Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Getting in the Spirit

It's Christmas Eve tomorrow.

Seems a little surreal.

The tree is up.  I've been singing Christmas carols.  I'm about to put the fruit mix to soak overnight for Jesus' birthday cake.  Yet it still doesn't quite 'feel' like Christmas if you know what I mean?

But then I guess it didn't feel like an amazing event to Mary and Joseph as they trudged into the damp, smelly stable.  It probably felt like an average, cold winter's night as the shepherds settled their sheep while the sun sank slowly behind the horizon.  And it was.  On one dimension it was just another night.  Nothing extraordinary.  Nothing abnormal.  Just a small boy born into poverty, like oh so many others that night and every night since. 

But on another level, everything was different.  Our calendar is based upon this event.  Yearly, we celebrate it.  Christmas.  CHRIST mas.  The day, the moment, when the king of all glory laid down his rights, his title, his position of rulership and justice, to be one of us. The night he was born into abject poverty, cruelty and pain. 

He lived like us so that we can be like him.

And that fact remains regardless of whether or not I 'feel' like it's Christmas.




Amy

Monday, December 22, 2014

What a Year

A crazy, whirlwind, tumultuous year has just flown past.  I was looking at my blog last week and realised (with horror) that my last post to you was in April.  APRIL?!!?  Where has the rest of the year gone?  It feels like someone turned on a giant vacuum cleaner and just sucked it right on up, day after day, week after week, month after month.  I've been hanging onto a table leg, hair streaming, feet dragging, as time tries to suck me into the black too.

I didn't intentionally stop blogging, believe me.  You know I'd have told you, right?  If I'd decided.  But the thing is I hadn't.  I still haven't.  It's kind of just hanging in the balance.  Do I?  Don't I?  Hmmm.  Not sure.  It takes up time and brain space and energy that could be devoted to other things.  That's what I tell myself.  And it is essentially true.  What I sometimes gloss over though is that it's not all about the time blogging takes up, but more to do with my mental state of mind.  I have to think to blog.  THINK.  And thinking has been something that has been in short supply lately.  Or at least spare thinking time and brain space has been.  I've been thinking.  A LOT.  All the time, it seems.  Sometimes even in my sleep, haha.  I've been thinking about assignments, and getting a reading done before class, and when to spend some time with my husband or my son.  I've been thinking about a friend I should be praying for, or another that I need to catch up with but when am I going to do that?  I've been thinking about moving (yes, you heard right!), about settling into a new town when I didn't want to leave my beloved Bay.  I've been thinking about how to keep a house tidy and a child clothed in things that are not too small for him already (growth spurts are such a pain, although I'm grateful he is growing happily to be sure!).  I've been thinking about work, work for me, work for Boyo, how so much of life is work, work, work.  And how work is actually good for us, provided we take time to rest.  So of course I've been thinking about rest too, and how to make sure I actually DO rest regularly, and more than just vegetating in front of the TV, which seems to have been my standard solution this past six months or so.  See, there's the reason I haven't blogged.  By the time I get to a point in the day where there might be time to blog, I am so darn tired that my brain wants nothing more than to turn off and pretend like it's in a coma.  So not quite, but pretty close.  And TV is really good for that.  I couldn't work it out.  I blogged like crazy last year, while studying.  What's wrong with me?  Why can't I find words to express myself and stories to tell?  They're all still there, I was just struggling to find any momentum to share them with you.  So I'd just put it off another week or two.  Then another, then another.  And now suddenly here we are at the end of the year.  I can't honestly believe I am writing to you on Christmas week! 

My husband has a theory, and it seems valid.  He reminded me recently that I've been a full time student this year.  It's different.  It requires more of me than the part-time I've been doing for the past few years.  I think he's right.  There are way more assignments for starters.  Way more readings and more classes.  So more study-related-thinking.  Instead of energizing my bloggy-brain like it usually does, it sapped the life out of it, sucking up every ounce of available inspiration, energy, and words for use in those assignments (some of which were, just as an aside, rather large).  There wasn't much left over.  And what there was has been required to run a household.  I am making it sound a little like Boyo just wambled around not doing much all year.  He didn't.  He worked hard.  He worked hard at part-time work and at being Daddy.  He did all the weekly housework.  He cooked once or twice a week.  He had a large A4 book with a weekly list of all those extra things to get done, like mowing the lawns, getting petrol, calling the landlord, posting the birthday cards, etc.  He was amazing.  But I still did most of the groceries, cooking, and 'organising' which you know takes time.  Someone has to remember there's a birthday, make a card, get everyone to write in it, then ask hubby to post it.  You get the idea.  Grin.

Not that I'm digging for sympathy here.  Just trying to explain, both to you my dear readers, and to myself, why it is that we have come to the end of the year and I haven't talked to you, even a little bit, in eight months.

I guess moving didn't help.  That's my understatement of the year.  A story for another post, that one, as it is quite amazing in and of itself.  But in a nutshell, we have moved.  To another town.  Only an hour away from where we lived before but for me, being a city girl, it feels like a totally different world.  People drive slower here, there are less shops, houses are delightfully cheap to buy but sometimes sadly neglected.  And it is colder here.  Much colder.  There's family here, for which I am eternally grateful.  But I have left my parents behind.  Boyo has an awesome job, just the right fit for him.  It's incredible, honestly truly, a total answer to prayer in every sense.  After five years of waiting and looking, it was time.  After five years of wondering why he was always second on the list, he was finally first.  After five years of settling in our church, it was very suddenly time to leave.  I knew it might happen.  I'd been planning, working towards the maybe since we first heard about the job.  But it has still been incredibly difficult and there's more to come.  I have a degree to finish.  I started this past semester at a run, madly finishing assignment after assignment in order to clear a week for us to be able to move in mid-term break and ease my workload enough to survive the final 6 weeks of classes and assignments without Boyo.  He moved here with all our stuff you see, but Munchkin and I live here and there.  We are commuters.  Each week, we spend several nights at my parents' house (God bless my parents, how grateful I am to my parents!).  I attend classes, Munchkin continues to go to his preschool so he has something familiar and stable in all the change.  It works well, but it is exhausting.  I love the drive, that's not the issue.  It's the packing and unpacking, the organising of food and study stuff, the trying to work out when to do washing, and of trying to settle into a town I don't fully live in yet.  Work in progress.  Going to take time.  This is what I tell myself when I feel frustrated and lonely and discouraged.  I've got one year left to finish my degree.  One year.  Surely we can manage that?  Must be.  I felt really strongly, and still do, that this is completely right.  This is our path.  Rocky at times, steep and unyielding, but one day we will reach a summit and gaze back at where we have been realising just how much it grew us.  On that day we will look forward and be amazed at all the opportunities that lie ahead because we chose to follow this path.

