Monthly Archives: July 2015

5 Foodie-friendly Family Fun Activities

Five Foodie Friendly
Cooking is one of the best ways for children to learn about food and nutrition. Inspiring kids to appreciate food can be tough, so for parents of picky eaters these five suggestions might help. After all, kids are more likely to try something that they’ve had hand in helping to pick and prepare.

  1. Indulge in a cool treat at one of Calgary’s fabulous ice cream shops.
  2. Get some local fruits and veggies at a Farmers’ Market.
  3. Try out one of the amazing brunch items at Yellow Door Bistro
  4. Experience the flavors of Calgary at Taste of Calgary.
  5. Make a pie with berries you picked yourself at the Saskatoon Farm in Okotoks.

For more great summer ideas for all ages, check out our super “Summer in the City” activity list by Nanica Brown!

When You Say ‘I Do,’ But The Kids Say ‘I Don’t’

by Dr. Anne Brennan Malec, photo:

Any new marriage has its hurdles. But when the newlyweds also bring children from previous marriages, they face the additional challenge of trying to balance the needs of the relationship with the needs of the kids.

It’s rarely as easy as the Brady Bunch made it seem.

“Too frequently, partners imagine that because they love each other, their children will jump on board and will also love this new partner as a stepparent,” says Dr. Anne Brennan Malec, a clinical psychologist, marriage and family therapist, and author of the book “Marriage in Modern Life: Why It Works, When It Works.” (

“In reality, children are often confused and have contradictory emotions about the new family setup.”

Frustration can set in when the union fails to create instant family unity.

Try not to let it, Dr. Malec says. Everyone needs time to adjust and it’s up to the new couple to develop strategies for making this blended family work.
For starters, she says, each parent should be responsible for managing his or her children’s schedules, providing discipline and communicating with the ex-partner about any parenting issues.

“You should expect that it’s going to be a rocky ride, and you can be pleasantly surprised if it’s not,” Dr. Malec says. “Remember, the kids did not get a vote in this, and they very well may dislike the stepparent or stepsiblings.”

But, as with many things in life, patience mixed with a trial-and-error approach can get you where you need to be. Dr. Malec offers a few tips for easing the difficulties, if not eliminating all the pain:

•  Manage expectations. When creating a blended family, managing your expectations will decrease the odds of being disappointed, Dr. Malec says. Discuss your ideas for how the transition will go and set a reasonable bar for how you, your spouse, the children and any former spouses will respond to the new arrangement. Plan for a slow transition into this “new normal.”

•  Keep communications with former spouses cordial. Some relationships with ex-spouses run more smoothly than others. Ideally, former spouses would communicate respectfully and keep in mind the best interests of the children. That doesn’t always happen, though. If an ex-spouse gets under your skin too much, you might try self-soothing techniques such as meditating, exercising, taking a walk or journaling. You may also want to consider seeing a therapist. “It will benefit your current relationship if you can minimize the conflict with a former partner,” Dr. Malec says.

•  Nurture your romance. With so many challenges balancing parental and relational responsibilities, you will need to give extra effort to setting aside kid-free time. “Making time for just the two of you is critical to the success of your relationship,” Dr. Malec says. “Without proper attention, the new relationship can drop down the priority list as you get caught up in smoothing the transition for the children, creating a blended home and growing comfortable with your role as stepparent.” Make it a point to prioritize dates, whether over coffee, lunch, dinner or during a walk together.

“Forming a blended family is a long-term process, and it is reasonable to expect some pushback from children, who had no voice in your choice to marry,” Dr. Malec says. “Be patient and try to see it through their eyes.

“Knowing in advance that it is likely to be tough and keeping your expectations dialled down goes a long way toward making sure your relationship doesn’t fall apart under the stress.”

Dr. Anne Brennan Malec ( is the founder and managing partner of Symmetry Counseling (, a group counseling, coaching and psychotherapy practice in Chicago. She also is author of the book “Marriage in the Modern Life: Why It Works, When It Works.” Dr. Malec earned her Bachelor’s degree in Accountancy from Villanova University and holds two Master’s degrees: one in Liberal Studies from DePaul University, and one in Marital and Family Therapy from Northwestern University. Dr. Malec earned her Doctoral degree in Clinical Psychology from the Chicago School of Professional Psychology.

Day Tripping around Alberta – All Aboard a Prairie Adventure

Riding the Rails at Aspen Crossing
Every wonder what it’s like to ride the rails? We recently had the chance to take the new Circus Train excursion at Aspen Crossing located just outside of Mossleigh, Alberta.

