Thursday, 31 December 2015

The year that was 2015

I figured I should probably do a post where I discuss everything that was 2015. Unfortunately for me my memory is based purely on what I can find on my Facebook news feed (thank's mummy brain) so that's actually a tricky thing to do.

A lot happened this year that I just didn't bring up here, parts because it was too hard (or against the law) to discuss on such a public medium, and others I simply didn't know if it was even worth mentioning. I'll talk about some of it here now, simply because these things made up such a large part of me during the year, and because you're all such wonderful friends I feel I should share them with you.

The first and best thing I did all year was start writing again after taking 12 months away from blogging. I had gotten to the point in February of last year where I really didn't know what I wanted this place to be. I'd spent a lot of time crawling around a frightening website called Get Off My Internet, where readers would spend all their time slamming bloggers from around the world, including some that I absolutely loved. A lot of their vitriol was aimed at "mommy bloggers" which terrified me at the time because that was what I identified as, and the thought of being the target of their disgust paralysed me whenever I tried to write. I spoke to some of them, to try to understand what made mommy bloggers so hated, and thankfully I seemed to be avoiding the biggest pitfalls of the genre, but that didn't really make me want to write any more. So I walked away for a while, spent some time not writing at all, deciding whether I was really prepared to be such a large target, and also questioning what I wanted this place to be. It was a chance conversation with the wonderful Tamara over at Confessions of a Part-Time Working Mom that got me to dust off my keyboard and come back here. She was so encouraging at the time, and I consider her a great friend, despite the fact that there are several thousand kilometres separating us.

The other friendship I got to rekindle once I came back to blogging was my friendship with the indefatigable Karen over at Baking in a Tornado. She is a huge tube of glue for a large group of us bloggers, and she has managed to create a wonderful community full of welcoming and supporting people, all of whom I love.  I am actually going to be doing a guest post over at Karen's website early next year, so you need to keep an eye out for me over there, where I attempt to be a food blogger for the day. You won't be disappointed, I promise. Karen has had her own struggles this year, but through it all she has supported me through everything I am about to discuss, we have had lots of late night email conversations where we commiserate the state of our respective lives and try to prop each other up. She is one of the most beautiful souls I have ever had the privilege to know.

But it wasn't all rainbows and smiles this past year. There were lots of hard moments, times when I wondered the point of continuing anything, and times I even broke for a little while. I quit my job at the beginning of October, and have been living an incredibly hobo-esque life ever since. I found it became too hard to balance a job and my life as a parent, and my health began to suffer. Although life has become slightly harder to afford since I gave up work, I still don't regret my decision, and feel it may have been the best thing I could have done. At this stage I have no plans to work until Miss K starts school in 2017

 I had several significant fights with Miss K's dad, we attempted mediation, and nearly ended up suing the pants off each other for custody of Miss K. Luckily we managed to get past all of the horrible fights and hurt feelings, and we've even managed to draw up joint consent orders without having to spend $40,000 on lawyers fees. We come to the end of the year at an albeit slightly tenuous position, but reunited in our attempts to parent Miss K the best way we both can.  It hasn't been a smooth road for my little family, and we're still trying to paper over all the cracks we've created this year, but I have hope for us. I may discuss the process we went through next year, just to share with any of you who are dealing with your own custody battles, because whatever you're going through, you're never alone.

But through all the tears, the smiles, the fights, the boredom and the frustration I have felt incredibly blessed. I can't say this was the best year of my life, because that can only mean it's all down hill from here, but despite all the crap, it was a good year. I feel stronger than ever before, and I have faith that I can cope with whatever 2016 has to throw at me.

So I will definitely be back next year, I promise no more holidays for me, and hopefully there will even be some growth around here in the new year. This website has already become more than I ever thought it could be when I first started it three years ago, and I thank every company that gave me an opportunity to speak for them this year. Hopefully there will be more opportunities to come, so stick around and see where we end up.

Happy New Year.

Sunday, 27 December 2015

How to survive the post-holiday slump

Hello to all my wonderful readers, you may have noticed I fell off the radar again this month. Once I finally got over all of my various illnesses, (except for the conjunctivitis Miss K so kindly shared with me two weeks ago) I discovered the silly season was well and truly upon us, and I needed to get my ample bottom into gear to get ready for the celebrations. I'm sure you'll all appreciate how crazy things get around this time of year, so even if I did attempt to write anything, it would have come out as a crazed stream of consciousness, complete with rambles about tinsel and presents for a family of 15. But now with the endless stream of parties and gift giving ceremonies almost behind us for another year, I sit here eating what's left of the plum pudding in an empty room, wondering to myself now what?

We hosted Christmas at my house this year, and in a stroke of what I can only call pure insanity, mum decided the party needed to be beach themed this year. So I spent a crazed week crawling through Pinterest trying to find beach themed decor I could do on a budget of free hugs and my most charming smile, and managed to cobble together a beach themed party that even a mermaid couldn't fault. Then our annual Boxing Day party got moved from my big sister's house to our house at the last minute due to inclement weather, and the fact that we have a larger living space to accommodate all of the slightly larger bodies thanks to the feast we put out the day before, so we ended up having two parties in two days at our house. On top of that I spent three hours building a kitchen for Miss K at 9pm Christmas Eve, went shopping every single day for a week for more Christmas essentials, and also cleaned the house so that we weren't shamed by the fact that for 364 days of the year we live like someone from an episode of Hoarders, Buried Alive. So sitting here now, with nothing to do is kind of hard to do. Add to that the fact that Miss K has now gone to Melbourne for a week to have Christmas with her father and his family, and I am as lost as a one legged man in a butt kicking contest. So I have decided to share with you some of the techniques I have learned over the years to get over the post-holiday blues that always hit at this time of year, to help you guys achieve the balanced calm I so clearly show on a daily basis.

