Going Back To Work (My Mat Leave Is Over…)

Guest Blog Post (By Diel Gerber, Toronto New Mom Survival Guide)

Spending time at home while on maternity leave was a great time for me. After years and  years working in time consuming and mentally exhausting marketing jobs, I finally took some time off and spent time with my precious newborn baby.

Before my maternity leave, I was afraid that I would be bored at home. After all, one year is a very long time to stay at home when you’re not used to it. I was so wrong! I wasn’t bored for a second (how can one get bored with a baby at home?)

When it was time to go back to work, I got a little scared again.

How would I be able to manage my full-time job while caring for my LO? What would my daily routine look like? Was it even possible for two parents to work full time without the help of family around? So many questions and I haven’t even mentioned the high cost of a daycare.

Today, I can say that going back to work was the right decision for me. Going back to do the job I love was entirely what I needed.  Of course, you need more daily preparation, time management skills, and to be a good multitasker. But you are a mom, you already have all of that.

Now for the practical side. I want to share a few tips with you that will help you prepare for your first day back at work, as a mom:

  1. Build daily routines for your LO that will help him or her with the transition from home to daycare or from your care to another caregiver.
  2. Place your LO in his or her daycare 2-3 weeks before the date of your return to work. This will give you and your baby some time to get to know the caregivers and get used to your new daily routine. At this time start to build a new schedule for your family. This way you will have less stress on your first day back to work.

  1. Building on tip #2,  take two weeks for yourself. We all know that maternity leave is not actually a vacation. Take some time to rest, read, and fill your energy.
  2. Try to complete as much as you can from your To Do list, even if it is months in advance. This would be a useful time to finish up all your time consuming tasks: Book your vacation, buy gifts for  your friends who have upcoming birthdays, plan your LO’s first birthday, talk with the cable company, and go to the dentist. Whatever you need to do, now is the time to do it. This way in your first few weeks of work you won’t need to juggle more than what you already have. I went back to work in November and by that time, I already had Christmas gifts for everyone 🙂

  1. Cook and freeze. Cook your favorite meals and freeze them in personal containers for dinners or your lunch. This will be useful for all the evenings when you will be tired, but still need to eat something.  This will be especially useful for your first couple weeks back to work.
  2. Get ready to work: read, write, open your mailbox, or go to lunch and learns. Catch up and see what has changed in your industry in the last 12 months.

  1. Organize your closet. Although it is so comfortable to go everywhere in your favorite yoga pants, you might want to organize your closet before you go back to work. Check all your office clothes and yes… do some shopping.

I wish you all a great first day back at work. And don’t worry. By your second day, you will feel like you never left.


Diel is a busy Torontonian mother to a toddler, professional Digital Marketer, and a blogger. In her Blog: Toronto New Mom Survival Guide, she advises new mothers about Maternity leave and lists all the programs/activities for new moms and their babies in Toronto.

 

City Mama, County Mama: Coffee Shop Confessions – Separation Anxiety Isn’t Just A Childhood Affliction (By Lonelle Selbo, Life Au Lait)

I’m sitting at a big wooden table, working on my laptop in the middle of Miss Lily’s Café in Picton. My little boy is at his fourth day of preschool, hopefully playing with his best friends, this morning’s tear-stained cheeks, dried, pleas to stay home, forgotten. I’m sipping a London Fog latte and am trying to silence my brain so I can enjoy it and lose myself in the total coffee shop-ness of the moment.

Checkered floors, mismatched chairs, pretty rustic products lined up on shelves. Friends chatting to each other at little bistro tables, people reading or scrolling, passing time in cozy club chairs—and then there’s me, sitting here like a normal person, typing away.

It all feels so three years ago.

You know that shocking moment when you catch yourself inside a vignette of your pre-mom self and you’re almost floored that life still exists just as you left it? Well that’s what’s happening right now. Coffee culture had been perfectly preserved in its cliché little ritual while I checked out to birth and begin to rear a tiny human for a few years. And then today, I slipped back into it for a few hours while my little boy, who came out of my body and then held tightly onto my hand for the subsequent thirty-six or so months, did his own thing.

When you’re a first time mom, the concept of preschool is hard to get your head around. I hear it’s hard the second and third time round too. I mean we obviously get the idea—kid goes to school, mom leaves and does things without kid, mom picks up kid—but the actual reality of it is almost ungraspable until you find yourself in a coffee shop, solo, sipping a hot drink moments after it was poured, focusing entirely on one task. Maybe that’s why I was here. Alone, but surrounded by people who didn’t and wouldn’t need anything from me at all.

