Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Attitude of Gratitude

So, on the first day of December this year I committed to having an attitude of gratitude for a month which I would share with my Facebook friends each day. I didn't come up with the idea myself. I was inspired by The Mums Lounge "Attitude of Gratitude Photo Challenge" because I have been feeling more grateful lately and because, to be quite frank, I like that it rhymed.

I started off slow. A quick photo and something small in my day that I was thankful for. But, as all good things do, it gathered a momentum of its own and my thankfulness became more significant. 

My attitude actually changed. 

The commitment I made to having to stop each day and think of something to be grateful for, during a very busy time of the year, became my calm. I discovered that I have so much to be grateful for and that I have fallen into the well-known trap of taking my good fortune for granted. This month has reminded me to be extremely grateful for my journey in life. For the lessons I've learned. For the losses. For the gifts. For the growth. For the pain and for the joy. It's EASY to get caught up in the rat-race of life, particularly at Christmas time. It's soooo busy and everyone seems to want a piece of you and I have MANY times spent almost the entire month complaining. But this year, not so much. This year when I have caught myself whingeing about.... whatever, I have stopped and said 'Lucky you Tan, that there is space in your mind for such a silly complaint'. 'Lucky you that you do not live in fear. Lucky you that you do not live in pain. Lucky you that you do not live with loneliness. Lucky you that you do not live in darkness. Lucky you that you do not live in silence. Lucky you, Tan.'

I had planned to post something to be grateful for every day of December, but I stopped a couple of days ago. Not on purpose. I was running out of hours in my days and telling everyone how grateful I am was the first casualty of tasks I didn't have time for. I have still stopped every day though. Stopped and thought and felt lighter. And now, in the quiet aftermath of a marathon family Christmas lunch, I have stopped to think about what I am thankful for. And of course, on days like today, there is so much. Family. Love. Tradition. Giving. Eating. Playing. Fun. Togetherness. Sharing. It's almost a no-brainer but I have something more [yes more!] to be thankful for.

Attitude of Gratitude - Days 21-25 (!)

I am grateful for my friends who came along for the ride with me. All of my friends but especially the friends who are otherwise quiet on Facebook but have showed their support by 'liking' my post. It kept me honest. When I realised how many people were listening, it encouraged me to actually say something.

I am grateful for the friends [who I do not 'see' socially but with whom I share my Facebook life] that took the time to comment on my posts. Friends like Di, Riannon, Crawford, Monique, Josie, Mia and Mandy. When I realised how many people were touched, it encouraged me to dig deeper.

I am grateful for the friends who made a special effort to tell me how my Attitude of Gratitude posts had inspired them. Friends like Alischa, Isabelle, Kalyna and Isabella. When I realised how many people were inspired, it encouraged me to share more of myself.

I am grateful for my friend Polly who took my proverbial hand and travelled down the road of gratitude with me. When I realised I was not alone, it encouraged me to stay on the road.

I am grateful.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

10 CHEAP, screen-free things to do at home these holidays

Many of you would now know that I'm not a fan of kids sitting in front of a screen, of any sort, for any great lengths of time. I'm not entirely anti-screen and my kids actually start most of their days watching some tv or playing on the computer. And, for their own survival, I have many times dumped them in front of a movie or two in the middle of the day so that I can quietly rock in the corner with a glass of wine. I am committed to limiting their screen time though and so have a number of activities at hand in the holidays to help keep them occupied when the screens are off. I find it easier to have an arsenal ready to fire at them when I am under attack from the "I'm bored!" cannon.

Get Ballsy
Pick a ball, any ball, and send them outside to play with it. Play soccer, football, netball, basketball, handball, lawn bowls, totem tennis, ten pin bowling in your driveway or marbles. There's something for every kid to do with a ball. If it's just you and your little one, get out there with them. 

DIY Christmas Tree
We do this one every year and it takes up lots of time. Tick!
1. Search for appropriate 'trees'. We live in a suburb with mature street trees so we often find these on our footpath but if you have a nearby park, why not go for a walk and see what you can find. The boys have become quite picky and know the best options are ones with lots of branches.
2. Paint your tree. I have a whole selection of bright coloured tubes of paint that I've accumulated from Cheap as Chips over the years. They're about $2 per tube and I recommend having a few in your 'craft box' all the time. This year the boys have chosen orange and gold as their colours.

3. Make the decorations. I save the fronts of each year's Christmas cards that the kids cut out the pictures of to put on their trees. We also make garlands out of left over wrapping paper which I measure and rule up and the boys cut 
them out and put them together.

4. Make a tree stand. I have a collection of old bottles which the boys fill up with sand [to weigh it down] and voila - perfect tree stand. Sometimes they decorate these too with ribbon etc. Depends on their mood.

Kill two birds with one stone here... lunch/snacks AND an activity. One time you could make your own pizzas. Have your kids help you set out the ingredients. We've done this many times now so the boys know that we use a packet of mini-pitta breads, a couple of pizza sauce sachets, a bowl of grated mozzarella, ham, salami and capsicum. Pop them in a pre-heated oven and you're done. We also like to do cupcakes together, gingerbread people/aliens and plain old cheese and fruit platter that the boys wash and cut up themselves. 