Amy

ps - I just love the word tumultuous!  It just sounds so much like what it describes.  Tumbling head over heel, head over heel, blown in the wind like one of those seed heads from a sand dune grass.  Churning like the waves against the rocks in a storm.  Yes, that has been my year.  But it is done and this week I can breathe deeply and remember Who walks with me and the sacrifice that enables Him to do so.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Has Anyone Seen My Brain?

Lost: One Brain.
Somewhere between the beginning of the year and today.
If you find it wandering around aimlessly, looking forlorn and slightly bedraggled, please contact the owner.
It would be really helpful to have it back.

Amy

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Child Free

Recently we had a whole week child free.

A number of people asked how I could do it.  They seemed frankly surprised when I said I wasn't missing my boy.  It's almost like they expected me to be almost falling apart.  "That must be hard, how do you do it?" they'd ask, wonder in their eyes.

Ah, well it's quite simple really, I give the child to my mother and don't think about them too much.  I have a rest.  He has an amazing time with someone who cares deeply for him. (Okay, disclaimer: I did think about him a reasonable amount.  And he was with the person in his world who can settle him when he is unhappy, which is always a helpful thing to know when your child is off far away on a big plane so you don't worry TOO much!).

So what did we adults get up to without a child in the house?

Well, wouldn't you like to know!  Wink, wink, nudge, nudge.  Shhhhhh....some things should remain a secret.  Okay, okay, I'll tell you...

I read a whole entire TWO NOVELS!  Ah, bliss.  We had icecreams.  Just us.  We went on a spontaneous visit outside town.  I did NO study for once, as it was mid year break.  And I can't remember what else, except that it honestly, truly didn't feel long enough before my delightful noisy, demanding, curious, huggable, lovable boy returned to us with tales of zoos, trains, boats, planes, uncles and aunts, and great adventures with his grandmother.

But I can tell you that we enjoyed a lovely bush walk.  One I'd hoped to take Munchkin on sometime, but am glad we did alone.  It would have been too steep for him, for at least a year yet.

We went to the Whataroa Falls at Otanewainuku.

We saw some gorgeous toadstools and lovely little robbins.




The falls were a bit of a disappointment.  See them, beside my handsome man?


Haha, did I fool you?  Those aren't the real ones.  Here are the real ones!



It was lovely to get outside and walk without worrying about when we might need to be home or whether it was too far for small legs.



I just love being out in the bush.  There's something about it that fills my soul to overflowing with calm and much-needed peace.  Is it the crisp air?  Or the quiet?  Or that I'm out walking and walking is wonderful exercise for me?  Is it all that green, which soothes the eyes?  I think I must be about due for another bush excursion, all this talk of it is making me lonesome for a bushwalk!




Amy

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Small World Play

Over a year ago I first made Munchkin a 5 little speckled frogs small world play set up.

I thought I blogged about it, but of course I can't find it!

It was just before we moved, hence why I know it was over a year ago.  It was the only imaginary play thing I could think of doing that didn't involve diggers and trucks, or needing to buy anything.  I got the idea from The Imagination Tree (see the original here). 



He absolutely loved it.




And spent hours playing with it, both with the frogs, and his own variations.



And over a year later, he still asks me to make "five speckled frogs" for him.

I don't quite know what the allure is, but something about it must appeal for him to remember.  We don't have it out often, but every few months the request comes and he spends time playing with his frogs in the little imaginary world we create.  This last time we ended up with a shell in there, from a wedding I attended years ago.  I love how things end up being reused in the strangest ways at times.  This was just recently...





Tomorrow morning he's going to wake up to something new...

I've been hoping to do some other little imaginary play things for him, especially now we have some other plastic animals, but somehow it never seems to end up on my to do list.  So after a weekend of having my dining table commandeered by a wooden ramp (taped to the table) and a car garage (perched precariously on top of the piano stool which was wedged on the other side of the table), together with a makeshift camping tent for several cars (made of some cardboard and containers on the dining table), and two duplo dragons and their friends the duplo robots, I had had enough.  I made him pack it all up.  But I softened the blow by promising to create him something new to play with.  It will be interesting to see what he does with it, considering past variations to the original theme (grin).





A mix of jungle on one side, and snow (with arctic pond and a ah, artic frog??) on the other.  We went to the snow recently which was a big hit.  Don't have any snow animals like polar bears or anything but goats and reindeer is close enough, right?  After all, it's all about using your imagination!


Amy

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Earning Money When You're 4

I came across this article in our local paper about a month ago.


It really got me thinking.
Firstly, about teaching Munchkin about money (which I'd already been thinking about anyway).  Then secondly, about ways we can help prepare him for the future.
We're not exactly raking in our millions, so finding extra money for him to earn by doing jobs at home isn't particularly feasible.  Plus I want him to learn that doing chores at home is just what you do as part of being in a family and living in a house.  You don't do it because someone's going to pay you for it.  Heck, if I was expecting payment our house would never get vacuumed and we'd never be fed.  But while I want him to grow up with a good strong work ethic, focused on doing what needs to be done for self and community, I also want to train him how to manage money well.

This article gave me some ideas...


If you can't see if clearly, it tells of a young family who help their children earn money each week.  The 3 year old boy walks a neighour's dog for $5 a week.  But he doesn't keep that money.  It's going into a college fund for him.  Sounds a bit mean?  Short term pain for long term gain perhaps?  But the thing is that this boy loves dogs.  He's simply being paid for a hobby.  And his parents are helping instil in him the ability to wait and to plan.  Their daughter has friends over for baking lessons.  Their parents don't mind contributing towards it because their kids get a fun activity that doesn't involve their time or their kitchen getting messy!  I like how this idea is social, as it's time spent with her friends as well as saving money for her University fees.  Now it really is work for the parents as well as work for the child.  The parents have had to initiate this, and keep their children interested and persisting with their money earning.  But I think I could handle walking a dog each week, considering I like to go for regular walks anyway.  And I think I could bake or craft or something with a few children from time to time (perhaps not weekly though, I might lose the plot doing that!).

