Panther

Little cutie

A photo posted by @nickypelletier on

We have a new family member. A kitten. Called Panther. We weren’t going to get another cat until Zelda shuffled off the mortal coil, but sometimes plans change suddenly.

When I took the kids to school on Wednesday, one of the mums from Finn’s class, who I shall call K, was there with two tiny kittens in a bag. K lives out of town and they have several feral cats that hang around. She discovered the kittens living under an agapanthus bush in her garden and their mum had taken off. K had been bottle feeding them for the past two weeks and was looking for homes for them. She had named them Aggie and Panther. Aggie had a home lined up, but Panther was still looking for a family.

I could list rationalisations and reasonings for why Panther became ours, but the short answer is, I held the kitten.

So Panther has joined our menagerie. We now have: two cats – Zelda and Panther, two dogs – Emmylou and Cricket, five chickens – Winifred, Shaggy, Scrappy, Sunshine and Rosie, four guinea pigs – Sparks and Emma (the girls), Snowy (who is Sparks’ unexpected offspring) and Starlord (who joined us last week as a companion for Snowy – the jury is out on whether that was a good idea) and two fish – the Sparkle Brothers/Sisters.

I’ve told the kids that we’re done collecting animals for the next ten years. I just need to convince myself.

The Golden Children

Not sure which of our kids did this, but I love their drawings at the moment.

A photo posted by Mark O'Meara (@markomeara) on

I’m probably jinxing myself when I say this, but Finn and Leila seem to be going through a bit of a purple patch at the moment. They really seem to be firing on all cylinders. Yes, we have the usual gripes and issues, but in general they are really great.

Finn is happier than he has been for quite some time and seems to have become more centred and grounded in recent times. His drawings are looking beautiful – I’m pretty sure those are his dragons above. And he’s learned to ride a bike!

Leila is, as always, indubitably Leila and happily so. She’s charging along academically, her teacher commented the other day that her school report will be out of date by the time we receive it because she’s progressing so fast! Like Finn, but differently to him, her imagination is prodigious and she can occupy herself for hours crafting, drawing or just playing.

In all the stress and negativity that has surrounded us this year, it’s lovely to see our kids doing so well. It makes it all feel worthwhile.

Gettingridofsh!tvember

I’ve declared my own themed month – Gettingridofsh!tvember (do you like the way I inserted the exclamation mark where there should be an i). It’s pretty self-explanatory, but I’ll explain it a bit anyway. I’m dedicating this month to getting as much crap out of our house as possible. I’m not playing any games or boogieing, I’m just collecting as much stuff as I can each day and donating or tossing it.

I was going to go room by room and got off to a slow start in the kitchen last week. I gathered up a box of small appliances, muffin tins and ugly plates that we didn’t use, but didn’t get near the plastics cupboard. I moved into the dining room this week and did a big, big clean up of paperwork yesterday, but didn’t get near the kids’ art supplies which are threatening to bury our buffet/sideboard. Although I was impressed with my progress, I was also starting to feel a little discouraged.

In the meantime I had started reading The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up and decided to try the author’s approach. I doubted that it really would be life changing, but I have nothing to lose but lots of crap.

Marie Kondo recommends decluttering by category, rather than by room, and doing it all in one go, instead of counting day by day. I’m not going to do the whole house in one go, but I can do a category a day. She says that you should only keep things that “spark joy” within you and toss everything else, getting it out of the house as quickly as possible and without letting anyone else see it.

Today I set to work on my wardrobe, which is Kondo’s recommended first step. I think it would be going a bit far to suggest that everything I kept sparks joy within me, but I do like it all and I’m sure it all fits me. I haven’t stored things in the way she suggests – folded neatly and rolled into little cylinders to sit upright in a drawer and be more visible – because I don’t have drawers, just shelves. Everything is, however, neatly folded and sitting in small piles, which I hope means things won’t be forgotten and languish at the bottom. Mark joined me and did his part of the wardrobe. Between us we filled five garbage bags, which Mark then obligingly took straight to the op shop.

The next category according to the “Konmari Method” is books. It hasn’t been all that long since I cleared out our books, so I’m not expecting much, but I’ll still give it a shot. The kids’ books might be a good place to start. Leila’s reading is progressing so fast that I’m pretty sure she’s outgrown quite a few of hers and Finn often complains that he’s read all of his.

After books, there’s papers (which I’ve already done, but might have another look at), komono (miscellaneous items) and, finally, sentimental items. The sentimental stuff (photos, etc.) is last because she says you won’t be emotionally ready until you’ve done everything else. Kondo claims that you should only need to do this once and then just maintain it, but I’m not convinced that will work for our little household of hoarders. If I can get this done this month, I can see it being a annual, or bi-annual, event to go through and cull what no longer sparks joy for us or, at least, doesn’t get used.

Those years that end in 4

2014-calendar-2
Years that end in four have a habit of being Not Very Good for me. I’m not sure what it is, but once a decade the shit seems to hit the fan and I find myself trudging up hill through wet cement.

1974 – I was 8. This was the year my Dad was living and working in Canberra, while the rest of us stayed in Melbourne. I don’t recall much about it, other than the regular trips to the airport to pick Dad up on his monthly visits home, but I suspect that our household without him was not functioning optimally.

1984 – I was 18. I was studying at Swinburne and feeling like a minute fish in an enormous ocean. My closest friends were working, driving and leaving home. I wasn’t. There was a lot of family unrest happening, which had nothing directly to do with me, but made me very unhappy all the same. At the end of the year I dropped out of uni on the basis of a 30 second argument with my mother. Sober consideration was not one of my strengths.

1994 – 28 years old, single and miserable. I quit my job in spectacular fashion, argued with a friend who has not spoken to me since and spent 8 weeks unemployed, which was a completely new experience for me. The aforementioned friend, another girl and I were evicted from the dump we were sharing so that it could be demolished (I was literally carting my stuff out as the house was being pulled apart) and I found myself living at home – again. Things did start to look up in the second half of the year when I started working for Telecom and met a cute, skinny boy with glasses …

2004 – 38, first-time mum. I went back to work when Finn was 3 months old. It was not good, not good at all. I found myself doing a job I didn’t understand, or like, and working for a woman who was so lacking in human warmth and empathy that I now doubt she was actually human. It was necessary, it paid the bills – rather well I now realise – but it was very tough going.

2014 – Mark is stuck in a toxic workplace. His, aka our, income has dropped by about 25%. I have let my volunteer work go to concentrate on the family’s well being and my future career plans are up in the air. We are way better off than many, many people, but it is hard work to remain positive at the moment.

Now, I know other years have been tough, but the ones that end in four always seem to be really hard going. I don’t know why. Is it astrological in origin? Or karmic? Did I do something dreadful in a year ending with four in a past life? Is there some lesson I keep not learning?

One thing I have learned is not to fight it too much. To narrow my focus to what I can control and keep my wits about me as much as possible. This includes not making life-changing decisions in a fit of pique. And to keep looking forward.

Which is why I’m also spending tonight looking a Pinterest boards and planning my kitchen reno.

Plans, mice, men and all that jazz.

life

As usual, I started the year with all sorts of grand plans and they didn’t last. This should come as no surprise to anyone, least of all me. John Lennon was right, we can plan all we like, but life is going to happen anyway. And it has. I can be very persistent, though, so I’m back to give regular blogging another go. I’m not making any promises – especially to myself – but I want to see if I can do a weekly blog post.

I’ll start the ball rolling by going over my categories for the year:

Financial – This is not a fun topic at the moment. Mark is still at the same school, but has dropped his leadership responsibilities, resulting in a $20k drop in salary. It’s only happened in the last month, so I’m still massaging the budget to accommodate it.

We borrowed the money for our big trip, so our overall debt has increased. Our mortgage, the trip loan and our credit card comes to a total of $222,291.28 (the equivalent of three years of income). Debt reduction is our obvious priority for the rest of this year, at least.

On the face of it, the simple answer to the above is for me to return to work. It doesn’t feel simple, though. First, there are some non-financial costs to having me not at home and I’m not sure I’m ready to wear those. Secondly, after eight years at home, employers are not breaking down the door to employ me for 20 hours a week. And, finally, a stubborn part of me finds it impossible to accept that a family of four can’t live on a teacher’s wage.

Health and Wellbeing – My iron deficiency has been resolved by an endometrial ablation (much less icky than it seems), which is a Very Good Thing. Apart from that, though, taking care of myself has slipped down the priority list somewhat and needs to be addressed.

Education – I’ve completed the first trimester of my course. I did 3 subjects, but have managed to fail two of them. In one case I submitted the wrong assignment (mixed up two similar subject names) and in the other I’ve submitted all assignments, but one hasn’t been marked. I’ve emailed both lecturers and we’ll see what happens. If I have to repeat the subjects, it’s not a big deal, I can just submit the same (correct) assignments again, but it will be annoying. I’m enrolled in 3 more subjects this semester, so we’ll see how they go.

Creativity – This has slipped down the list too. I’m knitting – as always – but that’s it at the moment. There are lots of ideas floating around in my head for, which I hope to get to one day.

Giving – I’m still volunteering, although I am on my “annual leave” at the moment. I still enjoy it and will pick it up again in July. My plans for helping out at the children’s school have changed a bit (I think I was a little ambitious at the start of the year), but it’s happening. I’m involved in organising the annual Spring Fair (25th October, keep the date free!) and have been helping Leila’s class learn to knit, going on weekly nature walks with both kids’ classes and hanging out with the parent craft group on Fridays.

Decluttering/Minimalism – This has been chugging along without any startling progress until this month. I sold a few more books and have a growing collection of stuff in the back of the car, waiting to go to the op shop. I did a big clean out of Leila’s room several weeks ago, throwing out a couple of bags of odds and ends. She loves her tidier room and, thus far, has maintained it. I’m thinking of doing the same sort of thing room by room through the house. I’m feeling the urge to get quite brutal with the clearing out, so it could be interesting!

So there we have the state of play. It took a while after we got back from our Big Trip and Mark and the kids went back to work and school to get back into a routine. I’m not sure if I’ve managed it yet, but life does feel a bit more settled and manageable (on most days).

The end of summer

February is nearly over and it feels like Summer has already left us – apart from today’s surprising warmth. In general, the weather has turned relatively cool and I can’t believe I only wrote my Summer Manifesto a couple of weeks ago. In spite of this, the sun still has a serious bite to it – I broke the first rule of the Summer Manifesto on Sunday and got myself well and truly sunburnt. I am an object lesson for my children on the importance of sunscreen on even a mild day!

With the end of February, my efforts to sell unwanted items come to a pause. I don’t feel like it’s been all that much of success sadly. I sold 3 games on eBay for a total of $50, of which over half probably went in postage. Five of my books have sold on Fishpond so far, totalling about $90. Less of this has gone in postage because the small books can be posted quite cheaply.

I feel like I’ve learned a lesson about eBay selling. Usually I charge the correct postage cost (or as close to it as I can estimate) and start the auction $0.99, which means that if the items sells I’ll make at least 99 cents, less the final value fee. This time I included the postage charge in the price of each game and offered free postage. For one game I under-estimated the postage cost and, of course, eBay’s final value fee was charged on that whole amount, so I paid more for those sales than I would have otherwise. So it’s back to my old habits next time around.

And I will do it again – in April. The books I currently have listed on Fishpond can stay on there – they’re not doing anything other than taking up space here and I can pause the listings while we’re away. After we get back from the big trip, I’ll list the same books on eBay again, using my old formula and see how that goes. I have to remind myself that the main objective is to get rid of the things. The money I make in the process is the icing on the cake. At the end of April whatever hasn’t sold will either go to the op shop, or stay here (there are a couple of books I’d like to keep if I can’t sell them…).

The end of Summer signals wardrobe clean out time too. At each change of season, I experience a bit of anxiety about whether I have enough or the right clothing for the coming heat or cold. Generally, this results in a frenzy of shopping. This year, I think, I was fairly good and didn’t buy much that was new, other than some singlet tops. I didn’t wear the singlet tops much, but they aren’t the only things that didn’t get worn. Off the top of my head I know I have several dresses and some tshirts that haven’t come out of the wardrobe once in the last 3 months. I’m sure there are quite a few other things that I’ll find when I dig around in there.

I think I’ve come to understand that I don’t actually need a big variety of things to wear because I tend to wear the same things over and over again. These pants (on sale!), with elastic in the hems to make them into harem pants because they were too long, have been the base of my wardrobe over summer. Add one favourite dress from Eternal Creation, another little shift/beach cover up thing from Target, an op shop skirt and a few t shirts and shirts and that’s pretty much all I’ve worn. This gives me a really clear plan for clearing things out. Anything that hasn’t been worn at all, goes. Any tops that I’ve worn regularly with the trousers or skirt, stay. Anything that sits between these categories (things that have been worn a few times, but not often), will have to be special to stay.

After the deluge

We had a wee bit of rain yesterday, which caused some consternation in Geelong. It was a very narrow, very intense band of rain which dropped about 50mm in 10 minutes. Aside from the damage it caused and the great issue of a football match being delayed, it was amazing to watch the water filled our yard and then drained away almost as quickly. It may be my imagination, but our grass looks a little greener today, which is nice to see.

On the crafting front, I’ve been making granny squares at a huge pace. I’m using up leftover sock yarn to make them. I’m not sure what I’ll do with them when I run out of yarn, or if I’ll have enough do anything with, really. It’s fun while it lasts, though. Once that’s done I’m planning to expand my crochet efforts. I know of several babies arriving in the next few months, so I’m going to see if I can do some simple baby blankets as gifts. This pattern looks good and I have plenty of worsted weight yarn I can use.

Preparations for our big trip are well underway, with all our accommodation booked and mostly paid for and the hire car also booked and paid for. It’s been a bit of an abstract thing for me thus far, but now it feels very real. As always with me, this means I’m a bit anxious about it and have my usual “Murphy’s Law” belief running around in my head. At the same time I keep reminding myself of Julian of Norwich“All will be well and all will be well and every kind of thing shall be well.” So there’s a very interesting dialogue going on in my head right now and it will continue until we are on the road and actually on our trip.