Thursday, 30 September 2010

You can't do it with exercise alone

It is no surprise that I have been trying to shed some k(e)gs. I have an easier relationship with exercise than I do with food, so when I try to lose weight I generally start by increasing my activity.

I have been putting a fair bit of time into being more active, but my weight loss has been pretty slow. It has been a bit disheartening to be honest, so I decided to do a little research into the relationship between exercise and weight loss.

Firstly, the thing I found out is that you could only expect to lose about 150g a week from exercise alone. It takes a lot of exercise to shift even a small amount of weight.

So why should we bother? Why is exercising 'the right thing to do'?

Well, physical activity does burn kilojoules (KJ) - and those extra kilojoules will help you lose weight over time.

You will also be more likely to keep weight off if you exercise. Almost all successful dieters say that part of their success comes from exercise. On average they burn an extra 10,500KJ a week being active*,

And finally, being physically active has been shown to improve your mental outlook and boost self-confidence, both of which make it easier to stick to a diet.

So my take home message this week is: Don't stop exercising because you're not losing weight. Stay active and take another look at your diet (it always comes down to what we put in our mouths doesn't it?)

So this week I will be monitoring what I drink to make sure I am not wasting all that hard work on 'empty' KJs in the form of sweetened drinks like soft drinks, sports drinks or sugary tea or coffee, and readjusting my serving sizes to make sure they aren't getting bigger again without me realising.

* Source: Change One - The Breakthrough 12-Week Eating Plan by John Hastings

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Guest Post - Hey, Baby, What’s Your Sign?

Baby A, MandyE and Baby B
 I am so lucky today to have my blogging friend MandyE from the US doing a guest post today on Baby Sign language. Mandy and I have similar aged twins and I can tell you that this signing thing seems to work because her girls are chattering away like a pair of old Nannas. Not bad for 21 months! Over to you, Mandy…

As a mom to twin toddlers, now 21 months old, I often get the question, “What is the one baby item you could not have lived without?”

While I certainly have my favorite baby blankets and lullaby CD’s from the girls’ first few months, the real lifesaver for me over the past year has been teaching the girls the basics of baby sign language.

When I mention this to most people, they marvel how hard I must have worked to teach our girls, or some people comment that they tried it with their children, but just didn’t have success.

I knew very little about baby sign language when the girls were born, but I had heard enough that I knew it was something I wanted to explore. I bought a “how to” book online, and I’ll admit that the introduction – filled with examples of children naming every last zoo animal – was pretty daunting.

Still, I believed in the basic premise of baby sign language, that children have the capacity to communicate long before they have the ability to form words. I decided to focus on a few key words and phrases, ones I thought would really make my life easier…and if the girls eventually wanted to know the sign for “hippopotamus”, I’d figure that out when we got there.

By the time they were 18 months old, I’m proud (or at least amazed) to say that our girls in fact did know the sign for “hippopotamus”. It seems like once they grasped the concept of being able to convey ideas with their hands, they learned quickly…and suddenly they began to find a lot of joy in communicating.

Here are the keys to our success:

Identify a couple of key phrases to focus on. For me, those were “all done”, which I hoped would tell me when to stop coaxing the girls to eat their broccoli, and “sleep”, which I hoped would help avoid meltdowns from overtired babies.

Be consistent with using the sign every time you say the word or phrase. Starting when they were about eight months old, every time the girls would finish eating, I would declare, “All done!” I would make the sign, and I would physically move their hands to make the sign, as well. I consistently did this until they eventually caught on, around 10 months old.

Gradually expand the sign language vocabulary, using the most common words to the baby’s environment. After the girls had been successfully signing for a month or so, I opted to focus on two new words, “ball” (of which we have at least 115 in our den) and “bird”. Every time I picked up a ball, I would make the sign. And whenever we observed a bird through the window, or as we were walking in the neighborhood, I would flap my arms. I’m sure I looked a little nutty to the unindoctrinated, but the girls began to incorporate these signs after a couple of weeks. They would just beam when I would interpret their sign correctly.

We continued in this fashion, adding new words every couple of weeks. And by the time the girls were a year and a half old, they could have given a tour at the zoo…at least for those fluent in baby sign language.

Teaching the girls the first couple of signs did take some perseverance, but after that it seemed to evolve very easily. I am a big proponent of baby sign language helping to reduce the frustration that many infants and toddlers experience at not being able to communicate their needs and wants. And it’s definitely allowed us to have some great conversations…

Mommy, please, we’ve had enough spinach already! Hello…I’m tired…I would never fuss for no reason, ya know? Could you please hand me the ball that’s fallen behind the sofa? Come check out this squirrel peering through the window at me!

Granted, I’m filling in the blanks here just a bit, but baby sign language has been a lifesaver, and a lot of fun, to boot.

Have you tried Baby Sign Language with your kids? What were your experiences? What 'signs' would you like to teach your child to make life in your household a little easier?

You can find MandyE over at My Life as Described by Twin Trials and Triumphs where she blogs motherhood and life with twins...the joys, the challenges, and all the fun in between.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

20 year school reunion - preparation or what to wear??

I have my 20-year school reunion this weekend. The big question is: what do I wear?

Something like this?


You can't really go wrong with Classic, can you?
Or this?

Dressy jeans and top (bearing in mind that my legs look nothing like these pins!)
Comfortable and ideal for dance-floor moments, should the need arise.
Or something to stand out in the crowd?

A brightly coloured frock
As I own none of the above outfits, it will have to be my version of these basic themes.
What are your thoughts?

Monday, 27 September 2010

Have you seen the 'Dude'?

Back in 2004, the Geege and I had a trip around the world. We covered Ireland, the East Coast of Canada, New York and Denver, New Zealand and Fiji, visiting long lost friends and attending a wedding en route. It was the best fun. Our babymoon, as it turned out.

