Archive | December, 2011

Can Andre help me raise my kids?

27 Dec


I have always been a tennis fan. My dad and I used to sit down at the weekend and watch matches together. I loved Pat Cash, Stefan Edberg, Steffi Graf and Ivan Lendl. John Mcenroe scared me. I missed much of Andre Agassi’s rise to fame during my difficult teenage years but later became a huge fan when I watched him struggle to win just one more Grand Slam before he retired.

I was initially excited by the impending release of his autobiography Open and planned to buy it the moment it came out in 2009. Then I read a review that turned me off it completely. His famous hair was a wig and he hated tennis.

I was devastated. I always admired him and his achievements but I felt betrayed. He wasn’t who I thought he was. He seemed like a happy, talented, secure sportsman. Instead he was living the life of a fraud and making himself miserable. It seemed false and unappreciative. I was so disappointed.

I bought the book yesterday and it is the best autobiography I have read this year. I have thawed since my initial shock at his revelations. Who am I to judge him? I wanted to understand what goes on behind the celebrity we are led to believe. How could his real life be so different? I haven’t put his book down. I will read it again once I am done. It is such an amazing story and one I hope will help me to figure something out, something that has been bothering me since I read that 2009 review.

As parents, should we force our children to develop their natural gifts or should we let them be?

Andre Agassi never liked tennis. In fact he hated and loathed it, but it was all he knew. His father forced him to follow his natural talent and Andre didn’t appreciate any of it. His relationship with tennis seemed to be about ego and money and he didn’t seem to enjoy it. Now that I am reading his book I understand how he ended up on this path and I admire him for his achievements even more.

My eldest son is a talent artist. It’s in his genes. His older half-brother and his uncle have the same gift but they never developed it. They didn’t enjoy it so they didn’t pursue it. I often wonder why they didn’t pursue a career in art seeing as they were so naturally gifted. It seems like such a waste. So when my son started drawing life-like pictures Spiderman from the age of four I paid attention. I bought him endless supplies and let him go through as much of it as he wanted. He has drawn every day of his life since his first pictures of Spiderman. He draws ten to twenty pictures a day. He seems to love it. But he hates art class.

I spoke to Philip about art class before I booked him in. I didn’t want to force him to do anything but he was really keen. For the first few weeks he did really well, his work was amazing and there were no complaints. Then he started saying he was too tired to go, that he was sick of it, that he just wanted to draw whatever he wanted and not be told what to draw. So here’s my dilemma. Do I force him to go to class to develop his natural talent so he can get a great job as an artist, designer, architect or any of the many and varied careers an artist can get or do I let him quit and hope for the best?  I really don’t know what to do. I was going to give him the end of the year off but his teacher convinced me to continue him, saying he was so naturally gifted that she would be sad to lose him. She has sent some of his work to Germany and next year he can enter a competition at the Easter Show. He still draws every day and his work in class is amazing. He asked Santa for a proper art easel and has been painting non-stop. His enjoyment is still there but what if I force him to go to class next year and he ends up hating it?

I’ll never forget when I signed my little brother up for soccer. He loved playing soccer with his friends and was always kicking the ball around. So I signed him up on a proper team and he hated it. He enjoyed the training and hanging out with his friends but he told me on the way home one night that he was started to hate it because of the pressure. He said soccer used to be his way of relaxing and now that’s been taken away. I let him quit immediately. I felt terrible that I had ruined soccer for him. He ended up recovering. He just isn’t naturally competitive. He’s more creative and has ended up in web-related advertising and design.

My brother never trained on computers until university. We just let him play around with them as much as he wanted, which was every night. I let him pull my old computers apart to see how they worked. He did it because he loved it and it was his decision to study computing at university himself.

I found my career-path, with some nudging from my mum. I signed up to debating but ended up loving public speaking more. A stranger suggested I look into radio and after floundering for weeks my mum made a call to the local radio station and I joined up and ended up working in radio and still am in some capacity.

So with my son do I do the Andre Agassi push, my little brother’s free approach or the gentle nudging of my mother? I’ll let you know if I ever figure it out. There’s a balance there somewhere but it also depends on my son’s personality. He’s a sensitive and moody little artist. Until I figure it out I will rely on bribery, and just a little pushing. Fingers crossed.

La Dolce Vita – Jo Abi




La Dolce Vita – Jo Abi

Why do I buy diet books?

24 Dec

Diets don’t work. I know this with every fiber of my being. Dieting leads me to an unhealthy and draining cycle of famine and feast. I stick to the diet for a few days, even a week, and then I feast on a scheduled cheat day or just because I can’t stand the deprivation any longer.

