Archive | March, 2013

Working 9-5…sort of

19 Mar


I haven’t worked traditional work hours…ever. Every job I’ve had has been early in the morning, late at night or weekends only – the joys of radio.

On Monday I start my first ‘proper’ job and I’m SO EXCITED. I get to wake up, get the kids ready for school, drop them off at school, go to work and be grown up and productive and then pick my children up.

It’s all happened quite fast. A week ago my year was going to be one way and now it’s going to be another. As soon as I found out this job was a possibility I started quizzing every working mother I’ve come across asking them how they make it work. I asked school mums, mums at children’s activities, at the grocery store, within my family…

The bottom line is, if you want to work when you have kids, organisation is the key. You don’t have the luxury of sleeping in or of falling behind on anything. This means you have a lot of prep to do the night before including washing the kids, ironing their clothes and yours, packing bags, making sure the shopping is done, charging your phone…

Two days a week isn’t quite enough to make the most of your job but three days is manageable. But once you get to four or five days a week you need a cleaner, you’ll have a pile of laundry and one form of childcare isn’t enough.

My sister gave me excellent advice. She said take one day at a time. There’s no way you can organise the entire week because shit happens – children become sick, things go wrong. Take one day at a time and you won’t stuff up or feel overwhelmed.

And give yourself time to adjust. Of course I’m going to feel guilty that first day. Of course I’m going to feel a little uncomfortable driving so far away from their schools. Those first few weeks will be a struggle but I have to give it a proper go because I’ll get used to it. I’ll get used to it and they’ll get used to it.

Finally, make sure you have back up in case you run late or get stuck in traffic. Have at least two other people who could in a pinch pick up your kids.

And breathe, enjoy. You’ve earned this opportunity and you deserve to work. Because kids grow up. Before I know it they won’t want to kiss me goodbye or hold my hand in public. They will need me differently, less hands on. I know it’s a while until that happens but knowing I have a career that matters to me, waiting for me makes me feel better. I want my children to see me working, I want them to be happy and well-cared for.

I want this new phase of my life to work, pun intended.

La Dolce Vita,

Jo Abi

How the hell did we lose one school shoe?

1 Mar



This weekend I undertook an unscheduled Spring-clean of our house, searching for a lost school shoe. And this isn’t any old school shoe either.


I was totally sucked into the commercials for school shoes before the school year began. I was convinced that if I bought my son affordable shoes he would end up with freakishly deformed feet…so I sprung for the expensive ones.


Now one is lost. WHERE IS IT?????


You see, my son’s foot is growing. During this crucial time it is important that the soles of his feet are properly cushioned, maintaining the arch and allowing him room to grow. I had visions of him limping around in a cheap pair, of a team of doctors shaking their heads at me as they tried to rebuild his shattered feet.


I have searched EVERYWHERE. Is the selective capitalisation communicating my FRUSTRATION? The shoe is lying in my house somewhere along with my sister’s phone (which we lost three years ago) and a set of keys (which I think might have ended up in the bin). When we move house we’ll find all these items along with around twenty high-bounce balls, my engagement ring (!) and at least fifty random socks.


Maybe the mice/rats/possums I hear building a village in my roof have taken these items? They live in the shoe or use it as a toilet, the socks are their sleeping bags, the keys are decorative and the phone…well they have family too. My engagement ring probably makes a lovely necklace for one of them or a door knocker?


Meantime the very expensive shoe is still missing and my house looks amazing. I even found $50 wedged between the wall and our computer desk. All the clothes and toys have been sorted (soon to be unsorted I’m sure) as have the cupboards and all the spaces under beds and chairs. How did we accumulate so many old copies of the Financial Review? We also have a strange amount of Glad Wrap, an unopened nose hair trimmer and multiple rolls of dusty Christmas wrapping paper. But no relatively new little boy’s expensive school shoe.


Convinced it will turn up eventually I found my nearest shoe warehouse and bought a much more affordable pair. They look pretty good. In fact they look so good that I might get them again next year (as long as his feet aren’t mangled and twisted as a result of the cheaper pair).


