31 Aug 2013

Theory vs. Practical

When I started telling a few friends about my blog I mentioned its purpose was not only write about my journey through motherhood but to discuss a topic that kinda comes naturally to me, money - well understanding how to manage it better.

I'm in no position to give financial advice (yet) but I know people in roles or jobs that do but I would never take any of their advice. Why? cause I know they don't practice what they preach. They're all text book and education, information you want/need to know but their lives does not reflect the advice they give. What I mean by this is, I know they've never made a risky financial decision in their life, so how do they know the practical application of what they say if they don't take it themselves.

This is why I usually seek advice or feedback from people who have done something I'm considering doing first before or even bothering seeing an "expert". The feedback from those who have "done it before" are invaluable because they have either succeed and or failed and will be able to give you advice to avoid the mistakes they made or take advantage of knowledge they've learnt. 

Admittedly since declaring that my blog will focus on the topic of money I've probably only blogged about it five times. There are many reasons as to why that is the case but the number one reason is, I write based on my personal journey with understanding and becoming better with money so I've taken the time and effort into these type of posts. 

Today I opened an email from a subscription I signed up to and the topic was 'How to Control Spending' written by Fred Schebesta, an Aussie entrepreneur (in my opinion) who focuses on Finance. 

What pleased me was reading the tips and advice he gave I too have covered in my past posts, well the same key messages. It's reassuring and validating to see the practical component I've applied in my life with money is the same as the theory these financial experts would've recommended. 

It reminds me, especially when I'm a stay at home mum, therefore at times seems like I have no control, that I'm doing something right. 

If you would like a copy of the email I received from Fred, email me and I'll be happy to forward it to you.

30 Aug 2013

Brain Freeze

Tonight I'm writing up a Business Plan. When I first opened the document template 8 months ago and skimmed through the headings I thought 'oh looks very similar to a project plan ok' and closed the template.

As I start to complete the business plan and being away from that mindset and practice for over 10 months I'm actually struggling to put sentences together. I'm finding it hard to come up with answers and forgetting the typical "businessy fluff" that you always put in one of these documents.  

Your brain really is like a mussel.  You need to work it out regularly and work out different components. It needs more than Words with Friends or Four Pics One Word for stimulation. 

I'm realising you can't take for granted the "stuff" you did 38 hours a week because when you remove yourself from that repetitive work for several months (or for some, years) you actually start to forget or lose your knack.

Any suggestions to get this mummy brain back to prime shape?
Do you do any exercises or play any games / apps to challenge your brain?    

Our First Overseas Family Holiday

I'm still slowly writing up and will be posting up reviews of places we stayed, ate and did while we were in Hawaii.

I've culled through almost all our photos I just need to review the one's taken from our underwater camera. Yep we carry 3-4 cameras on holidays as each have a different purpose or lense. Why go on these amazing holidays if you can't capture it on camera? Granted you may need to bring the right equipment but its so worth it when you have beautiful photos of the memories you've made. Although I'm not claiming to have the skills as a professional photographer but the right camera does help make your snaps look amazing.  

Here are some of my favourite shots, enjoy.

27 Aug 2013

Gen-Y Mum Meme

Came home from doing the groceries this afternoon. I unloaded the car, got Eli inside the house and proceeded to "air out" the house, i.e open the sliding door.

Once inside Eli instantly starts making a racket - he's obsessed with drums at the moment. He's found the maracas he left in the hall way from when I said we're going to the shops, and started to bang them loudly against our bin. Our internal bins are kept next to our table bench.

I yelled out to him very loudly "STOP MAKING THAT NOISE!!!" ... he stopped.

I grabbed the laundry basket so I can get the washing from the line. I step outside and a few seconds later I hear "Cam?!!" it's a friend who's at a neighbours place. 

Friend: "Sounds like Eli's in trouble
Me: *Wants to hide under a rock*

Has anyone else been caught in a candid compromising parenting moment?

