I often focus on what I can learn from mistakes and challenges. However, there’s a lot to be said for celebrating the good decisions that have worked for yourself and family over the year. I’m listing down some stand out decisions I/we made in 2016 that have added value to our family life.
1. Going Back to Study
I decided to return to study last year. I absolutely loved it. It’s meant a lot of work and juggling, but it’s been so rewarding and I’m looking forward to getting into it again this year (part time because I still work too). Sometimes it’s easy to put things off that you’re fearful about starting…but I’m always amazed at how I can adjust when it’s something I’m passionate about. I have some tips here about studying as a mature age student.
2. Hiring a Lawn Maintenance Person
This is more about outsourcing where you can. Last year, I decided on the outset to hire someone to do the yard work for the year. My husband was hesitant at first, because he enjoys doing stuff in the yard himself, but I just know that neither of us really have the time to keep up with it properly, despite good intensions. I worked out how much it cost, just to have the lawn mowed (we live on what I would say is an average suburban block) for the entire year, and it works out to be approximately $5 per week. That’s a cup of coffee. I ended up also hiring someone do the other maintenance areas like trimming the hedges and garden tidy because I’m so happy with the work they did, and so I pretty much handed the reins to him to do all the yard work. So all up, breaking it down into weekly, it’s about $15 a week. For me it’s been a worthwhile investment because it has freed up our weekends and we enjoy using the backyard so much more. I’d also love to have a housecleaner. Ha! But right now, we can only do one, and the lawn maintenance has been an affordable option. Just last night, we had dinner outside; husband and I sat on the sofa and the kids on the plastic mat (from Recycled Mats). After dinner, the kids played in the yard for a while before coming in for bath/bed.
3. No Electronic Games During School Term
This seemed a big decision at the time, but now established, it’s not a big deal. However, the impacts of the decision have been amazingly positive. Last year, we noticed that for one of our kids in particular, their interactions with iPad games (like Minecraft/School of Dragons) was becoming obsessive and so we made the decision (in consultation with the child) to move completely away from games. We made it a decision for the entire family not just for one. A few of our children require an iPad for school – they use it every school day – and so iPads and technology is part of our lives. However after trying different restriction methods without a great deal of success, we decided to remove it all together. BEST. DECISION. It’s really freed up a lot of mind space and more opportunities for the play I think is so valuable (creative play). We were also able to tap into life lessons like putting red flags up in your life when something is not building you up as a person, and even removing things from your life if needed. These are key lessons for everyone. My husband and I mentioned it the other day…we said that it was one of those parenting wins that don’t seem to come around all that often. So during the school term, we don’t do games. The kids still use iPads to do creative things from time to time, like stop motion, image editing and powerpoint, and games have become a fun thing to do on holidays now. Essentially, iPads are considered (and treated as) a learning tool during the school terms.
On a side note, when I was organising the house ready for another school year, I was trying to find a good place for the iPads to charge overnight ready to take to school the next day. In the end, I bought a wooden pot rack (from Howards Storage World) and a multiple USB port to create a changing station. I shared this on Facebook and there are heaps of great ideas listed in the comments if you’re looking for different ideas.
4. A House With a Pool
In the many moves we’ve done, I have avoided pools because my kids were younger. Now they are older, I decided to look for a house with a pool when moved last, and it’s been fabulous! So-so good. Most afternoons when we are at home, I will feed the kids and they will spend hours upon hours having fun. Good exercise too. We live in Brisbane, and that means it’s hot majority of the year so it’s in use most of the year. I was a bit nervous about having a pool but I have not regretted the decision for a moment.
I found these mermaid tails via a friend, and I’ll try and put a review up later about them. They are so much fun and look amazing in the water.
5. Meal Box
When I was India with World Vision last year, I met Alison who told me about the Hello Fresh meal service. It’s been a game changer. Essentially ingredients for four nights of meals are provided with recipes (so that’s pretty much everything you need to make the meal except some staple pantry items like oil and salt etc). I like it because we still get to plan and cook 3 meals a week, and there is less meal planning and grocery shopping. It’s actually put the enjoyment back into cooking for me, and the recipes are so simple and easy to follow that the kids often make dinner now. It’s interesting, that while we are paying extra per meal than I would make myself, over all, I am finding we are spending the same on grocery shopping each week. The meals we eat for dinner are smaller and because I’m not doing a huge grocery shop, I seem to spend less. In short, it’s been a great decision of our family.
The only negative things I would note here is we do find the meals slightly too small for our family of six (including two teenagers) and there is extra packaging on items. The family box we get is designed for a family of four to five. I usually just adjust the meal slightly with extras but I am looking at another service which seems to cater for larger families from Aussie Farmers Direct and they also have the option of only having three meals a week. Without increasing our food budget, it’s been wonderful to have some meals sorted each week.
6. Colour Coded Towels
I bought my children huge lush bath towels last year (from a Sheridan discount warehouse) in different colours and had their names embroidered by someone local. The kids LOVE them. They love using them because they are so beautiful, large and fluffy, and it means they have ownership over their respective towels too. This is working very well to minimise towels being left on the floor, or the issue of copious amounts of towels being pulled out on a weekly basis. Big success. Yes!
When I read over the list above, it’s all about investing in our family life in ways that work for us. I’m doing something rewarding for me (studying), and keeping the family running by investing in ways that add value to all of us.