Mama in the City since 2008 and blogging since 2009!

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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Vancouver parents, I’ve got a very fun insider scoop for you! If you are a local Vancouver family I’m sure that you already know all about Rocky Mountain Flatbread. Everyone knows this is the place to go as a family if you want tasty food, a relaxed family vibe and a little play area to help keep your kids entertained.

The other week I was invited to Rocky Mountain Flatbread to test out their new kids birthday party package. We’ve had many pizzas from Rocky Mountain Flatbread, locals look out for their frozen pizzas at your grocery store, and so we were excited to see what they had put together for the little chefs.

We checked out the Main Street location and as soon as we arrived for the party the kids sat down at the wooden tables and helped put together a special celebratory cocktail, think Shirley Temple with fresh ingredients. Soon the kids were crafting the cutest paper pizza chef hats and there was literally never a dull moment at this party.  The pace of the two hour party moved quite smoothly and the staff were always very engaging with the kids.

 

The kids became little pizza chefs and gathered around the table and were able to get their hands right in the pizza dough. They rolled it, stretched it and made ‘flour smoke clouds’ then were presented with a variety of toppings to choose from.

I totally had a very Canadian moment and was singing Charlotte Diamond’s ‘I Am A Pizza’. You get full Canadian points if you too started singing this catchy pizza song!

You could win your own Rocky Mountain Flatbread Kids Pizza Party in Vancouver for up to 10 kids (value $200)!

One winner will be able to host their child’s birthday party at Rocky Mountain Flatbread restaurant and receive:

A personal party where the host will guide young chefs in creating their own juice cocktail, rolling out their flatbread dough, adding their favorite toppings and at the end of the party,  create their own home made ice cream! Leave the mess and enjoy the celebrations is the motto of Rocky Mountain Flatbread parties. This is a party perfect for all young foodies and all fellow ‘Mamas in the City’ who live life apartment style or who just like pizza!

 What Is Included In The Prize:

  • Get creative colouring your very own chef hat!
  • Cocktail making with fresh juice
  • Pizza making fun (roll out the dough & add your favourite  toppings)
  • Ice cream making from scratch with organic  cream, raw sugar &  vanilla
  • Platters of warm double chocolate brownies – plus a birthday candle!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck to all of you that enter! This is such a fun prize! 

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We had a special birthday in our family today! The ‘baby’ turned two years old and she was celebrated all day long. First while I was out working and she was with our babysitter and big sister at the park. There was a picnic with balloons and cake and of course singing. I love that she was so celebrated while I was working! Other people loving on your child feels like the best thing ever.

A few weeks ago my husband bought her a bike for her birthday. It shipped to us and late one night he was busy in the living room putting it together. Then we had to stash away and hide this tiny bike until the big day. Hiding presents can be tricky when living in a condo as there really aren’t so many hiding spots but we did it!

We gave Ben a bike back when he turned 2 and, wow, that boy owned the Yaletown seawall with the way he zoomed up and down it on a daily basis. He would ride to daycare and ride home with me chasing behind him. Pedal free run bikes had just started to come out on the market back then and we were one of the firsts where we lived to have a toddler on one. The amount of people that stopped to take in the sight of a toddler cruising the seawall was hilarious.

Fast forward to my third baby turning the big TWO and we decided she needed a run bike too. I waited outside with the three kids while my husband brought the bike outside. The look of happiness on her tiny toddler face was exactly what I hoped for. I think she was just happy that she finally had her own bike, just like her siblings.

Of course, when you are the youngest with a couple of older siblings you’re going to get all the assistance and teaching you can imagine. Big sis was totally into trying to help the birthday girl learn to get on the bike and push off and was so patient with Lizzy.

I’m hoping that as the weeks tick by we will get more sunny light filled evenings and this little two year old can soon be cruising the seawall on her own. Until then, she has many helpers ready! I can’t believe my baby is a two year old! Cue all the mama feelings!

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Downtown living can be absolutely fabulous until it’s time to register your child for kindergarten at the local public school. It turns out that each year more and more people choose to stay and raise their family downtown. However, the Vancouver public school spaces have never caught up to that fact. It’s all about ‘bums in the seat’ when it comes to funding and you can’t pre count those tiny tushes before they are sitting there. Lack of kindergarten spaces in Vancouver is a chronic issue, nearly a decade old, that rears its head annually.

Back when we were busy registering our first child for kindergarten I put so much energy into whether or not he would be accepted by lottery to our neighbourhood school. If he didn’t get a spot in our local catchment, where would he go to school? I most certainly stressed over this issue.

Long story short, he did not get a spot and was at the end of the waitlist. However, we ended up being quite happy with our ‘runner up’ school and have enjoyed our four years there. When it was time for our second child to register for kindergarten we had to start back at square one.

You can read all about our first experience with our first Vancouver school lottery system experience here

Since our first child was an ‘over flow’ student, the usual sibling priority for registration you’re entitled to at your catchment school does not exist. Even if your child was placed at a Vancouver school due to lack of spaces in your neighbourhood school, siblings have zero priority. Instead you must go through the hoops, register at your catchment school, apply for cross boundary and hope for the best. This is a rather questionable process as all nearby schools are technically considered ‘full’ and do not except cross boundary students.

As a parent you could have a brand new kindergarten student at one school and their sibling could be somewhere else entirely within Vancouver. Not an ideal set up considering the transition into kindergarten includes dropping off in the classroom and picking up at the same spot. How does a family with young children manage that without it being a hardship?

This time around we were randomly lucky. Through the school lottery we got a spot at our local school for kindergarten. However, having two kids at two different schools was not ideal for our family at all. Today we heard that our cross boundary application for Josie was, amazingly, approved. We will have two kids at the same school and we all couldn’t be more happy. This could have played out in so many different ways and we were lucky it worked out the way it did.

Downtown Vancouver has just opened its third regular elementary school, there is a K-3 Annex attached to one of the schools, in the downtown core. Apparently there will be three kindergarten classrooms at the new school and the spots for next year are all currently filled.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Baby

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March 28, 2017 // Parenting

You know that moment when you see a photo of something and it completely changes your perspective. That happened to me the other day when my husband showed me a photo he’d taken of our youngest girl. The two of them had been out on an outing and in the photos she looked so big. All of a sudden I saw her as a total toddler, probably the way everyone else sees her, and less of the baby that I  think of her as.

In my mothering world my youngest is still ‘the baby’. Since she’s always been on the tinier side it’s quite easy to keep thinking of her as a baby. Compared to the older kids she still has a lot of basic needs that we need to take care of and when we talk about her in our family we legit refer to her as ‘the baby’.

Where’s the baby?

Awe, look at how cute the baby is!

The baby just did this super adorable thing today…

Shhhh! The baby is sleeping!

Careful! Watch the baby!

The list goes on and I totally get how completely ridiculous and maybe a little endearing it is at the same time. Today while the big kids were off at school I let her get busy with the paints. Then she danced in the living room to some Raffi and sang Baby Beluga. Like, she actually sang the words and you could understand what she was saying. Babies don’t do that.

In about two weeks time we will have an official two year old. Not a baby. She’s having a birthday party at a farm and she likes to talk about how she will ride a pony, see a goat and eat cake. I’m trying my best to not be too ridiculous with my emotions over realizing that I no longer have a baby.

While I’m all for celebrating my toddler’s new milestones, I will still be secretly be calling her ‘baby’. I just can’t help myself.

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Hawaii definitely has my heart ever since our first trip there as a couple. I feel like as soon as you arrive on one of the islands you’re transported to this total sense of tropical bliss that gives you that feeling like you’re home. There’s that warm thick air that greets you as soon as you get off the plane to those island birds you hear chirping first thing in the morning. It is a true love affair.

It turns out that my kids also have a bit of Aloha fever and loved every minute of our family holiday. Each kid had a different favourite and I love hearing what they had to tell me. At the end of each day I’d ask them, ‘what was your favourite part of today?’. We often do this at home but I felt like being on a family holiday invites this question even more. Plus, it encourages them to learn how to be reflective and also grateful.

My oldest, eight and a half year old Ben, wasn’t so sure about doing a snorkelling trip with his dad. We had talked about it before we left and practiced in our indoor pool with the snorkel gear. When the time came closer he said he was nervous about swimming in the ocean. So, off we went to Baby Beach to practice snorkelling in some calm waters. However, even after a day at the beach he still was not sure about going on the trip.

Later that day he told us that he was now excited to go. Phew! I was really glad he changed his mind as we had bought the tickets ahead of time and they were non-refundable. My two boys left before 6 AM and were gone all day. They came home utterly exhausted and filled to the brim with tales from the ocean.  Ben was able to use a wet suit and the guides worked with him so that he felt really comfortable. I love seeing my kids conquer their fears! He saw so many amazing animals; schools of fish, dolphins and turtles were just a few of what they saw. He said it was his, ‘best day ever!’ and I believe that.

Alii Nui Maui– snorkel boat trip

Josie is five years old and the last time she was in Hawaii she was just a toddler, so this time around everything was still very new to her. She loved saying ‘Aloha!’ to people and was interested in absolutely everything that we did. She loved meeting new friends at the pool but her ultimate favourite experience was swimming in the ocean and sailing in a boat looking for whales.

This girl is such an ocean lover and her zest for catching waves made me feel like an overly cautious mama at times. She definitely loved every moment that we spent at the beach and would have stayed even longer if it was up to her.

Pacific Whale Foundation– Family friendly whale watching

Te Au Moana Luau in Wailea – Kids five and under are free (yeah!)

You might wonder what a not yet two year old can even get out of going on a trip like this. Lizzy, who turns two next month, loved hanging out at the beach. Another vote for Baby Beach! It is seriously perfect for families that have mixed levels of swimmers.

This toddler learned lots of new words while we were away. Which is always a fun milestone, even the third time around. Pineapple, aloha, fish, boat and beach are all new words that she loves chatting about. Lizzy got a big kick out of going to the Maui Ocean Centre. She could have sat at these tanks and watched the life inside forever. We’ve been to this aquarium a few times before and it’s always a fun experience. If you haven’t been before but are thinking of going with kids, plan to spend about 1.5-2 hours there.

Just like that our trip is over! It was a sad moment boarding the plane back to Vancouver, knowing we were trading in sun and sand for raindrops and cold. My kids were in for a bit shock the day after we arrived home when I handed out their Winter coats for our outing.

Until next time Hawaii!

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You’re scrolling through your social media feed and see a picture of someone you follow. Their toes are in the sand and their kids are frolicking in the water and the caption reads ‘Best day ever!’. It’s easy to feel jealous or even have considerable ‘Vacation Envy’.  I know I’ve had my own moments of feeling envious over someone else’s holiday, especially when the weather at home is questionable and the day to day stress is mounting up.

The truth about vacationing with kids, especially young kids, is that it is not a vacation. Instead, I’m going to call it a holiday. It’s a break from routine and a chance to do things together without the usual hustle of the days at home but it is not a vacation. Sure, there’s no after school practice to rush to or the daily struggle of packing lunches and getting out of the door but it’s not a kick your feet up and really relax kind of vacation.

Kids will be kids even away from home and their will still be sibling fights and the aftermath of irregular bedtimes and the change of time zones. There will be meals out where someone cries, hopefully not you, and there will be the usual work of making sure all of your kids are safe in the water or in a new to you area .

You will break a sweat carrying every single item back from the beach because one of your offspring is ‘too sandy’ to help.

I find that changing my focus on what a family holiday actually encompasses helps make it a total success for me. I don’t expect my kids to be completely well behaved every second of our time away and I  expect that there will still be the same kind of melt downs that happen back home. Going away as a family is a great chance to build your family connection and make memories but regular life still happens, even when in Hawaii.

The other day we went for lunch at Leoda’s Kitchen and Pie Shop and the kids were hungry and acting up. We had just done a few hours at the Maui Ocean Centre and we were ready to eat. The space is small and it’s a ‘grab your own table’ kind of place. I had 5 of us sitting at a 4 top and it was squishy to say the least. One kid was saying rude things to an other and the toddler was all grabby with the cutlery and napkins. I did the parenting move of firm words under hushed tones as we waited for my hubby to place our order.

Who would of thought that a local would come up to our table to tell us how well behaved our children were and how impressed she was with our family. Seriously, who would have thought?

One day when my kids are too cool to holiday with us, I’m sure I will vacation with my husband and we will rest and relax and read books at the beach and talk about the good old days when our kids were small. I know that this phase of life is ‘all in’ and it is exhausting and lovely all at the same time.

I’m raising a glass of pineapple wine to making memories on family holidays and celebrating the little things.

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I’m sitting here on an airplane at about ten o’clock at night. Two out of three of my kids are actually fast asleep, amazing, and I thought I’d share three really great travel products that we stumbled upon while gearing up for our trip to Hawaii. We’ve done a bunch of air travel with all three of the kids and the trickiest age that I find is the toddler age.

Babies can be lulled in a baby carry or nursed to sleep and worse case, if they do cry, it’s a tiny baby. People don’t hate you as much when it’s a tiny baby crying. Unlike toddlers, tiny babies don’t wrestle you while you try to get them to sit still during take off. Toddler cries are a lot louder and much more persistent in an angry ‘LET ME DO IT’ way.

