Monday, June 30, 2014

A Working Mum Morning

Let me kick off by saying, I've done the Stay-at-home Mum thing. And it was bloody hard. There were days when I couldn't wait for Husband to get home so I could have just 10 minutes to myself in a dark room with no children. Or the car. Or even the toilet.  

Being a full time working Mum is a whole different kind of hard. And to make it all work we have to have the worlds tightest routine. We know this period will pass, over the years as Maddy grew up in an only child household, the hecticness of having a little one eases as they get older, can stay up a little later, do a little more for themselves.

For now this is what a normal day looks like for us.

5:30am Husbands and my alarms both start going off at the same time. Husband slaps blindly around at his for a few seconds to shut it up, while I start kicking him in the back to get him moving. Eventually he grunts at me and rolls out of bed, and I shut my own alarm off and go back to sleep. After going to the bathroom Husband will usually remove Lorelei from our bed and put her back in her own so I can have more than the edge of the bed for 15 blissful minutes.
6:00am My 2nd alarm goes off. I contemplate ignoring it, but eventually roll out of bed because I can hear Seb stirring and starting to demand a bottle. I find Husband in the kitchen making every ones lunches and we grumble some morning greetings over the microwave. 
6:25am I am pretty much ready although my shoes usually elude me at this point. Husband sticks his head in on his way out the door to say goodbye and we toss some hasty instructions to each other about the days errands and afternoon activities. I wander to the kitchen and kick off dinner, often a slow cooked meal, sometimes just preparing meat or veggies. Often Husband has started this before I get there. This is my chance to sip the coffee that Husband very thoughfully made for me. It might also possibly be his, same thing.
6:40am I get Lorelei out of bed, usually asleep worn out by the long and loud conversations she was having with the roof of my bedroom at 4am. I strip off her pajama pants and night nappy and stick her on the toilet. She protests briefly at the chill, but quietens down when Dora comes on YouTube on the iPad. I wander off and finish packing the babies preschool bags and locate everyones shoes.
6:45am Wake Maddy up for the first time. She ignores me for a while but eventually growls to let me know she is awake.
6:48am Lorelei is glued to YouTube, but follows the iPad back to my bedroom where I swap her pajama bottoms for jeans and pop a jumper and shoes on. She goes to bed wearing a top and socks so I don't have to do much else. She might as well be a zombie for all the attention she pays me.
6:50am I get Seb from his cot where he has been calling me for at least the last 10 minutes. If I release him early he makes a beeline for the kitchen where he raids Madeleine's school lunch, so usually try to leave him in his cot till I'm ready. He goes to bed wearing his preschool clothes, so a jumper and shoes means he can go straight in the car. 
6:52am Wake Maddy up for the second time as I start to load Lorelei and bags into the car. She yells at me to convince me that she is awake and out of bed and I am being overcautious.
6:54am Head back in to double check on Maddy before I leave only to find her back in bed with the light off. We get in a fight before she stomps off to the bathroom, incredulous that  I don't believe that she was actually getting ready and I just happened to see her in the brief second she was lying down. She has to leave the house in 45 minutes, so really doesn't have much time to procrastinate if she wants to fit in breakfast (which she won't).
6:58am I arrive at preschool just in time to unload the kids before they open the doors at 7am. 5 minutes later I am out the door and on the way to work.

Almost every weekday morning looks like this, and Saturday which is filled with extracurricular activities. The only difference on Sundays is that the babies in built brat alarm means that they both wake up around 5am. It's instinctive.

It's almost a relief to get to work and relax for 7.5 hours. Deadlines and office politics is way less effort than running a household.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

What's In The Box?

Lorelei had her third birthday party last month and invited all of her preschool friends along to celebrate. With so many kids coming it was inevitable that she was showered in gifts, and I was pleased to see most families buy gifts in moderation these days. When Madeleine turned 3 and we invited preschool kids along (10 years ago!) she received gifts that must have cost $50+. Since I can't reciprocate that kind of generosity, it's a relief to find out that the parents we invited this year seemed to be on the same page as us budget wise. That said, it wouldn't phase me if someone came without a gift, we wanted their company not their presents.

When our kids receive gifts we actually go through a vetting process every time, whether it be Christmas or birthdays.

Clothes that fit are put straight into draws with bigger sizes being stored away.

Duplicates are put aside unless there is a logical reason to have x2. Lego would be an example of something where a duplicate would be useful. Duplicates are usually exchanged for something for the birthday kid, and occasionally regifted if they can't be exchanged. I don't even feel a little bit concerned about doing this, even though I've had funny looks from people I've mentioned it to before. If I gave you a present you already have, I would much rather you exchange it for something you could use instead of letting it go to waste. The families who gave my child the gift wanted them to get pleasure out of it, which they will, and they will also get pleasure out of the exchange item. Mission accomplished.

Non approved toys are quietly put aside and 'disappear'. Most people in our lives will know there are one or two toys we are not OK with so this doesn't often happen. Bratz dolls is one, gun toys are another. I don't preach about this, I know many families have no problems with those toys and their kids will grow up to be terrific adults, but I don't like them.

A small but fun selection is given to the recipient to enjoy immediately. On a party year my kids might receive 20 gifts, and will enjoy about 4-5 toys after the above culling process. 4-5 new toys in one hit just about blows my kids minds.

The remainder is put in a box. A goodie box. And every now and then I the goodie box down and my child picks something new. Right now Lolly is the only one with a goodie box, 13 year old Maddy has long outgrown them, and 1 year old Seb hasn't had a big party yet. Eventually both of the little ones will have a goodie box.

I find this keeps toys from being abandoned too quickly and also helps my young kids from being overwhelmed by too much choice. There's also so much excitement when a rainy day produces another goodie! We found years ago that if Maddy had too many toys available to her at once, some of them would end up being completely ignored, and others would end up as a huge mess of parts all scattered together. This way everything comes into our home slowly and get enjoyed along the journey.

Our Goodie box is the unicorn box from the 3 Sprouts range. I love it, my only irritation is that it is too big to fit on a shelf so it has to go right up the top. Probably a good thing since Lolly and Seb would probably raid it if they could reach it.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Make Me Rich Part 5: Estate Planning. We Finally Made Our Wills

Thanks to my Crohn's Disease, I tend to visit hospital at least once every couple of months. I'll be back in again next month for a Colonoscopy, to suss out if everything is still OK.
Each time I get an anaesthetic, I start to panic again. I still don't have a will. How can I neglect that? It becomes front of mind again for a little while, and then in the business of life and the challenges of choosing a guardian for the kids, it drifts down the list of priorities. It's not that I really think I'm going to die, but every time I get an anaesthetic the doctors have such serious conversations and it reminds me that I'm neglecting to look after the kids. I've had Estate Planning on our serious todo list since we saw a financial planner last year

We have three kids, and my oldest is 13. We have no excuse really. Just laziness and a certain worry about the costs involved. I attended a session at work on estate planning a few years ago, and the visiting solicitors were pretty frank about their opinions on DIY will kits. As far as they were concerned they were the best thing ever - as long as they were the ones getting to challenge them. Because often these will kits are not written out and documented correctly, making them a solicitors dream to challenge on behalf of a disgruntled relative.

With that in mind, I've had no interest in wasting $50 (each!) on these will kits, but was concerned that going to a solicitor would cost more money than we have to spare at any given time. I envisaged that having our wills done as a couple would cost around $1,000-$2,000 and was too embarrassed to approach a solicitor to truly find out, lest he choke on the burning rubber I leave behind as I escape.

Our estate planning needs are pretty basic. If one or the other spouse dies, we want everything to pass to the other, (with the exception of our rings which will pass to the kids), and if both of us should go, we want everything to go to the kids with a guardian in place to care for them. 

It's with all this context that I saw a sign for the Salvation Army Will Day at the centre close to my work. It was perfect timing. In exchange for a $50 donation, volunteer solicitors would be on hand to help establish (or vary) a will. 