We took a travelling companion with us. We called her the 'Dude' and she looked like this:

Here she is on top of Centrepoint (in a book)

When we got to New York, after climbing the Empire State Building together

On top of NYC
 we decided to bury her in Central Park. We had friends who were travelling to NYC later that year and they promised to 'pick her up' for us. We hadn't fathomed that Central Park would be covered in snow in late November, so their attempt to recover her was unsuccessful.

And so, the Dude has been left in Central Park, near the Alice in Wonderland statue,

behind the fence to the right in this picture

buried approximately 5cm deep, somewhere in this photo.

Do you think you can help me find her?

Are you from NY? or do you know someone who is?

Do you think you (or your friend) could take the time to pop down to the Alice in Wonderland fountain and take a look for the 'Dude'?

Take a photo of her for me and post it on your blog and let me know that she is safe and sound?

And then, when you have your next travel adventure, take her with you and bury her somewhere.

Let people know where she is so that someone else may go and find her and continue her journey.

That was our intention with the Dude. She was to become a travel companion for others too. Only the New York winter beat us and so she has lay dormant for 6 years.

That is a lot of beauty sleep for an Hawaiian princess.

PS Many thanks to Design it Chic for my lovely photo borders. I followed her tutorial and managed to make myself some poo-brown techie heaven!

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Grateful to be Guest Posting

I don't normally post on Saturdays but Sister B has a 'grateful' linky over at her place today and I thought I would join in the festivities.

Today I am grateful to be guest posting over at A Dose of Dannie.

Come check out what I have to say about Managing a tribe. Or how do you do it?

PS If you are wondering what happened to my Blog Bookmarks posts, let me assure you that they will be back. One day when I get a few minutes to read more than one post a week :)

Friday, 24 September 2010

Generation Parent Coach

I never thought being part of Generation X would be kind of embarrassing, but when I think about us in the context of parenting my cheeks do get a little pink.

I've alluded to my intolerance of hyper-parenting and competitive parenting, but I think we are the ones who started these trends. Like everything we do, Gen X puts their heart and soul into parenting. But I think we lack confidence in our role and feel pressured by the responsibility of child-rearing. We by-pass the 'it takes a village' and do it all ourselves. We are less child-literate than our parents' generation was and have somehow turned childhood into an over-commercialised and highly organised business.

I met a parent coach the other night. The extremely lovely Fiona from who gave a talk to our Multiple Birth group.

The very existence of parent coaching had me in a bind.

On the one hand, she was amazing. She had tips and hints for all kinds of situations. Some things I had heard of before, some things were new and some used in a different way or in a context that I would never of thought of. In some ways I wanted to be her, with her calm manner, soothing voice and secret child instruction manual.

On the other hand, I was annoyed. I was annoyed that we live in a society that needs parent coaches. In a time where intuition has been sucked out of so many parents that they are relying entirely on the contents of a hastily purchased 'baby book' (and trying to mould their child to fit the defined 'norm'). In a world where parents are feeling pressured about the responsibility of parenting.

Call me old fashioned, out of touch or just plain crazy, but aren't we as parents the ones who know our children best?  Isn't this something that the human race has been doing for thousands of years?

There is so much pressure to 'get it right' now that people seem afraid to 'make mistakes'. We've all done our pop-psychology reading and know that if we 'stuff things up' in the first few years of life, our children could be irreparably damaged. Freud has a lot to answer for.
While I am honestly so happy that the likes of Fiona are available to help out families in need, I truly wish we didn't need parent coaches in this world. I wish Gen X would trust its instincts and let children be children.

And parents be parents.

What do you think?

Thursday, 23 September 2010

The Wimbledon of weightloss

Do you ever feel like you are watching a tennis match when you observe the 'rules' of dieting? One day you'll read that carbohydrates are terrible and fat is fine; the next day you will hear the opposite.

What is the real answer?

It will be decades before the science of dieting catches up with the intuition of some of diet experts, but perhaps it doesn't actually matter?

Consider a recent study that compared two different diets. The first was low in carbs and very high in fat ie. 15% of the KJ came from carbs, 53% from fat and 32% from protein). The other was high in carbs and low in fat (45% of the KJ came from carbs, 26% from fat and 20% from protein). The only thing they had in common was the total kilojoules. 4200 a day.

When the two groups of dieting volunteers weighed in after 6 weeks, guess what? On average, all of them had lost nearly the same amount of weight and body fat.

Ultimately, the protein vs carbohydrate debate is missing the point.

High fat, low fat, high protein, low protein - none of it made a scrap of difference on the scales.

What mattered was total kilojoule intake.

The key to losing weight is as basic as that.

Have you been playing weight loss tennis lately? How do you feel about this message?

PS: A belated thank you to the lovely Kristen from Bits and Pieces, whom I have met through the Back to School, Back to Blogging challenge. She has kindly awarded me the Happy 101 Award! (I don' think she had read yesterday's post when she did this.) Pop over and say hello!

PPS: This post is part of Diminishing Lucy's Fat to Fit meme. Click on the badge below to be taken to the list of other weight loss blog posts.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

My thoughts on voluntary euthanasia

This week for Back to School, Back to Blogging, KludgyMom has us writing a post from the Idea Bank. If you are suffering from Bloggers Block, you should check it out.

I have chosen to write about Voluntary Euthanasia.

While it is a heavy topic (perhaps too much for those of you reading this over your breakfast), it is one that I have thought a lot about.

I'm not here to be controversial. These are my thoughts and I am well aware they may differ from yours. I am not trying to convert anyone to my way of thinking. I am just putting my thoughts down. You can choose to read them, or not, but I would love to hear yours if you want to leave me a comment.

I work in the Health care system in NSW. Most of my clinical work has been within the neurology and neurosurgery contexts.

I have worked with many people who have suffered terribly.

They have most commonly had strokes, car accidents, brain cancers, or progressive neurological diseases.

My heart broke for each and every one of my patients. Their lives were irrevocably changed.

Some of them recovered.

Some of them improved.

Others faced a life unable to speak or needing a ventilator to breathe or watching their bodies slowly deteriorate as their neurological disease got progressively worse.

All of my patients made me think. What would I want if this happened to me?

I used to come home from my job and say to the Geege, "If I'm ever helping someone change a tyre and get hit by a car and have a severe closed head injury, turn the machines off" or "If I ever suffer a frontal stroke and am unrecognisable as myself, you may leave me". I had a list as long as my arm of examples of medical situations that I decided weren't for me. Verbal Advanced Directives if you like.

The Geege would laugh at me and say, "Yeah. Sure love". But I think he got the picture. I don't want a life of suffering.

I have watched a lot of people whose families couldn't make these tough decisions put their loved one through months of pain and anguish.

I have watched elderly people openly wish that people had "just let me go. I've had a good life. I don't want to live in a nursing home" after suffering a massive stroke that rendered them bed bound, incontinent and confined to pureed food for life.

I have seen the likes of Motor Neurone Disease turn perfectly capable, ambitious, successful, young people into completely dependent, ventilated, anarthric*, aphagic** individuals in a matter of months.

I have also watched doctors make daily decisions about who is 'treatable' and who isn't. Not for resuscitation added to the medical record. Feeding withdrawn. Medications withdrawn. If they can do it, why can't a lucid, terminally ill person decide that they have had enough?

Why can't they decide that they want to take control of their death before their illness takes away their faculties?

Why can't they choose to be helped to die?

In May 1995, the Northern Territory became the first place in the world to pass right to die legislation. The Rights of the Terminally Ill Act lasted 9 months before being overturned by the Australian Federal government.

Today, Voluntary Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide are illegal everywhere in Australia.

But Voluntary Euthanasia is back on the political agenda. Western Australia is debating it in the Senate right now. They are having a 'conscience vote'. I would like to see some pretty tight definitions around who is 'eligible' and how the process would work, but in principle, if I were part of the vote I would vote to introduce this law.

I am sure many of you think I am a crazy extremist, but, respectfully, if you had seen what I have seen I think you might think differently.

Tell me, what are your views?

* Anarthric - no speech
** Aphagic - no swallow

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

There's always the black dots

I got into a bit of trouble from my M-i-l on Saturday. We were staying at their place the night before the Big Race because they were minding the four kids for us on Sunday (thank you!). We were appropriately carbohydrate loading before the event (pizzas) and drinking a couple of wines and M-i-l and I were nattering away about the ups and downs of the week.

I told her that the Minx had her first (semi) successful potty experience. Dew Drop spoke his first 2-word utterances. Doo Dah dressed himself by himself for the first time, and Nugget moved up to 'black dots' for reading (Level 18). So far, so good. Lots of 'how wonderful', 'how clever' etc.

Then I said that Doo Dah and Nugget had recommenced swimming lessons and both are putting their faces in the water (Nugget even his whole head). More 'oohs' and 'aahs'. And then, "And Nugget has started Little Athletics. He's not much of an athlete, yet".

Well, didn't I hear about how negative I am!

I don't think it is negative to admit that your child isn't displaying particular strengths in the sporting arena. His gross motor development was always behind his peers, he sees an Occupational Therapist for assistance with fine motor skills, it is no surprise to me that he wasn't the biggest star at the meet.

I was super proud of him for going. For participating. For trying his best. I truly think it is great that he had so much fun and wants to go again.

I will encourage him to improve. I will teach him what I know about running and long-jump and throwing stuff, but I don't expect him to light up the world. I could be wrong, but I just didn't get the feeling that he would be representing Australia at the Olympics any time soon. He has plenty of time to improve. I am sure that he will.

Well, I got the lecture about self-fulfilling prophecy. And encouraging our children in whatever they want to do. And maintaining a positive outlook.

I reckon everyone has gifts and talents. I think that every child deserves to discover what theirs is. I am all for encouraging and supporting. But if it isn't your thing, it isn't.

One boy in Nugget's class was also competing at the Little A's. He was a natural athlete. He beat the other kids in the 400m by at least 200m. He was a real stand out. One of the other Mum's and I marvelled at his abilities. He is a particularly handsome boy too so we marvelled at the coupling of such skill with those beautiful eyes.

This same boy is still on brown dots (Level 6) in his reading. No-one will probably ever notice that he can't spell his name because he is beautiful and athletic. Those types do okay in life, with or without academic achievement. I'm not saying that Nugget's classmate won't improve with his school work. But few people are good at everything. That is all I am saying.

So while Nugget may not be the next Herb Elliot, at least he has the black dots.

Being a good reader is a good thing.

What do you think?

Monday, 20 September 2010

The Bridge Run 2010

The Sydney Running Festival took place yesterday.

I did the 9km Bridge Run. All the way without a pause.

The Cliffy Young shuffler pulled a 65 minute time.

Happy to have made it (can't you tell by the look of sheer delight on my face in this picture?)

Happy that my 3 weeks of cold and 'flu did not deter me (although I may have left my left lung in Lane 4 of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Sorry if you tripped on it.)

Happy that the Geege and I did it together (although his time was closer to 55 mins).

I learnt a lot about running during the race. Things like, black T-shirts and crisp Spring mornings are not a great combination. And drinking when running really does give you a stitch. And I probably shouldn't have had a couple of glasses of wine the night before a race. And some women really do wear make-up all the time (even when they are running). And there is a thing called 'glamour running wear'. The important things about running.

So where to from here?

I'm totally up for the next challenge. I think there is a 10km run in November that I could train for. But that will do me, distance wise. While there seems to be a trend that every man and his dog needs to complete a marathon or a half marathon (Pikermi). This old duck aint buying into it.

There is only so much shuffling this gal can do.

Did you take part in the festivities? How did you go? Maybe next year?

