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How do you do it? August 26 2015

This week I was asked to write a post for a great blog Flat Bum Mum, written by Bron a blogger, teacher and stylist.  She is also a mum to three adorable but equally exhausting young girls and she puts it, the "owner of a pancake butt". Check it out here.  

My blog post was in answer to the question that I often get "How do you do it?" so here is is:

When I meet new people and tell them that I have four young children and that they are all boys, they are fascinated. When people see me piled with school bags, plus a twin on each arm with one grumpy school boy refusing to get in the car and another chasing his footy down the street, they often say “I don’t know how you do it”. I am definitely not the busiest mother, nor the one with the most children or the least help in my life. I am well aware that there are many many other Mums out there facing a much tougher day than me. But I also know how much I DO fit into each day and how most of the time I feel like I am running a school camp. 

The meals and the washing seem to be the most relentless. The twins are now 3 and a half so their eating habits have caught up to the rest of the family, but throw in fussy eaters and a Dad coming home late, dinner prep can start at 5pm and seem to cover a dozen courses over several hours. Don’t even get me started on the washing! 

There are ways to get organised and to get the children involved in helping with household chores, systems to put in place. I plan ahead, write a lot of lists, my (paper) diary is my most prized possession and am a good multi tasker. On top of that, I rarely sit down, unless I am on a sun lounge or at a beauty parlour (rare unfortunately), but I don't really like sitting down for long any way.

What I actually find to be the most exhausting is not physical, it is the emotional stuff. 

Giving everyone the attention they deserve. Not letting anyone feel left out. Remembering all their little nuances and pre-empting what could be a hazardous situation for one of them. I definitely think that your heart expands with each child, but sharing yourself with each of them equally when you are utterly exhausted yourself, can be very difficult. 

So what do I do? Each day I just do my best. In that moment, on the day, the best I can do.

I know that I won’t remember the details of the days or the never ending nights, but hopefully I do remember  that on each of them, I did the best I could. 

Some days were terrible, especially when the twins were babies. I was a mean, impatient pajama wearing mum. They ate left overs. They wore dirty clothes. I drank too much coffee. I didn't return phone calls. I was late to school pick up. I bribed and I bluffed my way through the day. 

Some days I was amazing. I was a kind, patient and skilful multi tasker. I baked, I cleaned and I entertained. My house was tidy and my hair was clean. You need to rejoice on those days. 

My best is enough. Our good days outweigh our terrible days. And those amazing days make up for those horrific nights. Those nights where it took every ounce of my strength to make it through each minute. Where I wanted to jump in my car and just drive away. 

So my advice is simple. Just do your best with what you have in that moment. What you have left inside you and what is within your reach, it will be enough.  

Did I mention coffee? Chocolate? A walk around the block with your BFF. A long hot shower (alone)……you can do it, just like the millions of amazing Mums before you. No-one expects you to be a super hero, just try baby steps. 

Oh and if you can’t find the energy any other way, just stare at their perfect faces. Hold their chubby hands. Smell their beautiful purity. Suck it in. Be grateful for what you do have. For every exhausted frustrated mum, there is another in a different type of pain. The type of pain that doesn't just go away after a good nights sleep. The type of pain suffered by those who would love to be in your shoes, but have not been able to join the ranks of Motherhood yet. Be grateful. 

Keep things in perspective, don’t blame yourself for everything and don’t compare yourself to what you PERCEIVE other’s are doing. Motherhood is hard work. The early sleep deprived years can be horrendous. As the children grow older, their problems and fear’s grow more complicated. As Mums know, the benefits far outweigh the struggles, so just be. Your best is more than enough. 

Olivia x

 


How I know that you're a good Mum August 05 2015 2 Comments

Last Sunday as we enjoyed the first glimpse of clear sky for days, I ventured out into the back garden with the twins. I attempted to tackle the endless weed crop that seems to have sprouted overnight while they played happily together.

Having twins seems like more than double the work sometimes as you have the individual needs of two babies to deal with, plus the energy created from their interactions together. But when they finally reach an age when they can genuinely play happily together, it is just bliss. Their own built in play date and best buddy to face each new day with. It is gorgeous to watch and listen to their self absorbed conversations as they are beautifully unaware of time passing and the world around them. 

