Thursday, April 29, 2010

Why weekends away are better than a dream holiday

What a week! My gorgeous boy turned two, I got back to writing work after the school holiday break, and this blog got another award (this time from the lovely and talented Michelle at Warsaw Mommy).

I said to my husband the other night that I feel as though I've been pushing myself to get through the last few weeks. Since Easter we've all had the flu, we've had two of the kids' birthdays (both involving parties) and we've worked a weekend. Add the pregnancy and it makes an exhausting combination.

So we're going away this weekend. Taking a short scenic drive down the coast to a simple beachside house for two nights. It should be enough to recharge our batteries for the next few months.

I prefer a short getaway to a longer holiday. Two or three nights is perfect for me.

I think most of  would be better off with a weekend away here and there, rather than waiting for a bells-and-whistles holiday every year or so.

In my humble opinion.

Here's why:

It's so much simpler to plan a weekend away, so it's more likely to happen, more often. All it took this time was a phone call to a friend who has access to this holiday house, another to a car rental company, and a quick scribble on the calendar.

Man, planning a dream holiday can be stressful, even deciding what great things I would want to do with the time, what to wear etc. and I need LESS stress!

For parents, it's kid-friendly travel. Even the two-year old can cope with little over an hour's drive. And that makes me happy.

Or you can leave the kids at home. A night or two is a reasonable ask for the grandparents to take on childminding duties, if you have that option.

It's far cheaper. Our biggest expense this time is the hire of a small second car so we can take all our gear, and my mum and her things.

It's kinder to the environment. The carbon footprint of a few weekends away each year is a lot smaller than one longer interstate or overseas holiday. In petrol for example, we'll be spending not much more than it would have taken us to get to and from the airport.

It can be good for business. As a freelance writer, I can actually make some earnings from time away. After a previous short trip I wrote a travel article for one of my local newspapers, making back some of the cost of going. And I always come back to work refreshed and with new ideas for my business.

It's answering a need. Of course I would love a full-on romantic European holiday with my husband, or to take a few months to drive the family around Australia in a campervan.

It would be exciting planning and taking such a trip. But it's a want, a 'nice to have' - not a need.

On the other hand I see the odd weekend away as a legitimate need, in order to avoid burnout for both of us and create some lovely memories for the children.

It doesn't have to be ideal. It just has to be good enough.

I have two ideal weekends, city and country. Both include the husband (have to say that!).

The city one would involve dinner at Quay in Sydney followed by a luxury hotel stay. And a makeover, a cruise on Sydney harbour, and a some serious free spending money. A few close friends may, or may not, be included as part of that. But probably not the children.

The country one would involve lots of time to hike through bush and explore little lanes, picnics, cups of tea and scones with handmade jam and triple cream, a visit to a winery, and reading a good book in a hot bath in front of a fire in our luxury retreat. I might let the kids into that one!

But I'm happy to have less than ideal getaways. Mainly I really just need a short change of scene now and then. And my husband, who has an embarrassing amount of untaken leave from his work, needs one to.

So we're going to stay at the seaside in the cool of autumn. A chance to play with the kids at the beach until dark and not have to worry about getting back home late. Try to find a nice picnic spot. Potter around the shops and cafes. Watch a sunrise.
I'm looking forward to being lulled to sleep by the sound of the waves, rather than the traffic. Maybe I'll have calmer dreams.

So what's your ideal weekend away? And is 'good enough' enough for you?

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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Crazy-weird dreams

Every day I have a new, fantastical, often complex story in my head.

Last week I had this terrific notion of a Zen-like superhero who was an ordinary Catholic monk in everyday life, but in a crisis could lift a car off a person with one finger and the power of his super-concentrated mind.

Another time it was a murder mystery involving a still-living person in a shallow grave and another in an Otto bin. The heroine found both just in time before discovering the would-be killer who poisoned them.

I don't make up these stories and ideas because I'm an uber-creative writer. They just appear overnight, in my dreams.

Because I'm pregnant. That's the only reason I can think of.