Me on a good day

Go shopping
Now that gift giving season is over, you really have no reason to go shopping, but that is exactly why you should get out now, more than ever. Beside getting to take advantage of the opportunity to return any practical gifts that well meaning long distance relatives bought you at the last minute so they didn't show up at your house empty handed, you can witness human beings at their absolute worst, thus making you appreciate your empty house and it's lack of festive feelings all the more. The long line of customers all coming to complain about the over priced child's toy that broke five minutes after being removed from it's packaging only makes you love your own family all the more, because they aren't that obnoxious man at the front of the line loudly proclaiming that this is the last time he shops at this particular store. 

Clean up your house
You've just spent the last month complaining that if you stepped on another bauble the whole tree was going into the bin, so now is the time to make good on your promise. Pull down the tinsel, drag every strand of angel hair out of your carpet, and throw all of it in the bin (or into storage if you can't stand the thought of having to replace it all again in ten months time). The sight of you going into a cleaning craze will send your children running outside just in case you get the bright idea to give them any jobs to do of their own, so now is the perfect time to "lose" any of the irritating noise makers or cheap plastic toys they were given by the same well meaning relatives who thought a life time supply of micro fibre cloths was the perfect gift for you at the same time. This is also a good time to search for any stashes of chocolates the kids have hiding in their rooms, and add them to your own stash of chocolate hidden in your bedroom. You need the sugar more than they do, as you're the one who spends your life chasing after them trying to get them to act like civilized human beings. 

Put on some tunes and dance alone in your living room
Just because the party season is over, doesn't mean you need to pack away your best moves for another year. The lack of audience apart from your children is irrelevant, as you can always embarrass them, no matter the time of year, so get your boogie on and keep the party going as long as you want it to. If you didn't get to do the Nutbush this year because you got vetoed at the last second by someone wanting to do the Whip Nae Nae (whatever the hell that is) then put that song on repeat and Nutbush until you can't move any more. You deserve it after all the hard work you've put into these holidays.

Eat all the party food in the house
If you were too busy to eat during Christmas because you were hosting the party, now is the time to get yourself a big plate of whatever is left over and eat it in front of every one. Diets are for the first day of January anyway. I personally like to buy two plum puddings, simply because I am a horrible pig who doesn't like to share my food, so I always have enough pudding to last me several weeks once all the parties are done with. I don't need to buy any breakfast or lunch foods for ages now because I spent an extra $4 a week ago. That's not only smart, it's economical. 

Start getting ready for the next big celebration now
If you've been bitten by the party bug but Valentines Day is too far away from you, get on Google now and find another holiday closer to today you can prepare for. For Australians, Australia Day is always a good one, as it falls on 26th January, meaning there is plenty of time still left to start preparing our barbeques and best Australian Flag decorated party supplies for the big day. For something even closer again, check out Earth Calendar which tells you exactly what you can celebrate every single day of the year. For example today is St Stephens day in Bulgaria. So if that is enough reason for you to party, get out your best duds and celebrate St Stephen as only you can. 

If all else fails, get into your pyjamas and go back to bed. 

Well that should be enough to get you through the next few days, so if you'll excuse me, it is currently the Stanley Sports Day in the Falkland Islands so I'm off to hit a tennis ball against a wall to honor this special day. 

Monday, 21 December 2015

Book Review - Catch that Cat

So it has been a long time since I have reviewed a product, but I was contacted with an offer I couldn't refuse a couple of weeks ago, so here we are again.

Now I preface this review by saying I love reading. I remember weekly trips to the library being a special occasion when I was a child, and I have passed that love of reading on to Miss K, as the two bookshelves that take up her bedroom wall will attest. Every night I MUST read her a story before she goes to bed, then she MUST take five books with her to bed. So when I was asked to review a new children's book by Australian author Melina Mallos I jumped at the chance. I was not disappointed.

When I agreed to review the book I was told it was an exploration of Greek culture as well as the rich history of the country, a subject I would have thought difficult to sell to children, but this book just showed how little I know about selling a subject to kids.

The story follows Elesa, a little girl whose cat Aphrodite has run away from home. Her and her Yiayia (grandmother for anyone who has never met a Greek person) must travel around the Greek island of Kythera, passing many historic locations as well as places of cultural importance while searching for their lost cat. Now because this is a children's book and not Marley & Me the cat does end up returning home, but not before you learn all about this beautiful island and it's amazing history.

The story was very easy to read, and more importantly it was easy for Miss K to understand. Before we started reading the book I explained how the story was set in a totally different country to Australia, and we looked at a map of Greece, and the island of Kythera which was included inside the front cover of the book. This part fascinated Miss K, and she spent ages pouring over the map, following the cat's footsteps around the island.

The books illustrations, drawn and painted by a talented Athenian Tety Solou were simply spectacular and only added to the total appeal of this book. Miss K and I spent ages staring at each page, simply trying to take in as much of every scene as we could. It took us about ten minutes to read the book the first time around, not because it was too wordy, but because we had to stop every page just to stare.

One of Miss K's favourite pages

After we finished the book the first time, Miss K insisted we go back to the beginning and read it again, discussing everything we noticed on each page as we went. I have never seen Miss K this excited about a book, which is saying something. She even insisted this book be read to her again that night at bedtime. To date I have had to read it to her another three times, and my sister has had to read it to her once. It is definitely a new favourite.

The beautiful thing about this book is that Melina's pride for her home country is evident in every page, so much so that you can't help but feel you are right there with Elesa and her Yiayia. Her reverence for the culture and historical significance Greece holds comes through strongly, and helps bring Greece into your home. It is excellent for teaching children about the world around them in a relatable and fun way.

My favourite page

So if you're looking for a new book to buy for a little one in your life, I definitely recommend Catch that Cat by Melina Mallos. You can find it for sale here.