DIY Christmas decorations
I love this activity. It's quiet. It takes ages. It's extremely cheap. It's excellent for fine motor skills.
1. Get yourself to IKEA and pick up a tub of their coloured plastic beads and a set of their bead plates [the whole lot will cost you less than $15].
2. Think up some nice 'Christmasy' designs and help your little ones by starting the pattern for them.
3. Sit back and have a coffee while they finish off their decorations.

Colouring Pages
This may seem like an obvious one but you'd be surprised how many people forget to bring this one out [especially for boys] I like to get new stock [including books and textas/crayons] at the beginning of every holiday which my boys really appreciate too. We choose the pages they want to do together and I find that if I'm part of the selection process etc, they're far more interested in doing it than if I just set them on their way.

Art School
My kids LOVE this one and we have been doing it from a very young age. Get yourself some large format paper. If you're really stuck, grab a roll of paper from Ikea and cut into suitable lengths. Squirt some of those bright paints I mentioned earlier onto plastic plates and lay out a couple of brushes and some jars of water to rinse with. Our favourite way to do this is to peg up a whole lot of sheets along the fence, but it would be just as much fun on an easel or laid out on the ground or table. I like to give them topics to paint to help stimulate their creative juices. If they're really little you could paint their hands and feet and get them to stamp the paper to make some gorgeous keepsakes.

Waterbomb wars
A packet of these rippers cost about $3. Fill them up, but not too much otherwise they burst too easily and the game's over in no time. I then send the boys outside with a big basket of them of each and the rules are that they are allowed to throw them at each others' FEET as they're running around trying to evade the bombs. This is a big WINNER and lots of summer fun.

Caine's Arcade
I was inspired to introduce this idea to my boys after seeing this video. It's a fantastic activity to get them thinking and it will cost nothing but some old boxes and a couple of rolls of sticky tape. The best part is that after making the game, they want to play it too! More time for coffee and a magazine.

Quiet inside time
I bet you have books, board games, card games, puzzles, lego which you and your kids have probably forgotten about. Sometimes we're all activitied out and just need some quiet time inside. I like to pull out one of these either to  share or for them to do on their own ['cause they get sick of each other and   need space too] It's great when the weather is no good or if they haven't been feeling very well.

Let's play house
This one is my all-time FAVOURITE. My boys are still young enough to not absolutely despise household chores [not long now though]. I get them to help me out and make it like a game. Who can sort the washing into piles the quickest? Who can make their bed the neatest? Who wants to use the vacuum cleaner? Who can make the biggest pile of weeds from the garden? Who can make the best cafe latte? 

Well... baby steps ;)

Sunday, 2 December 2012

We need to talk

"My kid just won't tell me what's going on.."

It's a common complaint of parents to children of all ages today. 

"How was school?"
"What did you do?"

Sometimes that's frustrating. Sometimes that's worrying. Sometimes it's hurtful. Nonetheless, mums and dads everywhere will keep asking those same questions hoping, one day, for a bit of insight.

My kids are really good sharers which I'm sure doesn't surprise you given that their mum IS a blogger and I can't help thinking of an apple tree somewhere. There are other reasons that they share their stories so freely though. We are invested in communication in this family. Good, old-fashioned talking. We do a lot of it. In fact, we have to tell our youngest to STOP talking regularly. 

5 things that we do to encourage sharing are...

1. Dinner time is family time
We eat together as a family almost every night. Phones, iPods, iPads, tv etc are not allowed at the dinner table and the kids are used to chatting. The location is not important either. Our usual dining table, outside under a tree, at a restaurant or fish and chips at the beach. It's the ritual of sharing at dinner time that is important to all of us and very rarely missed. It usually starts with a comment about dinner [loving it or hating it - doesn't matter] and then one of them will ask "Who's starting?". 

2. Highlights and Lovelights
We all get a turn at starting 'highlights' and this is when we share the best parts of our days with each other. We do it every night and if we have guests at our dinner table, we invite them to share too. If I was to be honest, the highlight of my every day is probably hearing 'highlights' at the dinner table - but I'm not allowed to say that. I have to come up with something good that made me happy during that day. Somedays it's hard for all of us but we never let anyone get away with not having at least one highlight. Just recently I added an extra little thing which was everyone to share one thing that happened in their day to make them feel loved or cared for, which the boys have called 'Lovelights'. The kids worked this one out really quickly and are coming up with some really warming moments in their day such as "I felt loved when Mum sat with me on the couch and watched tv with me" and "I felt cared for when my teacher put a bandaid on my knee". 

3. Drive time is chat time
Any time in the car is a perfect opportunity to chat because your audience is captive. We don't do headphones and we don't do movies in the car, even on long road trips. We learn so much about the boys here. Just yesterday while I was driving with my 7 year old I discovered that he's already thinking about the logistics of getting his licence and how he can save up to buy his own car. It was an absolutely fascinating conversation and it gave me great insight into his thought processes.

4. Bedtime is story time
Most nights we are both home to put the kids to bed. Almost always on time and almost always with enough time for a family story. My boys share a room so we can all be in there together to read the story. They get to choose a different book each night and we all take turns to read. Even the little one has a go now too. After stories it's time for the goodnight kisses and a quick reminder of what's on the next day. Sometimes this is when I hear about something they HAVE to bring in to school the next day that I have to pull out of nowhere. Little Stefan often asks me "What do I have to look forward to tomorrow Mum?"

