Mama in the City since 2008 and blogging since 2009!

I asked my first Apartment Baby, Benjamin, to read the new book written by author Jackie Burns.  Jackie is a fellow ‘Mama in the City’ raising her two boys in a condo in Toronto and this book was born out of her experiences raising kids in a condo.

The story of The Condo Kids is about two brothers living the condo life alongside the other condo kids in their building. The brothers really want a pet and plot to sneak home a Barbary sheep named Bob that they met at the zoo. The story follows their adventures of trying to keep this unusual condo pet under wraps. Including funny disguises and outfits worn by Bob to keep him hidden in plain sight and sneaking him into the top bunk during bedtime stories.

“I really liked reading a book about kids who live in a condo just like I do. I thought it was really funny how they tried to keep Bob the Barbary sheep a secret from their mom. There were lots of funny parts of the story.  I think other kids my age would like this book as much as I did.” – Benjamin, age 8

This book is a great read for the 7-10 year old range and you don’t need to be a Condo Kid to enjoy the story. Initially I was attracted to this book as there are not a lot of kid books that are written about kids in condos. However, the funny adventures of The Condo Kids and Bob The Barbary Sheep will win over any school aged reader.

Ten percent of book profits of The Condo Kids goes directly to support Earth Rangers, a kids conservation organization.

 

 

 

 

 

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Way back in 2010 I was a solid year into crafting this blog and I was nominated as one of Vancouver’s Top 30 Mom bloggers. Since then Vancouver Mom has hosted this annual event to celebrate the new crop of mom bloggers and I’ve attended six out of eight of the celebrations. Last night I had the pleasure of going to Hycroft Manor for Vancouver Mom’s Top 30 blogger event, Style.

At the very last minute I decided to wear the exact same dress that I wore for the inaugural event back in 2010. Thank goodness for having a forgiving little black dress in my closet because things with me have changed since 2010! Seven years older, two more babies and I am STILL blogging!

I was really excited to check out Hycroft Manor as I have a secret passion for investigating old houses. When I was given the go ahead to go off and explore I was seriously thrilled. I took my sister along for this event and together we toured the mansion. Peeking into solarium after solarium (seriously, so many solariums!) and checking out the bedrooms and the bathrooms.

Attending last nights event felt like a reunion and also a complete embrace of sisterhood. While blogging in itself has changed so much since I started writing here, it’s so wonderful and refreshing to meet the ‘new to the scene’ sisters who are just starting their journey in the blogosphere. One of my favourite parts of the evening was meeting up with four other ‘originals’ who were part of the 2010 group.

I’ve just recently hit my eight year blogiversary and while I don’t have as much free time these days to capture blog posts, I still love writing and sharing about my life as a Mama in the City. I enjoy getting emails from readers asking questions or sharing with me about how a blog post helped them out. It’s the connections that I make through this outlet that fuel me to keep on writing.

Thank you so much for reading my words and thoughts over these past eight years. Your connection is important to me and I have truly loved sharing my world with you. 

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Back when I was an Apartment Mama to one baby, I felt like I had my hands pretty full. I suffered with sleep deprivation and a high needs baby and all the usual adjustments that becoming a parent brings. I felt like my mamahood was full enough and there wasn’t possible any room left for adding more. Then I had my second apartment baby and then my third and all of a sudden I was an Apartment Mama to three kids. Whoa.

Life was pretty good with my three babes but life often felt like it a constant job of being on eagle eye surveillance to make sure everyone was okay and there wasn’t a lot of time for anything else. For the most part I honestly felt like I was just getting by. In order to thrive and survive I spent the last two years embracing being a mama to three kids and let other aspects of my life slide in order to protect and provide the most important part, my three growing babes.

 Lowering my overall standards of what I can do is one but also splitting up the kids and doing things in groups of two kids is really what is working for me.

Friendships had to be put on hold, extra work projects did not exist and things meant to just fulfil me had to wait.  I have zero regrets on putting things aside to focus on raising three small humans. Now that the youngest is a solid two years old there is more of an ability to taking a relaxing breathe and have that sigh of relief. The all encompassing aspect of raising a baby is now over and it’s now much easier to sign off and step away for a moment.

