Archive | Lifestyle RSS feed for this section

Sometimes it’s okay to do not much at all

9 Jun


It’s 10 am and I’ve just gotten out of bed. I’ve recently trained my kids to let me have a sleep in some Sundays (this is the second time in a year I’ve done it). By sleep in I mean I lie down and snooze while they run in and out asking for things. This morning from the comfort of my bed I handed my iPhone to my son, yelled out ‘yes’ when my other son yelled out asking if he could use my laptop and I even opened a jar of pitted black olives for my daughter – without spilling a drop – before slumping back and cuddling my pillow for a few more precious minutes.

I’m up now. On my way from my bedroom to the kitchen (COFFEE!) I changed all the kids into their day clothes, picked up endless pieces of paper and straightened up, threw toys in the toy box, fed the cat and put on a load of laundry.

It’s the long weekend and we have no plans. I felt like I should organise an outing but we’ve been so busy lately and for the next two months we have an important events pretty much every weekend, even two, and then we segue straight into the school holidays during which my sister and I juggle and juggle hard to get to work, fighting over my mum’s baby sitting services and trying not to go insane when at home with all six of our children and a few extras.

I love life when I’m busy but I also love doing not much at all. When my kids asked me what we were doing this weekend I said, ‘Hanging out’ and now they repeat this constantly. It’s super cute.

Of course fellow mums know that when I say we’re not doing much at all it just means we have no formal events to attend or planned outings. Staying home means catching up on work, housework, paperwork, cleaning, tidying, sorting out my clothes, unpacking the boxes left over from our move two months ago, ducking off to the shops when we run out of dish washing liquid and toilet paper. A bathroom incident during which brushing teeth led to a water fight (STOP IT!) left all the toilet paper soaked. There wasn’t even one roll spared. Why did I fork out for the expensive butt-cushioning toilet paper this week? Back to generic, then fight away children.

I’ve always been a bit of a homebody and I find weekends like this reset me  and prepare me for the flurry of engagements, of doing my hair and make up, figuring out what to wear and making sure the kids are presentable.

In preparation for our hectic schedule I’m also making spaghetti sauce to freeze for quick dinners, eating really healthily and exercising because there’s going to be some delicious food ahead like wedges at my daughter’s birthday at Italian cakes at another function. Self control I do not possess.

Enjoy your long weekend and I hope it’s as busy as you want it to be or as relaxing as mine…

La Dolce Vita

Jo Abi

Can you answer this question honestly?

17 May


I have a question. I know it’s none of my business but I really want to know. It’s not an easy question to answer. Normally when someone asks you this question your instinct is to lie. Sometimes it catches you off guard.

Sometimes you drive yourself crazy asking it of yourself.

To me it is THE question. It’s the only one that matters. Achievements, accomplishments, money, family, friends and possessions aside…none of it matters when it comes to this.

Okay, here it is…

Are you happy?

I know, annoying right? Are you happy. Is anyone happy? What does it mean to be happy? Is happiness even a goal? Is being in a constant state of happiness achievable?

To me, happiness is not a state of being. Happiness is a feeling. It comes and goes, like sadness and anger. So to ask someone if they are happy is a false choice. Happy vs unhappy. I don’t believe either of these is possible as a constant.

I’ve annoyed you by asking the question so I’ll show how I deal with it. I’ll ask myself and you’ll understand why I think it’s a silly question to ask.

Am I happy?


Happy isn’t how I’d describe myself. Satisfied? Yes. Fulfilled? Yes. Happy? No.

Happiness comes and goes. I have moments of happiness. It comes and goes. I’ve felt happy several times today and then I’ve felt sad, frustrated, tired, overwhelmed, cranky, lonely…

I go through so many feelings more than once each day. This is normal.

I am happy with individual things. I’m happy with work but I’m not happy with how cold it is on the bus each morning. I’m happy with my family but I’m not happy with their behaviour at bedtime. I’m happy with my marriage but I’m not happy with how my husband hardly helps out around the home. I’m happy with my home but I’m not happy that we are only renting. I’m happy with how I look but I’m not happy that it seems to be deteriorating at a rate of knots as I approach forty. I’m happy with my health but I’m not happy that it takes me three weeks to recover from exercise-induced-injuries.

So, are you happy?

Or, may I ask, are you satisfied?

We are all a work-in-progress. We are a work-in-progress until we take our last breath. One of the motivating forces for life is the search for happiness. It’s the search, the process, the seeking, the consideration and the hope that makes life worth living and when those moments of happiness come it’s great, when they go we can look forward to the next.

Next question, the last one, I promise.

What do you think it will take to make you happy? We all have something.

To be fair, I’ll go first.

I will be happy when we own our own home again. It’s my current motivation for everything and once we have that home I’ll have another happiness goal that I’ll focus on.

So, what is your happiness goal? I really hope it isn’t a weight goal because trust me, you’ll never be completely satisfied with that. Instead of a specific goal I prefer a weight window – a five kilo window of weight in which you are happy to hover.

Is it a career goal? Have you ever really tried to get the career of your dreams. It’s never too late. I’ve met and interviewed EVERYONE. Trust me when I say anyone can be anything and you can STILL achieve your secret dream.

Is your happiness goal financial. Come up with a plan. Financial goals are great, especially when you can see exactly how to get there and be confident in your process.

Do you want to get married or have kids? I have seen people jump through some incredible hoops to achieve these. Nothing should stand in your way. Never give up. Never.

It’s Friday night. The weekend looms. Tomorrow is ultra-busy and I won’t be happy as we race around cramming it all in. On days like tomorrow when the kids have more activities than I do in a week, I consider myself a facilitator of happiness. I facilitate my children’s happiness. At night once it’s all done I’ll be happy that the day went well. Then that feeling will go and be replaced with fatigue or another fleeting feeling.

I have a project for you. This weekend think about your happiness goals. What are they? Don’t be afraid. Say them, at least to yourself. Write them down even. Because they are worth it. They are achievable. And you too can be the happiest you can be.

Then, when someone asks you, “Are you happy?” you can say, “I’m as happy as I can be, thanks. And you?”

La Dolce Vita,
Jo Abi

Why is it so hard for me to be an organised mother?

4 May

My nook

I’ve always wanted to be the kind of mother who had a school bag nook. I’d carefully and lovingly design the nook in the perfect position in our home. At the start of each day I’d pack my children’s bags and they’d retrieve them from their designated hook on their way out the door. When they arrived home they’d hang them back up without me having to remind them because I’m super organised and so are they. Our family runs like a well-oiled machine.

Instead our bags are piled on a chair that is always so full we can never actually sit on it. I dig through the artwork, notes and toys to find the bags to pack them and then yell at the kids as soon as we arrive home to put their bags on the chair. Sometimes they listen.

The pile of school bags on the chair often collapses and only in the middle of the night to create maximum terror and panic.

I came across an amazing website called The Organised Housewife and her most recent post was all about how she’d craft the perfect nook for her family. I want to be just like her!

My style of parenting is complete chaos, despite the best of intentions. We’ll have a good day here and there, a good week but something will happen and chaos reigns. Sickness, extreme fatigue, forgetting to buy ham, a washing machine that is on the blink…

This month is has been moving house.

I can’t quite describe the challenge of viewing houses with three reluctant children who you have warned in the car on the way to behave so the agent doesn’t put a giant red cross across our application with a note saying, “Nightmare children.” We viewed several houses but each had a non-negotiable issue like no air conditioning, a giant tree in the backyard that had killed all the grass and created a mud pit, too small, too far from school…

Then, I found our new house or should I say, our new house found us.

I viewed a house near where we are now and it turns out it’s owned by a friend who approved us immediately. And, it has a school back nook!

Six retro hooks hang in the kitchen near where we have put our fridge. It is the PERFECT place for school bags. This house has been waiting for me.

I’m a more organised housewife in this house by default because they hooks are pre-existing but just like this amazing house that is cleverly designed for maximum living pleasure, I too plan to create a schedule that works, take the vitamins necessary to complete said schedule and make the most of life with a nook.

The nook is a metaphor for the kind of mother I’ve always wanted to be. The nook symbolises a mother who doesn’t forget birthday parties, who uses proper name tags on items, who attends P & F meetings, who uses sticker charts to moderate her well-dressed and clean children.

The nook has raised the bar and I plan to meet it.

A new era of motherhood has arrived. My children aged 9, 5 and 3 can look forward to a functioning home with no yelling, no last minute drying of the school shirts on heaters the morning of, plenty of ham and red apples in the fridge and set chores which they will complete without complaint because the organisation is infectious.

Supermarkets are evil

3 Apr


It all started innocently enough.
I’ve just returned to the workforce full-time after a long absence during which I grew three people in my stomach from scratch). It’s been amazing. It’s a dream position, I’m enjoying every second and even the bus ride to and from work is fun.

I have to be honest. Some things have fallen by the wayside. Granted I’m only two weeks in and it will take some time to adjust but I really need to keep on top of my laundry, do the ironing instead of shifting the pile of unironed clothes onto different chairs in my lounge room and I my son has been getting lunch orders at school three times a week instead of one.

Anyway, today I left work before everyone else to race to school and pick up my son, niece and nephew. My husband called me repeatedly. He was wondering what time I’d be home just in case we’d see each other before he left for work at 3. I’d arrive home at ten past 3. Oh well, see you whenever.

My son has art class on Wednesdays at 4.30, just enough time to head home, tidy up and get dinner started before leaving again to drop him off. I haven’t grocery shopped all week. Since starting work I’ve been efficient and organised and shopping online but after the long weekend all delivery windows were full. I had to grocery shop in person and since we’d now run out of Butter Soft it was critical that I shopped this afternoon. I had exactly an hour to get it done before picking Philip up from school.

I headed to my local shops, took my little kids to the toilet, bought them a snack (a donut for one and a sushi roll for the other) and into the supermarket we went. I raced through the aisles and filled my trolley with an efficiency I didn’t know I was capable of. We needed soft rolls, bayonet light globes, kitty litter and Butter Soft.

The cold food aisle was the last before I could head to the check out. The trolley was very full and I had just enough room for our precious Butter Soft (we looooove our Butter Soft). My son ran ahead. He knows exactly where it is and it’s his job to get it.

It was all gone.

A wave of fury engulfed me. This was the second time I’d tried to buy Butter Soft in two weeks. Last time we had a bit left but now we were totally out. My husband took rolls to work, my son ate Vitaweats with butter and vegemite every day, I was still eating hot cross buns for breakfast. No other butter will do.

My heart started to beat loudly. I felt the meltdown coming on. I tried to push it down. I reminded myself that I had chocolate bullets in the trolley and if I could just get myself to the car and throw a few back I might feel better about the fact that the one thing I absolutely had to buy today was sold the frig out. How is it that supermarkets manage to run out of the items we most like to buy? Isn’t it their job to make sure they have plenty of stock? Do they have some in the back room and they’re hiding it from me? It’s now 5pm and I’m tired and hungry and cold and I don’t have the time or energy to go to another shopping centre.

I pushed the overflowing trolley to the nearest checkout and started unpacking. I unpacked in a way that aimed to punish the cashier for the fact the Butter Soft was all gone. Instead of carefully putting all the bread together, the cold foods, the heavy bottles, I placed them haphazardly. That’ll fuck ‘em. Try and pack properly amidst the chaos. If only you’d had Butter Soft, my day would have been perfect. Every day has to be PERFECT.

Sensing my mood the cashier didn’t bother to greet me. I finished unpacking and started loading bags into the trolley.

“Is there a reason you’re always out of Butter Soft,” I asked.

“Ah, I don’t know. We’re out?”

“Yes, and there was none last week either. Just unsalted.”

“I can let our manager know,” she said helpfully.

“Won’t do me much good in the morning will it?”

“We normally restock every night.”

“I’ve just started working and this is when I can grocery shop. Are you going to be out of the things I need every Wednesday? There wasn’t any Butter Soft, you’re out of Yoplait Strawberry Yoghurt again and you’ve sold out of Nice biscuits. How is that possible?”

“Um, I’m not sure,” she mumbled.

I stopped talking. I handed over my Fly Buys card, let the Eftpos machine beep a few times before removing my card and then walked to the card feeling defeated. I’d have to come back to the shops again. We really needed Butter Soft. We don’t like any other spread. Our lives revolve around Butter Soft, Moccona Indulgence, full-fat strawberry yoghurt and Nice biscuits.

Some things are just INFURIATING. I feel like they deliberately run out of popular items to force us to come back more than once in a week. It’s a conspiracy. We’re being duped.

I’ve just placed a small grocery order online and it include 6 containers of Butter Soft, 4 packets of Nice biscuits and the bayonet light globes I forgot. God help me if I get an ‘out of stock’ email. I’m telling you know. I can handle work, the kids, uni, coming up with an interesting outfit EVERY day but don’t mess with my food. That’s what will tip me over the edge, that and having to grocery shop more than once a week.

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.


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!

%d bloggers like this: