Thursday, December 27, 2012

My 7 Top Tips for Cheap or Free School Holiday Fun

We are on a serious budget these holidays, but it doesn’t mean I don’t want to get out and about with my kids. For starters, the more time I am out of the house, the less time Lorelei has to trash it. I hate housework, and this toddler of mine demolishes the house daily. So a day spent somewhere else, is a good day. Also, Madeleine has been on school holidays since the first week of December, so she is already starting to get bored. Hehe – see this post for other “free boredom busters” for your tweens/teens.

I’ve been proactive and scoured the Internet and my local newspapers for free and cheap things to do with the kids these school holidays. I’ve put together a calendar for the date specific events, and a general list of idea’s for the other days when it seems good to get out. We won’t do everything on this list, but at least if the stars align and I want to get out, the idea’s are already there and there is nothing to stop us. We can be like good like Zhu Zhu pets and "GO GO GO!"

My tips for creating your own calendar of local activities to do:
  1. Check your local council, as well as surrounding council websites. They are a great place to start as they usually list both their own events and activities as well as are happy to provide links and details to other community groups.
  2. Check your local newspaper. You know that little free one that gets dropped off each week? There is always an events section in there are well, near the classified usually. Also pay attention to the ads, there might be vouchers for local attractions.
  3. Check your local clubs (RSL, Leagues, Workers, etc) websites. Often there are shows aimed towards kids with ticket prices that are very reasonable. We’ve found disco’s, family fun days, and great performances at some of our clubs.
  4. Facebook pages! A quick visit to the facebook page of a local attraction (pools, clubs, gyms, animal farms etc) can sometimes yield open days, or free times to visit.
  5. Shopadocket. Sometimes there are some good vouchers on the back – get 2 kids in for the price of 1 etc or adults at kids prices.
  6. Check your local shopping centre – there are often shows on during the school holidays that the kids will enjoy.
  7. Check the daily deals websites! After we lined up our desired activity list for the holidays, there were a few things we were happy to pay for if we could get a good price. After checking all of the daily deals sites (Groupon, Scoopon, Spreets, Livingsocial etc) we actually found a few of them on special and were able to buy tickets at half price. I also snagged a $5 all day Sydney CBD parking voucher, which will make our Darling Harbour day out much more affordable.
If you are prepared with this information NOW at the beginning of the school holidays, you are in the best position to take advantage of the free or cheap opportunities. Sometimes the activities I find might only take up an hour, but with a packed lunch and a trip to the park afterwards, we've had a great morning at no cost, and then the kids settle happily at home.

Here’s my school holiday calendar. You can find this seriously awesome, FREE downloadable year round calendar in a few different designs over at the talented Organised Housewife. If you aren't already reading her blog you are missing out on some great stuff.

Credit for Calendar layout:
As you can see, not all the days are filled in, but we have so many idea's and other things to do on my To-Do list that if we don't feel like staying at home, a day will be easily filled.

Are you prepared to beat the boredom these school holidays? Have you lined up some awesome stuff? Share in the comments with your state so that others can benefit!!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas from the Mummyhearts Household......And a Winner

Wrapping up today with Christmas wishes from my family to yours. Stay safe tomorrow, gorge yourself silly with delicious food, and fall into a Christmas night food coma. I know I will!

And for those Doctor Who fans who entered my

Doctor Who Mega Playset Giveaway

The winner is......................Yvette Bower!

Congratulations Yvette, have sent you an email for your details. 

Merry Christmas to all....and to all a goodnight!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Freshening up the finances

I know, who is thinking about their finances right now. ME! With the amount of money leaving the bank account on presents, I am always conscious of my finances at this time of year.

My home phone and Internet contract expired last month while I was in hospital, so I am a little behind. Normally I like to renegotiate contracts straight away, to make sure I am getting the best deal. And this month is no exception, I've made the move to another Internet provider today, who is going to give me the same amount of data usage, + greater home phone allowance for $30 cheaper than the old plan. Suh-weet.

But did you also know that sometimes you can renegotiate your plans early? If you are going to be staying with the same provider, they will often let you change/upgrade/re contract early. In this case, our mobile contract is not due to expire till February, but we can renegotiate up to 3 months early. Which is worth it, because there is a plan $10 cheaper on the site that matches our current data and call allowance which suits us so we have locked in for that now too.

So total savings each month for tonight's endeavours is $40, or $480 per year. It's always worth being right on top of your contract expiry's, because every month you do not look for the best deal for you, is another month of potentially higher costs.

There's also often added benefits to signing new contracts with a company such as new free phones, free months access, or other goodies. Things that can be sold on eBay, gifted, or at the very least add value to your life.

Use your down time over the Christmas period to evaluate your contracts. Gas, electricity, phones, Internet, insurances, loans, etc.

What will I do with that $480 this year? It's all part of my master plan to stay on maternity leave till February 2014. $480 is more than a weeks mortgage payment for me, and we are still short 16 weeks mortgage payments to get us to February 2014. So 1 down, 15 to go!

What could you be doing with the savings on your contracts? A holiday? A new TV? More money to invest in your home or life?

Friday, December 21, 2012

Mum....I'm Bored

Maddy has been on holidays since the first week of December. And I have heard those words more times than I can count already.

The first time, I waited a few minutes and then I set her the task of emptying the dishwasher. Job got done, and she settled down to watching a movie.

Later the same day, when she wandered aimlessly through the lounge room claiming she had nothing to do, I got her to sort some laundry. Hehe.

Over the days that have passed, she has had so many chores assigned to her each time she looks vaguely bored. It's awesome. Everything is getting done, and so far she hasn't twigged.

But each time she has completed a chore, she suddenly finds something interesting to do afterwards. A puzzle, a previously abandoned craft activity, playing with her little sister, not to mention all the screen based distractions she owns.

I think it's a self preservation instinct that kids are born with. She may not have made the connection between boredom and housework consciously, but she definitely stops nagging me after a chore.

I'm wondering if I can get the windows washed this weekend if she's bored enough.

It's not really child labour is it? 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: How Summer Is Meant To Be

I'm getting the kids outside more as much as I can. We seem more content to sit and play together as a family outside.

