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For new Mums (after the first or even fourth baby) October 14 2015

So last week I had a conversation with a first time Mum that alarmed me. She has a very young baby and was worried about how she was going to “do it all”. She asked me how I juggled things with four kids, a job, a social life and everything that goes on in the rest of my life. It is a good question but my answer was this - you simply can’t compare the early days with a young baby, with where I am now.

Firstly, I do NOT have a it all together. There are days when things slip through the cracks, many days. If you’ve read my blog before I hope you find that to be the consistent message. The needs of my children are many and life is often a logistical nightmare. BUT they will not starve if I don’t feed them every three hours and most nights now (finally) I get a good nights sleep. (The only thing stopping me getting a great nights sleep is my love of social media and the ability of Instagram to draw you into a fascinating labyrinth). 

The needs of a young baby are relentless and physically you are not usually in great condition. You can often feel very overwhelmed with it all. In fact, I think you probably should feel a little over whelmed with how different your life is now. Yes it is different, so accepting that is a good start. You can’t picture how and when it will get easier, and if you can, that time seems a long way off. There are SO many sleepless nights to get through before you might feel ‘normal’ again. 

I urge Mums in this phase to just simplify and lower your expectations. All Mums in fact, regardless of the age of your children.

With young children, you are most likely to miss social engagements and you will be pissed off. Or if you attend, you will find nothing to wear that makes you feel great, you’ll have to leave early or you will have such a great time that the pounding hangover alone will deter you from doing it again in a hurry.

You will feel like you’re drowning in housework and washing and that you will never get on top of it. Just when you’re starting to feel like you are, a wave of gastro or something equally as disgusting, will go through your home. You probably will dislike new parts of your body. If you’re genetically blessed enough to ‘bounce back’ quickly, you will probably be judged for it anyway. You will probably not give your Husband / Partner the attention that you used to, as your affections are focused on your baby. Or your own Mum, or best friend or whoever is your new confidant and pillar of strength that you suddenly identify with so much more.

I don’t really like to give advice as it implies that you are an expert at something. I do not claim to be an expert, just someone who has experienced a lot either personally with my own children, or I’ve been that previously mentioned confident for another Mum.

So here is a little list of practical things you can do to hopefully make each day easier.

The days will add up and all of a sudden you will ‘come up for air’ and think, “that wasn’t so bad…now where is my Husband we need to make another baby”. 

  • Try not to be busy, be efficient. Multi-tasking can sometimes result in a several unfinished jobs in every room of the house. Try to do one job at a time from start to finish. 
  • To be efficient you must rest. To be fully rested, you can not have GUILT. Take 20 minutes with your feet up on the coach to eat your sandwich, rather than walking around and leaving half of it somewhere only to find it went through the wash with the load of whites. Book that massage. Sit still. Have a cup of tea in the garden without your phone or pulling out the weeds. Start and finish a cup with only staring and deep breathing in between. 
  • Go to bed early. The amount of times that you need to get up in the night is mostly out of your control (sorry if I am the first person to tell you this). What you can control is how early you jump into bed. I won’t ask you not to reply to text messages or have a TEN MINUTE scroll through social media, but that is it. Everything esle can wait. You will thank me in the morning.
  • Write lists. Do NOT rely on your brain to remember things. Even for the most obvious of tasks. You are a new woman now and that unfortunately includes your memory. Part of it was removed with your placenta.
  • Divide the list into a couple of jobs that MUST be done today and add to it with optional extra’s. If you get further down the list than expected, book that massage as a reward. If you don’t even cross one thing off the list, book that massage anyway, as you probably need it more. 
  • Connect with people. Have that chat with the stranger at the supermarket. Blast out a bunch of text messages to friends (they will boomerang back when you need it most). Book in date night. Attend Mothers Group. Whoever, wherever you like to connect with REAL people. 
  • Nourish your body. I will never live without coffee and chocolate so I try to be smart about everything else. Good quality, fresh, real food in whatever form is best for you. Walk, stretch and breathe as often as you can muster. Be kind to yourself.
  • Nourish your soul. Say NO to a mediocre social invitation to do something that you TRULY love. That makes you feel like YOU. Not someone’s Partner, Mum, sister or friend. Make time for this, at the expense of other things that don’t make you feel as good about yourself. 
  • Do NOT compare yourself. Even to the Mum of the same age in the same street with a similar baby. Do not compare, ever. 
  • Do the best with what you have in your reach and with the energy you can muster from within. 
  • Be grateful. I’ve said this before but after even the roughest of nights and no matter how bad you feel, try to remember that there is a woman (millions actually) who would love to trade what you have. 

So to that new Mum. You will be able to "do it all". One day.

It will probably JUST be for one day before it all falls to pieces again but hey, we need to be optimistic.

Olivia x 

If you have any more advice like this, please share :)

 


Fabulous Mum: Carla Rodan from Styling The Tribe October 07 2015

You know when you meet someone and you just get them? Well I have recently put a face to the name behind “Styling the Tribe” Carla Rodan. I have been admiring her from a distance for some time now and now after her interview, I’m even more in awe. 

It is not often that I meet another Flat Out Mum of so many boys (she has three!) who has also lived the up’s and down’s of life with a footballer. Of all the things we have in common one of the most defining is that we both know we are going to be upstaged on the dance floor if we attempt to step out with our Partner. You see, her husband David is now just as well known for his awesome moves that saw him WIN the 2014 Dancing with The Stars competition, as he is as an AFL footballer (he had a very successful 12 year professional football career, retiring at the end of 2013). 

So how does this SAHM manage three young boys (Tevita, Maikeli and Tomasi) and run her business? I could definitely do with some tips, so I asked her how exactly does she juggle the commitments of her business with the demands of raising three young (very active) boys?

“It's been a struggle. In fact it's taken me two years to launch stylingthetribe.com! I guess I've learned to find time around my little people and not to stress the small stuff. The majority of my blogging and admin occurs once the boys are in bed. I've also recently signed on as an influencer with talent management agency The Co Collective, who now handle all my enquiries, scheduling and collaboration proposals - which is a HUGE help. With two of my boys still not of school age, I'm a SAHM by choice and our days are filled with sports, play dates, kinder runs and house maintenance!  My mother-in-law takes the younger 2 boys for an outing on Tuesday's which give's me a 5 hour block to be productive - it's amazing how much more you can do with a quiet house!”

So what is Carla’s best time saving tip?

I've learned very quickly that you can't say YES to everything. When starting out, I tried to accommodate everyone and everything that came my way, which ultimately left me feeling rundown and very overwhelmed. Signing on with The Co Collective has helped me better manage my time and prioritise. 

Do you have any advice for others Mums with all boys?

Embrace the commotion and constant noise, it's one of the non-negotiables with having all boys at home! I'm probably quite relaxed when it comes to parenting styles and this works well for us. They have a clear (unofficial) code of behaviour which we model as parents and in turn they replicate when dealing with one another and others. Respect, Empathy and Honesty are values what we wish to install in our boys.

I also believe in the FFF Rule when it comes to raising boys - be Fair, Fun and Firm. In a previous life I was secondary school Physical Education teacher and these principals served me well when dealing with 28 fourteen year old boys in my ball sports elective! Given my three are so close in age, everything must be fairly divided, from the number of biscuits one receives to the number of hugs - they don't miss a beat! Of course FUN is what it's all about and creating an environment to nurture their curiosity and direct their energy into! And LOVE hard, boys are such affectionate creatures, cuddle them and remind them how special they are daily.

Is three a crowd, or do all of the boys get along well most of the time?

