Archive for the ‘Philosophy’ Category

MONDAY MONEY – Something Special

Having fallen foul of the flu this week I have been pondering what I would write. Whilst the head is still a little foggy I thought it best to look at something that I managed to do with my daughter in a couple of days as a gift for her cousin.

It is not an expensive thing to do, making a gift for someone, it is something very special, with time and love spent in making it. The commercialised side of Christmas has really taken hold. I would say for most people it is a case of what is the latest gadget that I can get, what piece of technology is there out there that I don’t have. The one that leaps to mind for me is the IPhone. My son has told me that I don’t need an IPhone as I only need a basic mobile, I would never use all the other bits and pieces attached. He’s probably right!

Anyway, I move off the subject. I drew my daughter a picture onto a piece of wood, coloured it in and then cut it into a puzzle for her. Yes you need to know how to do this sort of thing, but there are many gifts to be made. Without prompting she wanted to know if she could make one too, for her cousin we are going to visit at Christmas. She is 4 and I looked at her and said of course, thinking that I would end up doing all the work. How wrong was I, she helped search the internet for pictures of a tractor (her cousin is into tractors), then I drew it onto her board, and she coloured it in. Not the idea I had. Her cousin is going to get a brightly coloured tractor puzzle that she spent 2 days making. How much more special can you get (photo here).

So on a somewhat shortish note, think about the latest gadget you’re thinking of getting. How much love and thought is there in this? I love my gadgets and toys that I have, and yes it is great to have an excuse like Christmas to go and ‘upgrade’ again. At the same time though, isn’t it nice to have that little something special, the thing that says I really thought about you at this special time of the year.

13 Reasons I Like Dora

I’m not into commercialisation, I really don’t like most of the kids shows and groups or at least the way they’re marketed.  However we have managed to amass an extremely extensive Dora the Explorer collection and I’m actually pretty impressed at how she stacks up as something I’m happy for my daughter to watch.  So here are 13 Reasons I Like Dora.

  1. She’s child shaped, not some distorted miniature model.
  2. She’s a girl doing all sorts of active, non-traditional things.
  3. She’s adventurous and goes all over the place, including the jungle and fantasy lands.
  4. She goes outside and gets lots of exercise, but it’s not just organised sport.
  5. She’s independent, confident and a problem solver.
  6. She’s dark skinned, not a cute little white angel.
  7. She’s imaginative and creative with a rich fantasy life.
  8. She has all sorts of friends, male, female, cows, monkeys, trolls, …
  9. Swiper isn’t purely evil, sometimes he’s good and sometimes he’s bad, which is realistic.
  10. They celebrate and acknowledge good things.
  11. I like iguanas, I just have a thing for reptiles.
  12. Her mother is an archaeologist, professional, female, scientist, how many great role models in one.
  13. She interacts with adults, it’s not just a Neverland full of children.

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others’ comments. It’s easy, and fun!

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13 Practical Things That Would Make the World More Kid Friendly

They are our future.  They make up almost 30% of the population.  And yet we ignore them and make no provision for them.

1.  Children’s public toilets.

We manage to have disabled toilets, which is great, and there are more kids around than people with disabilities.  So how about a slightly larger stall so they can deal with their clothes or Mum or Dad can fit in with a lower toilet, toilet paper they can reach and a low, big, easily turnable lock. My husband has just informed me that men’s toilets usually have one lower urinal, which says some interesting things about women’s toilets and designers.

2.  Children’s cutlery and plastic cups at cafes.

It’s hard to eat with cutlery that’s too big, no wonder they drop it all the time!  It’s not that hard to give them teaspoons and dessert forks, or even get some actual kid’s cutlery. Even better than plastic cups, plastic cups with a narrow mouth.  Wide mouths just end up pouring out the side.  How would you like to eat your meal with salad servers and drink out of a bucket?

