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Winter 2019

H O L I D AY GIFT GUIDE Green Gifts for Everyone on Your List

A health & family focused digital publication & community

AUTUMN REESER on Living Authentically



Merry and Bright

Publisher & Editor in Chief Amity Hook-Sopko Creative Team Kaitlyn Kirby Tamara Hackett Cover Photography Paul Von Rieter Contributors Peggy O’Mara Kris Bordessa Mellisa Dormoy Carolina King Sandy Kreps Kylah Dobson Julie M. Smith, M.S. Lisa Nieschlag Lars Wentrup Debbie Hunt Photography Advertising Director Tracy Carter Media & Other Inquiries

10 WELCOMING WINTER Fun ways to celebrate the season 12 HOLIDAY BAKING WITH LITTLE ONES Invite your kids to join you in the kitchen

14 NAPTIME ACTIVISM Peggy O’Mara talks how to achieve

holiday peace through giving

18 HOW TO CHOOSE SAFE TOYS 20 10 THINGS NOT TO ADD TO YOUR HOLIDAY TO- DO LIST 24 AUTUMN REESER ON LIVING AUTHENTICALLY The mom of two shares on life with her sons, her passion for nature, self-reflection, and advice about motherhood

30 HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDE Our annual round-up of holiday

gifts for everyone on your list

42 POSITIVE PARENTING How to set healthy boundaries

for your children and relatives

46 GOOD TIME GATHERINGS Games to entertain all of your

guests at this year’s events


Winter recipes to bake up sweet treats (and memories!)

56 ZERO WASTE HOLIDAY Simple adjustments to help cut

down on waste during the holiday hustle and bustle


This relaxing script calms the mind and celebrates the winter weather

Editors’ Letter Call it a hunch, but I think most of us yearn for a little less stress during the holiday season and more time to enjoy those closest to us. It’s not about giving less, it’s about adding depth and meaning to this special time of the year. Robin Shliakhau’s words about creating a minimalist holiday have been on my mind throughout the planning of this issue. I’ve thought a lot about intentional holidays and how Reach Green Child’s Executive Editor to distill them down to what brings us joy… rather than what stresses us out. There’s no shortage of activities to attend, crafts to make, gifts to buy, and goodies to bake this time of year. With this impending overwhelm in mind, our team decided that instead of a To-Do list, a Don’t-Do list felt more fitting this year. This list gives you permission to stop doing things like comparing your holidays to others, trying to do everything yourself, or going into debt to make the holidays special. Other standouts from this issue are Kris Bordessa’s ideas for turning baking into a fun learning experience for kids, Peggy O’Mara’s article on giving back, our annual eco holiday gift guide, and the adorable mini cranberry pies in our Conscious Kitchen section. And if you’re ready to lighten the load when it comes to the pressures we put on ourselves, be sure to read our interview with actor, mom of two, and nature enthusiast Autumn Reeser. Sending you lots of love for a merry and bright holiday filled with special moments, fun memories, and big joy!


Amity Hook-Sopko Publisher & Editor-in-Chief

WELCOMING WINTER Winter officially begins on December 21st. Here are some meaningful and fun ways to observe and celebrate the winter solstice with kids.

LEARN FROM SNOWFLAKES Snow and ice are fascinating scientific phenomena, beautiful subjects for art, and hugely important factors in the Earth’s climate and ecology. The winter solstice is a wonderful time to learn about how water freezes, how our home planet has been shaped by glaciers, why the polar ice caps are melting, and what snowflakes look like up close.

PLAY THE “HOW TALL IS MY SHADOW GAME” At around noon on the first day of each new season, measure from your child’s toe to the top of her shadow. Have her measure your shadow, too. As you gather data on all four holidays, you can ask your child to guess which shadow was longest. Discuss the changing angles of the sun or read about our solar system and the Earth’s seasons.

LIGHT A FIRE A bonfire, a fire in the hearth, or tons of candles can remind us both of humans’ ability to create light in darkness (both literally and metaphorically) and of the sunshine in our nottoo-distant future. Or, if you’d like to delve deeper into the spirit of the solstice, try learning about and carrying on the rich tradition of the Yule log.

LOOK FORWARD, LOOK BACK This observance can take place with your family or alone. On paper, out loud, or simply in your thoughts, reflect on these questions or others that suit you better: What would you like the coming year to bring? What do you hope to leave behind with this winter’s darkness? What lesson or skill—big or small—have you learned this season that you hope to carry forward with you?



photo by Debbie Hunt

Sugar cookies and gingerbread houses draw my kids to the kitchen during the holiday season. Rolling, pouring, and sifting, they join me in my annual baking marathon. Then they linger, hoping for a sweet treat. Invite your little one to join you for some holiday baking and have some kitchen-table fun in between recipes.

SPOON SIZING Gather up an assortment of spoons and have your tot line them up from shortest to longest or see if there are enough to span the length of the kitchen table.

HOW HEAVY? Pull out the kitchen scale to see how much various food items weigh. To really get scientific, pour equal amounts of water into two different containers of different shape and size. Ask kids to guess which container has more (they’ll likely choose the higher water level). Show them how the same amount of water looks different depending upon the container it’s in.

OIL AND WATER Fill a clear plastic bottle half-way with water and add several tablespoons of vegetable oil. Shake gently and then watch as the oil and water separate, again and again.