Dinner outside = less squabling, and actual family talk time 
Even Sebastian joined us although he wasn't interested in  dinner

Maybe tomorrow night I'll add water. They didn't seem to care

Magnums for desert. So worth it.

Linking up with Trish from My Little Drummer Boys for Wordless Wednesday
My Little Drummer Boys

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Christmas Idea's for your Tween Girl

I have me a tween. She turns 12 next month, but every now and then I get a flash of her teenage self and boy am I SCARED!

She's going into high school next year, and thanks to the schools not so subtle hint, she is getting an iPad for Christmas. We were originally buying her a laptop but the school is moving towards iPads they tells us. I'm a little miffed, because we always told her that as a Christmas or Birthday present we would go HALVES. But we also have planned to buy her the laptop going into high school so it leaves us in the position of buying something that I consider the most awesome toy ever instead. Bah. Humbug!

I say that's the reason I'm miffed but really I'm spewing she's getting one before me! I would LOVE an iPad but funds just will not stretch right now.

So she is only getting a few little things under the tree as a surprise, but this year I feel like I have nailed some really nice things at a great price, so I'm sharing in case you are stuck!

1. Shambala Bracelet. I know a few teenage and pre-teen girls that have asked for these, and I was tickled to find them at Goldmark in the current catalogue for only $19.95.  I shopped around first, and found them ranging all the way up to $99.95 at the Gucci Store so it's a delicate and special little piece of bling that I know Maddy is going to LOVE.

2. One Direction Poster. Unless your daughter does not go into a sparkle eyed giggling gossip queen every time the band comes on the radio. In which case a poster of their favourite Pop Star. These posters are huge, and are so much more impressive than the ones they get out of magazines. I found mine for $12 at a local poster and prints store, so it wasn't a wallet breaker. If you really want to impress, they were $49.95 to get framed.

3. iPad/iPod/iPhone/Laptop covers. There was an incredible fashion range out there! I had no idea. I was just going to get her a plain one from the electrical store, but I'm so glad I didn't! Browse the fashion and stationary stores for some great covers, all less than $20, many less than $10. Maddy is fluero mad at the moment and I was able to bag her a gold and multi coloured fluero iPad cover that I know she is going to love for $14 from Forever New.

4. A new handbag. Maddy has been carrying around the handbags she was attracted to as a younger girl, a little pretty decorated denim bag, a Minnie Mouse bag etc. Lately, I've noticed she doesn't like the carry them and has started putting her book or DS in my bag when we leave the car. So I've bought her a sweet little white handbag that is much older without being too much. There were heaps out there to choose from, and thanks to all the sales in store, you'd be hard pushed to lose more than $20. This little one cost me $17 from Equip.

5. Nailpolish. Maddy loves painting her nails while she is on holidays, so a few bright and funky colours to add to her little collection will be a hit. I picked up a 5 pack from Gloss for only $8.95.

Nothing on this list breaks the bank, but I know Maddy will love them, and I love having some surprises under the tree for her. Well, the iPad is actually a surprise, because she thinks Dad and I are still buying her a laptop instead, but it's not 100% a surprise.

If you had a preteen in your life you were struggling to buy for, I hope I've given you some idea's! I know how much easier my babies are to buy for right now.

Are you all finished your shopping? Or still have little bits and pieces left? I don't have much, but there is definately going to have to be another trip to the shops at some point.

Linking up with Essentially Jess for I Blog on Tuesdays

Friday, December 14, 2012

Doctor Who Mega Playset: A Review And Giveaway **Closed**

Do you have a Doctor Who fan in your life? I have HEAPS! My husband and older daughter, as well as half my nieces and nephews love the Doctor.

I have been agonising over a Christmas present idea for my incredibly hard to buy for teenage nephew, and finally thought I would start searching for something Doctorish. Within a few minutes of searching I hit the jackpot: a Tardis bathrobe!

 I know how much Maddy loves snuggling in the plush bathrobe I bought her this year, so I have no doubt that my nephew will love his new adults robe, and I know the awesome Tardis design is going to appeal to the Doctor nerd fan in him.

But the first website I found it on had it priced at over $100 plus expensive shipping, so as usual I got on my googling bandwagon to price this as a better price. The cheapest I could find anywhere would have me paying $90 to get it in from the US, which I was willing to do since I have the luxury of time on my hands for this particular gift - I won't be seeing my nephew till mid January. Not even eBay could help me do better.

Then, right when I was about to play my US order, I found They had my bathrobe for only $79.95! And on top of that, they are located in Australia offering FREE shipping at the moment! Can you give me a high five or what?

Just to make sure they had my robe in stock, I jumped on their facebook page. Within minutes of my posting the question, I had the answer. They had the stock. Oh I love it when business's use social media to service their customers. Minutes later, my order was placed, and paid for by Paypal.

The company is based in QLD, and they tell me that wherever possible, items are sent in Express Post satchels (as part of the free shipping!) within 1 business day - if you wanted to know if an item you are interested in can be sent by Express Post instead of normal post their service is so fast you will have your answer in plenty of time.

They don't just sell Dr Who merchandise either - there is plenty for the geek fanatic fan in your life no matter what they are a fan of. Some of my favourites:

Big Bang Theory Bazinga Bracelet$5.95
Harry Potter Sorting Hat $39.95

World of Warcraft Hearthstone Bracelet $12.95
Star Wars R2D2 Pepper Grinder $39.95

I was so impressed by their quick service and seriously AWESOME prices (20% cheaper than others!) that I contacted the company to see if I could share the joy. And the very lovely Haydn came back to me so quickly with the most AWESOME.PRIZE.EVER!

In their bargain fashion, Epicloots are selling this baby for $79.95, but I found it quickly on other sites listed for anywhere from $90-$151! (Here in Australia as well as overseas). This set looks incredible, and I know my 12 year is going to flip when she finds out I didn't negotiate a "trial" for her as part of this review. Possibly the Husband as well.

If you'd like to go into the draw to win this incredible set, entry is EASY.