This afternoon they were in one of their happy zones. They were playing some type of imaginary game on the trampoline that I don’t really understand as each time I tried to engage or participate I was politely ushered away. As I pulled out another weed I again contemplated the whole “nature versus nurture” debate. Since we have four children all of the same gender and the twins are genetically identical, I feel like I can comment confidently on this subject. 

If I had to pick one that I feel has more influence over a persons life, I would definitely say NATURE. When you have twins, especially identical twins and they are on the same schedule, eating the same foods and going about their day in a very similar way, it is fascinating to watch just how differently they can react to the same things. It’s like living within a science experiment. 

When I had my first child if he didn’t have long day time sleeps I was constantly analysing if he was over tired, or he had too much sleep the night before, hungry, teething etc etc. As you know, the list goes on and there are so many variables that can affect a child’s mood and sleeping habits. There is no single obvious answer and that is why the book stores are filled with a gazillion books on a myriad of different parenting styles, techniques and schedules. 

With my first child, I beat myself up over this. If my baby didn’t sleep well it must have been something I had done. If he didn’t eat all of the food offered to him, maybe I hadn’t made it tasty enough, picked the right time to give it to him, or was offering it to him in the wrong order? What I know now is that NO, a lot of the time it wasn’t me! Yay it wasn’t me! 

My baby had just woken up in a bad mood as that is his temperament…he is still not a morning person at 9 years old. He loves action and movement and rarely sits still (except for on Minecraft). With hindsight and with the benefit of my live-in twin experiment, that is perhaps why he never wanted to be in the high chair for long. Or low and behold, he was never happy to be strapped in his pram for long periods of time watching a girlfriend and I catch up over coffee. He is not interested now, so why would he have been at nine months of age? 

Each of our four boys are so different in temperaments, personalities and the way they react to what life throws at them. One in particular embraces change and any new adventures, while another is a real home body who needs consistency. The twins too are already showing distinct differences in personality. One springs out of bed with a smile, while the other is grumpy until his Weet-bix have well and truly digested. One yells out hello from the car window at unsuspecting strangers, while the other prefers to suss things out for a while first before he makes friends. One eats almost anything and is adventurous with his tastes (yay!). The other, not so much.

One twin will sit happily reading one book, looking very intellectual. The other will eat that same book or put it in the toilet. Together it’s a crazy combination. As I said, fascinating. 

So what does this mean for other Mums? 

You are doing good job!

I can spend hours researching, creating and serving up a nutritionally balanced, organic tasty meal and one twin with engulf it, while the other will spit it back on the plate. So...it’s not your fault. 

I’m not saying to throw the routine out the window, to stop trying to feed your children the best possible food, or to give up trying to get them to bed on time. I’m just saying that if it doesn’t go as you planned, don’t beat yourself up about it. Some days will be good and on others, no matter how hard you try… the shit will hit the fan. What you have to see is that that shit was probably going to hit the fan anyway, even if you were the "perfect mother".

My advice? Just do your best each day, embrace the chaos and remember that another day is dawning.

Olivia x

 


The Yellow Food Phase July 15 2015 5 Comments

All of a sudden my nine year old is an adventurous eater. More importantly he seems happy with the choices I make to put on his plate each night, even grateful. Hallelujah! This is a really big deal. 

It hasn’t always been this way. Being the first born, I was full of good intentions and I armed myself with the latest knowledge on which foods to introduce to a baby at that particular age. Thoughtfully prepared, organic and home made meals were politely served several times each day. They were nutritionally balanced, age appropriate and displayed beautifully on a colourful non-spill plate. Did someone say non-spill? 


In the early days as a new mum I did not have the composure or see the humour in the situation to photographically document these frustrating occasions before I proceeded to clean up the carnage time after time. Now these images would give myself and Master Nine a good laugh. 

Getting a fussy baby or toddler to eat well and try new foods can be one of the most frustrating jobs for a parent. No matter how well the ingredients are blended, presented or served (that old aeroplane trick), there are times when our little one’s will simply refuse. Many, many times.

Before they are old enough to comprehend the notion of dessert, or be bribed with some other temptation, there are several years of frustration. And wasted food. Twins are great for that. The odds are higher that at least one of them will eat my lovingly prepared meal, as well as their brother’s leftovers. 

The frustration’s do not end after the toddler years either. Our six year old is currently going through a phase of “only eating yellow foods”. Besides a few exceptions for watermelon and tomato sauce, almost everything he eats is either a white/yellow/beige type of colour. I could probably count his preferred foods on two hands; bread, cheese...even better when combined as toasted cheese sandwiches. Potato in most forms, especially fries or mashed with butter. Pasta….with only cheese on top. 

Rice. Optional tomato sauce on top. Totally gourmet. Mashed Weet-bix with yellow honey. Lots of yellow honey. Scrambled eggs. Banana’s, especially lolly banana’s :) You get it.

The only meat he will currently eat is hidden inside a party pie or chicken nugget. Gross.

Please tell me that this is sounding familiar to someone else? I know I'm not alone as more than 11,000 people already like this Facebook page dedicated to "my kid can't eat this". Check it out, you will feel much better. 

Most of the time I grin and bear it now as I have seen the various phases come and go with my other children and I am a lot more relaxed. Plus I try to fill him with as much of the good stuff on his “yellow list” as possible. 

I am not abdicating giving up on trying to be the perfect mother chef, I just wanted to give some hope to those well intentioned Mums that are fighting this daily battle. One day you will suddenly be sharing some raw fish or spicy vegetable curry with your child and you too will look back on these early frustrations with a grin.

You will be proud that both you and your child came though it unscathed.

Please share your stories of your fussy eaters with us all!

Olivia x 


Finding their "thing" July 08 2015 5 Comments

If you’ve been following my social media this past week, you will know that our oldest boy Charlie turned nine years old. Being on holidays I have had more time to just ‘be’ with my kids instead of thinking about schedules and after school activities and homework. It has been awesome. They are all so similar and so different.

Physically they are clearly from the one family and they are all tactile, rough and messy. Boys. 

They are all equally as energetic and loud as the next one when running freely in their own space. They don’t sit still much. 

Except for when on the iPad. My best frenemy

When it comes to their personalities and temperaments however, they are all very different. We have extroverted and introverted, shy versus confident. Attached versus independent. As they’ve aged, I have learnt to love the shy, attached, cling to “only my mum” phases. Now, the growing independence and lack of public hand holding sends a pang through my heart every time it appears. A mix of pride and sadness contemplating my obsoleteness. 

I am treasuring the primary school years when we have ditched the nappies, bottles, portocots and day sleeps. We can go with the flow a lot more and if I don’t pack a huge bag of spare clothes, pre-prepared food and a whole lot of other riff-raff to take on our adventures, it’s no big deal. Finally, we are there! It seems like I’ve climbed Mt Everest to get there, but we are here and I am going to enjoy it before adolescence creeps up on us too quickly.

Charlie, being the first born has taught us so much. On the surface, he is shy, with a ‘slow to warm up’ type of temperament. Apparently very similar to his Dad as a young child and this surprises a lot of people. Like me, he is happy to be the listener rather than the talker most of the time. He now realises that being the first child to put their hand up in class or being the loudest, most extroverted leader in the playground, does not mean that you’re ‘doing the best’.

Being a thinker and more quietly spoken does not make you inferior. Sometimes other people need reminding of that. This past year has been really good to Charlie. Eight was the year he bloomed and finally appeared to others in the same way that we had always seen him when he was comfortable at home. 

The world now gets to see him being loud, confident, animated, determined and funny. He has an unique style of physical humour beyond his years. When he brings it out in public, people are surprised but very amused. I have always wanted nothing more for him than to reach his full potential, what ever that is. We are well on the way.

So what ingenious strategies have we implemented to make our first born blossom in his eighth year?

What type of parenting guru am I?

I am not one at all. He discovered basketball. 

