Welcome to Mama Renew

Sep 6th, 2013 Posted in News | 5 comments »


Why Mama Renew? For us, the picture above says it perfectly: Nurturing community. Building connections. Laughing together! Being true to ourselves, and with each other. Speaking our minds. Living from our hearts. Sharing in our journey, and helping each other find our way. We hope to offer you moments of inspiration , clarity, insight and questioning.

Register to start your renewal!


Register for Spring Write to Renew – A Writing Workshop June 14th


“Mama Renew has been hugely positive for me in my own journey-  I’ll continue to renew, unfold, renew and unfold some more. Thank you for creating a safe space for me to explore and grow!” – Janice, 2009

Write to Renew

Apr 6th, 2015 Posted in News | one comment »

One of our previous graduates, the talented Jay Nahani, is leading us in a Write to Renew workshop June 14th. For writers and non-writers alike, this one-day workshop is a great way to step into summer with intention and a renewed focus on what’s important in life.

Jay says: “Step into a supportive circle of mamas coming together to feel inspiration, to harvest stories, ink and quilland to cross thresholds… Guided by inspiring prompts, thoughtful discussion, and hand-picked writing invitations, you can connect with your own voice as your stories take shape. You will walk away with several poems and starts to stories, as well as insights and ideas on how to connect to your creativity, and to your self. Bring a journal — and a laptop or writing tablet if you like, and if the keyboard isn’t too noisy! Tea and snacks will be provided. Hope you can join us as we Write to Renew!”

JS (Jay) Nahani is a published writer, expressive artist, and seasoned facilitator. A trained social worker with a passion for true stories, Jay finds inspiration from Nature and Life. She loves to witness her two young children make discoveries and is excited for the opportunity to offer a writing course for mamas to get in touch with themselves, to build community with others, and: To Renew!

Sleepy Summer

Jul 2nd, 2014 Posted in Family Life, Working Mama | one comment »

Holding the SunMy goal of the next few weeks is planning reasonable to-do lists this summer. I’m finding the balance tricky right now, since I work from home and the kids are on summer break. A languid pace is easy to slip into; although maybe that’s no bad thing. This year has been busy and we’re often at a rush.

Today started sleepily, and just kept dreaming by. The boys were up late, and since they’re normally a 6:30-7:00 am alarm clock, I was up late too. We had a slow breakfast, everyone with their nose in a book. We agreed that I needed to work, so it couldn’t be a beach day, but we set up my old birthing-pool to introduce it to a second life as a wading pool. I applied sunscreen and brought lemonade and ducked splashes as they bounced in and out. I bounced in and out of my workday, too – tasks and breaks with the boys.

Usually we spend time away in the summer, but this summer we’re going to be close to home. Favorite activities are making stop action Lego movies, reading, water fights, and flying kites on windy days.

Anyone have favorites they’d like to share?

What will the children think of us?

May 9th, 2014 Posted in Family Life | no comment »

Anticipating Mother’s Day, I bought myself a gift. A group of doulas came together to buy a flat of mugs Judge's Bench and gavelall proclaiming, “World’s Okayest Mom”. Judy picked mine up, and is holding it for me – but we are both disorganized enough to keep forgetting to pick it up, even though we’re seeing each other fairly often. Of course, that’s the sort of thing you might expect from a couple of the World’s Okayest Moms. I’d put the picture up, but I don’t have the mug yet!

One theme from Mama Renew has coincided, giving me musings to fill my Okayest Mom mug. A few weeks ago, we were considering mothering styles and our mother-culture of making judgments and being judged, which are often two sides of the same coin. As we were talking,  memories of our parents bubbled up to be shared – mistakes that we really didn’t want to pass along.

But we also agreed that it is inevitable we will misunderstand and misstep, even if it’s in different ways than our parents did. We all know that kids eventually learn that parents are “flawed”; that other parents might be better at other things. Yet a flaw is a seductive word in our culture! A flaw might have a fix – we try to iron flaws in our health, food, finances, careers, relationships. Oh, the never-ending temptation to “Get it Right”.

Only no matter how many articles and books and research papers we read about better ways to parent, at the end of the day we will remain human. We each have a unique blend of strengths and weaknesses! We are all the World’s Okayest Mom, in some respects, even as we bring gifts and strengths that are uniquely ours.