Imagine if we all took some of this on board as families?  If we saved for our children's Uni fees, or their first home, but in this way that also actively involves the child so they learn to have ownership of it too?  Imagine how much better positioned they'd be financially starting out as adults, but also how much more resourceful, persistent, and money savvy?

Now to think of things Munchkin and I (or his daddy, hehe!) could do to save for his first house....hmmm.  Any suggestions?

Amy

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Purple is the New White

I am so excited, I just had to share this photo with you!!!


It's the first ever decent cauliflower I remember harvesting from the Big Garden.

Whoop, whoop!

Okay, so it doesn't look exactly like your typical cauli, but I think the colour is rather gorgeous, don't you?  It's a purple variety I happened to get a punnet of that was on special.

We've never managed to grow decent heads on our cauliflowers before.  They'd always have these pathetically tiny heads with funny loose, skinny florets.  Very disappointing.  We stopped trying.  "At least broccoli heads in Tauranga," we thought.  But then I talked to a local nursery man who said to try boron.  Apparently boron deficiency locally can cause brassicas not to head properly.  I duly applied Ocean Solid across the whole garden, and Rok Solid in each planting hole, on the recommendation of the man who designed both (left a message asking if they had boron in them and he personally called and explained that they both do, how best to use them, and what to do if we find it's still not enough boron - buy their specialised boron only fertiliser).

So you can see why I'm so excited to have picked not one, but two cauliflower heads.  The other, slightly smaller on, is waiting in my parent's fridge for them.  I'd also read recently that cauli heads don't tend to get bigger.  We wait and hope, but then they just go to seed.  So I've resolved to stop being greedy.  It's a cauli.  It doesn't have to be huge.  We are gonna eat them whatever their size.  Better that than leaving it too long and missing out!  I'm hoping that the cauli success means there's enough boron in the soil now.  It could just be that this colour does better, of course.  But there's some white ones in the garden still, looking like they are just starting to set heads.  So time will tell.  In the meantime, we're having purple cauliflower in our salads for the next few days.

Yum.

Amy

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Crazy

Life is a bit crazy at the moment.

More than usually so, even for me!

I've pulled out of helping with the 3-5year olds at church.  I'm having to say I can't do a communion message or help with MCing (which I actually really want to do!).

I am eating and sleeping study.  Almost literally.  My dreams are not always of study, but it is certainly affecting the quality of my sleep.

This full time student gig is not for the faint of heart.

Any thoughts I have ever had wondering why I didn't just do 3 years of full time study and get it over with have been hereby banished to the outer regions of space.  This is crazy.  I am crazy.  My life is crazy.  Crazy-overload right here!

I have been studying evenings, which tells you how desperate I am for study time.  And I haven't started two of my paperloads yet.  Ugh.

Of course, part of the reason I'm studying evenings is that if I get up in the morning to study, I risk waking the small boy downstairs who then doesn't go back to sleep and doesn't manage his day so well.  Plus I tend to find it hard to finish the moment he appears in my office space, arms all over me, face as close as he can get to mine (while I am desperately trying to type those last few sentences, or save that draft to my back-up flash drive).  He wants attention, which I find really hard to give him when I'm still in study-land.  And to be honest, he actually NEEDS attention.  I'd thought it would be ok, not having Mummy for a few months.  He gets loads of Daddy, you see.  And in all honesty, Daddy plays way better with Munchy than Mummy does anyway (Mummy's play tends to be very up and down, here and there, as she remembers the crock pot needs stirring, the washing hanging out, a message sent to this person or that person and on it goes).  But no, Daddy is wonderful, but Munchkin is determined that he requires attention from BOTH his parents.  Every day.  All day, if at all possible!  Wink.  Which of course it isn't.  But hey, I can at least try to let him feel like I am present when he wakes up in the mornings.  Hence the evening study.  I can do almost anything in the evenings these days without him waking.  Now if I could just work out how to sleep well afterwards, that would be great...

So if you're wondering why you are not receiving a wonderful plethora of photos, stories, and anecdotes from bloggy-land Amy, well now you know.  I'm swamped, people.  Swamped.  I've signed up for Live Below the Line. And am now wondering what on earth I was thinking.  My desk is piling up with things that I don't have time to sort out.  My husband is being called upon for reassurance.  "I am going to make it through the semester, aren't I, Boyo?  Just say 'Yes!' even if you don't believe it, I just need the reassurance!"

I still have loads of blog ideas, lots and lots of things I want to share.  I take photos of them, honestly I do.  I just haven't got any further than that.  Full time study is just so different than part-time.  There really isn't much free time at all, and most of that is going into the small boy and trying to keep on top of general life (like buying groceries!).  Anyway, I am still here.  I might pop in from time to time when I feel an overwhelming urge to purge myself of emotions, stories, or stress.  I might even manage to post some of those photos I've taken, to tell you about how amazing it is going on family holiday, and how to make delicious brown rice that even brown-rice hating husbands will eat!  But don't count on it.  It might be awhile.

Amy - who now has 45 minutes to dry her hair, eat breakfast (thank God, it's waiting in the fridge!), get boy up, dressed, fed, and get out of the house.  Boyo will (wonderful man that he is) make Munchkin's lunch, put dishes away, make beds, etc.  How hard can it be, right?!

Saturday, August 2, 2014

A Golden Oldie

I grew up on Sesame Street.  That and Playschool (which, incidentally, is how I learned to tell basic time).

What I didn't realise on becoming a mother myself, is that such great TV programmes still exist.  Munchkin didn't really watch anything till he was over 2 years old, as I've read a few times that there's no known benefits to children under 2 being exposed to digital visual content, but rather it's thought by some to be detrimental.  So he had a Thomas DVD and Wiggles DVD for those nights when he was teething that we couldn't get him to go to sleep (and my own Hairspray DVD which for a time he loved more than either of his, but we won't mention that here as I'm trying to be age appropriate, ya know!).  But since then, DVDs have crept into our lives.  Some of this is because I love movies and naturally I want to share that love with my son.  But in all honesty, mostly it was when he was sick.  We'd borrow a DVD from the library, a friend or family, and it was just so, so, so nice when he was feeling yucky and the weather was terrible and he couldn't go outside without coughing and coughing and coughing.  You get the idea.  Then of course we were in the habit.  Boyo sleeps in often.  Comes with the territory when you work night shifts.  But somewhere there I ended up with Munchking watching a DVD when I showered in a morning, rather than reading books like he used to do.  I guess partly because it's the only sure way I know that he will be still in the same place I left him ten minutes earlier!  Grin.  But I wasn't really comfortable with it.