3.  Play equipment and feeding chairs in shopping centres.

I remember when shopping centres used to have little garden areas, before they realised they could stick stands in there and get more rent.  I know sometimes privacy is good, but then you have to entertain the older child while feeding the baby, or use a hard wooden bench.  So how about providing some comfortable chairs with basic play equipment, even simple things like floor mazes or moving pegs on boards if you’re worried about kids getting hurt and suing you.  A place where both kids and parents can have a break before heading into the next shop.  You may miss out on the rent for the floorspace but you would get a heck of a lot more customers, and ones who are more relaxed and can look around.

4.  Menus that include something other than chips.

Need I say more?  My kids like chips too, but it would be nice to have some choices!  They also like dips and crudites, or salad plates, or eggs, or risotto, you get the picture?

5.  Miniature shopping trolleys.

Sometimes I only want a few things, and why should kids be cooped up in a trolley?  It can be hazardous in a shop, getting hit by a full trolley is both likely and serious when you’re only 3 feet high.  I see this as a win/win – give them a little trolley with a flag sticking up so everyone can see them and they get to be included and have something to do, which means a whole lot less whining and tantrums!

6.  Steps they can stand on at counters that are meant for kids, like icecream shops or food courts!

I confess, if there is a bench at counter height I let them sit/stand on it and bad luck anyone who doesn’t like it.  It’s not fair that in a shop that allegedly caters to children they can’t even see what they are ordering, let alone gasp! order for themselves. Some of them might even like to hand over the money and pay for themselves.

7.  Matinees or afternoon shows, or ones late at night.

Wouldn’t it be nice to take kids to see something like Cats?  Or Starlight Express?  Cirque de Soleil?  I’m probably just showing my age here!  I’ve got nothing against the various kid groups, but my kids would love to see other shows too.  A show where people sing and dance and rollerskate – they’d sit through it.  What are tweens supposed to see – too old for the Wiggles but really too young for pop, they’re stuck with growing up too quickly or nothing.  But unless you live somewhere like London they’re always on at times that are no good, when they are winding down and tired.  Or as a parent I’m barred from going because they are right in the middle of bedtime.  If I could get them to bed first then go out later it would work much better.  Don’t complain that teenagers and young adults don’t appreciate ‘culture’ when they have never been given the opportunity.

8.  Roped off kid areas at places like cinemas or sporting venues

Notice how cinemas always have huge waiting areas?  How about roping a bit off so kids have a place they can jump, roll around on the floor, and generally do those things kids do when they’ve been waiting a long time.  They’re not in anyone else’s way, no-one is going to walk into them.  Sounds good to me.  Obviously parents would still have to keep an eye on them, but it would be a much more relaxing wait for everyone concerned.

9. Family/parent queues

Wouldn’t it be nice to move those kids through before they get to the stage of whingeing?  And seeing there aren’t that many adults who choose to do kid type activities if they don’t have kids, it’s not as if they will take anyone’s ticket by going through first.  But even if they do, I’d hope that the adult would be able to express their disappointment in an adult way.  Of course if there was a designated kids’ area that parents could see while they waited in queue, …

10. Playgroup for big kids

We have a brilliant play group, with amazing toys, dressups, play equipment and craft gear.  But it’s only accessible until they start school.  Once they are at school there are organised activities like sport, scouts, or music, or they are supposed to have friends over.  Now there’s a place for organisation and competition, but there’s also a place for creativity, imagination and co-operation.  It would be really nice to have access to the same range of gear and large groups of children so they can continue to play creatively.

11.  Flexible school hours.

Work with me on this one, it’s a bit harder.  Our school hours are a product of a society where kids went home in the afternoon to do chores or help out on the farm.  They needed summer off so they could work.  But is it the best distribution for a modern society?  What if teenagers could go to school from 11am – 5pm?  What if primary students could go from 7am-12pm then go home for lunch?  Or what if they did 9am-5pm but with a 2 hour break in the middle of the day when they could rest, play, do art, sport or something completely different?  It might be a great option for working parents.  What if school holidays were rearranged to have 4 blocks of 3 weeks?  In the NT we have 1 week at Easter, 4 weeks in the dry season, 1 week in October then 6 weeks in the Wet season.  Wouldn’t it be great if school districts could make these decisions?  It would be difficult logistically – if you had kids in different schools for example, but isn’t it worth exploring a bit creatively?