26 Aug 2013

Surviving on One Income

A friend from high school recently emailed me via FB as she had been on hiatus from that social media platform for several months. We did the usual banter of "How are you?" and "What's have you been up to?" and she was surprised to find out I'm not working. Of course she would be, we hadn't touched base in over 8 months but for those who know me or have read past entries would clearly know currently I am not working.

She asked me how we were surviving on one income and without really going into the finer details I responded with "Just fine, of course you adjust your spending habits but we have a roof over our heads and food on the table every night."

So it got me thinking, cause I know some people are wondering how does a growing family with mortgages survive on one income. Here have been the major changes we've made in our home to be allow me to stay at home ...

  • I am in no way am I putting down any families who live on one income. If anything they are proof it is achievable and probably have figured out even better ways to survive on one income.
  • I have not provided information on government tax benefits as we don't qualify for any, but I encourage those on one income to try utilise that means of help as it would assist the family budget.

  1. Stop spending as if there are two incomes. One of the obvious changes to make when the household income drops to one is to minimise all unnecessary spending. So limiting the frequency of "entertainment" related activities such as eating or going out. 
  2. Review and amend household budget. After I was made redundant we reviewed our household budget to determine whether a)we could survive on one income and b)where we need to cut or move costs. We dropped our monthly budget on costs such as entertainment and allowance ... yep mum and dad gets an allowance every month. And unfortunately also on money generating items such as our savings and the children's savings fund as well. Even though you are on one income DON'T STOP SAVING!!
  3. Stick to a budget. There's no point in setting a budget if you're not going to keep to it. If you're weekly grocery budget is $100 per week aim to stick to that amount or less. Whether its buying items from a different store because you know its cheaper there or maybe not buying a particular expensive item every week, its important to keep within your budget. 
  4. Shop around for better deals. I've mentioned this previously, as your policies for car insurance, home insurance, electricity, gas etc come up for renewal you should check out the competition and see whether you can get a better rate. Since I've stopped working we have moved our health insurance providers to hubby's work preferred provider, car insurers from Alliance to AAMI, ceased my income protection policy (since I'm not earning an income) as these changes are allowing us to have a little bit more in our pockets at the end of the day. You need to review every expenditure and see whether you can get a better deal or decide whether you even need it.
  5. Avoid spending time at places where money can be spent. Avoiding temptation is the key to not spending money on unnecessary items. Stop hanging out at the shops where you there are ample things to buy, even grabbing a cup of coffee is over priced these days. Being on one income (and having an active toddler) has actually opened our eyes to doing more activities outside. Whether it's spending some time at a local playground, walks around the park or catching up with family and friends. When you actually look you would be surprised there are a lot of free family friendly things to do. 
  6. Going public with baby number two. The public hospital option is 100% free. All the medical costs associated with my up coming pregnancy is being paid by the government. Our incomes are hit with the 1.5% medicare levy so there's no shame in claiming what every tax paying Australian is entitled to - free medical care. It wasn't a first choice but again not having the right health cover when we found out I was pregnant and also my previous obstetrician not being available on my due date, it was an easy decision. My out of pocket cost for my last pregnancy was about $5,000 if you take into account doctors and examination fees. We're saving that this time around by going public. 
  7. The number one tip is talking about your financial goals and the current situation with your partner. Although we never saw my redundancy or pregnancy coming, staying at home was something Ian and I discussed before making that decision. Don't get me wrong talking about money isn't ... comfortable. There will be a few harsh words and finger pointing but discussing your financial situation regularly is important. Having regular conversations allows you to have a clear understanding of where you're heading financially, identify where money is being wasted, come up with solutions to money problems and agree to financial decisions together. You'd be surprised how much better you feel when you have a civil conversation with your partner about your money problems - it's reassuring, try it.  
So those are the changes we've made in our home that has worked for us (so far) and has allowed me to stay at home. 

What advice or changes have you made to survive on one income?

23 Aug 2013

The Royal Hawaiian

We stayed in Honolulu for our first three nights in Hawaii so we could give Eli a break from flying and a chance to adjust. So the first three nights we had to stay somewhere and that somewhere was at The Royal Hawaiian at Waikiki.