1. Like Epic Loots on Facebook. Let them know Mummyheartsmoney sent you!
2. Follow Epic Loots on Twitter
3. Follow Mummyheartsmoney in any way you like - Facebook, Twitter, Google Friends Connect, Networking Blogs........links to the right.
4. Leave me a comment letting me know that you've met points 1,2 & 3!

Make sure you have a way to be contacted in your comment or profile, this is a BRILLIANT prize and I would hate for it to be redrawn.

Terms and Conditions:
Competition is only open to Australian residents. Competition will run from 14/12/2012 till Midnight 23/12/2012 (AEST). One entry per person. Winner drawn by

Good luck! 
Aussie Giveaway Linky
Hosted by Three Lil Princesses

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Our family Christmas Photo....or...the day my toddler ate a tub of paint

This year, I was organised, I was smooth, and I had it all planned. There is nothing worse than making kids wait in line for a Santa photo, trying to keep them neat, clean, and in a good mood to smile at the fat man.

I sent hubby up an hour before the photo's opened to jump in line, and spent that time at home feeding and watering my offspring before getting them ready.

Lolly looked beautiful, like a little gold angel in her dress from Bardot Junior that will feature at any Christmas related gatherings this year. I set 11 year old Maddy the task of keeping an eye on her (not that difficult in a playroom filled with toys) while I packed the baby bag.

A few minutes before it was time to leave the house to join husband at the head of the photo queue, I went hunting for my suspiciously quiet toddler. Maddy was absorbed in a book, and looked at me with guilty eyes as I started the search through Lolly's hiding places.

Hmmm, no Lolly.

Finally I ran her to earth in my bedroom. Sitting on the floor covered in a pot of green paint that came from Spotlight via the fabulous Kidsbusiness Bloggers brunch that I had set aside to ponder it's Christmas uses. Lolly had found it. Turns out the pot of paint didn't come with a safety seal, and the lid was incredibly kid friendly. THANKS SPOTLIGHT lol!

Hubby was retrieved from the shop where he was quite embarrassed to be at the front of the line of 1. Yes 1. Turns out the Harvey Norman free photo isn't the drawcard that the $35+ Westfields photo's are and there was no line up. How was I supposed to know? Every year the local shopping centres always have massive lines on Saturdays, so I assumed that Harvey Norman (part of the shopping centre complex) would be the same!

The dress was thrown through the machine and has come out as good as new. So, OK, really thanks Spotlight, because the stuff washed out really well which I didn't expect. Not so well out of my carpet though which now has a faint lime sheen to it.

The end result a few hours later after no line at all (and a slightly incredulous Harvey Norman staff member who struggled to understand that I am genuinely enough of a tight arse to take the free package and not be shamed into buying at least the $10 package), we ended up with this.

I'm happy! Harvey Norman printed out 3 copies for us at no charge, one for us, and one for the Grandparents. 

Conclusion? Don't waste your money on expensive photos......and don't turn your back on your toddlers for a second!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Wordless Wednesday....The Tree Edition 2012

Wordless Wednesday

Decorating the tree 2012

Lolly's first year helping to decorate

Having a baby helping again added a new element of fun to mine and Maddy's old traditions

Maddy shows her sister her favourite ballerina decoration

Lolly loves taking the decorations off the tree! She kissed most of them
 Linking up with My Little Drummer Boys for Wordless Wednesday

My Little Drummer Boys

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Buying the Cow....

About a year ago, A Current Affair did a segment on purchasing bulk meat, Today Tonight also did one from memory, because groceries were the hot topic of the month with the big retailers trying all kinds of gimmicks to "save us money" and get them into their stores.

At the time, I was all fired up about the idea of buying my meat in bulk, but a little tentative on how to go about it. As I wrote about here recently, the timing coincided with my cancelling my annual Chrisco Hamper orders, and I started to channel the money that I used to direct debit to Chrisco over to an online savings account instead with the view that at the end of 2012 I would still enjoy the arrival of bulk meat and groceries.

Photo of my freezer just does not do
justice to how much meat is in there.
5 or 6 layers deep.
I started out by googling wholesale meat providers, and although I found a fair few matches locally, price wise it still didn't seem that great. Most of them have set prices that cater to the demographic, and I was seeing quotes of $12.99 per kilo and upwards. Still, $12.99 seems pretty good when you consider that some of the meat you will be eating is going to be damn good scotch fillet steaks, t-bones, etc which you can buy for upwards of $30 per kilo in your local butcher.

Instead of trying out these wholesale to the public places, I started doing my own butcher crawl of the local area. Trying out a different butcher each week, I would engage them in conversation about my idea of buying a carcass, and asking could they help me. I really was after 2 things:

1. A damn good price
2. A butcher who would separate all the meat for me still.

Number 2 was important. I really really hate handling meat. I often get Husband to dice/prepare meat the night before for me so that I can just toss it in the pan when the time comes.

Some butchers eyes gleamed, and they too quoted prices of $12.99 per kilo, from 8 butchers I was quoted anywhere from $8.99-12.99. It seemed to be the standard. And most wanted to just give me my meat stacked up in different types - Ie all the T-Bones together, all the mince together etc and had no interest in labelling it. I equally have no interest in spending hours at home trying measure out 1 kilo of mince into ziplock baggies so these butchers were scrapped off my list.

But finally last weekend I hit the jackpot. A friendly local butcher who owns his own business got right into the project with me. He thought it was a great idea, and even showed me how a little old lady customer of his gives him $5 a fortnight to keep in a tin for her to buy her a big Christmas Meat hamper each year. He promised to make sure my carcass wasn't too heavy, insisting that if it weighed more than 45 kilo's then all the extra weight would be in the bone and not the meat and he didn't want me ripped off. He not only promised to separate the meat, but spent 10 minutes with meat agreeing on all the quantities.
"Let's see" he says. "You don't want to waste a T-Bone on the kids, lets keep them in two's and maybe also have a couple of Rumps on their own". He was awesome. He even chunked and stripped alot of the meat for me for casseroles and stroganoff etc.

And true to his word, a 42.5 kilo carcass was waiting for me on Saturday, in two massive trays piled high with meat. 2 big bags full of bones sat on top for the dogs (which we don't actually have but we found homes for them).

The final price? $6.99 per kilo ($296!) and a shy suggestion from him that I might like to refer him to my friends. Damn straight I will! The meat was fabulous, the guys help invaluable, and I am thrilled by how much food is now in my freezer. I estimate my old Chrisco Meat Hampers were giving me less than a third of the value in meat.

If you have a chest freezer, can be disciplined enough to put the money aside, this is a great way to provide yourselves with months of meat for a fraction of the cost. Do your research talk to your local butchers, until you find yourself a community man keen to get involved.

Have you ever bought in bulk before? Did the savings stack up to your expectations?

Linking up for the first time ever with Essentially Jess for IBOT

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Junk in the Park

I fed my kids complete garbage sitting cross legged on the grass at a local park on Friday.

And it felt good.

When Maddy was born, we were very young parents. I was still a teenager, and we didn't really bother with cooking much back then. We ate out at cafes and restaurants, or bought takeaway most nights, or ate microwave meals.

When Maddy was a toddler, we were always getting takeaway and eating outdoors somewhere. It was fun, she could play on equipment, and it wasn't like life was so busy.

I don't know when we grew up. We did though. Takeaway is a rarity in our home now. And usually its planned - Chinese night or something, but we don't just pick up pizza's or Macca's very often. Meals are planned around life activities, bedtimes, budgets, nutrition and variety etc. And so they should be! Maddy is almost 12, we have a hungry toddler and newborn with formula needs, but even with inflation, my weekly food budget is $100 less each week than it was 10 years ago.

But even so. We found ourselves out and about with nothing organised for dinner, so we grabbed an $8 pizza, some burger and drink freebies from Hungry Jacks (please tell me I am not the only tight arse taking complete advantage of their IPhone app, its always good for a free slushie for Maddy on a hot day) and a $1 thickshake. We were headed home, when I spotted a park and made Hubby pull in.

He didn't think twice. Like me, he remembered lazy evenings spent at parks with a toddler Maddy. The girls wolfed down their greasy dinner, wiping sticky fingers on the grass, and raced off to play on the equipment. 

Our only mistake was giving Lolly a try of the Strawberry thickshake. She's only had water, milk and watery juice to drink before then and the thickshake pretty much rocked her world. Once she sipped it, she claimed it, and there was no getting it off her again. Hubby and I had to share Maddy's disgusting blue slushie with her instead.

We need to do this more often. Careers, kids activities, life in general took away these quiet, cheap evenings that my kids enjoyed so much. I'm going to make sure that there is time sometimes to sit cross legged on the grass. Sometimes dinner doesn't need to be a balanced meal at home, sometimes it can just be fun junk in the park.

Did you grow up and not notice like me? Take the time to eat at the park sometimes?

Friday, December 7, 2012

Chrisco Hampers: How does the value stack up?

Like thousands of other Australians, at this time of year I have always had a whooping big Chrisco Hamper delivery, boxes and boxes filled with groceries and goodies that we love.
I love the excess of $1,000 turning up all at once. I love that the hampers are always filled with brands and goodies that I might not buy often throughout the year, but that are luxuries for our home. I love freeing up my usual grocery money to spend on Christmas foods and presents since my cupboards are usually straining with food by now.
But last year, the meat that arrived really wasn't that good (sorry Chrisco) and to my irritation I found myself casseroling all of the meat on the steaks because they were too tough to eat. 
It occurred to me that maybe this year instead of buying Chrisco meat hampers, I would instead put the meat money aside in a separate bank account and take the plunge at buying a whole carcass from an independent butcher, and see if there was better quality and value to be had that way.
And since I was going to cancel that much of my order, maybe it was also worth cancelling the grocery hampers and seeing if I could pull some better value by buying the products myself. Since I cancelled my order late last year, I have been transferring my $20 every week to an ING account kept sacred for the purpose, and now I find myself with $1,000+ to spend on groceries. The meat order is placed (and I will write a separate post about how that went).

This week, I set off with the 2012 catalogue for Chrisco to my local grocery shops to see how I would go replicating one of my favourite hampers.

Image taken from 2012 Chrisco Christmas Catalogue - Breakfast Hamper

I completed a clean cost comparison between what Chrisco says the Breakfast Hamper is worth, and what the shelf price at Coles says the hamper should be worth. I didn't take into account all the specials that Coles had on many of the products. And I was shocked at the difference. I was expecting to see that Chrisco does not pass along their bulk buy costs in the hamper absolutely. Maybe even a small markup. But the outcome is a whopping 31% difference. The Chrisco 2012 Christmas Hamper Catalogue tells us the hamper is worth $184.60, whereas standard retail shelf prices at a mainstream grocery store tells us the hamper is worth only $125.79.

**Imported Nescafe Coffee sourced from & Kelloggs Fruit Loops sourced from These specific products/quantities were not available at Coles.

I cannot believe I have been paying such a massive premium on my hampers all these years. I cannot believe how much of my money I have been throwing away. Hundreds of dollars every year, without a clue.

Today I wandered across to both Woolies and Coles to actually buy my own version of the hamper. Taking advantage of their catalogue specials I bought bigger quantities of all our favourite cereals, spreads, juices, and used the difference to buy extra items to bulk out the cupboard even more. My cupboard is overflowing with pancake shakes, cereal, syrups, spreads of all kinds, crumpets, raison toast, baked beans, spaghetti's, you name it, its in there. And I spent less, but got so many more products. All of the cereals were bought in the much larger sizes, but the unit price of each item was less than the standard RRP for the smaller quantities.
I wanted to pay special attention to this particular hamper, so I haven't even begun to buy some of the other products we would normally have gotten in a hamper, but I'll be back to the stores to buy more soon. Am going to do an Aldi run as well for frozen goods, because the stuff is such great value and we love the taste so there will be even more value to be had there when I do.

If like me you love the excess of food at Christmas, I cannot encourage you enough to make the change in 2013 to self service your own hampers. Set up a dedicated bank account  have the money transferred there routinely, and buy the food yourself. Don't keep paying a massive premium for someone else to do the work for you.

Are you a hamper buyer? Will you keep buying now, or make a change?

