Thursday, 30 June 2011

Facing disappointment

Image from here
A couple of weeks ago I stepped out of my comfort zone and reached out for something that I wanted.

I found out yesterday that my dream will not become my reality.

At first I suffered a moment of intense disappointment. I wished so badly that things could be different. I wished so badly that my fate was not in the hands of someone else. I wished so badly to be given the chance that I thought I deserved.

I ranted a little. I huffed a little. And then I breathed. 

Closure. Maybe even a smidge of relief when I really looked out for it.

Things happen for a reason don't they? I scrolled through my mind searching for a possible reason for this. I looked for good things about not reaching my dream, at this point in my life. Maintaining the status quo. I observed my fear of failure float away.

Things happen for a reason don't they? Life's pathway is rarely straight or smooth. Bumps. Slips. Swings and roundabouts.

Status quo. 

Nothing wrong with that right?

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Write on Words: Two Fat Ladies

Image from here
The delightful Gill from InkPaperPen (and Alice Becomes) has started an online writing group. I have been watching from the sidelines for the past few weeks and this week decided I really ought to join in.


Write On Wednesdays Exercise 4: Two Fat Ladies (88!):  Grab the 8th book from your bookshelf. Open it to page 8. Scroll down to the 8th sentence. Write this sentence at the top of your page. Set your timer for 5 minutes and write the first words that come into your head after your writing prompt.  Stop when the buzzer rings! 

A tall, well-built Kampuchean picked them up from their house at four in the morning*.

She didn't know where he was taking them and, frankly, she was a little surprised by his size. Her pre-conceived ideas about Kampuchean's had been shattered by his presence.

No bags. No idea. She went off into the chill of the morning, the darkness hiding her way. She desperately wished she had some sense of her destination, but all she had was hope.

Hope that he was taking them to a different world. A better world. Somewhere far from the noise of their current life. Somewhere far from the fear that enveloped her from the moment she woke each day.

She wasn't sure whether she should talk to the man. What would she say? What would she even call him?

She quickly decided her best bet was to remain silent. Silence was hard for her inquisitive mind but silence meant she still had hope. Silence kept her dreams alive.

So she hung her head and shuffled behind him, sneaking a glance at her companion as they passed under the street lamps. Into the darkness. Towards her dreams.


Click over to see how other's tackled this five minute stream of consciousness task.

* From Leviathon: The unauthorised biography of Sydney by John Birmingham



Write On Wednesdays

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Living on a budget - Part 2

Image from here
A few weeks ago I posted about our need to live on a tight budget at the moment.

We have been withdrawing cash from the bank after we get paid (I got the idea from a Kidspot article I read) and have to live off that until our next pay. Our bills are all scheduled to come out of our bank account, so the cash just has to cover groceries, train fares, lunch orders, the cleaner, sushi and donuts when we go to the local market to top up our veggies and my coke zero habit.

We have been doing this for three pay cycles now and what started out as being extremely restrictive has become surprisingly liberating. It was so hard to begin with; we almost ran out of money after my first grocery shop the first week! But we have gotten better at it.

I have been planning menus and creating shopping lists. Although I have always tried to do this, there are times when I just don't have time and race out to the grocery (and overspend!).  I have also been more analytical about the contents of meals and have been trying to make seasonal meals from the same group of ingredients to reduce wastage.

I have been making more vegetarian meals again too. Before I had kids I was a semi-vegetarian for many years (I enjoyed bacon and chicken occasionally) so I have been pulling out a few of the old recipes to reduce our meat intake (good for the earth, good for your health, and good for your budget so a triple star win!). I am going for Meatless Monday (last night it was leek frittata) and another meat-free day too. Our kids have grown up eating legumes as a staple so they are coping well.

I have been paying cash at the register too so if I don't have enough money, I have to make decisions about which items go back. It happened twice in the first week (and was extremely embarrassing) but I have adapted quickly to adding up the bill as I go and have come in on budget at each subsequent shop.

The liberating part has been the fact that we already have a small stockpile of cash in the bank account.  We went out for dinner with friends on Saturday night and didn't even have to think about how much it might cost. We just went and had a ball!

And paying our bills is so much easier. We have removed the stress of shuffling money around our accounts in the eternal search to make ends meet. With three kids in daycare two days a week and a couple of afternoons at OOSH for the other, you can imagine how much our monthly childcare bills are?

I can happily say that this six week stint will become the norm for us.

How do you manage your weekly bills?


Monday, 27 June 2011

52in52: Who has been a busy beaver?

Image from here
I am coming to the half way point of the 52in52 challenge. At this point in time I have many items to go {and I am absolutely failing to post about this every Saturday (oops)}so lucky there is another 26 weeks!

