These days

are filled with early rises,
quiet starts with just me and Oscar
getting him ready
answering myriad questions
packing his lunch
coaxing him (unheard of) to eat something
and then out the front for the bus at 6.50am

then have a second shift as the other three rise
bleary eyed, squinting against the morning sun
hair askew, gait a bit wobbly
‘good morning mum’ I always get
with a cuddle
from each of them

are then then filled with getting the washing on
making the various lunches
ensuring some form of breakfast is absorbed
reassuring the G-man that it is (or isn’t) a kindy day
and all of us bubbling along in a calm and unhurried rhythm

then present a few hours with only one child or for two days
none at all
I learnt the hard way that I must do something just for me
on those days
or all of us will suffer
they are the oxygen mask to my soul
to survive the weekend of solo parenting

see me at a kinder gymnastics class with Grover
the first such activity for him and for me with him
and OH how he adores it
and OH how I try to only shallow breathe inside the stinky gym
but it is quite delicious to see his delight
at conquering beams and bars
even when he does run straight into them every now and then

see my afternoons disappear in a sea of notes
tired and hungry children
meltdowns after a day of trying to be (and being) so good
Jasper and Felix, my two good boys who try so hard
and homework
and readers
and sight words
and reading
and activities like cricket or dance or gymnastics
and dinner
and baths and showers
and bed
and OH MAN if I’m not in bed by 9.30 it all gets rather ugly

are full and busy
and while certainly not rocket science
make me feel fulfilled
and full of purpose
at raising brave young men
caring and daring
loving and funny
who also put their clothes in the laundry
lower the toilet seat and lid
and wash away their toothpaste spit
and occasionally remember to wear deodorant

and always, always give their mum a cuddle
and tell her how much she is loved.

Take a moment

via Blackbird

Taking a moment was one of the cornerstones to me regaining control over my depression and anxiety.

Stopping.

Seeing the moment.

Even if it is just recognising the sun is shining. Or how blue the sky is. Or how the sun feels on my skin, or the wind in my hair or the rain on my face.

Recognising it for what it was: beautiful, funny, everyday, exhilerating, depressing, angry, worrying.

It doesn’t matter.

It’s just a moment.

Today, the last day of 2010, I had so many moments:

– the first shock of water on my feet at the lake

– watching schools of fish swim around us

– seeing a MASSIVE crab scuttle along the sandy bed, bury itself, reappear, go at one of the guys antagonising it, scuttle in amongst the rocks

– watching a woman take umbridge at the guys trying to catch the crab, assuming the moral high-ground even though she was there with her bloody dog

– watching my boys (without them realising) in the water

– discovering a sea dragon, seeing everyone’s wonder

– seeing the little boys still after hours of mania as the fireworks burst above us over Sydney Harbour

Take a moment.

Happy New Year everyone.

May 2011 be everything and more.

CHEAP School Holiday Fun

Sponsored by Nuffnang

Yeah. Are you scoffing? If I saw that headline I would be too. But I’m here to tell you it can be done. Hell, if we can take four kids to Sydney’s The Royal Easter Show for all of $207 then anything is possible.

Some of us are staring down the barrel of s.i.x. weeks with the kids at home in the height of summer and that can strike fear deep into my cold dead heart.

Here’s the thing.

If you are going to survive, correction, if your kids are going to survive this break, you have to completely rethink your definition of fun. What we, as adults, think of as fun is not necessarily so for a small or small-ish child.

For example, my idea of hell? Riding on public transport for the hell of it. My children’s idea of AWESOME? Riding on public transport for the hell of it. Seriously, the other day I met some friends at a cafe near a train station and then – spontaneously – took Grover for a train ride between t.w.o stations and back again. The verdict? Best.Parent.EVAH.

NSW Public Transport offer a Family Funday Sunday travel pass and while I find the name irritating, patronising and condescending it does allow to you go as far as Wollongong or Newcastle on the smell of an oily rag.

Even if you’re not travelling on a Sunday a family fare is pretty reasonable – I’d give you actual numbers but the 131500website won’t let me onto the relevant page. Nice.

Check your local council What’s On. Guaranteed there will be free activities for kids throughout the school break.

Water. If you live near the coast then it’s pretty bloody obvious – get thee to the beach. Take an eski/cooler contraption stocked with frozen drinks, some lunch and treats, slather on the sunscreen and not only do you have an awesome activity you have kids at the end of that activity so completely knackered you wonder why you don’t do it every single sunny day.