Friday, 17 September 2010

Women who wear red glasses

I had to get new glasses this week. My old ones are falling apart due to too many head-butts from too many children. *Sigh*

Getting new glasses is rarely fun for me. I find it hard to get cool glasses that I actually want to wear. I have a heart-shaped face which means that only square lenses suit me, and because of my mousy colouring and light eye-colour, I can't pull off a thick 'librarian look' or dark coloured rims. They can't be red either. It is very limiting.

I have a thing about women who wear red glasses. Not on a personal level of course, but there is a bit of stigma attached, don't you think?

I mean, the women I see wearing red glasses are usually on the other side of their thirties. They seem to be making a personal statement with them, something like "I am sexy, interesting and, well, young". They either go for the brightest red, over-sized frames (like the lovely lady in the picture above) or those funky 'barely there' frames with a hint of red across the nose.

Their glasses are an entity unto themselves. 

Red is the colour of passion. Vitality. Sex. Are these women reminding us that, despite what might seem to be a few crow's feet around the eyes, they are fabulous? Uber-fabulous even?

So when I found myself  being kitted out in a pair of well-fitting red glasses by the lady who was helping me, I had to question myself. Am I ready to join this trend of women. Will wearing red glasses age me? Propel me into the forty-something?

Needless to say the purchase of new glasses was a torturous affair.

Even something as simple as buying glasses can have political connotations. If you look for them.

What do you think about women who wear red glasses? Am I being a bit mean?

Thursday, 16 September 2010

How to add a weight-loss tracking Widget

I am participating in Gigi from KludgyMom's Back to School, Back to Blogging challenge.

Our first assignment was to find a little known Widget or Plug-in and write about it.

Wisegeek defines a Widget as "piece of self-enclosed code which can be embedded into a website or program to perform a specific function. Many websites take advantage of widgets to increase their functionality and customizability".

Most people have some Widgets on their blogs. To track their traffic, recommend other posts they have written, monitor comments or link to social networking sites. There are so many out there. If you are interested in finding some good ones, these posts are a good place to start:

Mashable's 25 Widgets for Blogger
Mint Blogger's 30+ Widgets and Plug-ins for Blogger

I am cheating a little, because I think many Bloggers know about's weight-loss trackers, but I thought it was a good excuse to finally install the darned thing.

If you follow any weight-loss bloggers you will probably see a ticker on their site. These little gadgets help to keep track of the person's weight loss, marrying their starting weight and their current weight. Ever wondered where they got it? Well, try here.

The TickerFactory ticker* is easy to use, even if you are a bit of a Luddite like me.

All you have to do to configure your ticker is:
1. Select your ticker ruler (from the extensive list)
2. Select your ticker slider (from the extensive list)
3. Enter a password (so that you can add data at a later date)
4. Enter your measurements and nominate which stats you want to display (in addition to weight loss in kilos/pounds, you could do measurements and/or BMI stats as well)
5. Bookmark the page so that you can go back and update it after your next weigh-in - if you forget to do this and you use the code provided on, just clicking on your ticker will lead you to its update page. From there you can edit its style and its data.

I was surprised at how easy it was actually!

I did locate other weight loss trackers, such as the one (which I couldn't get to work) and the Med Help one (which you needed to sign up an account to use), but I think TickerFactory's was the best I found because of is simplicity.

If you'd like to view my latest creation, scroll down to the bottom of my blog!

Are you into Widgets? What Widget would you have done your assignment on?

* TickerFactory also does trying to conceive/pregnancy, debt reduction, and countdown to an event like a birthday trackers, so if weight loss isn't your thing, you may still like to take a look at the site.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Twins in school

I know it is a little premature to be thinking about my yet to be 2 year olds attending school, but I couldn't help myself the other day when I was assisting with 'reading' at Nugget's school.

There is a set of twins in his class you see and I had the pleasure of both of them reading to me. They are lovely girls, but like mine, you wouldn't know they are sisters, let alone twins, by looking at them. I couldn't help but notice that one was significantly more fluent with her reading than the other. I am not judging the girls, neither is struggling in the way some kids are, I just noticed. And it got me thinking, what would I do?

How would I handle it with my twins?

Of course, there is a high probability that with twins you are going to face the conundrum of unequal ability in the classroom, or somewhere else like the sports field, at some point. If it is not reading, it'll be something else.

It happens with all siblings of course, but I can't help but think that having an age-matched peer right there while you are struggling along wouldn't help your confidence much.

As parents our role is to help our kids accept themselves. Warts and all. We aren't meant to compare and contrast the skills and foibles of our children. As humans it is near impossible not to notice, but I guess we have to help our kids keep things in perspective. It ain't an easy gig.

I was lucky to bump into the twin girls' Mum on Friday. We have bonded over the Mums-of-multiples thing so I felt comfortable raising my observation with her and asking her how she was handling it. I really wanted to take the opportunity to learn from her.

She said that she has to spend more time helping the less accomplished reader with her homework (which of course results in a "But why don't I have to read to you twice" from the other one. She also spends time reassuring the struggling one and pointing out things that she did 'first' as a baby e.g. crawling. Reinforcing the mantra that we 'all learn differently'. She also spends a lot of time praising the one who is managing well, trying to ensure continued interest in reading and motivation to keep learning. She also makes sure they do different extra-curricular activities so that direct comparison isn't the norm e.g. one learns the violin while the other learns the cello.

The key? She spends a lot of time with her girls.

Even if you don't compare your children, chances are other people will.

I'm thinking it is best to develop strategies for dealing with the hurt now. That way once I am put to the test, I'll be an old hat.

Have you had this issue in your family? What about when you were growing up? What strategies do you/did your parents use to manage it?

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

The language of child wrangling

I was busted in the carpark the other day belting out my version of Tom Jones's "Sex Bomb":

Stink bomb, stink bomb
You've got a stink bomb
Everybody loves you
but you've got a stink bomb

I was changing Dew Drop's nappy in the back of the car, entertaining him and me with a little song and dance.