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Getting back to reality

After 5 weeks in hospital I was finally released on Tuesday. It would be nice to say that I am a healthy little Vegemite with a clean bill of health, but I still have a gazillion follow up appointments and the prospect of bowel surgery in February ahead of me. I still don't have a diagnosis, but they are treating me for Crohn's Disease and so far I seem to be responding.

This is my reality now: A million tablets to choke down each day. Hopefully this is just the short term treatment run because I HATE swallowing tablets.
Husband had yesterday off so that I could take it a bit easy and also help the run all the little tasks that were already lined up for the day before we knew I would be out. I ran us both ragged with all the errands that have been building up and itching at me in hospital, but I can't begin to say how much I ENJOYED them.
Yesterdays temperature was stunning. Beautiful sunny day with a nice breeze to offset it. Husband couldn't understand how much I love just walking around the outdoor mall but I haven't been outside properly in weeks so it was just so damn nice.
My little newborn boy Seb is not such a newborn anymore. I've had 2 nights to get to know him again, and he is an adorable, solemn little owl until his face creases up into big gummy smiles. I hurt so much that I missed the transition from newborn to infant, but I'm loving getting to know him again.
Little 18 month Lolly didn't seem to miss me so much while I was in hospital. Sucks to say, but she had good care, loving grandparents, father and sister looking after her, so while she was always happy to see me on her little visits, she didn't really pine for my absence. Which I guess is a good thing, although the ego in me might have been more gratified if she had.
But today I sent her off for her preschool day with her hair in two cute pigtails (they only fit in one before I went to hospital), after having her trot around the house after me as though I was never gone. My inquisitive little toddler has been showing me all her new baby tricks (dear lord she can climb on the dining room chairs now) and I seem to fit seamlessly back into her little world as though I was never gone.
It's my big girl, my almost but not quite 12 year old who has missed me most. While in hospital she has alternated between being heartbreakingly grownup about the reality of a sick mother, helping her father with the kids and house, trying to be more independent, trying to understand why mum can't be pulling the strings of her life, and being angry at me for being sick.
She never said so, but at times in burst out in angry words, or naughty inexplicable behaviour, sullenness or stubbornness, traits that are really not that normal for her. She even shouted at me on the phone one night that I clearly didn't love her since I was supporting Dad in his insistence of normal bedtimes in my absence. For all that she is a big girl, she is still my little girl, and she has been hurting while I've been away.
Of all my kids, she can't seem to get enough of having me home. When I smear the tomato sauce on her sandwich the way she likes, fussed with her hair for school, wake her up by crawling into bed for snuggles in the morning, all this she laps up. I didn't realise it was these things that she would miss most, but I guess those are the things that creative memories and feelings and responses in their lives. My best memories of childhood are little things too, so I shouldn't have been surprised.
Today my reality is that I am on my own for the first with Seb, with so much housework to start getting into. Husband and Maddy kept up with the basics, but the house looks like a bomb site with anything that has been put down somewhere in the last 5 weeks pretty much staying there while the two of them vacuumed or cleaned around it.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Processing unhappy information

With a colonoscopy looming tomorrow, and the prospect of a Crohn's Disease diagnosis, I'm noticing again how I process unhappy information.
Just like when I lve been given hard choices at work, and when I've had stressful things going on at home, I choose to deal with the prospect of Crohn's Disease by not dealing.
I don't think about it too much. It's just a set of words to me at the moment. I haven't jumped on the Internet with my trusty iPhone to research it, and I haven't asked my doctors any questions about managing it.
This aspect of my stress coping mechanism seems to bother some people though. My mother has frantically researched the disease and determinedly ignored my pleas for ignorance and talked over me telling me everything she could until I snapped at her to stop.
My sister and close friend had the instinct to research, more I think for their own sakes and reassurance because they understood my need to just process the words and not the facts for a little while.
But even nurses, when they come across me having a little sobby pityfest behind the curtains of my curtain feel the need to fill my information void despite my best efforts to stop them.
Am I not normal for not wanting to know? Not wanting to be informed? At the moment I feel a little like not knowing means not happening, and until I have a diagnosis I'm clinging to that.
I'm such a control freak in every other aspect of my life that I don't really get why I stick my head in the sand when I get bad news instead of wanting to talk it through and research.
Maybe after tomorrow. Once I know for sure what's wrong with me I can start to invest emotionally in understanding it.

Are you like me? Do you ignore bad news while you still can, or do you face it and deal with it straight away?

Friday, November 23, 2012

Holding pattern

I'm in a holding pattern in hospital. Doctors don't want to be too aggressive (meaning avoiding surgery) in case they do more damage to my messed up insides but they can't seem to repair my insides as fast as the abcess spreads more poison and damage.
In the life is passing me by. My biggest worry when I came into hospital was whether my elf on the shelf (if you haven't heard of it, GOOGLE it, worlds most gorgeous Christmas tradition) would arrive on time for December 1st. Now my concern is that I won't be home to spread the Christmas magic over my home.
I'm into my 4th week in hospital and no closer to being home.
I missed Madeleine's year 7 orientation.
I missed a BBQ with good friends, and since socialising as a family with other families is not something we are often invited to do, this felt devastating.
Lorelei's hair is suddenly long enough for a pony tail, but it wasn't my hands coaxing her little curls into the elastic.
Sebastian is LONG, he curls around my body now instead of fitting across my chest. His little voice finally made the move from wee newborn wails to roaring infant demands. I don't even know when, I was shocked when he started to cry during a recent visit.
There is so much more I've missed, and so much to come that I will also miss. And what's worse, someone else is mothering my babies full time. And they are happy and content with that mothering. I know it's petty of me, but I am jealous of the building bond between my kids and their grandmother, especially Sebastian, even though I know how blessed I am to have people in my life that are able to support us. Rationally I know this extended hospital stay would be worse if my babies were pining for me, so I am happy they are happy, but jealous all the same.
It's times like this that I realise just how many wonderful people we have accumulated in our lives. So many people stepping up to support me and husband Ina myriad of ways whether it be by chauffeuring the kids, providing entertainment for me, or help around the house. I have a lot of good karma to keep circulating once I'm out of here.
In the meantime I make sure I share my magazines with other patients. That counts right?

