Hospital? Fun? I soon discovered those two words can not be included in the same sentence.
Treating sufferers of eating disorders, and being around fellow sufferers is a challenge all round. I was 22 when I had my first hospital stay and I learnt how to behave like a 12 year old - tantrums (you can't make me eat that! No, I won't stay on bed-rest! What I do with food is NOT disordered), sneakiness (I've found a hiding spot for my stash of laxatives in the desk cavity where no one will ever look), and lies (I hate desserts. No, really I do. What? You think I'm lying because I have an eating disorder and want to get out of having to eat it?).
But this is also the place where I concluded I did in fact have a problem. Not as bad as they said, but yeah, I was definitely eating disordered. But wasn't my addiction normal? Normal in the life of a sufferer of anorexia? Did I really have to get better? Can't I just stay in this space I'm in?
Sometimes I wonder if being in an environment with people with a similar personality type, similar disorder, and similar ultimate goal, is such a great idea. Whilst we teamed up with some things, other things we were arch rivals over - I'm going to eat less than her. I'm going to have put on the least weight this week. I'm going to get more attention than her.
Sometimes we supported each other, sometimes the claws came out. Support from inmates involved anything unrelated to food (as this was their competition also).
Support from inmates for putting on weight came freely - for losing weight, the daggers came out. "Oh you put on weight? You'll be OK, it's probably just that glass of water you had last night. I'm here if you need to talk". (Secretly, the thought went something like this "Awesome, she put on weight and I didn't - I'm so much stronger than her. She'll be fat before me").
You never really make true friends.
Daily struggles were still frequent although of a different kind in hospital. There you were allowed to throw a tantrum for having to eat, you were allowed to feel frustration at those around you, you were allowed to take things slow and steady. I developed a voice; my opinions and thoughts were as valid as everyone elses.
Every week was the same routine - weigh in's 3 mornings a week, 3 main meals and 3 snacks a day, 2-3 groups per week, ward round every Wednesday where Prof (as he was affectionately known) decided your fate.
Treatment is as complex an issue as is an eating disorder full-stop. Treatment was determined by individual progress. Lose weight, you were punished - given more calorific foods, placed on bed-rest where the only time you could get off your bed was for toilet breaks and meals until you put on weight, not allowed weekend leave, or threatened with a feeding tube up your nose.
Hmmm, not much incentive to lose weight, yet that desire to maintain your thinness, your strength and willpower, still overtook your rational thoughts.
Rational thoughts, something I hadn't had for some time, were emerging, slowly but surely. Before hospital, I knew the right thing to do, but had no intention of ever trying. Now my head was battling with knowing the right thing to do, but finding the desire to try almost impossible. I knew that I should, but I couldn't. My mind told me to run back to the safety of anorexia.
I struggled too with wanting to get better to see those who love me finally get the relief they deserved, yet difficult to take the steps I knew I needed to take to get there. I'd never felt so much like an emotional tug-o-war rope as I did now. When I thought back to pre-hospital days, those days seemed easy, simple in comparison to now.
In and out, out and in - this cycle continued 4 times over 4 years. Each time I'd get to a point of treatment I felt comfortable with, but then when it looked like I was heading into territory I hadn't set foot in before, I'd bolt.
Literally and emotionally.
I was good at signing those self-discharge papers, escaping hospital walls back into my "safe" world where I could continue with my controlled, rigid, anorexic life, happily where I was. But was it happiness? I now knew there was more to this anorexia ride than simply food.....
Once again I am floored by the emotional turmoil that my friend endured. Finally knowing what was the right path to take and yet, so bound by her commitment to her rituals and anorexic life, she was unable to take more than a few baby steps along the road to freedom before the old ways would drag her back. But at last we start to see that she is dealing with the emotions that have brought her into the black hole in the first place. Tune in next week for the final installment; to see how her life finally came back together for her.
You reminded me of Falstaff, with your depth of character and roguish ways.
You were full of life and laughs; no-one could miss your presence, that's for sure.
We will sadly note your absence
I felt like I experienced what it was like inside your brain, when we had lunch in your office last week. All the post-it notes, comics and articles strewn all around. I thought "what a crazy disorganised soul", something you probably picked up from your clients. But perhaps like everything else you did, you just had your own way.
You'd roar onto level seven, chatting away to all and sundry, ranting about the parking issues and swearing about the latest injustices in the world. Who is going to take up your causes, Pete? Who has the passion and drive that marked your personality?
There will be a vacant seat on the Central Coast train, at whatever ungodly hour you used to travel. Your fellow commuters will notice your absence and wonder what happened.
I didn't know you long, but you always brought a smile to my face. I loved that you were so indignant; so ready for a fight. I feel terrible now that I didn't interrupt my phonecall last Tuesday to say a proper goodbye to you. Instead I just mouthed it and waved, thinking it was just another day.
Fare thee well old chap, as you find the answer to the 'what's next' question.
Rest in peace.
I am dreading going into the office tomorrow morning and seeing your empty space.
