Saturday, January 28, 2012

Things That Make Me Smile No. 11

I couldn't get a photo of this but I went to check on Miss Chief tonight after having left her to resettle Wee Bairn (a.k.a Happy One). In my absence she'd fallen asleep - hurrah! She'd also grabbed a long piece of metal belonging to her now unused guard rail, which is stored under her bed, brought into bed with her and was cuddling it. How funny and strange. I have just checked on again and she's now lying on it, which can't be comfortable. She's a little enigma, my girl. Give her all the right sleep inducing ingredients: a warm bath, a story in a dimly lit room, cuddles, kisses and little chats, a dark (but not too dark) and quiet room, relaxing music, a little bit of white noise, a foot massage, a hand stroke. And she struggles like anything to get to sleep. Yet once there she can quite happily sleep on a metal stick.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Things That Make Me Smile No. 10: Playing in the rain

There isn't much about this weather that is making me smile. I'm normally fairly tolerant of rain but the last two and a half days are getting to me and it's forecast to continue all week (it's only Tuesday). Today has been dark, miserable and stuffy with incessantly heavy rain. We've been completely surrounded by water more than a few times today and our unfinished guttering system has been more like a waterfall in a few places. To top things off Miss Chief refused to sleep today. (I made her stay in her room for an hour though.) After a failed attempt to get out to the shops I suggested she put on a rain coat and boots and go play in the garden. She thought this was a great idea and had an absolute ball.

Singing and dancing in the rain. In the sandpit. With water coming over her boots.

Just look at that rain coming down like darts.

Recycling rain water: filling up the watering can with water running off the roof.

Clearly the grass must need to be watered.

Oh my goodness me! Just look at all this rain.

Gonna ride my bike until I get home. In the rain.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Things That Make Me Smile No. 9: Group raspberries

I walked into the bedroom after bathtime tonight to find a nudie Wee Bairn giggling on the bed, with a nudie Miss Chief giggling and blowing raspberries on his tummy and (fully-clothed) Other Half tickling and blowing raspberries on Miss Chief's back. Everyone giggling. It was impossible not to giggle too.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Things That Make Me Smile No. 8: My Children Laughing At Each Other

I love these little moments. The Wee Bairn finds Miss Chief hilarious and she really is. She's the consummate entertainer, especially for the under 1s. He laughs at her, and then she laughs at him laughing at her and he laughs even more. And I most definitely smile. Lovely.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

This is what happens when Miss Chief helps me bake...

... she covers her brother in chocolate cookie mix:

Perhaps this should fall into the category of Things That Make Me Smile But Probably Shouldn't. Or Things That Make Me Smile When Miss Chief Isn't Looking Because It's Not The Sort Of Behaviour I Should Encourage.


Thursday, January 12, 2012

Things That Make Me Smile No. 7: Green Tree Frog

We've got so many horrible ugly cane toads hanging around at the moment eating the cats' food, that is was a refreshing change to find a cute little green tree frog hiding in our drain pipe. (Actually, Other Half found him and he'd be most upset if I didn't credit him.)

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Things That Make Me Smile No. 6: Playing hairdressers

The other day we had no plans to go out (which is often a relief for me these days as I can't be bothered with the strategic planning required to get out of the door) and no visitors scheduled. I am also trying to limit Miss Chief's naps to between 1 and 1 1/2 hours as most nights she's a horror to get to bed. So this left me with many hours within which to entertain her.

Thankfully I have a secret stash of toys that I pull out every now and then, some of which she's seen, some of which are new plus some new books I'm saving for a rainy (or crazy) day. After a quick play in the pool Miss Chief asked me if I'd do her hair so I suggested we play hairdressers and that I be the hairdresser and she be the client. I then pulled out a brand new toy - a hair salon kit, complete with battery-operated hairdryer. It was an immediate hit. After pretending to shower, shampoo, blowdry and style her hair into lots of pig tails it was her turn to be the hairdresser. She did lots of hair drying and called me "my dam". When she was napping I put the kit away so that it would retain its novelty for another day but when she woke up she went looking for it and asked to play again. It entertained her all afternoon and I even managed to check email and publish a blog post whilst having my hair done. It was such a lovely girly day and it made me so happy to have a daughter.

Things That Make Me Smile No. 5: Hot days in the paddling pool.

We had an absolutely gorgeous day the other day when Lucie and Amelie came around and we all jumped in the paddling pool. The girls weren't that bothered about being in there until Lucie and I got in with them. They jumped and splashed around and had great fun. I would never think of blowing up a paddling pool and sitting in it if I didn't have kids. Gotta love days like this. We almost didn't care about the 36C heat.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Your Money or Your Life: stumbling on step 1.

I'm beginning to realise why I failed to complete the 9 step program in Your Money or Your Life the first time I started reading it. Here's step 1, Making Peace with the Past:
Part A: Find out how much money you have earned in your lifetime - the sum total of your gross income, from the first penny you ever earned to your most recent paycheck.
WTF? My entire life? Er yes, apparently.
Dig our your copies of old income tax returns. Adjust the figures to reflect any cheating you did - tips you didn't report, jobs that paid you under the table, informal consulting, gambling winnings, gifts from relatives that went unreported [I'm supposed to report financial gifts? Oops], any money you've stolen [what the...?], cash prizes you've won...
...summer jobs you had during high school and college...
... what odd jobs did you have and how much did you earn picking apples, house-sitting, watering the neighbours plants...
Holy baboon-pants! Do I have to mention pocket money as a kid, or the pennies I earned picking gooseberries and red currants in my parents' garden or shelling peas? I had a few babysitting jobs but I'll be darned if I can remember my hourly rate or how many hours I worked. I can't even remember how many months I worked at Vision Express or the various bar jobs I had. This is some serious digging I have to do. And it makes it a bit harder that half of my earning life was in a different country. And that's where all my paperwork is. So I think I'll just start with the last 8 years in Australia for now.

But wait! That's only Part A. There's more.
Part B: What have you got to show for it? For the years you have been working for wages, a certain amount of money (which you just calculated) has entered your life. The amount that is left in your life now is your net worth.
Well that can't be that hard, can it? Not quite sure how I manage the fact that most things are joint owned with Toby. Do I need to include all the income he's ever earned too? But as for figuring out the worth of what I own, surely it's not that hard. I mean, I've got no money and I owe shit-loads on the house. But I own one and a half cars. Well, half of two really as I made Toby get rid of his. But wait! What's this?
Creating a Personal Balance Sheet simply means going through your material universe and listing everything you own (assets) and everything you owe (liabilities).
Simply? Everything? Really? Yes, start with liquid assets then move onto fixed assets and after listing the big stuff (house, car),
Go through your attic, basement, garage and storage shed. Itemize everything, without subjective evaluations like "That's worthless."...
...Go through every room of your house and inventory everything. Look up at those decorative light fixtures. Look down at that rug. How about...
Stop! Enough already. I get the picture. You really did mean everything.

Oh my god! I'm having heart palpitations. I'm rubbish enough at doing this for insurance estimates but absolutely everything I own with "an approximate current cash value"? I'm not to "ignore anything"?

Even the stuff in my mam and dad's loft? Don't answer that.

Okay this is really hard and it's going to take a really long time. Already this has highlighted for me just how much clutter we have. The book talks about clutter as being all the extra stuff you have beyond "enough"; "enough" being what you need for survival, plus comfort plus a few luxuries. Every time you add stuff to your life the benefit (or level of fulfillment) goes down in relation to the amount of money spent. I can see the value in knowing your net worth but I have to ask myself whether the effort is really worth the potential result for me right now. But I've committed to this. I have to do it. However, this is a long term thing. Clearly I need a short term financial plan to reach my goal of $20,000-$30,000 by Feb 2013. It's going to be an interesting walk down memory lane and I wonder what I'm going to rake up in doing it. When I was applying for permanent residency I had to write a CV of everything I'd ever worked on. It took me ages but the things I remembered whilst I was doing it were amazing. Things I thought I'd forgotten that seemed to bear no relevance to work. Songs, friends, nights, moments. So, you know, every cloud...

Things That Make Me Smile No. 4: Going to the toy zoo.

We're a bit housebound at the moment because the Wee Bairn sleeps so much and often his and Miss Chief's sleeps overlap. So I've been challenged to come up with different ways to keep Miss Chief amused and prevent me from going insane. Yesterday we built a zoo in the front room and then took a Barbie doll and her cat and dog on a visit. We parked the car under the coffee table and then wandered around taking in rabbits, monkeys, giraffes, tigers, crocodiles, a pond with a frog, a platypus, ducks and a hippo, elephants, a panda, a brown bear (or was it a grizzly?), birds, a kangaroo and a meerkat. It was all fun and games until the crocodiles escaped and started eating people.

Someone left a baby in the tiger enclosure.

Visiting the giraffe enclosure.

Those crazy crocodiles.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Things That Make Me Smile No. 3: Miss Chief Having Fun With Her Big Cousins

We sent Miss Chief offsite today while we dealt with her unwell brother. She spent the day having a great time with her older cousins and even had a 2 hour nap. That's impressive babysitting. Uncle Awesome sent this photo of her enjoying a slushy.

Does glamour = boring?

Do you ever look at someone totally glammed up and think, "if they have time to do all that they must have a really boring life"?

I do. It makes me feel better about myself.

Family Financials

Isn't it funny how life has this strange way of throwing things at you just when you need them? Actually I have a theory about that. We have so much information coming our way that we can't possibly effectively process it all. And so we filter out the totally irrelevant stuff and ignore it. Then there's the vaguely interesting but still practically irrelevant stuff that we glance at, maybe read but then forget (e.g. Rare Moon Mineral Found In Western Australia). And then every now and again a little nugget shines through the detritus and shouts out "Look at me! Look at me! I'm really relevant." And you think, "wow, it's almost as if that was put there just for me."

But of course, if you hadn't been at the stage you were at it would just fade away with the rest of the irrelevant or vaguely interesting stuff.

Today on Facebook I read a reference to an app called EEBA (Easy Envelope Budgeting Aid) and I thought "wow! That's really relevant. It's almost as if that was put there just for me." Because yes, the time has finally come, after years of putting it off or making half-baked or over-ambitious attempts, to finally get our household budget underway.

Really, we've left it too late. We've already had to sell shares to pay our credit card bill. This single income malarky ain't all it's cracked up to be. But one thing it definitely is, is a challenge. And I love a challenge.

Before Christmas I joined my old colleagues on a workshop. The theme of the workshop was Life Balance and one of our tasks was to set a goal using the SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound) criteria. Typically I don't give finances much thought. So long as there is more money coming in than going out I'm happy. I am beginning to realise this is not a very balanced approach and that money, whether I like it or not, is a big part of my life and needs just as much attention as family, work, fitness and all those other things I give priority to, such as perfecting the foam on my coffee and making soft toys and ribbon blankets. If I don't start actively planning my finances I will not be able to achieve some of the things that are important to me, such as visiting my family in the UK and retiring comfortably. Not to mention the fact that children don't get any cheaper as they get older.

So, with this in mind, my goal is to have between $20,000 and $30,000 in our offset account by the end of January 2013. I'm not sure whether this is achievable or realistic so I have some work to do to figure that out. I was originally inspired by reading Planning With Kids by Nicole Avery (see Nicole's great planning blog, and online resources). Next I dug out an old book that I never finished reading called Your Money or Your Life by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin. (Check out Vicki's blog of the same name.) I'm enjoying reading this book again as it reminded me of some of my core values that I seem to have forgotten lately. They're all about simplification and reducing excess and clutter; sustainability, environmentalism and consumer awareness; and active prioritisation of needs and wants rather than impulse buying. Sometimes these values feel at odds with the world I live in and I don't always feel happy living them. But I definitely feel restless when I ignore them, as I have been doing and bringing them to mind makes me feel excited and hopeful about what I can achieve when I put my mind to it.

I started putting some of this into action anyway a few months ago when I began to declutter some of my clothes. It felt so good to drop off bags and boxes of unused items to the charity shop. I still have a long way to go with that, but it's an ongoing thing as my body changes post-baby and I decide what I still want to wear. And naturally Other Half and I started to think a bit more about what we spend our money on: going out for coffee less, temporarily cancelling our organic produce delivery, buying on special and being more aware of what we're eating. OH in particular has an "if it's there, eat it (and don't stop until it's gone)" attitude to food. I am still fighting with him to adopt a menu plan system. I much prefer to know what I'm cooking, have a shopping list, stick to it and then know that we will cook and eat everything we've bought. He, on the other hand, has decided to only buy things that are less than $3 a kilo. And as I'm currently doing most of the cooking, some nights it's a bit like Ready Steady Cook.

I loaded the EEBA app onto my iPhone today with the intention of using this as one of my budgeting tools. From what I've seen so far EEBA allows you to virtually stick cash into envelopes, log your spending from a particular envelope and then stop when the money runs out. This is exactly how my financial mind works and in fact, pooling all of our resources into one offset account, rather than having separate savings accounts, has been a real challenge for me and is one of the reasons I've budgeted so poorly in recent years. I've already started to implement a sort of envelope budgeting system by paying in cash at the supermarket. No, really I have actually been doing this. For most groceries Aldi is cheaper and of equivalent quality but they charge for using a credit card. In the past I've ignored this charge as it really is minimal. But then I realised that if I only want to spend $30 on groceries, then why not just take $30 and calculate the total as I go around the shop? It sounds like an effort but really, even with Phoebe in tow it wasn't that hard at all.

So follow me on this journey. I'll make regular updates as to how I'm doing and what steps I've taken and maybe you'll learn some new tricks that might help you too.

Friday, January 6, 2012

I like boys

I just stumbled across this unpublished post from a few months ago and thought it deserved publishing.

The other day when we were driving home from daycare I asked Miss Chief what she'd been doing that day.

"Dinosaurs. And Dress Ups."
"Who did you play dinosaurs with?" I asked.
"Thomas. And Liam."
"And who did you play dress ups with?"
"Oh Nate."
"Yes. And Sai."
"There's a boy called Sai at daycare is there?"
"So you played with Thomas, Liam, Nate and Sai? All boys? Did you play with any girls today?"
"Just boys?"
"Boys are fun, aren't they?"
And after a pause she added, "I like boys."
"Me too."

Things That Make Me Smile No. 9: Floating Algae

This is one of those times that I wished
a) that I had a polarising filter on my camera; and
b) that I'd had my camera with me.

But I did have my phone so this will have to do. Although I would like to make it known that I couldn't actually see what I was taking a photo of so it's a bit of a point, click and hope job.

Okay so it doesn't look like much but here's the story. I took Ash for a walk around the lake and noticed these bits of weedy algae, or whatever they are. The way the light was shining on the water, and the clarity of the first few centimetres of water made it look like they were suspended in air. At least that's how it looked through my polarising sunglasses. You'll have to just bear with me here and take my word for it.

Things That Make Me Smile No. 2: The Wee Bairn's smile

This is what I wake up to every morning:

You'd have to have a heart of stone not to smile at that. What a gorgeous way to start the day.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Things That Make Me Smile No. 1: My new bling

I was uncharacteristically watching Dumbrise this morning when a piece came on about a woman who decided to take one photo each day of something she was grateful for. I'd been thinking about this earlier - probably because I'd subliminally registered a headline mentioning that the piece was coming up - and wondering whether this is a project I should take on. Well, if it's anything like my 365 Clouds project (yes, take a photo of a cloud every day) it'll last about 3 days, then get forgotten about for a day or two, then resurrect itself for a few days and then die an early death. I did learn though that overcast skies are incredibly hard to photograph and that clouds move fast so it wasn't an entirely wasted experience.

So, it's not really worth me starting up a new blog but as most of the things that I'm grateful for tend to be to do with my family I figured I'd just stick it into this blog. Who am I kidding? It's because I haven't updated any of my other blogs for so long it just doesn't seem right to start doing it again. This blog is where it's at these days.

So I wondered for a while whether to bother, having read something at some point in my reasonably recent past about gratitude diaries leading people to feel more miserable. I tried to remember what it was that I'd read. Then the piece came on and the woman said that she'd been miserable and having a gratitude diary made her happier. She said other stuff too but I was only half watching. She also posted her photos online but when I googled it ("gratitude 365" if you're wondering) there are a few things out there and I'm not sure if any of them are her so I won't bother linking to it.

