Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Men and gifts

It is my wedding anniversary next month. I am a little bit excited. We have a fantastic marriage but it is hard work. I feel so blessed to still be madly in love with my husband two years after our wedding and four years into this blended family relationship. Hint if you want to really have to work on a marriage throw three kids in to start it off!

My marriage has been totally life changing, I have become such a better person with my husband beside me every day. He makes me want to be a better person and often helps me nut out problems to make the best decisions. At night we are best friends who chat about work, kids and even politics. I am not saying it is perfect all the time because marriage is hard work some days too, especially when you combine two fiery red heads.

Today I was reminiscing on our honeymoon, probably one of the most amazing holidays of my life. One week of just me and him together alone, to simply enjoy each other completely. I really really want to do it again. It sounds totally selfish I know, but holidays with kids just isn't the same. So that is my ultimate gift that want. With our two year anniversary looming I was thinking about how to celebrate and remember why we got married to start with. But guys are hard to buy for especially when you want it to be special so I set out to investigate in the name of blog research, and asked Mr Blended himself.

Here are his top 10 presents ideas for guys.
  • Toyota 86  (Hubby wanted me to take this out as unrealistic but I know he really wants it and it was his first reply)
  • A boozy Gift  from The Basket Factory he likes the "my guy" basket with his favourite James Squire beer.
  • V8 Hot laps experience
  • Day out abseiling or rock climbing, prepare an awesome lunch to really make it awesome.
  • Man suitable cooking classes, send him for a great day out and get him to learn how to whip up a meal in the kitchen, win win I say. I have sent my husband for sausage, meat and tapas classes all accompanied with suitable alcoholic beverages. He and my dad like to go and bond, it is a really cool idea!

  • Day out Charter Fishing
  • Steak night with accompanied marital extras......... his idea not mine!
  • Underwear - seriously every man needs them although he might not ask for it. Mix it up with a bottle of wine, a DVD and some chips for the perfect night in.
  •  A home brew class, men love to be able to make stuff and then drink it, a perfect combination.
Do you have a great man gift idea?

Recipe to being a supermum

Do you know it? Is there even a recipe?

Should I start wearing a cape?

Do I need to fly in an rescue my daughter when she has an accident?

Do I need to have an extremely stressful morning that starts with wee all over the kitchen floor, being late to work and then tearing up when my boss asks if everything is ok?

Is it putting dinner in the slow cooker before you go to work and coming home to a hot cooked healthy meal?

Is it working full time?

Is it staying at home full time?

Is it getting through the day with post natal depression and managing to feed and clean your kids?

If I want to be a supermum, do I need a house that looks and smells like a display home without any offending wee odours?

Is it driving around like a crazy woman getting your kids to their million and one after school activities? The ability to fly would be handy at this point?

Is it being the perfect stepford wife?

Is it driving a sexy car from the family friend Volvo car range whilst you juggle kids in and out of cars and activities?

Is it running a half marathon whilst juggling marriage, a full time job and a blended family?

It is preordering pizza online and picking it up on the way home from work?

Is it snuggling in with your kids at night and reading them a story?

Is it looking hot and excising regularly, you know to set a good example to your kids?

Is it wearing clean ironed clothes rather than the crumbled vomit covered clothes that regularly adorn mothers?

I have been posting a few photos on instagram lately with the hashtag #supermum because when I am killing this crazy life I feel superhuman. This working thing with kids, does not come easily. I feel torn everyday. I adore my kids and my husband, but I really like my job too. I am enjoying using my brain again, I like working with people, I like researching technical questions. I loved the thrill of getting a major job over the line today, even if I worked a 14 hour day yesterday and pulled a huge week last week. I felt guilty that my husband had today off today to take my daughter to the Dr because his job is more flexible right now.I got 5 hours sleep last night, that is supermum right there, just like every mum who gets broken sleep with a baby or a sick child.

The thing I have realised in the last few weeks is that all mums are supermums, we all just put one foot in front of the other and do our best. Reading to your child or snuggling up and watching a movie is being a supermum. Working and bring in money for your family is supermum. Cooking dinner for the family tick. But on the other side looking after yourself, respecting your soul and being kind to yourself is also all supermumish. Kids only have one mum, we need to teach them by example, what I want to teach my girls is to respect themselves and their soul. Be their own superhero, whatever that means.

For me being supermum means doing the things I really want to do that work with my family, this means eating great home cooked food, both my husband and I working, continuing to train for long distance events, reading my daughter a story every night and looking after me. Everyone has a different set of what makes them awesome everyday, find yours and celebrate it, it might be as little as making the bed each day or simply enjoying time with your children or maybe your aspire to a crazy life like mine. Whatever it is, I think every mum is a super mum!

If you could have a superpower what would it be?

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The big lie girls are told growing up

This may seem extreme, but I feel like we were all told a great big lie when we were growing up. As little girls were told we could do whatever we wanted, study hard, get a good career, work your way to the top, there is nothing to stop you. I, like many woman swallowed the lie and set myself up as a career girl, I was going places. I could work as many hours as anyone else, I could study just as hard and achieve as much.

When I was 29 I was married (terrible marriage), I owned two apartments, travelled the world and had a great career job in an enviable company, I had literally ticked everything off my list of things to achieve. But I was not happy, in fact I was miserable and depressed. I drank way too much, worked too hard and spent too little time nurturing myself and relationships. I unexpectedly fell pregnant and my life changed dramatically. I was hospitalised at 19weeks and underwent emergency surgery. It fell around easter and ANZAC day so although I had a couple of weeks off I only took 4 days sick leave, I returned to work and was still not 100%. What happened after that shocked me. I was taken off a big job that I had been working on for over 12 months because being pregnant I was too much of a liability apparently and they needed someone who wouldn't get sick. So I ended up just doing small jobs and helping out others.

At this time I started to notice other woman and mothers in the office, one of my bosses was a mum. It was common knowledge in the office that she was past over for a promotion when she was pregnant and had to wait until six months after she had returned from maternity leave to get the promotion she deserved. She also had managed to negotiate a 4 day a week job which I thought was pretty cool. But then you delve into her situation deeper, yes she only had to come into the office 4 days a week but she actually worked all hours of the day from home. It wasn't unusual to receive emails from her at 4am in the morning or at midnight. I talked to her about childcare and it turns out her baby went for 11.5hours a day four days a week. As I looked at the woman in my office who had careers and I realised I didn't want to be like them.

When I took maternity leave I really had no idea what I was going to do. I was pretty sure I was going to run out of money after six months and thought I would get bored being at home especially as a single mum. It turns out I loved it and my maternity leave quickly ran out and I made the decision to stay at home a little longer and enjoy the bonding time with my baby. I moved out of Sydney when my daughter was born and settled into Wollongong and rented a gorgeous little townhouse for the two of us. It wasn't until she was 18months old that I started to get a little bored and wanted to get back into working. This is when I realised that there are not many opportunities for accounting jobs as a single mum! Who looks after your child when they are sick? Who picks them up from day care if your client needs a late appointment? One of the most distressing things I realised was that there were no part time jobs available, I even applied for some full time ones with a cover letter asking for part time but each one was completely ignored. How had I gone from a desirable candidate to one who couldn't even get an interview.

So rather than read more job adverts for mining jobs in Victoria or positions that required you to commute or move, I started my own business with the view to return to work full time when my daughter started school. It all went well and I loved my business, I remarried and became a step mum and the day loomed closer to when Miss 5 would commence school full time. I applied for a couple of jobs last year which I wasn't successful in, but it was ok because my plan was always to wait until this year. Early this year I started the full time job hunt, applying for lots of jobs each day. It became quickly evident that I wanted a flexible job that worked around my family rather than a job owning me. I was looking for a job that I  would suit our family, but so were a whole lot of other woman and each rejection felt personal. Finally I landed a couple of interviews and was able to negotiate a somewhat flexible job in my profession.

