Tuesday, 15 April 2014

The Money Monster

I was sitting with my husband this evening and we were trying to enjoy a drop or two of Jack Daniels.  This is David's drink, his first choice and his all time favourite drink, so today I picked up a bottle thinking that it would do him (and I) a little bit of good.  We only had a couple of drinks and they didn't really go down very well because we also had a third drinking partner tonight, the Money Monster.  Now the Money Monster comes to visit us once in a while and isn't really welcome here because he usually brings with him tension, frustration, aggravation, worry, heated discussion and bad vibes, all of which we try to keep away from our home.  But every now and then, he sneaks in, sits with us and usually spoils our night.  The Money Monster doesn't just come to visit us, in fact he may have even been at your place too and you haven't noticed.  But after his visit, he leaves eventually and always gets me more motivated than ever to keep him away from us for longer............until next time.
When I think back, I guess David and I first met the Money Monster when we decided to have a family.  In those days, the shock of going down to one full time income and one part time income (because I could no longer manage full time work and the family at the same time) gave the Money Monster the perfect opportunity to introduce himself.  We learnt pretty quickly that this creature was indeed a monster, an all consuming, negative, painful and shocking entity.  Even though at that time, we thought we were all 'grown up' and could handle it, we sure had a lot of learning to do, mistakes to make, realisations to accept and the Money Monster was surely going to help us do that.  We were young, very green and naive, thought that we had the world in the palm of our hands, were madly in love and could do it all.  We had absolutely no idea that becoming parents and trying to live a good life in the world today would involve so much stress, pressure, tension, heart ache and head ache..........and the Money Monster made all of this a harsh reality.
We had our first child and became parents.  I went on Maternity Leave and battled with becoming a new mother.  David was brave and handled his new found responsibility very well.  But we struggled on so many levels.  The financial pressure became enormous and I couldn't deal with the fact that I was forced to stay home and care for my baby and not go to work.  So sure enough, when Adam was about 8 months old, I put him into Child Care and went back to work.  I had so many mixed emotions about this.  I knew that I had to work so that we could manage everything, but I despised and detested leaving my baby in Child Care.  I remember it clearly, dropping him off in the morning and feeling so much pain and anguish because I found it so hard to give my baby to other people to care for when I really wanted to do it myself.  But I had no choice, it was either sink or swim and I just battled on.  I starting to fight a painful battle with the Money Monster who had no intentions of leaving me alone any time soon.
Over time, it became easier to leave Adam.  He didn't suffer in any way and I became pleased to earn an income again and get out of the house.  It couldn't have been that bad because 3 years later, we did it all again and had our second son, Marc.  By then, I was so much more confident as a mother and had learnt how to take even $20 to the supermarket and pick up 'the essentials' and we were doing better.  The Money Monster made an appearance less frequently at that stage, but was still constantly in our minds and David and I would wrack our brains on a daily basis trying to work out the best way to beat this creature and banish him from our lives and home.  When we had Marc, at that stage, I worked part time, had one child at school and a toddler at home with me.  David and I developed strategies to cope and maintain our relationship and basically, survive.
We were in our late thirties and doing OK.  We had built and nurtured a family home, had 2 sons, were managing our mortgage and bills and happy enough.  But we wanted more, we weren't satisfied.  David started an Adult Apprenticeship to further his education and gain a greater earning capacity.........and I couldn't let go of the idea of having my third and final child. 3 was my number, I had this number in my mind even from a teenager.  I always dreamed of having 3 children and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't let go of this ideal.  The Money Monster did his best to convince me otherwise, rearing his ugly head over and over again, reminding me just how hard it was to live and raise a family.......but I didn't give up, I couldn't give up, the Money Monster was not going to beat me.  4 years after that, our third child, Julia, was born.  We were surviving on Apprentice wages for a while, with a mortgage, 2 young children and a new born, but soon enough, David was qualified and started earning a 'real income'.
