Category Archives: Mom

STEM Toys + Activities For Preschoolers

10th October 2017

Ontario Science Centre

In anticipation of our jam packed traveling schedule next year, I started dabbling into homeschooling. Once or twice a week, CJ would skip school and we would take the classroom outside. It’s been so easy with this fabulous extended summer but now that fall has rolled around, I’m in panic mode on how I’m going to spark curiosity while keep this super active boy entertained indoors.

It’s been a lot of trial and error and I’ve had to hack a few of these to make it age appropriate for a preschooler but here are some cool STEM toys and activities that gets CJ excited about learning…

EduScience Lab

Have you seen the Operation Smile commercial on TV? It happened to be airing in the background when CJ (at 1.5 years old) pointed and made a bunch of inquisitive sounds. He watched with fascination as I explained that ‘doctors heal people including sick kids’, and since then he’s been saying he wants to be a doctor when he grows up. (Mom can definitely get on board with that haha!) So even though this Human Body Kit is rated for ages 8+, I bought it anyway and he loves it! One time he even sat for 25 mins as I read him the lab guide!

Skeleton Anatomy Kit

It includes 12 bones that fit together like a puzzle in a clear skeleton shell and 9 squishy organs that feel like gummies. It’s actually a really cool toy that I enjoy playing with as well. Of course, I’m trying to get him to clean up after each ‘operation’ he performs as the pieces are quite small and it’ll really suck to lose an organ! $30

Blokus

A math teacher introduced me to Blokus. There is just one rule to this game — each piece you play must touch at least one other piece of the same colour, but only at the corners! . CJ is still too young to understand the concept so we created our own rules. He’s big into mazes so we try to make one on the board. Another way to hack it is to see if you can place all 84 piece on the board. The pieces are small so it’s great for fine tuning those fine motor skills and getting little hands to turn the shapes until they fit. $25

 

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How We Dined Out For 34 Consecutive Meals With A Toddler

26th July 2017

Dining out with kids

We are a family that dines out. A lot. At a week old, we took CJ out to his first restaurant. He’s now three and one would imagine he’s had plenty of practice honing his dining etiquette but let me tell you, the struggle is STILL real!

Sidenote: if you live or are visiting Toronto, check out my restaurant guide for families.

In our most recent vacation to Spain, we didn’t bother cooking in the tiny European kitchens so for 17 days, we ate at restaurants. That is 34 meals with a super rambunctious toddler. Yikes!

So how did we pull it off with just a few stained shirts?!?!

Well it definitely took more than a dozen trinkets to keep him entertained. And we obviously couldn’t keep offering his favourite foods — corn on the cob and chocolate cake!

Eating out with kids

Early in the trip CJ kept asking us why the waiter didn’t bring his ‘sert’ (that’s what he calls dessert). After several attempts of explaining that the ‘sert’ is the last course, and a round of endless ‘whys’ (yes, we are in that phase)… we took the opportunity to gamify the situation.

Each time the waiter walked by, we would say something like ‘oh he’s coming this way to see if your plate is cleared’… this prompted him to quickly eat his salad but then the veggie burger came and he got distracted with playing with the bun.

 

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A Letter To My Sonshine About Love, Life & Poop

12th May 2017

Mothers Day 2017

You were so happy bouncing around in my tummy for nine months that it took 40 hours and a team of 3 midwives, 2 nurses and 1 surgeon to bring you into this world that crisp autumn night.

We named you ‘Caden’ – spirit of the fighter. The perfect name for a little boy who shines with relentless determination. I love how you recently started questioning everything and I hope you never lose your sense of wonder. I hope your spirit stays indomitable. Always.

Right now your favourite things are singing, reading, strawberries, trains (with wooden tracks only), your friends Max + Issac, elevators (not surprising for a city kid growing up in a condo), the jungle gym (aka dada’s chest) and everything chocolate.

It took only 4 days to toilet train you… number one. And 10 gruelling months to nail down number two. Rejoice! Yes, we knew you could do it all along but you fought us. It was a control thing. You wanted to do it on your own terms and to show us who’s boss. But at the end you realized it really was a battle between Caden vs. himself.