If you haven't visited their blog, you really should. These women are in touch with their inner 'warm fuzzy'. Their blog is described as "a place to share ideas on raising children in an intentional way with a focus on inner connectedness, using our intuition, connecting with our angels, mother earth, celebrating each child's uniqueness and bringing out their inner creativity". It is a wonderful place to head when you need to change direction.
I feel a bit bad accepting it in this way because I usually don't make a song and a dance about these things, but in the spirit of B2SB2B's focus on 'growing loyalty' I saw this as another opportunity to highlight some of your blogs!
So here are the 15 Blogs I would like to share my One Lovely Blog Award with (again steering away from my Blog Roll). Most are readers of And then there were four. Some I just wish were. All I think are lovely in their own right. In alphabetical order...
6. Made by Joel - This guy doesn't know I exist, but he makes such awesome craft that I can't help but wish I could replicate, but I can't, so I just look at his.
7. Mommy of a Monster - Natalie is another twin Mummy (from the US) with a super-popular blog. She is a emotive writer who (mainly) sees the positives in life and makes me remember to dance in the rain.
8. On the Rocks and Straight up - I was attracted to Angie's blog because of the title, but it turns out we have a fair bit else in common (besides our preference for alcoholic beverages). If you haven't already, check out her hilarious wardrobe malfunction post - it really will make you feel better about your foreplay techniques.
9. Pampers and Pinot - Kristy is a fantastic writer who regularly has me in stitches.
10. (Ramblings) From Toushka - Toushka and I 'met' through a WW experience earlier in the year. She is a funny, Mummy blogger with a great eye for finding the unique in the mundane.
11. Shhh...It's Lizeylou - I'm pretty new to this blog but I am loving it! Lizeylou talks books and music and other bits and bobs and always has something interesting to say.
12. Suger Coat it - Melissa writes about blogging and living and dieting and she does it all very well.
13. The Girl in red heels - with a blog title like that, do I need to go on? Of course you want to take a look! She is 21 and she shops and chats about pop culture, fashion and the ranty side of life. I rate her.
14. With my own two hands - LJ has just had her third baby. She blogs about frugality, minimal impact living and craftiness.
15. Writing out loud - Megan is a lovely writer who documents her life as a Mum with a great turn of phrase (be careful - she is renovating at the moment!).
Having twin toddlers is generally less of a hindrance than having two babies was.
In the baby stage, the worst thing about having twins was that I couldn't wear them both together. Lots of MoMs do of course, but as I had two average size babies, it didn't take long before they were too heavy for me.
This meant that wherever we went, our stroller came too. There is little wonder that I tried so many prams; the pram became a necessary companion and the key to freedom. I remember looking wistfully upon passerbys wearing their babies, thinking to myself how much easier that seemed than pushing the Big Rig that I had.
Once I got over that, I just got on with it. One nappy change. Two nappy changes. One spoonful for you, one for you. Dress one baby, dress the other. You get the picture.
Lately however, my feathers have been ruffled again. As we have entered the next stage of parenting multiples, there are two new things that have reminded me that having twins is no walk in the park.
The first has been the haircut. Both the Minx and Dew Drop have long flowing hair that curls sweetly on the ends. Both have fringes that act as curtains, hiding their eyes from the world. Both, plain and simply, are in need of a trim.
If I am honest, this has been the case for some time. I have been using clips in The Minx's hair for a while now, casually sweeping her ample fringe across her face and out of harms way.
And, come to think of it, my in-laws have been making subtle comments that perhaps the reason Dew Drop gets recurrent conjunctivitis is because his fringe is contributing to the re-infection process. I get it. But I haven't worked out the logistics. It is a two player game and my other player is always busy working.
As things have become increasingly dire in the hair department, and the hints I keep giving The Geege continue to fall on deaf ears, I am considering getting one of those mobile hairstylists to come to my house and clip the lot of us. It would possibly be the worse gig of his/her life, but is the only plausible solution I can devise. I always thought they were just for old people, but perhaps not?
The other thing that seems impossible is swimming lessons.
When you have 22 month old twins, plus two others, getting into the pool with your babies becomes impossible. What happens to the other when you are in with one? What happens to the other kids when you are swimming with one or other of the twins? Even if the Geege could accompany us, we'd still have two surplus children to somehow supervise while swimming with the Minx and Dew Drop. I mean, does it seem plausible to have to get a babysitter just to do swimming lessons?
I have put this one in the 'too hard' basket, preferring instead to defer lessons until they are older and able to go in by themselves (with the instructor). Even though we have our Fijian Xmas coming up, we are still going to forego lessons this Summer.
Just when you think you have started to get on top of things, simple things like haircuts and swimming lessons bring you undone.
What have you found difficult with your family set-up?
Seeking help for an eating disorder is in no way the end of such a destructive illness. For me it was really only the beginning. The beginning of the most hellish, scary, back and forth, up and down, round and round and round roller coaster ride ever created!