And as they say in the classics......the rest is history!  Adam will soon be turning 11, the man that I fell in love with and married all those years ago is still at my side, my children are growing up rapidly, we own a few more bricks in our house now, David is the primary income earner and I do some part time work.  I help my mother with her business which is basically a 'labour of love' and occasionally get some work of my own with my Virtual Assistant business that I run from home.  We feel our age, we get tired, we get happy, we get sad but most importantly, we never give up.  There is something inside David and I that keeps us here and together, that enables us to 'keep on keeping on'.  This is something the Money Monster will not and cannot change, even though he has tried his hardest to beat us over and over, again and again, but has not succeeded.  I am very proud to be able to say that.
The Money Monster is a peculiar and powerful creature that makes people do strange things.  Once the Money Monster takes over, it forces people to do, say and feel things that are not the norm.  It drives people to crime and corruption, it breaks up families, it makes us cry out with pain and anguish because we just don't know how to cope.  It breeds greed and contempt, dishonesty, deception, it breaks up friendships, tears all kinds of human relationships to shreds, drives people to beg, borrow, steal and cheat.  The Money Monster makes people feel miserable, unhappy, stressed and sometime tries his hardest to completely ruin us and drive us firmly into poverty and misery.  The Money Monster means that the wealth of countries and communities is not even close to being evenly distributed and it is very much the case of the 'haves' and the 'have nots'.  It makes people bitter, sour, scared, do and say things that they may live to regret later.
So when the Money Monster made his brief appearance tonight at our place, he managed to remind me of all of this........but most importantly, made me so very determined to refine and keep refining the way we do things and how we spend our money.  I quickly recognised that this unwanted visitor had arrived again and took steps to get him out the door as quickly as possible.  We came inside, David did a bit of research, I dished up dinner and then we sat down and worked out ways to get more out of our money so that we felt almost human, rather than the usual, decrepit 'working poor' who could do no more than just 'survive'.  We made plans, we developed our ideas, we set goals and sure enough, the Money Monster was forced to leave and go far, far away........but I know he'll be back, he has a way of dropping in unexpectedly to make us pull up our socks and refine our processes........because that's just what we have learnt to do to beat this wicked creature.
I have often written about the benefits of living a simple life and appreciating all of the things you do have, rather than the things you don't.  I have written about the beauty of love and family and how to get back to basics and 'just be'.  But the harsh reality is that none of this 'pays the bills', gives you the ability to enjoy different life experiences or give you many opportunities and the bottom line is that money makes the world go around.  Don't you just hate that?  I know I do because I know more than anything that there is so much more to life than money.  But as my Nanna told me, 'In life, you have to work because if you don't work, you have nothing'.  I guess what she was trying to say is that by working, you get paid and if you get paid you will be OK, money will come, money will go.......and she is right.  As long as we focus, apply ourselves and balance our needs with our wants, we have a good chance of living well.  
There is so much to write on this subject and I could go on for another hour but I'm a bit blogged out at this point so I will call it a day, until next time.  In conclusion, the Money Monster came and went tonight and was no match for my man and me, who I often refer to as the 'Dynamic Duo' and with much 'blood, sweat and tears', always manage to knuckle down and get the job done :) xxx

