The other week-end the weather was so gorgeous there was no excuse for not getting outside and into nature.  On the Saturday it was a bit chillier, but a Peregrine Falcon payed us a visit beckoning us to come outside.  My sons were thrilled to see the Peregrine Falcon so close, as it had visited that week before in our backyard but further away.  Good thing too, as it was eating a sparrow on the back fence, not something I want to see up close (bloody awful, literally).

We watched in awe as this beautiful and strong bird went about its business.

We acknowledged together that though we felt bad for the bird it was eating, we knew that it was all part of the cycle of life.

I looked up Peregrine Falcon and found this “It has been suggested that rescuing the peregrine from extinction has been one of mankind’s greatest environmental success stories.”  How wonderful that this powerful and fast-flying bird sometimes referred to as the “cheetah of the sky” visited us that weekend.  It was a reminder of the marvel of nature’s strength and ability to survive and then thrive.

On the Sunday when the weather was milder, we went for a bike ride in the valley and stopped to make some nature art . I have included some fast forward videos here to inspire.

There is no right or wrong way of doing this.  As long as you are respectful of nature, living plants, and possible habitats for small inhabitants, then how it looks is up to you.


A few weeks ago my kids agreed to try some doodle art inspired by artist Traci Bautista .  We never really got to the doodle part, but the boys had fun with the layers that they created using found stencils. It was a fun art activity to do with the kids.


You could have each family member do their own then piece them together in a collage, you can frame them side by side or if you are brave like me have your kids work on the same one together. Be prepared for disagreements. Think of it as an opportunity for learning.


There is no wrong way of doing this activity.  Below are just some suggestions and ideas of what can happen.  Encourage spontaneity and above all FUN!



  • paint
  • paint brushes
  • paper
  • apron, smock or old clothing to wear
  • old tooth brushes (optional)
  • sponges (optional)
  • brayer (optional)
  • stencils
  • Objects to us as stencils such as feathers, netting, doilies, popsicle sticks tooth picks, pennies anything goes as long as you’re okay with getting paint on it.
  • Things to add texture: large brush, sponges old tooth brushes
  • Spray bottles filled with single colour and some water


Choose a medium to large size paper. Choose about 3 colours that everyone feels goes well together. Have some white paint to lighten the colours adding to the layering effect. Not sure about mixing colours? Check this link out: mixing colours.


Here is what you will generally be doing to create your painting:

Place items on the paper and spray paints lightly over the area you want to make an imprint of. Remove the “stencil”.  Allow paint to dry between layers or before putting another stencil on.  Any object you place down and spray paint on will leave a negative of the object when it is removed, giving a stencil effect. The first ones will leave white outlines, but as you add more layers of stencils and paint the painting will have more textures.


Place object on paper, spray one paint colour at a time allowing it to dry before adding another colour.  This is to avoid making the colours muddy or brown.


Use a brayer or sponge to put paint on a plastic letter stencil for a neat print.

Press this down on the paper, being careful not to shift it and smudge it.

Press firmly.

Lift carefully.

Use a styrofoam tray for a wide pallet for use with wide brushes and brayers (paint rollers).

 Be careful not to put too much paint on your brush or it will get under the stencil.

Rather than dragging the paint brush on the doilies or other stencils, dab the brush into the holes gently to leave a print.

Lift carefully.

Be sure to hold down the stencil as you apply the paint.

Be sure to praise team work!

You’re done when you decide!



A while back my kids agreed to try making some sock monkeys.  Originally the idea was to make them as gifts for others.  Eventually we did get around to making sock monkey gifts (like the ones pictured above who traveled to Greece to be with my sons’ cousins), but first my boys made their own sock monkey to love and to hold.  While this wasn’t the first time that they have sat down and sewed with me, this was the biggest project they have done in terms of sewing time.  There’s something to be said for getting a smiling monkey at the end as a motivator!


Just so you know, these monkeys were completed over several days with lots of breaks in between.  But as you will see the first part of making the monkey is quite easy and can be completed fairly quickly, which is great for keeping your kids interested and motivated.


I wanted to make sock monkeys with my kids after being introduced to them again through a sock monkey therapy tutorial that I had signed up for as part of 6 Degrees of Creativity, an Art Therapy Alliance e-course.  They were really fun to make, and although my guys were tired of sewing after making theirs, they helped me stuff the monkeys that were sent to their cousins in Greece (pictured above).