LITTLE HELPERS Let your child measure flour. Use a onehalf cup dry measure and show her how to mound the flour on a plate; this makes it easy to see if the amount is correct. If you need eggs for your recipe, crack an egg into a deep bowl, offer a whisk, and ask her to beat the egg for you.

CANDY BARS Let kids set chocolate chips, nuts and mini marshmallows on a sheet of waxed paper; microwave until melted, then freeze into a homemade candy ‘bar’.

COOKIE PRACTICE While the sugar cookie dough is chilling, let your child practice using cookie cutters on some recycled Styrofoam trays.

PLAY DOUGH Let each child roll a bit of leftover dough (pie dough works well) into a circle, then sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Bake it with the next batch just until it’s browned and let them enjoy the treat.


Kris Bordessa is the author of ATTAINABLE SUSTAINABLE: The Lost Art of Self-Reliant Living.


HOLIDAY PEACE THROUGH GIVING The holiday season has so individuals to solicit funding much getting that it can for creative projects or personmake us yearn for gival needs. Even Facebook now ing. After the presents are offers a Donate Button and a wrapped and we settle in birthday donation option. for the warmth of the sea—, kickstarter. son, we may want to do com,, something to help others. It makes us happy when we make a charitable donation HOW TO EVALUATE A CHARITY of time or money, especially BY PEGGY O’MARA when our giving builds social If you’re interested in donating connections. Don’t forget to a charity, check out Charity though, that the watchword Navigator, where you can find the charity’s of naptime activism is giving only in a way that works for your particular family circum- overall rating on finances, accountability and transparency. A non-profit, for example, stances and the ages of your children. should spend less than 30% of its revenue on management expenses. Or, go to Charity SOCIAL GIVING Watch for a detailed report card of over 600 companies. —, Fortunately, we live in a golden age of social giving. Technology has allowed us to get to know thousands of non-profit organizations GIVING TUESDAY and given us the ability to donate money easily and securely. In addition, many for profit There’s a day once a year that makes it easy companies embrace social entrepreneurship to give back. Giving Tuesday, the Tuesday and combine business with a social purpose. They fund and implement social, cultural and after Thanksgiving (December 3rd this year), environmental solutions through a non-prof- partners with registered non-profits and with businesses that organize events to benefit it arm or from a percentage of profits. non-profits. The day encourages us to give time, money or the power of our voices along Websites like GoFundMe, Kickstarter, Indiwith our families, our community, our comegogo and Crowdfunder offer opportunities pany, or our organization. for businesses, books, films, albums and —

ORGANIZATIONS TO SUPPORT Giving Tuesday highlights organizations to support in our local communities and it’s always best to start locally. Also, here are seven worthy national organizations. Let us know whom you suggest giving to. RAICES provides free and low-cost legal services to immigrant children, families, and refugees in Texas. The organization offers the National Families Together Hotline (866378-2667), which is staffed from nine to five; callers can leave messages 24 hours a day. — According to the nonprofit, FREEDOM FOR IMMIGRANTS, few immigrants have access to a court-appointed attorney, a telephone call, or a speedy trial. Freedom for Immigrants offers a National Detention Hotline (209-757-3733) and is dedicated to abolishing immigration detention. — DONORS CHOICE. In 2000, history teacher, Charles Best, designed a website where teachers could post classroom project requests that needed support. You can choose the project(s) you want to support. Today, the organization is open to every public school in America. Donors Choice has vetted and fulfilled over 600,000 classroom project requests. — PAWS OF WAR matches veterans with trained service dogs that can help them

through tough times: many veterans of foreign wars suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Paws of War rescues most of their dogs from shelters and provides them with the intensive service dog training that they need in order to help their veterans. The veterans receive a service dog in training at no expense to them. — FEEDING AMERICA is the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization—a powerful and efficient network of 200 food banks across the country. As food insecurity rates hold steady at the highest levels ever, the Feeding America network of food banks has risen to meet the need. The organization feeds 40 million people at risk of hunger, including 12 million children and 7 million seniors. — Founded in 1909, NAACP is the nation’s foremost, largest, and most widely recognized civil rights organization. The association worked for 30 years to eradicate lynching and its legal team, led by Thurgood Marshall, was responsible for the Brown v. Board of Education (1954) decision, which outlawed segregation in public schools. Its members and supporters are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities, leading grassroots campaigns for equal opportunity and conducting voter mobilization. — CHILDREN’S DEFENSE FUND (CDF) has worked relentlessly for more than 40 years to provide a strong, effective and indepen-

dent voice for all the children of America, particularly poor children, children of color and those with disabilities. CDF educates the nation about the needs of children and encourages preventive investments to lift children out of poverty; protect them from abuse and neglect; and ensure their access to health care. In 2000, Founder and President, Marian Wright Edelman, received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor. —

ONE STOP DONATING If you are interested in donating to any of these organizations or other worthy non-profits, you can easily find donate buttons on their websites. You can also go to ActBlu, where you can search for your favorite non-profits and donate to several at one time. —

Wherever your student is going, Oak Meadow can get them there.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Peggy O’Mara is an independent journalist best known for editing and publishing Mothering magazine for over 30 years. She is now the editor and publisher of Her books include Having a Baby Naturally, Natural Family Living, and New Mexico Mountains. She has presented at Omega Institute, Esalen, La Leche League and Bioneers. Peggy is the mother of four and the grandmother of three. She has lived in Santa Fe, New Mexico for 35 years. | 802-251-7250

HOW TO CHOOSE SAFE TOYS If you have to have a PhD in chemistry to figure out what’s in a product designed for small children, chances are your child shouldn’t be playing with it, chewing on it, or eating or drinking from it. Each holiday, parents are faced with the influx of new toys coming into their homes. But how do we know which ones are made from the safest materials? You can use these tips for your own holiday toy shopping and pass the information along to relatives who might be asking what to give your children. Here are four toxic chemicals found in many common toys, plus why it’s best to avoid them.

