Monday, September 5, 2016

Choices and changes

This week will be my final week as a full-time stay-at-home mom. The past year has been full of uncertainty and change, and we've had to make some choices and some changes. When Hubby was unemployed last fall, we took a good hard look at what our options were. He was (and is) still studying to finish his degree, and there are just not a lot of jobs out there for someone without post-secondary education. We had also made some fairly significant financial mistakes as a family, and those required immediate and serious remedies. So here I am, with a BA and a BEd and a desire to take some of the strain off Hubby.

A number of conversations between us and a few other people led to my applying for one job: the French supply list for our local school board. By the grace and providence of God, I got an interview, and was hired. I started praying and then looking around for daycare options for G, and got one recommendation for a lady in our neighbourhood who turns out to be a Christian. She had a spot available for the exact number of days per week I needed. G starts there next week when his sisters head back to school.

Now I will have the chance to find out how you amazing working moms do all you do! While this is not a path I would have chosen on my own, I recognize how blessed I am to have the opportunity to provide for my family. I applied for one job, I interviewed one day care provider, and here we are, ready to go. That process is not always as linear, and I know that God's hand has been preparing the way for me. I have been blessed to be at home with my kids for the past seven years, and this will be a new season of growth and change for all of us. I am, of course, nervous about the days to come, but I know the One who holds our days and He is Good.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Leaps and bounds

Four years ago, I wondered where we'd be today. And funnily enough, last night we were talking about plans at the dinner table. M wanted to know what I'd be doing today, and I said I wasn't sure. Probably chores. I also told her that there was an old saying that if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.

This morning, we woke up to our fourth snow day of the year, due to ice, rather than snow.  So it's been far from a typical day. I've learned from the three previous snow days this year that one needs to have a plan. Ours was:
-practice printing (M) and writing (D)
-make soup
-play outside

Our day so far has consisted of getting breakfast, cleaning up from breakfast, folding laundry while the kids played, setting up painting, doing the actual painting, cleaning up after painting, getting snacks, making lunch, putting the kids down for quiet time, showering, and having my lunch. I had more help than usual due to our exchange student from Germany, who is a dear. She unloads the dishwasher every morning, and today she helped make the soup for lunch, doing all the washing, peeling, and chopping of potatoes and carrots.

We are still in the same house, having moved in almost exactly seven years ago, and it is filled to capacity. The girls share a room, G has the nursery, and our student is set up in the basement spare room. Hubby relocated his study to the laundry room. We still have the van, although it's been almost more of a curse than a blessing the past three winters. The sliding doors open and close unreliably, sometimes opening when we're driving. Instead of the Elantra, we've had a Fiesta for the past few years (4 in May). Most days, which definitely includes today, I believe we are done having kids. The girls are both in school, and I am looking at returning to teaching on a supply basis. I have an interview coming up in a few days to get on the supply list for French. And speaking of French, there has been a lot more of it around here. I had abandoned trying to teach the girls, but I've taken it up with Gavin. That should help Hubby out with the French course he`s planning to take this summer to complete his degree requirements. One last big change has been moving from our home church of 28 years to help plant a new church in the area where I grew up. We love serving there, meeting and talking with old friends and new arrivals, and hearing the Word of God preached every week.

Next leap day, D will be 10 (!), M will be 8 (!) and G will be 5 (!). I can't imagine what life will be like then.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

G's half birthday by the numbers

18: months old today

11: teeth cut so far. Soon to be 12, as one bottom molar seems hours away from poking through the gums

4: months he's been walking

79, 715, 538: current total of views of Feist's 1234 video for Sesame Street; I'm pretty sure most of those were G's. He asks for it by saying "bock bock bock bock?" and pointing at my laptop or Hubby's phone.

50, 10, 5: words he knows in French, English, and sign language, respectively. I've been trying to speak to him in French most of the time, and he's pretty responsive. I always regretted abandoning that with the girls, so this is my do-over. As a bonus, the girls understand nearly everything I say in French, and Hubby is picking up on it, too.

7: visits to CHEO so far. One to the ER for a urinary tract infection, and rest were kidney-related.

