Hope for the weary

80% of my Facebook friends who are parents are exhausted.  The other 20% are too happy and glass half full, to complain, but I bet if I were to ask them how they really were, they’d tell me they are tired.  Dog-tired.

This coming Sunday is Mothers’ Day in certain parts of the world.  You know most Mums don’t actually want much in the way of material goods – but a sleep in and an uninterrupted sleep would be up there on the wants list.

But as much as sleep would be nice – for any parent – sleep is almost a short-term solution.  There’s always another bout of teething just around the corner.  There are  sneaky bad dreams once imaginations begin to be fired up.  Late night homework assignments requiring a spot of advice.  Taxi services at all times of the day and night.

In short, sleep is not something that we as parents can always count on.

But we have to learn to power through, no matter what.  We have to learn to live exhausted, and not just survive.   We have to look after self – before we can look after our families.

So what hope can I throw your way?  How can I inspire you, when your days are full of spilt milk, endless cleaning up of spilt milk, more demands for milk, running out of milk, having to haul all your kids in and out of the car and in and out of the supermarket for more milk, and all you want is a cuppa tea (with a dash of milk) and a wee sit down.  Just for ten minutes.

Well all I can share are things I have learnt along the way, things that may help you, and things that I am learning.

If you’re really weary…….

*  get as much of a decent night’s sleep when you can.  Tv can wait.  Books can wait.  Social media can wait.  Sleep is important.  Rest is important.

*  if you’re breastfeeding and you’ve begun to enter that twilight zone when you regularly put your car keys in the fridge and you’ve fallen asleep while holding your baby in bed during a middle of the night feed, consider expressing if possible and sharing these precious feeds with your partner.  Severe lack of sleep with newborns can be so debilitating.

*  make sure you’re as healthy as you can be – if you’re feeling really tired and this is not usual for you, maybe get your iron tested.  Menfolk – you need to keep yourself as healthy as possible too, and don’t neglect your annual check ups.  Just because you feel fine, doesn’t mean you should go years and years without a good, comprehensive check up.  You owe it to your families to be in the best health you can be.

*  eat well.  Nah I’m not going to say eat organics/ eat raw/ eat the rainbow/ eat clean/ eat paleo/ eat vegan.  Nope.  Just eat well.  I’ve seen far too many friends go all whacko on the whole eating plan thing lately, and while that may or may not have amazing benefits to them and their families – it also causes a lot of extra stress, a lot of extra brainpower, a lot of extra commitment and sometimes a lot of extra money.  I’m into making life easier for me as much as possible, not adding complications.  A friend of mine recently added me to facebook group for clean eating.  Twice, she added me.  And twice I left the group. I already cook most of our meals so that they are gluten free, that’s pressure enough.  And sometimes I just want my children to eat.  To eat well.  And to not be subject to my little experiments.  Eating well will mean different things to different people, but to thrive in life……we need enough fuel and for it to be decent fuel.  That’s all I’ll say about that.

*  if you’re offered help – swallow that pride and accept it. If you’re not offered help, but the genuine heart to help is there in someone, then swallow your pride and ask that person for help.  Help with your kids if you need an extra pair of hands for an hour or so, help with some spring cleaning if your house is not your castle any more, help with a meal if you’re just feeling too weary to cook and the result of you not cooking would be one meal too many of the not eating well variety.

*  take time out.  ‘Yeah right’. I know some of you are saying.  Those of you who are single parents, or share parenting, or have no family nearby to off-load kids on to.  Time out can be a luxury that only two parent families with a whole bunch of disposable income has.  And yeah, I agree – BUT – that doesn’t mean we should miss out, we who don’t have free babysitters in the form of family living near us, and we, who count even a coffee out as a treat and heck if that treat is accompanied by one other adult and three little people who all want a beverage as a treat, well that ain’t no treat anymore, that’s gone into the expensive outing category now and have we budgeted for that this week?  You hear me? I get it.  I do.  But at some point there are things you can do to make time out happen for you.  Find a friend in the same situation as you – do a regular swap with them.  Start a babysitters club.  You don’t even need to spend money to take decent time out.   Go for a walk.  Read a book, without little voices in your head that are not part of the plot.  Soak in a bath.  Gaze up at the stars.  Bake a cake.  Whatever it is that recharges your batteries, that you could do, and not feel guilty about, do it.

*  remember that saying….’How do you eat an elephant?’  ‘One bite at a time’.  Sometimes weeks can look full on. Sometimes ironing piles and lunches to make and personal assignments and work demands and all those things that make up our days seem too much.  Sometimes weeks just need to be broken down into days.  And days need to be broken down into hours.  And even hours need to be broken down into minutes.  Whatever it takes, to eat that elephant.  And not let that elephant eat you.

*  faith.  A huge amount of strength and energy I have comes from the faith that I have.  Faith in a God who cares and a God who provides for me.  Ask me about that if you’re interested.  Trust me – moving Internationally with children, requires some supernatural strength and energy…..

There’s only so much of ‘weary’ that a parent can take.  Yes there are seasons and times when ‘weary’ is just inevitable – but there are also times and seasons when there are things that we can do to help others.  And we can let others in, to help us to.

What would you add?  How have you coped with the weariness that comes hand in hand with parenting?  Feel free to add in the comments.

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Frugal Family Fun

STOP.  NOW.

Before you read the bulk of this blog post – please hear my heart…..this is not a blog post to put any kind of pressure on you.

Cos we’ve all read THOSE kinda blog posts before.  Right?  The whole not only am I supposed to be feeding my kids healthy foods and nothing but healthy, but those kids of mine are also to be doing a million chores around the house, happily, whilst being high achievers in every area of life, not addicted to electronics of any kind, giving back to the community in every free moment and speaking three languages and playing four instruments by the age of ten, kinda blog posts.

No pressure, people!  No pressure. I’m not writing this blog to create more pressure for you – rather – to offer some ideas and to ask others for more ideas, for things to make your life EASIER.  And more relaxed.

So…when you read the words…..Frugal Family Fun….don’t be thinking….’so now we have to plan all these fun family events now?, I’m struggling to even work out what we’re going to eat for dinner’…..no, no pressure……just some ideas and tips, if that is something you may be after…..one day….

This is a weird thing to admit, but ‘fun’ doesn’t come easily to me as a Mum.  I remember once signing up my oldest to be part of a University Study of four year olds.  I thought it would be an easy 20 bucks.  Turns out I was wrong.  I had to answer a whole bunch of questions about him, and then we were observed as I sat down to play with him.  Now that is a weird thing.  To have someone observe you  ‘play’.  Weird.  It was then that I realized that ‘fun’ doesn’t come easily to me.  I can clean/ cook/ organize/ plan like a champ….but I have to work at being ‘fun’.

Our family right now consists of a tween, an eight year old and a preschooler, not always an easy mix of ages to please.  And like most of you, we’re on a tight budget……so we’ve had to devise ways to have fun.  Frugal family fun.

These are some of the things that come to mind –

*  Board games – some of our favourites include Settlers of Catan, Risk and Ticket to Ride.  The trick to playing these with a toddler/ preschooler around is to delegate them some jobs to do – pieces to place, or to play them while it is naptime or bedtime for the youngest.

*  a lot of our family times center around food…..homemade pizza nights, picnics,  fondue, brinner (breakfast for dinner) etc.  One day a while back I surprised the kids by making them dessert. For dinner.  Dessert was the dinner.  In fact a trio of desserts – and two of them were fruity ones – so healthy! – but that was dinner.  After initially thinking I was completely wacko, the boys ended up loving it.

*  Family nights – a non-negotiable once a week event in our family.  We take turns planning it (kids included) – it could be a movie night, or a board game, or a ninja baking night (bake something and try to deliver it to people without being seen).

*  Family walk/ hike/ tramp/ bushwalk.  Our oldest once told us he’s only 6% into nature.  And its true.  All three kids would prefer to be dealing with something electronic than the great outdoors – but grizzle as they do before an outing to the great outdoors, once they are out and about the complaining stops and there is some level of enjoyment.

*  Befriend people who own swimming pools.  Also if possible befriend people with holiday houses and boats…..;-)

*  The #O’Brien Style $2 Mall Challenge – read about that here

*  Water gun/ water balloon/ slip’n’slide fun……or if you’re lucky enough to be near snow….snow fun…….

*  Donut parties – very easy to make yourself and cheap!  Make a batch, invite a crowd!

* ‘Flip a coin drive’ – before each intersection flip a coin, heads you turn one way, tails you turn the other way…..finish it up with McDonald’s ice cream cones….

*  Beach/ lake/ river.

*  Letterboxing/ geo-caching.

*  Costco samples on a Saturday – time it right and you don’t need to feed them lunch.

*  Seasonal fruit foraging – put those kids to work!  (blackberries were the best in Oregon as they are everywhere in summer – and free, another favourite of ours was peach-picking).

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Now, your turn.  What are your best frugal family fun ideas?  Please share!