From Parent Picks

Parents, what are your picks? Tell us about a New West place, program or person who’s helped your child grow up great!

Do all children play?

Red elastic. Blue elastic. Green elastic. Yellow elastic. Tiny fingers working diligently to wrap band around band until their labours have produced a brilliant and vibrant coloured ball. Believe it or not, if you wrap enough elastic bands around themselves with a couple polythene bags intertwined, it will create a ball durabUntitled1le enough to kick around as a soccer ball.  A clever skill I learned while living in rural Kenya for three
After working in child care for many years and seeing the endless amount of plastic toys the children had to play with, it made me wonder if play was universal. Could children living in the uttermost poor and rural environments still play like children exposed to plastic toys and IPad’s?

The idea of children living in a slum with mud walls to form a simple home and walking in streets of debris seemed to shout a loud, “NO!” Surely children do not play all over the world. But as I walked through the slums of Kenya interacting with the children there, my opinion began to change.

I found children making use of other’s garbage to create toys. I remember one young girl crouched on the ground biting her lip as she put all her concentration and efforts into tying a filthy string to a polythene bag that had been thrown out. I crouched next to her and asked what she was making.

“A kite,” she replied.

Sure enough, as she finished attaching strings to each side of the bag and a breeze passed by, the kite lifted into the air. With a cheerful giggle, the girl stood up and raced around with her kite.

Do all children play? My heart and mind have been persuaded to say, “yes.”

My son & I taking a moment to explore on one of our walks.

My one-year-old son reminds me of these children every day. Like most of you, I’m sure, we have a toy box in our living room. It’s full of plastic toys, as I like to call them. Rarely do I find him playing with a single toy in it.

Instead he is eager to play with wooden spoons or to open every cupboard in the kitchen and discover a toy box of pots, pans and Tupperware’s.   When we go to the park, I pack the diaper bag full of toys and every time I fail to unpack even one of them as he much prefers to play with the leaves, sticks and rocks. I’m sure many of you can identify.

Real. Authentic. Natural. My son will choose a real adult-like spoon over his small plastic spoon. He will choose to play with a stick over a plastic car. He prefers to watch real fish in a pond than play with his plastic fish that flash and play music.

Do all children play? I’ve determined whether children are exposed to manufactured toys or left to imagine what they can create with the natural items around them, it is an outstanding YES.

After working with children for many years and studying the way they play and learn, I couldn’t be more excited to have just opened Music Kids Daycare at the river market by the New Westminster Quay. Founded with Reggio Emilia philosophies from Italy, children are exposed to real, authentic, natural items.

I believe every child is competent and should be treated so. Every child discovers and understands differently from another and I truly desire to provide an environment that allows a child to make meaning of the world in their own way.

Do all children play? Even in the uttermost poor and rural environments? I have no other word to answer with but “yes.” Let’s replace the plastic with natural, the manufactured with authentic and provide our children with an atmosphere that encourages creativity, imagination and understanding.

Clinton, age 3, discovering that he can still draw a picture in the dirt with a stick even though he lacks paper and felts.
Clinton, age 3, discovering that he can still draw a picture in the dirt with a stick even though he lacks paper and felts.

-Kimberly Ngugi is co-owner & manager of Music Kids Daycare at the River Market, a new flexible music daycare by Music Box. After completing her Early childhood education certificate and diploma specializing in infant/toddler and special needs care, Kimberly has enjoyed many years of experience teaching children in a variety of settings from daycare, junior kindergarten and pre-school internationally in Kenya. Kimberly is passionate in creating environments for children to make meaning of the world on their own with room to create, imagine and discover. She also has special education in teaching English as a second language and music.  She lives in New Westminster with her husband and 1 year old son.

Raising a Vegan Baby

LoganAt the age of 34 my biological clock started ringing. LOUD. It’s such a cliché and I never thought it would happen to me, yet all of a sudden having a baby was forefront in my mind. My husband and I discussed how we would raise our child and I expressed my wish to raise our baby as a vegan. For me this seemed like such a natural decision to make, since I was a vegan adult it shouldn’t be too difficult raise a child with the same lifestyle choices.

Cue the internet research. Was a vegan lifestyle healthy for a baby? Would being vegan make him stand out from his peers? What would I do if he chose not to be vegan when he was older? How would my husband (who is an omnivore) deal with the difficult “why does Daddy eat animals” questions? What happens when his friends want to go to the zoo?

