Friday, February 13, 2015

Children first, husbands next, friends last?

I often find myself deeply considering facebook posts made by other mums, this week a post from a friend has really made me think.

"Dear friends sorry if I am a crap friend but my kids come first, then my husband, then my family and then friends, if you want to wait 15 or so years I am sure I will be a better friend then"

I thought about it, read the comments, but did not respond. I was torn between whether I thought it was true or whether I thought it was the wrong order. I sure do feel like a crap friend, in fact last year an old friend accused me of not being there for her and not making effort in our friendship. We live 5 hours apart and with growing families connecting seems more like work then time out. Of course when we do connect, the conversation flows and we wonder why we don't talk more often but time seems to have other ideas.

I do strongly believe that your marriage should come first in so many respects, a strong relationship between husband and wife can give children the stability that they need. When a marriage is strong parenting is so much easier plus you have a friend who will grow old with you. But I also think sometimes you need to put your kids first because they only ever have one mum and relationships can break up but children are forever. They are far more vunerable than adults and need you to be their closest friend and confidant. But then there are friends, the ones outside the craziness of family life that we live everyday, the ones who remind us of who we are. Friends give us a glimpse of our life outside of parenting help us see ourselves for who we truly are. My time out with my girlfriends honestly keeps me sane.

So how do we balance all these relationships and how do they revolve around our own life, I want an easier life, one where I have a happy family and I feel nurtured too. Far too often I feel like I don't have enough to give, not enough of my left, that is why I need my friends. So...... do they deserve to be at the bottom of the list?

I write a lot on here about how important it is to put your marriage first but then I also know deep down if I had to make the decision my child would always come before my husband, it is biological. I also think it is biological to let yourself go as a mother and put others first because you always want the best for your family.

One of my favourite things about blogging and something I miss now that I am not doing it full time is being send samples of things where you had to make a story out of looking after yourself. I loved when I was sent relaxing face masks, it meant I had an excuse to take time out for me. Or being send new herbal teas gave me an excuse to sit down and have a cuppa. Or this week I discovered spray moisturiser, this stuff is awesome, smells AMAZING and drys quick so it is like speed pamper session, mum style. We don't need these excuses though, we should make time to do small 5 minute treats for ourselves.

I guess in the end life isn't always about having everything in a priority line, it is about being flexible and responding to your own needs and those of your family. It is all about balance and keeping things simple.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

City Life

As most of my readers know I escaped the city six years ago to have my beautiful daughter, I so wanted her to grow up outside of the busy life of Sydney, I needed a break too. We ended up settling in beautiful Wollongong which is half city and half country, people are really nice and the air is fresh. I don't love Sydney, my memories of living there are overworking and not looking after myself. I have noticed lately that I have started to slip back into those thought patterns of city life, working too hard and burning the candle at both ends.

I have been travelling a lot, spending time in the city, weekends in Melbourne, commuting for work, it is exhausting. I have noticed that I am not bouncing out of bed in the morning anymore in fact I am getting tired and loosing my fizz in the afternoon. Even though I am eating pretty well, not drinking too much and training a lot, I am starting to look exhausted and my skin is so sensitive. People keep commenting that I look so tired, it gets a little depressing really. I am wearing makeup almost everyday which I don't think is doing me any favours and being in air conditioning all day or in the city pollution is killing me. Of course getting closer to 40 everyday isn't helping either, I am seriously contemplating some harsh laser and some gently botox.

Anyways I was mindlessly googling City Skin to see if there was such a phenomena to describe why I look a hundred at the moment and I found that there was a whole page written about the effects of  my lifestyle on my skin. After reading this page I felt like my life wasn't suited to plump juicy skin. Do these risk factors sound familiar for every working mum??
Massive glasses hide dark circles :)
  • Lack of sleep - isn't that every mum? 
  • Exercise causes dehydration, hello freaking 20km dehydrating runs, it is so bad training through summer that I have started taking hydralite to help my electrolytes recover. I drink so much water but I never seem to be hydrated. I have started though using face wipes to quickly take off work makeup before hitting the gym at night because they are easy.
  • Headaches and pain relievers, getting back into a desk job is killing my neck and the added stress of work and running a family plus chronic sinusitis problems has me reaching for the panadeine way more than I should.
  • Air conditioning, it is so drying on my skin, the first three months of work I constantly had dry patches on my face and pimples on other parts. Thankfully I have since discovered the miracle of BB cream and it tends to keep things a bit better.
  • Stress, I can't explain how much extra stress there is on our family now I am working full time in a serious job, everyone has had to put in extra effort, it is draining, small things like shopping for a birthday gift have become an overwhelming chore.
I don't have answers for how to deal with all these things but I do like the idea of increasing my wellness and using Simple skin care to keep up with my word of the year. My theory at the moment is spend more time outside with a big hat, massive glasses and a huge smile!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Marriage is hard work

