December 30, 2012

I'm dreaming of a Wet Christmas

Am I the only person this side of the equator who rugged up in a big woolly cardigan and ugg boots on Christmas day?

I had imagined we would spend Christmas afternoon on the beach, as we usually do, running quickly on tippy toes across hot sand to the cool spot where the waves fizz out on the shoreline and snoozing sporadically under the shade of our beach umbrella, a few ham sandwiches chilling in the esky and the kids digging holes to China in the wet sand.

Instead, we put Francesca to bed, snuggled up on the sofa with a cup of tea and some fruitcake, and watched movies while the rain pelted down outside. Did I say pelted? I mean pelted, bucketed and poured from the sky. Rain, rain and more rain. Flowing like tequila at a hen's night.

And it was lovely.

This Christmas was always going to be different, our first without John's mum, our beloved matriarch who passed away in March. The rest of the extended family were scattered around the country, hunkering down in their own family units. We were happy to hunker. The weather was perfect for hunkering.

We had a big dinner on Christmas Eve with family and a few friends, our giant timber dining table groaning on it's railway sleeper legs under turkey, ham and all the other usual gastronomic suspects. I made a coconut and brown sugar pavlova and our friend Susie made a batch of wicked chocolate ice cream and some white chocolate champagne sponge cakes. We were sitting out on the deck when the rain started drumming  on the tin roof overhead; it was going to be a wet old night for Santa and the reindeer to be going about their business.

Our mornings always start with a 6 on the clock due to early rising offspring and Christmas morning was no different. We let the kids open one present each and an early morning bike ride in search of a swing, a surf and a coffee seemed in order. We are fortunate in that the local bakery is owned by some friendly neighbourhood Cambodians whose religion doesn't include an immaculate conception and a home birth attended by shepherds, and therefore have no problem making we Christian folk a cappuccino and a chocolate croissant on Christmas morning.

But because I actually do think that it's important to acknowledge and celebrate the real reason for Christmas, off to 8am mass we went. I love the Christmas Day service, not least of all because one gets to sing Christmas hymns unabashedly at the top of one's voice. But it's also a beautiful time to reflect on the year ahead. Christmas, the birth of Jesus Christ, celebrates a new life.

New life.

To me that means we all get another chance. To live gracefully. To love fully. To forgive wholeheartedly, including ourselves. To be the best possible person we can be. That's what I reflected on as I belted out Silent Night and tried to stop Francesca from licking the coins for the collection plate.

I usually get a little bah-humbug and nervy around Christmas. I think it's the general sense of being overwhelmed - trying to choose the perfect gifts for everybody, making sure I remember everyone and stashing away a few extra generic gifts to reciprocate unexpected gifts from someone else, negotiating menus and grocery lists for the big day, and the night before and the day after when all the supermarkets will be closed - it all leaves me feeling a bit short of breath and jittery. I blame the mall. I once got stuck in the car park at the local shopping mall for 45 minutes, unable to find a free space and unable to leave. In my nightmares I'm the fourth wise man who can't find a spot to park my camel in crowded Bethlehem and baby Jesus leaves town without my gift of tinned shortbread.

I'm kidding. Sort of. I do get overwhelmed and nervous though. By December 24th I'm desperately seeking Christmas, determinedly humming carols while wrapping presents and trying to find the Christmas spirit in the faces of Lisa Wilkinson and Karl Stefanovic as they host Carols by Candlelight on the TV. Every year I feel I have to hunt Christmas down and wrestle it to the ground, pinning it down and sucking the spirit out of it by force.

It always come to me eventually though, the spirit. Usually when the TV and all the lights are off, except those of the slowly blinking Christmas tree, and I'm writing messages of love and hope on the cards for my children and husband. The stillness, the specialness, of Christmas creeps up on me then and wraps itself around me and I realise I didn't need to chase it down after all.

This year, with all of its strange difference to Christmases past - no big trip to the family heartland in Melbourne, no Dorothy, no massive lunch to prepare - was certainly calmer in the lead up, but I still had to wait for the spirit to come to me. This year, however, I decided to let it in without the mad chase.

How was your Christmas? Do you feel the same as me or are you simply bursting with Christmas spirit from the moment those chocolate coins appear in Coles? If the latter, tell me your secret. I'll pay you. In chocolate coins.

Here's our Christmas in pictures:

December 14, 2012

Bowling & Babycinos

I'm indulging in a bit of "alliterative title poaching" from my friend Mauz, whose blog Mauz & Sparky is hilarious and clever in the extreme (hers is one of those wine-worthy blogs - you know, the ones where you pour yourself a cheeky chardonnay, settle in for a good read and end up snorting said chardonnay through nostrils as you guffaw through each post). Mauz loves a bit of alliteration as her most recent post Bridges, Brides & Bucket Lists will attest. I daresay she is also partial to the occasional rhyming couplet (Manbags, Gypsy's Rags & Wet Stags anyone?)

Anyhoo, don't go visiting Mauz just yet. I've got stuff to tell you!

As I mentioned in my last post, we decided to partake of a little Barraclough-style therapy and head up the coast for a week with our two youngest kids. It's been quite a year, with the death of my beloved mother in law in March being the lowest point, and some other issues that we will just put under the heading of "What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Stronger (and Drunker)".

We also discovered that there is a juvenile equivalent to the Fat, Forty & Fired mid-life crisis that some men go through. It's called Nine, Nervous & Not Quite Right and our Jack was the poster boy. But instead of solving it by getting him a younger wife and a Ferrari, we loaded up the car with fishing gear, surfboards and Minties and went to Crescent Head.

Apparently, this can be a tough time for boys. Who knew? But doing a bit of reading and talking to other mums of nine year old boys, there are some common themes. Transitioning into middle primary school, where the workload is ramped up, mixed with a little hormonal action and a whole lot of the chest-beating alpha male stuff that goes along with it left our fella with some very real physical symptoms that, after numerous trips to the doctor and various tests, can now be attributed to anxiety. Because when we took him out of school and up the coast, the symptoms - crippling stomach cramps and a persistent vocal tic (a sort of grunting hum littering his speech) that had both plagued him for six months - disappeared in 24 hours.

I'm now wondering if my crippling case of procrastination on 'work' days could potentially be solved by a trip to Florence. I'm thinking YES.

But I digress.

Crescent Head is one of those tiny coastal hamlets somewhere on the Australian coast, boasting a pub, a club, a butcher, a baker but, as far as I know, no candlestick makers. You can, however, get a decent Thai meal at the local motel and the chemist does a good line in buckets, spades and other colourful sand moving equipment. You can play tennis or barefoot bowls, and there's a fab little 6 hole golf course on the headland that will have you teeing off the edge of a crevasse while the rolling swell of the Pacific belts into the hard slate walls of the rocky inlet way below. Many a golf ball has been sacrificed to the briny below that crevasse and I can imagine whole cities built of bleached white golf balls by the sea creatures that live there.

The main attraction, however, is the beach. It has, so they tell me, a totally bodacious surf break, full of bangin' bad ass barrels and rad right-handers that go on forever. Man.