If you’re inland the local swimming pool offers the out. Even if you have a pool, something about being at someone else’s pool makes it so much more fun. And look, so long as your local isn’t some bloody circus of slides and fountains and wave pools entry is normally very reasonable.

For tight-arse Tuesday types, just gaffer tape some garbage bags together, drizzle with dishwashing liquid and run the hose on it – instant trip to the hospital water slide.

Culture. I know I know. When I took my boys to the NSW Art Gallery I thought the boys might fall to the floor and spontaneously combust much like the Wicked Witch in The Wizard of Oz when she gets water thrown on her but lo, they loved it. They were completely in awe of the artworks, the scale of some of them, the colours in others and so on. Sure, their attention span is not huge but it’s an outing. YOU ARE OUT OF THE HOUSE. And many of these establishments are free.

Playdates. Does anyone else hate that phrase as much as me? Hideous. Anyway, they work a treat – sure you have to reciprocate but often having a stranger in the midst changes the sibling dynamic sufficiently to eradicate much of the normal holiday assassination-by-torment attempts.

The Park. I think I’ve shared with you guys before my hatred of the park but here’s the thing, it lessens with age and as I realise how much my kids enjoy it. Often I end up striking up a conversation with another mum which makes it all the more bearable as you can get away with ignoring not hearing the plaintive cries for pushes on the swing for much longer. And guys? IT’S FREE.

Home. There will be days that staying at home is actually everyone’s preference. We’re also anticipating a wet summer so pay attention. I’m going to say something here which even I consider a dirty word. I know, I KNOW. But remember – rethink your definition of fun. If it isn’t raining set them up on the grass. If it is, newspaper. Put down lots of newspaper. Painting or homemade playdough are huge winners in this house. I just up my meds and hope for the best.

And if that doesn’t help, just remember my favourite phrase of all: this too shall pass.

Onward!

What’s your hot tip for cheap holiday fun?

This post was sponsored by KIA. To celebrate the great value of new KIA Cerato Hatch, a website has been launched so you and your family can get some great value offers and deals. Check out one of this week’s awesome deals: Spend $50 or more at Ticketek.com.au and receive a FREE $50 Ticketek Gift Voucher (Limited to first 1130 customers) at www.getmorevalue.com.au.

Adding value to me. (updated!)

Sponsored by Nuffnang

Last week we looked at ways to tighten the belt with the household budget. In this, the second in my series of posts talking about the idea of ‘value’, we shall be looking at ways to add value for you. They don’t necessarily cost money (in fact, most of them don’t cost anything – as is my constant quest), they don’t even have to take that much time, but they are 10 ways to add value to your life. To add value to who you are and how you feel. Read on!

My psychiatrist once told me that being a parent and a partner involves a hell of a lot of sacrifice and a mountain of compromise and you can only sustain that reality for so long. He reassured me that if I was to be sane, if my mood was to stabilise in a reliable way and if I was to be happy I had to build things into my life that were solely for me. Things that made making those sacrifices and compromises acceptable.

How many times do you say, ‘I don’t have time’?

How often do you mutter, ‘There’s just not enough hours in the day’?

How normal is it for you to think that there is nothing in your life that is just for you?

You know where these thoughts lead don’t you. They are at the top of the slippery slope to the realm of ‘I’m not worth it’, ‘no one cares’, ‘I don’t matter’. And well, some of us know that once you’re sliding down that hill, clawing your way back to the top is beyond arduous. And ugly.

For years – from when I was a tween actually – I have sort comfort in food. Baking and cooking for others made me happy. But it was a double-edged sword in that while it made me happy it also made me fat which made me bulimic and on it went.

It has only been this year, THIS YEAR, in fact, in the last three months that I’ve accepted I have to find something else as well as baking to be my time out, my thing. And it had to be something that didn’t cost anything. Or very little. So monthly massages, or pedicures or manicures or facials or subscriptions or so on were  simply not an option.

So here are some tips you can try to add value to your day. To make you feel better, to make you feel special, to revive your soul.

1. Get up off the lounge. Turn the TV off. Put the laptop down. Back away from the computer. Now go outside. No seriously. Go outside. What do you see? Is the sky blue? Is the sun shining? How large is the moon? Are there stars in the sky? What’s happening in your garden or on your street? TAKE IT IN.  It can take all of two minutes. Of course, it’s better if you can take 10 but I guarantee you it does wonders.