My favourite part of my job is meeting new clients, you can often learn a lot about life when you interview people about their tax. I met a new client last week, he proudly told me he had a good financial advisor, it was himself. His advice...... live frugally. He retired this year and after a lifetime of working as the sole breadwinner, taking regular overseas holidays and living frugally, he is financially ready to happily retire.

He went on to proudly told me that he had been married for 45 years, so I asked him what was the secret. He told me love......... then said after a pause..... and a lot of work, marriage is not easy.

It is currently Fight Free Feb, I forgot it was February and snapped at hubby earlier in the month. I was feeling so crap after a long run which was supposed to run 16km ended at 10km. My stupid ITB (knee) seized up and I had to limp to the closest place with a phone 500metres away to call hubby to pick me up. I was feeling very sorry for myself and even more angry about breaking my phone the previous weekend. I got home and crashed literally into a depressive ball and went to sleep. None of it was his fault I was transferring my pain onto him.

I often feel like all I do these days is cook, clean, shop, wash, and parent all weekend and when the only thing for me ends in disaster it is hard to keep chilled and happy. I miss the intimacy of chilling our with my family knowing the washing is done, the shopping all complete and the house is clean. We never have that feeling anymore, our weekends are playing catchup of all the things that got left during the week. Two parents working is such hard work on everyone not just the workers.

I begged with my husband last weekend just to sit with me and talk, just be with each other. I have been feeling like we are more friends lately than lovers. We get on just fine, we are a good team but our busyness takes away from our intimacy. That closeness to my husband is important but it takes awareness to make it happen. It is so easy to get home from work, cook dinner, clean up, put the kids to bed, do some paperwork and then jump on the Internet/TV to finish the night. But this pattern means you become distant from your partner.

But where on earth do we have time just to chill together, our lives are so full, I often try to downsize our life but being a blended family means so much of it is outside of our control. It is tiring and sometimes I feel like I have lost so much of myself in this parenting gig.

Whilst I don't have any fabulous advice on how to make your marriage survive these tough parenting years, I will mirror my clients advice, live frugally, love a lot and work hard on marriage.

Do you have any advice for me?

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Keeping kids cool and Safe this summer

This summer has been filled with water time. Miss 6 started Nippers last year and I love it!  It means that
every Sunday the family heads to the beach for an hour, if the weather is good we stay and play. We bough her a skim board for Christmas and it is perfect to catch waves We hired some stand up paddleboards over the holidays and taught the kids how to standup. We spent countless hours at the pool whilst hubby and I take it in turns to train for our respective legs of the Husky Long Triathlon this month. He is swimming 2km and I am running 20km.

Our lifestyle involves lot of water time. But it hasn't always been like this. As a young adult I didn't enjoy the beach much I was always terrified of the ocean, I liked the pool but not the ocean. When I was just 4 years old my dad drown whilst scuba diving,  my mum understandably became a little cautious about our safety around water and we swum less and less at the beach. My parents did although ensure we went to swimming club every week and learn how to swim but I lacked ocean confidence. It wasn't until I started dating my husband that I  learnt how to swim in the ocean and respect the waves. It opened up a whole new whole for me and I realised the importance of every child in Australia not just learning how to swim but also learning and understanding the ocean.

As Miss 6 grows older, I want her to have the confidence I never had in the water and really enjoy the waves with her friends. I want her to learn to surf with my sister and go fishing with my brother without fear. I want to be able to wave her off at the shore without a heavy heart when she wants to get into the powersports with her friends like jet skiing. With the majority of Australia's population living on the coast, water safety is so important, that is why organisations like surf life saving are so important for our families.  Nippers is compulsary until she understands and respects the ocean.

