Sunday, July 26, 2015

Renovating and Clutter

Just over a year ago I started full time work, we are still adjusting. Some weeks we do really well and get through the working week, smashing our goals. Some weeks by the time Saturday arrives we fall into a messy heap, exhausted. This week has been one of those weeks. Our house has become an absolute disgusting mess. I don't think the beds were made once during last week. By Friday the ironing pile is as huge as the washing basket.

We are in the middle of a complete kitchen renovation, we removed the old one two weeks ago, then up came the tiles and slowly everything has been replaced. We were cooking in the dining room, using the slow cooker, the rice cooking and the good old microwave. We still have stuff stored everywhere and it has been impossible to keep the house clean.

We had to cancel our cleaner again this fortnight because of the renovations I regret it. Professional cleaners like those from Absolute Domestics are life savers. Having a cleaner is probably my biggest indulgence, I had a lot of guilt around getting one but it was the best decision. It helps take the stress out of the weekends, I don't need to feel guilty for taking it easy after a long week. I booked in a double clean this week to get rid of all the builders crap but it had to be cancelled at the last minute because the tradies walked off the job the day before. I was in a foul mood that day!

This year my word was simple and the house has been a big focus, I want to enjoy my time at home. My work life is so crazy that I need to simplify the things I can control. I have been reading Becoming Minimalist blog a lot lately because I often feel myself myself getting caught up in commercialism. I need regular reminders to keep it simple. Declutter rather than go shopping, this is a work in progress with hubby who announced that we didn't need to cull the contents of our kitchen cupboards because we have more cupboards now so we can buy more things ahhhhhh. I have instigated a rule that if you want something new it is only as a replacement and the old one has to go. My husband showed me the new bike pump he bought yesterday, I asked what was wrong with the old one, he answered I couldn't find it! I find this really frustrating, we have so much crap that we can't find things and then we buy more. Then we spend money on things to organise the crap. It is a vicious cycle, I keep getting the urge to downsize and declutter.

I was reading an article recently about the effects of clutter on mental health and unsurprisingly the more crap you have the higher your chance of suffering anxiety and depression. I know when I have shit everywhere I feel like crap, when everything is clean simple I feel better. So as part of my word "Simple" this year, I have only put things back in my kitchen cupboards that I use every week, the rest has been left in boxes. If I haven't needed them in a few months they will be going. Own less, clean less, live more.



Drink Driving and Teenagers

Miss 17 got her provisional license on her birthday a few weeks ago. It is such a scary parenting moment handing over the car keys and letting your child drive on their own. Due to the difficulties of shared care parenting, we made a decision to give Miss 17 our old car when she got her license. It was to give her the freedom to move between houses and be able to experience opportunities at either house without having to rely on others. But giving her the keys to our car was not only giving her freedom, but also responsibility.

It scares me how many times I see a car speeding past me and notice the red P plates, my heart sinks to think that could be one of my my kids driving dangerously. The maturity of some kids is not great and they don't always make good decisions, it worries me that these kids are behind the wheel of a very dangerous chunk of metal. Of course my kids are perfect and they would never do that...... but in reality I bet the parents of most drink drivers used to think the same thing. We need to talk to our kids, all the time, like a broken records about how dangerous driving really is.

About ten years ago a very special lady I know got trapped in her car for two hours whilst rescue crews tried to cut her legs free. She had six children and had just started work in her dream career a few months earlier. The afternoon of the accident, her husband had just signed the papers to sell his successful business so he could spend more time at home and she could work. She was rushed from the scene to hospital in a critical condition, spent months in high care wards and had multiple operations, she was told she would never run again as her legs were crushed so severely. A blood clot entered her brain and she got brain damage, no longer would she ever function the same again. She later developed an addiction to the painkillers and after a year had to go into rehab to get off them completely, then came the depression. Her whole life changed all because of a stupid decision by a drunk driver. His choice changed her life, and her whole families life. I often tell my kids this story to remind them how one stupid decision can change your life forever.

I am so glad that there is zero alcohol tolerance now for P platers, I know that Mr 19 and now Miss 17 are very aware that they can not touch a drop before driving. My ex was caught drunk driving as a teenager (there is a reason why he is an ex) he ran his car into a tree, fortunately no-one was injured, but he carried around a criminal record for the rest of his life. This needs to be disclose when going for jobs even 20 years later. Drink driving is a criminal offense that can lead to a lot more than just losing your license. If  you get caught drink driving you will need to front up to court and you will need legal assistance like those offered by GC Traffic Lawyers, they will represent you for the best outcome. Penalties include large fines, losing your license for an unlimited period of time and even jail time.