Working on the sock monkeys brought up plenty of opportunities for problem solving . . .


I was amazed as I watched my sons carefully focus on making and sewing their monkeys with minimal help from me.  While my youngest who is almost 8 did get more help than his big brother, he sewed the majority of his monkey himself, only needing help with attaching the body parts.  I had the camera rolling as they worked in hopes that it would inspire other young children to give it a try.  Aside from the boost in self esteem that comes with taking on such a project at this age, if you watch the video you will see the sense of community created as we all sewed together.  At times it looked like a production line as one of my sons threaded a needle for me while I started sewing something for him, and other son was stuffing a new monkey.


That being said, it wasn’t always roses. Working on the sock monkeys brought up plenty of opportunities for problem solving when my youngest was frustrated with sewing or worse began to get discouraged because he compared his progress to his big brother who was moving along quicker.


The project also took on a silliness of its own as the sock monkeys came alive dancing around though 3/4 finished.


Below I have included a picture tutorial as well as a 15 minute video which you may wish to watch with your kids as you make you monkeys.  If you do end up making sock monkeys, we would love to see pictures feel free to post them on Facebook or e-mail them to us at petrea AT offbeatfamily DOT com



  • Start by turning your sock inside out


  • Flatten the sock (as if putting it on) and cut up to just below the heal to make the legs
  • sew using the whip stitch from the bottom up to the crotch on each side, leaving a hole for stuffing
  • Turn the sock right side out and stuff






  • Sew up the crotch


  •  Divide up the second sock as shown here



  • cut the heel for the mouth
  • cut a thin tail from top of sock: heel to toe

  • cut semi circles for ears from remaining sock
  • Cut the arms as shown in above sock diagram
  • sew all inside out using the “whip stitch” leaving a space to turn right side out before stuffing
  • pin to body and sew in place
  • choose button or beads for eyes and sew on
  • use coloured thread to sew a on smile
  • add a heart if you like
Get ready for some sock monkey LOVE!


The other day I came across a post on prayer flags which lead to my finding out about a prayer flag project.  I liked the idea of letting our intentions for the world sway in the breeze, releasing it for all to witness.


For the Winter Solstice our family did a releasing ceremony where each of us wrote down what we wanted to let go of from the past year as we move into the next.  For New Years I wanted the focus to be on the positive, sending out our wishes our intentions not just for ourselves but for the world.  I wanted my boys to remember that they have the power to change  the world, I wanted them to feel this by putting an action to their wishes and hopes for the world.  And so we made prayer flags.


I explained to them that prayer flags are a way of putting your hopes for the world in a visual format, to share with others.  I explained that they could have their prayer flag be about anything they wanted to wish for to happen in the world to make it a better place.


Immediately my eldest had an idea and began to work on his, while my youngest was doubtful that he would be able to express his on a flag.  I talked him through his ideas asking him of what pictures he thought of when he thought of his wish for the world.  This helped him.  Below is a step by step Tutorial of how you can make a prayer flag with your family.


Here’s how you can make prayer flags with your family:

Gather your materials:

  • a rectangular piece of cloth approximately 5″ x 11″ ( 3 of the 11″ will be folded over for a string to go through).  We used old cloth napkins that I had and cut them to size.
  • permanent markers, acrylic paints – the tackier (thick) paint works best, or fabric crayons
  • flat Styrofoam tray that sometimes comes with produce (if you are doing a print like we did)
  • pencil for drawing then etching (if you are making a print)
  • glue gun or sewing needle and thread to make the fold that the string will go through.


Explain to your children what a prayer flag is: Keep it simple for younger children such as “a prayer flag is a way to share with the world your hope for something good you want to  happen in the world”.  For older children you may want to explain the origins of the prayer flag such as is done on the Creativity in Motion blog by Art Therapist Gretchen Miller.  You don’t have to hold any particular religious beliefs to use prayer flags, it’s all about sending out your positive intentions for the world.


Have your children choose one focus, one positive thing that they would like to happen in the world.  Have them focus on what they want rather than what they don’t want to happen in the world.  So for example when my youngest spoke of his concern for climate change and the polar bears, and penguins having little ice to stay on, he visualized a picture of polar bears with a lot of ice, and penguins with lots of ice.  In the end he chose to draw only the penguins.


Prepare the cloth by ironing it flat if there are wrinkles.