If we do manage to lose a shoe again, hopefully the remaining shoes make a pair. As if but here’s hoping.

Should we pay our children for chores?

1 Mar


My son and I sat down for a serious discussion a few weeks back. He wanted to start getting a weekly allowance. I happily agreed but explained that he’d have to do jobs around the house to earn his allowance. I rattled off a few ideas and he excitedly agreed and was a busy little bee that afternoon.

Now, a few weeks later, the novelty has worn off and I am faced with a tough choice – should I keep giving him his allowance and spend countless minutes nagging him to do his chores or should I simply withhold his allowance because they haven’t been done?

I never wanted to be a parent who was too tough on her children but to me, his relationship with money is forming and I am in a unique position to teach him to value money, even the random 5c pieces he sometimes finds on the floor.

I had no awareness of money when I was young. We didn’t have any apparently but I didn’t notice. We were never offered an allowance and the chores we did around the house were done for nothing. If we didn’t do them or did them incorrectly we were punished, usually with a hard slap on the legs.

I eventually decided to stop paying him his allowance but I decided not to make it a punishment. I calmly explained that he hadn’t helped out around the house so he wouldn’t be getting it this week but as soon as he started to help out again I would pay him his allowance. I left him to digest the news and with no nagging required he quietly tidying his room and picked up the papers that had fallen out of our recycle bin.

But this also brings up the point. Should I be paying him to help out around the house or, as a member of our household, should he just start contributing like the rest of us? It’s a tough one. Because at the end of the day I do want him to start learning that we all have to work for our money and if he wants his $5 a week for the canteen or to save up for games, he has to put in the effort.

And the worst thing is I won’t know if I’ve successfully taught him to have a realistic and healthy relationship with money until he’s grown. Will he get an after school job or will he take money out of my purse when I’m not looking? But then again, we’ve all done that, haven’t we?

Why do I need everyone to like me?

1 Mar


It really bothers me when people don’t like me. I know it’s impossible that everyone will think I’m an okay person but when someone expresses distain for me for years for no apparent reason, I have to admit, it bothers the hell out of me.

This particular person is on the fringes of one of my places of employment and about once a year he sticks a knife in and gives it a couple of twists. I can’t remember ever having kicked his dog or eaten his special biscuits but I must have. I can’t think of what else I might have done.

Not all mothers get along either. Sure our kids go to the same school and we might wave and say hello when we see each other at the shops but it’s pretty obvious who would love to see you drop dead. Grown ups can be petty too.

I just wish I didn’t get so upset when I’m reminded of those who think I’m a twat. It really leaves me feeling ill and wondering why, wondering what I might have done and worst of all, I put a lot of mental energy into trying to fix it. Talk about trying to fixing the unfixable.

I shouldn’t care what everyone thinks about me. Most people do like me. Why does one person’s stink-eye affect me so badly? And why do I try and win their affection? Why do I care?

Arg! It’s so annoying. Now I know why they don’t like me, because I’m annoying myself with my constant need to be liked!

And you know what else? It annoys me that people who don’t like me can’t hide it well and at least pretend to be nice. Am I not worth the effort? Does their hatred of me cancel out all social graces? Hate me sure, wish me bad luck, chuckle when I trip over but don’t be rude about it.

I used to hang out with some extended family and friends after getting back in touch with a beloved cousin. She and I got along famously and we included each other in all special events from then on. I loved attending her family functions and it was so great to see the rest of the family too.

One day at her house I had just put my baby to sleep in a pram in her lounge room when I went to walk outside and ran smack bang into the clear glass sliding door. Easily done, right? I didn’t even see it. I was sleep deprived due to the new baby and I have to say, it hurt like hell. I was surrounded by concerned relatives immediately and sat down, completely dazed. I was so embarrassed too.

I left the room to check the baby, still holding my nose and when I came back into the kitchen I saw one of my family members nastily informing another family member what had happened to me and then they laughed like evil witches.