It was really hard deciding on a place to stay in Hawaii because every place was just expensive at that time of the year which was their summer break season or the places I did want to stay at were booked out for the dates we needed or I was turned off by the cheesy hawaiian decor that a lot of apartments had.

Another factor that impacted me greatly was how much walking was going to be required to get out and see most places. I really wanted us to be in the heart of the Waikiki in our first leg so we can get our bearings via foot and stroller without being too far from our accommodation.

In the end I decided on The Royal Hawaiian based on the positive reviews on TA. Here's the review I posted up:

We stayed in Room 558.

  • Great location along Waikiki. The hotel had direct access to the beach and along a good part of Waikiki beach. There is also access directly to The Royal Hawaii Centre shopping mall.
  • Being a hotel guest at the Royal you could also access the public facilities of The Sheraton next door. We utilized their pools as we had a two year old toddler with us.
  • Hotel is close to lots of restaurants, shops and easily accessible to all forms of public transport.
  • Very clean rooms which are serviced regularly throughout the day. Once during the day to clean room, replenish towels and change sheets, (if required) and again in the evening for turn down service.
  • Staff were very polite and helpful whenever asked a question.
  • You can tell it is all about the “details” at the Royal. For example the free bottles of water provided everyday, free banana bread left in the room at check in, coffee facilities replenished when used, the cleanliness of the rooms when serviced and the turn down service.
  • Liked how the fridges were kept empty so guest can fill it with what they want not a stocked bar fridge that wont be used.
  • Very comfy bed. My son was content to stay on the bed all day and would just fall asleep randomly.
  • Wifi was included with daily resort fee, finally a hotel that includes internet connection instead of charging it separately. We could connect all our wifi friendly devices onto the wifi.
  • Bathroom was very small and had no vents so would fog easily when taking warm showers or smells when someone dropped a smelly one.
  • Air conditioner was very loud when it was on and also needs a good clean, it was very dusty.
  • Bathroom shower corners had mold needed a good clean.
  • We had a stroller with us and although there are wheel chair access throughout the hotel where they were located is not very easily seen or was located at the other side of the hotel.
  • Very expensive. The rooms are clean, somewhat modern, good facilities and right by the beach. I guess that is what you’re paying for but for the price I guess I expected a little bit more.
  • A daily fee to use two beach umbrellas and a table. Fortunately we only went to the beach once while we were staying here. 
  • Food service at the beach ceases at 3pm if you want to order food or drinks you need to go and order and wait for food at the bar. 
Overall a pleasant stay at The Royal Hawaiian. If we come back to Waikiki I'd probably look for accommodation that can cater for families and has apartment facilities. Also we've realised the street blocks aren't that big so you are still in the heart of the strip if you stay a few streets away from the beach anyways. 

 Our Room

  Beach access right outside the lobby

21 Aug 2013

Premature Contractions

On Sunday I was admitted to the hospital. That afternoon I started feeling pain on the right side of my belly. However when I’d move from my current position noticed the pain would disappear. It happened again around 5pm and by 7:30pm the pain had changed to the feeling of heavy period cramps. I started to worry because this experience was very similar to how my first pregnancy labor process started. I went to bed to try and ignore it but by 11pm I was woken up by the pain as it had moved into waves. Any woman who has given birth may know what I mean by the “waves of pain”. So I called my parents and they headed over to our place so they could look after our sleeping toddler so we could head over to the hospital.

I called the midwife and gave her an update of my situation telling her I wanted to head over to the hospital as I noticed the baby wasn’t moving as much anymore and I wanted to make sure everything was okay. During the examination they confirmed I was having contractions so the doctor checked my cervix to see if I had dilated. I hadn't which was positive because it was still to early for the baby to arrive but I did find reassurance hearing my baby‘s healthy heart beat. 

The doctor suggested I be given some drug to cease the contractions because if I continued to have them my body might think it is time for labor and begin the process naturally. 

Two hours later after taking the drug the contractions seemed to have ceased and I was able to go home.