PHTHALATES Phthalates commonly show up in teething rings, pacifiers, and flexible plastic toys. They’re used to retain the strength and resiliency of plastics while allowing them to bend. Phthalates leach from finished products when handled by children, especially through chewing and sucking, according to a 1998 CPSC study. Risks: Phthalates not only upset the body’s hormonal balance, they’ve also been found to stimulate the growth of cancers.

LEAD Lead is found in more than just paint. Kids toys and even kids jewelry have lead! Lead is used to make plastic more durable.

Risks: Lead affects the nervous system and has been linked to hearing loss, ADHD, and decreased IQ. It’s also a concern because children absorb and retain lead in their systems more easily than adults. Lead can also disrupt the chemistry in the kidneys, brain and bones, which can harm bone and tooth production, and lead to learning disabilities, reduced mental capacity and kidney failure.

CADMIUM Cadmium is a metal sometimes used as a cheap alternative to lead to strengthen metal alloys and is used as a plastic stabilizer. Cadmium shows up frequently in children’s products, particularly in children’s jewelry, toys with batteries, and paint coatings. Risks: A known carcinogen which can cause cancer, cadmium also affects normal brain growth and can cause kidney damage along with learning disabilities.

HOW TO CHOOSE SAFE TOYS Even though plastic toys are made with fewer chemicals, they can still get toxins by the manufacturing process, and there are different chemicals added to plastic toys that could even be more harmful. “My fear is that parents, and companies, are focusing on BPA and missing the bigger picture,” explains Kate L. Harrison, eco attorney and author of Green Bride Guide. “Many plastics, including BPA-free plastics, contain other chemical plasticizers, which are added to make the containers more flexible. Unfortunately, many plasticizers are also endocrine disruptors similar to BPA, which means that they could cause many of the same health issues.”


According to Carl Baum, MD, Associate Professor of Pediatrics at Yale School of Medicine and the Director of the Center for Children’s Environmental Toxicology, some plasticizers may be even be more dangerous for our children than BPA.

BPA is found in plastic toys, sippy cups, plastic bottles, and the lining of canned foods. It’s most dangerous when the child chews on it and we all know that toys always end up in our little ones’ mouths.

Katie recommends parents avoid buying plastic toys for babies, toddlers, and children who still put toys in their mouths. You’ll find plenty of safer toy options in our annual holiday gift guide.

Risks: The chemical has long been known to weakly mimic the hormone estrogen, and in the 1990s scientists showed that tiny amounts could leach out of plastic products and get into our bodies.

photo by Kylah Dobson


If the burden of making the holidays magical for your family is wearing you down, it might be time to undo some of those to-do lists. Saying yes to every calendar invite or volunteer opportunity There’s no shortage of holiday parties, recitals, family gatherings, work functions, and charity events this time of year. It’s easy to RSVP early on because it sounds fun or you don’t want to miss something that might turn into an amazing holiday memory. But when you limit the number of activities you plan to attend, you’ll have more time and space to relax and just be with your family. Going into debt trying to make the holidays special Don’t let consumerism overshadow the true sentiment of this season. When your holiday expense list exceeds your monthly budget, scale back. An affirmation to keep in mind is that people are more important than things. Clinging to traditions that no longer serve you Your extended family’s annual ski trip is amazing, but it doesn’t work out so well now that you have a new baby. Give yourself permission to skip a year or two without feeling guilty. On the flip side, if you used to spend Christmas away from family and feel the need to

be close, do it! Don’t get so hung up on how you’ve always done things that you miss the chance to start new (or temporary) traditions.monthly budget, scale back. An affirmation to keep in mind is that people are more important than things. Trying to do everything yourself Don’t let mother = martyr. Your job isn’t to guarantee everyone has the perfect Christmas. If you don’t have help, keep your activities, decorations, and gift giving to manageable level. And no matter how hectic the holidays get, carve out a little time for yourself. Worrying if you’re sharing too much or too little on social media Your whole family rolled, shaped, baked, and frosted sugar cookies with plenty of laughs at your failures and cheers for the ones that turned out. You were so busy and in the moment, you didn’t take any photos. Later while looking through Instagram, you see where a friend chronicled the entire process of their holiday cookies. Does that diminish your family’s fun or efforts? Not at all! It’s not a contest. Share what you truly want to share and keep private what you feel compelled to keep private. Resist the urge to check back in for likes if it takes you away from enjoying the moment.

