Tag Archives: good life

No Spend November

I’m going to say it as it is – I’m useless at saving. Everytime I attempt it, something happens and all the pennies get spent and more goes on the credit card too. It sucks to be in this cycle of never ending debt and not being able to see a way out of it. I want to start with the small things. We regularly change service providers, we aren’t Brand Snobs, and we walk or cycle whenever possible. It wouldn’t have been unusual for us to do a good walk to The OutLaws of a weekend although, sadly, my fibromyalgia means that is now a complete no-go. Having access to a fabulous car has been one of the only positives but it is amazing to have a brand new car covered for breakdowns and repairs with no hassle or concerns. It has meant we don’t have to worry about a possible vehicle problem and the expense that would incur because it is All Inclusive. A major weight lifted off us.
We do have bills to pay, a car to fuel, school trips to cover, and every week essentials that we can’t buy in advance for one reason or another. There is also every chance of an emergency and the only thing we can do about that is suck it up as usual. I can, however, do something about the kitchen which is what my No Spend is going to cover. I will have a strict list of essential buys and that’s it. I’m not going to cave to any more Christmas pressure either. I have everything I need to make it a wonderful family gathering with heartfelt, handmade gifts. If I go near Wish or eBay I know I will crack so I am taking them off my homescreen and I’m going to turn off notifications for the next month at least. If I can avoid my usual pitfalls, I truly believe I can do this (gulp).

Whenever you try to complete an exercise like this, I find it useful to make the rules that work for you, after all, no two families are the same and when you’re catering for 10 people you can be dealing with figures that others might find appalling. Hey ho, nothing I can do about how others tick, I need to focus on our kitchen for now.

So here are my basic rules;

~~Essentials covers milk, bread, eggs, ham (The Boy will eat it all if I buy in bulk), salad items, fruit

~~Essentials does not include chocolate, crisps, snack foods, lunchbox fillers, The Mr’s lunch (he buys his own Up Town to save the cycle legs)

~~List the food you have in already – pantry, cupboards, fridge & freezer

~~List the meals you can make with what you have – pasta with sausage, chicken and chips, veggie bolognese with spaghetti…

~~Try something different or one of your “once in awhile” specials (corn beef hash! – but I don’t have any corn beef in. Boo!)

~~Have Meat Free Mondays (Vegan for us with The Big Boy now opting for that choice)

~~Have Leftovers Clearout – all those one meal portions you freeze for lunches you never get around too

~~Take note of anything you really miss so you can PLAN future meals – the Ginger Teen loves pulled pork but will have to wait as we don’t have a joint in the freezer this month

 ~~Get Creative – fancy crisps? Cut and bake a tortilla, use the popcorn kernals, bake bread, bake chickpeas for a “nutty need”, soak the bag of beans that you’ve stockpiled “just in case”

~~Minimise your shopping trips –  I get easily distracted by the middle aisle of Lidl

These are not hard and fast rules but you need to control the things that might lead you astray. The Mr loves his crisps. We have some crackers but he’ll either go without or get inventive. The Mr also likes to rest with some cider, wine, or whisky. Good job we have a cupboard of alcohol that could do with finishing off ready for a fresh New Year collection. 

I also have to consider things that could potentially lead us off course. I’m going to a Baby Shower on the weekend and will need to contribute a few bits. We have a stockpile of Baby wipes thanks to Amazon Subscription so they can be passed along, I have rice and seasonings, we just had a Muscle Foods delivery so there’s chicken to use. I don’t think I need anything extra except some lemonade so I added that to our last essential’s online shop due in the morning. Sorted. I have also arranged for a trip to Primark up town. They’ve decked it out all Hogwarts themed and I’m bound to want something. I figure a set amount plus a birthday gift for Ginger Teen and The Mr. That should make things less stressful but I’m going to be drooling for sure over just about everything.

The Big Boy and Grandan have birthdays at the end of the month too. Presents are sorted. I know there are cards somewhere in the draw. I even got fancy birthday candles in Poundland so the only thing I have to consider is cakes. As eggs are essential in our household, I think I can make it work. I’ve also got a nice store of vegan friendly alternatives going with the new change and a bag of semi-sweet vegan chocolate chips so I’m sure I can knock up some kind of yummy cake-like affair for Himself. 

