Tuesday, 22 January 2013

The Great Boob Debate

For days all I have seen are discussions about boobs. 

So, I got on board the booby train and started by watching the Kochie segment from Sunrise where he says breastfeeding mums should be 'classy'. This segment has caused apparent outrage within mum communities Australia-wide.

It disturbed me. But, it would seem, not for the same opinion of majority.

WHAT is the big deal? He raised it as a topic of discussion with his own, not unreasonable, opinion and then listened and took on what the women on his panel had to say. Big deal. It didn't offend me AT ALL. It was controversial and on topic and a very clever ratings choice. Plus, he's an older, conservative bloke. Who cares what he thinks?

I breastfed both my boys until after their 1st birthdays. I did so on demand and I did so publicly. I did it in restaurants, in parks, at parties, walking around at kindergym. I never felt ashamed or unwelcome but I did consider where I was and who I was with. Is that an archaic thought? Or is that polite?

I loved the parent rooms at shopping centres. I would seek them out to breastfeed my babies in. Especially when I had a toddler in tow. Not because I felt the need to hide from the public eye. I found it relaxing to sit there in a comfy chair which usually had an arm rest to... wait for it... rest on. Where I could watch my other son safely playing nearby and where my baby could enjoy a full feed instead of being distracted by what was happening around us and coming on and off and on and off and on and off... you get the picture.

My father-in-law [JP] was in his 70's when my son Nathan, his first grand child, was born. He was extremely invested in him and not only fully supported my decision to breastfeed, but expected me to. "Why you feed from bottle when you have your own milk?" JP would often come and spend the day with me and Nathan while my husband was at work to keep me company, make me lunch and help out around the house. Pretty progressive for a 70 year old Ukrainian man. But, he felt uneasy being in the room with me when I breastfed. He would politely leave the room or hilariously talk to me from the doorway, looking at the ceiling or the floor or his hands. So I knew, if I needed to breastfeed around him wherever we were, that he would appreciate me being respectful of that. Did that make me feel dirty or ashamed or unsupported? Not at all. My 30 something brother was exactly the same. He would up and leave the room the minute he saw me reaching for my enormous maternity bra clip. He called my breastfeeding 'lactaaaaaaaaysions' [drawn out exactly like that] and would run out the room saying [sometimes screaming] "Oh my God, Tania's got her lactaaaaaaaaysions again". Did that offend me? Not at all. Did I laugh? Almost every time.

Yes, breastfeeding is natural. Yes, as mothers, we have the right to feed our babies wherever and whenever they need to be fed. No, it's not sexual or suggestive. Yes, many fashion choices today actually show more flesh than a breastfeeding mum. Unless the breastfeeding baby is like my youngest Stefan. A baby who was on the boob every two hours but would have no problem coming off and having a look around for, I don't know a minute that felt like an hour, while my entire breast and enormous, leaking nipple is in full view of what seemed like the whole world. 

Is being discreet or modest or respectful of others around us so wrong?

There's been a lot of talk about the boob and victim blaming and empowerment and destroying the joint. I get it. Women's rights weren't won by being polite. But is this about women's rights? This crazy reaction to a television personality's fairly moderate opinion seems a bit OTT. This, to me, seems VERY much like those 'first world problems' we keep joking about. There are worldwide protests and outrage over horrendous acts against women. Genital mutilation. Gang raping. Murder. Murder by gang raping. A woman at a local pool is asked to move because she is breastfeeding her 11 month old [who, by the way, is on solids and does not solely rely on mum's milk for her nourishment anymore... just saying] and the online communities light up. Some bloke, who is actually pro-breastfeeding says maybe mums should be 'classy' about it [whatever that means] and there's a PROTEST of mums breastfeeding outside the studio.


I am totally in support of breastfeeding in public. I am also in support of women doing so in whatever fashion they feel comfortable with

But... if you want to feed your baby in front of my brother or JP or Kochie - don't be offended if they look at their hands.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Building a better brain

So, you've got a brain. It's a good one. It works hard and learns lots and knows where it wants to go - which is further. How do you make it go further? How do you make your brain better?