4: cars, trucks, and train sets we had before G came along

12+: cars, trucks, and train sets we have now. One train set is particularly meaningful. One of its carriages belonged to my father-in-law when he was G's age, and his brother Paul recently found it. Paul made two other carriages to match, and an engine, onto which my father-in-law carved G's name. It's been a big hit so far, not only with G, but also his sisters, and any kids who come to visit.

at least 5: nicknames, including G-bird, G-bones, Senor Gav-gage, Bonhomme, Gavocado, and probably others I can't remember.

90: percentage of G's clothes that are hand-me-downs from his cousin Linky (who is 5 months older)

1: percentage of G's clothes that are hand-me-downs from his sisters

2.5: years that G has left at home before he starts school. They aren't kidding when they say it goes by fast, and you never get those years back. Although, to be fair, I don't know that I'd want much back from those early years. It is hard, hard work to parent a baby/toddler/preschool. It's nice to look back at pictures and videos, but as for reliving those years? Maybe I'll change my tune when all my kids are grown.

Dapper little dude

Check out those chicken legs!

This is the face we are treated to so often!

Pretending to read is exhausting
I still get a little thrill whenever I get to say "my son", even a year and a half on. G is still such a sweetheart, and loves to smile and giggle. He is starting to growl (which he learned from the girls) and throw tantrums, just to remind us that he is not perfect. He lets me choose his clothes (even the occasional bow tie) and is starting to keep hats and mittens on. He's a huge fan of climbing, and is learning to leverage chairs to get up onto the table or counter. He adores his big sisters, both sets of grandparents, and his delightful assemblage of aunts, uncles, and cousins. He can even say many of their names. And if he hears the telltale Skype ringtone, he will run towards the source saying "Poppa! Poppa!"

Monday, September 21, 2015

The final tally

We had what was hopefully our last heat wave of the year last week, so it seems like a good time to post an update of how our summer without AC went. We turned it on about 7 times, 6 of which were during a heat advisory (when the temperature was 30 degrees or above for 3 days in a row), and one of which was when we had company over. During those times, we ran it for a few hours at most. I didn't keep track of our dryer usage, but I would guess it was less than 7 times as well over the course of the summer.

Overall, it was a great experiment, and I will definitely try to do the same thing in the summers to come. I feel like our bodies got used to the heat, and the coping strategies we used were effective. I didn't love nursing a sweaty baby before putting him to bed, but it wasn't so bad with the fan on. And the basement was a great place to hang out in the afternoon when the kids had their quiet time. They didn't seem to notice the lack of AC at all, interestingly enough. They would still go to bed with full pyjamas on and the covers pulled up to their necks! They'd even have their blankets on for naps.

The grand total of savings for the summer was 221.51$. I'm pretty happy with that. So is this guy, who learned to walk last week.

Next challenge: hanging laundry indoors to minimize hydro costs in the winter. But I might still have a good couple of weeks left with the outdoor clothesline.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Heat wave

We're still under a heat warning here, and the past two nights we turned the AC on for a bit. The indoor temperature hit our agreed-upon threshold, so we decided to cool things down to about 25 degrees overnight. Plus baby G had a fever from his one-year-old shots this week. Can you imagine being a baby with a fever during a heat wave? Poor guy. The fever only lasted a day, and the heat wave is expected to break sometime tonight. We had some lovely rain last night and early this morning, which helped temporarily. We'll be off to the cottage soon, where it is much cooler, and where we can jump in the lake if it gets too hot!

Daytime strategies that we used this week:
-kiddie pool (even we grown-ups enjoyed having our feet in the cold water)
-BBQing dinner most nights (sausages, hot dogs, and hamburgers were on the menu this week; tonight is chicken & rice casserole in the oven, and it was a bad idea)
-heading to the basement in the afternoon to cool off

Outdoor play has been scarce this week on account of the heat wave and D's day camp, which has been in the mornings and has required me to stay in that end of town for the duration rather than drive back and forth twice. We tried going to a park on Monday and lasted less than an hour before we bailed and went to Chapters. We've done errands or enjoyed playtime with friends in the area, so it's been pretty nice.

