Mama in the City since 2008 and blogging since 2009!

Last weekend our middle girl celebrated turning six and together we planned a fun active birthday party. Living in a condo in Vancouver limits how many friends we can have over to celebrate with. In the past, we’ve made at home parties work by limiting our guest list to just a couple of little cousins and friends. However, this year the birthday girl has new school friends and so we needed to find something local that would be fun, active and wasn’t hosted at our condo.

Unfortunately, downtown Vancouver lacks a lot of big kid focused venues like other cities have, which is why we were excited when Jump Gymnastics moved into the edge of Yaletown. We are longtime Jump Gymnastic fans and are proudly one of the original Jump families from when they first opened their doors in Yaletown. Focusing on movement and activity for babies up to seven year olds, Jump hosts scheduled classes, drop in play time and of course birthday parties!

Birthday parties at Jump are limited to 12 guests including the birthday girl and because of this we decided to invite just girl friends to the party.  This is what happens when you are little and all the cousins under 7 are girls! For the actual party we just needed to bring the cake, party bags and literally everything else was taken care of. Including matches for the cake, instructors to keep the kids safe and, my favourite part, zero clean up! We were pleasantly surprised by the things that were provided for us to use in the party room.

The party room is located just off of the gym and has the perfect seating for young guests with kid sized table and chairs. Since the party time is quite short, 1.5 hours, we decided not to do food and only did cake. This worked out perfectly because it allowed for more time of running around and being active with friends.

This is our second time hosting a birthday party at Jump in Yaletown. We had Ben’s third birthday here back when I was pregnant with Josie. The ball pit has notoriously been a huge hit with all three of my kids over the years and of course my husband took no time hopping in there and having fun with the kids.

All of the kids that came left with rosy cheeks from running around and happy faces. The instructor led them in two different circle times and various games around the gym and the rest of our time was free play. Our family would most definitely recommend hosting a birthday party at Jump Gymnastics for your Vancouver kid (or toddler!). Just know you will need to book in advance to get the date you want and know that your guest list will need to be limited.

 

 

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Three kids and city living means that we do our share of supporting the restaurant industry and I’ve got zero mom guilt over that one! It’s just so simple for us to head out the door, walk a few blocks to a restaurant and have lunch or an early dinner. This also means that my kids are all pretty familiar with dining out and restaurant manners have been instilled into them from the very start.

I’ve taken my trio out for meals by myself many times. In fact, I can remember this sense of total accomplishment the first time I took the two big kids and my tiny newborn out to a chain restaurant for dinner. We were one mama and three kids and I didn’t sweat it at all. We’ve been dining out as a family since the first was little and I find it really fun to go out to eat with my kids.

I always choose wisely when we go out for a meal. If someone is overly grumpy or tired, we won’t be going to a sit down restaurant. However, sometimes you make lunch plans to meet up with someone and you have to take your crew no matter what. I can be go with the flow on this one, however, we never waiver from our restaurant manners.

The Game Plan

Before we even get to the restaurant we talk about what the kids are going to order, all the way to what drinks they’ll have. I find this makes things simpler and avoids potential meltdowns once we are at the table. As soon as the kids could speak in sentences I’ve gotten them to order their own meal, the younger they are the more help they get from me. Before we give our order we talk about how it will sound and I gently remind them about using their manners and the importance of saying thank you and making eye contact with the server.

We always pack a long a bunch of table friendly activities to keep my people occupied while we wait at the table.  I have a strict zero tolerance for making loud sounds, walking around the restaurant or general kid flopping that can happen to the best of us. My very favourite time passer is books for big kids and the reusable Water Wow colouring books by Melissa & Dog for the littles. Seriously, the latter is so great and portable and genuinely loved by our family.

We also play a variety of games to pass the time with hangman being a popular table top game with my kids. If my crew starts getting antsy for their food we play a game of eye spy and the golden prize is the one who spies the food coming. These things are so simple but seriously keeps the kids focused while we wait.

