Sunday, September 26, 2010

Wired for Stuff

A couple of days ago I posted about learning not to consume for sport, and mentioned that I'd been redirecting my consumer impulses towards eating.

Yup, after today's weigh in (my first in three weeks, but that's another post for another day), I find that I'm up five - FIVE - freaking pounds.  Dang!  I am basically back to where I was in May.  Basically I haven't lost any weight for five months.  Amazing how I can pretend to everyone that I'm actually on the Weight Watchers program.

But enough of that - I'm back at it, starting right now.  Goal weight of 155 by December 31! It's just all getting a little old.  Yes, it's a journey and bla bla bla - but I'm sorry, it's not just a journey for its own sake - I've been in this to get to a certain weight and - damn it - I must get there before I run completely out of gas.

All the .69 cans of tuna I bought on sale at Zellers yesterday are really gonna help.  And there was a great deal on shampoo (especially since I had COUPONS) and laundry soap and juice boxes and cereal and items for Cam's birthday next weekend....

Clearly I still have a lot to learn about consuming. Realized today that learning about "enough" was a resolution for me this year. And I am  learning.  Hey, it's a journey.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Frugalista Gives Up Her Favourite Hobby

So this budget thing kind of means that I have to give up shopping as a hobby.  I realized that the other day when I was in the mall (the trashy mall I love so much that has Old Navy, Claire's, London Drugs, Winners, Zellers, Reitmans AND...a Dollar Giant "everything for $1.25" store. Shangri la for people who want to buy lots of things, cheap).  I needed to buy two items from the dollar store and then go down to the end of the mall to the grocery store for an additional two items for JPM's birthday, and I had to walk THROUGH Zellers and past every single other store to get the specific items I came for.

And it took every fibre of my being not to just stop in and see what was on sale.  Because there was nothing else planned or needed besides the items on my list.  No cute tops, or toiletries or earrings or socks or frying pans....  Just paper plates, napkins and French bread. Period.

And then I had a revelation: there are plenty of people in this world who just go out and get the stuff they need, who only shop when they actually need something.  We've been trying to be those people - not just buying stuff because it's on sale, or because it strikes our fancy, or because we MIGHT need it sometime.  I think that to rock the whole frugalista thing and to be successful on our new budget - this is what JTM and I need to get good at: being the kind of  people who acquire the things they NEED, and who don't treat shopping as a hobby.  And we will just have to fake it till we make it - cause it is going to take a long time to rewire ourselves as need-based consumers.

One issue I  keep coming up against is that the urge to consume seems to be innate; and if I shut down one channel, another one opens. In other words, I've been eating like a PIG lately.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Holding Hands

My firstborn son is fifteen years old today.  My giant, funny, clever, handsome, foulmouthed and slightly hairy boy has walked fifteen summers on this earth, and I have been his mother for pretty much the same length of time. I don't remember when, during this mother-son journey, he stopped reaching for my hand, or when I stopped trying to hold onto his.

Today, on his birthday, he told me that he thought I was probably a  pretty bad parent but I was a good person.I guess I'm okay with that.

Kind of.

It was the last Thursday in August, 1995, very early in the morning, when I felt a popping sensation, and a second later  the bed flooded with amniotic fluid, nine weeks before my due date. First in the hospital, and then at home, I fought hard to keep him safely growing and maturing inside of me for as long as possible. Of course, fighting to stay pregnant actually meant lying very quietly with no underwear on thinking optimistic thoughts, while fluid leaked out of me and other people did everything. 

Perhaps that set the tone for my current approach to parenting, because things did work out in the end.  I stayed pregnant for three more weeks, enough time for a little more growing (no kidding, he was born at 34 weeks gestation and weighed over 7 pounds!) and a couple of steroid shots to force his lungs to mature.  And with a lot of help from some fine professionals, he survived the apnea and the reflux and the jaundice and the tube feedings - and came home with us, 100% healthy and breastfeeding, when he was three weeks old.

Fifteen years later he's somehow learned to bathe and dress himself, buckle up his own seatbelt, get and keep some pretty amazing friends, play ukulele and bass and badminton, clean his room, cook eggs and ramen noodles, and sometimes even get a little homework done.  And get this: apparently he is fluent in French, though I have never heard him speak it. I guess I shouldn't be really surprised to learn this since he's been educated in French since kindergarten.  But I'm not really sure how he learned all this stuff; after all I'm the type of mom mom who was more than willing to let his daycare provider toilet train him (which she did in one day, damn her).  And I certainly didn't teach him French.

To my credit, I WAS the one (along with the dad, of course) who drove him to school and all the various lessons, and I did administer the ramen-making lessons and help him perfect all the hilarious accents and characters he entertains us with.  And I made sure that he had a decent lunch and clean underwear, and (hopefully) the security of knowing he was loved unconditionally.  And I will probably continue to do those things for as long as he wants me to.

But rides and hugs and comedy coaching aside, I do sometimes feel like he's really raised himself and found his own way so far; that all I've really done was try to keep him as safe I could while he grew and matured.  Is that the wayis with most other kids - I don't know.

But he's heading into the teenage minefield now and probably needs a  good mother more than he ever did, but we have ventured so far from the land of playground squabbles and how to boil water, and I'm completely lost. I want so badly to take his hand and guide him through this dangerous time, but honestly I'm not sure I even know which way to go.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Frugalista Goes Back to School

I think it would have been a much better idea to start working from a budget in October.  Or February. Or after the kids move out.

Here's how the back to school shopping went:
JTM: goes to Bay seventeen times - each time buys five items and returns four. All AMAZING must-have items, of course, and incredible clearance-priced at something like 99% off the lowest ticketed price. Net items purchased: about sixteen.

In his defense, he needs to look good for work (with all due respect to his scholarly colleagues, rugby pants and a pilled sweater, even it was a really good woolen one you got at Harrods back in '73, doesn't instill trust and respect in your students, cause they will judge you by your appearance, oh yes they will) and he's about five sizes smaller this year than last - there wasn't much salvageable in the back-to-school wardrobe.

Kid 2: Needs a hoodie with a proper brand name, shoes with a proper brand name, a t-shirt bearing the logo of a surf or skateboard company, ankle socks, several matching pens, a new binder that zips up, and a lunch bag that magically transforms meals of all sizes into a tiny  pellet that will fit into the smallest corner of his  (not new thank God) backpack.

Kid 1: Wonders if there is a spare binder kicking around the house somewhere, and gathers up a pitiful handful of eraser-less pencil-ends and schwag pens that may or may not work. Oh, but soandso and whatshisname and someotherguy want to stay for dinner again tonight. Man teen boys can hoover it up - we should just feed them platefuls of five-dollar bills.

And all the menfolk needed haircuts. Oh, and bus passes.  Did I mention bus passes?

But we managed somehow, and we're all fresh-scrubbed, neatly trimmed and off to school with our various new and used back-to-school costumes and paraphenalia.

And then the forms come home - about a dozen forms per kid, and each form is asking for money: deposits for books and locks, activity fees, lunch programs, band uniforms, teachers mental health fund contribution, composting fee, fee collection handling fee, and so on.

So there I was in the grocery store last night, trying to decide between mayonnaise and tuna, heart breaking for people who have to make these decisions each and every day.  How stressful must it be for many families to get their kids ready to go back to school each fall.  It's a time that should be so exciting and hopeful, when everyone should get to make a fresh start on a level playing field.  And it's just not that way.

P.S. I absolutely did not forget about myself.  I got this fall's must-have items: a purple sweater and a skinny belt, and a bang trim.  I'm all set!