Posted by: Maureen | October 1, 2013 | No Comments
Our kids are 13, 10, 8, and 3. Other than an RESP Tom’s parent’s have for them, we haven’t done a whole lot of saving for their education, and that kind of freaks me out. Combined, there are a whole lot of college/university years ahead of us!
Sure, I have talked to people about what I should be doing, and I have thought about it even more… usually at 3am when my brain does that fun internal conversation about everything I should be doing, that I’m not. I should eat better, work out more, spend less, and (of course) save more.
So what’s holding me back? Well, chocolate had something to do with the eating part, but not feeling I could contribute enough was the saving part. Then I realized, like anything in life, every little bit counts. I started looking at saving in a different light. I started calculating time instead of money. If I got up 15 minutes earlier, I could make myself a cup of tea and grab some granola instead of going to the drive-thru (Put that extra $5 in the pot). If I got up half an hour earlier, I could pack myself a lunch, more money in the pot.
I’m not unrealistic enough to think I will do that every day, but even twice a week would mean an extra $10. So now I am looking at putting $40 a month into that RESP. Doesn’t sound like very much, but I’m way ahead of the people who haven’t started yet.
Add to that the money that the government will add – when else will they GIVE you money? The government’s Canada Education Savings Grant program. or CESG, matches 20% on the first $2,500 contributed annually to an RESP. The maximum total CESG the government will give, up to age 18, is $7,200 per beneficiary. We’re talking FREE money here, people. You can’t afford not to take advantage of that!
I know, I know, you’ve got tonnes of bills and expenses already. I totally get it, this is just one more thing you need to remember to do. Except you don’t. With RESP-matic, RBC is going to make this whole RESP thing super easy for you. You pick an amount, you pick the frequency. Let’s say $5 a week, or $50 a month, maybe $200 a year, it’s up to you. You can put in as little or as much as you want, as often as you want, and it’s automatically debited from your account. You don’t have to remember to do anything, and the funds will be transferred before you’ve thought about how you could use them to buy that venti half-sweet, skinny, mocha- frappacino with whip that would totally break your diet anyway.
Disclosure: I am part of the RBC RESP blogger program with Mom Central Canada and I receive special perks as part of my affiliation with this group. The opinions on this blog are my own.
Posted by: Maureen | September 5, 2013 | No Comments
Remember when you were a kid, and your parents would get a new appliance, how much fun it was to make the box into something cool? I remember when my parents got a new fridge, my friends and I thought we had hit the mother load! A box that big can be anything from a fort to a bus to a rocket ship. We played in that box until it fell apart at the seams.
Even in this day of high tech and digital everything, not much has changed on this front, a box is still considered the best toy ever. We recently purchased a new water cooler, and I am happy to report that it was promptly converted into a rocket ship for my three year old, Siobhan.
Her big sister, Rebecca, and I even made a super cool control panel out of an old shoe box.
Siobhan was entertained for hours by her old school box rocket, but in the end she made some modifications that brought it a little more up to date; she installed the high tech iPad control panel instead. This modern addition brought her rocket to new levels!
Honey Nut Cheerios have made their own modifications to their old school favourite too. We were lucky enough to try the brand new Honey Nut Cheerios Hearty Oat Crunch cereal from General Mills, and much like the box rocket, it was a huge hit!
Don’t worry, Honey Nut Cheerios Hearty Oat Crunch keeps the integrity of the old school cereal you love, but adds in the extra benefit of crispy oat flakes and delicious nut clusters. If you liked the original Honey Nut Cheerios, you are going to love Hearty Oat Crunch!
I bet the cereal box would make a great iPad cover.
Disclosure – I am participating in the Honey Nut Cheerios Hearty Oat Crunch Blogger Campaign by Mom Central Canada on behalf of General Mills, and received compensation as a thank you for participating and for sharing my honest opinion. The opinions on this blog are my own
Posted by: Maureen | July 26, 2013 | No Comments
Growing up, there weren’t a lot of rules in our house. We could come and go as we pleased, we could eat what we wanted, and we could eat it wherever we wanted… not so in my house now. Because of that, my kids think it’s super cool to eat in the tv room, so when I was asked to write about A Turtle’s Tale 2 – Sammy Escapes from Paradise! I knew exactly what I was going to do… dinner and a movie!
To get the kids in the mood, I bought some chocolate molds and some colourful chocolate, and had them each make their own turtle and sea shell chocolates. It was super messy, and there was lots of finger licking going on.
While they were doing that, I made a huge tray of nachos to be eaten… in the tv room, while we watched the movie. I may get nominated for mom of the year for this.
I thought maybe I would play on the water theme of the movie, and I got them some inflatable mattresses from the dollar store. They made for a comfy place to sit, and also kept greasy fingers off my couch… sneaky, I know.
Once the movie started, the kids were fully engaged.
The bold, colourful graphics, and some very colourful characters had them interested from the get-go. If you have seen the first Turtle Tale movie (available on Netflicks), you will recognize some of the characters, but it is in no way a prerequisite for this film.
Sammy, now a grandpa, and his friend Ray get taken from their home to be eye candy in a lavish underwater aquarium restaurant, but nothing will keep them from getting back to their loved ones. With help from their grandkids and some unlikely friends, Sammy and Ray devise a plan to escape. Follow along as these turtles go on a crazy journey and see if they can out smart the people who have them trapped.
While this movie is geared towards kids between the ages of 3 – 10, even my teen daughter enjoyed it, as did I.
Here is what my kids had to say:
“The characters are cute, and the bad guys aren’t too scary, so little kids won’t be scared.” ~ Eleanor 13
“It was pretty funny, I liked the lobster.” ~ Ethan 10
“It’s a good story, and the characters are fun.” ~ Rebecca 8
“Can we watch more turtles, mommy?” ~ Siobhan 3
Siobhan also chanted “Go turtles, go!” at a particularly exciting part.
I have to mention also, the soundtrack for this movie is fantastic. I was dancing in my seat from time to time, and the kids bopped along to Rock Lobster since they recognized it from their Just Dance video game.
Remember the chocolates the kids made? Once the nachos were demolished, turtle/sea shell chocolates were served with gummies shaped like dolphins and frogs.
All-in-all, it was a very successful movie night.
You can watch a preview of the movie here:
Disclosure: I am participating in A Turtle’s Tale 2 – Sammy Escapes From Paradise Blogger Campaign by Mom Central Canada. I received compensation as a thank you for participating and for sharing my honest opinion. The opinions on this blog are my own
Posted by: Maureen | June 11, 2013 | 4 Comments
As a mom, I worry. I worry that I’m doing it wrong, that I’ve missed something important, that I have hugged too little, scolded too much, that I will scar them for life. Most of all, I worry that I am shaping four young lives and I still question things I have done with my own life.
I have debt, my house is untidy, I sometimes forget to take a kid to a lesson or sport. I allow them to skip lessons/sports sometimes. I don’t check homework as often as I should, I let them eat bacon/candy/white bread/oreo cookies/insert any number of things I probably shouldn’t let them eat.
Strangers and friends (who don’t have children) often tell me I am a good mom and comment on how well behaved my children are at parties and in public places. Even my mother-in-law mentioned it once when she met up with us at the mall.
What they don’t know is, every time we leave the house to go somewhere in public, I read my kids the riot act and threaten to take away all digital devices if anyone acts inappropriately.
Once, when going to get Santa Claus pictures done, I even told them good behaviour would be rewarded with McDonald’s French fries. That was the same year that I bought them all Santa Claus hats to cover their disheveled hair… Not exactly Mom of the Year material.
The compliment of well-behaved children was one that was probably not often given to my own mother. Does that make her a bad mom? If so, I don’t want to be a good mom.
My mother is probably the most patient and caring person I have ever met. She has never turned away a person in need, nor a child in trouble. Growing up we often had one person or another living at our house. Anyone who happened to be at our house at meal times was fed and taken care of.
Despite working crazy hours, family was my mom’s life. She never missed a soccer game, and often took time off work to drive me (and my siblings) to various sporting events, and now she doesn’t miss anything her grandkids do, from theatre performances to hockey tournaments. If I have to work late, she will also be there to take my kids to their sports/lessons. You can’t tell me she isn’t the best mom in the universe because I just won’t listen to you.
My mom never yelled, never lost her patience, always supported us, and gave us very few rules. So whose method of parenting is “good”?
When I take the time to think about this, as I am doing right now, I think maybe there is no good and bad. I mean, sure, there are extremes that no-one can deny. I’m not talking about the junkies who forget to feed their babies and leave them at home by themselves to go out drinking. That’s a bad mom. I’m talking about all of us average moms who make lunches everyday (mine never include any fun shapes or love notes), who drive kids to school, drop off all the things they left at home, make healthy dinners (most nights), help with home work, cheer them on at sports (even when I have my iPhone in my hand), and tuck them in with hugs and kisses every night. I’m talking about me and you.
Who is to say that my way of parenting is right or that your way of parenting is wrong. Who gets to make that call? Until you live in my house, take care of the four little personalities I have living in my house, pay my bills, work my job, and co-exist with my husband (you’ll like him, he’s charming If not slightly inappropriate). Until then, you don’t get to judge me.
I know, I know, I was the one judging myself right from the start here. The strangers said I was a good mom! What I am trying to say is it takes all kinds, and I think I worry so much because of the pressures given to us by society to have well behaved children, and to appear as though making a family of 6 (or any other size) work is easy. It’ s not!
I would give my right arm for my children most days, but there are others when I would sell them to you for a buck.
Posted by: Maureen | June 1, 2013 | No Comments
About 6 months ago, my body started giving me some serious signs that I needed to make some changes to my lifestyle. Not only was I constantly tired and forgetting things (important things), but I had canker sores in my mouth that WOULD NOT GO AWAY! Add to these factors that I was (still am) over weight, and it was pretty upsetting.
I started my lifestyle change with a couple of small things:
I joined a gym called Circafit where I do circuit training. I have found this type of workout, where I have a trainer and I am in a class that starts and ends at specific times, has been beneficial because I have someone to assist me with form and I also have someone watching to make sure I don’t quit.
I also made some changes to my diet. I cut down on the amount of dairy I consume by not drinking milk or eating yogurt (I still eat cheese), and I cut down on drinking tea. Without milk, it was pretty simple to let go of tea. I am amazed at how much better I feel without caffeine. Previously, when I tried to cut out caffeine, I failed because I would get horrible headaches. This time, when I wanted tea, I would drink water; hardly any headaches.
I made other changes to my diet including having a smoothie for breakfast every day. Because I don’t drink milk or eat yogurt, I use almond or flax milk and I use coconut cream instead of yogurt. To get the coconut cream, I buy a can of coconut milk and let it sit overnight in the fridge. Then, when the can is opened, all of the cream has risen to the top and you can scoop it out. I put about 2 Tbs in my smoothies and I add in any fruit I have on hand. I have found that I really like spinach in my smoothies, I know, weird.
Tom and I used to sit on the couch after the kids went to bed and watch tv and eat snacks, I knew that had to change, so I started cutting back on that. I won’t say it has stopped, but we only snack once in a while now.
Immediately, I felt better, but not good enough. Despite my change in diet, I still had canker sores. It was then that I saw something in my Facebook feed that caught my eye. The picture was of a canker sore and the article was about celiac disease. I read it with interest and decided to start cutting down on my gluten intake. I saw immediate results. I guess I should get my doctor to test me for celiac, but no matter what the results of that test are, I know gluten is an issue for me now.
I haven’t completely cut out gluten, but I have cut back, and I can tell you this has been the hardest of the changes to make. I love bread and cake and pasta… not good, but I have also been able to find some great recipes that mean I can continue to eat these things. Thanks Pinterest!
One of my favourite gluten-free breads is coconut milk bread. Try it with peanut butter and banana.. yum! And something I have found that is a perfect thing to grab when I’m running out to the gym or even when I want something sweet is homemade energy bars. They are so easy to make! I don’t have a food processor, so I use my magic bullet. If you have a food processor, they will be even easier.
What you will need:
1 ½ C pitted dates
½ C dried cherries
1 C raw cashews
2 Tbs natural peanut butter
Put all ingredients in your food processor and blend, or put each ingredient in your magic bullet separately and blend. Then knead together with your hands and press into a bread pan lined with wax paper. Cut into bars and eat.
The great thing is you can substitute the ingredients for things you prefer. Don’t like dried cherries (not sure how that is possible, but okay) substitute with raisins or dried blueberries. Don’t like cashews? Use almonds or hazelnuts. And you can use any type of nut butter that tickles your fancy too.
In the six months that I have been trying my new lifestyle, I have noticed a huge improvement in my energy level, and I have lost 15 pounds. This is despite not always sticking to my plan and with sometimes only making it to the gym once a week.