12.  Public transport

How about designated seats on public transport that had flip down booster seats? Not that hard to do, then kids don’t have their feet dangling and can see out the window, which automatically makes it more interesting. And they could even have harnesses attached!

13. Attitude!

Everything I’ve suggested so far is practical and do-able. But it will never really change the way society views children without a change of attitude. Children are human too, with exactly the same right to respect and dignity as adults. So adults need to be aware of this, respect them and allow them their dignity. Give them time to process questions and answer. Accept that they won’t walk as quickly as you do. Enjoy the fact that they have so much fun playing and smile at them. Assume that parents know a bit more about the context than you do and support them in their decisions. Understand that their sense of time is completely different to yours and they live at a much faster pace.

And if you can’t do that, remember what your mother said: If you can’t say something nice,don’t say anything!

How about some more suggestions?  And how do we take these to a higher level – lobby shopping centres? Councils?

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others’ comments. It’s easy, and fun!

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A Happy Post

Just for SquiggleMum!

The other day I tweeted:

“I definitely have the most adorable, special, cute, wonderful, happy, loving children in the whole house.”

Someone else, the wonderful Wonderkarin, asked me why not in the whole of Australia?  I joked a bit, then amended it to ‘the whole world,’ but I’ve been thinking about it since and thought it might be nice to post about it.

I adore my kids, and they’re pretty special.  Apart from the ongoing sleep issue, they really are adorable, special, cute, wonderful, happy and loving.  There’s some normal toddler bickering, and big girl really doesn’t get that other people have a say too.  But she works so hard at listening and loves her little sister so much and is so caring that it’s easy to overlook.  And she’s just turned 4 for goodness’ sake!

Some of it’s luck, the whole genes/environment and personality thing.  Some of it’s circumstance – they have two parents who love them and can give them anything they need and a stable, nurturing environment.  Some of it is hard work on their part, especially big girl.  But I’ll also put my hand up to say some of it has been hard work on my part.  I’ll go against all the cultural conditioning that says I should be modest and say I’m really proud of the job I’ve done so far and I hope I can continue to do as well.

But they’re not the best kids in the world.

There isn’t really any such thing.  What I consider traits to cherish and nurture, someone else will consider bad manners.  What I consider minor annoyances or just being a little kid, someone else will consider mortifying.  And there will definitely be lots of people who think baby girl’s sleep (or lack thereof) disqualify her straight away.  We all have different values we want to pass on to our kids.

Which makes the whole competetive mothering thing absolutely pointless, doesn’t it.  Why would I compare my kids to someone else’s when I don’t want kids like theirs?  I don’t mean that in a bad way, just that I will guarantee that we have different priorities of what we want our kids to be like.  And that’s the other reason I don’t like saying my kids are the best in the world – I’m not competing with anyone and I don’t want to.

My kids are the most gorgeous, caring, kind, smartest, funniest, cuddliest, cheekiest, most confident, curious and just plain fun kids in this house.  They always will be, and that’s all they need to be.  Are yours?

Real Women

This post has been a long time coming, it’s probably still a bit confused.

First of all, there is another push for the use of ‘real women’ as models.  A group led by Mia Freedman and Sarah Murdoch met with Federal Minister Kate Ellis about it, and I suppose the government is the way to go if you don’t have any connections in the modelling/fashion/media industries.  (Heavy irony here, for those who don’t know Mia Freedman is an ex-editor of Cosmopolitan and has written for most of the women’s magazines, and Sarah Murdoch is host of Autralia’s Next Top Model and married to a Murdoch.  Mia Freedman did introduce non models, ban diets and show different skin colours while editor.)

And that’s great.  But all of the commentary I’ve seen is focussed on weight.  Or let’s be honest, fat.

I struggle with fat and body image.  When I was a kid I wasn’t fat, but thanks to comparisons with my family and all the other little girls at ballet I thought I was.  Since uni I’ve swung between mildly overweight and mildly obese.  I don’t yoyo diet or anything like that, but I’m aware that I don’t have healthy eating habits and periodically try to improve.  And that’s really the key to some of my ambivalence – health.

No matter how happy you are in your skin, heart disease is the number one killer in the world.  You can be confident and glowing and look good, but it’s not going to save you from clogged arteries or insulin insensitivity.  I don’t think that overweight people are stupid, or lazy, or anything like that.  And I know that there are medical conditions or lifestyle factors that make it hard to stay thin.  But I have to admit to a little voice that says come on Deb, you know you could do it if you cared enough.  You could find the time to exercise if you really wanted to.  You don’t have to buy chocolate.  It would require a lifestyle change, but I could do it if I was really serious.  And that’s the problem – I certainly don’t think it’s ok to discriminate against fat people, that’s me too! but it doesn’t quite fit in with the other isms.  You don’t have control over your skin colour, your ability, your gender or sexuality.  But most of us do have at least a little bit of control over our food and exercise.

So I struggle and I stress about what to teach my girls.  I want them to be happy and healthy, so I’m aware I somehow have to teach them better habits than I have and give them, and me, better food choices than I usually make.  It has nothing to do with how they look – it’s about giving them healthy eating and exercise habits.  But at the same time, I want them to be happy with their bodies and confident however they are, and not think that they have to conform to some limiting ideal.

And then I received a sewing magazine I subscribe to, and there was an article about French women and their body confidence.  As children they generally aren’t put down as we are, and are much more successful at living by “If you feel good, you look good.” At first I thought this was wonderful, because here was a rule I could use.  You don’t have to conform to an artificial look, but it’s important to be healthy so you will feel good.  But then I started thinking about all those other little body flaws.  And I realised I’d bought in.  Whether you like seeing skinny models because we shouldn’t let muffin tops be the norm or think there should be ‘plus-size’ models because that’s how most women are, you are still defining worth by weight.  Either they have eaten right/had lucky genes/exercised hard to be skinny, or they are confident in themselves/not bowing to societal pressure – whichever is important to you.

Real women aren’t just fat or skinny.  Real women have short legs.  Or hooked noses.  Or moles.  Or big hands.  These are the things that have nothing to do with health and we can’t control, it is just the way we are born.  So these are the things I need to work on, or rather not work on and not mention.  These are the things my girls never need to hear about, because if they feel good, they’ll look good, and I can help them develop that confidence.  And I can also try to give them healthy eating and exercise habits, not because it will fit in with society, but so they can continue to feel good for a very long time.

MONDAY MONEY – INVESTMENTS Paying off Debt and Investing for the Future.

My strongest recommendation is to pay off the debt you have, and then plan further investments for the future. Many of us have debt, usually 2 or 3 loans, ranging from short term to long term. With all the loans there are fees and interest that we are paying. It is worth doing a few calculations to see how much you are paying back on all the loans. Once you have done this you will realise how much money you have for future investments.

Starting with the loan (credit card included) with the highest interest rate, how much is the monthly repayment on this account. If it is a credit card then there needs to be a plan not to make any more purchases using the card, the aim is a zero balance and then to get rid of it altogether. Pay the minimum on all other loans and put everything into getting rid of the highest interest.  Once this is achieved, using the monthly payments from the loan you have just paid out, add these to the next highest interest rate loan and pay it out. Adding the 2 amounts together will reduce the loan in next to no time and save you a huge amount in fees and charges. Keep doing this until you have no more loans left.

This sounds so simple, so why is it that we don’t do it? A big reason is discipline! We are not good organisers and really do not handle our finances as well as we would like to. There is always something more important than getting ourselves out of the financial mess we are in from week to week.