Having a set fee gave me the confidence to get our information together and make the appointment. Husband and I filled in our forms together, covering off all our personal and financial information, along with our burial or cremation preferences. We've talked about these things before, but it was good to get it all in writing for the first time. I was able to attend the initial appointment by myself, but Husband will need to attend to sign his will (or at the very least have the will signed and witnessed somewhere else). It was all very easy. Because we don't want anything complicated and don't have any weird or wonderful financial arrangements, our will was able to be completed through the Salvation Army Will Day without further expense.

I did ask the lovely solicitor helping me out what her fee's would normally be for a basic will through her firm. She let me know they were on the cheaper end of the scale, but for a will as simple as ours they would normally charge $330. Each. So I was way off with my estimate, but even so not easy money that I have to spare from pay to pay. $50 (each) I can do. It's still a suck of money out of the fortnightly budget, but it's one I was able to plan and allow for.

We also had the opportunity to set up power of attorneys. This is actually something I want to do as with my medical concerns I want Husband to be able to take over if I am incapacitated, however this came at an extra cost of $150 for one, or $250 for two. Something that will need to wait for a little while unfortunately.

There was the opportunity but by no means the requirement to allow for a donation to the Salvation Army (or other charity) in our wills. This was simply a space on the forms and a low pressure question from the solicitor. If this is something you would want to do the process was streamlined but if not it didn't matter.

I feel so relieved knowing that we have taken care of this. Husband and I have revisited the guardianship of our kids conversation so many times over the years. There is no simple answer. There are so many people in our lives who would know would take on our kids with love, and ultimately we want to ensure that in the event of a tragedy our wishes are clear so that we don't add the burden of an argument to our families grief.

This post is not sponsored. I made a donation to the Salvation Army and had the opportunity to seek advice and service from their volunteer solicitors. I've had Estate Planning on my todo list for some time, but most particularly since we saw a Financial Planner in 2013. You can find more posts in our Make Me Rich series documenting our Financial Planning journey.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Parenting Fail: Taking Miss 13 to the Physio

Madeleine has been complaining of back problems for weeks. Sorry, months. In the early days I dismissed it as a little back strain from carrying a heavy school bag, or maybe a stretched muscle from her dancing classes. Either way, nothing to worry too much about, a bit of rest, a little deep heat, she'll be right.

Maddy is one of life's serial complainers when it comes to her health. I dismiss her complaints quickly and easily because she is actually an incredibly healthy girl who likes to tell me in detail about every twinge or ache she experiences even when there are logical reasons. But in the busyness of life this year, I dismissed her back pain far too quickly.

I finally took her to a physio this week, fully expecting to hear something along the lines of wearing her school bag better, not slouching over her iPad, stretching properly before dancing. All logical things that I have said myself. 

Instead after a few minutes of examining her posture, her dance turnout, and prodding her gently in places, he was able to demonstrate to me how her back muscles are contracting badly when she moves in certain ways and that her hips are not sitting right at times. In fact, whenever she is doing some particular ballet moves, she is stressing them out and causing herself alot of pain as a result.

Parenting fail. We could have picked this up a long time ago. He assures me she will be comfortable again soon enough, but in the meantime we have some work to do. She needs to take a dancing break for starters, and for my ballerina who dances 4 days, 12 hours a week, this is crushing. Fortunately with school holidays coming up I was able to convince her to make the most of the time to get in almost 4 weeks break without too much impact. We also need to do an exercise together at home, 3 times a day if possible, so that involves both of us getting up half an hour earlier to squeeze one in before school.

Maddy has to lie flat, and I place pressure on her lower back to keep her hips in place (because they are moving in some really strange ways) while she uses a rope to lift her leg up to her bottom. A heat pack on her back is also having quick effects in changing how her muscles spasm during certain activities, along with some k-tape on her back for support.