Taken from Transport for NSW

I think these are ongoing conversations that we need to have with our kids and our friends, tolerance to drink driving needs to be zero. We also talk about not getting into a car with a drunk driver, and if at anytime this becomes their only option they are to call us or take a taxi straight home and we will pay the fare regardless of the time or expense. At some point kids will be put in a situation where they need to make choices that could endanger their lives and others, it scares me to think of this burden on our young kids shoulders. We need to prepare them for these situations.

I truly hope my children never have to experience the ramifications of a drunk driver.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Sick Again

A friend of mine posted on Facebook this morning "I just feel like giving up". She has had a run of bad luck this week and whilst she tries to be positive things just aren't working out. The cold winter with lack of sunshine isn't helping her mindset. I totally get it, at 4am on Saturday morning when people are soundly sleeping or heading home from a long night of dancing and drinking, I was cleaning up diarrhea and vomit for the hundredth time, with tears in my eyes, I thought "I give up".  Another friend posted "I am counting down the days until October when the sun comes back and kids aren't sick" It isn't just me but it seems like this year sickness bugs are everywhere.

Parents are a special breed, we just manage to keep on going through lack of sleep, illness, and the never ending cleaning. I surprised myself on Saturday by getting up and continuing to function after very little sleep. Miss 6 has been ill for five weeks, not one major thing, just one virus after another, with the latest being the gastro bug. In those wee hours of Saturday morning as I am shoving yet another load of sheets into the washing machine, I wanted to give up.

Before I left work on Friday my boss reminded me that we has huge week coming up, so to relax and enjoy the weekend. I sit here thinking how can I be a good employee when I can't even get a full nights sleep?

Not surprisingly my husband woke up with a sore throat and cranky this morning. Being sick is not an option for working parents, we use up our sick days on our kids even though I am so lucky that hubby has a very easy going and understanding boss. The nature of my job means that I can rarely take a sick day. We have a few little tricks up our sleeves to protect ourselves from getting sick and surviving the winter chill.

1. Survive
Drink wine probably not the best advice but sometimes after a day of sick kids and cranky bosses, sanity is
a glass of antioxidant rich red wine. I have anecdotal evidence that chocolate also helps.

2. Stop the Spread
My surviving gastro kit
Disinfect, on our most recent of many trips to the doctors the Dr asked what our hygiene practices were like, I decided not to tell her that we were currently using the laundry sink for washing vomit sheets and our dinner dishes. After I left that appointment I went to the shops and bought every type of disinfectant, hand sanitiser, bleach I could find and wiped every door knob, table and mopped the floors to stop the spread.

3. Treat the Symptoms
A Sore throat is often the first sign of illness, slow down now, eat a huge salad, drinks loads of water, take a pro-biotic and lay off the junk. How to get rid of the sore throat?  Try an antibacterial lozenge, I like the warming strepsils ones. I also gargle with an antibacterial mouthwash morning and night which seems to help. Treating the symptom helps you feel better but it is also a sign to look after yourself and get some nutrition into your body.

4. Get Better
Weekends are for relaxing so take the weekend off completely. Except to get essentials and visit the doctor, we haven't left the house. We have drunk coffee, watched movies, rugged up, napped and relaxed. There is no magic drug that allows us to do everything all the freaking time.

Do you have a magic cure for surviving winter and kids getting sick? I would love any advice!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Escaping the cold winter

I don't like winter, in fact I hate it. I have always found the Aussie winter isn't worth it, no snow just a damp coldness. We have had sickness running through the house for the past four weeks, there hasn't been a day where one of us isn't sick, I am blaming winter. The darkness gets me the most especially now that I am working, I hate leaving work when the sun has already set and it is dark and cold.  I warm up in the car, but get home to a cold house. It is damn depressing. I totally understand why people get the SAD's and if I am honest I probably suffer a little from it myself.

Surrounding myself with warming elements at home saves me through the winter. We have used the heater a lot more this winter, I just want to be warm. Here are some of the changes I am making to our home during our renovations to make it warmer and more inviting.

1. Create warm spaces

Love the idea of carpet in kids rooms
I will be honest, my house isn't warm, it is quite cold with tiles and wooden floors throughout. Slowly we are this calculator on the Stainmaster Australia website to work out how much carpet I needed and to work out the cost to plan the renovation budget. Rugs and curtains are also a cheaper way to add the warmth.
changing tiles to wood and some of the wooden floors to carpet. At the moment our master bedroom is the only one that has carpet, but I want more of the bedrooms to have a soft flooring to make the house warmer. Jumping out of bed and touching a cold floor is the worst.  I am looking at the Stainmaster carpet for my daughter who is a bit of a grot, love the chalkboard wall in the kids bedrooms.

