Archive for the ‘Christine Kangas’ Category

Candy Alternatives for Halloween

Friday, October 10th, 2014
appleHalloween is one holiday that I both hate and love. I love letting my children dress up, and it’s even more exciting to see the look on their faces as they get to get surprise treats.
I am okay with my children having a piece of candy here or there, but we don’t eat anything that is artificially coloured, artificially flavoured, artificially sweetened, or that has high fructose corn syrup, which is pretty much all Halloween candy. Even plain chocolate pieces often have artificial flavourings (usually artificial vanilla). While there are a few places you can find natural candies (even at reasonable prices!), most things available don’t quite fit the bill.

What alternatives are there to candy? Halloween has no written rule that you must give out candy. The saying, after all, is “Trick or treat”… nobody says what that treat has to be! Society is no longer at a place where homemade baked goodies are consumed from strangers, but here are a few ideas for foods and goodies you can give out.

Apples: Apples are a great autumn food, and you can even have fun picking them out. If you have an orchard near by, you could take the children out to pick apples. You get to have a fun family outing and take care of treats at the same time!

Oranges: The peel keeps them nice and safe from all the jostling in the Halloween goody bag/bucket the children have.

Snack packs of Raisins: While fruit seems like a great alternative to candy (give them something healthy to balance all the sweets), it is, admittedly, not nearly as exciting.
If you want something edible that isn’t fruit, try:
  • Goldfish crackers – even the coloured ones are naturally coloured!
  • Graham crackers – tasty, fun shapes, and not candy.
  • Sesame snack sticks
  • Honey Sticks
  • Natural Fruit Snacks (or fruit leathers/strips) – Sweet and not overly healthy.
  • Cookies – Some natural companies make tiny cookie packages for the holidays.
  • Granola or Cereal Bars – from natural companies
  • Juice Boxes – some companies make natural ones
  • Mini-water bottles
  • Individually wrapped cheese sticks (only if it’s not hot out!) 

Looking for something that isn’t edible? Try:

  • Stickers – you can buy a big roll of (large) stickers for as cheap as $3 for 100 stickers. You will have to spend time ripping them apart or cutting them, though.
  • Pencils, character-shaped erasers, Mini notebooks, crayons, or other stationary
  • A colouring sheet (to accompany crayons) – some companies even make colouring pages with seeds pressed into the paper that you can plant in the ground!
  • Temporary Tattoos
  • Mini-bubble containers
  • Play Jewelry
  • Fun Stamps
  • Bouncy balls
  • Seed packets
The list goes on! The great thing about using candy alternatives? You can check out the party stores the day after Halloween and stock up cheap for next year!
Obviously, not every child will appreciate all of these items, so it would be a good idea to have a little variety for them to pick from. I know that, as a child,  if I had gone to a house that had no edible treats and choices of stickers, stamps, or flower seeds, I would have picked the seeds. I loved gardening!
Christine Kangas is a crunchy mother of two. She enjoys gardening, music, and nature. She lives in the mid-western U.S. with her husband, two children, and three cats.

Staying Healthy During Flu Season

Thursday, September 25th, 2014

Staying Healthy During Flu SeasonWith flu season coming up, it’s time to start talking to the kids about being healthy! We try to explain to our oldest (3) what germs are and how they can get you sick. We use very simple terms, of course, but that doesn’t stop him from touching dog poop at the park. No, really. He picked up dog poop and asked, “Mama, is this dog poop?”

With that basic lack of understanding about germs, we really rely on other methods of staying healthy.

We place a heavy emphasis on washing hands in our household. Not only because of things like the dog poop incident, but because the kids instantly touch their eyes, nose, or mouth after handling germy things. It’s almost instant. In an attempt to instill some sort of good hygienic practice, we wash our hands when we come in from outside, after play time is over, before helping put dishes away, etc. This, of course, on top of all the times you would fully expect hand washing (after using the bathroom, changing a diaper, blowing your nose, etc.).

Other things are a bit more “behind the scenes.” We can only do so much to get our kids to follow hygienic practices at young ages, but we can help them boost their immune system. Offering foods like garlic or barley can help lessen the likelihood of getting sick. Many foods can offer antimicrobial properties, so it’s a great idea to read up on different foods and try to incorporate them into your family’s diet. Heck, oats and barley not only boost immunity, but they can help antibiotics work better if you do get sick.

There are also lots of herbal supplements that people take to help with their immune system. I’m not big on trying to push things like this on my children, but I am a big believer in Sambucus (elderberry) in helping the immune system. Not only has my (asthmatic) son had less episodes that require him to use a breathing nebulizer since taking elderberry syrup, but when he does have to start nebulizer treatments, they don’t last as long. Instead of a week, we see a day or two. He also really enjoys the taste of elderberry syrup, and we mix it in with some almond milk and sometimes keifer, too.

If you’re not too keen on store bought supplements like Sambucus, you can always make your own syrup using fresh, frozen, or dried elderberries. Our local health food store has dried elderberries in the bulk herb section. There are a plethora of recipes available online with a simple search, so you can find a recipe that would suit your family’s needs (taste and dietary) best. Just a little elderberry a day helps, and a few times a day if you happen to get sick.

