The relief of being ordinary

Somewhere between the roof leaking into our newly renovated room, requiring an emergency electrician, half a roof worth of new roofing iron and a continually backing up septic tank I began to troll the job adverts. Not seriously, mind, because I was staying at home with the girls until Pip went to school in 2017. But just having a peek.

I applied for a remote position with a company whose ethics and transparency mirrored my own, but it wasn't to be. I went for an interview at the university, but it also wasn't to be. I applied for a job locally, but it wasn't to be. Actually, the last one made me raise my eyebrow enough that when I got a rejection letter, I hit reply and asked for feedback. They called me, asked me for an interview. A few days later, they offered me the job. I mowed the lawn whilst the girls were at daycare, wondering if I was completely neglecting my children by doing this. How would they (me) cope without me (them)? However, the promise of a part time job with decent pay and conditions lured me in.

We were off. The first few weeks were brutal. Everyone hated daycare (same previously adored daycare, just an extra day), I hated dropping them off, I hated picking up screaming children who had been seemingly fine moments before I walked in. I still hate 'Feral Thursday' where both of my kids have a day of just letting it all out, whatever 'it' may be. Just typing about Thursdays makes my shoulders tense up.

I have noticed the benefits. There is money in our bank account. Millie has blossomed with confidence. Pip has had a language explosion and is making friends. I really enjoy talking (or not talking) to adults. I have Things To Talk About when I get home from work. Mr S gets to not listen to me worry about money.

For the longest time I wore a frugal badge with pride. Oddly enough, I seem to be more frugal, homemade and Suzy Homemaker than ever before, perhaps because it's a choice, not a necessity? I don't know. I do know that when my HR department sent an email asking if anyone wanted a bag of apples 'past their due by date' (snort) for their animals, I ran down the hallway as fast as my hot pink high heels would allow to collect my bounty.

'We didn't know you had pigs Amy.'
'I don't! I have a dehydrator and a Fowlers Vacola unit!'

8kg of perfectly fine apples. Yes please.

I digress.

I am also in the incredibly confronting position of missing my girls so much it makes me want to cry whilst filing in the compactors, then when they're home with me and asking me oh so many question at the same time, or yelling because I said we weren't buying icy poles, I just want them to go away and GIVE MUMMY SOME SPAAACE. So much love. So much frustration.

M starts school next week. I'm not mentally ready for it. It's hard to grieve your firstborn tiny baby going to big school when said almost-five year old is PUMPED and READY FOR ACTION. All I can see is the baby years slipping away. P starts next year. I'm absolutely not ready for that one, but she will be. This year is a juggle of daycare arrangements, work rosters, wonderfully understanding supervisors, exceptionally accommodating daycare providers and a little family called Smyth, growing up and into the world.

I devoted a lot of time last year to professionally writing, and building a blog with an audience, and piece by piece, I lost love for it. Facebook blog groups seemed to be SO many people shouting into the void 'HERE IS MY BLOG. HERE IS MY AWESOME POST. SHARE IT. WHY AM I GETTING NO SHARES? WHAT DO I DO? HERE IS MY BLOG. HERE IS MY AWESOME POST.' and then I was done.

It felt icky. It felt fake. I felt like I wanted no part of it. So I stopped.

I didn't realise the relief I felt when I got a job and started going to work. I didn't have to participate in a fake world to get reads to get sponsored posts and free products and make a living doing it. If that's the world, it's not for me.

I read a lot of great literature whilst job hunting, the best being Jon Acuff's 'Do Over'. Do yourself a favour, go and check it out. There's many ways to love the life and the job you have, and many ways to get great tools to make a change.

Many musings aside, there is a light in all of this. For three days of the week, I go to an office where everyone can wipe their own butts, no one yells at me AND they pay me to go there. Winner.

My Sugar Free Minimal Waste or... My Life.

mylife

I've been meaning to write this post for a few days, but I couldn't think of a fetching title that didn't sound preposterous.

My Sugar Free Minimal Waste Life

I mean, I want to punch me in the face.

But... it's true. Just not in a smug internet kind of way. You won't find me wearing a flowing tunic with Birkinstocks and a beatific smile.

Let's call it:

My Eating Real Food Life. Or, more simply: My Life.

Wait. Shouldn't that be normal?

Less clickbait and sexy, but also less likely to get me eyerolled and rickrolled Foo Fighters-style in the street.

We stopped eating refined sugars four weeks ago, and truly, I've never felt better. My head is clear. My skin is better, I sleep much more soundly and shopping is WAY easier. The first few weeks were absolutely not easier, but I cut myself a break and reintroduced dates into my life and things were a lot better. The girls are coping pretty well too, Millie had a week of asking for toast with honey, or bread and jam every waking moment, but she's moved past that now. Pip couldn't really care less.

Re the minimal waste... well that's a work in progress. We have an elderly septic tank that copes perfectly 99% of the time. The 1% is truly something. Two weeks ago I was out in the rain in my gumboots and work clothes, crowbar-ing the lids off septic access points, washing 'septic scum' off the workshop floor, and poking the innards of my septic tank with a crowbar to see if it was full or simply the victim of a toddler toilet paper incident. It turns out it's a much larger problem than those two involving an overflow pipe connecting to another pipe connecting to another pipe that does not drain into the drainage pit on the road. No one knows where it goes. Then the roof leaked and we kind of forgot about the septic pipe to nowhere.

Since then I have been washing my dishes in a small tub in my kitchen sink and tipping that water out in the paddock or the garden. That works fine for me and I don't worry about kitchen things going down the pipes.

It was also at this time that I listened to The Lively Show episode with Bea Johnson and it got me to thinking about our waste. When we moved to our house in 2009 our municipality had no recycling collection. Once a month we'd load our bins into the car and drive them to the nearest recycling depot. Then we got kerbside recycling pickup and it became easier to put things in the recycling bin and forget about it. We only have a small-ish general waste bin and it's usually full by pick up day.

So, how could I make a change at my end? I already frequent a bulk food shop in my town, the sugar free life meant that we pretty much don't buy pre-prepared packaged food but even sugar free things come in packages. Pasta, cereals, milk - the list goes on.

 I gathered all my jars together and went for an expedition to the bulk food shop. After a few mishaps we got the jars weighed and goods paid for. It was so much easier to bring my containers home and put them in the cupboard. There's a larger bulk food shop in the city that I'll investigate to see if I can get things like coffee and cereals too. They have a website but no product list, which is infuriating for a country dweller like myself who has to travel with two small people.

Before...

Before...

We still use disposable nappies for P's one sleep per day and overnight. That's not too many and I lessen my guilt by remembering how many years I cloth nappied for. Right? I ran out of paper towels and I just didn't buy any more. I have a container of old rags (facewashers, cut up microfibre cloths) that we use as paper towels. Clean up a spill, wash. Dry some spinach, wash. Wipe the bench, wash. Cover up a pineapple in the fridge, wash. It's been effortless so far.

After... 

After... 

I'm stuck at shampoo and conditioner. I'm intending to purchase Dr Bronner's liquid castile soap (sensitive skin, liquid soap is cleaner for showers and septic systems) for handwashing, dishwashing, hair shampooing, body washing and basic spray and wipe cleaner. After years of having a differently scented awesome product for every occasion, I've infuriated Mr S by declaring 'Soap is soap is soap.' He muttered 'I've been SAYING THAT FOR YEARS.' But conditioner? Everything I've googled is either vinegar or eggs or BOTH. Yikes. Ideas?

Toilet paper we will still purchase. I don't wear makeup so that's not a concern (#makeupfreeselfie EVERY DAAAY), and I'll not be investing in a Diva Cup anytime soon.

I'm googling compostable toothbrushes (YESSSSS I GOT SOME AT EUMARRAH!), but you will need to pry my electric toothbrush from my cold, dead hand. Toothpaste? I'm not terribly keen on bicarb soda mixed with peppermint oil. Again, ideas?**

**I made a mix of 50:50 Bicarb/Coconut Oil with a dash of peppermint oil. There's a chance I might have almost cried whilst brushing my teeth with it, followed by rocking back and forth in the corner. I have purchased another tube of toothpaste and gone back to the drawing board.

Terracycle have some awesome programs that we'll be playing along with, namely the bathroom waste one. I'm hoping Mr S will be able to get on board with the plastic gloves one for his workplace. I'm impressed that there's a Nespresso one too, as Nespresso pods account for a massive amount of coffee related waste.

You may call me bag lady. 

You may call me bag lady. 

I've been saving the bags that our bread comes in to take to the local bakery and ask them kindly to put my bread in. My butcher is happy to put meat in whatever I bring to put it in. There's a greengrocer nearby but my local supermarket doesn't have plastic bags so you need to bring your own carry bags regardless.

When I empty my SealPods of their coffee I dry the coffee grounds on baking paper in the oven until they're toasty and dry. Then I use them as a face scrub/wash. It depends on how firm you rub your face with it! BAKING PAPER? It's the staple of my kitchen... I reuse it as much as possible. Do I need to invest in some more SilPats?

It's an interesting journey to think about, and I when I pause I have a highlight reel of my childhood. I realise that my mother with her awesome perm was the original earth saving hipster. She took her shampoo bottles back to the hairdresser for refilling, we didn't have prepackaged snacks for school (I desperately wanted chips like the other kids. BBQ Shapes were a treat!) and was composting well before it was cool. Rock on, Mothership.

It's now Friday as I'm typing this and our general waste bin was picked up this morning. I was very proud of the Smyth household, we produced ONE bag of general rubbish + nappies for the entire week. I'm pretty sure that's a record for us. We didn't recycle any more than normal, nor burn any more paper in our fire. We just consumed less. High five!

It's a work in progress. This week we are trialling using no garbage bag in our bin under the idea that if it's wet, we can compost it. If it's not compostable we can put it in a paper bag and then put it in our bin, or straight in the outside bin. So far, not so bad. I'm keen to see how the next few weeks roll out - I'll keep you posted.