New Years Resolutions: How to eat more vegies without wanting to die

I always make lots of New Years resolutions and always forget them really quickly. But my 2016 resolution to “eat more vegies” has actually stuck with me, and I must have mentioned it to a lot of people because I was at a kid’s birthday party the other day and one of the mums told me that she often thinks of me and how she should also eat more vegies. I’m parenting the parents of my daughter’s childcare friends!

This resolution came about because whenever you see a list of top tips for not getting cancer, they tend to be: don’t smoke (haven’t touched one since The Night of Three 21st Parties, September 2002); don’t drink (haha I have two small children, if you touch my wine I will kill you); eat less red meat (haven’t eaten red meat in 8 years –> winning at this one); and eat five servings of vegies a day.

FIVE SERVINGS? (What is a ‘serving’ anyway? We all know we eat way more than the recommended ‘serving size’ on the back of the Doritos or M&Ms packet. Is it the same with vegies, am I already eating way more than I realise? Um, no. Start here for some guidance.)

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I think I mentioned in my thoughtful critique on carrots that I find this ‘five servings a day’ a particularly difficult concept to get my head around, but this year I decided I had to get around it. Mum had just had a cancer scare, the idea of dying young and missing my kids grow up makes my blood run cold, and mostly I really want to keep drinking wine without feeling guilty.

So if you have made the same resolution this year, but now it’s mid February and you’ve just counted hot chips from the pub as tonight’s vegetable, here are my top tips for getting more vegies into your day, so you too can feel smug the next time you read an article on how to avoid cancer, while avoiding any suicidal thoughts that come about because life is too short for lettuce at every meal.  (Pictures inspired by/taken from this article which always makes me laugh.)

First, eat vegies for breakfast – I started off 2016 having smoothies. YES, I KNOW, I’m a walking cliche. But really if you want an easy way to get your greens in, this is it. My basic recipe is a banana, a handful of frozen spinach portions, about 1/3 cup of oats, about 1.5 cups of milk (usually rice), a tablespoon of nut butter or LSA mix, and a bit of cinnamon. Delish. But then winter hit and I didn’t really feel like cold smoothies, and also I didn’t want a sweet breakfast every day. So now my breakfast is almost always mushrooms on toast spread with avocado. With an egg if I’m extra hungry, with some extra vegies if I have them around especially zucchini, capsicum or cherry tomatoes. It’s super delish, and no it doesn’t feel like much extra effort now that I’m used to it (plus I don’t have to clean the blender –> winning).

Don’t throw out your leftovers – sure, two florets of broccoli left on the kids’ dinner plates don’t look very appetising, but tomorrow you can chop them up and fry them in some olive oil and garlic to have with your cheese toastie, and look you added half a serve of vegies. Whenever I cook sweet potato or pumpkin I also cook some extra without seasoning and that makes a great addition to a smoothie or salad the next day.

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Buy lots of vegies and fresh herbs, and learn how to store them – I used to do a meal plan for the week’s dinners and just buy what we needed, but that meant there was nothing left for lunches or snacks. So I’ve figured out how to buy enough vegies for the week, without meal planning in advance (so I can just buy what’s fresh and cheap), and without throwing out heaps of rotten food. And I buy two or three of my favourite fresh herbs, because they are what make vegies sing. (Yes, we are attempting to grow our own.) If you buy good quality stuff and store it properly (Google is your friend), it won’t go off and you’ll have lots of options right up until the end of the week.

Don’t think you have to eat things you don’t like – I don’t much care for salads. I mean the cold crunchy kind, based around lettuce and cucumber and that kind of thing. Blah. I love salads that fill you up, particularly if they are made wholly or partly of cooked vegies – full of roast vegies and feta, or soba noodles with julienned vegies and a spicy dressing, or anything in Hetty’s books. So that’s how I eat them, because that’s what I enjoy and what makes me happy. Another thing I love is pesto, so I like turning greens into pesto (like broccoli and spinach) and then a bowl of spaghetti and pesto suddenly feels so virtuous. I also like any combination of vegies that is partial to being grilled in olive oil. But if handfuls of rocket on every meal, or simple steamed three veg,  will make you happy, then go right ahead.