Finding answers to the health questions was fairly easy. My family doctor is a long time vegetarian and former vegan and is fully supportive of our decision to omit animal products from baby’s diet. I have been following a strictly plant based diet for five years and have read research on what plants have the best sources of calcium, how to get the elusive complex protein and I’ve been consuming all the delicious meat alternatives in the grocery stores. There are plenty of resources out there, although admittedly sometimes contradictory, on how to follow a healthy plant based diet.

Right now feeding him is pretty easy, he has just started solids and devours fruit, cereal and some veggies with gusto. Apparently he is not a big fan of tofu…so far. From what I’ve seen pretty much all babies start off vegetarian which makes him a normal part of his peer group. What happens when he gets older?

The toughest part of raising a vegan child is finding information on how a child can integrate socially while following this lifestyle. Being vegan is a lifestyle not just a diet, it’s about doing the least harm possible to others whether human or animal. When I was pregnant and couldn’t sleep I’d search the internet for blogs posts, books anything that could give me answers to these tough questions. What did I find? Not much. So I stopped looking and started listening instead.

I listen to other pregnant moms in prenatal classes talking about how they are vegetarian. I listen to friends who are restaurant owners that are expanding their menus to add vegan, gluten free, dairy free foods because those dishes are in demand. I watched Blackfish and heard the stories on the cruel practices of Sea World and listened to the news as people started petitioning and boycotting the amusement park. I rejoiced when Panago Pizza started carrying the vegan cheese substitute Daiya, knowing that my child would now be able to take part in pizza parties. I joined Vancouver Vegan Family Network and shared stories with the different families and their beautiful totally normal vegan kids.

As he gets older I look forward to my son developing his critical thinking skills and questioning why I do things a certain way. If at some point he decides to eat meat it will be something I have to come to terms with. I fully appreciate that he is his own person and is entitled to make decisions regarding his life. He’ll have to understand that we don’t eat meat in our house (unless Daddy barbecues it outside) and that it’s something he’s more likely to have when he goes out for meals. Until then I’ll continue making him delicious plant based food, we’ll continue protesting animals in captivity and I’ll keep telling people that yes, feeding my baby my own breast milk is actually an acceptable part of our vegan lifestyle.

Here are some resources I found helpful:

How it all Vegan by Sarah Kramer & Tanya Barnard

Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine

Alicia Silverstone’s The Kind Life

Vegan Pregnancy Survival Guide by Sayward Rebhal


Melissa Maltais is a proud vegan and New Westminster mom and is the market manager for the Royal City Farmers Market.

Why play the Piano first? Why not the Flute? A parents guide to Private Music Lessons

Why consider some instruments at an earlier age over others? How does one assess if it is the right instrument?


Piano is the generally the most popular and successful instrument to start with from a young age. Most children can successfully begin at age 4 (this was me many years ago!) or 5. Occasionally, some children can begin as young as age 3.5 (lessons for ages 3-5 year olds generally incorporate a number of off the piano activities to reinforce piano skills in new and interesting ways. Instruments, colouring and movement may be incorporated depending on the teacher and needs of student). Skills to have mastered; Left/Right hands, recognize letters A-G (no need to be reading yet though), strong fingers with a high level of finger independence (how would you evaluate their fine motor skills? can they do up a button or zipper yet?). Piano is a great foundation for all instrument study, music reading is transferable to any instrument, the finger strength, rhythm and theory skills that piano study builds alone are irreplaceable.


Ukulele is a wonderful instrument for young children. Generally speaking, this instrument is best started at age 5 and can sometimes be started as early as age 4. Skills they should have mastered; Left/Right hands, be able to recognize letters A-G. Strong fingers, with good finger independence (though not as important as it is in Piano). Ukulele is also a wonderful instrument for children who would eventually like to move to Guitar. Do you have a child who loves to sing but not yet ready for voice lessons? Children can learn (mostly from example) to sing and accompany themselves at a young age. Take for example my daughter *gushing mother* who is 3.5, she is not ready for voice lessons, but I am considering placing her in Ukulele lessons this Fall so she can have more fun singing along with herself 🙂


Guitar is a great instrument to begin at age 6 or 7, (to note for petite children – only with the right sized guitar – please speak to an instructor about the best size for your sized child). At this age it is best to start on an acoustic guitar with nylon strings, then transitioning into steel strings or electric guitar if desired. Children must have strong fingers (much stronger than Ukulele to fret the notes) and be comfortable with developing calluses.

