Thursday, December 22, 2016

iFly Perth is here and it is even more awesome than it looks

This is a C2 post - gifted experience
For full details please see my disclosure policy

I got to head to the launch of indoor skydiving facility iFly Perth this month and I spent most of the evening with my jaw hanging wide open in disbelief. I am now in the background of hundreds of photos looking like I'm catching flies. Attractive!

I was so awed by the set up and the performances of the skydivers (and they really were performances!) that I squealed and clapped like a kid at her very first circus. I couldn't quite believe what I was seeing.

Amazingly choreographed routines. Guys zooming around. Spinning up, up, up almost 15 metres off the ground in a vertical wind tunnel. Check these guys out:

I was going to call it ballet in the air, but the speed these professionals were flying it looked more akin to those 'wheel of death' motorcycle cages sans the motorbikes. In. Sane.

I came away from the party feeling pumped, and wondered if just watching others do it was so good, how extreme would it feel after I had a go?

So yesterday MapGuy and I headed to the brand spankin' new iFly Perth to find out. I can tell you, our first taste of indoor skydiving did not disappoint!

We suited up (almost attractive as my slack jawed stare on opening night) and had our introductory lesson from our instructor Danny, a highly experienced skydiver with around 520 jumps to his name. We learned how to hold our bodies, the hand signals used (you can't hear anything in the tunnel), and all the safety details.

Then it was go time.

Do you think orange is my colour?
There were six of us in our group ranging in age from three to mid fifties. Yeah, that wasn't a typo. One of my fellow students was a toddler. Because the speed of the wind in the tunnel is controlled in real time by another skydiver, it doesn't matter how big or small you are. Plus the instructor in with you has a level of fitness up there with elite athletes so they can help everyone from littlies to big burly blokes, all while being blasted with air.

It was brilliant.

Wendy, I can fly!
The feeling was so completely foreign that I had to work hard to concentrate on following Danny's hand signals, and I had no idea if I was putting my legs in the right spot or not because I couldn't really feel where they were, but his thumbs up said I was doing OK.

We each got two flights, the second of which was better because that unknown element was gone and I felt I could follow instructions better.

I can see my house from up here!
The wind blasting up my nostrils was a bloody weird sensation. They could legitimately add "complimentary sinus clean" to the list of services they offer.

There really was no down side to the experience. It's short, and there are options to go for longer, but the general time is the same as what you'd get with a freefall from 14,000 feet. Then you just pop out, let someone else have a turn and you're up again. No flight, no ear pressure worries, no parachute worries!

MapGuy was a natural
It's so controlled and it on top of actually being very safe, it felt safe - I wasn't scared at all, and at no time did I feel like I was about to drop out of the sky.

I don't know yet if it has made me want to jump out of a real plane, but I definitely want to go back and have another go. Even Tricky says he wants to have a go, so I've promised he can go for his birthday next year.

This is iFLY High and is $10 extra 
If you're stuck for a present, a voucher for experiences is always great, but indoor skydiving is just next level awesome.

iFly has locations in Sydney, the Gold Coast and Perth, and prices start at a very reasonable $89.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Shingle Bells

This absolute asshole of a year is almost over and I was just beginning to relax. I could see the proverbial finish line, and I was ready to slow motion run through the tape, crowd cheering and ticker-tape raining down. Chariots of Fire or Eye of the Tiger or some other inspirational bullshit music playing.

I had faith my birthday and Christmas would be the pinnacle of the year. A last ditch attempt from the universe to apologise for fucking up 2016 for almost everyone I know.

Instead, I find myself under a metric fuck tonne of stress as I go back and forth with school about a student making death threats to my Tricks and what seems like half the year one students, and the school now saying that the kids just need to stop reacting to the threats. Yeah, because a six year old should totally be able to remain stoney faced and stoic when told they are going to die. These kids still believe in Santa Claus and when their friends tell them they can do triple backflips while riding a motorbike. Grrrrr!

My nights are filled with reaching out to other parents, furiously researching who I can contact about this ongoing bullying (as the school is implementing safety plans... then not fucking following them) and worrying constantly about the psychological effects of sustained death threats to an entire bloody year group by one student.

Earlier in the year it would have been my mind that gave up and I'd be rocking in a corner.

This time though, with my mind so much stronger, this whole fiasco is manifesting physically. It is, quite literally, getting on my nerves instead.


Fucking Shingles. But you guessed that from my hilarious and oh-so-cliche post title, didn't you?

There will be no ticker-tape and slow motion run. There will be no inspirational music. Just "All the Shingle Ladies" on repeat for the next two-four weeks. 

I'm in a lot of pain and feeling pretty damn sorry for myself, but luckily I was at the doctor getting anti viral meds within hours of the rash appearing, so fingers crossed it isn't as bad as it could be.

I've been given Oxycodone because "this will be really bad over the next few days". So along with the pity party for one, I'm also a bit delirious and struggling to keep my eyes open. Perhaps I should employ MG as proof reader of my official emails before I hit send, lest I end up with expletive laden correspondence. 

So to 2016 I say, on behalf of so many, fuck you. Don't let the door hit you on the way out... and once you're through the door, fall down the stairs. Break your leg. Get concussed. Go to hospital and while you're there get MRSA. Because that is how highly I think of you. 

Friday, September 16, 2016

Even Mummy Cries

This is an S3 post - I received these books for review purposes
For full details please see my disclosure policy

I saw a meme once that said "My only goal as a mother is to raise children that don't have to recover from their childhood" and it really resonated with me as I am in the continual process of recovering from mine.

I wish trauma wasn't part of my background, but knowing its far reaching effects first hand has guided my parenting choices for the better, in a "do almost every thing the opposite" kinda way. I don't think I'm at the point of being thankful for being fucked up, but I might get there one day. 

When I had my breakdown earlier this year I was conscious of not scaring (and scarring) the kids, but also letting them know what was happening. They're not stupid. Kids can tell something is up no matter how hard you try to hide it and it just makes everything uncomfortable; an elephant in the room that everyone is deathly afraid to mention. 

I let them see me cry a few times because what message am I sending them if I say its OK for them to cry but not me? We sheltered them from the big, ugly stuff, but I let them know that yeah, mum's sad right now.