The Expectations

Over the years the kids have grown to know what it means when we gently remind them about using their, ‘restaurant manners‘. They know that we expect them to sit at the table, use please and thank you and not use playground behaviour (loud and big).

If there are two adults at the table we will most definitely take the antsy one for a walk around but I don’t let my kids walk off on their own by other tables or stand up on the seats. Same goes with the tiny peepers who peer over the back of the booth to the next table. That’s a big no. I might be the ‘strict one’ when it comes to kids and restaurant manners but we’ve so many successful meals out together that I’m going to keep rolling with it.

Dining Out Success!

It’s a successful meal out at a restaurant when we only have one spill. I feel like every meal out there is usually the inevitable spill, especially with the under three crowd but sometimes even with the older kids. Either  random sauce or ketchup splats across the table or the contents of their water glass accidentally splashes out.

The last meal out my two year old was served a glass of water and she spilt half of it all over herself and the table during the two seconds I looked away. Live and learn. Water cleans up easier than chocolate milk or other beverages and half filled glasses make less mess.

If someone has a ridiculous meltdown we will leave. This is not used as an empty threat at all, we will pack up our food and leave. I am pretty relaxed in my daily life but I will not tolerate poor behaviour in a restaurant. I’m not the only person that came to enjoy a meal out and I’m very aware of that. I’d rather eat my food cold back at home then tolerate crazy behaviour. Luckily, I’ve only had to pack up our entire meal once.

The Fine Print

I totally get it if your kid has sensory issues or autism or there’s something else happening that this style of parenting just might not fit with your family. I feel like as long as you’re actively parenting your child, you are doing an amazing job! You are your kids best expert and if you think your kids won’t be able to handle eating out in a restaurant then you make that choice.

Quick Tips To Dining Out With Kids

  • Go early! Don’t go at peak meal times if you don’t need to. Have lunch at 11:30 AM and dinner just before 5 PM. There will be less people around and the place will be quieter. Meaning your table service will be speedier too and you won’t have starving kids melting down.
  • Always have an exit plan. If you are dining with your partner take turns being the one that hauls the noisy one out for a quiet little reminder about restaurant manners.
  • Mama says relax. Truly take this one into consideration. If you’re feeling anxious about your kids being all kinds of crazy they will 100% pick up on it and be even crazier than you imagined. Soften your shoulders, make yourself smile and enjoy being out with your family (and not having to cook!).

Remember, meals out are meant to be enjoyable for everyone, even for the mamas! If your kids aren’t quite ready to do a sit down dining out experience start small and get take away to enjoy at a park. If you are currently working on your kids restaurant manners always regroup with them once you leave the restaurant. Let them know what was awesome, they sat at the table and used please and thank you, and what did not work.

 

 

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Who here makes New Year’s Resolutions?

Bueller? Bueller?

Apparently around forty percent of you will make some form of New Year’s resolution but only eight percent will actually stick to it. Not really a big surprise here and this blog post is not meant to convince you to make New Year’s resolutions. However, there’s something about over indulging and living it up throughout the holiday seasons, what with that extra baking and fizzy sips of celebration, that it feels just right to be mindful in the choices we make for our wellbeing.

While I’ve never been one to sit down and make a hard core resolution list that I thought would change my life, I’ve always enjoyed moving out of December and into January with an air of freshness. I’m pulling on the words mindfulness and intention as I shift into the New Year.

While, you won’t find me making New Year resolutions, I do have a list of intentions that I will work on. If they only last for the month of January, I will be okay with that.

Eat more salads

After saying yes a few too many times to holiday baking and extra celebratory meals out, it just feels like the right decision to prep that hearty salad at home. In lieu of the fancy cheese platter, my go to in the New Year is always the ‘big salad’. My favourite combo for a big salad is a Santa Fe style salad with corn, dates, tortilla strips and a peanut lime vinaigrette. I like adding cajun chicken and even some goat cheese to make it a filling meal.

Diffuse oils in your living space

I have a diffuser on my bedside table and I love dropping in some of my favourite oil and letting the scent diffuse throughout the space. Nothing says out with the old and in with the FRESH like uplifting scents diffusing in my home. I really love oils with a mix of lemon, eucalyptus and sweet spearmint and I really could have that combo diffusing almost all day long.

Say yes to the book

After the hubbub of the holiday life where the calendar is usually filled up with get togethers and more nights out than usual, I really enjoy taking things down a notch and filling up my quiet time with books. While the light outside still retires quite early, I find that vegging in bed with a thick book is such a great way to recharge and feel grounded. The accomplishment of flipping pages and losing yourself in a book is hands down one of the most fantastic way to recharge.

Currently I’ve got Brené Brown’s book ‘Braving the Wildness’ on my nightstand and I’ve made a commitment to read  it over the next month. I was so excited about this book that I gifted one to my sister and I’m reading it as part of a January book club with my nurse friends.

Live thankfulness

The New Year is the perfect time to show thankfulness. Which means saying or writing down the words ‘thank you’ and showing the people in your life that their gifts, however they might’ve look, were appreciated.

Thank you for taking the time to eat fancy cheese with me.

Thank you for giving my children Christmas cards and little thoughtful gifts.

Thank you for keeping the pace of traditions with me and my family.

Thank you for the abundance of bath products and fancy anti ageing eye cream.

All of these deserves recognition and teaching thankfulness is the perfect gift a mother can give her children.

Sleep rituals and going to bed early

I know for sure that many of you have had major late nights through out December. Whether you spent them making sure your family’s holiday just perfect or your social life was pretty happening, the New Year is truly your gift to health.

Give the gift of sleep hygiene to yourself by creating an amazing nighttime ritual before bed. Whether you’re a shift worker, an exhausted new mama or a chronic insomniac, sleep hygiene is vital in promoting sweet sweet sleep and setting yourself up for the best.

Sleep hygiene can be as simple as having a pre bed bath, reading a book (even just a few pages). Creating these little rituals will help cue your mind and body into shutting down for the night. As a shift working mama who has been notoriously chronically sleep deprived, I can guarantee you that sleep routine is a major health gift you can give to yourself.

If it feels impossible to get to bed early try starting with just one night a week. Try Sunday night and build from there and remember that sleep truly does beget sleep.

When it all feels too much, PURGE!

Out with the old and in with the new, am I right? After an influx of presents and holiday sale finds the New Year is seriously the best time to get things sorted. It doesn’t even need to require a lot of work on your part. Take ten minutes to walk through a room and pick up a set amount of things you don’t use anymore. Toss, recycle or donate to your hearts desire.

Living in a small space means that I gleefully look forward to the end of the year purge as we tuck away all of our new treasures and collections. Instead of just stacking things on top of the old ones, go through your space and move out what you no longer love or need. This gentle purge helps keep your space fresh and is the perfect start to a New Year.

Are you part of the forty percent that make New Year’s resolutions, perhaps you’re part of the eight percent that actually maintain those resolutions as the weeks tick by. Whatever your path may be, happiest New Year wishes for a healthy mindful January!

 

 

 

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Later this afternoon my youngest sister and her family are coming over for a little festive fun at our condo. We’re going to enjoy appetizers and adult beverages while the cousins do a present exchange. I’ve already made the spread and am busy keeping tiny hands away from sampling it before the guests arrive. We will have four adults and five kids (and our silly dog) in our condo and the space will feel just perfect.

I’ve always loved Christmastime in Vancouver, with the lights and the festivities that are all around. It’s hard to pick just a few things to do because there are so many to potentially choose from. While we didn’t hit up every single attraction the city has to offer, we did do the perfect amount.  I’m crossing my fingers that the weather holds out and we can make it to VanDusen Botanical Gardens on Christmas Eve for their annual Festival of Lights. Bringing the kids to see lights in possible freezing rain just doesn’t have the same feeling of joy.

This year I actually did about 80% of my Christmas shopping on line. While I do love walking the city to shop, I just didn’t have the kid free time this year. Shopping from home while the kids played or were sleeping was ultimately the best decision for me. It’s also getting kind of tricky to buy secret presents with my tiny crew along with me. My packages get delivered to our concierge and then I get a little email telling me that I have packages downstairs! So simple and I love that part of condo living.

I’m really feeling aware of what actually makes Christmas special. Being together as a family comes out on top and this is something that I want my children to feel as well. Sure it’s amazing to get the coolest new toy but that’s not the feeling of Christmas that I want them to take away. So, tonight we will start our family time of being together and starting the spark of Christmastime.

 

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The weeks leading up to Christmas I find myself reflecting back on memories from my own childhood and remembering the things that were special to me as a girl. This reflection always gets me thinking about Christmas baking, specifically the Christmas cookie.

I think traditions, of all sorts, have a way of holding space in our usual every day life. Which is why I love how celebrating the holidays give me that reason to spend some time in the kitchen baking with my kids.

For the last half dozen years I’ve had holiday baking blitzes with my three kids. The moment with them doesn’t even need to be fancy or glitzy. Just being together baking cookies helps to create these annual traditions within our family.

One thing I remember from my own childhood was the annual sugar cookies my mum baked for us each Christmas. I remember my mum making the dough ahead of time and then there’d be these balls of buttery yellow dough wrapped in plastic wrap waiting in the fridge to be rolled out and cut.

I often spend mindless hours looking through baking cookbook and on line through recipes. My favourite might just be the Martha Stewart website for all things Christmas cookie related, especially the classic recipes. I love trying to decide which recipe will be the perfect one to bake. If I’m baking with my kids the recipe needs to be simple without a lot of complex steps or fiddly parts and equally tasty.

In past years my mum has come for a visit in late November or in December and it’s almost guaranteed that she will roll out the sugar cookie dough with my kids. Keeping that cookie tradition alive. Of course, as soon as the New Year rings in I will be swapping all things cookie for salads. I’m always looking forward to the next year and the next batch of memories.

What is your absolute favourite cookie to bake at Christmas?

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Recently we went on our annual trip to the United States for Thanksgiving. Having a US born husband means that we get a few perks, like celebrating two different Thanksgivings every year and traveling out of the country to go see family.

It’s safe to say that this specific trip was our best air travel as a family ever and I’m sure that is one of the things that made a huge difference with how I felt when we got home. Especially in comparison to years we had a tiny baby and then a toddler to fly with.

I think the ease came from knowing the  ropes of navigating a family of five on an international flight (pro tip: always ask to go in the family lines even if one isn’t flagged) and the kids being that much older. At 9, 5 and 2.5 years old it was easier to physically move through the airport and easier to keep them occupied without a ton of tricks.

We traded in the wet cool rainy days of Vancouver for the desert sun and heat of Scottsdale, Arizona. There’s just something about cruising down a legit dusty desert road that makes you feel like you’re truly out of the concrete jungle. Sometimes it is just a simple change of routine that gives you the boost to recharge.

 

The kids were happy riding horses and being with their cousins and our short time away past effortlessly.  It was the fourth year that Josie rode this sweet horse named Buck and this year she really fell in love with the idea of riding horses. Since we’ve back in the city she talks daily about taking care of these amazing animals.

Isn’t it wondrous to see your child become enamoured with something, to see them find that thing that creates a spark inside of them? Since we’ve been home from the desert we’ve talked endlessly about horses and are currently in talks about planning a horse themed birthday party for next month.

Today I was puttering around at home and realized I’ve been having this amazing energy boost the past week. I really think it was from the sunshine, the family time and the low stress that helped me to feel this way.  I firmly believe that sunshine is really the best medicine.

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