Our Lilliput Library!

We’ve been moved in a few weeks now.

The boxes are (almost!) gone from the hallway, the kids (all four of them!) are settled in, and things are looking sorted. So on the weekend it was time to put up our own new Lilliput Library.

Here it is, looking lovely at our front gate:

Lilliput Libraries are a community project, started in Dunedin by Ruth Arnison a few years ago. Our own library is No 109, so there are a fair number around Dunedin now! You can view their locations around Dunedin on Google Maps.

The project has a WordPress blog, also run by Ruth. The Libraries also have a Facebook page and an Instagram page, with some lovely images of the various libraries around Dunedin. Take a look. Some of the artwork is absolutely beautiful.

Here are a couple of my favourites:

This is my friend Lhizz Browne’s Lilliput Library.

Lhizz’s Lilliput Library is up and running at 186 Pine Hill, so drop by and grab or add a book to this lovely library.

The library below has Diane Smith as its Guardian. She commisioned artist Jack Pillans to paint her fence to match, and the result is stunning. You can view the Lilliput Library – and the fence artwork – at 71 Newington Avenue:

Diane Smith’s beautiful Lilliput Library and fence artwork by local artist Jack Pillans.

Sharing books is a wonderful thing to do!

Lilliput Libraries are based on the concept of book sharing:

Take a book now…
Return or donate a book later.

Whenever you see a Lilliput Library, feel free to open the door and have a browse. Choose a book you’d like to read. You can keep the book for a while, or forever – Lilliput Libraries are cost-free, and there’s no membership required.

Then, if you are able, share a book back to any Lilliput Library when you can.

It’s that simple!

Becoming a Lilliput Library “Guardian

If you’d like to become a “Guardian” of a Lilliput Library in Dunedin, contact Ruth Arnison via the Lilliput Libraries blog. She’s a lovely lady and is incredibly helpful.

If you’re an artist or have carpentry skills, or can donate paint or woodworking products and you would like to support the Lilliput Libraries project, please also contact Ruth.

If you live in another city and would like to start up your own Lilliput Libraries scheme or build your own independent Lilliput Library, I can’t think of a lovelier way to encourage community and reading!

Headlice: What works, what doesn’t…

If you have kids, you’ve probably had to deal with headlice.

Today I’ll cover why most products don’t work, why headlice are at plague proportions around the world and how to keep children lice-free.

I’ll also cover what does work, what doesn’t work, and what’s complete rubbish and a waste of your money.

So read on to start winning the Headlice Battle!

We’ve been battling headlice a LONG time!

1. Why most supermarket “headlice treatments” don’t work.

Most “natural” treatments you can buy at the supermarket and chemist will not kill headlice or their eggs.

Products that in my experience do not work at all include the major brands “Moov”, “Parasidose”, “NeutraLice”, “Nyx”, “ClearLice” and “QuitNits”.

Most of these products are very expensive ($20 a bottle or more) and several treatments are needed if you follow the manufacturer’s instructions on anything other than very short hair, in order to full saturate the hair as directed. Manufacturers also recommend that the entire family be treated.

These products don’t work because headlice have grown immune to these products, if they ever actually worked at all.

Experts believe that over time headlice have grown tougher and more resistant, and what did work well a few decades ago no longer does. Remember, we have been using more and more chemicals and “natural” insecticides in our environment for a long time now. It’s not just headlice that have grown more resistant.

In short, these products are outdated and useless. Don’t pour your money down the drain by purchasing them.

2. Why headlice are an epidemic.

When I was a child, back in the 1970s, every school in Australia and New Zealand had a school nurse. The nurse’s responsibilities included checking children for headlice.

Kids were routinely sent home for headlice, and were not allowed back to school until they were cleared by the school nurse.

In other words, individual cases were checked, caught and isolated quickly, then dealt with.

Headlice was a rare occurrence. There was shame and stigma attached to being infested. In all my years at school, I never once had headlice, nor did my brother. I remember just one of my friends ever having lice.

The standard treatment back then was using gasoline, kerosene, naptha or turpentine to soak the hair. It worked – and worked well. It killed headlice quickly, and was cheap and easy to do.

However, there were also a tiny percentage of kids who ended up with burns from sitting near open fires and their hair lighting up, and the practice was strongly discouraged for safety reasons.

Snopes lists 9 cases worldwide of burns over a 20 year period. So burns happened very rarely, but when they did they were horrific. This was enough for health and safety authorities to discourage the use of these effective and affordable methods for treating headlice.

The school nurse program was universally dismantled over time from the 1980s onwards due to budget cuts, along with many other health and education programs throughout the Western world.

