Blank Space

Today I have pirates running around my garden.

This is wonderful, seeing as the smallest pirate puked all over herself last night. It’s also brilliant because vomit leads to cancelled swimming lesson which leads to blank space in the schedule.

Blank space in a schedule can be filled. Filled with chores, with errands, with small tasks that seem to build up. Or it can be left blank.

Today I chose to do nothing in our blank space. The kids asked for a DVD, which held their attention for about half an hour. But while I was doing the dishes, the noises changed. Footsteps rushed off to the bedroom, and then came back wearing costumes. So now, there’s treasure, bad guys and ‘aaarrr me hearties’.

Blank space in the schedule can be great thing for kids and adults. We can choose to fill it, or leave it blank and let the whims take us where they will.

Letting my kids choose, and choosing not to drive to the supermarket, go to the park or mow the lawn has given us a little freedom in our day. If we’d gone to town, or even if I’d planned a craft activity or story time, I wouldn’t have happy little pirates running around in the garden. Opening the space to allow creative and imaginative play for the kids, and some time to sit in the sun with a book for me, has been good all around. No cranky, no complaints, and a little relaxation. Blank space is good for the brain, for the body, and for my ability to cope with life in general.

You’re awesome!

I bet you don’t hear that often enough. But think about it. What do you do, with your time, for others, for a job, for a hobby?

You are not an amoeba (although they are pretty cool, too). You do not exist in a vacuum. And who you are has an effect on those around you.

Do you bring baked goods to the office? That’s awesome.

Do you feed and clothe your kids with no help from anyone else? Brilliant work.

Do you love wholeheartedly? Beautiful.

Do you ask after the health of the lady at the checkout? So kind.

Do you get up every day, ready to face the world again after going through a rough patch? That’s fantastic.

However we live, and whoever we are, we have value. And in the crazy, funny, beautiful, hard, scary, sad and difficult world we live in, it’s really important to remember that.

So here’s to you. You are freaking awesome.

Good Days

Some days you realise that everything just went well. Sure the kids had their moments, and so did you, but overall, things just worked. We had one of those this week.

The autumn sun was bright, the kids were happy, and we got things done. Spending most of the day outside, we walked to the library, and did the craft activities. It was also memorable because I had won a ‘who borrowed most’ prize for their February/Valentines/Book Love extravaganza.

We played at the park on our way home, and befriended some random kids who were also having fun playing.

We made pici pasta from a Jamie Oliver recipe for lunch. The kids loved it, and it was an extra fun way to sneak in leafy greens to their diet. Parenting win!

We weeded the garden and mowed the lawn. I love my push reel mower. Everybody else thinks I’m crazy, but it’s great exercise, he lawn gets mown and I’ve expended nothing but time and elbow grease.

And after an adventure-some day, the kids slept like tiny exhausted logs. Granted, child one was having a farm day and it was just me with numbers two and three, but we managed a lot of things I’d been trying to make time for, and had a bunch of fun.

It wasn’t until the next day that I realised how good it had been. In the moment I was just trying to keep the kids occupied while getting the jobs done. In reality, we’d had an entire day of quality time, doing healthy, worthwhile activities, with minimal arguing and no tantrums.

Total shocker: an entire day with no one chucking a hissy fit, or stamping feet demanding this, that or the other.

I think this will be my model for home days now. Sure, working days, or kinder days, or after school activity days will look different, but home days are going to be outside days, chasing days, walking days, adventure days. Days where I can look back and say: Today was a good day.

Eat the pantry

I’m trying to save money. With birthdays coming up, saving for Christmas, saving for a home and hopefully taking my kids on a short holiday, I’m trying so darn hard to save what I can.

I’ve been eating the pantry and shopping the freezer. Sometimes, until you look, you have no idea what little gems can be found. Some unmarked freezer bags with savoury mince, tuna pasta sauce, and cans of five bean mix hiding in the back of the cupboard.

I managed five meals from one cook with the dubious art of ‘use what you’ve got’. One slow cooked beef mince stew gave me the base to make five different meals for my family. Some extra cooking required on the day, but with the base complete, it only amounted to boiling pasta or spuds, or making a dough and throwing it in the oven.