I was contemplating these cerebral questions while tidying up in the quiet time of a new year at work. And there, sticking out in our resource library was  my answer. 

Thanks to "The Leadership Brain - for Dummies" [and some extra help from Google] here are ten tips to get you started on making your brain healthier.

#1 Eat Nutritiously
If you really want high levels of cognition and the ability to learn new information more easily, begin with your diet. Foods that are particularly helpful for keeping our grey matter happy are:

Wholegrains with a low GI which release glucose slowly into the bloodstream, keeping you mentally alert throughout the day.

Good sources of essential fatty acids such as linseed (flaxseed) oil, soya bean oil, pumpkin seeds, walnut oil and soya beans. Also, oily fish including salmon, trout, mackerel, herring, sardines, pilchards and kippers.

Vitamin C has long been thought to have the power to increase mental agility. One of the best sources of this vital vitamin are blackcurrants, which are almost impossible to buy in Australia so your citrus fruits are the next best thing.

Just a handful of pumpkin seeds a day is all you need to get your recommended daily amount of zinc, vital for enhancing memory and thinking skills.

Colorful fruits and vegetables are particularly good antioxidant "superfood" sources. Try leafy green vegetables such as spinach, broccoli, romaine lettuce and rocket, and fruit such as apricots, mangos, rockmelon and watermelon.

Green tea contains polyphenols, powerful antioxidants that protect against free radicals that can damage brain cells. Among many other benefits, regular consumption of green tea may enhance memory and mental alertness and slow brain aging.

#2 Move It or Lose It
According to the research of Dr John Medina, author of Brain Rules and director of the Brain Center for Applied Learning Research at Seattle Pacific University, exercise can increase your cognitive abilities in a matter of weeks. Aerobic exercise only twice a week for about 30 minutes increases blood flow and provides more oxygen to the brain - all of which means that new blood vessels are formed and old ones are renewed, keeping your brain cells healthy.

#3 Rest
Brain science believes that you learn while you sleep. Your brain repeats the connections that it made during the day as it was learning and having other experiences. The process is called consolidation , and interruptions to your sleep at specific times affect what you remember.

#4 Relax
According to some researchers, the stress hormones, such as cortisol, can actually disconnect a network of neurons in your brain. To keep your stress low, try the following:

a. Relax, listen to music, take a walk, and run from stress.
b. Spend time with upbeat people, laugh, and steer away from cynics.
c. Manage time, create do-able daily targets, and avoid overloads
d. Take up a sport, do stairs, park far from doors and avoid passivity.

#5 Keep Your Memory in Shape
If you want to improve your memory and your brain, you have to use it.
Memorise something. If you don't like memorising numbers, try a poem or some funny stories. Even just retelling your favourite joke will help. These are great workouts for your working memory.

Over time you forget memory strategies: giving your memory a workout can give the opportunity to reacquaint yourself with some of them. Keep working it!

#6 Pick Up a Book
Have you read a good book lately? Reading is good for your brain. It also increases your vocabulary and helps you build new connections in your brain, maybe even causing new neurons to develop.

#7 Be Upbeat
What makes you happy? Make a list and take a long look at it. Make sure you find time to do those things that truly make you feel good. Optimism in a leader builds confidence in employees and customers.

Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.
—Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor

#8 Make a Few Changes
Now is the time to break some of your routines. Try a new route to work or a new hobby. Breaking your routine causes you to be more aware of how your mind is working. The brain likes novelty. Give it something new to think about, and you make some new connections.

#9 Name That Tune
The brain likes music [mine especially!] and learning how to play a musical instrument excites your brain. Playing music activates several areas of the brain and so gets blood and oxygen flowing in various structures, making an overall healthier brain.

If you don't play an instrument, at least play "Name that tune." Someone hums the first few notes of a song and you try to guess the title. My friends and I do a modified version of this through Facebook where we type a lyric of song as our status update and you need to type the next line of that song [or the title] to play. That can wake up a few sleepy cells!

#10 Teach Someone Else
Research has suggested for years that teaching others is the number-one way to learn information yourself. Teaching reinforces old connections, strengthens new connections, and strengthens social skills too.