Well, I had an interesting conversation with someone recently about what they do in their house, and reached some conclusions of my own.

Firstly:  I'm not happy with how much DVD watching my boy is doing.  Especially that he asks so often for it.  The content is above board for the most part.  They are series that we've watched with him so we know the content.  He doesn't own any movies at this stage, although we've watched a few.  I don't mind the occasional rental of a movie that we watch as a family.  That's building family, in my mind, creating memories just as much as the pikelet making or games we play afterwards do.  It's the daily watching.  The reliance by myself and Boyo on our 'babysitting' service.

Secondly:  I don't really LOVE most of the DVDs he watches.  They are okay.  They pretty much all have good moral themes like sharing, telling the truth, etc (some done with more realistic story lines than others!).  But that's pretty much it.  They are essentially, to my mind, entertainment.  And entertainment should be reserved for special occasions, not daily necessity (says she who was watching 3 TV programmes a week earlier this year - but never fear, they all finished their seasons and I now have NO TV to watch to wind down after study, which is what I knew would happen).

Then I realised.  Sesame Street is still around.  My mum HAD told me ages ago.  But of course I kept forgetting.  And at that point I think I didn't really want something that was on TV.  A set time of day you're committed to (or miss out on!!).  I preferred the DVDs that we could choose when to start and finish (the only issue being that instead of watching one or two episodes, my son was gradually watching an entire DVD per sitting).  Hmmm.

Change of routine.

Munchkin no longer has any library DVDs.  We took them all back.  He didn't really fuss much either about not getting any more.

He is watching Sesame Street on TV4 from 2-3pm weekdays.  If we are not home, we don't watch.  Saturday is TV/DVD free.  Sunday he can watch car racing with his daddy in the afternoon, and if Daddy doesn't have any he wants to watch, Munchkin can watch a DVD.  Today it was Auto-Be-Good from our church library.

It's going well.  Munchkin does tend to ask me every hour or so when Sesame Street is on.  I guess he'll learn to tell the time faster this way as we have many, many conversations around where this hand or that hand has to get to before it is time!  He's asked for DVDs but not had any major issues (as I'd feared he might).  He's playing more, reading more, imagining more, going outside more, and generally I'm feeling more content about this.  This morning he played in his room while I showered.  So there were cars all over his bed.  But he played.  And I did shower in peace.  And he (and I!) loved his DVD time this afternoon as it was a real treat.


And on that note, I'd like to say:

I LOVE SESAME STREET!

Sometimes the oldies really are the goodies!

I'm just amazed every time I watch it.  I remember some of the songs!  Some things just haven't changed.  Like it's educational focus.  Nothing else, NOTHING, that I've seen for this age group of pre-schoolers comes close to Sesame Street for it's literacy and numeracy rich environment. 

There's counting and reading, and a rich rhyming and vocabulary base.  I love how they do things like say "Princess Grouchy's parents were sad." "Sad?  We're more than sad, we're melancholy, forlorn..."

It's about REAL children too.  They often interweave real children narrating, and visits to real places, opening children to the real world around them.



The strong educational focus doesn't end with academics either.  They include so much healthy living information.  Last week Munchkin learned all about teeth.  And in good time too as he's having his first Dental Nurse visit this week. 

It's FUNNY.  Munchkin just loves the antics of the Muppet creations and their friends.


All in all, it is just such a well-presented programme and I'm so grateful that it's still running and I've finally come to my senses so my son can enjoy and benefit from it just like I did all those years ago!

Amy







Saturday, July 26, 2014

Re-emerging

Hi.  Yes, I am still alive over here.  Just been in hibernation.  Well, hibernation from blog-land at any rate.  Real life has been it's usual crazy, busy self.

There's been the technological issues.  Getting used to a new android phone, along with all the strange things it can do.  Do I really need to update my Facebook profile from my phone, for instance?  And yet I've found it quite handy, refreshingly different from having to use my computer which is my 'study' space, and so much easier to do short emails and uploading of photos directly from my phone, so I guess time will tell on where I end up drawing lines and making boundaries with this ever encroaching technology.  Trying to work out how to get it to back-up my photos automatically has cost me many hours.  Still a work in progress, but finally halfway there at least.  We are trying going camera free, you see.  Gulp.  Boyo and me, without an official camera.  The thing is, I've realised lately that mobile phone cameras are taking, for the most part, nearly as good photos as our 'good' camera.  Without the fuss of then having to download, rotate, cull, and email out to family.  I can do it all in one go, in five minutes.  Right then.  In the moment.  (Or perhaps leave it for the day we get home from holiday to send my family over 10 awesome pics of our awesome time away!).  I'm not fully convinced about the no-camera status.  It was my idea.  But the mobile phones lack a few areas: a decent zoom, and a good flash.  But hey, the convenience of having the phone always on me is a good incentive.

Getting my phone a good cover has also cost me hours.  And I'm still not happy with what I've ended up with.  Ugh.  I thought I wanted one that leaves the screen free, but was heavy duty enough that it would hopefully protect from a fall (as I'm a clutz and drop my phone with alarming frequency).  But now that I've got it, I'm finding it is really chunky (which I could put up with) and that I'm still trying to stuff my phone, cover and all, into the spare sock it had been residing in!  I think I'll be heading back to get the flip-cover.  Sigh.  More time used over the silly phone. But I use it a lot and I don't want it broken, so I guess it should ultimately be worth it.  Just hope hubby isn't too annoyed at the needless expense of two phone covers instead of one.  Bigger sigh.

The last three weeks have been mid-year break for me.  That means NO STUDY.  Nada.  Zip.  Zero.  Bliss.

You'd think that might mean a wealth of bloggy titles winding their way through cyber space to ya'll.  But no.  I've been a bit flat, bloggy-wise.  Just needed a break.  I needed to be here, in the present, in the real life, in my day to day existence.  I needed to sort my recipes out (been trying to do that for about a year I think now!), spend time with my family, and relax.

I've even had the most agreeable and novel experience of reading a few novels (pun fully intended!).

I've been on a bush walk.  And been to the beach.  I've weeded a small patch of our overgrown backyard and a larger one at my parent's Big Garden.  I've had a week childfree while my 'baby' enjoyed sightseeing with his grandmother.  And we've been on a family holiday.  Our first proper one in over three years (and how that came about is a pretty special story all in itself). 

So here I am. On the threshold of another semester.  A lovely classmate text and told me that it's only four months and we will have finished the study year.  I wanted to strangle her!  But she does have a good point.  Four months.  Surely I can survive just four months?  Even if they are probably the busiest, fullest, craziest ones of my entire degree?  At least Boyo isn't studying too.  He can hold the home fort while I bury myself in the office with my laptop and a pile of research books, only to emerge from time to time for more supplies of water, chocolate, and sunlight!

Squeezed into the semester is also another family holiday.  Oh my goodness, three years without one (weddings in Australia on a budget-budget with a preschooler DO NOT count as holidays, people!) and now we are having two!  This next one is a couple nights with family, then a couple nights at the 'snow' with some good friends.  Munchkin hasn't been to the snow before.  He is very excited and has been asking about it.  A lot.  "Is it this week?  How many nights till the snow?"  Along with, "When is Christmas?"  Arggghhhhhhhh.  Don't get me started on Christmas!!!!

I'll also be squeezing Live Below the Line in again this year and encouraging my church to join me in this crazy eating adventure of empathy with the extreme poor.  Definitely going to be staying occupied.

So, that's a brief synopsis on life at present.  What I haven't talked about yet, but I guess will come, is the deeper stuff.  The questions over the future.  The values we hold dear that we are trying to outwork in the now.  The decisions to be made, the waiting to be done, the lives to be lived amidst it all.  I hope that your lives are filled with peace and purpose as we head into the second half of 2014!

Amy

Monday, June 16, 2014

An Unaccomplished Day


I was just moaning to my husband about my lack of accomplishments.  When I commented that I should blog about it, he promptly agreed.  So here I am.  Of course, he just wanted to be left alone.  His annoying wife had been perched, leaning against the window seat in the dining room, rabbiting away at him, disrupting the nice quiet evening he’d planned ensconced in his armchair, headphones in, laptop on his knees.

But I shall be nice and leave him to his internet wamblings and rant and rave at you lot instead!

Today I had a day at home.  Quite a luxury, and one that is far too infrequent.  No classes.  No assignments.  A genuine day at home.  You’d think, having a day at home, that I’d have gotten a lot done.  Ha.  Yeah, right.  Why is it that almost nothing ever takes as long (or less time) than I think it will?  Why does it always take longer?  Way longer…

I guess today I was hampered by the small snotty boy.  Snotty in both mind and body, I might add.  He has a cold.  Not a terrible cold, but none the less a cold.  In all honesty it has been a bit of a shock to me (and probably also to him) as he’s been so well lately!  He’s a bit miserable.  Not terribly miserable.  Not even really miserable enough to warrant a Mummy day, but grotty enough that he stayed home from preschool today, seeing as we had the choice.  Figured that they’d appreciate not having to cope with his fragility and he would appreciate being at home.  Which he did seem to.  Sometimes it was easy to forget he has a cold, he played so happily.  Other times it was hard to forget (like, every time he wanted something and it came out in a whine).  Over all though we had a good day.  I was still nice tucking him into bed.  He was still happy.  His daddy likewise is fine (especially now his wife isn’t chatting away at him! Grin).

But I got what feels like nothing done.  Not true of course, but I’d had grand hopes of my day, of getting a whole lot of big jobs done.  All of which remain undone, of course.  My list just keeps getting bigger.  And bigger.  And BIGGER.  Ugh.  Back to my refrain:  why does everything take longer than I think it will, all the time, every time?!?

I accomplished one thing that I’d written in my diary for today.  I made breakfast pikelets.  That’s it.  They will at least feed us again tomorrow morning, but seriously, an entire day at home and that’s it?!  Now, if I could at least say I’d played for hours with my son instead, but I can’t really.  We did jump on his new trampoline in our bare feet then sit in front of the heater to warm up after.  We did play on the floor with his train track and his duplo.  We did do some puzzles.  But overall, I didn’t really do THAT much with him.  Boyo was home, so spent time with Munchkin too.

What did I do? Well, it took an exceptionally long time to get the Munchinator dressed today.  He’s usually rather reluctant, but today was even longer than usual.  Then we went out and bought some turmeric because darling husband had forgotten to tell me it had run out.  And I’d made some more throat tonic this morning while flipping umpteen pikelets, only to find there wasn’t enough turmeric for it.  Got kumara, pears, and butter while we were at it.  So I guess I can cross that off a mental list at least, even if it wasn’t on a physical one.  We also returned a zip to a fabric shop and came away with two others (different size from original one).  Then I ironed, and pinned fabric to make one of Michael’s friends a special bag.  I then sewed the fabric together and ironed it again.  That was about when I realised that the thing I’m trying to do with the bag still won’t work the way I want it to, even with my two new zips.  Text friend who is a wiz with a sewing machine.  Project postponed till Friday when I see her.  Hope I still have time to get it finished on time after that.  Ugh.  Another half finished job.

I did do some amendments to our budget.  That means adding in things that were unbudgeted, yuck.  Still need to pay that bill I meant to do.  I did sign up to Google +, something a few folks have been waiting months for me to do.  Well, I did it.  Not that I know how to use it or anything, but I’m on there!

Aside from going for a walk (alone!), heating up some soup for lunch on this rather cold day, and making smoothies for afternoon tea (the usual run-of-the-mill stuff in fact), I also mended Dog, who has had yet another batch of stuffing removed from him.  Munchkin just can’t seem to leave things alone if they are falling out/peeling off/etc.  Dog’s ear has now been reattached and the hole concealed from prying fingers.  He is happily sleeping with the boy, who now that the hole is no more will be more than content to leave Dog’s stuffing where it belongs.   While I had the hand needle out, I then also reattached a bit of my small umbrella to its metal frame.  Wa-lah.  Like new.  I am able to report a good deal of satisfaction from this one small act.  It had been bothering me.  It can bother me no longer.

But I’m still annoyed.  Yup, even though I did something I’ve been meaning to do for a few weeks. 

