of the stars in the night sky to watching lizards on a warm summer’s day.’ (Charles, 2005).

Here are some more reasons why dirt is good for the body, soul and spirit:

  • A friendly bacteria found in soil helps produce serotonin, a hormone that helps with sleep and mood. It is grounding. I notice this myself  – when I am outdoors in nature, at the beach, in the garden, I feel calmer. Studies have shown that simply having contact with dirt, whether it’s through wallowing in a mud puddle, gardening, or digging holes, can significantly improve a child’s mood and reduce their anxiety and stress. And with childhood depression and anxiety on the rise, an increasing number of researchers are acknowledging the correlation between being outdoors and better mental health.
  • Kids who spend their free time outdoors ‘playing’ rather than being inside looking at screens have lower rates of obesity, ADHD, Vitamin D deficiency and depression. Of course, I’m not wishing to condemn any parent for allowing screen time. All things in moderation,  and I also struggle with the issue of screen time. It is a battle that we face as today’s parents. How much screen time to allow our children, if any, and how often?
  • Playing in dirt can help develop healthy immune function in kids that’ll keep them healthy and strong long past childhood.
  • Regular outdoor time will help children sleep better at night.
  • Playing outside is good for the character development of our children: when they play outside they become more adventurous, more self-motivated, and they are better able to understand and assess risk. Children who learn to judge and approximate risk when they are young (such as climbing trees) are more likely to make safer choices when they are teenagers.
  • Dirt can even improve classroom performance, creativity and social skills.

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I WANT TO MAKE IT A PRIORITY TO RECONNECT MY CHILDREN TO THEIR ENVIRONMENT. AND THE ANSWER CAN START IN OUR OWN BACKYARD. HERE ARE SOME FUN WAYS TO EXPLORE THE OUTDOORS AND GET GRUBBY WITH YOUR CHILDREN:

  • Gardening: I’m not really much of a gardener in this season of my life. In fact, I often joke that if my children were plants they wouldn’t survive! But getting out into the garden is great for children.
  • Explore nature with your children; study insects, leaves, wildflowers, rocks, etc. Start a nature collection. Go walking. Wade in creeks. Collect stones and paint them outside. Go on picnics, have pets, visit farms. If you are brave, go camping! Make a bug hotel, or a mud pie kitchen. Best of all, most of these activities are free.
  • Some experts even recommend parents allowing their children to taste things — Although our inclination may be to shy away from letting our children eat that flower or grain of mud, it isn’t the end of the world, and may actually be good for their immune system. Allow your children to experiment, play with, and even tasting the natural world around them.
  • Let your children go barefoot on soil, grass or sand: I personally don’t like going barefoot. I feel more comfortable in shoes given that I am rather vertically challenged. However, the science surprisingly shows that going barefoot (or ‘earthing’) can come with health benefits. Going barefoot can help moderate heart rate variability, it can reduce stress and inflammation, and help to improve glucose regulation and sleep. PaintSplashGD8

Let your children make magical messy memories outside. What would you like your child to remember from ‘the forever years?’ Clean clothes? Or days outside in nature, filled with fun, laughter and a sense of adventure?

HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT YOUR CHILDREN GETTING GRUBBY AND DIRTY? 

A Gallery of Getting Grubby

PaintSplashGD3

PaintSplashGD4

A Bug Hotel

Mud Pie Kitchen

Life is Too Short to Stuff A Mushroom: Hosting A Grown Up Party

Hosting a Grown Up Party

I’ve often heard it said that ‘life is too short to stuff a mushroom.’ But I recently discovered that mushrooms aren’t too difficult to stuff, especially with a simple mixture of crab, cream cheese and a squeeze of lemon. Fiddly, yes but difficult? No. Something that I’ve often put in the ‘too hard’ basket since having kids, is entertaining people in our home. I enjoy hospitality, but in our home meal times are often a circus, and our children are like a troop of itinerant orangutans! However now that the kids are getting a little older and we have a newly renovated space to accommodate people. we are having people over a little more. I enjoy preparing food, however the most difficult aspect of having people over for me is tidying up before hand.

cocktails

Recently we decided to have a grown up cocktail function after the children were in bed, to celebrate my husband’s birthday. We often put significant effort into children’s birthday parties, but do we celebrate occasions as adults too? I comprised a menu of canapes that I thought would be fairly simple to put together and early on the Saturday morning I went to the grocery store to gather all the ingredients. I then spent the entire day in the kitchen putting together the following menu. The mini quiches and petit fours were made from store bought pastry. This menu was fairly easy to put together (although it did take most of the day) and it was reasonable on the bank balance too. We offered three different cocktails and a non-alcoholic punch. I made the birthday cake a week in advance and froze it, thawing it out in the fridge the day before. We kept the decorations very simple, focusing instead on good food and good company. Please email me if you would like any of the recipes.

canapes

The Doctor Cake

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