(Wow, see that? I totally channeled a Californian Rastafarian just then)

But what I really love about the beach is the lagoon. With its little pools and sandy edges, it's toddler heaven and protected by the fiercer easterlies. Then when the tide turns and the water rushes in from the ocean, everyone jumps into the middle of the swelling lagoon to be swept upstream to the upper reaches of Killick Creek - a great spot to hang out as the sun goes down and throw a line into the middle of a school of bream. We did that and Jack caught the first fish. I hunt! I am male! Hear me roar!

As far as your eye can see to the north, it's just miles of wild, uninterrupted beachscape - broad blonde sand dunes and scrubby trees against a backdrop of low-rise mountains. Classic Aussie coast.

We spent hours on the beach every day, ate flaky fresh vanilla slices at the bakery, drank G&Ts on the barefoot bowling green and dined out most nights. Nearly every day we all ended up in the spa together with Francesca playing baristas, making us 'chinos' at the tap by jooshing the 'milk' in a plastic jug. (Does our daughter spend too much time in cafes? Don't be silly. But while the other kids are making cups of tea, she does a fairly mean double macchiato. Just saying.)

John and I tag teamed on kid duty so we could get some time alone; he went for surfs and massages, I ran down the golf greens, did yoga every day and read three novels.

But the best thing of all was that Jack, our gorgeous blue eyed boy, found his mojo and we couldn't have asked for more.

Embarrassing Side Note:
As the only photographer on the holiday, there is only one picture of me. Somehow, and certainly not on purpose, I've managed to give my unflatteringly shaped shadow a fancy little bikini wax. That's what you get for trying to be arty!

November 21, 2012

Holiday Hookey

John and I decided to play hookey with the kids this week and head up the coast to indulge in a bit of fishin', surfin' and relaxin' . . . (and a whole lotta eatin' and drinkin' too if truth be told!)

And now I'm playing hookey on the holiday (don't tell John!)

I've just had to duck into the Crescent Head post office to do a couple of bits of business and thought I'd do a quickie blog post too. Just because I can. And please don't fall off your chair in disbelief. Two blog posts in one month! Ye Gods - the woman is prolific!!! What can I say, I'm inspired. But don't get too excited. It really is a quickie.

We're in Crescent Head on the mid north coast of New South Wales - a little coastal hamlet we've been visiting for 12 years together (and John for many more years before that). I'm going to post some pics when we get back as well as a few more details but suffice it to say that the weather is fine, wish you were here!

The smile on this kid's face is exactly the outcome we wanted from this holiday
How good is this holiday? Well I'll tell you . . . as I sat in the spa bath in our holiday house with the kids before lunch, soaking my sun-kissed body in what was no doubt a cocktail of sunscreen, mint bath gel and toddler wee (I swear none of it was mine!), listening to Jack under-arm-fart the Transformers theme song and having endless 'cups of tea' poured for me by Francesca, I thought "it doesn't get better than this". Then John brought me a glass of cold sauv blanc and it did.

See ya x

November 12, 2012

A Lesson In Courage from a Warrior Mummy

So last Monday, I tweeted . . .
The marriage between a tissue and a laundry load of darks is not a happy one. But just you try and convince them to divorce!
Because I was having such a hard day, and getting tiny pieces of tissue all over the washing was such a disaster. Yeah right.

On Tuesday I discovered what a hard day is really like. 

I was fortunate enough to attend a Melbourne Cup fundraiser for Motor Neurone Disease at my son's school. The guest of honour was Lisa, one of our school mums who has been living with MND for many years. 

Just writing that sentence seems too trivial. Living with MND. But once you meet Lisa, once you hear her story, you can't help but be blown away by how this amazing woman is not only living with MND, but really living. And not just with MND, but with cancer. Life has thrown this gal curve balls that would make David Beckham look like a straight shooter. 

And then there's the strength of the woman! Look up guts and determination in the dictionary and you will see this picture . . .

The beautiful and amazing Lisa in her Melbourne Cup finery
Like many people I didn't know much about MND. But as I discovered last Tuesday, it's a progressive disease that attacks the motor neurones, or nerves, in the brain and spinal cord. This means messages gradually stop reaching muscles, which gradually affects how you walk, talk, eat, drink and breathe.

In short, it affects every single thing you do, from taking your first breath every morning, to walking to the bathroom, to speaking to your children. But Lisa not only has MND, she has a whole lot more on her plate right now. More than you or I could ever imagine having to deal with.

In her own words, taken from her blog Diary Of A Warrior Mummy, this is Lisa's story . . .
First and foremost I am an incredibly proud mum of two awesome children, I’m also a wife of the most magnificent husband who has stuck by me through thick and thin, better and worse.
I happen to have some health challenges but that is not who I am, it is what I have.  I have been defying Motor Neurone Disease (MND) for many years, 18 months ago I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer and had a mastectomy and chemotherapy and was cleared only to have the cancer return in my brain this September.

Currently I am having whole brain radiation and I intend to kick cancer in the arse!

My first encounter with cancer was at age 22 when I was diagnosed with Stage 3B Hodgkins Lymphoma which was treated with extensive chemotherapy.  It was at this time that I decided that any future health challenges would be counteracted by setting myself a personal goal to aim for.  This was my positive way of coping.

During this part of my life I refused to let it stop me from pursuing a career in the fitness industry so I strapped my wig on and taught aerobics all the way through.   Once I went into remission I thought I was invincible and could do anything so applied to university and achieved a Bachelor of Sports Science, this was my personal challenge.  I worked in health and fitness for 25 years.

When I was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease (MND) my personal challenge was to raise my children to be confident, independent, fearless, compassionate and kind individuals that never thought of my health as an issue.

When I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer my personal challenge was study to become a Catholic.  Over the next 9 months I completed all my sacraments with the final Eucharist held in June this year.

My personal challenge after my recent diagnosis of metastised breast cancer (brain) was to give back to all the people that have helped me, in particular the Motor Neurone Association who have provided unlimited support.

See? Amazing or what?! And these are not just a few brave words. On Tuesday, we heard from Lisa's closest friends and she really is this positive. Every single day.

Here is a story they told that is typical of Lisa. When one of her best friends was heading off for a holiday, Lisa said her farewells and asked her friend all about her upcoming trip, neglecting to mention that she, Lisa, had broken yet another bone in her fragile body earlier that day. She didn't mention it because she didn't want to spoil her friend's holiday. Holy ouch! I've broken a bone before. It's agonising. But for Lisa, it's a regular occurrence. Just another annoying little glitch and another example of how she pumps her fist at the universe, not shouting "why me?" but proclaiming "lucky me" instead.

But Lisa's message is strong. Do not pity her. Do not feel sad. Instead, Lisa wants her story to help anyone who is dealing with anxiety or negative thoughts in their life. That's why she started her blog which I urge you to follow. Lisa is finding it difficult to speak at the moment due to the oral thrush she's contracted - a side effect of brain radiation - but her lively, positive, fun personality leaps out at you from her writing, which her carer and friends help her to type.

Lisa and her two miracle girls
I'm so glad I attended our school Melbourne Cup lunch. I have a toddler and a business and life is crazy busy. I could so easily have found a reason not to go. But I would have been so much the poorer for it. Lisa and the beautiful, generous women who surround her like a personal army wielding the big guns of love and support, gave me a lesson, not only in courage, but in the power of love, friendship and positive thinking.