Make it easy on yourself – frozen vegies are great to keep in the freezer at home or work, toss them up with your protein of choice and boom, lunch is done. The tinned tomatoes in your pasta sauce count. Jarred antipasto vegies can go on sandwiches at the end of the week when all the fresh stuff is gone. You don’t have to suddenly be creating amazing complicated meals with 100 different ingredients.

Any other tricks you’ve found that I’ve missed? Do you find it easy to get five (or even three) a day? Do you agree the Brits are cheating by counting baked beans?

Happy new year everyone, and happy eating 🙂

 

 

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2016 Reading List

This is a pretty short list, because the first half of the year was spent reading A Brief History of Seven Killings, by Marlon James. It won the Man Booker and I read several glowing reviews but considering the number of times those reviews (and its cover) used phrases like ‘dizzyingly complex’ and I was deep in the trenches of newborn sleep deprivation, I decided not to bother. Until the brilliant Andy sent it for my birthday and I had no more excuses to just push past my initial intimidation and have a go. And it was dizzyingly complex, and enormous, which is why it took me six months to read. But also excellent.

Since then, I have also made my way through…

The Dry, by Jane Harper. This was my 2016 birthday present from Andy, and it wasn’t dizzyingly complex but a perfectly readable and satisfying Australian crime thriller set in rural farm country. Thanks Andy! I’ve seen it mentioned on lots of ‘best summer reading’ type lists, and it definitely deserves to be there.

All That I Am, by Anna Funder. This might be my #1 pick of the year. It was amazing. It takes the old “if you could go back in time and kill Hitler, would you?” ethical dilemma and creates a novel out of it. And that makes it sound so much more ordinary than it really is. Highly recommended.

Vivian Rising, by Daniella Brodsky. My friend Daniella has written a bunch of books and when I first met her and asked which one she was most proud of, this was it. (Although that was before she published the Patrons, which I read last year.) It hasn’t been available in Australia before but now it’s on Kindle and I finally got to read it. I can see why she was so proud of it. It’s a love story, not only about the main character and the hot guy next door, but more particularly between the main character and her grandmother who is also her main guardian. Theirs is an amazing relationship – and the grandmother a fantastic character based on Daniella’s own grandmother – that I loved reading about.

The Feel of Steel, by Helen Garner. I’ve never read any Helen Garner but I listen to a lot of Leigh Sales & Annabel Crabb’s podcast and they are always going on about her, so when I found this in my mother in law’s house while we were staying there I stole it. It’s a collection of essays and I loved it. More Helen Garner in 2017 for sure.

Big Little Lies, by Liane Moriarty. I’d also never read any of Liane Moriarty’s books but Annabel Crabb talks about her a lot and then I read an article that called her the “best selling author you’ve never heard of” (cue lots of angry comments from people who of course had heard of her, because otherwise she wouldn’t sell so many books, and there is something kind of sexist about that really, if you know what Liane writes about). Anyway, I really enjoyed this for lots of reasons, on lots of levels. Apparently it’s going to be a movie (or TV series?) with Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon and Shailene Woodley soon? I’ll be adding more Liane Moriarty to my 2017 list along with Helen Garner. I love discovering new-to-me authors that have already published lots of books to devour.

The Birdman’s Wife, by Melissa Ashley. I actually haven’t finished this and I’m not sure I’m going to, so that’s why I’m including it here. Mum and dad gave it to me for my birthday because I had it on my wish list, because I’d read a couple of good reviews and thought it sounded really interesting, but it’s been a big disappointment. I don’t know if it’s because it started life as a PhD or what, but it feels stilted and too self-conscious to me. Which is a shame, because it’s a good idea and a good story.