Thankfully I haven’t felt anymore of those contraction but I still get the occasional pain but I don’t know if I’m just being a baby now because throughout my pregnancy I would get sharp pains. I guess after this experience I’m noticing any “uncomfortableness” I feel. Baby‘s movements are back to normal as well, back to doing summersaults all day and night.

On a positive note, I’m 33 weeks today!!

I know you're keen to come out little one but please wait another 4-5 weeks. You're like your mommy either very impatient and or prides in being early than late.  

15 Aug 2013

The Self Sleeping Journey ... Night 1

We decided after we get back from Hawaii we would make a serious attempt at getting Eli to teach himself to fall asleep on his own. This along with toilet training, child care shopping ... yep nesting phase has kicked in. More on those topics on another post ....
Currently Eli needs one of us next to him to fall asleep. He prefers to be hugged to fall asleep and he'll creep up close to your body if you're not hugging him. It's very sweet and its my favourite way to fall asleep too, but we're having another baby. 

I feel kinda sorry for Eli because all these changes that are occurring to him is all because of a new baby. I've always stressed to Ian that there is an inherited sense of responsibility from the eldest child whether they want it or not and it even applies to every day tasks. 

So tonight was the first time we seriously made the attempt to teach him how to self sleep. I took control and championed the process cause I know it's me he usually looks for at night and if mummy is dictating the new rules maybe he'll accept and adjust quicker. 

It took an hour from start to finally asleep but we did it. I didn't lie down with him although it was hard. not to. Not  because I'm 8 months pregnant and laying down would be so much more comfortable than sitting, but it's hearing him say "mummy sleep" every couple of minutes or resisting his hugs around my neck that made me almost crack. 

Another reason why I think there is a delay in the sleep process for him is he's always scratching. I've moisturised his whole body and re moisturised the areas he scratches but still it doesn't stop the "itch". There's no rash for him to scratch and because I've moisturised the area so much there isn't a rash the following day either. I don't know if its his clothing, is he over heating under the sheets or its just his way of getting himself to sleep? 

So how did we achieve night 1 into our self sleeping journey? Firstly, we agreed a nightly routine needs to be established from now on and we all need to stick to it. If it is broken one (or more) nights we will aim to get back to the routine as soon as possible. 

Eli's Nightly Routine:
  1. Begin at 8pm
  2. Start getting the house quiet. So turn off all unnecessary lights, turn off the tv and minimise sound in the home.
  3. Prepare everything he needs to fall asleep. At present this is a bottle of milk and water.
  4. Change him into PJ's (if not already), change his nappy and moisturise his whole body.
  5. Join him in brushing teeth, monkey see monkey do 
  6. Go to his bedroom and ask him to choose a book (or two) to read. 
  7. Practice skills he is learning or already knows ie counting, alphabet, colours, days of the week, animal sounds, body parts etc
  8. Say a prayer
  9. Tuck him into bed and say good night's "See you in the morning!"
  10. Turn off the light and quietly leave the room. 
  11. If he's unsettled sit by his bed and sing songs or comfort him until he's quiet and relaxed. Comforting does not mean laying next to him.  
  12. If he wakes in the middle of the night return quietly return him back to his room and bed and repeat steps 9 to 11. 
Tonight we got to step 9 then jump straight to 11. I think we were stuck on step 11 for about 40 minutes tonight. It's going to take some time but we'll get there.

Any other tips or suggestions to help a toddler self sleep?   

14 Aug 2013

32 Weeks

  • Third trimester, the final leg. It really feels like my pregnancy has flown this time around despite being at home. I don't know if its because I've been preoccupied with a child or have experienced this before it's allowed me to shift my focus away from counting down the pregnancy.  
  • I have an outie! I didn't with Eli. Just shows how much bigger I am this time around. Last week during my monthly check up the midwife asked me whether I can feel the baby move more? I replied with "Yes I feel like he's doing summersaults in there." And she replied with "I bet! There's still plenty of room for him and he's still growing." How much bigger is he and I going to get?
  • The third trimester tiredness has kicked in. All I want to do is crawl into bed and sleep but unfortunately don't have that luxury this time around as I have a little person who wants to do the opposite. I envy his energy and feel guilty subjecting him to boring home bound activities last few days. We'll get out to your favourite parks and play centres soon cheeky monkey.
  • More uncomfortable. I need assistance getting up from sunken seats or getting up from the ground. I don't even cut my own toe nails now the tummy is too much in the way and makes bending over unbearable. I think I do the wobble and I find myself leaning back when walking to counter the weight I'm feeling up front. 
  • Nesting. I've started putting a list of items I need for baby and have started sourcing where I can purchase items at best price, I've started auditing Eli's old stuff and started a spreadsheet for my my hospital bag. 
  • A bit of nausea when in the car and I'm not driving and certain foods doesn't seem to sit well with me either. Again experiences I didn't have first time around but riding it and counting down until its all over.
  • Child care centres for Eli. I've been scoping out a few last few days checking out the various one's available in the area we want to put Eli in. Most have extensive waiting lists and that's fine with us. We've decided probably not best to put Eli in child care, pick up germs and bugs with the potential to pass it on to a new born in the house. We will wait until baby 2 has had a few of his immunisation shots before Eli goes to child care so probably early 2014.
  • Where baby number 2's cot will be set up. Undecided whether to put the cot in our room or convert half the office room into a nursery. We need a bigger house .... anyways that's 2014's problems/challenges.  

11 Aug 2013

Flying With A Two Year Old

Eli has been on a flight before. He was only 10 months at the time and I wasn't present for the flights. Ian and Eli joined me at Melbourne for work one weekend and we caught different flights. Ian said it was hard travelling with a child that young on your own. Not only did he have to hold Eli but his baby bag and stroller on to the plane. Then there's the loading of all your equipment onto the over head compartment. He was lucky random people felt sorry for him so they assisted him with getting seated on the plane.

But a one hour flight is nothing compared to a 9-10 hour flight overseas.

The day we were leaving Eli developed a mild ear infection. He had a high fever early that morning and decided to take him to the doctors before we left as we didn't want to get to Hawaii, see a doctor there and pay some ridiculous medical bill. He was given antibiotics to take so during our flight to Hawaii he was pretty drugged up on medication, I actually felt really sorry for him. He was drowsy, could barely keep awake, he didn't want to eat or drink anything so his lips were dry from dehydration. It was really hard to see your child sick, helpless and suffering like this, knowing you're about to subject him to a long haul flight. I remember crying second guessing whether we should even step onto the plane.

Then once on the plane listening to the air hostess go through the standard procedures and estimated arrival day and time, it dawned on me we will be arriving a day earlier than I expected. I only booked accommodation for the following day onwards. I wasn't too worried we would find accommodation in Hawaii as there are ample of hotels, I just couldn't believe I made that mistake. I blame it on "baby brain-ness."

So the flight there was relatively easy as he was constantly falling in and out of sleep throughout the flight. However when he did wake he was hysterical probably from feeling unwell and seeing unfamiliar surroundings. We also had to administer medication several times during the flight which was painful and then there was the nappy changes. He was really cranky getting his nappy changed while he was sick but what was disturbing was finding a dry nappy each time, we knew it meant he was really dehydrated and there was completely nothing in his stomach to digest. 

As a parent travelling with a young child I would say don't expect to get any sleep, I certainly didn't. I tried and probably only got maybe only 40 minutes. I think it was the combination of worrying about Eli and how uncomfortable I was sitting in a 90ish angle while 28 weeks pregnant. It really was uncomfortable for me. The other school boy error I made was not getting any rest during the day hoping we would all sleep during the overnight flight. Wrong! So I had been awake for over 24 hours by the time we arrived to Hawaii therefore I was exhausted but still had to be alert for my sick child. 

The flight back we had a day flight (12.40pm). I purposely didn't sleep on the flight so that when we arrived back in Sydney at 7.30pm it would be evening and I can crash out, which I did. Eli was back to perfect health for the flight back to Sydney. He slept for about 3 hours and during the meal service time so it was perfect. When he was awake we entertained him with either the iPad playing one of his favourite movies or the entertainment unit available on the plane. He was surprisingly really good. Of course he wanted to chat to people and most were nice enough to entertain his curiosity. There were a few who were not so generous. 

Reminds me of a time we were queuing at Marukame, a popular udon joint in Waikiki. The line snaked outside and in front of us in the queue was an Aussie family. Every time Eli made a sound the father would just look and stare at him in a not impressed manner. I felt like saying to him "Cause your children were never toddlers at one stage ... You were in my shoes too buddy, relax you'll get your udon!"

The flight back was actually longer but it felt shorter than the flight over. I guess cause Eli was in better health and mood so I was more relaxed too. 

Everyone has different experiences with long haul traveling with a toddler but the lesson I learn from my experience are:
  • Choose a flight time you think you will be most effective. With a toddler you can throw out any expectations of getting any proper sleep on the flight so choosing a time where you're not fatigue and can be alert is probably the best option ... in my opinion. Also get some rest yourself before the flight so you're not overly tired on the flight. 
  • You do need an extra seat for your child for long haul flights to allow them to lie down and sleep comfortably. If you're child is under two and you have decided not to purchase him a seat, like we did. Choose the middle seats towards the back of the plane, they usually start to go from rows of four seats to three. And if you're lucky and ask nicely or in our case was done for us airlines may allocate you to one of these rows and keep the middle seat vacant or blocked so no one can sit on that vacant seat and your child can have a seat - for free!! However our luck was only because both flights weren't full. 
  • Bring packaged and customs safe food for your child. If you opted not to pay for a seat for your child your child actually doesn't get allocated a meal. We were given meals during our flight I guess because we were at the back and there were spares, but if you think your child will like the food think again. So bring food your child usually eats so your guaranteed they will eat - something. We brought cookies, rice crackers, chocolate and prepackaged pureed fruit in addition to his formula. 
  • Bring familiar and unfamiliar toys for entertainment. We brought a few of his favourite books and toys but also purchased new crayons and paper. The new crayons was enough to distract him every time we took them out.
  • Load your iPad or iPhone with their favourite movies, clips or music. I think I know every line to Finding Nemo and Up ... still get teary every time when watching that scene. We knew he would keep still and quiet when he can watch one of his favourite hows.
  • We purchased Eli his own hand carry, a Trunki and kept all his things in there. From his nappies, food, toys and spare clothing. We found this helpful when keeping his things separate from ours. Also we notice customs were less intrusive when his things were separated from our own. They didn't question his food or formula when it was in his own hand carry. The trunki was pretty cool cause its designed to allow the child to sit on it too so when he was tired from walking and we had enough of carrying him he was happy to sit on top of it and push himself on it. There's a leash attach so you can pull and direct them in the right direction. I was actually quite surprised he had the motor skills to figured out how to push himself on it, smart little monkey. 
  • Take advantage of any queue jumping opportunities this may be the only time you get to do this, until you're old and fragile. Most times when announcing gates had open for boarding they ask people who require extra time for boarding or parents with children under two to come forward first. We always took this invitation to allow us time to get to our seats, get prime overhead luggage space and get comfortable.  
So that was my experience traveling with a child. I've been in far worse situations and hasn't deterred me from traveling with young children. Actually after this experience I feel more confident traveling with children and already day dreaming about our next holiday ... with two.  

8 Aug 2013

Back to Reality

We're back!! *sad face*

Those two and half weeks flew. I think its so much more depressing coming back from holidays when you have your own family. You get so much more joy seeing your children faces enjoying themselves and experiencing things for the first time. Yes I'm not working at the moment but if I was, I doubt I'd be excited to return to any job. 

We had such a great time especially being able to celebrate Eli's 2nd birthday in Hawaii.

We've still been celebrating his birthday even after we arrived. He's so loved. One of the reasons why I haven't even began documenting our experiences. We've been catching up with family, friends and his God parents.

Jet lag seems to hit you more with age or pregnancy, although Ian feels as tired as I do. Then there's the unpacking, washing, ironing and cleaning. I've finally got the house back in order this morning.

So once I've rested I will start the process of documenting our little overseas adventure.
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