Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The tyrrany of sunshine...

Do you find the sun a tyrant?

In Britain, there is so little sunshine usually it's a wonder we are not all walking around with rickets. It's hardly a surprise that when the sun does make a rare appearance, it seems a sin to waste the day indoors.
Which is fine if it is sunny for a couple of days, then grey for a day, then sunny again for a bit, then grey etc. But when the sun lasts weeks - what is a housewife to do?

I see that England is enjoying a heatwave. It's pretty damn hot here in Canada as well.

My natural instinct as a Brit. is to fling myself and the tots outside and soak up every precious ray of Canadian sunshine now we are living over here. But that means that my house will look like a hole within a week and instead of rickets we will get scurvy from lack of supermarketing.
I can't resist the calling of my inner nag telling me 'not to waste the day, God knows when it will be sunny again' and yet I feel guilty being inside writing this on such a glorious day.

It's not as though I love slinging on my bikini and getting a tan. In fact, I loathe tanning. I just love to be outdoors, in the shade, or pootling around on a beach or paddling pool on a day like today. With a great big floppy hat and Factor 60 sunscreen.

I think I like rain. It allow me to potter about the house, guilt free. I don't think I could live in Florida, or Perth where it was sunny all the time. I know after a while the sun worshipping novelty would wear off, but I don't think the perpetual guilt about 'wasting the day' would.
Canada seems perfect, with it's imperfect weather.

Spend today: $11 on coffee and chocolate milk at a cafe. We ended up staying out later this morning than I thought and the snack disappeared far too quickly.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Is this the worst parenting advice?

I don't even know where to start, this advice is so awful. The normally reasonable Dr Tanya Byron has effectively medicalised a nine-year old girl for wanting to be a tomboy. This is the article.

The mother is complaining that her nine year old, who in all other ways is 'normal' only wants to wear 'boys clothes'. And Dr T.B., instead of saying:

'Yes, this is quite normal for many, many, many girls. And they do not
grow up to be warped, hated individuals, they are simply girls who find they
can climb, play football better, run, cavort, do roly-polys better without a
skirt made of tulle and a push up bra specially designed for tweens.
They have not entered that world yet where they will be judged mainly on their
appearance, and long may she stay a child and unjudged a while longer.'

Instead, she adds fuel to the poor, overanalysing mothers fire and throws out comments about sexuality, 'tactile defensiveness' and essentially labelling this child to be abnormal.

Now, I don't know about you, but I was a 'tomboy'. I don't think I wore any other colour apart from navy blue until I was about 13. My hair was a rather unfortunate bowl haircut, and I hated to go to the hairdresser to be girliefied. Both my sisters were 'girlie girls'. I don't think I had a gender problem, I just wanted to climb trees. I didn't have 'touch sensitivity' I just hated the hairdresser. I didn't have any abnormality, I just HATED shopping with a passion only rivalled my passion for ponies.

My mum didn't make a big deal of it. As long as I was clean, that was fine. Bless her.

At age 13 a man in a shop called me 'sonny'. And that was the end of my tomboy days. I slowly accepted prettier clothes, and hairstyles, modelling myself on Susannah Hoff from the Bangles.

We analyse too much what little girls are up to. Too boyish in blue, too girlish in pink. I just hope Dr Tanya Byron has not given this mother free reign to try and squash her daughters free spirit.

Todays spend: $10 for magazines. Had a long wait at the dentists, and knew I didn't want to read 7 year old Readers Digests.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Just another manic Sunday...

When did Sunday's stop being about having a leisurely read of the papers, followed by meeting friends at the park/pub/cinema?

Oh yes. About the same time as I had children. Strange

Saturdays & Sundays still linger in my memory as days of complete sloth. But since my son arrived, he who is incapable of sleeping to a decent hour, he has given me the gift of the morning. A not altogether wanted gift most mornings. But yesterday morning, I hauled us out of the house at 7.45am (he had been awake for 2 hours and was threatening to wake husband-with-a-hangover and daughter) and took a walk along the waterfront.