But because I am such a task oriented person, I made a point of getting on with some things this weekend so I would have something to show for myself. I am pleased to report that:

1. The kids and I went geocaching on Saturday. Boy was it fun! A little bit of bush walking combined with treasure hunting resulted in a whole lot of fun, powered by an iPhone App. Even the whingiest child can't go past being the 'holder of the iPhone' (after Mum had memorised the map) so it was an incredibly peaceful, adventurous day out!

On the downside, we only managed to locate two out of three of the targeted trinket boxes (we lost internet connection in the heart of the Galston Gorge) AND did battle with a colony of bull ants (parenting dilemma: whose little legs do you save first?), but the excitement of hunting and locating things in our beloved bushland far outshone the mishaps. Team Four 100% recommends you give it a try.

2. I set up a Facebook page for And then there were four. You can pop over and 'like' me there! I have been 'umming' and 'errrring' about it but thought, 'why not?'. So it is done. Make sure you let me know what you would like to read more about as I cut my teeth over the next couple of weeks.

3. I have been reading and reading and am well on my way with my 'Read 2 books a month' item.

4.  The twins had their half birthday this weekend so we went out to the drive-in with the kids on Friday night. (I think I only have one more movie now until I have seen six for the year). Team Four 100% recommends that you go and see Cars 2 at the drive in. We had the absolute best time ever! Happy Birthday Minx and Dew Drop!

5. I have some dates and appointments next month so I will be crossing off another two items at least! Stay tuned for details...

And so, at this 'half way there' week of the year, how are you going with your New Year's Resolutions?

* And just because it is 'that time of year', check out this post from last year on how to set Financial New Year's Resolutions.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Three bizarre conversations in one day

Image from here
I found myself in the middle of three bizarre conversations yesterday.

The first was with the lovely man who delivers our fruit and veg. Usually we talk about what fruit and vegetables are in season or how busy the markets are. Relevant stuff to his role in my life. Today he said that he was talking with my neighbour about the problems we had had with the automatic transmission on our car (as you do?!) and then went on to tell me why the transmission is crap, the story of his own VW Caravelle and all about the mechanic who fixes his cars. An interesting story, but not one I was expecting Tony and I to be having at 10 past 10 in the morning while I was trying to wrangle the kids into the car to make it to an appointment on time.

The next came when I was having a blood test with Doo Dah, Dew Drop and the Minx present. "Are they your children?" the vampire nurse asked.

"Yes" I replied (thinking who else's would they be lady?).

"All of them?" she responded, clearly astounded.

"Um. Yes." (thinking, you don't have to sound so surprised. I am not the first person to have three children, am I?)

At which point Doo Dah pipes in "And we have a brother who is at school today" (thanks Doo Dah!).

"You seem pretty sane for someone in your, um, .... position", she said.

"Um. Thank you. I guess" (thinking, why do you think you need to give your two bob's worth here?)

The last was with the dermatologist who I saw for my skin cancer check. After giving me the all clear and suggesting I commit to an annual check up due to my fair skin, numerous moles/freckles, family history and sun exposure history giving me ten times more chance of getting skin cancer than the average person (mildly freak worthy!), he started talking about taking digital photos of my skin to keep tabs on any developments.

Only he said "You should get your husband or someone to get a full frontal photo. And one of your back too. There's no need to post it on your Facebook site, but it would be good to have as a reference. Just for you." (Um, well you can be guaranteed that if I were to take a 'full frontal' photo of my skin that it would not be going anywhere near Facebook, I thought). "Um. Well yes. Thanks for the suggestion." 

Is it just me of have the people in my local area lost the plot a bit?

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Blog commenting - do you have a system?

Image from here
I think I have confessed once or twice that I am a disorganised person. Our household functions because I know this and I have developed systems. Days for the washing (and times too now that we are all frugal and have a budget). Folding washing in front of the TV the two nights a week I have programs I like. A beginning of the day routine. An end of day list of jobs. A cleaner once a fortnight. You know the drill.

Until fairly recently, my 'systems' for blogging have been fairly simple.

I write each day (at various times of the day) and usually schedule the posts to be released early in the morning.

I read the blogs on my blog roll most days (and comment when I can).

I read the blogs of people who comment on my posts each day (and leave a comment on their blog).

I occasionally follow a meme (usually my sister's Weekend Rewind) where I comment on at least two or three other blogs I haven't come across before (and a few favourites too). This is a great way to 'discover' new blogs to read.

And I usually try to visit the blogs of new 'followers' (provided they are contactable via their GFC) and say 'hi' and welcome them to the fold and check out their lives a bit (I am nosy like that).

I try to read and sort through my Google Reader once a week or so.

I wouldn't say that I am the friendliest of bloggers. I am dreadful at finding the time to go on forums. I am hopeless at 'popping in'  to blogs I read when they haven't popped into mine first. But I do try to do my 'bit' for building the community and sharing the love. It is hard when you have to ration your time.

My systems give me the opportunity to read a variety of blogs. I have made some great connections with people and their comments and support truly make my blogging world go around. But I know there is a whole lot more I should, would like to be, could, ought can do to support others and to get even more out of the blogging caper.

Recently, I haven't had as much time for blogging. My 'real' life has been getting in the way (dreadful I know) which means that I haven't managed to keep reading, commenting and welcoming people the way I might have liked (thanks to all of you for sticking by me!). My disorganisation is letting me down. Again.

So my confessional ends with a few questions to all of you.

Do you have a system to blog commenting? (Please share!)  
How do you keep up with all the connections you have made through blogging without spending hours each day at the computer?
What do you like best? An email or a comment on your blog if you take the time to comment on mine?

I am really looking forward to reading your responses so please, don't be shy. 


* Submitted to Weekend Rewind 22/07/2011. To read more posts about blogging, click here.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Life calendar

Image from here
When I went to the talk by Andrew Fuller on Building Resilient children (be warned: the post was one of the duddest in recent times for me so click over at your own risk) he talked of this fantastic idea called a 'Life Calendar'.

The idea is that you create a family calendar that covers many years of their childhood so that each day ends up being special for something. Maybe you planted your veggie patch together? Maybe you went camping? Maybe someone started school? Maybe someone wore his last nappy?

Maybe it is something 'bigger' in the grand scheme of things like buying a house?

How to do this (I am sure you crafty types could have a field day with this!):
1. You use a calendar from any year.
2. Each month gets labelled - Jumping January, Fantastic February, Marvellous March and so on.
3. You write down special events (good and bad) that happened (do as many as you can remember to start with). E.g. May 1-5, 2005 Holiday to Canberra; March 26, 2007 Royal Easter show.
4. With the passing years, you add to the same calendar. Another 'year end task' to go with creating your photo year book.

It is a way to keep all of your memories in one place. A way to document your journey as a family.

Suggested uses:
* Help your children remember things that happened to them on this day in an earlier year
* Help your children remember family holidays, outings and events
* Help your children see the ebb and flow of life (some months will be busier than others)
* Help your children see how they fit into your family story

Do you use something like this at your place?

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Black and white twinstrels

Image from here
I love a good twin story. And this family's is probably one of the best.


In 2001, a mixed-race couple from England had a pair of twin baby girls. One twin was exactly like mum, who is a pale skinned red head. The other was more like dad with her dark skin and eyes. 


But the story gets more bizarre because they got pregnant with another set of twins (more fraternal girls), six or seven years later and surprise, surprise one is dark and the other fair! What are the chances of that???


Apparently one in a million (although having had a SECOND set would certainly have upped the odds).


There are other examples of 'black and white twinstrels' as one tabloid named them*. Check out the stories of Terri and Malcolm Rayhaman of London,  Stephan Gerth and Florence Addo-Gerth from Germany with their fraternal boy twins born in 2008, and of course our very own Australian version, produced by Natasha Knight and Michael Singerl in 2006.


There is no doubt that this is not a usual occurrence, but isn't it so much fun? I wonder when and where the next set of mixed-race twins will be born? Have you met anyone with this amazing situation?




* An aside, and definitely one for another multiple post, but are you a fan of, or completely against the 'twin' puns? You know, Twinspiring? Twinteresting? Twintastic? Twindividual? I will stop now... 

Monday, 20 June 2011

Bushwalking tales

The Minx and I out and about (Easter 2010)
The Geege and I were avid bushwalkers before we had our kids. Day hikes, overnight hikes, multi-day hikes, you name it, we were up for it. We spent as much time in the bush as we could. We found our connection there. Our hearts beat as one in the bush.

Since we have had the children, our adventures on the long, dirt trails have been few and far between. We still managed some day hikes when Nugget was little (the Geege wore him in a baby carrier backpack) and when Doo Dah came along too (we had our matching kiddie backpacks then). But when two became four, things got tricky. Really tricky.

Nugget was still too young to walk far on his own (3;8) and Doo Dah was definitely not taking to the trails with any level of enthusiasm (he was all of two). We managed a couple of very short walks; the boardwalk types that we used to scoff at. Each baby in a Baby Bjorn and Doo Dah catching a piggy back ride with the Geege. We were desperate!

The good thing about our persistence with getting out with the kids is that they each love the bush. They come alive, exploring every nook and cranny, in search of adventure. They ogle and admire the plant and animal varieties. You never have to ask them twice if they want to go for a bushwalk!

Yesterday, the Geege was busily working at the store but the sun was shining. The lure of the gumtrees was strong for me. I spent my early morning run time taking a stroll through the local scrub. It was a tease more than a fix.

I haven't lead the kids on a bush walk without my other half before. I have always worried that someone would refuse to walk and I would be stuck somewhere with too many tired kids.

But I took a chance and after the twins had their day sleep, I packed them into our off-road pram and hit the road with all the kids.