And this is our first lesson, my son… in life YOU often are the barrier to greater things. Not other people. Not situations or circumstances. So don’t hold back that poop and never hold back on pursuing the things you are passionate about!

 

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Prenatal Depression Is A Real Thing

19th April 2017

Prenatal Depression

I met Sharon at a birthday party. The host had thoughtfully seated us together because we were the only moms at the table. She was cheerful and funny and we clicked right away — sharing ‘mom drama’ of course.

We both boasted about our amazing pregnancies but that is where our stories take a turn… I bonded immediately with CJ and my pregnancy high kept me smiling through all the poopy diapers and 3am feedings. Meanwhile, Sharon experienced prenatal depression. A term I never even heard of. Here’s this tough momma’s life changing journey…

W: How did you envision life to be as a new mom?

S: The happiest time of my life. My first pregnancy was so easy, I was actually walking on clouds with a rosy glow. My son, J came out in 40 minutes! I didn’t even know I was in labour until the student-doctor insisted that he saw a tiny head pop out and I had to push pronto!

Growing up, it was never a question of whether I wanted to be a mother. It was a matter of when. Before my son, I never even held a baby! I was raised in a traditional Chinese home. Often there was no rhyme or reason but you just do things… graduating university and getting a job is expected. There is no such thing in Asian culture as taking a gap year to travel or figure stuff out. I got married at 26 and in two months, I was pregnant.

There wasn’t much talk about the challenges of being a mom and definitely topics around mental health were ‘swept under the rug’. So I thought everything would fall into place and I’ll just naturally morph into a super mom right after my delivery.

W: Sounds like you had this pretty picture painted in your head about motherhood but what was it really like?

Life with my first son was actually quite easy. I had time to recover and relax because there were so many extra hands and eager grandparents helping out. When I had my second son, I experienced bouts of ‘baby blues’. I mainly brushed it away thinking it was probably due to stress from the demands of my job. I chalked it up to be one of those cliche phases in life that would pass.

My husband and I flip flopped on having a third. Being an only child, I always dreamed of a big family. Three felt complete. I had an extremely tough pregnancy with C. Every nasty symptom listed in those pregnancy books, I got!

At my first trimester doctor’s appointment, I simply fell apart. She recommended I see a psychiatrist and that’s when I found out I had prenatal depression. I knew about postpartum depression but never even thought you could feel this way before the baby was born.

I cried daily for 4-5 hrs. My husband stood on the sidelines feeling helpless. My boys had no clue because I would put on a mask when they were around. It’s true when they say that depressed people make the best actors. I was clouded with the darkest thoughts. Even prayed for a miscarriage. This may sound ridiculous now but back then, seeing squirrels playing outside made me jealous and cry — because they had the freedom to prance around and enjoy life.

 

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10 Surprises That Motherhood Pulled On Me

6th March 2017

Mommy and Baby

You can still go on date nights.

Rejoice! Hubby and I thought we would be forfeiting our 2 date nights a week tradition after CJ was born but it’s three years later and we’re still making it work! Babies are more adaptable than we think. If you train them right from the beginning, they can sleep anywhere. We just had to adjust our dinner time to after 8pm then we would pop CJ in his stroller and take him with us to restaurants, events and yes, he even sleeps through concerts!

Here’s a list of our favourite family friendly restaurants in downtown Toronto.

Carrying a baby or chasing a toddler does not count as exercise!

It didn’t take long for me to get back to my pre-baby weight of 110 lbs but ‘skinny fat’ is a real thing (as a friend subtly hinted at me)! So after three years of fooling myself, I got my less than perky butt back into the gym and enrolled in Class Pass to get fit.

Think you were exhausted that first year? You don’t know what tired is (yet)!

Newborns are intense with all that crying for no reason. And my gosh breastfeeding was a part-time job in itself! But toddlerhood is another beast… to entertain CJ for an hour, I’ve got to think of six different things to do. And every night when he’s asleep, the mom chores continue. Expect to be crawling around picking up toys and cleaning pop stained (toilet training) underwear.

Because of #3 you WILL become that ‘I won’t be like that’ type of Mom.

No iPad until he’s two I told hubby and he agreed. We caved in around 18 months… or else we would get nothing done!

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Twas The Night Before Christmas

24th December 2016

Christmas Eve

The magic of x’mas. So perfectly captured in this photo. Me putting the final touches on the tree. Him peeking out and having no clue the presents underneath are wrapped toys. Hubby with my parents cooking dinner. Warm and cozy back in my childhood home.

Happy holidays from our family to yours!

#ToddlerTuesday: Camera Shy Kids

20th December 2016

Casa Loma Christmas

3 pretzels, 1 fruit strip and 1 candy cane later… I finally got him to stand long enough beside this Christmas tree at Casa Loma to take these (blurry) photos!

Seriously I envy you if you have little ones that are not camera shy!!!

So what’s the secret? I asked around and here are some tips and tricks from other photographer parents…

  • If you are using the camera on your phone, set it to burst mode. Surely you will snag one good photo from the dozen!
  • Get a stranger to take the photo.
  • Ask them to say something silly like “sushi popsicle” or focus on another object instead of begging them to look straight into the camera.
  • Go for candid and put the pressure off of everyone to stand picture perfect.
  • Opt for a selfie instead and let them help.
  • Allow for silliness and stop nagging. The more you ask, you know the more they will run off or cover their sweet little faces… after all, kids sure know how to push our buttons!

How do you encourage your kids to be less camera-shy? Please share in comments and check out my other city mom posts with more adventures and practical tips. 

#ToddlerTuesday: Tantrums

6th December 2016

Tantrum

Tantrums are inevitable. And toddlers know how to time them impeccably to when you are trying to leave or get something important done!

Most of the time it’s over nothing. Like when CJ had a meltdown because he didn’t like the christmas lights! Yes, really!

Tantrum

When my son cries, that upside down smile takes up his whole face. I actually think it’s quite adorable and have to remind myself not to pick him up and squish him with a big hug!

So I do this one thing when he is having a tantrum…

Btw I don’t believe in time-outs or empty negotiations. I do believe in attachment parenting.

What works very well is simply giving CJ the space to experience his emotion, calm down and allow him to regain his control. <– Because isn’t that what it’s really about half the time?!

S C E N A R I O // For whatever reason, he gets very attached to his shirts. Not a specific shirt but it’s a daily battle to get him to change the shirt he is currently wearing. Sometimes he even throws the shirt and stomps on it!

S O L U T I O N // I tell him “You seem upset so let’s calm down. Mom is going to the kitchen now. Let me know when YOU are ready to put on your shirt.”

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Indoor Places For City Kids In The Winter

20th November 2016

ROMkids

Baby it’s cold outside! And when you can’t hibernate in your McMansion and your pre-school kids are climbing all over the condo walls, city moms on mat leave have to get creative.

Luckily in downtown t.dot there are plenty of hot spots to hunker down during the frosty season…

Ripley’s Aquarium, AGO and ROM

Annual memberships saved my freezing butt so make the investment or asks grandparents to give these as birthday or x’mas presents. Experience over things!

Regular admission is also free on Wednesday nights at AGO.

Pursuit OCR

Let kids be kids at this obstacle course! Now here’s a mindful play space to develop creativity and concentration, and let them hide, run, climb and crawl. 90 mins sessions can be pre-booked for $10.

Red Fish Blue Fish Creative Cafe

I often have play dates at this cozy cafe in The Annex. It’s the perfect spot to grab a snack and coffee while your kids are kept busy in the toy room upstairs or craft space. They also offer paid music and tutoring programs.

Jumblies Theatre

Conveniently located in CityPlace right by the library is a drop-in place for both parents and kids to do arts & crafts and dance. There is a wooden train set to keep babies entertained. Check their schedule because they are only open at certain times.

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#MondayMotivation: Grit

7th November 2016

Grit

Grit. So determined to go up the hill. Even though he hasn’t figured out how to pedal yet. He pushes with his little feet. Relentless, slow and steady. Only when he reaches the top does he tells me he is tired and needs a “hug” (which means to carry him).

Darling son, may you always rise to the top and take on life’s adventures with such courage, resolve and perseverance.

A little nudge for all of us from my 3 year old son that if there is a will, there is a way.