My Brilliant Friend, by Elena Ferrante. So this is the first in the Neapolitan novels that everyone has been talking about the past couple of years, people say they have to call in sick to work because they want to keep reading. Which I…did not. I struggled through this and haven’t bothered even looking at the next two. I can see that the writing is pretty good but maybe it’s a lot better in its native Italian, or maybe the other books are better than this one. I just had very little interest in anything that happened or anyone who was in it. The most interesting part of these books are the fact that the writer is anonymous, or at least was until recently.

2015 list here, 2014 list here, 2013 list here.

How to have a ‘holiday’ with small children

First, accept it is not a holiday. It is a work trip. You will be doing the same thing as always, just in a different location. There will be slightly better views, slightly more wine, slightly less housework. But it will be the same shit. Prepare for this and it won’t be such a rude shock.

Second: beach time! Have lots of it! This is what you came for, right? Put the kids in their swimmers even if it’s freezing and you are sure you are only going to walk and build sand castles and collect shells. They are going to get wet no matter what the weather or water temperature, because they do not feel the cold nor the judging eyes of strangers. Take a couple of towels and a spare nappy too, it’s a cold, cranky, loooong walk home otherwise.

Find a local restaurant where children are welcome and people aren’t too drunk. It will probably be a club of some kind. Make peace with this. Your children will eat deep fried rubbish drowned in tomato sauce and become obsessed with Keno, but it will be cheap and you’ll be home by 7. 7.30 at the latest.

You know that kids play room at the club that you thought was a god send? Turns out it was a hotbed of gastroenteritis. Here’s where the holiday gets really fun! Hope you brought LOTS of spare bedding! Just pray for morning (somehow everything is more bearable in daylight) then take the kid who didn’t get gastro out the next day to escape the germs and smell of Glen20 and never-ending washing pile. I find cupcakes an excellent bribery tool.

When everyone is feeling better it’s time to get out of the house again. Of course the weather has now turned wintery so instead of the beach you need to find a playground where everyone can eat more cupcakes and spread some more germs.

Between the gastro, the crap weather, the dog weeing on the carpet every morning before you let him out and the torturous sleep deprivation due to the baby refusing to sleep in unfamiliar places even when he isn’t vomiting every hour, you are now desperate to go home. If you and your partner are still on speaking terms at this point, you should count that as a successful holiday. 

Luckily the weather finally comes good and you can spend your last morning soaking up all that beach goodness and admonishing yourself for those uncharitable thoughts you had towards your beloved family an hour ago.

Stop for fish and chips on the way home (we like the Kiah Seafood Cafe in Moruya where there is also a fab park for the kids = excellent place for lunch), then ice cream to extend the holiday fun just a bit longer, then hit the Clyde. That wasn’t so bad! This was a good day! Hopefully the kids will sleep a bit and we can listen to a podcast rather than the Frozen soundtrack. Holidays are pretty good! Then you hear a cough and a splutter from the back seat and sure enough the baby throws up. Three times.

Put the kids in the trailer while you clean out the car and the car seat and reminisce about all those awesome pre-children holidays you had together that never involved any vomit or hand sanitiser and know that everyone passing you is just so glad they are not you.

But then the kids DO sleep, and the dog chills out in a most adorable way, and you get to listen to a podcast, and you think to yourself well at least I’ll get a blog post out of this whole mess.

And that’s how you holiday.

Emma’s 4th birthday: no such thing as too many rainbows!

A few months ago when Emma started to talk about her birthday party (yes, I know), we agreed on a rainbow theme. She tried to change it a few times but by then I’d checked out Pinterest and discovered a world of not-that-hard rainbow party ideas, so I shot down all subsequent requests. This was also the year Emma discovered Pinterest so we had lots of fun times looking through pictures on my phone together and saving 99% of them.

First up was invitations. My friend Tamar is super talented and has always done my invitations in the past but she’s still on maternity leave so instead we ordered these. There’s loads of cute rainbow themed birthday invites on Etsy and it was hard for Emma to choose but we were super happy with them.

Then there was the matter of Emma’s party dress. On her 1st birthday I started a tradition of buying her a new dress as part of her birthday present. Of course she’s now old enough to choose herself (kind of a bugger for me), but we managed to agree on another Etsy purchase (no longer available by the looks of it).

If I’d been more organised and rich I would have put some effort into clothes for the rest of us. In particular I found a lot of Pride-related stuff online, way too late to be ordered. Emma obviously didn’t choose a rainbow theme as a political statement but given the current (awful) climate around LGBTQ rights I found all the rainbows very pleasing and it would have been nice to support an organisation by wearing their merchandise. Never mind.

We decided to have the party at home, our first time of doing so. I’m a big fan of parties in the park for all the reasons but every year I stress about the weather. And even though it’s always fine in the end, given we have a bigger space now I wanted to save myself the last minute stress. Lucky I did because the day before we got three months worth of rain in one go. It cleared up on the Saturday but everything was still pretty soggy so I was happy we could just set up inside and not worry about it.

The food was easy because you just need things that use lots of different colours, like fairy bread, fruit kebabs, coloured popcorn, veggie trays, and lollies. In particular Di did an awesome job with this delicious salsa (highly recommended – made for a great nachos topping and was still good the next day) and also some rainbow cupcakes which looked fab.

Di usually does the birthday cake and from now on I will keep up that tradition. I did it this year because it needed six layers and I’m the one with the enormous oven, but making six layer cakes that don’t look melted on one side is not my forte. Still, it was fun especially the night before when Finn was asleep and the three of us stayed up making the layers. This is a good tutorial which I discovered a bit late. Also two days before I learnt about piñata cakes and ended up deciding I really really had to do that too

I was pretty proud of it in the end. And the whole thing, really. Emma had a great time with her friends and it was all around good fun. Now for the photos.

Baking six cakes takes a village

Organising the popcorn

I think they call this a tablescape in the party planning biz.

Fairy bread, lollies, rainbow cupcakes, oh my.

I was way too proud of the rainbow jellies.

The cake looks great from a distance.

Surprise!

I loved how Finn looked like he was ready to go to Mardi Gras. He was the life of the party, once he woke up from his nap.

Emma’s actual birthday was the day after – also Father’s Day and a fun run day. I thought she’d be annoyed Toby was getting stuff on her birthday, but she thought it was neat. And the fun run was an excellent morning activity since it involved a jumping castle and face painting. In the afternoon we went to the toy shop so she could spend some birthday money, followed by a trip to the park and then dinner at Grill’d since no one felt like cooking after that weekend.

Emma asked for a robot for her birthday and Toby was more than happy to oblige. Meet Kibo.

Seriously. She’s 4. How did that happen?

Toby bought her creaming soda as a special birthday treat, and this is what she thought of it.

Finn tried his first burger and he was a massive fan.

Happy birthday to our gorgeous clever sparkle of a girl. We love you more than words.

Sleep deprivation is cruel, inhumane and degrading (exhibit A: sleep training diary)

It’s hard to understand before your baby arrives, when you are still the perfect parent, just how important sleep is going to become. And not just the fact that you aren’t going to get any for a really long time. But your obsession with someone else’s sleep. I’m talking apps, graphs, watching the clock, desperately keeping track of minutes spent awake, putting baby in the sleeping bag and turning on the white noise and giving the dummy and singing the same song every time like a superstitious athlete with the same routine before every game lest you put one foot wrong and THE BABY DOESN’T SLEEP. Or the baby does sleep, miraculously, and you try to figure out why, even though it’s like workshopping the meaning of life, ultimately futile because you are a mere mortal who will never understand such magic. Was it just the right temperature? The level of light? Was it because there was more protein at dinner? Less TV today? A more pleasing lullaby? Seriously. People without kids think I’m joking, but I’m not. This is why new parents do not just look sleep deprived, but genuinely crazed.

 Yes, parenting is hard. Sleeping is really hard. If you are deep in the trenches of it, and desperate to fix it, don’t let anyone tell you it will sort itself out and just to go with the flow. Unless that makes you feel better! It works for some (very patient) people, but it’s not for everyone. Definitely not for me. Sleep deprivation is a form of torture. We are not allowed to do it to prisoners. So why anyone expects parents to just put up with it indefinitely, affecting their mental and physical health, marriages, parenting of other children, ability to drive and form a coherent sentence and so on, is beyond me. Anyone who doesn’t understand how you can be so tired you forget there is a baby in the back seat of the car has never had a baby. There’s lots of things you can try to stop the torture, noting none are easy nor guaranteed, no matter what the internet says. Start with the top experts (your mums group) then the other experts (MACH nurses, sleep consultants, books). Find something that sounds bearable to you and give it a go. 

Finn has not been as good a sleeper as Emma and I won’t bore you with what that means except to say that when he was 8 months old I reached my limits and declared it was time to sleep train. We used the Gift of Sleep that had worked for some of my friends. Like a good blogger I kept a diary to show the world what the books don’t tell you about sleep training. Which is that it is also a form of torture, but short lived and with a happy ending. Hopefully!
Friday night

​6.40pm into bed, sans dummy as per the book

Crying

Set microwave timer

Pour wine

Have a slice of pizza

Knocking, retucking

Still crying, same level

More wine 

More pizza

Then calming down? Extend by two minutes, but no.

Knocking, retucking.

Still crying. Maybe worse?

Calming down

7pm

Give it 2 more minutes

No love

Knocking, resettling. Seems to make the crying worse

Pizza all gone. Wine nearly gone. Distract with washing up. Can’t put TV on as need to hear. Loving life.

But your husband thinks the world of you and loved you to bits (Toby made me write that)

Knocking, resettling.

Now up to the 30 minutes the book says it will take most babies. Still going strong.

And yet getting much quieter by the end of this 5 minute block. More stop and start.

Knock and resettle

Really getting into it now. Did not think this kid loved his dummy so much.

Knock and resettle

Back to the washing up. 45 minutes and counting. Lucky Emma is a heavy sleeper and our walls are double brick

Getting quieter so I extend by 2 minutes. Having to listen now during the pauses

And then … Silence! 50 minutes and he’s out. I finish the washing up and pour more wine to celebrate.

I do feel the sense of accomplishment the book promised! I do feel like I’ve given my son the gift of sleep. An even better gift that Toby draws my attention to – Netflix has released new episodes of Vikings! Friday night is looking up.

9pm all is quiet. I’m going to bed, apprehensive but OK.

2am woke up, settled himself apparently

2.55am woke up, crying

Knocking, resettling

Waiting, still crying.

Toby takes over because he is the best husband ever (also, he was already out of bed unable to sleep because a bureaucrat’s work is never done)

3.45am I can still hear crying and knocking but it did sound like it’s calming down. I fall asleep.

6.55am I’m awoken by Finn waking up. We made it!!! 

He’s happy, not at all traumatised. Still loves us.

Toby tells me it took over an hour of resettling until he finally gave him a cuddle which then calmed him down enough.

He ate a big breakfast!

Went down for his nap at 10am without any help and slept solid for 2 hours – we had to wake him up.

Tried for another nap at 2.45, less successful. Maybe because his sister got the shits and came into the room leading to much gnashing of teeth? Anyway. Slept for 30 minutes.

Saturday night

Decent witching hour tonight, I’m flying solo so read stories to both while finishing off his feed. Then into bed about 6.50pm. Was silent for a couple of minutes, long enough for me to think my god he’s figured it out already. He’s a genius! Of course not, this is why you never celebrate too early!

I set the alarm for 10 minutes (the night 2 maximum) and he keeps crying as I clean the kitchen. But then, when there is still 3 minutes to go… All is quiet. Success.

We watch House of Cards and off to bed before 10. Fingers crossed!!!

3am woken up. He’s not exactly crying – more chatting. Then a bit of a cry but then back to chatting. I get up anyway, ready to do battle. Let him whinge for a little bit then do the knock and resettle. Which kind of seems to make it worse. At least, he cries harder while I’m in there. Lucky this isn’t my first rodeo or that would be heartbreaking. Put the timer on for 10 minutes. Wish I brought my book.