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Great Christmas Truth

Trapped from my hospital bed with no computer or laptop I have to confess I've been a little stuck for inspiration to blog. But my trusty iPhone can still do the job and I thought I'd share my experience last year with having the much dreaded Santa conversation with my almost 11 year old.
I had suspected from the previous year that belief was running in short supply but there was an almost desperate determination from my daughter to keep believing. Like she didn't want to give in to all the kids in her life trying to shatter the dream.
Around about this time of year, in the car on the way home from dancing she suddenly asked the question.
"Mummy, you know magic and Santa and the Easter Bunny.....tell me the truth. Are they really real?"
When she was 5 and asked a similar question, wounded because some big kids at school had teased her for her beliefs I had no hesitation in giving her a flat out yes.
But now was different. My biggest girl has outgrown her innocence and it was time for the real Christmas Truth.
So I answered. "You know that feeling you get on Christmas Eve when you're all tucked in bed?" Nod. "That one were you can't sleep but you really want to so that Christmas comes faster?". Nod. "How about that feeling when you wake up and realise it's Christmas morning and you can come running out to see what Santa may have left behind. How do you feel then?"
"Excited...." My little girl answered slowly. This answer was taking longer than she thought.
"And remember how excited you were to give Jane (anonymous friend) that Justin Bieber cd? You knew she'd love it and you couldn't wait to see her face when she unwrapped it? Well, those feelings ARE the magic, so yes, magic is definately real.
BUT, you are old enough to know now that Mummy and Daddy help the magic to happen."
"Does that mean you put the presents in the Santa sack?" my seemingly younger by the minute baby asked me with a quivering lip.
"Yes. But the magic only has to stop if you say it has to. Daddy and I love being part of the magic, and we love that we get to make magic for Lorelei now too" (our then 7 month old, now 18 months old). You can be part of the magic too still"
My little girl cried silently the whole drive home. Letting go of this one was hard no matter what.
But over the course of December the magic continued. Letters turned up (for the first time ever) from Santa in the mail. At first it infuriated Maddy that Husband and I played innocent to her determination to be "in on the secret".
Other little traditions continued, including the family shot with Santa, and by Christmas Eve Maddy talked her sister through the time honored process of leaving cookies for Santa. No wink wink. Just pleasure at introducing her sister to the experience.
Christmas morning, long after the paper had been stuffed in bins and Lorelei was playing with the box a toy came in Maddy gave me a quick hug. "Thanks for the magic Mum".
Our religion, and family also plays a big part in Christmas for us, I know it's not really mentioned but this particular memory was about keeping the magic alive.
What can I say? I subscribe to the "yes Virginia, there IS a Santa Claus" school of thought.

How about you? Have you done it like a bandaid? Or maybe your home doesn't do the Santa thing. Share your experiences with me xxx

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Getting a CT scan

Its been more than 2 weeks and I'm STILL in hospital. One of my many new experiences in my time here has been a CAT scan, something I've never been exposed to before.
I wasn't sure what to expect, and frankly when I laid eyes on the long cylinder with its bed just waiting for me that would slide inside I was filled with absolute terror.
For no good reason. It doesn't actually look that scary but I was terrified nevertheless.
Because I hadn't realised that was what this particular machine was.
And the only time I've seen this machine before is in episodes of House. And in House, when the patient is inside this machine being scanned he is guaranteed to suddenly start vommitting blood, convulsing, or some other scary shit.
So the whole time my bed thingy was sliding in and out I was bug eyed waiting for the climax.
Which didn't happen.
Surprise, surprise, the process is painless and easy and blood free. I've had 3 now since I got here and while I keep channelling House episodes on the bed most of the terror is gone.
So if you have a CT scan booked anytime soon, my advice is to not watch scary hospital shows first!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Tedium and Soup

I'm still in hospital. It's been a week since the the world went black and my body decided it was time to deal with my health problems.
Every morning at 6am the curtains are ripped back, the fluerescent lights are flicked on, and 2 nurses barge into the room shrieking "good morning! Zumba time!" Which they both think is hysterical. It's not.
And every morning I look at the clock and start the count till bedtime which will scratch another day off my hard time.
The tedium is barely broken by the arrival of the meal cart, with its endless variety of soup which is all the doctors will authorise me to eat.
I wait. Blood is taken. I wait. A meal is served. I wait. Husband drops in for a brief visit with fresh knickers on his way home from work. I don't have the heart to keep him here long when he visits because I can see that the night time feeds, a tantrummy toddler, and a sulky preteen are all starting to get to him so I let him go so he might have some chance at sleep. I wait.....
I don't know how people in long term hospital stay cope. At least I know there is an end in sight, even if I don't know when it is.
I think it's the purposelessness of my day that's the worst. I don't accomplish anything. Watching tv and reading books is only pleasurable when it's sandwiched in between feeding and caring for my kids, maybe a load of washing, that kind of thing. I never realised how much you need meaningful activity in your day to make the leisure activities pleasurable.
Hopefully not too much longer. I'll have another scan tomorrow and a consultation with my doctor in the afternoon so who knows what will happen next?
Ever been so bored you can feel your brain melt? Do share.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Dealing with my health

This is the consequence of ignoring my health.
All along I have known that there was something wrong. Vomiting, lethargy, night sweats and chills alternatively, dizziness and a nasty hard lump on the right hand side of my body.
But I kept passing off symptoms as normal for post pregnancy, and letting life be too busy for a trip to the doctor.
It took me crashing to the floor unconscious and smacking the right side of my face on the way down at 4am when I was trying to make a bottle for Seb to bring me to my senses.
So this is not one of the wordless Wednesdays that I sometimes like to post. This is my reminder to all women that we need to look after ourselves first before we look after our families. Like on an airplane. They always say to secure your own face mask before helping anyone else.
I am trapped in hospital for a while, I'm not even being reviewed till next Tuesday, I just have to sit tight till then with bag after bag of antibiotics going through my system.
The hardest part is being away from the kids. Especially when I haven't really had a chance to organise for being away. Normally I would precook meals for everyone and clear the calendar. At the moment husband and I are taking it day by day.
If I hadn't put off dealing with it so long the abcess growing on my appendix might not have been able to grow so big. And maybe my treatment and care would not take so long.
So the moral of this story is to pay attention to your health needs!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Our Big Fat Lebonese/Greek Wedding

One of Husbands 7 siblings married his beautiful Greek Orthodox Princess yesterday. And I was so proud to be there.

Not just because I have always had a soft spot for Ramzy, who was only a 9 year old when Husband and I started knocking around together. And not just because I have taken to Maria like a kid to chocolate since meeting her earlier this year.
But because it actually feels like cementing my own place in the family even more then ever. I'm sure it comes as a surprise to NO-ONE that an Australian Christian woman marrying into a Lebanese Muslim family was always going to find it tough. These days though, my in laws are all a blessing who I enjoy being around. But that's all part of a long 13 journey where we have (my MIL and I especially) learnt alot.
Maria has been given instant and unconditional acceptance into our family. And that's as it should be. Ramzy's face as he delivered his vows, (with sweet and funny little mistakes) tells me he could not be more smitten. And as Maria tried to force his ring onto the wrong hand and could not stop giggling at her mistake I knew they were making memories they can share with their kids for years to come.
It was a beautiful wedding. But lots of things went wrong, and I felt like jumping up at every instance to hug the bride and reassure her that although nothing will change, she will learn to accept them. Because unfortunately all the things that went wrong kind of went wrong on the Lebanese side of things.
The parents of the groom, notoriously late for everything, had the brides youngest brother (and youngest groomsmen) in their car. They missed the ceremony which was already significantly delayed.
One of the grooms brothers and his family decided they weren't coming to the ceremony for some reason. I don't even know what the reason was, since it wasn't their kid in hospital there is no excuse good enough. I'm so cross with that particular SIL and BIL for that slap in the face to Maria on her special day.
And in normal, Lebanese family fashion, at 7:30 when the bride and groom were due to make their entry and presentation at the reception hall, only one table on the Lebanese side actually had anyone sitting at it. Ours, the sibling table. The other 15 tables were still empty. We had been invited to be there for 6:30. How embarrassing. The Greek side was commenting and asking tactfully what was going on, and frankly there is no good reason for it. Our entire, enormous family started ambling in from about 8pm onwards, so the presentation, (and the whole night as a result) was delayed till 8:30.
Our side at 7:30 Empty.
I know and expect these things when I attend a Lebanese wedding. They don't have ceremonies, only receptions, and we rarely eat before 9pm at these things. But I also know what other weddings are like, and what a bride would expect, so I knew how devastated Maria would be by these things.
Anywho, I didn't get enough photo's of the event as usual. I was too busy enjoying myself and wrangling my toddler. So the photo's I have are pretty ordinary in terms of facial expressions, poses etc. Hopefully the official photographer managed to snap my family occasionally.
But here's a quick rundown. Madeleine's dress cost a fortune, she was a bridesmaid and had all the associated costs.

I cried. My 11 year old baby looked so
grownup and beautiful
Me though, I took a leap of faith and bought my dress on eBay from Hong Kong for $40 including postage. And it was the best decision I ever made. It arrived in 2.5 weeks (much less than the suggested 4) and was beautiful quality. The sizing was perfect, and that was the main thing I had been worried about.
Me in my $40 dress
Hair, as voted by you, was whipped into place by a hairdresser at the crack of dawn that morning for $45. It looks more severe than the picture I gave her, but I did tell her I needed it to last till midnight and be completely unmovable. And unmovable it was, I even took a nanna nap at home in between the ceremony and reception and it still looked perfect.

I did my own makeup and used shoes/accessories I already owned so no others costs for me. We bought a new dress for Lorelei (also from Hong Kong!) and frilly socks for $34, a suit that was way too big but we altered it down for Sebastian for $28, and a new shirt for Husband to wear with his old black suit for $12. Oh, and a bow tie for Seb for another $8. So cute.
Is that suit not too adorable!

All up, not counting Madeleine (who as bridesmaid was always going to cost a fortune) we spent $163 dressing the family for this wedding. Ouch. Madeleine's costs are over $300 just for her though.

Plus side, Madeleine and I will both be getting our dresses altered to below the knee length, and she will wear hers to her year 6 formal later this year, and I will wear mine to a non-family wedding next month. And probably any other engagement or wedding that comes up for a while.

It was never going to be a cheap event, but I feel like I got off pretty lightly. I know I've spent alot more on other occasions, and seeing as how I have lost 40 kilo's in the last 2 years, I was never going to get away with re wearing something from the wardrobe. We don't expect any more siblings to marry for a while though, and non-family weddings are never quite a much fuss so we shouldn't have to spend that kind of money again for a while.

Have you been to a mixed cultural weddings lately? Did it go smoother than ours?

*edit* I've just read my SIL's prewedding thoughts over at her blog. Isn't it funny how we come at these things from different directions?

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Smog Dilemna

I am fast heading towards being that person that my family thinks is insufferably snotty about smokers. Both sides, hubby's and mine.

Neither of us has ever smoked and the older I get the less tolerant I am towards the smell of cigarette/cigar smoke. Both my parents are extreme, packet a day smokers, who have been smoking for 40+ years. The smell is deeply embedded in their skin, as well all their belongings. When we return from a visit with one or the other the whole family strips down and showers. My oldest daughter and I can't stand to sleep with the smell in our hair, and even Husband admits to not feeling clean until after a shower.
I don't sit in the presence of smokers wrinkling my nose. I don't cough pointedly, or make snide comments. But I do tend to stay away wherever possible these days, and I don't like people smoking round my kids.
This one really bothers me.
My mother thinks it is enough to step outside of her small unit and onto her small, 1x1 metre balcony and smoke there with the door open, facing us and breathing the smoke into the unit.
My father plain old doesn't care and refuses to leave a room if it is his own house.
My husbands familyis even worse, with most people happy to light up cigarettes inside another persons home, a public hall, or an enclosed outdoor eating area, even while the kids are still around.
I know that socially, this is not the norm these days. Most of the smokers I work with take themselves outside for a quick ciggie, and would never DREAM of smoking around any ones kids. In fact, when I was working the old 9-5, I was even a little jealous sometimes. A stressful meeting would break up for 10 minutes and half the room would leave to duck out for a smoke. They would come back in refreshed, chatting from the brief social experience, and chilled out to go round again. Somehow my toilet run and glass of water doesn't quite fill the same need that their cigarette does.
So its not everyone who behaves like this. Just family. You know, the ones we are stuck with whether we choose to deal with this politely or not.
Husband and I have dealt with with the inconsiderate smokers in our lives over the years. Most especially the last 2 years. I've offended my mother by insisting she close her door while she smokes. I haven't yet asked her to wash her hands again before touching my newborn afterwards, but its on the tip of my tongue. So close. Last time I got an indignant sniff. Who knows what I will get when I draw the hand washing card.
We avoid social requests with some of Husbands siblings and relatives when we realise they will insist on smoking at the dinner table or around the kids. And we remove the babies when people light up around them. Madeleine knows how we feel about smoking and will go be somewhere, anywhere else, if the people around her light up.
But we were at a family party yesterday, and there were so many people lighting up. When I say family, in Lebonese talk, this is our immediately family (which is already 20 people), + a million extended relo's of the baby whose birthday it was. We started outside away from smokers. Within a short period of time, someone sat down nearby and lit up. She was joined very quickly by someone else. Fair enough, these days smokers have been forced outside so that kind of means outside is fair game. I moved into the open garage that had been set up as a party area. I had tired and grouchy Lolly with me, who was in no mood to party, and Seb was being held across the room by someone else.
In no time, relatives of the hostess were moving in and out of the garage with smokes dangling from fingers and lips as they coordinated the party. My mother in law knows how strongly I feel about smoke around the kids and very obligingly moved outside with Seb while I took Lolly to play on the jumping castle. But again, quickly even this was taken over by men standing to the side of it smoking.
I get really angry by this. Even angrier because I feel bound by courtesy to bite my tongue yet I feel so strongly that they are displaying a far bigger rudeness than anything I would say. Who smokes around children these days? Honestly? With the exception of our relatives, everyone else I know removes themselves outdoors and stays away from kids when smoking.
We played this cat and mouse game with the smokers all evening, until I finally called it a night early. The last straw was all the smokers and their smokes moving into the garage to be part of the cake cutting. My sister in law begged me to stay a little longer, and in my frustration I snapped at her to control her smoking relatives. She doesn't even smoke herself poor love, but she still got the snippy comment. But we stayed long enough to let Madeleine have a whack at the pinata (I know it seems crazy, but I know how obsessive a mum can be about their babies first birthday. It was our Lolly's first birthday not so long ago, and SIL desperately wanted Maddy to have a turn at the pinata) and then made our polite goodbyes.
MIL seems a little crushed that we have asked her not to throw a welcoming party for Seb the way she did for Lolly. But with all these people insisting on smoking around the babies, I can't see that it would end well. Because if it was a party in Sebs honour, I would no longer feel bound by courtesy to ignore their rudeness.
I would say something, politely first then more and more forcefully, until I cheerfully kicked someone out of my party. And back to my earlier point. These people are family. I'm stuck with them no matter how polite I am so I think I better stick with telling MIL no for the party.

Do you smoke? Do I seem like another annoying high horseman to you? Or do you feel just as strongly about smoking and kids?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Great Australian Upgrade

Now that Seb has joined the family bringing our total up to 5 it is getting harder and harder not to buy into the Great Australian Upgrade.
The McMansion. I wish.....
I would LOVE to move to a 4 bedroom home - preferably a 5 bedroom home so I can have a guest room.
I would LOVE to be driving an SUV, something that means Madeleine isn't squished in the back with 2 car seats
I would LOVE to replace some of our shabby, 10 year old, cheap to start with, furniture.
I would also LOVE to not have to share our 1 and only computer with Husband, Madeleine, and these days even 1 year old Lolly. DPCon12 REALLY made me want an Ipad more than ever.
There is so much that I want, but I try to put our genuine needs in perspective. It's not that big a deal for 1 year old Lolly and newborn Seb to share a room. Not for a few years anyway. It's also not that big a deal for Madeleine to be a little cramped in the backseat. It's only when we are out as a family, the rest of the time she can sit in the front.
And much as I hate my furniture and general household fitout these days, it all does the job.
We have avoided refinancing the mortgage over the years, and have made sure we've never bundled in anything. I've watched friends and relatives make use of their equity to buy cars, payout credit cards, fund holidays, and felt jealous of the lifestyle they enjoy. But it still wasn't enough to tempt me to do the same. We are 10 years into our mortgage. Our payments are very reasonable compared to rent these days, ($425 per week) and we will definitely own the house by the time I am 49. Earlier if we can get more paid of it which I know we will once we have a more steady income for a longer period.
Since 2010, we have pretty much managed on 1 income for the majority of that time. Either my husband was out of work, or I was on unpaid maternity leave. Its only been for short periods that our incomes have overlapped. And keeping away from the Great Australian Upgrade has been a big part of how we have managed, and how we will continue to manage through 2013 while I try to stay off work for a while longer.
Even though I want all these things so badly, I want my life to continue to be free of the money stresses that I know can kill a marriage and consume so much of your life. I've watched too many people I love go through hard times because of money worries, and even at our very worst when Husband had been out of work for 7 months and the savings were all gone, I still didn't feel nearly the stress that I've seen others go through. 
So, I still don't need pay TV. The Internet connection can be a little slower, and I can play nice and share the computer. I really don't need the latest and greatest gadget, and I guess I can make do without my McMansion with the spa bath and storage space a plenty.
Maybe one day. When I can do it with cash without taking away from anything else. So my big tip to everyone else is to avoid the Great Australian Upgrade unless you can do it with cash. Reconsider what your needs actually are. Sometimes those "needs" are actually wants, influenced by the people around us.

This post found time to be written courtesy of my older daughters My Little Ponies, which my 1 year old cheerfully got stuck into knowing that it is forbidden fruit. It was worth the wrath of Madeleine when she gets home from school and realises. She doesn't play with them anymore anyway. Time for her to embrace handing them down to Lolly.

Did you buy into the Great Australian Upgrade? Do you have any regrets or is the lifestyle completely worth it?