Flute or Clarinet

Flute is a wonderful great first wind instrument, best started at age 8. Children need time to develop lung capacity and grow their little bodies (holding instruments away from your body for extended periods of time is tiring!) so no earlier is recommended. A wonderful precursor to the flute or clarinet however is the Recorder, which is great to begin at age 6.


The Violin can be very successful at age 5 if the child shows an interest. Unlike the piano, the violin is not as initially gratifying to listen to 😉 However, this beautiful instrument is great for developing a keen sense of pitch and heightened listening as one must be diligent on each sound made being in tune. Fine motor skills must be well developed here for a small fingerboard, good wrist flexibility for careful bowing and acknowledgment that sometimes arms will get tired from holding the instrument. Thankfully violins come in a large assortment of sizes, all the way down to 1/16th of the original size, be sure your child is fitted properly and always playing the correct size. The violin is also a great precursor to the cello, which is best started at age 8 or 9.


Voice lessons are best started at age 8. Much like the Flute and Clarinet, time is needed to develop lung capacity and grow! However, lessons can sometimes be started as early as 6 years old with the right teacher who takes care to guide the voice gently with repertoire and technique that is age, voice maturity and range appropriate. Voice training has many benefits, but less known to point out are – aiding in speech impediments, lisps, dealing with a new retainer or braces and finding a full voice for speech. To note – voice lessons are a wonderful compliment to piano or guitar learning where one can eventually learn to accompany themselves while singing and can provide a sound theoretical base for the voice.


Private drum lessons at age 8 are great if there is strong interest shown. Aptitude for rhythm can be indicated very early on in life (perhaps a gift of a toy drum they love to sing and play with?) and generally speaking you may be able to tell if your child is naturally rhythmic much earlier than 8 years old. Things to look for – strong coordination, beating beats on the kitchen table, love of dance, can clap (or tap, or beat on the table, etc) a steady beat, can clap back accurately what you clap, can clap along in time with music. However, the beauty of music training is – these things we look for to see if there is a natural tonal or rhythmic ability with any instrument – can all be developed with desire & study! Hooray!

-Vashti Fairbairn is a local New West music and piano teacher, owner of Music Box New Westminster’s Music Academy at the New Westminster River Market & a new Second location to serve you at 630 Carnarvon. You can learn more about raising your children musically at

Five Healthy Snacks

I have fond memories of coming home from school to visit with my grandmother. She always had a plate full of snacks for me because she knew I would be ravenous after that long day of learning. If you’re looking for a few ideas to liven up your afternoon snack time here are 5 healthy snacks for your kids and let’s be realistic… for you too!

Wait is there kale in this Smoothie?

Sweet and tasty your kids will never guess that it’s chock full of greens. You’ll need:

Frozen or fresh berries, almond milk, banana and kale.

Cut the stems and use the kale leaves only, add everything into the blender and zap away! Pour into glasses and enjoy.

Sassy Salsa Tofu RollsWrap and Roll

The best way to get kids to eat nutritious food is to let them help with the preparations. Your little chefs can dip the rice paper and choose their fillings.

Rice paper, carrot, cucumber, radishes, celery salad greens, fresh herbs, your choice of dip.

Grate carrot, cucumbers and radishes. Chop celery into long strings and rip apart salad greens and herbs. Place all veggies and herbs onto a large platter in separate piles.

Pour warm water into a bowl and dip one rice paper at a time. Pull the rice paper out when it has gotten soft (but not so soft that it tears too easy) place on plate and add your filling. Roll the rice paper up into a spring roll and dip in your choice of dip. I personally like a Thai peanut sauce, delish!

Best Popcorn Topping Ever

Need a snack to help you get through watching Frozen for the fiftieth time? You can’t go wrong with popcorn and this delicious topping which is a great source of Vitamin B12 and Omega 3.

Air popped popcorn, nutritional yeast flakes, flax seed oil and sea salt.

Mix three tablespoons of flax seed oil into your bowl of popped popcorn and if you need to add a bit more to make sure your popcorn is well covered than please do so. While you are mixing your oil in start sprinkling your nutritional yeast flakes (affectionately known as nooch). Add a pinch of salt and presto you’ve got a popcorn snack that you won’t want to share with anyone it’s that good.

Mexi Tofu Scramble Burrito

Need some protein and calcium fast? Tofu is great source of both. Also if you purchase organic tofu than you can be reassured that it is non-GMO.