Also, if we happen to get sick, we keep coconut water on hand. Not only does it have electrolytes and no artificial sweeteners or dyes, but it has extra calories in it which you could really use if you’re sick and quickly losing whatever you eat (regardless of the method).

Finally, laughter! Yes, really. Laughter can help boost your immune system, improve your blood flow, regulate blood sugar levels, and is simply contagious. Who doesn’t love laughing? With colder days around the bend, we like to get some good shows or movies queued up to watch. Some for the kids, some for us when we have child-free time. Everyone enjoys smiles and laughter, and hey! It just might help you beat the flu.

Christine Kangas is a mom of two trying to lead a greener life. She lives in the mid-western U.S. with her family and three cats.

Diapering a Wiggly Toddler

Thursday, September 18th, 2014

IMG_1690Changing a toddler’s diaper can be challenging. They can be squirmy, kicky, touchy, and grabby. Keeping feet down, hands up, and bums holding still can be a heck of a challenge. This gets harder as they grow, however, because they will eventually become MOBILE.

Mobility is awesome. You get to watch your little one learn to crawl, roll, walk, and climb. It’s amazing watching them discover all these new talents. It’s not so amazing when you just want them to hold still so you can clean that poopy diaper. Gone were the days I could just say, “Snnnnnaaaaaaap!” in an ever-rising, silly voice and entertain my children as I snapped their diapers up while they giggled away.
With my oldest child (now potty trained), I used my Mommy Necklace as a distraction. I would hand him the necklace to entertain him a bit while I wiped. The novelty of that wears off, eventually, and then you have a bored child that just wants down. It’s funny to see mom react when you try to flip over while she’s wiping poop off your butt, after all!I learned to change it up. Sometimes I would hand them the teething or nursing necklace I had on, other times I would take in a random wooden (and easy to clean) toy. Car keys (albeit a dirty alternative) seem to work well from time to time, also.

My favorite discovery with my oldest was a game that taught him things at the same time. We would name body parts as he touched them (also while nursing… if he touched my mouth, I would say mouth) all throughout the day. It became a game at changing time. In an effort to keep hands away from his diaper area (because we do NOT need pinkeye again), I would ask him where his nose was. He would point to his nose, and I would make a big deal out of it. GOOD JOB!!!! Then I would keep naming parts. By the time he was 18 months old, he knew many more body parts than others his age. You can do this game with signs if you do ASL, too.

If your little one will play peek-a-boo with you, that might be a good time to try to get them to play. This will keep hands away from the mess while you clean.

My daughter is trickier. She’s been mobile since a much younger age than my oldest child, and she wasn’t at the point where she would be able to play the body part game with me. I’ve sung to her, handed her random things (she loves the NoseFrida!), given her the really tiny board books to look at, and talked to her about the decorations on the wall. Wall clings near a changing table can be an awesome thing!

For Peek-a-boo, I end up throwing a patterned cloth wipe over her eyes and the top part of her head, and then I start my change immediately. She will lose interest in the game after about two peeks, but then gets interested in the print on the wipe (or diaper cover if I grabbed one of those instead).

For this wiggle worm, what seems to work best is singing…. and only one song at that. I can only please her singing “Do You Wanna Build a Snowman?” from Disney’s Frozen. She is getting better at her signing, and has taken a keen interest in body parts lately, so I have a feeling the “body part game” or “show me a sign” game will be in our near future. She’s also really into animal noises, so we might be able to play a “what does this animal say” game soon.

And here I thought I would have a system down-pat when baby #2 started becoming mobile! Every baby is different, and every baby loves different things. Take what interests your baby the most and try to incorporate that (like singing a specific song, books, or making specific animal noises). If need be, keep a few different items near the changing table (if you use one) so you can give them something different each time.

Mobile babies are tricky, so if you find something that works for you, stick with it! What’s your secret to changing a wiggly toddler?

Christine Kangas is a mom of two trying to lead a greener life. She lives in the mid-western U.S. with her family and three cats.

When Your Toddler Can Undo His Chest Clip

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014
RFFor a while, my biggest concern about having my child rearfacing longer was his comfort. It does look funny when you see a toddler facing backwards, legs dangling, up on the seat, or one of each. Still, he has never complained about his legs, so I maintained my stance on rearfacing as long as possible. He is under the weight and height requirements, so, logically, I want to keep him as safe as possible.

To be safe, however, the car seat must be used properly. Proper usage includes having the chest clip where it needs to be (level with the armpits), and of course, clipped.

Imagine the leap my heart made when, one day, I went to take my son from his seat and his chest clip was hanging open. I know I clipped it shut. I always double check the seats before I get in the vehicle, and then again in the rear-view mirror before I drive off. He had undone it himself.

My son is 3 1/2 years old. He’s at that age where he has learned or is learning different closures. Snaps, buttons, zippers, buckles… all sorts of things. If they can open and close, he’s curious. In fact, if they can just move, he’s curious. He had also been sliding his chest clip way high or way low. Obviously, this is not safe.

