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“Cleaning your house while your kids are still growing is like shoveling the walk before it stops snowing.”
Phyllis Diller

I have made it through my Financial and Managerial Accounting course for my MBA. For me, it was a doozy! Let’s just say that numbers don’t come naturally to me! Now that it is completed, I have another week off before I start my next course. Time to catch up on all the things I haven’t done while I was studying instead.

I had grand ideas of cleaning my house top to bottom, cleaning and organizing closets, preparing for upcoming garage sales, filling my freezer with healthy meals, planting the garden and doing yard work.

(Typical of me, my to-do list was too long, and did not allow for any real life, like sick kids, calls from the school, volunteering, chairing meetings, soccer and ball games etc.)

How did it go? I did the basics: bathrooms, laundry, vacuuming… but the major overhaul? A pipe dream.

My son actually said to me the other day “Well, we know our house won’t be clean!” Really? I always thought of myself as someone with a fairly clean house. I will admit I am not one of those people who don’t care if it’s clean or not. I really admire that way of thinking, and wish I could care less. I believe most guests are more comfortable in a house that is not perfect, but I still rush to clean before guests arrive. I think it is more important to play with the kids than to have a sparkling home, but I still feel more relaxed when things are clean.

I was at a friend’s perfect (and spotless) house for lunch this week, and she asked me: “How do you manage kids and working on your MBA and work?” This was my realization: I can’t do it all! I manage it by focussing on things other than keeping my house spotless. I could definitely keep my house cleaner, but then something else would have to give. So I choose to play with my kids, and do well in school rather than have a perfect house. Though when I’m done my Master’s, I do look forward to a cleaner home…

There is just not enough time in the day!

A goal I have yet to work on? Relaxation. Might be time to give that one a try….!

My mom and I when I was a baby.

My mom has always been a great friend to me. We have shared great camping trips, heart-to-heart chats, dances and hugs. Now as I see her with my kids and that special relationship they have, I love her even more.

She doesn’t mind getting dirty in the backyard with Braeden while planning their latest “clubhouse,” they spend time painting pictures and telling stories about messenger pigeons that could send messages back and forth between them, and it’s great when she spends the night at our house and eagerly waits for him to wake up so he can see the note she left in front of his door that tells him “Come wake me up!” so they can share some special quiet time before the rest of the house wakes.

Jordyn and mom spend time chatting on the phone, watching movies and having special “paw-corns” (popcorn) and getting messy with paints and yes, even makeup. They play dolls and tea parties, and make-believe.

My kids think my mom is amazing. And they’re right.

Of course, this love and admiration I feel for my mom went through several stages.

My earliest memories of my mom are of times when she made me feel better: bandaids and kisses after falling off my bike and hitting my head yet again, peanut butter on saltine crackers while laying on the couch when home sick from school. My mom made me feel safe.

I remember being so proud when my mom came into school to bring a forgotten lunch or permission slip. She would always look so put together: matching purse, suit and nailpolish, her makeup perfect, smelling like perfume. She is so beautiful! She would walk away, her heels clicking down the hallway, and I’d think: someday, that will be me. I want to be just like her.

Then of course, there were the stages that switched daily (or hourly) from positive to negative: having deep heart-to-heart discussions over a drink and hugs for a heartbreak, then regular teenage arguments and thoughts that now ashame me of how I could do better when I was a mom.

Well I’ve learned that I cannot do better. My mom had three kids, was a professional, and there was no husband at home to support her. Sometimes our house was messy, but there was NEVER a moment when I felt unloved. How did you manage it Mom?! I have the most supportive marriage, more income and only two kids, yet there are days when I feel life is out of control. I can only hope that when my kids are grown they have as much love and admiration for me as I feel for you.

My mom and I have had our ups and downs (mostly ups!) and I know we all have our struggles, but nobody could replace my mom. Thanks for loving me, even during the times when I wasn’t all that lovable. And thanks for now being a best friend, a wonderful grandma and still my mom.

As a mom, I get it now. I know the intense love and fear you have for your children. I understand the moments when you struggle to find the right words to answer difficult questions and give good advice. I get that there are moments as parents where we lose control and things don’t always go as we had hoped. I get it now, and all I can say about the job my mom has done is “wow.” Wow, and of course, thank you.

I love you mom.

Mom and I after my marriage reception.

Do you ever have that realization that you are now Mommy, instead of a professional? Spilled on and stained, rather than pulled together? I am all for doing it all, but sometimes your disguise as someone who has their shit together is rudely removed!

All the moms out there – you know what I’m talking about. The dried spit up on your suit jacket that you notice after a meeting. The moment when your work phone call is interrupted by screaming kids. The mornings after nights of no sleep, where no amount of coffee is going to bring you back to your witty, composed self for your important work meeting.

This week has been a little reminder of this for me. My house: a disaster of tea sets, babies and empty sippy cups. My laundry: piles of clothes with spills of juice, food, times when we didn’t make the potty in time. And during my meeting? I reached into my purse and pulled out a teddy bear, a bag of goldfish crackers, and a red Crayola. Can you repeat that? I’ll just use my crayon to take note. Yes, it’s been very obvious this week that I am a Mommy first, and professional when it fits with my first and most important role.

But let me tell you what this role of Mommy has done for me: I can handle a crisis better than anyone. Multitasking: watch me do laundry, fill out agendas, clean up from dinner, bath kids and answer work emails at once! Doctor (nothing fixes owies like Mom’s kiss), cleaner (I can make our house presentable for company as they walk up the driveway. Trust me, in this house, that’s amazing!), Haircutter, teacher and more. My experiences with my crazy kids have made me strong and able to handle any boardroom situation! And if I am ever in a meeting where people play one of those games where you have to find something in your purse starting with each letter of the alphabet, I would so totally win! So what if I stumble over words before the caffeine kicks in, and have stickmen drawn on my guidelines at the meeting?!

For the record: I am happy being the mom that gets hugged before going out the door, even at the risk of being covered in crumbs. And the mom that gets fingerpaint and dirt stains on things because I play with my kids.

Yup, I’m mommy. Don’t make me use my Mom voice, because I will. 🙂

So they have come and gone: my 20s that is. The decade that included all the major changes in my life: earning my degree (and university partying), meeting and marrying my husband, giving birth to my two children, moving to Alberta, buying my first (and second) home, starting my career… all those moments that everyone says are the best in their life. Over, done. But I have to say, I am really looking forward to the next decade. Seeing my kids grow up, completing my Master’s, and that element of surprise… I have less plans for the next 10 years than I did for the last, which is nice. Where will I be at 40? I don’t know! Which is great! I do have a few goals however.

Goal #1: Graduate with my MBA. Three courses in, it appears that I am on the track, though with nearly 2 years left, it still feels far away. (Especially during this current Financial and Managerial Accounting course. Blech.) But I can, and will, do it. I want to show my kids that you can pick a goal that seems unobtainable (like full time school with work and kids etc.) and do it!

Goal #2: Travel with my family. We have always travelled, but my goals are to continue to do it. Next on the list? Across Canada road trip and Europe backpacking trip. May have to wait until goal #1 is completed and I start to make money again!!

Goal #3: Learn to ride a motorcycle. My dad would have loved to teach me this, but I will learn on my own in his honour. Then one day Mike and I can take a long bike trip. I think it would feel ‘tough’ to ride a motorcycle in leather, pull of my helmet and shake out my hair like they do in the movies. Less sexy and less coordinated though! And for Dad, my bike will be bright red, of course.

Goal #4: Improve as a mother. I am a good mom, I know. I love my kids with my entire being, but sometimes I forget what really matters. I clean the house for company instead of playing hard in the backyard. I make things easy for them instead of allowing them to be challenged. I want to challenge my kids to find their own dreams, and play with them while they do. Braeden told me once while we were playing a game we had invented: Smack Ball, with a beach ball in the backyard, and laughing hysterically, that this was the best moment in his entire life. He does tend to be dramatic, but that hit home. All he wants is to play hard with me. The painstakingly planned craft and science experiment activities are unnecessary to be a good mom, but living in the moment is.

Finally, the most important goal:

Goal #5: Get ID’d. Okay, so the other ones are more serious. But I WILL get ID’d again, someday, someway, somehow. If I have to wear pigtails to the bar, I will. It’s been about 5 years since I have been carded, and I have a goal to have it happen, at least once more. 🙂

How has life changed? I have always had a full schedule, have always been in school, have always had a goal, a plan. Life with kids has taught me that plans change. The other day on my way to bed, Mike asked me what was on the calendar for the next day. I checked. “The mortgage comes out, and we’re having chicken for dinner!” I called out. Then we both started laughing hysterically as we realized what our life has become: mortgages, planned meals and grocery lists, schedules for our kids instead of us. Yes, life has changed, but so far, 30 is great.

Braeden and Jordyn dressed for the holidays. (Braeden is 6, Jorydn 1 1/2)

I know it’s almost been a month since Christmas. That’s the problem with writing a blog about being a busy mom/student/employee – it’s too busy to find time to write! So I will share my holidays with you a month late – it really could be worse.

The holidays were special for me, as we spent time with both Mike’s and my family. I had requested that everyone tone down the gifts this year. How do you teach your kids that they don’t always get what they want, when they do? I know they love their grandchildren, but Grandma and Grandpa can show their love in other ways – through spending special time with them and doing thoughtful things for them. For example, Mike’s mom Verna is amazing with Braeden. They have such a special relationship. When Braeden is anxious or upset, as he gets whenever his routine is changed at all, he asks if he can call Grandma Verna long distance. She creates stories for him about such characters as “Silent Man” and the three michevious travelling mice, Lily, Lollie and Lulu. He can spend hours on the phone with her, listening to stories and putting in his two cents. That is a gift that is worth more than any bought in a store.

So this year, the kids got a single present from people, instead of a stack. And it was perfect. We made and decorated cookies. We went sledding. We did crafts. We made Christmas ornaments. The adults had rum and eggnog, board games and visits. It was a Christmas like the ones I remembered when I was a kid. Here were my two favourite gifts:

Braeden was given money to go shopping by himself in the store. He handpicked and bought me a basket of bath stuff. He was so proud of himself! He even asked for the receipt at the end. What a big boy he is becoming.