My latest change has been to join a soccer team. It has been a long time since I put on my cleats and took to the pitch, but I am loving every (painful) minute of it.
Posted by: Maureen | May 26, 2013 | 1 Comment
For a long time, when I spoke about our kids, I felt the need to explain that two of them were step-children. It wasn’t because I didn’t want people to think they were mine, or that I didn’t want to be their mom. I just felt weird claiming someone else’s children as my own, as though I was taking away from who their mother is.
Eventually, I realized that I didn’t need to explain myself, or my children, to anyone. I allowed myself to say things like “I have four children” and I started introducing my step-children as MY children.
They didn’t correct me, and I think they were relieved not to have to listen to the explanations any more too.
Recently, I brought Eleanor to a track meet where I watched her place first in the 1500m. It was a chilly day, and by the end of the race I felt numb. There were a couple of hours between her races, so I went home to do some work. As I was thawing out from my morning, I thought about how cold Eleanor must be out at the field, and I decided to grab some hot chocolates for Eleanor and her friends on my way back to the meet.
The girls were extremely thankful for the warm beverages, and they told me I was the best mom ever. While that was flattering, what happened next made my day. Eleanor and her friends went up to sit on the bleachers and someone yelled “Hey, Eleanor, where did you get the hot chocolate?”
Her response? “My mom”
Posted by: Maureen | May 17, 2013 | No Comments
We have a bit of a hierarchy when it comes to chores. The oldest has more responsibility, so she gets paid more, and so on and so forth through the ranks.
Last week (because our youngest is now 3), we decided to move everyone up the ladder one step.
Previously, Eleanor (13) was responsible for unloading the dishwasher, Ethan (10) was responsible for recycling and garbage during the week and putting it to the curb on garbage day, Rebecca (8) was responsible for keeping the bathrooms (we have 4) and kitchen supplied with toilet paper/paper towels.
Eleanor has now taken on the responsibility of doing the kids laundry. She has to do 3-4 loads a week, or she will not got paid her $8 allowance. We are giving her on the job training – which may or may not have resulted in one load of pinks, but I think Tom likes pink boxers anyway. I may also have ended up at a party wearing jeans that smelled a little musty, but we still hold out hope… and we made the very smart decision to only make her responsible for kids’ clothes.
She puts a laundry basket out in the hall with a note that says what colour she is doing, and each kid is responsible for getting their own clothes in to the basket to get washed. If they don’t do it, they don’t have clean laundry… not sure Ethan cares, but we will see.
So, now Ethan steps up to $6 a week for unloading the dishwasher. He, too, will get on the job training… from Eleanor. That’s right! For the next three weeks, they are not only responsible for their new chore, but they also have to train the new person on their job.
Shockingly, Ethan has been up bright and early every morning happily putting away dishes. The first load resulted in several items being put in the wrong place. That just told us his supervisor wasn’t doing her job, so we reinforced the training policy and let Eleanor know she would be held responsible if things weren’t put away properly.
Ethan has also been happily training his younger sister on garbage. This was Ethan’s chore for a few years, so I think he was happy to get taken off of it. He is also an excellent teacher.
With Rebecca learning the ropes of garbage duty, that meant Siobhan has started her very first chore of stocking paper products. She loves it, although, I am sure that Rebecca’s training period will run longer than the other kids since Siobhan is so young.
Do your kids do chores?
Posted by: Maureen | February 23, 2013 | No Comments
In my house, I am the dreamer and my husband is the practical one, I am the shopper, he is the bill payer, I am the social co-coordinator, he is the IT guy.
If we were to win $50,000, I know full well that it would go toward our mortgage or education savings for our four kids, BUT that doesn’t mean a girl can’t dream. If I were to win $50,000 that had to be spent on luxury items, I would start by packing our suitcases!
I am so tired of the winter weather. Six tickets to Costa Rica, please! Have my pina colada waiting by the lounge chair. After a couple weeks of sun and sand, I would be ready to face reality, but not entirely.
I would hire a personal chef to cook for us for a month. Each member of the family would have a day of the week where the chef would prepare all their favourite meals. On my day, we would have Eggs Benedict for breakfast, Butternut Squash soup for lunch, Roast leg of lamb with root vegetables for dinner, and crème brulee for dessert.
That should make up for all the poutine I see my children ordering.
Finally, I would send the guys off to a hockey game while the girls and I went to the spa… and the mall.