And the next time I hang out a load of washing full of tiny white flecks because someone left a tissue in the pocket of their jeans, I will remember Lisa and be grateful; grateful that I have those 'someones' in my life; grateful that I can hang out washing; grateful that there is a next time.

Thank you Lisa xx

There are two causes close to Lisa's heart - the future education of her two gorgeous daughters and the MND Association. You can donate to either here at Lisa's Wish.

Our Special Melbourne Cup Lunch (oh, was there a horse race???)

Some more snaps of Lisa and the yummy mummies from our school at our Melbourne Cup fundraiser. Photographs by the amazingly talented Danielle Fleming of Pandanus Photography. For the most incredible family portraits for all your relatives this Christmas, or as a very special gift to yourself, run don't walk to her website now.

Lisa and her sister Kerri

Lisa and her carer and friend Cherloe

Photographer Danielle Fleming (left) and Lisa's army member Angela (right)

High tea indeed!

Choc covered strawberries (of which I ate at least four! In the interest of fairness I felt I had to try one of each kind)

Event planner extraordinaire Donna (right) and Leanne (a fellow school mum who is not only lovely but also responsible for keeping my roots under control!)

The guest of honour arrives!

Your blogger and the ever-glamourous Felicity

Lisa's army of BFFs

Angela (left) and our fabulous MC for the day Melinda Gainsford-Taylor

More gorgeous mums
Our fantastic & supportive principal Josie (right) and Leanne (mother of 4 including twins & therefore a superwoman!)

Lisa's friends Ange and Elizabeth holding hands on stage during an emotional, funny, inspiring speech

Your blogger (far left) thinking that getting the heels off is a marvellous idea!
BFF Cindy gives a tired Lisa a cuddle
Don't forget to donate here if you want to support Lisa and/or MND. You can also follow her blog here.

November 4, 2012

Bye Bye Lullaby

You CAN stop the music. Apparently.
 John and I have always sung to the kids at bed time, sending them off to the Land of Nod on dulcet waves of softly crooned lullabies.

With Jack, my train-obsessed boy, I could do no wrong with a little engine action via Morning Town Ride, the Thomas theme song and, at Christmas time, a medley of both popular and historical carols. In fact, even at age 9, Jack still insists on a couple of tunes before I'm allowed to leave the room each evening.

But that's it! I am only allowed to sing at night, in the dark, and very quietly. At any other time, singing from Mum is not allowed. I'm not sure whether it's because my singing is embarrassing, or unpleasant to the ear (gasp!), or he's just envious of my fabulous singing voice (possible but unlikely!), but Jack really, really dislikes me singing along to the radio in the car, the ipod in the kitchen or ANY OTHER TIME. He tries to be polite about it, bless his Catholic-school-manners, but judging by the way he cringes/grinds teeth/leaves room/turns radio over, my singing voice is somehow equivalent to nails on a blackboard to my first born.

Which is fine. I'm still the boss of him so I'll sing if I want to. Suck it up kid. Besides, I have to put up with his endless (ENDLESS I TELL YOU!!) renditions of Gangnam Style so I reckon a little pay-back is in order.

But it makes me wonder, is my voice less melodious and more malodorous?

Evidence For The Defence

When I was 11, I sang Christmas carols and strummed along on my guitar at the family Chrissy bash and my nan told me I had a lovely singing voice. That, in itself, is a winning testimonial but it gets better.

When my aunt then questioned where I got my lovely singing voice from because "it couldn't be from her mother", my mum took umbrage and, well, let's just say that ensuing events culminated in half the family walking out and going home while I plaintively warbled 'Away In A Manger' amidst the rapid disintegration of Christmas cheer.

So people actually FOUGHT over my lovely singing voice. I bet Beyonce couldn't lay claim to that!

In somewhat more convincing evidence, I have regularly been able to achieve SINGSTAR status ($$ka-ching, ka-ching$$) on the PS3. And everyone knows you can't argue with Singstar. It's not your Nan. It doesn't care if your feelings are hurt. It tells the TRUTH goddammit!

Evidence For The Prosecution

When Francesca came along, I decided not to tempt fate. I got in early by singing to her while she was in utero and I sang to her from her very first day out in the world. I went with the ultimate silky-voiced songstress, Norah Jones. The song of choice? 'Come Away With Me'. She LOVED it. It would always calm her down.

But then somewhere along the way, it didn't.

In fact, she would hear the opening lines "Come away with me in the night" and she'd get upset. I maintain it was due to the association of me singing that song and imminent cot-time. That song equalled being put to bed and was suddenly anathema.

Way-hay! I thought. No problemo! I'll just start the good ol' winning combination of train and Christmas songs. But no. Francesca now speaks. As soon as I start singing, she yells "NO MUMMY SONGS. DADDY SONGS!!" and continues to chant "DADDY SONGS! DADDY SONGS!!" until John comes in and rescues her from Mummy's shitty medleys and crappy singing voice.

Good grief! Is that why she came a week early? She needed to get the hell away from 24/7 contact with my voice?! Or do all kids hate the sound of their mother's singing? I bet JLo's babies cry when she sings. Really. I bet they do.*

So John sweeps in with his deep, melty Kamahl voice and croons a blend of Gordon Lightfoot, Bruce Springsteen and the Beatles and she freaking loves it! In fact, he has to go back in for an encore every single night. And even after the encore, she's still calling "DADDY'S SONGS!" like some demented One Direction fan.

Meanwhile, I shuffle off to drown my wounded vocal chords in sauv blanc and, in a little while, I smile smugly to myself. Neither John, nor Jack, nor Francesca have ever beaten me in the independent, unbiased, all-knowing, very-clever game of Singstar. Ka-ching!

* Don't take that bet. Please. I beg you. Just agree with me.

September 11, 2012

Francesca's Farm

Francesca's farm is small. There are only three animals in it so far. But even since making this video last week, a snake, a horse and a gob-smacked mama have been added. The rate at which children learn at this age amazes me. I had forgotten. What a blessing Francesca has been added to my farm to help me remember.

September 7, 2012

National Fertility Week - There's Even A Quiz!

For those of us who struggle to fall pregnant, 'fertility' is another F word. And it's not an issue that goes on for just a week. Weeks become months and months become years and those years are filled with anticipation, anger, heartbreak, jealousy. Name an emotion and infertile couples OWN that emotion. Bitterness? Own it. Denial? Got three mortgages on it. Sadness? They've put houses and hotels on that one!

But the urge to have a baby is so strong, it can't be shut down or ignored or denied. You all know about my struggles with unexplained infertility. The feeling of failure and helplessness can be overwhelming.

Fortunately we live in an age when infertile couples have more options than ever before, more knowledge at their disposal, and terms like 'barren' are relegated to the waste bin along with 'bloodletting' and 'hysteria'.

This week is National Fertility Week and I urge any of you, my beautiful parents-in-waiting readers, to have a look at the official website. You'll find information on everything from egg freezing to male infertility to assisted reproduction. There's even a Fertility Quiz which is a must-do for anyone you know who might be putting off their baby-making agenda. It's quite an eye-opener actually. For example, what do you think is the answer to this one?