After 10 minutes he is definitely quiet although I get the occasional little noise just in case I was thinking of going back to bed. Decide to wait another 10.

It’s getting worse. Trying to decide if it’s worth going in our not, because that will probably make it worse again before it gets better. Starting to wear me down a bit.

Then it gets better. Start another 10 minute wait. He’s trying so hard bless his cotton socks.

Dog starts barking outside. Grrrr!!!! More crying.

Only make it 6 minutes before I start the knock. He quietens right down but starts again when I stop. I go in. Instead of moving him I just tuck his flat bear under his hand and put my hand on his back and say ssshhhh long and slow. He quietens. Tempting to do this until he falls asleep but the whole point is for him to sleep without props. I leave. Crying starts again. It’s 4.10am.

4.16am there’s still no sign of stopping and it’s getting worse. He almost sounds like he’s saying dada. Time for the cuddle.

But by the time I get to his door, all is quiet. I can hear him tossing and turning so I stay and listen. The crying starts again after a few minutes so I knock and go in. I just put two hands on his back and say ssshhhh. He immediately calms, I can hear his breathing getting slow. One hand off, then the other. I keep sshhhing a few more times then leave. The crying starts, worse than before. It’s 4.30am.

4.37am crying is the worst it’s been so I decide it’s cuddle time. But – he thrashes in my arms, keeps screaming. This is the worst thing of all – I can’t even comfort him. Tears start. Toby arrives and I hand over the wriggling, screaming octopus that is my child and go to the couch to cry.

4.40am Toby emerges. Didn’t want to cuddle him either. We listen to the screams and tell each other we are not terrible parents 

4.46am I do the knocking, the sshhhing. He’s beside himself. I return to the couch where I feel my will to live ebbing out of me.

5am Toby goes in. Still screaming. He must be exhausted and starving after all this activity. It’s so hard to not give in. Silver lining – I might get my run in nice and early?

I decide I will get him up at 5.30 if he’s still crying. He will be due for a nap by then but I don’t think I can do any more than that.

5.07am Toby has gone back to bed. I go in. He quietens right down when I put my hands on his back. I can hear him trying to catch his breath and my heart breaks a little. The screams start again when I leave. Only 20 minutes to go and I can get him up. I’m actually starting to look forward to that now.

5.13am the first quiet moment in nearly an hour. But then we are back into it. I’ve read all the internet by now so start listening to a podcast. He is definitely calming now with long stretches of silence.

5.19am all is quiet except for the neighbour’s rooster. I go to bed, feeling drained and not at all like a good or even half decent parent. Please forgive me, beautiful boy.

5.24am I’m finally in bed when I hear crying coming from his room. “That’s it, I’m getting up!!” Toby grunts his agreement. I get to the bedroom door and all is quiet again. I fall back into bed.

7.05am woken up by the toddler after a series of weird early morning dreams. 

7.10am Finn wakes up

8am I go out for a 9km run, which is the last thing I feel like, but in fact I feel amazing and I’m so glad I did it. Even if I fall at the 2km mark.

Finn has a one hour sleep in the morning and two hours in the afternoon. No resettling required. I think it’s safe to say we have successfully weaned the dummy.

Sunday night

6.50pm off to bed. No crying.

He sleeps through! On Monday morning we have a new child, happy and well-rested just like the book promised. It all seems worth it.

Until two weeks later when against all common sense and the book, we go to the coast for a weekend and undo all our good work. And since then his sleep has been very hit and miss, mostly miss. For various reasons we haven’t done the training again but now, finally, at nearly 14 months old, just in the past two weeks, Finn is sleeping through at night. Not every night, but more nights than not. And I have no advice for how to get to this point. I’ve tried everything over the past few months and I can’t say what, if any of it, worked. Like I said to my mums group just this week when discussing sleep, sometimes babies are just a-holes. And that’s all you really need to know.