I don’t think that before now I’ve sat with the truth before that my children’s disappointment is inevitable. If it is universal that we carry little echoes of our own disappointments of childhood in the choices we were making as moms, cultivating the skills that we wished our mothers had for us, so will it be for my kids. I’ve found some freedom to knowing that someday I will hear questions, disappointments, or anger – and having compassion for my sons and myself, for me, may mean not trying to prevent or repress that moment.

I want to welcome who they become, and what they know that I do not!

Historical gifts

Apr 11th, 2014 Posted in Nurturing Mama | one comment »

John and I were able to take a trip this spring, just the two of us, to the UK. Our children stayed home with their grandmothers – one week with John’s mom, and one with mine. Couple time affirmed we are in our marriage because we like each other; it was also a joy for the boys to spend time connecting with their grandparents.

John and I wandered the streets of London, visited a little town in Scotland where friends live, and spent the last week in Dublin listening to friendly strangers tell stories. To two Vancouver city-dwellers, the experience of walking through an urban landscape rich with human history was a revealing and exciting change. Every street and building came with narrative, and that narrative created a special magic; the possibility of surprise, of mystery, of stumbling headlong into a ongoing story a thousand years old.

Of course, while traveling, you compare to home. In looking at the stone age stone circles and burial mounds of England, I could see an early tradition of building permanent human structures. Our own human history in British Columbia lives with the First Nations and Indigenous peoples who had different cultural ideals: with intention, they choose monuments like totem poles and house posts that eventually end their life cycles by rejoining the earth. People were here, but it seemed like they didn’t choose to write their presence into the land. Or at least not in the same way.

One story got me thinking about this differently. We came to Ferryhill, outside of Durham on the east coast of England, and learned it was named for the man who killed the last wild boar. We talked about that story with our Scottish friends, and learned there are also no more bears or wolves in the British woods.  I was overcome with a flood of affection for our part of the world, where bears and humans try to negotiate garbage day on the North Shore.

Our prehistory is well preserved. It is just more obviously preserved in our wilderness,Mama Bear and Cubs rather than in our cities and structures. The British Isles have Stonehenge and Stirling Castle – we have lynx. The First Nations who have been on this land thousands of years have an oral tradition that come with this wild history that we can use as an authority, like a National Trust plaque beside a historical site. These are stories of this continent’s wild, and of human spaces in it. But these stories are living – we are contained in this history.

I came home feeling gifted with new perspective on community; on how humans help each other. Sometimes, I want to know exactly what path to walk, hoping  a thousand women and men before me have walked it and cleared the bramble – and maybe the bears. There’s safety in numbers and in knowing, and sometimes we need a knowing tribe.  But there is also such strength in knowing that we can live with the mama bear who comes out of the mountains and demands to be negotiated with. There is such freedom in not being afraid that the wild may sometimes upset our ordered lives: that we can live in the wild and learn from it, whether it be the environment in which we live, or the wild within our hearts.

This week in growing up

Feb 5th, 2014 Posted in Family Life | no comment »

zodiac-animals-china-papercut-TNMy eldest turns 12 this week. A dozen years since I became a mother, and each year with its own delicate treasure, a hidden bit of gold. Since we’re near Lunar New Year, the banners and posters in my neighbourhood are celebrating the Year of the Horse: I remember coming home with my baby and seeing similar posters. So amid the birthday plans, and marveling at a child now taller than I am, I am considering what 12 years has taught me.

I remember holding my newborn baby and wishing I could capture the moment and return to it whenever I wished – and later that night crying with the same baby who I could not settle to sleep. I also remember trying to calm a screaming toddler down enough to get us home (with groceries, on the bus) and wishing that this stage would be over – and then later that week laughing with him as we used glitter and paint and coffee filters to make bunches of paper flowers for spring. Each moment with my kids has challenged and stretched me as a person; sometimes by taking my breath away with vulnerable, all encompassing love, and sometimes by making me feel my own inner tantrum rising so that I want to throw myself on the ground and howl.