The issue is that I couldn’t find it on my list.  It’s not on today’s diary list.  Or yesterday’s.  Or even last week’s.  And it’s not in my big book of monthly stuff-to-do for this month, last month, next month, or even the list of random ‘when we get to it’ ones in the front.  I know I’d written it down.  I guess it must have been weeks ago in my diary or something.  I feel completely thwarted.   I wanted to write it down just so I could cross it off.  But that seemed so juvenile.  So unnecessary.  I should just be glad of finishing something I’d meant to do, shouldn’t I?  I mean, really, do I need to have it written and crossed off?  I guess moaning about it to you all isn’t really a great deal more mature either, is it?  Oh well, I do at least feel better for my moan. Wink.

I am now going to soak my tired, aching body in a nice hot bath.  After I go out in the cold wet and feed my poor guinea pigs and give them some extra hay.  The ‘clean guinea pig hutch’ note remains uncrossed on today’s diary page.  It will have to wait until tomorrow.  Hopefully I remember then, seeing as I forgot today.

 

Amy

Sunday, June 15, 2014

What Jewellery Suits You?

I’ve been pondering jewellery recently.  Jewellery and children.

Some of us love our necklaces, studded with jewels.

While some prefer a simple diamond ring.

Is the necklace more valuable than the ring?  Maybe.  Maybe not.

If you don’t like necklaces, you might say yes.  But if you love your bling and a ring simply isn’t your thing, then a necklace might hit your ‘ah’ spot just nicely.  The value isn’t merely in the cost.  The value is in it’s worth to the wearer, the person who uses it, who enjoys it’s shine, who delights in being given it (or working hard for it!).

Families are like jewellery.

There are many sorts, many shapes, each with a beauty quite uniquely all its own.

Why do we so often compare?  Why this pressure to conform to the 2.5child average family (come on people, it’s not like you can actually HAVE 2.5 children anyway!!!).

I just love this picture I found recently.  It’s part of a photo shoot challenging our need as women (and men) to make judgements about our choices or the choices of others.  Check out the whole shoot here.

 
I love how they’ve used the bunk beds on this particular shot, to frame the statements and make us think about the choices we all make.

Why is it that we have such tightly held views about how the ‘perfect’ family should look, despite very few actually fulfilling those expectations?  I know a couple parenting their grandchild.  We had a foster brother for much of my growing up years.  I’ve got a friend who is home schooling five children, friends with children in state schools, and others going private.  I know some folks with children just a year apart, and others who span a decade gap between siblings.  You name it, someone somewhere is doing it. This is family.  It’s different for all of us.  There are the core things that matter.  Having someone who loves you, someone who will protect and be there for you, someone to raise you (train, develop, mentor, coach, guide, discipline, encourage, support, and generally parent you!).  And we each have our ideals, often closely guarded, and closely aligned to our values and our heritage.

I’d always thought I’d have three or four children.  But how much of that was because I grew up in a family of three-to-four?  Now that I’m living my own life, I’m not so sure.  The realities of raising a child are suddenly before me.  The great responsibility it is.  And our lives simply haven’t happened how I thought they would.  Being sick for four years.  Having a terrible labour and post-recovery.  Trying to finish a degree while raising my family.  These are all part of the scenario for us.  But not just for us.  Every family faces their own challenges, and their own ways of dealing with those.  Some choose a large family.  Some choose small.  Some don’t necessarily even ‘choose’ but rather have it thrust upon them. That career driven woman you see, who might seem selfish and absorbed in her job?  Well, she might just be that way because they’ve been trying by every means possible to have a baby for more years than you could imagine.  That chaotic family of six children might have had an unexpected pregnancy or a cousin needing a home and have simply widened their circle of love to squeeze everyone in.  You just don’t know.

We seem incredibly skilled at guilting ourselves and others around us into feeling like we should be choosing x number of children.  Which isn’t true.

Children are like jewellery.  Some of us just love necklaces in a rainbow of colours, glittering about our necks.  Many jewels together create the perfect necklace just as many children join together to form the perfect family.

Others like theirs in twos.  A matching pair of earrings, so to speak.  One of each.  Or simply two.  One for you and one for me, that’s what makes a happy family.

And others are drawn to a single gem.  A pearl or diamond ring perhaps, or a pendant on a chain.  One is all we need.

Once I read a post on Facebook about how children are a gift from God so why wouldn’t you want more to fill your cup to overflowing?  I felt like replying that some of us have smaller cups than others.  Mine is pretty full with one child!  Hers sounded like it needed quite a few more than me to reach that overflowing blessing point! 

Here’s a challenge for you:  Think of at least 2 families you know that are at polar opposites in some way, and what it is that makes them beautiful.  What do you admire about them and why?  And do your two opposite families in fact have commonalities?


Amy – the diamond ringer.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Menu Madness

I have a little secret to let you in on.  I'm not very good at staying within my grocery budget.

Shhh.  I won't tell if you don't!

We don't eat fancy.  I don't often buy treats.  Nope.  My downfall is specials.  Not specials of stuff I don't normally eat.  Just the regulars.  Especially meat.  I have an upright freezer, with a drawer (or so!) dedicated to meat.  I rationalise that by only buying meat on special I'm saving us a lot of money over the year.  I buy chicken drumsticks at $5 or less per kg.  I buy prime beef mince at around $10-11/kg and pork mince at $10 or less.  A lot cheaper than full price.  But this habit can have a downside:  running out of cash before the days in the month have run out.  I used to do a big grocery shop just once a month, and buy fruit and veges in between, but have gone back to fortnightly/weekly shopping recently.  I'm finding it a bit hard to get my head around.  I've been either buying too much, too early (like that tube of toothpaste I thought I needed a few weeks ago that I still haven't opened yet).  Or I've been forgetting things as I've not had my big master list to jog my memory and remind me to check the sugar container, and the spice rack, and so on.  So I've re-worked the big master list into something more compact, and am trying to get into a good rhythm of shopping once a fortnight at the supermarket, with the Farmers Market and bananas in between.  Work in progress.  But I did manage not to go to the supermarket last weekend which was a bit weird and somewhat liberating.  Grin.

I've also concluded that I will probably still have a 'bigger' shop at the beginning of each month. It's just easier to stock up on staples for the pantry and we still run a monthly household budget anyway.  So I did that this month.  Lovely full pantry.  Slightly skimpy wallet.

I have $100 left for the rest of the month.  NOT what I'd hoped for.  Not what I'd usually have at this point.

I'm feeling a little apprehensive.  I nearly gave up instantly.  I so wanted to rationalise that we bought 4kgs of gluten free pizza mix which cost $35, a significant amount out of the month's grocery budget.  But there's often a big purchase like that.  I can't keep 'borrowing' from next month.  I mean, eventually there will be nothing left to borrow!

