Archive | April, 2012

Don’t forget about your happiness

29 Apr


I never realised how pressured I’d feel as a mother to book my kids into activities. All the ads, brochures and newsletters I was handed in hospital and the baby clinic left me thinking that to be the best mother I could be, I’d book my child into activities to improve his flexibility, brain function and growth potential. Without these activities, who knows how long it would take him to walk, talk, read and tie his own shoelaces?

I started with Water Babies swimming lessons. My little baby and I would get in the pool together and splash around and play with other mums and babies. Babies possess a natural ability to hold their breath under water, but he always look a little startled that I’d done that to him. Then, while discussing his swimming future with the teacher (he was six-months-old at this stage) I asked when he’d be old enough to do lessons on his own and I was told two-and-a-half. I commented that he’d be pretty good at lessons after the optimal start I’d given him and the fact he held his breath so well under water. She laughed and said, “Oh no, they forget how to do that by the time they are two-and-a-half. He’ll pretty much be starting from scratch.” What?!? I attended a handful of swimming lessons at the age of 8, but my dad pulled me out after I contracted glandular fever. He was convinced swimming lessons were the cause but with my new knowledge of the effectiveness of chlorine I seriously doubt that.

As a child my parents didn’t take me to any extra-curricular activities. When I was older I was restricted to those that were free and within walking distance to my home. When I was really young wee lived on five acres, most of it bushland. Gymbaroo was climbing trees and rocks, we optimised our cognitive function by chasing chickens, trying to figure out which way they’d run so we could corner them and hold them. We’d play games like hide-n-seek, we ran around with our dog and we helped our dad in the garden. It was amazing and we were never bored.

My eight-year-old son does swimming, art class and karate and that’s pretty full-on as far as I’m concerned. My 4-year-old and my almost-3-year-old do swimming only – I want them to myself a little longer! I took my first born to Gymbaroo for a short time but after being chastised for holding my son’s hands while he tried to walk (“He’ll never learn to balance on his own if you do that!”) I decided I didn’t need any other reason to feel totally inadequate as a mother as I was good at doing that to myself, without having an ‘expert’ confirm my worst fears.

We have a small backyard at our house and we have a lot of fun in it but I do feel my kids will benefit from a couple of activities while they are young. But there’s a limit. My eight-year-old wants to do soccer as well and I said no way. Our schedule is busy enough without adding to it, but I feel really bad. It’s just that when he did soccer he hated it. It made him too tired, I had to drag him there…if he loved it and was enthusiastic about it I might be motivated to take him.

I need time too. If I over-schedule the kids, I over-schedule myself, and my favourite times are those when we are at home sharing a bowl of popcorn and watching a movie or going bowling at the spur of the moment for some unplanned fun with no instruction needed. I need room to breath, think and imagine too, just as my kids do.

And there’s not enough coffee in the world for me to get out of bed early on a Saturday morning during winter…hats off to the thousands of mums who do it. You’re awesome and I hope you know it.

La Dolce Vita – Jo Abi

On sale for a reason

28 Apr


My new face cream smells really bad. It’s smells like bleach with a splash of foot odour. But it works really well. It’s the best face cream I’ve used in quite a while. And it cost $8 (down from about $50) on a discount website.

I’m always trying to think of ways to shop smart. I shop at Aldi, I order fruit, veg, milk, meat and bread from a farming company and now I look for great buys on bargain websites. The best savings for me are on makeup, cosmetics, batteries and cleaning products. But there’s often something slightly off about them.

I suspect they have ended up on a bargain website because they stuffed up the smell, colour or package design. As a result most of my face cleansers and creams smell a little off at the moment. I bought a brilliant eye cream for $6 (down from about $30) but it was hard to get it out of the container. My face cream smells horrible. My face wash smells great but is way too strong. I am using shower gel at the moment that is a little too masculine for a woman (and probably why it failed to sell well). All the cleaning products, toilet tissue and such are excellent. We won’t run out of batteries this year.

I miss my nice smells. Nice smells make me feel pretty (although the mirror would argue with that most days!). But the savings are INCREDIBLE. It’s a dilemma.

I don’t buy any of the snack foods on these sites any more. They have seemingly brilliant offers for 50 chocolate bars for $10, for example, but when they arrive you find they expire in a week. Even I can’t eat that many chocolate bars in such a short space of time. I would never let my kids eat that many either. They’re lucky to get one a month, if at all. My husband could have done it. I could have filmed it and posted it on YouTube and called it “Middle-aged man attempts suicide by chocolate”. It wouldn’t be pretty.

Discount websites have a place. Go for it when it comes to batteries, household cleaning products and books (LOVE cheap books), but try and find out the expiration dates of the food products and get ready for some effective-yet-terrible-smelling cosmetics. It’s the price we pay!

La Dolce Vita – Jo Abi

Coffee metabolises fat?!?

27 Apr

I read all diet books and log on to all diet sites. I can’t help myself. Most days I do okay with my eating but for some reason I am interested in everything and anything when it comes to diets. Probably because most of us struggle so much to stick to them. We always want to be a thinner, happier version of ourselves. It’s exhausting.

I watch The Biggest Loser (of course) and I love it. I usually visit the website too to read up on the contestants and I was intrigued to read an ad on the site for a rapid weight loss program. I signed up immediately.

In the introduction video the consultant talked about how to do it. He explained the program and gave instructions on how to do it in a healthy way. Then he said something that floored me. I thought I’d heard everything. I’ve never heard his.

He said for us to drink two to three caffeinated beverages each day because caffeine helps to metabolise weight!

I’d only ever heard that coffee isn’t good for dieting. Apparently it causes a spike in your blood sugar and causes you to crave sweets.

I love coffee in a mildly obsessive way. I carry a jar of my favourite instant coffee around in my handbag – Moccona Indulgence. I drink the good coffee at home. When I go out I love a good coffee. If it isn’t excellent I don’t even bother to drink it. My favourite coffee to drink when I go out is the Max Brennar Skim Cap, an espresso with a splash of milk (macchiato) from most cafes and a latte at McCafe (their coffee has improved).

When I am drinking instant I always have to make it myself. I take a heaped teaspoon of coffee, a flat teaspoon of raw sugar and then a big splash of light milk (not skim for crying out loud). No once makes it the way I like it.

I love coffee. I grew up with the smell of it in my house. It usually meant my dad was around or about to arrive home. He used to drink espressos and he’d let me eat the sugar left at the bottom of his cup. My uncle used to freeze espresso and eat it as a snack. We soaked biscuits in it to make tirami su.

I plan to move forward with this incredible advice and thoroughly enjoy every sip instead of drinking it feeling like it’s something I should give it up at some stage.

Coffee rocks. And out of all the addictions I could have, it isn’t so bad.

La Dolce Vita – Jo Abi

Dobbers wear nappies

27 Apr


There is a rather disturbing phrase my son has heard in the playground. “Dobbers wear nappies”. It’s disturbing to me because it’s used to deter kids from telling responsible adults about issues they are having.

Yes, some kids dob all the time over silly things, but most come for help with something has really upset them. I want my son to come to me with issues he considers important so we can come up with ways for him to deal with these issues.

Bullying isn’t just a problem for children. Bullying happens at all ages, in all environments, in all levels of society. Dealing with bullying is a life skill and it’s an important one for our children to learn.

I was upset to hear that my son was being hassled by a child this year. The incidents began from day one this year and my son and I would sit down at night and try and figure out ways to deal with them. Nothing we tried worked, or at least not for long.

I ended up having to get some assistance and it was dealt with swiftly.

I’m still glad for the experience. It was a mild case involving the kind of violence that hurts but isn’t life-threatening. But it was important and valuable none the less.

I told my son that there are bullies everywhere and he had to defend himself loudly and with confidence. I told him to hold his hands up and create a barrier. I told him to dob, dob, dob away if his personal safety is threatened. I told him that he was in charge of himself and his life and nobody had any write to threaten that.

I also explained that it happens and will do over and over again in life. We talked about different kinds of bullying. He said he forgets what to say when someone is too rough with him and I told him that it doesn’t matter, just say anything and say it loudly and with confidence.

He reported back that he’d screamed in his face to leave him alone, held his hand up against his chest and dobbed. Excellent.

He asked me about how I was bullied. I told him about the nasty girl at school who wanted my best friend to be her best friend. She decided to “tell me off”. The entire school crowded together to watch as she called me a wog, taunted me about my weight, told me how pathetic I was and how I was nothing. I sat there and smirked. I was shocked and didn’t know what to do. Some teachers ended up breaking it up. I’ve always felt ashamed of how I handled it.

I should have told her to get lost. I should have told everyone to mind their own business. I should have teased her back. I should have told her she was nasty and hateful, that she’ll hate her freckles when she grows up, that she’s pathetic, that she should get a life and leave me alone. I should have just said anything loudly to defend myself. Because I do matter. I just didn’t know it yet.

A mild case of bullying can be a gift and I’m happy to know that if anything more serious occurs there are procedures in place to handle them. As I told my son, physical bullying is assault. It’s a criminal offense.

Then I said something I never thought I’d say. I told him these things need to be “nipped in the bud”. But they do. Defend yourself loudly and with confidence.

La Dolce Vita – Jo Abi

My eight-year-old wants to buy me a house!

21 Apr


My son just celebrated his eighth birthday. He’s my first born, my gorgeous little boy. He’s very sensitive and thoughtful. He often worries about the world and about why people are sad. I feel badly for him. I think he’ll always feel too much. He isn’t easy going. Which is why my heart broke when he told me he wants to buy me a house.

My parents gave him $100 to use too open his first bank account. He was so excited. He asked me to take him the very next day and open his account. He asked if he’d get a bank book. He asked if he’d have to sign anything. He was so proud that he’d have an account. He felt like a big boy.

We all went to the bank together and sat down to open his account. He was so interested in the process. He kept counting his money and asking questions. The bank teller told him that he could save for anything he wanted with this account and that he could buy himself a car in ten years time.

My son said he didn’t want to buy a car. He told her, “I’m saving to buy my mum a house”.

She and I looked at each other in shared delight and sadness. I hugged him and told him that we’d buy a house again one day and that I wanted him to save for whatever he wanted. I didn’t realise he’d picked up on our financial hardship but he’s a wise one and I shouldn’t have been surprised.

On the way home I asked him why he wanted to buy me a house. He said it’s because I always say I wish we had a bigger house and because whenever he and his brother ask for a dog I say we will get one as soon as we own a house again.

I think it’s okay that he is money-aware but I did make sure he knew that we were more than okay and quite lucky compared to some. I told him I was happy he thought about money and that he should focus on appreciating everything we did have and to never worry because we’d always make sure we were okay.

He’s the cutest little boy on the face of the earth (subjective!).

La Dolce Vita – Jo Abi

Buy Australian?

21 Apr

I love Aldi. I have shopped at Aldi since it first opened. I first found Aldi when I was searching for authentic Italian nogart ahead of Christmas. Someone told me that Aldi is German-owned and stocks heaps of European brands. I was amazed at the brands they had and went crazy stocking up for family and friends.

I became a monthly Aldi shopper. Everything was so affordable. I’d stock up on cleaning products, passata, nappies and wipes and there was always brilliant specials. It wasn’t pretty. Service took a while and you had to pack the groceries in bags yourself but I didn’t care. I could fill up a trolley and struggle to reach $200. Do the same at any other supermarket and you might pay double or triple the price.

Aldi has its critics. It isn’t Australian. The money you spend there is going overseas. But I don’t care. They employ Australians, they rent from Australian landlords, Australian trucks transport their products. There’s plenty of reasons to feel happy to shop there. In fact after the Global Financial Crisis resulted in my husband losing his business I had no choice but to shop there. If it weren’t for Aldi I don’t think I could have afforded to feed my family of five so well. They never noticed anything was amiss. Like all kids, as long as there is plenty of food in the cupboards they’re happy.

If two German brothers come up with an affordable way for me to feed my family they can have my money. I’ll transfer it to Germany myself. Every week grocery shopping is a stressful event. I shop at Aldi fortnightly now and I still go to other supermarkets for products were are attached to like Butter Soft and Sole Mare tuna. But the bulk comes from Aldi now and I can relax and know I’ll get plenty of bang for my buck.

I also use Aussie Farmers. It’s a delivery service straight from farmers to your door. Twice a week I get bread and milk and once a week I get a seasonal box of fruit and vegetables. It’s the perfect balance.