Thursday, 17 December 2015

When Should Kids Lose their Baby Teeth?

Hello again lovely people, I am back with another guest writer here to share their expertise with us today. You may have noticed that all my posts lately seem to be guest written, and I'm sure some of you are wondering if I'm getting lazy in my old age. While that fact is inarguable, the truth of the matter is I have been dealing with a slew of health issues over the past few weeks, all of which have made sitting in front of a computer screen for long periods of time near impossible. Luckily for me I have had a number of incredibly generous people contact me recently offering to contribute articles for you guys to read, meaning I have had the luxury of being able to take this time off to recover properly. I promise I will be back to inflicting my own special brand of crazy on you guys very soon, but in the mean time I have a dentist here to discuss when children should lose their baby teeth. Please enjoy.

The Great White Shark has endless rows of teeth that fall out, grow in, and repeat all throughout its life. It never has to brush its teeth or worry about flossing. If it loses a tooth in the process of taking down a seal it only has to wait a little while for a new one to snap into place as replacement.

Humans? We aren’t so lucky. People only get two sets of teeth, and one of those will be entirely gone by our early teens. For kids, losing this first set of “baby teeth” is tremendously exciting: for parents it can be a nervous wait. Some parents may start to get worried if they think the process is taking a bit too long, or is happening too quickly for comfort. So what is the right time for your kids to start dropping their teeth all over the place?

We may not have endless teeth but at least we have a nicer smile

That’s not such an easy question to answer precisely, however a good rule of thumb to go by is that as long as they’re over four years old and under eight, then they’re of the right age to start losing their teeth. The process will most likely be completely over by around thirteen or so.

Some kids, girls especially, will be early bloomers and lose their first baby teeth around four years old. This is nothing to worry about, even if to you it may feel like just yesterday that their baby teeth were coming in. The first teeth to go will most likely be the front four incisors. The bottom two typically go first followed by their counterparts up top. The next to go are the lateral incisors, followed by the molars and finally the canines.

The actual process of the tooth loss should be relatively painless and issue free. There’s no need to try and force a tooth to fall out before its time, even if it’s very loose. The old piece of string tied to a doorknob trick can be well and truly left alone. The most active participant in the process will probably the kid themselves, as they wiggle the loose tooth around with their tongue or fingers. When the tooth falls out it will soon be replaced by a strong, healthy example of an adult tooth, which is where the real work begins. These teeth are the last any of us will get in our lifetime, so it’s critical to ensure that proper dental care begins immediately.

There are a couple of situations that may be cause for a little concern should they arise. Sometimes, trauma to a baby tooth may cause it to fall out early. If this happens, there’s a possibility that the teeth surrounding it will try to move into the empty space, forcing the adult teeth to grow in crooked. If you notice your child has lost a tooth before time, a dentist might decide it's good idea to place a temporary spacer in the gap to keep it open for it’s adult tooth.

Another possibility, if your child hasn’t lost any baby teeth by age eight, is that extra bone in the jaw may be preventing them from loosening. If your child is getting on a bit in age and hasn’t lost their baby teeth yet it’s no reason to throw a fit in panic: simply take them along to the dentist for a checkup. The dentist might decide to take an X-Ray to determine any possible issues, and the problem (if there is one) can be addressed from there.

In general, the transition from baby to adult teeth is a painless one for children as well as parents. In fact, most kids will be nothing but excited about the wiggling teeth and the possibility of the tooth fairy coming around. In very rare cases something may go awry, which is why organising regular checkups with your dentist from the time your child’s baby teeth first erupt is so important. Nipping any problems in the bud is the key to ensuring great oral health into adulthood.

This article was written by Malouf Dental a local Tingalpa and Cannon Hill Dentist. Malouf Dental take expert care on Children's dental.

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Discover Different Ways To Encourage Play Time in Children

Having time to play is an essential part of childhood and growing up. It is part of our roles and responsibilities as parents to provide our kids with an environment that encourages play time, creativity and independence.
However, it’s very easy to just leave the kids to it instead of using strategies that foster and promote play time. It’s important to encourage them to play independently, as our ever busier lives can leave children bored and disappointed, turning to the easy act of watching TV programmes or playing computer games that may not be the most appropriate for their social and mental development.

So, how can we encourage play time in children?

Allow Play Time Every Day
Just as we make sure that your children have enough time to sleep, do their homework or study, we can set aside some time to play each day. Whether they play with their cars or make a delicious meal for their dolls, disguise as indians or play a board game, it’s got great benefits if we can allow our children to just enjoy themselves and relax from their daily responsibilities and duties.

Experiences Mean Everything!
Children recreate experiences or activities they performed and enjoyed somewhere else when they use imaginative play. Thus, one of the simplest ways to encourage children to play and be creative is by providing them with diverse and meaningful experiences as regularly as possible. Make a family visit to the zoo or include your children next time you have to take the car to the car-wash service or enjoy a family picnic in a park nearby. You’ll soon discover how your children recreate these experiences in their daily games or use them as ingredients to spice up their play sessions.

Provide Some Props!
We can enrich your children’s pretend play opportunities by encouraging open-ended play. In other words, by offering them toys that have multiple uses and that help their imaginations expand powerfully. Stuffed animals, toy cars, pretend kitchenware, artistic materials, simple costumes (these can even just be mummy and daddy’s stylish old clothes from the 80’s), cardboard boxes or musical instruments. Invite children to play with them and allow them to use their imagination to create rich and highly detailed playing sessions.

Give Them Space to Play
Do your children have a safe, child-proof and comfortable space to play? Whether it’s outside or inside your home, it’s a good idea for children to have a place where they have everything they need within their reach: toys, props, books, art material… you name it! If possible, make sure that they don’t have access to screens and computers in their playing space as the idea is to encourage them to be as creative and open-minded as possible in their playing experience. Having their own play space encourages resourcefulness and independence in children as even though parents can be around and participate in their fun sessions, the idea is that they’re able to develop a complete playing session on their own while we’re mere spectators or limited participants.

Encourage Mess
Ok this one might get a bit of debate...I know how hard it is not to have a contradictory attitude towards children’s play time: on the one hand we love to see our children engaged in their play session and how they’ve turned their room or the living-room into a zoo, a city or a war zone but, on the other hand, we see the mess and complain about having all the toys around, cushions lying on the floor, blankets hanging from chairs and so on. As a result, sometimes we limit in some way or another their imagination.

That said, a good strategy that we can embrace in order to encourage play time in children is to accept mess as part of their creative process. We can then set aside time at the end where they’ll be required to clean that mess. I’m sure most will agree that cleaning up after yourself is a pretty handy skill for them to learn before they turn into teenagers anyway.

So here’s a few of the strategies that we can use to encourage children to play without your supervision. I invite you to try any or all of them in your family and share your findings. Which one has worked better in your case? Have you tried anything different?

Today's post is brought to you by, and it includes links to their website. Searching for Sanity is not affiliated with Baby Vegas, so I earn no money if you click on these links. Now that the pressure is off, please go check them out and see the awesome toys they have.

Friday, 4 December 2015

The Importance of Nutrition During Pregnancy

Hi guys, I have another guest writing for me today, on the importance of nutrition during pregnancy, so please welcome Orlaith Costello from Koster Clinic.
Image Sourced:
There’s many things that a woman needs to be concerned with when she becomes pregnant, and one is diet. Now she’s eating for two (or more).
Maintaining a balanced and healthy diet is important for living well; however, now you have an extra incentive. Proper nutrition ensures that all essential nutrients (carbohydrates, fats, protein, vitamins, minerals and water) are supplied to the body to maintain optimal health. You need to make sure that you have the right nutrients to get yourself and your bundle of joy through what is a traumatic time for your body. You are creating life inside you, the least you can do is treat yourself well and give yourself the right kind of fuel to do your best.
During pregnancy, your energy and nutrition levels decrease. The pregnancy takes its toll on your body, depleting your fuel resources. You need to consume foods that will give you that boost so you have the energy reserves to optimize your overall health and strength. Did you know that women need to consume 240 more calories per day in their second trimester and 452 calories per day in their third trimester of pregnancy to enable healthy foetal growth? As well as 975 milligrams of iron needed to produce foetal and maternal blood? Having the right reserves of energy will help to ensure the mother’s strength and health through her pregnancy.
Need more incentive?
A well-balanced and nutritionally rich diet can help stave off health risks both for the mother and the child. A mother’s diet can play a larger role in foetal development than genetic factors. The foetus will respond to whatever you consume, meaning your child can adapt its metabolism to cope with an under-nourished diet. This can result in the foetus reducing glucose and insulin production, slowing the rate of growth and increasing the risk of low birth weight and can even lead to diabetes. Another side-effect of under-nutrition can be that the foetus will conserve blood flow to its most important parts – like the developing brain – depriving other major organs and muscles, which can go under-developed or not developed at all.
What can you do?
Some women are pre-disposed to have a less balanced diet based on their own health issues or dietary restrictions. If you are a woman who has conceived, or is hoping to conceive, you need to build up your nutrition levels. This can mean cutting out unhealthy habits like drinking alcohol, ingesting too much caffeine or not ingesting enough fruits and vegetables. If you suffer from a chronic illness which restricts your diet like IBS or Crohns disease, diabetes or food intolerances, speak to your health provider or nutritionist to organise an appropriate and nutritionally beneficial diet for you. I would suggest the same for vegan or vegetarian mothers, as pregnant women need an increased amount of protein in their diet. If you’re not getting it from meats or animal by-products you need to source it from another avenue. Supplements can help but it’s always more beneficial to have natural foods. For you and your baby.
You can do this
Pregnancy is a wonderful, illuminating and scary experience. Remember that no matter how scary or over-whelmed you get, women have been doing this since the human race came about. You are the next in a long line of courageous women who have continued the human race. This is the most natural thing in our history, all you need to do is play out your part. Look after yourself and your bundle of joy!
Authors Bio:
Orlaith Costello writes for Koster Clinic, she graduated with a Master Degree in Journalism, Media and Communications, and writes for several publications in Australia and abroad. Orlaith also writes about health and well-being including women's health and parenting in the hope that she helps others like her better understand the world around her.

Disclaimer: The above is general advice only and not intended as medical advice. You should not delay seeking medical advice, disregard medical advice, or discontinue medical treatment because of information in this article.

Thursday, 26 November 2015

3 ways to encourage whole brain learning through play

Hi guys, today I have a guest joining me to discuss whole brain learning and how you can incorporate it into your play time with your children at home, so please be upstanding and welcome Amanda from Shichida Australia.

When my daughter was around 1 year old, we began story-time at the library. It was a half hour of singing, reading, talking and some bubbles play. At first it was a way for me to get out the house and be around other people and not feel so isolated as a mom. I continued coming for another reason. I noticed that my baby was remembering signs and interacting with the presenter. My first thought was “I have a baby genius’ and my second thought was “i wonder what else she can learn through play?”

I began integrating music, dance and play into our everyday tasks. I would sing to the tune “If you’re happy and you know it’.
If you see the color (insert color), pick it out! (while pointing to the color)
If you see the color (insert color), pick it out! (while pointing to the color)
If you see the color (insert color), give a wiggle and a giggle
If you see the color (insert color), pick it out! (while pointing to the color)

I used this basic tune to talk about not only colors, but shapes and body parts. Before long, my itty bitty baby was starting to recognize shapes, colors and body parts. It is how she learned almost anything: we danced, sang and pointed stuff out.

I thought, imagine how fun school would be if we played to learned beyond preschool?
New research is supporting the idea that play and learning are not mutually exclusive. In fact, they go hand in hand. Research is showing that children that engage in playful learning are developing memory skills, their language is developing and they are able to adjust to an academic learning environment. This whole brain approach to learning is changing the way we learn and remember things. In fact, research is showing that all functions of the brain are connected.

A pioneer in childhood whole brain learning, Dr. Makoto Shichida, has committed 40 years to developing techniques to stimulate early development of the brain. Dr. Shichida emphasizes parent-child bonding and when a child feels free to express himself, he is more able to learn. This is a balanced approach to whole brain learning.

Here are easy ways to incorporate this whole brain, play based learning into your schedule without feeling you are adding more to your plate. Try to engage at least two senses at a time. 

  1. Schedule time for physical play, integrate music into your play. Hot potato with music or musical chairs are two examples. Silly time and having your child using hand-eye coordination, while waiting for musical cues stimulated different parts of the brain at once.
  2. Have adult and child interactions. Pretend you are in a restaurant and your child is the server and chef. Pretend you are a patient in a hospital and your child is the doctor.
  3. Recreate an experience, such as travel or a vacation. Pretend you are in another country and practice using simple words from another language. This helps engage the multi-language circuit of the brain.

The most important things to remember are to let your child’s imagination run wild, make sure your child feels safe to express himself, and let your child be the guide.

About the author:. Amanda works PR for Shichida Australia ((, spreading her love for childhood learning through fun, music and play.  When she isn’t chasing her two kids and (trying to) prepare healthy meals, she is cuddling her fur baby, a 9 year old boxer.

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Making your bed the right way

I bet you didn't know you've been making your bed all wrong all these years. I know I was surprised when I received an email from Terrys Fabrics telling me this. I also wondered briefly how they knew how bad I was at making the bed. But after a quick scan of my general area showed up no hidden cameras in my bedroom, I figured they have just been reading my blog long enough to know that domestic goddess is one title you will never find on my resume.

Now I can get a cover on my doona (or duvet for my American friends) thanks to the burrito method. (for anyone who doesn't know what the burrito method is, please google it.) Before the burrito method came around and changed my life I used what I call the ghost method which involved me climbing into my doona cover and stumbling around my room moaning like a disturbed ghost while I tried to get my doona to fit nicely into the corners of the cover. I know one woman who was relieved I never married her son after she watched me get a doona into its cover this way.

I know all about hospital corners and how to do them, although thanks to the genius Bertha Berman who invented the fitted sheet in 1959 I've not had to do a hospital corner except when I make the bed after staying in a hotel. (I know they are just going to strip the bed as soon as I check out, but I still hate leaving the bed unmade when I leave.) But I will admit to you right now that my bed is currently an unmade mess because my alarm clock thinks it is hillarious to rip my blanket right off me to wake me up in the morning, and I got tired of having to wrestle with my big queen size blanket every single morning, so it just lays where she throws it until bed time. If I was any kind of house proud, this would bother me I'm sure, but considering the teaspoon of sugar I dumped on the counter this morning while trying to make my first coffee of the day is still sitting there waiting to be cleaned up, we all know that ain't gonna happen any time soon.

But for any one of you out there who actually does like having a pretty bed, and always wonders how the designers of the world always manage to get the beds they make to look so perfect, below is a handy dandy info-graphic that Terrys Fabrics very kindly shared with me, which gives you everything you could possibly ever need to know about making the perfect bed. As for me, I will always be the sweaty person standing on her bed grunting while trying to wrestle a fitted sheet onto a double mattress. If someone can please invent a fitted sheet that goes onto the bed easily without me having to summon Satan, please contact me, I may want to marry you.

Bed Making Hacks
Bed Making Hacks by Terrys Fabrics.

Friday, 20 November 2015

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Thursday, 19 November 2015

National Family Caregivers Month

November is National Family Caregivers Month. This is the time where the people who care for their sick and ailing family members are recognised for their hard work, sacrifice and above all love. I was recently contacted by Heather Von St James, a brave and incredible woman who survived Mesothelioma. She documents her story over on her blog, which you can find here. She has asked me to discuss National Family Caregivers Month, to help shed some light on this wonderful cause.

Caregivers are all around us. They care for their parents, their children, their spouses, their siblings or their grandparents. They give up their own lives to make sure the people they love are cared for in the best possible way, so now is the best time to find a caregiver you know and let them know their effort is appreciated. Being a caregiver can be a thankless task, made harder by the fact that you spend your time watching someone you love suffer. Caregivers must put aside all of their own feelings and issues and put the needs of their loved ones first. This can be a challenge for most of us, but caregivers do it on a daily basis, without expecting a word of thanks from anyone.

A female lawyer I met through my work at the family law firm is currently caring for her husband who is suffering Mesothelioma, just like Heather Von St James did. (For anyone who doesn't know, Mesothelioma is a rare and aggressive cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. The prognosis for anyone diagnosed with Mesothelioma can be grim.) This woman is now juggling being the sole provider for her family, caring for their small child, and caring for her husband as he undergoes the aggressive treatment necessary to treat Mesothelioma. (Treatments for Mesothelioma currently include surgery, either a pleuronectomy or a pneumonectomy, followed by months of chemotherapy, and then months of radiotherapy. These treatments make the sufferer very ill, but the alternative is much worse. For more information check out the Mesothelioma website)  On top of that she has to put up with the "helpful" advice from other family members who are not currently helping her with her increased work load. When her family first got the diagnosis my boss told us to let her vent to us whenever she needed it, as it was clear she wasn't going to get this opportunity elsewhere, so whenever she made one of her infrequent visits to our office, the office manager would take her off and listen to her, sometimes for up to an hour at a time. During this time she'd cry, she'd get angry, she'd laugh, and then she would leave, returning back to her life until the next time she needed a sympathetic ear. While our office manager could do nothing to actually lessen her work, she could still help her at a time when anyone would feel absolutely hopeless.

