School's out for summer

It’s our first official school-year summer vacation! And it’s a summer that looks unlike any we’ve ever had before.

It’s our first official school-year summer vacation! And it’s a summer that looks unlike any we’ve ever had before.

It’s the Monday-est Tuesday ever but I’m not complaining. But I am panicking, just a little. It’s the first official day of summer vacation. The weekend and the Holiday Monday didn’t count, because that was a regular long weekend holiday.  Now it’s Tuesday and for the first time in 10 months the girls are out of school. It’s our first official school-year summer vacation! And it’s a summer that looks unlike any we’ve ever had before. 

Sure, I’ve been freelancing year-round, but this is the most freelancing I’ve ever done, and I’m doing a lot of it. Far too much too balance at the same time as the kids, my mental sanity, and the safety of my children. The past six summers, I’ve been home with the girls and freelancing on the side and it’s been manageable. Awesome, actually. Summers are the best part of stay-at-home parenting, if you ask me. Basically living in the backyard, beach days, day trips. It’s helped to have some teacher friends with kids who are off and friends on maternity leave. But that amazing season of life has passed, which makes me a little sad...the days are long and the years are short, or so they say. But I’m working - writing! - and it feels good. And I’m super grateful with what we have arranged for this summer. 

Because she’ll be starting pre-primary in September, we wrapped up Rosie’s full-time journey at pre-school. If Anna is going to be home from school, Rosie might as well be here with her. Plus  my rate is way cheaper than pre-school. Actually I guess it’s exactly the same. Instead of paying for her to attend, I’ll keep her home and the money in the bank! Shame the standard of care will decline. jk, jk. Kind of. The grandparents have ever so graciously offered to help out this summer. Between two days with my parents and one day per week with my MIL, I’ll be able to work full-time three days a week, rather than five days just during school hours. I’m confident I can get the same amount of work done with longer, uninterrupted work days and by adding an evening, weekend, or extra babysitting here and there when needed. 

I’m happy the girls will get some time with their grandparents, time with me, time for playdates, and time to be bored. Anna’s in a couple different weeks of day camp to give her something adventurous to do with some friends. Rosie’s still too young. But I’m still looking at three solid days to work and two days off to spend time with the girls, lapping up the summer. It’s the best of both worlds and a balance I am looking forward too. (Please check in on me in a few weeks. These could be famous last words). But hold on. I am actually lol-ing at myself right now as I re-read what I just typed. Rewind to “two days off to spend time with the girls.” HA HA HA. Reality check. These won’t be days OFF. These will be days filled with endless sunscreen applications, constant snack and meal prep, cleaning up, struggles to get out the door, sibling fights, whining, threats, and tears. Probably mine. Matt’s predicting it will be  2pm on our first day at home when he will receive my “I’m done” text. Give me some credit. I’ll at least make it to 4p.m! Hopefully our days together will also be filled with swimming, beach days, ice cream, playgrounds, water fights, and reading stacks of books. 

At the end of the day…there’s always wine.

At the end of the day…there’s always wine.

My thought/hope/prayers are that if I’ve handled the kids five days a week in the past, two days a week will be a breeze. Especially being granted three whole days to do my own grown up thing. The key will be to stay on top of my work so I can focus on my days with the girls, which will be a challenge. While flexible, the freelance life is unpredictable. And stressful. Sometime’s sources can only talk on certain days at certain times. Sometimes opportunities will pop up, deadlines will loom. So I’m going into this summer with an open mind to go with the flow and try not to stress. It’s summer vacation for my kids but I need to be the most organized I’ve ever been to make this work. So yes, it’s already Tuesday and omg it’s already Tuesday?! I have deadlines to meet! See? Already panicked. But at the end of the day...there’s always wine.  All of the wine.

Based on how insanely fast the school year went, I believe summer’s going to go by in the blink of an eye. So to all the work at home parents balancing your kids summer vacation, I salute you. May the odds be ever in your favour. May the force be with you. I’m here with you (lunch date anyone? Kidding. Nobody’s got time for that!).  I don’t know about you but I’ve already booked a very important vacation day for myself. It’s called the first day of school and it’s going to be all mine! From 9-3pm, anyway.


Run, run away

Last Saturday, my kids participated in the Youth Running Series third run (of ten) of the season, The Aerobics First Gorsebrook Hill Run. Rosie and I did the u6 500m run together. Anna and her girl gang took on 1km, up and down hills. Rosie was very serious and ran with perfect form. Anna crossed the finish line with a huge smile on her face. I’m so proud of these little runners.

On Wednesday it was Global Running Day. I attended a celebration of Kids Run Club at Anna’s school. Olympian Adrienne Power was there. I got dragged into running  enthusiastically ran laps of the field with the school.

Tomorrow, the girls are participating in the Doctor’s NS Youth Run as part of the Bluenose Marathon. And they are SO excited.

Matt’s lucky. He can set out on a 10k run at anytime, no matter how long it’s been. Sure, some runs may be sweatier than others, but as a former athlete he’s still got the stamina to push the limits and just take off for a run. Me, I had to take a breather after one lap of the school field!

Awhile back I got super into fitness for a very short time and was feeling really good. Jillian Michaels’ 30 day Shred, Slim 60 and Bangin’ Bikini Bod ;) for the win. Well, almost. I completed all these programs, more than once, working out daily from my living room. Then totally fell off the wagon.

I’ve wanted to do Jillian Michaels’ ‘learn-to-run 5k in eight weeks’ program next. I’ve been thinking about it for a very long time. Thinking about it is not good enough. After working on a recent article for The Herald, I realize I’m not even at the baseline for physical activity and it’s not cool. Vigorous activity, thirty minutes a day, five days a week, plus some strength training? Minimum? Gulp.

Matt and I agree, we want to be an active and fit family. We love spending a ton of time outdoors. A weekend hike with the dog is great, but it’s not enough. Time to start modelling some active behaviour because right now, the roles are reversed.

Sadly, my days of chasing toddlers around are behind me. Now that was some good cardio. But I’m back to a regular desk job. I barely even get to leave my house for work! The living room workouts aren’t going to cut it anymore. I live here, I work here, I don’t want to work out here too.

So now that summer weather is FINALLY here, where better than the great outdoors? We live near an amazing trail. I can steal some time to myself, outside. My feet are itchy. It’s time to get moving. Maybe I will give it a try. Maybe I’ll hate it. In Jr. High, My best friend and I tried to join the cross country club. We ran one lap of the field, straight out the gates and never looked back! Hopefully this goes better than that.

Are we going to become a running family? Stay tuned...

I wrote a fitness primer for The Chronicle Herald: Go your own pace, but go . Check it out!


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Once upon a time

Being a freelance writer kind of feels like being Goldilocks. First there is no work, then there is too much work, then the work is just right.

Or first the work is easy. One week the words are flowing from my fingers and I’m filing stories like a boss. The next week I’m in over my head. I get stuck on a piece and can’t work through it. The assignments start to pile up behind me and soon everything’s tied up. Panic sets in. I move on to something else and then yet something else grabs my attention. Suddenly I’m switching back and forth between three totally unrelated topics. A search for long lost family (not mine), the profile of a labour doula with an exciting business, and interior design tips from the excerpts all swirling around in my head together, a massive jumble, the pressure mounting until I have no choice but to summon my mental strength and turn down the noise. Take a deep breath and take control. Or else miss the deadlines and potentially the pay checks. No chance.

That’s what happened last week (smooth sailing) and this week (troubled waters).  So I spent a very late night working through the first problem. I was not letting myself go to bed until I sorted out the story. Outlines, bullet points, and 5 drafts later and it physically felt like a weight had been lifted off my chest. Then it was like the floodgates opened. The next story poured out naturally and I was soon on to the next. Back in business.

Finally the work feels just right... until I have to start filling up my cold empty plate again, until it’s too hot to handle and I’ll have to make things just right.

