the thirties grind

get up, go to work, raise kids, pay bills, sleep. repeat.

Archive for the month “September, 2014”

A kick in the ball: gratitude

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I’m sitting here in my dining room with a rare hour to myself before I go to pick the kids up from school.  The rain is pouring down outside my window, which tells me summer is over and I should be getting ready to hunker down for at least 6 months of nesting.  Believe it or not, THAT sounds like heaven.

We’ve had a very eventful spring and summer.  It’s been difficult and draining.  Our family has been challenged in ways that I didn’t plan for…how could I?  Our lives were turned inside out and upside down.  But…here we are at the end…and I can’t help but feel grateful.

Two weeks ago, Dave and I went to see his oncologist.  Although we knew the chances that the chemotherapy he received did not work were very low, those old feelings of worry and uncertainty still wormed their way into the pit of my stomach.  Dave told me he was preparing himself for bad news.  He was nervous, I could tell.  I didn’t want to let him know I was feeling the same…so I smiled, held his hand and said “don’t be dumb…it’s going to be fine.  It worked.”

To make a long story short – we got good news that day.  Hell, we got the. best. news. possible.  Dave’s tumour was gone…the medicine had worked.  He was cancer free.  We laughed, we cried, we kissed, we hugged.  We rushed to get our beautiful kids and brought them straight out for ice cream.

“Remember the special medicine Daddy had to get for his cancer?”  Dave said to them as we sat outside in the late-summer sun.  “Well, it worked.  Daddy is all better.”

Asher smiled and continued to lick his cone.  I’m not sure he will ever fully understand what’s gone on in our family over the last few months.  However, Cait is a different story.  Before the words had fully parted her daddy’s lips, she had her arms thrown around his neck.  It was the kind of hug where every molecule in her being was invested.  Her eyes pursed tightly shut, her beautiful little mouth turned upwards into the most glorious of smiles.

There are moments that, as a parent, take your breath away.  This was one of them.  As I watched my husband and daughter embrace, my heart felt so incredibly full…and in that tiny moment, I realized I could feel grateful for everything that happened to us.

This doesn’t mean I don’t wish it never happened.  Why would anyone want to go through it…but when something like this happens in your family, you don’t have a way around it.  You have to go through it.  The gift at the end is getting to look back and seeing what you learned along the way.

I learned that I can’t plan for everything.  There are things in life that I will never (ever, ever, ever) have control over.  I learned to be so grateful for my own health and the health of my family.  So often, we take this for granted.  I learned that I no longer have time for bullshit…or drama, or things that make me feel less than happy in general.  I learned that I can’t do everything or please everyone…that I have to say no gracefully – and that I will feel better for doing it.

I learned that what matters most in life is my family.  Our little party of four will be forever stronger because of this experience.  It’s not something that’s tangible or necessarily apparent to someone looking in from the outside…but we know it.  We know how lucky we are compared to others who have had cancer touch their lives.  Luckier than those who have lost years of their lives to a battle, those who have lost loved ones and those who have had to look their children in the eyes to tell them that mommy or daddy isn’t going to get better.

“Dave is doing great.”  Every time I say it, I can’t help but smile.  Nevertheless, there is a little part of me that always remembers that this is not the case for everyone.  There were others who visited the same oncologist that same day and got terrible, devastating news.

Finally, I’m not entirely certain that this is, in fact, the end of this journey.  I feel like I may look back a year from now or even five years from now and realize that I have learned even more.

But, for today, I am grateful.

 

How to own a home in Vancouver and still have a life!

Yes. It IS possible.

We all know Vancouver is the most expensive city in Canada to live in. Yet, many of us still choose to make our home here. Let’s face it, from a climate and activity point of view, it’s a great place to raise a family.

Nevertheless, families have to be pretty savvy when figuring out how to afford to live in lotus land. Personally, we have had to make many sacrifices as a family in order to afford a home here. But, there are many proactive things one can do to ensure buying a house isn’t going to mean you can’t afford to ever leave it!

These are a few ways we have made sure that affording our home in Vancouver doesn’t prohibit us from enjoying life in the city we live in.

Get outside

Vancouver has SO much to offer as soon as you step outside your front door…and so much of it is completely free! We go for bike rides, walks on local trails, swimming at the beach, attend free outdoor concerts…the options are really endless. You don’t have to spend a lot of money in order to have fun here.