Three works well for us. The older two (who are 15 months apart) are literally joined at the hip and generally play well together. Of course they have their disagreements, but they usually work them out without having mum or dad intervene. The youngest is happy doing his own thing. He gets along well with both older brothers however is usually the instigator of any trouble! I'm lucky that all three have quite similar likes and interests - AFL, Ninja Turtles, Spongebob, Lego and Swimming.   

What is the best thing a friend has done for YOU since motherhood? 

Being part of an interstate football club (Port Adelaide FC) and living away from family when all three boys were born was definitely a challenge. However the friendships made at the club were priceless. I would have girls cook and freeze dinners for us, come by my house to keep my company (and wash dishes) when hubby played interstate and go out of their way to make life easier for me (coffee runs etc) The football club at the time were also a great support and really did become our second family. 

If you could tell your pre-baby self something, what would it be? 

Where would I start?! Go out more, stay out late, sleep in, travel, take risks and believe in yourself. Since having children I have learned so much more about myself and the way of the world, it's a complete eye opener.

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

(insert laugh) Yes. Some of the discussions had with my boys (particular in the bathroom) are hilarious. Also when it comes to behaviour management I've ripped out some beauties! The old wives tails to treat 'an injury' or encourage them to eat their veggies also comes in handy! My husband was born in Fiji and therefore has some 'village tales' which he shares from time to time to convince the boys to toe the line - we are often eyeballing each other and need to stop ourselves from laughing. 

So on top of all of this, how did “Styling the Tribe” come about”?

The blog itself evolved from my personal Instagram page which at the time was only followed by friends and family. I was often asked by mothers of boys for advice on outfits for special occasions and would have family and friends recommend my page to mums struggling to find cool threads for boys or those after inspiration. I identified a gap in the market for an independent opinion on boys fashion, and with my personal following on social media growing organically, it was a natural progression into blogging. Social media is such an influential advertising tool and designers are extremely keen to showcase their products and connect with the target audience. 

How would you describe your boys fashion preferences? 

I think I have quite a rounded taste in boys fashion - comfort and practicality for day wear, but I do love a bit of luxe for evening events or special occasions. Given the boys are extremely active, I need to ensure my wardrobe choices allow them to be young and explore at will. At the same time, I avoid licensed apparel like a plague (pyjamas and the odd marvel tee are an exception) and ensure they have enough 'staples' (denim, whites, khaki, greys) to be able to create some classic looks. Being a Melbournian I also love to layer them up in the cooler months, sweater over shirts, card's and tee's, bomber jackets and knits - I can't get enough and pay close attention to global trends.

If you could suggest one thing to add to a young boys Spring wardrobe, what would it be?

One thing?! Geez! It would have to be a versatile pair of denim shorts. Possibly slightly distressed denim to add some bite to his outfit. Once you have a great pair of bottoms, you can change up his look from day to night with various tee's, patterned shirts and sweaters etc. And Boardies (sorry, I know thats two!) Boardies are a no brainer for a boy on the move. 

So back to the dance floor, I was curious if their boys are prouder of their Dad for his AFL achievements or for winning Dancing With the Stars?

Ha ha, definitely prouder of his mirrorball glory! The boys were quite young (4 and under) when David played AFL and even though we attended matches, they never took a real interest in the game until he retired! Now they are AFL mad, and all support different clubs, two of which are interstate. Given David competed on DWTS last year, and the boys were of age to understand that Daddy was doing really well, it's had a much greater impact on them than his 12 year AFL career (much to his disgust!) ha ha. 

Lastly, while I have captured the attention of one of Melbourne’s most fashionable Flat Out Mum’s, please share with us what is your favourite every day wardrobe essential?

Sneakers. I was an avid active wear fan prior to the sports luxe trend taking hold of the global market, which stems from my Phys Ed days. Particularly now chasing boys around, comfort and practicality are paramount. Anything from stylerunner.com is on my 'must have' list. 

Finally, what are your favourite flat shoes and why? 

Favourite pair would be my Rollie Golden Jungle trainers I picked up from the South Melbourne market http://www.rollienation.com/trainer-golden-jungle/

They are a local label and also make matching kids trainers which sits well with me! 

A fun design, great with tights or denim and ideal for all day wear. 

Well there you have it it, that’s why I say “it is hard to be a Flat out Mum in stiletto’s!” 

 

Thank you so much Carla x

 

 

 

 


The best school holiday memories September 24 2015

Last school holidays we were very lucky to spend ten luxurious days in Bali. We were warm, relaxed and totally carefree. I was able to be a great Mum. Without the constant washing, cleaning and preparation of meals, I had so much free time to devote to my four energetic boys. Without all of the stresses that go with the school term and running a busy household, I was a fun, happy Mum too. I was the antithesis of me at 8am on a Monday morning trying to rally the troops out the door on time for school and kindergarten.  

This school holidays we are staying at home. It is something we have been looking forward to for various reasons. Slow, messy mornings not rushing anywhere. Play dates. No bed time curfew’s. No homework, no sports training sessions and no deadlines. Bliss for different reasons. 

The big boys (who share a room) are eagerly awaiting the delivery of their new bunk beds. That means I am using the opportunity to subtly discard some old toys and start spring cleaning. A chance to start term four feeling relaxed and organised before the routine starts again and we travel head first into summer. 

In planning our two weeks “staycation” I have been thinking about my best memories of holidays as a child. To my surprise it was the long days at the local beach, pretending to camp on our trampoline and staying in our pyjama’s as long as we wanted, that I recalled first. I too grew up in a family with four children so that meant built in play dates and constant action. I’m sure my Mum chased her tail cleaning up after us, but to me the memories are all carefree. Making up games, entertaining ourselves and always surrounded by a lot of kids. 

I was lucky to also grow up in a family with parents who loved to travel and explore. Whether it was intentional or not, they instilled this in each of us too. We had some amazing holidays travelling across the United States, riding donkeys in Greece and exploring different parts of South East Asia. But these were not the first things that sprung to mind when I was jogging my memory about my own school holidays. It was the “free” stuff. The games that required more imagination and the wild escapades that I got up to with my siblings. 

Spending days building cubby houses in the garden bushes that included separate and elaborate kitchens, bedrooms & lounge rooms. Trying to fit all four of us on one bike and then riding fast down the hill. Of course, with no helmets. Or shoes. Never shoes. 

Making mud pies and home made lemonade and then attempting to sell them out the front of our house. Finding 50 cents and sneaking down to the Milk Bar to buy the biggest bag of mixed lollies ever. Playing with the neighbours in the street until dark. Marco…..Polo. A Monopoly game that was taken so seriously that it consumed the kitchen table for days and days. 

So while I would NEVER let my kids do most of the things I have just mentioned (I know I’m Mrs Fun Police) I have come up with just three fun things we would like to try these school holidays that I hope you will share with your kids at some stage too.

  1. Go out in the rain. Yes the rain. Rather than it be a hindrance, see it as an opportunity to have a lot of fun. Put on some old clothes or waterproof yourself as best as possible and go for a walk. Jump in puddles. Dance in the rain. I promise when you get over the initial jolt you will laugh with your children and they will rejoice in watching their Mum in a different light. After a warm shower and a change of clothes you will laugh some more. Priceless. 
  2. Build the best cubby house possible and then try to have a sleepover in it. If you’re lucky enough to experience some warm nights, do it outside. If not, rearrange the lounge room for just one night. Yes it will be a big mess but who cares? Make it as elaborate as possible as it is the creation of your fortress that is most of the fun. Take in a “midnight snack” and snuggle up to your children with a torch. Even if you only last until 9pm, the look of them blissfully sleeping with a smile on their face will be worth it. 
  3. Do something for others. Collect your old toys and take your children with you to a donation centre. Make colourful little notes with happy messages inside them and plant them in places around town for people to discover. Spend a day with arts and crafts and make lots of postcards to mail to friends. Go to your local park or beach equipped with gloves and bags and spend a few hours cleaning up. Teach them to do something for other people without expecting anything in return.