I needed them to hear that it was nothing they did that made me sad, and that I was taking some medicine to help my brain the same way that Tricks takes medicine to help his lungs. They were allowed to ask me anything and I would answer as honestly (and age-appropriately) as possible. Tricky had some questions, but Bobbin is too young right now and was just happy with cuddles and tickles.

One of the resources I've used recently is the book Even Mummy Cries by Naomi Hunter (available through Empowering Resources). 

It is a great starting point for an important conversation. It alludes to mental illness, but never uses the specific words, so it could be helpful with a range of mental diagnoses (although Dr Glow is suspecting the mum in the book is bipolar). When it showed the Mum sleeping a lot, Tricks was all "that's what you did!". He was able to recognise the behaviours of the Mother and see himself in the children and I think it helped him to know that it wasn't just his mum acting all strange.
The book, with its beautiful illustrations by Karen Erasmus, will let you ease in to talking about big feelings and how they influence our lives, whether you experience mental illness or not. They'll be learning acceptance without even knowing it. It's the literary version of smuggling veggies in to spag bol. 

With these frequent, small discussions about mental illness I hope my kids grow up knowing it's nothing to be ashamed of, scared of, or hidden away. That they understand their Mum's mental illness, and that of others, is just as real as diabetes or broken bones. Basically I don't want them to grow up to be assholes who carry on the stigma. 

I believe that being open and honest with kids is important, so we have read the other books from Empowering Resources too, A Secret Safe To Tell a gentle story that covers body safety, and You're Different, Jemima that encourages kids to celebrate their differences. But Even Mummy Cries is the one that seems like it was written for us, so I have a soft spot for it. 

How do you approach the big conversations with your kids?

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Alice in Wonderland birthday party on a budget

Alice in Wonderland birthday party ideas

I am a sucker for a themed birthday party. There is just something about everything coordinating that makes my obsessive compulsive brain sigh with happiness. But it doesn't have to cost the earth, especially if you make the food part of your decorations and use things from around the house.

I chose the theme of Alice in Wonderland for one reason: Bobbin received a little Alice costume from her Aunty Kitty for Christmas. I couldn't resist.

First things first we had to show Bobbin the movie to make sure she actually liked it, and PHEW! she did because otherwise we'd be screwed. So what is a themed party without a themed invite? On to PicMonkey I went with a couple freesource Alice images and the text from a page out of the book and voila!

Then it was on to sourcing all things Alice to decorate on a budget. I was after a whimsical feel, wanting the guests to feel like they had stepped in to Wonderland for the afternoon.

Alice in Wonderland birthday party ideas

Off to the Op Shop I went to grab some adorable little tea cups. I bought one set of four for $3.00 and a single tea cup for $2.00 from one shop but then at the next shop I loved another set of four so I grabbed that too, for $3.20. It meant I had extra in case of breakages - these are three year olds remember! - and because it was from an Op Shop, the money was going to a good cause. The girls thought it was the best thing ever to have real tea cups filled from a real tea pot!

I headed to Kmart (of course) and grabbed some small metal flamingos for $1 each that are technically garden decorations, but I thought they'd be perfect - remember the croquet scene? The plants, bunnies, and serving trays were things I had around the house. Who doesn't have ceramic bunnies around the house?

The most expensive part of Operation Alice was spray painting the IKEA Mammut stools to look like toadstools. It wasn't a necessity, but I've been meaning to do it since we got them from a swap meet a few years ago. Plus the table, which I got from kerbside rubbish last month, was old and faded and really needed a spray.

I used the Rust-Oleum 2X Ultra Cover in gloss white and gloss Apple Red at $11.95 each from Bunnings which go on to plastic really well. I coated each chair with white first, then cut out and placed randomly shaped blobs of cardboard on to the top before spraying over with one coat of Apple Red. They didn't turn out perfectly because I was a bit short on time, but they looked good enough for me, and cemented the Wonderland feel.

I decided to put the party in to Bobbin's bedroom rather than a corner of the back yard because the decorations all close together are so much more effective. I grabbed a two pack of cards from the local cheap things shop for $2.50 and pulled out some old fishing line from the craft drawer to make card bunting to hang from her ceiling. I made four strands with 20 cards on each, and hung them from the corners of the room to the fan in the centre. It looked so good!

On the window sill I placed three black photo frames with Alice in Wonderland silhouettes I'd printed out as a gift for Aunty Kitty last year... yep, she loaned them back to us when she found out the party theme! Plus she let us borrow a movie poster and a little Alice book we placed on the food table.

Alice in Wonderland birthday party ideas

To add a bit of cheer to the walls I made some "rose bushes" out of cardboard, and adorned them with crepe paper "roses". There were three with red roses and one with white roses, and as soon as Bobbin saw them she started sing "We're painting the roses red". Winning! She got the reference! 

Alice in Wonderland birthday party ideas

We brought in the Queen Anne dresser to be the food table, as is usual for parties around here. I saw it on the side of the road a few years ago and it was in such amazing condition I thought it couldn't possibly be out for the taking, so I knocked on the door and the man said it was! His daughter had long ago grown up and moved out and he was clearing out all her old stuff. He even helped me load it in the car. I got it home, painted it up and put some new handles on it with the help of my Aunty, and it's been a great piece ever since.

Alice in Wonderland birthday party ideas

I covered the table in the playing cards left over from the bunting, and little quotes from the book/movie I'd made using PicMonkey and printed out including "we're all mad here", "six impossible things before breakfast", "curiouser and curiouser", "this watch is exactly two days slow", and of course, "eat me"! It was a food table after all.

Alice in Wonderland birthday party ideas

I cut some flowers from a gigantic straggly bush on the side of the road, then covered the dresser with them. Stuffing them in the drawers and some on top for good measure, plus I pulled out some empty jars for vases and had them all around the room. It made such an impact and cost nothing. 

Alice in Wonderland birthday party ideas

I ordered the "Eat Me" cake topper from eBay for a few dollars and it took five weeks to arrive - ordering early is key for online purchases! I added some paper bunting to the top of the cake, too, which I grabbed at Target for around $3. The cake itself was three Woolworths mud cakes ($4 each) that I levelled out and stacked together. The icing went all wrong - too thick at first and then I thinned it down. Big mistake. HUGE. It was then too runny and I didn't have any more icing sugar to thicken it. Not gonna lie, I cried a bit.