The woman who caught me looked quite embarassed (for me?) but I could tell that she was going to be singing along to the song in the car as she drove off. There was something about the crooked smile she gave me that made me realise that she got it.

I have always been one for making up words (and songs), as well as adopting apt ones from others. I find situations that just don't have a word to describe them, so I either invent one, introduce the German equivalent or borrow one from someone else who has beat me to it. The stink bomb is one such example (although probably not unique).

My favourite addition to my parenting vernacular comes from my sisters. It is "parping" and it is the thing that babies do when they are hanging around, flailing their arms and legs about while lying on their backs. "How is baby X?" Me: "He's parping along on his rug". With the number of slow movers in our family, it is little wonder that we needed a name for this activity!

Breast feeding is known as "having some booz" by our family, and "boozie juice" is what breast milk was referred to. I am in the process of re-training the kids in female anatomy (partly because the Minx thinks she has a 'willy'!) because they like to talk about 'boozies' a lot in public. The obsession with breasts begins at an early age it seems.

And then there are the many names for the nappy change. Sister A used to call it "Freshening the regions", my sister-in-law, "dealing with a ponky-polecat" and me, I call it the "schlonk ponk". God only knows where any of these expressions come from, but they are regulars in our household.

What about your house? Have you got some little expressions you'd like to share?

Monday, 13 September 2010

The pea turtle

The other day, Doo Dah was taking his usual sweet time to eat his dinner. I have posted before about the joys of our dinnertime routine.

Anyway, I was busily going on about "this is the third time I have asked you to sit down, you'll be off to the thinking spot, blah, blah, blah" when I heard him say: "Look Mum!"

As I put on my best cranky face, he continued with, "I have made a turtle out of my peas".

Despite myself, my eyes were drawn down to his plate and 'lo and behold, I found myself face to face with a rather perfect looking pea turtle.

It made me smile. Melt. Defuse.

Geez it is hard to stay cross at someone as gorgeous as he is!

What's a Mum to do?

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Blog Bookmarks - Week Ending September 10

I started this blog as a record of life, my thoughts and life's little lessons. Since entering the blogosphere, I have now accumulated more words of wisdom, interesting snippets and 'must-reads' to keep track of. It is a mind-field! Blog Bookmarks is a place to highlight some of my favourite finds for the week.

I really enjoyed a few of the 'weight loss' posts I read this week. As you may remember, I am having another go at "finishing the job" with my post-twins weight reduction program so I have been checking out the adventures of others like me who write a bit about losing weight. These were my favourites:

Fat Mum Slim's The Dress that Never Was
Suger Coat It's Clearing the Mind/Shrinking the Ass
Good Golly Miss Holly's The F word

It is absolutely shocking what some women do, all in the name of 'beauty'. Jodie from Mummy Mayhem did a fabulous blog post on Heidi Montag's post-plastic-surgery body.  I tend to agree with Jodie that Heidi was doing pretty well for herself prior to going under the knife and now? Well, if over-inflated boobs and lips are your thing than I am sure you will be impressed. Me? Not so much.

Speaking of over-sized breasts...
Pink Patent Mary Janes has been fuelling my lady crush on Christina Hendricks lately and this cute little post may be the beginning of yours: Bridal Party Perfection. If you don't read PPMJ, you are missing out! She drops regular snippets of prettiness into my google reader and I thank her for that.

Mrs Woog from Woogsworld hosted Not Drowning, Mothering and together they get my funny Award of the week with a classic post on, none other than, the humble merkin. I know, I know. Some things should not be spoken about but this really is amusing.

Veronica from Sleepless Nights gets my top blogging tip of the week with How to make blogging easier. Sometimes the simplest things in life are the best!

That is it from me.

Now. You tell me. What was your favourite post of the week?

Friday, 10 September 2010

Sleep is the new feminist issue

I have read a lot about the health benefits of sleep over the past 6 years. Child-induced sleep deprivation and self-induced insomnia will do that to you. I would almost call myself an expert. An expert in knowing what I am missing out on.

I have read about the links between lack of sleep and increased blood pressure.

I have absorbed information about the stress reducing powers of sleep.

I know about memory consolidation and sleep and why sleep helps your memory.

I have read that you can do basic tasks when you are sleep deprived but have difficulty doing complex tasks or learning new ones.

I know that getting enough sleep is essential for weight loss and wards off the black dog.

And I know that sleep time is when your body mends and recovers from the craziness of the day.

But I have to say I was a little shocked to read in the newspaper at the weekend that sleep has made it onto the list of feminist issues! I really hadn't made that connection before (I am definitely getting 'soft' in my old age).

According to the likes of Naomi Wolf and Arianna Huffington, women are more sleep deprived than men (up to 90 minutes per day more). They argue, quite convincingly, that exhaustion is having an effect on women's judgement, creativity and relationships. It is another hurdle in the workplace.

Women's bodies need more sleep than men's, and yet now that we own the big jobs, take on the corporate ladder smashing the glass ceiling on the way up, add a dash of perfectionism to our lives and a brood of kids, we are forfeiting our sleep just to keep it all in check. To balance the life of hyperperformance.

The feminist message is that if we could just sleep more we could do more!

My message is, maybe we all just need to do less.

When people say to me "I don't know how you do it, with four kids, a family business and a part-time job", I say to them, "Lower your expectations". It always gets a laugh, but I am being quite serious. I know that I can't do it all, so I don't try. My mantra is "keep it simple". It works for me.

I just have to work out how to sleep again and I reckon I will be unstoppable. Unstoppably simple.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

The banquet is in the first bite

Today I return to the wisdom of Michael Pollan.