It doesn’t have to be expensive or exotic to be memorable.

In fact for me, the priceless memories are the one’s I least expected.

Olivia x 


Fabulous Mum: Jodie Blight from Hello Table September 09 2015

Jodie Blight is one of those people who epitomises the saying “if you want something done, give it to a busy person”. She is smart, energetic and always on the go.

A Flat Out Mum. 

Luckily for me, my oldest son chose her second son to be his best friend in three year old kindergarten and has barely left his side since. The boys union has been made stronger as their Mums love to have a chat and we have each developed our own businesses at similar times, so have been sounding boards for each other. 

Even though she doesn’t drink coffee (say what??) and their family barracks for the Hawks recent arch rival (Sydney Swans) she is one of those Mums that you are lucky to have in your corner. The other school Mums and I already admired Jodie before she independently wrote and published her very own cookbook Summer Table last year, but watching her grow and persevere as she did so, has been extremely admirable. 

Her dedication to fulfilling her own dream and setting a brilliant example for her children paid off on the weekend when she was awarded the prestigious St George Bank Ausmumpreneur Award for Digital Innovation. You see, she didn’t just self publish an amazing cook book, she also created a WORLD FIRST smart phone APP that makes the cook book interactive. You just scan the QR code featured at the end of each recipe and a shopping list is automatically sent to your phone. All of the items are even sorted by the supermarket sections – too easy! Believe it or not, Jodie had never even used an APP before and her lack of technical ability has always been the butt of many jokes with her friends and family.

It is one of those idea’s that is so simple and handy, you wonder why no-one has done it before. It took an entrepreneurial multi-tasking Melbourne Mum to do so. 

Jodie got the idea to write Summer Table from lesson’s learnt when she moved her young family to a small Dutch village for a few years. There she was forced to change her approach to many things including cooking. This creativity and need to plan ahead to prepare meals that suited the entire family (and often for several days in a row), led to Jodie being skilled at producing interesting and tasty meals with whatever she had in the fridge. As a lover of good food (and as she admits, a little frugal), she didn’t want to simply reheat yesterday’s food and serve the same meal again. 

So she became accomplished at creating tasty, quick and healthy meals with the abundance of beautiful food left over from her delicious Sunday roasts. She says that the best part was that no one knew they were eating leftovers (well, not until she wrote her book!)

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

Finding time for myself. I just don’t do it. I’m either throwing myself into my work or being a mum, with a tiny bit of sleep in there when I can.

I used to get irritated when I was trying to work while the kids were around. They always wanted or needed something (even if it was just a cuddle). So for everyone’s sake, I had to set some boundaries about time for work and time for kids and family.

Working on such an all-consuming project and being so passionate about it, I was working crazy hours which was not great for me – I was up at 4.30am and worked til 7am then made breakfast, lunches and took the kids to school. I then had a solid 6 hours to work before picking them up and running them to all their sporting events. Once they were in bed at 8pm, I would continue to work until I literally couldn’t focus any more. A few hours’ sleep, then do it all again. I sustained that for about 6 months. Crazy.

 Recently I set some guidelines for myself to try to get some balance back in my life. My new rule is no working on the weekends. That has been relatively successful, although there is always the temptation to ‘nick in’ and check the emails as the office is so close and so easily accessible. (Having said that, I worked all weekend just gone. Oops!)

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

Don’t expect too much from yourself and don’t expect everything to be perfect. In fact expect everything to be in complete chaos and then you might be pleasantly surprised when it’s not (or at least you won’t be disappointed when it is). Get help – within the business and at home. Get a cleaner and maybe someone to iron etc. Take the pressure off yourself.

And also get the family chipping in to help. Kids love helping and demonstrating how they can be responsible. My boys love to help and it gives them self-confidence when they do something that normally an adult does. No matter what the age, kids can help (even if it is matching socks, feeding the animals, cooking…). Try it - you may be surprised at how they will respond.

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

I think Nike said it best - Just do it! 

Stop dreaming, or coming up with reasons not to do something and just give it a go. But do it for the right reasons, and do your research. Know your market, ask lots of questions and then put your head down and bum up. 

Making mistakes are par for the course and what you learn from them is invaluable for both your project and also your life. Making mistakes isn’t a sin, but not giving it a go in case you do make a mistake, is!

The DIY approach doesn’t mean you have to do everything yourself. You can hire help where needed. And if the budget doesn’t allow for it, you need to come up with different innovative ways of incentivising and paying people. If they truly believe in your idea, they will jump on board. Offer them a delayed payment (when you’re successful) or a portion of the profit or a percentage of the business.

And remember, not every single person on the planet will love your idea. Don’t be discouraged by those who don’t get it. Just find your niche and focus on them.

You can achieve anything with passion, commitment and determination.

Your best time saving tip in the kitchen is…

I have thousands, but the best tip is effectively the concept behind Summer TABLE. When you are cooking, cook extra and then you have a fantastic, flavoursome base for a quick dinner another night during the week.

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

I am so lucky to have so many wonderful friends. I can’t pick just one thing or one person. They are all so supportive and also keep me in check.

Your favourite every day wardrobe essential is… 

In winter that would be my black jodhpurs and boots. In summer, it is my denim skirt. They both go with anything.

Your favourite flat shoes and why…

I have a passion for shoes but as I get older, my shoes get flatter. I can be seen running around in my Skechers most days (I have a few pairs, different colours) but my favourite flats are these from Mimco. I saw them on Flat Out Mum and mentioned to a friend how much I loved them. She went and bought them for me! Just amazing – see what I mean about so many amazing wonderful friends! I’m very lucky. 

So now do you understand why Jodie is this week's Fabulous Flat Out Mum? 

Find out more about Summer Table on Jodie's website here or you can buy it at www.flatoutmum.com.au


Fathers Day Tribute: What I have learnt from Shane on how to be a better parent September 02 2015

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.

Olivia x 


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

 


Making new Mum friends August 19 2015

When I think of all of the things I am grateful for, I always think of my amazing girlfriends. I have definitely not been the perfect friend all my life, but somehow I have managed to accumulate the most amazing group of women in my 41 years. I have deleted a few along the way and found some in the most unexpected places. Like in a blizzard at Penn State University. Or in the stands at the MCG. And of course, the sand pit. Not to mention a few beauties that are now my relatives.

I always think that if you have a couple of people (non family) who you could genuinely phone at 2am and there would be backlash, you have succeeded in the friendship stakes. As you grow older you know the value of quality over quantity and losing friends whether on purpose on not, becomes part of your evolution. As we know, when motherhood strikes, we really need these true friends. 

Australia is awesome for getting new Mums associated with their local Maternal Health Centre which then offers “Mother’s Groups”. However, I find that women are very polarised on Mother’s Group. It is either a definite “yes they are still my bestie's after 8 years” or “no, I didn’t relate to ANY of them”. Personally I recommend persevering with them until the end as friends appear in the most unlikely packages sometimes. I loved my Mother’s Group but unfortunately for me we moved when our first born was very young. We did live in a transient area at the time, full of young couple’s who tended to move out to the suburbs once the babies came along. 

Moving to a new suburb is hard enough, let alone interstate or even to a new Country with a young child. It often results in even the most popular person suddenly becoming “friend-less”. This can be very isolating and just damn boring, so I know that life’s circumstances often result in the need to find a whole new girl gang. Likewise, when the second child comes along and there is no Mothers Group offered, you often have a lot of time alone with that child.

