Bake The Cookies

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I was raised in a culture of love-by-the-way-of-food. It comes down from both my mom and dad’s sides, and I’ve gladly inherited that legacy since becoming a parent. Food is made from scratch and piled on plates whenever there are more than two family members gathered in a room. For me, it doesn’t just bring comfort; it’s a call out for togetherness.

We’re nearing the end of a school year and looking forward to the shift in gears and a chance to let our collective guard down. We’ve filled the summer calendar with opportunities to relax and recharge (we’re not used to so many blank squares!). We do love to experience new things and spend time with other people, but being home together is always the favoured choice when we need a break from the rush and hustle.

I can almost see the finish line, but that doesn’t mean I’m not spending a lot of time looking back on the year behind us. I’m wondering if we got it right and what could have gone better, and I also worry about the year that’s waiting up ahead. When I’m feeling untethered like this, I usually go straight to the kitchen and start thinking about which favourites or comforts I can offer up like love notes. Last weekend, I landed on these power-packed breakfast cookies. My older kids are about to enter weeks of cramming and exams, so I’m trying to fill the freezer with quick snacks. This recipe was easy to double batch. And the cookies freeze well in an air-tight freezer bag.

They are actually a variation of a recipe I found here. I substitute the tahini with applesauce and add chia seeds for my own version. Thanks to Erin and Dara for their fabulous recipe (they have many more if you check out their site), which I’ve pasted below with my own twist.

Ingredients:

1 cup rolled oats

½ cup whole wheat flour

¼ cup ground flax seed and chia seeds (or hemp hearts)

1 tsp cinnamon

½ tsp baking soda

½ tsp salt

1 ripe banana (mashed)

½ cup unsweetened apple sauce

⅓ cup maple syrup

½ cup chocolate chips

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. In a large bowl, mix together oats, whole wheat flour, ground flax seed, chia and/or hemp seeds, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt. In a small bowl, whisk mashed banana, apple sauce, and maple syrup.

3. Add wet ingredients to dry and mix until well combined. Add chocolate chips and mix again.

4. Using a ¼ cup measuring cup, scoop batter about 3 inches apart on baking sheet. Flatten cookies lightly with your hand. Bake for 15 minutes or until firm and brown around the edges.

5. Let cool for five minutes on a baking sheet. Remove to cooling rack and let cool completely.


Best (OMG!) Fried Rice (Shhhh, Don't Tell My Mom)

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You can understand my skepticism when my sister-in-law texted me to say she'd fed her kids the most incredible version of fried rice, and that it had nothing to do with actual rice. I should say here that my husband isn't as big a fan of this wonder grain as the rest of us. And one of our four kids is in her dad's camp. Last week, I was feeling adventurous and decided to give the recipe a try, to see if we might be able to sub it in for rice now and then. 

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It was my middle daughter who first set me on a journey to feeding kids in schools. She'd always been good about packing her own lunch and eating what she brought without complaint. Then, three years ago, I noticed (with alarm) that she was bringing her food home untouched. I wondered how she was making it through the day without any nutrition. She initially gave me excuses about being distracted or not having enough time, but now I know she was trying to figure out how to explain it.

Finally, after I had reached a point of being exasperated and quite worried, she admitted the classmate she sat beside at that time didn't have enough food in his lunch bag. And because of the school policy that prohibits students from sharing food (for allergy safety), she felt unable to eat her lunch beside him. She reached a point that it was so upsetting to her, she would pull out a book instead of opening her bag in front of him.

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Like A Fish: A Review of Goldfish Swim School

When you enter the school, it feels like you're on an island getaway, which is the perfect antidote to winter swim lessons

When you enter the school, it feels like you're on an island getaway, which is the perfect antidote to winter swim lessons

If I was to describe our youngest child in a sentence, I'd probably say something like she does life her way. And by that I mean she knows herself, what she likes, and how she wants to get things done

It serves her very well in her day-to-day, and we couldn't be more proud of her confidence, but sometimes she needs a nudge to help her see things from a different perspective. How we deliver that nudge determines how well it will be received. And trust me when I tell you she has given us plenty of opportunities to practise our delivery.

In the past year or so, I've spoken a lot about being in the sweet spot of parenthood with our four kids. They're all school-aged now. They can eat, dress, and participate in extracurricular activities independently. We've finally retired the bulky baby gear like diaper bags and strollers, which means vacations actually feel like vacations — except when it comes to being in the water.