I think a fairly new product on the banking scene is the Offset Account. I know more and more people are finding this and starting to use it. I certainly did and it made a difference to my situation. Basically it is an account you have your savings or pay go into. Any interest on the funds is used against a nominated loan account. It is worth talking to your bank about how it all works. They should be able to explain it clearly. The interest that I saved on my loan I added to the repayments and I was able to reduce the loan faster, and in turn save more money.

There is a fine line between investing for the future and paying off debt. I strongly believe that we should be investing for our futures, and those people who make money from having us put money into their funds would agree with me. But I would say that we need to be a little cautious in this area, as we try and sort out what is sound advice and what is perhaps helping keep others employed.

It is all the harder when interest rates are low, there is a real chance to build some savings as I don’t have to pay as much in interest each month. Another way to look at this would be to say, here is a great opportunity to reduce the loan faster and reduce my debt! How many people have looked at this and kept paying the larger amounts into the loan, or have they gone ‘whew’ less strain on the budget and used the money elsewhere. I would hazard a guess to say lots of people have done the latter! I know what I have done in the past, lessen the strain on the budget is usually the path people take.

So how do I plan to make some real changes in my financial situation? My starting point was to look at all my expenses, then my income. From there I developed a budget. 3 simple steps. Making sure that my income was greater than my expenses each fortnight, including payments for loans. Once I had this information I was able to establish what amount I had per fortnight over and above my expenses, and what I could reasonably add to one of the loans I had. With this in place I made sure that I stuck with paying out the first loan. Next as I said before, adding the first payment to the second loan and paying it out. Not long before debt is being reduced very rapidly.

Once you have paid off the loan/s or repaid the money to someone else, you can start to seriously look at your future savings. Over the life of a 30 year home loan, you will have paid back in interest about the same amount as you borrowed. So it stands to reason that if you can repay the money sooner then you will pay less, and therefore start to save sooner.

I really do hope this is understandable as I have had a deal of difficulty putting it together. The main point is to not be paying interest on loans to banks as you try to save for the future, look at paying off your debt and then build a positive investment.

We were egged last night

No knocks on the door, no refusal to treat.  Definitely no costumes.  In fact one of the attacks was at midnight, just as I was going to bed.  Welcome to Halloween in a small town in the middle of Australia.

Kids have been getting excited and planning for the past week, but not their costume or their party.  They’ve been discussing who they will vandalise, leaving eggs out in the sun (and it’s 40+ here).  One was spotted buying 5 dozen eggs yesterday.

Something has been lost in translation.

Forget pagan origins, what are they?  And forget the concept that you put some effort into a costume, have a bit of fun, maybe get some chocolate.  It’s even gone past bribery – they don’t even threaten give me some chocolate or I’ll egg you.  It’s just a night when you are allowed to run around and vandalise things.  Isn’t it?

Believe it or not, I’m not all that upset.  Partly that’s because their aim was pretty bad and they hit the wheelie bin, not the car or the house.  But I think it’s a good, or rather worrying, example of how kids in small town Australia are lost.

Where is their culture?  Where are their role models?  I know exactly where many of them get their cultural memes – WWE, World Wresting Entertainment on Austar.  I know because I’ve been teaching many of them and had this discussion.  And it’s not just that the shows are American or unrealistic, there is also a basic lack of understanding.  They don’t understant what the shows are trying to tell them so they latch onto a few things they do understand and construct a worldview based on them.

This is critical literacy.  This is making sense of and analysing a text.

Now think of the internet.  Think of the masses of information that wash over you with the click of a button.  And think how scary it is to see people let loose in there without the ability to tell what is credible and what isn’t.  What is a reliable source and what isn’t.  I’ve just had a swine flu example – someone who should have known better passing on propaganda without even clicking on the link to the source, which would have told them something wasn’t right.  And this is an intelligent, well-educated person.