5. Many hands make light work
Wherever and whenever we can, we share the chore workload with the kids. Which means we're weeding together, washing the car together, stacking the dishwasher together, doing the laundry together, washing the windows together and planting the garden together. In my experience this is the best time to learn about something that may be bothering my oldest particularly. I find that if he's distracted I can take the questioning and conversations to places he would not usually feel comfortable with in the 'spotlight' of a one-to-one talk.

The foundation of solid family communication is essential for so many reasons. Harmony. Togetherness. Longevity. Respect. Understanding. 

If you are having trouble getting your kids to open up to you, try any one of my 5 tips. It doesn't matter which one/s you can do. If you're not able to eat as a family at night then come together at bedtime. If that's no good and you're flat out ferrying them from school to care to sports then use the car trips. If you're not already getting your kids to help out at home then pick a task you can share and start there.

The truth is they're all easy and I'm sure that even doing one of them regularly will result in a positive change.


Thursday, 29 November 2012

work-life balance, also known as LIFE

Having it all.

Just saying it out aloud makes me tired. Because I am tired. I've just recently gone from full time mum to working mum and I'm exhausted.

I'm new at this work-life balance thing. Well, maybe not. I mean what is work-life balance if not just life itself?

Working outside of the home, even part-time, IS harder than I thought though. It's quite the struggle to be on top of my game at work and at home and the learning curve is steep. I entered into this new life stage with the same arrogance that I did when I became a mum. "Millions of women do this - how hard can it be?"

Well, a bit harder than I thought as it turns out. I think I'm sucking at it.

I'm not good at doing things part-time. During my interview for my new job my boss remarked on the fact that I had spent the last 8 years raising my boys, at home, full-time. "Oh, you're an 'all or nothing' kind of person". Which I guess I am and I'm finding it tough to work out how to be a part-time home maker and a part-time employee. 

My washing is piling up. My filing is piling up. My guilt is piling up.

This is real and can be found on my spare bed.

I've run out of milk, eggs, bread, butter, cereal. I've missed my son reading at assembly. I've spot cleaned uniform shirts that I forgot to wash the night before. I've handed in forms late and I haven't organised a single class get together [shame on you Class Rep].

But it doesn't stop there. Oh no. I've dropped work balls too. Leaving unfinished jobs and missing things that need to be done.

It's become a lesson in humility. A hard lesson but I'm keen to learn. And I'm happy to share what I've learned so far. And this is it.

Having it all is all about perspective.

Here are 13 things I am grateful for when I am really down on myself for not getting the balance right.

1. Working part-time allows me to maintain my personal objective of never having to put the kids into childcare. 

2. Having a 'day off' mid-week really does feel like a 'day off' and I'm grateful for the quiet.

3. After 8 groundhog years I finally have a weekend again!

4. I feel supported by my family to return to work and this validates my choices.

5. I feel appreciated by my colleagues and it feels so good to be recognised by people, who have no affection for me, as someone worthwhile.

6. Earning my own money again is affirming.

7. I like that my boss tells me that I have 'a brain the size of a planet'

8. My boys see that Mum can work out of the home and do 'important stuff' too.

9. I am challenged again and I will always be grateful for any opportunity to learn.

10. When I drop the ball at home someone else picks it up and sometimes that someone is a 7 or 5 year old boy and that makes me so very proud... even if it's not the way I would do it.

This is how boys 'tidy up' the playroom. Just shove it all into the corner.

11. There's nothing quite like enjoying a homemade cafe latte in the quiet of the home you're working to pay off.

12. I now have 'washing days' and 'grocery days' and they are not my everyday.

13. I look forward to coming home and I can see past the mess and know a family committed to life lives here.

I do have it all. 

And I am grateful to know that.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

While you were sleeping

Dear Nathan and Stefan,

So much of my life as your mum goes unseen by you, as it should be but, did you know...

Before I put your clothes in the washing machine I check the pockets. I love the treasures I find in there and line them up in the laundry. Sometimes I find money and I steal it back from you.

When I check on you before I go to bed, I tidy up your covers and push the hair away from your brow and kiss your warm face. 

Sometimes I stand outside your bedroom door and listen to you two talk at night before you go to sleep. The sound of you laughing always makes me smile.

When you're upset and I open my arms for you to come for a cuddle, it's because I need it, not you.

I look at you sometimes and see me.

I remember the feel of your milky baby breath on my face and it makes me cry just a little bit.

When you come bursting in through the back door from playing outside screaming and bleeding and I pick you up and say to calm down, everything's going to be ok - I'm talking to my own panicked heart.

My heart nearly bursts out of my chest when I watch you in assembly and play sport and interact with your mates.

I have spent your whole life watching the expressions on your face and that's how I know when something has happened at school, or someone has upset you or something is on your mind without you saying a word.

I keep your notes to Father Christmas.

I have great expectations of you because I can see your enormous capacity to achieve. To succeed. To love and be loved. I will be your most staunch supporter and harshest critic forever.

Sometimes I look at you and I see my dad and that makes me happy. And sad.

You know how I get very mad at you when you argue back and are disprespectful to me? Well, one day I will tell you that I am proud that you know your own mind already and you have the balls and ability to stand up to me. One day.

Seeing you two hang out together as brothers and friends makes me feel good about the choices I've made.

