Author Archives: marina11silva

Oprah’s Social Lab Work and the Greatest Challenge as a Parent

Recently, I received an email from Oprah’s Social Lab Work ( ) where I was asked to participate in a survey regarding conscious parenting.  The first question of the survey was simple, but difficult to answer: “what is your greatest challenge as a parent”.  When I saw the question, I started to think about all the challenges and problems (in a next post, I will list all these) that I am facing as parent.  I realize that like most parents, I don’t face one challenge, but many, too many sometimes.  The question is to identify which one of these challenges is the greatest one.

IMG_0518Children present a variety of challenges depending on their age, temperament, developmental level, learning style and cognitive abilities among other things.  As in any other relationship, parents themselves also affect the parent-child relationship.  Adults can find parenting especially challenging when they are stressed at work, when they are dealing with separation or divorce, or when a child or adult in the family suffers from a mental or physical illness.

So, coming back to the question that Oprah’s people asked me, I would say that now that my son is only 4 ½ years old, the greatest challenge that I am facing is to find ways to help him develop his self-esteem.

Our son is a shy little boy who wants to please everybody.  He thinks that the more toys that he shares with his friends, the more that they would like to play with him. Of course, this is not really true. Sometimes, the friends just want to play with the toys, but not necessarily with him (which is pretty normal).  He has trouble sticking up for himself when another kid pushes him or takes something away from him.  I was at his daycare one day when another kid pushed him, and my son did not do anything.  This was not the first time that this kid pushed my son (and other kids), so I was very upset when this happened. My son, however, did not do anything to defend himself. He just ignored what the other kid and continued playing with his toy. Of course, I was very upset with the situation and immediately complained to the teachers who were just right there but had not seen anything.

I know that it’s not easy to deal with this type of situations when you are 4 years old and every kid is different. But, I just want to make certain that my son knows how to stand up for himself.  As a parent, I think that is essential that we help our children to develop self-confidence and that we teach them how to stand up for themselves.

Any suggestions? What are the best ways to do this?


7 simple ways to save money on meat

Have you ever heard the saying: “A dish is incomplete if it doesn’t have meat”? Well, I grew up in a house where this expression was part of our daily vocabulary.  My father repeated this saying almost daily.  My poor mother had to make certain that there was always enough meat in my dad’s plate, otherwise he was not a happy guy.  I also grew up eating different types of meat from both the land and sea.  The one good thing is that at home we were not too picky with the type of meat per se, and we would eat almost everything, including internal organs such as the heart, kidney, liver and stomach.  Although I would not always like what my parents put on my plate, I have to admit that I got used to eat meat and consider myself as a meat-eater.

The problem, however, is that meat is very expensive.  In April 2014, Statistics Canada announced that retail prices for grilling steaks and ground beef were up between 11-12% in the past 12 months.  This was more than 6-times the 2% increase seen in Canada’s overall inflation rate for the same period (

Normally, I am the one at home who does the groceries shopping, and I have certainly noticed that the amount of money that we spent in meat is enormous, representing a large chunk of our budget.  I should start collecting records to quantify this precisely, but I know that our expenditures in meat are huge.  Apparently meat makes up over 22% of the at-home food (not out-to-eat or alcohol) budget of Americans (  We can assume that the value must be similar for Canadian families.

In my effort to reduce food waste and the money that we spend in food, I have been trying to simple tips to save money on meat.  Of course, I know that the first way to do this is by buying only the meat that is on sale.  This may works sometimes, but we cannot eat chicken (or fish) every day of the week.  I need other tips.  So, are there other simple or practical ways to save money on meat?

Source: Statistics Canada

Source: Statistics Canada

After searching a little bit in the internet, I found a very useful post that included 7 simple tips to save money on meat.  Here are these tips:

  1.   Eat less meat – Obvious, but not always easy.  In our case, we are trying to implement 2 meatless meals per week and replacing the meat with beans.  It doesn’t always work well, but we figure that if we keep trying, it will eventually work.
  2.  Know your price per pound – Keep a grocery price book and write down the price per pound after every purchase.  Pretty soon, you will start seeing a trend, and won’t need to reference your price book as often.  Knowing how much are you paying for the meat will make you more aware of how much you spend on meat.
  1. Freeze as much as possible – Obvious, but we don’t always think about it.  Don’t leave meat in the fridge for more than a few days because meat (particularly bovine meat) tends to spoil fast.  Establish a rule that unless you will be using the meat that day, it goes straight into the freezer.
  2. Don’t buy speciality meat – Buy only basic meat; but, always make certain that you know how much are you paying.  Only buy speciality meat when is on sale and even then, verify the price per pound.
  3. Stretch the life of meat – Here the idea is to use the meat efficiently.  e.g., when preparing a recipe, we may want to reduce the portions requested by the recipe.  When you buy a whole chicken, make certain that you really use the entire chicken.  Freeze the extras for use in casseroles, and boil the bones for broth.
  4. Buy a portion of a cow, pig, lamb, etc – This is a great idea, particularly if you live in a farming area.  We followed this suggestion and bought half of lamb last week.  We have figured that we are saving ½ of the regular price per pound by doing this.
  5. Shop unconventional grocery stores – If available in your area, visit small international stores, sometimes they may offer lower prices for certain types of meat.

I recommend you visit if you want to have more information about this topic and other related ones.  It’s a great blog.

Groceries and the value of food

In our house, we spent weekly about $350-400 if not more in food, representing approximately $20,000 per year.  Of course, this doesn’t include money that we spent in restaurants or little food/coffee treats that we gave ourselves from time to time.  In addition, our freezer is full of food that we “believe”, we will eat one day, or that we bought because it was on sale at the grocery store.  The issues are that, (1) we don’t really eat $20,000 of food; and (2) most of the food that we have in the freezer will end in the garbage.

Although my family may be at one extreme of the spectrum (we are really bad in terms of wasting both food and money), I know that we are not the only ones who are wasting food (or money!).  A recent (November 2012) article that appeared in the Canadian Grocer website ( indicated that the overall value of food in Canada that ends up in garbage cans or in compost bins is about $27 billion!  This is enormous when we take into consideration that the population in Canada is only ~30 million people.  Financially speaking, this means that each Canadian wastes about $900 in food per year. The David Suzuki Foundation website ( provides other stats regarding food wasted that I am copying below (visit their website if you want to read more about it):

  • Close to ½ of all food produced worldwide is wasted — discarded in processing, transport, supermarkets and kitchens.
  • As much as 30% of food, worth about $48 billion, is thrown away in the US each year. (The average household there throws out about 215 kg of food each year — around $600 worth)
  • In Toronto, single-family households discard about 275 kg of food waste each year. That means one in four food purchases still ends up in the garbage.  Toronto taxpayers spend nearly $10 million a year getting rid of food waste that’s not composted.
  • Over 30% of fruits and vegetables in North America don’t even make it onto store shelves because they’re not pretty enough for picky consumers.

Financially speaking, if each Canadian family wastes about $600 in food per year, my little family (formed by 4 people) would waste about $2400 per year. That’s a lot of money! It’s clear that reducing waste food is important from the environmental point of view, but we have to admit that having an extra $2400 per year in our pockets for other things would not be a bad idea.  The question, however, is why it’s so difficult to reduce food waste when the environmental and financial reasons are so obvious.  I am certain that there are many political, economical, cultural and emotional reasons why are we wasting so much food (we can explore this on other posts), but one point that attracted my attention is the solution(s). There are many suggestions that can be used to reduce food waste, especially when we think about families or individuals. The most common answer appears to be – MEALS PLANNING!  All the books, articles and websites that discuss this issue clearly say that to reduce food waste, you need to plan your meals.  Associated with this issue or solution is grocery list.  So, the idea is that we should plan our meals and prepare a grocery list. My question is, is that simple? Really, when you work full-time and have to take your children to their various extra-curricular activities, can you really plan your weekly meals?

What does death tell about life? Live don’t just exist!

When driving to our cottage today, I heard on the CBC radio the passing of Maya Angelou.  According to her son, Guy Johnson, Angeloulived a life as a teacher, activist, artist and human being.  She was a warrior for equality, tolerance and peace”.  Her death made me think about other people’s deaths and the meaning of life.

Angelou is certainly a person who will not be easily forgotten.  She was a poet, author and civil rights activist who changed the life of many people in North America, particularly women and African Americans.  Recently, we also lost Nelson Mandela; another person who is now part of the history of humanity.  Although these two people had lives that were filled with all kind of obstacles and challenges, somehow, they were still able to live their lives fully.  In my opinion, they are two examples of what it means to live life. 

Death and life
The death of Angelou may me reflect about life and this amazing chance that we have to live.  I believe that life keeps us so many surprises.  To be honest, we don’t know when our existence in this planet will end. When saying this, I am thinking about this colleague who died during his early fifties and never had the chance to retire.  Or, the baby of a friend who died last year and never had the chance to know what life was about.  He died from an extremely rare disease just a few months after he turned a year old.  Or, this young teenager (son of some friends) who died last week and never had the chance to fall in love or drive a car.

When I heard about Maya Angelou this morning, I thought about death and its meaning.  I don’t know you, but I don’t think that I have really ever thought too much about my death until I got married and had my son; more importantly until I started to get old.  I am not saying that we should always be thinking about our death; it will certainly be depressing and not good for the morale if we do that.  I just say that from time to time, we should actually think about not so much death, but its opposite, life.  In particular, I feel that we should take “death” as a reminder that we are still alive and that we only have one chance to live; so, what are we waiting for, let’s take this chance!

Only one chance to live…what does it mean?
It is common knowledge that North Americans are stressed, overworked and don’t know anymore how to relax.  So, are we really living?  NO!  We don’t even know how to laugh and enjoy the small experiences and moments that life brings to us every single day.  We tend to over-analyze everything and don’t just live the moment.  Yes, we have so many excuses for this, including my number one:  “I don’t have” time”.  But, is that really true? What are your excuses?  In my case, I have to admit is that I just have trouble prioritizing what is really important in life.  Sometimes it takes a crisis for people to make major changes, but do we really need to wait until that time? It may be too late? As it is often said, we don’t know when we would be called? 

I know that this is not always realistic, but don’t you think that it would be amazing if we could wake up every morning and tell ourselves “remember, this is your only one chance to live, so, live this day fully.. don’t over-analyze things, don’t just exist…LIVE”!

How did your dad influence your life?

I want to celebrate the contribution that fathers and father figures have made to the life of their children by writing an article.  I would appreciate if you can help me with the process by answering 2 simple questions (reply here):

(1) How did your dad influence your life and career?

(2) What is your best memory or moment with your dad?

Please use the comments box OR the link below to submit your answers.

THANK you for your Help. Please note that the survey is completely ANONYMOUS.

9 questions that will help to determine if you are becoming a helicopter parent – Quiz

Answer“true” or “false” to the following statements:
1.___ I want my child to feel like I am him/her best friend.
2.___ When my child has a conflict with another child or an adult, I usually find that my child is right.
3.___ I get nervous when I’m not in constant contact with my child.
4.___ If my child were having trouble with a new seating arrangement in her/his class, I would ask the teacher to move my child to another seat.
5.___ I usually find that most of my child’s teachers’ discipline policies are not appropriate for my child’s temperament.  I often feel that my child’s teacher doesn’t understand his/her personality.
6.___ My child generally needs extra help from me or another adult with his homework because of his learning style.
7.___ I have found that my child needs to be busy, otherwise he/she gets bored or anxious when he/she has lots of free time.
8. ___ It’s difficult to find time in my personal schedule for my own activities, interests or friends because my child’s schedule is so full.
9. ___ My child is gifted in many areas, and I spend a lot of time making sure that her/his special needs are met because I know that it will be essential for his/her success in life.
Your helicopter parenting stylecould be described as:
§  Overly responsive to your child, if you answered true to Questions 1, 2, or 3.
§  Overly low demands on your child, if you answered true to Questions 4, 5, or 6.
§  Overly high and overscheduled expectations for your child, if you answered true to Questions 7, 8, or 9.

5 Signs that indicate you are becoming a helicopter parent of a young child

Although the term is most often applied to parents of high school or college-aged students who do tasks the child is capable of doing alone (for instance, calling a professor about poor grades, arranging a class schedule, manage exercising habits), helicopter parenting can apply at any age.
In the case of a young kid, a helicopter parent might constantly shadow the child, always playing with and directing his behaviour, allowing him or her zero alone time.  Here are 5 signs that indicate that you  may be becoming a helicopter parent:
1. You find you are doing everything for your child (e.g., feeding your 4 years old, tying older children’s shoes), not allowing him/her to solve his/her own problems. A 2-year-old who never climbs up the stairs, a 3-year-old who can’t put his socks on, a 4-year-old who can’t wash his hands – these are a few examples of too much parental problem solving. Helicopter parents are so invested in solving their children’s problems that their children never learn to solve any of them on their own.
2. You are overly focused on your children’s achievements and enroll them in numerous programs that you believe will help them get ahead, but that may not be age-appropriate. Helicopter parents are very worried about making sure their kids are successful. But instead of focusing on developing traits like self-reliance and perseverance, they focus on skills. 
3. You’re upset when your child fails at something and consider it a personal failure.
4. Your child shows signs of dependence, clinginess, anxiety or anger.
5. You and your child have no free time to just play and enjoy each other’s company. A helicopter parent never let his/her child get bored or play by him/herself. Instead of allowing the child to develop his/her imagination, the helicopter parent will often direct all the play too.
So, are you a helicopter parent? What kind of helicopter parent are you?

More reading….