when we were young…

writing with passion, living with vision and acting with intention

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Tossing the rule book for being the optimal parent

If you’ve been reading along for a bit, you know that I have two boys, ages three and two (16 months apart to get specific) and another one due in August.

Like any good mom out there, I’m giving this whole parenting my best. I’ve read the articles, I make the food, I listen to them and teach them about respect and manners, I put them in swim lessons even though Shae hasn’t actually even got into the pool the last couple sessions for which I signed him up…

My world is a steady stream of suggestions, insights, thoughts on how I can raise my little charges into the best human beings possible. It isn’t surprising that if I had to fill out a checklist, it might say that I am failing in my role.

So what are the top offenders in my household?

Strike 1: I let my three-year-old watch a show (up to an hour or possibly more *shock, horror* almost every day during the week while his brother naps. I’d say one or two of those five days on average, I don’t let Netflix be the replacement for an opportunity to take advantage of the one-on-one time with my son and do something to help develop his eager-to-learn brain. I gotta say, I give myself a pat on the back those days I do some baking with him, take him out in the yard and do some gardening or read stories to him. As for the other three or four days, I have lived in perpetual guilt and worry that I am dumbing down my child’s ability to create, imagine and play independently.

Strike 2: I yell at my kids sometimes, they see me get mad at them.

Strike 3 (and I’m out!): I actually can’t think of anything big enough to induce guilt or anxiety.

Yep, pretty incriminating.

On TV…

Theoretically, I agree that the less screen time, the better. You know what’s even better in my opinion? A less stressed/tired mom who is able to get down on her kid’s level when he is having a fit and have enough patience to not throw one herself. I don’t know about you but there’s nothing like some peace and quiet to refuel the engine and apparently, my engine runs out by noon a lot of days! Might have something to do with being consistently woken up multiple times per night for the past three and-a-half years or maybe it’s just my personality. It is what it is.

But my friend AmazingMom somehow manages to have very limited screen time for her kids, my inner voice says. What’s your deal? You’re really just selfish. You rather sacrifice your kid’s intellect so that you can enjoy an hour or so to yourself. It’s about doing what’s best for your kid, it’s not about your enjoyment!

I have decided to tell that accusing voice to get lost and thank the Lord that I have the resources to keep my child safe and entertained while I enjoy a much needed nap, internet time, blogging or devotional time. Why? Because I value the mother I am because of this controlled silence rather than the one I inevitably become because I exhausted my mental, emotional and physical faculties with doting on my child attention all day long AND tacked on some extra special nurturing time during nap. Because I know which route does my child the greater disservice.

And judging by the fact that my kids are not whining for shows at any point in the day and thoroughly enjoy creative play both inside and outside, I think they’re doing alright.

Again, if I could get around it and put a check mark on the list for no daily screen time, I would. Maybe if my older son was in preschool a couple times a week or I could even afford a weekly babysitter,I wouldn’t rely so much on the tele. Me going to bed earlier every night might help a bit too or maybe not. Despite the fact that I do some nights, sometimes I want to nurture that other important relationship in my life. Now that’s important.

It’s not ideal, but it’s really not the worst thing I could be doing (or you!).

On yelling…

Geez, I sure can’t blame anyone else but myself for them yelling at each other can I?

I am not saying yelling is okay. I feel bad when I get frustrated and annoyed enough to yell and express my displeasure. But you know something, my kids get it. When “mommy’s not happy” comes out, they know they’ve stepped over the line. They realize that sometimes their behaviour does have negative effect on those around them. Sometimes, I remember to take five but what do you know, kids aren’t fans of that and mine like to join me (outside the door if necessary) as I attempt to calm myself and remind myself that this too will pass.

And what’s with stigmatizing yelling? Yelling is a rather normal (could even argue healthy) form of expression. To me, it comes down to words. Are my choice of words hurtful and thoughtless? Am I instilling fear, guilt and self-depreciation? I would rather my kids witness mommy exploding a little bit and realize that they are not the center of the universe than grow up thinking that yelling is something only angry people do. People yell – if I can use my in-the-moment lack of patience and self-regulation to teach them that yelling doesn’t have use hurtful and damaging words, maybe they aren’t so bad off.