2. Are you doing any exercise? If you are, snaps to you. If you’re not, like I wasn’t up until 4 weeks ago then you must. Listen, it doesn’t need to be gut-wrenching, sweat-inducing heart-stopping madness (although this is what I’m doing at the moment to lose weight) it just needs to get you moving. And get this. It’s half an hour. 30 measly minutes. So see Point 1 up there, put on some sneakers and just go.

I was the queen of ‘I don’t have time’ but you know what, put those kids in a stroller or hell, get the bigger ones walking/riding/scootering with you. You will be amazed at how ‘just getting out of the house’ makes you feel better.

Once you start it will only take a couple of weeks before your body will start telling you that you need to go.

Remember this, it only takes four weeks to form a habit. Four teensy tiny weeks. Get to it.

3. Make something. Making things gives you a sense of satisfaction and achievement that I am yet to find matched by anything else. Oh LOOK, you don’t need to be artistic or crafty, it can be as simple as buying some card, a stamp and making your own cards to give to people for birthdays or Christmas (mind you, I haven’t done Christmas cards – made or bought – in years. Not since that year I did about 40 of them then never got to post them until February the following year.)

And by ‘make something’ it can cover anything – get in the kitchen, try a new recipe for dinner or something yummy for afternoon tea. Something that busts you out of your rut that is ‘pizzas for dinner on Mondays’.

4. Pick up the phone and call a friend. This year I made a concerted effort to stay in touch more effectively with friends not just via Facebook or Twitter. Actual conversations! I know! It has been delightful.

5.  Get together. Meet up with friends. Not with kids on tow. Either go out to dinner or a movie or for a walk together. The most effective stress-release for women with children? GETTING TOGETHER WITH OTHER WOMEN IN SIMILAR SITUATION.

6. SCHEDULE. Now look, I know. We all want spontaneity and excitement but if you have two working adults with any number of children (or even without children I might add) you have.to.schedule.  Write in when you’re going to go for that walk/run/swim. Make a date with your friend not just a ‘we must get together’, write down what day you’re going to call that person and so on and so forth. Then treat those as you would a doctor’s appointment or meeting – you wouldn’t just no-show to those, so don’t no-show to these. Hell, we even schedule in ‘special times’.

7. Go to bed. Are you reading blogs at midnight? Tweeting at 11pm? GO TO BED. The best quality deep sleep comes before midnight. You need good quality sleep for mood regulation. Enough said.

So there you go – they all seem so obvious don’t they. So innocuous. But if you do them it makes such a difference.

I’d love to know what do you do in your day for you – what is the one (or more!) activity you do that tells you ‘I matter’?

This post was sponsored by KIA. To celebrate the great value of KIA’s new car – the Cerato Hatch, a website has been launched so you and your family can get some great value offers and deals. Check out my favourite deal for this week:  Purchase the Patiomaster HD 4 burner BBQ for only $499 and receive a BONUS 3 piece outdoor setting valued at $149!

I just don’t know myself anymore…

1. On Friday night I put up Christmas wall decals (they were really cheap at the Christmas store at Forestway Fruit Market).

2. Today I saw this on Loobylu‘s site and thought, ‘how adorable’ and went to order the pattern (I stopped myself but it’s only a matter of time).

3. I am into Week 3 of C25K and am loving it. I was a runner as a child so I figure this should not be that surprising. What is shocking is that I am running in a singlet top and bike shorts. In daylight. I have even taken to taking next door’s dog with me. I KNOW!

4. I am wearing clothing that bares my upper arms. Dudes, I have not worn sleeveless items of clothing since c1980. I have had bingo wings/foodoobadahs/tuck-shop arms since puberty. It’s not pretty. It appears I no longer care about public health and safety.

5. I am into week 5 of losing weight. I have neither forgotten that I am attempting to lose weight or given up. I’m down 5.5kgs.

6. In 1992 Chef and I went on a holiday together to Tasmania. We played Scrabble. He beat me. Badly. Being somewhat unhinged tempestuous I threw the Scrabble board in frustration. This would have been far more dramatic was it not Travel Scrabble, thereby meaning the pieces were magnetised and well, you can guess the rest. Fast forward to 2010 and now the proud owner of an iPhone (a totally new addiction I now how to reign in) Chef and I have started playing Words with Friends. Dudes, I have whipped.his.arse. TWICE. OH YEAH BABY. Of course in the current game I’m 70 points behind and seem to have a serve of vowels to make an Eastern European jealous but who the fuck cares. TWO GAMES IN A ROW. Bring it.

Onward!