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So, my 10-year-old has started drinking coffee.

9 Apr

I can think of worse things to give him.

Philip drinking coffee

My children have always been curious about coffee. To them, it is a magical drink that makes me instantly happy. They’ve grown accustomed to me gasping, “I need coffee”, like a hung-over-twenty-something. Except I’m not hung over. I’m tired and overwhelmed. Coffee has always been about comfort and community to me.

They’ve all tried it and it was pretty funny watching them spit it out and dramatically gag, as though they’d just had a mouthful of vinegar. I’ve been the only regular coffee drinker in my home for as long as I can remember (my husband only drinks it occasionally) and I’ve been pretty happy with that state of affairs.

Philip is ten and he has been a tea drinker for years. After I put the little ones to bed each night, Philip and I have a cup of tea (a weak one for him) and chat or play Scrabble for half an hour before he too goes to bed. He took me by surprise this week when he asked for coffee instead of tea.

“It smells nice to me now. I think I’ll like it.”

So we had the ‘coffee chat’, about how it keeps you awake and a couple a day is enough, preferably before lunchtime.

“Can I have coffee tomorrow morning then?”

“Okay, but just a weak one,” I said. He is turning 11 in a week. #growing too fast.

Coffee fixes everything

The next morning we were running late for Tennis Camp so we didn’t get a chance to even have breakfast let alone make coffee but after Tennis Camp I suggested we go to a cafe for a snack.

“And can I have coffee,” he asked.

“Sure.” I mean, why not? To me, coffee for kids is much better than, say, Fanta or Coke In fact coffee has been proven to have health benefits – as long as it isn’t covered in whipped cream and caramel sauce – and I’ve been drinking it all my life. Coming from an Italian background I was always free to have a sip of wine or a bit of milky coffee.

I ordered him a weak cappuccino and a skim one for myself. He really really enjoyed it.

Now, my 10-almost-11-year-old is a coffee drinker and I’m okay with that. I never really had a problem with him having a bit of coffee here and there. I think my momentary struggle with it had more to do with how fast he is growing up, how mature he is and how I can now say to him, “Want to grab a coffee?” like I do with my grown up friends.

I’m preparing myself for some startled looks when I order him a coffee from our local cafe. They are used to kids requesting hot chocolates, which in my view are way more unhealthy than coffee.

Do your kids drink coffee? Would you let them if they asked?

My son is upset that he’s short

5 Jun


This is my son Philip. He’s 9 and perfect and funny and SHORT.

“Mum, I’m the shortest in my class, the shortest in my soccer team and the shortest out of all my friends,” he regularly tells me. When he says this it brings back painful memories of school (doesn’t everything!). I was called ‘shrimp’ more than I was called Jo during both primary and high school. Even now as a fully grown adult I’m only 5’3”. But so what? I’m not a model or a basketball player and to be honest, if I’m reaching for something high up I’m a chair away from being able to get it. So what if I’m short. So what?

Except kids hate being different from their friends. They just want to be the same. Same, same, same. It makes them feel comfortable and it makes them feel secure. What they don’t realise is that it’s their experiences of being different that make them into strong, determined, amazing, unique people. Being different isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

It’s just that Philip feels different enough already. He has food allergies and has to wear a yellow hat at school. All his friends are allergy-free and wear blue hats. He also has silver caps on his top, side teeth. His friends ask what they are. He feels embarrassed when they do.

I gave him the “it’s okay to be different” speech again tonight and he listened but I’m not sure I helped. I even used a sports analogy.

We were watching Origin I (GO BLUES!) and I said that it doesn’t matter if he’s short, especially in soccer. I reminded him that Peter Sterling is still one of the best players to have ever played for the Eels and he’s as tall as me! Philip is fast, he’s fit and he’s an excellent player. Being short hasn’t stopped him from doing anything he wants to do (except reach the chocolate in the high cupboard after I’ve put it there so he can’t have anymore of it).

I then told him that if he eats more fruit, veg and all his dinner he’ll grow big and strong.

I then tucked him into bed and told him he was perfect just the way he was and not to bother getting upset about things he couldn’t change. Whats the point? I tell this to myself quite often too!

La Dolce Vita,

Jo Abi

Last night I thought my house might just float away

24 Feb


Image courtesy of

It was the rain that woke me. I had to be up at 4am to work the Sunday morning shift at Bankstown Airport and I was doing my best to get some shut-eye but it was just so loud. The rain was loud because there was so much of it. And it wasn’t just the rain.

The roof gutters were overloaded and water was streaming so loudly past our doors and windows that I was convinced the roof was leaking and searched for it. Thankfully the roof held up.

Then the wind picked up.