At night, when you're asleep, your dad and I talk about you. We discuss your behaviour that day and what you've got on that week and what we can do together for fun and what lessons we can teach you and how we can be the best parents possible. Sometimes we fight but it's always for the same outcome. You and us as a family.

I brag about you on Facebook.

Your bodies amaze me. I watch them grow strong and see the muscles develop under your brown skin and I can already see the men you're going to be. I know my days of wrapping a towel around you and drying you off after a shower are numbered and that makes me anxious that I'm running out of time.

People will tell you that your mum is your first love but what you may never know is that you two are the greatest loves I have ever known and I will never love anyone or anything as purely as I do you. Until I take my last breath.

Love Mum xx

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Team Meeting - United States of Tania

Ok, we all know why we're here. Well except for you Short-term Memory Loss, but I promise it will come back to you in fragments when you least expect it. 

I've called this meeting because it's well overdue and quite frankly, there are some things that just need to be put on the table.

Let's start with you Judgement. Why do you insist on leaving town every time Sav Blanc comes to visit? Have I not tried to keep you two together. You two need to be friends. Please stay awhile next time. It makes it so much easier for the rest of us but especially for Fancy Footwork. Yes, we know you think you can dance but whenever Judgement leaves you throw in those little dance moves that really should have been left back in the '90s when you wore hi-top sneakers out and not stilettos.

Piss Weak Guts would also like it if you stuck around to keep Sav Blanc under control. I know we had high expectations of her French heritage and are all disappointed that after years of training she still hasn't come up to speed but I think we all just need accept that this is the best we're going to get from her. The same goes for Sore Feet, Pounding Head and Severe Nausea. They're not going anywhere, so the sooner the rest of the team accepts that the better.

While we're here, can I just make a point to you Back Fat and Behind the Knees Cellulite. Don't think that because I can't see you, that I've forgotten you're there. I know and I'm not happy. I also know that I can't sack you without an aggressive managing-out process but I just don't have the resources for that at the moment so I'm going to ask you, again, to please leave. You are not required and serve no purpose. Perhaps you could take Tuck Shop Arms with you and set up your own team somewhere else.

Oh and as for you Laugh Lines... what the fuck was so funny? Seriously, take it down a notch.

How are you going Short-term Memory Loss? Have you caught up yet? Ah yes, you make a good point. Not a Morning Person is VERY upset that Judgement let the team down again. Having two kids who are up with the sparrows is hard enough but when you wake up on the morning after the night before with that bastard Hangover in your bed you know you're in for a tough day 'cause that prick just won't leave!

So, that concludes our meeting. At the end of the day, the bottom line is... to achieve a win/win situation, 24/7, Judgement is not to take unapproved leave. 

Ever again.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Step away from Mr Wrong

It still gets to me when I see women sell themselves short for men. Almost every woman I know has done it at least once. Shit, I've done it myself COUNTLESS times.

EVERY SINGLE thing that I am about to post is from recent real-life conversations with a number of women I know who range, in age, from 20 through to 60 years old. EVERY SINGLE conversation involved those same women justifying the very things they were complaining of... and that they SHOULD be complaining of.

This is my Top Ten list of signs that your Mr Right is wrong for you.

1. You don't exist in public
If you have not yet met his friends or family and you have been with him for longer than a few months [and you're not dating a refugee], there's a problem. Stop making excuses for him.

2. You give him a 'softy'
If he can't get it up, keep it up or seal the deal, there's a problem. Stop making excuses for him.

3. You're walking and dancing on your own
If he never wants to do what you want to do, there's a problem. Stop making excuses for him.

4. You are not John and Yoko
If he only ever wants to see you in bed, there's a problem. Stop making excuses for him.

5. You are not on an island
If he doesn't want you to see your friends or family, there's a problem. Stop making excuses for him.

6. You are not his therapist
If all he wants to do is talk about his problems and has no time to hear yours, there's a problem. Stop making excuses for him.

7. You are not a babysitter
If he expects you to look after his kid from another partnership all the time while he pursues the things he wants to do, there's a problem. Stop making excuses for him.

8. You are gorgeous
If he finds the need to tell you otherwise, there's a problem. Stop making excuses for him.

9. You are worth it
If you have to beg him for your needs to be met, there's a problem. Stop making excuses for him.

10. You are a grown-up
If you have to lie to him about where you're going, what you're doing and what you're spending, there's a problem. Stop making excuses for him.

Like I said to one of my gorgeous, smart, grown-up friends... he's not as good as you think.

Step away xx

Monday, 5 November 2012

Time Travelling Tan

I recently watched the Time Traveller's Wife. Y'know... the one where the husband has some brain issue that causes him to travel back and forth in time so that he sees himself and his family at all different ages including after death. 

It's a head-case of a movie but it got me thinking. What would I tell myself if I knew what I do now...

Dear three year old me, 
Your fluffy little yellow baby chick is not standing up because it's dead. You killed it when you took it to bed with you to sleep. No amount of leaning it against the wall is going to make it stand up.

Dear sixteen year old me, 
I know you think he's the love of your life and that you will be with him forever and ever and NO-ONE could possibly understand how much you love him but he's not. Don't run away from home to be with him. You're going to break your mum's heart and your friends are going to think you're an idiot. Which you are.