I’ve also got change enough to buy Poppies, a complete essential for us although a white poppy is important for me too. 

That about wraps up what I’ve worked through this far. I admit to going back and streamlining the online shop. The whole point is to use what you have in the cupboards and here I am loading up on the things we buy regularly but that I don’t know if we are actually using completely. The other household Fibro Hangup is my lack of kitchen time. I love to cook, from scratch and with enjoyment. I know we have ingredients in the cupboards that, quite frankly, scare the Whoshamaflips out of the children and The Mr. They are improving, especially with having to cater for a vegan and a pescatarian, but there is a tin of mixed beans waiting to be turned into a chilli and some sardines which could be turned into a delicious pie with the right TLC and a bit more imagination. I need to show the children how exciting a meal can be when it isn’t chicken, tomatoes and pasta. It won’t be an easy adjustment but it is a much needed one. When they tell me we have nothing in for dinner I have to laugh. My issues mean there is always something to make a meal, it just might not be to your liking on that day. Eat It or Don’t. There are no second options this month.

Wish me luck, I think I may need it!

Advertisements

Opposites, emotions, unique, the same

Sometimes I wonder if I am too emotional. I react with great empathy and cry at most things unashamedly. People I know and love look at me like I have 2 heads or something but I can’t help it, my heart has always ruled my head.

This year I have noticed a few things that have niggled at me but because it is my children who will have been hurt I have chosen not to react but to step back and allow the anger to subside. I can’t work out if this is the right course of action or not and, as I’m also a dweller,  chew it over and over, getting more and more upset, until eventually I have a huge cry and everything gently returns to normal. 

Some would have me believe that I am too emotional, that I shouldn’t take everything to heart, that I am weaker because I show people my vulnerability whilst they hide their emotions from the world and, often, from themselves. One person in particular is always tutting and scoffing at my perceived injustices and, quite frankly, I want to bop them on the nose! There you go, another example of my emotional brain working. I can’t help it. They make me feel stupid for living via my emotions but it is also my emotional brain that they lean on when they need my help and support. I will always help, that’s my character. I don’t want to see anyone in pain especially if I can do something about it.

I constantly second guess myself, maybe this is why people say that I am too sensitive. I consider why something was said or done, how I may have caused the outcome, how or what could be done differently to get a better result, and on and on and on. I need to mentally resolve a situation in the hopes that the upset can be avoided in the future. Resolution is extremely important to me. Perhaps having only a few events reach an end point in my young life means that now I need to get things done and finished.

Life is rarely that simple. There are many things that just have to naturally fizzle out and that should be okay. I have to knowingly allow that to happen though because I want to see the ending to know that it is done and dusted. It is quite annoying and mostly frustrating. 

The Mr is the complete opposite. He rarely allows his emotions to rule his life. I can recall only two occasions where his emotions led our family path. When holding the eldest after my emergency c-section he told me I could have as many babies as I wanted. This was a huge shift from the “woah! We might have a few but let’s have this one first.” The second time was also child related when an event happened abroad resulting in the death of a group of school children. He felt so blessed to have our family safe and well that he agreed after 18 months of “we’re done” to have another child (2- I dislike odd numbers of children). 

It was a healthy mental contemplation to get married, it made sense, it was what adults do. It was sensible to get a good, solid job in IT rather than spend a year or three studying and enjoying being able to travel and see the world. It was responsible to trade in the sporty little car for a large family vehicle. It can often be very dull. 

He doesn’t do romance, he rarely gives compliments, and he is practical whenever I suggest something spontaneous and fun. He goes along with it because he loves me and wants me to be happy and then he ends up having a fabulous time too. 

I have often looked at our relationship and been plagued by doing what is right for us and what is best for us. He will patiently listen to me mulling things over, trying to decipher what I’m getting at and why it is very important that I talk about this NOW. He tries very hard not to fall asleep during this process because he prefers to wrap himself in the duvet at night and, with my insomnia, he tends to find his portion of the duvet on my side of the bed. He brings balance to my chaotic emotional life and he, mostly, gets me well enough to see why I am upset, excited, happy, annoyed etc. 

