Posts in Category: Four Directions Parenting

Throwback Thursday: Snow Days

The 1st year we lived in this sweet town close to the water, I had a newborn and a toddler with a husband who toured a lot as a musician, 6 weeks of which were spent in Norway during the dead of said winter. THAT was fun. I thought to myself many a time as I bulldozed my way through the drifts, no way, never again. The next year we hooked up snow removal and the winter was light. So we said to each other, not next year!

But….isn’t it romantic? Isn’t it lovely? All of this snow? Had you pronounced such open-ended questions a year ago, I would have given you the side eye. Living in the north is not for the faint of heart during the winter. With snow that accumulates hip deep you best invest in a snowblower, snow removal service or reaaaalllly enjoy shovelling snow. Or, have teenagers. Or amazing neighbours. People who you let in and share your story with, the good and the bad.

The beginning of winter last year met us with sickness and injury. I had fallen and cracked a couple of my ribs, seriously messing up my arm and hip. My husband had just been diagnosed with chronic gout, was on a cane and had to keep his foot elevated a majority of the time. And because we are neighbourly, and because I share in our stories, our neighbours knew what we were going through. Time and time again, our driveway would be ploughed by the kind souls on our street. I can remember one early morning in particular, when I was aiming to get the kids to school on time and there was no backing out of our garage. Stupidly, I attempted it and got stuck. I began digging my way out …ribs throbbing, mind beginning to melt with frustration. Life just felt like a series of slams and I could not keep up.

I got out of that driveway and my husband and I focused on the hard work at hand. Complete health and wellness overhaul. Lots of relationship ho-downs and show-downs. In the end, our love prevailed and we met each seemingly insurmountable mountain and series of tasks, determined more than ever to get better, get fit and get ahead.

How are we today? Well, for starters, I’m romanticizing over the snow even though my hip is throbbing from falling on an ice chunk tobogganing with my kids (being clumsy, apparently, is something I can’t shake). My husband had his first gout flare-up in almost a year over the weekend, forcing us to completely cease-halt on a fitness program we had begun together. A year ago, something like that would have really gotten him down. It would have kept him from riding his bike to the train station, something he truly loves doing. We probably would have started fighting. There must be something to this personal development and self-care that we’ve been focusing on both individually and as a couple, because instead of going to separate rooms to binge out on Netflix, in attempts to blot out the dark, cold grip of winter, we lit some candles and did some PiYO instead. And we got a little sweat on, we laughed and we just ENJOYED ourselves.

I’m no spiritual guru, but I’m pretty sure we’re onto something. And we do it all for our kids just as much as we do it for ourselves.


Feature Friday: Wherein Many Lucky Stars Are Thanked

PicMonkey Collage
3 years ago I began feeling sick. I knew something was wrong but couldn’t put a finger on it. As time went on, I got worse. One day I woke up and my legs were balloons and I couldn’t move. I stayed this way for one year, it was devastating. I spent endless hours in the hospital, at the lab and at the doctors. Endless tests and no results. No one could find anything. Finally, one year ago, I found a naturopath who saved my life. The next year would prove to be the most difficult. Treatment made me more sick. Somedays I felt like there was no hope. It made me sad to look at my kids and not be able to play with them. It made me sad to not be able to move and dance or even go to the park. I felt like I was slowly losing myself. Today, I am walking again. I can pick up my children. I can be intimate with my husband. I am starting to feel like myself again. As I look back, the past few years is very fuzzy. There’s a lot of darkness. All of this to say: My husband PLEX has just dropped his first music video from his new album. The song is called Lucky Stars and it is dedicated to me.

“My wife, the love of my life, is the centre of our family, our anchor. Watching her struggle with Lyme Disease has been difficult to say the least. I made this video as a tribute to her. To remind her of all the great moments we have had during this dark time.”

Watching it for the first time was overwhelming. He managed to capture some beautiful moments of our family over the past few years. It is a great reminder for me that even though I FELT like was disappearing, I was very much here and still am. Being loved, feeling loved, is such good medicine. He might think that I am the anchor of the family, but I couldn’t have gotten through any of this without his support and love. I, too, thank my  lucky stars.

Please watch and share.