Dear twenty two year old me, 
DO NOT resign from Apple. They're going to rule the world and you're gonna wish for the rest of your days that your were on that ship. Also, you know that start-up company that gave you an offer that you thought was too good to be true but you went for anyway? Trust your gut girl - they're crooks.

Dear pre-motherhood me,
Don't waste your time on girl's baby names.

Dear fourteen year old me, 
Don't be so hard on your Dad. He's not well and fighting many demons, which you will understand when you're older. Don't tell him that you're not his daughter because you've never had a father. Kiss him and tell him you love him. Don't tell him that you never want to see him again. Because you won't. 

Dear four year old me, 
Don't drag three kindy chairs together and ask your hugely overweight neighbour to take a seat when she comes to see you in your kindergarten concert. It will cause her and your mother enormous embarrassment.

Dear thirty-five year old me, 
The midwife got it wrong. You're NOT 7 centimetres dilated, you're only 3. Take the fucking epidural!

Dear eleven year old me,
He's just not that into you. Get used to it. It's gonna happen a lot.

Dear Year Twelve me,
Don't bother turning up to Biology AT ALL. You're going to write a poem for your mid year exam and you're gonna get passed for the subject anyway. PLUS you'll win the poetry prize, get published and have it read out on radio.

Dear twenty three year old me, 
She really IS a stupid, disloyal friend who should NEVER have chosen to sleep with your ex-boyfriend. So...when she comes out of the pub, take her around the back to beat her up instead of in the lit-up car park so you're not dragged off her in a full nelson by the bouncers.

Dear seventeen year old me,
You don't know everything. You never will.

Love forty year old me xx

What would you tell your younger self??

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Beware the Anti-Mum!


I'm finally ready to admit that I'm a Mean Mum. I'm already having conversations that involve "Why can't we Mum, so and so is allowed to?" and "If I promise to do this, can I have that?" and "But Mum - EVERYONE'S got one!" 

I know you're dying to know what tipped me off. Well here's the list. Challenge me if you will.

Anti technology
We do not have a Wii or a Playstation or a DS of any denomination or a Nintendo thingy or even Foxtel. My boys are allowed to play a couple of Mean-Mum-Approved [MMA] on-line games on the weekends ONLY and we let them play MMA games on our iPhones if we're out somewhere and need them occupied. Otherwise it's an MMA movie off the USB, ABC 2&3, reading, colouring or playing outside. Apparently we're the ONLY household without any of those things. Unfortunately for my kids, the more I hear that - the stronger my resolve.

Anti pets
I'm not an animal person. They smell. They dribble. They fart. They need food. They whine. They shit. They're like babies without a nappy. There will not be a pet in this household until the kids can look after it and since they still don't wipe their own arse properly, that could be years. This includes fish, birds, crabs and all other suggestions. If it needs to be fed and its house cleaned, it's not welcome here.

Anti sooks
I cannot stand kids who sook. Toughen up princess. Don't come whining to me that you hurt yourself jumping off the top of the swing set. Of course you did. It's called gravity. The sooner you work that out the better. It also hurts when you fall of your bike. When someone takes a 'speccy' off your back. When you jump from bed to bed and miss. When you start a fight with your brother. When you yell at your mother. Actions and consequences son.

Anti lazy
Get outside and do something. Run. Ride. Kick a ball. Play tennis. Swim. Climb a tree. Jump on the trampoline. Skate. Play basketball. Play chasey. Jump off the swing set. If you can't find anything to do outside then I will and you can choose from washing my car, raking the leaves or weeding the vegetable garden. You're young and you're fit and if you're not that would be my fault and that's not gonna happen on my watch. Thankfully, because I'm anti technology, there's not much to do INSIDE so it's not too hard to get them outside. See what I did there??

Anti tuck shop
I've got this thing that kids don't need to be spending money on crap food except for the Royal Show... and even then I'm mean. I grew up in a single parent household with a mum that worked three jobs so there was never any time for a packed lunch. I was so envious of what my other friends brought and I swore I wouldn't send my kids to school with a lunch order. 3 years in and I'm still resisting. It's cheaper and it's better for them. You know they're not buying an apple at the tuck shop right?

Anti pocket money
What the hell are they doing to earn pocket money? Being a good boy? Making their own bed? Having good table manners? Bringing in the bins? They are family expectations in my opinion. I expect them to contribute to this family and this household. I'm not going to PAY them for it. What value could that seriously be teaching them? No. Not paying them until they do something over and above what it expected of them living in a family unit.

Anti dishonesty
I can't stand lying kids. Mine try it on every now and then. It does not go down well... and mum always finds out. Lying includes fibbing, white lies, lying by omission, half truths and however else you want to dress it up. I've done PLENTY of lying in my life. In fact, I'm quite the expert at it so I can tell a mile away when someone's giving it a go. There will be time enough in their life for them to learn the nuances of having a filter and keeping some stuff to themselves. BUT while they're young and still learning and without the maturity to discern that telling your mum you don't like it when she licks a tissue to clean your face because it smells yucky is probably best unsaid... a zero tolerance policy is where I stand.

Anti brats

Well... do you concur and would you like to sign up as a Mean Mum Member too?

Sleep School aka 'Go the F*ck to Sleep'

My first born son was the centre of our combined family’s universe. The first grandchild on both sides. The first nephew. The golden child. He was a happy, smiley, easy-going baby who was a ‘good sleeper’.