Yes basketball, it is as simple and as complicated as that.

Somehow he found his “thing”. 

Something that was ALL his. Somewhere that he felt safe and confident with a small group of his best mates. It was an activity no one else in his family had talked about before. It was ALL his. 

How wonderful. 

He suddenly had his own uniform, his own number, a special hand shake and a coach he looks up to. His coach is still in high school himself, so is old enough to be respected, yet cool enough to be admired. The perfect mix of fun and firm, topped off with a ‘rad’ hairstyle. Bonus. 

Together with the other Mums we pile as many boys as we can fit into our cars once a week for after school training. This 15 minute drive is honestly one of the highlights of my week. Their little gang exchanges thoughts on the school yard topic of the day as they change uniforms and I listen nonchalantly, but intently

Gold

I learn more on this drive than the other four school days combined. They exchange pearls of wisdom in between shoving in afternoon tea and shoving out gas. The car is loud and stinky but full of laughs and my heart explodes as I watch them bond and treasure their true little friendships as if they were my own. 

The basketball training and games give Charlie the right mix of physical activity, discipline and continuous learning that he needs. The team picks him up when he is down and revels in his small triumph’s more than the tiny smile on his face shows. Just to confirm this blog is not about excelling in sport. He is an average player for his age. In between the many ‘travel’ fouls and missed shots, he shows small glimpses of physical greatness but that is not my point. He feels good. He feels a part of something special. 

His basketball career started off very slowly and often in a fiery way. There were many tantrums and displays of unsportsmanlike behaviour that were frustrating and slightly embarrassing to watch. As he learnt the rules and his body caught up to his brain, he has shown himself that perseverance pays. He knows how much ongoing practice it takes to get better at something. We too have had our patience tested as Charlie moves along each little milestone at HIS own pace, not ours. 

Charlie now knows that making mistakes is not the end of the world. Even though every boy on his team seems to keep track of the score and prefers to win than to play their best game ever, they get ‘over it’.

So for now basketball has been Charlie’s "thing". The confidence he has gained on the court has transferred off it. His friendships have been given an extra chance to cement themselves firmly away from the school yard politics and the classroom responsibilities.  His team includes boys that are not his ‘best friends’ at school and his broadening friendship group has helped him feel an even greater sense of belonging. 

Sport is so great at providing that opportunity. For many others it can be found in musical, performing or academic interest's.

Wherever it is, I’d recommend helping your child to find their ‘thing’. It might appear in the place you least expect. In an activity you personally don’t enjoy. I'd say, give them scope to discover what it is for themselves.

It reminds me of one of my favourite quotes:

I'd love you to share how your child found their 'thing"......

 


Fathers Day tribute: What I've learnt from Shane on how to be a better parent April 01 2015 5 Comments

Just the title of this blog will be enough to make my friends squirm. They'll think I was writing drunk or that Shane has hacked into my computer. For it only takes one visit to our house to work out who is the best at entertaining the kids (and consequently creating more chaos) and who keeps all the wheels turning (mostly in the right direction).

You see, Shane and I are very different. At least on the surface. Yin and Yang works well in a partnership but when it comes to parenting styles, we can be polar opposites.

Mrs Fun Police meets Mr Super Dad.

Many times I can be seen tearing my hair out when I have just got all four boys fed, bathed and calmed down ready for bed.....then the whirlwind that is Shane rolls through the door. 

Of course, the boys adore him. Relish every opportunity to join in his antics. They wait at the door like the most eager puppy dogs and everything that mum has managed to make happen throughout this day flies out the door with the peacefulness of the evening air. 

It can be very frustrating to live on the edge like this. To live with the prospect that my well laid plans can be over turned at any minute. But I know they are lucky to have him. Shane is tactile and hands on and all children need that. In my calmer moments I have reflected on what Mrs Fun Police can learn from Shane’s more relaxed style of parenting.

So here it is, I swallow my pride and I give you my list of the seven key lessons I have learnt from the silver lining that is Shane.