I’ve never been happier than since I quit dieting and stopped weighing myself. It was so scary at first. The first day I took back control of my meals outside of ‘feast’ day and started my day without weighing myself felt a little like being adrift. I wasn’t sure if the current would take me somewhere good or bad. Would I eat in a healthy and enjoyable way or would I let loose and gain more weight than ever before? My calorie-counting-app is forgotten.

The first day went well, then the next and the next. I now detest the thought of weighing myself. What’s the point? I can tell if I’m bigger or smaller by how my favourite jeans fit. Weighing myself just makes me feel like crap. Even when I lose weight I only feel happy for a few minutes before I set myself a new unattainable goal. I might weigh myself a couple of times a year but not every morning or even every week. It’s so freeing. The scales no longer set my mood for the day. In the shower I can think about the day ahead, not about how the number on the scale is wrong.

The bottom line is that I am thirty-five years old and over the course of my adulthood I have read every diet book I could get my hands on. I know how to eat healthily. I know how much to eat. I know I need to exercise when I can. I know what to do. We all basically do. It’s not about fads or eating organic. It’s about eating as well as you can as often as you can, enjoying occasional treats and exercising in a sustainable way. It’s about you being in control of your own health, not a book or a doctor or a dietician.

Then why am I so excited by the release of the book The Petite Advantage Diet by Jim Karas?

It seems that while I have successfully let go of the need to count calories and weigh myself obsessively I haven’t yet released my search for the latest dieting tip. Here’s the difference though. When I read diet books now or articles and interviews I read to learn. I use the information as advice, not instruction. I read them not to follow them to the letter and change my entire life as diets want you to do. I read them so I know what they are about, so I can pick up tips if I like them and so I can disregard other advice with some semblance of knowledge. It actually makes me appreciate my new-found freedom from regimented diets.

The Petite Advantage Diet hasn’t even been released yet. It’s out on 27 December and I have pre-purchased my copy. I first became aware of it while watching The View on Foxtel. Jim Karas has probably helped many people with the books he has written and with his work with patients. I have read all the samples of the book I can find. It certainly seems to make sense. But it is so strict. Two days of 1100 calories and then one of 1600. Who wants to count calories!

I’m not against diets and diet books. I just wish everyone realised they have to find what works for them and they need to make small and gradual changes, not abrupt and unsustainable ones. Read any book you like, but don’t change your entire life drastically. For example, after reading this book I have learned that I might benefit from eating a larger breakfast and a smaller dinner. I might do that some days if I feel really hungry in the morning. I was also interested in his advice about cardio. He advises against excessive cardio and I learned this myself years ago. The more cardio I did the hungrier I became. But I don’t go to the extreme of cutting out all cardio. What stupid advice. What about my cardiovascular health? So I have reduced it. Instead of 40-60 minutes of cardio I do 20 minutes on my cross trainer and then I do 20 minutes of calisthenics like pushups, crunches, lunges and stretches. I don’t do this every day and I don’t always do them on the same day. I do them when I can. If I’ve had a big meal or some extra birthday cake I might throw in an extra 20 minutes of cardio but no more. It works for me and you need to figure out what works for you. When I can I jump on the trampoline with my kids, chase them with a water pistol and play soccer with them at the park.

Most of my exercise can be done at home. Once a month I might go to my local gym for a spin class but only casually. There’s no way I’m becoming a member. I don’t need a baby sitter, special clothes or equipment to maintain my weight. I have my well-worn cross trainer and my recordings Total Body Sculpt with Gilad which I swear by. My triceps are awesome!

So read everything and do what you can. Weigh yourself if you feel the need to but not every day. Enjoy life and good food. Drink some water every time you have coffee or tea. Take a multi-vitamin as a back-up. Start your day telling yourself you are beautiful and doing your best. Then do your best to eat healthily over the course of the day and know that if you ate a little too much and exercised too little you can always do better tomorrow. Do you really need someone to tell you to eat more fruit and veg? You only like apples and carrots? Eat them every day if you like. Do you want some chocolate? Have some and enjoy it. Enjoy life.

I read a recent interview with actress Kyra Sedgwick. She never weighs herself because she says the number is never right. Instead she chooses to do her best and since she stopped weighing herself every day she found herself not obsessing about food. She chooses not to think about food every minute of every day. She focuses on work, her kids and living life. She has freed herself. I am in the process. I hope you can free yourself too. You will do just fine.

La Dolce Vita – Jo Abi

Liar liar

22 Dec

I resent being forced to lie to my son about Santa. Isn’t my job as a parent to tell him the truth and explain the way the world works?