For party food I used a white bread plate and a borrowed three tier serving tray. I served fairy bread (duh), cupcakes with rainbow icing (because at 2am I couldn't sleep and figured I would try something new) and Dr Oetker rice paper butterflies (from Woolworths $2.50 for a pack of 12), two punnets of strawberries, a punnet of blueberries, and a few Tic Toc bikkies because they suited the Alice theme so well! 

Alice in Wonderland birthday party ideas

We only had two activities for our tea party guests; we decorated some plain biscuits with Dr Oetker glitter icing pens, sprinkles, mini M&Ms and little jubes; and pass the parcel. If you've ever played with three year olds, is a lot of effort ensuring everyone is actually passing said parcel and not ripping it open the second they get their hands on it. Each layer had a mini icecream eraser that they loved and only cost $1 for the whole packet. The rest of the time the girls were free to just play with toys and have a tea party.

Each guest got a take home goodie bag with their name pegged on to it (photo at the top with the tea cups). They contained a sheet of stickers, a Freddo frog, a pack of sultanas and a little necklace with a tiny metal key or mushroom and vial saying "Drink Me" or "Eat Me". Another eBay find for $1.80 each!

Alice in Wonderland birthday party ideas

It was such a lovely tea party, and I adored the way the room came together. So much so it is still set up nearly a week later! We have had a mini tea party in there every day since because who can resist the pull of those toadstools and a room bursting with flowers?

Friday, August 26, 2016

Letter to Bobbin - three years old

With your milestone photo doll. Not shown: the black paint on her back when you got "creative".
To read previous birthday and milestone posts click here.

Oh hey there, Bobbin!

Happy THIRD birthday! Three is a wonderful number, my favourite in fact, so I am going to assume that three is going to be a wonderful age. *shifty eyes* You're going to be three-rific, OK? No threenagers here!

No one can make me laugh quite like you can. Your comedic timing is perfect, albeit accidental since you know, you're a toddler.

"You're funny"
"No I'm not, I'm Bobbin" you reply, deadly serious. We can call you Bobbin, and only Bobbin or you tell us off. You tell us off for lots of things, actually. It is very hard not to laugh at your cranky face.

You have an answer for everything, too.

"What's that?" you ask, pointing to my wedding ring.
"It's my wedding ring, it says I'm married to dad." I tell her.
"No it doesn't. It doesn't talk. It doesn't have a talking bit." you state.
"That's rich coming from someone who forgot the word for mouth."

Previously when you woke up in the middle of the night you would always call out for Dad, which was more than fine by me, but lately you want just me. Which you make blatantly obvious by calling out "NOT YOU DAD!" instead of the standard "Mum". I suppose it gets your point across, but dude, you gotta work on your tact a bit. Your poor Dad feels a little rejected, but he gets to sleep so he's not that phased.

You started day care in March and you absolutely love it. You started in the toddler room but because of your language skills and confidence you moved up to the three year old kindy room within a few weeks. You've managed to wrap all the carers around your finger - no surprise there. Most day care days you still get a little unsure, and sometimes you will even have a few tears, but you wipe them away and say "I'll see you when you come back, Mum" and blow me a kiss. You seem so grown up, I can't believe you are only turning three today.

You are super independent, to the point where it takes us a while to get anywhere because you have to do everything yourself and if we help you, you get upset and have to start again. So it's easier to just let you do it yourself. We have a lot of fun going out together, but we can 'butt heads' if we are stuck at home. I'm stubborn and feisty, and you're a mini me.

Your dress sense is very eclectic. Sometimes you will come out in the cutest, super funky outfits, and other times in what can only be described as "homeless chic". Most days you have to have something yellow in your outfit because it's your favourite colour ever. I know this because you tell me at least six times per day.

You are loving and cuddly when you're happy, but like to handle things solo at other times, refusing cuddles if you are upset or injured, even to the point of saying "I'm not going to cry". I don't know where that comes from, your brother and I are all for the cathartic cry!

Meltdowns are pretty huge around these parts lately, and I'm surprised the neighbours haven't commented yet. You can scream like a banshee! Once I tried to match your pitch to see if I could distract you out of it... it worked, but made Tricky cry because he'd never heard me scream before. Oops. Mother of the year, here!

You have an Alice in Wonderland party coming up this weekend, but you are actually more in to The Boxtrolls and The Little Prince right now - perhaps I shouldn't have shown you them before your birthday? Oh well, the party is kinda for me because I like themes!

Have a brilliant birthday, my clever cookie, I love you so much.

Mama x

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Goodbye, breastfeeding

It's World Breastfeeding Week and Bobbin has chosen this time to self wean. The irony is not lost on me.

She has been in the process of weaning for many months now, at times going a full week without a feed. But this time we are at two weeks, and it feels like it is forever.

I've been pregnant, breastfeeding or both for seven years straight.

I could see our breastfeeding journey was coming to an end soon, or, more accurately, I could feel it was nearly over.

Bobbin's latch has been changing. Some days she would be fine and other days she would treat my nipple like a straw and not surprisingly, would get very little milk as a result. If it had been a few days between feeds, she would take a few tries to get her latch right, as if she was forgetting how to do it.

We have been down to one feed a day, just first thing in the morning to allow us all to sleep a little longer, for a long time now. There's been a few random day time feeds when she has been sick or upset, but it's not her go-to.

I'm surprised how similar the two weanings have been despite the different circumstances. Tricky weaned at around two and a half years because when I got pregnant my minimal supply dropped off and it freakin' hurt every time he latched, so I started refusing some feeds and he would shrug his shoulders and have a drink of water instead. Then he just stopped asking. It was all very painless, at least for him. I, on the other hand, felt like someone was slicing my nipples off with razor blades for those last months when pregnancy made them so sensitive.

Bobbin is just shy of three, so she has fed a few months longer than her brother, but the gradual, no fuss weaning has been almost identical. When she would hurt me with the incorrect latch I'd take her off and she'd quite happily take water, "Bobbin's milk" (soy in a bottle), or go and play. Then she stopped asking all together.

I'm glad they have both pretty much weaned in their own time, with only slight encouragement from me. It's been a gentle process and we've all adjusted well.