Then I remembered (I think - see previous post mentioning that sleep deprivation has destroyed my medium-term memory) that the book that I'd read about gratitude diaries making you miserable was actually referring to a study done on children. I forget where I read this or what the study was but it seems a safe bet it was in a great book called "Nuture Shock" by Po Bronson, which basically challenges everything you ever thought about raising kids.

So I've decided to give it a go, with or without a photo but instead of going with the usual "gratitude" title I'm going with Things That Make Me Smile.

Yesterday this was having a bath with Ash. (I didn't take a photo.) I used to bath with Phoebe frequently in the evening. Sometimes Toby would bath with her and other times we'd all get in the bath together. We've had a family bath once or twice since Ash came along but it's a rare occurrence. Usually it's just the two kids splashing around together. It was lovely to have some time alone with my baby, to just chill out, have a breastfeed and enjoy some skin to skin contact which we hadn't really done since we left hospital. (In hospital Toby and I were enjoying our perfect little newborn so much we didn't dress him for two days. We just wrapped him in blankets.)

Today I started the day thinking that the fact that Ash had woken once in the night at 4am for the second night in a row, and then slept until 7.30am, was the thing that made me smile today. Then my bling arrived.

My Emirates airmiles were expiring and I couldn't afford to travel home in time to use them. So, despite being incredibly skint it meant I had a fair whack of credit to spend on myself. I ordered a beautiful Swarovski necklace and matching earrings (and a wine cooler). They are just so unbelievably gorgeous. The earrings are solid and heavy and make me feel very glamorous. The necklace is so fancy it has a crystal-encrusted Swarovski swan pendant at the clasp and even the clasp has the swan imprinted. It definitely made me smile. And I did take a photo.

Now I just need to sort out my finances so I can afford to go out somewhere and wear them.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Sleeping through?

Last night Ash slept through until 4.30am! Oh My God! That may not sound much for a seven month old (almost, that is) but this is the first time it has ever happened. At least I think it's the first time. I'm so sleep deprived that my memory has gone fuzzy and it's quite possible that this has happened before. But it would be a very rare occurrence, the odd night amongst many, many nights of disturbed sleep.

Ash has generally woken two or three times a night his whole life. Sometimes more. He'd wake and feed around 10 or 11pm, then again 3-4 hours later and then again a couple of hours after that around 4 or 5am. Often he'd decide this is a good time to get up for the day.

And then every now and then we'd have nights where he'd wake every couple of hours. Once he did this for a whole week. Just a few days ago he woke up every 1.5-2 hours. This was the night that we got home after our Christmas break. The night before we'd been up for an hour or so with Phoebe who had a horrible croupy cough, poor bairn. Oh, how tired were we after all of that! It's a rhetorical question (hence the lack of question mark) but the answer is Very!

Sometimes I feed him when he wakes to keep the peace or because I'm too tired to question it and go onto autopilot. And other times I point blank refuse and make Toby get up and settle him. This week he has his two top teeth coming in and the right one is poking through. So if Toby can't settle him then I'll feed him. I figure that's better than paracetamol. (Have I mentioned that he got his first two teeth a week apart when he was four months old?)

So anyway, last night... We went out for dinner with friends and Andrei babysat. Around 9.30pm he heard Ash stir, which he'd done the night before. Only this time he didn't actually wake up and cry. The next we heard from him was at 4.30am. Bliss. Except I spent the entire night worrying, firstly about him and then about my engorged breasts. I sent Toby in to check on him at 1am and couldn't believe it when I woke again at 3am and still hadn't heard from him. Then I became obsessed over my full, sore boobs and couldn't get back to sleep. I finally got up and expressed some milk to make myself more comfortable. No sooner had I got back into bed then he woke for a feed. I'm not sure he went back to sleep after that. Toby got up with him around 5.40am. Isn't that always the way? Baby sleeps all night but parents spend the entire night freaking out that baby has stopped breathing and get even less sleep than usual.

So, a bit of a result but I'm completely knackered. Fingers crossed for a repeat performance tonight that I can actually take advantage of.