Good heavens, I've been getting a bit of a glimpse into how larger families live these past few weeks and to all the super sized clans out there, you have my total admiration. Since Christmas we have been playing constant host to the kids, their friends, our friends, even the kids' friends of friends! We were very fortunate to have been given a sofa bed recently, as well as a super king size bed so have been able to convert the garage into a sleep-out to house extra bodies at no cost. Over the past year or so we've become accustomed to feeding all sorts of extras but they have never been quite so permanent before. We've had everyone from a French student staying with us for a few days (which was a great experience for the kids) to some of the boys' old friends from Te Kauwhata stay for two weeks and beyond. Now honestly, please don't think I'm complaining in today's post - I love having a houseful of people! The following is simply an observation from my current experience in just how much of a challenge it must be for larger families to stay in the black. You see, it has become very apparent that the increased outgoings are not limited to food alone. It's all the small things that have all of a sudden become noticeable and really add up - FAST. Such as:
* Washing. My poor washing machine really gets a hammering and does anything up to four loads a day with all the wet, sandy beach towels and extra sheets to wash. We've had a horrendous run of wet weather since Christmas too, so the dryer has also been getting an awful lot of use.
* Dishwasher. This goes pretty much 24/7 - and we do the dishes by hand sometimes too!
* Showers & baths. I have learned you have to get in quick these days, otherwise there's a good chance any idea of a hot, relaxing bubble bath after dinner will go right out of the window when you discover everyone else has used the hot water!
* Toilet paper. Goes without saying!
* Other additional power use. Such as lights being on all night (and often left on all day if I don't remember to go upstairs to check), televisions, computers and Xboxes being used until unearthly hours of the morning... I am DREADING receiving the next power bill!
I know, I know, I guess I need to get tougher on the never-ending hordes. I admit though, most of it I don't mind. I mean everyone needs showers and I never mind doing their washing - in fact I've already saved a t-shirt and a singlet from the rubbish bin with my SS stain removal and soaking methods! I don't even really mind too much when I go to use something out of the fridge or pantry and discover it's already gone, at least it's not getting wasted! Nope, there's only one thing I really, REALLY mind. In fact I more than mind it, I hate it - or should I say them - with a passion. Xboxes (followed by a 'huck-toong!' That's me spitting in disgust) As I write we currently have three in our house. Ali's, which he bought off TradeMe and has had for a long time, Liam's - which is a recent acquisition and he bought it himself using money he made from TradeMe and the other belongs to one of their friends. Admittedly the weather has been appalling for longer than I remember and I can't blame them for staying holed up in their rooms when it's so revolting but you know what? Those stupid machines have made our household devoid of conversation. They have deprived our household from sleep for days on end. How? Because they not only play them all day but also all night too - sometimes they're up until 5 o'clock in the morning having battles with friends or random people all over the world thanks to Xbox Live. Then they sleep in until midday or more and wake up looking like they've had a hard night on the turps with pale, spotty skin and dark rings around their eyes. Not to mention Noel and I who are also kept awake by tanks and bombs and goodness knows what else being fired above our heads. On the positive side it's a whole meal I don't have to feed them every day as they don't get up for breakfast!
But it has gone way beyond a joke and I have to find the smartest, calmest way to deal with the situation before I turn on them like a wailing banshee and frighten the life out of my children and their friends. They're all good kids you see - really good kids - they've just got stuck in one heck of a rut and it's up to me to help them get out of it. You're probably wondering 'what happened to Screen Time, Penny?' I know, I mentioned it in my last blog and it actually started off extremely well. Not least because Ali damaged the satellite dish when he accidentally hit it with his slingshot so we had no TV to start the New Year with. Funnily enough, Ali and I didn't mind there being no TV at all. It was nice just talking in the evenings or listening to music. Even Liam didn't mind there being no TV - the only time he was absolutely mortified was when Michael Clarke scored 329 not out the other day and he couldn't watch it. No, surprisingly it was Noel who buckled after just two days. Even though he enthusiastically supported my idea of not bothering to get the satellite dish fixed to begin with, his enthusiasm waned by the day at the thought of not being able to watch all his beloved sport live and in glorious colour. So the TV is back. Pah.
The Xboxes weren't too bad to begin with either. The boys were doing their jobs - and still do - so they do earn their screen time, but I find it really hard to implement a screen limit when all their mates are around. After all, that's what teenage boys do. It's all very well laying down the law with my two but I don't feel comfortable barging into a room full of nine hulking great lads, ripping out power cords and taking away controllers. It's just not me. Sure, I'll turf them outside when it's a sunny day but when it's day after day of endless rain I feel a bit mean. What else are they supposed to do, read poetry to each other? They're 6 feet plus and weigh twice as much as me! But I miss them. I miss their conversation. I miss their company. To be honest, when Noel's working at night and they're all shut up in their rooms, it makes me feel really lonely and sad. Xboxes you suck!
So if anyone out there has any suggestions on how we can bring the balance back into our household I would love to hear them. I may be too soft but I can see it's definitely time to change!