Baby-friendly shopping centres

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Coquitlam Centre Parent Room

Shopping with baby in tow is at the very least, unpredictable. Check out these baby-friendly shopping centres in Metro Vancouver that go beyond the expanded dressing room to make your shopping experience more manageable.

Oakridge Centre

This place has it all. Special parking spots reserved for parents with children near its entrances, a giant play area for baby to roam around in, and a parent room located in the West Galleria with plenty of stroller room, a change area and a cushy couch.

650 W 41st Ave, Vancouver

Coquitlam Centre 

This mall has the Ritz Carlton of parent rooms. So VIP that you actually have to get buzzed in. High chairs, a microwave, private breastfeeding stations, a TV area, and change tables are just a few of its perks. It’s situated on the first floor right next to the play area, which is also baby-friendly.

2929 Barnet Hwy, Coquitlam

CF Pacific Centre Mall

If you planned to run into the mall for just one thing, but find yourself on the receiving end of unexpected shopping spree, Guest Services has your back. They’re happy to loan you a stroller for your stay. You can also find a quiet haven and a few comfy chairs in the nursing lounge just inside the women’s washroom on the ground level.

701 W Georgia St, Vancouver

Granville Island Public Market 

Whether you need to change an explosive diaper or feed a hungry baby, don’t sweat the traffic at this bustling market. The Kids Market, Net Loft and Public Market all have baby change facilities with plenty of stroller room. If you’re in need of a stroller, head to the Kids Market administration office on the second level for a rental.

1661 Duranleau St, Vancouver

Do you know of any kid-friendly places to shop? I’d love to hear about them.

Buying cloth diapers verses using a service

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We’ve been using cloth diapers for the past four months through the Happy Baby Cheeks Cloth Diaper Service.

Each week their adorable, brightly coloured van pulls up to our house and drops off a bag of clean cloth diapers, cloth wipes and extra absorbent inserts for my son Jack.

I’ve often wondered what the pros and cons of buying and washing your own set of cloth diapers are, verses using a service like Happy Baby Cheeks. To me, the service seems affordable and much less arduous.

If you’re on the fence, here are a few details to consider.

Price

Jack uses up to 60 cloth diapers per week, but not always. What’s great about using the Happy Baby Cheeks’ service, is that they deliver as many or as little of their cloth diapers as you need each week. You pay for the service.

For their premium diaper package, it’s $27.37/per week ($22.33 for the pre-fold diapers). That’s clean diapers dropped at your door once a week.

The upfront cost of purchasing your own cloth diapers can be expensive. Especially when you need to buy a diaper pail, covers, wet bags, inserts and wipes. Cloth diaper forums recommend you have at least 15-24 diapers on hand. That alone can cost $400 depending on the type and company you buy them from.

  • Pre-fold diaper service from Happy Cheeks for 26 weeks = $564.20 – that’s six and a half months of diaper service, and includes four diaper cover rentals.

If you buy your own cloth diapers, there’s also the added stress of not knowing whether they will fit properly or provide enough absorbency.

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Cleanliness

I’ve had a lot of moms ask me if the cloth diapers I receive are in fact clean. It’s hard to imagine someone staying in business if they weren’t. I have absolutely no qualms about the cleanliness of the diapers I receive from Happy Baby Cheeks. In fact, I like the fact that they’re washed in commercial grade equipment with CFIA approved detergents. I feel like this ensures they’re clean.

If you do decide to purchase your own cloth diapers, and you just want to give them that additional cleaning, Happy Baby Cheeks also offers a stripping service for $60-$75 to eliminate any buildup on your diapers.

Washing

If you’re totally green as to how to wash a cloth diaper, Baby Center recommends these steps:

  • Prepare dirty diapers for washing by soaking first.
  • Use detergent free of fragrances, enzymes and other additives, such as whitening and brightening ingredients.
  • Use bleach when fighting an infection, such as a yeast diaper rash, but don’t rely on it regularly.
  • Eliminate door by adding a little baking soda (about half a cup per load) to the wash.
  • For detergent buildup  on the diapers, or other washing problems (not getting clean), you may have to experiment with the type of detergent you’re using.
  • Don’t overload the washing machine or the diapers may not clean.
  • For water temperature, consult the washing instructions for your particular diapers. Cotton diapers should be washed in hot water, but some diaper covers and diapers with a waterproof outer cover may deteriorate in very hot water.
  • Start with a cold pre-wash cycle, then a regular wash in hot water (unless your directions say otherwise). Follow with a rinse.

This just seems like a huge hassle. Me personally? I’d  rather leave it to the pros.

Additional products 

When you buy your own cloth diapers, there’s also a lot of extra costs to consider. The diaper covers, pail, inserts, laundry detergent, just to name a few, and of course the added cost for each additional laundry load.

What I like about Happy Baby Cheeks, is that they have all of these products on hand, and if you happen to need something, they gladly drop them off with your diapers that week. If you need an extra wet bag because you’re going out of town – done. They’ve also been using these products for years, so you know they’ll work.

For more information about the Happy Baby Cheeks service, check out their website, or  my previous posts here:

Past posts:

Disclaimer: diaper service courtesy of Happy Baby Cheeks Cloth Diaper Service. Opinions expressed on this blog are entirely my own.

Top 5 lessons my kids taught me

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Too often I write about the struggles of parenting. Today I’m writing about how my kids have changed my life for the better. Sometimes these life improvements are hard to bring to mind. Especially when I’m preoccupied. Like when I’m doling out fish crackers in the supermarket to keep my babies from sucking on that disgusting chain that dangles from the shopping cart – every time. Seriously.

No, I reflect on these things when I’m putting Jack back to sleep at 2 a.m., or while I’m going over my to-do list in my head for six hours thereafter.

Here are the top five lessons my kids have taught me in no particular order.

I’m an adult

As a parent you have to lead by example. It’s often hard to do that when you act like a child yourself. I’m half ashamed to admit that I throw my own tantrums from time to time. I’m sure my husband can vouch for that. Stomping around, giving the silent treatment, or transforming into the Hulk when things don’t go my way – it’s not pretty. Afterward, I look at my kids, who are looking at me as if I’ve just stolen their job. They continue on and just ignore me. They’ve taught me what I should be teaching them. Tantrums get you nowhere.

Don’t sweat it

Kids don’t dwell on things like adults do. They’re not sitting up at night fuming over some insignificant moment in life, like a car cutting them off in traffic, or saying the wrong thing at a party. They fart and move on – literally. I watch in amazement as my two-year-old daughter Layla laughs off her mistakes and lets awkward moments just roll off her back. Not only have my kids left me no time at all to sweat the small things, they’ve taught me that they’re not important at all. Time could be better spent playing hide and seek.

To recognize happiness when it walks up and asks me if I’m happy

Layla often asks me, “Mommy, you happy?” To which I always reply, “I am, because I have you as my daughter.” This question (asked thrice daily), has taught me that it’s important to take note about the things that make me happy in life, and that is important to tell those things that make me happy in life, that they do indeed make me happy.

Farts are fun

I know, I mention farts way too much in my posts. But it’s a great example of how the smalls things in life can be fun. It’s not about extravagant toys. It’s about the people you’re spending your time with that makes it fun. My kids teach me this when I’m cutting holes in diaper boxes to turn them into robots, or when they’re giggling away because I’m making funny faces at them.

Every moment is a memory 

Doesn’t that sound like a horrible Country song? I gave my Mom a book that I had written down all my childhood memories in for her 50th birthday. She couldn’t remember half of the memories I mentioned, and I couldn’t understand why – until I had my own kids. Everything my Mom did for me when I was a child made a huge impact in my life. Maybe it was insignificant to her (making Jello-shaped pumpkins and bats for Halloween), but it left a lasting memory for me. I’ve recognized this in my own daughter, when every morning she jumps out of bed and spits off every little thing we did the day before. She’s taught me that these moments and memories in life are important – that they’re making an impact. So I strive to make them count.

What have your kids taught you?

The big-girl bed

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A mom in our neighbourhood once gave me a piece of advice.

“Keep Layla in her crib as long as you can,” she said.

We did. Up until about two weeks ago. She’s two-and-a-half years old.

Don’t get me wrong, I was giddy as hell to buy her a little duvet and decorative pillows, but my smiles were camouflaging my fear of the inevitable storm of yet another toddler transition.

We all know every big step forward in growing kids up is, well…”interesting.” I just didn’t know what kind of storm we were about to endure. A Category 1: some whimpering, and crawling into our bed in the middle of the night? Or a Category 5: toddler tornado of epic excitement, and all night door slamming? Turns out, it was a bit of both.

We prepared for the big-girl bed at least four months in advance. I was still trying to get Jack to sleep on his own, and I couldn’t cope with both, so I prolonged the bed move indefinitely. Every so often we mentioned to Layla that the bed was coming, and that she wouldn’t be able to take her soothers into the new bed. Telling her that turned out to be the highlight of our parenting careers thus far, because it worked. You would think we actually knew what we were doing.

The week we surprised Layla with her new bed, we were also planning Jack’s first birthday. Although it was a small party with just family, the excitement filled the air. A perfect storm. Here’s how the first two nights went:

Night One: “I just want to touch him.”

Picture the aftermath of a toddler washing down several hundred Pixy Stix with a couple dozen Red Bulls, and it might be on par with the level of enthusiasm Layla had over her new bed the first night.

As she sprang in and out of it like a sprightly prairie dog, Shawn and I donned phony pageantry smiles. What have we done?! – our teeth grinding. We were happy to make her happy, but no idea what we were in for.

There were several trips up the stairs, giggles, toys being tossed, dress-up parades, yelling and eventually tears (mostly ours). But the final straw was when we could hear the “click” of  Jack’s bedroom door opening through the baby monitor. Once I reached the top of the stairs, all I could make out through Jack’s screaming was Layla saying, “I just wanted to touch him.”

Hours of sleep for parents: Zzzzzz, uh sorry, what was the question?
Hours of sleep for Layla: six with two wake-up calls in the middle of the night.

Night Two: A little late-night leg shaving

A friend dropped by in the midst of our stair climbing, which continued on for the entire two-hour visit.

During one trip, I caught Layla coming out of our bedroom ensuite with our toothpaste. I soon discovered the rest of her booty under her duvet – my eyeshadow, eyeliner and leg razor. Shocked and puzzled as to how she could even have reached my razor, I inadvertently scared her and spent the next part of the evening consoling her.

The rest of the week was a blur, and we’ve made less trips up the stairs since. So what can I expect next? Probably the Paranormal Activity reenactment nights, where Layla creepily sidles up to my bed while I’m sleeping. Yikes!

If you haven’t made the big bed jump yet, here’s a piece of advice:

Keep them in their crib as long as you can.

A band serious about silliness

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Hailing all the way from the East Coast, the Rock-A-Silly Band has taken over our household in a seriously silly way.

I’m not going to lie; my kids listen to a ton of music, but the Let’s Get Silly album is the first to transform my kids into Olympian-level jumping beans. The result? Sweaty exhaustion, hysterical giggling and longer nap times – for all of us.

We use the album in the morning to get our bodies moving for the day, and play a few additional encores in the afternoon to keep the fun momentum going.

Founded by Patrick Raftery (a.k.a Mr. Patrick), this New York-based group is hilariously entertaining for both children and adults. Songs like the Funky Monkey Dance, Aaaaaaaaaa…chooooooo!!! and rock-anthem Staten Island Chuck, incite serious kangaroo impersonations from Layla and Jack, while the crazy song topics and band banter have me chuckling all day long – especially on their Cheers For The Broccoli track.

Where to find Let’s Get Silly

Download a copy of Let’s Get Silly for $10 or individual tracks for $.99 from the band’s site therockasillyband.com.  It’s worth every penny. And if you happen to be in New York, drop by one of their live performances.

Behind the band

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A songwriter, musician and dad, Patrick (left) started his career as a Music Together teacher and then ventured into entertaining at parties. This led to the creation of the Rock-A-Silly Band in 2010. Patrick continues to entertain families both as a solo artist and with the band at parties, schools, camps, zoos, libraries, parks – pretty much anywhere little ears mingle.

Fun fact: Patrick also wrote the theme song for The Staten Island Zoo. Learn more about Patrick and his music here.

Connect with Patrick & Rock-a-Silly on:

Oh, and here’s a clip of Layla & Jack rocking out to the “Funky Monkey Dance.” Layla of course had to put her monkey suit on for this one.

Disclosure: no compensation was received in exchange for writing this review except for a copy of the album for reviewing purposes. All opinions expressed on this blog are entirely my own.

Beating the odds and striving for the best in life

Whenever I’ve had a stressful and exhausting day with the kids, I bring to mind the stories of incredible parents and caregivers out there facing even larger day-to-day challenges. These stories remind me of how lucky we are, but also how important it is to share these topics to raise awareness.

The following article written by Dan Chalcraft, Community Engagement Asssistant of the Cerebral Palsy Association of British Columbiais one of these stories. 

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For an Abbotsford couple, having twins with cerebral palsy is not only double the time commitment, medical appointments and specialized equipment – it is also double the love. The parents’ devotion is matched by the joy they receive from their identical twin daughters and the sense of community they inspire from friends and families who have joined them on their journey to create a truly fulfilling and independent life for the young girls. They have deepened their sense of family and learned to be strong advocates, while learning to appreciate every small success and achievement along the way.

The family have created a GoFundMe campaign to purchase a specially adapted vehicle to support their children. Their story is one of perseverance, education and community, as they adapt to the needs of four children and many challenges while pursuing their long term goals of health and independence for the whole family.