A few recent articles:

Stay tuned for articles on sea glass art, fitness 101, a long lost family found, interior design tips and the profile of a labour doula with a unique business.

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My top 5 tips to working from home

When your meeting gets cancelled & you’re all dressed up with nowhere to go! #wherearemyslippers

When your meeting gets cancelled & you’re all dressed up with nowhere to go! #wherearemyslippers

I have experience working from home. I spent a year working from my condo as Associate Editor of Lifestyle Nova Scotia magazine. Yes, there were lots of meetings and interviews but also long stretches of writing and editing, many times straight through the wee hours of the morning. I can remember my husband coming home from a long day at the office ready to netflix & chill (before netflix & chill was a thing) and me feeling ready to go out and do something - anything - beyond those four walls.

I worked full-time in a very casual office for 5 years, and was often the only one there since my only co-worker was part-time, so I basically treated it like working from home. Especially since for most of those years, the office was just a 10-minute down the street.

And I spent 5 years at home full-time with my kids, though I was the stay-at-home mom who never stayed home. That was the key to survival! I also did some freelance at the same time, and home was my full-time head quarters.

There are lots of pros and cons, so I thought it would be fun to share 5 quicks tips I use to make the most of my freelance life working from home.

1. Get ready

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I work from home but I still get up, shower, get dressed, style my hair and put on makeup. This energizes me, helps me feel professional and makes me a lot more productive. Like they say, dress for the job you want and I don’t want to be a yoga instructor or feel like a couch potato. Of course some days I take full advantage if it makes me feel more comfortable. Working from home allows me to take casual Friday to a whole new level!

2. Ten-second tidy

I’ve been working from the kitchen table, though sometimes I get really crazy and move to the bar at the counter. (Yes, I have a lovely home office space in the attic but it needs some TLC that I haven’t made time for, though now that I have more time to work and a steadier workload I am going to set myself up there so I don’t have put my “office” away every night, and I’m not living out of my kitchen 10 hours a day). But each morning once everyone is gone I do a ten-second tidy (ok it’s more like 5 minutes) to straighten up the space surrounding me. Breakfast dishes cleaned up, random junk shoved into the junk drawer and strewn toys back in their baskets. Sorry clutter, it’s not you, it’s me and I can’t work with you around.

The view in front of me. Nothing out of place.

The view in front of me. Nothing out of place.

The view behind me. Zen. but i think the table needs some tulips!

The view behind me. Zen. but i think the table needs some tulips!

3. Stay focused.

Yes, there are great perks to working from home like being able to switch over the laundry or get dinner going early, but I try not to get caught up in getting caught up on home life. That’s not what I’m home for. It’s hard when you can physically see the floor needs sweeping or the sun streaming in the windows showcases all.of.the.dust but it has to wait. Unless my procrastination game is feeling strong…  and I don’t turn the tv. on. Ever. That would be game over!


4. Get out

The best advice I received when I embarked on my first maternity leave was to “get out of the house at least once every single day, even if it’s just to check the mail.” It was my prenatal yoga instructor who said it and I took it very seriously.  Anyone with a baby, especially a new baby, knows just how long it takes to leave the house (like, I’m talking sometimes 2 hours in the beginning!) and whether it was to attend a class, go for a walk, grab a coffee or just check the mail, I got out every day. I pass this one piece of unsolicited advice on all the time because it was so good for the mind. The same applies to my work-at-home life. I do have to leave the house everyday on school runs, but I’ve also joined a networking group that meets regularly, schedule lunch dates and meetings out of the house and when I need a break or change of scene I’ll go check the mail, take a short walk or hit up a local coffee shop for a work session.

5. Take advantage

Hey, I’m not silly. I didn’t set life up this way to be strict and rigid and all work and no play. The major perk to freelance life, in my opinion, is the flexibility. I determine my workload, my own schedule, my office hours and vacation time. This is not always easy. I need to find all my own work and am hustling all.the.time and there’s no chit chatting around the water cooler. But I’m chaperoning my daughter’s field trip tomorrow, I can book a few days mid-week to getaway to PEI this summer without requesting vacation time, and I can work all night if I want to take the day off instead. Plus, it’s wine o’clock when I say it’s wine o’clock!

