Friday, October 25, 2013

The Having It All Project: Heidi Rybak

Heidi and I go way back--summers at Jewish overnight camp and me being jealous of her exotic Canadian accent--way back. It's such a thrill to have her and so many other camp friends in my life today. She'll tell you more below, but Heidi runs a side business making fabulous cakes. Even super-organized me has a lot to learn from her! Here's how Heidi is having it all.

Briefly describe your life and what you think makes it unique.
Okay, I admit it. I am a control freak. I like things done my way and yes, I believe that my way is the right way…and don’t try to argue because we’ll end up arguing circles around ourselves. So, now that I have said that, you pretty much know all about me. I like order, organization, lists, planning, and all things that keep other things in check. Then I had kids...

Having kids, in my case, makes the life of a control freak more challenging, but I met that challenge with gusto, and worked out a schedule for our family that works for us, while still allowing for some flexibility. We are a family of 4, with a big dog, and we like to do fun stuff in our city like visit the zoo, the local amusement park, local farms for pick –your- own fruits and vegetables and more. Yet we are just as happy to spend an afternoon playing Candyland or Zingo or reading books and playing dress up…so long as everything gets put away. My husband of almost 10 years and I both work full time, and I also run a cake business from home. Our oldest daughter is in Grade 1 , while our youngest is at Pre-School. Lucky for me, they are both at the same location, so it’s only one drop off in the morning. Our kids crave routine, which definitely makes me happy, and as such, they anticipate our outings and there is less of a struggle to get out the door…most mornings.

What are some of your favorite tips and strategies for coping with the chaos?
One of my favourite things we do as a family is eat dinner together at least 5 days a week. Usually Monday to Friday, but sometimes I work late on Tuesday, so we make it up on the weekend. We have always eaten with our kids, and we all eat the same meal. Almost 8 months ago, I began a 5 week meal plan. It has literally changed our lives. We can’t live without it now and my oldest, Joely, loves to read ahead to see what meals are coming up. Each week (we plan for Monday to Friday) has a grocery list at the end and we can check off what we have and the leftover items become our shopping list. We do a big “meat” shop once every 4-6 weeks and everything I bring home gets divided, pre-cut if necessary (chicken strips for fingers, chopped for stir fry) or portioned (for ground meats, for burgers or meat loaf or tacos). This saves a ton of time when prepping. Having a meal plan has eliminated the drama of what to cook and has made my hubby more independent in the kitchen too. We have flexibility to switch meals sometimes, depending on the day and meal, and if a meal gets bumped a day (because we decide to go out to eat) then everything gets bumped and we end up eating one of our meals on weekends. Not only a time saver, but meal planning has given me the chance to try mew recipes with our family and have the time to let my girls help in the kitchen.

We make it a priority to no over program our kids. As busy as we might be, we make sure there is time to rest and relax too. We limit the extra-curricular activities to 1 per season, so that there is plenty of time to do other things. Our kids always take swimming lessons in the fall, and in the winter, it’s a toss-up between skiing, skating, dance and karate…they usually get to pick, with some encouragement from us. Sundays is Religious School for Joely (our kids go to public school, and through our synagogue, attend Sunday school) and Arley gets one on one time with Daddy (if I go into work for a bit) or both of us. That still leaves us plenty of family time, and time to attend birthday parties and other fun events.

Please share a moment where it all broke down, and how you got through it.
I’m not gonna lie and say it’s always easy, but I love working under the gun. My husband leaves before 7 to head off to work, so it’s just me, the girls and the dog in the morning. We have about 40 minutes to get up, get dressed, eat and leave and sometimes it doesn’t happen so easily. My oldest likes to take things slow and it sometimes frustrates me to no end and my youngest, Arley, has an opinion about everything she wears, and even if we pick out clothes the night before, she changes her mind in the morning (keep in mind, she’s only 2 ½). Some mornings I have to light a fire under their butts to get out the door, grab waffles for breakfast when there’s no time for cereal, and occasionally raise my voice, but we get there on time, usually. I will admit to “losing it” a few times, but I thrive in chaos and truly believe that if we can make it out the other side, we’ll be better for it. I just have to keep reminding myself of that. One day, when I have 2 teenage girls at home, it will be them “losing it” on each other in the morning, while I sit at the breakfast bar, sipping my tea, waiting to drive them to school.
Do you have any balance role models? Anything you try to avoid because it wouldn't work for you?
My dad worked 2 jobs when I was a kid, to be able to provide for our family, as my mom was ill most of my life growing up and couldn’t work. He left the house before 6:30am, came home for 5pm, spend an hour or so at home and then went back out for 7 or 8pm to work at a restaurant, waiting tables in their formal dining room. My dad is the kind of man that would do whatever it takes to make things work, and I think I am very much the same way. I think I got my love of organization from him as well as my strong desire to keep busy. I still look up to him as a fantastic role model, as someone who made it all work; family, work, life, health and everything else. Through it all, he kept a smile on his face and never made us feel like we were missing out on anything and I hope my kids feel the same way in the life we’ve built thus far. 

Think back to your 18th birthday. How is your life different from how you expected it to be then?
Ever since I was a young teenager, I knew I wanted kids. Originally, I thought I’d have 3 or 4, but as we all know, life doesn’t always turn out the way you planned. Looking back to when I was about 18, I must admit, I am pretty close to where I thought I’d be. Married, 2 kids, a job in a fast paced environment that I thrive in, a house, a dog and great friends. If there is such a thing as having it all, I feel like I do. While I don’t have all the money in the world, fancy cars and lots of jewels, I could care less about those things…to me, that’s not having it all. To me, having it all is the sweet “I love you’s” at bedtime, family cuddles on Saturday morning in our king size bed, giggles and smiles and hugs and kisses from my beautiful girls and my loving husband…that’s having it all.

Relate to what Heidi is saying? Leave her some love in the comments. Read other posts from The Having It All Project here. Want to participate? Send me an email at


  1. This was a great post! Thank you! The organization piece is really highlighted here! Meal planning, activities for the kids, family dinners . . . . I love the whole thing. Of course the cakes are amazing!!!!

    Thank you for posting this story!

  2. The last few sentences of this post could pretty much sum up the entire Having It All Project.