Twins Jayde and Skyla Robinson were born 25 weeks premature. For parents Alex Robinson and Desiree Gauld, it was touch and go at first, and they didn’t know what to expect. With Skyla weighing only 804 grams and Jayde weighing 813 grams, they were rushed to the neonatal intensive care unit and quickly hooked up to various machines as the doctors and nurses scrambled to figure out how to best deal with the situation.

The twins spent 104 days combined at BC Children’s Hospital and Abbotsford Regional Hospital. Complications in their first week of life affected their body movement and coordination, leading to a diagnosis of cerebral palsy and requiring both girls to use wheelchairs.

“It came as a real shock. Of course it’s changed the family life for sure. You appreciate the smaller things in life; it’s very difficult at the same time,” says Desiree.

The initial learning curve was steep. Desiree explained that they were looking for information in many different places. Unfortunately, many of the resources and programs aren’t all in one place, and there isn’t enough awareness to promote a full understanding of cerebral palsy.

However, she now believes that her family has found most of the information that is available. Both parents feel they need to be strong advocates for their children. Part of that means becoming a different kind of parent: a therapist, doctor and nurse all in one.

The girls are a full time job times two. They are totally dependent upon us for daily care and assistance. We attend numerous appointments each week for therapies and specialists. “Life is extremely busy. But we make it through day by day,” Alex says.

Despite the challenges they face, Desiree says one of their short term goals is to stay healthy. She hopes that in the next couple of years, their children will be able to do everything that other children do and are a part of the community. For Alex, this means having the twins undergo potentially preventive surgeries such as hip surgery, and working hard with the physiotherapists, occupational therapists and medical equipment suppliers that are such an integral part of their lives to try to prevent or delay future surgeries.

But, he concurs with his wife about wanting the proper care and support for his girls. Robinson says that while it is still difficult for them to forgo using their adapted medical equipment, he feels they are making progress and that by using their walkers and both legs they will learn to avoid overcompensating on the left side.“[The] long term goal would be that they are walking with walkers in their own way and getting up and going to school and having fun, and definitely in the long term that they are as independent as possible,” he said.

Alex and Desiree feel fortunate to have the support of their families. “Our family and friends have been really supportive. We don’t know where we would be without them,” says Robinson. “They help as much as they can and give an extra hand just holding the girls. We have two caregivers that help but family has been just huge.”

As a new advocate for the disability, Desiree feels there isn’t enough awareness of cerebral palsy in the community, especially around World CP Day (held every year in October). She points out that few people really understand what cerebral palsy is and how it affects people. Desiree feels it gets bracketed under the umbrella of a learning disability and thought of as just a disability. She believes there needs to be more focus on cerebral palsy in light of the statistics – it is the most common childhood disability – and disproportionate overall awareness of the condition.

In terms of funding for the girls, there is never enough to accommodate both of them. They do have some access to respite care, although having two children dependent upon care, Desiree is not often relieved. “We don’t get a break from the day for many hours so as far as caregivers, it’s just us at the same time which takes the load off but getting breaks is not long enough,” said Desiree. Some government funding is available from the At Home Program but limitations are always an issue since the girls need complex customized modifications for all their equipment. Non-conventional therapies such as therapeutic swimming and horseback riding that are so beneficial medically and emotionally. The parents also balance the needs of two other siblings, an older daughter and brother, but dream of one day going on a family vacation for everyone.

The family plans to have a local fundraiser soon in Abbotsford. With help from donors like Variety Children’s Charity and CKNW Orphan Fund, they hope to be able to purchase a fully equipped vehicle which will accommodate two wheelchairs and the two other children, as their current mini-van isn’t practical anymore.

To learn more about their story and support their cause, please visit their GoFundMe page.

Skyla and Jayde’s Journey

Happy Baby Cheeks offers amazing referral program

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I’ve written a lot about the incredible customer service and care the Happy Baby Cheeks Cloth Diaper Service provides to their customers all across Metro Vancouver, but I also want to highlight the special referral program they offer.

For every referral a customer makes to the Happy Baby Cheeks Cloth Diaper Service, they will receive one free week of service, once that referral has completed their first month of service. There is no limit on referrals, so that means customers could potentially receive free service. Now that’s pretty amazing!

The people you refer don’t have to be friends or relatives either, they can be anyone. All they have to do is mention that you were the person that referred them.

Being a family owned business, Happy Baby Cheeks knows that every little bit helps.

Learn more about the Happy Baby Cheeks pricing and referral program, or if you are interested in signing up, check out their brand new website, and be sure to tell them Angela from Rock ‘n’ Rattle sent you.

Past posts:

Disclaimer: diaper service courtesy of Happy Baby Cheeks Cloth Diaper Service. Opinions expressed on this blog are entirely my own.