Mama in the City since 2008 and blogging since 2009!

There is something about horses that most children find inviting and exciting. The idea of riding on their back and helping with their care can really boost kids self confidence. When we heard there was a local horse riding camp this summer we signed up our middle kid right away.

Last week we did a week of pony riding camp at a nearby farm. A total escape from the city life even though it was just a short drive. The overall experience was so positive for this six year old rider. Like ridiculously positive. We’ve had so many requests to go back for another week of camp. Even if it is just to say hello to the horses.

This middle girl of mine is a sweet sensitive child who is definitely aware of her boundaries and her own comfort level. In new or even familiar circumstances she shows us that she feels her strongest when a parent is with her.

She isn’t an outwardly shy or introverted kid and when she’s in her comfort zone she can be hilariously sassy and funny. Which is probably is why it felt so unexpected to us when she started school and had a rocky transition at drop off.

We did what most parents would do and sought the wisdom of various professionals and they all told us the same message. Continue to be her safe place and she will eventually discover the courage to separate when she is ready. Be her familiar in the unfamiliar.

To be honest this isn’t really what parents are hoping to hear. It sounds like it is going to take a long investment of time and there is no quick fix. There also happens to be a lot of tender emotions involved and it can be so hard to see your child feel so visibly uncomfortable.

While we were developing our new parenting tricks to help our child cope with separation anxiety we started to read. Soon we were reading about how amazing horses can be with helping children. Not just with anxiety but with so many other developmental skills too. Thanks to the wealth of on line knowledge we read many articles about how horses can even help build children’s character.

Reading so much about horses helping with children’s emotional sense of well being really did impress us. Horses have such a great reputation for sensing human emotion and it made us eager to go to horse riding camp.

Horse Riding Camp

Going to a horse riding camp was great for overall emotional growth. It was also so good to see our city kid come home with dirty boots and dusty pants. Plus a huge smile plastered on her sweaty face. It really was just wholesome unplugged fun on the farm.

Getting the chance to learn how to groom a horse and put on their tack was really a great experience. The actual act of doing this care also helps children with their overall fine motor skills development and a sense of responsibility.

We are so happy that our girl got to experience horse camp and was able to learn safely how to ride and care for horses at a farm. Nothing felt better for me as a mother than when she turned around and told me, ‘It’s okay mum. You can just drop me off at camp. See you later!’. We literally could see her self confidence bloom as the week went on.

More summer fun right here:

Acing The Summer (including rootbeer floats!)

Bathing Suit Love

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There are a few things that really make it feel like summer in Vancouver city. Vancouver offers so much natural beauty that continues to shine exponentially through out the summer months. From sea to sky there is so much to see and do in and around the city including the annual Theatre Under The Stars. Theatre Under The Stars has just started and we’ve got a pack of four tickets to giveaway.

A Vancouver Experience

Theatre Under The Stars has been happening every summer in Vancouver since 1969 and returns to the city showing two musical performances. Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella and 42ndStreet are running July 4 – August 18, 2018 at Stanley Park’s Malkin Bowl.

This annual event is set up to be great for adults and families alike. If you bring your little ones they  can move around and hang out on the grassy side lines and not be confined to your usual theatre seating. At the same time more serious theatre goers can pick a seat and enjoy the performance.

Enter below to win one pack of four tickets to  Theatre Under The Stars. You can choose which of the two shows you would like to see and which date. Mama in the City was given a family pack of tickets to attend and enjoy TUTS.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Looking for more summer inspiration in Vancouver? Check out our other blog posts.

National Belgian Day At Chambar

Best Outdoor Pool For Families In Vancouver

Taking Your Family To Granville Island

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One thing I get asked quite frequently in my work is, ‘I want to prepare for my upcoming birth. What do you think about having a birth plan?’. I love being asked this question as it opens up a great conversation about preparing for birth and what it will look like. It also helps identify any personal expectations that we hold.

 

Having A Specific Birth Plan

A birth plan is a personally curated list of all the important things a woman wants to during her labour and birth. It often can include specific do’s and don’ts about what should happen during the labour and birth. Some women will write down that they do not want any medications at all and they do not want to have an intravenous put in. Others will write a plan for an early epidural and to ‘labour down’ when they are fully dilated.

Having a written out birth plan allows the care provider and support people involved know what the woman wants to happen. Overall, the idea of the birth plan is meant to empower the birthing mama on her journey to meeting her baby.

Over the years I have seen many different birth plans. Some come to me as preprinted papers with tick boxes. Others are humorous letters written by the baby detailing how to be kind to their mama. Some birth plans are multiple pages long with very intricate details. Whatever the birth plan looks like, there is always a variety of detail and expectations listed out.

Why You Should Consider Skipping A Birth Plan

If there is one thing I know for sure about birthing babies is even the best laid plans can go completely sideways. In the process of creating a plan our minds can sometimes get stuck on the exact details we have put together. For some of us having a birth that did not go as according to plan can leave us feeling like we’ve failed. Some women will feel emotionally let down when the plan didn’t work and hold on to this hurt.

Over the years I’ve worked closely with many different woman. Some who felt like they let themselves/their baby/their partner down because the birth did not go as they had planned. Nothing is as raw and fresh as a newly post partum mama. Couple those normal feelings with a birth plan that went out the window and the disappoint can be huge.

Your Birth Story

I always like to tell my patients, ‘we don’t know what your birthing story will be until the baby is here on the outside‘. Going into your labour with an open mind and allowing expectations to be fluid is really key. This will help in embracing our individual birth. As well this is exponentially important when birth veers from what was expected. Especially so if the birth became an emergency or has interventions that weren’t planned.

This is not to say that you shouldn’t feel disappointment or  that you won’t experience trauma from a birth that went in a different direction. Those are valid feelings. No one makes a birth plan indicating they would like to include an emergent caesarean birth with lots of random unfamiliar faces in the delivery and every single intervention under the sun.

 A Wish List For Your Amazing Birth

A birth wish list is similar to a plan but it allows for that flexibility that is so important in birth. Creating a personal wish list allows you to think through different things that might work for you. A wish list is a lot less firm than a birth plan. The process of creating a general wish list that allows the flexibility that birth requires.

The human body is a marvel and growing a human is stunningly amazing. Just like every other system in our body, birth can often be straight forward and sometimes birthing requires specialized help and intervention. Again, and this is the take home message, we don’t know our birth story until our baby is out of the womb.

Creating Your Birth Wish List

Creating a birth wish list can be as simple as taking the time to mindfully thing about the things you might like to try in your labour.  Often our terminology and words can often play an important role in birth. For example, what does having a “natural birth” mean to you? Does it mean drug free or no epidural? Does natural birth mean a vaginal birth with no instruments like forceps or vacuum? The answer will range from person to person.

Having a birth wish list allows for the mental space for when back up plans come along. You don’t know what your birth story will be until that baby is here in your arms. I don’t know if you’ll be the mama to rapidly dilate and have an unplanned home birth. I don’t know if you’ll be the mama that has prodromal labour that lasts for days.

Before you go into labour take some time to understand the process of birth. Take a prenatal class. Read a variety of books from authors who come from different backgrounds. Let your idea of your labour and birth be open. Remember your birth story belongs to you and your baby. However you may birth your baby, you are amazing. Absolutely amazing. Be proud of yourself. 

Check out similar posts about pregnancy and birth:

A Birth Story

Purposefully Slow: A Postpartum Love Story

My Decision To Have An Amnio: High Risk Pregnancy

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Recently the dreaded and very contagious Hand Food and Mouth Disease crept into our home and spread to our youngest child. One minute our three year old daughter was her usual self and a few hours later she was telling us she didn’t feel ‘too good’ and was fast asleep on the living room floor. That was the very start of our experience with Hand Foot and Mouth Disease (HFMD).