In 2009, the percentage of Australian and New Zealand women aged 35-39 who went home with a baby after beginning a cycle of IVF treatment was:
The answer might surprise you*.

So spread the word. National Fertility Week doesn't have to end on Sunday. It can go on every day of the year as we tell our stories and share our knowledge, making sure the next generation of young women have the best chance of success when they're ready to start their families.

*Answer is 18 percent. Woah!

September 3, 2012

Nanna Hats & Other Signs Of Growing Old

Friday night was our first Friday in several months that we didn't have Jack's rugby training and I can tell you, John and I were quite giddy with all the Friday night possibility that lay before us. Where shall we go? What shall we do?

In the golden days of part time children and heady romance, a Friday night knees-up might involve smart cocktails and designer beers in a Balmain wine bar followed by a swanky dinner in town at 9pm and a nightcap and long chats into the wee hours of the morning.

How things have changed. On Friday, I dug a voucher out of the bottom of a green Coles bag for 50% off main meals at the local pub and off we went at 5.30pm with the little kids in tow. In an attempt to capture the sophisticated recklessness of the Ghost Of Friday Nights Past, John ordered me a very large caprioska and indulged in a designer beer himself. And oh! It was delicious!! The vodka limey wonderfulness of that cocktail loosened me up and we had a fun hour eating our half price pub meals and chatting to our neighbouring diner (who happened to be Shannan Ponton from The Biggest Loser with his adorable new 9 week old son) and letting the kids eat ice cream.

And then we were home and it was still only 7.30pm! The kids were in bed and the possibilities of our evening spread out before us like an all-you-can-eat buffet at the Pre-Kid Saloon!

A movie! That's what we needed. A fabulous grown-up movie. With subtitles. Perfect.

I'm fairly sure I watched the opening credits but don't quote me. Take a tired mama, a caprioska and a little too much giddy anticipation and you have a soundly slumbering woman on the sofa at 8pm.

Not quite the result my husband was hoping for when he plied me with a cocktail and agreed to watch a Pedro Almodovar movie instead of Friday night football.

Falling asleep on the sofa, at a time when most of the crazy kids are only just starting to get ready to go out, is only one of the ways in which I appear to be growing old. But I'm not sure it's a bad thing. I've replaced partying with practicality.

Last Sunday I did* the Pub2Pub with three girlfriends. Sure, I could have worn a sporty looking cap. But a cap doesn't cover your ears or neck from sun exposure. No, I'm afraid only a wide brimmed hat would do. A nanna hat if you will. Yes it is daggy. Yes it makes me look un-sporty. But the other great advantage of getting old is that I don't give a shit. It's all about practicality. And no sunburn.

Not that there's ever really a question of how sporty I am. You're reading a woman who fell down her front steps a week ago. Just missed a step and bang, two bloody knees and scraped hands later I'm making a call to tell my mother I had a fall. A FALL! Ninety year old ladies have a 'fall'. Toddlers quite frequently have a 'fall'. Forty three year old women are not meant to have falls!!!

Other recent indications of my increasingly geriatric tendencies:
  • Being on the back stairs, I got distracted by Francesca and stopped, not to wonder what I was going upstairs or downstairs for, but whether I was going up the stairs or down the stairs. Now that's just plain scary.
  • Accidentally saying 'the' Facebook the other day. As in "I've put those pics up on the Facebook". Soooo baby boomer!
  • When I'm not listening to ABC local radio or reading the Women's Weekly, I'm listening to Smooth FM. And knowing all the words, even to Carpenters songs. But how is it I can remember all the words to Close To You and can't remember buying the roast chicken I found in the fridge last night? Frightening.
On the plus side, however, I am more tolerant these days. Tolerant of fools, toddlers that insist on carrying around bowls of rice bubbles, people who turn left from the centre of the road, husbands who snore and nine year olds who still think farts are hilarious. But I am less tolerant of bubble-bursters, naysayers and bullies. I used to put up with it. Now I don't.

And when I woke up early on Saturday morning after my caprioska induced slumber, I felt great. No hangover from too many wine bars and night caps and late night talkfests. No self-recrimination about what I may or may not have said in the throes of alcholic abandon ("We'd make bewdiful babies doncha reckon?").

I woke up on top of the world! (But not looking down on creation. That would be an indication of a near death experience and I'm not quite that old. Yet.)

* By 'did' I meant I strolled the whole 13kms talking to my friend. But it was definitely a fast(ish) stroll.

August 13, 2012

Can Acupuncture Assist IVF Success?

After my first unsuccessful round of IVF, I decided to include acupuncture in my treatment plan. You can read about that here.

In doing so I also achieved a previously unrealised dream of becoming a human pincushion. Because it wasn't enough to stick a needle in myself every day with hormones and have a nurse stick another needle in every other day to extract blood. That's only about 10 needles a week! Patooie!! I needed at least 20 needles a week to fulfill the pincushion dream and that's where acupuncture came in.

Seriously though, I firmly believe that acupuncture helped me have a successful second round of IVF and now the medical world is on the way to backing that up with actual sciencey facts. This is a good thing.

I was interviewed by UWS journalism graduate Tina Ngo earlier this year as part of a video she was producing to examine the association between acupuncture and success in IVF. If you're undergoing IVF or thinking about it, or just want to see a particularly pronounced case of kinked ponytail hair and some awesome casting on of stitches for a knitted beanie, you'll find this video interesting.

Tina spoke to IVF doctors and scientists who confirmed there is certainly a benefit in including acupuncture as part of your overall IVF treatment plan. Her chat with me was the 'human story' angle of the piece. It's all very 60 Minutes. Except without any annoying journalists or mud raking or awkward celebrity walkouts. But I think you'll agree the light was more than flattering.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on acupuncture in the comments section below.

August 3, 2012

Advanced Fertility (Lessons from Baby Central)

Baby Sebastian is now 7 weeks old & likes napping, sucking his fist and being cute. He also has a thing for pom poms.
 It's raining babies here on Sydney's northern beaches! Seven of the girls in my mother's group are pregnant or have just given birth (seven!!) and I'm excited about that because:

(a) Nothing beats the scent of a newborn baby and I've got it on tap for at least the next year

(b) I can sniff away to my heart's content and give the babies back when they start crying or pooping or reciting the entire plotline of the latest Cars movie in a meandering, non-chronological monotone (oh wait, that's the four year olds)

(c) Because it means the message is getting through. You know 'the message' don't you? I'm talking about The Fertility Message. The one where women make the sensible decision not to delay child-bearing because of the mistaken belief that there is plenty of time and you can easily have babies in your forties. Because, you know, Madonna and Iman and the redheaded one from Desperate Housewives, and even sensible Susan Sarandon did it in their forties so it must be easy right?

That theory is so turn-of-the-millennium. All the modern girls now get it and they are jumping on the baby bus in their twenties and early thirties. Like the girls in my mother's group. I applaud them. I am in awe of their baby-smarts. I only wish I had been as smart. I might now have had two children in school and not still be getting up at 5.30am or changing nappies or tiptoeing around the house during the all-too-short nap time or finding mashed banana smeared on the plasma. At 43, I should be drinking Cosmopolitans at lunch time and reading my Kindle on the beach and working on my mummy porn manuscript!