1. Always have a sense of humour.

Spilt milk, drawing on the walls, tomato sauce all over the homework, you name it, he can find humour in it. What’s done is done and although it normally takes me at least 24 hours to reflect on the episode with a grin, he and the boys seem to find most things funny immediately. As they say, laughter is the best medicine. 

2. Be in the moment. 

This is really important. When Shane is playing with the boys, it’s like he has put his blinkers on and can not see anything but them and their game in front of him. He ignores the clock, he ignores the dinner in the oven and he ignores any kind of conservative rules that may get in the way of their fun. We all know that in the busyness of our lives it is so important to live ‘in the moment’. Easier said than done, but it’s definitely worth a shot to master this skill.

3. Play like kids play.

For our boys, who are all eight years and under, this means be silly. Do not make up adult rules, shake off your inhibitions and be a kid. Choose games they love and get involved with all the enthusiasm you can muster. No matter how stupid you feel. 

4. Make a complete mess. 

It pains me to write this one and it is directly related to number two. Under no circumstances should you take your blinkers off and clean up as you go. Nor should you be sensible or practical in the types of household items you use in your games. The wetter and dirtier you get, the more fun will be had. The length and width of the trail of destruction, is directly proportionate to the amount of fun you have had. Suck it up. 

5. Be tactile.

With boys, there is always wrestling. For Shane and his friends this has continued into adulthood.  I don’t think it’s just a footy thing as I’ve also seen my brothers and brother in law give their old friends lots of cuddles (disguised as wrestles) especially when a few drinks are involved. My nieces love this too. There is a fine line between being too rough and not being tactile enough. You must never cross that line, but tickling, wizzy dizzy’s and throwing soft objects below head height are all encouraged in our house. 

6. Laugh. Laugh a lot. 

Hysterically giggle until you hyperventilate if possible. Don’t let the running around be the only reason that you are breathless.

and finally

7. Never stop before they do. 

It is vital to have boundless energy. Real or fake. Find some stamina because the ultimate man-child will never stop before their “victims” are happily scattered around the house exhausted. 

I am not saying that I have mastered these seven ways to be a more fun parent. And clearly, I do not adhere to these rules 24/7. But when the time comes to play, I think that everyone can learn a little from Shane. 

For when their childhood has passed I know that the routine, consistency and boundaries I have set will hopefully help make them into good, accountable men. Men who hopefully put women on a pedestal. But I also know that their childhood memories will probably be made more of Mr Super Dad than Mrs Fun Police.

And I'm ok with that  x 


Eyes in the back of my head February 28 2015 4 Comments

There are times, many times when I am home alone with all four children and I don’t know what each individual is up to. I have a pretty good idea, but as all Mums of toddlers know, silence is not golden

  

Over the year that the twins were two, we had two gorgeous Au Pair's help our family. A lot of the time, their sole purpose was to follow the twins around making sure they weren't up to too much mischief. Bless their German hearts, they adored the boys and helped them thrive. 

The older two can be like a couple of ducks gliding along a lake.......don't be fooled by their calm, graceful looks. Recently I was reminded that there is a lot happening beneath the surface when I found this on my computer

We were lucky to have moved into our current house when we already had two little boys. Never in our wildest dreams did we imagine what would happen next to our family, but nonetheless we renovated our home and garden with the forethought to make it as childproof as possible. And when I say child proof, I mean boy proof. Climbing, eating, sneaky, cheeky boy proof. Thank goodness. 

Today I was cleaning the kitchen after a particularly slow and messy Saturday morning and thinking these exact thoughts. I could see one, hear another and I knew the eldest was on the iPad. The fourth and final was nowhere to be seen or heard. After a quick lap of the house, I found him in the garden putting a pair of roller skates on. Having not yet mastered that skill, I think I caught him in the nick of time. 

That’s pretty much what my life is at the moment when all of the boys are home with me. Pre-empting disasters and having eyes in the back of my head. Constantly averting them of danger and trying to teach as we go. I want them to be brave, to trust themselves and to remember their childhood as carefree and fun. But I do not want to have to jog my memory of that first aid course or test my calm in a crisis. No thank you.

I'd love to know some tips from other Flat Out Mums on how you keep your eyes in the back of your head?