I felt like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. It was positively howling. I will never know how the house stayed standing. The glass in the windows shook and even though they were closed the curtains and blinds were moving each time a new gust slammed into them. At one stage the wind was so furiously fast that it emitted an intense whistle. I swear my heart stopped.

I started wondering about the roof caving in on the kids as they slept. I started wondering about the streets being flooded and us being stranded.

I started wondering about driving into flood water and being swept away. How would I get us out? How would I keep us safe?

Mother Nature can be scary when she wants to be and with the intensity of current weather patterns across the world you’ve got to wonder what will happen next.

My son Philip is 9 and he asks questions all the time about possible disasters. Does Australia have earthquakes? Yes, but just little ones. Does Australia have hurricanes? No (although last night I heard of several mini-twisters). Does Australia have fires? Yes, bad ones but not in Sydney. Does Australia have flooding? Yes, bad ones but not in Sydney.

I think of silly things, like how I’ll buy an inflatable raft and put one in the house and one in the car just in case. I’ll stop up on kids vitamins and Space Food Sticks and store them in waterproof containers. I’ll build an underground shelter in case of fires, cyclones and other dangers. It can double as a panic room.

I’ll put Uno, Monopoly and some books in there. I’ll pack water, long-life milk and chocolate.

I feel like saying I’m lucky to live in Sydney is like asking for trouble (I’m knocking on wood as I speak!).

Last night I was scared to death. I can’t wait for the sun to come out again.

La Dolce Vita,

Jo Abi

How one mother helped her obese daughter lose weight

17 Feb

The Heavy, Dara-Lynn Weiss

“There is no truth, there is only perception” Gustave Flaubert

I’ve been thinking a lot about perception lately. How we perceive the world, how we are perceived…it’s truth mixed with subjectivity mixed with judgement.

So it’s fitting that I stumbled upon a book written by an amazing women who was a victim of perception. By the end of the book I couldn’t believe how inaccurately she has been portrayed; disbelieving but not surprised.

Her name is Dara-Lynn Weiss and about a year ago she featured in a Vogue article discussing her decision to put her seven-year-old daughter on a strict diet with the sole purpose of helping her to lose weight. It didn’t help that the essay she had written appeared in Vogue, that she was packaged as an upper class New York mum and that the photo showed her and her daughter looking like the last thing they needed to do was diet. I remember reading it in shock. Putting kids on a diet? Can’t she just play netball or something?

But this was an active little girl with a huge appetite and a skinny brother.

The outcry to the essay was just as swift and the judgement harsh. She was irresponsible. She was materialistic. She was teaching her child to rely on her looks too heavily. She was obviously a vacuous and misguided woman.

Far from the truth. As far as you can get.

Dara-Lynn faced a dilemma many of us are familiar with. She had a clinically obese child. Her son could eat what he wanted but her daughter paid for her voracious appetite with uncontrollable weight-gain and the associated nasty treatment at school. Concerned friends and family suggested Dara-Lynn help her daughter lose weight. Dara-Lynn didn’t know where to begin.

She tried to do it herself. She’d always fed her family healthy foods with occasional treats but what she quickly learned and something I realised over 12 years ago when I first tried a calorie restricted diet. It’s not so much what you eat, but how much you eat. When it comes to weight loss and weight gain a calorie is a calorie. There’s no magic pill.

Dara-Lynn came across research I too had stumbled upon and felt fascinated and validated by. Mark Haub, a professor of human nutrition at Kansas State University went on a “Twinkie Diet” to prove that people can lose weight eating anything as long as what they eat doesn’t exceed the calories they need to eat for weight loss. Not only did he lose 11 kilos, his health improved, his cholesterol lowered and his blood-work showed improvements in his saturate fat count.

The other new information she discovered that when it comes to diet vs exercise, most experts conclude that exercise doesn’t necessarily lead to weight loss. If you eat too many calories, no amount of exercise will help.,9171,1914974,00.html

This mother of an obese child had limited success in managing her daughter’s weight in a world where it’s just not possible to control our child’s diets constantly and where one excessive meal a day can easily undo any weight loss. I myself know that one bad day of eating with abandon takes at least three days of restriction to correct.

So Dara-Lynn turned to an established program which focused on helping children lose weight and then she continued on her own until her daughter reached a ‘normal weight’. You need to read the book to understand her journey and she deserves a bloody medal. She knew she was the only one who could help her daughter and she did it with the judgement and stigma associated with placing a child on a diet.

The happy ending is that not only is her daughter a ‘normal weight’, she can make the right choices for herself now. She knows she can only have a treat twice a week and she knows she has to be careful how much healthy food she eats to. Dara-Lynn has empowered her daughter to be in charge of her own health and I can’t help but think that her daughter will be able to use this skill in other areas of her life.

The book is called The Heavy and it is a brilliant read for any parent or anyone who has struggled with weight. And it’s a wake-up call.