Jordyn found my wrapping paper after Christmas, and took an entire jumbo roll and wrapped herself and several toys up. “Mommy! Present for you! Baby Jordyn is present for you!” Big mess, but so sweet.

I’m a lucky lady!

I used to bartend and serve to pay my way through my undergrad degree. I give credit to people who do this – I found serving stressful and difficult, and full of chaos of burnt meals, spilled drinks, screaming kids and hungry impatient patrons (LOL I just realized that all those things describe life as a mom! So much more enjoyable now!) When I came home at the end of long shifts, with my feet and back aching, I would still hear the buzz the bar printer made when another order was coming in. Some people sleeptalk, some sleepwalk, I sleepwork.

As a supervisor at the college, I also sleepworked whenever deadlines were adding up… I would think of all the things I needed to do, all the work left to complete, and would work through it in my mind. On particularly rough nights, I wouldn’t be sure what was a dream and what had actually been done. All I knew was that my sleep sucked because of this habit.

Well I have gone back to being a sleepworker. With papers due, work to complete, kids to take to hockey games, and cars to drop off at the shop, I am saving it all up to work through at night. I have to admit, I do come up with some great ideas while trying to sleep but in the morning, I feel like someone who… well, someone who worked all night. I have to come up with a better system.

In my all nighters and rush to get my huge paper done on time, I ended up being done early. Guess I didn’t require the all-nighters this week. Regardless, it was nice to be done and have Sunday to spend with Mike and the kids. They have been feeling the stress of me working on the paper.

Sunday morning we woke up to the first snowfall. The kids were so excited! So of course, after breakfast, we pulled out all the winter gear and spent forever trying to get everyone ready, the vehicle swept, scraped and warmed up, and the sleds found from under the piles of recycling in the garage. (Add it to the to-do list!)

When we got to the hill, there was nobody there, and the snow didn’t have one print. There was a flock of Canada geese at the lakefront, honking, and Jordyn went running down the hill shouting “Aww! Cutie geese! honk honk!” Braeden went whizzing down the hill with a shout. Last year he was nervous and careful, but this year he’s six. 🙂 We spent the next couple hours going up and down over and over. It was the best exercise I have had in awhile, as I haven’t been faithful to my treadmill in the last couple of weeks while writing my paper. By the tmime we came home for lunch, we were flushed, tired, and happy. A cup of hot chocolate and some early Christmas music to dance to in the kitchen made the day perfect. I almost didn’t do any homework.

At the end of the day, a hot bubble bath (and a stack of required readings for the week ahead) were the perfect ending. Monday, the insanity starts again. 🙂

I have always wanted to start a blog. Not that I think anyone would want to read about my crazy adventures but just to record all these memories so I can look back one day and remember… and so today, as I should be writing my paper for my MBA program with Athabasca University, I decided now was the perfect time to start. (Am I procrastinating, do you think?)

Just over a month ago, I began the executive MBA program. I knew life was busy with my two kids, but doing my Masters’ was always a goal of mine, and it seemed like as good a time as any to try it out. It is amazing – after doing an English degree (which I loved by the way) that taught me things of interest but not necessarily useful things, I am stunned by the relevance of everything I am learning. Every article I read teaches me something that I can directly apply to my life and job. It does take a fair amount of time and energy though…

That’s what I do, you know. I fill my plate to overfilling, then complain that I need to make some changes to make things less hectic… then I do cut back, and get bored and fill it right back up again. It drives my husband Mike crazy. But while Mike would say this blog is “just another thing” to add to my list, I think this is a way for me to take a moment for myself. So on that note, let me introduce you to the ‘characters’ in my life: my kids and wonderful husband.

Mike and I met through a friend. I thought he looked like Matt Damon, and he was so genuine… I had never met anyone like him. Mike is the kind of person who everyone likes. Parties are better when he’s there, and when he enters a room, everything becomes more fun. We fell in love quickly, and it has never faded. Mike and I married in 2005 and since have had two children: Braeden and Jordyn.

Braeden is my smart little scientist. He prefers reading, experiments, and making things with his “contraption kit” to playing outside, and sometimes he outsmarts Mike and I. Don’t tell him that though; he’ll use it against me. Braeden is six years old and in grade one. His project today is a book of “Prehistoric Creatures” which depicts and explains ammonites and other creatures I have never heard of. He is also the best big brother, giving everything to his sister that she possibly wants, all in return for as many hugs and kisses he can get from her.

Jordyn is our little actress. She is one and a half, and very independent. This morning, she told Mike and I that she didn’t want to use her highchair “no more.” “Chair for babies,” she said. I don’t know why she in such a rush, but she has a mission to grow up way too quickly. She loves to sing and dance, especially to Ray Charles, and especially when naked.

Like I said, life is busy for me, but so amazing. Never a dull moment in this house. And so I have started this blog to see if I have maybe this time bit off more than I can chew. 🙂

Now it’s paper time.