I always had the utmost respect for this woman, but more so when I saw how hard her life became once her husband was diagnosed. It never stopped her from getting up every single morning and doing everything she had to just to keep her family going. It didn't mean she never cried or got upset, she is still human, but she never let her sadness stop her from being a loving mother and wife, and an amazing lawyer. This is the kind of selfless work carers do every single day, and for that they need to be thanked.

So if you know someone who is caring for a family member, do something today to let them know their hard work is not only noticed, but appreciated. And if you are one of the more than 60 million caregivers in the United States alone, or one of the millions of caregivers from around the rest of the world, thank you.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Peace amongst the hatred

My heart sank when my mum uttered the words "Did you hear about Paris?" It sank further when I heard about Baghdad and Beirut. I felt the same sickness in my gut I felt when I heard about the two attacks that happened in my own country. It seems as though the world is falling apart right now, and while I have met one or two people who greet the news of these attacks with an apathy and resigned shrug which says it's not shocking anymore that people are dying in such horrible ways, most people are just as saddened and hurt as I am.

What is uplifting however in this time of hatred and terror is the messages of peace and acceptance coming from every day citizens. As one who can still remember clearly where I was when the September 11 attacks happened, I know that for the longest time, the word Muslim was a dirty word. This time, not so much. This time we are more educated, We know who the real enemy is, and it is not the Muslims of the world. Hashtag movements like #illridewithyou and #notinmyname let the world know that the terrorists still haven't won as long as normal people like you and I show compassion and love in times of great fear. As long as we keep in mind that this is not a war against a religion, but a war against extremists, good will always prevail, no matter how many attacks ISIS want to claim responsibility for, or how much they try to scare us into rejecting Muslims.

For a complete and concise explanation as to what exactly it is we are dealing with, the best person to ask is Waleed Aly. He is an Australian newscaster, and he is also a Muslim. He used his power as a television personality to educate the people of Australia as to who the enemy is, and his words need to be heard by everyone.

So please, watch this video, hear his words, share it with your friends, and above all, don't give hatred a chance.

My thoughts and prayers are with the people of Paris, Beirut, Baghdad, Syria, and every other country that is being affected by extremists and terrorists alike.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

How we dealt with (and survived) the death of a pet

For Miss K's birthday this  year, my little sister Kimberley gave her two goldfish. I hadn't been warned about this prior, so it was a surprise for both of us. She gleefully informed me as she handed over the little tank she was actually going to buy her a goat, but decided fish was a more practical gift idea. For that fact I am forever grateful.

Now anyone who knows me knows I have bad luck with animals. Of course my bad luck is not as bad as my little brother Ben's bad luck with animals, he was headbutted by a trout once, as he peered into a lake, an accomplishment I am yet to match. But given my track record with animals, and my seeming inability to keep them alive was well recorded when these fish were made a part of our family. To date I have had a total of three dogs, one cat, one guinea pig and two fish as pets. My first dog died of pavo virus as a puppy, which absolutely broke my heart at the time. The next two dogs were a blue heeler and a boxer, both given to me to replace the original dog. I lived in a tiny two bedroom flat at the time, which any dog lover will tell you is a terrible place for such large and energetic dogs to live, so I had both of them re-housed fairly quickly. The cat ran away after a few months, but I think I still see it wandering around the area occasionally, so I can only assume it found a new home close by. Our guinea pig died from exposure one night when I didn't secure the tarp around his cage tightly enough and it was blown off by strong winds. So I didn't have high hopes for these fish. Sure enough the first fish died within a month of becoming our pet, a fact which I now understand probably stems from being put in a tank too small for two fish. Live and learn. The fact that the second goldfish survived a further 8 months with us is nothing short of a miracle.

The fish were named Yes and No. This is what happens when you let a four year old name animals. Yes was the fish that survived the longest, and let me tell you, keeping a fish alive is actually harder than it looks. We dealt with two cases of swimmers bladder, and I suspect it was a bacterial infection that got him in the end. During his time with us I learned that a whole flake of fish food is waaay too much for a fish to eat, especially given they need no more than a piece of food the size of their eye several times a week. I also found out you can cure constipation in fish with peas, a fact which disgusted Miss K given her pure hatred for the little green balls. He had been sick for three days this time, and nothing I was doing helped. It became inevitable after day two that Yes' days were indeed numbered, so that day as I noticed Miss K staring at Yes, watching his weird sideways swim around the tank I let her know that Yes was going to die soon. I told her he was really sick this time, and she needed to realise we weren't going to have a fish for very much longer. She nodded very quietly then asked me for a drink.

Over the next two days we spoke occasionally about Yes, she was worried he was in pain, but given I am poorly informed about the pain tolerance of the average goldfish, I told her he wasn't feeling anything right now, This may have been a lie, I still have no idea, but I didn't want death to be scary for her, I just needed her to understand it is a part of life. Luckily for me Yes kindly waited until she was asleep last night to die. I went in to check on him before I went to bed and after five minutes of tapping walls and agitating the water I was indeed satisfied I had a dead fish on my hands. I disposed of everything there and then, I didn't think it was kind letting Miss K see what a dead fish looked like, so when she woke up this morning the bench that had housed Yes' tank was empty. She stared at the empty space for ages, almost like she thought her eyes were lying to her, and the tank was still there. She turned to me and said "the fish is gone." I simply nodded, I couldn't think of what to say. She asked if Yes died and I simply nodded again. I'm sure another person could have used this opportunity to give a speech on the gift of life, or say something reassuring about Yes' suffering being over, but mourning the death of a fish is something I'm sadly inexperienced in so I simply said nothing. She stared at the space for another few seconds before she turned to me and asked for another fish. For the love of God please no.

I have actually since Googled how to deal with the loss of a pet with children, and they all say don't replace the pet straight away, as it makes the child feel disloyal. Apparently Miss K is plagued by no such burdens and is keen to move on to the next victim pet. I for one am still exhausted from the task of keeping one small fish alive for so long, and have now decided that the degree of difficulty in caring for a pet is directionally in proportion to the size of it. The smaller the animal is, the more trouble it will give you. To remedy this, I have decided the next pet we will have must be an elephant. Surely something that large must be a walk in the park. Otherwise I am happy for people to start gifting Miss K with pet rocks from now on.

If any of you have actually had to deal with a grieving child, give me your tips below, I'm sure as Miss K gets older this is something that will really need to be dealt with, as she wont be so easily distracted by shiny things for much longer.

Monday, 2 November 2015

Overcoming Speech Delays - Tips and Resources

I have mentioned in passing a few times over the past few months that Miss K is having issues with her speech. The issue actually goes a bit deeper than just a few issues, and it has been something we have been dealing with for over 2 years now. Miss K has made great progress in that time, but it has been a rocky road, full of frustration and tears for her, and sleepless nights for me. In order to hopefully save someone a whole lot of heartache that comes with speech delays, I have managed to compile a list of tips and resources that have helped us enormously over the past two years, and I am sharing them with you now.

One thing I found when I first thought there were issues with Miss K's speech was that there was a very large lack of resources for parents online. Everything I found gave the same information, strengthen her mouth muscles with straws and lots of games, but it didn't tell me how I could correct the real issues, or even how to identify them. To this day I still don't know why Miss K never learned to talk the way most kids do. It certainly wasn't because she wasn't encouraged to talk at home, we had many fights over her first years as I tried to coax, beg or threaten words out of her to no avail. I felt hopeless and totally useless at my job. Eventually at her 2 year check up with the maternal health nurse I brought up the delays, hoping that our nurse would take us seriously, and she did. Although at the time speech pathologists were still refusing to help children until they were at least three years old, our local community medical centre was just beginning a program to help bridge the gap, so we took advantage of their services until Miss K was old enough to be referred to a speech therapist.

Miss K has been going to our speech therapist Chloe for almost 12 months now, and the difference in that little girl is more than just her speech. She is more confident, she is happier, she absolutely shines because for the first time in years she is understood by more people than just me. We have run the gamut of emotions during this time, from frustration to shame to confusion to pride to pure joy. It has been an absolute roller coaster, but we were recently told that Miss K is nearly at the point where she no longer needs speech therapy, and the relief is almost overwhelming. So to help other parents who are going through this lengthy and tiresome process, below are a few things I have found help enormously, as well as some websites where you can get further help.

Medical help
If you suspect there are issues with your child's speech, the first thing you will need to do is seek medical advice, to make sure there aren't any underlying issues that need to be addressed. We discovered that Miss K is tongue tied, which has contributed to some of her speech impediments, but not all, and this required a visit to a surgeon to assess whether she needed the tendons under her tongue cut. At the very least your doctor can refer you to a speech therapist if necessary to help you work through any issues with your child's speech. These days speech therapists have recognised that therapy can help from as young as two years old, so you can get help sooner rather than later these days.

Talking to and encouraging your child to speak
Talking to your child from birth is essential of course, firstly because it helps your child recognise you outside of the womb. Before they were born they heard your voice daily, so to hear them again once they are born lets them know they are with the person they have known their whole life. Then you become your child's example on how to speak as they get closer to the age of forming their first words, so the talking needs to be almost constant. But you also need to encourage them to talk too. Turn their first coos into full conversations to teach them that talking requires giving and receiving noise. But once you get past the first word (which is always dada for some darned reason) encouraging the next words can be difficult.  Repetition of simple words such as up or more, and teaching them that using these words cause things to happen encourages children to want to speak more. Remember that kids can process thoughts slower than adults do, so you will need to give them a few seconds of silence every time to process your request.  This website has further great tips on introducing speech to your toddlers

Learning through play
A lot of the websites I read through would say to encourage speech through play, but they didn't give real examples to start you in the right direction. For us, it was Miss K's home corner which was the real winner. Miss K and I would play restaurants or shops, and Miss K would need to tell me exactly what she wanted to buy or eat before I would give it to her. We'd swap roles regularly to keep the game fresh. Of course if your child is more into cars or dinosaurs, or dolls or whatever, you should build the games around whatever their favourite toys are. If your children are a bit older, using board games and cue cards is also another great way to build up their vocabulary or work on specific speech issues. We got several board games from Chloe to take home with us, complete with their own cue cards, and with every role of the dice Miss K needs to pick up a cue card and say the word or sentence on the card after she moves. This has been one of our most successful exercises, and the only one I have been able to use consistently, as once Miss K realises she's meant to be learning something with our exercises she loses interest. Incorporating play into the exercises makes the learning fun, and distracts children from the fact that this is actually work. Guess Who is also a fabulous game for encouraging speech, and one we now use a lot at home. Children's songs are also a great way to encourage speech, and I'm sure you all know about a million of them, so start singing with your kids. For more information on speech through play, check out this website here

Using printouts
Now days there are so many websites which offer free printable games and resources you can use at home to help your child with their speech issues. One of the first we used was given to us by Chloe, called Colorful Semantics. This is a program provided by London Speech Therapy and the printout can be found here. This program is great for teaching children to build sentences based on who, what, where, and it comes complete with pages of colourful pictures for your child to use in their learning, as well as complete and comprehensive instructions. You can also find printable games and activities online for you and your child to play, as well as cue cards, and a multitude of worksheets you can download and use any time.