The hardest time to meet new Mum friends seems to be when your babies are between 6 months to 3 years of age. Ie, after the Mothers Group period / when you've come up for air and can actually leave the house fully dressed and coherant....but before kindergarten age when you're all of a sudden faced with at least 20 sets of parents belonging to your children's new friends. 

So if you do not have this gaggle of giggling girlies by your side, where do you find them? There are a lot of articles written on this subject (just google it) so this is nothing new to discuss and yes, it is a bit like dating….so here are some tips.

Firstly, you need to give a little thought to the type of friend(s) you would like. Do you want someone who you can have a wine with (without kids) who you really relate to and have a good chat with one-on-one? Or do you need a daytime friend to hang out with amongst the chaos? Someone with kids of a similar age? 

Do you want a “family friend” who also has a Partner that will get along with your Partner (hopefully) and you can do things as a big gang on weekends….If you’ve given this a bit of thought then you can narrow it down to where you may be able to best find these people. Sounds like stalking doesn’t it? I know some women who have made amazing friends by joining a book club. They talk less about the books and more about their life and love to have these confidants that are separate to their husband, family and other friends. 

If you don’t know many people in your local area and have plenty of time to spare in the middle of the day with your children, you need a different approach. Once again, have a little think about what you want to get out of the activity. Eg; is it purely so your child can learn a skill or burn off some energy? Do you want to participate in the activity too, or do you want a “break” from your child while they play and you can have a chance to talk to the other parents? Don’t expect to make a best friend if your child requires your 100% devoted attention in the swimming pool or at an activity where the other Mums use the opportunity to nip out for a coffee or open up their laptop. 

If any of your children are interested in a specific hobby, if they have special needs or are say, a twin, there are groups for that too. Finding like-minded parents who are facing similar issues with their kids day after day is a huge support. There is nothing worse than joining a group where perhaps the other parents don’t really “get it”. Luckily I knew quite a few Mums of twins who I could ask advice and exchange knowing glances with when our twin boys arrived. It has been a life saver. I’m sure this is the same for other more ‘niche’ groups. Google and Facebook are awesome for finding these communities and they will do wonders for your mental health. 

If you’re after something more general in your local neighbourhood, there are groups and activity centres everywhere. You don’t necessarily have to pay for classes as most Libraries have a regular “story-time” and local Halls hold community Playgroups etc. These types of activities where the children can be a bit more independent (within eye contact) enable parents to have a good chat and develop relationships too. Look for a class or activity where the parents can also interact and perhaps have an opportunity to continue the chatting after the class at the park/cafe nearby.

Likewise if you are a working Mum you may want to find a class on the weekends where you may be more likely to find people in a similar situation to you. If you work part-time and choose to do a class on your one week day that you don’t work, you might only find Mums who aren’t currently working. Therefore developing an ongoing relationship may be tricky as schedules are difficult to co-ordinate. Try to find Mums who are also juggling the daily obstacles that you are

Exercise classes with your children are also a great idea. Kill two birds with the one stone by committing yourself to an exercise group, get your child out and about and hopefully meet some other lovely Mums. There is everything from the Mums with Prams sessions, Mums & Bubs pilates classes and even dance-athons for you all. Sweat it out and hopefully strike up some friendships over time

Now you have found an activity that suits your needs, you will need to put a little effort in if you want to develop genuine relationships with these people. Firstly, don’t expect it to happen overnight and secondly, to discover anything new, including friends, you have to put yourself out there.

Yes I can feel you cringe from here but new friends are not just going to land in your lap, especially now that there is not usually alcohol involved. 

So, find a club that interests you in your local area - book club, passionate Paleo’s anonymous, Mini Maestro’s Music or Mums who marathon…Whatever your interests, find a group and take the plunge by turning up to the first session. You probably won’t feel like going and no doubt every obstacle will seem to be in your way on the first ‘date’ but persevere. After all, if it is an absolute disaster all you can do is laugh and give yourself a pat on the back for trying. Just think of it as practice session for one that really counts.

Finally, here are some key success factors for developing some new friendships. Juggling life and kids and possibly work leaves limited time in your schedule for socialising so you need to ensure that your are meeting with compatible people. In my experience, if they have most of the following it is much easier to form a lasting friendship:

  • You have children of a similar age
  • Your children who get along / play well together (dah)
  • They live nearby
  • You have similar work/home lifestyles
  • Your Partners/husbands also want to make new friends & also get along
  • The class/activity where you met is a genuine interest or hobby that you can continue together

So, put yourself out there...persevere and let us know how you go!

Good luck.

Olivia x 


Find Your Tribe and Love Them Hard August 12 2015

Yesterday I shared a blog post that really resonated with a lot of the Flat Out Mummies on Facebook. It talked about the early days with a newborn and how hard it can be. Titled “When love feels heavy” by N'tima Preusser, it was shared with me initially by a young Mum I know who reads the Coffee & Crumbs blog. If you haven’t read it yet, you should.

It got me thinking about just how hard women can be on themselves and each other and I wanted to share my thoughts again on this.

I am really worried about all of the young Mums using social media as their benchmark for what most Mums are doing.

You are all smart women and I just wanted to remind you, not to believe everything you see. 

As you know, it is rare to show an ugly photo of yourself or an unflattering angle of your screaming baby. When you’re having a crap day and nothing seems to be going your way, normally this is not what you are posting. You know this. 

The whole reason for Flat Out Mum is to remind you day in and day out that this motherhood gig is hard. It is not as glamorous or as predictable as our previous lives, but that is OK. We all know why it is better and how it is better, even though it takes some time to get used to your ‘new normal’. 

I want Flat Out Mum to reflect the realities of motherhood and perhaps provide some tips (and soon products) that will make life just that little bit easier.

I want Mums to read it and feel better, to feel normal. I want them to know that even the Mums with the most pristine exterior’s often struggle on the inside too.  If someone is making it look easy, they are probably lying about something. Surely right?

 Don’t do that. 

My first tip is the most important. Find other Mums that you relate to, not that you have on a pedestal. The ones who will let you come to their house without tidying it up beforehand. The ones who will bring you a block of chocolate after hours and just sloth with you on the couch. The ones where your friendship doesn’t miss a beat when you finally ring them back when your baby is 6 months old. The one’s who you don’t feel embarrassed to tell that actually today I couldn’t stand my kids. 

A line at the end of the aforementioned blog piece inspired my second tip: 

“I beg you, embrace that things will always feel unfinished. Let unfinished be okay. Let unfinished be enough”.

You need to find your new normal and be okay with it. Life will never be the same, so just give in to it and ‘embrace the chaos’. No-one is judging you and if they are, stay well clear. Find the Mums that laugh at your daily dilemma’s and then share one of theirs with you too. Hang out with people who lift you up. 

Re-adjust your priorities, lower your expectations of how much you can accomplish each day and how you want to look and feel 24/7. Do your best to be positive and see the best in each day, but quickly move on from the bad days. Have you noticed how quickly a toddler can recover from the most almighty tantrum? Five minutes later….all cuddly and innocent.

 Do that. 

Upon finding your new normal, learn to ask for help. Learn that asking for help is not a sign of weakness. People actually want to help and it makes them feel better and that they’re important to you. Likewise, ask friends (especially those with newborns) how you can help them. Or just arrive for your (invited!) visit with your famous lasagne, pop it in their freezer and text them later with the lovely news. Rather than expecting someone to clean their house and be your waitress upon your arrival, come bearing a cafe bought coffee and offer to fold their clean washing while you chat. This is the type of friend they need. 