2. Close off Rooms
I know that modern homes are all open plan with fresh uncluttered spaces, but we are actually working on creating distinct spaces. We are closing in a hallway to make rooms smaller, with more functionality and warmer. It is easier to warm a small room than an entire house.

3. Electric Blankets
I am a HUGE lover of my electric blanket, if fact we have put them on every bed in the house including the guest room. There is nothing better than jumping into a warm bed  it helps sleep come easily. Don't forget to put extra blankets and warmer doonas on to keep the warmth in all night.
This is our new kitchen flooring.

4. Cooking
We naturally crave hearty foods over winter, there is nothing better than coming home to a slow cooked meal.  Although I find meals in the slow cooker a little hot and miss a couple of my favourites are below;
  • Pea and Ham Soup
  • Beef Strogonoff (use large chunks of beef and it won't overcook)
  • Thai Massaman Beef from Marions Kitchens, seriously delicious and only takes 5 minutes to prepare.
I also love to bake cakes and pastries over the weekend to warm up the kitchen. In two weeks my new kitchen is going to be installed, we


5. Candles
The flicker of a candle is such a beautiful light and feels warm, it is my solution for not having a fire. I love the glasshouse candles especially the vanilla caramel and the honey and milk. If you are looking for budget buys the Ikea scented candles are awesome value!

6. Fresh Air
Sounds crazy? But by opening the windows every day and putting fresh air in, you can reduce bugs, let the light in and it feels warmer when you close it all up. Also check windows and if your windows don't seal properly think about getting a window repairer in to fix them and keep drafts out.

7. Paint with Warm Colours
A stark white house won't feel warm, bring some warmer neutral colours into a cold home, like your mocha colours, even a cream white will create more warmth.


Do you have any tips

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Managing Anxiety

I haven't blogged for a little while, last week I sat an advanced tax exam and that was hard!! In fact the last
13 weeks since I started back at study have been an absolute crazy whirlwind. Commencing study co-coincided with some changes at work at, it has been a non stop crazy three months. Add in some family sickness, new babies, deaths and a car accident, keeping sane has been an absolute challenge! After my period of anxiety 8 years ago I am really wary of those signs of when I am just not coping. Waking up at 3am and spending the next 4 hours stressing about the day, the ready to snap moods and the impaired memory, all signs things are not great. All these signs and more have been a part of my life for the last few months.

Living with anxiety is a lifelong challenge, you know what happens when you don't look after yourself, it is about finding a constant balance that changes. The hardest thing about my word for the year being simple is that my external life just doesn't seem to be playing the same game. So I have been coping by combining my word from last year balance with this years word simple.

One of the biggest things to simplify our lives lately has been to spend more time at home, slowly over the past year we have been sinking money into our house to make it more of a home. I am in the final stages of our new kitchen and although it is seriously over budget, I am also so excited! I just love my new bathroom with our deep spa and double shower with the rain water head, it makes the evenings so much more chilled. But I also know the best thing for mood is sunshine and fresh air so we have been spending time and money on the garden. But it is a balance because being at home means people fall into habits, Miss 6 watches TV, hubby jumps on the computer and Miss 16 locks herself into her room and I flick between housework, organising and being on my phone.

This weekend I felt so free without the burden of studying on my shoulders, I chilled out and spent quality time with the family. We went to Netball on Saturday morning and bought our new kitchen appliances in the afternoon. Today we had breaky together as a family at a gorgeous little cafe and as a last minute decision Miss 6 and I headed to the circus. It was a really nice weekend, our family feels close again.

Anxiety is part of life, things tend to go wrong all at once, but if we don't re-frame our thinking we can let our thoughts get away from us and create more negatives. I am glad that I have the insight these days to listen to my body and know when to slow down.


Friday, June 12, 2015

Anxiety busting outdoors

Managing anxiety is a way of life for so many woman and especially mums who feels constantly overwhelmed and rarely get time out. I have found one of the best ways to take time out as a mum is to head to the backyard and get fresh air sunshine and be surrounded by green. Did you know that the colour green is for balance, harmony and growth? That is why we feel good when we are surrounded by nature.



One of the first renovations we did was to build a new deck on our home, to this day it is still my favourite renovation, enjoying my backyard is worth all the work of maintaining it. Each spring I fix up one of our garden beds and I just love watching the seedlings turning into plants, trees and hedges. Being outside is so important for my well being and having a nice garden is really important to me. It is like surrounding yourself with good vibrations just outside the back door.

I remember when I stayed with my cousin in England I used to adore his perfect lawn, seriously it was incredible, so soft and mowed every week in summer with this cute  little electric lawn mower. He even fertilized it and put air holes in it, I still remember lying on that soft grass and watching the star come in at night fall. We spent every summer night in the garden of course with a glass of wine. According to this website for expert turf advice Hancey's Turf says I could do with some weed free turf so that I start with a perfect lawn and only need to gently maintain it. I still yearn for that perfect English grass and I love my bindi free and mostly weed free lawn, maybe in a couple of years I will upgrade the lawn.