Fold over 1 1/2″ of the cloth & sew or glue down just the outer edge so that a sting can fit through it.  Becareful of little fin gers the glue guns can get quite hot.  Tip: there are low heat glue guns that are less hot but you have to work quicker.

Now have your child draw picture symbolizing their wish for the world:

They can do this several ways, free hand on the square with fabric crayons , or permanent markers or for a print have them emboss it into into the styrofoam.

Cut the edges off of the  styrofoam tray so that it will be flat.

For younger children or to avoid disappointment with their picture, have your child draw it on paper the same size as your flag first and then either trace it from this drawing or have them copy it by etching it in.

To make a print its easiest to use one colour though you can try more than one. The etched in parts will not show paint when you make the print.

Brush or roll the paint on (inks work well for this as well) quickly.

Flip and press evenly into the fabric.  You can test your home made stamp on paper to see how it looks.


Make sure that if they want to write any words in the styrofoam tray that they write them backwards so that in a mirror you could read it (we forgot to do this).

Another way to make a print is to paint the picture on a piece of paper and press the paper onto the fabric, the trick is to use thicker acrylic paint and make the print before the paint dries (do not wet the brush or it waters the paint down too much for transferring the print). You can always add more paint, and  draw or write with with permanent marker any additional embellishments after adding the print.

Once the flags are done and dry, put a string through the flags (a safety pin attached to a string and pushed through works well) and hang outside where it can blow in the wind, spreading your intentions for the world.

We would love to see what other families are making.  If you like, you can post your family prayer flag photos on the Offbeatfamily Prayer Flag Flicker Group.


Parenting from a Different Perspective

Don’t be taken out! Take yourself out instead. And I don’t mean to lunch, find out more in this weeks metaphor Monday.

Often I’ll ask my kids “What are you going to do different next time?” when their choices have been less than ideal. With this tool there is no need to wait for next time for them to practice a different response. Let us know your thoughts on this below.




This weekend my son got an idea into his head to make something and he’s going with it full speed. He won’t stop. He is building a go cart from scratch. Despite my (unintentional) road blocks “No you can’t take apart your skateboard and use the wheels”. He perseveres; he manages to get the skateboard wheels from a friend’s skateboard which is old and worn.


He doesn’t give up. He has a vision and holds on to it.


He uses his dad’s power tools and enlists the help of his friends. “I don’t think it’s a good idea for your friends to use the power tools as they aren’t familiar with them.” Yet another road block from a limit setting adult. But he perseveres once again; he has his friends hold things in place as he works on them; has them help lift large pieces of wood from the back yard to use. He negotiates that they will share this go-cart in exchange for the wheels and the labour. He doesn’t give up. He has a vision and holds on to it. He knows instinctively that he must do this, hang on, keep his dream alive if it is to become reality. And so he does.




He won’t stop. Even so much that when I call him in for a late dinner he takes an extra 20 minutes. He cleans up the tools somewhat reluctantly (clean-up somehow is not part of his vision) and comes in to an annoyed mother. A torn mother, who wants to allow his creativity to unfold, who doesn’t want to discourage his dream from fruition, but who realizes that certain routines need to be upheld or chaos may unleash itself in our household…..or will it?   Yes, its the delicate balance between letting go and steering clear. Always a challenge.


He eats and diligently heads back out to work on his project, with the determination that would earn him and A+ if it were for school.


The next morning his determination continues. “You have to do your chores first” I unwittingly say in my roadblock voice. “Okay” he says, after first trying to negotiate that he do half first and the other half after working on his go-cart. He does his chores in record time and is outside eager to create his dreams. He enlists his brother’s help this time, gets the nerve to ask our neighbour to borrow some tools he needs, and is off!  He is so focused, that even on an empty stomach, calls of pancakes for brunch are not enticing enough for him to come in right away.  But he eventually comes in, fuel is a necessity after all.   He eats and diligently heads back out to work on his project, with the determination that would earn him and A+ if it were for school.



He inspires his brother to make a go-cart too, which he helps him get started. He’s a dream maker, an inspiration, a magnet attracting what he needs to get to where he wants to go. All because he has a vision so strong it drives his determination. A dream so important to him he is able to continue pursuing it despite detours and roadblocks.



As I write this I realize now that there is so much I can learn from his endeavours this weekend (and most days).   I am truly honoured to be his unwitting student.




Often as parents we can become consumed with looking out for our child’s “best interest” and doing things for our children.  Signing them up for sports,  classes or camps. Making sure they eat well.  Ensuring that they get to sleep on time.  Setting up regular play-dates.  Spending special time with them.  The list goes on and on.   With all the things we do for our children, it is easy to forget about ourselves and  our own needs.  After all who takes care of  us parents?  We need to take care of ourselves.  As parents, we need to take the time  to replensih and recharge.


Read the rest of this entry »

Room to Grow

Welcome to the very first Metaphor Monday video. In this series I will explore a different metaphor each week viewing parenting from a different perspective. Enjoy! Please post any comments below.

Just in case you were wondering, when my eldest son was playing his drum kit in the background, I was at the back of the house (first floor) and had the kitchen doors closed, and he was at the front of the house in the basement.

Yes it is that loud!

Our neighbours get free music!

Today I was reminded of how simple connecting with our children can be. My eldest who was on a silly rampage managed to reign himself in independently and out of the blue came to me for a hug, not because he was upset, not because he was saying “sorry”, just “because”.  He actually cooed a little as well.  It was very sweet and it gave me that warm fuzzy feeling as well.  Now my youngest was watching and said “oh… I guess I don’t get any hugs”. To which I replied “What?!  You can have a hug anytime you want, the hug store is always open. ‘Free Hugs’ from mommy and baba (that’s what they call their dad, it’s a Greek thing) anytime.” My eldest chimed in, “yeah open 24 hours a day!” “Yes” I said, and wholeheartedly agreed.   Then I was reminded of when we were at Kensington Market for a Pedestrian Sunday (they close the streets to traffic). There was a group of young people wearing signs that said “free hugs”. Remembering that Sunday led me to several ideas that I thought you may want to try out in your family. Here are some ways you can implement the free hug “rule” in your family  (of course I know it’s not as If you are currently charging your kids for hugs).  The idea is to increase the number of hugs and in turn the connection with your kids, which sometimes gets lost in the day to day busy- ness.   Have fun with it and feel free to do your own version,we would love to hear any unique ways you’ve come up with to spread free hugs. Read the rest of this entry »

The other day I came across two stories I had written for each of my two sons to accompany the little stuffed animals I bought for them (hey, that was something, as my husband and I are always saying they have too many stuff toys). Anyway I got them as somewhat of a motivator for the camping trip that we where going to be doing. My eldest son had made some comments about not wanting to do canoe camping and that he’d rather do car camping (which we had gotten away from). I was anticipating that he might protest too much and influence the younger one about going (who seemed to be looking forward to this canoe camping trip).   Read the rest of this entry »

So often we approach our children assuming certain things about them based on what we “know” about them, instead of just experiencing them in the moment.  Many parents (yes, myself included!)  respond to our children based on what we think we know about them.  More often than not our assumptions are based on our own experiences and expectations (good or bad) which ultimately colours the way we view our children and their intentions.

How many times have you caught yourself telling your child to stop something you thought they were doing or going to do only to find out that they were intending something else.  Being the typical adult living in the future, too often we base our judgment on our prediction, best estimate or expectation of our children.  In doing this we loose the present moment.  We miss when they shift and change their response or their actions to situations, even if ever so slightly.   I have definitely been guilty of that .   For example, if I anticipate that my son is going to balk at something I ask him to do, I may ask it in a tone that reflects that I don’t believe he will do it or that I don’t think he will want to do it.  What a set up!   Of course usually in these cases I get what I expect- complaints, whining, resistance. Read the rest of this entry »

Yesterday my eldest son, who was curious about the work that my husband Chris and I were doing on the website, decided he wanted to contirbute by making up his own language and post it on the website. He drew a picture and began to create his own symbolic language. Afterwards I thought to myself, that’s such a juicy metaphor for how kids operate.

They really do have their own language don’t they, and as their parents we are constantly trying to figure it out. Then like any new language one is trying to learn, there is only so much we can understand at any point in our learning before we scratch our head and say, “what does that mean?” (read – why is he doing that?) Or maybe we dont understand it because it is out of context, or there is a word we just are not getting the jist of because we are thinking in our first language. Read the rest of this entry »

A while back my husband and I decided to structure in some special time with the kids because of our work schedule and feeling we did not have a lot of time together as a family. While we had tried family game night where we play a board game (usually one that is cooperative rather than competitive) it just wasn’t as fun for the adults as when we were kids. Read the rest of this entry »

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