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Destination Gold Coast September 28 2019

 Travelling with young children is not relaxing but it doesn’t have to be too stressful with a little planning and a lot of patience. With Shane’s work schedule, I have often travelled alone with the four boys, especially if I want to escape the Melbourne winter. I figure, a little pain is worth the gain. My first trip alone with all four was pretty soon after the twins turned two years old (prior to that you need one adult per infant on most airlines) and I headed off tor Bali on my own. Me and a couple of terrible two's, a five year old and a seven year old! Luckily I had some help waiting at the other end!

What actually shocked me most was not how hard it was with my boys, but how little help I was offered by fellow passengers. Not that I expected it, but an offer to hold a carry on bag or pick a rogue water bottle up off the floor when I clearly had my hands full would have been nice. Instead I mainly received disbelieving stares and a slight ‘hip and shoulder’ as we disembarked the plane at Denpasar. It taught me to always pack light and to make sure at least one hand could always be free (think cross body bags, backpacks and large sturdy bags with zips). And most importantly as few suitcases (with wheels) that you need. It’s the simple things. 

I have always survived by having low expectations. Well not even that, just realistic expectations. Travelling can be tiring and boring even for adults so we shouldn’t expect our littlest people to be any different. So plan ahead with all the best plane snacks, change of clothes and all the entertainment devices you can squeeze into your carry ons. Always try for direct flights (it’s customs lines, long terminal walks and the pester power of the airport newsagent that will get you EVERY time!)

Lately I also have a bias towards smaller airports where the walk from the plane through to your ongoing transport is short and sweet. That’s why our recent interstate long weekend away was so appealing. We were desperate to finally be rid of the winter chill when a lovely email popped into my inbox from Destination Gold Coast. No sooner had I read surfing lessons and koala cuddles and I had replied with an eager YES PLEASE!

So we were off and I wanted to share with you some of the highlights of the trip as people often ask me down the track and lets face it, my memory is not what it used to be. Firstly we flew Jetstar and I must say, I’ve never had a bad experience. Low cost airlines get a bad wrap sometimes but the truth is, they help more Australians have more family holidays than we could previously afford, so we need to embrace the experience. As mentioned, when the walk from the luggage carousel to the hire car is short (and balmy) I’m a fan and Coolangatta airport is one of the best for this. A seamless transition and literally a five minute drive down the road to Kirra Beach and we were stripping off our tracksuits in our apartment in no time. 

We stayed in a great three bedroom apartment at Kirra Beach Apartments across the road from the beach. We had a gorgeous ocean view, kitchen, two bathrooms and plenty of space to fling our sandy bodies around in. (They even have a four bedroom penthouse - next time!) Even better, the pool, spa and BBQ area is fantastic and below the complex is the well known Kirra bakery, 7-11 and a pharmacy. That pretty much covers everything a travelling family may need at any hour. A stone’s throw are shopping centres, supermarkets and so many great cafes and restaurants. There’s nothing better than sitting outside on a warm evening relaxing in your sun kissed skin and I can’t wait to go back to experience more of that. 

Having said that, we did visit The Collective in nearby Palm Beach on Saturday night for dinner and it was fantastic. It’s a collection of five different restaurant surrounded by buzzing bars within a market style concept. A must inclusion to your trip to the Gold Coast. 

Our first stop (and to be honest, the highlight for the boys) was surfing lessons with ‘Walkin’ On Water’ surf school. Our instructor Dan was patient but firm with the boys as it is no mean feat to take four city slickers out into the waves. Luckily I’m also an ocean lover, so I stripped off and watched the boys squeal with delight as they stood on their boards and we could honestly see whales in the distance.

 A truely Australian experience in nature. We all wish we could have stayed longer. 

Nothing says beach holiday more than gelato dripping down your singlet, so it was straight over the road to one of the best - Gelato Messina. Just what we needed before heading back to our apartment for a shower and a rest before we walked down the main street. 

I must say, the only thing I don’t like about travelling on my own with the boys is being in great destinations with adult night life. I am partial to a cocktail and it was hard to see so many people having so much fun at every restaurant we passed. To my dismay, we ended up at a Pancake restaurant next to the supermarket but the boys were in heaven (blue heaven)! Isn’t that what family holidays are all about? A quick pit stop into Woolies for some fruit and weekend supplies and we strolled home for a great nights sleep.

Saturday started off well at Dune Cafe in Palm Beach. It’s right on the foreshore, has a huge patch of grass in front (to run off those milkshakes) and is right next to a great park. Tick tick tick. Plus great coffee - tick. Morning sorted. 

Next stop was the Swell Sculpture Festival. Now if you’re ever in the Gold Coast in September, you must investigate if it is on. It runs for 10 days and this year included over 50 contemporary sculptures set amongst the natural landscape of beautiful Currumbin Beach. Free and artsy and so beautifully Australian. Tick. 

My boys aren’t really keen to sit down for three meals a day on holidays, so we had a light lunch before heading back to the beach. A must visit in Queensland are the many surf clubs scattered along the coast. They are the perfect relaxed combination of beach front beauty and laid back atmosphere and they always cater to kids with their menu’s and set up. Google the local area you’re in for special nights and local hot spots but we were recommend the Currumbin Vikings SLSC. It offers a view of the Gold Coast like no other. Everyone has their favourite and many try to keep their local secrets hidden from the tourists :)

My favourite meal was Sunday’s breakfast at Cafe D Bar up at Point Danger. Their food rivals the best Melbourne hipster hang outs and the views are amazing. Again, we watched whales frolic in the distance and I got my (fantastic) coffee fix before the day’s activities. 

An added bonus for us was that my older brother lives at Burleigh Heads and my sister near Byron Bay so we also got to visit family while there. The beautiful stretch between these two places is absolutely my favourite part of Queensland and I envy those who call it home. You just relax the minute you arrive, getting around is so easy and each time we visit there seems to be more to do. This doesn’t include any artificial wonders either. We are all about the beach and being active in nature as much as possible. Bare foot and sandy with a loose schedule suits us best. Next time I’m going to make sure we also visit Cougar Cascades, a waterfall and natural waterslide in Currumbin Valley that is meant to be well worth a short walk to experience.

Instead the boys (especially Jack and Harry!) were adamant that we needed to visit Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary and I’m so glad we did. We only had a few hours left on Sunday before our afternoon flight departed so we rushed around a little too much for their liking. Next time we will know exactly where to go and how to spend a full day there. Even with four excited boys exploring I found the sanctuary, just that - very tranquil. It is set in 27 hectares of rainforest so is well shaded and has a fun train that travels throughout, so getting around is very easy. 

We had to get a koala photo and made sure we explored the Sanctuary based on fitting in the many shows on offer. The funniest bit was when Harry was called on stage during the Australiana show and watching him help shear a sheep (his highlight!) Tickets are well priced based on how much there is to see and do including several play parks and cafe’s scattered throughout the grounds as pit stops.

Adults day passes are $49.95 with children 4-14 years at $39.95 and kids under four are free. You can also get family passes and other offers that make it even better value. 

Sadly, our long weekend came to an abrupt end in order to make our flight on time but it was only a seven minute drive from the Sanctuary to the airport. A much appreciated part of the trip for me was the ease and speed of getting around on my own with the boys. Disasters are easily averted, snacks and a change of clothes can be kept nearby in the hire car and the apartment was always only a short drive away. We started our school holidays in the best way possible and our three days honestly felt like a week. What more could you want from a holiday? 

Thanks so much to Destination Gold Coast for hosting us on our little adventure. We were already genuine fans of the area and our love for the Gold Coast has again gone up a notch. Next time we are definitely staying longer! 

 

 

 

 


Online shopping & why I love Catch.com.au August 12 2019

I am a HUGE fan of online shopping and recently I was interviewed by one of my favourite websites www.catch.com.au

You can find the interview here

I have four children, four boys. I had them all quite close together, including twins, so my Instagram handle is Flat Out Mum because I always wear flat shoes and because I am flat out, I guess.

What inspires you to share your stories?

I started blogging I try not to write to advise mums what to do with their kids because I’ve got four kids and I am still working it out. And then what works for one doesn’t work for the other, unfortunately. I prefer to talk about how mums should look after themselves and maintain their own identity and interests. And from that I created Flat Out Mum Retreats. So I take out mums on holidays or encourage them to have ‘me time’ and do other things for themselves, because as much as we all love our children, it’s all consuming and relentless and very tiring. And I think if you want to be the best mum, you’ll have to take time for yourself.

What is your latest discovery you can’t live without?

I have recently discovered cardio tennis, which is my new favourite thing because I get to smash the ball and run around and have a laugh and listen to music at the same time. So it kind of, like, makes you keep running ‘cos you have to avoid the ball hitting you in the face, which is the kind of exercise that I need to do.

What do you love about online shopping?

I love that it’s 24/7 and can be when it suits me, because as a mum with four kids I can’t just get to the shop whenever I want. I Google a lot of things and compare products online before I buy, so a lot of times Catch appears, like, a great place to buy the products I am looking for. I pretty much buy everything online except for my fresh food. The boys aren't fashionistas who love shopping for clothes. So it’s easy. I just get online and choose their age and it comes in the mail. And if it doesn't fit them or they don’t like it, there is another brother who will have it. So shoes, clothes, everything... we have got a lot of sporting equipment with four boys as well, so the last thing I bought was an air track for my son because he is a keen gymnast. I saw that they had heaps of them on Catch and really good value, so I had it delivered to the door. So that was handy as well, since it’s such a big product.

Who is your favourite Aussie celebrity at the moment?

I love, I guess, women breaking boundaries and doing things. I love fun people. The last movie I saw had Rebel Wilson. I think she is pretty cool because she is breaking all the stereotypes of hollywood and she is having fun while doing it and she is hilarious. So if you ask me the question which celebrity I want to spend a day with, it would probably be her.

What would your fans be surprised to learn about you?

One thing: my partner Shane is very well known for his sporting prowess. But I was also ok with couple of sports when I was younger, and I can still beat him at a couple. So that’s something that people might not expect about me. Swimming, Gymnastics, that’s easy - oh, and then board games. I am really good at board games and very competitive. I am the UNO champion of our house and the boys might dispute that.


WIN your own Mineral Swim pool system July 30 2019

We love our Mineral Swim pool system and I am so excited to have been given the opportunity to give one away via Flat Out Mum! 

I believe Mineral Swim by Maytronics is the BEST & most natural pool system on the market.  We chose to upgrade to Mineral Swim last summer as their minerals are sourced directly from the Dead Sea in Israel, there is nothing synthetic included PLUS they are one of the only systems that include the Ozone element for superior water purification. The result is a pool that looks crystal clear, feels soft and smooth to swim in and is also providing you with the health benefits of swimming in magnesium. Talk about winning!

The lucky winner will receive their own Mineral Swim system by either upgrading their current system on their existing pool, or by installing the Mineral Swim system during construction of their new pool. This amazing prize also includes all of the premium Mineral Swim minerals you will need for 12 months.

The total package is valued at $2,990!

Plus TWO runners up will each receive a premium AHAVA mineral based skin care pack each valued at $150+
For more details about Mineral Swim and Maytronics, view their website HERE.

 

 

Competition Terms + Conditions:

  • Please do NOT enter if you do NOT own your own home in Australia that currently has a swimming pool or are NOT planning on building a new pool at your own home before July 2020. 
  • Swimming pools include above and below ground pools and can be tiled, concrete or liner pools.
  • Competition entries must be made via the original Flat Out Mum Instagram post dated 30/7/19.
  • To enter, you must follow both @flatoutmum and @mineralswim on Instagram PLUS comment on the Flat Out Mum Instagram post dated 30/7/19 on why your current or new pool needs a Mineral Swim system installed. 
  • There will be ONE winner of the major prize, valued at $2,990. This includes the Mineral Swim 03 Kit ($2,490) plus 10 bags of minerals over the first 12 month period ($500). 
  • TWO people will win the runner up prize each: one premium AHAVA mineral based skin care pack each valued at $150+ 
  • Competition closes Sunday 11th August at midnight AEST & the winner will be chosen by Maytronics. 
  • Winners will be announced on the Flat Out Mum Instagram page on (or before) Tuesday 13/8/19. They will also be contacted by direct message on Instagram. 
  • Winner has 12 months to redeem the major prize (expires 13/8/20).
  • Free installation component of the prize applies within 50km of a Mineral Swim dealer. Outside of this boundary, extra costs will be negotiated for installation. 
  • If you have any questions about the prize, the suitability of your existing pool or the Mineral Swim system, please email olivia@flatoutmum.com.au prior to the competition closing and your query will be directed to the relevant party.

GOOD LUCK!        


Our pool, our happy place April 20 2019 1 Comment

Even if you’ve only been following our family’s journey for a short time, you’ll see that we love and live in our pool! It was finished being built one week before the twins arrived, so our lucky boys have had a pool since they were very young. Anyone who has a pool will tell you, that it not only adds value to your home and makes your outdoor space look gorgeous, it absolutely brings the family together.  When you get a pool, you get lots of friends…especially on a hot day! We are real home bodies and love having a lot of kids at our house, so I can honestly say our pool has been our best investment. 

I did a lot of swimming and water polo growing up and my skin and hair was constantly dry and I’m sure the smell of chlorine followed me wherever I went. I will never let Shane forget that I could beat him at swimming for a very long time….we did race again a few summers ago in front of the kids and I am proud to say that I won! I would have died trying and our boys loved rubbing it in to their Dad :) 

I love getting in the pool with the boys as much as I can, so we are always on the look out for the best treatments and equipment for our pool. As with everything, we started our search looking for the best and most natural products on the market. 

Seven years ago we first installed a magnesium based pool system that was one of the best on the market at the time. We have always wanted the most natural (and the least chlorinated) water and when Charlie was young, he had really sensitive skin. He has ‘walked on water’ many times at the beach and in public pools when the water has really irritated his eczema and we wanted the best for him at home. We were very happy with the more natural water we achieved and all of the boys are keen swimmers. 

Late last year we discovered Mineral Swim which is a magnesium based system that uses 100% natural minerals sourced directly from the Dead Sea in Israel. I had heard that magnesium based systems had really improved since they first came on the market so I was keen to upgrade to this one that uses absolutely no synthetic ingredients or processes. 

This fact caught my attention as I had found the quality of the magnesium being used in our pool (and the correlating system) had deteriorated over the years. The water was clear, but we were having a few problems and it was time to upgrade. 

Mineral Swim allows pool owners to enjoy the same health benefits of the magnesium-rich Dead Sea that others have enjoyed for thousands of years. It also utilises a natural ozone-to-oxygen water purification process that is up to 3,000 times stronger than traditional purification systems. This means that the water looks crystal clear (the boys never wear goggles) and the pool just sparkles. We call it our ‘magic water’.  It honestly feels so soft on the skin, and is amazing to swim in. 

It’s hard to explain the difference except to say that the water feels smooth and silky and I really believe in the benefits of the natural magnesium minerals are soaking in through your skin. A lot of brands are promoting the benefits of minerals and there are a few mineral pool brands out there but my tip is to ask more about where their magnesium is sourced from and the actual composition/ ingredients of the system. Ask what they are putting in the pool and then compare that to the actual Dead Sea minerals imported by Mineral Swim directly from Israel (this can not be replicated).  

Mineral Swim has twice as many active minerals than its competitors and is the only system that combines the natural minerals with the ozone-to-oxygen purification system, meaning the water is more sanitised than when you use harsh chemicals like chlorine, resulting in twice the benefits. You may think this all sounds very expensive but if you already have a pool and want to upgrade to Mineral Swim, costs start at around $2,490 which I believe over time is a great investment. Pool upgrades vary slightly in price, depending on what system you currently have and the size of your pool. There is a handy calculator on their website you can use to calculate the the size of your pool / water volume - click here.

Their website also has a comprehensive explanation of the system and its benefits and there is peace-of-mind knowing it is backed by the Maytronics Customer Service Guarantee and 10-year warranty on parts. 

Of course, if you’re planning a new pool build, then installing Mineral Swim system from the start is only slightly more expensive and I believe that the benefits are superior to anything else on the market. If you’re after the clearest, safest and healthiest pool water you can get, make sure you ask for Mineral Swim through your pool company, builder or landscaper. 

We were very lucky to be approached by them to try out their system and were given the upgrade complimentary (yay). However I was under no obligation to endorse it, unless we were 100% happy. We are beyond happy with the improvement and it makes us love our pool even more. Everyone who swims in it comments on the clarity and silky smooth feel of the water and the fact that there is no odour/smell at all. 

As an added bonus, we also received some before and after swim care from AHAVA – also made with ingredients inspired by the Dead Sea. This truly gives an
all over treatment in and out of the pool, with products that use natural mineral based ingredients. I’m loving their shampoo and conditioner (my hair is so soft!) but my favourite is their Sea-Kissed Dry Oil Body Mist for my summer skin. 

If you have any questions that I can answer about our Mineral Swim pool, please comment below. Otherwise they have an excellent video on their website explaining the Dead Sea minerals and the effects on the body as well as their ozone purification of the water and a comprehensive FAQ section.

To book a consultation, fill out the online form (here) or if you’d like to speak to someone directly call 1300 693 657.

 

I look forward to hearing how you go. 

 Olivia x 


Getting active with the family March 11 2019 1 Comment

How do you keep active with our boys? Is that a trick question? I am constantly trying to get some quiet time actually, but the demands of four active young boys means that I very rarely sit down when they’re around! Whether it is nature or nurture our kids all love to move. Whether it is ‘formal’ sport and activities they’re involved in, or just jumping around the house. They love bike riding, scooters and skateboards, anything with wheels really. We are lucky to have always had a Springfree trampoline and for many years, a pool so they can keep busy at home, no matter the weather. Most of the time, if it is not raining, they’re outside. Don’t get me wrong, they love the TV and a good movie and we recently succumbed to iPads for Jack and Harry also, so they do sit still and at times, it can be hard to get them off the couch.

What I have noticed, especially lately, is that they love to get active with us. The older and more competitive they get, they love a quick race to see if they’re able to beat us yet. Gone are the days of letting them win, we have to try our hardest with the older boys now. Charlie is thirteen soon and has started high school so I am consciously trying to keep up the activities with him that he enjoys.  Something that we can do together. For as long as he invites me to come, I will be there. We both enjoy tennis, so that is a great way to have a healthy battle but also a chat if he’s up for it.

I was recently reminded during a speech by Maggie Dent (one of my favourite author's and parenting specialist) that boys are best communicating when you’re side by side. So they are more likely to open up when you’re not literally ‘in their face’ (as opposed to women who like to form a cosy little huddle). Activities like bike riding, walking the dog and even tennis are great for this (so is driving in the car, with the added benefit of a confined space!) You’ll notice this works for husbands too… 

Finding and maintaining activities that enable you to spend quality time together, as well as opening up the communication lines are very important. If you don’t have many of these, I would highly recommend finding them. Some of my best memories with my Dad are going swimming. Besides the endless hours he’d drive me to training, we also used to swim laps at the local pool together. Strange really as we barely spoke once we were at the pool (underwater) but having the shared interest, spending time next to each other and the bond that developed was priceless. He showed me by example how he kept up an active life as an adult and that he valued the time it took to exercise with me. 

Premier’s Active April is the ideal time to find some new activities (or dust off the old ones) that your whole family can enjoy together. Even if you just commit to regularly walking around the block together (after dinner maybe) or researching and finding great walking trails just outside of the city, you don’t have to be too fit to start. If you do want to step up your fitness a notch, you could find a fun run coming up in the not too distant future (Mothers Day) and train to complete it together.  The time spent training together is invaluable and you get the added bonus of accomplishing something as a family as well. 

Active April is part of the Victorian Government’s commitment to promote healthy and active lifestyles and get Victorians to join in the fun of increased physical activity. Check out www.activeapril.vic.gov.au to register before April and you can log your daily activity in their tracker via your smartphone, iPad or computer :) 

Their website also has a great feature called ‘My Local' where you type in where you live and you can search for what’s on in your neighbourhood, near work, or close to school. You can even plan activities in advance for your next weekend away. Or add your own community event to help others get active this April. The more events and idea’s for all sorts of people, the better. 

As during the week, children spend the majority of each day at school, so there is even a section for teachers and schools. There are resources designed to assist teachers and parents to encourage an active lifestyle. There’s even a section for work places that makes it easier to link your existing workplace health and wellbeing initiatives, ways to promote active and sustainable forms of transport to and from your workplace, and PRIZES to keep your team motivated.

The aim is for 30 minutes of physical activity every day and they have Get Active Workout’ videos in the mobile app as well as an Activity Timer to make tracking your activity easy. 

It is free to sign up and every person who registers to take part in Premier’s Active April 2019 will have the chance to win some amazing prizes. These include tickets to the 2020 Australian Open Tennis Finals, four Fitbits for the family and an iPad mini, or the third major prize which is GoPro Session Waterproof Action Cam! Plus there are many offers for EVERYONE who registers, these include access to:

So besides getting your own heart pumping, I think Active April is a great time to create some good exercise habits that hopefully last you all through winter. Finding something that you enjoy is the key to maintaining the activity and if you can do that with at least one other family member, it’s a bonus. 

Let me know what activities you’re doing during April and don’t forget to tag @flatoutmum and @premiersactiveapril to show us your moves on social media! 

www.activeapril.com.au 


Back to School Tips January 07 2019 1 Comment

It seems that once we finally relax into school holiday mode and allow our days (and mind) to move more slowly, you have to start thinking about back to school. I am normally a last minute person but with four boys now at school, I have learnt the hard way and now know that a little bit of planning and foresight can save you time and ensure an easy transition for the back at school period.

Dealing with your children’s emotions is one thing, especially if they’re starting school for the first time, or moving to a new school. It is a big adjustment even for the most experienced child, so my advice is to get all of the other logistical challenges ticked off your list early. This includes school uniforms, good shoes and of course the long list of books and stationery items. 

Then there is the fun stuff that children love to be involved with and this can be used to help build excitement towards the new school year. I haven’t met a child yet who doesn’t love to shop for their own new pencil case, stationery, lunch box and other items they make you think are essential (like smelly pencils and a million cute key rings and tags to hang off their school bag). With most schools having a set uniform, this is where kids can add some of their own personality to their ensemble, as well as creating a form of security blanket and connection to home. 

Starting a new school year is daunting for all. Everything seems new and much of how the day pans out appears out of their control, so knowing that they have their own special things from home really can make a difference. It’s not just glittery key rings and extravagant pencil cases to them, it is part of their identity, a talking point with new friends and a source of familiarity and comfort. 

Our favourite place to go for stationery is Officeworks. It’s an easy one stop shop for me where I can contain four overly excited boys in one space with everything we need at our finger tips. The key point here being OVERLY EXCITED! Giving them free reign to shop for their own stuff is a source of great joy to them and to be honest, fun to watch. 

However, the shopping trip can quickly be diverted to supplies not on the essential school list and no Mum wants to spend an extra ten minutes while their child decides between the lilac glitter or the mauve sparkle lunch box (apparently there is a difference!) So here is my TIP and new favourite time (and sanity) saver - CLICK AND COLLECT!

My entire Christmas list was made easy by late night online shopping, followed by quick trips in and out of retailers to ‘click and collect’. You know the items are in stock and you’ve already paid online, so there’s no credit card decline at the counter either! With the back to school supply list, you don't want to get the essential books wrong or find them out of stock at the last minute (me for several years!) as this not only adds to your own job list, but more importantly the children’s stress of starting the year without all of the mandatories. 

So my tip, is to get online early and order all of the main stationery items you need from Officeworks, lock them in and then when you go to collect, this is where you can have the fun! You can then let the kids guide the shopping trip while you rest easy knowing that everything you need is already boxed up and waiting for you. Your full attention can be given to watching them search EVERY single pencil case before they choose their 2019 favourite and then have a focussed discussion on the merits of glitter glue versus blu glue. So it’s a win win, you can blissfully feel like the most organised Mum in the class, while your child grows more excited about the year ahead. 

Onto my second BIG TIP. Most of the school books will need covering. The thought of this will either send a nauseous wave through your body, or if you have a perfectionist streak you may be excited by the challenge. Personally with four school children and a long to do list, short cuts and Mum hacks are my best friend. A few years ago a wise Flat Out Mum with older children let me in on a little secret - clear book covers from Officeworks. They come in all sizes and take about 3 seconds to cover your books! Hallelujah!! The smallest size is only 49 cents and they’re made of durable PVC so you can use them year after year. How’s that for reduce, reuse, recycle? Hours of your time can be omitted from your last minute prep by checking them out here.

If you don’t mind contacting some of the books, I will admit it is a fun way for your kids to personalise them. Not only with the wide variety of contact patterns available, but with the range of stickers and name labels afterwards. I’d advise watching this 2 minute video first to save yourself hours of time when contacting your books.

When you are just getting over the Christmas excess, I know everyone is looking for ways to save money. Officeworks guarantees every day low prices on book listed items with their ‘Parents Price Promise - if you find an identical stocked item on a quoted school list at a lower price, Officeworks will BEAT it by 20%. Now there is peace of mind for you. If you don’t want to click and collect, they also offer FREE same day delivery on orders over $55, AfterPay and ZipPay (instore and online) as well as extended trading hours at their 165 stores. So many great options to help save money in as many ways as possible.

So my final advice to Flat Out Mums at the start of the school year….be prepared, start early and put on your best poker face in front of your kids! Why wouldn’t they want to swap the lazy days of summer for the school yard? And remember, EVERY Mum is feeling the same feels. Like ducks on water, we appear to be gliding gracefully over the surface, calm and unruffled, when really our legs are madly paddling underneath!

#Mumlife 

www.officeworks.com.au 


Health & wellness for Flat Out Mums October 16 2018

Physical and mental health is at the forefront of everyone’s minds. Are we doing enough? How are we feeling? How are our children going? As Mothers, most often we put others before ourselves and of course our own health can suffer. We know it is wrong, but sometimes there are simply just not enough hours in the day and if there are, all we want to do is rest. 

My physical health and commitment to regular exercise has wavered over the years. I have always loved playing sport and have been pretty fit. Motherhood changed that. This is not an excuse, but one of the reasons and a good one at that. Mothers especially need to cut ourselves some slack. Trust me I know what sleep deprivation feels like. I know how hard it is to have the energy to even walk a couple of times around the block. But you have to start somewhere and the experts are not lying when they tell us that the endorphins created during exercise will make us feel better! 

So this year, with all four boys finally in Primary school, I have really committed myself to regular exercise. After 40+ years I know myself well and what motivates me. I am ‘flat out’ most days so I needed to find activities that suited my personality and my schedule. I’ve focussed on some of my strengths - I love catching up with my friends and I don't like letting people down….so having an unmovable time to meet people is good for me. This year I went out of my comfort zone and started cardio tennis. Set times, paid upfront & of course I’m accountable to a group of friends. Added bonus - if you stop running you get whacked by a ball, there’s some motivation for you! It has been amazing for me and normally my face hurts the most at the end of the session from the laughs. (Side note, along with regular exercise, laughter is one of the easiest ways to induce endorphin release - win win!)

To me, exercise has always been about how it makes you feel, not how it makes you look. The energy and the feeling of strength. Feeling strong and healthy is even more important to me now that I have four young, active boys. Not only do I need to keep up with them physically but I’d love to be around to be a great grand mother! So a couple of cardio sessions each week has been great for my fitness and while the boys are getting faster in their pace, at least my cardio can keep up with them. Being outdoors has been amazing for my mental health too (especially now the sun is out!) 

However, I needed more and I wanted to get some expert advice on how to strengthen my body now, for the future. Hopefully I’m not yet half way through my life and I want to make the most of every opportunity ahead. The health and fitness offering has changed so much in the 13 years since I had my first child and I didn’t know where to start. There are enough obstacles to doing regular exercise for Mums so I didn’t want to do anything too hard core or to have to go anywhere intimidating.

Guess what? I have gone right back to the gym I used to attend before kids - Fernwood! They reached out to me recently to see if I wanted to trial some of their classes and it was the perfect fit. What appealed to me when I was younger, smaller and fitter, appeals to me even more so now. Women only (you know I love boys but I don’t need the distraction of them in the gym) plus a relaxed  fun and inclusive environment. Plus I committed to a Personal trainer who was sympathetic to what my body had gone through, but also pushed me to my capacity. 

Fernwood also have a great range of classes included like Spin, Pilates, Boxing, Body Pump and the first one I’m going to try ‘Amazing Abs’. There are also classes offered within school hours (and a lot of the Fernwood Fitness centre’s have a creche!) While my life has come a full circle since I was at Fernwood last, they have changed too. There is a great App I am using as well as their 28 day Breakthru program which kicks you off. Once I have tried more of the recipes, I will share the yummiest ones.

So here I go, my health journey has stepped up a notch and I am already feeling much better for it. I won’t be sharing measurements, weight loss or diets. I won’t be comparing myself to others and I won’t be setting unrealistic short term goals. I am doing this for myself and I know if I am steady and committed, in the long run I will be better for it. So my tip for you ladies is to not exercise to be a certain dress size or panic about an event you want to look good for that is coming up. Start now, get good advice and find an exercise and an environment that suits YOUR personality. For me that is going back to Fernwood and I’m starting by downloading their free E-book with all sorts of tips to get ready for summer (you can too HERE).

Here are some of my tips for overall wellness, please share yours with me too!