Medium Tofu package, can of black beans, frozen corn, mild salsa and small corn tortillas.

Place half the tofu into a medium hot frying pan and break it up until it has the same consistency as scrambled eggs. Add 1/3 cup of black beans, 1/3 cup of corn and continue frying until the majority of the water has evaporated. Add three tablespoons of salsa and mix well. Spoon tofu scramble into tortillas and eat them up right away or let them cool, wrap them up and pop them in the freezer for later.

Heavenly Chocolate Avocado Mousse

Did you know you can turn avocados into a creamy delicious healthy dessert? Here is a great way to use up a ripe avocado. You’ll need:

Coconut oil, avocado, cocoa, agave syrup (or substitute maple syrup cause we’re Canadian eh?) and berries for the topping.

For full instructions visit the Raw Chocolate Mousse recipe here!

Baby Friendly Fun at the Library

When the rain makes it unpleasant to spend time outdoors and you need something to do with your baby the New Westminster Public Library is an oasis on a stormy winter day. Here’s the top five reasons to visit the library with a baby:

1. Things are free. When your days stretch out before you and you’re tempted to do some retail therapy the library is the perfect place to go to save some money. Not only can you take out the latest cookbooks and bestsellers but you can also browse DVD’s, TV Series, CD’s and magazines.

2. There’s a book club for parents. Don’t know what to read next? Chat with the librarians in the children’s department and they’ll hook you up with the latest book club book.

3. On Fridays the hold a story time for children 0 – 24 months. It starts at 10:15am.

4. Unstructured play! The children’s area has a nice big blue rug perfect for early crawlers. They also have foam blocks to build large towers, a dinosaur play set, puppets, stuffed animals and so much more. You can easily spend an hour or two playing in the children’s area. The staff don’t even mind if your little one pulls all the books of the shelves… just make sure you put them back!

5. Make friends. While you’re visiting the library browsing a parenting magazine while your little one plays on the big blue rug, say hello to the other parents there. You might make a new friend for yourself and your baby!



“Take turns!”

“Don’t push!”
Photo by Mike Gieson, used via a Creative Commons license

At playdates and in parks, babies and toddlers play in their own, often uncouth, ways. They throw sand, push smaller babies over, steal toys, wipe snot on each other and cry when they don’t get their way. While the parents scold, and apologize to each other for this bad behavior, the kids are doing exactly what they need to do to learn how to get along. As parents, we can help by standing back and letting kids work things out for themselves as long as no one’s getting hurt.

At each phase of childhood, there are ‘bad’ social behaviours that are hard to love, but are actually important markers of normal development. As much as we’d like our kids to absorb all the social rules we tell them, the most powerful learning comes from experience.

Each stage of development comes with its own strange and totally normal behaviours:

  • Infants ignore each other and play side-by-side instead of together.
  • Toddlers often snatch toys and refuse to share. They may hit, scratch or bite when upset.
  • Preschoolers fight over toys, and over who should decide what to play
  • Schoolkids and tweens form intense friendships that can turn from “best friends” to “enemies” and back again in a blink
  • Teens can be devastated when peers make fun of them or shut them out. Romance adds another tricky dimension to friendships.

These social faux pas aren’t signs your kids are broken. They are normal phases most kids pass through. We can’t make kids get along all the time, but we can provide support to help kids make and keep friends.

At every age and stage, we can help by:

  • Modeling good behavior. Kids copy the behavior they see from role models they care about
  • Sportscasting” when kids need help resolving a conflict. By calmly describing what is happening in a neutral tone instead of jumping in to solve the problem, we help kids interpret what’s happening so they can work things out.
  • Using storytelling to illustrate how others think and feel. Tell stories from your childhood, movie plots, fairy tales or make up a story to gently explain why people do what they do.
  • Observing and naming feelings in yourself and others.

Briana Tomkinson is a mother and a stepmother to four awesome kids, and lives in New Westminster. 

Family Ties Across the Miles

Eight months ago, we welcomed baby girl M into the world. We are so in love with this little girl… and so is the rest of our family. The catch? My family is scattered across North America and none of them live close by. How do we maintain family ties across the miles?

We have faced some challenges making sure that Grandpa and Grandma (and all her aunts and uncles!) get to stay involved in M’s life. They, of course, came up for a visit shortly after M was born and stayed for a few days. But the reality is that visits can only happen so often.