Trying to make ALL the festive crafts and holiday treats Here’s a newsflash that will either set you free or overwhelm you completely: Pinterest is never going to run out of ideas. If your gingerbread houses always end in tears, just don’t do one this year. Or choose three projects and give yourself a little grace (and a lot of humor) with them. A lopsided homemade wreath or burned cookies won’t ruin your holiday, but they will create a funny family memory. Taking part in gift exchanges you don’t enjoy You should feel generous and content – not obligated – to give a gift. If all you do is exchange various forms of $25 with your siblings or cousins, be the one to speak up and suggest a name draw or a charity donation. If everyone loves this year, make it the new tradition. If you love giving gifts to all the people involved in your daily routine, but don’t enjoy the shopping part, give them cash. It’s easy, eco-friendly, and always appreciated. Setting unrealistic expectations for the “perfect” holiday Relieve yourself from the pressure of making this holiday the best ever. Most of us spend more time stressing over holiday planning, than actually doing the things we planned. It’s a waste

of time and mental energy. Instead of trying to take on everything, identify the most important tasks or activities and take small steps to make them happen. Give your kids a break, too. Just because this is the season of peace and goodwill, it doesn’t mean they won’t whine or fight. And if you follow logical consequences, be careful with the Santa threats if you’re not prepared to follow through. Comparing your holidays to others Teddy Roosevelt was right when he said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Someone else’s decorations, food, vacation, or gifts will always be better than ours. All it probably means is that their situation or priorities are different. Don’t hold yourself up to someone else’s standard, especially if it doesn’t suit you. Equating more things with more love Buying more gifts and hanging more decorations is just that… more. What purpose does it actually serve? And what message does it teach our kids? You are not a better parent / human if you volunteer for the kindergarten class party or work three shifts at your church’s fundraiser. Choose what matters or makes the biggest impact, and that’s where to focus your energy.


Living Authentically Raised in Southern California, Autumn Reeser fell in love with acting when she saw her first stage play at age six. At 17, she attended UCLA’s musical theatre program and went on to shine in roles on “The O.C.”, “Entourage”, “No Ordinary Family”, and several Hallmark movies, including the upcoming “Christmas Under the Stars”. In our interview, Autumn talks about life with her two sons, her passion for nature, self-reflection, and some honest advice about motherhood. INTERVIEW BY AMITY HOOK-SOPKO PHOTOGRAPHY BY PAUL VON RIETER

Your positive energy and joy are evident no matter where you are, and our team often remarks on how at home your children seem in nature. Did you set it up that way? Or do you follow their lead? Awww, thank you! I think our children absorb the way we do life. That became abundantly clear to me after I had my first child, and I embarked on an unintentional personal mission to change the way I show up in the world, so that I can live the values I wanted to teach my children. It’s been a long, difficult, joy-filled process. So much of the life I was living at 30 didn’t feel authentic to who I am or what I value. Even though I’ve been scared every step of the way, I started speaking more honestly, exited toxic relationships, downsized my entire life and made wayyyy more space in my schedule to just be with myself. All of these changes allowed me to rediscover the deep love for nature I had as a child, and I am so grateful to myself for being brave enough to bring that girl back to life because now she gets to give the same gift to these two beautiful boys. Since we live in the city, it’s so important to me to get them out in nature as often as I can. My ancestors were farmers in Germany, Russia, and eventually South Dakota, and my parents and sister still grow their own food, which inspires me. That doesn’t work for me with my travel schedule, so instead I focus on environmental conservation, involvement in our community, and celebrating our national park system.

They seem to be at that super fun (and fairly easy) stage. What’s your favorite part of raising boys? YES! Finally! I’ve been waiting forever for this stage (ages 5 and 8) and now that it’s here I can feel how quickly it’s going to slip through my fingers. I’m absolutely trying to maximize this beautiful period of time with them, which has resulted in a dwindling social schedule, and I couldn’t be more pleased with my choice. I love interacting with them— they’re so funny, smart, endlessly energetic, infuriating, delight-filled, magnificent, and challenging. They continue to be my greatest teachers, every single day. Many of our readers are new moms, and they often ask how long it took to feel like yourself again after having a baby because they are still in the thick of it. I think most of us agree you’re never the same as you were pre-children, but tell us about new motherhood for you and how you navigated those changes. Three years? I think I read somewhere it takes three years for your body to truly recover from giving birth, and I think that’s true. Even though it may have appeared on the outside that I physically bounced back, I didn’t feel fully back into my own skin or in charge of my own autonomy until almost three years later. I found those years pretty awful, personally, and I was desperate to just be able to be present and love that moment with my kids but I was so triggered by their strong emotions and the

constant feeling of being needed so completely. I’m a free spirit by nature, so those years were the most challenging, but ultimately the most growth-filled, of my life thus far. I was so angry and so ashamed of being so angry. Man, being a human is hard sometimes! And the pressures our current culture places on young mothers is insane. I’ll tell everyone reading right now “You’re doing great! Trying to live up to anything on Pinterest will slowly kill your soul. Get off of Instagram if it’s making you feel ‘less than’. You are enough, your efforts are enough, and you are doing it right. Focus on being kind in every moment and that includes being kind

to yourself.” I believe that in itself is enough to change your life and ultimately has the power to change the entire world. What helps you process or cope when life gets overwhelming? Remembering that, “this too shall pass.” A bath, music, a good cry, dance class, a talk with my best friend, attempting even 5 minutes of meditation and exercise. And wine can be a great pinch hitter. Do you and your children have any special holiday traditions?