14 parenting hacks that will make it look like you have your shit together, even when you’re drowning on the inside

Life is pretty good this week, but I’ve come out of what feels like several months of hell. Between illnesses, sleeping issues, house renos, work, and the usual shit life likes to throw at you during winter when the weather isn’t even going to cheer you up, it’s just been one thing after another. Of course we are pretty lucky overall, I do know that, but still it’s not been an easy time. I’ve been tempted to run away and join the circus more than once. Throughout it all I’ve noticed there are things I do that make people think I am amazing. There are also things my friends or colleagues do that make me think they are amazing, even though I know from talking to them that their life is no less shit than mine. So here’s a list of things you can do – which vary in the effort or cost required – to prove to yourself and the rest of the world that you are still a functioning adult who isn’t going to wreck your kids’ lives. Fake it til you make it I say. (Truly I’m sure these would work for people who don’t have kids as well, it’s just “parenting hacks” is total click bait and that’s what all bloggers aspire to. I think.)

  1. Have good hair. I don’t have good hair, but some of my best friends do! It makes you look put together and well groomed no matter what else is going on. I assume this takes time and money, neither of which I have in abundance at the moment, but it looks like it’s worthwhile.
  2. Exercise. I haven’t had much time to exercise lately but I still get to jazzercise once a week and try to do something else at some point. People with multiple children and other things going on who still manage to do real exercise always impress me. Bonus points for early morning or late evening workouts when the rest of us are in our pyjamas, or asleep.
  3. Read a book. I’m always impressed listening to Annabel Crabb & Leigh Sales’ podcast at how many books those two can churn through. These are women with young children and high profile, demanding jobs and yet when they sit down to talk books they’ve read in the past few weeks, they’ve both read. More than one book! On top of movies and TV shows and making food! I spent half of this year reading a single book, but I still have friends who think it’s impressive I’ve read anything.
  4. Bake. I bake a lot, partly because I like to eat and partly because it’s a fun thing Emma and I can easily do together at home while Finn is asleep. People think it’s amazing that I’ve made muffins instead of buying something from the shops, whereas to me it’s obviously much more effort to get to the shops with two kids.
  5. Watch a movie. Anyone can watch an hour-long episode of the latest Netflix series, but to be able to commit to an actual full length movie and be able to stay awake long enough to watch the ending takes real skill. I can count the number of movies I’ve watched this year on one hand.
  6. Wear something other than active wear. You know my stance on mums and their active wear, but really if you want to look and feel like a human being, nothing beats jeans and shoes you can’t run in.
  7. Make your own baby food. Both Emma and Finn have been the not-very-grateful recipients of homemade purees and pikelets and what-not, but also the far-more-grateful recipients of baby food in pouches from the supermarket. Finn got way more pouches than Emma, especially when we were out and about, for obvious reasons. When I catch up with my friends with kids and we sit around complaining about the fact we slept about 2 hours last night and have a third dose of mastitis, it’s the ones who complain while feeding their kid homemade puree that still look like they are managing this whole parenting caper better than me.
  8. Remember birthdays. Thank goodness for Facebook which makes this easy for the bulk of my social circle, but there is something really touching about getting a text from a friend not on Facebook, or for Emma or Finn’s birthdays, that says they remembered somehow and cared enough to send you a greeting. You can also remember anniversaries (even the sad ones), that someone started a new job today, or anything that shows you are capable of thinking about someone who isn’t you.
  9. Pump breast milk. I breastfed Emma for 15 months and I’m still feeding Finn (just), but both of them also went on formula around the 7 month mark, for their daytime feeds, in preparation for my return to work. I never really thought much about it and feel zero guilt about it whatsoever, but I remain in total awe of women who spend their lunch breaks pumping milk at work, or stay up at night to do it. That’s real dedication, right there.
  10. Have a blog. Seriously. Even if you don’t update it much people will think you are very clever. Even if the idea of a life without writing is your idea of hell, and even if yours is just a drop in the massive mediocre ocean of the world’s blogs.
  11. Wear lipstick. Really any makeup will do, because sometimes on those days when you look positively grey from lack of sleep and Vitamin D and you want to crawl into a hole and eat banana cake until the end of time and putting makeup on is the last thing you feel like doing, putting makeup on is exactly what you should do to lift your spirits. You’ll look like you slept, like you ate a superfood for breakfast, in short – like you have your shit together.
  12. Have a date night. This requires a little more planning, because you need a babysitter, but once you’ve done that the fact that you’ve gotten out of the house in presentable clothes and eaten something that took more than 5 minutes to make and had a glass of wine and talked to each other about something that’s not related to how-soon-can-we-get-them-fed-and-in-bed-before-we-turn-on-Netflix is worth celebrating.
  13. Do an extracurricular activity. If you have energy in your life for something other than work and family and all the stuff that goes with keeping those balls in the air, you are amazing. Exercise counts, especially for something you genuinely enjoy – even feel some kind of passion for – but there are also extra points available for anything kind of crafty or creative.
  14. Have a party. No one will judge your party as harshly as you – they won’t notice if the napkins match the plates, or if the soundtrack isn’t quite right, or if the food is a bit daggy or you got it all at Costco. Don’t tell yourself you can’t have a party because it’s been too long since you washed the windows and you’d need to cook a five course meal worthy of Masterchef. If you want to have people over, have people over. They will be so impressed that you got your shit together enough to offer food and drinks to multiple people at once that you will be winning the minute they walk in the door.