I know that with motherhood comes a change in friendship groups. Life evolves and people come and go out of our lives. Sometimes this is really sad. Never did you think that you could be so distant with your high school BFF. Never did you think that you’d get along so well with that eccentric girl from Mother’s Group. Life often delivers what you need right now and so embrace that. 

You’ve heard the lingo, so go and find your tribe, get your little girl gang together or assemble your sisterhood somehow. They will be your saviours. 

This reminds me of a very interesting conversation I had recently with a great friend of mine who’s Father had passed away. We could relate and talk openly about how our Mums were left alone and how to try to support them. She confided that the best support to her Mum were the friends that she had made long ago when they all had very young kids. Many she hadn’t been close to once her kids left primary school and being in the generation without social media, she had unintentionally lost contact with many.

But their bond was strong. Their bond was real. They found her again at her lowest low and came back with a vengeance.

How wonderful. 

You see, they formed their friendships when life was not all rosy. When they were in the trenches together raising young children. They had become friends in some of the most testing times of their lives. They saw the unwashed hair, the messy homes and the scrapped together meals. They saw the tantrums and the tears, and it wasn’t just from the kids. They pitched in and helped each other and laughed along for the ride. Now of course, they look back at those crazy sleepless years as some of the best. 

Do you see my point? Let those women in, let them see you warts and all. They will love you more for that and they will let you see a side to them that makes you feel better about yourself, not worse.

So...in the article the writer talks about sitting at a baby shower watching the innocence and naivety of the expectant Mum and “wanted so badly to prepare my friend somehow for the wave that was about to wash over her”.

I too have had this dilemma many times. No-one wants to be the bearer of bad news so we sit politely basking in all the positives of parenthood. I don’t suggest being the killjoy, but by portraying a realistic view of the daily grind of motherhood we are making it easier for those that come after us. By extending a helping hand and not judging, we will slowly chip away at that facade. 

In the meantime, choose your tribe carefully and love them hard. The bonds that you are making today will see you though the rollercoaster that is life. Let the fair-weather friends fly off that rollercoaster at each turn and eventually you and your little girl gang will be screaming with delight at the ride. And what a ride it is. 

 

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

 


21 Things I've learnt since having twins July 22 2015 2 Comments

  1. I have great friends
  2. I love coffee, I really really love coffee  
  3. I love chocolate more than coffee
  4. Your family become s a magnet for weird (and inappropriate) comments
  5. You definitely will have enough love to spread across many children 
  6. There really is no use “crying over spilt milk” 
  7. Going out to get more milk can be classified as an unchartered expedition 
  8. A solid relationship is crucial, before you have kids
  9. An entire day can easily pass without getting out of your pajama’s (and that’s OK)
  10. Sometimes I don’t even know what year it is, let alone the actual date
  11. I am more patient than my own mother gave me credit for
  12. I find washing clothes satisfying, but I DETEST folding them away
  13. Pay TV is very important 
  14. Other people don’t understand your situation, but that is OK. Find people that do
  15. I am strong. Even stronger than I thought
  16. Ordering take away when your friends come over is considered a dinner party
  17. My body can make miracles 
  18. I would pay good money to sleep alone for the entire night
  19. There are “dirty clothes” and then there are clothes that will do for just “one more wear”
  20. I can go for days without adult conversation (reluctantly) 
  21. When the road to motherhood is not straightforward, the amazing reward is often twins
Please share what you have learnt about yourself since having children...... 

    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"......

     


    Bec Judd Interview June 17 2015 4 Comments

    Arguably the most famous Australian footy WAG of them all, when you think of Bec Judd, you probably picture THAT red dress, her talented husband and some of the amazing pics she posts on social media….Her glamorous outfits, arriving at exclusive events and jet setting around the world. 

    She has created a life for herself and her family that many aspire to. She has proved that beautiful women can also be smart, savvy and very resilient.

    Put aside any thoughts you have about Bec Judd, other than this. Bec has the same concerns and many of the daily obstacles that all mothers have. Even though her shoulders are regularly covered in J’aton couture, she has a lot of pressure on them. She is juggling many things and she does it in style.

    One of the Queen’s of Australian social media Bec wears many hats. Her proudest would have to be as the head of her household with husband Chris, her son Oscar (3) and daughter Billie (1). 

    Bec has supported her husband Chris for over a decade through his amazing AFL career. Last week an injury forced Chris’s retirement and he praised Bec for the support she has shown him during his career. He said having his little family to go home to every night will help him get through his heartache.

    Knowing that I've got you and the kids to come home to, makes me feel that whatever comes next the next chapter is going to be really exciting, so thanks to you guys” Chris said in an interview. 

    From my life with Shane, I can relate to a lot of what Bec has been through, behind the scenes with her AFL husband. Those select few that become the very best in their field are those that do not stop at much to achieve their goals. Exactly what they eat, how much they sleep, how often they train, how they recover, being mentally prepared, the list goes on. The support they have around them is crucial and Bec would have been through more than we know. 

    I was lucky enough to be able to ask Chris his exact thoughts on Bec as a mother “she is a wonderful mother, kind and patient he said “she’s an incredibly good teacher, having experience as a speech pathologist has helped her in this department as well”.

    And something we all seek to do, Chris says that Bec “gets the balance right between being caring and firm”. He admits that just watching her juggle everything tires him out “she has always been an organised person, but it has gone to a whole new level since the kids arrived! Watching her work, while keeping the kids and house in order sometimes tires me out! But she does it all with great efficiency.”  

    The down side to their life in the spotlight in the era of social media is that it brings out the keyboard warriors. The attacks Bec has survived online are disgusting. Underneath her soft looks and small frame, she is one tough cookie. She has the type of resilience, work ethic and confidence that we should hope to raise in our children. Cheers to that Bec Judd.  

    So I asked Bec about her life away from the red carpet’s and social engagements. What did Bec say when I asked her what her number one tip for new Mums is?

    “Don't put too much pressure on yourself to feel like you're having the best time of your life with your newborn. Bringing home a new baby can be the hardest thing you'll ever do and some days you may hate it, so give your self some time to adjust”. 

    Bec says that the best thing a friend has done for her since becoming a Mum is reassuring her that “it’s ok if you feel crap some times, it’s ok if you give your baby formula, it’s ok if your kids didn’t get a bath today, it’s ok if your kids eat packet food sometimes. Just knowing that it’s ok not to be 'perfect' is reassuring”.

    And on the flipside, the most useless piece of parenting advice Bec has received so far? It is something that all Mums have heard many times before - sleep when the baby sleeps. We wish it was that easy!

    Yeah right” says Bec “and cook when the baby cooks and clean when the baby cleans and bath when the baby baths. Ha!

    So what about some of the craziest moments she has experienced as a Mum? 

    “Having sick kids can be quite hairy when you don't know what is wrong with them and they are too young to tell you. I've made quite a few trips to Cabrini (hospital) Emergency over the last 3 and a half years!”

    Or when she hears herself saying things that she never thought would come out of her mouth, like “Billie don't bite the dog”. 

    Oscar STOP playing with your…..

    It seems like the average day in the Judd household is like many other Australian homes. So what products does Bec find indispensable these days? “Chux. Wipe down floors and furniture to get rid of pooh, spew, food etc and then straight in the bin”.

    So with so much going on in her life and from what her husband terms her great efficiency, what is Bec’s best time saving tip for mums? To double up whenever you can!

    Double bath and double bed time story. I read to Oscar and Billie together in Oscar's bed and then transfer Billie to her cot. Every night she wails like she has been shot when I take her out of Oscar's bed to pop her into her cot. It’s not a real cry and she's over it within 5 seconds. I'm not sure why she seems so shocked when it’s time for her to get into her cot as it’s what we do every night. She's hilarious!Sounds like she has inherited some of her Mum’s staying power to me.