I always pictured myself breastfeeding my children, but at the beginning I never saw myself as a full term feeder. I guess because I'd never seen it before. It was only the blog world and the interwebs that taught me it was even a thing, and when my kids hit twelve months and were still very reliant on their "mum cuddles" (Tricky) and "mum milkies" (Bobbin) the idea of forcing them to switch to the milk of a different mammal seemed bizarre. So they kept nursing and I just went with what they wanted.

I'm not sad that it's over, though. I don't pine for those moments, though I look back on them with such fondness. Tiny hands grabbing at my shirt, little fingers exploring my face, that milk drunk face. Then as they got older, that immediate calm that would come over them when they fed, no matter what was happening around them - immunisations, blood tests and even removal of stitches. They were super boobs and could solve any problem.

It has been the cliche honour and privilege to be able to breastfeed my children and donate milk to premature babies. It hasn't been easy (nipple staph infection anyone?) but it has been worth it for us.

But I'm done. And I'm happy.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Six Months Alcohol Free

Just before Christmas 2015 I bought a bottle of Baileys. It had been such a long time since I'd had it, normally opting for whichever wine was on special (oh, $5 cleanskins, thankyouverymuch) as I was less concerned about matching alcohol to food as I was to mood. Rough week? Wine. Shit of a week? Bourbon.

So I grabbed this bottle of Baileys and had myself a glass of the stuff on ice. Oh it was good. So I had another and I forced myself to watch as the creamy liquid swirled between the iceblocks and coated them, rather than just gulping it down. It's so hard to go slow when it tastes like a heaven flavoured milkshake. 

It took a week for me to finish the bottle. Now, there are only 9.4 standard drinks in a bottle of Baileys (compared to a bottle of bourbon which has around 20) so it wasn't like I'd been binge drinking every night, but the idea of having finished a bottle of spirits to myself in a week really put me off.

I'd been feeling a little low in recent times (a huge event in November was the very start of what became my downhill freefall earlier this year) and the combination of feeling down and finishing a bottle of Baileys sent alarm bells going off in my head. 

There are a few alcoholics in my family. And a few who aren't technically alcoholic but drink more than is healthy. 

I looked at the empty bottle and wondered if this was where it all started? Would feeling a little down and having a few festive drinks turn in to feeling down and having a few New Years drinks? Then continue on to be feeling a little down and having a few too many drinking for drinking sake drinks?

I didn't want that to be me. 

So on the 30th of December I decided to set a personal goal of twelve months alcohol free. Starting immediately.  

I can't tell you why I chose twelve months, it just seemed like a good number at the time and I sure as hell can't explain why I decided two days before New Years would be a good time, having to test my resolve straight off the bat.

Today marks six months and I've not had a drop of alcohol in that time. I know, I'm just as shocked as you are.

I've still been to parties and pubs, but I've stuck to water or diet cola. I tell ya, you don't realise how much drinking is a part of our culture until you're the only one (or one of only a few) not drinking. I have a new appreciation of people who choose not to drink and a helluva lot of respect for recovering alcoholics surrounded by their demons seemingly wherever they go.

Most people are surprised to hear I'm doing it. Even though I was never a massive drinker, I was partial to a few glasses of wine once a week, especially if there was cheese and crackers on offer too. And let's not forget that on a rare night out with friends sans kids I would be very economical with my drinking - a glass is $7.60? Buy the bottle for $20, it's better value! Shall we split another one? Why not, we never go out! 

It hasn't actually been that hard and I honestly can't say I miss it all that much. I do miss the sense of relaxation though, and have had to find new ways to unwind. Unfortunately my go to anti anxiety tool right now is to eat my worries away, so hello muffin top and hello #glowgetsFAT. But my weight is not a priority right now, my mental state is.

I don't think I'm particularly healthier for having done this for six months, particularly given the whole eating my feelings thing (FYI they taste like chocolate), and I don't predict to be a beacon of health at the end of twelve months, but I feel great that I've stuck to something for half a year. I feel even better for sticking to it during what has probably been the most challenging few months of my life, complete with nervous breakdown

So I've succeeded for six months, let's see if I can go another six months. 

Have you given up anything? How long did you last? What did you do instead?

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Is compassion a mental illness?

I was at the doctor's office the other day getting checked out for my unrelenting phone-sex-voice-inducing laryngitis. I usually don't go to the doctor for physical things so it wasn't surprising for my doc to move on to my mental health after she'd checked out my throat.

"How is your mood going?" she asked.

"It's pretty good, I've been having some really good days!" I replied excitedly. "But when I do have the awesome days, the effort I put in to seeming normal is exhausting and I'll often sleep all day after to recover, but on the whole, I'm soooo far from where I was!"

"Well that's moving in the right direction. What about your anxiety?" she added.

"It's not great. But my anxiety is mostly about actual things and it doesn't stop me doing things."


"Well, the federal election, Brexit, Trump, violence toward the LGBT community. The world seems to be in such a state of upheaval and it worries me what is going to happen next."

"That shows me your state of mind is still out of whack. You live in Australia but are worried about shootings in America and xenophobia in England, it doesn't make sense.

I left feeling really strange. I quite like this doctor, she's been very helpful and gone above and beyond trying to help me through my recent breakdown. She's smart, caring, non judgemental, and genuinely kind. But I respectfully disagree with her on this one.

I don't think feeling upset over the state of the world is a sign of mental illness. It isn't stopping me going about my day at all, it doesn't negatively influence how I act, but it is on my mind.

We are global citizens. What happens overseas impacts Australians. It impacts my life and the lives of my children.

The flux of racial hatred from some pea brains in the UK who hadn't thought to read what Brexit actually was and assumed it was about shutting down borders and tossing out immigrants, gave power to others who share the same small-minded thoughts on immigration and refugees. Just look at #postrefracism on twitter for truly horrifying examples. And the amount of Australians who said we should be next was staggering.

The overseas cheers and congratulations from the homophobes after the Orlando shooting at Pulse nightclub spurred an outpouring of love worldwide, but not enough to drown out the cascade of hate. Overhearing people at my local shops condoning the attacks because of the sexual orientation of the deceased filled me with disgust.

It hurts my heart to see so much hatred. So much fear. And I have genuine concern for the world my children are going to inherit. I don't think that makes me mentally ill. It influences my vote, who I am friends with, who I choose to spend time with, what charities I support, and how I raise my kids, but it doesn't make me huddle in a ball afraid to leave the house. However I am a person with mental illness so perhaps I'm not the one to make the call on what is or isn't bat shit crazy.

When did caring what happens to other people, being compassionate, wanting for a better world, become mental illness? 

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Letter to Tricky - Six years old

Happy birthday, Buddy!!!

Little dude, you are six years old today. SIX.

You are in year one and loving every minute of it. You're the youngest in your class but have managed to get in the top numeracy and literacy groups. The nerd lyf chose you it seems.

I love all the notes you write and watching you figure out how to spell things is fascinating. Like the time you tried to spell Mercedes and wrote "msady's". Sah cute! You label everything you draw, a trait that means I will keep the label maker away from you or I'm sure to come home to you having labelled the dog.

Boundary pushing and selective listening are two of your favourite hobbies it would seem. I'm told it's normal for your age, but geez where did my lovely, reasonable boy go? You're growing up and asserting your independence, and I do love that, but sometimes I find it hard when getting ready for school takes seventeen reminders, a chart, and threatening to leave without you before you'll put your bloody shoes on. It's OK though, you'll figure it out... won't you?

Scooting at the skate park is high on your list of awesome things to do, and you got a new scooter and helmet this morning so I'm sure we'll be back at the ramps very soon to christen them. You can manage a few jumps and apparently they have cool names but I don't know what they are.

You started Auskick last month and you freakin' LOVE it. I wasn't sure how you'd go because previously you've considered yourself a master at any given sport after two minutes and then refused to play any more. But your team is almost exclusively made up of your school friends, and you all play together really well.

Every day after school you and your mates kick the ball around, and then when we get home you want to practise more, so lately you're out in the yard until it gets chilly, kicking over and over again. You're not what I'd call a natural athlete, but the effort you put in is amazing and you have come so far from not being able to do anything to having a pretty nice kick for a newbie.

You've kicked two points - the first time because you didn't know that the goal was the middle part (oops, my bad) and the second time because there were people in front of the goal and you didn't want to hurt them.

You are still a sweet, sensitive little man and will often tear up in movies, even crying at happy endings because you're so pleased it all worked out. Your level of empathy is astounding and it has helped you understand what has been going on with me lately.

Recently you wrote me a note saying you were glad I was getting my 'joy' back and it was so touching. I've explained my depression to you using Pixar's Inside Out as a starting point and you seem to understand it really well. I let you know that I take medicine to help my brain, the way you take medicine to help your lungs, and I'm hoping being open and age-appropriately honest with you will mean you never stigmatize someone with mental illness or abilities different to your own. I've hidden a lot from you, my boy, but I know you can feel what is going on and I'm so proud of you for how you've handled it.

We went camping for the first time as a family recently and it was so great so we'll be going again soon. You loved it so much and haven't stopped talking about it. You rode your bike from sun up to sun down and pretty much only came back to the tent when you were hungry. You had a massive stack and got blood everywhere which you thought was pretty cool after it had stopped hurting. It was wonderful to see you talking to new people and you declared that making friends was the best bit about the whole trip. There may have been something in my eye after you said it.

You had a disco party last night and you declared it the best party ever. Probably because dancing to loud music with the coloured lights flashing in the darkness at what should be bed time is so out of the norm. You had some lovely friends over and were very lucky to receive some amazingly thoughtful gifts.

It's gonna be another great year, dude, I can feel it. Your confidence is developing so much and I can't wait to see what happens. I promise we'll wag a school afternoon again soon and get up to mischief together.

Love Mum xxx

Friday, May 6, 2016

It's just a colour

The other day at school drop off I witnessed Tricky being teased. I'm sure kids have been mean to him before, but it was the first time I'd ever seen it happen.

We were hanging around the classroom door, waiting for it to open and a few girls in his grade were there too. They were all chatting and laughing, having a nice time.

Then the mood shifted when one girl, who is usually lovely, noticed Tricky's pink water bottle.

"Errrrr, you've got a PINK water bottle!!! Girls, look, Tricky has a PINK water bottle!" she squealed.

Tricks tried spinning around so the girls couldn't see his water bottle on the side of his back pack, but the three of them pounced on him and stopped him from turning. They weren't being violent, they were just mucking around.

"Let me see! It's PINK!!!" they laughed.

He made some funny faces at them and they lost interest in the water bottle, but as a groups of kids are want to do sometimes, they picked something else.

"And you don't have any freckles! That's so weird!" The girl said.

The other girls crowded around his face to have a look. Their freckled noses scrunched up with sun damage and scrutiny.

Tricks looked rather confused and asked who wanted to play chasey. They all said yes and off they went.

It was bizarre standing there, watching it unfold. I didn't want to step in, I wanted to see how he would handle it without me. I'm a fan of kids working out their own issues with guidance rather than mum stepping in every time to fight their battles, and since this was a low level teasing I felt it was a good introduction to standing up for yourself.

That he tried to make them laugh shows he's my kid. Humour is my weapon of choice. That he tried to change the subject also shows he's my kid. If my first weapon doesn't work, running away is my only other strategy. But I want him to have more.

When the doors opened we walked in and had a chat.

"What did those girls say about your water bottle?"

"They made fun of me because it was pink. Maybe I should get a new one?"

"You chose that water bottle because it's your favourite colour. Do you think someone who isn't hurting someone should change what they're doing, or do you think someone who is teasing someone should change what they're doing?"

"I think the person teasing shouldn't tease."

"Yep. And what can we say if someone says they don't like our pink water bottle?"

"It's just a colour! There's no such thing as boys and girls colours!"

"Right on, little guy! If that is your favourite colour, then it doesn't matter what other people say."

We did our usual kisses on his hands (so he can place his hands on his cheeks during the day if he feels like he needs a kiss from mum), and as I left he ran off to play with his friends.

All day I wondered if I'd done the right thing by not intervening. Should I have stepped in? Should I have said something at the time? Mentioned it to the girls' mums? They would have been mortified that their children were teasing and would have told them off. Or was holding back and arming him with words and reason the way to go?

Tricks has grown up in an environment where we try not to gender toys and accept that toys are for playing with and pretending with, no matter what colour they are or who they are aimed towards. He loves Lego, cars, plays rough and tells poo jokes. Other times he nurtures dolls and is Brozen - a bro who likes Frozen. His favourite colour is pink and he wants to be an army officer when he grows up.