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Our kids don’t need us to venture very far to find some outdoor fun!

Staycation

Owning a home in Vancouver has meant that we cannot take a lot of extravagant holidays. Yet, we still manage to get away at least once a year. This is because the rest of the time we do our best to enjoy local attractions. We’ve visited Harrison Hot Springs, Whistler, Parksville and Birch Bay regularly. These destinations are right in our backyard and are very inexpensive to get away to for a fun-filled family weekend.

This summer we went on a few local camping trips.  In BC, this is a relatively inexpensive way to vacation!

This summer we went on a few local camping trips. In BC, this is a relatively inexpensive way to vacation!

Limit big purchases

We have had to accept that we will never be a “toy” family. No sports car for my husband, no endless supply of designer shoes and handbags for me, no truckloads of toys for our kids. We have embraced living within our means and, in all honesty, it feels pretty good to know we’re teaching our kids that material things aren’t all that matter in life. We are a one car family (aside from my husband’s work truck). I ride my bike to work and the kids walk to school…not having to commute also saves us money, which can instead be used to pay down our mortgage.

DIY

Our house is over 100 years old. When we came to see it when it was for sale, there was a TON of other people looking at it. However, most of them were scared off by what were really easy cosmetic fixes. We didn’t need to do huge renovations to our home to make it livable…we kept a strict budget and were able to create a space that we love spending time in and where we enjoy welcoming family and friends. A little paint, some elbow grease and the ability to see potential is really what it took.

I've decorated my home with lots of old pieces that I have personally restored...designer look for a fraction of the price!

I’ve decorated my home with lots of old pieces that I have personally restored…designer look for a fraction of the price!

 

Use points

By taking advantage of reward programs, we are able to accumulate points, which can be used towards fun purchases for the family. The President’s Choice Financial MasterCard has been my go-to. I’m sneaky, though, and use my points to purchase Christmas presents, which allows me to put more money in the bank – towards our home.

I also recently discovered PC Financial offers PC points on some of their mortgages. Currently, you can earn up to 2,500 PC points for every full $1,000 of your total mortgage balance once approved, which on a $400,000 mortgage can add up to 1,000,000 PC points. The points can be redeemed at participating stores where President’s Choice products are sold, for items ranging from groceries to Joe Fresh fashions. Pretty amazing, right?

So you see, while crazy expensive, if you can afford to own a home in Vancouver, it doesn’t have to mean that you give up your life. There are so many ways to cut corners…you won’t even notice…I promise!

PCF_LOGO_NEW_REDb_073113To learn more about PC Financial Mortgages, visit an in-store PC Financial pavilion or visit pcfinancial.ca/home

Disclosure: I am a PC Financial Ambassador and have received compensation for this post. However, I am truly a loyal PC Financial customer and all opinions expressed are my own.

City of Vancouver bylaw amendments are going to make renovating homes here even more complicated.

As if it’s not hard enough to own a home here, Vancouverites are about to get another kick in the proverbial crotch.

Come 2015, Gregor and his buddies at City Hall will be implementing new bylaws that will (even further) restrict the aesthetic and structural changes homeowners can make.  Additions to the building code include a TON of requirements that are apparently supposed to enhance the accessibility of homes for the disabled as well as make them more energy efficient.

Well, great.  Who isn’t for making sure disabled citizens can access and comfortably live in homes?  Who isn’t for ensuring that homes are engery efficient?  I would say most people would agree that these are good things.  However, when you consider the costs involved in building to the codes that are going to be implemented, suddenly, it doesn’t seem so great.  It seems, well, absurd.

Once the code is implemented, a major renovation of a single– or two-family house will trigger a review of guardrail safety and width of staircases. Assuming it’s a drafty old house, a major renovation may also require building envelope air sealing and upgrades to the thickness of walls and attic to meet energy efficiency requirements.  – The Globe and Mail

Guess who is going to be happy with this, though?  Developers.  That’s who.  Once people realize that buying a less expensive, older home in Vancouver (with the intention of renovating it), is going to be VERY complicated and expensive, more and more families will pass on this option.  Enter developers who will snap up these older homes, demolish them and build brand new, characterless boxes targeted to sell to the wealthy individuals who can afford them.  Yes, yes…this is how a free market based on supply and demand works.  However, in this case, it is helped along by bogus legislation that will make it next to impossible for people to do what generations have been doing for years and years before them.  Buy a fixer upper and (say what?) FIX IT UP!

