Mama in the City since 2008 and blogging since 2009!

Before I had kids I knew that I would breastfeed, I hadn’t really given too much thought about how it would look to actually nurse a baby full time but I was ready. I had seen my sister nurse her daughter and it looked somewhat easy and I had friends who would breastfeed when we got together or went out for lunch.  I thought that breastfeeding was something that would just happen if I tried a little. Have baby, nurse baby. The end.

Then I had my first baby at 36 weeks and he was born after a marathon labour and an assisted delivery. Feeding him was so incredibly difficult and we battled sleepiness from jaundice and his irritability from the assisted delivery made it even more difficult to feed him. Like so many new mothers I doubted myself, I didn’t trust my instincts but at the same time I just wanted to feed my baby.

In the early days of jaundice and slow preterm feeding, we did a mix of at the breast, formula top ups, breast pumping and repeat. It was a semi gong show of  sore lady parts and felt like I was walking through thick knee deep sand trying to get to an ever moving target. I was getting nowhere and somewhere all at the same time and it was bloody hard.

At around three weeks old we turned a big corner and this babe of mine was exclusively breastfeeding and the pump sat collecting dust. Fast forward three years and my sweet chubby full term Josephine was born and my ease of being a second time mother and the high of a straight forward birth meant she was gaining weight at just a few days old.

When I was in the hospital with her I had so much milk that I could feed her and at the same time collect passively from the other side and nearly have a full feed for next time without doing any work. I felt like I had this magical milk making power and I was the queen of of the milkyway. Over the next several months I chose to pump in the mornings to build a freezer stash just in case I wanted a rare evening out or a morning sleep in on the weekend. I ended up being able to pump a decent supply and ended up donating my stash  to a friend who needed more food for her newborn twins.

When I had my third baby I expected nothing different than the laid-back experience I had with my second baby. Turns out no breastfeeding relationship is the same. This baby was born a lot smaller and had a tongue and lip tie that wasn’t diagnosed till she was two and a half months old. Feeding her was the biggest challenge and it took so much work and time.

I pumped while she was in the NICU and I would sit at her bedside pumping in an awkward chair with my sore post partum body and staring at this tiny baby inside the incubator who needed my milk but would not latch. Everything ached and I’d sit in the hard hospital chair and stare at her soft round newborn face through the incubator window and wish that I could just latch her on instead of the plastic flange.

I used that pump like it was a life source and it became part of this rhythmic routine through our day. Eventually around five months old I decided that things were good and I chose not to pump any longer. She was breastfeeding, we had had the tongue tie and lip tie released and we were on the upward swing of our feeding journey.

There was this amazing moment while packing up that big rental pump and putting it back into its minty green container with the styrofoam innards that squeaked as I shoved the plastic back in. I felt this big relief when I was done with pumping and knew it was the end for sure. There was this moment of realizing how important pumping had been in keeping our breastfeeding relationship afloat during the rocky moments.

Photo by Miguel Valentin

I’m celebrating World Breast Pumping Day with Snugabell Mom & Baby Gear and together with some other awesome moms I participated in a daily round up of moms who ‘Get Sh!T Done’. We all know that there is not just one way to feed your baby and one person’s experience can be completely different than your own. At the end of the day, we are all mothers who are just trying to get sh!t done!

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Well, hello there! I’m Mama in the City.

I’m a mum to three kids, ages 9, 6 and 2.5 years old and together with my husband and our dog Lucy we live in a condo in downtown Vancouver. I work as a RN in labour and delivery and I absolutely love my job. The night shifts are not easy but I love holding space and being present with labouring moms and meeting fresh babies. My other passion is helping to give infant feeding support to new parents and also sharing the inside scoop when it comes to raising newborns.

I’ve lived downtown since I graduated with my nursing degree, which was about 15 years ago, at that time I had no plans to put down roots in the city but here we are, raising our family and thriving. I’m an apartment mama and that means I know every trick to make use of small spaces, shared bedrooms and also the perks of living with less overall.

I’ve always loved having a glimpse into the ordinary days of families and so I’m sharing a look into a typical day with my three kids. No shift work today, it’s just a regular day at home being a mama. I hope you enjoy this sneak peek into our world as a family living in the city.

700 Our youngest shares a room with us for now. We live in a two bedroom condo and she’s usually the last kid up for the day so having her with us makes it easier in the mornings. Right now the big kids are up early and they get right to making their own breakfast in the kitchen. I can hear them arguing and spilling cereal on the counter and floor at around 630 AM. I’m just so happy they’re getting ready for the day. I am seriously so slow in the morning and I always have to set an alarm so I don’t laze in bed. Definitely not a natural morning person at all.

710 It’s official. My phone alarm buzzes and I need to get the day started. There are lunches to be made, kids to get dressed and things to organize. This morning I’m feeling kind of relaxed as I make our usual french press coffee. My husband is already working and I always bring him a hot cup of coffee to his office. He works from home which has its advantages and disadvantages (I’m never ever alone, true story). Meanwhile, my cup sits mostly full on the counter till I make a whole new coffee later on. Daily occurrence.

815 Everyone is ready to go for the day and now I get 15 minutes to get myself together. Some days I just throw on whatever is nearby, brush my hair and go and some days I do my make up and pick out an outfit. Today I’m getting ready. Often if I’ve come off a night shift or a bunch of shifts in a row, I will often keep things more simple.

 840 Right now I’m thinking ‘hurry up’ as we are trying to get out the door. Seriously, I always lose my cool this time of the morning. I just want to get to school on time and there is always some kind of kid related delay or sibling squabble. Maybe it’s time for me to reset the alarm clock for ten minutes earlier?  Seriously. We often drive to school but sometimes take the bus or walk but today we drive.

920 The two big kids are off at school and two year old Lizzy and me are back home to start our day. Which includes taking this furry fuzz ball out for a walk. Funny thing is that despite being a Vancouver dog she refuses to set her paws in any sort of dampness or potential dampness.

Noon The littlest and I decide to do a few walking errands in our neighbourhood and fortunately for us it’s pretty decent outside today and we make the most of it and stay outside as long as we can.  One of the things that I love most about living in the city is being able to walk to everything. It feels so good to live in a walkable neighbourhood. We walk to a local coffee shop and I grab my favourite coffee and then off we head to a local home decor/ gift shop to buy a birthday card for a friend. Then a stop at the local market for a few dinner items and lunch groceries for tomorrow.

We decide that today is a great day to have a lunch date and the two of us stop by a restaurant and have lunch together. I love doing this with my kids! This two year old of mine is such a city kid and is great at walking everywhere which makes it easy to get around. We’ve already walked a few city blocks and it doesn’t even phase her. However, I still bring along our stroller mostly to put all my groceries and just in case she wants to hitch a ride. She doesn’t. She’s too independent.

2 PM We walk home and make a stop at the neighbourhood flower shop for some pink tulips that we spotted on our way out earlier. This girl insists on carrying some of the flowers home and loves on them so much that one of the tulip blooms pops right off! Cue the tears and toddler upset.

230 PM We get home and I do a bit of a mad dash to put the groceries away and pick up some random toys. I run a load of wash and start up the dishwasher. It’s almost time to head back out and go get the big kids from school! Lizzy gets so excited about going to pick up the kids from school. The reunion when all three kids meet up is priceless.

4 PM Big kids are home, let the craziness flow! I try and do some more things around the apartment before dinner time. It feels like there is always something to clean, tidy, sort or prepare! Am I right?

530 PM My husband is working late tonight, we can all see him in his office working as I bring dinner to the table. It’s just the kids eating together but I sit with the kids and we tell funny stories and talk about tomorrow. I’m in full mama of three mode and mentally prepping for day ahead.

As soon as dinner is done I get the kids in the bath and they do their night time routine. For me this includes getting their outfits out and ready for the next day and have them fill their backpacks with the things they’ll need. It feels like a hustle, and it is, but I always get to breathe a sigh of relief as the day winds down.

815 PM My kids are all in bed and fast asleep and their slumber is my cue to escape into the bath and let the day wash over me. There is definitely highs and lows to each day and today our definite high was getting outside and walking the city. I always feel like I’m constantly catching up with daily life and yet I try really hard to take the time to also have fun with my kids. I think this is the constant battle of motherhood.

 

I’ve teamed up with  Carolyn of Moments of Mommyland and Tairalyn from Little Miss Mama. Together we each captured a ‘Day in the Life’ to share with you. Find out what a Country Mama and a Suburbia Mama do in their own daily grind. We’d love for you to follow along!

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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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