Things are not going well for me in the weight-loss department. One might even say I am currently losing the battle of the bulge at an alarming rate. I have been keeping an eye on things (quality and quantity of food consumed), but, since I stopped breastfeeding 3 weeks ago, the kilos have been finding their way onto my body. No matter what I eat or do.

I am calling it my 'transition' period. I am transitioning away from my pregnancy and breast feeding body into my post-baby body proper. I am just getting on with my running and my watching and hoping that my body will sort itself out soon. *she says in a pleading tone*

In the meantime, I will heed the advice of Mr. Food Rules himself.

p.111: "The banquet is in the first bite"
Taking this adage to heart will help you enjoy your food and eat more slowly. No other bite will taste as good as the first, and every subsequent bite will progressively diminish in satisfaction. Economists call this the law of diminishing marginal utillity (say what?), and it argues for savouring the first bites and stopping sooner than you otherwise might. For as you go on, you'll be getting more calories, but not necessarily more pleasure.

I think this rule is awesome. How often do we find ourselves eating all the food on our plate, just because? How often do we plead with our children to 'finish their dinner'? It may not be about 'finishing' but savouring.

One of the tricks I have learned along the way has been using a smaller dinner plate. I have always had a tendency to 'clean my plate' so one of the strategies that works for me is to have a smaller plate. It also helps me to dish out more to my husband than to myself. The pesky feminist in me often gets on her high horse about a man having more just because he's a man and makes me want to provide equal portion sizes to us both. We don't need the same amount of food. I have to deal with that.

So this week I will be trying to remember to savour the first bite. Afterall, we all get one of those, no matter what our gender is.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

The commercialisation of Random Acts of Kindness. Is nothing sacred?

Sarah Wilson wrote this intriguing piece about the Random Acts of Kindness (RAOK) movement in Sunday's newspaper. I have to say that I have been thinking about her column on and off for the last couple of days. Something just doesn't sit right with me.

On one hand, I think RAOK are beautiful. How marvellous it is that someone who can help, does. There are numerous examples on websites devoted to the topic, and indeed from Sarah's column. Like the random who donates $560 so that a primary school can keep their support teacher until the end of term and a boy with a behaviour problem isn't expelled. Or the random who pays for your coffee in your local cafe. It is a good thing these people are doing. Good, kind people, helping others.

It is reported that being kind is good for your health.

It is reported that being kind makes you feel happy.

It is reported that being kind is good for your self-esteem.

And that's where it all gets a bit 'ick' for me. By definition, "kind" means:

1. having a generous or friendly nature or attitude
2. helpful to others or to another
3. considerate or humane

(Collins English Dictionary- Australian Edition, p854)

I don't think it should be about me and how it makes me feel.

I think a genuine RAOK shouldn't need to be reported on a website or documented on your blog or newspaper column.

It is about helping others. Maybe others that we perceive are worse off than we are or maybe just helping because there is a situation where you have the skills that the situation needs. A benefit may well be that it is good for our health or our sanity, but it really shouldn't be the reason that we do the deed.

It shouldn't be another 'thing on the list' to tick off so that we can sleep at night knowing we are good people.

It shouldn't be another quick fix conscience clearer while we go about our normal, self-absorbed lives.

And it sure as hell shouldn't come with a 'kindness card' requesting that you "play it forward".

There is just something so wrong about commercialising a simple human gesture like kindness.

On that note, I would like to thank Jane from Me n' my Monkeys for my "Cherry on Top Award - for beautiful blogs with that little bit extra". Jane is another Aussie Mummy Blogger who is working it with her words and her camera. She is pretty new to the blogging world, so head over and say hello.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

The Canonization - John Donne

I am taking a leaf out of Melissa from The things I'd tell you's book and posting one of my favourite poems today.

It is by John Donne, an English poet from the 17th Century. I like his love poetry although he also wrote religious poems, Latin translations, epigrams, elegies, songs, satires and sermons.

His poetry is noted for its vibrant language, sensuality and metaphors, especially as compared to that of his contemporaries.

I hope you like this one.

The Canonization
For God's sake hold your tongue, and let me love,
Or chide my palsy, or my gout,
My five grey hairs, or ruin'd fortune flout,
With wealth your state, your mind with arts improve,
Take you a course, get you a place,
Observe his Honour, or his Grace,
Or the King's real, or his stamped face
Contemplate, what you will, approve,
So you will let me love.

Alas, alas, who's injur'd by my love?
What merchant's ships have my sighs drown'd?
Who says my tears have overflow'd his ground?
When did my colds a forward spring remove?
When did the heats which my veins fill
Add one more to the plaguy bill?
Soldiers find wars, and lawyers find out still
Litigious men, which quarrels move,
Though she and I do love.

Call us what you will, we are made such by love;
Call her one, me another fly,
We are tapers too, and at our own cost die,
And we in us find th' eagle and the dove.
The phoenix riddle hath more wit
By us; we two being one, are it.
So, to one neutral thing both sexes fit,
We die and rise the same, and prove
Mysterious by this love.

We can die by it, if not live by love,
And if unfit for tombs and hearse
Our legend be, it will be fit for verse;
And if no piece of chronicle we prove,
We'll build in sonnets pretty rooms;
As well a well-wrought urn becomes
The greatest ashes, as half-acre tombs,
And by these hymns all shall approve
Us canoniz'd for love;

And thus invoke us: "You, whom reverend love
Made one another's hermitage;
You, to whom love was peace, that now is rage;
Who did the whole world's soul contract, and drove
Into the glasses of your eyes
(So made such mirrors, and such spies,
That they did all to you epitomize)
Countries, towns, courts: beg from above
A pattern of your love!"

John Donne


I would also like to thank Mandy from My life as described by twin trials and triumphs for my "A Blog with Substance Award".  I love Mandy's blog. You should go visit her. She has twin girls who are about the same age as the Minx and Dew Drop, so the happenings in her household are often similiar to those in my own. Reading her blog helps me see the little things that are going on around me. Her daughters are cute and lovable and I think she and I would have a lot to say to each other over a quiet glass of wine if we weren't living on opposite sides of the globe.