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Work, rest & play for the '40 something'

Hello dear blog, we meet again.  Time for a bit of retrospection on what is fast becoming a very different stage of life.  I say that because I was thinking about what it is that I actually 'do'now that I am '40 something'.  Do I spend more time working, resting or playing?  Most days just blend into the next day, the weeks turn into months and the months into years.  I keep getting older and my children keep growing up fast, right before my very eyes.  My husband and I 'soldier on' and keep ourselves busy, sometimes not by choice but just because we have to.  So I am thinking, when I play I work, when I rest I play and as for work, well that's just a given because there's always plenty of that to do!
I remember the days (vaguely) when it was just David and I, a young couple that were just married and settling into our new home.  The alarm would go off in the morning and off we'd trot to work.  We had a routine, he would leave first and then I would drive to the train station and catch the train into the city to work.  In those days, I only had to get myself ready and make sure I didn't miss my train, do a decent day's work (usually stuck behind a desk, a computer and a telephone), come home, cook dinner, do the dishes and go to bed......and then do it all again the next day.  It must have been very quiet here, with just the two of us and having to only 'worry about myself' seems like a lifetime ago.
Now, as you know, things are very different.  The only time it is quiet around here is when everyone is asleep.  Before I walk out the door to go anywhere, I have to get 4 people ready.  David basically still has the same routine, except he usually can't watch the News on TV (which he has always like to do), without yelling out a couple of times and asking for a bit of quiet so he can hear the articles.  My work routine is completely different, as I balance the family with my other work commitments.  What I do for fun usually involves friends, family and lots of kids, cooking, eating, sitting, listening to many different styles of music, talking, laughing, plenty of coffee, a drop or two of Vodka and Tonic for fun, morning teas, dinner parties, lunches......you get the idea.......very 'middle aged, married with kids' stuff.  The thought of going out to a Night Club, leaving home at 10pm and getting to bed at 5am (which is what I used to do), drinking myself to oblivion and dancing so much that I'm covered in sweat and my hair is a mess, revolts me.  Oh dear, it's all over now, huh?
But what I am really happy about is that now my outlook and priorities are so different to what they were even 10 years ago, my work, my rest and my play are still full of achievements, still full of quiet relaxation and loads of fun.  It's just that as life keeps evolving, you get a bit of a shock every now and then when you wake up in the morning and realise that time is ticking, you feel much older and nothing ever stays the same forever.  What I do now for kicks is so routine, so predictable, so 'responsible' (well, most of the time) and I guess that's because now I've got commitments and responsibilities........but also because I choose to do different things and different things appeal to me.  For example, being chained to the kitchen sink is just one of those things for me now, so when I entertain at home, the piles of dishes are to be expected and I just get on with it and get them done.  And I am happy to do them because that means I have filled several tummies, everyone is happy and has had a good time and I have had fun cooking and opened up my home to those that I care about.
We must all find time to rest.  Now for me, this doesn't necessarily mean sleeping.  I rest by writing, painting, walking, listening to music, that sort of thing.  Sleep is something that I know is crucial to good health and I make sure I get enough of it, but right now I like to unwind and relax by soothing the soul.  It's all about feeding yourself with what makes you happy, what makes you feel good and 'gets you where you live'.  This is what I mean about the evolution of life, it is always changing and developing into another stage.  Your needs, your wants, your dreams and desires change and develop into something else as each year passes and that's OK, that's a good thing, we have to embrace this and go with the flow.  As the crow's feet rapidly multiply around our eyes, the 'middle aged spread' keeps spreading, the 'silver highlights' in our hair start to appear and we feel very '40 something', it's a time to feel good because we are much older and wiser and probably much more self assured, driven, directed and focused.
As for work, well where do I begin?  I used to think that work was travelling each day to an office, answering to a boss, working set hours, having designated break times, clocking on and clocking off and your pay would be in the bank every fortnight.  Over the last couple of years my eyes have been opened wide up to how many meanings the word 'work' actually has.  I won't repeat myself about a mother's work as I've written about this countless times from many angles, but I will say that as time goes on, it is necessary to fit so much more into each day.  It is a real juggling and balancing act and you know what?  The work I do now is by far the best 'job' I've ever had!  I'm constantly on the go, keeping my family happy and healthy, remembering to look after my own needs, earning a couple of dollars here and there and learning so much more about what it means to be productive, resourceful, resilient, determined, disciplined, fulfilled.......and most importantly, happy.
Well, that's enough waffle for one day.  For my regular readers, you've heard it all before but I hope you've enjoyed reading today, just the same.  I guess what I am trying to say in a nutshell is that work, rest and play can be so intertwined that it all just becomes one big blob......called 'just another day' when we hit our 40's.  And that's good, that's great because we will continue to 'be', to just 'be', as we live a little and love a lot and enjoy this time of our lives........for after all, life begins at 40! :) xxx

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Best mum?