Without school checks, and with pressure from dual working families to not send kids home due to headlice, nits grew rampant.

Modern issues that have further added to the problem of headlice include children crowding around iPads, phones and computers, sharing electronic resources and allowing their heads to touch, and the fashion of girls having their hair loose and down rather than plaited and in ponytails at school, as well as boys having longer hair generally than in previous generations.

Taking the stigma away from headlice has not helped the situation either, as many parents don’t bother to report their children’s infestations to the schools, and schools fail to notify parents of current epidemics.

So apart from resistance to the products we’re using, we’re also not checking or isolating individuals with infestations as we once did.

Add into this longer, looser hairstyles (schools no longer require that girls tie their hair up or that boys have very short hair), and the sharing of computer terminals, phones and iPads with kids crowded closely together with head-to-head contact, plus the advent of school sunhats which are often mixed-up, and an epidemic was in the making.

There’s nothing much to stop the spread, and in a recent Christchurch study of primary school children about half needed treatment for headlice. Studies in Australian primary schools also report epidemic infestation rates.

3. How to keep kids headlice free.

  • Check your entire family thoroughly every week, including adults, on the same evening of the week. Check under good, bright light. A magnifying glass can be helpful.
  • If one child has headlice, assume all others may have headlice.
  • The Condition and Comb treatment method is the most widely recommended non-toxic treatment known to be effective in eliminating headlice.

  • Keep all your children’s hair short (i.e. a buzz cut) or tied back / plaited. Girls hair should ideally be kept as short as possible if they don’t like it tied back.

  • Ensure your child does not share hats, headgear, hair items (brushes, hair ties etc.) or pillow cases. Teach kids not to lean in for iPads, smart phones etc and to avoid head-to-head contact.
  • If your children have headlice, notify schools and social groups (i.e. Scouts, sporting groups etc.) immediately.

What works – and what doesn’t

  • Hair dryers and hair straighteners. Work! These work very well at killing headlice – and explain why I never had a single infestation in all the years I struggled with my children contracting them.

    A standard home hair dryer will kill nearly 98% of eggs with good technique. Hair straighteners are just as effective when used properly.

    If you have a daughter with long hair, hair dryers and straighteners are a great line of defence against headlice, especially when used in combination with the Conditioning and Combing technique.

  • Listerine. Works! I found that Listerine worked quite well, and killed a large majority of active lice in my daughter’s hair when I tried it a couple of years ago, but I couldn’t confirm it killed eggs. I used this method in conjunction with the condition and comb method with 100% clearance results.
  • Cetaphil cleanser. Works! Using Cetaphil cleanser (not the moisturiser) achieved a clearance rate of 95% when combed on then blow-dried in.
  • Gasoline / kerosene. Works! But beware! These products are highly flammable and one spark will set them alight. If you intend to use them, do so carefully.
  • Coca-cola. Unconfirmed. This treatment is all over the internet. I haven’t tried it, but it might be worth a go. If it does work, it’s certainly cheap and safe enough!

    The Coke method is unconfirmed, but worth a go!

  • 4% Dimethicone. Kinda-sorta works. The website states that dimethicone 4% eradicates headlice in at least 70% of patients. I’d call that an “almost win”. Dimethicone 4% is available on prescription only in New Zealand. Honestly, I wouldn’t bother. A hair dryer yields better results, for free.
  • Bug spray. Untested. I haven’t tested this and don’t want to. I have no intention of spraying bug spray on my kids. Don’t do this!
  • Pet flea treatments i.e “Spot on”, “Advantage” etc. Untested. These products work, and work well. On pets. By turning their blood toxic to insects. Seriously, don’t use these. Some of the ingredients can cause seizures, weakness and fatigue, and heart problems. While some of the same ingredients are being tested on humans for headlice in the USA, they’re being tested at 1/50th the strength. Very, very different.
  • Electronic comb i.e. “Robicomb”. Doesn’t work. Don’t bother. This is a big expensive waste of nothing.

    Listerine worked well for me, in conjunction with the Condition and Comb method.

  • Mayonnaise. Doesn’t work. I tried the “smother the head with mayo and wrap for hours” method. Either I didn’t wrap my daughter’s head for long enough or this just didn’t work. Either way, it was messy and difficult. Avoid.

  • Tea tree oil. Doesn’t work. While tea tree oil is a great deterrent (water down, put in a spray bottle and spray your child’s head each morning), it didn’t work to kill headlice.

  • Petroleum jelly. Doesn’t work. Creates a big, sticky mess, and expensive.

Summary

Health authorities around the world recommend the Condition and Comb method. This is still the best way to treat headlice, along with using a common household hair dryer. There is some evidence to suggest old bonnet-style hair dryers work well too.