Not that I'm complaining. I think you all know by now that Francesca is the icing and cherry on my cake. But there's no denying that it would have been nice to have all baby and toddler related tasks over and done with by now. Like a decade ago, when I was 34 and not nearly 44. Not to mention all that conception business!

One of the reasons I started this blog (apart from being a legitimate, uncensored outlet for my alarmingly addictive use of adjectives) was to get the message out to all you wannabe mamas about fertility, particularly about the rapid decline of said fertility at a time in your life when most of us now want to conceive - our 30s.

I discussed it here and here if you fancy a trip down bloggy lane.

The media has played a huge part in getting that message across, as has social media. Some might complain that social media is responsible for an epidemic of over-sharing, but in the case of spreading the word about declining fertility, over-sharing has been of enormous benefit. This is real 'news' - news that affects many of our lives - and blogs, facebook, twitter, etc have made this kind of news so much more accessible to so many more people. As a chronic over-sharer, I heartily approve.

A good example is the blog No Missed Conceptions. This isn't a blog written by a medically ignorant, fertility challenged, over-sharing, adjective lover (who????). No. This is the blog of Dr Mark Bowman, one of our country's leading fertility and IVF experts - a professor no less - and also my IVF doctor. Anyone with an internet connection now has access to a broad range of information about fertility and IVF, as well as a way of communicating with the good doctor. Some women may dream of getting a tweet reply from Keith Urban (something that is now possible) but a woman with a serious egg deficiency or a hostile vagina* can also tweet/follow/post Dr Bowman and gain access to an incredible wealth of knowledge.

This simply wouldn't have been possible a decade ago. It blows me away. As do my girls. I can't wait to hold your beautiful newborn babies. And hand them back with a smile.

* I have no idea if a 'hostile vagina' is even a proper medical condition but it was the reason Charlotte from Sex And The City couldn't get pregnant so it must be real, right?

July 15, 2012

Cannulas, cannoli and a whole lotta coughing

Waiting in the Emergency Department. Both baby and teddy not doing too well at this stage.
So here I sit, in a ward on the sixth floor of the concrete box of a hospital staring out at the billowing blue blanket of the Pacific Ocean while my 19 month old daughter sleeps next to me, her pink blanketed bottom poking through the bars of her cot, her right cheek mooshed into the mattress. She's all at sea in the giant white hospital cot.

It is day 3 of our stay in the paediatric ward at Mona Vale Hospital. Francesca is riddled with a determined virus that has dossed down in her tiny body and refuses to budge. In her 19 months of life she has been ill for approximately five minutes. We've had none of the usual coughs, colds and bugs, apart from one runny nose last December that looked like it might become a cold but never developed. Now, however, woah! She's doing illness BIG TIME. She's decided to be the Olympic gold medalist for being ill. Our little over-achiever. Bless.

But the antibiotics and steroids and our girl's feisty gumption will win. I have no doubt about that. After all, it is common knowledge, is it not, that fish and house guests go off after three days. We have dropped hints. The virus is not silly. It is sulkily packing its germy bags. But rather than leaving hair in the sink and drinking all the good wine, it's left our little Franny Beth with croup, a nasty ear infection, a swollen trachea that makes breathing difficult, and drug-toxic bowel movements that have got the golfers teeing off on the 18th hole at the adjacent golf course warily checking the bottom of their shoes.

There is much to dislike about hospitals. Cannulas for one thing. The nasty needle tube poking into the soft blue vein of our baby's chubby little hand delivers the fluids and drugs needed to help her get better. But it's an ugly, awkward thing - needle, valves and tubes looped around her hand and strapped in place along her forearm with a splint. Every time she forgets it's there and rubs her eyes, or rolls onto it in her sleep, the IV drip backs up and the machine begins a chorus of annoying beeps, waking the baby and her cranky mother. The only thing I like about the whole cannula rig-up, apart from the fact that it is delivering lifesaving drugs into my daughter, is its name. Cannula. Rolls off the tongue. Sounds like cannoli. Which I am now craving but have no hope of satisfying. This is an institution where broccoli the colour of khaki is not frowned upon. Delicious Italian desserts are as alien as the concept of soft toilet paper.

The IV machine connected to the cannula. I and this machine with its annoying beep will never be friends.
Which brings me to the food. Bad hospital food is a cliche, but I see your 'bad' and I raise you an 'inedible ghastliness'. If you like your scrambled eggs to look like lumpy ear wax soup and your fish mornay to resemble cat sick, then this is the restaurant for you. Sure, you have to be sick to get in here, but if you can fake it till you are admitted, you are guaranteed to be genuinely sick after meal three in this place.

Banana smoothies were Francesca's preferred sustenance whilst interred. I hope Janine Allis enjoys her new house extension.
The only other con is that, despite my own hacking cough, aching head and running nose, the staff here are unable to supply me with any drugs. I'm like the kid in the proverbial candy store with not a dime to spend. This was only a problem for the ten minutes it took me to scrounge around in my cesspit of a handbag to dig out a mangy panadol capsule and the next morning the Codral cavalry arrived along with fresh knickers and my toothbrush so all was well.


The pros far outweigh the cons at Mona Vale Hospital and here's why.

Firstly, the view is outstanding. Having 180 degree views of the ocean, dunes, headlands and golf course is most conducive to recovery and very calming on the nerves of frazzled, worried parents. Mona Vale Hospital may be uglier than the love child of a Rubik's cube and a Soviet vodka factory but it will always have this magical view.

The staff are, quite simply, wonderful. They are a happy, kind, warm & totally professional bunch which brings me to the conclusion that they are well trained, love what they do and obviously bring their own meals from home.

The paediatrician is a young (about my age so yeah, totally young. Ish) professional doctor with a beautiful bedside manner (Francesca was 'darling') and clearly very good at what he does. He also works at Sydney Children's Hospital and has consulted with the ENT specialist there regarding Francesca's case. I love that collaborative approach. It gives us enormous comfort, knowing that our baby girl is in great hands. At no time have we felt that we're in some medical backwater being treated by retired GPs and junior registrars. No offence to retired GPs and junior registrars. I'm sure you're all lovely and good at what you do. But this illness cries out for 'specialist'.

So who cares if the handle fell off our ward door today. Or the tap in the bathroom runs like a . . . um . . . a tap. Or the chicken nuggets resemble sawdust-coated erasers.

We're in the best possible place while our lil Cesca-Luna battles this lurgy. And win the battle she will.

So I sit here, not feeling worried, but feeling lucky and incredibly grateful. I will get to take my baby home and this illness will be a distant memory in the not too distant future. There are children that spend more time in hospital than out. Like my brave and beautiful cousin who, in her 27 years has had to endure endless procedures and operations and even organ transplants. My admiration for her and my aunt and uncle is almost tangible. Then there are children that don't get to go home at all. And of course, the parents who do go home, but without a child. There are also millions of children who don't get the benefit of a hospital at all, or medical care of any kind. And my heart breaks a little bit as I think about all these children and their families.

So I'll bundle up all my inconsequential first world problems and blow them away across the car park and the grassy dunes where the dogs and their owners stride about, out into the endless blue of the Pacific where they will sink without a trace.

I wrote this (on a piece of paper! with a pen!!) while Francesca was in hospital last weekend. She came home on Tuesday after 5 days at Mona Vale and has made a full recovery. Apart from a few hiccups with her sleep routine, we are all back to normal and eating broccoli a more palatable shade of green. Oh, and I had a cannoli with my coffee this morning and didn't think about cannulas once!

June 5, 2012

Cold Turkey In Collaroy

Warning: This post falls under the category of 'potentially off-putting' so if bodily fluids offend you (or your name is Virginia and you live in Cairns - hi again hon!) Sorry my blog has taken such an unsavoury turn. Promise to write something you can read without retching soon. Nip along now and go see what's happening on Pinterest.

Remember that ad for Viva paper towel where the mum and her kid are shaking up bottles of soft drink and spraying them all around the kitchen? Totally lacking credibility in my opinion.

The mere spray of a hastily opened can of Fanta is a hideous, sticky event where droplets can be found on window panes ten feet away three weeks later. To shake up your 1.5 litre bottle and spray it recklessly around the kitchen ON PURPOSE is not only stupid in the extreme, but takes on the proportions of a fizzy orange tsunami which no amount of Viva applied by the most ardent paper-towel-packing mama could possibly hope to contain.

See? Not credible. No mother I know would ever indulge in such shenanigans.

Picture this as a plausible alternative: [Start Scene] Breast feeding mother decides in a spontaneous fit of madness to wean her 18 month old daughter by going cold turkey. She manages to deflect, distract and cajole the baby away from the breast all day long and finally gets the baby into bed, without a feed, at 7pm. Hurrah!

BUT! She has been so busy worrying about the baby's emotional wellbeing that she ignores the swelling, pressing tightness inside her bra - her own personal dam, if you will. Because her body is used to demand feeding several times a day, there is a serious backlog of breastmilk threatening to burst through the dam wall, that she has forgotten to pump off during the day. Twenty-four hours worth of breast milk welling to DD proportions and not a breast pump in sight. So she grabs a wad of Viva paper towel and hand pumps breast milk into it. Millilitres of the stuff. Practically a cup full! And by golly that Viva paper towel is amazing! It absorbs every last drop. Happy days! [End Scene]

Okay, so that particular scenario might not have been completely accurate. There MAY have been a glass of chardonnay involved. There MAY have been a few teary moments where the mother suddenly realised that she would never get to breast feed another child ever again. Never. Ever. There MAY have been a moment when the woman's husband's eyes nearly fell out of his head at the size and shape of his wife's bust.

All in all, the weaning has gone surprisingly well and I think going cold turkey was the way to go. Dropping a feed here and there and dragging it out would have been too confusing to my curious, enquiring, very sharp little girl.

There was one melt down on day two when I put her down for her daytime nap and ended up having to cuddle her to sleep. There have been a few tugs on mummy's top (see picture above), to which I've just told her that "the milk's in the bin" (she understands "bin" - lots of things that are, and aren't rubbish end up in the "bin"). There have also been some wistful looks at the Breasts-Formerly-Known-As-Food-Source as she toddles into the bathroom and sweeps the shower curtain aside with a smiley "Hi!" while I'm in there. But all in all, I'm so proud of the way she has handled it.

Fortunately, I also had a continually running support line from my mother's group tribe who stayed with me that first, emotional night on Facebook and kept me strong in my resolve. Thanks gals!

So there it is. The end of an era. And I don't know about you, but I like to end my eras with wine. Lots of lovely, guilt-free wine. A totally unexpected and unanticipated benefit of weaning *clears throat*. Who knew?

May 22, 2012

To Wean Or Not To Wean . . .

Could YOU say 'no' to this face?

. . . THAT is the question. And really, I've been too busy breastfeeding to answer it.

But finally the time has come to ponder whether tis nobler to give the breast the flick, or suffer the slings and arrows of outraged onlookers who don't like the look of a boob in a mouth that can talk.

I've been weighing up the pros and cons of continuing breastfeeding for awhile now and here's where I'm at:


  • I adore the unique bond I have with my daughter when I breastfeed her. I feel so close and connected to her. Her mouth fits perfectly and as I watch her suckling, I marvel at how clever she is to be able to draw nourishment from my body so painlessly and effortlessly. I'm pleasantly addicted to my daily oxytocin hit.

  • Up until getting a runny nose last week, Francesca has not suffered a day of illness in her 18 months on this germy, virusy earth. She seems to have the constitution of a Masterchef judge which I like to at least partly attribute to her voluminous consumption of breastmilk.

  • I have become rather used to filling a B cup bra, indeed sometimes even SPILLING OUT of a B cup bra. Breastmilk is nature's silicon implant. It's free, looks natural and if it leaks? Hey ho, no problemo. You don't have to sue anyone! The moment I stop feeding, I'm destined for the A-cup and chicken fillets and that's just sad.

  • Baby bumped her head on the coffee table? Boob. Baby grumpy because you've been at the mall all morning? Boob. Baby's ears blocked on the descent into Melbourne on the 9.20 flight from Sydney? Boob. Baby starts crying just as you've finally got through to Telstra after being on hold for 40 minutes? Boob. Trying to finish watching last night's episode of Offspring and the baby won't leave the annoying Fisher Price baby piano alone? Boob.

  • I will never be this skinny with this great a cleavage again without a lot of sweating, celery and a scalpel.


  • Breastfeeding is tiring. I'm tired. I've loved every minute of the last 18 months but I'm starting to feel drained by it. I think my body is telling me something.

  •  Now that she's walking, Francesca is entering a more independent stage of her life, but she is still a clingy mama's girl and I think that has a lot to do with her breastfeeding habit. And it is a habit. She no longer needs the breast for nutritional value and often pulls at my top in social situations when she is feeling unsure of herself. This is not always convenient and is, I think, creating an association for her that isn't beneficial. She needs to learn to cope with low-level social uncertainty, not reach for the nearest nipple.

  • Have you seen the latest push-up bras? Quite pretty. I've lived with them before and I can learn to live with them again.

So despite the almost overwhelming urge to continue feeding Francesca until she's 4 just to continue pissing off the outraged onlookers, I've decided it's time.

I just hope that Mistress Menopause isn't waiting around the corner ready to pounce on this woman who tried to cheat nature by getting knocked up in her forties.

April 9, 2012

Baby Spit A La Mode

So I was talking to a friend on the phone recently, lolling around on the sofa in a bra and knickers (think matching Victoria's Secret on a Miranda Kerr-like body. Or mismatched baggy old K-Mart undies and completely shapeless breastfeeding bra on a sagging forty-something body. Whatever.)

Francesca was on my lap eating cheese and babbling incoherently. Because she hasn't quite mastered the "don't eat and talk at the same time" rule (or just the "eating" or "talking" come to think of it) a piece of cheese flew out of her mouth and into my belly button. Without pausing the conversation, or even thinking, I picked it out of my navel and put it into my mouth.


Are you grossed out yet? Little bit? Stay with me.

The reason this incident with the cheese now springs to mind is because the internet has been all outraged and indignant about the video of Alicia Silverstone chewing up food and spitting it into her baby's mouth, much like a mother bird.

