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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

 


My angry uterus :) April 29 2015 7 Comments

Well it’s official. I yell too much. Clinically diagnosed by a specialist ENT Doctor. You know, the type that you need a referral for and you spend five minutes in their office and pay hundreds of dollars for the honour of having a tube stuck right down your nose to your throat? Well that was my morning yesterday. Luckily of course it is just a couple of ‘nodule’s’ on my vocal cords and nothing more sinister, but to be told that nodules are caused by “vocal abuse” is quite eye opening. I didn't think I yelled that much.

The doctor must have taken the look of horror on my face and my constant interruptions explaining that I had four young boys as a hint to be quite casual in his explanations. Apparently it is common and yes, he agreed that I might not yell THAT much and yes, he was sure that “I was quite a calm mother”. However, the constant chatter to children repetitively explaining the way of the world, interjected with just a couple of sentences with “an elevated pitch” would be enough to create these nodules over time. He gave me an example of the tone of voice I should try to use most of the time and I felt like Rod Stewart warming up for his ten thousandth show. I didn’t bother explaining that a serene and soothing noise such as the one he was suggesting wouldn’t quite cut it at 6pm in my house. So off I trotted feeling better that nothing untoward was growing in my throat and went home for a cup of honey lemon herbal tea and to “rest” my voice for a few hours. 

As I sipped that tea I was content in knowing, after three months or various medical tests and one bout of day surgery, that I had a clean bill of health. You see, 2015 has marked the “year of Olivia”. The twins are finally at kindergarten so I have a few days to pursue my career goals and some extra time to go to the types of appointments that you tend to put off when you’re a Mum. Of course, if your child has something more than a sniffle, you will bundle them into the car to see a doctor. But for yourself, you can wait. 

So the purpose of this post is to remind you not to wait any more. As Mums we know how the wheels fall off the cart so quickly when we are sick or away or even just preoccupied for a few days. We need to be stealth like warrior princesses 24/7 and we need to be like this for a long time to come. 

So back in February I went to see my GP and asked for a “once over”. I had every blood/urine/saliva test available as well as an internal ultrasound. The tests were easy. Once you've had a child, you are used to being poked and prodded but I must say, waiting for the results was not fun. I was so used to being tired that I didn’t know if my level of tiredness was ‘normal’ anymore. I had felt all sorts of movements and pains coming from my uterus in the past eight years and had experienced so many different types of feelings at that time of the month, that I wanted to be 100% sure I was ok. The husky voice that I got for my 40th, was still following me around 18 months later...I needed some attention. 

As I suspected I was not 100%. Surprisingly I was reassured to know that most parts of my body are back to normal. Better than normal, I am shocked to say. For at least 12 months after the twins were born I felt so physically and mentally depleted but I have again been amazed at the human body and its capacity to restore itself.

However, I found out that my uterus is angry. Not just in the hypothetical way, but in a way that is now proven by medical science. I’d be angry too if I had carried seven babies, had three C-sections and housed twins all in the space of 6 years. Yes you read correctly, seven babies. My journey to motherhood has not been as straight forward as it may seem. I have had three devastating miscarriages along the way. More on that another day. 

So back to the angry uterus…..I had a condition called Adenomyosis (a form of endometriosis). It is fairly common in women my age and the symptoms are things that most of us can unfortunately experience each month. In a very intense way. So after a little attention via day surgery, my once angry uterus is now as good as new. Well almost, I don’t think it will ever quite forgive me, but it has served its purpose very well. I will forgive the anger in exchange for the four beautiful children that it helped me grow. 

So I urge everyone, especially mothers to access all of the health checks that we have available to us in our great country. With bulk billing and medicare rebates available it really should not be out of any mothers reach to take care of themselves too. Plus amazing offers like free mammograms to women aged 40+ and thousands of clinics appearing around Australia that examine the skin for potential skin cancer, there really is no excuse.

I also booked in for a mammogram and another skin check. Why? Because I can.

I have always preferred to sit in the sun than the shade and while I am blessed with olive skin, it is an examination I will continue to do for the rest of my life. I happily paid for my first mammogram before I was 40 for no other reason except that through Shane’s association with BCNA (Breast Cancer Network Australia) and all of the amazing “pink ladies” I have met over the years. I am well aware of how unexpectantly that horrible disease can appear in anyone. Man or woman. 

So for Mother’s Day this year please give yourself a gift too. Go and have a "once over". Best case scenario - peace of mind…worse case scenario - early detection. And while you’re at it, try to drag along your significant other, for they are worse than us :(


My new normal April 22 2015 3 Comments

This morning I woke to a kick in the head by someone's stumpy leg. That foot then entwined itself right inside my pony tail. Too tired to even roll over or detangle it from my mane, I simply lay still trying to get back to sleep. As I lay there I smirked to myself that this was my "new normal".

Back in life BC (before children) if I'd been woken at 5-something to a kick in the head, I'd have talked about it for days. Now it's not even that wierd. It's my new normal. 