Two months in I quite like my job, the work is varied and interesting and I get to leave at 4pm two days a week which means so much to me. Having that extra time in the afternoon to be with my kids and prepare dinner is a life saver and helps me find a little more balance. The pay is rubbish, after 5years out of the industry I am actually getting paid slightly less than my first job out of university - scary! But I guess that is the price woman pay for raising their young family, I hope that it is only temporary and my knowledge with be back up to date by the end of the year. But I also know I will never command the high wages that I was aspiring to earn in my pre-child days, I am not interesting in doing the hours that are required to rise to the top. In the last five years I found balance and a love of my family. Work is work, I go, do the best I can, come home and enjoy my family. I am still working on finding my new balance but I am getting closer.

Did you have a career path before children? Did it change after you had kids?

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Teaching your teens to drive

A year and a half ago our eldest teen got his P plates, I sighed with relief, no more driving lessons  for a while yay. But then intrepidation set it, we were giving a teenager the keys and responsibility of a car, he would be alone with no supervision driving a machine that kills. There were a couple times when he was late home, panic sets in, are they ok, should I call, No don't call you might distract them! I always felt relieved when I heard the car in the driveway. Now he has had his license for a while I don't stress each time, he has proven that he is a sensible man.

When Mr 18 got his license there was also absolute relief that it would be another 18months before the next teen got their license, surely the nerves would have settled by then. But somehow that time flew by and last week Miss 16 got her L plates. I think the first few lessons are the hardest, trying to get them to learn the very basics away from all other motor vehicles. Last weekend we took the crappy car to my parents who live on acreage and have a fantastic driveway to learn the basics. Miss 16 did extremely well on her first lesson with Mr Blended the calmer of the two of us. I even took the plunge on Sunday and took her out on my own on the road. There were points in that drive that I wished we had a Range Rover Evoque so that we could tackle the off road part a little better. The old laser doesn't really go off road too well.

After the lesson, I decided to do a little research and find some tips on how to teach your kids to drive the right way! Here are some things I found.

  • There is a government funded program called  Key2drive, it gives parents and teens a free lesson to get them started on how to learn and teach driving skills. It is a perfect place to start.
  • Read the road rules, hubby and I have been driving for quite a few years and it has been a long time since we read through the road rules. The Road users Handbook is now available for free download from the RMS website.
  • Try to stay calm, if either the driver or the teacher is getting anxious or upset, call it a day and start again next time, being calm and refreshed is the best way to learn. Keep in mind they are learning so small bursts of regular driving is better than the odd long lesson. As there experience grows they will be better equipped to drive longer distances.
  • Schedule in lessons, get them in the driving seat early and regularly, the more driving they supervised the better chance it is that they will be confident and safe drivers on their P plates. In the early days, they don't need distractions like siblings in the car so take them out alone. Later when their skills have improved driving the family around gives them a better idea of what it is like to drive with passengers.
  • My personal tip is have a crappy car, that way if they scratch it when they are parking, it is no big deal, it might make them feel less stressed when they are learning. Mr 18 reversed too fast into a small hill and detached the muffler but it wasn't a big issue and there was no stress as we worked out how to fix it which turned out to be very simple. If you are looking to upgrade maybe hold on until after your child has their P plates.
  • Book in some professional lessons along the way. Whilst I think it is great to teach your kids to drive, qualified instructors can help them pass the test and feel confident. It can also help teens when they don't want to listen to their parents.....
So wish me luck this year as we teach Miss 16 to drive! Do you have any questions, should I get a script for valium?

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Situational happiness

Big changes have happened recently in my life and things are continuing to change. Things that are putting me back in a similar situation to my life before I was happy. I worked a weekend in Sydney a few months ago and strangely I ended up staying in Meadowbank which is where I lived when I was working in the city. I also ended back there earlier this month doing some repairs on my rental property. It was such a low point in my life but as I looked around Meadowbank recently, and soaked in the memories and I realised that it was not my situation but my attitude that made me unhappy.

There was a lot of crap in my life, insomnia, a lying husband, a manager at work with a god complex, it wasn't easy. But my attitude also meant I allowed these things to really bring me down and I turned into a person I never wanted to be. I wasn't a kind person and I wasn't living a true life. Happiness is not about our outside situation it is about our attitude. Had I not been so whingy, maybe my boss wouldn't have been such a cock. Maybe if I drank less wine I would have slept better and not been so grumpy and angry. Maybe if I had been kinder to the beautiful friends I had, I could have focused on these rather than the shitty people. Maybe if I has discovered running, I could have found that love and peace earlier and been healthier in mind and body.