I was mortified.

I thought they liked me. There they were, delighting in my misfortune. Do they not have souls?

My beloved cousin was in the room and when her husband came into the room she whispered to him what had happened and he was horrified and filled with concern for me. At least they cared.

But still, it stung to have someone revel in my misfortune and it took every ounce of my strength to stay at the party instead of leave. I’m ashamed to say I made up excuses not to attend their parties for a good year. I had three little children and was stressed and tired. I just didn’t have the strength to deal with a couple of bitches stirring their cauldron.

So, some people don’t like me. Big deal. I suppose it’s not so much that people don’t like me but these particular people are ones I care about. I really like them. I respect them, their work and their efforts and when I think highly of someone, I want them to think highly of me too.

My son asked me why he hadn’t been invited to many birthday parties this year and I gave him a vague answer, reminding him of the ones that he had been invited to. Then I explained that not everyone is going to want to be your friend, so treasure those who are your real friends.

“How do I know if someone is my real friend,” he asked.

“When you hurt yourself instead of laughing they help you and when you are alone they come and sit with you.”

He knew exactly who these people were and named them. I know who mine are too.

Someone once told me that a few years after high school I’d be able to count my close friends on one hand. I thought they were being ridiculous. I had heaps of friends. But my real friends showed themselves pretty quickly when I suffered through long work hours and forgot to call, when I made mistakes and had my apologies accepted and when I reached milestones I had them acknowledged.

Those friends are like family. They are real friends.

The books I read over and over again

1 Mar


This is my book-buying process…

If I want to read a book I upload it onto my iPhone if possible. I read it and if I love it I buy the printed version so I can read it again, properly and then if it becomes one of my greatest hits, I’ll actually read it several times throughout the course of the year.

At the moment my greatest hits include:

A Song in the Daylight by Paullina Simons

On Writing by Stephen King

Remember Me by Sophie Kinsella

Open By Andre Agassi

For the past five years or so these have been read and re-read and each time I get something new out of them. They get me through the times when I just haven’t found anything I want to read and that is rare. Sometimes after a new pile of books arrives I’ll read one of these to delay the pleasure of opening a new book and reading another potential greatest hit.

Reading completely transports me to another world and I love seeing people reading in strange places. At my local park I see a mum reading while pushing a pram around in circles. I assume it is an ‘incidental exercise meets baby nap time’ moment and why not read at the same time as well. Today on the way to work I saw a guy reading while waiting to cross the road, just trying to cram a few pages in before the little green man lit up and interrupted him.

I have been reading as long as I can remember. We didn’t have much money so I used to read the same books over and over again. One was about a seemingly ordinary woman who was a witch and made magic brownies that allowed humans to understand what animals were saying. I’d give anything to find that again. Sweet Valley High was a big part of my life thanks to an excellent school library. I’ve never wanted to be a blonde twin so much in my life. I was more of an Elizabeth than a Jessica.

It has to be a pretty bad book for me to put it done and I’ve done this a handful of times in my life. Once it was a crime novel by a famous novelist that was just way to violent, unnecessarily so. It was out of place, for dramatic purposes and I abandoned it a couple of chapters in. Another book I stop reading was so poorly written that I felt like getting a pen out and correcting it as I went along. You know those books that are so bad you feel like you could easily do better and even start writing a novel only to abandon it and go back to reading the works of others.

For a quick fix and some escapism I read Janet Evanovich. Jeff Apter wrote a brilliant book called Chasing the Dragon about Marc Hunter from Dragon and it is one of the best books I’ve read in the past twelve months.

Like my taste in music, my taste in books is eclectic. I’ll give all genres a go. I do tend to rebel against trends though. It took me years to read Lord of the Rings and Twilight but I am happy to say that I read Bridget Jones’ Diary well before the movie came out (and it was the first time I wasn’t severely disappointed by a film adaptation).

