The Mindful Merchant

Shop – Eat – Live – Mindfully

Respect July 7, 2010

Filed under: children,education,family,hate,parenting,racisim,respect,special events — MindfulMerchant @ 11:40 pm


This year was a challenging year for our kids at school. More independence, less coddling by teachers, homework and school yard dynamics. Oy!  Some of it we anticipated as part of attending a full day in the primary grades. There were issues with inclusion, speaking up,  hurt feelings and even and a bullying incidence. (which has resolved – fingers crossed)


Some of it, my husband and I were unprepared for.  Like the time our youngest had her pals over for a play date. Sitting around the kitchen table having a snack they sang a new rhyme they learned at recess. It was a derogatory song making fun of a specific ethnic group. Whoa! I cut them off mid song and we talked about the words and their meaning. They were unaware that the rhyme was so awful and felt badly afterward.


One of the biggest shocks my husband and I were not prepared for were questions about unfamiliar words they heard in the playground. “What does “gay” mean, Mommy?”  – “What does “retarded” mean?” Seriously?! Grade 1 and 2 children are running around calling one another these unacceptable words?   Yes.  Unfortunately, some adults are still use them too. 


Perhaps people are unaware that the words are full of hate and hurt.  Many of us grew up hearing the terms and think nothing of using them.  Recently, I asked someone not to use the word “retarded” with me and they argued there was nothing wrong with it – because it was a ‘legitimate clinical word’ and they didn’t say it in a mean way. Ooooh, that was an interesting conversation… 


One of the blogs I follow is Dave Hinsburger’s blog – Rolling Around in My Head. He has worked for over 30 years in the field of disability, is an author and travels the world as a lecturer. His writing makes me think and reflect, sometimes cry, and delivers a powerful message.   


Dave recently wrote about marching in the Toronto Gay Pride Parade with his organization Vita Community Living Services. He wrote, “We had determined we wouldn’t just ‘be’ in the parade, we wanted to ‘work’ the parade. As the parade is, in part, a celebration of diversity”. He had cards printed and with the help of co-workers and other groups marching that day, handed them out to the crowds. I thought they were so powerful I asked Dave if I could share them…he said yes.







After the parade and the crowds dispersed, Dave noticed coming back up Yonge Street no cards were thrown on the ground. An encouraging sign!  I hope Dave’s cards will inspire sharing this message with family, friends and community.   At the very least,  invite discussion, which is always the beginning of change.





An Oldie But A Green Goodie March 1, 2010

Filed under: children,education,environment,environmentally friendly,green books,parenting — MindfulMerchant @ 11:45 pm


200px-The_Lorax Sometimes it is hard to buy gifts for children. I cannot keep up with what are “in” toys… dolls that look like their owners or cars that change into robots. Throw in concerns about toxic plastics/paint, choking hazards, excess packaging, product recalls and it is enough to suck all the fun out of gift giving. I like to buy our family’s  favourite books as presents.  Our eldest daughter thinks that books are “boooring gifts”. <said with the eye roll>  How can you go wrong with a great story?

I rely on books to help with parenting challenges too.  Afraid of the toilet flushing? What is wrong with Grampa?  Off to the library I go to find a book. Thank goodness for stories that explain a challenge in an uncomplicated, encouraging way.

There is a lack of good children’s books about earth friendly action.  Environmental issues are not always cheerful, but a story for young people told with graphic photos of oil slick coated birds and clear-cut forests is frightening. (The book I describe I found in the early reader section ages 3+)   It is difficult to find a positive message without a preachy/scary tone. 

We are experiencing a Dr. Seuss revival in our house.  Our youngest daughter is enjoying reading his books all on her own. I dug out my childhood collection and made a surprising discovery. I forgot about The Lorax by Dr. Seuss!  It is a whimsical story about conserving the earth’s resources and it is wonderful.  Forty years later the message continues to resonate. It is about losing Brown Bar-ba-loots,  Truffula Trees and Swomee-Swans and the forests they inhabit. It is rhyming fun with colourful illustrations and catchy “Seuss-isms”.



Here is an excerpt


“But now,” says the Once-ler,

“Now that you’re here,

The word of the Lorax seems perfectly clear.

UNLESS someone like you

Cares a whole awful lot,

Nothing is going to get better.

It’s not.


“SO…Catch!” calls the Once-ler.

He lets something fall.

“It’s a Truffula Seed.

It’s the last one of all!

You’re in charge of the last of the Truffula Seeds.

And Truffula Trees are what everyone needs.

Plant a new Truffula. Treat it with care.

Give it clean water. And feed it fresh air.

Grow a forest. Protect it from axes that hack.

Then the Lorax

And all of his friends

May come back.”



Warning: The Dr. uses the word “stupid” and “shut-up” in the story.  (Gasp!)  


New publications of The Lorax print on recycled paper.  Random House, Conservation International and Dr. Seuss Enterprises launched an initiative on Earth Day 2008. It is an effort to raise awareness of environmental issues and inspire earthy friendly action worldwide. There is an interactive website too with games and information for kids of all ages.

If you are looking for a good green story for the little reader in your life…I recommend this book.  Do you have a favourite?  Please share  :) 





Charity begins at home…with a little nudge January 12, 2010

Filed under: children,community,parenting — MindfulMerchant @ 12:20 pm


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I did not birth a little Jane Goodall or David Suzuki.  This was evident years ago when I pointed out an ant carrying a giant crumb to my 3 year old.  As we bent down examining the little creature I remember thinking “I am a good Mummy – teaching her to love nature”. That stupid smug thought came to an abrupt halt when she crushed the ant into the sole of her Dora shoe. Splat!  Clearly, the lesson I was trying to impart went unnoticed.

I stole the idea of a charitable birthday from my daughter’s friend. A few years ago, so inspired by a talk at school about Unicef, Marin asked her friends to make a small donation instead of gifts. (In case you are wondering…she came up with this all on her own)  Impressive, no?  So we began talking about birthday parties long before the day. Our girls are showered with gifts from both sides of our large families; they do not need more toys from their school chums. Slowly the girls considered the idea of using their party to help other people.

Gillian decided instead of presents her friends could, if they wanted to, give a small donation to the Ottawa Humane Society. (She loves dogs, cats and little critters – gone are the days of ant stomping!)  The wonderful thing was that her friends donated money from their own piggy banks, lots of quarters, loonies and change. Gillian collected $81 and felt fantastic walking into the shelter with her birthday “gifts”.

Sarah needed more encouragement. She wanted MORE presents. After planning her super fun party (and a little nudge) she decided to collect cans for our local food bank. Walking into the food bank with bags full of food had a big impact.  She was beaming from ear to ear.  Both girls are already talking about the charity they will help at next year’s birthday.

Teaching kids the importance of giving back to the community is more than just talking.  My Parents, Uncles and Aunts volunteered in the community all the time. We learned it in school too.  Our children see my husband and I help neighbours, fundraise and volunteer. Now that the girls are older, we help as a family.   Reading books about different experiences can help children grasp difficult subjects like illness, poverty and overcoming hardships.  Despite this idyllic parenting babble, we still remind ourselves and the girls to think about others.  I wonder if Jane Goodall or David Suzuki’s parents had to do this too…

How do you teach your children about charity?



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