And how beautifully precious was that walk. In gentle daylight we observed all the bunting-bedecked warships in the harbour, some returned from Haiti, some British, all fascinating to a little boy. We ambled along the wooden waterfront walkway and had a chocolate milk in a cafe. Then explored the buzzing farmers market as he pointed out all the colours of the flowers - wrongly but cutely. Then we climbed on a wooden pirate ship and 'torpedoed' imaginary foes.

All before 9a.m.

There is something wonderful about seeing a city at daybreak, a stillness and newness which makes you want to repeat it the next weekend. Only next weekend, I suspect I probably won't be arsed and instead switch on Bob the Builder DVD instead, as usual.
I hope not. I loved sharing the morning with my little boy.

Total spend for yesterday: $10 on an overdue library DVD. Damn it - Pocahontas wasn't even that good!

$10 on frickin' jelly beans. I bought them as a little present for a girl, and it was only after they were wrapped prettily in ribbons that they weighted them and it was too late to back out. Bugger.

$20 on lunch for my daughter and I. Oops. I tried hard on that one, I only had a starter size salad, daughter had chips, and yet it still came to quite a bit.

$25 for a book for a baby.

Total: $65. Not good. I repeat - Damn it. Must try harder.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Don't put baby in the corner...

We recently joined (at great cost) the whitest, most 'Dirty Dancing' type club you could imagine. So there is no Baby with a shirt tied above a toned little belly, or a lithe Patrick Swayze rhumba-ing about the place. Instead there is me, skulking away in a black Speedo swimsuit, trying to assess if I have 'spiders legs' peeking out from the bottom half, whilst wrestling with my kids in one of the many pools in this place.

I wish someone would put me in the corner, so I could have a couple of minutes to myself.

I became very concious today that there are many uber-yummy-mummies about the place. The kind that may have the odd stretch mark, but are otherwise toting a beaming baby and tow-headed toddler and giving Heidi Klum a run for her money on the 'post-baby flat belly' phenomenon. They are the kind of mums who have shiney honey coloured hair, and the shine is not from a mix of grease, suntan oil and mayonaise (as is mine) but from careful use of serums.
And yes, many of them are my friends, damn it. I am letting the side down somewhat, and one pair of glittery FitFlops is not going to do it. I am going to have to go full Bree Van Der Camp methinks.

Joining this club has made a mammoth dent in our budget, but so far, out of the week we have been members, I have been there five days. Five days of not having to devise a plan to entertain the wee blighters. Just plonk them in the giant sandbox with running water or bob about in a pool, trying to ignore the spiders legs resembling sea anemones around my ladygarden.

That makes it good value for money if I essentially take up residence there? I keep trying to justify the expense to myself and my husband. Perhaps we could move out of here and move into the clubhouse boiler room.

And who knows, maybe I will have a mild flirtation with one of the lithe tennis instructors who inhabit the club. After all, at that club I would be considered a 'lady who lunches', even if the lunch is some sweaty, sagging ham sandwiches on 'best of both' bread. And flirting with tennis instructors is what lunching ladies do? Right?

Today's spend: Nothing! Again!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

A Spendthrifts Stab at being Frugal - The Anne of Green Gables Attitude to money.

I feel I have a touch of Anne Shirley about me. I daydream too much, I talk too much and I am also in love with Gilbert Blythe.

There is a part in Anne of Green Gables where (not the exact quote, but the spirit of it) Anne acknowledges that she talks too much, but if you only knew how much she wanted to say but didn't, you would be quite impressed.

This sums up my relationship with money quite nicely. If I bought all that I reaaally thought I needed, I would need three times our income. So my restraint in only buying one jar of overpriced, home-made, gorgeous jelly last weekend from this adorable store at $10 a jar shows, in my mind, remarkable restraint when all around me my friends were buying up the shop.

Unfortunately, my husband and bank manager would not see the effort in this. Sigh.

Day 2 of my spending challenge and I spent: $4 on a parking meter!