I often remember my dreams. But when I am pregnant my subconscious goes absolutely berserk while I'm asleep. It's happened three times before, when I was pregnant with my other kids.

I'm sometimes woken up by a particularly exciting, or terrifying, or too-sad dream with my heart racing in the quiet of the night.

These dreams are so vivid I really think I am living them. I can feel textures, smell and taste things, hear voices, and even have memories in them.

I have to tell myself a few times that it was just a dream. That this darkened room, with light from the streetlight seeping in the edges around the blinds, and my husband sleeping beside me, is the real reality.

Then in the morning I can feel tired, as though I have been living in these parallel universes during the night and not actually got much rest.

Sometimes I have an emotional hangover - because of the intensity of the emotions and sensations in the dream, or the mental conundrums that the dream story presented.

Sometimes I'm hugely entertained by a dream and I can't believe it came from me, and I'm grateful for being given a funny story to tell my husband and friends.

I don't dream about the baby much. I guess most of this dreaming is baby-related though, as this article on pregnancy proposes.

Maybe I'm getting less deep sleep because the baby's movements are quite strong now and they're disturbing my sleep patterns. Who knows. I'm just waiting for my next deep, dreamless sleep.

I'm only five months pregnant and I'm already obsessing about not getting enough sleep. Hah!

Image by tibchris

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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Working from home the easy way

On Monday, the first day back from two week's holidays, when I was going to hit the ground running to complete my April freelance goals, I spent the day in bed.

Didn't count on getting sick, did I?

But it was a good lesson. While it's important to plan ahead and set goals, you have to leave a little room for the uncertain and the unpredictable and good old bad luck, and not get too cut up about it when things don't go your way.

On Tuesday I was feeling better but although I had a dirty house, which could wait another day, I had a backlog of laundry that couldn't. Plus I was already behind on one of my self-imposed work deadlines.

My husband decided to work from home for the day, and it's amazing how much work both of us got done. Working from home is a breeze when you have a like-minded partner.

He was able to work hard, uninterrupted by work collegues passing by his desk, unnecessary phone calls, and the lure of a downstairs cafe.

I worked hard, partly because I felt bad not to when he was right behind me at the kitchen table, industriously tapping away in the quiet of the house and taking the odd important phone call.

We even managed to have a lunch date (just takeaway Pho from the local Vietnamese restaurant at our kitchen table but we rarely eat alone together so it felt like a date!) and get three loads of laundry washed and dried.

I don't know exactly what he got done, but I wrote the article I wanted to have done, did some planning for the rest of the month, wrote a book review and began a second book review before I was ordered to have a nap!

We even got all the laundry put away, kitchen cleaned and lunches for the next day made before the kids' bedtime, so I chilled out on the sofa and watched Survivor guilt-free.

That was pretty much my perfect work-from-home day, but mainly because my husband was around, doing the same thing, which is rare.

So I think a trick for working successfully from home is to take the good days with the bad.

There's no point getting too stressed when an unproductive day, or even a whole week, comes up which is beyond your control.

All you can do is to make the most of the good days when they come, which they inevitably will.

Image by John Pavelka

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Friday, April 16, 2010

A cure for sibling rivalry


We're at the end of two weeks of school holidays and on the days my two youngest have been in day care I've enjoyed spending some rare one-on-one time with my big girl. She's just turned six and I'm starting to think that this might turn out to be my new favourite age.

The two of us have been going to the cafe for smoothies, scootering around the city's Botannical Gardens, sharing fish and chips at the beach, getting our hair cut and visiting friends. She's such great company.

The other day she sat on my lap, put her arms around me and gazing at me with her shining dark eyes said, "Who is your best person in the whole world mummy?"

Oh, how I would have loved to be able to look in her eyes and say it was her. But I couldn't. What about her sister and brother? My husband? My God?

"In the WHOLE world? Can you narrow it down a little?" I stalled.

"Well you're my best person in the whole world," she said, and we hugged and of course I told her that I loved her very much. She was happy, so that was cool. Phew!