There is only so long you can go on treating your body and your mind in such a destructive way. The emaciation, whilst disturbing for others to witness and not a sign of good health, is really nothing in comparison to the emotional torture. You hate everyone for caring about you; for bashing their heads against the wall in attempts to get you to eat something, anything.
You hate yourself for not being good enough, strong enough, thin enough, perfect enough. Most of all for upsetting those you love. You want to be a good person, want everyone to like you, everyone to be happy.
You never stand up for yourself because you are not worthy of having rights. Any thoughts or opinions you have on anything are crap and airing them makes you (feel like) a bad person.
You are driven by the need for perfection in every way. Nothing in your life can be out of place, from the direction of the pile of the carpet, to the pencil on your desk. Obsession about everything, especially food, to the point of debilitation is incomprehensible to those not in the black hole with you.
You know you are in deep water but you don't want to give it up. It's been your friend, helping you take your mind off the real traumas of life you are trying to avoid. Would you want to say goodbye to a friend who distracted you from your real problems and helped you cope?
In reality you are not coping at all.
"OK, I'll see someone, perhaps I do have a problem" I said to those around me. "What a joke, let's see how wrong you all are when they take one look at me and confirm that I don’t have a problem" I thought to myself. I was the best at telling them what they wanted to hear.
My first appointment with a "professional" (How professional can he be? He says I have anorexia and I clearly don't!) was daunting. To be honest, my main focus was how thin the other girls in the waiting room were compared to me!
The appointment was at the hospital where the Professor practiced. I wonder what goes on back there behind those doors where all the inpatient anorexics are? I wonder how thin they are?
I was threatened with admission to hospital. "Bring it on" I thought, "If I was thin you'd be putting me there right this minute. I'll show you how thin I can get".
Denial is bliss. Anorexia is only about being thin in Denial Land. It is not about anything else.
I dutifully went to see the dietitian once a week. Because that's what they wanted.
“Yes, I'll record what I eat”, and I'll just jot in a few things I didn't so it will look better to you.
“No, I don't take laxatives at all. Well, OK, I'll be truthful, just a few”, But not 50 a day, get that? Not 50.
“Goodness, I have no idea why my weight is dropping so dramatically” - I mean, look at everything I write down that I'm eating!
I tried doing it at home, tried to eat, tried to be normal. Because that's what they wanted. My mind and body were so starved of nutrition and the capacity to see reality that I was beyond help on the "outside".
The "inside" came soon enough - inside a "prison" with 'inmates'. Fellow eating disorder and psychiatric victims.
And what an experience that was to be.
When told I was on a waiting list to go into hospital, I pretended I was dreading it. Because every anorexic sufferer is meant to hate the idea of hospital where they make you eat and get fat. But secretly I relished the idea, in part seeing it as the help deep down I knew I needed, in part being around people like me because I'd felt so alone with what I was going through.
If I let on I was looking forward to it, it meant I admitted I had a problem (which of course I didn't), and that I'd be willing to work to get better (there's no work to be done as I'm not sick).
I held all my cards close to my chest. I packed my bag and waited patiently for a few weeks. This gave me a goal. To lose as much weight as possible before then, so they wouldn't think I was in hospital for nothing.
Besides, they won't be successful in making me eat and give up my strict food rituals. I'm just going because it will be a break from life, and it will be fun, like a giant slumber party........
A life of duality is the resounding message for me. One persona for the public and then an anguished, anxious, competitive inner self. I wonder how can she recover from this destructive condition when she is full of self-denial, competitiveness and self-loathing?
What resonates with you?
Leave her a comment, she is reading! Tune in next Tuesday to see how things turn out for her.
When I was down visiting my parents in the school holidays, my Mum slipped me a book she thought I would enjoy. It was called The Radleys by Matt Haig and is (another) vampire novel.
As you are aware, I am quite partial to a vampire but after reading the entire Twilight series a few months ago, I honestly thought I had had my fill of blood suckers with complicated love lives. Apparently not.
I loved the Radleys. Right from the beginning I was totally hooked on this humorous, familiar yet interesting story .
It is set in a middle class suburbia in Britain. Peter Radley is the local doctor. He is a man longing for the headier days of city living where sex and blood were his only pursuits. His wife, Helen is a SAHM who secretly craves the vampire who converted her but who thrives on abstinence and creating an 'ordinary' life.
Peter and Helen have two teenage children, Rowan and Clara, who attend the local highschool. The children don't quite 'fit in' but they are fairly 'typical' teenagers -she is a vegan; he is experiencing unrequited love and writing poetry in his bedroom. They do not know that they are vampires.
The secret is unveiled when Clara acts (extremely) violently when one of her classmates attempts to have his way with her. She gets her first taste of blood, an experience that changes her life, and those of her family, forever.
The book is written is short, bite sized chapters (sorry!) and punctuated by excerpts from The Abstainers Handbook (a total satire of usual addiction self-help books), which provides background to the plot. The author switches around the voice of the novel, providing different perspectives of the predicament the Radleys find themselves in. Haig also references classic literature which adds a depth to the novel that is unexpected. He presents vampire folklore in cute and unique ways.