He's a wonderful mixture of masculine and feminine but I realize that he could seem weird to some people who are only used to rigidly defined gender roles.

So I equip my boy with strategies to use when someone teases him and hope for the best in a schoolyard that can be cruel sometimes. It's just a colour. Although in my head I'm shouting inappropriately at a six year old "It's just a fucking colour and it's called sunscreen, bitch!".

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Heartache and help

I have this heart condition.

I've had it for years but it's been pretty good for such a long time now that I don't see anyone for it. I was discharged about 18 months ago from from my follow up program because I was doing so well. Hooray for me.

Except recently, this heart condition flared up.

I was really ill.

So I did what I was always told to do when I felt like my heart was going to give out and headed to my GP for a referral to a specialist. 

My 'emergency referral' got me an appointment a MONTH away.

I knew I wouldn't be able to last a month with my heart like this. Doing it's own thing, getting sicker by the day. I'd be dead in a week. The specialist said go to the emergency department in the meantime.

A friend took me to the ED on a Monday night and I was assessed. Yes, my heart was just about to give out, but since I had kids they didn't think it would give out any time soon. 

I didn't understand. What does having kids have to do with it? No medication was started, the nurse said it was because I might have an anaphylactic reaction to it and they didn't want to be responsible for that. Um, OK?

I was left by myself for a while, then discharged alone at midnight having been promised that a referral to Hospital in the Home (HITH) had been made, and that it was HITH that would take care of my heart with medication. 

At home my heart got sicker, but I waited, thinking HITH would come and help me soon. We got referrals to three private heart hospitals and two public, putting our eggs in as many baskets as we could. Hoping there would be space somewhere. That someone would help my poor heart.

We learned that the private heart hospital would charge us $420 per day for me to stay there, after my private health had paid. And that that wouldn't cover specialist fees or medications. You have to be rich to be sick, it would seem, even in Australia. 

MG had two weeks off work to look after me and the kids because I couldn't get out of bed let alone be an actual parent. I've been absent from school drop offs and using the last of my energy to do a few fun things with the kids, wondering all the while if today would be the day that my heart would give out totally. If today would be the day I left my kids without a mother.

MG made a stack of phone calls to the hospital and was put through to all sorts of departments. Some had no record of me, some said the referral was pending, others said it had never been sent. There were no straight answers and we could never speak to the same person twice. 

Finally, at the end of the week MG got through to the correct person by pure chance and we learned that the HITH referral had gone through and been rejected as they didn't have any room.

I'd been desperately waiting for this "virtual bed" and no one had told us it wasn't available, and they hadn't referred on to another service like they should have.

So me and my heart were just left to fend for ourselves, desperate for medication, clinging on for dear life, back to square one as if we hadn't asked for help at all. 

I took another trip to the ED the following Monday as my heart had become much, much worse. I was finally seen by the heart team who noticed that they hadn't been called to see me last time when they should have been. They were so lovely. They said they had a bed upstairs on the heart ward for me and even gave me a starting dose of medication and had no idea why the previous nurse told me I couldn't have it.

But then, as quickly as it was given, the bed upstairs was taken away. Someone else needed it. There are lots of broken hearts, all needing help.

And as quickly as the bed upstairs was taken, so was my cubicle in emergency. I was now on a stretcher in the corridor.

Hours passed. A nurse checked on me once to find my heart was in a very bad way, I told them it hurt more than I could ever remember it hurting. He called over to another nurse and a passing doctor rolled his eyes and said "ugh, of course her heart hurts" then, trying to imitate my voice said "somebody pay attention to me".

I broke down. I couldn't believe I was being mocked for asking for help. 

I was informed that they'd stopped looking for a bed for me since all the receptionists would stop work in an hour, and that they would try again tomorrow... that I could spend the night on the stretcher in the corridor and try to get some sleep.

Have you ever been on stretcher in a emergency department corridor? Sleep is not really forthcoming. There were five or six empty bays that we could see from that corner of the corridor, but I wasn't allowed one of them, they were for "sick people" who would come in through the night, not for those with sore hearts.

MG and I decided I would be better in my own bed and tried to discharge but the doctor wouldn't let us. He kept saying "you're in a bed in a hospital" whenever MG or I mentioned the words stretcher or corridor.

We asked to talk to someone higher up. A few nurses (all lovely) came by to try and convince me to stay, but we again requested to leave. Being surrounded by so much trauma was making my heart hurt even more at this stage.

Finally, a nice doctor came to us and agreed that a corridor stretcher wasn't really ideal and said that it was likely I'd be waiting on that stretcher for four to five days for a bed to become available in the heart ward, and it might be better if I went home to wait it out.

I signed the forms and was discharged.

At home over the coming days we chased more referrals. The hospital had actually sent the referral this time (hooray), but to the wrong centre (groan), so MG, acting as both nurse and personal assistant, kept calling as many places as he could. 

Most said call again later, or that they'd get back to us. Two weeks later we've only heard from one of those places (to say no), the rest still haven't returned our calls.

Finally, we decided that it was worth a shot showing up at the local community heart clinic, without a referral, to beg for help.

I almost wept with relief when they said they would fit me in.

An amazing nurse (are you sensing a theme here? nurses are awesome) took me through and my heart was examined. It was really, really sick, but I had gotten there just in time. He recommended a course of treatment, got it written up by the doctor, and let me know which additional services he was referring me to... and then actually referred me to them. 

He said that my case is far from uncommon and recommended I never go to that particular emergency room ever again. 

He referred me to HITH again so now I am in the community clinic and the Hospital in the Home - where nurses and doctors visit me daily to make sure my heart is OK and that the medication is kicking in. 

It took two weeks of begging, being told that I was an attention seeker, being discharged without care, two emergency room visits, four GP visits, endless phonecalls, the tireless work of MG and that one amazing nurse to get medication started; to get the care that I needed.

As I see how much effort it took to get medical care I can't help but think that everyday people like you and me would find this delay in treating a heart condition appalling. 

But go back and change "heart" to mental illness, and this is exactly what is happening. What happened to me these past few weeks. And it's happening everywhere and we just accept it. 

The stigma of mental illness in the community is greatly reducing, but it remains high in the hospital, the very place we are meant to go for help. Medical professionals not taking it seriously; mocking patients; not bothering to put in referrals; providing a lower standard of care than they would someone with a physical condition. 