Sweet Things: Autumnal Pictorial

I have just returned home from a mind-altering, soul-shifting work retreat. So much more on that later. I came home with a big hunger in my heart to dote on my little ones, to scoop them up in big cuddles and get some serious organizing done around the house. This includes spending far too much time going through photos from the whirlwind that has been this past Summer now nearing on the end of Autumn. I am awe-struck by the beauty I I have been gifted with in these sprightly, curious, remarkable humans Trev and I are raising.

I love watching them grow and build friendships and relationships to last a lifetime. These are but a few pics of my curly haired, chubby (still) cheeked firecrackers and those they call their bests. I hope to nurture these relationships well on into the years…

1 4 6 3 IMG_2004 2 IMG_2040 8 7 9 IMG_2056 10 5 IMG_1307 IMG_2618 any given moment
Adorable kid-sized mukluks c/o Manitobah Mukluks!
Our 1st Chappel Farms Visit
3 Years of Gratuitous Pumpkin Patch Photos: Compared
2013 Pumpkin Patch Photos
One Single Photo From 2015’s Chappel Farms Visit

The Canadian Dairy Association’s Chocolate Milk Marketing In Elementary Schools Is BOGUS [VIDEOS]

So. The Elementary School Milk Program (AHEM: Chocolate Milk MARKETING CAMPAIGN, because their sales go way down without the inclusion of said chocolate milk), is getting rather brazen and authoritative this year.

Did You Know?

“Chocolate milk has no more sugar than ‘100% Fruit Juice!”  This is the whole ‘Milk in Schools’ slogan slapped across pamphlets that went home with most public, elementary aged school kids this week. I’m just gonna tweak that nifty little tag-line a bit for a minute here. Amuse me. Come along for the ride. “Chocolate milk has the same (if not more) amount of sugar as ‘100% Fruit Juice!” There. Much better. Let’s break this whole juice is healthy concept down first. It’s not just soda that is full of sugar. Juice can be just as high in sugar as soda. Even the ‘100% fruit juice’ labelled ones, with no extra sugar added. Fruit juice contains no fibre, and the small amounts of vitamins and antioxidants in even the 100 % pure fruit juices do not make up for the large amount of natural sugar content. Read that article linked within. It’s a gooder.  I tried to find the chocolate milk pamphlet online to link to, no dice. All I could find was the more generalized (perhaps LESS CONTROVERSIAL, ahem) milk in schools brochure. But as you can see from my picture above – they are blatantly promoting chocolate milk all on its own.

The Truth About Marketing

Unfortunately, food and beverage manufacturers aren’t always honest about what is in their products, keep in mind. The fact is, the fruit juice you find at the supermarket may not be what you think it is… even if it’s labelled as “100% pure” and “not from concentrate. There are 30 grams of sugar in flavoured milk (chocolate, strawberry). Flavoured milk also has other ingredients you won’t find in the plain stuff such as colours, flavours, artificial sweeteners, which definitely don’t make it more nutritious. Yes, chocolate milk is damn tasty and I prefer to give it to my kids occasionally as a treat. It’s not being given to them every single day as a healthy food choice.

About 1 in 3 North American children are overweight or obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This is the first generation of kids who are expected to live a shorter life than their parents. By 2050, 1out of every 3 North Americans will have diabetes at the rate we’re going. This is a fundamental problem that no one is talking about. I’m paying attention and not listening to everything being marketed to me as touted being healthy for my kids and we’re teaching our kids about food brands and labels and how what they see on all of the food being marketed towards THEM aren’t honest. With this pamphlet coming home from school, we had to have another talk about chocolate milk being a TREAT, not an everyday healthy drink to consume like the advertising and slogan on the pamphlet would have their sponge-like little minds believe.

So I don’t mind having these talks with my kids. I believe that kids are being told some of the biggest lies they will ever hear in their lives by government and the food industry. It kind of boggles my mind though that we’re the ones who get strange looks at the grocery store say for example, when one on my kids pipes up asking, “look, mama, these gummies say they have vitamins and 100% fruit juice in them! That’s MARKETING right mama?! Is that true?” We’ve taught them to question marketing and to know that they are being sold lies. If we did not teach them this, they would believe what they’re seeing and reading. Kids are so trusting and innocent in this way. Just as we teach them about ‘stranger danger’, we teach them about sneaky marketing. You can think we’re zealots or go overboard with the whole healthy food consumption thing, all that you want. The stats don’t lie. MARKETING DOES. Especially advertising geared towards children. Take for example the chart that I’m looking at right now on my dining room table. It compares the nutrients of white milk and chocolate milk VS. “100 % apple and orange juice.” They list them all, calcium, vitamins D, A and C, including protein, fat and carb content. They don’t say that most of those ‘nutrients’  are injected into the milk and are synthetic. They very conveniently leave out the Bovine growth hormone content that is given to cows in the U.S. to make them mature faster and produce more milk, or the inhumane treatment that happens to cows on non-grass fed dairy farms everywhere.

Canada … Ontario, Get With The Times!

The biggest thing they’ve left out of that pretty little chart? THE SUGAR CONTENT in flavoured milk or 100% fruit juices. How convenient. Kind of sneaky in fact. We as a society are ready to analyze and question what we’re being sold in other areas of our consumption (clothes, cars, houses, etc.) We doubt, we question, we can see when we’re trying to be bamboozled. We do the research to make sure the product we’re buying is legit. Why on EARTH wouldn’t we do that when it comes to the FOOD THAT WE EAT?!

Look, I get it. Milk in schools is an easy, accessible way to help children get trough their day. So let us leave it at that, with plain old milk leaving the flavoured ones out. If the excuse is that kids are more inclined to drink chocolate milk over the plain, well yea! Of course they are. When we give them that choice. When we give them that power over their own nutrition. It’s up to us as parents to begin at home with these teachings.

Advocates like celebrity chef Jamie Oliver and his Food Foundation movement, have stood by his Flavoured Milk campaign. His message is clear: the more sugar we consume, the more we tend to want. If even milk has added sugar, what doesn’t? Part of getting everyone to better eating is getting everyone familiar with more wholesome, less-processed foods. Milk closer to nature is a better choice than milk with added sugar and colourings and flavourings. Every eating occasion is an opportunity to promote health or oppose it. If schools take a lead role in promoting health, there will still be much work to do outside of schools, but school then becomes an important part of the solution, rather than contributing to the problem.

And I agree. Adding flavourings and sugar to milk offers no nutritional benefit. The harm of the sweetened dairy products, besides the added calories, is that the palate changes so that the drive for sweetness increases. No matter what Oliver’s critics might say. Speaking of which, his flavoured milk campaign is SO 2011. He’s since moved on to lunches that are served in schools and food education for kids, parents and teachers alike.

Socioeconomic and Demographic Accessibility

The hardcore truth of the matter is that some kids go to school without being fed breakfast. Or, if they have been fed breakfast, it was a bunch of sugary crap. Every single day. (Again, I’m talking about consistency here, not the occasional treat). And much the same continues throughout their day when they pull out snacks and lunch. Very little whole-food based food with REAL (not synthetic) vitamin, mineral, antioxidant and protein value. So milk is a simple, accessible (cost effective) choice for many families to jump on board with to supply their kids with at least SOME nutritional food value to keep going throughout their day. I personally know that most of the vitamins touted to be in milk are not naturally sourced. As in they’re synthetic forms of those vitamins and ADDED into milk to make it more marketable. A one stop shop to get a whole fleet of vitamins, minerals and food supplements: vitamin’s A, B6, D, B12, calcium, protein, riboflavin, niacin, phosphorous zinc. Healthy carbs and fats. (Questionable, i.e.: skim vs. regular, whole milk vs. 2%, organic vs. regular, etc.)

I realise that our family comes from a place of privilege wherein we (by working our butts off to be able to afford whole foods) can provide our kids a nutrient dense diet every day. There are several reasons that we view this as a high priority in our budget, which stem from cultural beliefs surrounding food and water being sacred, being medicine; core values and health issues that my husband and I have. The truth is that there are a plethora of other ways for even low-income families to feed their kids simple, whole-food based meals and snacks that provide all of the nutrients that milk and flavoured milk are advertised as having. But knowing and understanding this takes LEARNING and education for parents too. Which is why some North American schools have stopped including flavoured milks in the milk programs and have workshops and book informative public speakers to come in and provide hands-on learning tools about how to feed their families on a budget, exposing truths about sugar and industry marketing.

My reasons for writing this post aren’t just to rant and rave. I’m hoping to generate online discourse and proposing that parents who are interested in tackling this issue, DO SO. It is much easier to turn a blind eye to the horrifying statistics on childhood obesity and diabetes and continue on as we were. Buying the hype. At what cost? We need to rally together, support one another, regardless of socio-economic and demographic barriers. Start up a movement in your school. Research speakers and workshop options. Put together your own presentation and make a call-to-action with your school’s principal to present at your next School Council meeting. Share your knowledge with other parents and students in an approachable, helpful way. Make suggested alternatives to flavoured milk easy, price friendly and accessible. Be the motivation. Igniting community awareness and interest in a convenient manner is key. We can’t just TELL parents they’re doing something wrong. How pompous, right? In essence, they aren’t. We’re all doing the best we can with what we have. With what we’ve been taught sold.

When industry partners up with the government (the Elementary School Program for example, or say – the Canadian Food Guide, which is a whole other bucket of worms, but take a comparitive look at our food guide compared to the Brazilian Food Guide ), the thought of challenging that strong-hold of power is overwhelming. I get it. Writing this post took me nearly two hours and I have many more (hours) ahead of me if I hope to get chocolate milk sales banned from my kids’ school and help other parents and kids understand why this is a GOOD THING. No, I don’t have lots of time on my hands. I work full-time too. We all have the same 24 hours in a day. We all have our own daily intricacies, problems and issues to deal with.

Don’t Just Take My Word For It …

Sugar, in and of itself has become a widespread, controversial subject. Please watch the documentary “Fed Up”. It’s a highly (scientific and evidence based) researched (albeit disturbing) look at sugar as the INDUSTRY it really is. Placing private profit ahead of public health. Watch the trailer below.

Learn more, know more.

What You Can Do

➵ Be friendly. DON’T BE PREACHY. Make it fun. Perhaps start off with signing up to have your school celebrate Food Revolution Day 2016 and use The Flavoured Milk campaign a springboard for small steps.
➵ Print and share the easy to read PDFs from Jamie Oliver’s Food Foundation, Toolkits for Change under “Flavoured Milk.’ There are 3 sections (The Facts, Find Support and Create a Campaign.) Email my post to begin, if you want, to your school council members and principal. Post it on FB and tag your neighbours, your friends, etc. Find your allies at the school and join together.
➵ Contact your school council chair, your principal, your ministry of education (where the campaign comes from). This might be considered causing a ruckus depending on where you’re at demographically. I guess you need to be comfortable with that. Or be okay with being uncomfortable. I’m going to be communicating with my kids’ school council that I’m already a part of and the principal to make my own presentation.
➵ If you can get your school’s principal and council members on board, call an info night session for all parents to attend and hand out the resources linked above, put them on a overhead and use them as talking points to all parents in attendance. Better yet, make a mini, easy to digest power point presentation using these resources to accompany it. Send the printables home with the kids too, just like that chocolate milk pamphlet was. They may not be printed in colour on fancy heavy weight gloss paper, and that’s okay.
➵ Contact ME to use and modify my power point presentation (coming soon!). Sign up for my newsletter to find out when. Or simply use Jamie Oliver’s resources to create your own, that’s what I will be doing, he makes it easy.

This may be one small thing that you do – in eliminating flavoured milk being sold at your kids’ school. With the power to invoke long-term change; in how parents and kids know about and understand nutrition, how neighbourhoods and school districts to come together as a village, recognizing the importance of food education and diet-related diseases that we are facing with this generation.

Wellness Wednesday: 15 Self Help Books That Don’t Suck

Fifteen?! Yes FIFTEEN. So bookmark this or PINNIT or whatever. This is a damn good list. Pinky swears. And I scaled back for sequel, so. There could be more, but I didn’t want to be obnoxious about it. Ahem.

So ‘Personal Development.’ The big ‘ole PD. Ugh. Is that what you’re thinking? For the most part, I suppose you could say that’s what I think about that whole world of know-it-all gurus too. It’s a saturated market. But then, aren’t all industries with professionals and would-be professionals? Keep in mind – there are a lot of self-help and PD books out there that DO SUCK. These don’t. You can take it from a converted skeptic who opened up her heart and mind a long time ago, to break free from pain, debilitating self-doubt and self-medication to begin crawling out of a black hole. So many of these book choices may not shout PD, but they’ve impacted my life in REAL and TANGIBLE ways. I’ve savoured all of them, four of which are in my current roster in the midst of being digested.

If you have any of your own faves, please share in the comments!

Summer Rules


It’s that time of year. Wherein visions of sticky fingers, couch fort surfing ninjago divers and the threat of boredom all loom on the horizon. With the end of the school year gone, done and finished, two months of having our kids home full-time lies ahead for our little our family, much like many others everywhere. And while we have a calendar scheduled with camping, adventuring and a couple of day-camps planned out, there are still lots of blank spaces, un-planned days and work to be done. On purpose.
1 What’s this mom to do when she works from home and decides that this is the very last summer she may have her kids home full-time? Well, she thinks she can juggle it all and vows to savour the crazed energy and excitement of it all. That somehow she’ll get her work done and not slam her kids down in front of the T.V. constantly to make that happen. All of a sudden she finds herself talk-typing in the third person even though she hates that shit.

Is it guilt that made me take such a leap? No. After all, it’s just, One. Last. Summer.

One last summer before my youngest starts school full-time in the autumn.
IMG_1924 I’ve done this maybe a few times before and the summer-break months always fly by at break-neck speed. Somehow everything ends up being alright in the land of parental responsibilites and deadlines. Mostly it’s a yearning. A yearning to embrace a slower pace and be in the moment. These moments of early parenthood are slipping between my fingers. There’s only so much time I have left to paint old fences with murals with them and run through sprinklers and muck about making general little-kid-kind magic.
2 How long do I have before they won’t want to go to the splash pad with me? Or the park? How long before they stop wanting to cut out shapes and toss glitter around like confetti under the shade of our backyard maple tree? Not long. Sure, these sweet things will turn into other sweet things as they grow and their interests evolve.
IMG_1390 And yet, right now … I’m very aware that I’m on the trail end of one of the most treasured, memorable stages in parenting. I’m exiting these early years with one who has two feet out the door and one with but a year left. So. To treasure and adventure and savour it is. Everything else will be okay. However, we’re gonna have to lay down some house rules, becasue things can get cray real fast without them. Not that my kids are going to necessarily listen to all of these rules, because perfect they are not. And true, some of these are clearly just being released out into the internets for my own amusement/sanity. And perhaps yours.

MILLS SUMMER HOUSE RULES 2015 (*Subject to change at any given moment*)

Free Printable: Dark Pasts and Bright Futures

Future - By Selena Mills for The Well Warriors
Download the high-res logo-free version to use as your desktop wallpaper, or to print and frame! Or … share the one with our logos on Instagram and Facebook!

Pictures of Recently Made Things

1 The winter has been long and the crafting and visualizing and dreaming and mapping and tackling has been much. Here’s a bit of what our hands have been up to, feeding our spirits and continuing to make our home uniquely our own. Where our hearts live and dragons breathe fire on occasion, when it all becomes too much. So we make felt and pipe cleaner crowns and wands and hope it’s magic enough until the frost breaks. (Which it did, and then it didn’t, and then it did … and we’re currently in a state of blizzardy DIDN’T.) The making of said crowns and wands turned more into a mom-craft than a kid-craft as they lost interest, but they still have fun playing with them anyways.

Our home: where no one else knows and no one else but us, my little family … sees the joys and failures of each day. As long as we use our hands to gather hugs, make art and build pretty things, I’m confident, all will be fine. I know I breathe fire a lot less when tapping into creativity and art. Something I hope to continue to pass onto my chldren. Play is the work of childhood after all, as Maria Montessori so simple yet brilliantly coined many moons ago.

Below are some floating shelves I’ve been conjuring upon since last summer, using galvanized steel, pine I measured, had cut at the good ‘ole Home Depot, stained and cured myself. Of course I measured the pipe I had cut wrong, but everything else was perfect, I swear! If not for some very good friends who came over to help, we would have been doomed. (I’m talking to you Sean! And Char, your lovely wife for holding up the windows that I had to take down one by one and clean, inclding all the runners and all the yuck. At 10 o’clock at night. When you were both supposed to be our dinner guests. And I fed you vegetarian that was spicy. Becasue of course.)

Anyways, aren’t they pretty? I had a hard time getting good photos since the shelves hover over a window, hence an epic battle with natural light and all, but you’ll have to trust me, they are quite dreamy and my kicthen is slowly turning into the unique, totally custom, inviting headquartes of magic-making, love-making, , ecclectic, homestead-y, jungalow type of warmth that I’ve been dreaming about … 

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