There will be many more physio visits, many more exercises as she improves, and some massages. I know I've mentioned health insurance before, but at $79 per visit, plus another $10 for the k-tape (not a whole roll, just two pieces!) I am so thankful that money restrictions do not have to play a factor in her return to strength as our health insurance covers the whole visit fee. I just have to worry about the k-tape costs (will be sussing out the costs of a whole roll and calling my physio on that exorbitant cost!).

One thing that deterred me initially from going to a physio was thinking I had to have a referral. As it turns out we didn't need one, although it was Madeleine's ballet teacher that gave us the nudge to go, and we did go to our local person who specialises in dancers.

Have you ever let one of your kids ailment get away from you?

Before writing this post about Madeleine, we discussed the appropriateness of the content and the photo. As she becomes a lovely young woman with a right and need for privacy, I like to seek her permission before posting. Although she enjoys being a feature on the blog I feel it is important to role model the behaviours I expect her to display on social media.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Lorelei's Dentist Visit

I took Miss Lorelei to the dentist recently for her 6 monthly check up. It's was her third visit, and she's finally starting to warm up to the dentist and feel confident enough to allow her into her mouth.

Before each visit to the dentist, Lolly and I will role play together for a few days. I check her mouth, sometimes her teeth are "sick" and need a little medicine, other times her teeth are perfect and we high five. Lorelei checks my teeth, which always involves lots of tsk tsking, and afterwards we both get pretend toothbrushes and stickers as a reward for our clean teeth.

This kind of preparation definitely helps. At our first visit, she buried her face in my chest and adamantly refused to open her mouth. This time though, she giggled as we rode up and down in the chair, held her hand out for more tickles from the air blower and cheerfully opened her mouth wide for her teeth to be counted. 20 perfect teeth that give credit to Lolly's love of brushing.

I haven't started taking Sebastian yet, I'll probably wait till after his second birthday. Right now the poor kid only has 8 teeth, just like Madeleine his teeth are all taking their own good time.

Sure enough, Lolly got a toothbrush, some toothpaste, and some stickers afterwards. We can always rely on our dentist to come through with the good stuff.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Why So Quiet Elise?

I've had a few people ask me recently why I don't blog as much about the kids and other personal things. When I started my blog two and a half years ago, I was writing with a certain degree of anonymity. I didn't tell my friends and family, it was just something special for me. Husband knew of course, but mostly it was just a private little online community that I got to be part of.

Every person who ever stopped by my blog felt like a like minded friend. It didn't matter if you agreed with me or not, it didn't matter what you thought of me, the fact that you were reading meant that you cared and we were friends. Slowly, slowly I let my sisters in on it, and a close friend, but it was still my private little place with a controlled audience. My secret.

I could write just about anything. Anything at all. If there was something going on at work I didn't like, a family dispute, my kids were being a bit challenging, even just my opinions that I might not always share.

These days, the blog has a greater audience. Besides the bloggers and blog readers that might wander my way, there is a fairly extensive community of people in my real life who read. My mother. Cousins. Aunties. Colleagues. Preschool teachers, friends, even some of 13 year old Madeleine's friends are regular readers.

The article I did last June with Take 5 Magazine outed me to the world. There's alot of pleasure in having so many people that I care about reading my blog. I'm proud of my slice of the Internet, proud that I've been writing for two and half years with some degree of commitment, and proud that I have something to say that others seem to be interested in.

But it can also be tongue tying. How do I express a thought or feeling on my blog that I wouldn't discuss with my mother in real life? How do I write about the challenges of having a teenager, when that teenagers friends are reading? How do you have an anonymous venting of steam about a family issue, when the whole bloody family is listening?

The simple answer is you don't. It ties my tongue and I can't do it. So many of my blog posts are lighter and fluffier than they once might have been, and many are just focused on the personal finance side of my blog. Not to mention the selling my soul to the devil via sponsored posts (gasp! I accept payment to voice my opinion sometimes!).

So if I'm not giving you the nitty gritty anymore and you feel my blog is lacking for it, I apologise. Meanwhile, I'll keep writing within my comfort level and hope that there is something, sometimes, that appeals.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Kick Back With a Cuppa and My Child Magazine

I haven't bought a print magazine in years. With Internet content becoming better and better, and our budget becoming tighter and tighter, I can no longer justify the expense. Can you imagine how thrilled I was to get the email letting me know that My Child Magazine is making some changes? If you weren't reading it before, you definitely should be now.

10 Reasons Why You Should Be Reading My Child Magazine

1. It's free. No seriously. As of June, My Child is no longer a pay per copy, quarterly, print magazine, it is now a free monthly digital magazine.
2. The ridiculously good looking content is easy to read on all your media. I found it easy to flick through the pages on my desktop as well as my iPad.
3. Speaking of content, "Should I Stay, Or Should I Go?", discussing returning to the workplace after time at home was incredibly topical for me. Similarly, I'm annoyed with myself for not writing the "Party On" article on keeping waste and costs down for kids parties - what a fabulous topic!
4. Product reviews and features introducing new child focused products and websites to me is always a win. You never know when you are going to find your new household best friend.
5. Interviews with Mumpreneurs is another area that I am drawn to. I can't be the only mum that dreams of running her own business on her own terms in order to give as much of myself back to my family. My Child interviewed some fascinating women this month and features their brands.
6. Sexy and attractive maternity wear. It's a thing. And My Child magazine has sourced some of the gorgeous looks just to take the hard work out of it for those bump blessed mama's. I wish I could have gotten my hands on some of these when I was preggers.
7. Let's not forget recipes and nutrition. My acquaintance with chocolate is far to intimate for me to be a specially health conscious mum, but I like to give my kids a better chance in life with broad food opportunities and My Child offers some terrific kids friendly foods and tips

8. Discounts. I spotted a few discount codes scattered throughout the advertising of family friendly products. I love a discount code, pick them up and nugget them away you never know when you are going to use it to save some money!
9. Competitions galore! Get in for your chance to win some terrific prizes.
4. Did I mention it's free? All the quality content of a print magazine, without the price tag!

Next time you get 5 minutes to kick back with a cuppa, make sure you grab the latest edition of My Child available on your desktop or mobile device. It's on me xx

This was not a paid review. Just sharing some product love.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

The Dreaded Fundraising Chocolates

We received the dreaded fundraising chocolate box yesterday. And not just one, now that Lorelei is also dancing, we got TWO to sell.

Why is it dreaded? Because x2 boxes of chocolates means potentially $100 of chocolate I may almost certainly potentially have to pay for. I have zero will power and if there is chocolate in the house it will be consumed. Not to mention the teenager who will take the occasional one on the basis that she has every intention of paying for it (there goes the clothing allowance) and the toddlers who will stack toy upon chair upon table in order to get to the box and ravish the contents with no intention of paying for any.

So two boxes of chocolate is not terrific in this house. I would come away cheaper if I just donated the $40 profit margin in the boxes and left the boxes at the studio.

Since Maddy took a friend to dancing yesterday, and the two girls were looking for distractions, instead of taking the girls and the chocolates home, I sent them straight across the road to the netball courts hoping that the hordes of competitive parents would also prove to be peckish parents. Unfortunately that only took care of 25 of the chocolates so I dragged the girls along with me to the Westfields to shop with me. The girls promptly hit up every customer they came across in Big W, until a staff member let them know that they weren't allowed to sell in store. Whoops, but that took care of another 27.

52 down, 48 to go. I was determined to not take home these chocolates if it could be helped, so spurred on by the thought of chocolate bribes, my teenagers started wandering in and out of stores, offering to all the staff and sometimes the customers. As it turns out, a hairdresser is a great place to go to move some chocolate! By the time we finished at the Westfields, and after a quick stop into our local complex for milk, they had moved all of the chocolates and I was only out of pocket $2 for their bribes.

I'm curious how much faster they would have moved if I had little Lorelei lisping up at the potential buyers. I know Maddy used to be able to clear a whole box at the sporting fields when she was younger, so either parents are getting healthier or she's not as cute as she used to be.

Are you a powerseller or do you end up eating buying the box yourself?