It is a tale of marital tension, self denial, the webs that tie family together and the relationship between addiction and indulgence. All the characters are very likable.
I was reading Sister A's post yesterday and it occurred to me how differently we manage our children. I have, of course, had this realisation before, but not within the context of preparing our children for birthday parties.
I have a tendency to 'under celebrate'. This takes to form of 'under-gifting', 'low-key entertaining', and 'piking' from stuff whenever possible.
Don't get me wrong now. I really do know how to enjoy myself, and frequently do, but I just don't make a big deal about birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas, new year's eves or other 'must-dos'. I don't know why exactly but the 'post-event downer' probably has something to do with it.
I am aware of the issues associated with my disengagement with life's traditions and on one hand I want to improve my performance in this arena. On the other, I know I am too disorganised and 'maxed out' to make it happen in the near future.
Anyway, I digress...
So I was busily reading Life in a Pink Fibro's account of how excited my two nephews are about their cousin's pirate/mermaid party at the weekend, when it realised that I haven't even mentioned the party to the kids since the day we received the invitation! At the time we oohed and aahed, wrote the date on the calendar, discussed possible outfit options, and then we forgot about it.
So while Team Fibro have been practising their sword fighting and perfecting their pirate speak, we have been doing nothing to prepare for the party (except that I made a guilt-inspired trip to late-night shopping to kit out 3 pirates and a mermaid last night).
Perhaps my under-celebrating is starting to effect my children's fun? Is not the 'build up' to a big event often more fun than the actual event? Am I denying them more than just the excitement of hours of plank walking, ahoy-there-me-hearties-ing, and fake tattoo selection?
The Geege is different to me in this department. For example, he has already spilled the beans about our upcoming trip to Fiji for Christmas (more on that later). He thinks he has added to the holiday by giving it a 3 month lead-time. I think it is already driving me mad that Nugget and/or Doo Dah asks me every morning if they are going on the plane today!
There must be a happy medium? Somewhere between my chronic 'expectation management' approach and the Geege's joyous over-communication approach? I don't really want to create four Mini-me bah humbug types after all.
I certainly do not know the answer. I may just have to ask my sister.
What are you like with all of this? Do you tend to 'spill the beans' or hold your cards close to your chest when it comes to parties and other celebrations?
I often get asked by friends if their child in 'normal' in terms of speech and language development. I am probably not the best person to ask, I spent most of my speech pathology career working with adults, but I feel more and more confident with this question. With my own children as models, I was able to really make sense of the process of language acquisition. It fascinates me. Really fascinates me. It always has.
So on Tuesday whilst at work a friend asked me how much her (nearly) two year old should be talking and how she might help him get going a bit more.
Here's what I said to her (pretty much what I always say).
There are no real 'norms' for children at the age of two. Usually they are putting 2 words together and have a vocabulary of more than 50 words. Not necessarily 'real' words, but words that they use to talk about things. Their sound repertoire is limited but they should have the 'early sounds'. Things like /h/, /y/, /w/, some vowels, /b, p/, /d, t/, /m/ and /n/. Anything else is really a bonus. Things start to look more similar for children by three.
Firstly, determine if you have any concerns with his level of understanding. If you do, see your GP to check for middle ear infections, get a hearing assessment and go and see a speech pathologist.
Secondly, determine if you have concerns only with speech and language or if there are other areas of development that you are worried about too. If you feel your child has a more general problem, see your GP and/or paediatrician.
If he hears okay, understands your questions and follows your instructions (lucky you!) and you have no other concerns, then he may benefit from some language stimulation techniques.
Trust your instincts. If you are worried, I mean, lie awake at night, thinking kind of worried, then go and get him assessed by a speech pathologist.
Talk to your child constantly. Repeat target words, over and over. "Mummy is cooking dinner. Yum. Dinner. Making dinner. Making dinner in the kitchen. Are you ready for dinner? Want dinner? Dinner!"
If he has one word, help him get some more by putting his word with another. If he says "More!". Try More what? More apples? You want more? More please! Want more Mummy. More apples Mummy. etc
Expect your child to communicate/vocalise before you give him something. He should have to try to say 'tah' or 'me' or whatever it is you would like, but be consistent with this. Don't give him what he wants unless he tries.
Write down all the words he says and what they mean (sometimes the same word might have different connotations in different situations e.g. /boo/ might be spoon, blue, peek-a-boo, boozie etc.) Work out how much he is really saying. You may be surprised!
Give him choices when you offer him something. "Juice or milk?" You are modelling the words you want him to say and he can't just answer 'yes' or 'no'. He has to try. Be patient and keep repeating the question until he has a go (unless he is completely frustrated at which time you might get him to point to the one he wants and repeat the appropriate word again).
Read to your child. Everyday. As many books as you and he can tolerate. Don't necessarily read the words of the story (he may not follow them) but use the picture books to label things, people, actions, colours and emotions. Count things on the page. Match things. Make connections between things on the page and things in his real world ("Oh! That's a tractor. A red one. Just like Grandpa's tractor. Where's grandpa's tractor?")Repeat words and concepts over and over and over.