Now my life has done a turn around and life is mirroring my past, so it is natural to be contemplating what can I do to make sure I keep my happiness. What makes me happy now? Is it my job, my family, my home? Or is happiness based on the way you see things? Is it the way you see the sunrise, or feel the warm wind on your face. It is the way you listen to your body when it needs rest, good food or exercise? Is it the way you lap up the cuddles from your children but move on from the meltdowns? Is it the way you focus on the time your husband cooked dinner rather than the day he didn't?

Last weekend I had a hectic hectic week at work, long hours, writing in the evenings and trying to be a great mum with some unexpected curve balls from our complicated blended family situation. Friday night comes and the last thing I want to do is drive down the coast to my parents but it had been planned for months and lots of my family were going to around. So I get home late from work, everyone else has been home for hours, I rush around organising dinner, packing bags, tidying up and doing washing, you know that crazy mum stuff and I feel resentment. There were a lot of expectations, I had been working so much, so I promised my girls I would take them both on a date, I also promised Miss 15 I would take her for a driving lesson plus I needed to do some blogs and run 22km over the two days. Oh and hubby was staying with the boys all weekend so it was just me on board. I started stressing about not being home on Sunday to do the routine. a So much was going on in my mind on Friday that by the time I got to mums I just unloaded, how exhausted I was and how hard it is to work full time ect ect, it was a total whinge.

When I went to bed, I didn't feel great for offloading all that crap, I felt negative with an edge of bitterness. But my life is not bad, it is still great I was just feeling overwhelmed. It is hard to maintain your happiness when you are too busy to think.

I have had a pretty charmed life really so I need my attitude to reflect that. When I got home from work on  Friday night, hubby and the kids had cleaned the house whilst I was at work what an amazing thing to come home to. Last weekend, I got to run in the beautiful bush and along the ocean whilst my mum stayed with the girls. I had an awesome date with each of my girls, movies with Miss 5 and a delicious breakfast with Miss 15.

Thank god I run these days, a few good runs and my soul is renewed and my attitude back in place, how do you refresh your soul?

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Time management when you have no time

Spare time, what is that? It seems of late my life is is at rocket speed. Sometimes I amaze myself by what I actually achieve in a day, but then there are other days when I run around like a headless chook and achieve very little.

I ran 14km on Saturday, a great run too, not sure how I managed it because my half marathon training plan at the moments is achieving an average of one run a week! Whilst runing I was thinking about all the stuff I had to do afterwards. There was washing, ironing, cooking, shopping, cleaning, blogging, emails, oh and be a  parent! Sunday we had to drive to Sydney to drop and pick up Miss 5 from my exes wedding, and visit my rental property as there were a few things getting out of hand, but that is a story for another time. I was wondering if it is even possible to continue to be an endurance runner, work, blog and still stay sane. I wasn't convinced I knew the answer, so in true geeky style I decided to do a spreadsheet of where my time goes each week.

Hours in Day

Days in a week

Total Hours in a week

Cooking,shopping and tidying afterwards
Blogging and Business
Kids stuff
Washing and Ironing Clothes
Running and training

Remaining free hours

After I did this I realised that sleeping takes up a lot of my time, but I love it so it gets a tick of approval. Then I spend a lot of my life working, not so great but I don't hate my job and I do love my pay cheque so that is ok. I was slightly amazed at how much time I spend preparing and eating food, but if you have ever met me in real life you will probably know that I am a little obsessed with food.

Although it doesn't look like I do much kids stuff, I do. Our family life very much revolves around the kitchen which is the centre of our home,  we always eat all possible meals together and everyone loves to get in and help with the cooking or pouring me a glass of wine. Miss 5 loves helping in the kitchen or doing her writing whilst she watches me cook. Miss 15 will often unload her day in the car on the way home from school or whilst we are sharing a sneaky late night dessert or whilst we make the lunches for the next day. We often do chores together too, our Saturday morning routine is that we all just clean until the house is tidy, it usually takes the 4 of us just over an hour to do it all. Miss 5 loves to hand me the pegs as I hang out the washing. As a family we also try to work out together, Miss 5 does warm ups with me, hubby and I run together sometimes and we all do a gym class together weekly, except Miss 5 who has dinner with Grandma.