My second born son came when my first born had just turned two. He entered a household that already travelled to the beat of the first born’s drum. He came to a mum who naively believed that he would simply fall into step and give me no trouble – like his brother. Instead, he had some health issues including failure to thrive which resulted in him being a terrible sleeper. No, not terrible. That’s far too polite. I created a fucking monster. And it is, unquestionably, my fault. I did ALL the wrong things. I let him fall asleep on the boob. EVERY TIME. I rocked him to sleep. I made him fall into step with a toddler’s routine instead of listening to the needs of a baby. And I should feel terrible about it except I don’t and I don’t because I paid the price. Well and truly. Oh yes, he made me pay. By 11 months he was on the boob every two hours around the clock. On a good day. On a fussy day that could be every hour. How much sleep do you think I was getting?

I was a basket case. Really. No, really. I ended up at a Child and Youth Health appointment during which it was assessed that I required immediate intervention and so my stay at Torrens House was booked.

My four days at Torrens House saved my [and my kids] life.

I was scared to go there. I don’t believe in ‘controlled crying’. My opinion is that it contradicts a mother’s fundamental need to attend to her child’s needs. It does not make sense to me, on any level, to give your child the perception that they are being abandoned. I have not researched this with any authority and I know of many mothers who have successfully used this technique and their children seem unaffected by it. But I am resolute in my opinion nonetheless.  So, I was scared that they were going to make me use this technique with my baby. It turns out though, that my opinion is supported by the staff at Torrens House. Their technique teaches babies to self settle in a totally supported way, with mum by their side at all times. It’s exactly what I wanted and it worked on the VERY FIRST TIME. I have shared this technique with other mums who found themselves in the same nightmare as I did and it worked for them too.

DISCLAIMER. I am not a trained health professional or child/baby specialist. I am a mum who has found this technique to be very successful. You should not try this without first being sure that your child is not suffering from any other medical conditions which may be causing their unsettled behavior.

Step 1
Routine, routine, routine...

There are suggested routines for babies of all ages which you could research and apply or you may have a good idea of your own. I don’t think it really matters but it needs to be consistent. Most babies respond extremely well to regular and expected behaviours. Basically you need to head into this knowing approximately when each day your baby should be sleeping [and how many times] and when bed-time is at night. This applies to meals [including breast feeding or bottle feeding] too.

Step 2
Location, location, location...

When first teaching your baby to self-settle, it is best for it to be in the same place every time. That may be a cot/bassinet in your room or they may already be in their own nursery. If they are sharing a room with another sibling, I would recommend moving them out for a little while. It could get a bit disruptive in there.

Step 3
That’s a wrap!

A key success factor of this technique is WRAPPING YOUR BABY. I was explained that most babies have a strong startle reflex [you know, when they jerk with their hands out to the side]. This can happen even when they seem to be sleeping soundly and it wakes them up. If they are not able to self settle, this is when they’ll call out for their dummy or YOU. If you have tried wrapping and your baby is getting out of that wrap then you either haven’t wrapped them properly OR the wrap is too small. I have found that larger babies need something like a cotton cot sheet for this to work. I helped a mum with a one year old boy [that was a challenge!] and we used a single bed sheet for him.

So, in line with your routine and AFTER you have fed them you will need to wrap them. I like to strip them down to nappy and singlet, depending on the weather/temperature in the room, and gently sing “time for sleep” while I’m doing this. I learned that this is a good ‘sleep trigger’ but it’s not essential.  Do not let one arm out because ‘they like it’ or keep it loose because ‘they don’t like being constricted’ or this will not work. The wrap needs to be firm. They will be able to move their arms within the wrap but they must be kept close to their body or the startle reflex will wake them up.

Step 4
Hush little baby, don’t you cry

Put your lovely, wrapped baby into their cot/bassinet awake. They may already be crying because this is all new to them and you’re upsetting their apple cart. It’s ok. With bigger babies, you can secure them in place [sounds worse than it is] by tucking another sheet across them and firmly under the mattress. This just helps the whole process. Quietly talk to them while you’re getting them settled. You could sing or just quietly and calmly explain what you’re doing. Eg “Shhh… it’s ok. It’s time for sleep now and Mummy[or Daddy!]is  going to help. I’ll be right here baby.” My very firm suggestion at this stage is DO NOT apologise to them in words, tone or actions. Eg “Mummy’s sorry I have to do this” You are doing your job as their parent to help them sleep. Don’t apologise for that. Once you are comfortable that they are in place, we can move on to the next step.

Step 5
Pat a cake, pat a cake...

The next key success factor in this technique is to PAT THE BED. I was taught that once the baby has been laid down, not to touch them to help them sleep. This then becomes another thing they ‘need’. So, maybe pull up a chair and rhythmically pat the bed near their head. You can do this quite firmly as the intention is for them to feel it, almost like a heart-beat. I usually continue with my ‘time for sleep’ mantra punctuated with a few, calming ‘shhh’s’ and ‘Mummy’s here’.  Your baby will probably be crying throughout this whole process. Try to interpret that cry. Is it distress or is it just a protest? “What are you doing mum???? Why aren’t you holding me? Why aren’t you feeding me?” PRESS ON. You may quietly sing to them or talk to them reassuringly [you’re ok baby, mummy’s here] but try not to make eye contact with them. The intention is that they know you’re there but it’s time for sleep and you mean business.