So I'm going to have a go at sticking to it.  $100.  Two and a half weeks.
I'd already put aside egg money for our free range egg lady.  I've worked out I need about $15 for my Farmers Market veges on Saturday.  And $25-ish for fruit and a few other items later in the month.  So that leaves me $60 for the supermarket.  The list came out.  The tomato paste moved to 'next time' (a secondary list scribbled on the back!).  I don't NEED it, do I?  Hmm.  Just what am I going to cook anyway?  A new menu was created (I usually do one every fortnight around shopping time).  And I discovered that I do not need to buy ANY meat.  After a look through the pantry and fridge I now know that we need pears, carrots, bananas, kumara, and onions.  A tin of pasta sauce, one of pineapple, some grape seed oil (for the breadmaker), some dried fruit and some dairy products.  I will be taking a calculator.  I might or might not get the oregano and marjoram on my list.  I suspect the vanilla will likewise move to 'next time.'  After all, I managed to bake this week too so I really shouldn't need vanilla. **Oh, just remembered, I FOUND an unopen vanilla bottle in the cupboard after writing the shopping list.  Bonus!  In my defence, the cupboard is up way above my head.  But I should have known I need to stand on a chair to make sure I haven't missed anything.

As requested by the lovely Elizabeth, here's my menu for the fortnight...
I create it with my diary in front of me, as I have to take into account late classes, what days my husband will cook, when he's got work after dinner so we need to avoid soup and go for rice instead, etc.  The days are written in pen, with everything else in pencil as it usually gets multiple changes before being blu-tacked to our microwave.

Friday
Sausages and veges (probably do sausages in a devilled type sauce with potato/kumara and some stir-fried veges as we have pak choy from the garden to use)

Saturday
Chow Mein with shredded chicken and pak choy

Sunday
Coconut curry and rice (chickpeas, pumpkin, kumara, coconut milk) 

Monday
Tinned tuna or salmon bake (with breadcrumbs on top as there's a bag in the freezer waiting to be used!)

Tuesday
Honeypork and rice (pork mince with veges done in a very nice sauce - Destitute Gourmet meal and a favourite!)

Wednesday
Pea Soup and toast, perhaps with fruit pudding dessert (soup in freezer - I love soup so we have it pretty often, this one is super fast and easy and uses frozen peas and bacon, very good!)

Thursday
Boyo cooking spaghetti bolognaise (tin of pasta sauce)

Friday
Sausage casserole (probably use tin of pineapple)

Saturday
Pork and lentils (my own variation of this recipe from Stonesoup - amazing, I have my man loving LENTILS!!!)

Sunday
Meatloaf (to use up more breadcrumbs with some mince)

Monday
Rice paper rolls (with pork mince and hoisin sauce)

Tuesday
Brown rice and (our last, boo-hoo-hoo!) homemade pasta sauce (Boyo the non-brown-rice-eater says this is surprisingly tasty!  Will use fish stock again to cook rice as it was even better I think than the usual chicken stock when I'd run out last time!)

Wednesday
Egg Fried Rice (our Share Meal - eating simpler so others can share in our wealth, we donate what we save on dinner to supporting girls go to school in Cambodia)

Thursday
Boyo cooking Sticky Chicken and veges (family recipe)

Friday
Fish 'pie' (thus labelled because I hate the fuss of fish pie, so will probably do the hoki in a white sauce, and serve it beside mashed spuds instead of baking it under them in the oven!)

There you go.  And I still have available in my freezer a meal of blackbeans (leftovers from this week), a meal of chicken pieces, one lot of mince, 1 of fish stock, 1 of chicken stock, 2 of sausages, and enough bacon for bacon and egg pie.

Here's hoping I stick to my resolve and come in on budget!!

Amy

Saturday, May 31, 2014

On Being Creative

Have you ever thought, "Oh well, that child (or adult) just isn't that creative?"

Hmm.  I've caught myself out thinking that about my son a few times.  But the thing is, what do I term 'creative?'  If I'm only measuring creativity against certain things then only a narrow segment of the population will be seen as 'creative' anyway.  I used to think I wasn't that creative.  That's because I couldn't paint.  And I never could seem to get the words right in creative writing projects, so I thought I couldn't write.  I spent so many years blocking my own ability with this negative mindset, not realising that creativity is so much more than something as narrow as painting or writing stories.  I can write.  I just need a starting point.  And thus far I haven't enjoyed writing dialogue, because it always seems more stilted than the movie script running in my head!  And in actual fact I can paint, sometimes.  I paint really nice flowers, lifesize imitations of the real thing.  Just don't ask me for a landscape or a person.  I could make you a bird's nest though, that hangs out of the frame.  Really quite striking. Or knit you a blanket, or make you a lovely card.  Or cook a meal from scratch without a recipe....I'm creative, just in an eclectic kinda way!  And my greatest creativity?  Being able to think around problems.  Now, how often would that be identified as being 'creative?'

Anyway, all this to say that I'm finding I need to be careful about how I think of my son's abilities, both actual and potential.

With the right incentive, any child can be creative.

So he doesn't often pull out the pens and paper and doodle on his own.  Instead, he prefers being creative in storytelling around his diggers and planes, or building things with his duplo.  But if I ask him to make something for a person's birthday, he will.  Especially if it's a collaborative project between the two of us (does that tell you a few things about my boy, perhaps?).

Recent artwork includes pictures for two Aunties having birthdays:



Spiders on a web.  He has since repeated this on a card for one of our sponsored children, completely off his own initiative after seeing me take out my card making box.



Some earlier pictures for our sponsored children - he helped me make the flower stalks and leaves, stuck the stickers on himself, then drew the grass.



Some car pictures made with glue and glitter.  Isn't it gorgeous?!


Then there's the pavement chalk we did one day.  Complete with writing his own name with only a little encouragement and direction from Mummy. 



A police van imitation, joint-collaboration. 



And our landscape.



Sometimes creativity just needs a little helping hand at an opportune time.  Sometimes it needs some encouragement, for someone else to recognise ability or interest.  Sometimes you just need the right incentives, the right suggestions or themes, the right inspiration, the right moment.  Capture it.  Run with it.  Enjoy it.  Celebrate it.

Amy

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Time Out

Ever get to the point where you're just tired.  Tired of being busy, tired of rushing, tired of being tired?

And you need a rest.

Well, I was.