  1. 1. Find an environment you feel comfortable in. To be sustainable, exercise needs to be in a place that you enjoy so that the environment is not just another factor prohibiting us committing for the long term (there are too many other things like kids, tiredness and crazy busy lifestyles that already get in the way). EG, don’t try to take up swimming if you hate getting in your bathers, don’t try to take up running if the times you can go are in the cold/dark where you don’t feel safe! Don’t sign up to an intimidating class or studio that just makes you feel worse about yourself / more uncomfortable. 
  2. Be accountable: pay upfront for a set class time, meet up with friends, book in a personal trainer. All of these things make you less likely to cancel as well as being much more fun.
  3. Give yourself a goal: don’t make this a number on the scales or a dress size. Your body changes as we age and the scales don’t always reflect your improvement (especially for your mental health). Sign up for a challenge with a friend instead, to give yourself something to work for (eg a fun run, charity walk etc). Mine is spending a fun summer in the pool with the boys :)
  4. Find the exercise that you don't dread doing. Don’t sign up to ballet class if it just makes you feel like an elephant, don’t go running if it hurts your knees, don’t join a netball team where you loathe waiting until late at night for the game times. Have a good think about it and find the thing that you love doing and you will be more likely to look forward to your next session, rather than dread it. Do you prefer to be outdoors in nature, do you want to start with gentle stretching under candle light yoga, or do you need to let out your frustration on a boxing bag? Match your needs, not other people’s.
  5. Make it funfind a dance class if you love music and no longer hit the nightclubs! Find a like minded friend and do it together. If you’re social but don’t have a friend to join you, pick an exercise where you can interact with others (no silent yoga!) The right exercise for you should be enjoyable (mostly!) and you should leave feeling a lot happier.
  6. Seek professional advice. This is especially true after children and as we get older. When coming back into exercise after children or an injury, we can often be very motivated and hence go too hard too fast. To prevent injuries and help you sustain the momentum longer term, it is always best to get personal advice just for you. Personally my core has never recovered from three caesarians and twins and I am starting over with the expertise of a personal trainer. 
  7. Rest! I learn this from Shane…to exercise well, you also need good recovery days and lots of sleep. Go to bed earlier each night, consistently. You know you can (and bed means sleep, not looking at your phone!) Mum’s can rarely get a sleep in, but I’m sure we can manage consistent early nights, especially during the week :)
  8. Nourish yourself: eat real food, go back to basics and shop for the majority of your food at one end of the supermarket. You know the end with the fresh food, not processed, grown in the ground food. If it does come in packaging a good sign is that it has a short expiry date (that means it is fresh!!!) Less processed, more like your grandma ate. water too. Lots and lots of water. 
  9. Reward yourself. This is my favourite! Book in a massage after the first first weeks, buy yourself a new gym outfit, treat yourself to that dessert you’re been craving. Life is about balance and rewarding yourself is always a good idea. Don’t make the reward fitting into a dress that's too small for one night only. Small rewards often will help you maintain the momentum and before you know it, you’ll probably fit into that dress all the time. 
  10. Be present: be conscious of your breathing (you can call it meditation if you like). You know the type of deep breathing where you actually STOP & consciously breathe for a prolonged period of time. In nature is good. In a quiet room with your eyes closed is good too. This includes being grateful, less distracted and more in the moment. Happiness is the ultimate wellness. 

My last tip…PLEASE do not compare yourself to other people. This is common advice I know but really, all you can be is the best version of yourself. You were born with a certain body shape, metabolism and personality. Your circumstances are different to EVERYBODY else’s. Find YOUR thing and stick to it. If each day you’ve done something for your own health then you are on the right track, it all adds up. Coming off the wagon sometimes is OK too. Just remember why you started and get back on track as soon as you can muster. 

To find out more about Fernwood Fitness, visit www.fernwoodfitness.com.au 

 


Fun with Everyday Gourmet & Mission Foods October 03 2018

A few months ago, I was invited by Mission Foods to feature on Everyday Gourmet with the amazing Justine Schofield. With the invitation extended to Jack and Harry, the boys were super excited to get their hands dirty in the kitchen! This was a great opportunity to get some new recipe ideas and having the boys involved in cooking, with the aim to help broaden the menu of different foods all of the boys love to eat.


 The aim of the partnership was to encourage kids to be involved in cooking and take three recipes that the family loves and see how we could easily customise these for each person’s different tastes – both adults and kids! Three recipes were developed with Justine featuring every family’s favourites – corn chips, tortillas and pizza bases!

As a mother of four boys, I’m often challenged when it comes to finding meals and snacks that all four boys will love. As I am sure most parents will agree, kids tend to have such different tastes and catering to this can be quite the task! With that in mind, I wanted to have some meals that I can quickly and easily customise to make sure all of their different tastes are met. Naturally, I always try to cook a variety of healthy meals, as they are all so active! Nothing more stressful than a fussy eater or hungry child (that can become whingy or hangry!).

If I am honest, my two least favourite meal times are afternoon snacks and dinner... After a full day of school, the boys come home ravenous and we are normally driving straight to an after-school activity for at least one of the boys. That means, easy meals you can eat on the go are an absolute life saver!

After a team meeting with the boys, and knowing what all of the boy’s love, we decided to make pizzas, mini nacho cups and quesadillas (YUM!). Applying Justine’s skill and flair, we brought them to life and together we created some meals and snacks that all of the boy’s love (and of course with a twist keep the adults happy!)  It was great to see the boys so involved with the selection of  ingredients and the process, that they were more than happy to eat the meal they put together.

For the Everyday Gourmet filming day, I kept it on the ‘down low’ from the older boys before Jack, Harry and I spent the day with Justine on set. It was a fantastic day in the kitchen, eating delicious food and taste testing the recipes while Jack & Harry managed their usual off-air antics! 

We created three different recipes which will be aired on Everyday Gourmet (so excited!), so keep an eye out throughout October on Network Ten to see the final results!

Below are the recipes for what the boys and I created on the day, so you can recreate at home with your families.

Would love to know which one is your favourite! 

Recipe One: Mini Nacho Cups

 Serves: 4 ramekins

Time: 10 minutes

 Ingredients:

Mission Cheesy Corn Chips

Mission Chilli & Lime Corn Chips 

Mission Mild Salsa 

1 red onion, finely diced

1 can of kidney beans

¼ diced capsicum

¼ corn

½ cup cheddar cheese

¼ cup sour cream

Avocado

Olive Oil

Method:

Preheat oven to 180°C.

Spray 4 ramekins with some olive oil. Add some corn chips and top with cheddar cheese, salsa

and a selection of vegetables. Top each ramekin with some more cheddar cheese. Bake for 10 minutes or until cheese has melted and nachos are heated through.

Serve nacho cups with sour cream and some diced avocado.

Recipe Two: Campfire Pizzas

Serves: 2

Time: 10 minutes

Ingredients:

Mission Pizza Crust Plain

1 tbs tomato paste

1 cup of shredded mozzarella

100g mild salami

100g shortcut bacon, cut into strips 

¼ cup red capsicum

¼ cup sliced button mushrooms

¼ cup diced onion

¼ cup diced pineapple

Method:

Preheat oven to 180°C.

Spread Mission Pizza Crust with tomato paste and sprinkle a thin layer of cheese over the base.

Top pizza with salami, bacon and vegetables of your choice. Sprinkle pizza with some additional cheese.

Bake pizza in the oven for 12 minutes.

Recipe Three: Cheesy Beef Quesadillas

Serves: 4

Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

BEEF:

Mission Original Tortillas

500g ground beef

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 onion, diced

1 can of black beans 

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp paprika

1 tsp ground coriander

2 tbs tomato paste

2 tbs olive oil

1 tbs water

½ cup shredded cheddar

1 lime to serve

½ cup sour cream to serve

1 avocado

¼ cup fresh chopped coriander

Salt

Pepper

CHICKEN (an alternative for kids):

½ cup of roast chicken

2 tbs BBQ sauce

¼ corn

Method:

Heat olive oil in a fry pan over a medium heat. Add garlic and onion and cook for 1-2 minutes.

Add ground beef for 3-4 minutes, breaking it up with a wooden spoon as you go. Season

mixture with ground cumin, paprika, ground coriander, salt and pepper. Add tomato paste and

cook for 1 minute before adding black beans and water. Cook on medium low for 5 minutes,

turning constantly. Turn off heat and mix in fresh coriander and avocado.

Heat a clean non-stick fry pan over a medium heat. Place 1 tortilla in the pan. Spread half of the

tortilla with cheese and the meat mixture. Carefully fold tortilla in half and press down gently with

a spatula. After 2 minutes turn quesadilla over and cook the other side for a further minute.

Cut quesadilla into wedges and serve with lime, sour cream and avocado.

www.missionfoods.com.au

www.everydaygourmet.tv

 

 


Mamamia: My school holiday idea's September 25 2018

As a Flat Out Mum, the thought of school holidays either makes you squeal with delight or reel in horror. I’m the former, looking forward to the sleep ins (8am!) and lazy mornings where my (self-titled) ‘scary witch’ persona is replaced by either Mary Poppins or Sergeant Major, keeping four active boys entertained and happy for at least two weeks.

While we do love a trip away to somewhere exotic (doesn’t everyone?), the fact is most of our school holidays are spent at home, in and around Melbourne. There is so much to do and a logistics degree would come in handy helping to co-ordinate the schedules and opportunities available to the boys.

By September, the sun is generally shining and my first priority is to get them outdoors and keep them outside for as long as the weather permits. Playing, using their imagination and learning the intricate skills needed to negotiate games with brothers and friends big and small. Living in the Lucky Country means we have parks, beaches and the best of nature at our doorstep. They end the day exhausted, hungry (usually wet) but most often with a sparkle in their eye. 

Just quietly, keeping the kids outside also means the inside of the house MAY stay a little tidy with the smell of fresh air replacing that little boy smell just a little longer. It’s a win-win but here is a tip…let go of any Type A personality traits you may have, or the vision of rooms that may grace the pages of Home Beautiful at a moment's notice. Let go and embrace the chaos that is a mandatory part of kids having fun. On rainy days, the lounge room may transform into a giant cubby house and there will be endless changes of clothes, but in the end the memories should outweigh the increase in housekeeping duties.

Better still, create a new chore chart for the school holidays that needs to be ticked off before you exit to perhaps spend money on all of the other activities at our doorstep (Luna Park, movies, zoos, trampoline parks and cute kids menus that can leave a hole in the wallet).

My best trick is getting the boys to choose one song they love, blaring it out of my iPhone for three minutes while they are being timed to clean up their room. By the end of the song they are just getting into it and probably won’t even notice if you put it on repeat a couple more times. Shake your booty with them and enjoy the moment rather than dreading all the work that inevitably comes with raising little humans. It is not going anywhere soon.

Another favourite of mine is getting the kids to clean the car. Again, throw your Type A out the window and let them get wet, make bubbles and do a pretty average job. If all goes well, you’ll keep the water on the outside, have a half decent internal vacuum job completed and the music going will lift your spirits.

School holidays are also a time to redeem all of the gift cards the boys seem to rack up for their birthdays. The number one choice is always a rebel voucher and it is their dream to walk around in store feeling like they can buy anything. They never need to be dragged in there!

My boys go through sneakers at a fast pace so we are keen to check out the new Nike Future Speed kids' running shoes that are exclusive to rebel.

Perhaps some of these? Clockwise: Nike Future Speed kids' running shoes ($109.99); Spalding Colour Me kids' basketball ($29.99); Verao Height adjustable tennis ($14.99) and Garmin Vivofit Jr 2 (Disney/Marvel, $129). 

Last summer we visited rebel for a great Spalding basketball hoop (they also have an awesome Lifetime basketball system with a backboard), but we are always in need of new balls. Next on our wishlist is the Spalding colour-in basketball, so the boys can spend some 'quiet time' (fingers crossed) colouring it in before they play (it is washable too in case of mistakes!).

I’m so grateful that we have a big enough backyard and awesome trampoline for the kids to entertain themselves, but there are also plenty of activities you can do in small spaces. Again, a bucket of water can provide hours of entertainment - so too can colourful chalk for turning the driveway into a piece of art. We also love totem tennis - the Verao Height adjustable tennis is perfect to hit around any backyard. Anything that gets them outdoors, really!

As you can see, these boys don't need too much encouragement...

With summer around the corner, they're also freshening up their cricket and tennis skills. Charlie has his eye on the Gray Nicholls Velocity Strike Jnr Bat and once the weather warms up, the twins spend most of their days under water, so the Aqua Sphere seal 2.0 kids swim goggles would be very handy.  We can always find what we want at rebel and it is NEVER hard to get them in the car if a fun trip to check out their latest products is on the cards.

So put a little time in to your planning, watch the weather and schedule in as much time as you can outdoors. Make them do some chores or set some goals, with the incentive of heading into rebel to find something they will love doing. Busy, active kids are most likely to be happy kids.

Just have food constantly at the ready to keep them from getting hangry and enjoy the moment!

 

 

 


It wasn’t always like this. July 05 2018 6 Comments

Last week I took our four boys alone on a holiday to Bali. A week of sun and fun and quality time with their biggest fan - me. I admit, I do it as much for myself as I do it for them. I love a bit of vitamin D and it’s not hard to want to escape the monotony of being a flat out mum stuck in a Melbourne winter. The benefits of the escape outweigh the many obstacles, for all of us. 

With so much to do for active little boys and the added benefit of having many boy cousins nearby (my sister and her hubby run Bali Family Villas) it is an obvious choice for us. Unfortunately Shane can rarely travel with us during the AFL footy season, so if I want a holiday, I fly solo. Literally. Even though it’s a pretty quick and direct flight, that and the airport transfers are always the low point. Tantrums and vomits prevail over happy selfies and casual strolls through duty free. 

Once we arrive, the cloud of tension lifts and the memories of being squished in economy fade. This year as I shared pics of our adventure I received many messages about how brave I was travelling alone with so many kids overseas and it got me thinking.

It wasn’t always like this. 

No way. I have done the hard yards and do not let an image of a shiny happy face elude you to the fact that I birthed four boys in 5 and a half years. I can seriously count the number of full nights sleeps that I had on one hand from 2006-2016. Sleepers these Crawford boys are not. Even when they ‘slept through’ they were always early risers, no matter how late their head hit the pillow or how ‘worn out’ we tried to make them through out the day. 

It is only now after a few years of consistent sleep and all four boys finally at school that I can appreciate their boundless energy as a great life skill. The added greys and frown lines I can bare if it means I have boys with resilience and the ability to soldier on, no matter how tired. But for years, it took most of the life out of me. 

Yes I have had help over the years in the form of AuPairs (I could write a book on that chapter) and my Mum is an amazing Grandmother who always comes to the (distress) call. Shane is a hands on Dad, with finely tuned play time skills, rather than the “well lets all clean up the carnage we have left behind” type of Dad. The type who lets them all jump In the pool when he arrives home after witching hour and they have JUST settled down before bed.

Making memories he says. Dare I get in the way of those activities or I will forever be labelled the “fun police”. Humph. 

But we do not have much extra help for the number of kids we have (the type who rarely sit still), out numbered we sure are. I am there for 99% of the triumphs and trophies as well as the defeats and conflicts. I’ve survived gastro outbreaks that last weeks as they slowly move through every member of the family and I truly love my Miele washing machine like an extended family member. Coffee has always been my thing, but now it is really my THING. The coffee machine light, the motivating force drawing me out of bed most mornings. 

I’ve done toilet training times four, I’ve had the anxious kid, the climbing kid, the biting kid and the tiny baby rushed to hospital. I’ve had many bouts of solo parenting while Shane travels for work and put myself second, third, fourth, fifth or sixth most of the time. I counted 32 months of breastfeeding, rejection of bottles and only wanting Mum Mum Mum. I’ve cleaned the most mammoth of poo explosions and don’t even start me on teething or morning sickness. Lastly, (and need I say more) TWINS!

This is not a whinge, I’d do it all again in a heartbeat for my boys. It’s just a reminder to the Mums in the trenches. It is HARD work. For years. But, you will get your mojo back, you will breathe again and feel good about yourself and what lies ahead. Your kids become more manageable as you get your confidence and the primary school years welcome a light relief before it all changes again.

Last year I made it to one Book Club meeting AND I had read the whole book. My exercise and me time has become more regular and I can sometimes be spontaneous. The impromptu, free spirited days do seem long gone with the unchartered territory of the teenage years waiting ahead.

But this is it. This is motherhood. This is what we wanted.

The depleted lows and the glorious highs. The moments where the heart is full and we realise we’ve never known a love like this before. In the end all we really have are memories and sometimes we have to work harder than others to make them. 

So yes, I was brave taking the boys alone to Bali. Some moments took all of my strength to make it through and many times my patience was really tested. The older boys fought, Jack found his scream, there were vomits and many near misses on the water slides. I had #FOMO knowing my friends were nearby drinking cocktails by the beach. But hey, they all went to Kids Club once and I had two hours reprieve and the most glorious massage. 

What will we remember?

Hopefully, the togetherness, the laughs, the sunshine, the carefree days and the slow mornings. The time, the precious time.

Harry is officially the UNO champion of Bali and I drank from a coconut basking in the sun watching them all play together.

But it wasn’t always like this. 


Back to school! January 25 2018 1 Comment

It’s that time of year again to gear up for the morning rush and be back making hundreds of school lunch boxes. I managed to really relax this summer and it will take a little getting used to being up, organised and out the door with four boys early (8.10am for us EEK!) The twins start Prep this year too, so that means remembering four different sets of responsibilities, as well as their favourite lunch box foods. There is nothing worse that food coming home wasted and the thought of your child being hungry while at school. 

To stay organised and to save my time and sanity, I’m doing a weekly meal planner. The boys all have different tastes and just when you think you can remember exactly who likes ham with their cheese or which snack they prefer for recess, they change on you! So I have asked the boys to update me on their top five favourite lunch box foods. I do a dinner time one too but for school lunch boxes, this covers their sandwich, fruit and snacks. They get a treat too but that is my choice as their list would be a lot longer than five favourites! I walk around the house with my little list and corner them at a cooperative moment.

Here is a sample of our latest table of their favourites (of course there are many more but I try to keep it simple and include the food groups that most people in the family enjoy). After agonising discussions about whether they’d like their sandwich cut into squares or triangles this term, or their hilarious suggestions on how I could make the strawberries “less mushy” by lunch time, we have our list. On sleepy mornings I quickly refer to this, as well as when writing my shopping list.

I cross my fingers that there is an overlap between all of their different preferences and I try to come up with an efficient way to make a personalised lunch box that they will love (and that should come home empty!) As much as people suggest it, I am not a “make the lunch box the night before” kind of Mum as I like their food to be as fresh and crisp as possible (as well as choosing to collapse on the couch in the evening). However, I do try to line them all up along the bench and pop any non perishable items in the lunchbox, as well as refill their water bottles and put them back in their school bag the night before. This probably only saves me three minutes but it may be the three minutes that we arrive past the school bell! I also go to bed feeling a little more organised. 

As the boys get older, they get hungrier and I can only imagine our shopping bill when I have four teenagers. So I try to make all of the food choices as healthy and filling as possible to get them through their busy day. They all love banana bread so on my more organised weeks I include this as their snack or bring some with me after school fresh from the oven (yum!) No matter how much they eat, they still seem ravenous after school and we are often driving straight to an after school activity. Of course, I love to surprise them with an icy pole on a hot day but I prefer to get something healthier into them, especially if he are heading straight to a sporting activity.

I recently discovered that Chris’ Dips do mini dip+cracker snack packs. We love dips, so I was happy to see they do three of our favourite flavours in the mini packs - Hommus, Corn Relish and French Onion. The snack packs have a generous portion of the dip, as well as five crackers, so they are filling. All of these dips are Australian made and contain no artificial colours or flavours, which is a bonus. 

I pop a small ice pack under the dip packet to make sure it remains cool until eaten. These holidays they have also been great for an easy snack to ‘grab and go’ as we jump in the car or I pack another bag for a beach outing. 

 

 

 

 Another handy tip to save time on school mornings is to create a school bag station somewhere handy in your house. I use a large cupboard at the back door that holds all of their uniforms, has a shoe rack and enough room for four school bags. It does help to keep everything together and ideally, they get changed as soon as we arrive home after school. That way I can scan all of their uniforms to make sure they’re clean and ready to go the next day and avoid a last minute morning search for a dirty school shirt! I also print out a large weekly planner with everything we need to remember each day (sports uniform, library bags etc) which I do a quick scan over as we rush out the door. If all goes to plan, I just need to pop the fresh lunch boxes in the four bags at the last minute and head off.  

Here are some much neater looking school bag stations so you get the right idea :)

I have calculated I will make about 700 lunch boxes over the next 40 weeks of school this year (we do have some lunch orders), so having some quick and easy tips up my sleeve will be handy. A little planning helps ease the stress for everyone and saving five minutes is like gold when you’re searching for a car park or have younger kids needing a bit more of your attention in the mornings. 

Good luck to all of the Mums heading back to school next week, especially the first timers! Jack and Harry start Prep full of excitement and pride as they join Charlie and Ben in big school. I’m saddened by this a little but I do look forward to the serenity of my morning coffee after drop off! 

Olivia x

 If you'd like more information about Chris' Dips snack packs and other dip products, go to  www.eatloveshare.com.au 

Available at Woolworths. 


Our Trip with Free Spirit December 21 2017

Every December as soon as school finishes, I like to take the boys on a mini break. Partly to avoid the craziness in the lead up to Christmas, but more importantly to feel instantly like we are on holidays. By the end of the year our boys are exhausted and of course, so am I. 

The thought of driving somewhere with tired, fighting boys in the back seat did not appeal at all so when we got the chance to try Free Spirit Airlines regional destinations, we jumped at the chance. For me, it was an awesome way to treat the boys and to fly somewhere new for just a few days of quality time to reconnect after a busy year. 

From Essendon Fields you can fly to so many regional destinations (see below) and Merimbula was our choice! I have great childhood memories of this relaxed coastal town and I knew our boys would love it too. Flying directly from Essendon Fields airport also appealed, avoiding the busy major airports, their extra stress, time and parking costs!

From start to finish, the trip was hassle free. Getting to and parking at Essendon Fields was so easy. It was probably 20 metres from the car park to the check in desk and not long after, we boarded our plane. The plane was smaller than usual, but the boys loved it and only one hour later and we touched down in Merimbula. No fights, no boredom and no “are we there yet?” whinging from the back seat. 

We got directly transferred just a five minute drive to Coast Resort Merimbula (it is also only ten minutes in the other direction to Pambula). After the excitement of choosing their beds and checking out the two pools subsided, we walked to the beach. The Sapphire Coast has so much to offer in terms of accommodation but I can highly recommend Coast Resort for the family sized apartments and facilities. 

Directly in front is the beach, plus a fantastic park, great coffee and meals at Cranky’s Cafe, as well as a Fish & Chip shop (very important!) Directly behind the resort is Merimbula Lake with a short walk into town. The area provided endless adventures for the boys and we barely touched the surface of things to do in the area. There is also a fun park (Magic Mountain), Top Fun (bowling, mini golf, laser tag), plus a million other water activities on the lake and ocean (including whale watching at certain times of the year).     

For me, Christmas is all about reconnecting and spending time with the ones you love the most. Quality time is hard to find and our little mini break removed all the stress of the year as we adventured away together. Walking, exploring and just enjoying the outdoors with plenty of time on our hands. Nothing flash, just our little tribe enjoying each others company. Raising four young boys can be tough, even tougher if they don’t get along, so this was exactly what we needed to start our summer holidays off right. 

We are already planning our next little trip away (Port Macquarie looks good!) and when quality time is of the essence, we will definitely look to fly from Essendon Fields again. It was definitely hassle free and three days away felt like a week. We arrived without the stress of every day life on our shoulders and I got to spend so much quality time with our boys. 

I also need to investigate a Girls Trip (maybe to eat & drink our way around King Island) for some rest and recovery after the school holidays are over! There are three operators with regular scheduled services that fly from www.essendonfields.com.au to 8 regional destinations.

 

Check them out:

1. Victoria: Warrnambool and Portland

2. Tasmania: Burnie/Wynyard, Flinders and King Islands

3. New South Wales: Merimbula, Dubbo and Port Macquarie 

  •     Flights to Wollongong, Hervey Bay and Orange coming soon!

We flew www.freespiritairlines.com.au 

Our accommodation: www.coastresort.com.au

Transfers: phone 1300 FLY FSA

Our amazing 2008 Grand Final Week September 30 2017 1 Comment

In the spirit of Grand Final week I have decided to share with you some of my memories of the week we had as a family back in 2008. It is probably not you would expect. 

Shane had played 304 games for his beloved Hawks and was contemplating playing his last. In a Grand Final no less. His only Grand Final. While we all knew the importance of this game to Shane and the huge significance that this would probably be his only chance to achieve his life long dream, we all tried to carry on like it was normal. It was NOT normal.

Throw in an active two year old boy who did not understand the significance of the occasion. Who had barely slept an entire night in his life and very rarely woke after 6am. Then there was me, eight months pregnant. Not at all tired, hormonal or anxious. Then there was a little renovation we were trying to finish out the back, including a half ripped up wooden deck. 

It is well documented that physically, Shane was not in good shape. His back and his knee in particular were giving him the most trouble and I’m sure I only knew the half of it.  He had had the best treatment, recovery and training programs possible to get him to 300 games about one month earlier in Tasmania. He had so desperately wanted that milestone and he really, really wanted to share it with Charlie (the aforementioned sleepless, active toddler). He made it and it will forever be one of my fondest memories of watching Shane enjoying the game and being surrounded by admiring people that loved him. And that was just from within the Club. 

Shane had arrived at Hawthorn more than 17 years earlier and joined a hugely successful team who had won five Premierships in the previous decade. So it would have been reasonable to expect that he wouldn’t have to wait so long for his chance. But it was to be the entire length of his long playing career, riding the bumps with a grin. No one saw that coming. 

So here was his chance. Of course he is so proud of his 1999 Brownlow Medal, but ask any AFL player and it’s the Premiership they want. The lucky few that achieve it get to live a different life. Not materially, but psychologically. I didn’t want to live with those battle scars.

The “what if’s” the “if only’s”.

I wanted Shane to not only have closure, but to also live the rest of his life as a free man inside his head. A father to my children that had no unnecessary demons. 

I am not saying that a Premiership maketh the man, but it certainly makes a different man. 

One that is more content and forward thinking, I can imagine. That is what I wanted for our future. It was not just the most important of Shane’s career goals to tick off, his boyhood dream and a fitting end to his amazing career. It was his sanity and his peace of mind too. 

So the pressure was on. But we couldn’t make it look that way. The day after winning the semi final, I asked Shane what he wanted me to do that week. How should I act? Should I stay scarce? Who can come to the house? What do you want to eat? Do you want to go and stay in a hotel? 

NO, just be normal. I just want it to be like any other week”.

Well Shane, it was not like any other bloody week and that answer just made it more difficult for me. There was so much anxiety that swelled into that grey area. I wanted specific’s. An itinerary of what I could do and when. What meals to serve. How much to talk. Whether I should keep Charlie out of his way? Or use him as a nice distraction? Should I sleep in his bed? Can I pass on the thousands of well wishes that were directed through me? The requests for tickets? The updates on the renovation? 

IT WAS NOT JUST A NORMAL WEEK. 

Should I dare ask him what I should do if I went into labour?

Did you recall that I mentioned I was eight months pregnant with my second child? 

There is always that chance that Shane Junior #2 was going to try to spoil the party. However, on that front, I was pretty confident that there would be no movement there. All of my babies have been very comfortable in breech position (sideways, upside down, wedged under my ribs). Yes even the twins. Apparently quads could have fit in there nicely. (Never underestimate your ability to breathe, or lie down on your back, or even hold a conversation without gasping for air). 

So… I knew that Benjamin (as it turns out another boy) was pretty well stuck in there no matter how much stress I was under, or how many flights of MCG stairs I ran up and down (more on that later). But just for the record, I had decided (as with all of our babies) that if Shane was playing a game of footy when I went into labour, I would keep the news to myself. 

You may call me stupid, selfish, or worse still, inflating the importance of an AFL game.

Unless you have had a child with one of these madmen, save your judgement. I mean that in the nicest possible way. I did not want the burden of knowing Shane had missed an AFL Grand Final opportunity to watch me in labour. 

Of course, if I had the choice I would want him going through as much pain as I was and to gain just a glimpse of what women put their bodies through for years and years, even before the day they give birth. And then after….if only he could understand how lucky he is to sprint around the park and not wet himself, or feel his uterus in his undies, or his belly jiggle, or his boobs swell so hard and then leak. Or squirt everywhere in the shower. 

But we all know that is why the WOMEN have the children. So my point is, no I was not going to interrupt his lifelong dream to have him sit next to my hospital bed eating a toasted sandwich. 

So there it was, we were to act normal. 

We did NOT act normal, we just had our best poker faces on. I did my best to make sure Charlie was not over tired, hyperactive or even loud around Shane. Instead of faking a deep sleep, or kicking Shane to notion that it was HIS turn to get up, I jumped out of bed in a split second at even the slightest non sleeping sound coming from Charlie’s room. I stocked the fridge with all of his favourite foods, healthy and unhealthy. I didn’t want to not have what he was craving in that particular moment. I put extra effort into preparing the meals and ramped my inner domestic goddess up a notch (not hard). I took most of the phone calls and requests and remembered all of the messages. I perfected the logistics of our week and incorporated sudden changes to our plans with a grin. 

I danced around him and I walked on egg shells, all with a smile on my face, acting “normal”. 

The Monday night was fun. Finding a flattering dress for the Brownlow, ripping an upset toddler off my leg and walking the red carpet feeling like a bloated whale. Then trying to last in between Ad breaks without wetting my pants. Every time I waddled across Crown Palladium to the bathroom (a lot) I prayed my waters wouldn’t break. Right there in front of Bruce McAvaney. Joining the boys in drinking cups of tea instead of alcohol and dreaming of my luxurious bed that was just a short ride in the lift away upstairs. 

So we got that out of the way. No disrespect to that year’s winner, Adam Cooney. (You may also remember him as the guy who proposed to his beautiful wife with a Cheezel). 

So we put on our poker faces once again and danced through a couple more days. UNTIL Shane decided to vent, or exercise, or help, or something equally bizarre, by helping the builders to rip up the old rusty, splintered deck in our back garden. Can you see where I am going with this? 

Did someone say Tetanus shot? 