So we have two problems.  First we have to understand that the world has changed.  We now live in the information age and it is far, far different to the world we grew up in, even those of us who are relatively young.  We have to realise and prepare our children for a whole new world and new set of skills, especially new literacies.

And we need to look to our own skills and make sure we haven’t been left behind.  Because if we don’t, we might not realise we are egging people.

“All Natural!” … So what?

Firstly let me say I’m an evolutionary biologist by training.  So I love nature.  I think nature is amazing, awe-inspiring, incredible, and just about every other superlative.  I do not think nature is good.  In fact, I find the idea incredibly offensive.

Let me explain.  ‘Good’ and ‘bad’ are human constructs based on morals.  It is a way of judging things and seeing if they measure up to our personal sense of right and wrong.  In fact I’ll go further and say the whole idea of ‘good’ nature is religious thinking, because it is based on the idea that nature was created for us, to look after us.  This is incredibly limiting.  Nature is bigger than us, and to me it takes a special kind of arrogance to think you can judge nature by human standards or in human terms.

Yes, nature has given us some amazing systems such as skeletal development, bee colonies and coral reefs.  It has also given us diptheria, tetanus and earthquakes.

Some of the most dangerous things to eat include eggs, fish and nuts – all natural.  And in the long term, fat and sugar are more likely to kill you than BPA.  Heart disease is the most common cause of death in the industrialised world, and the obesity epidemic wasn’t caused by artificial additives.  If you make homemade goodies with the most natural of butters and sugars it doesn’t matter if they are free from artificial preservatives – they are still firmly in the ‘sometimes food’ category, not ‘everyday foods’.  It is perfectly possible to be incredibly unhealthy on an ‘all-natural’ diet.

Some of the most important drugs are anti-biotics and pain killers like aspirin and morphine – all natural.  Whole classes of pharmaceuticals are based on natural chemicals from plants and moulds, because nature has been in the business of creating bio-active chemicals for a very, very long time.  But those important drugs also have side effects and can be dangerous, exactly because they work so well.  A side effect is just a biological effect of a drug other than the one we want – and nature created those drugs without worrying about what humans might want.

If you are ever told that something is ‘has no side-effects’ because it is natural then a) they’re lying or b) it doesn’t work.  How can I be so black and white?  Easily.  Natural things are messy and complicated.  They contain many different drugs in different doses, meaning there are more things there to affect your system.  And then there are interactions between drugs, where we have trouble even guessing what might happen.  Even eating fruit changes the way your gut absorbs things and can give you a dangerous overdose of some drugs!  So being natural is actually a guarantee that there will be effects other than the one you are after, which is the definition of a side-effect.  Unless of course it doesn’t have an effect at all.  Because that’s the only way you can guarantee no side-effects – if there is no effect.  Which means it doesn’t work.

As far as nature is concerned, we are one moderately successful species out of the billions that have ever lived.  It doesn’t create anything especially for us.  And the past 10,000 years of human history are largely the story of trying to get away from nature.  Fire, planting our own food, living in one place, sanitation, electric lights, comfortable beds, these are all ways of avoiding nature.  And I like it.  I like being able to stay up past sunset because I have light.  I like being able to have a hot shower and a flush toilet.  I like being able to keep my food fresh in a refrigerator, and get fruit and vegetables that are out of season and don’t grow in this area.  I especially like that my children are not likely to die.  Living to see my grandkids grow up will be another bonus.  All of these things are ‘against nature.’

Like I said, I love nature.  I am fascinated and awed by it.  It has created some amazing things, including planets and ecosystems and even the human brain.  But it is not human so I don’t judge it in human terms.  And I don’t use it to judge other things.  It’s not a way to tell if a food is healthy – it might be, it might not.  It’s not a way to tell if a drug will work and be safe.  It’s not even a way to tell if a parenting practice will be good for my children.  These are complicated questions and lots of factors need to be considered, not just how natural they are.

So if you try to sell me something by telling me it’s “all natural!”  my considered response will be “So what?”

Be Careful What You Wish For …

I have just got back from a few days away and we had a fabulous time.  Zoos, museums, the waterfront, restaurants, everything was great and very kid friendly. Except one little thing that really made me think.

To set the scene I have two girls, 4 and 18 months, both fully toilet trained during the day.  When out and about the little one needs help to get her pants down and get up on the toilet, but that’s it.  Generally when we’re out we all go to the toilet together, I mean what else are you going to do with them?  So while we can all fit in a normal cubicle we try to go for disabled toilets whenever there isn’t a parenting room.

I was originally a bit conflicted about this.  They’re disabled toilets, I felt guilty about using them when we’re all able.  But on the other hand I’ve never yet seen a person with a disability going to them, much less found someone waiting when we get out.  Not that I sit there and watch who’s going in or out of the toilets.  But we don’t seem to be inconveniencing anyone so we might as well use them.

One of the toilets we visited on this trip (and we visited a LOT!) was shared use – for parents and people with disabilities.  And it makes a lot of sense, small children and parents have a lot of the same needs.  The toilets are often lower, which makes it easier for littlies to get on them, they usually have handholds that very little ones can use to stabilise themselves, there’s room to manoeuvre a pram as well as a wheelchair and the sinks generally have easily accessible taps little kids can work.  In addition, this one had one of the fold-up change stations on the wall.

It also had a sign, asking

“Parents please limit use to avoid impacting disabled users.”

Hang on a minute.

When I’m illicitly using the disabled facitilities as it were I feel a bit off.  If there was a disabled person around I would definitely wait until after them.  But this is a dual use facility.  It has a change table in there and says so right on the door.  So why is one set of users less important that the other?  Why does one set of users have to ‘avoid impacting’ the other?  Flip it around – would it be reasonable to ask disabled people to be quick to avoid impacting on parents?

OK, it takes longer than normal to change a baby.  And I’m sure the girls and I take ages, although not as long as 3 separate people – we have the production line down pat.  But do you really think parents are hanging around in there for fun?  Dawdling away in the public toilets?  They’re such a fun place to hang out, after all.

And how exactly are we supposed to limit use?  Wait until the nappy is really, really full?  Leave them in the pooey nappy until we get home?  Maybe change them kneeling on the ground in the wind and rain outside?  I admit my non-verbal baby has lots of false positives – she often gives me the toilet signal and then doesn’t produce (although that doesn’t seem to happen at home for some reason).  So should I ignore her and take the chance that this time it was real so make her poo her pants?

Would you ask disabled adults to sit in their own urine and faeces so they don’t impact on others?

No.  That is unreasonable.  It is disrespectful and demeaning.  Yet that is precisely what is being asked of children.  Children are not even being treated as second-class citizens, they are being denied (or limiting) basic human rights of hygiene.

Our society does not appear to want children.  It would be interesting to see what happened if that wish came true.

Monday Money – WHAT AM I WORTH AND HOW DID I GET HERE

This is a little personal history about where I am coming from when I am writing about the financial achievements which have occurred during my life. Hopefully this will give some insight into where I am coming from and that there is some real experience that I am basing my comments and information on. There are many experts in the field that are worth listening to, Paul Clitherow and Robert Kiyosaki are two authors that I would recommend reading and listening to the suggestions they make, following their advice is an even better choice.

I left school as soon as I could, not one for the classroom from a very early stage. I am left handed, so what you might say, but a year 2 teacher decided that I should use my right hand and broke several rulers across the back of my knuckles. Not character building or anything like that, just put me off school for a very long time. My first job lasted for a couple of years, full time employment, working for a children’s organisation on the grand sum of $85 a week after tax, heaps of money to a young man who didn’t have many over heads still living at home. I had some savings, not much and to my shock, was fired along with a couple of others, down turn in funding and we cost too much, replaced by a couple of 17 year olds.