I know, I know, I should get my head out of the clouds. Like I said, I’m a dreamer, BUT did you know Royale is going to make one lucky person’s dream come true? That’s right! For their 50th Anniversary, Royale is going to give away $50,000 in their Royale #GoldenKitten Ticket promotion.
There are 440 Golden Tickets hidden inside special marked packs of Royale bathroom tissue, facial tissue, paper towel and dinner napkins, or you can look for 60 tickets available online through royale.ca or Royale Kittens/Chatons Facebook.
There will be 500 instant win prizes of Samsung TVs, tablets, BluRay players etc, and one GRAND PRIZE of $50,000.
I know you’ve thought about it already, so what would you splurge on? Or are you more practical, like my husband?
Disclosure – I am participating in the Golden Kittens Blog Tour by Mom Central Canada on behalf of Royale. I received compensation as a thank you for participating and for sharing my honest opinion. The opinions on this blog are my own.
Posted by: Maureen | February 21, 2013 | No Comments
From the very moment I saw that grainy image of a tiny human forming inside my body, and I heard that small pulsating heart, motherhood changed me. I was no longer just me, but we.
As my belly grew, so too did the feeling of we. With each flutter in my tummy and every sleepless night spent wondering who my baby would be, I became increasingly aware of the changes to come. I became preoccupied with the well -being of someone other than myself, and yet somehow more in tune with myself as well.
I wished for both, my due date to arrive and more time to prepare. I questioned whether I was ready, whether I could handle what was about to become my life, and whether I would be a good mom.
There were so many expectations to live up to, so many people to who had gone before me, and so many people who would judge me. The thought was paralyzing.
I doubted myself.
Finally, the day arrived, and I was both terrified and excited to give birth. I worried that I wouldn’t be able to handle the pain. I worried that my baby wouldn’t be able to handle the pain. I worried that something would go wrong. I worried that I wouldn’t be able to breast feed. I worried there would be something wrong with my baby.
Then, she was here… perfect and beautiful.
I realized that I had never truly worried in my life. Now there was so much to worry about.
Suddenly, we was my reality, and I would have to care for and nurture this small child, but how? How would I know what was right? How would I be able to keep this baby safe? How does someone with no experience take on such a tremendous job?
With all those questions floating around in my head, I was released from the hospital to try to figure it all out.
I sat staring at my baby, asleep in her car seat. Every so often I would check to make sure she was still breathing. She slept a lot those first few days. She slept, and ate, and pooped. Then she slept and ate and pooped some more.
We developed a routine, and I developed some confidence. I began to realize that no-one knew my baby the way I did, that no-one could make better decisions for her than I could. I understood that she was teaching me to be a good mom every day, and we were going to be okay.
It was then that I realized; mothers don’t make babies, babies make mothers.
Posted by: Maureen | November 12, 2012 | No Comments
I like to post this every year as a reminder to parents of blended families. It’s best to get this discussion started early to avoid friction when the holidays are looming; they are stress full enough as it is!
The holidays are fast approaching. I know, you don’t want to hear that, but it’s true. This isn’t your typical holiday post though. It’s not about shopping, or decorating, or even holiday traditions, but it is about something close to my heart.
You see, I have a blended family. We have kids that are his, mine and ours. This time of year, I start thinking about how lucky we are that we get along with our exes. How difficult it could be if we fought over who got what kids when. I know there are people out there having that argument right now.
As I said, we are lucky; we have the kids right up until Christmas morning. That said, they are gone after that, but we do get to open presents together. I don’t know how difficult it was for Tom and Lesley to come to this agreement because it was in place when Tom and I got together. For Keith and I, it just made sense.
Christmas morning is a big deal for my family, and Christmas dinner is a big deal for his. Yes, Christmas dinner is important to my family too, but you can’t have everything in this situation, and you have to compromise.
So, I guess the reason I am writing this post is to encourage all the people who are having the holiday kid time argument to, please, get into the spirit of the season. Be kind to one another, and split the time fairly. Christmas is for kids, and they are the ones you hurt when you fight about these things.
If, for whatever reason, you don’t get to see your kids over Christmas, remember that December 25th isn’t what is special about Christmas. You can celebrate another day, so long as you’re together, it will be special.
I have been known to tell the kids that I made special arrangements with the Easter bunny so that he would come a different day. So make a call to Santa, he’s a good guy, I’m sure he will accommodate you.keep looking »