Here are some of the things I’ve learned along the way about how to stay in touch with long-distance family:

  • Set up easy access for family to see pictures and videos. We have an online private photo album as well as a Facebook family page. Family members all have access to it whenever they like.
  • Open your doors and make it work even if the timing is inconvenient. If someone had a few days to visit and it was a bad time for us, we just made it happen anyway. We even moved while a bunch of family was visiting and baby was only two weeks old.
  • Don’t feel bad if they visit and all they do is take care of baby. We’ve had family who come when we are busy, and therefore they become the babysitters. Perhaps they hadn’t anticipated changing so many diapers and being so involved, but this way they really get to spend genuine time with her.
  • Don’t be afraid to be an inconvenience to family. At four weeks post partum I was still in quite a lot of pain and had a very colicky baby. My mom literally moved in with us for two weeks and slept on the nursery floor while I recovered. She was exhausted at the end, but she was so happy to have the memory with her first granddaughter of rocking her back to sleep in the middle of the night.
  • Make every call a Skype / Facetime call. Baby M knows grandma’s voice and grandma gets to see her respond to her coos and giggles. It’s a great way to interact and plus, it’s free!
  • Some people lose interest. Fast. Don’t hold it against them. The first few months involved lots of visits, presents, phone calls and emails. As she has grown, interest has waned. As a parent, I can’t understand this and it upsets me, but I also don’t have the energy to focus on it. I have let it go and decided that if they want to come around, they can.
  • Stop thinking about “what ifs” and “if onlys”. Circumstances are what they are. Having family closer by is not going to happen, so I make sure that they know that I want M to know her aunts, uncles and grandparents. The ball is in their court if they want to take advantage.

What other things have you done that have helped with long-distance relationships? Any tips for this first time momma?

Rebecca Troelstra is a first time mom living in downtown New Westminster. 



Finding Your Parent Tribe

Six years ago my son was born. It was a joyous and welcome day, and I was proud to be his parent. That first few months was a complete whirlwind – amazing, overwhelming, frightening, exciting, happy – pretty much every single emotion you can think of. I was a first time mom, and I considered myself a bit older than the average first time mom at 35. I felt a bit adrift that first year or so, and wasn’t sure who to talk to when I needed a friend.

I found myself between two groups of my pre-child friends: those who were parents, but whose kids were 7,8,9, or even 13, and those who had no plans for kids. My mom was a big help for me when I needed some input on my child’s growth and development, but she lived in another city and I really wanted to have some parent friends to hang out with in person. I needed a Parent Tribe to hang out with.

Now that my son is in elementary school, it has been easy to find a group of like minded parents that I enjoy their company and value their opinions and advice through the PAC and in the school yard. In those early days before my son was school age, however, it was really hard and I felt quite isolated at times. Here’s three pieces of advice I’ve learned along the way:

IMG_2208Get out of the house. In New West, we hit up the public library, Family Place, Motoring Munchkins and Strong Start a lot in those early days. There were lots of parents for me to connect with, and lots of parents with kids of about the same age as mine. It gave us a fun activity to do, and the social time was as good for me as it was for my son.

Don’t be shy – say hi. I found it really hard to strike up conversations at the playground and out at events, but after forcing myself a few times to say hello and make a bit of small talk, it got easier. I started making a point of being the one to say hello to the parent who looked terrified and it made me feel good to make them feel welcome.

Trade info and follow-through. This is a hard one. How many times have you said “We should get together sometime?” and then never followed up? I know for me it was quite a few times. I made a point of asking for contact information from the parents I found myself talking to info and even set reminders to call them the next week. It was hard at first, but I soon found myself surrounded with other parents I liked and respected.

Having a Parent Tribe to call on for advice, support, laughs, and even to trade babysitting was a real blessing for me those first early years. Many of those parents are still in our lives today, and I’m so glad to call them friends.

Jen Arbo is a New West parent who blogs at and tweets at

Free Play versus Structured Play
Photo by Martin Boose, used via a Creative Commons license

Being a parent often feels like you’re executing a grand juggling act – and I’m not just talking your coffee, keys and phone with their juice box and the 17 toys they need to bring to the playground. You’re constantly absorbing new knowledge about all the aspects of raising a small human. Hearing about the best ways to do this but don’t you dare do this. Creating meals that are nutritional for the pickiest critics, monitoring their screen time, researching the most “college-application-friendly” extracurricular activities, all while trying not to meddle enough so that you hear the tell-tale groan of “MoooOOOOmmmm.”

Recently I’ve seen articles popping up about balancing free play versus structured play.