Managing our growing obesity crisis is going to require us to take a hard look at how we eat, how we socialize, what we teach our children and how we deal with weight issues. Just as Dara-Lynn explains, a diabetic child or a child with food allergies doesn’t suffer from the stigma an over weight child does and yet each is a serious health issue which requires careful management.


Sick and tired of waiting to see doctors

13 Feb

Kids Line Up

Since the birth of my first child I’ve felt like I live at hospitals and medical centres. After the birth of my second child it became worse and after my little girl arrived I may as well brought along sleeping bags.

Hardly any of those visits have been for me. I usually just shuffle my way through illnesses and only go to the doctor for me when I absolutely have to. Case-in-point this week when a virus struck me down like a thunder bolt.

I was at the gym working out when I noticed tiny red spots all over my arms. My first thought was that it was a sweat rash but later in the shower I realised it was all over my body. I googled it and was told I could have Leukimia. Or measles, or meningitis. With three kids in tow headed for the medical centre but instead of going to our usual centre where we have to endure a one hour wait I chose a different centre where you can make appointments.

I still had to wait 40 minutes.

The doctor actually came out after 30 minutes but Caterina had chosen that particular moment in time to use the toilet so he saw another patient before me.

Finally we all fell into his office and my kids who were tired and bored started destroying his office. We both told them to sit down and behave which they did for about 50 seconds, long enough for him to quickly examine me.

The good news – I wasn’t dying. The bad news – it’s a virus that just has to ‘run it’s course’ and there was nothing to be done but rest. Rest?!? I have three children. As if.

After a 40 minute wait I felt entitled to at least some new multi-vitamins, some cream or perhaps a hug?

This is why I NEVER go to the doctor for myself.

With the kids it’s different. I always take them ‘just in case’ because if an illness is ever going to become worse it’s always at 2am when everything is closed. They never take a turn for the worst during daylight hours. And after several 4-6 hour waits at our local hospital emergency room I’d prefer to take them to the doctor for every tiny little thing than have our precious rest interrupted. This doesn’t always work. Like the time Philip and I were dancing to the music at the end of Gnomeo and Juliet and he jumped into my arms, some how turned himself upside down and I dropped him on his head. I heard a crack and called an ambulance. I thought I’d broken his neck. He was screaming and crying.

We rushed to hospital with a neck brace on him and they delivered us to emergency. My little man fell asleep. As he slept doctors (who probably had DOCS on hold) asked me to describe how this had happened, asking if I’d ‘wrestled’ him into a headlock. I explained how it had happened and they woke him up and examined him.

My previously crying, distressed child said he felt fine. It was like nothing had happened.

Because I couldn’t slap him in front of people (just joking) we stayed for observation and then were sent home after 2 hours.

People ask why I carry around such a large handbag and it’s because when waiting for doctors, dentists and other professionals you need an array of items to keep your children from going nuts, thus preventing your own nervous break down. My over-sized handbag contains snacks, drinks, toys and several discarded Happy Meal items. It’s saved me several times.

Next time you are at the doctors office waiting waiting waiting might I suggest adopting a calm attitude, ignoring those giving you and your children dirty looks, teach the kids thumb wrestling and settle in. Because they never stick to their appointment times and it’s never a 10 minute wait. Use it as quality time. Talk, play, have fun. You may as well.

La Dolce Vita,

Jo Abi


Back to the gym for the first time in YEARS!

28 Jan


See this pic? This was taken at my first Lite n’ Easy photo shoot almost four years ago. I was asked to form a yoga pose and to be honest I’m not even sure this is one. I fell over about half a second after this picture was taken.
In exactly a week I will be making my return to the gym. It’s been a five year absence filled with three children (two of whom I had very close together), bankruptcy, moving house, working as much as possible and continuing my battle of the bulge.

I first used Lite n’ Easy in my early twenties. I’ve just turned 37 and I while the program still works like clockwork, I find it much harder to keep the weight off. A day of indulgence can cause a weight gain that cancels out a week of the full Lite n’ Easy program. Excuse my language but WTF?

I know what the problem is. It’s my lack of proper exercise. I’ve always loved exercising but I definitely have my good weeks and my bad weeks. It was my brother’s girlfriend who reminded me that when it comes to losing the last five kilos and more importantly, keeping the buggers off, it’s all about muscle tone. I have good arms. I always fit in a set of push up each day, but the rest of my body needs some serious work. I’m not getting any younger. If I want to age the way I want, be fit, look good in my clothes and treat myself to the occasional indulgence at birthdays and Christmas, I have to commit to exercise once more.

I did okay exercising at home but since my children dropped all their daytime naps it’s been a struggle. My little girl joins her brother at pre-school two days a week from next week. These will be my gym days, with the rest of the week taken up with my usual attempts at home to tide me over.

