Mom's Release

The trials and tribulations of a mom of four great kids!

DIY for Kids (and dads/moms): Top Bunk Shelf

My 9 year old was on a roll this week! After designing and completing his DIY for Kids: Laptop Stand, he had another epiphany: a shelf for his top bunk! He decided he wanted to solve his problem of no shelf for his top bunk. He said he was tired of the mess he had on his bed becasue he didn’t have anywhere to put the things he wants to have near him when he goes to sleep…kleenex, book, water, etc. He came up with a way to fix it (see a need, fill a need!)… and what a great fix! It mounts to the rails of the top bunk. Check this out!Top bunk shelf4.jpg.jpg

This one required a bit more help from his dad. He knew what he wanted to do and what it would look like, but he needed some help with figuring out the actual dimensions and pieces he needed to make it. He drew what he saw in his head so his dad could see what he was explaining. They then set to work together to come up with dimensions. Here’s what they did :


Wood (spruce, pine, whatever you have around will work):

  • 1″x2″ wood pieces – 2 @ 3-1/4″, 2 @ 5-3/4″
  • 1″x3″ wood pieces – 1 @ 15″, 1 @ 21″
  • Table top (we used a piece of MDF shelving) – 21″ x 16″
  • 1×1-1/2″ – 1 @ 22-1/2″, 2 @ 16-1/2″ (use mitre saw to cut both ends of the 22-1/2″ piece to 45 degrees and one end of each 16-1/2″ piece)

Screws – 1-1/2″ phillips (we used 26…wanted to make sure it was super secure!)

Finishing nails – 3/4″ or 1″

Wood glue

Mitre saw
Phillips screw driver



  1. Cut the 1×2 pieces to length and insert screws as shown (please forgive the picture quality…hubby wasn’t paying attention to the lighting/backdrop!)1x2 pieces.jpg
  2. Attach 1×2 pieces to 15″ 1×3 support, as shown.1x2 to 15 piece.jpg
  3. Attach the 21″ 1×3 piece to the longer 1×2 pieces, as shown.13 to 21 piece.jpg
  4. Glue and screw shelf piece to 21″ support, as shown. It’s probably sufficient to just screw the top to the support, but the 9 year old wanted to use the wood glue and the hubby seems to like to “over design” a little bit. (Again, sorry for the not-so-clear pics…the 9 year old wanted to do that part, too!)glue screw top.jpg
  5. Attach the outer edge pieces (1×1-1/2) to the shelf with finishing nails. This is not an absolutely necessary step, but we thought it would help prevent anything being pushed off the shelf, thereby saving our 11 year old from possible bumps on her head from falling objects!outer edge shots.jpg

Here’s a picture to show you how to install and remove the shelf…this is so you can take it off to change the sheets and make the bed easily…smart cookie, he is!installing pics.jpg

The result was a really cool design and one very happy boy!Happy boy3!.jpg.jpg


Five Things They Don’t Tell You in Marriage Course

5ThingsMarriageCourse.jpgAs I sit here listening to my 16 and 14 year olds telling us (at the same time) their version of what just transpired upstairs, when one told the other to move from one chair because he needed to sit there to use the outlet next to said chair to charge his phone and she told him to find another outlet because she was there first (yes, I am serious!), I find myself inspired to write a post about what is going through my head right now….all the things they didn’t tell us in that marriage course we took before we tied the knot!

5 things they didn’t tell us in the marriage course:

  1. Babies are cute, but don’t be fooled – they will turn into teenagers and the cuteness doesn’t last nearly as long as the teen years!
  2. Teenagers will argue their point until the cows come home, regardless of how unbelievably WRONG they are, especially if it means out-doing their oh-so-close-in-age sibling!
  3. Did I already mention they are cute when they’re babies…?
  4. Don’t be fooled by your seemingly logical, considerate, compassionate children when they are small…all of that will fly right out the window once they reach their teens!
  5. They might get along when they’re little, but it’s highly unlikely that will continue once they become teenagers!

So, when you find yourself, like me, in these kinds of situations you never felt your (perfect) family would ever be in, do as I do:  take a deep breath…close your eyes…and stick your fingers in your ears as tightly as possible to block out the noise!  And a little vino never hurts, either!


Letting Go Really Sucks!

We had to make a big decision today. And I so didn’t want to make it. Our 16yo is finished writing exams and is off for the rest of the week. His friends are going skiing tomorrow and he wants to go. The hill is about 90 minutes away, by way of a not-so-great highway (typical of the roads in NS!) and his friend is driving. His 17yo friend. And I’m totally not ok with that. The thought of him driving on the highway, in a van full of teenage boys, for 90 minutes, scares the absolute heck out if me. Completely.

When we had our kids, I decided to stay home with them and that was really important to me. I wanted to make sure I was there to teach them, watch them grow and just always be there when they needed me. To not miss anything…and I truly feel like I got to see it all. But (naturally) they grew up so fast and in a blink, we find ourselves in a place where we’re dealing with things we really never imagined (see my post: 7 Ways to Survive Teaching Your (First) Teen to Drive). I’ve come to the realization that, quite frankly, I suck at letting go! I’m not even the over-protective, hovering mama who won’t let them out of my sight, or do anything without me (ok, I was a little like that with my first two, but I’m much better with my second two, really!). I’m an intelligent, very logical person and I truly believe our job as parents is to make sure our kids are ready and able to take care of themselves when they leave us for their own life adventures. But to do that, I have to let go and man, I am finding that so incredibly difficult…even knowing how important it is to do it! Whenever I have to make a decision about letting them do something that’s a little bit outside the “norm”, I struggle greatly. I’m a chronic worrier… it’s awful, actually – in these scenarios, every possible outcome goes through my head, most of it bad, rendering me incapable of making a decision. Thank heavens for my hubby…he keeps me grounded!

Unfortunately for the 16yo, being the oldest means he’s the one who has to pave the way and break new ground for us…things that we worried about letting him do in ninth grade are much easier for us to let our second oldest do, now that she’s there. We keep joking with him that as the oldest, he got most of our time, but he’s also our guinea pig, so to speak! I was the oldest, so I know just how he feels and I remember being that age and thinking my parents were so unreasonable and overprotective. Now I just want to thank them. And apologize! It’s not easy being here…especially when you know your children have to start doing things without you…you can’t keep them forever (not do I want to!) .Letting go2.jpg

So, we have to give him an answer…can he go? I left it up to my husband to decide because I trust his judgement completely…that, and he’s always telling me (nicely) that sometimes I’m still a bit too overprotective. He told him he can go (insert deep breath here). In my head, I know how important it is for him to be allowed to do this and even though I’m afraid of what might happen, I want for him to do it. I also know that it is highly unlikely anything bad will happen. He’ll get there and back without any trouble and will have a great day skiing – one he’ll remember for many years to come. And he’ll also be very grateful to have had the opportunity to do so. I’ll just have to hold on to those thoughts as I’m worrying…and I’ll feel good about it.

We thought it was hard to take care of them when they were babies…never imagined that it’s even harder to stop taking care of them.


Tuesday Tastings: Paleo Omlette Muffins

This week, my Tuesday Tasting recipe is Paleo Omlette Muffins, which came to me via my daily email updates from (a God-send, seriously!).  I have put these daily emails to good use many times when I’m struggling to come up with what to make for dinner (a common occurence with me)! These muffins were super quick to make (took me all of about 10 minutes) and very tasty!


8 eggs

8 oz cooked ham, cut into small pieces

8 C diced bell red pepper (I omitted this one due to my picky eaters and my pepper allergy)

1 C diced onion

1/4 tsp salt

1/8 tsp ground black pepper

2 Tbsp water


  1. Preheat oven to 350 F (175 C). Grease 8 muffin cups or line with paper liners.
  2. Beat eggs together in a large bowl. Mix ham, bell pepper, onion, salt, black pepper, and water into the beaten eggs. Pour egg mixture evenly into prepared muffin cups. (I filled the muffin cups almost to the top.)
  3. Bake in the preheated oven until muffins are set in the middle, 18 to 20 minutes (it seemed to take mine about 22 mins to cook).

The website has a great “Adjust Serving” tool I really love, since we have 6 of us eating and many recipes make only 4 servings. There were only 3 of us eating them, so I changed the serving size to 3 and it made all the ingredient adjustments for me – BONUS!Paleo egg muffins1

A few things I would do differently next time I make them:

  • I used the paper muffin liners, but a lot of the egg ended up stuck to the paper when we took them out – that’s what I get for being lazy! Next time, I will grease the muffin cups.
  • Be sure to chop the onions finely enough. I didn’t, so they were still quite crunchy when we ate them (I’m not a fan of crunchy onions!).
  • Quickly sautee the ham and onion together before adding to the eggs. Adds an extra step, but will ensure the onions are soft. Another option would be to replace the onion with green onion – might be better for picky eaters who find the onion taste too strong.
  • I think I’ll add diced tomatoes when I make them again…I didn’t have any this time, but I love tomatoes in omlettes. Really, you can add just about anything – mushrooms, broccoli, spinach…whatever you’d think to put in a regular omlette!

Since there were only three of us eating these, there weren’t technically 6 thumbs up, but we all thought they were easy and delicious, so:

The Burke Verdict:

Paleo Omlette Muffins: 6 thumbs up!

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DIY for Kids: Laptop Stand

So, we had a rare quiet Saturday, without the usual mayhem that is a very large part of life in our house….no hockey, no commitments, no places we had to be at any given time.  It’s funny, but we tend to have a hard time getting anything done on those kinds of days because we’re so used to running here, there and everywhere, fitting tasks in whenever we can manage.  We seem to lollygag with decision making on days that are wide open…clearly, we work better under pressure!

We decided to take advantage of the day and get some exercise, so we took the younger two kiddos and the dog for a walk. On our way back to the house, my 9yo asked to use his computer when we got home.  I am not a fan of time spent by children on brain-sucking, mindless games, so my immediate reaction was a simple, “not today” and I waited for the inevitable arguing that always follows.  I was lucky this time in that he had already spent his allotted screen time, which is what I told him.  To deflect his attention and prevent more protesting, I told him he should use his tools to build something (he’s a huge tool guy and loves to make things with wood!).  He was very interested and the rest of the walk home was spent brainstorming what he could make with what we already had available at home.

The winner was a laptop stand to make it more comfortable when he’s sitting on the couch, in a chair, or on the bed using his laptop.  He drew what he wanted, searched the furnace room for the scraps of wood he could use and he was off to the races, as they say.  (We were extremely grateful that we had the supplies on-hand because he’s a bit like a dog-on-a-bone when he gets an idea in his head!)  How cool is this?!

laptop stand pinterest.jpgMy husband helped by cutting the pieces to length, but he did the rest of it…figured out the dimensions, marked where the cuts had to be made, drilled the pilot holes and screwed together the pieces (with a little bit of extra muscle from his dad!).  It took about 45 minutes from start to finish and it turned out so great I thought I should write up the plans and post so other kids like him can give it a try!

Materials: (Any wood type can be used – we used pine because that’s what we had.)

  • Flat piece of board, 3/4″ thick, 17-1/4″ long x 11″ wide – that is the size of the board we had available and it fit his laptop perfectly.  Adjust the length, as needed.
  • Approximately 30″ length of 2″ x 2″ – two front legs of 4-1/2″ and two back legs of 8-1/2″.
  • Four, 1-1/2″ screws – that’s what we had in the house, but other similar lengths can be used.


  • Mitre saw (for angled cuts)
  • Drill (for pilot holes)
  • Phillips screwdriver (to put everything together)

How to make it:

1. Cut the flat board to desired length (the board we had was 17″, so that’s what he used)
2.  Cut the legs to length: two at 4-1/2″ and two at 8-1/2″.

dimension pic.jpg.jpg

3. Cut one end of all four legs to 22-1/2 degrees (standard cut on mitre saw)

4. Lightly outline the shape of the legs in each corner of the top board (mimicking where to place them)         and drill a pilot hole in the centre of each square.


5. Attach each of the legs by screwing into the pilot holes.



final product.jpg

You can paint it, stain it, or decorate it any way you’d like!  He and his sister were so excited to use it, so I relented my screen time limit  and let them watch a movie…they loved it!landmwith stand.jpg

Not too shabby for a 9yo, huh?!  Get your handy kids to give   it a try and let me know how it turns out…I’d love to see   pictures!

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5 Things I Miss about Living in New Hampshire

When my husband finished his master’s, he got a job in New Hampshire. As Canadians (particularly, East Coast Canadians), this was a pretty big deal and a little scary to be moving to a new country, with a 1yo! As it turned out, we spent 4 wonderful years there and it was a truly a great experience for all of us…our family grew from 3 to 4, we made some wonderful friends and think it is one of the nicest places to live.

In spite of how much we loved it, it still wasn’t home. When we were about to become a family of 5, we moved back to Halifax. We’ve been here now for almost 12 years (!), but miss many things about the Granite State:

1. No tax (my absolute favourite…shocker, I know!) – No state income tax and no sales tax. We paid just 11% federal income tax when we were there and could even write off the interest on our mortgage (no can do in Canada)…ahhh, memories…le sigh!  NH blog photo.jpg

2. Sticks of butter – I was baking the other day and the recipe called for a ‘stick’ of butter. I sighed. I miss sticks of butter…so easy to bake with and no need to measure. Butter is sold in a huge blocks here …sticks are hard to find.

3. Saturday mail delivery (and ‘media’ postage!) – Coming from Canada, the US postal service was like a dream come true! And image only having to pay $2 to send any kind of book, no matter how heavy! Canada Post could take a few lessons!

4. Proximity to everything – 1hr to Boston, 3 hrs to NYC….here in Halifax, we are 12 hrs to Boston and 15 hrs to NYC, not to mention is costs a small fortune to fly anywhere from here!

5. Spring! – Loved the spring in New England…Spring was a real season and the temps steadily increased as the days went on and winter went away…ahhhhh! Here in Nova Scotia, Mother Nature is “spring challenged” and it sometimes takes until June for her to realize we’re not in winter anymore!

Do you miss anything about somewhere you used to live?  Any chance you’d go back?


The Return (or Start) of Date Night

We have a super busy household.  That’s to be expected with 4 kids between the ages of 9 and 16 and a husband who owns his own business, but man!  Life is busy!

I’m constantly looking for ways to slow it down, try to enjoy it more and to feel less stressed all the time.  One thing we’ve realized is the importance of date nights. Regular ones.  With the insanity of life in our house, going out together, just the two of us, has fallen by the wayside.  We’re a very tight-knit family and we tend to be doing things with the kids most of the time.  Even when we’re going out for a bite or to a movie, there’s usually a child (or 2, or 3, or 4) tagging along with us and really, I love that.  I love that we still love to do things together.  But, that leaves very little time for just the two of us to hang out…without anyone wanting us to listen, asking us questions, arguing with each other (!).  My husband has been bugging me for a while now to start going out at least once a week, but I tend to feel guilty for doing something so regularly without the kids…I feel like we shouldn’t be spending money on things that don’t include the kids.  (How crazy is that?!)

Then came the perfect opportunity!  Our oldest is taking a swimming instructor course once a week, for 2 hours and it dawned on me that we could use that time to go out together…every week!  It was a set time, middle of the week, when  the 14yo is available to babysit and (shockingly!) no one has anything else on. YAY! Our first night was this week and we went to a coffee shop!  Ok, I know you’re thinking…”whoopie!  Fun couple they are!”, but really, it was perfect.  We sat in front of the fire of a very quiet cafe (it’s a hopping busy spot for businesses during the day, but nice and quiet at night), chatted about just about everything we could think of and even just sat quietly…but it was all without interruption and it was blissful!

photo (25) My husband and I are completely in love with each other…we don’t have any  issues with that.  We know we have each other to make sure we stay grounded  when one of us is going off the deep end (ususally me!) and knowing that made  me feel there was really little need to find time together outside the  house…there’d be plenty of time for that when they were all gone!  The other  thing we found was that when the kids were younger, arranging a sitter, getting  everyone settled before we went out and getting ready to go out in the middle  of all of that was just too much work to bother and we fell into the habit of just  not going.  But we’re way past that phase now (it flew by without us  noticing)…no need to arrange the sitter, or get everyone settled before we go.  He was right…we do need time just with each other, whether to talk about all things to do with the kids or about nothing at all.  And that little taste of two sweet hours alone together, without anyone else vying for conversation time, or needing anything from us, was sweet enough to make me more than happy to do it every week!  Now we just have to come up with other things to do besides just hitting the coffee shop!  Any ideas??

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7 ways to Survive Teaching Your (First) Teen to Drive

Another driver in the house…how did we get here??

As of the end of November, we have a third driver in our house. I guess, technically, we have 2-1/2 drivers, since he can’t drive by himself yet. I have but one thing to say…Oh. My.


Never, as we were having one, two, three and then four babies, did it ever occur to me that at some point, they would all be licensed to operate a motor vehicle. I remember very clearly how excited I was to turn 16 and get handed my learner’s permit, so I want to be excited for him. But then, I think about the fact that I have to teach him to operate said motor vehicle…preferably, calmly…while I’m in it! (There must be an oxymoron in there somewhere!)

So! Staying calm (not necessarily my forte as of late) while teaching the teen to drive. Add to that, being in a heavy, moving vehicle, capable of hurting any passerby on the sidewalk…well, that just ups the degree of difficulty of the whole “staying calm” thing! Since I’m sure I am not alone in this endeavour, I have come up with a list of tips for when you find yourself with 16yo who needs you to teach them to drive:

1. Make it clear BEFORE you start that your instructions are to be followed to a “T”, at the exact minute you give them. This is particularly helpful for those teens who like to assess the situation in their own minds and then decide what they think should be done (we have one of those!).

2. Don’t pick their first time to drive during rush hour, in twilight, in a busy intersection! In trying to be the good mom and giving him opportunities to drive, when he passed his learner’s test, I offered to have him drive the few blocks from our house to the community fitness centre to pick up his siblings. He was very happy to do so and off we went….during rush hour, in twilight, and had to turn left at a very busy intersection (did I mention this is a bad idea?!). Talk about stressful…for both of us!! I didn’t even consider the fact that really, he really needed time in a parking lot or quiet area, learning to start, stop, turn the wheel, come out of a turn, etc. He did very well, considering he really had no idea how to make a left turn(!) and we arrived without incident…but I was in desperate need of a glass of wine when we got home!

3. Start by taking them to a parking lot and/or quiet neighbourhood, with very little traffic, so they can get used to all of the things listed in #2, above. It will make a huge difference and they will thank you for it…and he did!

4. Give them a chance to make left turns…first in low traffic , quiet neighborhoods and then in busier intersections…they need it to pass their test and they’ll thank you for that, too.

5. Surprise them every now and then by asking them if they want to drive…without them having to hound you to do so. You’ll score big “cool mom” (or dad) points for that one!

6. Bring along your spouse as back-up…they say that misery loves company, right?!

7. KEEP CALM and have your wine ready for your return from the drive!

Oh, and you might want to make sure your insurance is up to date!

Love to hear how everyone else managed to make it through this parenting milestone!


6 Ways to get Them to Flush!

Seriously. What is up with that?! How many times have I gone in to use the bathroom only to find the toilet not flushed? It’s like my kids have an adversion to flushing the toilet! No amount of my prodding, reminding, yelling (I try not to do that one, but c’mon man, I’m only human!) and even trying to be funny about it will convince them it has to be done. Even “Oh look! Someone left me something in here!” doesn’t work…makes them laugh, but flush the toilet? Not so much. I can’t understand why it doesn’t gross them out to go in and find a “present” there themselves! Sadly, they don’t seem to notice.

So, desperate times, call for desperate measures. I’ve come up with these 6 ways to get them to flush (keeping in mind my kids are all over 9 now, so I’m not being mean):

1. Put a sticky note on the wall behind the toilet: PLEASE FLUSH!!

2. Write lipstick notes on the bathroom mirrors: FLUSH THE TOILET??…to remind them while they’re washing their hands.


These weren’t particularly helpful for my kids after the first week or so, so I’m bringing out the big guns!

3. Tell them they have to use the bathrooms when they’re not at home because they are not allowed to use the ones in the house without flushing. Haa!

4. Make them go outside. Tell them if they don’t start flushing the toilet, they will have to use the bathroom out in the yard (that one didn’t really phase my 9yo boy, but it grabbed the attention of the 14yo and 16yo!).

5. Duct tape the toilet! This one will be great for the kids who think you’re joking and go in to use it anyway…wrap that puppy up so they CAN’T use it! Haa again!! (Although, this might make it difficult for you and your husband to use it when you need too…rats!)

6. Lock the bathroom door from the inside! (and then hope your kids aren’t like mine and figure out how to “card” the door!

<sigh> OK, I know this is all normal kid stuff and I’m thinking this might be a battle better left un-fought….but I had a great time plotting to fix it! LOL!

Anyone have any other ideas??

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