Signing might help. Sometime learning a few signs for key words will reduce frustration. I had a great guest post by MandyE recently on how you might do this.
There are a million other things you can do, and perhaps some of my speechie mates can pipe in with their suggestions in the comments section. For more information, you can also check out the Speech Pathology Australia fact sheets.
How did you find your child's speech and language was at two? Were all your kids in a similar place, or did you have a super-star? What strategies do you use to help your children learn to speak?
It was with sadness that I heard of the passing of Australian opera singer Dame Joan Sutherland, aged 83 at her home in Switzerland as I drove to work yesterday morning.
Hers was the voice of an angel.
I am by no means an Opera fan, but I reckon there would be few people who have heard Dame Sutherland sing who have not been touched by her brilliance. The clarity and complexity of her voice as she hit the high notes. The preciseness of her articulation as she sang her arias. The trills, the staccato rhythms, the pure beauty.
Once described by Pavarotti as 'the voice of the Century', her death is a sad end to an extraordinary life.
Listening to the many tales of people who had seen her 'live' on the early morning chat show yesterday, my mind was whisked away to my own short, hilarious dalliance with opera singing.
I can tell you now that I have no talent for singing (any singing) and I had no idea what I was getting myself in to.
When I was studying Speech Pathology, an opportunity arose to attend a course run by Jo Estill. She is a famous 'voice trainer' whose techniques (VoiceCraft) have been widely adopted by Speech Pathologists who work with patients with voice disorders. Her philosophy is that everyone has a beautiful voice. You just need to know how to use it."
As students, we were offered a concessional course fee, so a few of us thought we would go along. After all, it isn't often you get to meet someone out of your textbook.
Like most things in my life, I did very little pre-planning. I turned up on the Monday morning, strapped in for the week and expected to be 'taught' how to 'fix people'. How wrong I was.
VoiceCraft is based on 'Six figures for voice'. It's philosophy is that people can gain greater control over the structures that help create voice and speech, and therefore change the way they speak or sing.
Had we read the fine print, we'd have realised that our course was predominantly aimed at singers, so the focus of her demonstrations was singing, the class was full of professional and aspiring singers, and there was barely a word about the adaptation of the techniques to the disordered voice.
Having never sung in front of people before (except in a school-choir), it was possibly one of the most daunting experiences of my life having to 'model' different voice techniques in front of trained and professional singers. The pure embarrassment when my 'opera' voice quality came out as 'falsetto', or my 'twang' was so loud it could only constitute 'belting'.
It was an important learning experience.
So many of my voice clients felt that same feeling of discomfort when I got them to do things with their voices that were equally as foreign to them. Their looks of 'Are you serious?', mirrored the one I wore for the entire week at Jo's course.
The VoiceCraft course did the job.
I went on to become a highly competent voice clinician. The fact that I smiled to myself every time I taught someone with vocal nodules to 'belt' rather than strain, did little to detract from my professional image.
I haven't practised my 'opera' or 'sob' voice qualities in a while but I discovered, as I drove along the freeway to work yesterday morning, that I can still get my false vocal folds to release constriction while I lower my larynx and assume a decent 'belt' voice quality.
I turned up the volume and cranked out a few high notes. Just for Joan.
I have a friend in my life who has been on an incredible journey. Hers is the story of many young women in Australia, but it is rarely told with such clarity. Whenever we find ourselves in conversation, I find myself wondering how someone like her, ended up in a place like that. What was it really like to maintain a lifestyle so fraught with temptation and judgement and self-deprivation? I asked her if she would put together some thoughts for my blog. I wanted her to be able to reach others who may find her story as interesting as I do.
Here is the first instalment of what I believe will be a fascinating series on Anorexia Nervosa.
You are 21 years old and should be living up these gregarious, responsibility-free years, but instead you are trapped in your own mind in a very black place. No-one outside can penetrate your thoughts or beliefs and make you see reason.
Your main priority in your day-to-day life is to starve to the point of lightheadedness; to see how little you can eat, see how hungry you can get, how much exercise you can do, and show how strong willed you are.
Your thoughts from the moment of waking up are focussed on how much you weigh or what you are going to eat that day or how you are going to escape people's comments or demands to eat and being around food, all while going through the motions of holding down a full-time job.
If you weigh 0.2kg more than the day before, your day is destined to be emotionally torturous.
If you weigh any more than you did half an hour earlier, your day will be equally as emotionally torturous, and sometimes you want to die.
Weight, food, how long until your head will let you eat, what you will eat, how boney you feel, how many ribs you can see, how prominent your hip bones are, what you look like in the reflection of the window, what rules you have about food and eating, constantly moving and burning energy.....round and round, these thoughts are all you can focus on all day.
You become a very good liar, to others and yourself.
All the while wondering when you might start to look thin.
By the end of the day you are drained beyond belief, but somehow you get a high from the knowledge you will do it all again tomorrow.