My savings depleted I decided to look for a job, that very morning a call from my mother asking me to help her out and cover a job due to a bus accident. Not a big issue as I didn’t have anything else to do, and I knew it would be paid or at least I was able to stay at home and not feel guilty about not working. Without dragging out the love book and all the soppy stuff, I moved out of home at the age of 19, and for the first time had the experience of having to fend for myself. No one taught me how to manage the situation; hey I thought it would be a piece of cake. Wrong! After a few weeks I was in a total financial crisis, more money going out than coming in. The results of which I moved into a shared house with 3 others, and boy did that make a difference. Things started to change, financially as well as long term as one of the house mates later became my wife, we lived together for 4 years, gradually not replacing flat mates until we were on our own.

If this isn’t interesting, then skip a paragraph or two and pick it up later. I am sure that it will or won’t make more sense later; it is parts of what has helped shape the decisions that I make today, ones that I hope you can look at and perhaps think about how these might change things for you. I bought my first house after having a lease on a rental come to an end and looking at what we paid in rent and what we could afford to pay on a mortgage, 2 incomes and no children sounded good at the time.

Oh how quickly things change, and I am sure that some of you will be reading this and gasping, saying that is what happened to us! In my case, it was the most fortunate things that could have happened we moved into the house in May, found out that we were expecting our first child in February, got married in September, and experienced the eighties increases in interest rates, up to 17.5% in 1987. I learnt a lot about managing the financial running of the house.

We struggled from pay to pay for a number of years, the credit card became maxed out very early on and meeting the minimum monthly payments was usually all that I could manage. The insurance on the car didn’t get paid more and more often, more good fortune than management that we didn’t have an accident because that would have really stretched things further. As I have said before, there was a limit to making ends meet, and having a 2nd or 3rd and even a 4th job became the only way to keep things going. I could ramble on about the next umpteen years but that would be rather dreary, but suffice to say things slowly improved, especially when the interest rates went down. We didn’t change our lifestyles; rather I was able to cut back on the hours that I worked.

So jumping further forward, I divorced a number of years ago, with 1 child to support, as well as leaving most of the contents of the house and a significant part of the savings. We had a year before sold the family home so only had cash and possessions to sort. The credit card debt and loan on the car became mine, some $50,000 all up. There are no winners from this; both parties are going to come away with their own perceptions of who got what and what it was all worth. At the end of the day, I believe that I was left with what was reasonable.

I had a new lady in my life and we settled in together. It took me a couple of years to sort things financially. We took a punt on buying an investment property, something we talked about and researched for a few months before going ahead with. We looked at areas of growth, costs of housing in the area and what the rental returns could be. Fully armed with all the information we thought we needed we looked at 2 bedroom units, we set our price at under $100,000, armed with a newspaper and street directory, drove around looking. We had our finances organised, knew from our discussions what we wanted to buy and set about doing exactly that. Within a short period we had bought 4 units staying within our budget and the rules we had laid down.

We purchased our house over the Internet, using the photos online and asking the agent to take and email others to us. We found several houses and set about researching each of these, the purpose for the house was to get into the market, not as a life long commitment to the place. We found a place and put an offer in what we were prepared to pay, if the vendor was unhappy with this then we would move on, I made this very clear to the agent. So when he phoned back saying the vendor wanted $5,000 more than we offered, we thanked him for his time and hung up. A day later the offer we had put in was accepted. Sounds hard nosed, it was but we wanted into the market at the lowest price we could get and were prepared to work to get what we wanted.

So where has this put me now. We sold 3 of the units as they had increased in value by about 200% in four years, paid off the house, and have now bought another 2 properties. Our property portfolio is worth about $900,000 with less than $150,000 in loans. The $24,000 limit on the credit card is gone! We have no other debts.

This isn’t bragging, I want to show you what can be achieved. It does require work to get things in the right place, yes there has been an element of luck in what we have done. This sort of thing can be done anywhere with the courage to get in and have a go, not just hope that things will work. And yes there are risks involved, hopefully managed so they are minimal.