So we did.  Rest.

We went out for the afternoon, no timetable.  No plans, other than perhaps some fishing for Boyo.

Munchkin played in the lake.



I crocheted on the bank before collecting a bag of pinecones for preschool (because I'm not allowed to bring pinecones home - Boyo knows I am a little bit obsessive about them and we don't have a fire so what else would they get used for?!).

 
It was beautiful.

It was peaceful.

A perfect afternoon.

I needed it.  We all did.  We loved it.

Where do you go when you need to recharge?  We normally head to the beach, but the lake was just as lovely.

Amy

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Fishing with Daddy

We got Boyo a trout fishing license for his last birthday (we being anyone in the whole immediate family who wanted to give him a gift).

Munchkin is keen to learn:



Isn't it wonderful, the things we can learn from our parents?!

Amy

Saturday, May 24, 2014

When Money Isn't Everything


We could be renting a cheaper house.  It’s possible.  We’ve thought about it.  Long and hard.

But we’re staying put.

The thing is, I’ve realised that for Boyo and I, we place quite a high emphasis on financial aspects when making decisions.  It’s just the way we’re wired, both tending towards more analytical and less emotive decision making.  It can be helpful.  But it can also be a pain.

I really wanted to move house to save ourselves some money.  I’d put it to good use, I thought.  Save towards our future, instead of paying so much in rent.  But of course the money you think you’ll save is rarely what you really will save.  There’s the cost of moving, for instance.  It cost us a hundred dollars for the carpet, and a hundred for a new modem when we came here.  And then our power is on a different rate here, so costs more.  You just can’t predict that stuff, although I sure try!

I’d almost convinced myself we should move again when my amazing man came to the rescue.  His words of wisdom?  “Amy, I just don’t think you’ll survive in a house without sun.”  Nah, I reasoned.  I’m not home that much anymore.  And this house, while it gets sun, doesn’t have a heat pump.  So as long as we went to a place with a heat pump, I’d be okay, wouldn’t I?  But in the end I had to concede that he knows me terribly well. I am nearly cold-blooded.  So I made the choice to listen to my wise man, and stay put.

I’m glad I did.  It’s easy during summer to think only of how hot the upstairs is (stifling to say the least!).  It’s easy to forget how much I rely on the sun.

But just yesterday I found myself lying on the floor playing with my son, strategically wiggling myself in the direction of the stream of sunlight arcing across the lounge floor.  I was just a teeny bit cold.  Until I lay in the sun, at which point I felt just right.

It made me realise that I value having sun in my home immensely.  Enough to spend an extra $30 a week, which is what we probably are spending compared to what we ‘could’ manage to live in.

But the sun isn’t the only thing…I’ve found at least 9 things about this place that are worth an extra $30 a week to me.  So that means they are each only worth $3.30!

Sunlight.  As already mentioned.  It’s gold! 

Bath.  Munchkin had outgrown his tub.  He now gets to spend hours each week playing and prunifying (that glorious state where you’ve spent so long in the bath that your fingers look like dried prunes!).  It’s one of his favourite past-times.  And there’s nothing better than a warm bath when you’re cold, tired, and achy.  At least, that’s what I think.  I am a bath girl.  How I survived for three years without one, with a baby and study and bung back, I do not know.  I’m making up for the lack now!
 
New carpet.  I cannot rave enough.  To be able to sit on the floor, even lie on the floor with my nose embedded in the carpet (doing my back exercises, not of my free will, believe me!) and not have an allergic reaction is amazing!
 
Garden and deck.  Sometimes I think I’d rather not have the work of a garden.  But I do love being surrounded by gardens.  There are mature trees on this property, and I’ve concluded I just wouldn’t emotionally survive living somewhere with just buildings or concrete instead of greenery.  I look out at them every day.  Multiple times.  Every time I sit down to eat, I’m gazing out one window or another.  Plus of course we have a lemon tree and small vege garden that help offset the costs of living here!  And the deck, well I just love the back deck.  I can open the ranch slider wide, sit at the dining table with my lunch, and watch my son in the sandpit.  He’s visible (and highly audible too, I might add!).  It just works.


Location.  Fifteen minutes walk to our bank, chemist, a supermarket and more.  Just being able to take 5minutes to drive to the DVD store on a tired night is amazing.  And that’s without us being walking distance to my parents too.  It was SO nice not moving out of our familiar area, being able to still know the streets and the shops.
 
Walkway.  I don’t use it as much as I used to, but I still get that wonderful sense of peace from traipsing along our walkway.  And it’s a lifesaver on bored afternoons when Munchkin and I enjoy exploring together.

Internal garage.  With REMOTE!  Ahhhhh.  Our front door is somewhat stupidly positioned at the very back of the property.  So to go from front door to car/letterbox on wet days involves a slippery cobbled path that happens to be smack bang under the eaves that drip all over you.  Making the garage very handy.  It stores all that extra stuff that we haven’t managed to get inside the house.  It holds racks of washing on wet days.  Three (or so) bikes.  Guinea pig straw.  Recycling and rubbish bins.  A spare bed for when Munchkin is bigger.  Freezer.  Washing machine.  Tools.  Chemicals.  Gumboots and umbrellas and jackets.  You get the idea.  A LOT.

Insulation.  This house is so much drier and warmer than our last.  It’s incredible, what a bit of exterior insulation can do.  Being asthmatics, that’s important.  Very, very important.  And it’s just plain nicer too to get up and the lounge be 9 degrees (Celsius) instead of 4.

Proactive Landlords.  This single item would be worth $30 a week in itself!  There's nothing more to say, proactive landlords are worth their weight in gold.

So you see?  Money isn’t everything.  And sometimes what we think will save us money isn’t going to be worth it.  I live here.  It’s important that I am able to LIVE.  To dwell, to be at peace, to enjoy, to laugh, to rest.  A home needs to be that, a home.  Not just a place we are temporarily dwelling until we get to that amazing place we dream of, when we’re rich and can build our dream house from scratch, but a place to be in now, while we wait.  It’s a balance between tomorrow’s needs and todays, and not all of them are tangible or monetary-based.  It wouldn’t have occurred to me a few years ago to put ‘must have trees’ on my house-hunting list, but now I realise how deeply affected I am by my surroundings and how much my soul craves living, green things.  There’s no point reaching my financial goals sooner if I do so at the expense of the (sometimes very thin shred) of sanity I have now, is there? 

Amy