I wasn’t sure I wanted to use up my first child-free days in five years with gym visits, but it will be worth it to reach my goal. I thought I might use the days to write, to relax, to work, but I can always do that after the gym right (after getting a proper haircut and doing the grocery shopping without the kids asking me to buy them everything within reach).

I know the first month will be difficult. I’m not very good with fatigue, pain and effort but I KNOW I CAN DO IT!!!! Do I sound gym-junkie enough?

There are some rules though and I plan to stick to them strictly.

My gym is located at my local shopping centre. I will not shop in gym clothes. I will pack a bag, get changed there, shower and get dressed after. I will not drop the kids off at school or pick them up in gym clothes either! I will not have a big cafe lunch after my workout. This will completely defeat the purpose. I will eat a protein bar straight away before grocery shopping. I can have a skim cappuccino if I like but I like to save my coffees for when I get the kids. My little boy is very attached to his babycinos. I didn’t realise how much until we didn’t go for a couple of weeks and he launched an official protest.

I will become a member but I have to go TWO DAYS A WEEK AT LEAST, while the kids are all in school. But if they are sick I won’t pressure myself to make it up or give up. I’ll keep going back. I’ll persevere.

Once I reach my goal and am no longer being punish for my weekend indulgences, I will keep it up.

I won’t spend hundreds of dollars on designer work out clothes because I won’t be shopping in them. My old nasty work out clothes will do fine although I’ll need shoes. I’ll find some on sale.

Okay, so these are the ground rules. I’m actually feeling pretty excited. Knowing my food is sorted I feel like I’ll get the most out of my workouts. Even if I move my Lite n’ Easy afternoon snack to my morning snack and have the morning snack in the afternoon. Whatever. This is going to work. I can feel it.

Gosh, it’s hard to find time for yourself when you’re a mum, but I wouldn’t have done it any other way. I loved being there for them but now that they are onto the next phase, I’ll move to the next phase too. And we’ll all be happier for it!

La Dolce Vita,

Jo Abi

What I do when I feel overwhelmed

19 Jan


Sometimes I just feel overwhelmed.

This morning I woke up with the weight of the world on my shoulders. It’s like a fog has come over me and I just can’t do what needs to be done because it’s too hard, it’s too much, I’m too tired.

Usually I just drag myself through it. I know the fog will eventually lift and I’ll connect with the world around me again but this time I don’t want to struggle for days. This time, I want to snap the hell out of it.

I looked in the mirror, at my wrinkles and my scars, at the dark circles under my eyes and I said,

“Snap the fuck out of it Jo. You have a perfect life.”

Because I do.  I have a perfect life. But running a perfect life is quite a feat.

It takes schedules and shopping and two jobs and finding lost shoes and waxing my legs at night after the kids have gone to bed and missing lunches with friends and remembering birthdays and answering emails.

It takes developing an ability to connect with people quickly but meaningfully because there’s just no time for more. It takes laughs and smiles and slumping into a chair to drink a coffee you made an hour ago and forgot about.

Most weeks it all runs smoothly. The schedule is working, everyone is healthy and happy, the fridge is full, the bills are paid, we are reasonably well-rested and everything is sweet as.

It just takes the smallest thing to nudge us off track. My dad collapsing in the heat and going to hospital, my daughter having an allergic reaction, me melting down over a new work opportunity, a husband who is job hunting…

Here are the things I need to get done but haven’t had a chance to:

Get a proper hair cut

Organise my son’s birthday party

Redo our budget that is already showing some alarming holes

Make sure my other son has the things he needs for school

Clean out our cupboards

Organise a rubbish collection

Get my car cleaned

Have lunch with all the friends I haven’t had time to catch up with

Ring my stepson and make sure he received the Christmas gift I posted

Find Dad an electric cigarette so he can give up smoking and stop collapsing

Get a proper hair cut

Plant some tomatoes, zucchinis, anything in our garden

Order new padding and netting for our trampoline

Get a proper hair cut

Go to the dentist to get my tooth fixed, finally

Finish my book

Enrol in my uni subjects

Plead my case to be admitted into a restricted subject at uni

Get a proper hair cut

Are you still with me?

I know this isn’t unusual. I know we all struggle with the schedules and requirements and demands. It’s especially demanding during school holidays when the kids are board and I just one ten minutes to relax. Funnily enough I don’t even get time to myself when I’m using the toilet.

I have the weight of the world on my shoulders and I often joke to my brother that if I disappear for a couple of weeks I’ve just checked into a nearby hotel for a breather and to tell everyone I’ll be back, eventually.

“Snap the fuck out of it Jo. You have a perfect life.”

It’s not the perfect mantra, but it works for me!

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