Monday, February 21, 2011

A new year

I started writing this in mid-January, but with everything that has been happening, I never finished.


Happy new year! Okay, so I'm a bit late but we've been busy tackling and thinking about life changes. I think the new year automatically sparks that in most of us. We had no intentions of making any resolutions per se, but it happened all the same.

That feeling of potential, of newness that came with the new year, also came with some problems. With me being busy and Lily being home from school, I'd noticed that t.v. was a really big part of Lily's day in a way to keep her occupied – though in a mind-numbing, stare-fest kind of way. When I mentioned it to Chris, he confessed that he, too, had been thinking of curbing his own screen time. So we concocted a plan that would see none of us watching t.v., surfing, playing computer games or Playstation for any more than two hours a day. And we set out to do this for a week; this was experiment number one.

At first it was hard. Really hard. Lily was definitely on the crazy side and I missed the lulling noise in the background, but by the end of the week we were fairly used to it. The days seemed to last longer, but in a good way. Way less sitting and staring and way more doing. In the process, we also realized that it was so much more just the t.v. watching that bothered us. At least when Lily's playing computer and Playstation games, there's interactivity and thinking and action required. We can deal with that. And now, almost three weeks into our experiment, this experiment, some days Lily doesn't watch any t.v. Yesterday she said to me, "I used to think colouring was boring, now I think it's fun. And it means I'm not watching t.v." She gets it. And even if we put a show on for her, she rarely watches the whole thing. So far, so good...

The beginning of this year also came with the realization that YIKES, I have to go back to work this year – and I really don't want to. Really, really don't want to (especially after the babysitters we've interviewed so far...). It was a bumpy start staying home with two kids, but almost nine months in, I'm almost good at it! After crunching the numbers and re-looking at our budget, we realized that it's absolutely not realistic or feasible for me to quit my job. So we crunched the numbers for me going back part-time for six months and even then we run a deficit as I'd still make less then than I do on maternity leave now, plus we'd have to pay for daycare. I met with my boss and asked if we could work something out on a temporary basis (as I know that there's no way they'd go for it as a permanent option). That's still up in the air as they talk workload and upcoming projects, but I've got my fingers crossed that I can go part-time until the end of 2011.

There's so much we've had to consider. Mine is not the kind of job that's easy to come by in Regina and because Chris and I will not work together, there's really only one other "good design job" option and who knows if they'll be hiring in five years or so when I'd be comfortable and looking forward to working full-time again. Freelancing would take more time, especially in the evenings, than actually going to work, so that's not really an option. Enter experiment number two: Don't spend so much money and see if we can survive!

Sure, saving money is a novelty now, but all these ideas I have in my head require funding and I can't put them off forever, can I? We've cut back on our personal allowances and are tracking our credit card spending better and just overall thinking, "Do we really need this?" when we go to buy something. We weren't doing bad before, but there's always room for improvement.

So, how do we save money? Well, we've been working hard at drafting meal plans so we only buy what we're going to eat. Having supper decided and all of the ingredients bought also helps us not to be so tempted to eat out, so that's been cut out. We've been buying farm eggs from a woman at Chris's work which is half as expensive as buying the free-run, non-tortured chicken eggs we'd been buying at the store. I've also been baking our bread, which I assume is cheaper, though I should calculate it. Well, it'd be cheaper than buying those artisan loafs, which mine are comparable to. Which brings me to...

Experiment number three: Eat better. I ordered a bunch of books at the beginning of January. One of them was Super Natural Cooking from the author of the food blog 101 Cookbooks which I regularly frequent. The book basically talks about natural foods and how to use them. It's been something we've wanted to try for a long time, but trying to suit Lily's pickiness and Nana's renal diet (and tastes) having been frustrating at best. Like I said, I make our bread and it only has flour, water, salt and a tiny bit of yeast. The shorter the ingredient list, the better. The more we can make quickly from scratch, the better. Like pesto or hummus which are both great on bread. (And since Nana's been in the hospital, we haven't been eating meat so that saves on money and calories.) Lily isn't as keen with all of it, but I think someday we'll win her least a bit. Tonight she just ate edamame beans and passed on the salmon and rice. It could be worse.

Experiment number four isn't too far off from how we've been living for the past four or more years, but now it's more purposefully: be more aware of the finiteness of our world. Check out this three minute video with David Suzuki to understand that we've reached our limit. On top of all the recycling we all ready do, we've been using less, if any, plastic bags for produce at the grocery store, choosing items with less packaging (even Walmart does it) and covering up bowls of food in the fridge with a plate instead of using yet more saran wrap or aluminum foil. Just being more conscious. I think it was really sparked by a documentary we watched that made us think a little more and a little harder.


And back to present day. Re-reading this, I realize that we've really had our hands full lately with changes, but the changes we've implemented at home have been working well despite all the drama. Lily has learned to fill her time with activities other than t.v. and it's become second nature to us to constantly scrutinize our finances (because we weren't at all before) and do away with a lot of our consumeristic ways. And that's good because we feel better to not be buying into it all. Or at least being more conscious of it.

I also realize that we sound like full-blown hippies. (And I made granola on the weekend.) But most of these changes are in an effort to quell some of the chaos we feel in our lives. So far it's working.

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