Carrying on the Santa myth goes against every parenting principle I hold dear but to tell him the truth is to place an incredible burden on him to keep a secret from his closest family and friends. That too goes against every parenting principle I hold dear. As he gets older the lies become more elaborate, the excuses more far-fetched. I am surprised he hasn’t realised it yet. I dread the day that he does. That will be the day when he realises I have been lying to him his entire life. And why? For fun? For a greater good? No, I have been lying to him because society encourages us to allow children to enjoy the fantasy of a strange and magical man who rewards good behaviour in children by showering them in gifts.

What about the year Santa didn’t bring him the new Nintendo Wii Ben 10 game that Philip had written and asked for? Santa had to write a letter explaining that it wasn’t available yet and that mum will get for him for his birthday, but hopefully this selection of alternate games will do. After reading the letter my son said, ‘Isn’t Santa magic? Can’t he just make one for me?’ So I concocted a lie explaining that while Santa and the elves make most of the presents they also purchase games and game players from the likes of Nintendo and are therefore at the mercy of release dates just like the rest of us.

This year I want to tell him the truth more than ever but I will hold out until the eldest child in my family…my nephew…is given the news. Then I will confess to my son but I will include a lengthy criticism of all parents for upholding the belief and beg for forgiveness with a promise to never lie to him again. And then I will tell him about the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny, and apologise twice more.

La Dolce Vita – Jo Abi

Working girl

21 Dec


I am back at work. I have accepted two weeks of demanding, challenging, daily work that is scary, rewarding and brilliant.

Yes, I miss my kids. I miss them a lot. While I am at work I think of what they are doing. I call my mum and my sister too often and ask what the kids are doing and am told they are eating, playing, sleeping, fighting…pretty much the same activities as if I were there.

I am blessed with an amazing mum and sister who are not only willing to help but are very good at it. My kids love them and I love knowing they are well-cared for. I couldn’t work if I didn’t know they were in a safe, fun and loving environment. Not many parents have the luxury of loving family members willing to help. I count my blessings every day and I make sure to be there each week when my sister works and help my dad out while my mum travels. We are there for each other and can rely on each other when needed and all six children are part of a loving network of carers.

Anyway, back to my joy at working again. I love it so much. When I get to work I am often sitting down for the first time all day. I get to make a cup of coffee and actually drink it before it goes cold. My brain works in a way it hasn’t worked for a while. I become sharper, faster, more focused and more secure in my ability to be of value to people other than my family.

Life is all about balance and for the first time I feel I almost have it right. I have a little work each week, twice a year I fill in on a daily basis, I have my writing course and I get to start every day with my children and I am home to tuck them into bed at night.

The older I get the more I realise that life is about the little things. It’s about hugs, kisses, clean sheets, good chocolate, challenging work, constant learning, family and friends. What more could I ask for?

La Dolce Vita – Jo Abi

We forgot our wedding anniversary!

16 Dec


At 11.23pm last night I realised my husband and I had forgotten our wedding anniversary. Three weeks and 8 years ago my husband and I tied the knot at the Park Royal Hotel in Sydney on 30 November. It wasn’t a conventional wedding and we have never been a conventional couple, but our dual ignorance of what should have been at the very least a day of remembrance has left us both a little disturbed.

When I met my husband I was a young, ambitious radio announcer still living at home with Italian parents who tried to be strict. My husband was a separated father-of-two living with his girlfriend wondering how he was going to feed his kids that week. We met at the radio station and horrified everyone by becoming friends and then dating. What we thought would be a short relationship ended up being one full of love and joint ambition. We jumped over so many hurdles and navigated so many obstacles to be together that we are still surprised we made it.

On the outside we look like any hard working, happy family. On the inside that’s exactly what we are, with the added spice of a bankruptcy, our families, our children who have food allergies and our personal unfulfilled ambitions. But we make it work as best we can and we are grateful each day to be together and to have the family we have. I wish he worked less, was more romantic and was more of a hands-on father. He wishes I was more patient about his work hours and had more faith in the fact that he plans on becoming a hands-on father as soon as his work hours allow. Sounds pretty normal, right?

8 years is an achievement for any couple, especially those like us who can say they are happy they met and happier still at the family they created. So why did we forget our anniversary?

The previous year my husband reminded me of our anniversary and the year before we both remembered. The year before that was pretty traumatic but I reminded him. We’ve never both forgotten before. We’ve been busy before. We’ve had newborns, new jobs, stresses, illnesses and other challenges but we’ve never completely forgotten and to have neither of us remember until three weeks later? It’s embarrassing.

After making the realisation while watching a taped re-run of Grey’s Anatomy I tiptoed into our bedroom and told my husband about our forgotten anniversary. He hugged me, kissed me and told me he loved me. He was snoring again before I left the room (he gets up for work at 2.30am). I was left in a state of insomnia, trying to analysis it, as women do.