They say that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but when it comes to the brain, scientists have discovered that this old adage simply isn’t true.

Whether you're an old dog or a young pup, there's no time better than right now to improve your mental performance.

"The Leadership Brain for Dummies"
My own brain

Monday, 14 January 2013

Sister from another mister

I have a little sister. And when I say she’s little I mean she’s 20 years littler than me. I can hear you screaming ‘ACCIDENT!’ but she was planned and the reason is simpler than you may think. My dad died young. My mum remarried. Enter Little Miss PIMA [pain in my arse].

I was the same age as my mum when she had me when Pima was born so my role in her life is one part sister, one part friend and two parts mum. Oh, and twenty seven parts exasperation.

Pima is about to turn 20 which means that as well as having two young sons, I have also spent the last 7 years with a teenage girl under my wing. In my every-day thoughts. Front of mind and under my skin. And I have had the joy of NOT being her mum.

We talk a lot. Sometimes too much. We talk on the phone. We text. We Facebook. We hang out. It’s a relationship high in maintenance, for sure, but rich in reward. Which is not altogether limited to having an amazing, trustworthy and reliable babysitter on hand.

The real reward is in my opportunity to mentor a young woman in today’s world.

It keeps me aware and relevant and stretches my thinking and challenges my knee jerk compulsion to judge. I draw on my own life experiences. My own mistakes. My own successes, fears, dreams and ideals. And from there – I counsel.

Stay at University little sister
No, you cannot have a gap year. No, you cannot defer. No, you cannot change direction mid degree. You will finish. You will pass. You will thank me later.

Stay away from anything you can smoke, little sister
Keep your lungs fresh and your mind healthy. That's all.

Keep your legs crossed, little sister
My generation got all confused about sexual empowerment. We thought it was cool and grown up and enlightened to sleep with who we wanted, when we wanted. We thought it would make us grow and show how liberated we were. We didn’t give enough thought to how that would play out once we actually did meet the ‘love of our life’ or when we became mums or when we joined the parent community of our son’s private catholic school... or so I’ve heard. Anyway, there’s no hurry. Hold off. Don't compromise. Don't believe that 'friends with benefits' is anything other than a crappy Hollywood movie. Wait for a while when you meet someone new. Maybe he's 'the one' in which case you can wait and if he's not, then don't bother. You’ll have plenty of years and plenty of options and just quietly you won’t reach your prime ‘til you’re in your  thirties anyway.

Don’t ink your body yet, little sister
Wait, wait. Wait until you know what you believe in and know who you are. Live in your body a bit longer before you stain it with a cliché that means more to your friends on instagram than you.

Love yourself, little sister
You are bright and gorgeous and smart and honest. You sparkle when you smile and you snort when you laugh. You are healthy. You are a woman. Your body is beautiful. Now. When you were skinnier. When you get fatter. It’s YOUR body. If you love it, taking care of it will be easy. Be comfortable in your gorgeous skin. Be true to your earnest heart. And for fucks sake, pluck your eyebrows.

Be proud to be a woman, little sister
Remember when you were so excited to find your first pubic hair [or was that me?]. It was exciting because it heralded the beginning of your journey into womanhood. Women have pubic hair. Prepubescent girls don’t. Strippers don’t. Sex workers don’t. Real men like their women to look like women. Don’t be sucked into this craze that makes you feel dirty or unclean to look like a woman. I read somewhere that there are some boys of your generation who have never seen a woman with pubic hair and feel ‘repulsed’ at the mere thought of it. Do not date those boys. I will be forced to hold them down and wax their balls and arse myself. Keep your hair down there.

Love your Mum, little sister
I know she’s annoying. I know she doesn’t seem to ‘get it’. I know she doesn’t let you sleep in or have boys in your room or like you drinking. I know. She’s my Mum too. The thing is, when you get older, you’ll realise she was right about sooooo many things. Boys, friends, fashion mistakes, husbands. Your Mum is cool. When she’s not being embarrassing.