So far, so good. I took the kids to a Natural History museum and packed water and chocolate chip cookies. I could have walked to the museum and saved the parking fee. It is about 30 mins walk away, but you know those walks that are easy to do with the pram, but not so easy with a reluctant 5 year old? This is one of those walks. I thought it best for all (except for the seals and penguins in the north pole) if we took the car.

This blog is definitely helping. I have sent an email to all my close family explaining that I don't want any presents for us or the kids for the rest of the year (we would only have to leave it behind when we move back to England anyway next year) and that a card and photos would be great instead. We will not be sending presents either. I have had very happy people emailing us back saying they are also on a budget so it's been well received.

Off this afternoon for a paddle with the kids. That will be free as well. Hurray for mother nature.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A Spendthrifts Stab at Frugality - Part 1

The summer holiday here in Canada at my daughter's school arrived two weeks ago. Two bloody weeks ago. What the hell is that about?

That means it is roughly three months of entertaining two gorgeous, screechy, energetic, diverse, doll-obsessed, train-obsessed children for umpteen weeks by myself from 7am-6.30pm.
I thought my daughter's 6 weeks holiday back in Blighty was bad enough.

That makes me sound like I don't like my children, which I do. A lot. But I also like brie and champagne a lot too but wouldn't want to be force fed it for 3 months. This morning alone we have:
  • Read stories in bed
  • Had a friend come over for 2 hours and played fairly well at 'Star Wars - Let's Pretend the Toddler is Darth Vader and Attack him for the Duration of the Playdate'
  • Gone for a very slow painful bike ride around the block, each taking it in turn to whine if the gradient rises even slightly on the sidewalk
  • Play-doh toss and hide in Mummy's soles of her socks.
  • Etc.

I seem to lose my temper every quarter hour. Help. It is going to be a long summer if this carries on.

Anyhow, the reason why I have written this is that I seriously need to budget.

Seriously. As in 'Oh Shit, I am scared to look at the bank balance'

You see, this part of Canada is not as cheap as you think. Coupled with the fact that I am not allowed to work and my husband is on an academic salary (read that as low), we are up a creek financially. Our rent takes up the whole of the salary even before we wake up. And the expenses, mainly on the kids...eeeek.

We have accepted every second hand thing thrown at up. Begged, borrowed and nearly stolen. But some things have had to be bought. Like a new bed, as the futon the house came with was like being interrogated by the Spanish inquisition. Like the 3 helmets my daughter needed, one for skating, one we bought thinking it was a skating helmet and turned out to be a skiing one but couldn't be taken back, and the one for her bike. I mean, come on, how many ways can you hit your head?!?

Like swimming lessons for my daughter, who goes off in an almighty huff if she suspects my husband and I are trying to teach her swimming ourselves. Like two snowsuits and boots for the winter, like new sunsuits and shoes for the summer, like the kettle which exploded week 2, like the kids cutlery, like the frying pan, like sheets for the bed. AAARRGH.

I am hopeless at household budgets. I am no stranger to charity shops, all my books come from the library. But bugger me if the money still rolls through my fingers. Like a dieter who secretly knows where they are going wrong but deludes themselves they are perfect - my list of no-no's is terrifyingly long. Here they are:

  • Magazines. Just the odd one, but they add up.
  • Coffees at coffee houses. I don't know how I will stop those, as half my social life takes place at a fantastic cafe with a train table which keeps my toddler happy for a blissful hour.
  • Presents for other people. Did I really need to buy my friend a handmade wooden chopping board. Yes I did, it was from such a cuuuuuute farmers market.
  • Expensive meat. Because cheap meat gives me the eebie-jeebies.
  • Shoes. Perhaps buying Fit-Flops for $100 was not a good economy. But you never know, I may get buns of steel from wearing them. Hmm.
  • Just petty little crapola spends in a day which you don't even notice and yet there they are, adding up.

So, like a dieter, I am going to write down what I spend every day this holiday (or until I forget) so that it may bring back control to my life and possibly even a degree of shame.

Today's total spend, thus far = Nothing!

Hooray. But I must point out I have really not left the house properly yet. Ah well.