Other parents understand how it is to share your bed with several small children and how with parenthood you somehow gain superhuman strength. Particularly impressive is your ability to balance on the very side of your body only millimetres from the edge of the bed. If only I could hold those positions in my pilates class. 

Somehow my life has evolved to include bazaar daily rituals that may include (but is not limited to) drinking cold coffee (not the glamorous iced coffee kind), serving one child’s pre-loved food to another and wearing clothes that really should have been washed a few days ago. 

Who does that? 

Parents do. Parents do that stuff without even flinching. Gross. 

Somehow while waking at 5.59am is still not ok, waking at 6.01am is now considered acceptable. I used to only grace the 6am floorboards if I was just arriving home or if I was rushing to the airport to depart to an exotic location. Now an interrupted coffee is about as exotic as it gets. And yes 8am is a sleep-in. 

It is very normal to not only study poo closely but also to be able to describe a myriad of different types. This topic can now be happily discussed with complete strangers. We even encourage clapping and admiration of poops at certain stages. The whole family crowds into the bathroom to have a look. 

I have slept in a child’s wet bed. Comfortably. I have cuddled a child whilst vomit was running down my back. Several times unfortunately. Not to mention catching vomit in my scooped hands and carrying it to the toilet….actually GLAD that I caught it. Catching regurgitated food in your hands is relatively clean compared to that. 

Most parents have done most of these things that BC, we thought would only happen occasionally. We have happily picked someone else’s nose and cleaned their ear wax with great satisfaction. We have used our own spit to clean our child’s face and put our hands down the toilet to rescue something “important”. We have chewed our babies fingernails off and smelt their little bums. Don’t even get me started on snot. 

Please share with me....what is your new normal?

 


Wherever you are, be all there April 14 2015 1 Comment

One of the biggest concerns for parents of more than one child is how to give all of your children equal attention. And ENOUGH attention. Obviously the more children you have, the harder this can get. For me, when we had our twins, I found this to be especially difficult as they are often needing the exact same thing at the exact same time. 

Firstly I will say that I have not mastered this skill yet, but I am always conscious of finding ways to do this better. Amongst all of the other things Mums can feel guilty about, feeling that one of your children is being ‘left out’ or not given the attention they deserve, is heart breaking. This is unavoidable at times and as Mums we always need to prioritise and of course, often something has to give.

What I have found works for me is to focus on the little things. I try to make the fleeting every day moments I get with one one of my children individually count. If the little things are memorable, then it will all add up. Right? Please tell me I’m right!?

Like most families, we spend a lot of time driving in the car. Most of the trips are short and sweet but they are an opportunity for a little bonding time. Unless the situation requires a little bit of loud music and a dance-athon, I try to have the radio off and never use my phone when the kids are in the car. A captured audience often results in an excellent conversation. Finding out little details of their day or their thoughts on the world whizzing by the window is very interesting to me. Their unique stories and thoughts can be very insightful, if not humorous. When they are given a quiet moment to speak and know that I am fully listening, you can see their little bodies get a lift. It’s their little stage and their little 15 seconds of fame that day.  

Getting all four kids dressed, packed up and rounded out of the house is another challenge. Even with the prospect of a scooter ride to their favourite cafe at the end of the tunnel, this can be a mission. So as I bend down to once again help put on another pair of shoes, I use the opportunity for a quick cuddle and perhaps a little secret whisper about what plans we have for our adventure ahead. We reminisce (again) about the Peppa Pig concert we went to last year as we put on their favourite Peppa Pig t-shirt and we gloat about how we are going to “beat” all of our brothers to get dressed. We exchange a knowing wink as we quickly grab the “fastest” scooter and “coolest” helmet before the others and we delight in the little wins. 

Another delight for them is going to the supermarket alone with me. There is something about sitting (or standing) in the front of that trolley being almost at eye level to Mum and going up and down the aisles that is an adventure to them. They thrive on the prospect that they will get to choose some of their favourite treats to take home and distribute to the others that makes them feel very important. To you, it may be an everyday mundane task that you want to get out of the way as fast as possible. To them it is not. Make it an adventure, if only for ten minutes.

What I am trying to point out here is that there is always an opportunity to share something special with your child if you just slow down and notice it. Trust me, this definitely does not happen on the first day back at school after a lovely holiday break. On those mornings I can be a big scary witch (their words, not mine) but in every day life I try hard to be in the moment.

Wherever you are, be all there. 

At its simplest, I just reflect on what that child is doing at that moment. Down at their level, gazing at them, it doesn’t really matter what you’re doing, kids just enjoy the focused attention. You have to do it anyway, so you may as well make them feel that there is nowhere else you would rather be than tying their shoe lace with them. Again. 

Bed time is another obvious opportunity for one-on-one attention and I unfortunately could write a book about how to NOT establish the best bed time routine. As much as I have tried over many many years, with each consecutive pregnancy, newborn, toddler and cheeky older brother, our evenings have become more drawn out. Along with the snowballing exhaustion with each child, the end result for me is that I now have to lie down with each child for either a book or a good chat and a quiet cuddle before they eventually drift off to sleep. Luckily the twins love me to combine them together. Phew. 