So again, it’s even better if I can demonstrate patience and self-regulation. But for the times I fail, I know that my kids aren’t being verbally deconstructed because I expressed that their behaviour is not acceptable and it makes mommy “not happy.”

Here’s the thing, I’m here to guide them. There are endless scenarios ahead in their young lives where circumstances will be less than ideal and he will have to navigate many of them by himself. If nothing else, my short comings with parenting coupled with boundaries and love might enable them to take on the responsibility of making good choices for themselves. Heck, my kid knows that Diego makes him grumpy and that’s why he’s not allowed to watch it.


screen time


Who wants to wear that???

Up to this point, I have felt I have been avoiding a lot of toxic stuff by buying whole foods as opposed to prepared, organic and non-GMO instead of unmarked (when I can) and exercising when my boys aren’t crawling all over me.

But for some reason, I haven’t had the same consideration for what goes on my body as what goes in it.

I’m talking about the shampoo I use, the moisturizers, make-up, sunscreens. I think that the cosmetic industries are failing hugely because when I go to the hair and skin care aisle, it is practically impossible to find a product that isn’t laden with hormonally disruptive, skin aggrevating and lead based ingredients.

I never thought I would contemplate actually buying a tube of mascara for $35/$40. Why would I do that when I can get a pack of two of CoverGirl at Costco for $21.99?

Short answer – my kids.

When my summer came around for my firstborn, I started looking into what sunscreens are good for baby use. At the time, everything I read recommended not using sunscreen for kids under the age of one and furthermore, most sunscreens contained ingredients such as Oxybenzone, Octinoxate, Octocrylene – all found to cause hormonal disruption and skin allergies. Ingredients were also found to alter the thyroid, reproductive system and decrease sperm production in animals. Uh no, I cannot knowingly put that on my kids. But that’s just sunscreen.

toxic, not healthy, bad, unnatural

I started looking at my own baby products – Aveeno Baby, Johnson & Johnson (which owns Aveeno Baby) and L’Oréal Kids. Turns out they all contain at least three known carcinogenic ingredients.

toxic stuff, not on my skin, not for baby, unnatural

I’m not sure if I have dismissed known toxins in my hair and skin products because I wash it off or simply because the word toxic is fairly vague. It doesn’t really give me an idea of what that means to the health and well being of my body. Let me share what I have learned since.

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Check your cosmetics, skin and hair products for these FDA approved toxins. Their use is unrestricted in Canada with the exception of some Coal tar derived colours.

Parabens: A widely used preservative in cosmetics, everything from your mascara to your shampoo. Parabens have been found in human breast cancer tissue and may also cause problems in male reproductive functions. That anti-aging cream might be doing the exact opposite as a particular paraben (methylparaben), accelerating aging and damaging the DNA.

I love my Angel fragrance but I can’t know if it contains parabens because manufacturers are not required to reveal their trade secrets on the ingredients list if parabens are used in the fragrance recipe.

Sodium laureth sulfate: Used to make shampoo and body wash sudsy – may be contaminated with “measureable” amounts of ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane human carcinogens found to harm the nervous system and developement.

PEG Compounds: Used in creams, also contaminated with ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane, potentially causing cancer as well as not breaking down and leaving toxic waste in our environment.

BHA and BHT (butylated hydroxyanisole and butylated hydroxytoluene): A preservative that induces skin allergies and interferes with hormone functions – potentially causing thyroid, liver and kidney problems for you in later years. Classified under the The International Agency for Research on Cancers a possible human carcinogen and may cause cancer.

Coal tar-derived colours: Used in many hair dyes and and linked to the development of many different cancers. Also often laced with heavy metals that are damaging to the brain.

DEA (diethanolamine): Used to make cosmetics creamy or sudsy. Lab studies have shown high doses cause liver cancers and other precancerous changes to the skin and thyroid. The European Union restricts the use of DEA and classifies it as harmful and seriously damaging to health with long term exposure.

Triclosan: Used in many anti-antiperspirants and deodorants as well as cleansers, and hand sanitizers. Suspected to interferes with your hormones, agitates skin and eyes and is extremely toxic to aquatic life as it does not degrade once down your drain.

That’s just a few. The thing that hits home for me about all of this is that many people fit into the category of long-term use and exposure. I myself shampoo my hair every two or three days and wear make-up almost every day.