It's time to stop accepting that this is just the way it is. It's time to stop punishing those with mental illness. It's time we realised that mental illness is just as real as a heart condition, diabetes, or a broken leg. 

Monday, March 14, 2016

Carrot + apple muffins - toddler approved!

Brought to you by Heinz
#S1 For full details please see my disclosure policy

What is with kids and liking food one minute and then acting like it poisonous the next?

It can change from week to week, even hour to hour at my place, and maaan it drives me mental some days. That's why I'm always after easy toddler recipes that hit the toddler food holy grail - delicious, nutritious and toddler approved trifecta!

These muffins are on high rotation at our place and so far they've never been refused! I'm always varying the ingredients slightly. Adding a handful of chopped nuts if they're not going to school, a sprinkle of seeds, a few sultanas here and there, or even adding some honey to make it sweeter when we have some sweet-tooth visitors coming over. But the basic recipe is as follows:

1 medium carrot - skin on, washed
1 small apple - skin on, washed (that's where all the good stuff is!)
2 eggs
1/4 cup oil or melted butter
1 packet of Heinz apple, blueberry and strawberry puree or any flavour you like!
1 cup wholemeal self-raising flour
1/4 cup honey
1/8 cup brown sugar - optional
1/8 cup oats - optional

Preheat your oven to 180C/350F
Grate your carrot and apple in to a mixing bowl, then add eggs, oil, Heinz puree and flour. If you are using honey, nuts, seeds or sultanas, add them in now. Mix until just combined.
Divide the batter evenly between 12 muffin cases
If using, combine brown sugar and oats and sprinkle over the top of each muffin.
Place in the oven for 15 minutes - have a peek at 12 minutes to make sure they're OK.

I like using the pouches of Heinz puree to add different flavours to our muffins to change it up and help prevent Bobbin becoming bored of the food I give her. I like that their apples, pears and peaches come from Goulburn Valley and are steam cooked in country Victoria.

These freeze really well and even though I say they're toddler muffins, I often put a frozen one in Tricky's school lunch box in the morning and it will be thawed by the time he eats it. MG will take one to work... if there are any left.

I like putting these in mini muffin tins sometimes so that they are nice and small for Bobbin to eat in two bites, reducing the chances of crumbs going everywhere. Also it lets her believe she is having two treats. SNEAKY!

For more easy recipes that hit the toddler trifecta, find Heinz and their quality products online and on Facebook.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Should kids have homework?

I was so saddened recently to hear that Tricky will be having homework set this year.

In year one.

I don't mean sharing a book with parents and siblings before bed - which has been shown to have a clear correlation to increased developmental outcomes, both emotional and academic - but worksheets and the like - which research shows has no academic benefit, particularly for children in lower primary school.

I keep being told that I should start preparing my child for highschool because he'll have lots of homework then. The kid hasn't even lost his first tooth yet and homework policy at schools around the country is dictating that he should be starting to knuckle down and get in the habit for something that won't be starting for another six years. Can he not just be a child for a while? Is the six hours at school a day not enough?

My argument was shot down recently by someone who used the old "failing to prepare is preparing to fail" argument and said by opting out of homework for my five year old I was disadvantaging him by not preparing him for highschool.

Prepare, prepare, prepare. It's all I hear.

Just so we're clear, we are talking about getting FIVE YEAR OLDS ready for highschool? Right. I think that can wait. Some countries, that have far greater average academic performance than Australia, don't even send their kids to school until they are SEVEN! There is plenty of time to teach our children study skills, but the time for them to play and be little is evaporating before our eyes.

Then the second he gets to highschool, if it was anything like my highschool, every day someone will mention preparing for university. What if he doesn't want to go to university? What if he wants to drive trucks, or be a carpenter, or join the circus? I remember my friends and I were at times terrified of not getting a high enough tertiary entrance score because it meant we'd never get in to uni which meant we'd never get a "good job" which meant we'd become homeless and we'd die alone and unhappy. A little extreme, but this is exactly how our teenage brains interpreted the pressure to get a first round uni offer.

I'm not against giving kids the tools they need in life, in fact I'd argue that I'm about giving them more tools, but why are we so fixated on preparing them for only one portion of their lives? Can we not cater to the whole child who will become a whole adult, not just a working robot? Someone who has relationships. A family. Interests. A fucking life!?

In the copious amounts of therapy that I've had (and believe me, it's a lot), I've learned that creating a balance between the big things in your life, the things that make you YOU, is imperative. Not just for the good times, but for the bad times - if your identity is based around one aspect of your life, like your career, and that one thing ceases to exist, well, you can be pretty fucked.

If I am my job, then who am I if my position is made redundant? Am I still worthy? Do I have enough of everything else in life, or has the loss of one sector annihilated my entire sense of self?

I don't want that for me (it was hard enough thinking it in highschool) and I certainly don't want that for my kids. I want them to know that life is more than just test results and careers. It's about love, and passion, and fun, and sadness, and heartache, and spirit, and playfulness, and family, and friends, too.

I don't want my child to come home and do more work.

I want my child to come home and pretend - to prepare his mind for creative thinking.

I want my child to come home and bake - to prepare him to cook when he leaves home.

I want my child to come home and play sport - to prepare his body for a healthy life that isn't just sitting down all day.

I want my child to come home and relax - to prepare him to find a work life balance.

I want my child to come home and be with his family - to prepare him to be with his own family.

I want my child to come home and socialise - to prepare him for all the different relationships he'll have over his lifetime.

So I bring back the saying here, again: To fail to prepare is to prepare to fail. By preparing our children to succeed at only one aspect of their lives... we are preparing them to fail at others.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Mind the gap (tooth smile) - with free printable tooth fairy receipt

This is a C2 post. There was no payment for this post.
For full details please see my disclosure policy
I'm worried. Really worried.

Tricky is getting to a certain age. It's happening to all his friends, and will soon be happening to him.

No, we're not talking puberty, he'll be LOSING TEETH!

Which means... GAP TOOTH SMILES.

Insert screaming and hysterical crying here. No, not his. Mine.

OK so maybe I exaggerate slightly, but while I can handle wobbly teeth (and remember terrorizing my own family by wiggling them around all over the place), I am not a fan of the resultant gap tooth smile.