Be yourself always, little sister
I know that’s hard. I know you struggle. It comes with the territory. I know you don’t know who you are yet. That’s ok. Be yourself today. And tomorrow be yourself then. If you get confused, come to me. I will remind you of who you are. I will help you see who I see.

Be grateful, little sister
The world does not owe you, despite what your generation thinks. Be grateful for your gifts of health and intellect and freedom and love. Use your gifts to make a difference. To matter. Start with your family. When you’ve got that right, move on to your friends. Once you’ve got the hang of it, the world is yours to make a change. Do not waste your youth and opportunity in a life unlived, unexplored or unappreciated.

Stop using hashtags, little sister
We have a language. It’s called English. Use it. Spell out the words. Use a pen and write the words. Send someone a real card in the mail one day. Words are beautiful. They’re long and descriptive and evoke emotion. Stop abbreviating. It drives me nuts.

Laugh out loud, little sister
Actually live in the moment. You do only live once. Make it worth it. And don’t fuck your life.

Listen to me, little sister
I’ve lived your years. I’ve known your struggles. I recognise your fears. I’ve made [some of] your mistakes. Learn from me. Lean on me. I love you more than you love yourself at the moment. It’s just the way it is with girls. Let me guide you. All I ask in return is that when you become an amazing, love-yourself, authentic woman... you pay it forward.

Oh, and I still need you to babysit.

Love your totes awesome sister and #bff in the whole world,

Tan x

Friday, 11 January 2013

Baby Bath

This remarkable video is doing the rounds on Facebook. It's a serene, touching and awe-inspiring movie of a newborn baby being bathed.

Isn't it amazing?

Now here is a photo of my son's first bath.

My husband is proudly doing it. That's me, sitting next to the wash area. With hair pasted to my head and furry teeth in a hospital gown and a pad the size of a cot mattress. I'm in a wheelchair because I can't stand up which, surprisingly, has nothing to do with the mattress between my legs. My legs are just unable to hold me up. My body is still in shock from the ridiculously fast labour. So I'm feigning a smile. There's no soothing music or beautiful baby massages or water running gently over my baby's head. There is a very wriggly and soon to be screaming newborn with an outstanding startle reflex that will scare the shit out of his Dad about 2 minutes after this shot was taken.

I wish I'd taken a video of that.

Monday, 7 January 2013

In a minute

I went back to work today after two weeks home with the family for the holidays. On the quiet, blissful drive into the city, I thought about all the things I was sick of saying and sick of hearing. I can write about it calmly and with perspective because I'm alone at the moment. 

I have no need to repeat myself. Again. And again. 

There is no need to raise my voice or stamp my foot or slam my open palm on the kitchen bench yelling 'that's enough!' 

I have no urge to mutter 'for fuck's sake' through my clenched teeth while breathing in long, slow and deep breaths. 

I am not hiding behind the locked bathroom door to escape the madness for a couple of minutes and I am not glaring at my husband's back as he is doing something so important on his iPhone/iPad/iMac/iSuck that he seems not to hear the madness.

Lalalalalala... I may open a bottle of wine and raise my glass to the silence.

Top 10 most repeated things I've said this summer so far:

"In a minute"

"You have 5 more minutes"

"Sit properly at the table"

"Don't hit your brother"


"Brush your teeth"

"One... two.... " [I don't often get to three but when I do...]

"Now with your manners"

"Shut the back door"

"Wash your hands"

Top 10 most repeated things I've heard this summer so far:

"I'm bored"

"What can we do now?"


"Why not?"

"You promised!"

"It's not fair"

"Can we go to...?"



"He hit me!"

I plan to say more of:

"Ask your father"


"Have fun"

"See you when I get back"

What about you? What are you sick to death of saying??

Saturday, 5 January 2013

When I was a kid

My kids are bored. It's been CRAZY hot and they're on holidays and they are begging me for more time in front of the tv or on the computer which I'm barely resisting. I'm racking my brain for things for them to do and that in itself is pissing me off. I don't remember having daily activities in place for me and my brother growing up. I don't remember that our time was micro-managed by mum or that we felt she was responsible for our fun. 

I DO remember...

Just going outside and playing with the neighbourhood kids. Some you liked. Some you didn't. It wasn't really important. You just hung out. In the street or someone's front yard.

Taping songs off my records and the radio and making compilation tapes which I would play and play and play again. Sometimes if there was a song that I really liked, I would tape it on both sides of the tape [so I didn't have to wait to REWIND the tape to play it again].

Getting up on Sunday morning, well before the parents, and making ourselves a huge cup of 'chocolate poo' [which was about half a tin of Milo each in cold milk, mixed until it was a deep, chocolate, poo brown] and then quietly playing Monopoly for HOURS. Our board still has 'chocolate poo' drip stains on it.

Riding my bike around the streets. No helmet. No parents. Just the sun and the wind and pedal break skids.

Making a slip and slide out of garbage bags, a hose and dishwashing liquid. 

Climbing the street trees in our neighbourhood and eating the fresh, soft almonds.

Watching Video Hits on Saturday morning and memorising the words and the ground-breaking dance moves of The Nolan Sisters.

Going down to The Broadway at Glenelg beach with the family and spending the WHOLE day there in a group that simply expanded as the day went on. There were no cries of "I'm bored" or "Can we go home yet?" or "Can I play on your iPhone?" In fact, we only spoke to the grown-ups to ask for hot chips or a Paddle Pop. Otherwise we were jumping waves, collecting shells, burying each other, building sand castles, playing beach cricket and turning chocolate brown in the Aussie sun.

Walking in a gang to the local playground and spending hours just... playing.

Collecting envelopes from family and neighbours, soaking off the stamps and putting them into the world's most boring Stamp Albums.

My brother, Jason, and I combining his Star Wars figures and my dolls to create elaborate battles.

Racing cars down the hallway.

Concocting horrendous potions from anything we could find outside and then double-daring each other to eat/drink it .... ewwwww!

Going to Marion Swimming Centre and not daring to wee in the pool in case that special stuff they put in the water would put a bright blue ring around your bathers so everyone would know.

What did you get up to when you were a kid?

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Happy New Year - 12 lessons from 2012

I love a new year. I love saying goodbye to the old and looking forward to the new. I love that everyone gets all sentimental and grateful and earnest. I love that people are resolute in their good intentions, that are almost always broken, and that young and old alike celebrate side by side.

It's a great time to reflect. It's a proverbial line in the sand for us to stop at. To get on our marks. To go. Travel down a new road. Take a new path. Start a new race.

In fact, the whole of last year was a line in the sand for me. My 40th year. It was a great year of discovery and celebration and an expanding girth. It was also a significant year of learning. 

Here are 12 unexpected things I learned in 2012.

1. Blondes don't have any more fun than brunettes... but the greys are much less noticeable!

2. Throwing a surprise birthday party for someone you love is EXTREMELY stressful but may well be even more special for the host than the guest of honour. I hosted two and the joy they both brought me was unimaginable.

3. Making a conscious and public effort at being grateful was easier than I thought and actually filled my heart with light.

4. My 7 year old is a 'stand up and notice' kind of awesome soccer player AND has courage enough to face his fears to perform on stage for the school production.

5. There are still far too many moronic Americans who believe in a 'right to bear arms' and I have been ASTOUNDED at some of the ridiculous arguments I have read in the case to support that lunacy.

6. Returning to paid work after a long time at home is a tough adjustment and I will certainly be doing my best to support any friends taking that journey.

7. The definition of a wolf in sheep's clothing... as discovered by too many women in my life.

8. My 5 year old has such strong and unexpected willpower. Last year he made the decision to swim without floaties and to give up night nappies and to ditch the training wheels on his bike. He did it himself and they each took only days to accomplish. Certainly makes my job easier.

9. It's really easy to make jam!

10. Celebrating your own milestone birthday in grand and lavish style is an absolute must at least once in your lifetime.

11. Bridesmaids. Best chick flick. Ever.

12. I am a story teller and some of my stories, are your stories too.

The stranger who tells our stories when we cannot speak not only awakens our spirits and hearts but also shows our humanity... 
Mende Proverb, Sierra Leone