Sunday, October 31, 2010

Reconciling Beltaine and Halloween related Trick or Treating...

I've been really struggling...

It's just a little thing, but I know I've already offended many friends (I have a number of friends from the US, more than I even realised), and so I've been trying to reconcile my "issue" so I can get over it and move on.

My issue has been with the recent and rapid spread of the Halloween phenomenon in Australia.  It was almost unheard of 10 years ago, but now it's everywhere.  The thing that has been rubbing me up the wrong was the irritation over Halloween coinciding with Samhain in the northern hemisphere - Samhain being the time when the veil between life and afterlife is at it's thinnest.

A lot of people do view Halloween as being the modern version of the Pagan Sabbat of Samhain, but I've decided (for my own sanity sake) that it is not.  Here's why...

Samhain is the festival of summer's end, the harvest festival, and a cleansing time for people and livestock at they head into the darker months.  It is believed that the dead can reach through the veil at this time to retrieve the dying plant matter etc.  Now, there did used to be an Irish/Scottish tradition of children and beggars travelling from door to door begging for coins and food, and these people would dress as the dead (to ward of dead spirits taking them because they were disguised as already being dead) and perform blessings on households in exchange of food or money - not unlike the tradition of caroling, but that tradition has VERY LITTLE, IF ANYTHING to do with the Halloween tradition in the US of trick or treating.

The US tradition is barely 100 years old, and only became widely popular in the 1950s, and the Americans coined the term "Trick or Treat" as part of this SECULAR tradition.  The children who trick or treat dress in ALL SORTS of costumes, some do dress as witches or ghosts or mummies or zombies, but it's just as likely these days for children to dress as robots, The Little Mermaid, or various other cute characters.  They are not trying to ward of evil spirits or put blessings on the houses they visit in exchange for treats.

Most of the people who participate in trick or treating around the world are not Pagans.

So, basically, Halloween is a non-religious holiday, where people play with the taboo concepts of death and horror.

Therefore, the fact that people participate in this tradition in the Southern Hemiphere, where we are not at the end of the light half of the year, but rather at the beginning of it, is no afront to the Pagan Sabbat of Beltaine that also occurs on this day in the Southern Hemisphere.  It is merely coincidence.  Just as it is coincidence that it coincides with the Pagan Sabbat of Samhain in the northern hemisphere.  Samhain and Halloween are not the same thing, so Halloween is not the opposite to Beltaine.

This is how I've decided to reconcile the two in my mind, so I can get over my issue with people dressing their kids up in Halloween costumes on the Sabbat that celebrates the conception of new life!

It's spring and I'm falling in love... with ME!

I've been looking at swimmers.

I haven't been swimming since about 2006, and I don't fit into the swimmers I had back then.  There was recently talk of a trip involving spa hopping and I realised I have NOTHING to wear!  I really want something flattering for my oh-so-womanly figure, and then someone (actually a few someone's) posted links to this swimsuit...

Gorgeous, isn't it?  I'm not sure it's for me though.  It has one of those elastic shelf bust supports, and well, I don't know if that's quite enough support for my Fabulous Fiends...

So, I kept looking...  I'm loving this suit right now...

And it comes in red, white, gold, blue and black as well, but the pink is, well, so PINK - and eye catching!

Just recently, I've realised that I'm actually really very happy with how I look at the moment.  I'm just about as well rounded as I've ever been, and I know that for my health I need to be thinking about shedding a few kilos, but I'm the happiest I've ever been with myself in every other regard.  About four years ago now, I lost 32kg (which I've regained in the intervening period) and while I experienced a lot of pleasure over having lost the weight (it was a powerful feeling of control) and being able to shop in regular clothing stores, I also felt much more critical of my body and how it sagged and wrinkled without the fat to plump the skin out.

In the past few months I've discovered that the kind of clothes I like to wear (peasant, hippie, bohemian styles of clothing) are now being sold - at affordable prices - for women my size and I am beyond myself with excitement, and at the same time my self-loathing thoughts have diminished to almost nothing!  (OK, occasionally, I do look in the mirror and wish my upper arms were a bit smaller).

I know so many GORGEOUS plus sized women, and I've come to realise that quite possibly if I view them as gorgeous, the rest of the world doesn't necessarily view me as hideous.  It's been freeing, and now I want to make the most of myself and dress the way I want to dress, and no longer feel as though I'm not worthy of clothing I love, or that I don't want people to see me (because, hey, I do love clothing that gets noticed!).

It's spring and I'm falling in love with me!  (in a good way, not in an obnoxious, everyone adore me, kind of way)

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Ups and Downs of this week!