This week, I’m conscious that my role in my son’s life is changing. I’m figuring out where to let go, where to support him without interference, where to allow him to explore. I was worried that I’d get to this place and just mourn for the days when he was small, but I find that those infant and toddler years are living inside me. I’ve been changed by that little boy in arms; these days, I’m working what I learned of my heart through the rest of my life.  I’m more brave, more open, more human, more flawed than I ever imagined before I had kids.

Supermom, revisited

Nov 29th, 2013 Posted in Family Life, Healthy Mama, News, Nurturing Mama, Working Mama | no comment »

A good friend is dealing with the expectations she has of herself, and is trying to wrestle with her idea of Supermom. I’d been thinking about the image myself this fall, but with a dismissal – ah, that’s just a media image! Not real! But here it was again.

And actually, what she said was even stronger than wrestling – “I’m trying to kill my idea of of Supermom, but it just won’t die!”

But that’s the truth, isn’t it? Superheroes, by definition, are strong and persistent. Maybe Supermom won’t go quietly, overplayed media stereotype or no!

I’m thinking we can be creative with her. She’s ours after all, a creation of expectation and desire. Maybe we just need to revamp her for the modern age, rewrite her for a brand new day. This happens, eventually, to all the comic heroines…


Maybe our Supermom will:

Have coffee stains on her cape, and a mess made from hug from a child with sticky hands and face
A purse full of unorganized paper (wait, where was that field trip form you needed me to sign?)
Thighs quite a bit softer than steel…
Maybe no Fortress of Solitude – but space, every day, just for her, where she will be soft and generous with herself.
Her kryptonite might be comparing herself to other moms.
Only she’s a superhero and knows the defense: all parents have strengths and weaknesses.
It’s her League of Superheroes … people to collaborate with, call for help, and support.


The whole enchilada

Nov 22nd, 2013 Posted in Family Life, Healthy Mama | one comment »

Food is a central theme for most of our families. Our expectations for our families are often a stew (see what I did there?) made of tradition, hopes, personal values, and what we’re carrying of our culture or society.

What is in your “stew” ? Maybe nightly family mealtime is important to you as a place to come together and talk: or maybe it’s not, really, because you talk during the commute to soccer practice, but you read an article stressing the importance of family mealtime and now you feel like you should.

Maybe you have a once-a-week gathering for Sunday dinner or Shabbat: or maybe you make memories feasting once a year at Thanksgiving or Diwali.

Maybe organic is important to you, or perhaps stretching a budget and feeding a picky eater are your major food goals. Maybe you’d mostly like to add something green to a diet of noodles and hot dogs – or maybe you find joy in your kitchen at the end of each day, creating food like it were poetry, getting recharged from the cooking.

Our families need food at regular intervals, and past that, our situations are unique. Some of us might be relieved by a meal plan. Some cook for a week on a day off. Some are maestros of the crock-pot. Sometimes, we need to eat on the run…

What’s working for you? What do you need to reconsider your approach and address creatively? What can you get rid of?


Thoughts on Gratitude

Nov 15th, 2013 Posted in Healthy Mama, Nurturing Mama | no comment »

I have been enjoying the relaunch of Mama Renew immensely. There is – as always – laughter, a few tears, and a couple of well timed Eureka moments where we learn, or are reminded, of a core truth that we’d misplaced.

One of the things we’ve talked about is gratitude. Research by Dr.Robert Emmons (University of California, Davis) and Dr. Michael Mcullough (University of Miami) has shown that cultivating a gratitude habit can improve our overall well-being and happiness.

When I first started trying this practice, it completely backfired on me. I knew I had a lot to be grateful for: I’m a Canadian woman in the modern era, have my health and material needs met, and am free of a lot of the daily suffering that other people have had to face. There are many who would be grateful for clean water from the kitchen tap. Somehow, my acknowledgement of the blessings in my life was making me feel worse: “I have it so good comparatively, why am I finding it so hard?”

But then I found joy when I turned my focus to those things I appreciate, on a much smaller scale. When I focus myself on those around me, friendly interactions over a week, a smile spreads across my face in the remembering. There’s the happiness the researchers are speaking of!

Maybe it’s about the bus driver who unfailingly smiles hello, or recalling how wonderful it was to see a friend who stopped by for a coffee and made me hoot with laughter. Even the florist who was concerned on my behalf for a friend in the hospital and helped me pick the most glorious bouquet for her.

One of the other mamas in the Mama Renew group, living right now in a particularly busy household, found her appreciation was in those moments of alone time. An hour to knit, a nice long walk. Just remembering the times of quiet made her smile and grow calm.

Languages of Love

Oct 8th, 2013 Posted in Family Life, Nurturing Mama | no comment »

A good friend has recently been working to re-kindle her relationship to her partner. Their relationship felt strong and vital, so they put it on the back burner while attending matters of family, health, finance, and the work of raising their two vibrant, creative kids. But something else happened in the fullness of their daily lives: they each grew and changed with every new experience, and without consciously reconnecting, they lost track of each other. More and more, they were finding themselves were angry, frustrated, or just plain baffled.

In reconnecting, my friend has learned that when time is limited, it helps to know what we feel most nurtured by. Is it a touch on the hand across the table or a hug at the end of the day? A playful wink above the children’s heads? Words of appreciation for the work each contributes? Small and unexpected gifts? A cup of tea brought without asking? Time walking together, holding hands, talking without interruption – or saying nothing, and just being?

Knowing how we feel loved also helps when we’re caring for ourselves. Maybe you’re having bubble baths with candles because you want to care for yourself – but what you really crave is a walk with music, or time out with  friend.

Is there something you particularly look for, to feel special and valued?

Slow and steady

Sep 30th, 2013 Posted in Family Life, Healthy Mama | one comment »

This summer, I suffered an injury to my thigh muscle. I can still walk and jog slowly, but climbing is hard! It was silly, really – I’d missed a lot of my regular activity in July and in mid August went on a cycling trip I wasn’t ready for. As summer has turned to fall I’ve been trying to be careful with it… but truthfully I’m no good at resting. It’s my stair climbing muscle! My lifting things muscle! It’s useful and I want it to work.

Although “useful and working” is probably a bigger drive in my life than just this one muscle. There’s always more to do in the world, and having a family accelerated that – occupation, preoccupation, volunteer work, family, housework, social life: I don’t feel like I have the time to suffer a blow-out.

My eldest son, eleven years old,  is now my height. His life ’til now has been growth spurts that challenge his sleep and leave him on edge, and he’s of a stocky build: the combination has left him feeling uncoordinated and physically unable compared to his peers. Perhaps worse, his little brother swings hand over hand on the monkey bars as easily as running. The close comparison aches.

This summer, my eldest decided to do something to feel stronger and more coordinated. Asking only a little help, he put together a sensible Super Tortoiseprogram to build his skills, and he’s been working a little bit every day doing strength and flexibility exercises. He’s moving very gently into his abilities, adding a few more push ups or crunches every week or so, moving very carefully through stretches. Every day, we’re seeing changes. Push ups a little lower. Stretches a little longer.

Two days ago, we went on a jog together, and for awhile I trailed behind him to help him tweak his form. He was surprised and happy to realize that he wasn’t as bad as his worst fears, (and a faster sprinter than his mother) – and a few small changes helped him feel substantially more comfortable.

He came home feeling like a superhero, grinning and glad and alive.

Now, I’ve never aspired to Supermom. The cape just doesn’t fit. Yet I find it really troubling when I feel like I can’t keep up. (Wait, when was the car due for a tune up?)  When life piles up, I tend to push myself just a little harder, just a little farther – not to be a Supermom, surely, but just because that’s what parents do, right? That’s what we’re all doing?

Seeing my boy-becoming-a-man take these little steps and then revel in the joy of making them has made me rethink slow and steady. It’s clear that over this summer he’s taken the path of the tortoise, and I the path of the hare. But what that story doesn’t tell is how extraordinary each small step can feel when it is your journey, when it’s worth doing. When the tortoise doesn’t sneak a look over his shoulder at the sleeping hare, but just notices the strength in his arms, the sun in the sky, the deep cool breath of air. Every step feels important – not just the final step that others can see.

So this week’s challenge to myself – small steps only. Go gently, and enjoy the journey.


Rebirth of Mama Renew

Sep 6th, 2013 Posted in News, Nurturing Mama, Working Mama | no comment »

Welcome back, everyone, to the re-start and re-birth of Mama Renew!