Right now I am making my mamahood work in so many different ways. Lowering my overall standards of what I can do is one but also splitting up the kids and doing things in groups of two kids is really what is working for me. I’ve found that taking the two little girls off to go and do fun stuff for the 0-5 year old crowd while the oldest is off at school has been a really big help to my stress level. Sometimes I’ve been taking the two big kids and we go and do stuff that involves being out and about during toddler nap times and the big kids get my focused attention.

The last few weekends I’ve taken the two big kids and we’ve gone off and done big kid things. Which basically means activities that exist around the coveted toddler afternoon nap time. It’s actually felt like a small break for me being out and about to a mama to an eight and five year old. It’s less eagle eye mama watching a toddler navigate life and more fun mama doing fun things with the big kids. Like checking out the busy Vancouver Children’s Festival this past weekend.

If I can maintain one lesson throughout  my motherhood it is to have no regrets and truly enjoy each stage and right now I am doing just that.

 

 

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I love supporting local theatre, especially when it is the the young actors of Vancouver’s Arts Umbrella. We went to see the classic Charlotte’s Web which was put on as part of the Expressions Theatre Festival over on Granville Island. I took my own 8 year old son, my 9 year old nephew and 13 year old niece to the performance.

All of us that went had previously read Charlotte’s Web by E.B White and so everyone was already well versed on the storyline. There were lots of questions about how the actors would play a spider, a pig and a couple of geese!

The actors did a fantastic job at playing all of the different roles in this play. The role of Charlotte, played by Hannah Mitchell, was a real stand out in this production and she was very enjoyable to watch as Charlotte the spider.

All of the actors were able to really embrace their characters and even the tiniest details were present in their roles. The way the actors related to each other was evident on stage and there was an easiness in watching their performance.

All of the youth presented with such great enthusiasm and at a professional level. We enjoyed this performance so much! 

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I’ve always wanted to be an artsy person that had creativity visibly flowing from my fingertips. I wish I could create pieces of art and people would actually know what it was suppose to be without having to add a description. I guess we all have areas in our lives where talent and passion collide and I’ve often wondered if I was actually an artsy person or not.

Last night I was invited for a ‘Paint and Sip’ at Kitsilano’s Rocky Mountain Flatbread.  We sampled their Spring menu, including seasonal beverages such as their triple berry mojito and hand shaken margarita. I was excited because we were invited to paint under the direction of a legit actual artist, Tara Higgins.

Apparently the menu ingredients are so fresh that they are picked from the farm and delivered via bicycle to the backdoor of their kitchen. We sampled pasta dishes and of course a variety of their infamous flatbread pizzas, including one with fiddleheads!

My favourite two pizzas were the tequila cod with shrimp and their West Coast pizza which includes a roasted garlic cream sauce, red Onions, capers, Ocean Wise smoked salmon finished with a lemon horseradish drizzle. In fact, I could order another West Coast pizza right now. It was seriously so tasty.

 

Tara was on site to help guide us through the process of painting. I was really hoping to channel my inner artist and create a masterpiece, wishfully thinking that maybe I was actually a naturally talented artist and I just needed to sit down and put brush to canvas. I haven’t ever spent much time painting, not including all of the art that I’ve done with my three kids over the years. It was nice to focus on the directions from an actual artist and also let myself get lost in the moment.

Long story short, it turns out that I am actually NOT a naturally talented artist bursting with amazing talent like I was hoping for. However, that’s okay as I still had fun getting my hands (literally) in the paint. The process of following Tara’s steps were  really enjoyable and the atmosphere of a Paint & Sip was a lot of fun.

My oldest was seriously stoked to get a painting in his room made by his own mama, which was enough affirmation for me. I love how all of us that attended had the same tools but all of our interpretations were creatively different. Can you spot my masterpiece?

If you need a family dinner idea check out Rocky Mountain Flatbread. It is so family friendly and the food is really fresh and tasty. Plus they boast a great local beer and wine list. This weekend Vancouver is hosting ‘Art! Vancouver‘ will be at the Vancouver Convention Centre showcasing local and international artists like Tara Higgins.

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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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I never really had to make a decision about having my babies at work, I just knew that it was the place that I wanted to birth. Once in awhile someone would say to me, “…but they will see all your bits?!” and I usually laughed and said, “Yep, but it’s really not a big deal”. Worrying about my modesty during birth was never a deciding factor, after all the people I work with are skilled professionals and I knew that they would treat me with the utmost respect. I was totally right.

After a stressful pregnancy with my third baby I was finally given the clearance from the top docs to deliver at my work place and not at a hospital with a more acute NICU. My pregnancy had been filled with constant nausea and vomiting, bleeding, dozens of ultrasounds, an amniocentesis, blood tests for cystic fibrosis, constant measuring of baby’s echogenic bowel and growth problems that started in the second trimester. I could go on and on really. It was a lot and it was scary.

When I got to 35 weeks I was told that baby looked great and I could deliver with my work family. I felt a sense of total peace and for the first time in my whole pregnancy I relaxed. My breath was easy and my heart was full. All the nurse friends that had continually checked in on me through out my pregnancy were gearing up for my birth too. That sense of love and compassion was so palpable and it really put me at ease.

I was booked for an induction of labour because my blood pressure was going up, something that happened with both my other babies too. The first nurse I had was Nurse Karen, she had been with me on my pregnancy journey since I got the news at 21 weeks that the baby was measuring way too small and all of the red flags started going up. She constantly checked in with me and gave me the reassurance that I needed when we were initially preparing for a possible premature delivery.

There was a point at the end of her night shift where we both looked at each other and we both had tears in our eyes. My emotional journey was not just me traveling alone but she was right there giving me her support. Nurses are amazing at tapping into a patient’s emotions and they realize how stress and fear can effect labour and birth. Having her share that moment with me was really special.

It was great timing for me because the next nurse on duty for my active labour was the same nurse that took care of me with my first birth. Having Nurse Mitra in my room was an instant feeling of relief and comfort and I knew exactly what kind of labour support she would give me. I knew I could do the ‘birth yodel’ and she would be okay with all my sounds.

My induction was not as smooth as my second labour and I remember feeling a bit frustrated and disappointed and that ‘hurry up’ kind of feeling. I felt really blocked and overly emotional about the lack of progress that I was having. Cue Nurse Cheri, my friend and my coworker. Also the person who constantly checked in on me while I lay in bed on bedrest and someone who would always told say, ‘How’s the baby girl?’, even though we hadn’t found out the gender (surprise: it was a girl!).

Nurse Cheri took charge when my labour went from 0 to 180 within two minutes. She invested her full self in helping me cope while I was losing my cool. She took charge when I felt like I wasn’t coping, she rubbed essential oils on me and made me focus on my breath and be present. All while monitoring everything else that labour and delivery nurses do.

I dilated at rapid speed from 4 cm to 10 cm in a matter of 15 or so minutes. It was a wild ride and the baby did not like it and her heart rate plummeted to 60 beats per minute when it should be over 120 beats per minute. I remember glancing up and looking at the faces on my work family. Their faces looked intense and so I closed my eyes.

I kept my eyes closed and I  knew that the baby was coming, I just could not hold it back and the need to push overwhelmed me. Before I really knew what was happening our sweet baby girl was born and I finally opened my eyes and saw this glowing ring of nurses encompassing me. I don’t even know where they came from and I didn’t even know some of them were working, but there they were. They were ready to help me and ready to help my baby. Nurse Mitra, Nurse Cheri, Nurse Stephanie and Nurse Cornelia. This baby was born right before shift change too.

At the two hour post partum mark the baby had to be moved into the NICU and I was fortunate to have some strong nurses taking care of Elisabeth. Nurse Jessica was on the ball when it came to her assessment skills and she even made sure to do the little things that matter to mamas, like giving your four day old baby a bit of a wash.

I know that I couldn’t have survived and thrived without all of your support and I feel so fortunate to have had all of you as my nurses. There were so many more amazing nurses that touched our lives during our week stay in the hospital and they will never be forgotten.

Happy Nurses Week to all nurses who continually make a difference in their patients lives.

 

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Sometimes I wonder what kind of memories my kids will have around growing up here in the city. After all, they are literally growing up right downtown and our days are filled with sidewalks, concrete and lots of walking. My kids walk every where rain or shine and are our neighbourhood is our community. This is a very different way than either my husband or I grew up.

Yesterday we decided to make use of the sunny day and get outside. I always feel that Vancouver is at its very best on a sunny day! We decided to go and get croissants at our favourite spot and walk to the park and just enjoy some easy fun all together. I feel like once you find a place that makes the perfect croissant you are golden.

We got a few assorted croissants boxed up and off we went to the park. As a a Mama in the City I use my stroller like some moms use their car. Which means the basket under the seat always has a plethora of stuff in it including a layer of cracker crumbs. You can be certain I also usually have bird seed, bubbles and wipes stashed away somewhere in my big UPPAbaby Vista basket!

One thing that I’ve found about raising city kids is that even though a city may seem large, the people who actually live there often get stuck in their area. Your neighbourhood eventually becomes your own small town.

The kids know the person delivering our mail, we run into neighbours while we are out walking and we play with other neighbourhood kids at the park. Of course, the big difference is that on a gorgeous sunny day you will also be sharing your neighbourhood with hundreds of visitors but that’s par for the course when living here!

If you find yourself in downtown Vancouver make a stop at Ganache Patisserie for their amazing croissants. You won’t regret it!

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It was probably sometime after Christmas when our littlest girl started to fall in love with anything and everything to do with the farm. She talked about riding horses, petting goats and feeding chickens and we all thought it was totally adorable. We decided to celebrate Elisabeth’s second birthday with a family farm themed party. I mean, how could we not? We headed away from the city and out of the apartment and over to North Vancouver’s Maplewood Farm. Just under a twenty minute drive from downtown.

If you’re thinking about booking a birthday party here make sure you book at least two months in advance. We booked in February and we were able to get our second choice for our April date. On the day of our actual party there were apparently two other birthday parties following ours. This is a happening location!

In the last few years Maplewood Farm’s has opened up a new fresh party room that boasts a lot of natural light and a perfect space to host in. I was pleasantly surprised at the party room and the layout was ideal for our group. Which included a wheelchair, a stroller, a bunch of kids 11 months to thirteen years old and a some adults.

Of course, we had to book in for the farm’s pony rides. Unfortunately our little birthday girl was one year too young for an official ride but she still got to sit on top of ‘Crocker the Pony’ and became very serious when she was up on his back.

The birthday girl’s sister took full of advantage of Lizzy’s missing a turn and gleefully signed up for a double pony ride. Seriously, the smile on her face was a perma-grin and she absolutely loved being able to ride around the farm. Crocker was such a great pony for the kids to ride on! Now I’m left wondering about how to get this city girl into some horseback riding activities.

The pony rides are a nice slow pace around the farm and the whole party was easy going, which ultimately meant less stress for parents! We were able to walk around the farm, pet the goats, feed the chickens roaming throughout the farm grounds and check on the baby animals. It was a very positive experience for all the little kids and especially the birthday girl.

The price of the party includes a limited amount of time in the actual room but you are free to stay on the farm after the official party ends. We found that the two hour party went by fast but it was still the perfect amount of time! We chose the package that included decorations and table settings along with a pizza lunch for the kids and the farm even put together party bags for the kids. I literally just add to bring a birthday cake and it was perfect!

If I was to offer some insider tips I’d definitely suggest booking the pony rides, so much fun!!!. However, I’d recommend booking the pony rides for before the actual party room time starts. We purchased an extra hour for the party room but it sat totally empty during the one hour pony ride.

My kids are already asking to go back to the farm to see the animals. Thanks for having us Maplewood Farms!

 

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Recently I had a weird interaction with someone and I totally let their negative vibe influence how I felt. I felt totally overwhelmed because I hate having awkward interactions with people and I am naturally more of a peace keeper than a shit starter. All day long I felt this extra weight on my shoulders and I just couldn’t shake it. It literally killed my appetite and zapped my zest and other people noticed. ‘What’s wrong Andrea, you don’t seem your usual self?’.

I caught the start of hot tears in my eyes and took a deep breath before I let the moment totally suck me into the dark side. I stood in the bathroom trying to regroup and my mind wandered to my kids. I thought about how my big kids would think it was so odd that I was letting someone’s issue make me feel this way. After all, I’m their mum and mums are strong and invincible. I couldn’t help but think about what I would tell my kids if they had this problem in their own lives.

I would tell my children to stand up for themselves and to know that other peoples misery is not theirs to be responsible for. I’d make sure they knew that their own happiness and their own sense of self was strong enough to pull them through. 

There were two choices I came up with after doing some reflection. Either I could just let this person’s interaction slide off me and toss it away, not putting in any extra energy into the situation, or I could do something about it.

 

I’ve decided to do a bit of both and while I am trying my best to brush off the negative energy that I picked up, I’ve decided to also stand up for myself. This is what I’d tell my children to do and what better way to parent than to lead by example. In this moment my children give me strength, they are the ones that make me ‘Strong As A Mother‘.

 

 

 

 

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