So at the end of the day, even if my life is a little nuts I still have 8 totally free hours a week after everything is done. This also means that there is no excuse for eating well, getting some decent sleep, nurturing one another and most importantly training for my next race - City 2 Surf in just 4 weeks!

Whilst I don't advocate everyone run out and start a crazy life, it is possible with some organisation and great family support to achieve more than we think possible.

How many free hours do you think you have? Are your priorities different to mine? Tell me all!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Some Alternative Ways to Get into University

If you have teenager kids you are probably freaking out with me over the proposed changes to university fees. With a daughter in year 11, I am a more than a little worried about the cost of her future education and how she is going to fund it. Since I went to university, HECS fees have pretty much doubled, cost of living has gone up and degrees are longer. If your child doesn't really know what they want to do or maybe they are not quite getting the grades they need there alternative paths for kids. I think it is important to talk to children about all their options so that they can think through the options over a couple of years and make the best choice they can.

There are plenty of options other than going straight to university, Mr 18 got into recruit school for the Navy straight from school and it now six months in and loving it. He enjoys being able to learn on the job although there are still lots of exams, he is able to work, study and party hard. It was a perfect job for him to utilise his sporty background, easy going personality, cleanest teenage boy ever and his ability to learn with his hands rather than just with books. Another option we discussed with Mr 18 was to look at getting involved in a trade, click here, for just one possible trade career pathway or read some of the following suggestions.

I think it is important to talk to all kids even the studious ones about other ways to get into university, perfect grades are not the only way to gain entrance and I think knowing there are other options can take some of that pressure off.

Talk to your Kids about taking a Gap Year

I went to university straight out of school but I was too busy partying and dreaming about travel to apply myself. So I left after months and travelled the world for five years, when I got back from my rather extended "gap year" I changed careers paths, was more dedicated to my studies and won a few scholarships to get me through. I strongly believe that kids should have the opportunity to travel and take a break from study after 13 straight years. It can give them some life experience and perspective and might guide them towards making better decisions on both their career path and how much they apply themselves.

Take a bridging course

If you kids didn't get the grades they needed but still want to go to university, many offer bridging courses to prospective students. These bridging courses are designed to equip students with the most appropriate skill-sets necessary for the successful completion of a degree. Bridging courses also prepare the student for the kind of writing style and critical thinking that is required to be a successful university graduate. Bridging courses often carry credit ratings that can be added to original high school results, which can push your application to the top of the pile. Be sure to check that your chosen bridging course carries appropriate accreditation as you don’t want to spend a year studying only to find out that your university of choice doesn’t recognise the work you’ve just undertaken. Bridging courses (also known as pathway courses) are often year-long, intense programs so it’s advisable to assess your abilities with maintaining concentration, managing your time and keeping your long-terms goals in focus. They can also add additional costs on top of the degree which can leave them with a large debt at the end of it.  

Go to TAFE First

TAFE has lots of courses that align with university degrees, as an accountant I often see cadets go to TAFE first to study before getting into university. TAFE is often more affordable too so it might end up slightly cheaper to do your degree. If your child does have their heart seat on a certain degree make sure they talk to the TAFE and the university to undertake the best subjects that will help them transfer over. TAFE tends to teach more practical subjects so students might find employment in their chosen field whilst still studying.

Mature Age Entry

This option is probably more suited for those like me who just aren't settled at 18 and want to explore the world first. Whilst universities might still look at your high school results, they care more about you current knowledge, work experience and application to your studies. Skills and knowledge gained in a job and/or informal study environment can even count towards credit when applying for a university course – this can include professional qualifications and/or training that you’ve undertaken throughout the course of your career. Most universities will insist on seeing some kind of documented proof regarding your experience, training etc so keep all your certificates and training records in case you’re asked to produce them at a later date. As a mature ages student, I really wanted to be at university and although I had a great time I was also dedicated to my studies.

So what path did you take straight out of school?


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