Step 6

If this is overnight and your baby wakes up and YOU KNOW THERE’S NOTHING WRONG ie, they haven’t wet through the bed, or have a fever, or are too cold, or too hot bla bla, then simply pick them up for quick cuddle, rewrap them and start patting that bed! Your intention should be to help your baby make it through to the morning without a feed. For me, that meant bed time at 7.30pm and NO FEEDING before 5am. If he woke any time after 5am, he got a feed… and we were UP FOR THE DAY. [insert coffee here]

These are some things that I have experienced:
  • On the first night of sleep training my son went to sleep using this method within 10 minutes. He SCREAMED but I could tell he was outraged not distressed.
  • After never sleeping longer than 2 hours in a row, he slept 5 hours on that first night.
  • My boobs were going to EXPLODE by the time I fed him in the morning because it was the first time in 11 months that I hadn’t fed him overnight.
  • Once your baby has learned to go to sleep this way, anyone can do it. So this means your partner, your parent, your baby-sitter. It’s extremely liberating!
  • Everything changes when this starts to work. You feel better. Your baby behaves better. It’s a happier life to live when everyone can get some real sleep.
  • My son responded so well that he would bring me his wrap if he was tired to tell me it was time to go to sleep.


This is not for everyone, I understand that. I just wanted to share it because I know it works and I believe in it. Essentially, we all have different thresholds of what we can and can’t handle. In parenting, in sleeping, in disciplining, in eating, in loving, in working, in life. Some parents do not mind one bit being woken multiple times in the night by their baby. Some parents believe in co-sleeping and giving their baby full access to mum’s breasts all night. Some parents want their baby sleeping through the night from as early as weeks old and will let them cry it out. Whatever works for you, is whatever works for you. BUT, if it’s not working for you then here’s something that worked for us.

If you do try it, I’d love to know how it went for you.

Now… get some sleep :)

It gets better... I promise xx

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Dear Men

Hello, my name is Tan and I'm a sexist.

No really.

If anyone unintended read my personal text exchanges with my friends [who are also sexists], I would never get another job, according to the recent backlash afforded the Australian ex-speaker, Mr Slipper.

And before any of you get all up in arms about it, this is not a political post. I am not sharing my political opinion and I'm not interested in yours. I am, however, using his recent scandal as a segue to my confession of being a sexist. Which I am. And because I like to be topical.

Men, this is why you shit me:

1. Shut the fuck up about women nagging you. You are being nagged because you don't fucking listen. If you did, you wouldn't have to be asked again. You either have a hearing problem or you're an idiot. Either way, it's annoying.

2. You are not allowed to use the term 'man-flu' in defence of your ridiculous inability to cope with a cold. We made that term up as an insult to you.

3. Ditto the term 'boy's look'. OPEN YOUR EYES. If there is a pile of stuff LOOK THROUGH IT. If it's not in your drawer LOOK IN THE LAUNDRY. If it's not in the laundry LOOK ON THE CLOTHES LINE. If it's not on the clothes line it's probably still on the bedroom floor NEXT TO THE CLOTHES BASKET where you left it.

4. An impromptu display of affection does not mean you're 'in'.

5. Zara = Bunnings. Got it?

6. FYI, your sexy bits ain't that attractive either... and at least we don't have ours out at every opportunity including, but certainly not limited to, drunken social events.

7. YOUR arse looks fat in those jeans. If you gave a shit enough about how you looked and asked us, we'd tell you.

8. Your woman bending down in front of you is NOT an invitation to dry hump her. What the fuck is wrong with you? Are you an animal?

9. Hey moron in the corner office with the inflated salary... who'd YOU sleep with to get there? 'Cause you certainly didn't earn it with your personality or intellect.

10. Do you like the way your home looks and feels? It's because of the throw cushions - GET OVER IT.

11. What makes you think you need to keep your back to the wall at a gay function?? Straight women aren't interested in you so you can bet the far more discerning gay guy isn't going to be either. Probably due to point number 7.

12. Porn is porn. The articles are irrelevant.

13. When I hear that you like women's southern parts to be hairless it makes me think you like little girls. Do you?

14. The Godfather Trilogy are movies not a religion. Reciting lines from them doth not a gangster make.

15. Our current Prime Minister is a woman. She earned that role. She worked hard doing what she believed in and reached the top of her career path. She is the boss of our country [as described by my 7 year old son] swimming against the testosterone tide with her head held high and I'm proud of her. Because she's a woman. So shut up.

16. Strippers, exotic dancers et al are SOMEONE'S daughter. They could be yours one day... especially if you teach her that men are attracted to that type of behaviour and they can earn good money from dancing, semi-naked on some bloke's lap.

17. Women menstruate. Every month. It enables us to bear YOUR children. Be grateful.

18. What do we SEE in Brad Pitt and Daniel Craig??? pfft.

19. You are not doing us a FAVOUR when you bring the clothes in off the line or do the grocery shopping or make the bed. Unless you are a GUEST and then you should refrain from farting in front of us and give chocolates and/or wine to thank us for our hospitality.

20. Taking half an hour to take a shit is revolting. How can it be comfortable to sit on the toilet with your pants around your ankles and your arse in the breeze for that long? And don't start with that bullshit about the only place you can get peace. Please refer to point number 1.