At my sons' Primary School, they do a fund raiser every Mother's and Father's Day.  You send the kids to school with $5 and they can 'buy' you a gift for your day and the profits go to the school.  Cute idea, I think and it gives the kids a chance to get something for you that they have chosen by themselves.  Anyway, one year, Marc, our middle child, came home with a wooden sign for Mother's Day and it has sat on top of my fridge ever since.  It says 'Best Mum' and I was touched when he picked this for me.  My first thought was, 'What a little darling, he actually appreciates me and loves me just as much as I love him'.  It made me happy and smile.  I often look at it and grin, thinking, 'Yes, I'm doing all right', but sometimes I wonder just what sort of mum I really am.  Am I really the 'best mum?'
It doesn't really matter how many kids you have, I guess your work, worry, concerns, feelings are just multiplied depending on how many you have.  As you know, we have 2 sons and 1 daughter, each at very different stages of their childhood and development.  This is a battle in itself, 'shifting' your language, behaviour, tasks and attention depending on who you are dealing with.  I am over joyed every day to have given birth to 3 beautiful, bouncing babies and this is always in my mind.  But now, the 'baby novelty' is well and truly over and now it's time to put my head down and get on with the eternal task of raising these little people into happy, well adjusted, successful adults.  Now the 'fun' really begins!
Lately I have been feeling so emotionally drained.  I am exhausted by the constant concern I have for their welfare.  I worry about my eldest son's education and experiences at school.  Is he getting positive influences from his teacher?  Is he learning?  Is he progressing?  Is he getting on with his peers?  Is he doing his homework and is he doing it well?  Is he at the expected level of development or maybe even exceeding this in some areas?  I worry about our middle child.  Is he happy?  Am I giving him enough attention?  Is he managing to get his own identity and not try so hard to keep up with his older brother and his friends?  Is he also learning well at school?  Is his reading level OK?  Is his handwriting OK?  I worry about my little girl.  Do I give her enough stimulation?  Is her long hair clean and brushed?  Is she eating a balanced diet?  Is her toilet training under control?  Is her behaviour acceptable?  Is she happy? And it goes on and on and on......
It's not just the constant and never ending questions and concerns that run through my mind every day, it's how the children treat me.  Do they have enough respect for the work that their mother and father do each day to give them the best that we can?  And there's that word again....'best'.  What does 'best' actually mean?  Does it mean they are well fed with fresh, healthy, nutritious food?  Does it mean they have good shoes?  Does it mean they excel at school?  Does it mean they have a clean bed to sleep in?  Does in mean that their home is clean and tidy?  Does it mean that they can do the numerous extra curricular activities that are on offer these days?  Does it mean that they have a laugh every day and see their mum and dad hug each other?  I guess it means many, many things.
I've said it many times before and I'll say it many times again, parenting is not for the faint hearted and it is definitely a selfless business.  You don't need a licence to become a parent and it certainly doesn't come with an instruction manual.  They'll yell and scream at you in total disrespect when they are angry, they will slam doors and cry tears that will break your heart when they are sad.  They will want, want, want, want, they will want something new and different on a regular basis and you will feel like you can't keep up with the fads and trends and wonder when 'it' will ever be enough.  You will feel like all you do is work for them, leaving yourself very little time for anything else.  You will feel like a complete 'slave to the parenting rhythm' and feel totally exhausted most nights and crawl into bed, sore all over, with your head spinning wondering how you will manage to get up in the morning and do it all over again tomorrow.
Some nights, when my husband gets home from work, we sit together and try to find an hour or so to ourselves.  We talk, usually have a couple of drinks and try to tune into each other and sort out our 'stuff', assess the present and plan for the future.  But most importantly, we try to find time for us!  When we do this, we go outside and try to find a quiet space, sometimes even locking ourselves out so that we can be alone.  And you know what?  I feel guilty that dinner's not ready, I feel guilty that I'm not reading with them, I feel guilty that they are left to their own devices for a few minutes, I feel guilty that I've resorted to alcohol to switch off for a bit, I feel guilty that I'm not inside cooking and cleaning and helping them with their homework........why?  Because I'm supposed to be the 'best mum', remember?
What's it all about?  I'm not sure, are you?  I don't have all of the answers and not sure that anyone really does.  One of my dearest friends, who is a bit older than me and has experienced a lot in her life so far, often compliments me and tells me what a 'wonderful job' I do.  I thank her gracefully but sometimes I don't believe her.  I often refer to this particular friend when I write my blogs, for some reason, and I know this will make her smile when she reads this.  I guess I value her friendship enormously and thank her for being in my life.  When she tells me that I'm doing so well, I wonder exactly what she means.  I think about all of the things that I do for my family, but I also think about all the things I don't do and wish I did do.  It is a never ending battle to try to be the 'best mum' I can and I guess, at the end of the day, that's the most I can do.....try.
In conclusion, I've decided to relax a bit and not be so hard on myself.  I must say that this blog has just poured out today, think I've written this one in record time!  I'll continue to try and do my 'best' and my best will be whatever it will be.  I am human, flesh and blood, not a metal machine.  A wise friend I have known for many years, told me once that I have a 'charmed life'.  I guess I do and am forever grateful.  This motherhood business sure is one busy, confusing, demanding, challenging job......but in return you are rewarded with a kind of joy and satisfaction that you will never get from anything else you do in your life.  You know the drill, in order to keep it simple, let's just live a little and love a lot and the rest will follow :) xxx

Friday, 21 March 2014

Life is like playing a game of cards

Hello dear blog.  We haven't talked for a little while and I thought now was a good time to chat.  I was wracking my brain for a subject for a little blog today and I have come up with something that has brewing in my mind for some time.  I have had some lovely chats with great girl friends over the last few weeks and we have talked about how things are going and what is on our minds.  Each of these ladies are very different, having very different circumstances and lives, yet I can call them all my friends who I care about very much.  We have sat and talked, over coffee and it has occurred to me that we are all doing our best to get on with life and living, in the best way we know how.  I began to think, quite quickly, that life is like playing a game of cards and now I'll explain why.
We are born as brand new little people, with no prejudice, no opinions, no bias, no knowledge, no language and we all cry the same way.  As a child, it amazed me how all babies, no matter what their nationality, all cried the same way.  All babies cry because they want and need something and our care givers do their best to satisfy the new born's needs, give them love, affection and attention in the best way they know how.  No matter what part of the world you are in, to hear the sound of a baby cry is universal, the sound of a baby's cry is always the same because we are all members of the human race.  This concept I find magical, intriguing and totally beautiful and it is a shame that sometimes we forget this primary fact.  But that's the subject for another blog and I won't go into that now.  I just wanted to state this fact because it is fundamental.
Our game of cards, our life, starts (obviously) from the moment we are born.  At this very point, we are dealt our first hand.  We may be born tall, with brown eyes, blonde hair, curly hair.....as you know, there are countless possibilities and combinations, but you get the idea.  If we are lucky enough, we are born fit and well, free from injury, impairment or disability, into a home that can nurture us with people that love us.  The worst part about it is that not all new born babies are this fortunate and so many people have so many different situations.  But do you see what I mean?  We are created and born, through no wish or action of our own, it just happens because our parents made it that way and we are given the 'first round of cards' to play.
Then we grow rapidly, through childhood and into early adulthood. We learn many hard lessons along the way and grow up.  We learn very quickly how to play our game of cards.  Over time, the combinations of cards changes as we do our best to play fair, play hard and ultimately win.  We use our minds to make the most of every situation and keep learning every step of the way.  Sometimes, we are winning, sometimes we are losing, but we keep going and learn the rules and tricks of the game along the way.  As young adults, some of us follow the rules, many do not, but all being well, one day we have made it past the second step of the game and we become grown ups, we are independent, mature adults.
As we travel on through life, we try our hardest to hold our cards in one hand and make the right moves with what we have been dealt.  Luck, fate, destiny......maybe even karma, all affect how we make our moves and this is not in our direct control.  This is the hard part.  We are now adults and every day we get a day older and wiser because we are still learning how to best play the game.  But we may get 'bad luck' or 'good karma' and as the old saying goes, everything in life happens for a reason and we meet the people in our lives 'for a reason'.  This is rather simplistic but what I am trying to say is that some things, like what cards we are given in a game of cards, is completely out of our control, leaving us to best manage our situation somehow. We experience happiness, joy, sorrow, pain, discomfort, love, anguish......to name but a few, but we 'keep on keeping on', thinking out the best move to make with our hand of cards as the game goes on and on.  Sometimes we make a good move, other times we think things over and really wish we had made a different move, but we keep on playing, doing our best to 'win'.  And winning means we have success, we have pleasure, we have contentment, we have comfort and ultimately, we are happy with who we are and where we are at.
So, at the end of the day, I like to think of myself as the Queen of Hearts who met up with the King of Diamonds, one fateful night, 18 years ago and are still going strong.  He gave me a diamond.....I gave him my heart and the rest is history.  We take one day at a time, thinking out our strategies and moves to get through this game of life in a positive way, doing our best to 'win'.  We try to have fun along the way but also accept that not all days are good days, but thank our lucky stars that we met.  We roll with the punches, we go with the flow, hoping and preying that we act and live in a way that generates as much 'good karma' as possible.  There will be ups, there will be downs, but we keep on playing our game of cards because that's life :) xxx

Sunday, 9 March 2014

All blogged out.........

