Posted October 19th, 2008 by Penny Wise

Wow, what a time of changes it's been for us around here lately! The biggest change of all has come for Ali, who started a new school last week. It's funny isn't it - sometimes you don't see what's staring you in the face. Poor Ali had been miserable at his old school since the start of the year but on the whole we just wrote it off as general grumbling and ten-year-old-itis. It was only at the end of the school holidays that we realised that all the friends he had spent the last fortnight hanging out with actually went to the other school in the area, 10 minutes away. When he asked if he could go to the same school as them we told him to stick out his current school for one more term until the end of the year and if he was still unhappy of course we would let him change. However it didn't get that far - no sooner had he walked through the school gates on the first day back, he dissolved into floods of tears - you know, the kind that just breaks your heart as a parent? If there's one thing for sure about Ali, he's a kid who knows what he wants. So I rang the other school and had a chat to them and we agreed he could go for a visit in the morning. I should add that there were several other issues which were causing his unhappiness, not just the fact he wanted to be with his mates! I didn't really know what to think; choosing the right school for your kids is a big decision and I wasn't entirely sure whether switching schools was the right one. However, I needn't have worried. No sooner had we got out of the car at the new school than one of his mates yelled 'ALI!' at the top of his voice and came running out to get him. Before Ali knew it he was surrounded by a crowd of kids all cheering and patting him on the back before embarking on a mass grand tour of the school. Such a heartwarming sight for a worried mum, and one which really made the teachers smile too. 'It's OK Mum, you can go now', Ali said once seated at his new desk. 'Would you mind just enrolling me on your way out?'

So that was that! Every day since he's bounced out of bed early and can't wait to get to school and every afternoon he's come home from school with a smile on his face and full of news. When we ask him now, 'how was school today?' we get the reply 'cool!' instead of the previous, long-suffering 'today really sucked'. Now that's a big change and a very welcome one! Switching schools has also brought about some welcome changes for me too. Instead of me driving the kids around the countryside too and from school each day, they now both travel in the same direction and can catch the same bus. This change, while small, means I gain an extra hour to myself every day! Not to mention we are set to make a HUGE saving on petrol as I will hardly need to go out at all now! We did have to purchase a uniform for Ali's new school but the prices are actually very reasonable compared to Liam's gold plated one and it struck me how few 'everyday' clothes we will actually have to buy for them in the future, for the next few years at least anyway!

Just as well I don't need to drive so much any more as my car is still at the mechanics until the end of the week at least. After weighing up the pros and cons (not to mention the cost!) we have decided to replace the head gasket as the rest of the car is still in really good condition. While it's a cheaper option than getting a whole new car, it's still going to cost us between $2000 and $3000 - ouch! Not the sort of money you can pull out of a magic hat and unfortunately it's going to mean several of the projects we had planned (such as the long-awaited new water tank and a new shower to replace the one which currently leaks through the upstairs bathroom floor and drips down through the kitchen ceiling) are going to have to be put on hold. At least we are finally starting to harvest some produce from Noel's vege garden after the winter wipeout. We enjoyed the first of a new crop of broccoli at the weekend and are not going to have to buy potatoes for a very long time in the coming months. The car may be beyond our control but if there's one thing we do know how to save on, it's the food bill!

Which is just as well with two growing boys. I had a sneak preview at the weekend of the shape of things to come. We decided after three years of blogging about our family, it was about time we shed a bit more light on some of the things I write about, with some help from YouTube. I enlisted the help of my mate Alex and we spent the whole weekend filming around the place. Honestly, I thought I was going to die laughing, I reckon we have enough footage to fill a whole movie worth of bloopers alone! Fortunately by some miracle, between Liam pulling faces and Ali doing Borat impressions we managed to film everything we wanted, from Bindi the calf to Mr Patel. Unfortunately catching Mr Patel on camera didn't go as smoothly as anticipated as we picked the busiest day we could have possibly chosen to try and film in the store. With a $30,000,000 unclaimed Lottery prize pool to be won that very evening, the store was jam packed with people all with one purpose in mind - to purchase the winning ticket. Combine that with living in a small town where everyone knows each other, we wondered if we were ever going to get any footage without someone coming up and asking what we were doing, or how Ali was going at his new school! Still, our mission was eventually accomplished and while it wasn't the in-depth interview we had planned, you will now be able to finally put a face to the mystical Mr Patel, who was quite chuffed about the whole concept of filming, even though he had no idea he was a well-known blog identity of several years!

As I mentioned, I also got a peek at the shape of things to come as a mum. Alex is 16 and like a big brother to Liam and Ali, who just adore him. They were over the moon to get to hang out with him for the whole weekend and the three of them were inseparable as they did everything together from playing rugby and Playstation to eating. And I mean EAT! Egads I thought my two could eat but teenagers are in a whole different league. I understand exactly now what parents of teenagers mean when they say their kids have hollow legs, they're not kidding! It's great to see such healthy appetites though, and even better to be able to fill those hollow legs with nutritious, homegrown food (or even homecaught, if there is such an expression!)

One thing we really noticed from our weekend spent filming is how much we do with our kids. It's something that Noel and I are always berating ourselves for, not spending enough time as a family but we can now see that we actually don't do too bad. It's all simple, nothing expensive or complicated but we have a lot of fun and to be honest Simple Savings is largely responsible for that in two ways. Firstly because SS has taught us to put our family first and by giving us the knowledge to save money in so many areas, we are able to spend more time doing the things we enjoy. Secondly because living the SS way means we strive constantly to find the smartest, cheapest way to get what we want. Without this school of thought we wouldn't have our own cricket pitch, rugby goalposts, a treehouse and all the other things that make other people go 'wow!' when they come and visit. I could tell you more, but that would ruin the video wouldn't it! It's currently being edited (this could take a while!) but you'll be the first to know when it hits YouTube!

I guess Noel and I have both undergone some big lifestyle changes lately too. In less than three months I have gone from couch potato to marathon runner and Noel has now been smoke-free for over three weeks! He is still running 5km every day too - now that's something I thought I would NEVER see! I'm really proud of him, although as yet I haven't managed to convince him to take part in the 12km Round The Bridges challenge in Hamilton next month with Alex and me. I'm running at least 10km a day now and have stopped trying to kill myself by spending half my life at the gym too. I've come to the conclusion that the cheapest and most effective way to exercise is to simply use my two legs - it's free after all!

I must confess however that I have still proven rubbish at giving up the wine and I was giving myself a bit of a hard time about this until I spotted the most brilliant thread in the Forum yesterday. It's called 'Three degrees of Simple Savings' and it's very thought provoking! It's an awesome way to evaluate your SS habits and enables you to see where you can make room for improvement, while encouraging you to pat yourself on the back for doing what you already do well. It will have you cringing, laughing and nodding your head. Check it out! I think it's fantastic and has shown me that I'm really not doing so bad after all!

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