Call me crazy, but this seems like a easy way to line City Hall’s pockets and a stealth move by Gregor & Co. to stay in the good books with their campaign funders.

What say you?

Snacks solved: WIN a gnubees snack pack (#SimplyHealthyKids)

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The good news?  Looks like school will be back in session next week.  The bad news?  For this mama, it’s figuring out what to pack in my children’s lunch bags.  Of course I have my go to items: fruit, muffins, cut up veggies…but sometimes I’m pressed for time I just want to pack something that’s easy.  Trouble is, most of the time that “something easy” is utter garbage.  Granola bars – full of sugar.  Yogurt tubes – full of sugar.  Bags of chips – high in sodium.  Even items that say they are “natural and healthy” really aren’t.

Bottom line: most convenience snacks are really not very good for you.  Enter gnubees.

IMG_7683Balanced. Fresh.  Local.

gnubees is a nutritional beverage for children, crafted to deliver delicious and balanced nutrition in a convenient, environmentally friendly way.  Here’s the down low:

  • 100% non-GMO, nut free and Kosher Certified
  • Made fresh locally in Vancouver in small, environmentally-friendly craft batches
  • Nutritionally balanced.  Each pouch contains 15% of all recommended vitamins and minerals PLUS 7 grams of protein and 5 grams of fibre
  • Each serving contains 9 amino acids that children require for development

Best of all, gnubees taste yummy!  My kids enjoyed sipping them while we were on the go (Mama was thankful in the car for the spill-proof cap)…the packaging is easy to open and close, so that if little ones can’t finish the whole thing, it can be put away for later.

Enter to win!

I’m teaming up with GnuSante, the creators of gnubees to give away a month’s supply of gnubees pouches (value $95)…snacks for an entire month that you know are healthy, fresh and local.  Snack solved.

To enter to win, leave a comment on this post telling me what you find most difficult about packing lunch for your kids.  For extra entries, follow the directions in the Rafflecopter form below.  Follow #SimplyHealthyKids on Twitter or visit the GnuSante website for even MORE chances to win!

 

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Hallelujah! BC Teachers Strike comes to an end, but what can parents expect?

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All going well, BC’s teachers will be off picket lines and back in classrooms starting Monday.

I woke up this morning and did what I’ve been doing almost every morning for the last 3 months.  I rolled over and checked my twitter news feed for any updates on the seemingly never ending BC Teachers strike.  However, this morning was different.  Instead of learning of no further updates or reading about ridiculous PR stunts by either side, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that an agreement between the notoriously opposed sides had been reached.

Hallelujah!

It would seem that veteran mediator, Vince Ready, worked his magic and (miracle upon miracles) was able to get the two sides to hammer out a tentative agreement.  When I told my kids the news they were overjoyed.  I never thought I would see so much excitement about going back to school.  If I’m being honest, though, I think I was the happiest person in my home.  Although we haven’t been hugely inconvenienced by the strike (I work part time and my husband is self-employed so we’re flexible), not being able to get back into a regular routine compounded with the fact that we had no real sense of when this was going to end, made for a VERY perturbed mama.

Now we can at least take solace in the fact that schools should be back open by Monday at the latest…save for some districts (i.e. Surrey) who are supposed to have a Pro-D day (WTF?).

So..there’s a deal.  But, what does it mean?

Rumor has it that this will be a six year deal, retroactive to last year.  This means it’s set to expire in 2017.  I would take this to mean that we should have some smoothe sailing in our public school system for at least the next five years.  That’s good news, so long as the two sides take this next three years to actually make improvements and address the issues like class size and composition.  What makes me nervous, as a parent, is if they don’t.  If no effort is made to improve classroom conditions, I fear we may end up back in the same situation in 2019.

The contentious E80 clause has, reportedly, been dropped.  However, if the government wins it’s appeal to the Griffin ruling in October, what will this mean?

Finally, how is this school year going to look with three weeks of instruction missed due to the BC Teachers strike?  Will that time be made up?

All in all, I am relieved and happy to learn that my kids will be starting school next week and we can move on from this.

How are you feeling?

BC Teachers Strike: understanding E80

As the BC Teachers Strike drags on (and on, and on, and on) and the two parties seem to be at logger heads with each other, we keep hearing about E80.  The government wants to keep this clause in its proposed settlement and the teachers want it out.

But what, exactly, is E80?  I’ve been keeping my ears perked for balanced reporting on this and have compiled below some news items that I feel that address E80 in a balanced and fair way.  I’m hoping this can help you understand what the clause is and why it has become so contentious.

http://globalnews.ca/video/embed/1554649/

 

“The teachers are of the view that this would eliminate on their ability to rely on [the court] decision. It’s the government’s view, and I think there’s some weight to this, that the impact of court decision was class size and composition was always a matter for good faith negotiation and they can’t escape that.”former Crown Prosecutor, Sandy Garrosino

E80: what lawyer Joel Bakan has to say

In effect, as Baken stated on CKNW this morning, the teachers agreeing to E80 would be like someone going into a property sale while there is a court case determining zoning issues on the land:

“One cannot, for example, effectively negotiate a sale of land if the crucial legal issues concerning that land – such as zoning and permitted uses – are uncertain, or pending a court decision.”
Joel Bakan

The Griffin ruling, put language back into the contract that gives the union more say over classroom staffing levels and size.

E80 sets out the BCPSEA’s proposal on these issues. At the very end, it reads: “these provisions supersede and replace all previous Articles that addressed class size, composition and staffing levels.”

In essence, as Vince Ready put it, E80 is the government’s way of “negotiating it’s way out” of the Supreme Court case.

 

My ben & Me entryway transformation

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When we first purchased our home, six years ago, we had the entire place repainted. We went with a very muted grey throughout, which was great for keeping with an airy, clean feel throughout the home. However, over the last few months I’ve been itching to change things up a bit…and what better place to begin than our entryway.

I was so excited to work on this collaboration with Benjamin Moore. I have been using their paint for years as I know it’s the highest quality in the industry. Now, they’ve made things even easier! Whether you’re a new homeowner looking to make your place your own, or someone like me who is wanting to change things up, the new ben & ME bag contains everything you need to easily transform any space in your home.

ben&ME BagGetting Started

My least favourite part of painting is the prep work. UGH! However, the ben & ME bag made things pretty simple as it not only contained all the tools I needed, but also a few bonus extras that made the job even easier. Each kit contains:

  • 2 gallons of premium paint with 1 quart for trim
  • Sleeve roller, paintbrush, paint tray, drop cloth, paint can opener and green painters tape
  • How-To Guide and even a playlist to keep you on a roll!

Before I got started, I read through the How-To guide. Although I’ve painted my fair share of rooms, I still learned some new tricks of the trade…like when you’re rolling on the paint to use a “W” motion…which helps to spread the paint around more evenly.

I always spend lots of painstaking time taping edges. Nevertheless, I still always manage to get paint seeping through, leaving marks I have to fix up later on my walls or baseboards. The #BenHelp tip: seal the tapes edges using friction by running your finger along the edge. Worked like a charm!

The finished product

Once I had painted the space, I couldn’t resist accessorizing it. As some of you know, I am OBSESSED with yellow…and have incorporated it around many places in my home. I thought cheery yellow accessories would go wonderfully with my new, dramatic, darker walls.

Can’t wait to hear what you think!

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Paint colours: Trout Grey (eggshell – walls) and Decorator’s White (semigloss – trim)
Photo credits: Images by Bethany

Do it yourself!

Head to your local Benjamin Moore Signature store or visit the ben & Me website to get your own ben & ME kit for only $109* at a value of $169! But hurry, they’re only being offered until October 5th, 2014!

You can also get some inspiration from the pros and other DIY-ers! Join Sheblogs Canada for the ben & ME Twitter Party on September 11th from 7pm-8pm EST. RSVP here: http://bit.ly/TwitRSVP


 

BenjaminMooreLogoDisclaimer: Although this post has been generously sponsored by Benjamin Moore, the opinions and language are all my own, and in no way do they reflect Benjamin Moore
*With a qualifying purchase of two cans of 3.79 l ben® interior flat K625, eggshell K626 or semi-gloss K627 and one can of 946 ml ben® interior semi-gloss K627 for $109.00 suggested retail price, receive a FREE ben® & Me tote and painting kit at participating dealers. Limit one (1) per customer. While supplies last. No substitutions. Qualifying purchases must be made in single transaction. Actual price will be determined by dealer at checkout. Offer cannot be combined with other offers, discounts or promotions, or applied toward prior purchases. Offer valid August 25, 2014 – October 5, 2014. See your local participating dealer for details. Void where prohibited.