I have a garden bed which changes each year, sometimes it is a vegetable garden, over winter it is home to the compost bin, sometimes it houses the guinea pigs and other times it has flowers. It is the only garden I play with and let grow a little wild, it is an evolving experiment, totally organic.

Even though my husband detests gardening, I love being outside pulling up weeds, trimming back the hedge or putting in new life. The perfect garden evolves, great lawns, growing trees and functional beautiful furniture, having a great backyard lets us relax and be ourselves at home. It should be a pleasure to be in, not a burden so easy to maintain and highly functional. I feel our garden is really moving towards these ideal combinations and in a few springs time it will be perfect.

So these days when I feel that stress and anxiety coming on I head outside, lay on the grass or on the deck in the sunshine, breath in the fresh air and light and think grateful thoughts. Plus I read recently that you can add 10% value to your home by some clever landscaping so I can garden away guilt free. Plus what better place to enjoy Shiraz Sundays through winter?!

What do you do when you feel anxious? Head outdoors? Eat valium? Exercise?

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Bumpy Path to Blended Family Holidays

Two years ago this week (I know the exact date thanks to timehop), we were on a family holiday to Bali. Whilst it was a lovely holidays it was also a bit exhausting for hubby and I. It was our step sons first trip overseas and he was very green and needed a lot of guidance, our middle teen just got along with it, but the baby at 4.5 at the time was seriously hard work.

After a long trip to the airport, delayed flight and then transferred we finally arrived at our hotel in Bali, exhausted but excited. Everyone was hot and ready to hit the pool but the older kids mum had made them promise to send her a message as soon as they arrived. We had already had to jump through hoops to get the kids to come on the holidays with providing her with exact itineraries and flight time ect, I mean talk about being controlled on your own holiday. Unfortunately we couldn't get the Wi-fi to work and everyone was starting to get frazzled so we decided to hit the pool, cool down and deal with the wi-fi later.

So we hit the pool, ordered some cool drinks and soaked up some sunshine around the pool. Feeling chilled and happy we sorted the WiFi issue with reception and headed back to the room to send the promised message. What we found on facebook was disgusting, their mum had publicly posted on facebook a post that insinuated that we had taken  the kids and she had no idea where they were, and she was so stressed and crying because she couldn't get in contact. Everyone got so stressed, the kids were sad, hubby was cranky and I felt like no matter what we did or where we went we couldn't just be a family and enjoy it without interference. The messages bombarded the kids throughout the trips and I started to hate heading back to the hotel knowing the kids would have more messages to have to respond to. With each message the kids moods changes and the closeness stalled for a little while.

It was such a difficult holiday to organise, demands on dates, we couldn't go a couple of days over, issue around passports, demands for our exact itinerary or threats that they couldn't come. As a newish step mum I felt like it was a form of domestic violence through control. Don't even get me started on the time she added tracking on Miss 16's phone during our first ever holiday and tracked our whole trip until we realised half way through. Honestly after the holiday part of me felt like giving up.

Last year I started back at work, it was a tough transition. Over Christmas we were lucky enough to be given a weeks accommodation down the coast and we had a super relaxed cheap holidays with the girls. But this year I really wanted to do an overseas holiday again, make it feel worthwhile putting the hard slog at work.  After the stress of the Bali trip I wasn't keen on playing the games to have a nice holiday with the kids. As both hubby and I also have pretty strict holidays dates this Christmas, we decided to plan some dates and ask Miss 16 if she wanted to come. As she finishes school this year the old shared care arrangement dates don't need to be so strict.  So we asked Miss 16 if she was happy to swap holiday access dates to join us on a holiday, she was over the moon and of course said yes, so we had fun planning a holiday as a family on our own terms.

The family decided on a cruise holiday. This year will be challenging, I have taken on quite a big load at work plus studies, hubby has had to pick up a lot more at home, Miss 16 is sitting her HSC and Miss 6 will be exhausted after a long year at school. The idea of a cruise suits us all perfectly, totally chilled, no cooking, no washing and best of all no phone or internet. A time for everyone to just kick back and chill out. The planning of this holiday has been so different, everything has just fallen into place. I have already been busy online shopping for new swimmers and a back back bags for the shore days from http://bagstogo.com.au/.

We still have 10 months before our next cruise, I am so excited that we will be all together and chilled for two whole weeks without interference. Although I am hoping for a stress free lead up and holiday I am also aware that things in blended families rarely go exactly to plan.

Have you ever been on a cruise?

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