Progression Of Symptoms

We had a heads up from a family who had visited us while their child had a fever and ended up developing Hand Foot and Mouth Disease. So, it was on the radar but I was still feeling hopeful that we had missed the share of germs.

Three days after being exposed the symptoms started at our home. This is a classic timeline for the spread of this virus but it can be up to six days after exposure. That evening we put her to bed for the night and hoped for the best. A few hours of solid sleep our little girl woke up screaming and holding her head, she had a severe headache and ended up throwing up in bed.

After a dose of acetaminophen for her head pain, she slept like a dream and woke up in the morning feeling okay. The only thing was she now had a fever. Since she was happy I didn’t dose her with anti fever medications and we let the fever do its job.

Stopping The Highly Contagious Virus

Hand Foot and Mouth Disease is contagious once the person develops a fever. If you have a known exposure to someone with HFMD and/or you or your child develops a fever this is your cue to stay home to stop the spread of germs.

After two days of having a fever our daughter woke up with with obvious spots around her mouth and on her tongue. There was nothing on her hands and no spots on her feet. As the spots started coming up her fever had stopped.

This is the point we knew she had Hand Foot and Mouth Disease and continued to keep her quarantined in our bedroom. Over the next 24 hours new spots came up. In the end she had dozens and dozens of the HFMD blisters. She ended up developing more of the spots on her upper back, trunk, groin area and behind her knees.

Her bath towel was not placed with the other children’s towels to prevent spread of the virus through contact. We separated the use of bathrooms while her fever and spots were at their worst as the active virus can be found in bowel movements.

How To Treat HFMD

While there is no cure for HFMD and the virus ultimately has to run its course, the treatment is focused on relieving symptoms and increasing comfort. There is no way for you to speed up recovery. It’s very important to stop the spread of HFMD. This can be done by; increasing your hand washing, staying home when you are sick or have a fever and not sharing food or drinking cups.

We let our daughter hang out in the big bed in our bedroom. There she relaxed with a mixture of watching some shows on the iPad and playing with her favourite toys that’d be easy to clean after. The virus can live on toys and other handled items. Which can spread to the other family members through touch. We dressed her in long sleeved pyjamas and socks to cover up all of her skin and spots to further prevent the spread by contact.

The spots in her mouth caused a lot of pain and distress. She did not want to eat or drink and even popsicles caused her pain. This is very common with HFMD and we found that yogurt drinks worked the absolute best for getting in some calories. The yogurt drinks were cooling and didn’t sting the open sores in her mouth. Some people reported that plain greek yogurt on their skin helped with temporary relief from the burning sensations.

We used soothing oatmeal baths a few times a day helped prevent itchiness and scratching from the blisters. This was very helpful and also helped to keep her occupied and the skin fresh and clean.

Getting Better From Hand Foot and Mouth Diseas

Once her fever finally broke she went back to her happy self.  Meanwhile, she still looked terrible from all the big open spots on her lower face and body. Eventually we let her mingle with her siblings but we still kept her at home. She was highly supervised and there was absolutely no touching or sharing of any kind.

Isolation during the fever is very important in order to prevent the spread of HFMD. The virus can spread after the fever through close contact or sharing eating and drinking items. 

There is no solid information out there about the exact contagious period of Hand Foot and Mouth Disease. This virus is most contagious during the fever and it can be found in stool for several weeks. We kept our daughter home for five days. Once the spots dried up we went back to our daily routine. After a week the spots started to disappear and by two weeks all the spots were completely gone.

By some miracle no one else in our home got the dreaded Hand Foot and Mouth Disease! That felt like a huge success.

 

Check out these other health related posts:

Taking Your Child To The Emergency Room

The Contagious Tummy Bug

The Mom Cold

This information is not meant to substitute medical attention or advice from a medical doctor. While I am a Registered Nurse I am writing this post as an experienced mum of three. 

 

 

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Locals and tourists both love to visit Vancouver’s Granville Island. As a longtime Vancouverite it is definitely at the top of the list for activities to do with kids. While not technically an island, Granville Island has a special vibe that makes you feel like you’ve left the city. It’s easy to spend a morning, an afternoon or even the entire day over at Granville Island.

Getting To Granville Island

Think ahead about ditching the car and taking the water taxi. Spending a day on Granville Island can be much more enjoyable without the hassle of parking and parking time limits. While there is parking available on GI, it can feel like a bit of a rat race trying to secure a spot and most spots are only for a couple of hours.

There are two water taxi companies that can take you from different spots around False Creek right to the docks of Granville Island. Plus you get to catch a breezy tour of False Creek while you calmly boat your way over. If you are downtown take the Hornby Street ferry dock for quick and speedy service directly across the water. This dock is perfect if you have a stroller in your posse. The boat is larger and you can roll right on. You can also pay cash and buy your tickets once your on the boat. 

 

Places To Stop First

Once you get to GI make your first stop Lee’s Donuts. Step just inside the Public Market for one their fresh doughnuts. This is a traditional doughnut shop without a lot of hipster vibes. If you like fresh down to earth doughnuts you have hit the jackpot at Lee’s.

The Public Market can be a fun and exciting place but it can also be really busy, especially with kids and even more so if you are pushing a stroller. If you are planning to bring a stroller or small kids plan your trip for early in the day. This is before the mass of tourists come to snap pictures of the gorgeous fruit stands inside the market. If you go right around opening time you will be able to cruise through the market without swearing or navigating a large amount of people that have come to a standstill.

Things To Wander And See

Right now Granville Island has a fun new exhibit happening through out the island. The inaugural Art Smash is ready for you to tour and enjoy. This is a free public art exhibit of murals that is accessible to all. Recently we had fun checking out the different murals and finding our favourites.

The Kids Market  is a must to check out and a great spot for a bathroom break for the kids. Plus there are multiple hand washing stations set up for kids and adults. With a variety of shops from toys to clothing to hands on fun at the arcade, there is something for everyone to enjoy.

My three kids always want to check out the Kids Market whenever we pop over to GI and love checking out the joke shop and you can always buy some bubbles to blow at the park. Plus this kids entrance is perfect for your short stacks.

Fun For Active Kids

Right behind the Kids Market is a water park that operates from now till the end of the summer. This can be quite the popular spot and a great solution to cooling off. There’s a playground and a sandpit for endless digging right next to the water park. In the summer months they turn on a little water feature to help with all the sand castle and moat making fun.

Insider tip: even adults can go down this cool refreshing water slide! 

Family Dining On Granville Island

There are many places to dine around Granville Island and you can choose a sit down family friendly experience or grab picnic stuff from the Public Market. Once upon a time the birds were really aggressive and would swarm down and grab the food right out of your hand. Not such a fun picnic.

In the past there was also a lot of bird feeding happening by people and it attracted mass amounts of hungry birds. GI has been trying to get on top of decreasing the amount of birds by warning people to stop feeding the birds.

Some of our favourite family spots on Granville Island for a sit down meal include the casual Tony’s Fish and Oyster Café and the Vancouver Fish Company Restaurant & Bar.  Both are family friendly and delicious plus the latter has a patio out back.

Be sure to check out these other posts on what to see and where to go with kids in Vancouver!

Vancouver’s Children’s Festival  

Summer Loving: Vancouver Style

The Bloedel Conservatory

Inukshuk at English Bay

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In honour of Mother’s Day I am republishing this honest motherhood post from last year. While it’s always easy to share the bliss and joyful moments of motherhood, let’s also recognize the painful and raw parts too. The parts of motherhood veiled in post partum anxiety.

Check out Raw Beauty Talks for seven inspiring unfiltered stories about motherhood, sharing stories of post partum anxiety and depression.

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The first person to ever ask me if I had ever had any issue with post partum depression or anxiety was my hairdresser. It’s seems kind of unbelievable really, especially considering she asked me this question just this past weekend and my youngest is already two years old. So, how is it that no one ever checked in or flat out asked me this before?

We all know just how taboo mental health topics can be to openly talk that and too often we feel a bit uncomfortable asking the people in our lives the nitty gritty on how they are coping. We tend to assume our friends and family will feel comfortable enough to ask for help if they are having a hard time. However, in real life, this is far from the truth.

Right after I had Elisabeth I sunk into a weird unexpected cycle of feeling anxious. I never had any post partum depression or anxiety with the other two babies and to my intellectual brain it did not make sense. I had a healthy baby in my arms and she was my third baby, I knew how to mother a newborn. I’m sure the high risk pregnancy, crazy delivery and NICU experience all played a role in my post partum anxiety but truly post partum anxiety can target any new mum.

This hot prickly feeling of anxiety crept into my daily life as soon as I got home from the hospital. I should have been relieved that the pregnancy was over and that I was home with my new baby. Instead, the happiness and relief of that was not enough to carry me through all of the feelings of anxiousness.

One of the ways that I felt more in control and safe was being with the baby in my bedroom. We set up camp in my bed and I could actually feel tiny moments of bliss and happiness, it was definitely how I coped and survived this time in my life. However, if you asked me to do something that required getting out of the apartment, I turned into this uncertain sweaty anxious person with a whirlwind of thoughts.

When Elisabeth was about five weeks old my sister took my older kids over to Victoria to go and see family. It was all great until it was time to arrange bringing the kids back home. The plan was for me to meet up so I could go get them and drive them back home. At first I faked it and thought if I pushed myself enough I would get over the fear of leaving my bedroom, leaving the city and driving with the tiny baby to go and pick up the other kids. It was about a 45 minute drive away and the thought of having to do it made me feel physically sick.

It’s a drive I’ve done many times before and logically it did not make sense why it made me feel as upset as it did. That’s anxiety for you, it is totally not a logical process. I was worried about putting our very tiny baby into a car seat, I was worried about driving while feeling so tired, I was worried she might cry the whole drive. I convinced myself that she could stop breathing in her car seat and I even let myself ‘go there’ and envisioned getting out of the car and finding that she had stopped breathing.

Eventually my sister offered to bring the kids back home to me and I went from feeling totally ridiculous with all of my thoughts to feeling a sense of calm. I could stay in my bedroom, on my bed, with my tiny baby and we would be okay. I could stop having to constantly process the ‘what ifs’ that were totally illogical but still swarmed my mind. Things that I had done with my other kids when they were babies just felt like too much this time around. Everything felt scary.

It was even too much for me to make the six week post partum check up with my obstetrician. Instead, I just kept telling myself that I’d eventually book it. Months went by and I could never bring myself to make that appointment. It felt like getting there was this huge mountain and there was no way I could arrange care for the big kids, take the baby and make it work. However, as expected from a busy medical practice, there was no call to check up on me or see if I was okay. Eventually I was totally off the office radar but not going didn’t help my feelings of anxiety. Instead, I’m sure it made it worse.

Anxiety is a complex beast, it is completely controlling of your daily life. It steals your joy and your sense of self. The idea that something bad is about to happen all the time is utterly exhausting. Things that used to make you feel happy and satisfied were now coated with a new layer of uncertainty. I wish that someone had flat out asked me if I was having any problems coping when I had Elisabeth. Just having someone to talk about these weird feelings would have been beneficial.

Slowly over time I started to feel less and less anxious. As my baby grew and I felt more in control of my daily life I had more anxiety free moments. It was not an over night transformation but a gradual continuous shift into feeling more like my old self. For me the feelings were the most intense for the first 3 to 4 months post partum and slowly eased off over the rest of the first year.

If this story resonates with you and you need more information, please check out AnxietyBC for more help. 

 

 

 

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