    And finally when I asked Bec what she would love in her life right now, she said “more time and weekends with my family”.

    With Chris’s retirement from playing AFL, let’s hope that she gets her wish. 

    As one of THE most stylish mums around town, what is Bec's favourite every day wardrobe essential?

    Black leather leggings (great for wiping off anything and everything), long tops, flat shoes. 

    And which flat shoes exactly are her current favourite?

    Valentino stud flats. Flats can be fashionable too! 


    The grass is greener where you water it June 09 2015 9 Comments

    Looking back on the first few years of raising twins, I have learnt a lot. Many things I have already written about in my blog, but one of the lessons that has made me the most content is that 

    THE WORLD CAN WAIT. 

    Having a young baby requires a huge adjustment to your daily routine and your psyche. From my experience, this is amplified with your first baby, as well as with twins.

    But, the outside world just keeps on spinning no matter what's happening within your home. No matter what's happening inside your head. No matter what's happening in your baby’s little universe. 

    On those days that you can step out of your parallel universe into your "old life", you do appreciate the little things so much more. 

    You discover just how many topics you can cover in a quick kid free catch up with a friend. How refreshing it is to laugh over an in joke. How satisfying it is to vent to an old confidant about your particular issue of the week. 

    As you slip back into the loveliness of your home, you do treasure your little glimpses back out to the big wide world, but you do slowly realise that the world can wait.

    The parties, the me time, the solitary exercise, the career, the pampering, the sleep in’s, the spontaneity...it can all wait. 

    Just ask anyone with older kids, especially much older kids. They will always tell you "these are the best days of your life" and

    "it goes by so fast" etc etc, we hear it all the time, like a broken record.

    It’s like that famous Oscar Wilde quote youth is wasted on the young. We rarely appreciate it while we are there.

    So this post is for those Mums in the trenches with little babies right now. Babies that don’t sleep, babies with health issues, babies teething, babies that just like to scream 24/7. Babies that decide to have the longest sleep EVER, the day you need to leave the house on time. 

    I think that if Mums tell the 100% honest truth, most babies are challenging. Yes of course we all know that small percentage of babies that seem to be perfect day and night. Well, their time will come. Maybe perfect babies = horrible teenagers, who knows?

    For all of those Mums currently thinking that the grass is greener somewhere else, or who are counting the days/months until the next milestone,

    I stretch out my virtual arms to hug you.

    Each day that you conquer and each night that you endure, is an achievement. It can be really tough. Physically, mentally and emotionally. The big trifecta. I say, milk it for all you can. The grass is greener where you water it. 

    Now that I have the house completely to myself a few days each week, I am aware of the silence. I do love it and it’s allowing me to pursue more of my own interests, but I am also sadly aware that now I can’t turn back time. Those days when I had young babies at home 24/7 is over. Those days when it was not only acceptable, but encouraged, to sleep when they sleep, will never return. 

    Those days when you can crazy dance to High-5 all day and relish in embarrassing baby talk. The times when new, clean pyjama’s with matching slippers is considered an outfit. Slip a bra underneath and you’re ready to greet guests.

    It’s lovely. 

    I can no longer eat a Tim Tam for breakfast and blame a sleepless night. Nor an entire packet and blame breast feeding. I can no longer decline a boring social invitation in favour of an early night. I can no longer justify making 48 muffins to pass the time while the babies are sleeping. Nor can I ask a friend to bring their own milk with them for a cup of tea. 

    If you can, embrace these things. Watch crappy reality TV. At 3am if you have to. Talk to that grandma admiring your baby at the supermarket for a touch longer than you think you have time for. Take photo’s. Take so many photo’s that other people get annoyed. Breathe in your beautiful baby and just live in the moment. 

    I felt very peaceful when I finally gave in to this notion. I say to new mums, especially to Mums of multiples, just give in to it. Stop looking over the fence and succumb to the beautiful world of raising little babies. Yes sometimes it sucks and if you could, you’d kick that fence over with the gusto of an angry bull, but just give in. Listen to the grannies and learn. The world can wait. 


    Fabulous Mum Interview: Kate M May 31 2015

    Our first FABULOUS Mum to be featured is my friend of 25 years, Kate M.

    She is one of those Mums that always has a smile on her face and can laugh at any situation.

    This helps when she is raising three energetic (St Kilda FC loving) boys with her husband Cam. 

    My most recent experience with Kate as a Mum is when I called her at 6pm the night before a school dress up day. 

    I arrived at her house 5 minutes later to find her in an apron with a chicken roasting in the oven, her oldest boys sitting down doing her homework and a spunky man in the backyard with his shirt off (her husband!) 

    It was a real scene of domestic bliss and Kate was right in her element. On top of that, she had exactly the right costumes that my boys were hoping for!

    SINCE BECOMING A MOTHER:

     

    My number one tip for new Mums is… 

    Your baby will guide and teach you. Follow your instinct.

    My most indispensable household product now is…

    Now with my boys being 14, 12 & 8 years old I would sadly say my car.... 3 football matches on a Sunday for a start, need I say any more!

    Otherwise would be my washing machine! 

    My best time saving tip is…

    Keep your $5 notes, they add up very quickly! 

    My craziest moment as a parent so far…

    My most crazy or scary thing I've done as a parent was going on that superman ride at one of those Gold Coast theme parks! It was horrendous!

    The best thing a friend has done for me since becoming a Mum is…

    My friend making me believe in myself and then starting a little cooking business along side her, then my boys being proud of me! 

    What I would love in my life right now…

    Other than being on a beach holiday with my family.... I am doing what I would love to do right now......

    that is sitting on the beach in Hawaii with 3 girlfriends!

    It has been 14 months in the making & I'm so appreciative that my husband Cam is capable enough to look after the troops! 

    The thing I hear myself saying (that I never thought would come out of my mouth) is…..

    Do as I say, not as I do!!

    The most useless piece of parenting advice I got was….

    To try and get rid of the dummy's! I have never seen a child walk around at school with a dummy, so let them keep it.  Especially for bed time! 

    My favourite every day wardrobe essential is… 

    My Hudson jeans!

    My favourite flat shoes and why… 

    Until recently I had red Birkenstocks I now have white copies I got while travelling, so they are doing the trick! 


    The importance of being YOU May 27 2015 1 Comment

    With all of the self help and positive affirmation mumbo jumbo on the internet these days, we can barely scroll through Instagram for two minutes before seeing another quote about being “true to yourself” or “love yourself and all of your flaws”. 

       

    I agree, don’t get me wrong I am not criticising this new wave of positivity sweeping through mainstream society. Those hippies were onto something.

    What I want to say, is that it is HARD to be these things. I have finally succumbed to embracing my own body and being grateful for my strength. Ten years go I would have swapped my strong frame for a lithe body in an instant. But if you’d told me that I wouldn’t have been able to carry four babies so well, or survive all of the ups & down that I did in my thirties without collapsing in a frail heap, I hope that I would have thought twice about swapping what I have. I have rolls and dimples I never had before, but I rarely get sick and I feel strong and healthy. Something I have only been grateful for since becoming a Mum and heaven forbid - older. 

    Now onto the mental stuff. Luckily for me I have always had good self esteem. In my teens my frown and somewhat shyness may have given others the perception that I was arrogant or ‘up myself’. Somehow even back then, I didn’t really care what other people thought of me. This confused my friends. I didn’t need to be liked by every girl in school and if I didn’t get invited to every party on the weekend, I genuinely wasn’t phased. I definitely didn’t need a boyfriend, I was too busy for that. 

    Now as a parent, I try to remember what my Mum and Dad did throughout our childhood to instill that in us. When I work it out, I will let you know. I do clearly remember my Dad stopping me to tell me I was beautiful every time I left the house (biased, clearly). I never remember my Mum fussing about make up, talking about her weight or being on a diet.

    That stuff is so important. The little things, day after day after day just building me up.

    To have a strong sense of self is SO important. I think even more important for teenagers today with all of the additional obstacles they have in front of them. I don’t even want to think about how it will be in another decade when our boys are going through the teenage years. Clearly I am no self help guru and I only did two years of the psychology part of my Arts degree so I am not going to go any further on how to raise kids with great self esteem. I wish I had the answer. 

    Now that my children are entering school age, I am around Mums who have more of a “life” to themselves again. My friendship group has evolved from the “Mothers Group” type conversations about when to change from two day sleeps to one and the joys of toilet training, to more ‘adult’ responsibilities once again.

    It is refreshing. The fog is clearing. 

    These women have amazing careers, they have started their own innovative businesses, they volunteer for charities, they run the school parents association, all while raising mostly happy children. Amazing. 

    But some have lost “themselves” a little bit. Totally understandable after being in the “trenches” of child rearing and putting themselves last for so long. I have been there too and it is definitely not a criticism, merely an observation. 

    It is very common that after you send your last child off to school and if you are not working (in traditional paid employment), you suddenly have at least six hours to yourself through the day. Sometimes you just don't know what to do with all those hours to feel fulfilled in yourself. Of course there are plenty of jobs to take up your time like cooking, cleaning, washing, chasing after everyone else etc etc. But I mean the things that make you feel good, give you your own purpose

    Once the buzz of coming home to a clean house and finally organising the linen closet wears off and you have settled into a good routine of actually doing consistent exercise, you start to think about “what else is there?” For the lucky few the answers are obvious, but for those who throughout their marriage or once their children arrived, have lost their sense of self a little, this can be a difficult question to answer.

    Unfortunately life can not guarantee that you will be with your partner until you both pass peacefully in your sleep together one night. Even if you’re lucky enough to have something like this, as the years go on, there will be more time to yourself. For yourself. So if we can teach our children, in particular our daughters, to find their passions and what makes them feel good and somehow manage to keep that throughout their whole life, that is a huge achievement. That way they will never be alone. They will never be unfulfilled. 

    Once they have children and finally get some hours back to themselves, they will have a long list of awesome things they want to achieve.  Or shock horror, they choose to never have children. Women are amazing and have so much to give. Yes sorry, we are givers. By having something that is truly your OWN, it makes you feel good. Not something you do with your partner or your kids, but something for you. A job you enjoy, a hobby, an exercise goal, a cause that you volunteer for.

    My own Mum led my example. If you read my Mother’s Day post you’d remember how she studied, worked, volunteered and renovated us through our childhood. How she coped emotionally when she lost my Dad and she was alone for the first time since she was 16 years old. All with four kids. 

    These children of ours are watching us, they are learning from how we cope with life’s everyday, little obstacles as well as huge hurdles. I think it’s really important to show our children that we are just not their Mum, running their home. We are so much more than that. Find your mojo for yourself and for your kids. You’ll be busier, but you’ll be happier I am sure.

    The sooner us girls are really running the world, the better. 


    Stay at home Mum May 20 2015 4 Comments

    When our twins arrived I gave new meaning to the term stay at home mum’. 

    Four children in five & a half years is by no means a record, but it is an achievement. The older they get and the easier they are to juggle, I realise just how crazy the early days were. Due to a big size difference initially, our twins didn’t stay on the same routine for many months. One needed more sleep, one needed longer to feed etc so there could be days that I constantly had one of the twins in my arms. Or one was asleep so it was difficult to leave the house. 

    Upon reflection on this cold rainy day I could think of nothing better than cuddling a beautiful baby all day. But at the time it is monotonous. It is draining and it’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Especially if you don’t have older children as it is difficult to really comprehend what people mean when they constantly tell you that time goes by so fast. 

    I mean seriously some days a slow stroll by myself to the letterbox and a breath of fresh air was an outing.

    Seriously. I knew it at the time and I laughed at myself in a way that only a severely sleep deprived, deliriously exhausted zombie could. 

    I tried to see the humour in it, without feeling sorry for myself. More often than not, I’d be joined on my 10 metre walk by someone else. 

    “Where are you going?” 

    “Can I come?” 

    “Are you leaving?”

    They would ask curiously. Suspiciously. 

    When the twins were very young if I really had to go somewhere which involved washing my hair or leaving the house while the kids were still awake, I needed two ‘babysitters’. By this I mean, my Mum and/or Shane plus our Au pair. Crazy I know. 

    I am not joking. This sounds very high maintenance but I can assure you, I am no Beyonce. The twins were a handful in themselves so getting them fed and settled to sleep required at least one person’s full attention. Throw in a three year old mucking about and a 5 year old who understood that I would not be there to tuck him in that night and the result was not a calm and dignified exit from our house

    Stay at home mum

    Stay at home mum

    The older boys would chant.

    So, like so many Mums, I felt that it had to be really worth it to go out at night. The hours of pre planning, fast tracking dinner, hoping like anything that they would follow their best bed time routine. No accidents. No fights. No extra logistical nightmares that would delay my stealth like exit from the house. Please, not tonight. 

    Pretending to look calm and nonchalant while secretly checking my watch.  Putting my pyjamas back on after showering, so no child noticed something was up.

    My outfit discreetly laid out by the back door like a superhero’s costume ready for a quick change back into my former life. 

    I try to take it as a compliment but unfortunately none of my kids have been the types to freely let me have much of a life of my own. They especially loathe when I go out at night. I have reluctantly driven out of our driveway so many times watching upset children pleading at the back door. My Mum saying ‘“just go, they will be fine” and texting me a little white lie five minutes later that they were all good. Hmmmm.

    What always surprised me when I did leave the house in the twilight hours was HOW MANY PEOPLE were out and about. 

    Holy crap, look at these people!

    Slowly walking down the street. Holding hands. Exercising on a balmy evening. Casually chatting on a street corner with all the time in the world. Fish & chips by the beach. Walking dogs. Drinking in beer gardens..… 

    I would stare out of the passenger seat window in amazement. WHO were these people? 

    My wonder was always tinged with jealousy. Tinged with nostalgia. "Most of them probably aren’t even appreciating what they are doing", I would think bitterly to myself. 

    Like an escapee, I relished my outings. I was a ticking time bomb, knowing the freedom wouldn’t last. Not quite Cinderella, but always waiting for the stroke of midnight. I had a new appreciation for talking to interesting adults. For drinking champagne. For feeling like ME again. A more appreciative me. Wow I could get used to this.

    But what goes up, must come down. As we know, it’s all fun and games until we have to wake up and be a parent at 6am. 

    It takes until you are half way across the bedroom before the pounding starts. Jumping that quickly out of bed to investigate a cry was not such a good idea this morning. Hangovers with young children are slow, torturous events that nothing can fix. You may as well be standing at the start of a marathon obstacle course when you start thinking of the day ahead. Fast forward this day, PLEASE. 

    You climb back into bed and close your eyes for just a minute. Maybe today will be the day they decide to sleep in. Maybe if I’m quiet enough, they won’t want my attention.

    Maybe just maybe, after a strong coffee, this headache will fade away. Not likely.

    Just as I thought that I was going to get away with slowly drifting back to sleep, one of the older boys climbs into bed and says

    “Why didn’t you stay at home Mum?”


    An Ode to Social Media May 13 2015 5 Comments

    I’m bleary eyed, it’s four in the morning

    The nights are long & the day is dawning 

    Little twin boys are up as they’re crook



    The only thing keeping me sane is Facebook. 