Logical reasoning doesn’t always work with a toddler, so what do you do in that circumstance? For me, I had to use what I know would work. My son dislikes going to the doctor and hospital (poor kid has gone a lot due to asthmatic issues), so I had to use that. I never will threaten with a visit to the doctor to get him to do something like pick up his toys, but when the doctor really IS a possibility I don’t feel bad mentioning it. I had to use what would work, and use what I know he already knew a lot about.

My son is obsessed with cars. Not just vehicles, but race cars. He loves the Disney movie CARS (and CARS II), and has seen both many times. This means he has also seen the crashes in those movies. Using his knowledge of crashes, I tried to explain that if something happens and another vehicle hits mommy’s van (or vice versa), we could get very hurt. Our seat belts and car seats are designed to help us not get as hurt if that happens, and will make it so we might not have to go to the doctor or hospital.

I then tried to explain, as simply as possible, that the clip he was playing with would help keep his straps exactly where they need to be so he will be held nice and snug in his seat if someone crashes into us. I showed him where it needed to be to keep him the safest possible. I also showed him a video of a crash test dummy (they are obviously not real… didn’t want to scare him!) showing what happens in a forward facing vs. rear facing crash test. Although he has never questioned turning around (yet), I used the video to illustrate how the straps held the “doll” in place (and I simply emphasized the rearfacing dummy).

He is still very eager to take the buckle off, but now he begs and begs once the car is stopped to do it all by himself. We made a rule that he is only allowed to touch the clip if mommy and daddy are standing next to him and the car/van is NOT running. He has accepted these conditions, thankfully, so we seem to be riding safe once again.

Christine Kangas is a mother of two who’s trying to lead a greener life for her and her family. She lives in the mid-western U.S. in a modest house (that needs a lot of work!) with her three cats.

What to Expect When Your Child Needs Tubes

Thursday, June 12th, 2014

Our daughter had all the signs of teething. Runny nose, drool, slight crankiness, not the best sleep. She was happy, however, and so we thought nothing of it. After 2 months, she was still acting the same, but she had cut 2 teeth. Then, during a diaper change, I noticed a lot of clear fluid coming out of her ear with a slight orange tint. Later that drainage had turned opaque. I called and scheduled an appointment for the next morning.

I’m not a fan of band-aid medicine, and I expressed my concern about unnecessary antibiotics to the doctor, since ear infections are often viral. The pediatrician told me that viral ear infections will generally clear up in three days, so he asked to see me again in two days and if the ear was looking a bit better, we would avoid antibiotics. I appreciated this (especially since I didn’t want to risk yeast with our cloth diapers), and took my daughter home.

Unfortunately, the ear infection got worse and she got antibiotics. She didn’t miss a single dose, finished them, and at the follow-up her ears had no change. We were given the option of a stronger antibiotic, or seeing an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist. Our daughter has never passed a hearing test in her right ear, and we were due to see the ENT that month anyway, so we opted for that route. Due to her history (hearing) and the ear infection that had likely been persistent for a couple of months, we scheduled her for tubes.

She went in for tubes the day she turned 9 months old with a very active ear infection. She was allowed nothing to eat or drink for 6 hours prior to the surgery because of the anesthetic, and that was especially difficult for us since we bed-share. I fed her at the latest possible time, but she woke up about 90 minutes later wanting milk, so it ended up being a long morning.

What to Expect When Your Child Needs Tubes

One important thing to note that I wish I was told before her procedure is this: If your child goes under general anesthesia upset, they will wake up the same way. She was bawling and inconsolable. Nursing only helped a bit, and she would break latch to scream. I felt like the worst parent in the world,  thinking that it was my fault because she was in pain (she wasn’t). As we left, she cried all the way to the car. She fell asleep before we left the parking lot and slept for 3 hours. She woke up happy as could be, like nothing had ever even happened.

The ‪eustachian tube, which drains the fluid in the middle ear, is more at a horizontal level in
infants and is more at a vertical angle in older toddlers/children and adults. As children grow, the ear infections usually lessen as the eustachian tube moves more and opens up more to allow more drainage. Sometimes a child has too many issues to wait for this to happen naturally, and tubes are recommended.Nobody likes their baby to feel unwell, much less think of their baby going through any surgical procedure (no matter how minor). Unfortunately, sometimes procedures are necessary. Having tubes placed in a child’s ear(s) is a very common practice for both recurring ear infections (6 or more in a year), and for fluid build-up that could be causing hearing loss.


Most of the risks involved with getting tubes are really associated with the anesthesia and not the actual tubes themselves. Risks of the tubes could be minor scarring on the eardrum, the eardrum not closing after the procedure (or after the tubes eventually come out), and bleeding or infection (as with any incision).

Tubes have been frequently over-prescribed (just like many other things such as antibiotics), but can be very useful when actually needed. Always ask your doctor or specialist if you have any questions or concerns.

We had to start antibiotics again (due to the active infection), as well as putting the drops in her ears after the procedure, but everything has been great ever since! So far she has had no more infections and her one bad infection cleared up. We don’t know if this will help her pass a hearing test yet, but the ENT wants to wait a few months before we test her again.

Christine Kangas