It didn’t happen immediately. After the first few drop-offs I left the school bewildered, craning my neck to watch the road behind me, and then the sidewalks as I got further away. I expected that at any second my distraught little adventurer would break through the heavy school doors and run into town to find me. I imagined in detail a thousand terrifying scenarios and had to talk myself off of numerous ledges of anxiety. I spent too long on his first day standing in the hallway outside the classroom, listening for sounds of distress (a passing teacher guessed alound that I might be on a time-out) before it became evident to me that separation anxiety isn’t just a childhood affliction—I wanted alone time, but apparently not at the expense of being without my child.

But our kids have to learn. And we have to learn. If we hold each other too close, for too long, neither of us are doing our jobs of growing up. Our darling babies slowly become whole and separate. They go on to have healthy, distinct, and real relationships with people who aren’t their mothers, while we rediscover who we once were through the lens of who we’ve become. We reclaim the quiet buzz of life, tapping away at keyboards in coffee shops, contemplating other people’s lives as they come and go. We watch twenty-somethings order tea and seventy-somethings get lattes – all of them once someone’s precious three-year old, carving out their first little space in the world.

Crazy.


From the green belts of Midtown Toronto to the endless pastures and lakes of Prince Edward County, fashion magazine editor Lonelle Selbo, lives, eats, sleeps, and breathes all things mommy—from cool toys to DIY home décor, pretty things to hip places, where-to-eat to how-to-grow, and mom style to toddler chic. Every month, she’ll bring a little County to Midtown Mommies.

 

City Mama, County Mama: Today We’re Going To Talk About Mommy Brain.. Wait, What Were We Talking About Again? (By Lonelle Selbo, Life Au Lait)

A few days ago, I was in the middle of an awesome conversation with another mama about whether shooting stars are in fact stars that have died or bits of meteorite, streaking across the sky—when my charged up threenager broke into a full-out sprint across the grass. He was running forward and just staring backwards at me the whole time, never noticing there was a humongous boulder coming up a few feet ahead of him. Naturally, I freaked out and ran hysterically after him—which just made him squeal with laughter and put on some speed. The collision was imminent and when it happened my stomach exploded with sadness, there were a lot of tears and some minor scrapes, but no lasting damage.

“So, what were we talking about again?” I asked her when everything was finally resolved for the minute.

“Ummm….” She replied absently, her eyes glazing over while she brushed a black spot off her son’s ankle. It wasn’t a tick, but we were both mentally in other places by that time.

*****

Mommy brain isn’t ok with me. I used to be pretty into thinking in the pre-baby days. I loved how I could have a conversation with basically anyone and there would be great banter, input from both sides, some witty punctuation, and ultimately, a resolution that let us move on to the next topic, satisfied that we’d really talked and heard each other.

I can’t remember the last conversation like that. Now, I end up glossing over things that people say to me that really really required a response. The other day, I was walking down the street with a relatively new mommy friend and our kids, when she told me that her little girl had recently darted into the road with a car coming and how she’d screamed to her, but her child just kept running…and instead of hearing my friend and acknowledging her fear and the gravity of the experience, I made some trivial comment about how moms always envision these horrible things happening to our kids. I couldn’t really listen to what she was telling me because I was totally distracted by my own child’s stubborn unwillingness to hold my hand near this busy street. Later that night (after baby bedtime) her story suddenly jumped forward in my mind and I was both devastated about how scary that must have been for her and mortified at my reaction. I mean, how do we cultivate meaningful friendships when we can’t focus for long enough or absorb information deeply enough to be there for each other? I keep telling myself that I want to be a better person—someone who engages more meaningfully and is more present with others, but I’ve been notably absent in the most important moments. Something wasn’t right.

Being me, I dwelled pretty heavily on this for a while. How long had I been missing people’s cues for an emotional response? Were my mom friends constantly left hanging? Were all of my new relationships shallow and unfulfilling? What about my old ones? Was I a really bad, self-absorbed friend despite my best intentions?

Here’s what I realized:

  1. All moms have a primary focus and it’s not each other, it’s our kids. We have a biological imperative to compartmentalize our brains so that the wellbeing of our offspring takes up most of the space.
  2. All moms intuitively understand that.
  3. Other moms have probably done this to me and I’d never noticed because I was too distracted with my own business to feel let down or insulted.
  4. It’s possible that the other moms were too distracted to notice too.
  5. While our ability to think through concepts, finish conversations, and dedicate ourselves to cultivating relationships with others is definitely pretty impaired in the early years of motherhood (and maybe beyond, I wouldn’t know), we also forge deep bonds through the very act of parallel mothering. We instinctively learn from each other by observing the way we each care for our children and feel supported through our physical proximity to other parents going through the same things in the same place at the same time.

So maybe we didn’t manage to finish discussing our theory about galactic inaccuracies, but we laughed together, panicked together, exchanged knowing looks, and breathed sighs of relief together. And maybe I missed the moment to be there for my friend or maybe post-baby relationships have a different cadence than the ones we’re used to and I’ll get another chance.

Maybe our brains are just one of the bazillion things that get turned on their heads with the onset of parenthood and maybe—even when we say all the wrong things—the nice and caring things we’ve done will carry us through and our friends will know that the love is there.


From the green belts of Midtown Toronto to the endless pastures and lakes of Prince Edward County, fashion magazine editor Lonelle Selbo, lives, eats, sleeps, and breathes all things mommy—from cool toys to DIY home décor, pretty things to hip places, where-to-eat to how-to-grow, and mom style to toddler chic. Every month, she’ll bring a little County to Midtown Mommies.

Our Travelling Tots had so much fun when we stopped in to visit the creative team at Raising Artists!

At Raising Artists, they encourage creativity and promote meaningful artistic experiences, that allows students to follow their imaginations and explore self-expression.

Building on the positive relationship between parent and child, and fostering the bond at the heart of early learning and child development, they work together with you and your child to explore art with thematic age-appropriate library materials.

Brainstorming begins on the sketchpads using crayons, teaching them the first stages of step-by-step planning, and practices using fine motor skills.

Onto the canvas you go, using child-friendly paint, a variety of loose parts, artistic tools, and creative resources.

Their art studios are always buzzing with enthusiastic educators, passionate creatives, and other wonderful families in the community.

You will walk away from their workshops with a masterpiece on a 16 x 20 canvas, and a lasting memory between you and your budding artist.. Just be sure to dress for a mess!

 

Check out this little video of one their Parent & Child Painting Workshops in progress!


At Raising Artists, their mission is to make a child’s artistic imagination come to life through fun, creative, and original educational art workshops. They contribute to the cognitive, social, and emotional well being of your child, while providing a profound opportunity for learning and creativity.

Learn more, and check for upcoming Workshop Dates: www.raisingartists.ca 

Jaq Jaq Bird has a wonderful line of brightly coloured, easy to use art supplies, for both kids and kids at heart.

Their Zero Dust™ ButterStix works and feels like pastel, but has the look of chalk (only it’s dust AND smudge free!). Use them on non-porous surfaces, such as chalk boards, glass, jars, ceramic, etc. Wipes off with a damp cloth. The Write-on Table Runners can also be used on walls as well as tables, are perfect for parties and playdates, and their Doodle It & Go Chalk Books are great to keep children entertained and engaged, while on the go.

Enter our contest for your chance to WIN a Jaq Jaq Bird Prize Pack! 

Check out more of the awesome stuff from Jaq Jaq Bird! Get FREE shipping with Mommy Connections online promo code: SHIPFREEMC (Canada only).

Guest blog post by: Vivian Yau, Smile Speech Therapy 


kids-booksEarly literacy skills refer to what children know about reading and writing BEFORE they can actually read and write. Focusing on these skills in an interactive and fun way can set young children up to become successful readers as well as develop a love for reading.

Here are some ideas on how to target early literacy skills at home with your child:

bedtime-readPrint Motivation—enjoying and having fun with books
Find books that are interesting to your child and follow their lead as you share the book together. Make it engaging by using facial expressions, different voices, and acting out the book.

Vocabulary—the more words you know, the easier it is to read
Use specific words with your child and explain the meanings of words.

sisters-readNarrative Skills—re-telling stories and talking about events that happen
Encourage your child to pretend play and make up stories. Have your child tell about special events that happened to them (e.g., birthday party).

Letter Recognition—knowing that each letter has a name and has different sounds
Point out letters in the environment and talk about the sound that it makes. Talk about the letters in your child’s name.

boy-readingPhonological Awareness—hearing and playing with the sounds in words
Clap out syllables in words. Talk about the first sound in words and rhyming words.