I firmly believe that common-sense will return to our societies, and that we’ll return to having school nurses again. Headlice is more than a nuisance – it prevents our kids from concentrating and learning.

It’s time we took things seriously.

Moving “Simple Living…With Kids” to a new host!

Hi all,

Over the coming few days, I’m moving Simple Living…With Kids to a new web host.

Hopefully the process will be smooth, and you won’t see any interruptions. However, if things get a little frisky, I ask all my lovely readers to please be patient while I sort things out.

The address will stay the same, and your links will stay the same. If everything gors smoothly, you won’t see any change, as a reader.

If all goes well, I’ll post instructions on how I moved hosts, and provide details on any isseas that occurred.

Wish me luck in the move!

Mother’s Day: 10 non-spendy ideas to make Mother’s Day just perfect…

It’s Mother’s Day here in New Zealand this Sunday.

As usual, the shops are all suggesting we buy cards and gifts. For some reason, the junk mail is full of suggestions that people buy their mums kitchen items such as serving platters, new toasters, dinner sets and cutlery.

If someone bought me a toaster for Mother’s Day I would kill them!!!

I wanted CHOCOLATE!!!!! 😉

But seriously, Mother’s Day doesn’t have to be about the money. Or the stuff. So, in light of that, here are 10 fabulous non-spendy ideas to make your Mother’s Day just perfect. Five are things to make, and five are things to do.

Have fun! And Happy Mother’s Day!

Mother’s Day gifts – to make

1. A wheat bag to keep her warm on cold nights. Here’s how: How to make a wheat bag.

2. A foot scrub to make her tired feet soft and lovely. Here’s how: Recipe for peppermint foot scrub.

3. A “Ten things I love about you” book. Here’s how: Ten things I love about you.

4. Bath salts. Then let her soak for hours…. Here’s how: Homemade bath salts.

5. A ladybird rock paperweight for her desk. Every time she sees it, she’ll smile 🙂 Here’s how: Ladybug rocks.

Mother’s Day gifts – to do

1. Let her sleep in. The rest of the family members – partners, kids, assorted groupies – do everything for a day. Make breakfast. Tidy up. Do the washing. Clean the house. Fix that gizmo that has needed fixing for ever. Oh, and keep the noise down…

2. Bake something nice. And CLEAN the kitchen afterwards. Bake some cupcakes. Or a slice. Or some muffins. The house will smell lovely.

3. Collect wildflowers. Go for a drive. Or a walk. Collect wildflowers. Give them to her. With love. Oh – and if it’s too wet for collecting flowers, go splashing in puddles or build a snowman instead!

4. Go hiking. Together. As a family. You’ll know if your mum likes that kind of thing. Some of us do 😉

5. Let her be a tourist in her home town. Most cities have a council website with suggestions of free things to do in the city. Some ideas include:
going to the botanic gardens,
visiting a park,
going to the beach for a family picnic,
visiting an open garden or a historic home,
going for a drive along a scenic route,
going to a free talk or open-air concert,
playing in a playground like you’re a kid again,
visiting the art gallery,
visiting the museum,
visiting local heritage sites,
visiting cultural sites,
bird watching in a wild place,
going “instagramming” at a local beauty spot,
wildlife spotting,
visiting an old church and enjoying the silence,
visiting an old graveyard and reading the old tombstones (they can be really interesting!)

Use your imagination and give mum a truly special day!

Blended families, minimalism and compromise…

I’m a busy mum with two kids of my own – a son (12) and daughter (10).

And kind of like The Brady Bunch, I’ve inherited another two kids with my partner, who has primary custody of his son (16) and daughter (11).

Four kids. Yikes! I often wonder how on earth this happened to me. But it did!

Mixing families is never easy. Over the last few years, as we’ve introduced our kids to one another, we’ve all had our share of ups and downs, and we’re doing pretty well, I think.

But with mixing families, we also have to make some concessions. One of the concessions my partner and I decided we wouldn’t make was on giving the kids space of their own.

Our options, when we first moved in together, were as follows:

a) Put the boys in together (16 and 12) and the girls in together (11 and 10, but from different families in each case, and my daughter has special needs and doesn’t sleep well)

b) Put his kids in together (a 16 year old boy with an 11 year old girl) and my kids in together (a 12 year old boy and a 10 year old girl with special needs)

c) Give the oldest (his 16 year old boy) a room of his own and make the others share in some way

d) Give the youngest (a girl with special needs a room of her own) and make the others share in some way.

None of the sharing options worked well. So we settled on a different option altogether, and decided that all of the kids needed their own room. Their own space.