Water is the best way to cool down and family fun in summer, whether it be on a board or underthe sprinklers in the backyard. I just love living in Australia in the summer, maybe minus the flies.

Do your kids do swimming lessons or surf club?

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Simple, my word for the year

I have been mulling over for weeks what my word for 2015 would be. Last year my word was balance and there were so many times during that year that the mantra helped get my through. We all had huge changes during the year that at times threw our family into chaos. Our balance was upset and we constantly had to work to bring our family back to centre. Midway through last year I felt like our family had unravelled and our once close blended family was totally unbound and we were all living separate lives under one roof. I felt like I had no energy to pull the strings in, I realised that the mother is the centre of the family the one who doesn't even realise that she coaches everyone to come together everyday. At times of the year things got out of hand, at one point I told my husband I couldn't keep going and I would rather quit my job than lose my family. I think at this point he realised how much I was still doing to keep our family together and once again stepped up to the plate and showed us what an awesome and dedicated husband he is. Balance was the word that kept us all together during 2014.

In my search for a new word this year I looked at what changes I made last year and what worked and what didn't. When I kept things simple, it worked, when I tried to do too much or be artificial and pretend I was coping with full time working mum and awesome house wife, things fell apart.

Here are some ways that I have already been starting the SIMPLE life.

  • Decluttering, the more stuff you have the harder it is to keep clean, I have culled my wardrobe, the kids toys even the linen cupboard, really no family needs 25 beach towels. At the end of this year I want to own less stuff not more.
  • Wash less, this summer beach towels go on the the clothes line not in the wash, sheets get changed slightly less often, kids have to help fold and put away the laundry, everyone needs to iron their own clothes.
  • Somehow I got coerced into cooking a hot lunch for Christmas this year, my nightmare so I thought simple, bought foil disposable baking trays and used a combination of real plates for the mains and plastic throw away for the dessert. Not great for the environment but it meant that everything could go in one dishwasher load after 8 people for lunch and no extra washing up.
  • At Christmas I also decided to buy better products, I have more money but less time now so I can afford to buy the dishwasher tablets rather than the cheaper powder. I even bought dishwasher cleaner which meant my 20 year old dishwasher is able to take pots and pans as well as glasses, this was a lifesaver on Christmas Day when I drank too much champagne. I am also getting a new kitchen and dishwasher this year but that is for another post.
  • Spend more time outside, the highlights of our recent holiday was the runs, the walks along the beach, the time in the pool not the stuff we paid to do or the movies we watched.
  • Delegate, this is a hard one for me as I am a little bit of a control freak, for example I told hubby that he is now responsible for his own ironing, 3.5weeks later his work shirts are all still sitting in the ironing basket waiting to be done, it is driving me nuts. But it is no longer my responsibility. We really toyed with the idea of getting a cleaner this year but I have decided that we have a family of four and if everyone helps and takes responsibility we shouldn't need to pay someone else to do domestic tasks for us.
  • Eat fresh SIMPLE food 
  • Screen time, social media and email and smart phones really are killing us. We sleep less, have more depression and are eating more than ever. I love the book remotely controlled which talks about how damaging TV is on society and our kids, I gave up TV for over two years and I loved it. I noticed that when Miss 6 goes to her Dad's he lets her play the ipad all the time and watch commercial TV, this not affects her sleep, mood, anger but it also has her asking for more stuff like sugary treats and toys. Having less screen time family wide will simplify your life and give you more time for things that matter.
  • Enjoy time with family, don't be distracted. I asked Miss 6 what her favourite part of our holidays was, her response was "time with you mummy". Three weeks no laptop, lots of time and a simple life is all kids want and need.
So there are some things I have already started and hope to expand on during 2015 to find a simple life. Do you have any tips for me? Do you have a word for 2015?

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Holidays and the Blended Family

We tried desperately this year to book a family holiday over the Christmas holidays. My firm closes down for three weeks over Christmas meaning half my holidays are gone in the busiest holiday period of the year. Then we have a holiday block out period from May to October doesn't give us much holiday time. So knowing I had 3 weeks off over Christmas I spend hours dreaming with hubby about holiday options with the kids, then came to the time to book. Unfortunately we could not make any dates stick between the broken up Christmas and Boxing Day that we share with the other parents and the university course Miss 16 is taking over the summer.

After working full time for 7 months straight I am desperately in need of some time off and getting away from it. Our house needs so much work that I need to be away from it to chill out a little. My kids are all water babies so a pool or beach is essential. We had all but given up on a holiday and decided to spend some time at my parents place down the coast.  Then we received a text message, "free week holiday in an apartment, paid for but we can not use it, let us know if you can use it" I was on the phone a few minutes later, me please! Even though the whole family couldn't be together the whole time, I said we can do it blended family style, some together, some apart, we are flexible! So although our holiday down the coast isn't the cruise or trip to Bali or Lord Howe Island that we were hoping for, it was exactly what we needed.

There were a few holidays I had my heart set on, another trip to Bali just because the kids adore it there.A cruise, because it is all inclusive and so much for the kids which means more time alone for hubby and I. I picked up a P&O Carnival brochure and Miss 6 looked at it for hours obsessed with the idea of a water slide on a ship. But of course cruse dates are so limiting with the restrictions of a blended family.

Image Credit
 Then we saw Pinetrees Lodge that looks so perfect, family friendly, spa treatments, relaxation and wine all in one. I am not interested in spending too long on a plane with the kids for our holidays so close was important for us and Lord Howe island is perfect distance. We also loved the Lord Howe Island Packages because I need time not having to think about where to feed family, arrange airport transfers or how much a glass of wine is. My brain is tired, I am ready for someone else to take charge, hence looking for chilled and all inclusive holidays for the first time in my life.

Even though I am still dreaming of our family holiday to one of these destinations it has been put off again to a future date, but we will enjoy our little special free holiday to Tomakin even though we are not together the whole time. I am eternally grateful to my Aunt who gifted us a wonderful chance to be with family and some great time away from home with Miss 6 one on one.

Do you have holidays plans this Christmas? Do you find getting away with the kids hard work?

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The family that trains together stays together

Almost three years ago Miss 16 and I joined the gym together for a six week trial. It was a fantastic things to do for our relationship, it gave us non pressure time together and we were getting fit together. At the end of the trial we unfortunately couldn't extend the membership as it was expensive but we had kick started our healthier lifestyle. Miss 16 (14 at the time) wanted to keep up the healthy lifestyle and was keen to run, swim and bush walk, all activities we could do for free. Three years on we do have that family gym membership and exercise is an integral part of our crazy busy family life. I believe strongly that by having an active family life you can help your kids develop lifelong habits. So here are some summer holiday tips to kick start your healthier family habits.

  • Bush walk
Bush walking is way more fun than just going for a walk, there are things to climb, roots to jump over
and animals to spot. My kids love bush walking, I usually pack a picnic to enjoy afterwards and make the day of it. Just being outside is good for the soul but the walk also encourages conversation and we have uncovered lots of issues on our bush walks. This photo is the first time we climbed pigeon house.
  • Get out in the water
We are lucky in the Illawarra to be surrounded by beautiful beaches and free pools. Mostly you can get into the water for free. Everyone loves a swim and it is an important skill for kids. If you have older kids maybe try stand up paddle boarding or surfing for added cool parent branding.
  • Teach them how to Fish
Fishing might not be a terrible active sport but it does involve getting kids outdoors and teaching them a skill. You can add in some exercise by walking along the water, or kayaking or throwing Frisbee whilst you wait for the fish to bite. My brother likes to take the kids fishing and it is important time for that good male influence to kick in, when my brother is away Miss 6 always asked when she can go fishing with Uncle K again. Pick up some cheap tackle from MoTackle and try and catch yourself a little long story.
  • Train for an Event
The second event I ever training for was with my teenage stepdaughter, we did an aquathon (swim and run). I had gotten the exercise bug a year earlier but had not yet convinced her to start the crazy active life. So four months out we started training for an aquathon, she was a strong swimmer so that played well to her strengths, I wasn't strong so she helped me and pushed me. On the other hand, I trained with her in the run leg. Together we passed the finish with huge smiles on our face, an achievement we made together. Hubby and I also like to do events together, our next one in a  team long triathlon in February.

  •  Have picnics at the Park
Take a Frisbee, a ball or a kite, anything to get you moving. We often have park dinners over summer, no washing up and a great way to get fresh air, some exercise and better sleep for everyone.

Plan for opportunities to be active as much as possible, make it fun and get everyone moving. Training together as a family has brought us so much balance.

Do you exercise as a family?


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