UP - Dave got a job interview!  Only his second all year!  It's next Thursday and it's with a school uniform screen printing place.  They wanted a finished artist with some screen printing experience.  Dave has both in spades, so fingers crossed he'll get the job.  It's relatively local, too, only 4 train stops up the line (don't know how far from the station), and when he's driving, even a shorter trip!  The lady who called him sounded like she was 60-not-out, so obviously they're not adverse to employing more mature workers!  Please feel free to pray for us, or light a candle, or send us white light, or whatever you do on Thursday morning this week!  We need all the help we can get!

DOWN - I bought some cushions for the outdoor bench seat swing, they only cost $12 each, and were lovely azure, lime green, hot pink and white stripes.  I was excited about making the back porch more inviting and comfy as the warmer weather moves in.  I left them on the bus stop bench when catching the bus home, and 15 minutes later when Dave checked to see if they were still there, they were gone...

UP - Bestchance called on Friday and said my cheque, which they'd sent to the wrong address last week, had been returned to them and they were popping it back in the mail to my correct address.  When I told them I'd called on Monday to have the cheque cancelled and re-issued, they said they hadn't cancelled it because they *knew* it would be returned to them (evidently, they're psychic as well now).  So, yay, the cheque will be clear before the middle of November!

DOWN - I needed to get a couple of statutory declarations signed, so I took them to one of our local chemists and timidly asked if they wouldn't mind signing them.  I asked this timidly because I've found in the past that the chemist in our local shopping centre (of which there are about 8 in total) just DON'T LIKE TO SIGN STAT DECS.  I'm always asked to wait for or come back in half an hour.  Once, mind you, I was told I'd have to wait half an hour, but then within a couple of minutes an older woman came into the chemist and hers was signed immediately, so then they signed mine as well.  You might think that sounds dodgy!  I certainly felt like it was dodgy that they suddenly had time, having just told me to wait 1/2hr.  If I then told you all our local chemists are Chinese and the old woman was also Chinese - and all our local chemists are Chinese -, would you consider me racist for feeling there is a distinct possibility they just don't want to serve me because I'm not Chinese?  So, anyway, I waited 1/2hr, and then Ari started to get upset and the chemist told me, "It'll be AT LEAST another 1/2hr wait"...  So, I left (which I wholly believe she was angling for me to do, in the first place).  I went to another chemist.  There I was told, "No, go to another chemist." I didn't feel like playing this game six more times, so I went well and truly out of my way, 15 or so minutes walk up the street to the police station, where the constable signed and stamped both my stat decs in under a minute!  Later in the day I was at the local post office and asked the clerk there if anyone could have signed my stat dec.  He said he could if it was a Commonwealth stat dec (as opposed to a Victorian one), and when I said the chemists were all refusing to sign or making me wait 1/2hr or more, he went quite tight lipped and said, "Well, there is no legal reason they can't sign your forms...  One thing that made me smile though...  The Chemist who didn't have even one minute to sign my stat decs, her name was Candy Ho.

UP - MIL has offered to pay for Erik and Luey to go to school camp!  Yay, we just weren't sure how we were going to make it happen, and without even asking her she offered!

DOWN - We desperately need to get the garden mowed.  We're having an inspection on Thursday (having moved it from last Thursday) and as per usual, we just don't have the money, we haven't had the money in months, and so the garden is well overgrown.  I thought I would save some money by hiring a guy a friend used who did a good job for her, but I don't think he's a professional gardener and our gardener (and the inclement weather conditions) are just too much for him.  He's been here for three hours now, and done two nature strips and started on the front yard, it's just started bucketing down and he's going to have to give it away, so the garden will look crap on Thursday and we'll be $75 poorer...

UP - My mum saved our bacon on Tuesday by depositing money in our account for Ari's birthday.  Ari had a fabulous birthday thanks to Mum and S-Dad!

DOWN - It's the end of October and I'm STILL working on my manuscript and exegesis.  The manuscript is due on Thursday and I still have until the middle of November for the exegesis (though one of my supervisors recently put in an email that I have until the end of November, but I'm not sure how that works when bound copies have to be submitted by th 18th, hmmmm).  This feels like, "The degree that never ends, and it goes on and on, my friends...'"

UP - My friend, Jayne, was cleaning out her car yesterday and found my missing travel pass!  Now, I only just sent of a cheque for a new pass yesterday, which might have been a downer, except that I was kind of hoping we'd find the missing pass as well so I had a spare (because this isn't the first time I've had to replace a card this year, eep!), and then Jayne called to say she'd done just that!!!

DOWN - Can't think of anything else...