The scenario is anorexia nervosa at 34kg.
This was my life, but I didn't think there was a problem at all.
How did that snapshot make you feel? Pretty exhausted? Please leave a comment below for my friend to read and then tune in for the next installment next Tuesday.
It doesn't matter how many children you have, when one is absent, life just seems so much easier. I always wished that I knew how comparatively easy life with one child was, before the next ones came along. I wish I had been able to 'go with the flow' a bit more then, because it is much harder to do now.
For me, managing three young children daily seems somehow managable. We go to the shops, to the park, on playdates, to play group, to music; you name it. Just like regular people. We have a routine and we manage life around it. We just get on with it. But when school holidays comes around, and three becomes four again, I suddenly become inert. My thoughts paralyse my actions.
Can I really be bothered making four lunches, filling four drink bottles, packing the necessary extra 'just in case' clothes, finding all the hats, putting on everyone's shoes, slapping on all the sunscreen and buckling up four car-seats, just to escape the house for a couple of hours? Can I? Really??
When I do make the effort, I am usually pleasantly surprised. It never goes as badly as I expected. In fact it is usually a lot of fun. The kids are relatively well behaved, they don't generally fight in company and it always puts a bit of a spring back into our steps. A rejuvenation of sorts.
Why is it then that I have these great fears? Why can't I make plans during the school holidays instead of holding back to 'see how we are all travelling'? I know it is because without plans we are free to do nothing. To nurture the introvert within. I do fancy a bit of nothing in amongst the chaos, but I can't help but think that I *ought* to be doing something.
There has been a whole lot of nothing since we returned from camping. A quick visit here. A quick shop there. A bit of Little Athletics. A fair bit of sleeping in and routine-free living. Some TV. And a whole lot of nothing.
As the alarm went off this morning and the great search for some school socks and a hat was on, my thoughts returned to the inertia that has kept things pretty low key around here. I promised myself there will be plans for the next lot of school holidays.
There's only so much nothing this Mum can be responsible for.
I think once you develop a love of camping there is precious little that can get in your way. Even a weekend of rain can't dampen your spirit (excuse the pun!).
Every October long weekend for the last 4 years we have packed up our stuff and headed into the bush for our annual group camping trip. Each year we were accompanied by friends (some have even braved it with us more than one year, despite our rapid breeding). On three out of four of the weekends it has absolutely bucketed down.
This year we went to Coolendel, about 30 kms out of Nowra. This was a new spot for us. We usually find ourselves somewhere in the Blue Mountains, but because I had my school reunion, I had to relocate the group. 8 Adults. 11 Children, 5 and under.
It was a gorgeous part of the world. Abundant wildlife (such as wombats, peacocks and wallabies). A serene river. Bushwalking. Biking. Even gold panning if you are so inclined.
The weather was as we have come to expect. Bleak. Wet. Really, bloody wet actually.
People always feel sorry for you if you go camping and it rains. I think they imagine you being washed away or soaked through or at the very least, dripped upon as you sleep. I admit that one of our friend's tent was not up for the task (it was a single skin tent and this is never a good option unless visiting a drought-stricken location), but for the rest of us, none of these fears came to fruition.
The way I look at it, rain just adds to the adventure. It makes things harder, that is for sure, and, if given the choice, I wouldn't specifically decide to go camping in the rain, but it is totally survivable. And enjoyable. You just have to be a bit more prepared. And go with good friends.
From a kid's perspective. Rain is tops. They love it. Rain leads to puddles. Kids love puddles. Rain leads to mud. Kids love mud. There is much stomping and sploshing and general enjoyment to be had. In gumboots and raincoats, what's more. Exploring the surrounds. Practically as free as birds.
Happy kids equal happy parents. Here are some ideas to keep the kids happy while camping in the rain:
Bring an extra tent - a playroom of sorts. This keeps the kids occupied in their own space. We did this last year, but not this year and boy did we miss it!
Don't forget the waterproof shoes (gumboots or crocs are winners). As much as kids love the squishiness of wet-through shoes, it is not great for their health!
Bring an age-appropriate boardgame (or two). Snakes and Ladders was the saviour of our sanity on more than one occasion this trip.
You can never have enough marshmellows. An activity and snack all in one.
Keep to your routine as best you can. Getting the kids into their sleeping bags by 7pm each night means that you have a few hours to enjoy the adult company. Around the fire. With your raincoat on and umbrella up :)
Are you a camper? Have you got any other wet-weather suggestions??
I am so excited!! I am guest posting at Maxabella Loves... today. After sharing a room with her for about 15 years, I didn't think she would ever want me to take control of her space again. But I was wrong!
Come see what I have to say about "What my children have taught me about myself".
Don't forget to leave a comment on the post so that you can go in the draw for her giveaway tomorrow.
If you are visiting from Maxabella loves... a big hello and welcome! Let me know you stopped by so that I can come and visit you too :)
But with camping (more on that tomorrow) and the school reunion, I have rediscovered the hedonist within.