There I said it.

I don't think it's cute. I think it's completely and utterly gross.

I can only assume this extreme dislike for lost teeth comes from my own journey to gapdom which started when I was a wee babe. My parents put me to bed every night with a bottle of juice or cordial or crystal meth or something like that, and I developed cavities which led to abscesses. Serious stuff. Stuff you should avoid at all costs by taking your kids to a great kids dentist in Perth (or your own city, duh).

So at the ripe old age of two, my two front teeth were surgically removed and thus started the singing of "All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth". Again and again and again. The tune can be cute once or twice. But let me tell you, the novelty wears off when it is sung to you for FIVE FREAKING YEARS.

Somewhat related: I actually talk differently to most people because I learned most of my words with my teeth missing, meaning I didn't get the temporary lisp that a lot of kids get when their two front teeth come out and leave a massive gap for their tongue to poke through. Mad skills.

Anyhow, back to what I was talking about. GAPS. I'll put on my best happy face, suck it up and be ready with my pom poms when Tricky gets his first wobbly tooth, and start figuring out exactly how he's going to lose those suckers that wobble for weeks but just don't wanna go.

According to Dr David Beecham, principal dentist at Aim Dental (also known as the dude that gave MapGuy his smile back - more on that another day), the old methods that you and I might have used to remove our wobbly teeth are now considered terribly naff by today's average five to seven year olds. And he would know, because his miniature clients tell him every day.

Here's what is in and what is out:

Three of those are just moving with the times, really. Tooth to string to door explodes in to the 21st century with tooth to string to something with three packets of batteries. But I'm not sure about the Nerf technique. Are we tying the tooth to the bullet or knocking it by firing bullets at kid's faces? Because NOTHING COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG THERE!

Tricks got a drone for Christmas (OMG who gives their five year old a drone? We do. These idiots over here) so I think we're going to have to go with the top ranking quad copter method. Keep an eye on YouTube, OK?

Despite my fear, I created two free printable tooth fairy receipts for you. Because I'm so giving, obvs. If you click the image below, you can download a sheet of three that you can print at home on an A4 page then cut up.

(Note to self: don't close editing program between versions or they'll end up slightly different sizes and annoy you SO MUCH).

I'm going to keep the filled out receipts in a scrap book that I'll probably never look through again, and throw out the teeth or donate them to the spray can factory... because that's not a myth, right? Or apparently you can also pay a shed load of money to have them cryogenically frozen for their stem cells. Nifty, but a little out of my price range.

If you use these I'd love it if you'd put a pic online and tag me :) I'm @glowless on Instagram 

You can also check 5 ways to avoid costly dental treatments for your kids over at Aim Dental.

Tell me your tooth stories - do you love the gap smile? Or do you hate it and want your child to wear a flipper like the kids on Tantrums and Tiaras? 

Monday, February 22, 2016

10 Fitness and Diet Trends that are Bullshit

Handing the blog over to my friend Zoey from Operation Move today! She's tops. You should listen to her because she knows her stuff (she runs marathons - freakin' MARATHONS, people!) and isn't afraid to call bullshit.

Over at Operation Move we are all about fitness. I love being a part of bringing it into people's lives and I love helping people get started. What I don't love so much is all the fitness and diet myths that tend to be pretty persistent. Most of the time, those myths just set people back and erode their self confidence. So before you start (or continue) on your path of finding your awesomeness in your fitness, here are some myths that are total bullshit.

1) The Cleanse and/or Detox
Actually your kidneys and liver do a pretty good job of this. You can't cleanse or detox your body with a combination of stimulants, laxatives and diuretics. What you can do is lose a bunch of water weight that you will put back on as soon as you start eating like a normal human.

2) Superior Diets
There is no magic bullet. It doesn't matter whether you go low fat, low carb, paleo, macro, low calorie, atkins or 5:2 - the comparative success of diets is about the same. So you are best off picking something that you like and are going to enjoy sticking to. Make it part of your lifestyle, rather than a diet and your long term results are going to make you much happier.

3) Toning
Toning is a word that's pretty much exclusively applied to women because apparently women don't like muscle. But that's exactly what toning is, it's building muscle. And rather than challenging female stereotypes, people who use the word 'tonging' pander to it.

4) Lean Muscle
There aren't two kinds of muscle (bulky muscle or lean muscle) there is just muscle and there is fat that covers it.

5) Spot Training
This is a persistent myth because everyone wants it to be true. But you can't crunch your way to flat abs. Although spot training will strengthen and build muscle in the area that you are training, it won't necessarily burn fat from that particular area covering it as fuel.

6) 1,200 Calories
I'm not sure where the idea of 1,200 calories came from but it is the quickest way to slow down your metabolism and make weight loss or really any other activity nearly impossible. Your metabolism will think you are starving and it will horde your fat like no one's business.

7) Bulking Up
You really don't have to worry about bulking up in terms of exercise as a woman. It is really hard work for women to gain muscle because of hormone levels, so if you happen to see women who are muscular and bulky - believe me it's on purpose.

8) Coconut Water
Yes coconut water has minerals that aid in re-hydration but they are in pretty trace amounts. By all means continue to drink coconut water if you enjoy it but it doesn't really have any major benefits in terms of rehydration.

9) War on Carbs
Carbohydrates are not your enemy. They fuel most of your activities, they help manage stress levels and boost your mood. And they have a range of other benefits including heart health, memory and blood sugar stabilisation. What can benefit you is switching from refined carbohydrates to whole grains and vegetables.

10) More is Better
It can be hard to wrap your head around but more exercise isn't always a good thing. That's because all of the fitness adaptation happens during rest and recovery and often short bursts of high intensity activities have a whole range of benefits that longer endurance sessions don't. So instead of thinking in terms of more, think in terms of a variety of things that you are going to enjoy with plenty of recovery time in between.

So instead of worrying about all of that, think about what kind of life you want and go from there. I love to run, but I refuse to accept a life that doesn't involve Friday drinks, pizza nights or pie. Because what's the point if you aren't having fun?

Special Offer for Readers: 20% off Learn to Run which starts on the 7th March. Learn to Run is a 12 week online coaching program that supports you every step of the way with accredited coaches, a supportive team and a private facebook group. Just use the code glow if you are paying upfront or glowplan if you want to use the weekly option.


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