Our little dynamo decided at some point in her early years that swimming — without clinging to a parent the entire time — wasn't going to happen. So my husband and I always end up at the bargaining table with the winner staying dry and the other getting into a bathing suit for the hotel pool. We've tried swimming lessons and made very slow progress — as soon as there's any mention of going underwater or jumping in, she holds her ground (literally). 

We are in the planning stages of our annual summer road trip, and this year's journey will take us oceanside. All kidding aside, water safety and swimming skills are extremely important to us. We want all of our children to feel confident around the water. So when the opportunity came to try a new swimming program, we crossed our fingers and went for it.

Goldfish Swim School has just opened its first Canadian location in our town. The program has been successfully running in the U.S. for several years, and they've established very family-friendly systems and a program that has thought of everything. I booked an appointment to go and see the facility without her, and as soon as I walked in I knew she'd be easy to convince. It's designed with kids in mind and so well-suited to the age they teach (infants to 12 years old). 

When we arrived for her first lesson, I watched her face light up with excitement. She could see that the space was built for kids her size and she immediately felt comfortable. When I say they've thought of everything, I'm not exaggerating. Instead of being in a chaotic, open concept change room, each family can use a gender-neutral room with plenty of space and hooks to keep things off the floor. The temperature is perfect and keeps the shivering at bay. Cold and swimming lessons do nothing to convince a kid that it's going to be fun

The change rooms are fantastic for privacy and usability. 

The change rooms are fantastic for privacy and usability. 

After getting though one day of lessons, she wanted to head into the change room to get herself ready independently. Like I said, she likes to do things her way. There are plenty of large cubicles in the main area to keep things dry and safe until the end of the lesson. 

The head lifeguard comes out and calls the students in for their lesson, by leading them through the open concept shower area. Swimmers take a shower before entering the pool, and parents can observe from the other side of the glass (where it's warm and dry!). 

She felt so grown up doing this on her own

She felt so grown up doing this on her own

Then it's time for parents to head to the observation area and make themselves comfortable (did I mention that you're still completely dry?). There are snacks and coffee/tea/hot chocolate available for parents, and free wifi too!

Comfortable seats, coffee, groovy tunes and free wifi. It's a parent's paradise

Comfortable seats, coffee, groovy tunes and free wifi. It's a parent's paradise

The pool itself is heated to a balmy 90 degrees and is one consistent depth of 4ft, which helps to keep the nerves calm (for her and me). She was immediately comfortable because she knew she wasn't going to be swimming in the deep end. And the side-to-side lanes are much less intimidating than being in a more open space. Each lesson (after your child's appropriate level has been determined) follows a step-by-step program with specific swim requirements. And parents are invited on deck for the last few minutes to hear about those skills and observe their child demonstrating something (s)he's been working on. 

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In addition to your child's swim instructor, there is also a qualified lifeguard on deck for every four kids, which provides a safe level of supervision for everyone in the pool. It also meant extra high fives and words of praise for my kid and she just loved hearing that she was doing well. She absolutely thrived in the lessons and counted down the minutes until the next one. 

It was so wonderful to see her confident and happy in the water

It was so wonderful to see her confident and happy in the water

What I noticed more than anything else was how the set-up of the program at Goldfish Swim School really encourages and fosters independence. I think she easily made progress in the program, because she felt like she was in charge. It suits her personality, but would also work well for kids who need some extra support.

Taking care of business on her own. She also loved using the automatic bathing suit dryers

Taking care of business on her own. She also loved using the automatic bathing suit dryers

We started out at the school in one of the Jump Start Clinics, which allowed us to come every day for a week and really get comfortable. It was perfect for figuring out whether this program would work for us longterm. The program is set up as a month-to-month payment and it's a perpetual lessons model that let's you choose a schedule that works for your family (including easy to schedule make up lessons). 

We are officially counting down to the start of our summer vacation now and it feels like we'll be at a new level of independence this year. We feel confident that with continued lessons, we'll have taken measures to make sure our kids are safe and happy in the water. And knowing that makes our time at Goldfish Swim School time well spent. 

Showing off one of her new skills

Showing off one of her new skills

Because I'm a local parent and blogger, the wonderful staff at the Goldfish Swim School generously invited my daughter to enjoy a week in their Jump Start Clinic in exchange for my honest review. I was not otherwise compensated for this post and my opinions are genuine. 

For a review by my dear friend about their experience with her extraordinary kiddo, click here (there's an adorable video that you'll want to see!)