It was hard finding a home that was big enough on our particular budget, and in the end, the home we’ve found is beautiful and in an ideal position, but it does need some work. We’re going to have to roll up our sleeves and get busy! That was the compromise we were willing to make.

The compromise we made also meant that my dream of owning a smaller home went out the window. I’m now the minimalist with a five bedroom home!

I’m the minimalist with the five bedroom home!

What I’ve learned from this is that people are more important than ideals. The house is bigger than I wanted, and I feel like an old fraud, preaching minimalism while living in a big house. But it is what we need, for our particular circumstances, with four kids from two families and one of those kids with special needs.

The truth is, minimalism means own what you need, and nothing more. If you need a big home, then buy the big home and don’t feel guilty. I need a big home, every square foot of it will be used.

My version of minimalism might be different from yours, and yours might be different from the next person’s. Have what you need, and be content. We’re looking forward to moving into our new home, and everyone having space of their own.

Sometimes space is a good thing. Especially when you’re blending families 🙂

Two weeks to go!

It’s two weeks until we move into our new home!

We’re starting to clear out at the temporary rental we’ve been in, and today my partner and I visited the house, together with our real estate agent and a guy from the heating company, looking at the different options for heating the home. It’s an old house and there is no heating, except for three old fireplaces.

The main living room. You can see one of the fireplaces in the far wall.

It felt odd visiting what will be our new home, and good to have a look around. It’s a beautiful old home, but it needs a lot of work. It’ll keep us busy for quite a while, I suspect!

The house and garden from the rear. It’s in a lovely sunny spot, central to everything. The house needs work, and one of the first tasks will be a full external repaint in summer (around Christmas for New Zealand)!

We were there for well over an hour – I could tell the poor real estate agent was getting restless – but in the end we made some decisions, and we should have heating organised by the time we move in.

Currently the library, this room will probably be our master bedroom. I’m looking forward to painting and decorating it, and will be sharing the “before and after” pics here at the blog!

We’re all really looking forward to moving in now, especially my two kids, who are sharing a room, and my partner’s son, who is living downstairs in the storage room under the house in the rental. Not exactly ideal! We’ll be redecorating the kids rooms one by one, and I’m looking forward to sharing what we do as we get it all done.

As for the garden, I’m keen to create a meditation garden in the front, and to have my chooks again out the back, and my partner wants to build a fire pit. I’m not sure how I feel about the fire pit, but sometimes living with someone you love means compromise.

Not long now!

5 great decluttering tips for moving house

We’re moving into our new house in May. And moving is such a great time to declutter!

Here are 5 great, simple tips for decluttering while moving house.

1. Give each of your kids a cardboard box for their stuff.

As long as you’re not moving long distances, you can usually move small personal items yourself, and save a lot of money doing so. So get your kids to put all their personal items they intend to keep in a big box, and everything else out by the front door for charity or sale.

I let my kids keep any money from sold personal items. It really encourages them to clear their items they no longer use! Kids love making money!

I’ve found that inspiring the kids with what their new rooms will look like, and even letting them choose the decor, is really getting them keep to clear out and move. My partner’s daughter is almost as keen on Pinterest now as I am! 🙂

2. Keep a charity box and a “sell” box by the front door.

Sort into one of two boxes as you go. So easy! We like to donate to our local Hospice shop 🙂

Now, create two challenges between the kids of a) who can donate the most items from their room and b) who can throw away the most items from their room. My kids are mercenaries and food or cash prizes are a sure-fire winner! Creating a little friendly competition between the kids can work wonders with motivation.

3. Garage sales and flea markets are great places to declutter.

Some people have enough items to run their own garage sale. I find I can’t be bothered and don’t have enough stuff for a garage sale anyway, so selling through a local flea market works better for me. Check your local council website for markets that might suit you.

One rule: Anything you take to the flea market that doesn’t sell goes to charity at the end of the day. Don’t bring it home with you!

And don’t buy anything!

Photo of New York flea market by IsaFire.

4. Clothing can be checked over while clearing out.

We’re getting our kids to check all their clothing for size and wear while we’re clearing out. It makes sense. Don’t bring items that don’t fit or are in poor shape with you when you move!

If you haven’t tried it yet, you might want to consider giving The Project 333 a go, and try living with a minimalist wardrobe in your new home. Check it out: The Project 333.

I’ve been living with a minimalist wardrobe for three years now, and could never go back to a wardrobe bursting at the seams!

5. Play the “Packing Party” when you move!

Only take out what you need, as you need it, when you arrive. You might be surprised how little of your personal items you actually use! So why not have a “packing party” now you actually have to pack? Here’s a link: The packing party.