 

Motherhood, like a BOSS: Leading Moms, 2014

Big boxI’m a mom.  I’m a business person.  I used to think that these two worlds should never collide.  I was SO wrong.

Being a mother has taught me enormous lessons about life.  I have become a better listener, a more patient co-worker, an incredible multi-tasker…the list goes on.  Motherhood doesn’t have to stunt your career aspirations, in fact, it can ENHANCE them!

On September 26, 2014, VancouverMom.ca, Entrepreneur Mom Now, and JellyBeen will be hosting the third annual Leading MomsBe among an audience of other moms in a day filled with stories from mothers making a difference in the arts, business, health, media, politics and more. You’ll hear about their personal journeys in motherhood through a mix of performance, video and intimate talks delivered straight from the heart.

Speakers include:

  • Tamara Taggart, Award-Winning Broadcaster
  • Andrea Thomas Hill, Founder of Cause We Care
  • Marnie Goldenberg, Sex Educator
  • Keri-Anne Livingstone, Certified Professional Coach
  • Louise Green, Founder of Body Exchange
  • Michele Kambolis, Mental Health Expert
  • Madeleine Shaw, Co-Founder of Lunapads
  • Jen Schaeffers, Executive Director of CKNW Orphans’ Fund
  • Comfort Ero, Master Storyteller

I had the absolute pleasure of attending the first ever Leading Moms event in 2012. What I was looking forward to most was hearing from other moms who are raising families, juggling work and living their dreams. I was not let down.

Get tickets!

You can still get tickets to this year’s event.  Use the code lmfriends to get a 15% discount on your ticket here.  Join me!  You won’t be disappointed.

There was a farmer had a dog…#datenightremix

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Well, we’ve been away and now we’re back and date night is still a priority!  Before we took off for Europe, it was my turn to plan our evening out sans offspring.

I’ve always wanted to hit up the Planet Bingo on Main Street!  If nothing else, I figured it would be fascinating people watching.  So…off Dave and I went to buy some bingo books and dabbers.  One book was $5, so a $10 investment for what was sure to be an hour or more of fun, right?

Wrong…I couldn’t have been MORE wrong.  Ugh.  Planet Bingo was depressing.  I got the feeling many people there were playing for rent money…or playing with their rent money.  These people meant business…the numbers were called so quickly that we could barely keep up.  furthermore, the people were so serious about their game that we were “sushed” a few times.  Suppressing our giggles, we managed to get through our book of games.  All in all we were there for less than half an hour.

Oh…and we didn’t win a penny.

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Losers.

Ah well, it made for some fun dinner conversation afterwards!

My mornings have become a nightmare…

Love this sleepy little face...but not a fan of the exorcism that has to happen to get it out of bed.

Love this sleepy little face…but I’m not a fan of the exorcism that has to happen to get it out of bed.

Many of us have had our summer break extended this year due to the ongoing dispute between the BC Teachers and our government.  I, for one, was really looking forward to getting back into some kind of routine.  Summer in our house is fairly lucy-goosey.  The kids sleep in, we don’t rush around for much and bedtime is really non-existant.  However, regardless of whether school is in or not, I am now ready for my kids to get back to waking up at a reasonable time, getting themselves dressed, eating a healthy breakfast and getting on with the day.

Tell me I’m not alone

The problem is, over the last week, getting our household up and out the door has become a HUGE pain in the ass.  It’s like my children have forgotten how to rise and shine with any kind of grace.  They are grumpy, uncooperative, sassy and just plain mean.  I go from June Cleaver to Godzilla in the space of fifteen minutes just trying to get my kids out from under their covers.  I’ve been yelled at, kicked, called names and had the door slammed in my face more than once.

What to do, what to do?

I asked my BFF, Google, how I can do a better job of waking my kids up in the morning.  Suggestions included resetting bedtime (not possible…my kids don’t go to bed late as it is), initiating a reward system (forget it, I’m sick of bribing my kids into good behaviour), setting an alarm (duh, already doing this…they know how to turn it off and go back to sleep) and, my personal favourite, wearing special “melatonin enducing glasses” half an hour before bedtime (WTF?).

Much like the book “Go the F*%k to Sleep”, I want my kids to “Wake the F*%k Up!”… even though we don’t have school right now, I still have to go to work and get them to their care for the day!

Help me!  How can I make mornings less of a nightmare?  What do you do when waking kids up in the morning?

 

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