I’m not a big holiday person. I prefer to celebrate the rhythms of nature, especially because I don’t follow a specific religion and the origins of our current holidays are murky at best! We don’t decorate, as over time I’ve really come to question the value of storing items year round that you only use for a month. I don’t like excess and I believe that everything you own actually owns you, so I would say I’m a minimalist… except when it comes to books, which I cannot seem to stop buying! We do make seasonal crafts and display those, because they celebrate both a season of nature and a moment in time within our family, but I don’t really save much; I take pictures. If you could give one bit of advice to your 20-year-old self, what would it be? Learn to meditate. Separate the beauty of who you truly are from the critical voice inside your head. I promise you that negative voice is offering nothing nourishing and will lead you down multiple painful paths that you can avoid if you simply surrender. Start listening to the true rhythm of life. It is magical and full of power and surprises and joy!


Does wine count? If not, I’ll take pasta Bolognese, please... with wine. BEST VACATION SPOT

A campground in the woods, near a lake. IDEAL WAY TO PRACTICE SELF CARE

Listening to your body and soul and taking the time to give it what it needs that day/ week/season of life. WORDS TO LIVE BY

Be here now. Only when we fully accept the present moment can we transform the future.

PlanToys Stacking Rocket; Yellow Oekaki Drawing House; Merino Wool Hand Knit Cowl Neck Cape; $130;

For Baby

Checker Slip on Vans;

Radio Ga Ga Onesie;

Animal Edition Silicone Baby Teethers;

Wooden Climbing Arch;

Wooden Block Set;

EMF Shielding Baby Hat;

Handcrafted Vermont Maplewood Passport Teething Toy; Shire Bagshot Row Baby Blanket;

Kaleidoscope Play Camera;

Eco-Friendly Earth Playsilks;

Handmade Zara with Yarn Hair;

For Kids

Illustrated Art Paper Shelf;

Natural Pine Blockitecture Tower;

Green Kid Crafts STEAM Slime Lab;

STEM Marble Run;

Holiday Mindful Memory Keeper;

Mini Acoustic Guitar for Children and Beginners;

Wooden Fresh Mart Grocery Store;

Crystal Essentials Starter Set;

Rainbow Keyboard Cover;

Disney Villainous Board Game;

For Teens

NASA Apollo Saturn V LEGO Set;

Speks Magnetic Mashable Smashable Buildable Ball;

Star Wars Vinyl Record Wall Clock;

Harry Potter Vans Sneakers;

50 States Photo Map;

Water-Based, Non-Toxic Nail Polish;

East African Cotton Espadrilles; Walnut Crescent Moon Tray;

For Him and Her Dreamy Organic Latex Pillow;

Lace Rolling Pin & Cookie Stamp;

Upcycled Circuit Board Photo Frame;

Plastic-Free Coffee Brewer;

Wine Aerator & Sulfite Purifier; Desert Mist Essential Oil Diffuser;

Portable Red Light Therapy;

Plant-Based Antioxidant Booster;

Elevated Pet Feeder;

Dental Pet Chew Treats;

For Pets Cozy Cat Cave;

Dog Collar + Matching Friendship Bracelet;

Modern Mud Cloth Dog Squeaky Toy;

Flannel Dog Bandana;

Interactive Treat Maze & Puzzle;

Joy to the World Bath Bomb;

Stocking Stuffers

Loose Leaf Tea Infusers;

Zero-Waste Solid Shampoo Bar; Reusable Cotton Swab;

Gentle Scalp Massager;

Aura Cleansing Crystal Body Scrub;

Special Edition National Geographic Water Bottle;

Easy, No-Heat Hair Curler;

Decadent, Non-Toxic Holiday Foaming Hand Soaps;


HEALTHY BOUNDARIES: YOUR CHILD DOESN’T OWE ANYONE A HUG “Let me squeeze those cheeks!” An adult squeezed my cheeks so hard it left a red mark. This happened a lot during the holidays when I was a child. When visiting friends and family members, as a shy child, I was often left feeling awkward with many of these encounters. Part of me wanted to say something. Part of me didn’t know how to respond. So I learned how to ignore that feeling inside of me that wanted to say no. Now this was a small act, one that didn’t have a major impact on me, but now that I am a parent, I understand the importance of consent and healthy boundaries. We see all these stories about consent, and you might wonder how it even got to that point. Many times it’s because as children, we weren’t taught about consent and healthy boundaries. We were told we had to hug, kiss, wave, or put up with the family member who did things that made us feel awkward.


With the holiday season around the corner, it’s important to remember that these experiences are shaping our children and it is our job to give them the appropriate tools to handle situations that make them feel uncomfortable. Learning how to say no and how to create healthy boundaries, might be what stops your future teen from experiencing a traumatic event in the future.


How do we raise polite children while teaching them about consent and boundaries? According to the dictionary, being polite means showing regard for others in manners, speech, and behavior. Nowhere does it say, being polite means having to do things you are not ready to do or don’t make you feel comfortable. So here’s how you can help your child navigate this holiday season when encountering family and friends they haven’t seen often.


Explain to your child where you’re going, who they’re going to see, and any expectations you have. See if they have any questions and answer them patiently and thoroughly. I personally like to break it down for my kids so they know what to expect. Depending on your child, you might have to do this a few weeks before the event or do on your drive there. You know your child best. If you want to dive deeper on this, listen to episode #3 of The Mama Instincts Podcast where I share in detail how to set expectations with your children.


Talk to your child about polite ways to respond when encountering someone they don’t know or when finding themselves in a situation they don’t feel comfortable. Maybe your child is shy and doesn’t know how to respond in larger crowds or talk to people they barely know. Teach your child words they can use in these situations, such as hi, hello, thank you, please, etc. And practice at home. Playing pretend is a great way to practice being polite in a safe and comfortable environment. Do a little role playing with your child so they can practice how to be polite on your next gathering.


There are introverts and extroverts. Let your child be who he or she is and give the tools which will help them navigate this world. As a child, and still to this day, I get shy around big crowds and it takes me a while to break out of my shell. Once I do, I’m really outgoing. I started noticing one of my children displaying a similar behavior. Instead of forcing her to interact with others when she wasn’t ready, I encouraged small conversations and gave her space. Explain to your child it’s kind to say hello back when someone greets you and they can choose if you want to say hi, wave, high-five, give a hug, or whatever you and your child are comfortable with.


If your child is hiding behind your legs when someone is trying to give them a hug, it’s because they are not ready for this kind of interaction. Be an advocate for your child, using words your child can use in the future. Explain to the adult your child needs a little more time to feel comfortable and she will come and say hi when she’s ready. This is especially important if you have a really young child or a toddler who doesn’t understand why this stranger wants to hold him or give him a big hug. Be mindful about your choice of words,

remember your child is listening and they will pick up on whatever you say about them to the other person. Remember, it is not your job to make the adult feel comfortable, it is your job to teach your child about politeness, consent and boundaries. You know this person is coming from a good place and has good intentions, and your child will see that in your behavior and realize this is a safe person.


We can talk all day long, but our children learn best when we model the behavior we want them to display. Be kind and polite to others, don’t say yes when you mean to say no. Stop your weird uncle from giving you a head nudge and shake his hand instead.

DON’T LET OTHERS MAKE YOU FEEL BAD ABOUT YOUR PARENTING STYLE With holiday gatherings often comes unsolicited advice from family and friends. While they mean well, most of the time, they simply don’t know your child the way you do. I always thank people for their advice, even if I didn’t ask for it. I analyze it and see if there’s anything of value, then I take what I can use and discard the rest.

There’s a reason why there are so many parenting philosophies; we are all different. It’s part of being human! Just because something worked for one child doesn’t mean it will work for yours. Stay open to advice, but touch base with your intuition. You are the parent of your child for a reason.


good time

Gatherings During your holiday gatherings, you’re likely to have a houseful of guests from different generations. These games and crafts help bridge the gap, while making lasting memories.

GRATITUDE GUESTBOOK As guests arrive, snap their picture with an instant camera if you have one or take digital shots. (Print the pics as the turkey is finishing roasting.) On a side table, set out an inexpensive scrapbook or journal so guests can add their picture and write a greeting or draw something they are thankful for. Have some stickers and crayons on hand for youngsters to decorate their pages. For an extra bit of holiday fun, videotape your guests during the day and again as they design their page. Show the footage while you serve the pumpkin pie for dessert.

PEOPLE POLL Create a human scavenger hunt that will have kids begging for more. Send kids off to find someone who fits a certain bill—a person with blue eyes or gray hair or whose middle name is Ethel. When the kids return with a correct answer, give them another

mission. Encourage cousins to work together as a team to poll the relatives.

GETTING TO KNOW YOU After the meal, pass a bowl of candies around the table, telling each person to help themselves, but not to eat any yet. Once everyone has their candy, explain that for every candy chosen, each person must tell one thing about themselves that others might not know.

STORY TIME My kids love to hear stories about when their grandparents were young. Ask your guests to bring along some photo albums to initiate storytelling. While you’re busy in the kitchen, the kids and grandparents can sit and chat about “the olden days.”

GUESS WHO It seems like long-distance cousins need some time to warm up to each other each holiday season. Teach the kids this game, and they’ll be giggling together in no time. Choose one person to be IT, and have them sit in a chair, facing away from the group. Place a small item (such as a film canister) under the chair and tell the other kids that one person needs to quietly steal the item and hide it somewhere on their body. When the group chants, “guess who?” IT tries to guess who has the item. Offer a hint or two if you like. If IT is correct, she keeps her spot; if not, the person with the hidden item takes a turn at being IT.

by Sandy Kreps

ENCOURAGING POSITIVE SIBLING RELATIONSHIPS “But she started it!” If the holiday break has you dreading sibling arguments, you’re not alone. Parents who follow the gentle discipline philosophy can often find themselves at a loss when it comes to mediating sibling disagreements. Learning to get along with each other is not only great for the children; it makes life easier on the whole family. With the extra free time winter break offers, it’s an ideal time to work on sibling relationships.


Jeffrey Kluger, author of “The Sibling Effect: What the Bonds Among Brothers and Sisters Reveal About Us,” reminds parents that although sibling rivalry is to be expected, how we handle it (and encourage them to handle it) is what matters. “A parent’s role is to not sweat the day-to-day stuff too much,” he says. In most cases, the conflict is benign, Kluger says, and parents needn’t worry that their kids are irreparably damaging what should be one of the most important and long-lasting relationships in their lives. Harboring a positive relationship between siblings is extremely important. Here

Photo by Debbie Hunt are five ways you can help encourage a positive sibling relationships.

siblings can create the most enthralling games when they’re forced to amuse each other.



You remember the old saying, “Never wake a sleeping baby.” Dr. Laura Markham’s corollary is, “Don’t interrupt a happily playing child.” So when siblings are playing together well, don’t take it for granted. Support them in whatever they need to keep playing, and don’t interrupt unless it’s necessary.