Bonus: office dog!

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My daughter's potty mouth

Yes, yes she is a Rebel Girl!

Yes, yes she is a Rebel Girl!

Stick with me to the end, this is a good one.

Over March break, both girls were excited to head back to the library program we used to attend on a regular basis. I pulled into the parkade and parked in the same spot I always do. As I hopped out of the car I grabbed my parking ticket, thinking to myself, ‘don’t want to lose this again!’ I had misplaced my ticket once before and had to pay a $20 lost ticket fee to get out of the parking lot! I hadn’t had time that day to try and find the ticket because I was en route to pick up a kid from camp.

This time, I forgot that I actually started leaving the tickets safely in the car and paying at the exit with my credit card, as you can do, rather than the ticket machine at the door. Nonetheless, ticket safely tucked in my coat pocket, I got both girls out of the backseat, switching their rain boots to sneakers, arranging snacks back into the bags I had packed only 15 minutes earlier when leaving the house but of course they got into them, balancing my coffee mug and negotiating to “PLEASE leave the umbrellas in the car, we aren’t even going outside.”

Finally, as I went to walk away from the car with the girls, I patted my pocket for the ticket one last time and it wasn’t there. It wasn’t anywhere. I couldn’t find it. It had vanished into thin air. Not in my coat pockets, not in my bag, not in the kid backpack, not between the seats of the car, not on the ground, not anywhere.

The overhead announcement chimed in announcing the children’s program was about to start. We weren’t on time anymore, dammit. I dragged the kids over to the ticket machine at the entrance and buzzed for help. “Hi, yes, I JUST got here and have already lost my parking ticket. Can you issue me a new one so I can get out later?” The crackly voice on the line informed me to press the “lost ticket” button. “But that will cost me $20.” She informed me that was the only way to get out. “Seriously? But I JUST got here. I JUST parked. I need a ticket to get out in 45 minutes.” The lady claimed there was nothing she could do to help but kindly suggested I “take time and look for the ticket.” $#%^@. I kindly informed her that yes, I’d looked. Everywhere. That this was ridiculous and then I huffed away, not wanting to miss anymore time at the program I was now paying $20 for, rather than the $2 fee for parking for one hour.

While the girls played, sang and danced around under the guidance of the librarian, I sat crankily texting my husband about the ridiculousness of that system, which I was not trying to cheat. I wasn’t even trying to get out for free. I was willing to pay for my time parked. I knew it wasn’t the library’s fault, nor could they help me since the parkade is managed by an independent company called Indigo. Matt decided to call them and question the absurdity of the situation. After arguing their every point (they actually have no way of reviewing camera footage to see when cars come or go, and she even admitted they can’t see the license plates on the vehicles. So what’s the point of the cameras?), the woman finally gave in and said someone would call me to meet at the exit to let me out without my ticket. Hurrah! Finally some common sense.

Indeed, a parking attendant did meet me at the exit with a new ticket for a total of $2, as it should have been. Yes, it was a bit of a fuss but it was the principal of the matter and well, $20 is $20!  

Now for the best part of the story. Fast forward to about 5p.m. when we finally arrive home from a busy day about town. The girls run inside and as usual I’m left to carry in all the items accumulated and expanded over the backseat of the car throughout the day. I picked up a discarded rain boot, still left on the car floor from the morning, and there was the parking ticket! It was stuck to the bottom of the boot.

“You’ll never believe what I just found!” I exclaimed to Anna, the five-year-old, once I caught up inside. She stands there gaping at the ticket in my hand and replies, “Let me say it. Just let me say it. I need to say it!” I am perplexed and she continues with a big, booming, “Bullshit!”  

I can’t even get mad. I burst out laughing. She was absolutely right.