Print Awareness—knowing that letters and words have meaning
Point out the words while reading books aloud. Point out print you see in the environment such as: road signs, food labels, store signs.


flyerIf you are interested in learning more strategies for targeting early literacy skills and seeing them in action, Smile Speech Therapy is offering a series of Language and Literacy Parent and Child Classes for 2 and 3 year old children.

Please contact us for more information and mention Mommy Connections for a discounted rate, by emailing: info@smilespeech.ca, or by calling: (416) 488 – 7807 


image1Vivian is a mother of 3 young boys with 14 years of experience helping children improve their speech and language skills. She is the founder of a new private practice called Smile Speech Therapy which provides in-home or in-clinic (Bayview/Eglinton) speech and language services to children in Toronto and the surrounding area.

www.smilespeech.ca

Guest Blog Post by Liz Greene


With the 21st century in full swing, it’s becoming more and more apparent how important STEM skills will be in the future job market. With more than 8 million STEM jobs expected in the U.S. by 2018, it’s imperative we make sure our children are learning these critical skills. Of course, this is easier said than done. Or is it?


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As a former preschool teacher, I have been witness to the amazing ability children have to learn through play. You wouldn’t think a set of coloured plastic bears would encourage the development of math skills, but damned if didn’t.

Since STEM skills have become a hot topic in education, a number of companies — such as Steve Spengler Science and GoldieBlox — have started offering a fantastic array of toys tailored to foster science, technology, engineering, and math skills. Toys such as these are some of the best tools you can give your children to give them a leg up in STEM education without boring them to tears. You can engage in guided play and provide some background lessons, or you can let them march to the beat of their own drum — either way, they’ll learn something new.


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Alright, I know this one sounds like a stretch, but video games can actually help develop STEM skills. Believe it or not, teachers are actually implementing video games in the classroom for that very reason. But how?

If you think about the world of video games, you’ll find STEM everywhere.

If your children are gamers, get cozy and have a movie night featuring documentaries about video games. Get them excited about the nuts and bolts of their favorite games and consider enrolling them in a program where they can catch the programming bug.


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Food is one of the greatest motivators I’ve ever seen. Two weeks ago I watched an office full of my peers rush to fill out insurance forms once they were told there would be a drawing for free lunch. The HR department can play us like a violin.

Food can be used to teach STEM skills in a number of way. You can grow a garden and utilize engineering, math, and science skills. You can whip up a delicious treat while exploring the chemistry and mathematics behind baking. You can do math with skittles, learn about crystal formation while making rock candy, and even build fantastic structures with gumdrops.

However you go about it, STEM education can be incredibly fun — and surprisingly easy. And believe me, your kids will appreciate your hard work.


Liz Greene is a writer and former preschool teacher from Boise, Idaho. She’s a lover of all things geek and is happiest when cuddling with her dogs and catching up on the latest Marvel movies. You can follow her on Twitter @LizVGreene

Guest Blog Post By: Kirsten, Coffee With Chloe’s Mom


Eating out with a baby can be tough, especially in Toronto where a lot of people seem to have opinions on the matter (e.g. babies should never ever be seen at restaurants). While I definitely agree that some places are better suited for adults-only, there are times when a mom needs to get out of the house and have a restaurant quality meal with some friends. It is good for the soul.

A couple of tips when dining out with little ones:

■ If you are going with a group, call ahead to see if you can make a reservation. Restaurants appreciate the heads-up when it is a group of moms coming by. Will also give you a chance to ask about highchairs and all the other stuff babies need 🙂
■ Try to go pre or post lunch rush as this will mean it is not as crowded.

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And now in no particular order here are my top five lunchtime picks to go with babies in tow:

Pizzeria Libretto: (close to Pape subway station)
Pizzeria Libretto holds a special place in my heart as it was the first restaurant I ventured with Chloe. It felt amazing to eat at a place I used to go to before becoming a mom. I think I inhaled the entire pizza I ordered. The one downside here are the steps to get inside. Having done it many times, though, I haven’t found it too challenging with a stroller and the staff are always willing to help.

Combine Eatery: (close to Broadview subway station)
I seem to have had a lot of luck with finding mom-friendly restaurants on the Danforth. They have high-chairs, friendly staff and good food (the Baja fish tacos are the way to go!). When I’ve gone for lunch with friends the staff have been able to help us park our strollers in an area that is out of the way and they have also given us a big table at the back of the restaurant. This is great as it means a bit more privacy for breastfeeding moms.

Uncle Betty’s: (Yonge, north of Eglinton)
Uncle Betty’s is in my eyes the place to go if you have kids. My husband and I went there once before Chloe was born and it was a big mistake. If you aren’t a parent you probably aren’t looking for a restaurant that has kids running all over the place. Once you have kids it is another story. The food is decent, you can be as messy as you want and they are well-equipped to handle a group of moms. For larger mom groups, you can also contact them to see if you can book their downstairs private dining room (minimum food order applies).

Vero Trattoria: (Bayview & Millwood)
This Italian restaurant in Leaside is a bit of a hidden gem for moms. This is one of my picks because it is never too busy at lunchtime (or it hasn’t been when I’m there) and they’ve always been super welcoming.

Bareburger (close to Dundas subway station):
This place is an all-natural, organic and customizable burger place. It’s a great place to go after you’ve visited the hands-on centre for kids at the AGO. Only con is this part of the city is always super busy.

And finally on a completely random and somewhat related side note: To the people who complain about moms and babies taking up room at their local Starbucks, I have the following thing to say. If you are using Starbucks as your personal office space, you don’t have any right to complain about a group of moms taking up room on a weekday morning. We have just as much right to be there.


DSC_0155About Kirsten

Hi, Im Kirsten. A mom. A wife. A daughter. And someone who really loves to travel and hates mayonnaise. I also write a weekly newsletter called Coffee with Chloe’s mom and Instagram way too much.

Munchkin BRICA Extending Metal Gate:
Available exclusively for Babies R Us for $59.99

When I heard I was going to be reviewing a safety gate that was safe to use at the top of stairs, I was very excited to possibly install it at either my parents or sisters home (both have staircases that aren’t blocked off, a constant issue when we visit).
Unfortunately the mounting pieces were too wide to fit into the doorway at my sisters place (without having to remove the existing door stops, in place from a previous door), and then have to repair/repaint the door jamb. If it were my own home, I definitely would have made the necessary alterations to the doorway, for it to work.
Evernote Camera Roll 20150724 233834 (1)The bannister posts at my parents home also had an issue accommodating the generously sized mounting pieces. I would have needed to make modifications to the bannister first, by drilling and securing additional pieces of lumber, to create a larger surface area suitable for mounting the pieces. Again, if it were my own home I probably would have made the necessary alterations, but as it was not my place, I decided against it.
I found that in both situations, it would be beneficial if the mounting pieces were a bit slimmer / more compact. Never the less, that meant that I could swap out the gate I currently had installed at my own home, to try out this new Munchkin BRICA Extending Metal Gate (and very glad that I did! Their loss = my gain).
The gates width adjustment pieces were very straightforward and easy to assemble. There aren’t a lot of finicky pieces to be screwed on, so it has a nice clean look without visible adjustment holes & hardware, when everything is in place.
pTRUCA1-20570611_alternate3_dtIt is very easy to open and close with one hand, which is super convenient when you have a little one on your hip. The gate can swing in both directions, or be locked to only open one way (especially important for top of stairs, and to not to open outwards into small hallways).
I love that it has built in tilting mechanisms, so there isn’t additional pressure on the walls. The last gate I had was much more difficult to open and close, and one of the mounts was starting to come loose from all the additional pressure that was applied (another reason this safety gate upgrade was so welcome).
I didn’t do the final mounting of the gate myself, but my husband said he found it took a bit more time to decipher the instructions (as diagrams only), rather than if they also included written directions.
FullSizeRenderThe quick release setting is a big bonus, as it makes it possible to easily remove the gate when you choose to. It feels very sturdy, and I would be very comfortable with this gate installed at the top of a stairway, but for now it keeps my crazy toddler out of my little kitchen while I’m cooking 😉

Munchkin BRICA Extending Metal Gate: The barricade for the baby brigade.

pTRUCA1-20570611_alternate2_dtThe Extending Metal safety gate by Munchkin has no unsightly adjustment holes along the bars, and is equipped with a unique tilting spring mechanism to reduce stress on walls every time it’s used. The spring mechanism allows the gate to tilt open or close, which minimizes pressure applied on walls. Handy quick-release settings allow for quick and easy removal when needed, too. Safe for use anywhere in the home (especially in the stairway), this hardware-mounted baby gate stands 29″ tall and fits openings 28″-40″ wide.

Munchkin Safety Warning

Use only with locking mechanism securely engaged.

Never use with a child able to climb over or dislodge gate or enclosure.

To prevent serious injury or death, securely install gate or enclosure and use according to manufacturer’s instructions.

 

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