We ventured through the back streets and onto a local fire trail. As soon as we arrived, the twins got out and walked, the boys ran and laughed and giggled and sprinkled the hour with 'look at that Mummy' and 'check this out (enter name of sibling)', racing off the track and into every puddle they could find. Princess Dirt was slightly less interested but muddled along, holding her Mummy's hand. It was exhilerating!

It may not be the same as the adventures that the Geege and I had before we became parents, but it so wonderful to watch other people fall in love with the bush. I think it is one of the best gifts we have given our children.

Have you tackled a family bushwalk? What tips do you have for young players?

Friday, 17 June 2011

Going paperless challenge update

Image from here
So you may recall that after the saying no to plastic bags challenge went so well, I got all excited and decided to do something about the amount of paper that mindlessly makes its way into the house? I wrote a post about my baseline levels and over the past two weeks I have made the following changes:

1. I sent a stamped self-addressed envelope to the Distribution Standards Board to obtain a free 'no advertising materials please' sticker for my letterbox (remember that I can't buy anything new so had to find a free-option but you can buy them at the local hardware stores too). Here is the address in case you are interested:

DSB Sticker
PO Box 6252
Karingal, VIC 3199

2. I completed an online form for the ADMA - Do Not Contact Service (this is like the Do Not Call register but will take me off the lists for those direct mail mail outs that I usually just throw straight into the recycling bin). Here are the details should you wish to do the same (you can use the online form or send your name to the PO Box):

GPO Box 3895 Sydney NSW 2001 or

http://www.adma.com.au/consumer-help/do-not-mail/

3. The paper towel situation has been remedied too. The lovely Lucy from Diminishing Lucy wrote a comment on my first post to the tune of, why don't you just not use them? Use a tea towel, cloths and other reusable options. And you know what? I did just that and it works.

An old nappy for floor related spills (we  have at least one a day!), cloths and a tea towel for the dinner table, bench tops etc. All into the wash at the end of the day. Easy! I have had a small stash of recycled paper towel that I have kept in the cupboard and I did use it last night to 'drain' the bacon, but absolutely no more using them for hand towels, spill cleaners or face washers.

4. I cancelled my yellow pages delivery (details in previous post).

I still have to change some of my bills over to online (and get an organisation system that will cope with the change. Anyone?) but I think you will agree that I am tracking very well? How are you going?

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Great Australian books for the pre-school set


Image from here
We have been frequenting the library regularly in recent months. Although we have a small library of children's books at home, the ritual of going to the library is one that we all love (and it lets me escape the kid's *favourite* books every day {Going on a Bear Hunt anyone?}, for a little while anyway).

I am a bit of Nazi about the books that the kid's can borrow from the library. Being a trained Speech Pathologist, I am acutely aware of the importance of reading to your children for language and literacy development. I encourage my children to read books that help them grow their vocabulary, sentence structure and understanding of rhyme and rhythm. Of course, they don't know that! They just think Mummy really needs to like the pictures before the book can come home!

Here is a list of five great books for language development for the pre-school set (they are all endorsed by Speech Pathology Australia, so don't just take my word for it):

1. The Terrible Plop by Ursula Dubosarsky
This gorgeous book is based on a Tibetan story and features a little rabbit who finds out that some things aren't as scary as they seem. The language used is fabulously repetitive and rhythmic. It introduces some new words of all types – adjectives, verbs and nouns - which offers to expand your child's vocabulary. It allows your kids to 'read along' with you, encouraging them to rhyme word pairs. And all the while they will fall in love with the main character who, despite his size, is brave (a great role model!).

2. Clancy the Courageous Cow written and illustrated by Lachie Hume
The author wrote the first draft of this book when he was about 12. It is a fun story of a cow who is different from other cows, who teaches us all about understanding and getting along. This book will stretch your child's vocabulary (especially wrestling terms!) and language skills. This book is on high rotation at Casa 4. All the kids love Clancy, the beltless belted Galloway!

3. Annie’s Chair written and illustrated by Deborah Niland
This delightful book explores the concept of 'mine'. The author uses simple language and repetition to teach us about sharing and the art of compromise. The book clearly portrays emotions and offers you the opportunity to teach your child about what to do when things don't go your way.

4. A Giraffe in the Bath by Mem Fox & Olivia Rawson, and illustrated by Kerry Argent
This book is packed full of lovable characters and uses rhyme, rhythm and repetition to gently support language development and phonological awareness (pre-reading skills) while trying to make you laugh.  It is funny and the catchy language and vocabulary are bound to be as popular at your house as it is at ours.

5. Is Your Grandmother a Goanna? by Pamela Allen
We do love Pamela Allen at our place and this book is one of her best. It is fun and clever and absolutely designed to be read aloud! The fun characters, sound effects, rhyme and repetition (a definite pattern developing with my recommendations!) are all great for language development. And the kids have to use their own voices to pitch in at each of the stations, giving them the opportunity to think and participate. Don't forget to chat about the journey as you are taking it.

I could go on, of course, but I won't. Instead, I will hand over to you for your suggestions for books that are designed for the pre-school set that have great words for language development. Do you have any? (They don't have to be Australian, I just thought I would give our Aussies a plug).

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

What a difference a day makes

Image from here*
The family were all still sick yesterday, and the rain still poured down, but I got a spring back in my step.

The Geege did the honours and stayed home with the kids and recuperated, while I skipped out to work.

I hated the thought of leaving them all with their snotty noses, separation anxiety and barking coughs, but I was more than a little delighted to have a bit of space. Some fresh air. Some happy company.

I walked to the train station at the crack of dawn with my winter coat and boots on, hovering under an umbrella. Usually I would feel despondent about the weather. But I didn't yesterday.

I checked in regularly with Team Four, while I worked my way through my to-do list. I was productive and efficient. They were in capable hands and I had a different role to play that day.

I splurged on a store-bought lunch instead of the usual home-packed one. Just 'cause. And in the afternoon, when the Geege called to inquire about our plans for dinner, I talked him through a recipe from the available food in the house (and arrived home to a cooked meal, a nice bonus).

I took my time walking back to the train station at the end of the day (instead of the crazy rush that I usually have at that time of day). Savouring the last moments of my 'me time'.

I got excited as I rounded the corner into our street.

They were all there to greet me and I relished their cuddles and kisses and stories of the day. They had been warm and dry and loved all day long. I had the space that I so desperately craved yesterday and returned to the family with a breath of fresh air and a dash of patience.

Just what the doctor ordered.

Do you find that going out to work is sometimes just the medicine you need to get yourself back on track as a parent?

* This image is so far removed from the dreary weather that we are experiencing that I couldn't go past it! A breath of fresh air indeed. How wonderful would it be to be sitting on that bike looking out at the ocean? Bliss!

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Separation anxiety squared

Image from here
I am struggling with the twins at the moment. They have a severe case of separation anxiety and seem to want to be cuddled by me 24/7. The fact that they have both been sick has only made matters worse and so, after a weekend of being sat on, fought over, fondled and craved, I am truly exhausted.

I couldn't get out the door and off to work fast enough this morning (to the dulcet tones of two kids screaming "Mummy")! I know. I am a dreadful mother, but it is true.

Separation anxiety has always been difficult for me to manage. Both Nugget and Doo Dah had it too at various stages of their toddlerhood, and I found it equally suffocating then too. But the fact that there are two two year olds in the house suffering with it. Two people pining after me (and me alone, the Geege doesn't cut the mustard), I am finding increasingly hard to handle.

I like my own space.

I need my own pillow.

I like the end of the day to end with a bit of paw-free time.

They cry when I leave the room. Whinge when I attempt to do the chores and not include them in every little detail. Have a tantrums if I speak to someone on the telephone (and dare not to hand the receiver over for them to have a chat to too). Dew Drop is the worst, but he has always been a Mummy hog. The Minx is a close second; an astute student of the master.

Doo Dah said to me yesterday: "How come I never get to sit on your lap anymore Mummy?". That would be because your brother and sister have taken up a permanent parking space Doo Dah.

I don't know how much more of this I can take. The Geege feels terrible (and rejected) but there is little he can do. It is just me on duty, all day and night. Exhausting. Thankless. Hopefully temporary?

Have your kids suffered separation anxiety? How did you get through it?

Sunday, 12 June 2011

The worst weekend ever?

Image from here
All the kids are sick. Some with high temperatures and all with flu-like symptoms.

Dew Drop kindly picked up a virus at daycare last Tuesday and promptly brought it home with him. Like a stray cat, only more annoying. There is no containing these things in a household of six people squeezed into a three-bedder. It is only a matter of time.

It is cold and wet, as grey outside as the mood in the house. The drip of snotty noses echoing the raindrops on the window panes.

The husband worked all day on Saturday so I handled the 4:1 ratio on my own. It was a real struggle and I admit that the television was on most of the day. Even the electronic babysitter failed to raise the kids' spirits. Several doses of paracetamol, 300 nose wipes and a choir of whingey children later and the Geege arrived home from work. Reinforcements! At last!

Only he wasn't the reinforcement I was hoping for. He too was sick. Really sick. Signature headache, runny nose, sore throat and temperature. He slunk into bed while I wrangled the kids in too and contemplated another day nursing four five patients.

Today arrived and with it a new main player. Doo Dah was centre stage wearing the brunt of the high temperature virus today and was lethargic. Everyone wanted cuddles. No-one felt well enough to do any of the things we had planned. So we snuggled into another quiet day in front of the TV, with the rain coming down. A doona day.

I cooked and baked, and no-one wanted to help (a blessing and a curse).

I shopped for supplies with a set of twins clad in their pajamas, slippers and dressing gowns (a blessing and a curse).

I muddled through the day, keeping everyone hydrated. Watching them all embrace their illnesses. Hoping that my immune system will hold out for a few more days. Mums aren't allowed to get sick.

With the last two in bed, I sigh with relief. Weekend over.

Except it isn't because we have a long weekend. The Geege goes back to work tomorrow and I get the pleasure of doing it all again.

What was your worst ever weekend?

Friday, 10 June 2011

52in52: Climbing trees

Image from here
The kids and I have been climbing trees lately.

It was Nugget who started it. He suddenly got all boyish and started climbing things all over the place, including trees. Of course, his side kick, Doo Dah, followed suit and soon I had two boys making their way up and over things everywhere we went. Dew Drop is trying to join in, but his skills are fairly limited at this point in time. The Minx looks on with an "as if you would" look on her face, cuddling her latest teddy to her chest. She doesn't look like she'll be joining her brothers any time soon.

I surprised the kids and joined in this week. 

I couldn't help myself! She was a perfect tree. Lots of low lying branches and nooks and crannies for explorers to get lost in. Not too high as to scare us, but high enough so we could see the world from a different angle. It was a liberating experience!

There are many benefits to be gained from the humble tree climb:
  • It is great exercise (especially for the arms and legs).
  • It is stimulating, and never boring because no two trees are the same.
  • It can be done anywhere! Luckily where we live, we have trees are all around us and many of them are perfect for climbing.
  • It enables you to connect with nature. Sitting high in the branches of a tree you will find a sense of wholeness that only being in nature provides.
  • It offers something for many of the senses - touch, sight, smell, hearing (probably not taste unless you are a one year old who is still into 'mouthing')
  • It is cheap!
  • It can be done all year round. Even in the chilly winter weather we are experiencing in Sydney at the moment, the bare trees are ripe for climbing!
Nowadays in the era of OHS, you should probably invest in a harness and rope if you or your kids plan to get 'into' tree climbing, but I think for us recreational tree climber types, 'naked' climbing adds to the adventure (just don't choose a tree that is too high!).

Climbing my first tree in about 30 years (yep! I am old enough to say that. Sigh) was without doubt the best thing I have done this week!

What has been keeping you busy?

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Five things to make you think

Image from here
1. Ellyse Perry is an inspiration! Representing Australia in cricket's Twenty20 World Cup last year, she has now been picked for the Australian women's soccer team to go to the World Cup. Apparently she is also a university student (in her spare time!). All of this at the tender age of 20.

2. Many mass-market shampoos and conditioners are full of chemicals. In addition to the Bicarb and vinegar recipe I shared earlier this week, there are a whole lot of other ways to wash your hair au natural.

You can try soapwort root (infuse the root in boiling water like a tea then freeze in usable portions). If you have dandruff, apple cider vinegar (1/4 cup to a glass of water, rinse through the hair and massage into the scalp) or coconut oil (massage into scalp).

If you must buy commercial shampoos and conditioners, look for products that contain SLS (sodium lauryl sulphate), parabens, DEA (diethanolamine), petrochemicals and any artificial colours and fragrances.

3. If, like me, you can't afford to buy all organic veggies (or grow your own), the ones with the highest levels of pesticides among conventional fruit and veg (according to the US Environmental Working Group) are: celery, peaches, strawberries, apples, blueberries, nectarines, capsicum, spinach, cherries and kale. I am going to try and buy these organic when I can. You can get a full list at http://www.foodnews.org/

4. I got inspired by Aspiring Millionaire's Sell 1000 things challenge. There is no way I have 1000 things to sell, but I have a few. I think I am going to try using fiverr. (Have you seen it? Any experience? What would you do for 5 USD?), fishpond, and the baby and kid's market. I am a disaster with eBay because I can't take photos to save myself.

5. I read about this fantastic reward system idea for kids in a Disney FamilyFun magazine (the one they handed out at the ABC). It is based on a system of marbles in a jar.

  • You will need a clear glass container for each child and a large supply of interesting marbles/gems.
  • Personalise the jars (a craft activity!)
  • Write a list of household chores as well as some personal tasks. I am going to incorporate our family charter.
  • Assign each job a value (how many marbles is the job worth?). From making your bed (1 marble) to tidying up all the toys before bed (3 marbles).
  • Your children get to drop a marble into their jar when they get their jobs done (via you, the keeper of the marbles). Likewise, if the kids squabble or are badly behaved, marbles can be removed from the jar.
  • Nugget's 'pocket money' will be linked to the number of marbles in the jar on a weekly basis. For the younger kids, a full jar gets a monetary value ($10) to spend on a toy or some quality one on one time with Mum/Dad.
Simple to be sure, but I am going to give it a go at Casa Four. We have plans to decorate our jars this weekend. Will keep you posted.

Did you have anything you want to share this week?

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Reach for the stars!

Image from here

I am taking Woody's advice today.

Wish me luck x

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Three hairy tales

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My hair is out of control. I've lost another hairdresser. She closed up shop a couple of months ago. I am yet to find a replacement and so I have unruly hair. Way too long. Way too big. Far too many fly-aways. I am back sporting a pony tail much of the time. Stylish? No. Easy? Yes.

I ran out of shampoo and conditioner so I tried washing it in bicarb soda and apple cider vinegar at the weekend. Three days and counting. No signs of needing another wash. Frugal and eco-friendly. Now if I could just lose the pony tail...
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The Geege is going a bit bald. He has a patch of thin hair on top at the back and a slightly receding hairline. He decided to grow his locks this year (his last chance?). I fear a secret whimsy for the comb-over or a mid-life crisis, but so far he is just channelling his inner 'long-haired boy' (circa 1992). Only a little greyer. And with a bald patch. I wonder what it feels like to go bald?

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The Minx has the most gorgeous hair. Brown, straight and shiny, cut into a neat bob, she is a walking shampoo commercial. But she is precious about it. She won't let me brush it. Rarely lets me put clips in or pigtales (and I have such a fabulous stash of colourful hair accessories I would LOVE her to wear!). She just flicks it around and likes to look at herself in the mirror. "I'm pretty" she says after a hair wash. Such self-love and confidence. I hope she always feels like that.

Have you got any hairy tales to tell?

Monday, 6 June 2011

Losing the last 5kgs

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Dear Shelley from My Shoebox Life sent me a book in the post a couple of weeks ago. Bless her. It is Susie Burrell's "Losing the last 5kg - Simple Steps to get the body you want now". It is just what I have been needing. Thanks so much for sharing it with me Shelley!

I have almost gotten to my goal weight a number of times, but each time I do, I pull up short and put back on a couple of kilos. I have been carrying an extra five kilos for a long time now and I would really love to get rid of them. Only I don't want to go back to Weight Watchers. I don't need a diet, I need a new approach to food.

This book is just that. It is not about counting calories or starving yourself or depriving yourself, it is about sensible food rules (you know how much I love those!).

So to give you a taste, I am going to write my top ten tips from the first section of the book.

1. Eat more vegetables (3 cups per day) - How? Serves at lunch and dinner (1/2 your plate at dinner); take extra vegies with you for snacks (2 serves); juice them; order extra sides of vegies when you eat out.

2. Eat low GI carbs - small serves of dense wholegrain bread, small portion wholegrain rice/pasta, grain based crackers, whole fruits (no more than 2-3 serves a day though), museli, oats, bran for brekkie, more beans. Avoid 97% fat free products (full of sugar) and artificial sweeteners - goodbye Coke zero?.

3. Eat carbs and protein together (keeps you fuller for longer) e.g. wholegrain crackers and low-fat cheese, rice and tuna.

4. 2-3 hours between meals/snacks (she suggests you write down each time you eat for a day to see how often you actually put something in your mouth - food or drink).

5. Make sure lunch is high in fibre and contains protein.

6. Have a 3pm snack that needs lots of chewing (like an apple or carrots) then follow this with another tasty, protein rich snack e.g. walnuts, peanuts, almonds or cashews. If you are still hungry, have your vegetable snacks, chewing gum or green tea.

7. Buy the 4Cs (chocolate, cake, chips and cheese) in portion controlled sizes.

8. Have a big breakfast (with correct protein/carb balance to keep you satisfied for 2-3 hours) before 8am.

9. Don't eat anything after 8pm.

10. Choose hard foods - the more chewing you do, the better.

I am trying to change one thing each week. Last week I worked on the timing and make-up of my breakfast. While I am 100% a breakfast eater (waaaaaaay too many bum issues not to be), I noticed that I frequently hadn't eaten it by 8am. My work days I do, my home days, I don't, so I am having another go at it this week. I was more adventurous with my breakfasts though and found that I could keep myself satisfied for 2-3 hours, so I have done well with that.

This week I am working on the other end of my day - the night-time snacking. To try to avoid eating after 8pm, I will be focusing on eating more protein and vegies at lunch.

This has been a very interesting way to view my nutrition. I haven't weighed myself (not since I put on 3kgs overnight when I started using the Mirena) but I don't feel the need to yet.

What are you focusing on on your weight loss journey this week?

Friday, 3 June 2011

Cleaning up for the cleaner

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I am one of those tragic people who has to clean for their cleaner. It isn't 'cleaning' exactly, rather tidying, but it is always has to be done. Afterall, I don't want my cleaner to spend her two hours picking up the toys off the floor, rather than sweeping and vacuuming them now would I?

I always find it stressful when she is coming (once a fortnight in case you were wondering) but I don't want to give her up (although the money would be better used somewhere else at the moment!).

When I found out I was having twins, one of the first things I did was start a 'cleaner fund'. Never having been a fan of the mop and bucket, I figured that having someone come and clean the floors and bathroom and dust the shelves once a fortnight would be money well spent.

I don't think I realised how integral it would become in my life.

The fortnightly cleaning visit is like hitting the 'reset' button. Everything finds its way back to its home, all the surfaces are cleared and even the piles of washing get folded AND put away. For one afternoon a fortnight my house looks like I wish it would all the time. Ah. The bliss.

Within three hours of the cleaner leaving however, someone inevitably spills their juice all over the floor, someone else brings a spade load of sand from the sandpit and drops it on the loungeroom rug and the afternoon tea preparation messes up the kitchen benches again. It isn't meant to be, I think to myself.

But those few hours, before the chaos comes, those are three of the best hours of my fortnight. A decluttered, sparkling clean home.

My cleaner cancelled twice this week. She was coming on Monday but was ill and rescheduled and then cancelled today. I cleaned up for her twice! Stressed myself and the rest of the household twice, but alas, she couldn't come. I took full advantage of the work I had done this morning and vacuumed and mopped the floors while the twins have been having a sleep. The place looks great. But it isn't the same.

Someone else's cleaning efforts are always more appreciated than my own.

Do you have a cleaner or do you clean your own house? What is your best tip for getting more out of a clean house? How do you stretch your cleaning mileage?

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Making gifts

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Another month of the Buy Nothing New challenge has passed. It is becoming more of a habit for me now to make do with what I have, or seek out ways to reuse things in a different way.

We managed to set up the veggie patch with only the purchase of the seedlings (which are technically food so allowed I think?). The stakes we rescued from the side of the road during a regular council pick-up in our local area. And we already had the garden beds set up and waiting for some plants to love.

I had my birthday and the Geege and his family got me some 'service' gifts (a massage, a facial, that sort of thing), some 100% organic cotton towels from a small, on-line home-based business and one sneaky new pair of running shorts that will double as soccer shorts (that is a strike). I also got some pre-loved books. My family bought me a couple of things I had been really wanting (but not 'needing') that were new too. Not technically a strike, but a strike nonetheless.

We managed to give three birthday presents without making a new purchase (some pre-loved books for my sister, I shouted a friend to the movies with a free-movie ticket I had and a present from the 'present box' for one of Nugget's friends) but did buy two small gifts for other children's parties.

Gifts. This is definitely the area I am struggling with. I can't see how I can get away with re-gifting, buying second hand or making things for my children or other people's children. They don't understand any of this. Is it fair?

But then I think, you need to get over this if you are going to succeed with this challenge.

So, it is my niece's birthday this weekend and in addition to a couple of lovely clothes I have stashed in my second hand box, I really want to make her something. It is a hard call, given my poor crafting skills.

The Aspiring Millionaire had a great post about making gifts and I have bookmarked it. I thought about making The Badoo a blanket for her dolls, but I won't this time. It is doable though and could be a winner for a new Mum?

And then I came across this fabulous post on a friend's blog, Cook Republic and I thought 'That is it!'. A perfect gift for the Badoo (don't click the link Maxabella unless you want to spoil the surprise).

So I am off to get a few supplies to make a gift. The start of a new journey for me...

Help me out if you can. Do you have any links to great, simple home-made gift ideas? Please, please, please share them below in the comments and give us an idea of the age-group they may be suitable for. I am excited at the thought of having a place to store project ideas!

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Heartache

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I know a woman through a friend who lost her eight month old daughter to SIDS a number of years ago. I lived a long way from her, didn't know her well, but it was absolutely heartbreaking. I ached for her and her family. But never knew what to do;  what to say.

On the first occasion that we met up after it had happened,  many months had passed. Maybe even years. I remember that I smiled knowingly at her, showed my sorrow with a look of longing as our eyes met for slightly too long and I ignored the 'elephant in the room'.

"Surely she doesn't want me to bring it up?" I thought.

It never sat well with me. The fact that I had never acknowledged her loss properly. Had never offered my condolences. Had never offered to share some of her pain.

Life went on.

I had the joy of spending some time with her over the weekend. I was overwhelmed with this amazing woman. She is so brave and so very, very strong. She has seen the worst that life can throw at you. And survived.

We talked together. About her daughter. About her loss. About her grief. And about her healing.

I was mesmerised by her story, the re-learning she underwent to carry on and her ability to cope.

She is the mother of four children, but she is left mothering only three of them. There will always be a gaping hole in her family and in her heart, but she still finds the happiness in life. The joy in living. The strength to carry on.

I don't know if I could survive the loss of one of my children. I really don't. I sincerely hope I never have to find out. No parent should have to go through that heartache.

Tonight my thoughts are with those of you who have had to endure the death of a child. I hope that you too find the joy in life again, as my friend's friend has. She makes me feel that it must be possible to go on in life when you think you cannot and hopefully her story offers comfort to someone else.
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