So, have you got a favourite poem? Please share it with us.

Monday, 6 September 2010

Money Matters #11 - Kids pocket money

We have recently started giving Nugget pocket money. The Geege and I decided that we would start doling out pocket money when our kids start school, but it has taken us 9 months to get going with it because we had trouble deciding on the rules. (Poor Nugget might be entitled to some back-pay but we won't tell him about that just yet!)

In the end, we turned to our National financial knob hero, David "Kochie" Koch for help and guidance. In his book Kochie's guide to keeping it real - My cradle to grave approach to family and finance (2006)*.  (doesn't the title just highlight his knob-factor?) Kochie gives out some sound advice about pocket money.

When to start handing out pocket money
Obviously this is a decision that is yours to make for yourselves, but Kochie says that starting when a child is five (and starting school) makes sense. They are just starting to feel a bit more 'grown up' and are able to take on a bit more responsibility. They can also open a bank account at school which will make 'saving' a bit easier for them.

How much pocket money should you give?
Well, that is totally up to the individual family. No matter how much you give, kids will try to negotiate with you and tell you that their friends are getting more and make you feel like an Uncle Scrooge. Two different systems that you might like are:
1. $5 in primary school and $20 in high school
2. $1 per week for each year of age (this can get expensive if you have a lot of children)

Kochie reported some stats that said 83% of 5-18 year olds receive an income of $12.53 per week, with the 5-7 year old bracket receiving an average of $2.41 per week. Apparently only 48% of Sydney-based parents make their children do chores for their money.

What are pocket money jobs?
You probably should spend more time thinking about this than how much money to give. Pocket money is a step for your child to learn some of life's big lessons such as 'you never get something for nothing'. Obviously there are lots of jobs in a household that need to be done that you probably shouldn't be paying your kids for, like setting the table or helping with the dishes (they are fed afterall. Is that not reward enough?).

Kochie says pocket money should be paid for extra jobs performed on a regular basis. Things that help the parents with the running of the household. Things like folding the washing (that is a 'yes' from this Mum!), mowing the lawn, dusting and other household tasks. Negotiate job allocation with the child in question because their agreement will result in a higher enthusiasm quotient. If you have more than one child, Kochie suggests rotating the jobs and avoiding 'gender typecasting in the allocations' p.106 (one of his less knobby statements!)

Tips on managing your pocket employee
This is the bit where you set boundaries for how the money should be managed. You get to help them learn money management techniques that will hopefully set them in good stead for the rest of their life (no pressure!). Kochie's tips:
  • Do not deduct pocket money for bad behaviour. This encourages the notion that 'bad behaviour is negotiable and not simply unacceptable' p107
  • Be flexible with regards to their job (e.g. in special circumstances like a sleepover), but do not be flexible on payment - no work, no pay. You may wish to encourage job swapping amongst your kids, to cover for each other, as this may promote a spirit of co-operation among the children.
  • Make a job checklist so that everyone knows who does what (stick it to the fridge).
  • Set a rule that a certain amount of their pocket money (45-70%) must be banked. Of course, as parents you can still have a say in what the rest of the money cannot be wasted on e.g. bubblegum, false fingernails.
So that is that. Kochie's steps to managing pocket money.

Other available online resources include:
  1. Raising Children Network has a guide to pocket money with some of their usual sensible tips and advice for Australian parents.
  2. Parenting SA's Pocket Money: Parent Easy Guide
So far Nugget is pretty happy with his new-found independence. He wants to take his 'wallet' everywhere he goes in case he wants to 'get' something. It is all about food treats for him at the moment. He is also collecting pictures out of catalogues (a favourite pastime anyway) and asks 'how many weeks do I need to save until I can get this?'. When the answer is 560 he tends to lose interest.

Have you tackled the pocket money issue in your household yet? How are you managing it?

* Pubished by Murdoch books: Australia Note: the reason I own this book is because it cost me about $5 on a clearance rack. The reason I have kept this book and am now referencing it is because it is pretty bloody great *she adds reluctantly*.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Blog Bookmarks - Week Ending 4th September

I started this blog as a record of life, my thoughts and life's little lessons. Since entering the blogosphere, I have now accumulated more words of wisdom, interesting snippets and 'must-reads' to keep track of. It is a mind-field! Blog Bookmarks is a place to highlight some of my favourite finds for the week.

I read on the cover of a book this week, that 'if you write well, you can write about anything'. This applies to my first bookmark this week because, honestly it is very depressing, but I couldn't help myself but read to the end. Sleepless Night's hosted a post for a friend and it is a reminder that even with people you once loved, things can get way out of hand.

Not Drowning, Mothering talked humorously about her birth plan. Planning was never one of my strong suits so I can't say I ever made a birth plan myself. I did cheat a little and attend a couple of births prior to signing up for one myself (which probably doesn't surprise you!), so I already knew how wayward they can go. Unsurprisingly, all did not go to plan for NDM? *Sigh* if only...

British blogger, Mummy Has a Headache unveils her 'sliding doors' moment as a lesbian living in Sydney. Her description of  the shared house in which she lived is reminiscent of many of the squats that people I know lived in in the inner city in Sydney and on their travels abroad in the 1990s. Must have been a housing shortage!

Anj from Anj writes about... wrote from the heart about her experiences with panic attacks. The post is called Shadows and Light and is beautifully written. I'm not kind enough to people with anxiety problems.

And finally, Cate from I'll think of a title later did a great piece on bouncy bios. Even though I am a complete Twitter-phobe, (I am sure they have one of those cute tweep-speak names for people like me?) it is another extremely funny post (and makes me think that I should work on my profile bio).

What was your favourite post of the week?

Friday, 3 September 2010

Book Club shenanigans

I love reading. I wasn't a natural reader as a kid, but I found my love in my late teens and haven't looked back.

I love reading a book recommended by someone; you learn a little something about the person who made the suggestion as well as tasting a new author.

I love going to the library. Flicking through the books on the shelf, reading a page or two here and there before I settle on a title.

I find it hard to remember who wrote what (I've never been good at details) so I can barely list my favourite authors, let alone match an author to their book. I just love reading. I'm not overly thingy about it.

A couple of year's ago I suggested that my Mother's Group start a Book Club. I was really excited about it initially because I had never been in a book club before. The sheer joy of discussing characters, plots and themes! As it turned out we spent a lot more time discussing the bonkability of certain male characters and giving other's nicknames than getting into any deep literary critique.

It was fun while it lasted, but it sort of imploded because there were only a few of us that were really into reading. Everyone wanted to be 'included' but they couldn't get the books read (we weren't reading Homer's Illiad or anything) so we could never agree on a meeting date. Add to that a difference of opinion on the genre of books we should be reading (I drew the line at "Marley and Me", I mean, a dog book? Please.) and a dispute over the inclusion of a book with a character suffering PND, and the Book Club disbanded.

I think a Book Club needs more ground rules than we put in place.

Recently a 'secret breakaway' group has developed from the initial Book Club. We have enlisted other book lovers to join in what I am hoping will be an upgrade on our last effort. Chapter Two of the Book Club has got to be more settled than Chapter One, right?

Our first book was 'Where the heart is' by Billie Letts. I cheated a bit because I read it years ago. I didn't like it then, so I wasn't going to put myself through it again. I am really looking forward to our first meeting next week. We are playing it safe and using the 'suggested discussion topics' included in the back of the book. It should be a civilised evening of chatter with a bunch of bookworms. Here's hoping...

What is your experience with Book Clubs?

Thursday, 2 September 2010

The post-baby body - more than I bargained for

My body has undergone so many changes in the last six years. I guess it is too much to expect it to look young and fresh after all that it has weathered?

I got pregnant with Nugget in July 2004. He was born in April 2005 and was breastfed for 13 months, until May 2006. I got pregnant with Doo Dah in March 2006. He was born in December, 2006 and was breasfed for 15 months (March 2008). I lost a baby in February 2008 (10 weeks) and got pregnant with the twins in April 2008. They were born in December 2008 and I weaned them 3 weeks ago (19.5 months).

Six years of breastfeeding or pregnancy (sometimes both at the same time).

My body is still adjusting to being on its own again. No dependents. No parasites. Just me again.

I weigh the same now that I did when I first got pregnant. I am still the same height too, but otherwise my body is no longer recognisable to me. I have three distinct areas of my body that paint me as a mother. They give away my new life-role without me having to say a word.

Firstly, there is my Caesarian scar, just above the underpant line. It is barely noticable and sometimes I marvel at the fact that 4 human beings made their way into the world via what is essentially a very small incision. "The sun roof" as I call it when I joke that I was "too posh to push". Oh I tried to push all right, I just wasn't built right for a baby's head. I thank my stars that I had my babies in the 21st Century, in Australia. I may have died without modern medicine.

Then there is my stomach. It was previously my 'best bit'. I was the type who wore midriff tops (when it was fashionable) because I had a flat tummy with a six pack. I always had a big bum, but my tum was coverted by many. Not too many would be lining up for it now! It is hard to descibe just how awful it now is.

It is not just the "twin skin" that bothers me. What is it you may ask? "Twin skin" is the unofficial term for the saggy, droopy, stretch-marked skin which some twin-Mums find themselves faced with after the delivery. If you hear of any cure short of plastic surgery, let me know!! ;-) Not all twin-Mums get it of course, and I had hoped it wouldn't happen to me, but unfortunately, I do sport my own version of it. For me though, it is my umbilical hernia that causes me more grief.

My twins were both normal size babies when they were born (3.24kg and 3.365kg, or 7'1" and 7'4"). I was huge when I was carrying them and my stomach muscles separated down the middle. I had a bit of an abdominal separation after Doo Dah was born, but it was nothing in comparison to the chasm I had after the twins (more than 10cm wide). I had to wear a stretchy brace for about 8 weeks because I literally could not sit up without it on.

More than 20 months on, my stomach muscles still do not function properly and I have a gaping hole around my belly-button.

All of this means that my stomach sticks out a lot (especially if I have had a big meal). It is my new problem zone*.

My final 'Mummy' body part is my breasts. I was never a perky breasted arrangement, but I did have a 'fine rack' (as my husband put it). My cleavage was decent and I wasn't afraid to display my assets when I was out on the town. Nowadays, after all those years of breastfeeding, my breasts practically sag to my knees and resemble something out of a National Geographic magazine.

All of this does little for a girl's confidence.

On a good day, I wear this body, with all of its changes and flaws, as a badge of honour. Four beautiful, healthy children. It is worth it, right? I worked bloody hard for this body.

On a bad day, it makes me cry.

* I will be seeing a surgeon again in the new year to try to sort out my hernia/separation.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Magda's Doppelganger

Image from here. I had a picture of Magda here for ages, but I kept getting people visiting this post for the image so I have changed it so that it won't be my most popular post forever more even though I don't think many people have really ever read it and it is by far not my best work!

Do you remember Magda from There's something about Mary?

I swear I saw her at the beach at the weekend!

This woman was literally brown all over.

Her skin looked like a crinkle-cut chip.

She was sunning herself, and burning her precious skin.

I said to my friend K, "Geez, how old do you reckon she actually is?" (thinking to myself that her skin looks at least 80 but surely, surely an 80 year old woman wouldn't be out sun-baking would she?)

K said, "Probably 40".

With the weather warming up, Magda's Doppelganger is a timely reminder of the importance of sunscreen, moderate sun exposure and a good sense of humour at the beach.
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