A friend recently commented that I have a lot of diet books on my book shelf. It think it’s so I know what I’m talking about when I completely dismiss suggestions like giving up all carbs or eating according to my blood time.

Seven Deadly Sins by David Walsh is a brilliant read about his experiences as a sports journalist and his complete disbelief that Lance Armstrong could suddenly start riding so well after a mediocre beginning.

I love a good recommendation too. My friend Amelia recommended Judith Lucy’s Drink, Smoke, Pass Out which had me in stitches and regretting putting my son in a Catholic school. “Who knew Jesus looked like Vigo Mortensen?” Ha.

I love wandering to the back of the book store and choosing something obscure or older that I’ve somehow missed or that isn’t being heavily promoted. Some good books fly right under the radar and our lives are lesser for it.

I read at home, on the toilet, at the park and sometimes if I arrive home early from work I park around the corner from my house and read a quick chapter before pulling into the driveway and having three adorable children projectile themselves onto me.

Many of my books contain artwork by my children. My daughter enjoys “decorating” my books and is so proud to show them to me that I rarely scold her. Luckily she uses pencils so I can still read the text.

I only ever lend out books I don’t mind not getting back. When I first read French Women Don’t Get Fat by Mireille Guiliano (which, weight-loss advice aside is a fascinating read for the history of food alone), I so didn’t want to part with it so I bought a second copy to lend out to all the friends who were asking to borrow it.

What are you reading now?

What the hell has happened to our food?

1 Mar


I always assumed food was safe, after all the entire industry is regulated. As if food is truly dangerous. Yes some foods are unhealthy if you eat them too much and too often, but we aren’t being poisoned for crying out loud. It’s just food.

Now food is a complete minefield. Not only are we fighting against obesity in a world where a packet of Tim Tams is much cheaper than a bag of grapes, but we’re also dealing with a record amount of food intolerances and allergies.

Then, this week my friend announced she’s intolerant to bananas. Bananas? What the hell is going on?

In my family alone we have several food intolerances including dairy, kiwi fruit, caffeine, gluten and some preservatives, we have one case of celiac disease and then my son who is anaphylactic to egg and tree nuts.

When I was little, every special occasion involved a huge tray of lasagne. This single meal has now been abandoned for two types of pasta, two types of sauces and if it’s a birthday we end up with three cakes – an egg and nut free one, a gluten free one and then a traditional cake for my dad. Those of us without severe food allergies and intolerances usually end up trying all three.

Now I’m feeling a lot of pressure to buy only organic food. Trust me, I want to. I have three children. I try and keep their diets as healthy as possible but I feel like the entire food industry is set up for me to fail. Why is there junk food at the check out? Why are chocolates and chocolate biscuits constantly on special? Why can’t I buy healthy snacks? Why isn’t healthy food more affordable? Who thought fruit roll ups were a good idea? Chocolate breakfast cereal???

Okay, magic wand time. How great would it be if ALL FOOD WAS ORGANIC? What if fruit and vegetables were cheaper than chocolate? What if all bread was multigrain and wholemeal and devoid of horrible preservatives? What if soft drinks and cordial disappeared from shelves along with crappy juice and flavoured milk? What if donuts were made without lard? What if all ice cream sold was low fat?

I know we live in a democracy and part of its charm is that we get to make choices, but I feel like it’s getting harder to be healthy. Fresh fish just isn’t affordable for my family of five but I can afford fish fingers. This isn’t right.

Imagine the outcry that would occur if even one of my outlandish suggestions was taken up. Please, don’t get me wrong. I’m not anti junk food. I love a treat from time to time. But why is it so cheap, why is it everywhere, why is being healthy so expensive, why are we all intolerant or allergic to so many foods, why are foods being genetically engineered, why are Easter Eggs already on shelves, why is fresh fish so expensive, why when I walk into my local supermarket am I offered one sushi bar and several shops offering donuts, cakes, ice cream, cookies and lollies? Why why why?

