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?

Friday, October 12, 2012

Inexpensive Photo Birth Announcements

My little man was born 8 weeks ago, and it has taken me this long to organise birth announcements. I love to have a little momento to hand out to everyone, something to pop in the mail to the relo's I won't see for a while, as well as the ones over sea's who will probably never see us in person. But with Seb in hospital as long as he was, it was challenging to get a photo of him I liked enough for the announcements. So I decided to wait till he got home and I could organise a newborn photo shoot for him.
I had the same lady out as I did last year for Lorelei, and once again I am so happy I make the effort to get someone out to the house - the photos are delicious and at the house it is so much more relaxing then dragging all the kids out in their best gear to a studio. (Plug by the way for Sydney readers: Louise also does head shots if anyone needs a new blog photo).

Most of the websites I found that offer birth announcement services charge anywhere from $2+ per announcement. Not per design, per announcement.
That's definitely out of my budget, especially since my mother in law will want 15-20 just for her to hand out, and I want to give out somewhere around 80 anyway. Besides, my 2012 luxury budget pretty much all went on the photo's. So instead of going down the professional route, I fell back on my tried and true method - using the same technique as when I made last years Christmas card.
With a little Photoshop magic, I have a photo birth announcement I can print out for around 10-15 cents. So instead of paying $100+ for my announcements, I can print out 100 copies for $15 tops.

This is so easy to do:
1. Set up your Photoshop template for 6x4 (or 4x6, depending on whether you want landscape or not)
2. Create your masterpiece. There are heaps of birth announcements online if you are stuck for inspiration and tons of blogs offering free digiscrapping downloads
3. Save and print at your local photo printing place! For best result I always use the matte printing option

Voila! Cheap birth announcements.

Anyone else take way too long to get their birth announcements out? Or been a little crafty over the last few days?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Choosing a hairstyle

This is the dress.

The occassion is the wedding of my Lebonese brother in law to my new Greek sister in law.

Which style?

Ooh so pretty, If only I were blonde.

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

My Little Drummer Boys

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Teaching Miss 11 to tight arse holiday activity

We didn't do much these holidays. With Seb barely home from hospital and Husband off for 2 weeks, we decided to insulate ourselves from the rest of the world. We mostly ignored the phones, Facebook, and texts from people wanting to come visit or wanting us to visit them, and just got used to being a family of 5.
It was nice.
And even though Maddy was bored stiff, (or so she claimed), it gave Husband and I a chance to rest. We've both kept up crazy busy schedules for the 6 weeks that Sebastian was in Hospital, so lazy mornings and days spent just being at home were great for us. I think Lolly appreciated having us around and not shuffling her off to babysitters too.
One thing I did do these holidays was teach Madeleine how to shave her legs. At 11, I sort of feel like she's too young, I definitely wanted her to wait for high school, but the poor thing takes after her fathers side of the family and has some pretty impressive black hair on her legs.
It's the one thing she's self conscious about, and frankly, its just not worth deteriorating her self confidence just to meet some preconceived idea I have about girls being in high school before they start shaving.
My mother never taught me to shave my legs. I wasn't allowed to. Finally at 14, after being teased at school for days about my legs, I jumped in the bath tub and cut my legs to shreds with mums dodgy, rarely used, old razor blade in my determination to have smooth legs like everyone else.
Maddy and I perched at opposite ends of the bath and I drilled her a little in how to use the blade safely and how to try to minimise/eliminate cuts and nicks.
I shaved my hospital legs which hadn't seen the light of day in the better part of 2 months, and she shaved her pretty 11 year old legs. She was pretty tickled with the results afterwards, so I feel good about letting her do this.
At some point I mentioned bikini lines, which of course opened up a whole new conversation about future grooming needs. Maddy was disgusted with the concept, but equally horrified to realise that as a ballet dancer she's either going to have to go where she doesn't want to go, have some curlies showing around her leotard, or quit (yeah right).
I didn't bother teaching her about shaving underarms yet, despite her pleading. She has a grand total of 3 (3!) hairs under each arm. Just 3.
It was nice to have this moment with her, especially since I didn't have any girly moments like these with my mother who had funny idea's about many things. (Tampons, periods, sex, boys, anatomy....the list goes on). Most topics were off limits, or her idea's were plain old not OK and my friends set me straight later. Think Stephen Kings Carrie - remember her freaky deaky mum? Mines not far off). We moisturised afterwards, and I felt like crying that she is old enough to be interested in her personal grooming, but also relieved. I've been worried that she doesn't care enough about her appearance and hygiene, but after a few serious talks all of that has changed. In fact, I suspect I will regret nudging the topic because suddenly my kid wants to walk into every clothing and shoe shop we walk past!

BTW: Net cost of our holiday activities? Zero. I taught Maddy to shave, played board games, took Lolly to see the Westfields Madagascar shows, took both to the free donut decorating workshop at Donut King, and generally bummed around the house. Cheap and easy.

Anyone else's daughter growing up too fast? Did you have a lazy stay at home holiday too?

Thursday, October 4, 2012

An open letter to Coles and Woolworths

Dear Mr or Ms CEO's,

While I appreciate the constant reducing of prices, it is unfortunate that in most cases I had to experience an increase in price first. It does not make me feel like I am saving any money to have a locked in "lower price" when it is often higher than the price from 6 months prior.

Mr/Ms Coles? My formula went up $3 before coming down again by $2. Your commitment to this price rollback is a bit of a joke. You subsidised the rollback by raising the price for 6 months first. I saw this happen with many products. As much as I was "saving" on products that had had a roll back, I was spending  as much or more on the products that had increased in price.

And Mr/Ms Woolworths? Giving me stickers to put on my products in order to get a lower price is nothing but a time consuming gimmick. Especially since the sticker reduction is no better than any other ordinary catalogue special, but I had to make an effort to get the lower price. Why not just advertise the special price instead of making me jump through a hoop to get it? And unfortunately, my 1 year old spent a blissful hour covering herself in your stickers. I suspect that was the fate of the stickers in many households across Australia.

And for you both: It is not a special promotion to get triple points/petrol discounts etc when you send me an email to activate the offer every single week. Just make it the standard offer for heavens sake.

Stop making me work so hard to keep my shopping costs down. At least Aldis doesn't mess with us with all the gimmicks and "promotions". Keep it simple. Have a genuine commitment to quality products and competitive prices. Stop focusing on your market share, and focus on your market. Me.

Warmest Regards,


This post has increased in popularity dramatically of late (July 2013), if you are coming by for a read, I would love to hear where you have come from :)

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: In love with the baby

Lolly has taken a fancy to her baby brother - she seems to think he is a new kind of doll!

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

My Little Drummer Boys