I have taken a pass on the scales, until I can sort myself out a bit, but I will refocus this week and get myself back on the wagon.
This week I am going to change one thing. I am going to Eat Less. It is what I should have been doing all along, but it is so bloody hard.
Eat Lee is rule number 45 from Herr Pollan's Food Rules. He says that this is probably the most unwelcome advice of all (I second that), but it is a scientific fact that 'calorie restriction' has repeatedly been shown to slow aging in animals and may offer something in the world of cancer prevention.
So even if you are not overweight, the argument for eating less is compelling. Afterall who doesn't want to be the fabulous woman in the black dress looking 10 years younger than your peers at your 20 year reunion? (Envious much?)
We simply eat more than our body needs. The excess wreaks havoc, and not just with our weight.
We are not the first people in history to revel in food abundance. Previous cultures have devised various ways to promote the idea of moderation that we can follow, such as:
Stop eating when you are full
Eat when you are hungry, not when you are bored
Consult your gut, not your eyes, when you are eating
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.
This week in B2SB2B we have to honour our engaged readers. Those people who comment and form our blog community. I thought that I would use my Blog Bookmarks format to highlight my favourite recent post of some of you who read my blog regularly (based on the number of comments you leave).
In order to cull the list a little, I have left out my sisters (Life in a Pink Fibro and Maxabella loves...), anyone on my blog roll and anyone else with whom I correspond directly (no less in love with you, it's just that you know it already :). If you lurk and I don't know you, or if I have left you out. I apologise. You are no less worthy, I am just crap like that. Feel free to leave a comment and plug your own blog!
So here goes.
First, meet Kate from Picklebums. Hers is a gorgeous little blog about living with three kids on a farm in country Victoria. She recently lamented the loss of September in Down Hill from Here. I have to say that I seemed to have blinked and missed September this year, so I can totally relate to this post.
And there is Tenille, whose catch-cry on her blog Help!Mum is: It helps to know that someone else is just as confused as you. And it does. Don't you think? My favourite recent post of Tenille's is a heart wrenching one called In a Perfect World. You will need your tissue box for that one.
Not to forget, x0xJ (not sure that that is her real name!?) from The Mummy Autobiography, whose blog title I covert. She recently did a piece on boardgames that I found great. As a boardgame lover, I am a little confused how she could have married a man not *into* boardgames, but apparently things are working out okay for them.
And to round things out, I want to highlight a couple of fairly new editions to And then there were four, Posie Patchwork and Frog Goose and Bear.
Posie is a fellow twin Mum of four within four years and is an arty/crafty type (same, same but very different to me!). She blogs about her kids, her brave soldier husband and her work and you can read a lot more about her in her Hello 200 Followers post.
Frog Goose and Bear (the names of her children) writes a cute blog that is all fab finds and craft and great photos and like a big hug. You will get a feel for it with her Fairy Gardens post.
And that is it for this week, dear readers.
What was your favourite post from one of your readers this week?
I didn't realise that I had expectations about the school reunion. I mean, with all my focus on what to wear, I hadn't really stopped to think about what would happen when I got there. What would I find?
Would people be famous? Rich? Happy?
How many different ways would there be to spend 20 years?
It was in fact a surreal experience.
I should have studied the school photo before I went and read my diaries because I think that I was asleep most of high-school. I couldn't remember anyone's names and those whose faces I was able to recognise, I embarassingly called something different. Luckily, they thought I was joking.
The only people who looked really good, enviably good, had no children. Except one girl who looked fabulous and was the mother of two. I suspect, just between you and me that she may have had some 'work' done.
The most number of marriages we were able to determine went to the Silver Fox whom one of the girl's we hung out with was married to. He was on number 4. Another of our classmates had two ex-wives and was at the function with his fiancee. He was a dark horse because none of us could remember him even looking at a girl at school.
The most number of children to different partners went to the guy who fathered his first when we were still at school. Four kids, three different mothers. Not much of a surprise given that he was 17 when it all started. One girl and one boy had six children each. Made me tired just thinking about it.
There were three confirmed homosexual men, (not counting the one who I started a rumour about given that his FaceBook photo depicted him with another man. And he is in advertising. And lives in Balmain. He was most unhappy with my assumptions). None of them was actually present.
There were no lesbians. By the end of the night as the beers flowed, more and more girls confessed to a 'girly-pash' in their 20s, not wanting to be out-done by the boys. None of these changed the tally.
One guy had had a stroke and another walked with a cane. Thankfully, there were no other major illnesses that I uncovered. Sadly, there were four deaths. Three blokes and a girl. Two of the men died with complications from drug abuse and the other commited suicide. The girl died following complications from an ectopic pregnancy.
There were two alleged blue-collar criminals. This wasn't raised on the night, but I thought I would mention them in because it adds to the drama, don't you think?
Most people present were married, with kids (mostly young like my own) and a job. A whole lot of sameness, despite the many paths we have taken to get there. All those young classmates have gotten lost in nearly-40 year old bodies, with 20 years of stories to tell. You could still see them there, but they were different too.