Something has to be done. This can’t continue. Somehow somewhere we have made some very bad decisions where a lot of food has become deadly. Food is no longer benign.

As a mother of three I feel I need to fight to ensure my family eats the healthiest food possible. My children are given chocolates and lollies constantly at parties, Christmas and for no reason at all. I’m often throwing it away while they sleep. What about some stickers? What about a colouring book?

Donuts are great but why do they have to be so bloody big?

My son is turning nine this year and his food allergies are worse than ever so I’m having to balance his severe allergies to egg and tree nuts with my quest to feed my family the healthiest foods possible.

Don’t even get me started on some school tuckshops. Ours is okay but they decided to do a donut day. Donut day???

I actually feel quite stressed when I food shop for the week. There’s so much to balance, so much to think about, so many food labels to read and even when I’m selecting fruit and vegetables that are on special I am well aware that they are not organic and I feel terrible.  I feel like I am poisoning my children.

Magic wand aside, all our shopping habits are closely monitored and the reason chocolate biscuits are on special so often is because we buy them. I urge you to protest. When they are three for the price of two, buy one. Don’t buy the one dollar chocolate bars at the check out. Resist!

And make sure you visit Chances are you know someone dealing with severe food allergies or if you don’t, you soon will because food allergies have now reached epidemic proportions in the Western world, with Australia one of the front runners when it comes to increasing risk. We really must all be asking, why?

Customer service was much better, back in my day

1 Mar


When I was little my mum went to the same petrol station every week. I still remember pulling up and out bounced a man covered in grease, happy to fill our car up with petrol. In those days you weren’t allowed to fill your own car. It was brilliant because mum didn’t have to get out of the car and seeing as nothing much was sold at the servo there was no need. The man would even fill up her water and check her oil. We’d always wave at him. He was like family.

Now, we have to put the petrol in ourselves. We even have to get all our kids out of the car to pay for it and try and avoid buying them one of the thousands of junk food choices on display at the register. I don’t pay with cash, I don’t even use a PIN, I just wave my credit card in front of the machine and with barely a grunt from the attendant, I’m on my way, after strapping my three children back into their futuristic seats and seat belts.

Mum used to go to the same butcher too. He was always loud and he made the same joke. Mum would order steaks, sausages and mince and he’d say, “Eat in or takeaway?” We’d always laugh. He’d give us a cold Frankfurt to eat. It tasted so good.

I was feeling nostalgic one afternoon and on impulse, handed my son a cold Frankfurt to eat from the franchised butcher shop I sometimes used. He was green by the time we got to the car. We spent the next six hours in the emergency room at the hospital.

Now that I’m all grown up I can’t help but feel that I am annoying everyone by shopping. There they were all happy and relaxed and along I come to make a purchase, majorly inconveniencing them. There are no greetings or waves to my children. They are impatient. They move quickly. They want me gone. If I don’t move quickly enough to unpack, pay and then leave I feel like I’m intruding.

The only time I sometimes feel welcome while shopping is when I’m clothes shopping. They always, always say hi. Then I remember that they say hi because apparently this reduces the risk of shoplifting. Oh. “Hi, I’m not a shop lifter”, I feel like saying. Imagine how bad I feel when I set off the alarm when leaving the shop because they’ve forgotten to remove the tag. I FEEL like a shop lifter. I’m not, I’m not!

I never carry cash. All my transactions are by card. It’s so funny at my brilliant Italian deli where they make it as difficult as possible to pay by card. I only ever use cash there. Once I forgot and I had to climb over and around a huge dried pasta display to pay. I’ve never forgotten cash again. But they are the friendliest place I shop at. They know my kids. They know my family. We interact.

Why can’t we go back to the good old days?

Oh, I just thought of another one. Remember when all items at the supermarkets had price tags on them? The workers would use those little guns to put the prices on. But sometimes the tags would fall off. When the lady at the counter came across an item with no price she’d always ask my mum if she knew how much it was. Mum would name a price and the lady would enter the price, without any hesitation. She believed the customer.

So retro!


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