Contemplating the simple life

We have returned from our short break on the coast and have since enjoyed two child free days. We had prearranged to have Lottie and Emmy in care for the Thursday and Friday of this week. Yep parents of the year eat your heart out!

It has been bliss!

I questioned our decision thinking it was unfair to pay others to look after our children while we kicked back and relaxed or got some of those pesky jobs around the house done without the kiddies underfoot. While questioning it, I was secretly thinking how nice it would be to be at home by ourselves without having to tend to anyone else’s needs and do whatever took our fancy for once instead of what the girls wanted to do.

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Of course I sounded out a few people about what their thoughts were surrounding this idea –

Husband – Hell yes why are we even discussing this – it’s a no brainer

Sister in Law – Hell yes – what are you waiting for?’

Carers – Excellent idea – have you booked them in yet?

So with that resounding approval I went ahead and booked. Yes in the back of my mind is still the thoughts of the beautiful parents who love their children more than life itself and couldn’t stand to be away from them for more than a moment and then I remember that I am not one of these parents. I work part time to fulfill my need for a career, I enjoy sleeping in my own bed with no intruders, I look forward to sitting at the hairdressers for 3 hours by myself and I don’t mind if they don’t talk to me – silence is delightful.

I still got the guilts and have done some sewing for them during the day but it got me thinking of how life could be if we didn’t have to work all the time. I started contemplating the simple life.

Back in the day, Mums never worked outside the home and the Dads only worked 9-5 Monday to Friday and enjoyed their weekends. They lived in a comfortable house (not with a cinema room included) and possibly only had one car. Kids played outside all the time and their parents didn’t always know exactly where they were. They also weren’t fearful that they wouldn’t return as soon as they got hungry.

Nowadays, Mum works a paid job too to help meet the bills. Everyone wants a brand new house for their first house and it must meet a huge list of minimum requirements (what do you mean we can’t fit a cinema room??). Two luxury cars in the driveway and how many months wages are those engagement rings supposed to cost now?

Unfortunately in our quest for the biggest and the best we have had to sacrifice so much without even knowing it. I would love the freedom of sending the children off to school and only needing to bake and clean the house for the 6 hours they are gone. And don’t doubt for a moment that my husband wouldn’t enjoy kicking back more often.

I fear we have over complicated our lives and become so wound up with being busy and needing to have everything that we have lost sight of the bigger picture. We never have time to ourselves, we never stop to smell the roses and we keep trying to outdo the Jones’. Maybe if we all took a step back and asked ourselves what we really want out of life we might be surprised by the answers. They won’t have anything to do with material things. They will have things to do with time. We need to buy our time back and not be a slave to the Jones’. We need to evaluate where we would be content. Where we would be happy.

Holidays with children

Holidays bring to mind visions of long warm days, sipping cocktails and relaxing beside a pool or beach.
My husband and I travelled a lot before having children. We come from a regional town and travelled outside of Australia for the first time for our honeymoon. This was the start of our love affair with travel.
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Different countries and cultures are fascinating.  Same country, different cities is fascinating.  We first moved from our regional base to Melbourne.  This was an eye opening experience.  We thoroughly enjoyed the city lifestyle. Took us a little while to start exploring as we overcame our nervousness of being in such a busy unknown urban environment. Once we widened our comfort zone, living overseas didn’t seem so scary.
So next step along the life plan was to throw caution to the wind and uproot ourselves once again and head overseas. London was our destination and we had no idea what we were in for. We travelled extensively throughout Europe while we were based in London.  Flying in to a new destination for a weekend was a thrill.
We eventually decided it was time to head home and start a family.
A family of your own is exciting.  You have so many wonderful ideas about what a great parent you are going to be.  We often discussed travel as a part of our children’s upbringing.  We have been away a few times with our children now – not overseas yet.
We have struggled with our children on holidays. They never seem to sleep properly when we are away. They sleep in separate rooms at home and struggle to sleep in the same room without a lot of intervention from us. Usually means we need at least a three bedroom house to save ourselves the stress. Expensive…..
We also don’t seem to be able to have a quiet day. We need to keep them active or they harrass us no end. We bring activities with us, toys, colouring in books, reading books and dvds – most things that happily occupy them at home but not when we are away.
We are currently away and things seem to be tracking along a little better. Maybe we are more prepared or more relaxed about the whole thing or maybe the girls are just getting a little bit older. We are staying at the beach and have had some glorious weather. The girls went straight to sleep tonight and we had both an active morning and a more low key afternoon. Hopefully tomorrow continues along this line and it might give me hope for future overseas travel being an option sooner rather than later…..

Decluttering

Some nights my dear husband and I end up discussing world problems and how to fix them if we had a magic wand and last night was one of those occasions. Somehow we ended up on the topic of decluttering and how we as a society accumulate ‘stuff’.

Each year at Christmas time I have four weeks off work as we shut the office down and it is a great break. Every second year we head up north to the coast and family however this year is one of the ‘off’ years where we will be staying home. Each Christmas I try to undertake a ‘declutter’ of the house as we have both the girls birthdays and Christmas all within a month and our house seems to explode overnight with new toys, wrapping paper and food.

The first year I went on an all out war on my house we filled 10 garbage bags full of ‘stuff’ to take to the Salvation Army. I was ashamed! How had we possibly accumulated so much stuff we didn’t use, had outgrown and the waste! Waste of resources, waste of money and waste of space! Crazy, crazy, crazy!

So the following year I set about setting some boundaries on the gift department as this was certainly one area that could use some improvement! Given their birthdays were so close to Christmas I had always set about purchasing smaller gifts for Christmas (probably more about quantity) and making a bigger deal out of their birthday so purchasing the bigger more expensive item for this (Bike, mini tramp etc). I regularly make some items for Christmas as handmade gifts from me as well. The grandparents however were presents on steroids!

My girls effectively have three sets of grandparents as my parents are separated and living with new partners (not so new but you get my meaning…..). So grandparents presents x 3 was amounting to a rather large influx of items at Christmas time. Now speaking to grandparents about presents is a delicate thing. Not wanting to offend anyone I set about asking if they could limit the quantity of items – No need to tell anyone what they can or cannot spend or what items I specifically want them to buy, just if they could slow down on the number of gifts. Consolidate for want of a better word.

Well last Christmas was our best one by far in this department! I undertook the decluttering process ‘pre’ Christmas as I my holidays started a little early with the timing of Christmas. I had managed to get through all of our bedrooms before we had Christmas day and we went on our holiday to the north coast. The grandparents had all complied  (I even swindled some new towels from one set rather than toys!) and we (I) had reduced the quantities at home. It was wonderful not to struggle to find new homes for all these toys.

We still managed to take a large number of garbage bags to the Salvation Army but there was only one toy bag and the rest were clothes that no longer fit or were unsuitable so that was a far better outcome than the 10 garbage bags we began with. I also went through our linen cupboard and downsized in that department as well.

It is so refreshing to have a thorough clean out of stuff!

So in our discussions last night, my husband can be quite pedantic about efficiency and downsizing the number of ‘jobs’ you have to do and I can only agree that decluttering reducing the number of jobs. When there are less things to put away or find homes for it is so much easier to keep on top of things. Unfortunately over the twelve month period stuff accumulates again on you! I am starting to get the itch again already to cleanse the house so it may come early this year.

I incorporate the ‘spring clean’ into my declutter process so it can be time consuming as I wash walls, wash windows, dust every possible place and vacuum every floor surface within a room. Pull everything out of each cupboard and re order them, move all the furniture around to get all the lingering dust and really give the place a workout.

Maybe I should stop writing about it and start……

Chocolate is not your friend

Yesterday I ate a bar of chocolate – it was delicious! I have been on the I quit sugar regime for 5 weeks now and no your body does not forget how yummy chocolate is.

Last weeks menu didn’t appeal to me a great deal which pretty much sealed it’s fate. The kids turned their noses up at the weeks that did appeal to me so they would have been awfully hungry if I had persisted this week. So I back tracked and pulled out some of the recipes from the previous weeks that everyone enjoyed. It has meant that I haven’t been as structured and a few coffees have slipped in and then came a chocolate bar yesterday – oops!

I had already decided I wasn’t going to ever be a hard core no sugar kind of person but drastically reducing the amount of sugar intake would do wonders for my health. And a bit of exercise wouldn’t go astray…..

So we are back on the game plan this week – some of the meals this week look great – and I hope to pick up where we left off a week ago. Over the 5 weeks I have lost 3.5 kilos which is great but there is still a way to go to a goal weight but slow and steady wins the race.

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I have had to field quite a few questions from Lottie in relation to our new food. I definitely DO NOT want to talk to her about weight so we have been talking about healthy choices for food. They have done work on this at school so it is not a foreign concept for her but she isn’t a fan of capsicum, onion and eggplant as the vegetable component of her meal. So the request when asked what’s for dinner is if we could have ‘normal’ vegetables please. Our normal vegetables now consist of mashed pumpkin and sweet potato with greens stirred through. They happily gobble these up.

Another side of this is the budget obviously. We now do all our food shopping at Aldi and were saving a small fortune just from this swap from Coles. Our food bills have increased slightly since starting this as I am packing a lot more vegies in but by cutting out the take away it really kind of balances itself out. Our weekly shopping bill sits around the $130-$150 mark (sometimes as low as $100 if we have meat in the freezer!). Some people are surprised thinking this is really low but I certainly don’t skimp in the food department and there is always plenty of snacks in the cupboard. My food bill used to be over $200 per week when we shopped at Coles.

Anyway by slipping yesterday and eating a chocolate bar it reminded me that I still have no self control when it comes to chocolate and that two pieces of a bar will never be enough…..

La Emilotte…… my alter ego

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Once upon a time there was a girl who grew up got married and had a baby. She went back to work part time and before too long decided a sibling was required for the lucky first born. While on maternity leave for a second time it dawned on her that she wasn’t any where near busy enough so a hobby was required. In walked a sewing machine……

Crazy but true story! I have always loved sewing and craft projects are always on the go in my house. My mum taught me to sew and after getting a part time job at Spotlight while at school, the craft department got the better of me (and the better part of my pay cheque!).

While on maternity leave with Emmy, I started creating again and began with all manner of hair accessories for my two girls. Then I borrowed my mother’s old sewing machine and started on dresses and skirts. Then came the Facebook page, the market stalls on weekends and the ball just kept rolling. I ventured off into the supplies trade to supply all the latest and greatest products to all my newly made friends in the handmade community on Facebook. My house was being overtaken!

I went back to work part time as an accountant and tracked along ok for a little while juggling all the many balls I had up in the air at once. Life is really busy with two little girls, part time work and part time business! Eventually it dawned on me that I was making life more difficult than it needed to be and I was not spending anywhere near enough time with Lottie and Emmy as I was always working. Hard choices and compromises is what life is all about and it was time I let something go.

I was very lucky to have a great support base for the Craft supplies business and a number of hands went up when I asked the question if someone would like to take over. We settled on a price for the stock and accessories and before I knew it time was back on my side.

I didn’t realise how much I had missed sewing and creating items for the two special little people in my life. It was disappointing for them when I would create a lovely dress only to post it off to another lucky little girl. It was lovely to get back to basics and spend time with them choosing a fabric for a dress or making something in secret at night time to surprise them with in the morning. It reminded me that simple things are the best and I don’t need to be super woman.

I still sew for business and truly love making one of a kind items for my beloved customers – I just don’t take on a million orders at once any more. I have enjoyed sewing again now that I have stepped back from forcing orders out the door each week. I never wanted sewing to be my job – I always want it to be something I am passionate about. When I converted it to a job I lost the passion. Now that I stopped it from being a ‘job’ and went back to enjoying it as a hobby life has become easy again.

Thankfully the girl cut herself some slack and they lived happily ever after…..

Report Day

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We all want an A+ on our report right?

We received our very first Kindergarten report today for the first semester of school. I was really nervous! You almost feel like it is rating your parenting skills.

Thankfully we are blessed with a diligent little student who loves to read, write and count. There are a few cryptic comments that seem to be more about not offending me as the parent – for example ‘Lottie needs to focus on when to chat in class so she is not interrupting her own work or those around her’. Pretty sure that equates to Lottie needs to be quiet and stop chewing everyone’s ears off with her elaborate stories. But all in all I’m very proud of our first report card!

I’m not so nervous now to rock up to our Parent/Teacher interviews later this week – feels like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders!

2 weeks and counting…..

Sugar

Two weeks ago our family started on a new journey – I joined up with the 8 week program ‘I quit sugar’ with Sarah Wilson.

A little background – I am an avid coffee drinker. I drink anywhere from 4 to 10 cups of coffee a day. I have my coffee with milk and 2 sugars. Equate that to 8 – 20 teaspoons of sugar a day. Without even eating anything. It is recommended to only have maximum of 6 teaspoons of sugar! I love lollies and chocolate and can happily devour a block of chocolate without blinking. Actually I don’t blink cos the girls would notice and ask me for some.

So after spending plenty of time reading up about cutting sugar out of our diets I decided to take the plunge.

I have been rather strict on myself and not quite so much with the family. I have had one cup of coffee in two weeks – amazed that I have survived with no headaches. We had one slip up on Friday night and we ordered pizza in but other than this I have loosely followed the meal plan. I eat Weetbix for breakfast – no sugar – as I am allergic to eggs by themselves and we have had plenty of left overs so have skipped a few meals just to use up the leftovers!

Some of the meals have been really yummy and some not so much. There are quite a few different vegetables within the meals to what we usually eat. We are a meat and three veg – potato, carrots and beans – kind of family so to have capsicum, sweet potato, eggplant and zucchini as the vegies part of the meal has taken some getting used to with the girls. The standard ‘I don’t like that’ before they have even tried it has made for a few early bed times this past 2 weeks.

I have been feeling good and have lost 2 kilos in 10 days.

We went out for lunch with friends today and the girls got some lollies from a local lolly shop. I couldn’t help myself and had a couple and felt awful this afternoon. It was really strange. There was no sugar rush – just drowsiness and an ill feeling in my stomach. So my body must be noticing and rejecting the good old white stuff. Yay body!

Official second week weigh in tomorrow – wish me luck!