.........me?  Never! I haven't been writing for a while, mainly because I've had no brain waves with good topics to write about........but today, I miss it too much so I will sit down and write and see what evolves. I have found that having a blog is something that you have to nurture and look after in a way, as you can't neglect it for too long.  It's almost like another child that wants and needs attention, otherwise it doesn't stay happy.......or maybe, more to the point, its author wants and needs the pleasure and enjoyment that she/ he gets from the big, blank page that is like a new canvas, ready to be filled with some sort of creation.  But at the same time, I can't rant and rave too much about nothing now, can I?  That would miss the point entirely, so here goes.......
So, what's new with you?  Me, I have no real dramas to speak of and as I always say, 'No news is good news'.  What does amaze me though is how quickly time flies when you're having fun........and, how quickly time flies when you're on the 'daily grind treadmill'.  This year's birthdays for my family are about to kick off as we celebrate the first birthday for the year, my husband's, this week.  We're not doing anything too dramatic but will acknowledge the day in the usual way with friends, family and of course, food!  It's now March and soon enough, it will be the end of the financial year again.........mmm, not sure what I think about that.......because that means that it will be Winter here in Australia and as you know, I struggle in the cold.
We have enjoyed a great Summer and I noticed yesterday that the leaves have started to fall from my deciduous trees in my garden and funny enough, I was kind of relieved to see that.  It meant that time was moving along and the weather is changing, something that affects the way I feel in a big way.  Funny enough, I thought for a split second that I was actually getting sick of the hot weather and ready for a change.......but that thought passed very quickly because I really don't like short days, long nights and a lack of sunshine.  Then I started to look forward to dusting off my slow cooker, ready to cook lots of hearty, heavy meals again........but give me my back yard and my BBQ any day, I'll always prefer that option!
Blink and before you know it, you realise that another year is in full swing.  My kids are growing and developing so very fast, each with very different needs, but all demanding my attention at the same time.  This is a big challenge, being able to dedicate yourself to little people that are at different stages of childhood and giving each of them what they need, when they need it.  And not to forget mum and dad, they have needs too and I try to set aside time for us also.  Most weeks, it feels as though we never see each other.  My husband leaves early in the morning for work and I get busy doing what I have to do.  At night, once dinner is done, we are that exhausted that we hit the sack, flake out and sleep.......and then it all starts again the next day.  Aah yes, that's life, I'm afraid, nothing more or less than plain, old reality.
Speaking of reality, I was having a coffee the other day with a lovely lady who I have not known for very long (in the big scheme of things), but it feels like I have known her forever.  In our conversations, she often helps me to have the most amazing realisations about all kinds of stuff and one thing she said to me that day I want to share with you now because I think it is so relevant and important.  We were talking about how my husband and I are your typical middle aged, married couple.......but also, how hard we have worked together over the last 20 years to establish ourselves and our lives together......and now, what we are doing, probably without realising it, is working towards 'adding value' to it.  I said to myself, 'Yes, that's it!  We ARE doing that and how crucial that is for a happy heart and a happy home'.
Let me explain.  I started the year with a bit of a panic because I felt totally lost and confused about what it was that I should  actually be 'doing'.  The holidays were over, the kids were back at school, everything started again for another year.......and that left me stuck in the house with my pre-schooler, doing the same old same old, wondering what it was all about.  But then, after a couple of 'light bulb' moments, I realised that it was all OK because I WAS actually doing something of utmost importance......I was raising a healthy family and continuing to grow a happy partnership with the man that I married last century.  Doesn't sound like much, but in reality, it actually is.  Now, my husband and I keep on working together to live the way we want to live, BUT also, we are finally starting to enter a new phase of our lives where we can actually do more of the things that we enjoy, that make us happy, that add that 'value' to it that I have just mentioned.
For me, that value is all about creating successful, well adjusted and happy people in my children, caring for and loving my partner and doing other things for me.  Other things like losing myself in my garden, getting more involved with my art and painting, nurturing my friendships, helping other people, staying 'house proud' and of course, writing.  This year, it's all about value adding for me and I will always remember how very fortunate I am to be able to say that.  Once I clear my mind of the usual petty insecurities and unnecessary worries that usually clogs it up, I can start to think about getting the most out of life by doing things that give me pleasure and not just focusing on the usual and very normal pressures of life that often gets me down.
There you have it.  What started off, yet again, as a blank screen, is now full of words and images and I feel better now.  I will always remember my Year 12 English teacher giving me very low marks for almost everything that I wrote that year because she said it had too much 'waffle'.  Now I ask you, what's wrong with a good waffle to sooth the soul, clear the mind and lift the spirits? LOL!  As I read back over what I have written, just like I always do and think about a way to wrap it all up and reach some sort of conclusion to what it is I have been trying to say, I realise today that I couldn't have picked a more relevant and suitable title for my blog if I tried.  Again, all I have really done is write about 'living a little and loving a lot'......and this works for me!  Until next time, may your grass be green, your nights warm, your days sunny and your heart happy :) xxx

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Awesome Adam's achievements

Awesome Adam, as I like to call him, is our first child and is now 10 and a half.  He is a Cub Scout here in Australia and has been working on some 'Achievement Badges' as part of the program.  I had suggested to him that he help me write this blog, but he has had a very busy weekend and this afternoon, looked very ready for an early night.  So, tonight, while he is fast asleep, I write my blog on his behalf, knowing full well that being a kid can be a bit full on at times.  Adam has been a Cub Scout for almost 18 months so it was time that he put his skills to good use and earn some badges.  He chose the Cooking, Pets and Gardener badges to work on.  In this blog, I will show you what a great effort he put into this and 'show case' my boy with much love as one very proud mum!

When I was a child of this age, my mum had me doing chores every week.  Now I have to admit that I am not as disciplined with this and my kids as she was with me, but when it came to doing these tasks for Cubs, I realised that Adam actually did have many skills that he puts to use all the time.  I am a SAHM with 3 kids and my mum always worked and only had me, so I guess this plays a big part in how you run your household as a mother.  Regardless, I believe that kids should be encouraged to learn life skills and also contribute with chores around the house. These exercises that Adam had to do for Cubs really brought home to me how capable he actually is at such a young age.  This made me almost burst with pride, hence this blog for you today that will tell you all about it!
This always makes me smile.  Adam absolutely loves baked beans and he is also a big cheese fan.  So the natural progression of this was to mix the two together, heat them up and then put them on toast.  This is by far one of Adam's favourite 'comfort foods' and a big winner as an after school snack that he makes for himself and his brother.  We affectionately call this dish 'Cheesy beans on toast' and he has become a real wiz at it.  He always adds plenty of cheese, sometimes a dash of parmesan too, all ready to heat up in the microwave.
 Now Adam is almost tall enough to reach the microwave that we have up high and that doesn't stop him from stretching up to heat up the beans himself.  This was one of the first appliances he learnt to master and I have to say they are a pretty handy gadget.  For Adam's Cooking badge, this was his first task, to make a hot dish and Cheesy beans on toast seemed the perfect choice as he's had plenty of practice at it.
 This is the fun part, putting the beans with loads of melted cheese on top of the toast.  Adam insists that this is an important part of the process as the melted cheese has to be mixed up in a certain way and putting it on the toast in the right way is also critical LOL.  I guess I don't mind him eating plenty of baked beans as they are nutritious and packed full of fibre.......and he loves to make this dish and eat it regularly, so I encourage it.
 Adam's second task for his Cooking badge was to make a 2 course lunch for himself and another person.  He decided to make toasted cheese and salami, followed by sliced canteloup. Here we have yet another snack that involves tasty cheese and I guess that's OK, you're only a kid once.  Here he is using the griller and melting the cheese first on the toast, before he puts the salami on top.  This is another very crucial part of the process for making toasted cheese and salami LOL.
 Adam also loves to eat salami, being a boy after my own heart, as his mum can demolish lots of it in one sitting too!Once the cheese is melted, it's then time to toast the salami on top for a super greasy, but yummy snack.
 Here is my gorgeous boy with the finished product as he slices it up ready to serve.  Salami doesn't stay in our fridge long as between Adam and I, we gobble it up pretty quickly.  This is another snack that Adam is now a real wiz at and he often makes it for himself and his brother and sister.  This is great and helps me a lot because at times he takes care of them all for me and stops the usual carry on about be 'starving', like they haven't eaten for a week.
This lunch task had to consist of 'two courses' so would be followed by sliced canteloup.  This was a bit tricky for Adam but he did a good job of preparing and cutting the melon and serving it sliced, ready to eat.
The third task for the Cooking badge required Adam to make a hot breakfast.  Adam really enjoys cooked bacon (but doesn't like eggs) and he wanted to cook some bacon for his hot breakfast dish.  He carefully puts it in the pan as I give him a quick run down on how to do this safely.
Adam is really starting to enjoy his cooking and offers to help me quite a lot.  Usually I'm in such a hurry, with little patience, so I take care of it myself, but I'm going to make the effort to involve him more in cooking as he really likes it.