And all from stuff I had on hand. No visit to the supermarket, no rushing out for take away (which we don’t have here, anyway) and no stress about what to cook, with five meals done (I put two in the freezer for another time).

A little thought, and a lot of hope, made my day. I’ve saved money, used up some of the odds and ends, fed the kids healthy meals (sneaky veg included) and I’ve realised that I’m getting better at this frugal stuff. Yay for me, yay for my savings plans.

Losing Your Way, Finding Your Path

It’s easy to lose your way. Get side tracked, get busy, family drama, no time, no energy. All of these things can get in the way of that goal you’ve been working toward.

For me, it was a combination of all of the above. A new job that required so much of my time and effort, studying for a degree that I’ve wanted for years, a sick relative, another whose stress levels were affecting me and my family, lack of sleep and the demands of being a sole parent to three amazing kids.

For months I was lost in the mire. I was working, earning enough to allow for the occasional splurge for the kids, and then I let it all slide. I no longer had to budget every cent, I no longer had to be sure to turn the appliances off at a specified time so my electric bill wouldn’t run over my budget, I no longer had to deny myself the occasional pack of Tim Tams. And there it was, I loosened the reins in one area of my life, and all the other things slipped a little too.

It took me months to notice how far off track I’d gotten, and only a day of brooding to figure out that my slip was not a failure, but a normal part of life. We slip, we fall, we drift off the path we had chosen for ourselves, but we can get back up, turn ourselves back in the right direction and begin again.

Three things got me back on track.

  • Realising how much I was spending on disposable products. Baby wipes, paper towel, dish sponges, tampons, the list is enormous.
  • Realising that my trees were fruiting again, here is something free, natural and delicious for my family, and it just happens to grow in my backyard. With a little thought and effort, I could try this gardening thing again.
  • Realising that I missed the sense of achievement I felt when I was giving my family the best I could, even when it was on such a tight budget

So here I am, back at the starting line, picking myself up, finding my way back to where I want to be. And knowing that I may have drifted off the path, but that’s ok, I have GPS, I’ll always be able to find it again.

Winter Preparation

Winter is here, so I’ve thinking about heating. Staying warm. Managing not to freeze in a house whose draughts I haven’t worked out yet. And yes, I should have done this in May, but things can get crazy busy around here.

I have two major issues that need looking, and a small list of others that need to get done because we’ve been inundated with rain and wind.

And this isn’t just a matter of staying warm, it’s a frugal necessity. Electricity prices have increased so much that running the electrics for our household is enough to make me cringe. So in order to lower our heating bill, I need to fix some things.

A large hole in my bedroom wall. It was patched at some point, but the patch has fallen off and is currently sitting on my mantle piece. It not only lets in cold air, but the cat keeps watching the hole as if he’s expecting a mouse. Not cool.

There is also a big louvre window next to the back door. It doesn’t shut all the way and in order to keep any warmth in the house we have to keep the kitchen door closed at all times. Not possible with three kids going in and out.

And these are only the big things. When it comes down to really hunting out the issues, I’ve found at least three other ways that my house is losing heat that I will have to pay for. So while wearing layers and using extra blankets is fine, I want to make sure that the money I will be spending on heating doesn’t just float out the window or under the door.

So start the list. Check under and around doors, windows, cupboards housing plumbing and ceilings for draughts. Check for water leaks next time it rains, is it leaking in through the window? Do you need to replace the seals? Are the gutters running well? If you’ve noticed any mould in bathrooms or under sinks, clean it now, no one needs to get sick.

It sounds a little petty, but all these little things can cost you money, and it does add up. And when paying for winter utilities, every dollar saved is important.

Todays’ Treat

My kids are like any others, they love a treat, but I’m a frugal crunchy mum at heart, so I try to make treats I feel good about giving them.

Tonight we had a pizza picnic party sitting in the lounge watching Family Feud. And my kids loved it! For them, homemade pizza is fun and tasty. Yes they still request Maccas on occasion, but it’s neither in the budget or locality.

I’m still working on getting the refined sugar and processed foods out of our diet, and I don’t know that I’ll ever give up my caffeine or chocolate entirely. But that’s OK with me. My kids deserve a treat sometimes, and heck, so do I.