A pox on our house (or: anti-vaxxers, you SUCK)

Here’s the imaginary conversation I had with an anti-vaxxer every night at 2am during the week we nursed Finn through chicken pox, which was two weeks ago. Last week we were still in recovery (still scabbing, still social pariahs), and this week we are tackling hand, foot and mouth disease, because childcare is the gift that keeps giving when it comes to illnesses. So yeah, lots of time to sit in the rocking chair with a crying baby and imagine what I’d say to whoever it was who didn’t vaccinate their kid and it ended up in our childcare infecting all the little ones too young for their own vaccination.

ME: Ohhhh, why us? Why our little baby? This is shit! He’d be immune in six months, after his shots. Just six months and this would have been avoided! I hate everything!

ANTI-VAXXER: But, aren’t you pleased he’s been immunised NATURALLY? This is the way nature intended!

ME: Oh yeah, a totally uncontrolled dose way before his little body is able to handle it! It’s natural the way bushfires and cancer are natural! Everything sucks!

ANTI-VAXXER: You need to get over yourself! Chicken pox is a MILD CHILDHOOD ILLNESS!

ME: I know it is, usually. But not always, as I discovered when I made the mistake of consulting Dr Google. And Finn’s has gotten infected, his temperature’s out of control, last night I slept on the floor next to his cot because his breathing wasn’t right and the home visit doctor couldn’t send anyone out to check on him and I was too worried to leave him alone. And now he needs antibiotics, which is the last thing anyone needs, let alone a baby. Wahhh!

A-V: You know, we all had chicken pox when we were kids. And we’re all FINE!

ME: I know! I had it when I was 14, it was unpleasant and I scratched myself to bits but mostly I remember watching Sister Act every day with my sister, who was quarantined with the same illness. And more to the point, I knew what was happening to me! Finn has no idea! He just knows he feels really, really shit. And why should a baby feel that way, especially for a preventable illness? Why should he have to suffer? This is not character building! This is not teaching him an important life lesson. This is something he shouldn’t have to deal with. A suffering baby is the worst thing in the world. How do parents of truly sick children cope with this? Day in, day out? How do you live with yourself, knowing your unscientific views lead to this kind of suffering – unpleasant, but short-lived with no long-term consequences, despite my histrionics – but also much, much worse?

A-V: Because vaccines are mostly a conspiracy between government and pharmaceutical companies.

ME: Dr House already explained that. Also, I work for the government and trust me when I say we are not organised enough for a conspiracy.

A-V: You know vaccines cause autism, right?

ME: OH FOR FUCK’S SAKE