Mostly people were a lot nicer than I remembered.
The experience made me feel older. And wiser. And happier with my own life than I thought it would. I still looked pretty good in my jeans, despite my four young children. I have done okay. And so, I happily discovered, have many of my classmates.
Have you been to your 20 year school reunion? How did you find it?
I have had the opportunity lately to observe Doo Dah in a 'class' situation. Being not yet 4, these situations are few and far between, but it was a very interesting exercise for me.
On the first occasion, he was involved in a guided bushwalk with a Ranger at the Wildflower Gardens. In this instance, Doo Dah was observed to be extremely enthusiastic. He was the 'teacher's pet' answering all of her questions (as loudly as possible it seemed) and spruiking his own stories of camping and bushwalks to boot.
I didn't know whether to be proud or horrified.
He was that kid. You know, the know-it-all. But his stories were relevant (mostly) and his face was lit up with such excitement that it was hard to be anything but enamoured with him.
The other observation occurred during his regular swimming lessons. Having had the Ranger experience the day before, I paid a bit more attention to his behaviour in the class. Doo Dah loves his swimming lessons. Again he is all enthusiastic and engaged.
But I realised that Doo Dah did not listen to one word his teacher said to him. Not once did he kick his legs in the way she instructed, or hold on to the side of the pool as she requested, or put his head under the water.
At one stage I had to remove him from the pool for 5 minutes when he obliviously did not follow the teacher's instructions, preferring to bob around with his bubble on, putting himself in danger.
I realised that despite attending lessons for the last 4 weeks, Doo Dah's swimming has not improved at all.
It isn't that he isn't capable. It is because Doo Dah is not listening.
He doesn't listen at home (remember the story of the meal time fiasco? and the pea turtle?). But it isn't just me he isn't listening to. It is other adults too.
This is a worrying trend.
I know that he is 'caught in the middle' between Nugget and the twins. He is still finding his way in the family and in the wider world. We give him a pretty long leash most of the time, but he has got to learn to listen. Right?
He is so full of life and smiles and happiness and, well, cheekiness that he gets away with being a little brat, now. That won't last forever. If we don't nip it in the bud, all the cuteness will be gone, but the bad behaviour will have stayed and it won't be at all endearing.
What strategies have you used to help your children understand the importance of listening?
I am having one of my political rants today. I can't help myself because this topic is so disturbing to me.
The world is losing its battle against poverty. Even though the world's nations have recently pledged another $40 billion to the UN Millenium Plan to drastically reduce worldwide poverty by 2015, we are not on target to achieve this worthy goal.
Poverty is everybody's problem, but it effects women even more than men.
In the poorest nations in the world maternal mortality rates are higher than in richer nations.
The major direct causes of maternal morbidity and mortality include haemorrhage, infection, high blood pressure, unsafe abortion, and obstructed labour.
One of Australia's Pacific neighbours has a terrible statistic that was revealed at the UN Summit. In Papua New Guinea the rates of maternal mortality has nearly doubled in the past 14 years. Doubled. I find this frightening.
If you live in a poor nation childbirth is more of a gamble.
You can't be assured the necessary C-section that might save your life and that of your baby.
You are less likely to access pre-natal care.
You are less likely to have access to post-natal care.
Death whilst bearing life.
It doesn't seem right.
My mother gave birth to both of my sister's in PNG. I am thankful that she was 'born to breed' and had complication-free labours.
As a person who has not been able to birth in the conventional way, I thank my lucky stars that I was born in a country that has good pre- and post-natal care and first-rate surgeons.
The outcome of my first labour could easily have been very different. Very different indeed.
There must be something we can do for our 'sisters' in these poor Pacific Island nations?
Where you live should have no impact on how you birth. All women deserve to meet their babies. All babies deserve to live full and happy lives.
This week in b2sb2b, the flavour is Networking with a big focus on guest posting. I am glad that I both hosted and posted in the guest capacity this week. Both have been rewarding experiences. For our writing task, Gigi has asked us to choose another topic from the Idea Bank and blog about it.
Who’s on your “laminated list”? (From “Friends” – who are the celebrities that you and your husband agree you are allowed to sleep with and it doesn’t count as cheating.) You don’t have to agree with the idea, but who would the celebrities be.
I want to start by saying that the Geege and I have never actually had this conversation, so this is really just between you and me, okay?
In no particular order, here is my list of most bonkables.
I couldn't face him in Alice in Wonderland but Johnny is sex-on-a-stick, non?
I know he is only 28 or something, but what is not to like about French Rugby union player Frederic?
You may think this is a rather strange entry, but I think Jason is so funny that I can only imagine he would be the best fun in the bedroom. He is tall, dark and well, quirky.
He has definately had some very 'wrong' do's in his career but this old cogger still does it for me.
He may be a little on the short side, and perhaps a little blonde for my usual taste, but there is something scrumptious about this Aussie actor.
I could go on, but feel the need to stop. In case I might appear overly enthusiastic. I am afterall, a very happily married woman. And why wouldn't I be?