Now whilst I don't judge Alicia for how she feeds her child, I've never done "The Alicia" and don't plan to, mainly because I've never been in a position where I've had to. I've always had a tube of Rafferty's purees on hand. Or a boob. And also, it's a little bit icky. It crosses a line for me.

But then I had to have a stern word with myself because really, where do I draw the line? I may not have chewed up food and spat it directly into the baby's mouth, but I've certainly bitten off small chunks of apple, taken them out of my mouth and put them into hers when we've been out. It's kind of the same isn't it? We didn't lock lips but there was definitely some spit transference.

A friend of mine (let's call her Virginia* - hi hon!) cannot bear the idea of baby spit.

You know when your baby is eating, say, a hastily grabbed yoghurt tube in the supermarket (because it's dinner time and you forgot to shop for said dinner and the baby's wails are starting to draw unwanted attention in aisle ten) and, due to not having any baby wipes about your person, you drag a thumb across their mouth to scoop up excess yoghurt and then LICK IT OFF?? Well, Virginia would rather listen to Chinese opera while dragging her fingernails across a blackboard than lick that excess yoghurt. Because it would have baby spit on it and she doesn't do baby spit.

Don't get me wrong, Virginia is one of the world's best, most devoted mothers and I have seen her do all the other gross things mothers have to do daily (post-Easter-egg nappy anyone?) She also builds furniture for her home, which has nothing to do with doing gross things for your baby but is about four billion kinds of awesome so I'm mentioning it anyway.

But me? I have no such qualms. I am shamelessly nonchalant when it comes to a baby's bodily excretions. 

In addition to picking masticated cheese out of my navel and wiping yoghurt off the baby's face with my finger, I may or may not have also done the following:
  • Peeled or bitten off the baby's fingernails when I haven't had a pair of scissors to hand (or was too lazy to get up off the sofa and get them)
  • Licked yoghurt directly off her face when the damage has been too extensive for a mere finger swipe and had no wipes to hand (or couldn't be bothered delving blindly into the dark depths of the baby bag with one hand while holding the baby in a position where she couldn't wipe her face all over my shirt)
  • Picked a booger out of her nose (because babies can't blow their noses and you CANNOT leave a booger hanging out of your baby's nose. No. You. Can't.)
  • Put my hand over a sudden stream erupting from a baby boy between nappy changes to try and contain the water damage to the change table and not wall, floor and self.  
So come on, spit it out (ahem). What have you done to or for your baby? Where's your 'line'?

* Because that is her name.

Photo courtesy of Sijanto

March 5, 2012

The Other Michelle (Bridges that is . . .)

I have all the latest fitness gear for my new regime, including designer baby weight (available from Rebel Sport)
So we're living with another woman in the house at the moment. Another Michelle actually. Mistress Michelle. And brother, is she a difficult mistress. But not the type that wields a whip and studded collar, no. This one wears lycra and Adidas and is more likely to tell you to drop and give her twenty push-ups, rather than drop and lick her boots.

Michelle Bridges has entered our home and is dictating what we eat, when we eat it and DON'T EVEN THINK ABOUT GOING BACK FOR SECONDS!!!

Yes, the time has come when I can no longer claim the "I've just had a baby" excuse. The rusty dumbbells in the garage are not so much beckoning me as rolling their eyes at me and saying "Really? You just had a baby? Wasn't that, like, 15 months ago? Sure Mrs Muffin Top, whatever you wanna tell yourself." 

So it's time to swap the Crunchies for some crunches, the wine for the grapevine, burpees instead of slurpees.

Even though I'm still breastfeeding and could officially still use the "eating for two" excuse to justify the endless consumption of ciabatta toast slathered in jam, you and I both know that's a lie. (It is, isn't it?)

Now because I'm as big a procrastinator as the next mummy-in-denial, I decided I needed a live-in personal trainer to force me to get into shape and a live-in nutritionist to help wean me off the endless snacking of whatever is at the front of the fridge and give me some inspiration for fresh, healthy, tasty meals.

Unfortunately I do not have the funds for a live-in anything (being already packed to the rafters with four live-in children, a live-in husband and my ciabatta addiction) but fortunately I stumbled across Michelle Bridges' 12 Week Body Transformation and it's just as good as having Michelle Bridges right here with me. It is hard to ignore her. She uses common sense, plain talking and humour to get you mentally on track with her twice a week video broadcasts. And only a little bit of guilt, bless her cotton anklets.

But here's the thing. I'm not exactly huge. In fact, I'm slightly below the ideal weight for my height. And for some reason people think it's okay to raise their eyebrows and ask me why the hell I'm doing this. So why do I need Mistress Michelle? Here are my reasons: 

1. My Grandchildren
Did you know that heart disease is the biggest killer of women in the world? My cousin Amanda's best friend recently had a heart attack at the age of 36. She has 3 small children. Luckily her husband was home and performed CPR until the ambulance arrived but still, she was brain dead for 12 minutes. Just a little bit scary isn't it?

So at the age of 43, I have two very good reasons to look after my ticker and their names are Jack and Francesca. I want to make them double-shot espressos when they're pulling all-nighters before their HSC exams, and wear an appropriate mother-of-the-bride/groom outfit at their weddings (something in lavender?) and sneak Tim Tams into my grandchildren's hands before dinner (outrageous)

In short, I'd like to keep my heart fit and to do that I need to exercise more often and put less crapola in the old bod. 

2. Jelly On The Plate
As in there's a whole lot of wibble wobble going on that I would like to be less 'jelly' and more 'jube'. Hard jube. I think every woman in the world knows what I'm talking about here. Enough said.

3. Boobs
Young women of the world, admire your pert breasts every single day. When all that wonderful connective tissue breaks down due to gravity and breastfeeding, nothing can bring it back. Sad fact. You can, however, work on your pectoral muscles which can provide some 'lift'. Why is it, though, that when I lose even a little bit of weight, it all comes off my boobs and face first and not my bum, thighs and tummy? I'm still breastfeeding and my breasts already look like little pannacottas. The mini ones from a tasting plate. I hear my old wonderbras calling my name from the dark depths of the lingerie drawer. Come to me my pretties . . . 

4. The Lady-Trampoline That Lost Its Bounce
That would be the pelvic floor. Losing control of which is another of the fabulous side effects of child birth. Throw in a little genetic predisposition to a weak pelvic floor and . . . well let's just say that star-jumps and I are not the best of friends. 

I'm also thinking of writing a book called The Lady Golfers Guide To Shrubbery. It is a most inconvenient fact of golfing life, and a shocking oversight on the part of golf course designers quite frankly, that there are no amenities at least half way around your typical golf course. It can take a good three hours to play 18 holes of golf (four hours if your ball likes sand, bush and water half as much as mine) and, I'm sorry, but the pelvically-challenged among us cannot go 3 to 4 hours without an opportunity to 'powder one's nose'. I'm not ashamed to admit that I have peed on golf courses all around Australia, which is all very well on your heavily forested course, but a tad trickier on your coastal links course, where you'll be lucky to find a scrappy bit of ti-tree or salt bush to squat behind. I do, however, pride myself on always finding some bit of shrubbery with the required amount of coverage, and have perfected several yoga-like positions to adjust for shrubbery height, and I'm keen to share that knowledge with the female golfing public.

But I digress. The upshot of all this talk of inappropriate weeing is that exercise, particularly the hard, weight-bearing, ab-crunching exercise that Ms Bridges encourages, is extremely excellent for ye old pelvic floor. You too can smile and leap gleefully onto a trampoline next time your children ask, instead of sitting like a lonely no-mates on the swings.

5. Posture
Ever catch a glimpse of your full length profile whilst walking by a shop window and immediately felt the need to stand up straighter? My nan had a hump. And as much as I loved my nan, no one likes a hump. So as well as eating up all my calcium, weight-bearing exercise will help build up my anti-hump muscles. It's all about the core people.

6. Diet
Yep, that other four letter word. This was a big motivator for me in relation to joining the 12WBT program. I'm a 'snacker'. I eat whatever little bits and pieces I find floating around in the kitchen, including the remains of the kids' dinners but generally excluding all other healthy options, so that by the end of the day, I'm full of empty calories.

At the start of every week, Mish (that's Ms Bridges to you non-12WBTers) gives us our recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks, as well as your entire shopping list for the week.

I can't even tell you how much I love this. It's like having a wife (something I've always wanted incidentally) who does all the hard 'thinking' work about what to cook every day. Brilliant! Instead of wandering aimlessly around the supermarket looking for inspiration and thinking "surely they won't mind having spag bol again this week", I simply look at my list and stride purposefully around picking up snowpea sprouts and fresh mint and low fat ricotta and tuna steaks and tamari. Exciting, interesting ingredients that aren't anything like what would go into spag bol! Not to mention the pride - oh, the delicious pride! - of putting all those virtuous, exciting ingredients onto the conveyor belt at the checkout!

And the meals have all been delicious and easy to prepare. The whole family is benefiting from the gastronomical excitement of meals that don't resemble spag bol IN THE SLIGHTEST. With the added benefit of being healthier.

So all in all, I'm loving the program. It's hard work but ultimately rewarding. I'm training six days a week (yep, more time away from writing blog posts, sorry) and I've eaten more vegetables and less carbs in the last 3 weeks, than I have in the last 6 months. Only 3 weeks in and I am already feeling fitter and healthier. Virtue is my new middle name.

I'm also part of a Facebook group of people in my area who are all doing the program. A wonderfully supportive bunch of (mainly) women who you can laugh, cry and confess to eating donuts to. Someone's always organising a group training session every week (followed by skim lattes, hold the bagels of course) so I feel like I'm part of a community and not slogging it out with the good and bad fairies in my head.

And I'm running! Yes running!! Three weeks ago I could only run half a kilometre. On Saturday I ran six (with only a little bit of walking up a crazy ass hill mountain). It's all slog and no style (an ex-boyfriend once referred to me as a moving statue), but hey! I'm running!

So if you see a slow-moving, yet jaunty jogger with excellent posture and a killer wonderbra ducking behind some bushes up around Long Reef headland, come and say hi. After I pop out from behind the bushes of course.

February 17, 2012

Friday Phone Drip

I'm inspired by Kelle Hampton, whose website is a blogalicious visual feast which you should visit immediately (after you finish reading this of course), to share my week of iPhone pictures with you. Because hey, at least it's a post in this Incredible Shrinking Blog right? And also, I'm a little bit addicted all the fabulous iPhone photography apps. And for another thing, I'm a chronic over-sharer. As if you hadn't figured THAT out.

Whilst the talented Kelle, and several other bloggers, call it a Friday Phone Dump, mine is more of a Friday Phone Drip because I am not as geeky as I would like to think I am, and haven't figured out how to put more than 6 square photos in the iPhoto collage.

So after a week of pounding thunderstorms alternated with almost unbearably perfect blue sky days, a trip to Penrith to watch the rowing, some backyard pool action and the daily wait for Daddy on the doorstop, here is a snapshot (or six!) of our week.

January 23, 2012

The Tortoise Has Great Hair

When Jack ran his first 50m sprint in the school athletics competition at age five, he slowed down just near the end of the race to wave at us in the stands. Was he the fastest runner? No. But you've never seen a more gorgeous smile, nor a kid who could rock a yellow polo shirt, baggy maroon shorts and sticky-up bed-hair quite like our Jack that day. And if there was a competition for the best 'saunter to the finish line', that blue ribbon would have gone STRAIGHT to the pool room!

Now it seems our little Francesca, in all her roly poly wonder, has inherited the family 'tortoise' syndrome. Despite meeting all other milestones on or before time, including pincer grip, first year molars, the ability to spot a Cheerio on the floor from 50 paces and the skill of exceptional adorableness, by 12 months she had still failed to crawl, let alone walk. Which was a problem, mainly because she was getting too damn heavy to carry around everywhere.

I started to get a bit concerned about this when she turned 10 months old and was still sitting on her comfortable, nappy-cushioned bottom, while all the other babies in mother's group crawled or walked around her, or used her variously as a scratching post, a mounting post or as a poledancing pole. She would just sit there, busting a few yoga moves such as Sitting With Octopus Arms and Sitting Pretty.

Enter Janet, the baby physio, who diagnosed Francesca with slightly low muscle tone. Now, despite the lovely Janet emphasising the word 'slightly' and telling me not to worry and that Francesca would be crawling very soon and was perfect in every other possible way, I still went home and Googled 'low muscle tone'.

Because I am an idiot.

And yes people, there is such a thing as too much information. Too much unnecessarily scary information designed to send parents into a sinister future vortex where your baby's movement and speech will be affected forever so they will never walk, run or be able to tell people that the rain in Spain falls mainly in the plain. If you have a baby that isn't reaching their gross motor milestones, just do yourself a favour and NEVER GOOGLE 'LOW MUSCLE TONE'. That is all.

So Janet sent us off with lots of homework, our favourite being to strap Francesca's thighs together with matching sweatbands (and you know you want to see THAT picture)!

The idea behind this innovative exercise was to force her knees to stay together so that when she knelt up or tried to get on all fours, her legs wouldn't splay out like a frog. It also adds a degree of modesty don't you think? We may reintroduce the concept when she turns 16. Do sweatbands come in metal? With locks?

I digress.

The other problem seemed to be that our little princess had an aversion to kneeling on floorboards. Because they're so hard and hurty-hurty on a gal's delicate little knees don't y'know. So we got some of those ugly foam tiles and tried to encourage her to kneel up to grab toys from an elevated height. It was working really well until she decided that it was much more fun to eat foam than kneel on it.

Then she discovered that it was ever so much easier to shuffle around on one's bottom. We'd flip her on all fours and she'd flip right back over on her bottom. And so we have a bottom shuffler (with the unexpected but delightful bonus of having our floors bottom-swept daily).

There were tears, oh yes, there were tears as we worked our way through Janet's list of baby physio exercises. At one stage I may or may not have told our tiny, innocent baby daughter who was doing the best she could to HARDEN THE HECK UP.

So did she get there?

Watch and find out . . .

Music "I Feel The Earth Move" courtesy of Carole King
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