Mama in the City since 2008 and blogging since 2009!

I received this product for free from Moms Meet. However, as always this post is my honest opinion. Compensation for this post was provided.

One thing we welcome in our home is kids books. Recently I decided to tackle my kids massive library and got rid of all the baby board books that were taking up space on the shelves. We needed to do this to help make room for all of the potential new kids books they are bound to collect this year.

Raising A Bookworm By Choosing Engaging Kids Books

All three of my kids are bookworms and we spend a lot of time reading together or independently. It wasn’t always this way but by bringing books into our every day life, reading has naturally become part of what we do. My oldest is ten and he will take a book with us anywhere we go. In fact, because of this our car also has accumulated a decent library too.

The current hot read in our family is National Geographic Weird But True!. These are the perfect books for young readers, ranging from the reluctant reader to the avid page turner. Each book is filled with captivating kid friendly facts that grabs their attention.

Each volume has 300 hundred facts and topics range from the outrageous to slimy, sticky, smelly facts. The latter is probably the most popular volume in our home. National Geographic Weird But True! just celebrated one decade of publishing and they updated volume 1-10 of Weird But True for your reader to explore. In Canada you can find these fun books at Indigo, Costco and independent book shops. You can also shop on line here.

The kids are quick to pull facts from the books and they love being able to throw out their new knowledge in family conversations. There’s a lot of, ‘Mom did you know …’. Which makes for great dinner conversation and also a screen free alternative to passing time when we are driving in the car as family.

This is what ten year old Ben had to say about the Weird But True! books.

I think every kid my age would love these books. The books have so many fun facts inside and it’s about all different kinds of topics too. I love learning about different things like, Australian wombats poop is cube shaped! I also think the pictures in each book is really well done.

Facts And Fun Just For You

These are a few of my kids favourite Weird but True! facts from National Geographic Kids.

  • An average adult pees enough every year to fill a 150 gallon home aquarium.
  • There was no ice in Antartica 55 million years ago.
  • The hearts of some hummingbirds can beat faster than 1,000 times a minute.
  • Apples are one- quarter air.
  • In Thailand people have water fights to celebrate New Years.

Weird But True! has a Canadian contest happening now. If you have a reader in your family aged 6–14 they can enter. Kids can submit their own
verifiably weird fact about their hometown, province, or country. Just click over to National Geographic and follow the steps. The contest is open until January 31,2019.

Growing A Young Reader

Not every kid will eagerly sit down and want to read a book . Which is why finding different types of books is key in engaging them. Giving kids the opportunity to flex that reading muscle is so beneficial for their confidence.

For new readers, books that are broken up with a mix of pictures and words can help pique interest. Picture books also gives the learner hints to what the topic is about and can help to cue them for similar words.

Books that can be picked up and put down lets a reluctant reader engage at their own speed without losing track of what is happening inside the book. Ultimately giving them self assurance with reading.I

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Three kids and city living means that we do our share of dining out with kids and supporting the restaurant industry. 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 & Doug 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

  • Dining out with kids is best done 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!).

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.

Remember, dining out with kids is 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.

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Years ago on a cold crisp Christmas morning my sisters and I had big plans. We had all bought the same Christmas pajamas to wear to our parents home for the gift opening and brunch. The matching jams were meant to be a low key funny surprise for our mum and it was well received by her. It was never intended to become an annual sisters tradition, however, over the last twelve or so years  it surely has.

Now with a mix of eight kids, shift work schedules and our husbands families we are never all together on Christmas day. This is just how the cookie crumbles but we’ve made it work. That being said one tradition that we still continue to make happen is our annual sisters Christmas weekend.

Christmas Past and Present

Advanced planning goes into this weekend. Securing a date months ahead of December. Then going back and forth till we finally find a date that works for three working mamas. We use this weekend to make sure that our annual tradition of wearing matching pajamas continues on. These moments feel so good, especially as we won’t be together on Christmas morning.

Past weekend get together’s have included going to the local theatre, indulging in a festive afternoon tea and taking in Christmas light shows in the city. There are usually dinners out, sipping of wine, Christmas shopping and lots of hanging out together.

Over the years one of the three sisters have always had a baby come along for the weekend. This was the first year that we were footloose and baby free! It felt very liberating not having a baby to jiggle, a stroller to push or having to quiet down the sisters party for nap time.

This year we shopped our favourite South Granville neighbourhood and filled up our bags with treasures for family and friends. It turns out that the second week of December brings a lot of good sales and discounts. Pro tip, holiday shopping is best done before 1 PM. The after lunch crowd booms and sidewalks and shops get busy.

Christmas Future 

One year I’d love to do our annual Christmas meet up a little bit differently and actually leave town or at least do a staycation in a local hotel. With all of our children getting older and the energy and focus shifting, this dream is doable.

I love visiting hotels over the holiday season. With the gorgeous lights and decor in the lobby plus the wonderful warm scents that fill the air. It’s no wonder I got married a week after Christmas. I truly love the holiday season.

Would you ever do a girls Christmas weekend? 

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Back when we first became parents to our first, circa 2008, we decided we weren’t going to do the whole Santa Claus thing. We wanted all of the gifts to be from us and decided we wanted to skip the whole concept of Santa as an actual person. A person who sneaks into our home while we are sleeping. 

When You Don’t Do Santa 

It turned out that not including Santa Claus in our Christmas was actually a very unpopular opinion amongst some friends and family. In fact, one friend didn’t want to hang out with us during the month of December in case we slip out that Santa wasn’t real.

Obviously, we wouldn’t go around crushing childhood dreams but these friends were still worried! I mean our first kid was only three years old but I guess you never know when truth bombs might be dropped

Changing Ideas Around Santa

Fast forward to child number two and we started to relax our ideas around the whole Santa thing. The kids really loved the idea of Santa and the magic that went with it. So, we allowed our views to change and did our first Santa visit when our oldest was four years old.

Two girls reading a story with Santa in a red suit.
Story time with Santa himself. 

While we don’t pump up Santa to be a magical man who flies around the world in one night visiting all the worlds children, we still love the idea of Santa as a character. That’s the beauty of parenting, we get to choose the parts that works the best for us and our family.

For the past seven years we have loved talking about Santa and embracing the idea that he is part of the magic of the holiday season. We have done a few Santa visits and we have occasionally left out a plate of cookies and glass of milk.

Curious Children Ask Big Questions

My kids are currently 10, almost 7 and 3 years old. The ten year old knows that Santa is a make believe character. A few years ago he asked us if Santa was real and we asked him what he thought. He said, ‘Mum, I’m pretty sure that he isn’t real…but do I still get presents if I think he isn’t real?’. In that moment we told him he had now graduated the ranks and he would now become our special elf that night.

He loves helping fill his two sisters stockings with treats and toys while they are off sleeping. The last year he was absolutely thrilled seeing the magic the next morning and being part of it too. Even when all three of my children are grown I hope we still do the magical stockings. The ones that are empty at night and filled up with treats in the morning.

Santa does stop at our home and the kids do get small gifts and treats from him.  He doesn’t give the big gifts, those always come from us. We felt comfortable changing how we did things as parents and we love talking about Santa Claus coming to visit. 

In our home Santa is still a character. We don’t pretend that he is a real person that visits our home while we sleep. Back when we were an apartment dwelling family it was always tricky to explain how Santa got up to our tenth floor condo. Especially as there was a secured elevator access and no chimney or front door!

The six year old is starting to get curious about Santa and I suspect she actually knows he is not real but is going along with the whole thing because of the magic feeling. When she is ready to ask we will ask her what she thinks and let her lead the conversation.

Letting The Magic Of Santa Exist

If my kids want to believe in Santa, we go with it. One thing I know for sure is that these young years of childhood are quite short in the scheme of things. There is so much magic everyday in childhood and sadly it does eventually disappear. If the idea of Santa Claus makes them feel happy, I am all for it.

Believing in Santa will look differently for each family and I love that. There will be families on either side of the Santa Claus debate and lots in the middle. I am glad that we changed our parenting views around Santa and I get some of my own joy out of doing the behind the scenes Santa stuff.

The Big Santa Visit

We don’t do Santa photos every year. I think we’ve maybe done about three different sessions over the years. However, the other week I took my two girls to go and have a private visit with Santa. It would be our three year old’s first time doing a visit one on one.

We sang Christmas songs together and read a few holiday themed books with him. Of course there was milk and cookies and the girls gave him their Christmas wish lists. It was a special visit for sure and one I’m glad I got to share in this magical part of their childhood.

Tell me, what do you do about Santa in your home? 

Want to read some more holiday inspiration? Check out our other posts!

The Best Christmas Cookies 

Do You Send Out Christmas Cards?h

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It’s here. Rainy day after rainy day has officially arrived. We’ve dug out all of the boots, raincoats and umbrellas and have moved them to the front of the coat closet. For many parents rainy days inevitably encourage more time at home. Having to venture out in the rain can make every day activities feel like a huge hassle. Especially with kids in tow and the potential of being wet and cold at the same time.

Together with my three Vancouver kids we compiled our favourite things to do on a rainy day. Vancouver didn’t earn its nickname of Raincouver for no reason. As a family living in Vancouver we are all well versed on this wet wet season. A season that seems to span November to April and beyond.

How To Make The Best Of A Rainy Day

When asking my ten year old his favourite part of staying home on a rainy day he piped up right away, ‘making an epic fort!’. We’ve done this for years and it’s popular with toddlers all the way through to big kids. The key is to not let the mess get you feeling overwhelmed.

Sometimes we bring out our old Ikea kid tent and fill it with piles of books. Other times we magically transform the kids bunkbed into a wondrous cave of  make believe. For extra fun turn off the lights and bring out some flashlights.

Dance Party! This is the absolute favourite of my two girls. Move the furniture out of the way and crank up your kids favourite tunes. Change things up with a round of freeze dance or dance like your favourite animal. Bonus points if you also get up and bust a move. Such a great way for kids to burn off extra energy from being cooped up inside.

Rummage through the cupboards and whip up some of this amazing no cook play dough. We love making this chocolate scented play dough and all three kids will sit and play with it. Plus this stuff smells amazing and keeps forever.

Be okay with not doing much. We don’t need to fill up every single day with kid focused activities. Getting lost in a moment of play can actually be a fabulous thing. I love Dr. Deborah McNamara and her thoughts on the importance of play and letting your kids really get inside that bubble of play.

It’s Okay To Get Wet

Suit up and escape to the outdoors for some fresh air and puddle jumping. In all of the years I’ve lived here in Vancouver there have been many times where I forwent holding an umbrella while pushing a kid in a stroller because I wanted to hold a coffee instead.

Fill up the bath and set up a kid friendly movie on the counter using your laptop or iPad. A perfect way to warm up after puddle jumping. We love doing this one and the kids will stay in the bath until they turn into wrinkly prunes. It’s funny how just changing up something so routine as a bath can become extra fun.

While I would much prefer sunshine over rain, I will always still prefer rain over snow!  Know a rainy day ideas that has been kid approved? Feel free to share them in the comments.

 

 

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Last week I had a single kid free/work free hour slotted into the afternoon for a very specific mission.  I had one hour to go and find a dress to wear to a dear friend’s wedding. An evening wedding that was just two days away. No pressure at all.  Looking through my closest revealed that the entire wardrobe selection lacked anything formal enough for the occasion or even remotely appropriate for the season. A new dress was completely justified.

I stepped into Nordstrom’s in downtown Vancouver and made my way up the escalator to the women’s department. The usual cheery saleswomen made contact but I felt more efficient going around on my own. Within several minutes I had found three different potential outfits including a fancy pantsuit.

The dress that I was the most excited to try on was a long sleeved, floor length gown in purple velvet that totally caught my eye. Sometimes a woman just knows! Off to the fitting room and the dress went on and it fit like a glove. It was totally love at first sight and I truly did say, ‘Wrap it up! I’ll take it!’.

The Dress

With the perfect combination of  soft velvet and a gorgeous neckline, the dress was sold. The saleswoman was being so helpful and offered to let me try on various other dresses but the clock was ticking and this purple number by Vince Camuto made me feel like a total Queen.

Even more success was that I didn’t need a strapless bra as the neckline allowed for straps. Which can be challenging for many formal dresses. I truly love those kind of details. Plus not having to spend more time or money on finding undergarments that work. Despite how form fitting the dress is it had a nice stretch to the material which leant itself to walking and dancing and moving around.

This dress is truly a gown and the timeless cut will allow it to be in my closet for years. It is such a comfortable gown that I am already looking forward to the next occasion to wear it.

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