He couldn’t be told and in the spirit of keeping my smiling poker face, I watched out the window with baited breath. 

Yes, he stepped on an old rusted nail that wedged itself right inside his foot. His expensive, skilful, 304 game foot that had the weight of thousands of Hawks supporters on top of it too. Shit. 

The nail was as quickly pulled out as Shane put his tail between his legs to come inside and call the Club Doctor. Another Tetanus shot later and it was nothing more than a bruised ego for handyman Shane.

So we danced some more and I tried a bit harder to keep all potential hazards out of the way of not only our two year old, but Shane also, who was clearly looking for distractions. It was just a normal week. 

Thursday night’s Footy Show passed in a lot more serious way than Shane’s usual all singing, all dancing, shirtless extravaganza’s of previous years. There were no girls draped all over him and there were no special effects or acrobatic hoists being used to help Shane take centre stage in the Player Review of 2008. This year he only had eyes for one big stage.

On the Friday we included Charlie in the Grand Final Parade through the city. It was one of those typical Melbourne days that covered all four seasons, so I left the house with unshaved legs covered in opaque stockings under my maternity dress and kidded myself that it was no problem to take a brisk walk through 100,000 people up Collins Street at a faster pace than the car Shane and Charlie were travelling in. Lets just say that a quick stop off a a city cafe to rip off my tights (yes hairy legs and all) and a $5 bottle of water later…and I made it up the hill in time to see my boys in all their glory. Shane had a glow that came from so deep within that day, I will never forget it. He had his son in one arm and the Premiership in reach of the other and he was definitely in his happy place.

That night while I prepared an oh so casual looking but vitamin packed, carb loaded bowl of his favourite pasta, he announced he was going for a walk. This was not that unusual for Shane who often walked from our bayside home all the way out to Waverley in the months that his injuries were hampering his traditional training. But this week I had noticed he was avoiding being in public much more than usual. He had ticked off all of the mandatory engagements but other than that, had kept very much to himself. 

I tried to distract myself as much as possible while he was gone, but the minutes were long and he seemed to be gone for hours. I prayed that it was all not getting too overwhelming for him. Outwardly, he was cruising through the week seemingly enjoying it, relishing all of the special moments. But inside was he breaking down? As the minutes ticked by, the more nervous I got. It was that horrible helpless feeling you get when someone you love is going through something so important (or horrendous) for them and all you can do it be there. Stand there waiting, hoping to do something a little bit useful. Probably a lot like Shane feels in the maternity ward :)

It was only years later when I read the draft to his book “That’s what I’m talking about” that I discovered Shane had had a little cry on that walk. 

He wrote “it was the closest I came to betraying my emotions that week. Olivia and many others were just waiting for me to crack, but I didn’t. In fact I remained incredibly calm….

Walking along, caught between the present and the past I started to think about all the team mates I’d played with, the coaches I’d had and the training sessions I’d undergone….That’s when I started to get a bit emotional. For a very long time I’d wondered if I’d ever get the chance to taste team success, and now it was potentially only a few hours away….The thing that really brought tears to my eyes that night was thinking about the fact that this game might be my last”.

I took a little secret into the 2008 Grand Final that no one other than Olivia knew. I didn’t tell the coach, I didn’t tell my team mates, I didn’t tell my family. I hardly even wanted to admit it to myself. But I knew that this was going to be my last game. I might have changed my mind if we had lost, but losing never crossed my mind. I was confident that we could - and would - win”.

That was the secret we were sharing. The burden we were holding.

I told you, it was not a normal week.

So Grand Final day finally arrived and early in the morning Shane declared that he was going to take Charlie to the park. That was not his usual game day routine at all, but who was I to argue? 

Shane’s instructions to me about including Charlie on Grand Final Day were simple. He wanted him to be there if the Hawks won, but not if they lost. Simple? Not at all. As I nodded my head in atypical compliance, my mind raced with the logistical nightmare what exactly pulling off that “simple” statement entailed. 

My Mum agreed to stay at our house with Charlie and invite a few friends over to watch the game. At the point that we thought Hawthorn could win, she would jump in the car and drive Charlie into the MCG. Once again, my Mum sacrificed her own enjoyment to help out Shane and I on this important day. She was hosting a party, was not able to have a few drinks in case she had to drive and she was waiting by the phone. (I have told you before what a champ she is).

That last day in September, it was hot. Extra hot for a heavily pregnant woman, so once at the game, I was drinking a lot of water. Which meant, you guessed it…I needed to pee a lot too. Every time I stood and shimmied my way down the aisle towards the bathroom, all of the Hawthorn FC significant others looked at me with expectation. No my waters had not broken. No I was not having labour pains. I just needed to pee.

Again? Yes again.

While everyone else could enjoy an alcoholic beverage to ease their nerves a little, I was sticking to the water when I needed it least. By half time, the score was Hawthorn 51 to Geelong 48 points. Not exactly making it easy to make the phone call to my Mum to bring Charlie into the MCG. We decided to wait a little longer and by three quarter time the scores were Hawthorn 89 to Geelong 72 points and Hawthorn seemed to have the momentum. So Mum jumped in the car with Charlie and her good friend Lois (who has been her Partner in crime since they were very young). 

Half way through the final quarter they were approaching the MCG, so I waddled down several flights of stairs (sweating and using my pelvic floor muscles) to wait out the front. If I hadn’t been so stressed, I would have had a good laugh at Mum and Lois driving straight through all of the orange cones looking as naive as possible. They managed to somehow literally drive right up to the entrance only to be stopped by some confused Police Officers. Charlie was promptly handed out of the window without so much as a "thank you" from me and with him on my hip and 8 month preggy belly, I raced back up many flights of stairs to our seats. Phew.

The Hawks had kicked a couple more goals in my absence and it was then that I could finally relax and enjoy the moment. Those last five minutes of the game were blissful. Charlie cheered and I was very emotional. I believed that no-one deserved that fitting ending more than Shane. The siren sounded with a convincing 26 point win and after dancing to the Team Song with Charlie, I had to overcome my next obstacle.

How do I get from level two through this crowd with Charlie in time for him to complete the lap of honour with Shane? Off I went and pushed and shoved and huffed and puffed my way through the crowd to the front row of the ground. Tight security was my next obstacle so without any sort of official ground pass I gave my best pregnant lady innocent face to the burly security guard and explained my story.

He almost laughed in my face and said “everyone has a story lady”.

I will never forget those words. After more pleading and getting nowhere, someone in the crowd recognised either Charlie or myself as part of Shane’s family and started chanting “let her in…let her in!”

I had no option but to swallow my pride and lift my leg up over the fence. How I did that with my preggy belly and a toddler on my hip in a very tight space, I do not know. I made it and said something to the security guard along the lines of I’m 8 months pregnant, I’m carrying a toddler, I dare you to stop me” to which the crowd cheered and I walked as fast as I could without looking back. 

He took my advice.

I managed to find Ben Dixon (Shane’s long term team mate who had unfortunately retired just one year earlier) pretty quickly and handed Charlie over to him. At that point I was pretty much standing in the middle of MCG by myself. It was awesome. 100,012 people cheering, the Hawthorn theme song blaring and the two loves of my life doing a lap of honour around the MCG. 

Being alone out there and not wanting to intrude on the boys celebrations (just yet) I was one of the first to head down the race into the players rooms. This is where the second greatest moment of the day happened. Someone must have politely got me a chair and I sat in a corner and watched the team, the coaches and all of the Club officials walk in.

People describe the atmosphere is electric and it is very difficult to explain if you haven’t felt that. It’s making my spine tingle just thinking about it.

If you’ve ever been to a Wedding where you absolutely adore both people and you know they are 100% truly in love and are destined to live happily ever after…you feel the immense love in the room. It was a little like that. Except it was combined with exhaustion and relief and littered with sweat, rather than rose petals. 

The X Factor that team had was palpable. They had it in 2008 and clearly they still have it now. It is difficult to explain and impossible to replicate, but you know it when you see it. As a woman I describe it as extreme love and devotion for each other and for their shared goal. 

 Shane would roll his eyes at that.

So now, I live with a man that is not only a Premiership player, but a content and forward thinking man. He has no Grand Final baggage and he is able to sit back and enjoy watching his former team mates win Premiership after Premiership since his retirement with no bitterness. He became a changed man that day and I count my lucky stars for that. Occasionally I see that little glow appear that he was awarded that day. It is when he shares a moment with another man who has felt what he has felt.

That’s what I’m talking about. 

 


The 7 types of friends every Mum needs December 21 2016 2 Comments

I am so weird, I have so many ideas for Blog posts to write all year round and barely the time to dedicate to writing them properly. This means they are either slap dash or not done at all. Then, four days before Xmas when our entire home has been transformed into a cubby house, my washing pile isn’t a pile, it’s basically a room and I am still only half way through my Christmas shopping…. I  get inspired to complete one of the pieces I started a while ago. Of course, it is about my Mum friends. Again, reflecting on 2016 and ALL that it was, I am grateful and exhausted. As PINK reminded me: 

All the women
in me
are tired.

The School Mum, the Kinder Mum, the Class Rep Mum, the Twincredible Mum, the Flat Out Mum. The sister, daughter, partner, confidant, drinking partner, coffee date and the pilates pal. She is tired. The cook, cleaner, uber driver, gardener and washer woman are tired. Especially the washer woman, she is very tired. We all are. 

That’s why there is an unwritten rule that you just don’t expect much from people after Christmas for at least a few weeks. We are not only allowed to pause, but encouraged. It’s time to slack off, slow down and shut up shop. We need it, we deserve it and it would be unAustralian not too. Just like in some of the best parts of the world where siesta’s are the accepted norm and the afternoons are for eating and sleeping. Bliss. I think I am secretly Spanish (ooh Sangria), or Mexican (yum taco’s). We could learn a lot from those cultures. 

So, how do we all do it? 

The tribe, the village, the girl gang. Whatever you call it, we all need one and I have detailed the seven Mum friends in particular I am lucky to have and that I think we all need. They range from the Fashionista to the medical practitioner, but they all have one thing in common. They are an expert in something and they will save you in your most vulnerable moment. 

Starting with the Fashionista friend. You know the moment when you can no longer do up the zip on that little black dress you relied on before your boobs expanded and then shrunk and then broadened somehow? That LBD you thought you could just throw on and now it has let you down on the afternoon of an important event. The type of event that you’ll willingly pay a babysitter to attend and hopefully not suffer an almighty hangover from? That girlfriend you call who owns a wardrobe full of suitable outfits. You can call and she will deliver. Snap.

That brings me to the pseudo emergency that arises when you urgently need to make yourself look presentable at short notice (or when you are the ONLY person in town to forget to book a hair appointment before the Melbourne Cup). Your talented friend who can blow dry like a Pro or whose endless hours watching You Tube clips enables her to apply makeup to dark circles that make even a 40 something Mother of four look fresh. Oh yes, when she arrives with champagne too, you know she’s a keeper.

Now back to that almighty hangover. The medical practitioner, who can tell you honestly if in fact you might have some rare type of food poisoning or no, its just the 28 glasses of champagne you guzzled before you were dragged home at midnight. Or like the time when one of my boys accidentally flung the trampoline pole into my face resulting in a large gash across my eyebrow. My trusty friend Rebecca gets a lot of strange medical questions from me, none less memorable than the evening I called her and she taught me how to butterfly clip my own bleeding brow back together over Facetime. She understood the threat of possibly spending the rest of my life with eye brows to rival Kriss Kross and neither of us were in a position to leave the house to fix it properly. My brows could do with some more attention but there is not a scar in sight. Boom. 

Speaking of medical advice, we also need a wiser “been there, done that” Mum friend in our life. She is probably older, she probably has more kids than you and she is probably calm in a crisis. She has seen it all before and nothing seems to phase her. All of her kids have “turned out all right”  as we say and she can tell you if this particular biting / cross dressing / grunting stage is “normal”. She will not only reassure you that this particular WTF phase is not only common, but recount the time that one of her tribe went through it in a way far worse / offensive / prolonged than you could ever imagine. Phew, I’m good. 

Like the wise friend, it helps to have the “twinning” friend. For me, that was quite literally other Mums of Twins who I could say “WTF no-one understands like you do” at any time of day or night via all forms of social media.

You might be lucky enough to meet her at Mothers Group, or likely at school. It helps if your kids are a similar age and possibly gender, as you can roll your eyes together and really understand what they’re talking about (before they move on to the next stage and the previous one becomes a blur). If your kids are at the same school / have the same friends or hobbies, then you can really step the friendship up a notch with your combined logistics skills and Uber driver credentials. The busy weekends of sport / parties / play dates are much easier with a small team of likeminded Mums you can text at the last minute to share the load. Specifically the car load :)

The next type of friend every Mum needs is the Master Chef. That friend who just looks into a seemingly empty pantry and can whip up a glorious dish. This friend may be your own Mum, but whoever she is, you need her on speed dial. When it’s 9pm and you remember it’s the school cake stall in the morning. What basic ingredients do you really need to make some half presentable pikelets?  Or when you receive the afternoon phone call from your Partner that instead of meeting at a restaurant, those important people are “just going to come to our house for dinner…it’s much more relaxing”. Hold crap, more relaxing? I couldn’t think of anything worse than speed cleaning the house (that means shoving all the mess out of sight and randomly vacuuming the most visible places) and whipping up an edible meal in between school pick-up, basketball and getting four ratty boys fed, bathed and into bed without protest. That MasterChef friend will hopefully calm you down with some “easy” recommendations or offer to drop off the Peking Duck she was casually preparing for her own family. If she is anything like my amazing friend Jodie, she will also drop the boys home from basketball and quickly sweep the front entrance before she disappears into the night like the superhero that she is.

Last but definitely not least is that 3am person. If you have more than one that is not related to you, you’re lucky. That person who would actually answer the phone not expecting you to be drunk, but knowing that you need them. The BFF type of Mum knowing that you want to escape, leave your husband or something tragic has happened. We hope to never have to make this call but knowing that we can is very important. 

There are many more types of Mum friends - the interior designer extraordinaire, the Mrs Fix it handy woman, the knowledgeable lawyer and the all important 'Mum you can drop your kids to for a last minute sleepover when the babysitter cancels' soul mate type of Mum. The point is, it takes a Village to raise a child and a small army to raise many of them. 

2017 has been fun. Exhausting but fun. 
And all the women in me are tired.
Find your tribe and love them hard.

Olivia x

 


Fabulous Flat Out Mum: Amber Whalan September 13 2016 1 Comment

Introducing Amber Whalan, our Fabulous Flat Out Mum. Reading her story will make you stop and appreciate so many things. Your health, the every day moments you share with your kids, as well as your close friendships and support network.

Can you even imagine what it must have like for Amber, who was a healthy young Mum of three little children when she discovered a lump in her breast at just 28 years old?

Amber had had lumps before that turned out to be benign tumours, so in the early months of her third pregnancy when she noticed a lump in her right breast she thought it was just going to be one of those again. Amber did go to the GP and got a referral for an ultra sound, however with her busy life, she said that “the lump was the least of my worries, so I just left it and never got the ultra sound”. 

It wasn’t until one year later, in September 2015 when she attended a fundraising event for Pink Hope’s “Bright Pink Lipstick Day” that she once again thought about the lump and finally went to have that ultrasound. A week later, at 28 years old, Amber found out in fact, she did have breast cancer. 

With three kids under five years old Amber says it was “extremely difficult to begin with. In the first two weeks alone, I had about 25 tests / appointments”. With no child care for her five month old, she says there was a lot of juggling. This included three separate drop offs before every appointment and then three pick-ups afterwards. "I was physically and mentally exhausted and the hardest bit hadn’t even begun”. On top of all this, their baby continued waking every 2-3 hours during the night throughout her entire treatment. Now that is what you call exhaustion. 

Amber and her husband Ben had to also decide how to explain to their children what was going on with their Mum. As the older children were only three and four years old, they had to be very careful. They “thought long and hard about what we would tell the kids and spoke to lots of different people”. In the end they decided to tell them that “mummy was sick and the doctors are giving her special medicine to make her feel better. The special medicine will make mummy very tired so she won’t be able to play with you like she usually can, and she will need to rest on the couch a lot”. 

Amber explains that they did find a great children’s picture booked called “My Strong Mummy” by Pamela Schramm, which she says was fantastic to read to her two oldest children. As the book explains a mother’s breast cancer journey to her kids, they found it very helpful. 

Amber says the worst part was “not being able to rest when I needed to. As you know young kids are relentless. I remember one day I had all three kids at home with me and it was 5 days after Chemo (so I was terribly ill) I fell asleep on the couch, I literally couldn’t keep my eyes open anymore, I woke up 20 minutes later in a panic, the kids were gone. Ollie (my 4 year old) had taken his sister and baby brother into his bedroom and shut the door so mummy could rest. I walked in on them and they were happily playing on the floor together. SERIOUSLY you have no idea how much that made me cry".  

Children can be amazingly intuitive and understanding sometimes.

Amber says that "probably the worst was the look in the kids eyes when they wanted me to play with them and I was just too sick. They were too young to understand completely and it broke my heart every single day".

So throughout this horrendous period of her life, who did Amber turn to for support? “My mum and dad and my father and mother in law were exceptional. My mum organised a food roster where friends would bring over meals so I didn’t have to cook. Even my sister who has three young kids herself made me meals and helped with washing and housework. My family came to appointments with me and took notes, it’s pretty much information overload at every appointment and I was so overwhelmed”.

It is during this time that Amber saw her true friendships come to the for. “I realised that family is not always blood. Some of my friends were amazing, and were a constant source of support for me. My best friend Melissa pretty much put her life on hold for six months to help me in any way she could”. 

At the same time Amber also admits that not everyone knew what to do or how to acknowledge the turmoil that was happening in her life.Some of my friends became even more distant than ever before. It was almost like they didn’t know what to say or do, so they chose to say absolutely nothing”. She goes on to say that she has “learnt who I can rely on and that some people are a lot more selfless than others”.

So what does she suggest you can do if you know someone going through cancer treatment? With so many young children Amber found the rostering of others to take her children to childcare was an enormous help. This included the teachers at the children's kindergarten coming to her house at 7am to pick up the kids, and later to return them home. “They went above and beyond their call of duty and it was AMAZING”.

Other practical and very helpful things her family organised for her were when her Mother in Law “organised a group of friends to put in money for a cleaner for me once a week, it was bliss!” Her own Mum also organised a food roster with friends and so her “fridge and freezer was always full of nutritious meals and I didn’t have to worry about cooking”.

It was her best friend though that went wig shopping with Amber. For such a confronting and personal side effect of her treatment she says it was “SOOO good to have the support of someone there. Losing my hair was one of the hardest things for me”. 

I asked Amber if we knew someone going through cancer or another illness, what should we say to them and what practical things did you find helped the most? 

"This is a really hard question because everyone reacts, copes, deals so differently. So here are a few things that I really did and didn’t like:

  • Don’t tell them that everything is going to be alright, just tell them that you’re here for them and their family and they can call on you when every they need. Making meals was just an incredible help. Make meals, drop them off and leave. 
  • Offer to be a middle man. I had 2 middle men, my mum and my best friend. They were well informed with my progress from day one and if anyone wanted to know how I was I asked them to contact them, not me. It gets exhausting telling the same story over and over again and someone going through treatment for Cancer doesn’t need to be burdened with it. 
  • NEVER, EVER tell stories about people who they know who died of Cancer…. Seriously people do this and it’s just NOT cool!!!"

 How did the support and help of other Mums help at the time?

"I was so incredible lucky to be blessed by some of them most amazing mums from the kids kinder and school. I think as a mum you immediately put yourself in my shoes and you can’t help but need to help. Mums from school would walk Ollie to School for me when I was going through Radiation and pick him up if I had an appointment. Kinder mums were donating money to help us pay for childcare; they were calling Centrelink on my behalf, having the kids on weekends and days when I couldn’t get them into childcare. I couldn’t have done it without them". 

So what did Amber miss most (or look forward to having again) throughout her treatment?

"My strength, going from training at the woodshed weekly, running and Pilates twice a week to not even being able to walk to the letter box without wanting to collapse was totally depressing. After Chemo I had a metallic taste in my mouth for a week and I couldn’t taste anything. A definitely missed the taste of a good Shiraz". 

"I missed my hair too. Having long hair my whole life then suddenly

being bald was pretty devastating for me". 

What do you appreciate more now that you have gone through this experience?  

"My husband. He is the rock of this family and I didn’t realise the extent of it until I was diagnosed. He kept it together, kept working, kept the family going when I couldn’t contribute at all. He was amazing the entire time and I most definitely wouldn’t have been able to stay as positive as I did without him by my side". 

"I appreciate the local community. I moved to Mentone only a few months before being diagnosed and knew no one, but regardless everyone still banded together and helped me and my family throughout the whole ordeal". 

"I appreciate my kids, and realise how amazing and resilient they are". 

 So what can we learn from Amber's experience?

"The best tip I can give to all women is to know their risk and know their boobies. Pink Hope have a fantastic 'Know your risk online assessment tool', which will help you determine your risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer based on your family health history. I highly recommend all women take the 5 minute test here: http://pinkhope.org.au/know-your-risk/ 

There is also a great initiative called “feel it on the first”, so on the first of every month self-examine your boobs in front of a mirror, familiarise yourself with every single nook, cranny, texture and lump. The more you familiarise yourself with your breast the more likely you are to notice any changes". 

Now that Amber has finished treatment, she is helping raise awareness amongst other young women through your involvement with Pink Hope. "They have been there for me throughout my entire journey. They have sent me care pack and books, stayed in touch on social media, and joined me into their online support group, which is an amazing provision. I believe that they are the new generation of breast cancer charities. Their main message is that Men and Woman can actually take charge of their risk and avoid the possibility of cancer all together. I don’t want anyone to have to go through what I’ve been through, which is why I am determined to help Pink Hope share this message with the world". 

As one of the official faces of Pink Hope's 'Bright pink lipstick day' this year, Amber has collaborated with two other beautiful ladies, Sarah-Jane Young (She is, Sarah-Jane) and Jo French (Shanghai Suzy Lipsticks) and they will be hosting their very own cocktail party in Melbourne on Friday 23rd September. 

"It would mean the world to us if your Flat Out Mum followers would get a

group of girlfriends together and purchase tickets to our event".

"The event is a celebration of woman who have had severe mental or physical health issues and not only overcome them but come away inspired, passionate, driven and inspirational. Attitude is everything". Being held at Speakeasy Bar in Chapel Street from 7:30pm, tickets can be purchased here:

https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/bright-pink-lipstick-day-ladies-cocktail-party-tickets-27064185708  

Even if you can’t attend, you can still share the message. The motto of this year's Bright Pink Lipstick Day campaign is to “Save Lives with Your Lips”. Everyone should have a conversation regarding their family health history… because with this knowledge they have the power to take control of their health.

You can also donate directly to the online fundraising event page. 

https://brightpinklipstickday-2016.everydayhero.com/au/amber-sarah-jane-joanna

Thank you so much to Amber for being a part of our Fabulous Flat Out Mum series. I know you'll be admiring her strength and resilience along with me. Please help Amber to help so many others by coming along to the event if you can, sharing the information from Pink Hope and donating to this amazing cause. 

Olivia x 


I'm a hot mess Mum & proud of it May 10 2016 1 Comment

If you’re a regular reader you may have noticed that I haven’t written many blog posts lately. Actually I have written them, but only published a few. That’s because after four children and almost a decade of being a Mother, I don’t feel qualified. I have lot’s of topics I would happily discuss with my girlfriends and I get asked the same handful of questions all the time, so I think I know what you’d like me to write about. But I don't feel qualified to give advice. There are a lot of “Mummy Bloggers” out there giving their opinions on all sorts of things. What I know for sure is this.

After ten years, I still don’t know what I am doing. 

A lot of the “experts” don’t have it totally covered either. Wouldn’t it be lovely if there was one book we could all eagerly read that gave us all the answers. For all the types of children, in all types of families, all types of environments and facing all types of obstacles. That Baby Manual doesn’t exist for good reason. Every baby and every experience is so different. Each journey is unique and that makes it beautiful, as well as incredibly frustrating. 

The routine that worked for your first born probably goes out the window for your second. The sudden appearance of perfect teeth without even a fever, may be the case for one child, but unfortunately not another. The wide variety of organic puree’s you concocted for one child get thrown on the floor by another. It’s hit and miss. 

 I’ve said before that having identical twins is like living inside a science experiment. Nature versus nurture. As much as you admire their differences and consciously try to develop their individuality, there are some differences that are not celebrated. You just want the picky eater to be like his brother who shoves everything into his mouth with a grateful smile. But that same guy doesn’t sleep all night, nor did he toilet train himself. Yes I got lucky there. (Lucky I reinforce, as I did not follow a step by step guide).

Every day I wing it and every day I face a new challenge. Just when I think “I’ve heard it all before”, my boys invent a new excuse for not finishing their lunchbox or stop me in my tracks with a curly question from left field. Just when I think I’m on top of my housework…I find the entire contents of a chest of drawers strewn across a bedroom. Or I can’t even enter my lounge room because of the latest cubby house creation. The washing, the toilet cleaning (I wish we’d installed a urinal) and the picking up off the floor. Relentless, never ending, I’ll never conquer it. Or when I do I’ll be a lonely mess wishing my boys hadn’t grown up so fast.

I know it and every day that I use even more Pine O Cleen I try to remember that. 

Our doona’s are not alway co-ordinated but our bedroom’s are designed to have the greatest of sleepover parties. The shelves are nothing close to display cabinets but they contain the treasures of this particular phase and trophies that are now broken but still contain the same pride within. 

Our home couldn’t feature in any interiors magazine without a few week’s notice and a total makeover. It has potential, but no job is ever finished. Or when it is, a child’s artwork gets placed on top of my perfectly positioned wall decals. In the wrong colours. The rooms are rearranged and their beds are pushed together so they can sleep closer to their brother (I allow this one due to the cuteness factor). 

Our back garden resembles a junk yard with chewed tennis balls, ‘flat’ footies and half the garden bed strewn across it. It’s the “lived in” look. 

I never post my own recipe’s as I actually don’t enjoy cooking. I try really hard to give our boys fresh, real food in as wide a variety of possible. Sticking to a yellow colour palette has been testing with our second child. Mashed potato, scrambled eggs, pasta and toasted sandwiches are on high rotation. Thank goodness that banana’s, milk and cheese are also included in his current mood board. 

What gives me hope is that our eldest also went through a similar stage and now at almost ten he is a wonderful healthy eater who proactively gets himself some fruit or yoghurt as a snack, even though he can now easily unlock the “treat cupboard”. I think that just happened. Or maybe, just maybe my subtle but consistent references to how he could help his body grow “big and strong” were actually sinking in with each eye roll. 

Now to my organisation skills. I think they are finely tuned, but to an outsider watching me wipe breakfast off their face just as we enter the kindergarten gate or rush back to the car to collect the library bags, we may not appear so organised. I try to focus on the fact that the library bag WAS there somewhere, just not exactly where it was supposed to be ahead of time. 

I haven’t actually been to school drop off in my pajama’s but my outfits are rarely well thought out or worthy of a photo shoot. My hair is brushed at the traffic lights and I might scrape the last bit of lip gloss out of a tube as I grab the kids and their ensembles and arrive with only a minute to spare.

Flat shoes reign supreme :)

I am not on any school committee’s and I have been known to accidentally forget my cake stall responsibilities even though I love being a part of our school community. Nothing is hand made - cake’s, costumes or crafts. 

My kids have heard me swear and I have proudly walked away to giggle as they have dropped the F bomb in the most appropriate of circumstances. I get bored of their games quickly and have secretly had lots of children so they can play them together. I hate arts and craft’s at home, the mess and inaccuracy tests my patience more than the majority of motherhood challenges put together.  I do enjoy baking anything sweet though and I fight them to lick the bowl. 

Date nights are not scheduled, I very rarely put mushy photo’s of us on social media and I never give relationship advice. I am lucky to have someone who is made to feel special outside of the home, as inside he is just one of six. Take a number and if you get weet-bix for dinner you should appreciate that we had enough fresh milk to accompany it. Don’t get me wrong, we adore him, he is the King of the kids but he also has copped the wrath of too many sleepless nights and crazy days. He is lucky to have us and we are lucky that he too enjoys the chaotic lively home that he enters. It’s full of real love and he is a magnet for it. 

The fact is, I don’t really care what other people think of how I run our family. I don’t know how I became this way, but I never really have cared for the thoughts of the ill informed. I know that I’m doing my best and have the best intentions in each particular set of circumstances every day. I am not doing things to appear a certain way to other mother’s. Pretending I have it all together is not a priority to me. Nor is putting perfect images or recipes or advice on social media. I’m just winging it and sometimes that may appear to be working. 

Everything gets done, mostly just in the nick of time. We are a well oiled machine with several squeaky wheels. Inside our large and dirty car we do often turn the radio up loud and yell out the window at strangers to “have a great day” as we wiz past, all noise and grubby faces. After the initial jolt, those strangers seem to like it. I for one, will always remember it. 

I let my boys fall over and climb trees perhaps a little too high. They play outside where they use their minds, negotiation skills and develop their courage. They get very dirty, they stay out in the cold and swim in the pool in winter. I have band aids in every place imaginable and have learnt to live with the puddles and dirt constantly being brought back inside with them. 

We haven’t been to Disneyland, most of our clothes are not designer and we drive a Nissan. The facade of our home is dignified and beautiful, but inside it is dirty floorboards, broken toys and fingerprinted walls. The carpet is littered with dog hair and the boys bedrooms seem to have a constant smell of urine no matter how many times I wash, spray or open the windows. 

They are probably on their iPad’s too much and they have a TV in their bedroom. They will suffer the consequences of not doing their homework at school, I will never do it for them. They are taught to bear the responsibilities for their actions, whether it is time in the naughty corner and being ignored until only the sincerest of apologies comes out of their mouth. But out in the big wide world, I will be a Lioness protecting my cubs if they are double crossed. 

With me, I’m all or nothing and rarely in between. With friendships, food and exercise I’m either fantastic or hopeless. This changes daily. I try my best but often think “stuff it” and eat the chocolate or ignore the text for another day. I rarely drink alcohol but when I do I think I’m 21 with no responsibilities to wake up to. My hangover’s can last for days from only a handful of champagne’s and that’s when the wheels really fall off. The kids love it as they get McDonald’s and I fall asleep on the lounge room floor with them inside a magnificent cubby. 

I have a favourite child and lucky for them, it rotates frequently. Somehow I manage to squeeze in alone time with each of them, even if it is just a trip to the supermarket or a late night snuggle in bed. We are in the moment and it is our little bubble of love that we create each day, however fleeting. 

I invite friends over without cleaning up first and then I serve take away thai as dinner. The kids get a sausage in bread and we all live happily ever after.

I’m a hot mess mum and proud of it.
Openly and proudly imperfect. 

When I look back at this time as a blur of meals, early morning’s and whinging children, this blog will help me to remember how much fun it was. 

The only advice I feel qualified to give is this, try really hard to enjoy it.

The hilarious and irrational tantrums, the bath times that end up as rivers down the hall way and the time they threw their scrambled eggs at the wall. Inform yourself but stay open minded as to how your child will react to new things. Surround yourself with awesome people, even if there are only a couple of them. Keep your inner circle tight.

Embrace the chaos, laugh before you cry

and remind your kids every day that of all the things you do,

  it is your favourite thing to be their Mum.

  A hot mess Mum in all her glory.

Olivia x

 


Please don't say you're tired February 26 2016

I fell asleep in a bikini wax once. Yes a bikini wax.

So I know what it feels like to be tired. Beyond the normal definition of tired and more like the kind that Hollywood celebrities check themselves into hospital for. Exhaustion. If it could be measured, I was probably living for many years with the equivalent of 45 tequila shots in my system. Hazy, incoherent and with my physical and mental faculties severely impaired. Intoxicated with tiredness.

If the normal definition of tired is ‘fatigued or sleepy’, then I am looking for a new definition. If you can fall asleep while someone pours hot wax on your nether regions and then rips away at half of your genitalia, it has gone slightly beyond fatigued. So if you are so tired that just because you are horizontal you could fall instantly asleep, then you know what I’m talking about. In the dentist chair, during the extended puppy pose or yes, even during a bikini wax. 

“Mombie" is a good definition. Maybe I will start a crowd funding project for a Mombie Warehouse. It wouldn’t need to be more than comfy bed’s, darkness and silence. You could check in for a few hours, a few days. Whatever you need.

I know Mum’s are tired. It just comes with the territory. Tiredness is not a competition and I hate hearing people compare notes. Vent to your partner. Vent to your own mother, but don’t make it the general topic of discussion. It is boring and like stress, it becomes self fulfilling. The more you harp on about how tired you are and how many times you had to get up in the night and that you watch the sun rise every morning, it is just reinforcing your tiredness.

It is dragging you down. 

Last night is done and there is another one coming, so positivity is always best. 

Yes Mums of little bubs need to count their night feeds and stay on a schedule, but don’t focus on the fact that you woke at 11.52pm

 and then AGAIN at 2.13am

 

and then AGAIN at 3.55am 

and then lay awake until 5.59am when you finally fell asleep until your bub woke ready for its 6am feed. 

No point.

If the average life expectancy of an Australian woman is now 84 years, when you throw in at least two kids then you should expect to be extremely sleep deprived for perhaps ten percent of your life. For many it is more. I am only just getting a full nights sleep as I pass 10 years since my first pregnancy. So unless someone can do something to help with your tiredness, don’t mention the war.

Get your Partner to get up in the night, or let you sleep in when you can. Guilt free. Get someone to come and help in the day so you can power nap. Take an annual leave day to sleep. Yes an annual leave day. It will be worth it. Check yourself into a hotel for the night. Take up meditation or whatever makes you feel less tired. But please don’t talk about it with people who can’t actually help you out.

It is a global phenomenon and you are not alone. 

So drink coffee, red bull, whatever. 

Inhale more oxygen…eat protein…just do something. 

And until I open my Mombie Warehouse, look forward not back. 

Olivia x 

 

 

 


School returns... with all its frustrations February 04 2016

As school starts back and I finally watch our first born happily get dressed and ready for school it warms my heart. I am so proud of how far he has come. He was THAT child crying and clinging to my leg for years. YEARS. He actually has always enjoyed school once he was there and has the most awesome BFF’s you could ask for, but he would just rather be at home. Blame the big back yard full of boys toys and the Dad who is a big kid himself, but the appeal of leaving our nest was never there for our eldest. Until now. And that makes me SO happy. 

At the height of his anxiety one stressful morning, he almost pulled one of the most senior teachers over in the mud. You see, she had kindly offered to help me try to remove his grip from the car door as I wrangled the other children and bags in the rain. We both believed he would respond better to her kindness but NO, he put up a fight. He is a very determined child and I am happy about that. BUT I wasn’t looking forward to pulling both him and this amazing woman out of a muddy puddle. Luckily it didn’t come to that, but it is an image I will never forget.

Having a child like this is equally heart breaking and equally frustrating. You know how confident they can be and you know that once inside the classroom, it is the best place for them. Luckily I was pretty confident that no issues with any other children, or teachers, or learning, were the cause of his anxiety. I just wanted him to let himself enjoy it. That’s where the frustration comes in. You know they will thrive if they just let themselves. Now I have learnt, at least with us, that you need patience and time to get to that point. 

He was the same for birthday parties. He would be so excited when he received an invitation and carefully planned the present and count down the days. Until it was time to go. I have since learnt that this is very common. The fear of the unknown. Not knowing that person’s house, what exactly was going to happen at the party and if I was going to LEAVE him there. Several times we were forced to pull out at the last minute or I was the only Mum who stayed and watched from the corner. It was so frustrating for us to watch him miss out. What child doesn’t want to go to a party with their friends? Ours. And many others apparently. 

So the reason for my post is this. Every child has their “thing”. As confident as they look striding into the classroom alone, or speaking confidently in Assembly or winning another blue ribbon, every Mum is dealing with something that is frustrating about their child. Don’t be fooled by appearances and the small glimpse into their life that you may get. Don’t compare your children to theirs and don’t be hard on yourself. As I said it takes patience and time. 

Last year we tackled his first school camp. Well wasn’t that months of dread and anxious conversations, (or non conversations) avoiding the thought of his upcoming departure? All for nothing. He was awesome. Yes the build up was horrible. Heart wrenching for me as I put on a brave face boldly promising him that he would love it. Surprise surprise, the tears I saw were from the children I least expected. Once you share your own story, other Mums tell you things about their child that you may least expect. 

If you are reading this and not relating, count yourself very lucky. And your perfectly well adjusted child. Families of many kids know how different they all can be. Nature versus nature. I have learnt a lot about this having identical twins. It is not ALL YOUR FAULT! The temperament and personality they are born with, determine so much. Of course nurture is SO important, but some kids are just born that way, and as parents we need to earn how to bring out the best in that individual at that particular stage.

I read a lot of Steve Biddulph’s literature on raising boys and last year I was lucky to hear him talk in person. He was amazing and empowering and I walked away with so many thoughts racing. One thing he said that resonated with me so much and I will never forget it, is this.

You do not MAKE your child, you MEET your child.

So simple, yet so powerful. From a young age we consciously and unconsciously create an image of the type of parent we are going to be. They type of child we are going to have. A mixture of the best parts of both parents. Our expectations are high and they are not often met.

Our first born has taught us to remove our own expectations and open our minds more to meeting him. He is amazing. He is different to how we thought he was going to be, he is so much better, because he is Charlie. His quirks and frustrations and steely resolve are amazing. He has brought on the grey hairs and extra bags under my eyes and tested my patience to no end.  He isn’t what I would have predicted, he is better. 

This week as I watch him take the confidence and humour that he has always shown us at home with him to school, I couldn’t be prouder. He has opened up my eyes so much as a parent and given me confidence too. 

Whatever their “thing” is, if you learn to MEET them where they are and work with them in their way a bit more, their time will come. One day they will speak in Assembly, or eat five food groups in one day or bring home a blue ribbon and your heart will just melt.  

You do not MAKE your child, you MEET your child.

 

 

 


Merry Christmas & enjoy your summer December 24 2015

To me, everything that is great about childhood lies within an Australian summer. 

Long, carefree days spent barefoot running wild. Less clothes and night swims. Water fights, sprinklers under trampolines, beach days. Sandy toes, wet dogs and sun kissed skin. No homework, no schedules, no deadlines. Balmy nights and sleepovers. BBQ’s and festive feasts. Succulent fruit and juicy faces. Each new day brings another adventure. Oh to be a lucky Aussie kid. 

Our boys are at a great age. Right in the thick of childhood where their imagination runs free and Santa rules. Pure innocence and delighting at everyday things. Their laughter is infectious. They are all that is good in the world. Optimistic, happy, adventurous, ready to take on whatever the day throws at them.

I’m here for the ride. Building my patience and resilience along with them. Seeing the world through their sparkling eyes. Band aids and sun screen at the ready, sneaking in another load of washing as they scoff their toasted sandwiches. I’m the diplomat, crowd controller and head chef. 

Amongst the mess and the fights its the time of our lives. I am present but I feel nostalgic. like it is flashing before my eyes. I am sucking it all in and storing every cheeky laugh and show off antic in my long term memory. Oh to be a lucky Aussie Mum. 

From our family to yours, enjoy the festive season and summer in all its glory. Thank you to each and every one of you who has followed and supported Flat Out Mum. There are big plans for this wonderful community of Mums in 2016 and I can't wait to share it with you all.

Olivia x 


Your Circle of Trust :) December 01 2015

This weeks blog post is inspired by a very interesting conversation I had with a friend about her husband (shhh don’t tell them). A lot is spoken of the sisterhood and the importance of maintaining a strong circle of close, supporting women in our tribe. Not so much for the men, but equally as important. Although it is often disguised as a few beers or a game of (pretending not to be serious) tennis, men need their gang to communicate and de-stress with just as much as women (in ways only they know how).

My friend was telling me that about once a year (usually on long haul business trips) her husband takes some time to reflect on his time management and how much he is investing in his own friendships. (Very clever guy he is). He bases this on the “Circle of trust” diagram which basically has yourself at the centre, surrounded by the inner circle where only the closest, most trusted and dependable friends can sit. As the layers continue, the closeness and trust dissipates until you reach acquaintances and then strangers on the periphery. 

So he re-evaluates his inner circle and makes sure he is giving as much to the friendship that they are (and vice versa). If not, he makes it a priority to lock in some dates in the diary asap to catch up with them upon his return. His wife is also included in his inner circle so she is often ‘surprised’ with a lovely text or email while he is away reminded her what she means to him. How lovely (and such an easy thing to do that has such a HUGE impact). The modern day love letter. 

As another busy year draws to a close and we see on the horizon some spare time and long summer nights to share with friends, I thought this would be a timely reminder that we could all benefit from thinking about our own Inner Circle. The treadmill of life is getting faster and faster and as much as we are aware of the importance of being still and quiet and having quality time, it is very hard to actually put this into practice most of the time. (Especially for Flat Out Mum’s).

I have always been good at moving people from the inner circle to the outer layers of acquaintance. My Dad always preached the importance of quality over quantity and in today’s crazy world, it has never been so relevant. Just because you’ve known someone a long time and have a precious history, it doesn’t mean that they are right for you in your life as it is now. That also doesn’t mean that your friendship can’t be restored in the future if it is right for both of you then.

Unfortunately being ‘family’ does not automatically qualify for being within your inner circle. Nor do people that you see all the time by circumstance and have a lot to do with in your day to day activities. Girlfriends who have been with you for a long time are definitely precious but I think it is healthy to honestly re-assess where they really sit in your life right now. These long term friends and possibly some family members may need to move further out of the circle. No one is ‘entitled to’ inner circle status just because you share bloodlines or a long history. 

I’m not advising you to delete these people from your life, or even tell them that they are slipping down your ladder of importance, but I think it is helpful to be self aware. That way you can pick your battles and invest your precious time wisely with the right people. The people who you really could call at 2am if you needed. Time is precious and this summer will be most fun if you spend it with those most dear.

So as the year draws to a close, I am looking forward to spending some time with those most precious to me. It doesn’t have to be extravagant but it has to be meaningful. I have at least five precious girlfriends in my inner circle that I’m hoping still have me in theirs even though we are not physically together very much any more. I am hoping that the quality of our friendship overrides that and my few and far between text messages and emails reminding them that I think they are awesome and I miss them, are enough until we can reconnect properly again.

Enjoy the silly season!

Olivia x


Fabulous Mum: Amber from The Throwdown November 27 2015

It is not often that I find another Mum with four young boys and when I do, we either talk for hours or just share a knowing and respectful look. Earlier this year on my trip to Bali with my boys, I met this week’s Fabulous Flat Out Mum Amber Gourlay. 

She had all four of her boys in six years and from our evening together (with 11 boys, all 8 years of age and under!) I could tell she was made to be a Mum of busy boys. Petite and fit (in her previous life she was on the pro surfing tour!) and with eyes in the back of her head, Amber personified the phrase I often use “embrace the chaos”. 

She told me that in their short lives her boys have already given her many scary moments. Including when her oldest was lifted up into a fan (8 stitches to the back of his head) to her second oldest getting a surfboard through his mouth (same deal - stitches!) and her third boy once pulled a fish tank onto himself! She is grateful that her fourth has not yet been in any scary situations, but he is only 14 months old!

Living what many would perceive as the ‘dream life’ between Perth and Bali, her days are spent outdoors. When she couldn’t find a durable rug that also had style to suit the needs of her young and adventurous family, she went ahead and founded “The ThrowDown”, a truly multi-purpose and easily transportable mat which is made with a water resistant PVC underside, inbuilt pocket and handle carry case. Such a great idea (we use ours all the time).

So I took ten minutes of Amber’s precious time to suck as much wisdom out of her as possible.

With so many young children and living abroad, did your friends think you were crazy starting The Throwdown on top of everything else?

Yes, but my life runs on chaos so they expected nothing less!

When you have so much on your plate already, what drives you each day to run a business?

Just doing what I love, I love the challenge of it and the love of my boys that I breathe in every day makes it worth it.

What is your best time saving tip?

I have a window of about four hours a day in between big boys school drops and quality time with my little ones. So just Focus Focus Focus… I have a million things going on at once but in that four hrs I just try put my work hat on!

What is the best thing that you outsource?

I have a Production Manager who is on the ground running in between our factories and suppliers. So that allows me to be at my desk and drive the sales and marketing side of the biz. Occasionally sourcing new materials and launching new products I have to be on the ground but we are at a stage now that I can have someone reliable running around for me and that is a time/life saver!!!

Have you discovered any indispensable household products that you can share?

Sard wonder stick!!! My boys are crazy messy and this a must in my house. I bring it up from Australia by the bucket loads. LOL!

Have you managed to get your boys to help in any way with your business? 

Yes I guess they help by smiling and posing in some of my marketing material.

If you could teach your pre-baby self one thing, what would it be?

Contraception!!! LOL no kidding… I would not change a thing and I guess I would want to appreciate all the spare time I had and make the most of travel as that is hard with a little tribe.

Do you have any tips for other ‘Mothers of Many’ on how to juggle everything?

Just go with the flow, choose your battles and be mindful that they are not kids for a long time, so enjoy the mayhem!!

What about things specific to raising a tribe of boys?

Routine, structure and whole lot of sport and outdoor activities!!! Basically keeping them busy!!!

Is there anything that you hear yourself saying (that you never thought would come out of your mouth)?

I’m going to wash your mouth out with soap? I’m like OMG its that my mum talking?!?!?

Best thing about raising children overseas?

The experience of a different culture and the extra languages they learn and the extra helping hands ;)

Hardest thing about raising children overseas?

No trusting in the medical system up here (Bali). I forever find myself second guessing a doctors opinion and I know I would not do that at home???!

Hardest thing about running a business overseas? 

Probably exporting stock and the logistics on the other end!

What is your favourite every day wardrobe essential? 

My One Teaspoon Denim shorts. 

What are your favourite flat shoes and why?

Well I'm a lover of bare feet so do my fav shell crochet ankle jewels count???

Make sure you check out Amber's awesome Throwdown products here and support another Fabulous Flat Out Mum in business by shopping small this Christmas.

Olivia x 


Mother Guilt November 18 2015

So it starts the minute you see those blue lines on the pregnancy test and you try to work backwards and remember how many big night outs you’ve had and how much blue cheese you’ve eaten since conception. Mother Guilt. It steadily increases from there and occasionally you experience a “fuck it” moment where you put yourself first. BIG MISTAKE. There creeps in the Mother Guilt again, probably twice as hard. Oh no wait that might be the hangover. 

If the definition of GUILT is "a feeling of responsibility or remorse then it actually takes into account both the past and the future. Double whammy. We are not only remorseful of all the tequila shots we unknowingly sank prior to our pregnancy glow, but we are also preempting the future with the huge weight of responsibility that lies ahead. 

And so it begins. Where, how and for how long your labour took (or shock horror your planned C-section). Boob or bottle. Attachment parenting or controlled crying. Organic, ethically sourced whole foods or grabbing a jar of something that looks the same on the go. Working or not working. We know the drill. 

As time goes on, I’m sure the guilt increases over time in proportion to the number of things you’ve done or said or thought as a Mother. Maybe my child was just born a non sleeping, picky eater who bites innocent girls at the park? NO, Mother guilt says "it’s all your fault!"

As most Mums know, normally there is one parent who can exit the house each morning only thinking about themselves and their day ahead. Happily they skip off to work and generally don’t think about the daily grind back at home until their thoughts turn to dinner. Most of the time when a Mother leaves the house they are normally exhausted from all of the planning that has gone into place to get there, and then their mind never really leaves their children. If we are lucky enough to get some hours to ourself, we may be worrying if they are sleeping well at day care or racking our brains if today was the day they were supposed to go to school with a cake or a gold coin donation.  They never leave our minds. The survival of mankind can thank Mothers for that. 

So why am I feeling a dose of the Mother Guilts this week?

Because I booked a quite spontaneous trip to Bali ALL BY MYSELF! 

I know, it’s going to be amazing. 

Or is it? 

Should I really be leaving the boys when it’s such a busy time of year? There’s that party. That basketball game. That presentation assembly. That Volcanic Ash that could quite possibly delay my exit…. or prolong my sleeping, swimming, slurping, shopping holiday. None of it has happened and I’m ridden with guilt already. My spreadsheet is going crazy with every little detail of each day that might be forgotten. Hours of work will go into that spreadsheet that will probably stay neglected on the kitchen bench.

I know I deserve a little Mummy break. My rational mind is telling me so. But my rational mind tells me a lot of things. My heart is already aching at the thought of those days, nights and early mornings without my boys. I know it’s ridiculous. Sick even. What am I thinking? Well I’m not thinking, I’ve been sprinkled with a little bit more of that guilty dust with each additional boy that we’ve added to our crew. 

Before you send me a little note to tell me not to feel bad and that I deserve it and that Shane can handle it, don’t worry I do have the capacity to switch off. The anticipation is always the worse bit.

So what can Mum’s do to shake a little bit of that Mother’s Guilt off? We know that it will never truly go away, so the first thing is probably to not be so hard on yourself. About anything really. We are our own worst critic. The reality of life is that each day will always include a variety of choices and compromises and opportunity costs. I’ve said it before, do the best with what you have in that moment. 

Secondly, remember that the glass is half full. MOST of the time, the situation could be worse. For me this week and my little trip to Bali, my glass is very full. Focus on the positives and always look forwards, not backwards. 

Thirdly, be present. Wherever you are, be all there. Make the most of every moment and don’t waste your energy (or miss the moment) thinking of another. Remember what the wise Maya Angelou said “people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”.

When you are with your children, especially when you have the opportunity to get out of the daily grind with them, make it quality time. Focus on them. Strike up an all consuming conversation that reminds them that they are the centre of your universe. Even when you are sipping cocktails half way across the world!

So when I'm on the plane to Bali and they remind parents to always put the oxygen mask on themselves BEFORE their children, I will shake off that guilt and remind myself of the most important lesson of all - you need to look after YOURSELF so you can be the best Mum possible.

Wish me luck…..

Olivia x


How to visit a new Mum October 29 2015

Last week I was listening to two ladies discuss when to visit their friend who had just had a baby. They were both very excited for the first time Mum, as well as relieved that everything had gone ‘well’ (anyone who has had a baby knows that even the most seamless of births is still FULL ON).

The baby had arrived that morning and one lady planned to visit that evening. The other was going to wait “about a month” to pop over to her house once invited. I’m not sure where you sit in this debate, but I am definitely with the latter. 

When people are pregnant (especially for the first time) they tend to invite or even encourage their friends to come and visit them in hospital as soon as they hear the good news. They probably picture new Mums that they have visited before (or gorgeous photo’s they have seen) sitting up in bed either lovingly holding a baby, or with the cutest newborn wrapped snugly and quietly next to them. 

This imagery can lead to you to believe that for several days at least, this is pretty much all a new Mum does whilst in Hospital. Well I am here to remind you that it is NOT. A woman who has just given birth and a family that has just met their new baby, is not just sitting there just waiting for visitors. Here is a list (that is definitely not comprehensive) to remind or surprise you as to what exactly has been going on in that hospital room or ward immediately prior to your visit:

 New Mums have been:

  • admiring their newborn creation in peace and quiet 
  • trying to ‘pass’ their first motion (ie: poo) 
  • trying to call their best friend to tell them the most intimate and intricate details of the birth experience. O.M.G!
  • crying unexpectantly and uncontrollably 
  • allowing all sorts of people to have another look at every single part of her body
  • inspecting and rubbing cream on their red cracked nipples
  • putting ice packs or heat packs across their bulging breasts
  • attempting to attach their baby to their sore nipples and bulging breasts in PRIVATE
  • trying to grab the attention of the obstetrician / paediatrician / nurse / lactation consultant / cleaner / caterer (or all of these important people) when they wizz quickly in and out of the room
  • sleeping
  • showering
  • admiring their newborn creation in peace and quiet 
  • filling out the mountains of paperwork
  • reading the mountains of paperwork
  • attending to the GIANT pad that is inside their granny undies 
  • getting changed out of their hospital gown into an outfit that fits / is respectable for visitors / doesn’t hurt any or all of these - boobs or tummy or nether regions
  • eating whatever they are craving and without judgement 
  • trying to change the tiny little nappy of their tiny little baby and then discuss in detail the contents
  • giving the all important (and often nerve wracking) first bath
  • spending time with their Partner (and admiring their newborn creation in peace and quiet)
  • introducing big brothers or sisters properly to their new sibling

These are just some of the 'normal' things occurring, but the list goes on and on and on.

I really believe that the hospital is a time to rest, recuperate, be with your baby and ask a million questions. There will be plenty of time to share the wonder with visitors, further down the track.

Clearly I have a definite opinion on this. Obviously there are exceptions for close family and friends to visit the hospital, but even these people should have received an invitation (a new one AFTER the birth experience) and a suggested day / time that it would suit the new Mother. Stick to that time, no matter what the demands on your own schedule are.

The rest of the admirers can wait. Some may have to wait a long time. Don’t be offended if it is a lot longer than you would have needed or anticipated. Each new Mum is different and each new Mum disappears into the baby bubble for short or long periods. It is normal and expected and looking back, I say should be embraced and enjoyed. 

So, if and when you do get INVITED to visit, bring something. 

I don’t mean an expensive baby gift (you can if you would like) I mean something USEFUL. A freshly baked batch of cookies aimed at increasing her milk supply or some other nutritionally packed item that will help to start restoring her body. Bring frozen dinners, a bag full of groceries, something that they need. Without being asked to.

Or ask the new Mum before hand what she is craving. For some it has been a very long nine months without Sushi or Brie or Corona or a spicy Indian curry :)

Upon arrival, text or quietly knock….don’t come inside screaming your excitement down the hallway and either wake the sleeping baby or big brother or husband who has JUST gone to sleep.

While you are there ask if you can put on a load of washing, help prepare dinner, unpack the dishwasher or something else useful while you chat. But remember not to offend them, or their once picture perfect home when you do make a suggestion. They’ve probably sprinted around for ten minutes hiding mess and clearing away dirty plates as you walked up the front path.

If you are offered something to eat or drink please say no unless you are dying of thirst or you can completely make it yourself. Anything you need, you should arrive with. 

If they are happy for you to hold the baby, offer the new Mum ten minutes to herself. If the baby is awake (especially if grizzly) offer to walk the pram around the block. She may want to shower / shave her legs / dry her hair / change her pajama’s. Or she may not, but at least offer.

Remember it is all about them, not all about you. Maybe take a walk in the fresh air together. If she can walk (refer back to previous list).

DO NOT STAY LONG. If you announce your departure and they beg for you to stay, do stay but maybe offer again to do something while you are there. It is easy to fold or iron clothes whilst talking. Hand wash some bottles. Do something. 

On your way out the door offer to walk the dog, take the rubbish out or hang up a load of washing on the way. If you noticed that they were either out of milk or bread or had mentioned they were craving a real coffee, quickly buy it and drop it back on their front door step. 

I am not saying that you need to do all of these things but offering is a good start. Even if they say no to all of them, you will come across as the low maintenance, helpful and respectful friend who they WILL call when they do need something. Wouldn’t you rather be THAT person than the one who demanded peppermint tea, coughed all over the baby and then out-stayed their welcome?

Be useful, be available but do not get in the way.

As much as it may look like a peaceful and tidy home, most often the scene is more like a duck floating across a lake. 

All calm and graceful on the surface....but paddling like crazy underneath.

 


Fabulous Mum: Bree from Little Chomps October 16 2015

We have all heard of Mumpreneur's, those amazing creatures that due to modern technology, social media and let's face it...women's creativity and our ability to multi task, have recently appeared. 

You might be one, you might know one, or you may dream of being one. The thought of having your own business, being your own boss and fitting work around your family is VERY appealing. The truth is, it is very hard work and a constant juggling act. Not many Mumpreneur's become millionaire's but most have very high job satisfaction. At Flat Out Mum, we always try to support these types of businesses first. 

One of these amazing women is Bree, who has created Little Chomp's feeding smocks. I have tried many of these products in my time with four very messy eaters and I promise Little Chomps are the best! They are NOT made of plastic (I won't tell you Bree's secret ingredients!) so they are durable, machine washable and have secure buttons to keep them properly in place! 

This week, Bree share's her thoughts on starting her own business and gives some excellent advice to Flat Out Mum's thinking of doing the same thing.

How did you get the idea to start Little Chomps?

When my daughter started solids we were blown away by the mess she made. We tried a few products on the market but they either didn't cover her clothes properly, were too expensive and/or weren't waterproof or wipeable. We saw an unmet need and decided to take the plunge! 

What do you find is the most difficult challenge of being a working Mum? 

Definitely balancing all the competing needs of family, marriage, friends, extended family and the business. Having kids in my mid-thirties, I found it really difficult to switch off my work brain. I really enjoy working, coming up with ideas, researching and learning. I also enjoy working at home, being in the house with the kids rather than rushing out the door each morning to an office. But on the flip-side, like many other mums in business and working from home have said before me, it's difficult to separate work and home life, to switch off and relax, and to recognise when you humanly can't do it all. My husband often threatens to confiscate the iPad and to turn off the wifi? It's hard to know when to stop when you're so emotionally invested and don't have standard work hours.

Your tip for Mums on how to juggle returning to work….

Juggle is the right word. I think you have to accept that you can't get the balance right 100% of the time. Some days it all works well and you feel fulfilled in every way and other days you feel as though you've fallen short of your responsibilities to your family, business or both. I'd also say it's important to take care of yourself (of course I'm hopeless at following any of this advice).

Your tip for Mums who have an idea & want to start a business...

- Research the market extensively first.

- Trial your product/idea with a sizeable group from your market.

- Educate yourself. I attended a series of free ecommerce workshops run by VECCI and funded by the government. These workshops were invaluable! 

- I outsourced a lot of design/branding work to freelancers on sites like 99designs.com and fiver.com. On a skeleton start-up budget, this was the best option.

- Join or form a group of women also 'going it alone'. I was lucky enough to have a brilliant group of four ladies to 'chew the fat' with. They were so reassuring and a wealth of information always.

- And finally, marry well. I don't underestimate the importance of a supportive partner. On top of sharing the parenting and household responsibilities, working on your own can be lonely. I share and seek his advice often, and I'm not sure I would have had the nerve to take the plunge if it wasn't for his support.

Your best time saving tip is…

Keep a notebook handy. Mine lives on the kitchen bench so I can jot down ideas and return to them later when my hands are less full. Also, I try to categorise my to do list into three categories so that I can have realistic expectations of what's achievable in a day. 

1. Must do

2. Ought to do

3. Would like to do.

Then, if I only achieve the couple of things on my 'Must do' list, I can relax (that's the theory anyway).

Also, if you can manage it, get a cleaner! I don't know what I'd do without the help.

The best thing a friend has done for you since having kids is…

I was lucky enough to have a really great Mothers Group. I found it so helpful to vent and compare horror stories when the going got tough, and of course to share in the joys as well. These girls, my existing girlfriends, and of course the grandparents, have all been supportive through this parenting and business journey. I'm a lucky girl.

Your favourite every day wardrobe essential is…

Jeans. I basically wear jeans every day. It takes so much time and effort to negotiate my kids into their clothes, I put much less effort into getting myself ready in the morning. And, forget about accessorising!

Your favourite flat shoes and why…

Heels? What are heels? I'm in Converse most days. My 3yr old daughter asked me to wear a pair of heels from my wardrobe the other day and I had to say "no sorry sweetie, mummy only wears heels at night time".

Thanks so much to Bree for sharing her wisdom! 

Find out more about Little Chomps here.