Train travel is something my children have never experienced. I was a bit worried that we would get onboard and they would spend the next three hours pestering me if we were there yet.

Aspen Crossing 2I had nothing to worry about. Once our tickets were punched we got to pick out seats on the train. The three cars we could choose from included the lounge, the dining car and the Pullman. We took the Pullman it was the perfect choice, not just because of the wide, cushy seats and great views. It also had quick access to the open air patio car and caboose which turned out to be my daughter’s favourite place on the whole train.

When everyone was on board the train slowly pulled away from the station and on to the spur line – after a brief safety debrief it was on with the show. Most of the kid aged entertainment happens in the back of the Pullman car and the caboose. Our ring master handed out balloons, the face painter got ready and the smell of popcorn wafted out of the caboose.

If you’re wondering if there is enough to keep you entertained the answer is a definitive yes.  There are balloon twisters who made some truly incredible animals, live music in the lounge car and a mysterious golden elephant that gets lost and can be returned to the ring master for a treat or two or eight if you are a motivated six-year-old.

Aspen Crossing 1If that’s not enough to captivate you there is also a mystery on the rails. I won’t spoil it except to say there is a robbery and the shootout where they use blanks can be quite loud for little children.

Last but not least is the scenery. Chugging peacefully across the countryside the views are incredible. When we weren’t running from one end of the train we saw cows, llamas and deer along with the Mossleigh grain elevators.

If you get hungry or thirsty the dining car has a selection of hot dogs, sandwiches bagels, chips, sodas, bottled water,souvenirs and drink tickets if you would like something stronger from the lounge. They also take debit so you don’t have to worry about remembering to stop at a bank machine.

When we left that day my son asked when we were coming back. “It was epic mom.”

If you child is a Thomas enthusiast, loves Supertrain and knows all the names of the trains then this is the day trip for you*

Even if they aren’t train junkies this is a pretty amazing way to spend the day.

Aspen Crossing has eight train tours that run the gamut of themes. From dinner theatre – to Ale on the Circus train they have something for every age group. If a day trip is too much time on the road there are 85 camp ground spaces and two converted caboose cabins. If you don’t want to ride the rails you can enjoy dinner on their 1887 Pullman dining car that once belonged to John Diefenbaker or simple take stroll around The Station to find a perfect memento from the day.

For more information visit

Tips for taking it all in at Aspen Crossing:

  1. Check out the Cupola in the Caboose
  2. If you have small children pick the Pullman car, it’s air conditioned and if they fall asleep the seats recline. There were several kids and dads or grandpas snoozing.
  3. Get there early. We didn’t have time to look around before the train left and the kids were so exhausted from all the things they did on the train we couldn’t check anything out after.
  4. It was over 30 degrees the day we went and while the cars are air conditioned the patio space has no shade, but it does have the best views, so pack sunscreen and water.
  5. Take the time to ask questions about your trip. All the staff have a passion for the rails and can tell you lots about the train and tracks you are riding on.

What do I do when my kids get bored?

by Julie Freedman Smith and Gail Bell

Boredom isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Kids need to learn independent-play and boredom may be the first step to creativity. That said, here are some tips to teach kids how to manage boredom and how to stop yourself from whining back at them.

  1. Start off the day or the week by explaining that you’ll do some things as a family and that they will have to entertain themselves at other times in the day. Clarify what they can do during those times.
  2. Making a daily schedule can be helpful for everyone – that way kids don’t have to keep asking you to decide what is happening next.
  3. Before they get bored, create a What Can I Do List. Make a list of books to read, games to play, craft projects to create, stories to write, pictures to be drawn, puzzles or word problems to solve, friends with whom to play (phone numbers too). (These can take place in a tent in the backyard or in a fort in the family room.)
  4. Take the time to teach independent play – start small (2 minutes) and build it up as they are capable.Plan your respectful response to the dreaded, “I’M BORED!”[Whining back, “If you’re bored with all of these toys around, I’m going to start throwing them away!” doesn’t really help.]

    “You may continue to be bored or you can find something to do from your list. I have faith that you will make the right decision for you.”

    “Perhaps your body and mind need some quiet time – why don’t you check your list.”

Often “I’m bored,” means, “I need to be with you.” Acknowledge feelings and teach them to ask for some time with you instead of whining about being bored.

Lastly, when our children are home all day, we cannot totally disengage. If we tell our kids “You’ve got me for an hour before I have to make lunch,” then we need to provide undivided attention. Phones, computers, devices need to wait. We would expect the same of them. Multi-tasking our attention creates misbehaviour that demands our attention. Set your family up for success and enjoy the summer.