Learning through videos
Youtube is full of great videos you can watch with your child to encourage talk. There are a lot of channels that are actually aimed at English as a second language, but Miss K loved them, especially the ones with lots of bright toys included in their videos. A great channel for learning is Baby Big Mouth which is aimed at teaching vocabulary and spelling to little learners.

Now I am by no means an expert when it comes to speech therapy, and getting your kids to talk. Which is why I love these following websites, because they are by experts, so if you need further help, these are a good place to start.

The Speel. As well as a ton of free resources that anyone can use, Alex at The Speel has just launched a new 8 week program called Incredible Little Communicators which you and your child can complete at home with support from Alex.

Playing with Words 365. Playing with Words 365 has a heap of free resources for parents, and lots of articles to help you work through finding a speech therapist, and what to expect once your child starts therapy. This is a great place for any parent to start their journey as she has resources to suit children from birth to age 5!

Free Language Stuff includes printable activities on 20 different areas of language, making this a great place to find activities to complete at home with your children to help build their language skills.

Mommy Speech Therapy. This is another great website full of free resources and printables you can use at home, and lots of advice for parents as well. I visit this website often and I love this woman.

Pinterest is another great place to look for resources, and a lot of speech pathologists are now filling the website up with heaps of helpful advice and places to start your journey.

If any of you out there are going through the same journey as me, and you have stories to share, please leave them down below, I love hearing from my readers, and it is always wonderful to hear you're not alone when dealing with the tough stuff. Also if you know of other resources I have missed here, also leave them down below, because the world is a great big place, so bring it all to me and we'll share it together.

Saturday, 24 October 2015

October Fly on the Wall

Hello again people, it's time again for this month's edition of Fly on the Wall, the post where I share all the crazy, funny things that happen in my house, that you would all see if you were flies on my wall, and let me tell you right now is a good time to be a fly on my wall, because Miss K is all of a sudden terrified of spiders, so we're having to kill every single money spider or daddy long legs on sight. You really don't appreciate how good a job these guys do until you have to eradicate every single one who dares to show their face to a screechy four year old.

Fly on the Wall
Before I jump into all of the fun I'll share the list of the rest of the bloggers participating this month. Today we have 14 brave bloggers all baring their crazies for your enjoyment, so be sure to visit them all.            Baking In A Tornado       Spatulas on Parade          Follow me home             Menopausal Mother               Never Ever Give Up Hope                          The Momisodes          Someone Else’s Genius Eileen’s Perpetually Busy                  Cluttered Genius            Southern Belle Charm                          Go Mama O                       Dinosaur Superhero Mommy            Nichole Mom of 8

I wanted to try a fishtail braid in Miss K's hair, after discovering that they are apparently stupidly easy to do. Of course anyone who says a fishtail braid is easy to do has never tried to do one on a squirmy four year old.

The look I was going for.

It took me half an hour to achieve something similar to the image above (sorry no pictures, Miss K had had enough of sitting down by the time we were finished.) and I was pretty proud of myself, even if I do say so. Miss K of course, not so impressed, told me that the final product was in fact not worth the amount of time she had to spend sitting still, and that she never wanted another fishtail braid put in her hair again. True to her word, every time I suggest giving her a fish tail, she politely declines and runs away. 

Me (to mum)
You're turning into a grumpy old man in your old age.

Sam: I know dad looks old, he looks really old. He looks like an 80 year old man 
Me: With the bones of an 80 year old woman to match. 
(My dad is actually in his 60's, he's just not aging well, plus he has osteoporosis AND arthritis, so he's a very frail man. He actually broke his ribs bending over the hood of a car once.)

Me: Miss K if you're going to pick your nose in the toilet could you please not wipe your boogers on the walls?
Miss K: No! 

Miss K's arachnophobia is actually beginning to impact on her everyday life. I have to go with her to the toilet every trip and inspect for spiders before she can go. Of course since I am such a sympathetic mother, I never do anything that could potentially scar her for life...

Miss K: There are no spiders in here?
Me: Nope, no spiders. Now all you need to worry about are the snakes in the toilet.
Miss K: Mum, no!

I sometimes feel bad that Miss K is an only child, so in order to show her what having a brother or sister would be like, I love to play a nice rousing game of "I'm not touching you" where I sit my finger as close to her eye as possible without touching her, then just keep repeating "I'm not touching you, I'm not touching you." until she cracks it at me. It helps to pass the time.

I was trying to encourage Miss K one day for doing a good job, so I told her she was number one. She promptly responded with "No mum, I'm number four." At least she has low expectations of herself. 

We were having our fence replaced earlier this month, and I was having a much needed sleep in on the day. Miss K got out of bed and was stealing a lolly from the kitchen when mum came in. The following is the conversation they had.
Mum: Miss K, someone stole our fence! What are we going to do?
Miss K: Oh no! Don't worry, I'll go back to bed and eat my lolly and you go to the lounge room.

One night I was lying in bed dozing off when I could hear movement from Miss K's bedroom. I thought she was just shifting around in her sleep until I heard her call out for me. I jumped up and ran to her room terrified she'd wet the bed. Upon entry I found her standing next to her bed without any pants on, instead they were in a ball on the ground. She looked up at me and said "Mum, where are my pants?" I asked her why she took them off, and she looked at me like I was crazy. I then noticed the lounge room light was on, so I thought mum must be up. I went in to talk to her and the room was empty. I asked Miss K if she'd turned the light on, and again she looked at me like I was crazy. So either we have a playful ghost in our house who enjoys pantsing sleeping children, and wasting electricity, or my daughter has just discovered the joys of sleepwalking...

Miss K and I watched a video of a man getting arrested at a McDonalds in the next town over. I was telling my big sister Sam about it the next day when this happened.
Me: We saw a bad guy being arrested at McDonalds didn't we?
Miss K: Yeah, it was my dad...
It wasn't, and I'm not sure where she got that idea from, but she didn't seem entirely concerned by the fact either way.

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