Cleaning out the garage, washing the car, or washing and drying the dishes. Cooperation is necessary to get the job done, and the kids will want to get the job done as quickly as possible!

PLAN ACTIVITIES TOGETHER AS A FAMILY Walk the dog, play board games, ride bikes, go swimming. Family time encourages teamwork and helps children feel like a valued part of the family unit. For competitive games, team the siblings up to play against Mom and Dad, instead of having them play against each other.

LET YOUR KIDS BE BORED TOGETHER Get them off the TV and video games, and encourage them to find something to do on their own. Then just leave them alone. Boredom leads to creativity, and

LET THEM CAMP IN EACH OTHER’S ROOMS If your children are younger and have separate rooms, let them hold impromptu slumber parties in each other’s rooms when they don’t have to be up early the next morning. Kids love taking turns dragging their blankets and pillows into other places. Siblings that barely speak to each other during the day may find themselves talking together long into the night. Leave them be and let them talk as long as they want— they’re bonding. Of all the ways to help encourage positive sibling relationships is to develop your own strong bond with each child. “When each child knows in his bones that no matter what his sibling gets, there is more than enough for him, sibling love has a chance to bloom,” shares Dr. Markham. “There is always more love.”

GOOD GREEN NEWS Positive changes are happening for the environment. Here are the stories that are giving us hope for the future of the planet right now.

The European Union takes on planned obsolescence. As of 2021, household appliances like TVs and refrigerators will be required to be designed to last longer and be easier to repair. Manufacturers will also have to make sure spare parts are available for at least a decade.

The dirtiest power station in Western Europe switched to renewable energy. The Drax Power Station in Yorkshire, England used to spew millions of tons of carbon dioxide a year by burning coal. After 8 years of conversion, it now generates 15% of the country’s renewable power.

A San Francisco conservation group has kicked off a public fundraising campaign to buy and protect the world’s largest remaining privately owned giant sequoia forest. Save the Redwoods League will purchase the 530-acre property, known as Alder Creek, from the current owners if it raises the funds.

Austin’s homeless are being paid to clean up the city. Participants are paid $15 an hour to handle large-scale environmental cleanup, subsidized housing improvements, and public art maintenance. According to program director Chris Baker, “This program is playing a critical role in our city, not just by getting people off of street corners and onto job sites, but by instilling in them a sense of hope, dignity and self-worth that’s often lost in the chaos and isolation of the streets.”

After being close to extinction in the 1950’s, the humpback whale population has completely recovered. “This is good news, says Dr. Alex Zerbini, one of the study’s authors. Efforts to preserve the population have increased it to 25,000 and 93 percent of their pre-exploitation levels, according to a study published by the Royal Society. “Conservation efforts can have a positive impact, and if you protect animals, this shows numbers can grow.”

Unilever plans to slash new plastic use by nearly 400,000 tons a year. The maker of Ben & Jerry’s and Dove announced it will use no more than 386,000 tons of new plastic each year from 2025, down from around 772,000 tons in 2018. Unilever will offer more reusable and refillable packaging, sell more unwrapped products, and use more recycled plastic in its packaging.

Conscious Kitchen Mini Cranberry Pies

INGREDIENTS 350 g (12 oz) plain flour 120 g (4¼ oz) raw sugar 3 Tbsp ground pecans (or ground almonds) ¼ tsp salt ¼ tsp ground cinnamon 150 g (5½ oz) cold butter, diced 50 g (1¾ oz) white chocolate, finely grated 1 egg

FOR THE FILLING 400 g (14 oz) cranberries 110 g (3¾ oz) raw sugar 2 mandarins 1 Tbsp cornflour ALSO Butter for the tin Flour for dusting 1 egg yolk for glazing

DIRECTIONS 1. Combine the flour, sugar, pecans, salt and cinnamon in a bowl. Add the butter and chocolate and rub in quickly until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Whisk the egg, add to the dough and knead until smooth. Wrap in plastic wrap and leave to rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. 2. For the filling, combine the cranberries and sugar in a saucepan. Wash the mandarins under hot water and pat dry. Grate the zest and add it to the pan. 3. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer over medium heat for about 3 minutes. Meanwhile, juice the mandarins. 4. Combine the juice with the cornflour and add it to the cranberries with a pinch of salt. Simmer for another 1 minute, then remove from the heat and set aside to cool. 5. Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F) and lightly butter a muffin tray. 6. Roll out the dough about 4 mm (3/ 16 inch) thick on a lightly floured surface. 7. Use a cookie cutter to cut out 12 circles, 5 cm (2 inches) each. Line the muffin holes with the dough and spoon in the cranberry filling. Cut another 12 circles, about 6 cm (2½ inches), out of the remaining dough. Cut a small heart shape out of the centre of each circle, then place on top of the pies. 8. Whisk the egg yolk until smooth with 1 Tbsp water and brush over the pies. 9. Bake for 12–14 minutes, until golden brown.


Conscious Kitchen Gluten-Free Raw Gingerbread Bites by Kylah Dobson

INGREDIENTS 1/2 cup almond meal 3/4 cup rolled oats 1 1/4 cups pitted medjool dates 1 teaspoon vanilla 1/2 teaspoon sea salt 1 tablespoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg 1/4 teaspoon cloves

DIRECTIONS 1. Blend the oats in a high speed blender or food processor until it forms a floury meal (resembling the almond meal). 2. Add all remaining ingredients, except for the dates and vanilla, to the oat meal and process until fully combined. 3. Add half of the dates and process until well combined, then add the remaining dates until you have dough that sticks together. 4. Roll approximately 1 tablespoon of dough at a time in between the palms of your hands to create your raw gingerbread bites. Store at room temperature for up to 3 days or in the fridge for up to two weeks. These also freeze well. Enjoy! OPTIONAL Roll bites in shredded coconut to make snowball bites. Roll dough and use small cookie cutters to create holiday shapes. Process 1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds into a fine meal to substitute for the almond meal for a flour free version.