OH and just in case my boss is reading this [Hi H!], please don't sack me because I'm a sexist. I promise it won't affect my performance at work xx

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

This is a true story

I have not cooked my family dinner tonight. I have also not made any other arrangements. I am on family strike.

I'm tired and I'm premenstrual and I worked today. Nothing too stressful and during school hours but it was work nonetheless. I then dropped into a couple of shops on the way home to make arrangements for my HUSBAND'S business Christmas dinner that I am organising. In my spare time. I came home and returned a few emails, made a couple of calls, emptied the dishwasher and then I picked up the kids from school.

And that's when it all went to hell.

"I don't want to go to school tomorrow Mum. I'm too tired"
"Why can't I go on the iPad?"
"It's not fair"
"I don't want to watch THAT I want to watch THIS"
"I don't have ANY homework"
"I have to go on YouTube for my homework"
"I don't want an apple, I want chocolate"
"If he's having chocolate, I want chocolate too."
"I'm not eating dinner"
"You never listen to me"
"I don't want to change out of my uniform"
"I'm not turning the tv down. I can't hear it"
"I don't have to empty out my school bag. You can do it"

All these things were said to me this afternoon. Said with attitude. Lots of school boy attitude. In response to my requests. Cajoles. Demands. Threats.

And then something clicked. 

Remember Sheriff Rambo Harry Down? Well, she just poured herself a big glass of wine and rode into town. Yes, drinking and riding. She's that bad-ass.

"Is that right? Well how about this. You can do whatever you want. I have nothing more to say to you tonight. You can eat what you want. You can do what you want. You both seem to think that you know best. Well let's give that a go."

And I have not said a word to them since. I did not respond when they repeatedly chanted they were going to watch the verboten Harry Potter II. I did not flinch when they ran to the iPad to download whatever it is they covet. I didn't bat an eyelid when they opened a packet of chips for dinner.

Because Mum is on strike and the Sheriff is sitting in the corner, drinking her wine and whistling.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Spring Clean Your Life...

So I have this friend who's a coach. Not a sports coach. A LIFE COACH. Really. She coaches you through your life. Do I sound skeptical? I don't mean to be, but it does sound bizarre doesn't it? 

For those of you who are not yet aware of what life coaching is all about, it's about partnering with someone whose job is to improve the quality of your life, by guiding you through professional and personal matters, such as career, health, personal relationships, etc. It's like your best friend, mum and guidance counselor all in one room... but far less intrusive.

Tania runs Blue Sky Coaching. I like the inference. I like blue skies. They're my favourite sky, in fact. She has a diverse range of clients and starts her coaching with each of them by giving them a personal checklist when they begin. At a recent networking function, she showed us all this check list and suggested we use it at as a spring board to spring clean our lives... y'know being spring and all. This list was broken up into ten true or false statements each in the following subjects:

  • work
  • finances
  • home environment
  • health & body
  • relationships
  • personal

It was one of the quieter functions I have been to as we all read through our lists. There were lots of obvious statements like "I manage my time well", "I have a budget that I use" and "My personal files are in order". Answer 'false' and guess what? Yep, that indicates you need help in that area. Then there was a quiet buzz in the room as we questioned some of the more obscure statements and their relevance to the checklist and our own lives. I found the answers interesting and thought you may find them helpful.

I have had a birthday party in the last two years.

This is an indicator of you acknowledging and celebrating your life. It speaks to your inner happiness and affirmation that you are valuable.

I don't lie or exaggerate.

This is about not feeling good enough and your need to ‘embellish’ to make your life sound like it’s exciting/interesting/worth talking about. But let's face it, that's what Facebook is for.

My bed is always properly made.

This one was interesting to me. Tania says it's about having one more thing 'not done' which could be a very easy fix. It refers to visual clutter. I have to admit that on the days that I have time to make my bed before I leave for work, I feel more in control. Crazy but true.

My bed supports me having a good sleep.

Another bed statement that puzzled me. What difference should this make? Tania explained that this was about taking care of yourself. We spend a lot of time in bed and if it's crappy then our sleep is crappy then we feel crappy so our day is crappy and so it goes on. If your answer is false, get yourself down to Dreamland pronto.

I am happy with my current weight.

Tania says almost every client she has ever worked with ticks false. No real surprises there but it's a sad indictment of our society's self image today. 

Other statements she almost always gets a 'false' for are

I have enough confidence to do what I want in life.
[people tend to underestimate how great they are]

I am comfortable saying no when I need to. 
[that's why so many people are so busy]

I don't acquire clutter. 
[when people are surrounded by clutter it makes it hard to have clarity. They are distracted by stuff]

Tania filled a similar checklist out herself when she first heard about life coaching. She says it was a wake-up call that she deserved to feel better about her life.

For me this whole year has been a wake-up call that I deserve to feel better about my life. Something about the babies leaving home and turning 40 turned a new page for me so that I had already begun my spring clean before I even knew of this list. 

I had a HUGE birthday party. I bought myself a new, gorgeous bed. I'm VERY happy to say no. I've got no idea what my current weight is because I don't believe in weighing myself and we therefore do not own scales. I've just got to get rid of the clutter...

You deserve to feel better about your life too. 

Don't underestimate how great you are xx

NB - this post is in no way sponsored. Tania and Blue Sky Coaching did not ask me to write it. I was just inspired :)