Jings, I've been sending out loads of $21 Challenge Survival Guides this week! Great to see so many people taking up the Challenge. It's so quiet around here! The boys went back to school on Wednesday - I love them dearly but it's been a loooong holiday - if you could call it that! The past few days have been full of fab family times and best of all, they've all been free activities. I hate to admit it, but sometimes my husband does know best! Since Liam has become so introverted, Noel has been cracking the whip, getting him out and about and active. Every day we go running as a family round and round the local rugby grounds and every day we have to run one minute more. We all encourage each other on and every day when Liam makes it through his run without stopping he is rewarded with a family game of rugby, which is one of the things he loves most. I didn't think much of Noel's 'drill sargeant' tactics at first but I have to admit they are really paying off, we are seeing some really positive changes in Liam and the whole family is benefiting from the extra quality time together. I reckon even my rugby skills are improving! Working towards the same goal together has been a great reminder of how it's the little things that are important and the best times we have together are the ones that don't cost a cent. Tuesday was Waitangi Day, a public holiday in NZ so we took the boys bushwalking in Karangahake Gorge. The boys muttered and grumbled about how boring it was going to be, until we got there and their complaints were soon replaced with 'Wow!' and 'This is COOL!' It certainly is a beautiful place and at only half an hour away from us, it's a great reminder to enjoy what's on our doorstep much more often, instead of always venturing further afield. When you're swimming for free in a crystal clear mountain pool surrounded by waterfalls, birdsong and native bush, it certainly makes you wonder why we bother paying $5 a time to go and jump in a crowded chemical facility in town! As we made our descent, the boys asked eagerly when we could go bushwalking again and I remembered some of the hints I had seen in the Vault about bushwalking and how we can get the family more involved in future.
So, one way or another the Wise family are getting fit. First Noel gives up smoking ($364 saved so far) and now he's taken up running, what a turnaround! I've managed to stay off the Diet Coke too, though I can't pretend it's been easy. It's really taking some willpower but every time I leave the store without a bottle and head for home it's a great feeling. When Liam and Noel started running together I felt really quite envious. I love to run - it was my 'me time' but ever since I fractured my leg more than a year ago it never really healed properly and every time I tried even the gentlest of runs I could feel that pesky bone digging in and had to give up. Recently I helped to organise a local triathlon and for every entrant I cheered across the finish line, I wished it had been me. I was feeling pretty sorry for myself - and then I found the answer in the arrival of my Simple Savings newsletter! In Part 7 of January's issue, Fiona talks about how poor wee Jacqueline managed to break her arm but was kept happy and pain-free thanks to being given homeopathic remedies. Her story reminded me of a remedy that I should have taken a long time ago, instead of putting up with months of pain - Symphytum, commonly known as knitbone! Known as the homeopathic remedy which eases painful fractures and speeds up healing, I knew this was what I needed, so ordered some online for the princely sum of $6 and it arrived the next day. I kid you not, as soon as I swallowed it I could swear I could feel it working! Two days later I felt ready for my first run and already can comfortably run 3km. Best of all, the terrible pains in my leg which plagued me in bed every night have completely disappeared! I can't believe it took me so long to try it. All it took was $6 to get my health and my freedom back!
Yes, the past few days have really taught me to appreciate the little things in life - they're often the things which make the biggest difference! It's so easy to get bogged down with all life's daily woes and lose sight of all the good things. One of my favourite books is called 'Simple Abundance', by Sarah Ban Breathnach (pronounced 'Bon-Brannock') which encourages the reader to appreciate the simple things in life. It's been a few years since I picked it up but when ripping up the old carpet recently I unearthed a long-forgotten notebook from under the bed - my Gratitude Journal! This is one of the major exercises when reading Simple Abundance - you have to keep a notebook and at the end of each day you HAVE to write down five things that you are grateful for, it doesn't matter how small. I opened it up and discovered the last time I had made an entry was in 2004. Straight away it brought a smile to my face as I read through all the things I had found back then to feel happy about - boogie boarding in the surf, harvesting my first tomatoes, feeding the ducks - even celebrating the first time Ali had made it through a carwash without screaming! In typical slack fashion I had only kept the journal up for four months, but as I turned page after page of happy thoughts I realised one thing they all had in common, barely a single happy event had cost anything. Funnily enough my goals back then are still exactly the same as they are now -
1. To give enough quality time to my family
2. To lead a healthy lifestyle
3. To enjoy the garden and outdoors
4. To save money
5. To appreciate everything we have
The last entry in my Gratitude Journal was in April 2004 and I discovered Simple Savings for the first time in May. I can't believe the number of ways being a member of Simple Savings has helped me to achieve and maintain those goals since then! Still, reading the journal once again served as a reminder of how much I had lost sight of the 'little things' lately, so I'm going to start my journal again and try to bring them back. One new 'feel-good' family exercise has recently been started by Ali. While commandeering the CD player in the car as usual, he came across one of his favourite songs, which is 'Proud' by Heather Small. Every time it gets to the chorus, 'What have you done today to make you feel proud?' Ali sings it at the top of his voice and we have to finish it off each time with something one of us is proud about - anything from getting all the maths sums right to running for 20 minutes without stopping. It's a fun and very noisy way to spend our car journeys and the natural high we get from doing that is much better for the kids' health and my wallet than going to buy lollies after school!
I have to admit, I really haven't welcomed the return of having to make school lunches every day, but at least our sandwiches are looking extra classy, thanks to a new tip called Cafe-style school lunches for kids. As we never normally buy sandwiches when out, I read this hint one morning a few days ago and thought it was a good idea, except we never came across any of the plastic cases mentioned in the hint. Totally by chance that afternoon, I had to take Liam to a doctor's appointment straight from school and they both came out 'starving' so I gave in and said they could have something from the bakery. For the first time ever, Ali chose a sandwich in one of those little plastic triangle cases! 'Don't throw that case away!' I grabbed it off him when he had finished and sweetly asked the lady behind the counter 'you don't happen to have any spare empty cases, do you?' She happily handed me another one for free and now both the boys enjoy cafe-style sandwiches in their lunchboxes too. I had previously been using the Tupperware sandwich keepers for school but the boys found them a bit of a pain as they took up so much space in their lunchboxes - our plastic bakery ones take up half the room! Another new tip about a case of a different kind arrives with perfect timing for me and is one I'm definitely going to have a go at - making my own camera case. I thought the hint Bag a bargain camera case was a great way to save a huge amount of money on the astronomical prices camera shops charge for protective bags. You would think for the amount you spend on a new camera in the first place, the least the manufacturers could do would be to chuck in a free case! I love my new camera but it is quite bulky and swings around all over the place when out and about so I will definitely be on the hunt for a similar alternative to this hint. I should really get on to it sooner than later, as we're off back up to Waikato Stadium tonight to watch the Chiefs play the Hurricanes - watch out Tana Umaga, here we come!