Posts Tagged ‘independence’


The other day I was taking my eldest son to a doctor’s appointment and we took Public Transit as we usually do, since the office is right on the subway line.  It was rush hour so somewhat on the crowded side, and there were several groups of youth canvasing asking passersby for change or tokens to help Toronto’s youth.  We passed them on the way as we rushed to our appointment again on the way back to drop my son at school.  This second group was younger children, a school group that were volunteering their time to fund raise.


As we passed them by headed towards the stairs to catch our train, I stopped mid stair.  Sometimes we can get so caught up in the everyday rush of getting places or getting things done that we pass by opportunities.  This is why I stopped.  I reached into my purse and pulled out some money, giving it to my son to donate.  He took it then hesitated, because it meant him going up the stairs and approaching someone he didn’t know, as well he said he was eager to get to school (nothing like a dentist appointment for doing that) I let him know that it was ok since we had missed the train anyway, and he then went and made the donation.


Of course I could have just done it myself.  I really wanted my son to do it for several reasons:

1. I felt is was important for him to feel like he was taking action, helping others helping a cause.  I had noticed him looking at the youth who were calling out their campaign with their T-shirts on “Help Toronto’s youth, your change can make changes happen”.  I believe it is important for him to recognize and be grateful for what he has, that he is not in a position where  he need this kind of help.

2. I wanted to push him a bit outside his comfort level by having him approach the volunteers himself with the hopes that he will feel confident to initiate this himself one day

3. I wanted to model the idea of taking time to notice what is happening around us and rather than be passive bystanders watching and not doing, I wanted him to remember to engage and participate fully in life, take opportunities to help when you notice them, however small.

4.  I wanted the youth to feel heard, to encourage their efforts by listening to them and show them that we appreciate what they are doing by taking action and donating.  I think that it is important important that youth who volunteer their time and effort feel that they are actually making a difference.  Giving them a positive response helps ensure that they will continue to be active participants in change rather than discouraged bystanders who feel there is no hope.

5. When others see you donate for a cause I think it has a ripple effect.  It makes it all the more easier for them to justify stopping and taking a few minutes to reach into their wallet, walk over and help out.


Giving a little bit of money may have been a “drop in the bucket”, but we can’t forget that each drop creates its own ripple.  This was not just about helping through giving money.  It was so much more than that:  giving attention to our surroundings and what messages to pay attention to; giving our attention an appreciation to the youth who are taking their time to raise awareness; taking the time as little as it might be, yet still breaking the habit of just walking through crowds with blinders on; and finally by responding we potentially set off a ripple effect to the crowds who  may be in “I can’t stop -have to get somewhere important” or “I am not going to pay attention to what is being asked of me because it doesn’t concern me” mode but then notice someone else taking action and stop and do something themselves.


Our actions are more powerful than we think.  Hopefully it is the kind of power that brings other great things to life.  Your children are watching.  Everyday there are opportunities for change, lessons to be learned.  When we take the time to take our blinders off and be open to seeing the opportunities and lessons life presents to us, our children will see them too.





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!

It never ceases to amaze me how much I can learn from my children. While I like to think they learn from me as well, I still need to remind myself how much they can figure things out themselves when given the chance. We would’nt give them the answers on a test, or do their homework for them.

Are our answers the only “answers”?

So why then is it so hard for us as parents to take a step back instead, and let them find their own solutions? Why do we feel the need to give them “the” answers? Are our answers the only “answers”?

We too need to look inside for the answers. Sometimes it is not so easy as a parent to do this. Sometimes we avoid looking inside for our own answers and we look to others instead. Looking for that perfect answer of what exactly we should do in a particular situation with our children. We second guess ourselves and miss what has been there all along, what is right in front of us: the answers are inside.

Look inside. I quarantee you will find the answer.




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.




Wild Things

Welcome to the third 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.


I found this video the boys made a few years ago. Edited it.  Now its ready for you to enjoy!


Why not make one for yourself today! You can use any greens you want.

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!

When my oldest son was in grade two, his class was asked to make a drawing of where they would like to live. They drew their pictures, cut them out, and displayed them at the school art show. I remember seeing all the wonderful drawings of homes. The pictures were two sided with the outside of the home on one side and the inside on the other. When I asked him where his was he showed me a large airplane. It was colourful and full of details. Talk about thinking outside of the box- or should I say house! He was so proud of it that he hung on to it for years hanging it in his room. Read the rest of this entry »

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