UP - Dave has got a job interview on Thursday!  Oh, wait, I mentioned that already...  It's just such great news, it feels like a step in the right directions.  I desperately trying not to pin all my hopes on this interview, but hey AN INTERVIEW!!!

I have to thank Narelle Parker for all her help in modernising Dave's resumé!  I'm sure Dave got the interview on the basis of his skills, but Narelle's advice, and her taking the time to correspond with us and call us earlier in the week has more than likely made Dave's resumé stand out more, look more professional, than it did before, so a huge thanks to our friend, Narelle!

Friday, October 29, 2010

That old argument: Too many children...

I got on the bus this morning with Ari in the pram and sat down opposite two women in their eighties.

They ooh'd and ahh'd over Ari, and asked his age, commenting that he's big for his age (he's in the 5th percentile for height and 10th for weight, LOL).  They asked if he was my first, and I told them he is my fourth child, the youngest of four boys.

Then one says to me, "There's talk the Government is going to make it law that couples should only have two children."

As far as I know, this is codswallop, of course, but I thought it best not to argue that point.  Instead I said, "Oh, that would be awful!  I think people need to become a bit more creative when it comes to dealing with issues blamed on overpopulation.  For example, every family in Australia could stand to consume a little bit less.  These pants he is wear (I pointed at Ari's pants) have been worn my his brother before him.  We don't necessarily consume more than families with only two children, just because our family is larger.  Sharing is something my children can't help but learn because less has to go further and their toys, for example, are never *just theirs*, but have to be shared and passed on.  People need to think laterally, and not just jump to the kneejerk reaction of forcing families who want more children to be restricted to two."

The woman agreed, and said she was one of nine and that she loved growing up as part of a large family.

I know not all families with one or two children hyperconsume, but why is always assumed that those of us with more than two children are "the problem".  Many of us so-called large families are actually very efficient with our resources.  My family lives on a shoestring, much less than many families who have just one or two children, we CAN'T consume as much because our resources are more limited, yet, we are the problem that needs to be fixed...

Maybe due to having grown up in a large family and having to accept life with less, and having to share everything, my children will grow up to be more environmentally aware and willing to consume less as adults as well.  Maybe one of my children - maybe the third or fourth child (the ones I shouldn't have had) will grow up to make some sort of leap in thinking or some sort of invention that will make all the difference to sustaining this planet.

Very possibly, even if our Government did pass some sort of legislation restricting reproduction to only one replacement or less per capita, the rate of consumption and waste would continue to increase anyway, and it would NOT solve the resources issues we are currently facing!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

My baby turns two...

I'm sitting in the study right now and the rest of the house is in silence except for the fans of the computers and the gas heater in the lounge room next door.  Every Y chromosonian is sleeping, all exhausted from a long and exciting day that started at 6.30am and has been go, go, go ever since!

Ari turned two today.  Two years ago, he came into the world on my bedroom floor after one hour of active labour.  He was tiny, just 2.7kg, despite his 41.5 weeks of gestation, and his brother having weighed 4.5, 4.1, and 3.9kg respectively at similar gestations.  He is still tiny.  We went to the MCHN this morning for his 2 year old check up and he weighs 11.1kg (ranking in the 10th percentile for children his age), and measures 81cm (in the 5th percentile for his age), but his stature is the only diminutive thing about him!

Ari Leo Dal is a GIANT when it comes to personality, determination, and temper!  He knows what he wants and nothing gets in his way!  He is also a GIANT when it comes to love.  He loves generously!  Always quick to kiss and cuddle his mum and dad and brothers!

We thought today might be very low key as I'd seriously stuffed up my calendar and budget and we weren't going to be able to afford any presents for him until tomorrow.  Then yesterday afternoon, my mum came to rescue and I rushed out to stock up on things to delight our boy.  Some of his presents were practical, but there were a couple of fun things thrown in as well.

I had the devil's own time finding QUALITY TOYS though.  I'm not adverse to plastic or branded toys, but the plastic has to be sturdy and the branding has to mean something to my child.  I was shocked at the prices being charged for toys I knew would not go the distance!  Even though Ari is our youngest and won't have to pass his toys down to younger siblings (always something we consider when purchasing toys, we prefer to invest good money is toys that will last than less money in toys that won't), we are now thinking of the grandkids we're hoping our boys will bless us with.

So, Ari ended up with something to go in the Thomas Wooden Train Set Collection - which he has only had fleeting encounters with up until now.  He also got some diecast HotWheels cars - he's LOVES cars!  So many of the matchbox sized cars (as opposed to the brand) are now made of brittle plastic that will eventually crack and break).

He also got a couple of Sz1 tee shirts, which are swimming on him, but I'm sure they'll shrink a bit in the wash, and some sandals which he was in dire need off.

Finally, he got a little insulated lunchbox, which he can carry his cars in, I loved the design on it, and figured it will come in handy in the future, maybe even for kinder in 2013, if he goes...

Tonight we celebrated with store bought cake!  I had planned to bake cupcakes, but during the mixing process I managed to tip all the batter onto the kitchen floor.  He didn't seem to mind the store bought cake at all!

Here are some pictures from today!

What a BIG pile of present for a little boy!

Is this really mine?  I can have this?

What's this then?

Lovely, lovely!  Which one should I wear first?

Sandals! (yes, tees and shoes aren't exciting to most kids, but if you
knew Ari's fetish for footwear, you'd know his excitement in this moment!

Do these sandals make my bum look big? 
Really?  A man bag?  Do you really think I need this
mum?  Dad?  

Aha!  Now we're getting to the good stuff!  How do I open this box, then?

Hey, check it out, that man bag is perfect for lobbing my cars around in!

Stand aside, Ari, let the professionals figure this out...

Oooh, look what Bryn and Dad made while I was at the MCHN!

Pretty cool!

What's in here?  More trains!  Excellent!

Hahaha!  Why are they all singing that funny song at me?  Pretty candles!

Can't talk, eating!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Moving forward!

Yes, I just blogged a few hours ago, but I really hate to have a super negative blog up for long.  Mostly people don't like to read a "bitch and moan" blog post, so I thought I'd write up a quick list of the positive things we can and are doing to improve our situation.  Life is a bit like riding a bike, you tend to steer in the direction you're looking in, it is counter intuitive to steer in the opposite direction, so if you don't like the direction you're headed, you have to shift your eyes in the direction to want to be travelling in.  This blog post is me trying to shift my gaze from the negative to the positive...

The Positive Pro-Active Leaps of Faith We Are Making for the Better!

  1. I've organised to have the cheque re-issued and sent to our current address.  The cheque is on it's way!
  2. I'm organising an update letter to show to Centrelink.  I have another month to find some other way to earn mobility allowance.
  3. I have final dates for the manuscript and essay (in bound format).  I am finishing this degree!
  4. A friend of ours is helping Dave modernise his CV for future applications.  This will make it look fresher and more attractive to prospective employers and get him into those interviews!
  5. Dave has re-applied for that other job.  This gives him the best chance of getting an interview!
  6. Dave is applying for two more jobs.
  7. Dave's driving test is booked for February 5th, next year, and he is SO ready.  Only three months until we are a family with a car!
We're basically doing everything we can do to get Dave a job.  Get the money flowing in this household again (and thereby relieve the biggest stressors in our lives).  Get me graduated and moving on to the next stage of my own career!  We're moving forward!  I see clear blue skies and an open road ahead!

So bad, it's almost hilarious!

This morning's endeavours have been profoundly enlightening.  I think we may be living under some kind of curse.  Maybe I should change my name to Job?  Who knows, but let me tell three frustrating, mind-boggling findings from this morning that have me laughing with incredulity...

The Address Stuff-up:  We moved earlier this year and I went through the process of changing our address with every place I could think of, and then I got one of those mail-re-routing thingies, so whomever I forgot would be re-routed to us anyway.

In July, I realised even though I'd changed my address with my Training Provider (BestChance) back in April, they had somehow overlooked changing my address so my invitation to the graduation ceremony was going to be re-routed and turn up at my house on the day of the ceremony, possibly too late to confirm my guest numbers, so I called them and changed my address with them a second time.

Then early this month, I found out they were still sending correspondence to my old address and I balled them out about it.  Anyway, so for the past week I've been expecting a refund cheque from them.  I found out yesterday that other's in my course received their cheques last Friday, so I called them this morning and they STILL had the wrong address on their files.  They said their finance department will call me today.  I'm still waiting.

This stuff up is worth $120 to me.

The Centrelink Stuff-up:  A month ago, I received a letter from Centrelink saying they were cutting my Mobility Allowance as of the 1st of November.  At first I thought perhaps my University had told them I would be finishing my course then, but then I spoke to the University staff and found out that was not the case and I was entitled to payments until the end of term at the end of November.  When I rang Centrelink, they said my payments were being discontinued because a letter I'd provided them with was out of date.  They didn't bother to tell me in the original correspondence that I simply needed an updated letter!

This stuff up is worth $160 to me.

The Date Stuff-up:  A few weeks ago, Dave called the graphic design employment agency he is registered with to let them know he'd up-skilled and was available for work once more.  They said they'd call him the following week.  The call never came.  Another week passed without a call, then I told him to call them, again.  He did and someone told him someone else would call him back.  No call-back came.  So, this morning I made him call them again, and this time the guy looked at his file, and said it said Dave would be available for work after the 6th of November.  It should have said the 6th of October.  Because someone in the office typed in 06-11-10, instead of 06-10-10, Dave has potentially lost 2-3 weeks of work!

This stuff up was potentially worth $1200-1800 to our family.

I had to say to Dave it's like someone is actually doing their level best to keep us in this constant state of financial hardship!

I'm quite pissed off really because I have a great capacity for foreseeing what is needed to make the most of our future.  I can see what opportunities are coming our way, and what pitfalls, and I can see exactly what needs to be done to avoid the pitfalls, but what I CAN'T do is make other people do what they need to do for our family to avoid the pitfalls.  I couldn't make BestChance change my address - I tried, three times in total.  I couldn't make Dave learn how to use Mac software or hardware or update his Adobe software knowledge.  I couldn't make him get his licence ten years ago.  I couldn't make him really get stuck into applying for new jobs when he had the job at OCP.

Being at the mercy of other people, and being okay with missing opportunities I can see like beacons in the fog, seems to be my life lesson, and I'm just not getting it, LOL!

I'm a doer, and I want other people to be doers, too.  Then I can stop being a bitch and I might even get to enjoy my life a bit!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

A few of my favourite things!

Jayne over at Random Ramblings posted a very inspiring blogpost recently which I've just HAD to copy the idea of...

Here a few of my favourite things...

# WORDS - I love words!  I particularly like words that aren't used much, like "gry" (the dirt under your fingernails), which I've been trying to work into my writing somewhere, just so it can be used again (this blog post doesn't count as "using the word gry in my writing", but keep looking out for it, it'll pop up somewhere!).  My favourite word in the whole wide world is "serendipity".  I like the way it rolls off my tongue and I like it's meaning and connotation of hope.

# SUNNY DAYS - Who doesn't like a sunny day, then?  Some people say if it was sunny every day, we'd get bored.  I just don't think I would!

# MY KITCHEN TABLE - Not because it's a relatively new purchase, or because it's a particular design, but because I have always dreamed of having a table in the kitchen that people congregate around, and slowly but surely this dream is coming true!  My almost 2 year old and I have developed a little tradition of eating lunch together at the kitchen table, and I love sitting across from him and having that one-on-one special us time!

# ROAD TRIPS - I don't drive, but I LOVE road trips (maybe because I'm not the one driving).  Crank up the radio, or have someone interesting or funny (not mutually exclusive) to talk to and hit the "long open road"- see interesting stuff, have the best excuse in the world for driving through drive-thrus...  Road trips are excellent!

# LYING DOWN IN BED AT THE END OF A LONG DAY - Like Sinead O sang, "Nothing compares..." That feeling of being horizontal, and feeling all the muscles in your body relax, and drifting off to sleep quickly, it's seriously what keeps me going through long, busy days, the promise of that feeling!

# THE IDIOSYNCRACIES OF MY CHILDREN - I mean, it's a very rare thing to have the living room all to yourself, and FOUR possiblities for SITTING, in our house.  We have more people than seats in our loungeroom, and yet, when given the opportunity to pick ANY seat he likes, Erik prefers to stand on the arm of the chair and the coffee table to watch tv...

# SILENCE - This is a relatively knew crush in my life.  I used to avoid silence like the plague.  I was one of those people who would sleep with the television on.  Having four children and a husband who doesn't leave the house for work has CURED me of my need for constant noise.  Now whenever I have the opportunity, I soak up as much silence as I can!

# THINKING - Close relative of the previous point.  I crave time to just think.  I could happily just think all the time (well, maybe not at night, I could do with a little less thinking in the dark hours).  Turning over ideas and observations is a sensuous experience for me.

# SEX - speaking of sensuous experiences...  Don't get enough of this.  Nuff said.

# DESSERT WINES - I fell in love with Crouchen & Reisling many years ago (thanks to my in-laws), and then I was introduced to Moscato, and seriously, restaurants need to get with the program and put Moscato on their main drinks menu!  Love it!!!

# SINGING - Less related to the last point than you would think!  I love singng, whether it's a made up silly song for my kids, or belting out an old favourite.  It lives up to the promise of lifting my spirits!

# DANCING - I always wanted to be a dancer, but am not talented in that respect.  I still love moving to music though and I love to watch other - more capable types - dance as well!

# CINEMA - When you don't see particularly well, the cinema and it's enormous screen is your best friend!  Most of all I like going to the movies when they're almost empty (on two occasions I have an entire cinema to myself and those were AMAZING experiences - though I'm sure the owners didn't feel the same way), it's like having a private screening!

I could go on and on, every new favourite thing reminds me of other favourite things, there are so many when I start to think about them!  What are some of yours?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

"How to spend $60 of food per week for a family of four" - *bullshit cough*

On a couple of occasions this week I've been surprised at what people consider to be "spending very little on food".

Just now I saw someone link to a Facebook page by a woman advising people who to spend only $60 a week on food for their family of four.  At first I was very impressed.  Sadly, on further investigation, it turned out that she was actually only talking about dinners.  Breakfasts, lunches and snacks were not included in that amazingly economic "food" budget.  On her "how to get started page" some disappointed reader criticised the misleading nature of her claims, and she told them her site was a culinary site, not a site on budgeting, and yet part of her self-promotion is about how she lives on Government payments and only has $120 per fortnight to spend on food, which seems to suggest she's talking about feeding her family of four on just $60 per week...

But misleading promotions aside, I'm just surprised that she considers spending that much on a family of four, only for dinners, a very small amount!

I thought I'd share our "real life" food budget for a family of six, spending up to $200 a week on EVERYTHING - our dinners only come to $70 a week for SIX people (and they're generous servings).

I'll define "everything" for you.  Everything includes:

  1. All meals; breakfast, snacks and lunches (for home, school and kindergarten - neither of us work out of home at the moment), afternoon snacks, dinner and evening snacks (for adults - who usually don't have afternoon snacks) and drinks.
  2. All toiletres; toilet paper, shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, soap, pads for mum, nappies for Ari, toothbrushes, toothpaste.
  3. All household items; dishwashing detergent, laundry liquid, bleach, floor cleaners, sponges, scourers, bin bags, lunchbox bags, cling/alfoil/bakingpaper, kitchen papertowel, teatowels, brooms, buckets, lightbulbs, batteries 
  4. medications such a panadol and aspirin and neurofen, bandaids, vick's vaporub, sinutab etc.
  5. socks, underwear, bibs
Basically, anything and everything we might need each week that can be bought in a supermarket.  Obviously, we don't have to buy everything every week, but anything we need from the supermarket gets budgeted into that up to $200 per week.  Some weeks we spend as little as $160.  We buy a lot of homebrand (bread, pasta, rice, sugar), but also brand name stuff (like we use dolmio, pataks, pantene, kleenex toiletpaper, birdeye fish fillets, heinz baked beans, Continental soups, etc.).  We could make even further savings by using basic cloth nappies, and a mentrual cup, cheaper shampoo and conditioner for example, but there are some luxuries we just prefer the convenience off...

On a lot of food challenges, I see the first recommendation being to go through your cupboards and look at what you have in stock because a lot of people don't even know what's in their pantry.

I thought I'd show you our "pantry" and fridge at the end of the week (shopping day is tomorrow).  Apologies for my dirty fridge, I do keep meaning to get to that...
Our "pantry shelves"

Our, um, in need of a good wash, fridge
I'll be a domestic goddess when I've finished this degree, promise!

Our pantry cupboards - LOL, have been living here 7 months
and only just today discovered the in cupboard light!  Woot!
We usually only buy enough pasta, meat, sauces, vegies, fruit, bread and dairy to get us through each week.  I do buy larger bags, boxes and containers where I can, so margarine for example will last us a fortnight or three weeks.  Some weeks we have less than $50 to live off and then we'll get to end of things like potatos, baked beans, packet soups, flour (for damper etc.) and other bits and pieces I like to buy extra each week as quickie dinners if something comes up.  But yeah, there would never be any "living off the pantry for a fortnight" if we had NO money...

For interest sake, here's a list of a few of our regular meals...

  • Chilli con carne
  • Spagetti bolognese
  • Butter chicken
  • Apricot chicken
  • Tuna mornay
  • Korma
  • Chicken Tikka
  • Rogan Josh
  • Tacos
  • Burritos
  • Crumbed fish with homebaked chips/wedges, or salad, or steamed vegies.
  • Homemade pizza
  • Schnitzel with salad, or vegies
  • Snags with mash, or vegies, or salad
  • Creamy Chicken curry
  • Beef stew
  • Lamb stew
  • Vegetarian hotpot
  • Tuna salad
  • Kebabs with salad, or vegies
  • Hot dogs
  • Homemade burgers
  • Shepherd's pie
  • Rissoles with vegies or salad
  • Homemade pumpkin soup
  • Omlettes with salad
So, it's not all baked beans and two minute noodles (though, some week, when things are particular tight...).

I guess if we HAD more money, we'd spend it, but I think we eat well on much less than what people think is "eating cheaply".  Our portions are generous - not like the minuscule portions you see on those Coles ads.  

We have cereals and toast for breakfast.  Fruit, biscuits and crackers, toasted cheese sandwiches and toast for snacks (occasionally, when I'm in the mood, I'll make muffins or cupcakes, but we don't eat a lot of baked goods).  Water is the main cold drink in the house - we have a water filter, so we don't buy water.  We definitely don't drink cordials or fruit juices except on very special occasions like birthday parties.  Hot drinks are instant coffee, tea, and hot chocolate.

I don't buy meat in bulk (we have a tiny freezer).  Sometimes we buy it from a butcher (Dave is better at doing that than I am), often just prepackaged from the supermarket.  We prefer high grade mince and low fat meats, so are buying the cheapest meat around either.

When I say we have nothing in cupboard, I pretty much MEAN we have nothing in the cupboard.  This is what is like to be a family of six living on 45K (AUD) per year, but for the most part, I don't think we suffer, we certainly don't NEED to spend more than $200 per week - when we do spend that much, it's usually a week when we've splurged on little extra treats (because, hell, we're not saints, LOL!).

Anyway, there's my little rant on the very loose definition of living frugally (without growing your own)...

Friday, October 22, 2010

Writing sucks!

It's three o'clock in the morning and I'm wide awake, browsing the net.  Why?

Partly because I fell asleep at around 5pm and slept for two hours - that never helps.

Partly because I'm all churned up.  I had a talk with mum tonight.  She's reading through my manuscript.  Another lecturer (not my supervisor) is reading through my manuscript, and tonight a student is has also received the manuscript and will read it over the weekend.  The thing is.  I thought I'd be finished by now.  It seems EVERYONE else who was finishing up this year IS finished except me.

I'm the only true external student out of the group.  There was one other external student, but that student was actually on campus at least once a month, apparently - something I had no hope of achieving.  So, a lack of constant communication - both on my part and that of my supervisors, has been part of my problem.  I should have been in their ears more, but it's been very difficult to build a rapport and feel comfortable contacting them simply because I wasn't familiar with them, didn't know their personalities and how best to interact with them.  I was shy.  If you are a shy kind of person, don't do an external degree!

So, here I sit, with days to go before my deadline and a bunch of people reading my manuscript.  I have to wait patiently for their feedback.  They're all doing me a huge favour right now (taking on work that isn't their responsibility).

If I'm perfectly honest, I feel like crap about this whole situation.  I'm wondering why I took on this degree.  What was I thinking?  That I could write a Masters thesis while raising three children, and growing and birthing a fourth?  That I could do it with next to no real contact with supervisors?  That I could do it while moving house, having two operations, doing another full time on campus course, and supporting my partner through the death of a parent?

Mum says I need to try and relax while I'm waiting for feedback.

She's been in this situation (and she actually had the one of the ops I had during her degree as well!), so she should know what she's talking about, but I CAN'T relax.  I've been trying, but I know that once the feedback is in, I'm going to have to hit the ground SPRINTING to reach the finish line in time (assuming the feedback comes in time).

The crappiest thing of all is that I would totally be LOVING this drama if it was the only drama in my life right now.  I usually love the final dash for the finish line.  I find it exhilarating; a challenge of my ability, to some degree.

This time though, there are so many other things that are a drama, that I can't enjoy this one - or any of them...

I don't know what I'll do if the people I'm waiting on take so long that I don't get this in before the deadline.  I'm tempted to tell them to stop helping me, and just let me hand in what I have now, but now I'm convinced I'd fail miserably if I did that.  So, I'm stuck.

I've tried several time to start my exegesis but I can't get a grip on it when my manuscript is not finished.

The worst bit is, for some reason I thought I had a good story and that my writing was pretty good - I got so much positive early feedback - but now I feel like I may possibly be handing in the worst thesis in the history of the department and that the people currently reviewing it for me are my only chance of scraping by on a pass.  A pass won't get me into a PhD.  A pass manuscript won't get published.  I love writing so much, but right now, it just sucks great big hairy dogs balls for me...

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Gosh, it's so beautiful outside!  The weather forecast is predicting warm weather as far as the eye can see (if you ignore that 17 degree day on Saturday, but relatively speaking 17 degrees isn't really cold anyway)...

In the back of my mind I'm a bit panicky about finishing the manuscript and the exegesis in the next 8 days (haven't heard back from the people who are supposed to be hurriedly giving it a once over for me - must make a call tonight and find out where I stand).

In the back of my mind is the ongoing worry about our financial situation, mostly about the things we can't afford the kids at the moment, like birthday presents for Ari (good opportunity to reassess our values anyway?), and school camping trips for Erik and Luey, and school uniform/bag/hat etc. for Bryn.

In the back of my mind is the nagging unease about the fact that Dave may not even get an interview for a job he is more than qualified to do, and willing to do at a rate below his value, simply because he's over 50.

In the back of my mind is the frustration of probably having to wait until February next year for Dave to sit his drivers test because his instructor is somehow convinced that the ONLY good time for Dave to do it is first thing on a Saturday morning...

In the back of my mind is the anxiety and sheer exhaustion of the thought of having to pack this house up AGAIN and look for another house AGAIN in just another 4 months times (only 7 months since we moved here).

All those things are at the back of my mind, but outside the sun is shining and the sky is the prettiest blue I've seen in months, and I'm going to walk up to our children's school with my husband and my two littlies to pick up our two big boys because I can't help but smile and feel cruisy on a day like today!

Boy to Man: Rites of Passage...

I have four boys.

I have four BOYS!

This has been playing on my mind a lot lately.  I always thought I'd have daughters.  Many, many daughters.  Obviously, that didn't happen.

People say it doesn't matter what sex your children are as long as they're healthy, and I agree that a healthy child is something everyone wants!

People say there is nothing you can do with a daughter or a son, that you can't do with a child of the opposite sex.

They're wrong.

They are wrong in so many, many ways, but tonight I just want to talk about just one way in which they are wrong.

Rites of Passage is something done with the child of either sex by the parent of that same sex (and if such a parent isn't available, then by someone the child is close with of the same sex).  When I was daydreaming about all those daughters I was going to have, one of the things I daydreamed about was their rite of passage into womanhood.  In a time when rites of passage are not as culturally valued (in modern Western culture, that is) as they used to be, many aware parents of girls are creating modern day rites of passage for girls when they experience their first menstrual bleed.  This is pretty much what I imagined I would be doing with my bus-load of girls.  I was pretty excited about it, too!  Sharing with them the joy and pains of this significant change in their bodies which would herald a whole new world of responsibilities, emotions and experiences.

Then I had boys.  FOUR of them!

In many ways, in our society today, where there is a lot of support of women being strong, mature, independent, intelligent and so on and so forth, I think some sort of rite of passage for boys is more important than ever before.

My problem has been trying to figure out what that might be.  Please don't tell me it's when he gets his first smartphone, or when he watches his first porno, or has sex for the first time.  Those things don't cut it, not one iota - they're almost the ANTITHESIS of what I'm talking about...

I did a quick search before I started writing this blog post and found THIS ARTICLE FROM KINDRED ONLINE ABOUT RITES OF PASSAGE FOR BOYS IN MODERN SOCIETY.  It pretty much says everything I've been thinking over the past few weeks.  I certainly have known a lot of men who show very strong signs of not having experienced a rite of passage.  I want my boys to grow into mature, responsible, compassionate and respectful men.  I also know that as their mother, I cannot do this for them, but as their mother, I need to have some idea of what to suggest to their father (that he will not feel like a total dick doing), so that he can provide this rite for his sons - or, ye gads!, even come up with his own ideas.

My eldest son is 11.  He is on the brink.  He's recently taken on more responsibility in the household in as much as he cooks for us at least once a week.  He takes himself to his extra-curricula activities and he can now run errands for us to the supermarket (via public transport).  I am proud of him, but I don't feel these responsibilities are significant enough to mark a distinct threshold he has to cross to be counted as a man in this house (and quite possibly, he is still a little young).

Yesterday I had a brief and heated argument with my 9 year old because he believes he should automatically be allowed to do anything his 11 year old brother is able to do (and in some things he is, he also cooks a meal for us on his own each week, and is allowed to accompany the older boy to the park, shops etc, we just haven't let him go it alone just yet, which he is bucking again already!).  Since they were very young we have treated them very similarly.  For as long as my 9 year old can remember, he's done everything his older brother has done.  At school their is only one year between them, and because our school does multi-aged classrooms, they are in the same class level every second year.  This emerging expectation of my 9 year old to be given all the same rights and privileges as his older brother have further highlighted for me the need to make a demarcation between the child that was and that man that has begun, to also give the younger brother a sense of achievement when his turn comes, and not just a sense of having slipped in on his brother's coat tails...

More things to think about - parenting is a complex business!