Here’s my conclusion. There is an anniversary my husband and I are obsessed with and it’s not our wedding anniversary. It is the anniversary of his bankruptcy. He lost his business in the Global Financial Crisis when property values plummeted. We (he) come out of bankruptcy on 16 May, 2012 and we text each other a countdown most days. We were recently elated to discover that we had under six months left. Today we have five months and two days left. We are so excited by the next chapter, after the trauma of having to start over again, not to mention the failed business and all that comes with that. It was heartbreaking, humiliating and scary. But we survived it and are happy enough that we forgot our anniversary and aren’t exactly crying over it.

So here’s to us honey. I wish you smelled better when you got home from work (he’s a transport manager so he smells like sweat, grease and other truck related odours) and I wish I looked better and was more relaxed when you arrive home (by the time he gets home I am dishevelled and chasing after our three children). I love you and I am so happy I met you. You eat all the lollies and leave none for others and you hog all the pillows. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. Let’s try better next year.

La Dolce Vita – Jo Abi

Offspring obsession

15 Dec

I love the TV show Offspring on Channel Ten. I am completely obsessed with it. Apparently Season 3 is filming now so I am keeping myself busy by watching it over and over again on YouTube.

I become obsessed with TV shows often. I latch on to them to cheer me up, comfort me and give me a chance to relax admits the chaos of raising my children. I watch episodes so often that they kids have come up with a dance for the opening credits. They also have a dance for Gilmore Girls, The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills and The Big Bang Theory. They don’t know I watch Dexter, The Good Wife and Grey’s Anatomy because they are usually in bed by then.

Offspring is one of the best Australian TV shows I have ever watched. I have always been an Asher Keddie fan since watching Love My Way, mostly because it was filmed in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney where I was living at the time. It was also an excellent albeit upsetting show. It wasn’t one I watched to be cheered up. But I loved it none the less.

TV shows become such an important part of our lives but while I watch them I am aware that I should probably turn the TV off and create a more interesting life of my own. This was easier before having children. We could always peel ourselves off the lounge and go somewhere but in all honesty my husband and I have always been homebodies, even before kids. When we first moved in together besides eating out frequently our favourite pastime was to hire videos and eat hokey pokey ice-cream.

I wonder if the TV shows we become obsessed with say something about us. I suppose they do. My friend Donna is just as obsessed with Offspring as I however other friends of mine have never watched it, preferring reality TV shows.

I don’t watch TV talent shows anymore. I did watch Australia Idol with Guy Sebastian but after that so many sprung up and I couldn’t keep up. It’s also hard to watch how nasty some of the judges can be. I am so excited Big Brother is coming back on Channel 9. I love watching them go about their day-to-day activities because I never got a chance to live on my own or with roommates. I went straight from my parent’s house to moving in with the man who would become my husband.

Every now and then I make a point of turning the TV off and playing games with the kids. Our favourite at the moment is UNO. But once they go to bed there’s not much else to do so I get to indulge in my guilty pleasure and a pleasure it sure is. My most recent addition to my IQ is Top Chef Just Desserts which I don’t recommend watching at night because it leads to a serious case of the munchies.

La Dolce Vita – Jo Abi

Christmas blues

14 Dec

No holiday is complete in my family without tension and fighting and this time I am sadly in the middle of it all. My parents are at an age when they want peace and harmony but the older the rest of us get, the more glaring our differences become. We could be speaking a different language when we argue, both feeling like we are hard-done-by and not being listened to. The nasty it gets, the sadder I become but I am coming to the realisation that I can’t fix it anymore and I just have to learn to live with it.

So the question becomes…how do I raise children who are friends as adults?

Kids fight…a lot…but that’s normal, right? They fight over toys, snacks, closing the front door and collecting the mail. It is endless and tiring. My children are aged 7, 3 and 2 so it might be a bit early to worry that they won’t love each other as adults, but it’s always in the back of my mind.

I was speaking to my 7-year-old son about it yesterday. I explained that while it is normal and okay to have the odd disagreement with his brother, sister and cousins the trick is to have the argument and then forget about it and move on. Don’t let it become an arm wrestle over who is right and who is wrong, because human nature is such that we always justify our own actions. Otherwise, how could we live with ourselves?

I love my family and friends a lot and most of them are forgiving of my faults. I just do what I need to do to get through my crazy days and I accept that most people do that too.

Christmas is my favourite time of the year but there is always a lingering sadness and this year is no different. But the effort we all make to be together for my parents is the ultimate act of love and respect and our children don’t notice anything is awry as long as they receive all their presents, with batteries included.

La Dolce Vita – Jo Abi

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