It turns out letting your monkeys into the backyard to roam and swing from the trees is still a wonderful way for them to express themselves, but that kind of play needs to be offset with some structure. The justification for the balance is that children do eventually grow up into adults and they need to be able to one day hold down a job that isn’t just throwing a stick at a tree and laughing hysterically.

With that in mind, here are three ideas to help your children get the best of both play worlds.

  1. On an outing to the beach, write a scavenger hunt list for each child so that they have to find specific objects. As they excitedly check off each item, ask them questions about what they’ve found. Make it silly. (“Do you think an octopus can scratch 8 itches at one time?”)
  2. As the next holiday approaches, break out the crafting supplies and have a three step activity planned. Once those steps are followed, pop open up some new supplies (fancy stickers or colourful feathers) and challenge them to make a custom creation to pin up or hang in the windows. Make sure they autograph the back.
  3. Bust out the Lego (watch your feet) and ask the children to create a set structure using a certain amount of pieces and colours. Praise them profusely once finished and then with a sweeping gesture, tell them it’s time to build a castle for the finest King/Princess/Dinosaur. Watch their eyes light up and hands furiously start to work.

When a child is engaged in free play they let their imaginations soar and their curiosity guide them. Adding in subtle structure by making suggestions ensures they are not ripped from their fun flow, but rather their little brains become trained to listen, problem solve, and follow instructions.

Look at it like this – one day they will live alone and can eat Jell-o for dinner (just kidding!), but they will also have the skills to put together the assemble-it-yourself table to eat it at.

Guest post by Brooke Takhar, a mom living in the Lower Mainland who blogs at


Learning Fitness from my Little Girl

Getting outside with my daughter (photo used via a Creative Commons license)
Getting outside with my daughter (photo used via a Creative Commons license)

This post, is a part of a four part series, where we’ll hear directly from the parents in the community. Brooke Takhar is a freelance blogger and social media specialist with one daughter, eight pen pals, and 47 grey hairs.

Three years after my daughter was born, I stepped on a scale and had an unexpected outburst. There was lots of swearing involved so I’ll just paraphrase it like so: something had to give. With so much of my daily actions being modeled for my daughter (saying hello to neighbours in our elevator, staying positive through a scraped up knee, manners and more manners), I realized the indent I made on the couch each night and the food she saw me shovelling into my mouth was not something I wanted her to think was the “norm.”

After taking the first small steps of this life makeover (no pressure) by picking up a pair of runners and checking out the local running club, I realized I could also look to my daughter as someone who modeled behaviour for me.  I was always so concerned with raising a great kid, that I didn’t see she had already developed some pretty cool ideas.  Here’s what I’ve learned from my daughter:

No matter the weather, outside is one giant playground.

Zip up her favourite rain jacket and stuff layered legs into rain boots and she couldn’t care less about the weather. She doesn’t hunch into the wind and rain, wishing she was on a warm patio with a drink – she kicks and splashes and begs me to wipe off the swing so she can pump her legs high, higher, highest at Moody Park. So, we roam and chase each other outside. After dinner is a great time; it helps me avoid the phantom munchie pangs and lets her burn off remaining energy, ensuring a rosy-cheeked deep night’s sleep for both of us.

When she eats her meals, she stops when she is full.

Those last two bites, the ones I would polish off so that I don’t waste food, are simply pushed away. Food is fuel and it is delicious, but when she’s done, she’s all done. Forks down.  I can expect her to munch on a neat pile of cucumber slices that we bought from the Royal City Farmers Market because I am happily munching too. I’ve even lifted my lifelong prejudice against carrots so we can crunch together while discussing important topics like Disney princesses.

She challenges herself while being active.

Last week, on a dark and windy Friday evening, we walked hand-in-hand back from a visit to our favourite pool. Our hair, still wet and sweetly chemical-scented, whipped behind us as we talked about our favourite part of the night. She couldn’t possibly grasp how proud I was of her fearless “I’m ok, I’m ok,” post-water swallow or how I could hoist her over my head over and over without collapsing into a red-faced wet heap.

Every day I choose to be healthy and be kind to myself is a day that she shares with me. I could tell her to take the stairs instead of the elevator, choose a long meandering walk over a car ride or an apple over an Oreo, but I’m just doing it instead. We do it together. The lessons and love flow both ways. In these moments I feel wise and wonderful. I feel like I am finally getting a hang of both being her Mom and being the healthy self I want her to follow.