Let me introduce myself first. I’m Arwen.

Judy McLaren and I purchased Dancing Star Birth and Mama Renew from Sarah in April, and I’ve been looking forward to this day ever since.

Three years ago, I gathered with some wonderful moms in a Mama Renew class led by Jennifer-Lee. I was feeling like an autumn leaf – crumbly and dry, and just barely holding on. My youngest had started school, and although I had been working in the paid workforce as a computer programmer for many years, it was in work-from-home and flextime situations so I could be with my kids. With the season kids-at-home ending, I realized I wasn’t committed to job I’d been using to make-do, but I also didn’t know what was next. I couldn’t imagine going back to a cubicle, trying to stay interested in sort routines while fluorescent lights flickered above me. The joy of that work had left.

Over the course of my Mama Renew group, I found in myself creativity I’d misplaced. Jennifer-Lee asked questions that brought new light to my situation, and I was able to explore my answers honestly in a community of smart and inspiring women. We all came to different answers, but each of us left with clearer vision. Some found new joy in their existing routine. Others found a whole new path.

I was one with a new path. I wasn’t clear where that path would take me… but I was refreshed, relaxed, and ready.

In the spring I trained as a doula, so that I could be better support for a friend. It turned out to be work I loved and was well suited to. Working as a doula put me in contact with Sarah Juliusson of Dancing Star Birth and Mama Renew, and I observed one of Jennifer-Lee’s prenatal classes. I was hooked, and started working for Sarah soon after.

I nudged her with a burning question of my own… Where is Mama Renew? Do you need someone to lead a group?

I was satisfied with the answer that Sarah’s energy was needed elsewhere, though a bit disappointed. Sarah had launched Birth Your Business, a resource supporting young entrepreneurs in holistic businesses, and was connecting with families on Vancouver Island through Island Mother. Then in October of last year – a year and fifty-one weeks after my first Mama Renew class – she gathered us together with an announcement: she was selling her Vancouver business, to better tend the new growth in her life.
Judy and I jumped in.

The process of negotiation and transition brought us to today, ready to relaunch. I love my work with families in their birth year, but I am craving time exploring life with more experienced mothers  I look forward to our community growing and thriving again!


Moon Cycles of Motherhood

Dec 7th, 2011 Posted in Healthy Mama, News, Nurturing Mama | 15 comments »

Dear Mamas,

I am delighted to have two copies of the fabulous new book Moon Mysteries to give away.   Please comment below for your chance to win.  Increase your chances by liking the Mama Renew facebook page and sharing the link on facebook!  Contest closes at midnight, Sunday December 11th.


Way back in my twenties as I entered birth work, I experienced a sort of mini-personal revolution learning about the power of women’s bodies – and with it, a discovery of my period as a source of connection rather than dread. And so began years of exploration – trying out cloth pads and sea sponges, charting my cycles, discovering fertility awareness…  It was a wondrous time of discovery and integration, and certainly a core part of who I was growing into as a woman.

Fast forward 20 years, and I am the mother of two growing boys.  I’m aware that I bled sometime in the past few weeks (?) but that’s about as far as my charting goes these days. While I’m still a devoted user of Lunapads and the Diva Cup (a vast improvement on the sea sponge of my early 20s), I’m certainly not feeling the sense of celebration or connection that I did in my 20′s.  While I know this in part due to my crazy full magical life, I do wonder if perhaps being beyond my fertile years also plays into it.

I have been delighted to review a copy of Moon Mysteries:  Reclaiming Women’s Menstrual Wisdom, by Nao Sims and Nikiah Seeds.  From the stunning front cover image, to the wondrous paintings contained within, the book feels more like a treasure than a text, and I have found myself savouring the words and stories within.  Inside you will find the history, traditions and mythology of menstruation captured within 13 moon cycles, each month exploring a different realm of women’s psyche as it relates to the menstrual cycle.  Also included are heartfelt personal stories from the authors own journey, and an absolutely lovely circular chart to use for your own moon cycle documentation.

I truly love their chart.  Along with the moon phases, it has room for us to document our emotions, creativity, sexuality, and energy.  For the first time in years I find myself inspired to begin charting again.  Given that I only have another 10 years or so left of my moon cycle, it would be nice to experience a reconnection as I move toward my next life stage.

I’d love to hear from all of you as well.   I’m giving away two copies of this inspiring book.  Please comment below on one of these two questions  and like the Mama Renew facebook page (let us know in a comment below) for your chances to win – each thing you do counts as a separate entry.  Share this link on your facebook page and get yet another entry!  Contest will close this Sunday, December 11th at midnight.

How has your journey into motherhood affected your relationship to your moon cycle?

Why would you love to have a copy of Moon Mysteries?

Beyond our Means

Oct 12th, 2011 Posted in Family Life, Healthy Mama, Nurturing Mama, Working Mama | one comment »

I’ve been away for a romantic weekend with my dear husband.  These tend to be times when we get clear together, making plans, setting choices, questioning our choices and patterns… While much of our exploration on this particular weekend has been around financial planning, the core lesson I’m bringing home is about striving to live within our means.

Ok, let’s start by conjuring up images of what it means to live beyond our means:  Reckless and extravagant spending, no limits, whim as the primary determinate of spending rather than pure need…  The notion of “means” I’m exploring, however, goes far beyond our family finances.

While the finances part of this is essential, for me, right now, it’s all about our “means of energy and time, and how we spend them. A friend brought this idea of living within our means up recently and I just can’t stop thinking about it as I go through my days.  I put So much energy into living within my means financially – why is it so hard to hold those boundaries for myself when it comes to energy & time?

When I look at my life I see a lot of roles – mother of two growing boys, wife, 4 businesses to run, caretaker to a 5 acre farm with roughly 40 chickens, one cow, a baby water buffalo, and a cat, and the rather lofty goal of meeting 80% of our family food needs from our own land through year-round gardens, animals, and extensive food preservation.

Where do the “means” of time and energy fit into all of this? None of the above is even possible if I am too drained to function in a healthy way. A big part of it is knowing when to say “no” and “this is enough”. It’s letting go of the extraordinarily high expectations I have of myself and being comfortable with something that is less than my ideal, yet in all likelihood more than good enough.

Here are a few of my ideas so far – I welcome your ideas, or examples from your own life:

1.  I’ve put on a far back burner a few work projects that I’ve been feeling guilty about not completing.  Clearly, they are not a priority right now, so it’s time for me to respect that.

2.  Frankly, preserving enough food for the winter has led me to question more than a few times what “enough” is – maybe 3 jams per month should be enough – instead of 5… To help answer this question, I’ve devised a new food tracking system organizing all our preserved food by month instead of type so we can see exactly what we end up using each month and how much we should make in 2012.  And I suppose that the very fact that we’ve designed a spreadsheet should indicate to you how over the top we are – sigh…

3.  Maybe it’s about planting more onions and potatoes, and less of the beans that need constant picking and canning…

4.  I’ve made a work schedule for myself that includes a few blocks for creative time (I always seem to be too tired at night for this) and fitness.  It adds up to a good 35 hours of work per week, but if it works my hope is that work time will feel more energized and focused because other needs are also being met.

This may be sounding like a dreadfully functional weekend away.  Schedules?  Food tracking systems?  Garden planning?  Fear not, we also enjoyed all of the wonderful things you might anticipate a couple doing on a weekend away from their children. Besides, I assure you – excel spreadsheets can be very exciting….

making room for sunlight

Sep 19th, 2011 Posted in Family Life, Healthy Mama, Nurturing Mama, Working Mama | no comment »

I came across this poem this evening, thanks to Karen Maezen Miller of Cheerio Road, and find it to be just about perfection for how I felt today:

The Word, by Tony Hoagland

Down near the bottom
of the crossed-out list
of things you have to do today,

between “green thread”
and “broccoli,” you find
that you have penciled “sunlight.”

Resting on the page, the word
is beautiful. It touches you
as if you had a friend

and sunlight were a present
he had sent from someplace distant
as this morning—to cheer you up,

and to remind you that,
among your duties, pleasure

is a thing that also needs accomplishing.

read the rest here… – you’ll love it.

Wishing each of you some sunlight amidst the green thread and broccoli.