If there is anything that will make traveling on an airplane with kids easier I have read it, seen it, reviewed it and put it into action. Here are a few things that we found to make traveling a little bit easier.

This great car seat luggage strap from Go-Go Babyz is designed to tie your toddler carseat to your suitcase. Your toddler can literally be seated in their carseat and you wheel around your case. Making hauling around that big car seat much easier, plus you can contain your little runner in a busy airport.

We found this worked best in just hauling the big car seat in the airport but our little lady didn’t actually ride in her carseat. I’d definitely recommend this for anyone that has ever had to haul around multiple car seats. Been there, done that. I love the concept behind this product and I think the design is really solid. We paid under $20 to buy this product and it was worth the price.

A few weeks back I was out shopping and found this neat silicone lid and straw set from Silikids called Siliskin Straw Top. I started to get tired of Lizzy always dumping smoothie everywhere or going to a restaurant and having to be on high alert because of an adult size open glass. Apparently as the third child you do not want to be that different and have a ‘baby cup’ when your siblings all have regular cups. I’m always learning in this parenting gig!

This stretchy lid seemed to be the answer. We took it with us in our carry on and it worked great. Before we took off we dined at the airport and they brought our toddler an open glass. The silicone lid just fits on top and voila, toddler approved. I definitely recommend this one, its easier than bringing your own cup and can be stored without taking up hardly any room. We just gave it a bit of a rinse in our water cup before we packed it away.

If you’ve ever traveled with kids then you know the whole pain, physically and literally, of bringing carseats and booster seats. They take up a lot of room while you are navigating in the airport and it makes for one parent to be on ‘car seat duty’  while pushing the big luggage cart full of precariously placed kid seats.

Image from One Smiley Monkey Blog

We found the ‘mifold the Grab-and-Go-Booster’ and after reading what it was all about and checking out the safety of it, we eagerly snapped one up. It’s exactly what it promises and I’m so surprised this idea hasn’t come out years ago. It is revolutionary in how we think about booster seats for our big kids. Plus, your kid can actually car the MiFold themselves. It is that compact.

I’ll be sharing about our family travels as we go and I’d love for you to follow along. Catch us on Instagram as we explore the sights of Maui. Look for #MamainMaui!

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I’m really excited to be part of this year’s 4th annual Healthy Family Expo as a blogger ambassador. I only collaborate with events that I actually would attend and this one is up there at the top of my ‘Go To’ list of local events.

After I had my second baby I became more aware of purchasing greener products and making healthy decisions for my family became increasingly more of a priority. We swapped out most of our old household products for Seventh Generation and I started to pay more attention to reading food labels. Rain or shine, I thought of ways we could be active as a family. For us this meant less driving and a lot more walking, something that city living definitely makes easy.

Five Reasons I’m Excited To Check Out The Healthy Family Expo

  1. It is located right downtown! I love when events are so close by to us. I’m pretty sure we will walk there and if it’s raining we will take transit. Perfect fit for this Mama in the City!
  2. I can’t wait to take my kids to the Active Zone. So often it is hard to find events that all the kids can enjoy. However, I can already picture the two oldest kids getting excited for the big hamster ball race track and testing out the rock climbing wall.
  3. The littlest can feel safe and confident exploring the TumbleTown play area. I’ve been interested in TumbleTown for awhile and I’m looking forward to checking out their play area.
  4. After being introduced to the television show SuperWhy back when my oldest was a preschooler, I’m looking forward to seeing my kids faces when they get to meet some of the CBC SuperWhy characters.
  5. I’m a sucker for samples and I love samples that I get to eat. True story. So, I’m looking forward to finding a few new healthy snacks that I can try out with the kids.

This year at the Healthy Family Expo you can be guaranteed to find the following family fun:

  • Meet popular CBC Kids characters Daniel Tiger, Super WHY!, Bookaboo & Scout;
  • Enjoy Bobs & LoLo and Jessie Farrell concerts featuring songs celebrating the natural world;
  • HUGE Active Kid Zone with rock wall, giant hamster ball race track, Tumblebus & TumbleTown, Springfree trampolines, Sportball & Pedalheads play areas and more;
  • 200+ exhibitors with healthy food sampling & eco-friendly products & services;
  • Whole Foods Market Zone, London Drugs Health Zone, and brand new Toyota Canada Outdoor Living Zone, West Coast Kids Healthy Baby Zone, and Green Living Zone;
  • Science World fire show and ninja & tumbling demonstrations on stage;
  • Vancouver Aquarium AquaVan interactive zone for kids;
  • $15,000 Grand Prize Showcase including a 1-year lease on a Toyota Prius c;
  • Baby feeding & changing lounge with complimentary diapers, wipes & comfy seating;
  • Family Rest Stop courtesy of Love Child Organics and lots of stroller parking;
  • First 500 adults through the door receive a gift bag full of healthy product samples;
  • First 200 adults through the door receive an adult pass to Science World; and
  • Partial proceeds of ticket sales support Canucks Autism Network sports programs.

If you have a backyard and haven’t yet heard of Springfree Trampoline then you need to come to the Expo on March 26th and experience it for yourself.  Spring free Trampoline is a new addition to this year’s Active Kid Zone at the Expo and is family friendly fun that makes being active enjoyable and safe.

One lucky family will be taking home a Springfree Trampoline through the Expo’s early bird ticket draw, and another one as part of the Expo’s Grand Prize Showcase (visit the Healthy Family Expo website for terms & conditions for those giveaways). That’s a prize valued at over $3000!

If you like to win prizes then get involved in the pre Expo fun by heading to the Expo 2017 Facebook Event page and RSVP to win thousands of prizes at the March 23rd pre-Expo Facebook party! The on line party runs from 8 to 10 PM.

To kick off the pre-Expo celebrations, we’re giving away a $200 Healthy Family Expo 2017 shopping spree! One lucky winner will get to shop at their choice of exhibitors at the event on March 26th! This online giveaway runs from March 6 – 22, 2017, and the winner must be a British Columbia resident aged 19+ able to attend the Healthy Family Expo at the Vancouver Convention Centre between 9 am & 5 pm on March 26 to pick up and use the prize that day.

Enter for your chance to win through Rafflecopter below.
The winner will be announced at the pre-Expo Facebook Party on March 23rd, 2017!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Adult Expo tickets are $15 each online, cash at the door, or at London Drugs from March 1-26.

Kids under 16 get in FREE and ALL ATTRACTIONS are included with admission!

Buy tickets early to qualify to win a Springfree Trampoline!

Grab 2-for-1 adult tickets online using limited time promo code MMITC241.

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Finding an activity that is engaging and fun to do with all three of my kids can be a bit of a challenge. It has to be interesting enough for an 8 and 5 year old and safe enough for our not yet 2 year old toddler. What excites the older kids doesn’t always work for a toddler.

We had been talking about heading to Richmond’s Kidtropolis for awhile and finally a day happened where we could all go! The kids loved the idea of being able to play in a little city made just for kids and I liked that it could be fun for all of them.

Pros of Kidtropolis

  • Toddlers under 2 are free!
  • Engaging play for a range of ages. I feel like the preschool crowd would be the age group that benefits most from Kidtropolis but my 8 year old boy had a great time. At first it took him awhile to warm up to being there but by the end I had to drag him away.
  • A jungle gym area encourages physical activity. This was the area my oldest wanted to hang out in the most. He loved climbing around as well as the thrill of the big slide.
  • Lots of staff around cleaning up and keeping things sorted and safe. I liked that the staff were easy to identify in the mix of all the other adults.
  • There is no time limit and you can easily spend several hours here.
  • The cafe has high chairs (that are clean!!!) and they will bring you your tray of food and drinks to your table. So much easier when you are the only adult with three littles!
  • Paid off site parking was covered up to two hours.
  • Creativity and imagination is definitely a huge part of going to Kidtropolis. My creative preschooler loved visiting all the different buildings and her favourite was the airplane.


Cons of Kidtropolis

  • Parking is seriously terrible during the week. Meaning, do not count on parking anywhere near the actual site. There are a handful of designated spots out front but the rest of the parking is reserved for other businesses. We had to park off site in the Olympic Oval and with 3 kids it was actually a huge hassle and I almost turned around to go home. Walking with a toddler is a special kind of parenting test. If you go there with another adult, drop everyone off at the door and let the other adult park the car. 
  • You can’t bring your own snacks in. The cafe is decent and serves a variety of food but all purchased food and drink is restricted to the cafe, so there is no slow sipping of your coffee while your kids play. During peak lunch times it can be hard to get a table.
  • The mix of ages means you can have a big group of older kids roughhousing around small kids. No injuries for us but I definitely had to be on top of watching big kids wrestle around the toddler.
  • Not all parents are actively watching their kids. Sigh, I hate to even say that but it does cause for a little bit of a headache at times. Most big kids were going around by themselves, which was fine but it did create a few ‘sharing is caring’ moments.

Final verdict is: Definitely have a visit to Kidtropolis! We will be back for some more pretend play fun!

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