Monday, July 13, 2015

How it is without AC

The summer weather has not been too hot until the last two weeks, which I'm sure was irksome to many, but it was a blessing to us! My favourite outdoor temp is 25 degrees, and there have been plenty of days like that. We've made it through a few hot spells now, and they've been manageable. We still keep the windows open at night, when it drops down to 18 or 19 degrees (C) at most, and the blinds and windows closed during the day. Hubby and I have re-negotiated our maximum temperature allowance, so if it hits 85 degrees (F) in the house, we'll turn on the AC just long enough to get the temp down to a more manageable 80.

As a point of comparison, I looked at our bills from one year ago and one month ago. The savings weren't huge (81.67$ last year to 68.68$ this year- 12.99$ that is better off in my pocket than the company's), but I think our next bill should be the kicker. Last August (for the billing period of July, when I was wrapping up my pregnancy), our hydro bill was an incredible 187.60$. We're on track to have a bill at least 100$ less than that this month. I do appreciate the weekly updates our hydro company sends.

On Saturday, we brought out G's birthday present of a kiddie pool early, and the girls had a great time splashing around in it. We're still trying to spend a lot of time outside, at parks and splash pads and the front and back yards. In the house, the basement continues to be an excellent, cool refuge, and I avoid the top floor as much as possible until the end of the day.

Some unexpected drawbacks to higher temperatures in the house: the air gets a stale feeling and an indescribable smell, there are a lot more bugs and flies indoors (due to gaps and holes in screen doors), and our tempers flare much more quickly. The girls have been sleeping fine, wearing regular pyjamas and pulling their blankets as tightly around them as ever, but G has been waking up more often. It could be that he's teething, but it could also be that the heat is getting to him. Tonight I think we'll try setting up his pack and play in the basement and sleeping down there ourselves.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Fixing up our fixed costs

Living on one income is not for the faint of heart. This spring we've been taking a closer look at our finances and seeing where we can cut costs. It's easy to fall into a pattern of spending without really thinking about it, and deciding that things just cost whatever they cost. We found two places that we're trying to change, and both of them happen to be fixed-cost items on the budget.

Hubby switched his cell phone plan to a different provider which offered a similar package to what he had, but at a lower monthly rate. I'm still on a 10$ pay-as-you-go. We toyed with the idea of getting rid of the home phone, which we may still do at some point. It's not very expensive though, and we use Skype for anything long-distance.

The second fixed cost that we're attempting to bring down is the hydro bill. I get weekly estimates of what our bill will be based on energy consumption on a certain day, and I'm trying to let that guide the household usage. We already try to limit using the washing machine and dishwasher at off-peak times. Hubby was saying that the two main contributors to a high bill were using the dryer and the air conditioner. With the sunny weather, we're not using the dryer much at all, but in the past that savings was virtually eliminated by turning on the A/C. So, at the end of April, we decided that we're not going to use the air conditioning this summer.

It seems like a ridiculous thing to blog about, given that most of the world doesn't have air conditioning, and our climate only gets hot for a couple of months out of the year. Still, it's going to be a sacrifice for us. Some coping strategies we're using:

-keeping bread and other baked goods in the fridge to prevent them from going moldy
-drinking lots of water
-closing the blinds when the sun is out
-opening the windows at night
-running the overhead fans in our bedrooms (with the doors open) most of the day to keep the air circulating
-using the basement for playtime or rest when it's just too hot upstairs
-spending time outdoors (especially now that we have a backyard fence!) so that when we come inside, it feels cooler

We have discussed the idea of a cut-off, in the event of a heat wave, or if sleep is compromised. If the house temperature gets into the high eighties, we'll turn on the A/C at night just enough to bring it down a few degrees. (Btw, I don't naturally think in Fahrenheit, but we use it in the house because there are more degrees to play around with.) None of this would have been possible last summer, what with my being great with child, and then having a tiny baby around. But the tiny baby is a good size now, and quite resilient, as are his sisters, and hopefully his parents. So here's to a less expensive summer!