This probably sounds blissful and trust me, sometimes it is. But combine that with an older brother interrupting and Dad arriving home and the twins sneaking out of bed AGAIN……this process can be long and frustrating. I have learnt to focus on the positive aspects of it and know that before long I will have four stinky teenagers in the house who refuse even a quick kiss, let alone the thought of me climbing under their donna with them for a cuddle and a chat! 

At the end of another busy day where perhaps they have felt too rushed or a little bit neglected or their patience has again been tested waiting for my attention, I want them to know one thing. 

Of all the things I do and of all the people I am, I always tell them

“It’s my favourite thing to be your Mum.


My experience with keyboard warriors April 07 2015 6 Comments

So there was an article written about me, my family, my blog and a general overview of our life in the newspaper over the Easter weekend. Obviously I happily agreed to do it to help launch my business and to get some photo’s of me with the kids. Something Mums often forget to do. 

Wow, the reaction has really been interesting. Of course my beautiful friends who are always so supportive have sent me lots of messages and to my delight I have received a lot of emails and messages from people I do not know, but who related to the article and have consequently read a few of my blog posts. Gorgeous messages from every day people who have identified with a few of things I have been writing about. Thank you to those Mummies, it made my weekend. Oh and some Dads as well, reminding me that these Mums are so appreciated. 

BUT what about the barrage of negativity that has come from other women?

WOW!

Of course, I have heard about online trolls and anonymous protesters who confidently sit from behind their keyboards and madly type away their opinions. Firstly I will say that with my age has come wisdom and I have not taken anything personally. In fact I have found it quite interesting to be in the middle of a social experiment.

Firstly, the article accidentally stated that I was Shane’s wife. Although we have been together for the best part of 20 years, that created a lot of debate. Most of which I thought wouldn’t arise in 2015, but to be expected maybe. 

 

 

(Photo courtesy of the Herald Sun. Photographer Nicole Cleary).

 

 

 

 

Secondly, one of the pictures featured a roller skate with pink shoelaces. Shock horror, why would that pinkness be there in a house full of boys??!! This one was more of a surprise. 

Then there were the comments implying that I thought I needed a medal just because I have four kids. Again they missed the point. I am the first to say how good I have it (if they read the article I would have hoped they’d get this message) but how I still find it challenging at times. Yes there are SO many more Mums with MORE kids and MORE jobs and MORE stresses in their life.

Somehow they thought it was a competition that I had personally declared I was winning.

Again a surprise to me (and hopefully those who know me). 

 

 

 

 

The name for my blog “Flat Out Mum” reflects the busy-ness of my life AS WELL AS my love of flat shoes. A creative play on words aimed to resonate with other Mums like me. Mums with one baby or twelve. Mums stuck at home, Mums stuck at work, Mums everywhere. For the record, I do not see being busy as a badge of honour either. I try every day to simplify my life and to let our children be as "un-busy" as possible. Rushing and chaos is not the aim, even though it is often the outcome. 

The most interesting reaction was to the fact that since we had our twins, our family has used an Au Pair. For those that are not familiar, this is normally a young traveller who is seeking a safe place to live for a few months and not only gain the experience of living with an Australian family, but also earn a small amount of “pocket money” to fund the next phase of their travels. We have had eight of these lovely girls stay with and help our family in the past three years. It has been an amazing experience for us and for a few hours each day, a great help to me

In the spirit of honesty I was very upfront about our use of Au pair’s to the Herald Sun and in fact to anyone who will let me broadcast their benefits. I had the suspicion that the inclusion of this fact would cause the reaction that I have a full-time, fully trained super nanny living with me and shadowing my children at all times. This is far from the truth, but I wanted to be clear that I was not pretending to be doing everything by myself 24/7. The whole premise of my blog is that women should STOP pretending that we can do it all and have it all, at the same time as looking perfect. 

I guess my point here is that again some people (unfortunately mainly women) have used this as an opportunity to turn it into some type of sick competition. An opportunity to degrade and an opportunity to jump to conclusions about how other people live. As I said at the beginning, the amateur psychologist in me has enjoyed the entertainment and the positive replies more than outweighed the opinions of this small group of small minded people.

In fact, the reaction to this small, light-hearted article has actually confirmed to me that my message about motherhood and about being a woman in 2015 is simple. It can be very challenging at times, but it is an amazing experience that I am grateful to be having. I fought for each one of my four children and for all of their tantrums and idiosyncrasies, most of the time I actually think of each of them as perfect in their own special way. 

Life is not a race, nor a competition and happiness comes from within. You need to make the best of what you have, in that moment, in that place each day. Idealistic maybe, but a simple message. 

Unfortunately the people making these flippant comments are probably the same ones who shudder at the thought of their own children being cyber bullied in the future. The same people who if their own son ended up liking the colour pink, they would not flinch for a second. The same people who would much rather their daughter chooses to be in a happy, healthy relationship with a man she adores, than to watch her rushing down the aisle with another type of man who requires a piece of paper to certify their love. 

And the same people who put these quotes on their Instagram:

  
My thoughts after all of this? People should practice what they preach x 

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