     As they gulp on their milk, I have a quick read

    Living vicariously through my newsfeed

    Friends out partying, new babies expected

    I try really hard not to feel dejected.

     With our family of six, we are so blessed,

    Two more perfect boys, who would have guessed?

    That drunken girl sinking shots was once me

    In the midst of the party, taking a selfie.

     I’m not missing out, I say out loud

    Of all I’ve accomplished I should be proud. 

    But the grass seems greener on the other side

    They’re all having fun, I must confide.

    If it wasn’t for Facebook keeping me connected,

    I’d be paranoid I was being rejected.

    And now since I’ve discovered Instagram

    My new accessory, more valuable than the pram.

    So to all of those who’ve been annoyed by my posts,

    The many baby pictures and the gratuitous boasts.

    From the corny quotes, to the over sharing, 

    You did seem like you were genuinely caring. 

    I ask you to please understand my situation

    That through gestation, lactation & even ovulation

    It was your posts & pics that got me though,

    In the past, what on earth did new mothers do?


    What my Mum taught me without even realising May 06 2015 5 Comments

    With Mother’s Day coming up this Sunday (yay!) I have been reflecting on my own Mum and all of the things she has taught me. With four children of her own, Judi has seen it all before and living proof that you can thrive amongst the chaos

    Our childhood was free and relaxed and sunny. I am so grateful to her and my amazing Dad for giving us that. I know now, more than ever, how hard it must have been at times. As the Mum, she was the hub of the wheel and she has helped achieve a relatively normal family of well adjusted adults and siblings who are now very close. As a Mum, that is all I want for the future of my own boys, but I do know it takes a lot to get there. 

    Of course there are the obvious things that she taught us day in and day out. Relentless, I know for sure. But when I think of her and her “mothering style” I think some of the best things she has taught us have not been intentional. It reminds me as I go about my day that there are four little pair’s of eyes watching me and how I react to what life throws at me. We are always teaching, sometimes most effectively when we don't realise it at all. 

    I clearly remember my Mum learning to use a computer with her cursing sounds and the annoying noise of the ‘delete” button constantly coming from the front room. Trying to “dial up” the internet and persevering to keep up with technology. I remember being made to eat carob and drink “bran water” and driving for miles to see the only suitable Naturopath in Perth in the early 80’s. She was so ahead of her time about natural and holistic health. 

    I remember her going back to study the Greek language when we were all in High School. My parents loved Greece and she had decided that their frequent trips there would be much more satisfying if she could better understand what the locals were saying. She couldn’t even start to learn to read or speak Greek without learning their alphabet first. So without a Greek relative in sight, she persisted with Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta….and she got there. Through the mockery of four teenagers wetting themselves laughing as well as keeping up with the daily grind, she got there. What an effort.

    I watched her volunteer her “spare” time to a crisis phone line and come home depleted after a Saturday night shift. I watched her put on so many birthday parties at home making all of the food herself and inviting all of our friends, their siblings and the neighbours to join us in our back garden. I watched her embrace people from all walks of life and always look for the best in people. 

    I watched her and her tribe of friends pick up the pieces after each other, sharing their spare nights around in their little “Babysitting Club”. I snuck out of bed and watched their rowdy dinner parties and waited in the hope that there was a forgotten piece of Sara Lee Chocolate Bavarian. I watched her pull on her leotard and head off to Jazzercise after dropping us all at school. I watched her paint walls, clean bricks, climb ladders and cook off a camping stove while we lived through another renovation. 

    I watched her cope with losing my Dad when she was only 49. Her childhood sweetheart, her heart and soul. How she must have cried at night alone in her bed after soldiering through another day making sure that each one of her four kids were OK. That’s when her tribe of women really came to the fore. What she taught me about life and about being a strong woman through that dark time is very hard for me to articulate. Her infectious laugh and constant positivity taught me that there is always light at the end of the tunnel. What a woman. 

    She is resilient, positive and full of energy. She is open minded and forward thinking. She is strong and resourceful. She is my Mum and what a woman she is. Thank you Judi 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 

    Mouths of Mums: What it's really like having twins April 02 2015 2 Comments

    During "Multiple Birth Awareness Week" 2015, my thoughts on having twins and the impact on our family were published by the amazing website Mouths of Mums.

    Read my thoughts by clicking this link to their site:

    http://www.mouthsofmums.com.au/what-its-really-like-having-twins/

    Or see the transcript below.

     

    How having twins made me a better person

    When you have twins everything is tested. Your patience, resilience, relationships…but most of all your physical and mental strength. For most, the road to a multiple pregnancy is not straightforward. For many it involves fertility issues that may have stretched over many stressful years. The delight of successfully carrying multiple babies is very often followed by caution and paranoia. All you want is for the pregnancy to follow a traditional path and that all of your babies will thrive equally. I have not heard of many straight forward multiple pregnancies. 

    Physically I was bowled over only 5 weeks into my twin pregnancy with extreme tiredness, nausea and a host of other physical side effects. Most of my symptoms lasted the majority of the pregnancy, except the tiredness. Oh the tiredness, that has only seemed to subside now our twins are three years old. Sounding negative? No, twins were the best thing that has ever happened to me. To us. The greatest surprise that the universe could have delivered. I feel so lucky. Many many nights I have not felt so lucky. Caring for more than one baby, whilst trying to treat them as individuals, at the same time as maintaining a consistent routine, is exhausting. Relentless. I really know the definition of relentless. 

    Our family has gained an extra child that perhaps may not have been proactively conceived. You see our little twin boys already had two older brothers before them. When I say older, they were only two and four when I discovered I was pregnant with twins. What a day that was. We now have four delightful, delicious little boys that we get the privilege to raise. The older brothers were perhaps asked to do more, to be more patient, to be less jealous than they would have liked. Than they would have had to be, had it not been for the twins arrival. 

    But now they each have three brothers to fight with, to laugh with, to discover with and hopefully to protect them through life. It makes me feel fantastic that I have given them this gift. In time, I hope they all realise it was their greatest gift too. 

    My friendships have been tested and I have seen another side to people that I would not have otherwise. I know what a fair weather friend is now. I really know who the people are that I can count on. This will stand us all in good stead for the years ahead. Looking back on the last three years of mayhem, sleeplessness, forgetfulness and anti sociability, I can reflect on all of the hard work our little team has put in. As individual gestures, all of the ‘favours’ my beautiful friends and family have done for us seem small. We could not have survived so well without them. They rose to the challenge with us and when you look back on life, that is what is important. Having twins gave us that unity. 

    The extra stress that raising multiples puts on a relationship is well documented. Who has done the most night shifts and who has left the house the least, become the daily battleground. Mums of multiples can resent their partner as they seem to skip out of the house each morning into the fresh air of their day unfolding. Their day when they only have themselves to think about and they can eat, socialise and even go to the toilet alone. When you are surrounded by children and an endless list of daily chores, it is really hard not to resent the life that they lead away from your home. 

    A rainy day stuck inside with twin toddlers teaches you patience. 48 hours straight caring for sick twins teaches you resilience. Constantly doing boring things for other people teaches you humility. Having multiples in your family teaches you gratitude. For any parent, they understand the pure joy they receive from watching their children thrive. With twins, it really is more than double the love. It has to be, no Multiple Mummy would survive without it. 

    So for all of those horrendous nights, those thousands of dirty nappy changes, the never-ending feeds, the unrelenting washing pile, the fights, the missed weddings, the loss of time with my other children, I really have gained. I am different to before. Not in a way that most can see, but in a way that is far more important than that.