It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Unfortunately, it is also the most wasteful. Moms everywhere are overloaded with shopping lists, cookie baking, concerts, Santa visits, and everything else that comes with this time of year. Going zero waste during the holidays might feel like one more burden - but it doesn’t have to. Just a few simple adjustments to your wrapping technique or the gifts you buy can really, truly make a difference in your holiday waste… and ultimately, the landfill. Take a look at these zero waste holiday tips and choose the ones that feel the easiest to fit into your life.


Decorate with seasonal potted plants, gourds, pumpkins, and beeswax candles.


Buy your holiday meal locally. Many farmers markets will have sweet potatoes, pumpkins, squash, apples, and even turkeys depending upon where you live.


Buy your holiday baking ingredients in bulk and reuse items that you have on hand for decorating/packaging whenever possible.


Avoid disposable aluminum oven trays. Besides being wasteful, the toxins from heating aluminum can transfer to your food. If you don’t have large enough containers on hand, you can always borrow or hit the thrift store.


The same goes for plates, cups, and utensils when it comes time to serve. Just make sure your dishwasher is empty and ready to go.


Plan carefully to avoid food waste. If you find yourself with more leftovers than you can stomach or even giveaway, try freezing the freezable dishes for a future date. And compost any scraps.


Sending out holiday cards is a longstanding tradition that many families may have a hard time parting with. If you opt to send paper cards, consider your list carefully. For example, consider sending cards only to people you rarely have the opportunity to speak with or those who aren’t actively online.


Find cards made from recycled papers and printed with natural dyes. Keep it simple by avoiding extra embellishments or other materials. Or try a holiday postcard to save extra paper and envelopes.


Skip the stamps with their plastic backings and have your cards ink stamped at the post office instead.


Recycle any greeting cards you receive, or reuse them for kids’ crafts and gift tags.


Experience gifts are always the best option for zero waste gifting. These gifts can range anywhere in cost from a vacation to a homemade coupon book with activities that won’t cost you a dime! Brainstorm lists of your friends’ and family members’ interests. Think about classes they might like to take or memberships they might like.


If you’re crafty, you might make your own gifts out of low waste materials. Find DIY recipes for personal products like lip balm, soaps, bath bombs, or candles. DIY beeswax wraps make super useful kitchen storage.


Don’t shy away from secondhand gifts, or even regifting. There’s nothing better than giving an unused gift new life with an owner that will truly value it.


We’ve all watched a small child rip off the wrapping of a gift they’ve received in a matter of seconds. Now imagine that this waste can fill up thousands of football fields in a year’s time. Save every fancy little box, gift bag, scrap of tissue paper, and cookie tin that comes along throughout the year for wrapping your gifts.


Give back. There’s no waste created when you give the gift of your time. Take the kids caroling at a local nursing home, shovel snow for people in your neighborhood, or volunteer at a homeless shelter.

Guided Meditation Dancing Snowflakes BY MELLISA DORMOY

Close your eyes and let yourself get nice and comfortable. Breathe in. Let your body take a slow, deep breath that fills up your belly. When you exhale, let go of any worries and blow them far, far away. Let yourself be still and sink into your imagination. Now, allow every part of your body to become very loose and relaxed. Just let all your muscles relax and become very lazy and limp. (Pause) Now that you are completely relaxed in your mind and body, picture yourself all bundled up and standing outside on a beautiful snowy day. Your clothes are thick and warm, so you’re perfectly cozy. A scarf around your neck and knitted hat upon your head keep you feeling nice and toasty. As you lift your face to the sky, you notice tiny dancing snowflakes falling all around you. They kiss your nose and stick to your eyelashes. They make you laugh as you hold out your arms and spin around in this light shower of snowy beauty. Each beautiful and unique snowflake is a shiny, tiny pure reminder of all the good you have in your life. They remind you of all the positivity and happiness you have every day. All you have to do is open your eyes and see those bits of positivity everywhere! Notice how each tiny snowflake comes from

a place we can’t even see. But as they come closer, we can see how beautiful each one is. The snowflakes - each one so tiny - begin to gently pile up around you now. The pile is getting bigger and bigger! You laugh and gather up some bright snow and toss it all around. As you do that, you feel so thankful for all the blessings you have in your life: for the people who love you and care for you, for the happy things that happen every day, and even for the things that may challenge you a bit more but help you grow into the person you are becoming. Notice how happy you feel in your heart as the snowflakes tumble down all around you. Snowflakes come and go. You can enjoy and appreciate them, even though you can’t hold one in your hand for very long. They remind you that you are always surrounded by goodness and love. All you have to do is look for it, and you will find it everywhere. And that love can make your heart feel warm, even during the coldest of times. How special it makes us feel that we are so loved! When you’re ready, you can open your eyes now and give your body a nice big stretch. You’ve done an amazing job on our journey together.

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Holiday 2019: Green Child Magazine