After talking with him earlier, I found myself in a better place with less anxiety over the situations I cannot and should never control. He asks so little of me and I take a great deal from him. He is the rock that I anchor my emotions to and we are both stronger for it.

Am I too sensitive? It is possible, and yet, I don’t see it as a bad thing. If we were meant to live our lives in a practical only existence we wouldn’t have our emotions. Yes, I take things to heart but that is because I care, because I want to help and make a difference. It is okay if you see things differently, if you prefer to calculate and live on a practical level. I adore the way we are all unique, it makes us all richer, especially when you find a Yin for your Yang. 

Nice people have nice thoughts

I’m fat. I get it. I look at myself every single day. I don’t need you to tell me. More importantly, your kids don’t need to tell my kids. They know I’m fat too.

This morning, whilst driving to school in more pain than is good, my little fiery Redhead told me that her friend had called me “oomph”. I explained that as her wonderful aunt was also “oomph”, I was obviously in good company. Miss Redhead then explained “yes, but you’re still more oomph”.

That’s what you call a kick to the gut. 

This evening, my wonderful Unicorn obsessed daughter explained that she is writing a poem inspired by “Truth”. She has to write about a secret those at school won’t know. She has chosen to write about me and my Fibromyalgia. She has chosen to write about being bullied because her mum was so fat she needed a minibus instead of a normal size car.

A kick to the guts and ice cold shot to the heart.

My baby was bullied because *I* am fat. Nothing she could do would stop those children from finding me a funny one liner to hurt her with. Kids are cruel. That doesn’t just happen. Normally it is a sign that an adult they spend time with speaks with such prejudices and insults that it becomes a normal way to talk to others. I want to be angry at these little snot noses but I can’t. I feel sorry for them. To be 9/10/11 years old and already be aware of language that you know will cause mental anguish is such an unfortunate roll of the dice.

I have tried to raise our family in a way that allows them to see others in a positive way. Isn’t it brilliant that they also have a large family. How cool is it that she has Minion glasses. Perhaps we could give our old clothes to the charity shop so other families like ours can get good stuff for cheap. They give pocket money to all the charity pots they see, they offer help to anyone who needs it, they look after the local green areas, and they stand up against bullies, casual racism, slurs against a person’s shape and size or mental capacity. These kids don’t kill spiders even though they give some of them the curly whurlies. With all the good that they are, it is that very kindness and compassion to others which leaves them vulnerable to attack from kids who haven’t been taught that it is never okay to make fun of another person who is just trying to live their life.

I get it. I’m fat. I’ve always been the biggest of my siblings and I have spent my whole life learning the ever new and imaginative insults to the fat girl. Guess what? You insulting me isn’t going to make me magically drop half my body weight. I spent so much of my teen years hiding from mean girls; what insult would they use today? Are they going to aim for my weight, my second hand clothes, my intelligence, my big feet, my body odour? Maybe today would be a wonderful mixture of all of the above. I never once found their insults the key to change. Instead, I would hide inside myself, gobbling as many chocolate bars as I could afford and wiping snot on my unironed shirt, picking at threads on my washed grey black skirt and bashing the heel of my ugly clown shoes on the floor over and over. Trust me, I didn’t go running through the park home to fix up a tasty salad. 

A few years ago, I decided to improve my health. I walked for miles and miles, even completed a Race for Life 10k fun walk. I made sure I ate three meals a day, including loads of lovely veggie goodness and drinking at least 2 litres a day. I had pain but I was managing it well. I finally, for the first time ever, felt in control of my destiny. I lost 3 stone and maintained the weight loss through pregnancy to be my lightest since baby number 2, over 11 years before. Then the fibro took an evil twist.

I had a contraceptive implant, started 4 different regular medications as well as daily painkillers. I have a long list of terms to describe my condition and none of them pretty. I’m depressed, sleep deprived, in pain, and uncomfortable. Seriously, I know I’m fat. I am trying to get a hold of my physical health, to work on my mental health, to get back my fitness. My insecurities are not going to disappear with your “you certainly like your food” comments or the “now you reach for the diet drink” said under your breath and probably never meant to be heard. You can’t taunt me skinny anymore than you can tell an anorexia sufferer that they “look fine, definitely not fat”. 

Please don’t tell me what works for you or tell me what to try. If I want your help I really will ask for it, like I have done with my close friends and family. When the time is right, I will be able to get off meds that seem very much connected with weight gain, my already fairly good diet will realign itself and I will stop squirrelling chocolate bars in my bedroom, until then, try not to openly say thoughtless things in front of your children and try teaching them that we are all unique and all the more wonderful for it. Talk to your children about why we are all different and how when we assume something of a person, we may be doing them a disservice.

My disability is invisible but it’s symptoms are not. I’m fat. I live with it every day. I will one day fix it. Perhaps, one day, you’ll learn to be a bit nicer to the fat girl at school, to the short man at the shop, the kid at the park who can’t help being clumsy, or the person in the town centre who you can’t work out if they are male or female, as if their gender should ever be any of your business.

I’m fat. I’m disabled. I’m a human being. I’m also kind, considerate, and polite to strangers. I’m a daughter, sister, wife, mother, friend, and a member of the human race. 

There’s a politician who seems to be very happy to use his platform as a member of parliament to share his very conservative points of views. One of his latest comments was about the compassionate and uplifting view British foodbanks gave. Mr Rees-Mogg’s opinion

I can see merit in what he says. Foodbanks are non-profit, donation based enterprises. The fact that the British people continue to pop some beans or a box of teabags into the food bin after a shop when their budget is stretched to it’s thinnest is incredibly heartwarming. Every penny counts and still we try to make sure those who don’t have a slice of bread or the bashed up can of beans that stays on the shelf for it’s entire 4 year shelf life, get given food to see them through the next few days.

That doesn’t mean that it’s okay that Mr Rees Mogg says what he does. He is part of a government which seems to be hell bent on pulling the rug out from under the feet of the nation, a government who year after year reduces the real term money in the budget of nearly every family within the UK. It will never be okay that he talks about how inspiring the great British public is whilst he sits in parliament and almost consistently votes for the poor to get poorer and the rich to get richer. Voting history of Mr Rees-Mogg

I hold my hands up. The Mr works extremely hard but with my disability we are increasingly reliant upon the benefits system. This isn’t ideal. It was never meant to be this way and every time we make headway something happens to kick us back down. We have never been at the point of need so bad that we have visited a food bank, and it is largely thanks to family and wonderful friends that this is the case. Our budget is able to stretch further having to not buy a whole new wardrobe as a child grows, because of the generosity of pre-loved sofas and kitchen tables, because our friends are in similar positions themselves and we have all recognised that it is through the generosity of friends, family, and even strangers, that our world keeps turning.

With every passing bedtime I breathe a sigh of relief. We made it through another day and no one went to bed hungry, they might even have managed to have dessert too. I’ll ignore the hole in my shoes, the lack of a coat that fits, I’ll cut my hair myself again and continue to cut the rest of the families too. I don’t even mind that this is the state of our life. We feel blessed everyday to be able to love our beautiful children and our ever growing circle of nieces and nephews. We are healthy(ish) and (mostly) happy but of course there are ways we could be happier.

We could reduce our significant debts for example. We are trying to count every penny and be held accountable for our “luxury” purchases like new stacker shelves for the understairs pantry and a hot chocolate on the go. Having so many appointments at hospitals means I do spend whilst out and about and I should get better organised but I’m also tight so settle for hospital hot drinks or a Maccy Ds hot chocolate with the hope of saving enough stickers to get my free drink! No fancy Costa drinks with marshmallows for me any time soon.

The Mr is trying too. He’ll buy a pile of microwave dinners and a bunch of bananas for the week – cycling backpacks aren’t very useful for taking in a homemade lunch – and he is quite adept at spotting special offers on crisps which makes him a fairly happy chappy.

I know we aren’t alone in a budgeting stresses and I recognise that there are families out there who think we are extremely fortunate and, I guess, in lots of ways we are. Mr Rees Mogg might not have any clue about the majority of people and how we live. I’d happily show him how it works for our family but I doubt he’ll be slumming it in South London any time soon. The frustration will continue and the families struggling now will also be on this treadmill in a year, five years, ten years time. It is the fallout from austerity and the penny pinching from the poorest whilst shoving the pounds towards those at the top. We live in a democracy but so many don’t know how or just won’t vote and it is so frustrating. The people have decided that this government is fit to serve the people but it only has those that already have in their sights. The have-nots will continue to pinch every penny they see, just like us, and our Prime Minister and her cronies will fill each others’ bank accounts ready to see out their days never needing handouts or suffering from NHS funding cuts and the continuing fall in student nurses and teachers because you can earn more on the till of your local supermarket than ensuring the educational and health needs of the next generation. 

How did we end up in this mess? And is there any way we can get through the next decade without watching our children going to school filthy and hungry? I am fairly certain Mr Jacob Rees Mogg doesn’t have a plan for the foodbank users of the 21st Century.  

Past, present, future

There is a great movement on twitter at the moment from @mamas_scrapbook called #mymindfulseptember.

As much as I’m not going to participate because I’m completely forgetful and I’ll beat myself up for not finishing, I do very much approve of the idea.

I spend all day, everyday attending the needs of my family. One day it’s about doing far more driving around than is good for me but seeing your eldest off for their first grown up residential is worth a day of feeling exhausted but it could also be about back to school shopping, concentrating on helping our Chatterbox practice her SaLT words, or being the first person on your nephew’s calling list when, at 19, he discovers a disaster waiting to happen in his first ever flat. I always try my hardest to be there for them all if they need me, I consider it my job!

I also have to accept that I am only human. My childhood wasn’t easy, at times it was downright awful, and I still feel the effects to this day as a recent photograph search made all too clear. 

There is a photo of my parents and my maternal family on their wedding day. As with us all, too many have passed away now and stories have been lost that may have shed light on my Irish heritage.

I loved and feared my grandmother. I was not her favourite and I was very good at pointing out the injustice my four year old felt as my little sister was snuggled on her lap and I was sent back to bed. Oh woe is me!

There is a photo of my paternal grandparents with my older brother and sister. This was my favourite Grandad. He taught me how to knot a tie “properly” and how to take it off without needing to redo it the next day. He grew tomatoes, strawberries, and beans in his garden. He made sure we had mega family holidays to remember him by when he was diagnosed with Leukemia. I miss him greatly. I miss them all. I wish they all had the opportunity to call themselves Great Grandparents because they certainly were.

I often remark to my Mr that we come from opposite ends of what makes a family. His family consists of his brother, his parents, and his grandparents and their siblings. He has no cousins, their holidays were small, calm affairs but full of love and support. He lost his grandfathers as a small child but was blessed to have his grandmothers until his late teens. I loved getting to meet them both and it gave me great joy to see his Grandma hold our first born. Her battle for cancer was swift but she had 6 wonderful months getting to see the baby as often as she could. I miss listening to her stories. She reminded me of my Nanny F and it is a shame they never got to meet.

When I watch my own family grow, when I admit to myself that before too long I will be a great aunt and, hopefully, a nanny too, I want to use the wonderful memories of my own families to create memories worth keeping.

Life is too short for some. I don’t want to spend my time worrying about what went wrong, holding on to a grudge I only half remember. 

I tell my children as often as I can how I love them. If they know that, if they truly feel my love the way I remember the love from my grandparents then I think I’m doing an ok job. 

So now I want to spend time taking photos, to continue to help with the needs of each, to treasure the laughter and wipe away the tears and to enjoy the last days of a beautiful golden Summer.

Picking Favourites

For quite some time now, my eldest daughter has been slinging ‘ the favourite’ card at me. This is usually connected to the future CEO – daughter no3. I can see why she says it, to a 13 year old it would seem that I am unfairly favouring a sibling who is frequently rewarded. I guess this is where carrot not stick falls short. 

Here I am, asking the kids to help with the household chores. I don’t think I’m being unduly harsh on them for asking that they pick up after themselves, make their own beds, bring their own dirty clothes down to the basket, take clean clothes upstairs again, load or unload the dishwasher, help with lunch or dinner. Please remember, they aren’t doing that all day every day. I’ll allocate 3 or 4 jobs each. Easy tasks which are all connected to themselves. The screeching from Miss Hormones, the stamping from Miss Dreamer, the pursed lips and folded arms from the youngest Gingerling, and the boys both conveniently disappear siting homework as the reason. The only child who is likely to just get on with it is Miss CEO. Occassionally we get the odd “it’s not fair!” from her, afterall, to her it feels like she is the only one doing anything (because she is) but then she gets the reward which I have stated repeatedly, is open to all helpers when they’ve finished their jobs. The reward can be *helping with the shopping!* which will often lead to a small treat of new colouring pencils or a pretty hair dye, or maybe getting to choose the movie night treats, or even just getting their hair plaited which is now quite a rarity with my fingers cramping up. Nothing is extravagent, they all get the same chance but the results are the same. It will always be the tweenie who helps, you know, the child caught between their care free childhood and the peer pressures of the teenage years. 

This stage of life is actually the easy bit but it doesn’t last for anywhere near long enough. It is the last year of primary and life seems to go through like a bagillion changes, or so Miss CEO seems to suggest. As a mother, always fostering independance whilst slowly letting out the apron strings, I’m no longer surprised that we are seeing a gluttony of depressed youngsters. The demands our children are under starts before they even start school at 4, constantly being tested, watched for errors, placed on tables relating to how well they do or don’t stick to the lines when colouring… 

I am not a keen results reader, I much prefer to sit with a teacher who knows my child and who can tell me who their friends are, what their favourite topic is and how wonderfully knowledgable they are about Minecraft, Peppa Pig or the rights and responsibilities of the LGBTQ+ community. Instead I get to go in, interrupt the teacher who has their parent’s evening chit chat memorised and say actually Mr Teacher, would you mind if we can talk about how my child feels isolated and threatened whilst in your care? I have to explain that, yes, I understand that Miss CEO has a very secure sense of The Rules, how society should behave and, unfortunately, how it actually behaves. I have to again suggest that perhaps “ignoring” the problem is making it worse and that, perhaps, if the children involved were pulled to one side and asked to follow The Rules as they are supposed to. I don’t want to know that she must be popular because she was chosen by her classmates to be class rep, it doesn’t alter how much my book worm, mathematics enthusiast, teacher’s pet has changed, how now we talk about why it is important to attend school instead of why she can’t possibly be ill because she has to go to school. Even speaking with the Head didn’t help. One particular child is a handful in class and particular hurtful to Miss CEO because his mother doesn’t agree with the School Behaviour Policy!?! (I still can’t get my head around that one.)

I am more than aware that no child is an angel, I’m not overly concerned by the fact that all 8 of my children are unique and fall across the behaviour spectrum, but I am concerned that one after another my children have felt bullied at school and it is at those moments that my tweens, as each has been when this occurs, naturally demands a little more of my attention, an extra squish before school, and a touch more responsibility and praise at home to remind them that their beautiful nature and enthralling character is worth so much more than this bully or bullies will have them believe.
So, no. I don’t have a favourite child just a favoured child at *this* time. It will soon change. The bullies will lose and my little Future Leader will regain the confidence at home to be a stroppy dot again reminding me that we are doing a good job with our kids – they fell safe and secure enough at home to push the boundaries and ignore the mess *just* long enough to not get in to real trouble. At this point I think it worthwhile to point out to my eldest two (who have both acknowledged having a nose) that I still love them just as much when they are being messy, antisocial, food demanding, adolescents. But I also really would like you to bring those messy cups and plates down, thanks muchly.

I am utterly proud of my children, it would be impossible to pick a favourite. Each child is maturing into beautiful examples of what people could be, I am enjoying seeing them grow, change, tweak their own world view map, bring new insights to our family table, and even behave in an adorable childlike way whenever we find a bridge over a stream to play Pooh Sticks or a particularly interesting looking tree to climb.

I have many favourite moments, my children feature in all of them.