Above we have some perfectly cooked bacon, served up on toast, ready for breakfast.  Adam takes much care and pride in his cooking and he'll make some young lady a wonderful partner one day!
Here is one task that Adam was very familiar with, cooking on the BBQ.  His mum and dad have loads of BBQs in summer so the fourth task of cooking on the BBQ was fun and easy for him.  Here we have some rump steaks, with loads of garlic and oregano, drizzled with olive oil and vinegar, ready to whack on the barbie.  Adam is right in his element and enjoying this task very much.
I have to say that he cooked this steak exceptionally well for a 10 year old!  His dad likes his steak well done and I prefer it medium to well done.  He managed to find a happy compromise and we were all happy.  This was the final cooking task for this badge.
What Cooking badge would be complete without the task of washing the dishes?  He was a bit lost with this at first, because his silly mum is usually chained to the kitchen sink and doesn't make her kids help with this chore often enough.  But with a bit of guidance, Adam washed, dried the dishes and put them away.
The Cooking badge also required Adam to clean the cooking area in the kitchen and here he has the bench all squeaky clean, even has a smile on his face!  He managed to complete the tasks for this badge in no time and he (and his mum) thoroughly enjoyed it.
The second badge that Adam has worked towards is the Pets badge.  Adam, as have my other children, grown up all their lives with a dog and a cat as pets.  My kids understand that our animals are very much a part of the family and have learnt to treat them with kindness and care.  Here is Jasper, the cat, who is 14 years old and still going very strong.  We have had him since he was only a few weeks old after we adopted him from a pet shelter here in Melbourne.  Adam knows that Jasper loves to eat, as most cats do and here he feeds him.
The kids know that animals always need fresh water to drink so Adam tops up Jasper's water bowl.
Adam is pleased that Jasper is all taken care of for the day.....and Jasper is pretty pleased about that too!
Our family also has a German Shepherd called Jack, who is also 14 years old this year.  We bought Jack, and his sister, Kimba, from a reputable breeder who was a member of the German Shepherd Association here in Melbourne.  Jack and Kimba were brother and sister from the same litter and we have loved them so much.  Sadly, Kimba passed away last summer at the age of 13, but we still have Jack who is so much a member of the family.  He is now starting to show his age and is getting very weak on his back legs but we keep caring for him, like we always have and enjoy every day that we have with him.
Here Jack has something to eat and plenty of fresh water and is also one happy pet. Adam and his brother and sister love our pets and I am so pleased to be teaching them at a young age the value of caring for another living thing, how to be kind to and how to love animals.  Doing the Pet badge was no trouble for Adam as he often helps me look after Jack and Jasper and is always very considerate of their needs.
The last blog I wrote was all about my new vegetable garden and one thing is for sure, I could not have started this project without Adam's help.  He was fantastic and helped me move all of the soil into the patch and prepare it, ready for me to plant my seedlings.  Adam also has a big interest in the garden and nature, so helping me look after the garden and now the veggie patch, is fun for Adam.  Here he is pulling a couple of weeds out and checking on the plants.  The Gardener badge was also one that really suited Adam and I am glad to be able to share my love of the garden and nature with him.

My awesome Adam, my number 1, is a boy who is fast approaching his teenage years.  He can be difficult at times as he learns how to manage his sensitivity and moods, but is always a kind and gentle soul.  Adam has enormous patience as he copes with having a little brother that wants to do everything he does and a little sister who is always demanding his attention.  Adam usually keeps his cool and takes his brother everywhere with him and he has a big soft spot for his baby sister who in his eyes, can do no wrong.  He tries hard at school and is always ready and willing to give me a hand when I ask.  Doing Scouts is the perfect complement for him as he grows into a handsome, young man.  He is learning invaluable life skills and getting wonderful experiences as a Cub and this is only the start of many more to come as he moves up to Scouts soon.  

I am the mother of 3 bright and healthy kids and the leader of the pack is awesome Adam, my first born, who changed my life forever the minute he was born.  He made me a mother and as I live, I love him a lot :) xxx