I notice that since we've been spending this time together she's been playing a LOT more nicely with her younger sister. She must feel more assured of my love and her value to the family, so there's less need for the petty jealousy stuff.

Needless to say mummy-daughter dates will definitely be a more regular thing even after school goes back next week.

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Friday, April 9, 2010

How to meet a deadline when it looks like a lost cause

I spent last Saturday night, the Saturday before Easter, baking, decorating and wrapping these Easter biscuits (or cookies). Things got a bit stressful at 8pm when I pulled the dough out of the refrigerater and found it too crumbly to roll. I had never used this recipe before, did I follow it right? I didn't know so I just added water and crossed my fingers for luck.

All I knew was that it had to work, because I had no back-up plan for gifts for my family and friends the next day. It would take too long to start from scratch with a new batch of dough. And anyway I needed some sleep before the marathon of church and family visits began the next day.  The shops were already closed. My deadline was starting to look hopelessly out of reach, but I didn't panic.

I've know a great little trick to getting things done when you're running out of time.

You just go for it.

Obvious huh? But I needed reminding, and two things - watching cooking competitions on TV like Masterchef, the Iron Chef, and My Kitchen Rules, and reading this guest blog post at Problogger - did it.

On those cooking shows it always looks like they will run out of time to get anything decent on the plate. There're always 15 seconds left on the clock with the chicken still roasting, the verjuice unfinished, and the white chocolate and raspberry tarts unfilled. But they usually still manage to pull off a fantastic-looking meal. How? They just go for it, hell for leather.

According to Annabel Candy's blog post, she had given herself a deadline of 12 months to get 1000 subscribers to her new blog. After six months of blogging she only had 43 subscribers which she said was a bit depressing. But she didn't give up, and as the 12 months was drawing to a close she had 950 subscribers and was confident of reaching her goal. She didn't use any tricks like lots of giveaways either, she just put her head down, wrote more articles and kept submitting them to bigger blogs until they got accepted as guest posts giving her own blog lots of exposure.

As for me, my own writing and marketing goals for April are already starting to look a little out of reach. With a week of school holidays left to go, I won't be able to work on anything much until the middle of the month when my daughter goes back to school. But I'll hit the ground running, and hopefully I'll still have a small stash of Easter cookies to help me get by (I find working more fun when there are good snacks around!).

What tips do you have for meeting (almost) impossible deadlines?

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Thursday, April 1, 2010

Beautiful Blogger and One Lovely Blog awards

I was so surprised and thrilled this morning to find that Kristy at Pampers and Pinot had given me two lovely awards, for Beautiful Blogger and One Lovely Blog. Thank you Kristy! How did you know I needed cheering up today? I'm enjoying reading your blog too.
Here they are:

To claim these awards, I have to share seven things about myself and pass on the awards to 15 other bloggers. Here goes:

I never watched Lost before, but I am absolutely glued to this final season

Love spring, hate winter. Hot chocolate is winter's only redeeming feature

I write a weekly newspaper column

My husband and I are presenters for the Engaged Encounter pre-marriage education course

While at uni I worked at Sydney Tower, it's a beautiful place to spend the day

My favourite poems are Tintern Abbey and Intimations of Immortality by Wordsworth, and Wreck of the Deutschland by Gerard Manly Hopkins

I learnt that if you really want something you just have to stop wishing and do what it takes to get it. (It's taken me 34 years to figure this out!)

Now, I award these lovely women and their blogs. I'm a lurker on some, a commenter on others.
Some are old favourites who I am continually inspired by or who or made me feel welcome in the blogging world, others I found more recently and I appreciate their perspective on things:

Jennifer at Conversion Diary
Kate at PickleBums
Rhonda at Down To Earth
Zoey at Good Goog
Christie at Childhood 101
Brenda at Mummy Time

Finally I wish you all a very happy Easter, Passover, festival of friends, family and chocolate, or whatever you celebrate this time of year!

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