How often do you wash your hair, apply make-up and moisturize?

This is why I am excited to be a part of the Arbonne team and help promote health, beauty and wellness. The big thing many folks get stuck on is the prices of products. I could talk about how you pay for what you get but I get it, we are all doing the best we can to provide for our families and make ends meet. But consider these points:

  1. A given bottle of Arbonne face wash or moisturizer will last you up to a year if not longer because all Arbonne products only require a small amount and spread incredibly well!
  2. Because you aren’t trying product after product and spending dollars every month on the most colourfully marketed hair or skin care product, you are actually saving! If you aren’t satisfied with the product, send it back, no strings attached and your money back!
  3. If you order through me, I give a first order discount of 20 % plus you save on shipping if you take advantage of a group order.



Arbonne, toxic free, safe for babyArbonne, healthy hair, toxin-free, green, lush locksanti-aging, effective, collagen tightening, toxin-free, Arbonne



Order today through http://www.Arbonne.ca and enter my referral code 116501659 or send me an email at virginiaannebowen@gmail.com if you live on the coast and as I am putting together a group order!

Read more on David Suzuki’s Dirty Dozen cosmetic chemicals to avoid.




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How tossing our microwave saved me more time

We sold our microwave at a garage sale about six months ago and haven’t missed it since.

It was a bit hard to let go at first – in fact we put it out in the shed only to bring it back after some time. I mean, when little hungry mouths are demanding food NOW, it’s nice to settle the noise within one minute by throwing some leftovers into the microwave. And what about quick thawing things? It takes hours to thaw frozen meat otherwise.

The thing is, I don’t think twice about pouring my coffee into a pot and warming it up on the stove no more than I wait anxiously for leftover dinner to warm up in the toaster oven. I plan for it to take a bit longer – if I know I want to have lunch on the table by noon, I throw the spaghetti into the toaster oven fifteen minutes before and use the time between washing up the boys and getting them seated (Yeah, it takes that long sometimes!).

Why I don’t miss it.

So much of our lives is spent rushing – rushing out the door, rushing through the grocery store, rushing through checking emails, rushing to appointments, rushing through meals… We squeeze more than is often healthy into every possible minute of our day. We can do it all because we have amenities like microwaves, smartphones, cars, internet, prepared food. We also have increasing rates of heart disease, numerous nervous system disorders, and cancers.

Not having a microwave has been one step towards a less chaotic household because it forces me to plan ahead more and leave ample time for tasks to be done rather than packing in as much as I can leading up to chow time.

basket fun, silly boys, photo op

Also, not having a microwave kinda forces you to actually cook food instead of buying ready to go stuff that is loaded with salt, preservatives and other stuff your body has to work overtime to digest and metabolize. Not saving time there you might think. But what is your understanding of time? Is time something to be used up entirely with all the items on our “to do” lists, or is it spending moments to teach our kids how to eat and live well? I have more of the later because of not owning a microwave.

More reasons to toss?

Microwaves as a health risk is a moot point. As with anything, one can only draw a conclusion based on the information available. So here are some points for what is known and on the flip side, what isn’t.

  • The energy emitted from microwaves reverses the polarity of the atoms and molecules millions of times a second unlike anything else in nature. Microwaves change the molecular structure of food, damaging the cells.
  • We all know not to heat our baby’s milk in the microwave because it heats it up unevenly and causes “hot spots.” What you may not know is that it also it was found to convert certain amino acids into poisonous neurotoxins.
  • A Swiss scientist, Dr. Hans Ulrich Hertel, conducted tests on the blood of individuals after consuming food from microwaves and his findings concluded deterioration in the human body. He was thereafter fired from his job for questioning the integrity of microwaving food.
  • Blood levels tested in people after consuming microwaved food showed decreased hemoglobin levels while white blood cell production increased.
  • Microwaves were banned by in the Soviet Union in 1971. They issued an international warning on the potential health hazards after intensive and thorough research.
  • Other European countries have also taken a cautionary stance to microwaves based on their own scientific evaluations.
  • In the states, there have been no specifically tailored studies conducted by universities nor the government on the effects of microwaved food and the human body.
  • The FDA admittedly states that there are many questions on the effects of radiation on the human system and yet health claims for them are widespread as is their use.