It’s so hard to balance the family budget. My friends and I joke about how much we spend on groceries and how we blow our budgets on Tim Tams and chicken breast but really, it’s so sad that we are all working so many hours and still having to watch our grocery budget so carefully. But that’s the reality of our country. Everything is expensive.

My friends are I try and grow some fruit and veg in our backyards to supplement our weekly spend. I managed to grow tomatoes this year and I have a basil plant and a parsley plant. But fruit is hard. It requires constant care. I have to make more time to grow more food. Apparently zucchini’s are easy, and cucumbers.

Yesterday a friend and I were talking about what we serve for dinner when we run out of groceries. I do bruschetta and she sometimes does beans on toast. We have financial goals we are trying to reach (she is saving for a holiday and I am saving for a house). Every dollar counts and sticking to our budget makes a huge difference each month.

I had a meltdown a few months ago. I’d run out of tuna (I eat it every day), I was almost out of olive oil and there was no fresh fruit. I waited until my husband and children went to bed and I drove to my local supermarket (Aldi was sadly closed) and spent $500 on everything I wanted…tuna, olive oil, fruit and veg, fancy biscuits…I went crazy. I sneaked them into the house and loaded up the freezer, fridge and cupboards. It looked so great and I felt calm and secure, and then panicked at how badly I had blown our budget. I sat down and worked out that I would spend a little less each week until I made up the money but then I picked up an extra shift at work and paid it back in. Our budget was in balance again.

We are a middle income household but to achieve any financial goals we have to be careful. Takeaway is a spurge (last time we ordered Chinese for five it cost $70). But it’s all good. There’s always bruschetta and we can always invite ourselves over to my mum’s for dinner (it hasn’t been that bad yet). And I hardly have to resort to fast food. Well done.

La Dolce Vita – Jo Abi

Let it rain

19 Apr


Torrential rain poured down on us today at the Easter Show and it was AWESOME. I didn’t bring my babies to the show (babies don’t think it’s fun to be cold and wet) but Philip and I had a ball.

We started off the day trying to stay dry. We diligently used our umbrellas, moved under cover when it became heavy and stuck to the show pavilions. Then we decided to go on a ride. We were drenched. The top of the ride was holding onto some pools of rain water which fell on our heads as the ride began and if that didn’t wet us enough, the downpour that followed took care of the rest. Several rides later and we looked like we’d jumped fully clothed into a swimming pool. And it was great.

I’ve never laughed so hard. I’ve never felt so cold and wet. I didn’t mind the discomfort or how my hair was frizzy and my mascara smeared. We were at the Easter Show. We only had to wait a few minutes in line for each ride and the Showbag Pavilion was filled with light traffic only.

It was such a great day that I hope it rains again for us next year.

My mother-in-law joined us. She was as determined as I was to make Philips day special. It was his eighth birthday after all and rain, hail or shine, we wanted him to have an amazing day. He did get to a point where he was too cold and too wet. His jeans, which were drenched, were starting to fall down due to the weight of the water. When he found out we were leaving he started splashing in puddles and running through running water. If he wasn’t wet enough already he certainly was by the time we got to the car.

When we got to the car we kicked off our shoes, he took off his shoes, we dialed up the heat and headed home. He fell asleep on the way home and we were deliriously happy to put on warm, dry clothes. My house is covered in show bag debris, the kids have all eaten a few too many lollies in one day than I would like and the fridge is holding the leftovers from the marinaded olives and fetta I bought and my daughter has fallen asleep with her pink, heart shaped sunglasses on.

When I gave my four-year-old his show bags he said ‘yippee’. It’s the first time he’s used that word.

The only sad part of the day was that I was so overloaded with show bags for all the kids in my family that I wasn’t able to buy my Minties show bag but that’s parenthood. And they sell them at the supermarket apparently. Why do they taste better from a show bag? It’s the magic of the Easter Show I suppose and I can’t wait for next year. I’ll start saving now.

A bottle of water cost $4 and a bag of fairy floss cost $4.50. My mother-in-law bought our lunch for us, thank goodness, and the parking cost $20. But it’s once a year. So what.

La Dolce Vita – Jo Abi

%d bloggers like this: