On bravery

2016-01-03 13.33.29I make new year's resolutions every year. And every year I fail. I actually recently found a list of goals for 2015 and guess how many actually happened? Zero. They were things like 'Give up carbs' and 'Run 3 x week and Pilates 2 x week' and 'Blog 3 x weekly'. Ain't nobody got time for that, especially not a mum of two little boys with a business, a renovation and a Netflix addiction. Clearly, something is really wrong with my goals. This year, after completing the workbook for The Resolution Project (and ending up in happy-ish tears) I have decided on two guiding affirmations, rather than strict but totally unachievable goals. They are...

Be brave,

and

I can do hard things.

A lot of the stuff that I don't do but want to (write more, take bigger risks, finally get more into roller derby, tackle my weird food shit) is based on a fear of failure, rejection and pain. By telling myself to be brave and that I can do hard things, it will help shift the day-to-day decisions I make about facing the hard stuff.

In light of this, I am planning on implementing a few strategies. This year is the Year of Hard But Rewarding Things - writing more, both here and elsewhere; weekly roller derby training; and the hardest one - no dieting. Wish me luck.

To being brave and doing hard shit!

xx

2015 in review

pexels-photo This is technically my last day in the office for the year (which is not to say that I don't have stacks of work still to do) but from next week, it is all about cooking, wrapping, shopping and eating. Merry Christmas, baby!

The highlights:

Renting out our Brunswick house to my best friend.

Jethro turned one, started walking and developed his ridiculously feisty ratbag personality.

I did more freelance writing on all sorts of interesting topics.

I started running, then stopped, then started again, then gave up on being a 'good' runner and just embraced my sweaty, beetroot-faced style.

I got back into reading books and smashed through some epic reads.

Our Brunswick house was photographed for the Herald Sun.

I met some fantastic ladies through the podcast I co-host, The New Normal.

I dyed my hair pastel pink!

The lowlights:

We encountered some serious bedtime dramas with Archie for a few months, until I just let it go and enjoyed the snuggles.

My mum and grandma have been besieged with scary health dramas.

We moved house. Again.

We had no bathroom for a week thanks to our previous tenants and had a messy court situation to get recompensed.

Most embarrassing:

Archie dacked me (pants and undies to my ankles) in a busy cafe. #cry

Most spontaneous:

We bought another house!

Most improved:

Lee has been home a lot more and working less, thanks to our excellent awesome workshop manager.

 

It seems that 2015 was a hard one for lots of people, but when I look back over the past 12 months heaps of awesome stuff has happened. Here's to a happy, renovation-filled 2016.

 

 

Yarra Yarra

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I'm just going to ignore the fact that I haven't written anything here in, oh, FOUR MONTHS and proceed onwards...

On Saturday we bought a new house. Not just any house (apparently fourth time's a charm?), but a Robin Boyd-designed home - the Arnold house, named after Kelson and Ann Arnold who commissioned the house in 1963. We purchased it directly from the Arnold's kids after Ann's death in April this year.

The first house I ever lived in is about 200 metres up the road. It feels a bit like coming home and a bit like going backwards, but I know first hand that Warrandyte is an excellent place to grow up. We can see the river from every room in the house (besides the poky little bathrooms), have plenty of land for my grand plans of chickens and beehives and a robust vegie garden and a pizza oven and a mountain bike track, and are only a short walk from the bakery, the river and the playground. It is a two-minute drive or 15-minute walk from my parent's place.

To be honest, we didn't buy it because it is a Boyd. We bought it for the above reasons, but we can appreciate the history and significance of the home. People have done their PHDs on this house! It is magnificent. True, it needs heaps of work (No insulation anywhere! No storage in the bathrooms! No laundry!) buy god knows we love a project.

Above you can see some original photos of the house, and below are ones from the real estate agent of what it looks like today.

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The first thing to do is insulate the ceiling, as there in nothing in there at all. As soon as we get access, we will rip down the Cane-ite ceiling tiles, shove heaps on insulation in and add a few downlights, then replace with new softboard tiles in exactly the same way. The house is full of hard surfaces, so while using MDF would be cheaper, softboard will absorb sound too.

We are planning on replicating and echoing Boyd's design as much as possible, especially in the kitchen and garden, whilst improving the functionality of the house.

I'm feeling in limbo at the moment... my mind has already moved house, but we still have to go through the process of tidying up our Coburg house and preparing it for auction in mid-February. The next six months are big for our little family - moving a house, selling a house, renovating a house, beginning childcare for Jed and kinder for Archie, more work hours for me (finally!) and a big phase of growth for the business. Fun times ahead!

x

The new New Normal

Screen Shot 2015-08-24 at 11.56.24 am It's been, like, three weeks since I wrote anything here, but I just haven't been feeling it. After moving house, dealing with a succession of colds and gastro and snot, and a teething toddler, there hasn't been a lot of time to sit and write. At work, we are getting ready for a big photoshoot of our new range in mid-September, before our first Finders Keepers stand in the first weekend in October. We are launching a few new additions to our kid's range there. We've designed everything, but have only actually built about 30% of the products yet, so best get cracking!

I've been listening to heaps of podcasts lately as I've been unpacking and dealing with sick kids. God, I love podcasts. I can whack one on and half-listen to it while the kids are playing or I'm getting dinner or schlepping the kids around somewhere.

If you don't already know, my friend Tess McCabe and I have our own podcast called The New Normal. I realised that I haven't actually written about it much here, which is weird. It's heaps of fun to do. We basically chat to all sorts of awesome ladies (and a couple of men) about parenting, being creative, running businesses and all the chaos that ensues. We have covered big, scary painful topics like miscarriage, premature birth, depression and a partner having an aneurysm (you'll need tissues for that one), chats with women who run successful businesses, creative ladies of all disciplines, mums of heaps of kids and our poor, ravaged pelvic floors. It's really shaped how I parent and how I view the whole messy business of motherhood, and more broadly than that, the whole human experience.

In a time when women are yanking our fellow ladies down and criticising each other to the nth degree, I love that we have created a little community of mums who support, share and listen.

We've just launched a new website here.

Have a look and a listen!

xx

Recent readings - Winter edition

So, due to the FREEZING cold weather and our under-heated house, I have been going to bed early (sometimes as soon as the boys are in bed!) with a hot water bottle and my brand new Kindle. Here are a few books I've read in the past couple of weeks... Cosmo Cosmolino by Helen Garner.  I LOVE Garner's work. Her writing is so spare and eloquent, tightly edited and carefully woven. This book, however, was MUCH more purple and flowery than anything else of hers I have read. Still awesome, but definitely not the Helen Garner I know and love. It's probably my least favourite of her books, but still an excellent read.

Kitchens of the Great Midwest by Ryan Stradal. I have about 100 pages of this to go and have really enjoyed it so far. The story focusses on a girl who was born to foodie parents, and she grows up to be a culinary whiz. The story is peppered with recipes and homages to perfect tomatoes and corn. Definitely one to read if you want some cooking inspiration!

Dietland by Sarai Walker covers a lot of territory: feminism, the (evil) diet industry, body image, women's magazines, self care... all wrapped up in a rollicking narrative. A really easy read.

Why French Children Don't Talk Back by Catherine Crawford. I've read a heap of French parenting books, or American books about how the French apparently parent much better than the rest of the world, and they are all interesting and eye-opening reads. This one in particular focusses on how the French aim to raise good citizens and well-adjusted adults who can hold interesting conversations, have decent manners and respect their family. All noble goals! I don't think I parent my kids in any particular way (I try and focus on lots of outside time, roughhousing, talking about everything, having manners and trying new things) but this book gave me lots of food for thought.

And online...

Having babies makes you better at work. Amen!

Hairstylists in the delivery room? Not for me, but hey, whatever makes you feel good!

This has done the rounds already, but it really resonated with me.

I want to print this out and wallpaper my house with it. I was nodding along the whole time.

Have a good week

xx

Apps I've Known and Loved

IMG_7960 I am pretty addicted to my iPhone, but aren't we all? I regularly have freakouts that smartphones are the cigarettes of our generation and we will be looking back in 40 years, after all our brains are turned to mush and all our kids have ADHD and think WHY DIDN"T WE DO SOMETHING but then we will move onto something else, because our attention spans will be 0.05 seconds long (I blame Buzzfeed).

Anyway, I obviously am not too concerned because my phone is basically a lifeline between my and the outside world, not to mention my main way of keeping an eye on the business. I LOVE finding new apps that make my life easier or at least slightly less chaotic, and love peering at other people's home screens to see what they use.

So, onwards to the apps.

Any.Do

This is quite literally my life, in list format. It is a to do list app, and you can divide it by Today, Tomorrow, Upcoming and Someday. The tasks automatically shift forwards, and you can also sort it by folders. The app syncs with a desktop app, a web app and Chrome extension too. The best bit? It calculates how many total items you have completed. I am up to 4,609 *fistpump* I recently got Lee addicted too and it has really helped streamline our work.

Pocket

I read lots of different things online, and with the Pocket Chrome extension I can save longer articles to my Pocket account to read later. This kind of app is pretty common (instapaper etc) but the BEST part about this particular one is that my Kobo ereader has a Pocket extension so I can read my saved articles on my ereader, offline. Gold.

Podcast

This is the standard iTunes podcast app. I listen to quite a few podcasts, (*cough* shoutout The New Normal *cough*) as I can pop one on while hanging around the house with the kids, folding washing at night, or driving somewhere. I've also got Stitcher and Podbean on my phone, but I mostly listen via Podcasts.

Xero

Lets me do our business bookkeeping from my phone. Amazing and life changing.

Latergramme

Awesome tool for scheduling Instagram posts in advance. I tee up a few at a time for Gratton and for The New Normal, then just post them when I need too. A big time-saver, especially as Instagram won't let you use more than one account at a time.

Feedly

This is where I read blogs. I only try and keep my list to about 20 blogs at a time, and I usually just whizz through it a couple of times a week and save anything that looks good to Pocket (see above) for reading later on.

Instagram (obvs), Gmail, Pinterest, the Notes app ( I currently have lists of books to read, music to find, things to cook, and a million weird notes to myself that make no sense), the ABC news app and Google Maps, as I am extremely directionally challenged.

xx

Our house is a J-grade celebrity

IMG_7939  Our house was in the Herald Sun a couple of weekends ago (actually the same weekend we moved OUT of the house). You can read more about the photoshoot here, but they only used about a quarter of the photos that they took. The spread looks great, although I sound like a bit of a wanker in some of the interview questions. (How do you chill out? Me: We're always working! #nottrue I didn't want to confess that I chill out by eating snacks in bed at 7.30pm while reading feminist literature). There's some gorgeous photos of the kids, and all the furniture looks ace which was kind of the point.

The teacher at Archie's Gymbaroo class commented on it on Wednesday #awkward so I am feeling like a very, very, very minor celebrity this week.

Have a look!

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Organisation is overrated, AKA how to move house with kids

IMG_7636 We have moved house five times in the past five years, and are due to complete our sixth move this weekend. This will be Archie's fourth move in his short life. I like to think that I have gotten moving house down to a fine art, but that would be like saying I had basic cooking skills, or blowdrying my hair, or parenting, down to a fine art. NO WAY, JOSÉ! Or as Archie says, NO WAY, HOSIE!

I have minimalist tendencies so we don't actually have that much, considering we are a family of four. Since reading Marie Kondo's The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, (weirdest/most awesome book ever) I did a huge purge and got rid of heaps of extra crap. I am pretty strict about toy and clothing accumulation, but don't set limits on kid's books, plants, or art, so we have a lot of those. However, when you pile all your stuff into one room, which is what we are in the process of doing, HOLY CRAP there is a lot of stuff.

We hired these plastic moving boxes which are awesome. They all stack up on top of one another, are waterproof, light-weight and hold heaps of stuff. They drop them off a couple of weeks before your move and pick them up from the new house a week after you move in. So much easier than cardboard! I'm recommending them to everyone.

So, my tips for moving with kids...

1. Get rid of the kids. At least for the actual moving day, you want to outsource your kids to someone else. Give them to a doting grandma, friend or random stranger, if that's your jam.

2. Make it a game. After too many games of Let's Empty the Boxes Mummy Just Packed, I gave in and gave them a couple of boxes to make cubbyhouses out of, on the condition that they weren't allowed to unpack anything else or I would tape them to a wall with an industrial-sized tape gun.

3. Make them help you. Once I gave up on the idea of putting everything neatly into the boxes, I just let Archie see how many things he could stuff in each box. Thus, some boxes are labelled "Lego, toaster, Lee's socks, cookbooks" which will make for interesting unpacking at the other end, but at least I got Archie working for me.

4. Let them play with Christmas decorations. You know what kids love? Christmas. And you know what they love even more? Playing with all the stored Christmas stuff when it's July and Mummy is highly-stung, wearing her pyjamas at 3pm and stalking the house with a labelmaker and a tape gun while attempting to dismantle a king-sized bed on her own. It's Christmas in July, kids!

5. Turn your rage into excitement. When you feel a surge of anxiety at the thought of your to-do list (update house insurance! redirect the mail! tell the neighbours! clean the freaking skirting boards!), try and reframe your rage into feeling excited about the move. I am genuinely looking forward to getting into the new house, unpacking all our stuff and making the house feel like ours again. Try to hold onto that feeling when you are daunted by the sheer amount of effort required to move a household.

x

Me, elsewhere: How to work from home with kids

On Mondays and Tuesdays, I work from home with Jed underfoot. I also manage to get quite a bit of work done from home with both kids around, too. It is bloody hard work, and I frequently feel like I am doing nothing right, but it is what works for our family at the moment. There has been a few times where I've hidden in the laundry (with two noisy boys banging on the door) to call a client or let Archie watch heaps of TV while I write an article, but we are continually getting better. I wrote an article on this very topic for the Creative Women's Circle blog.

 

The ‘juggle’ of working motherhood has become a bit of a cliché, but when your days involve filling sippy cups while simultaneously emailing clients on your phone and trying to stop a baby chewing through your laptop cord, it certainly does feel like a circus.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, my husband and I run a handmade furniture business together, so we use a combination of grandparents, crèche and flexible work hours to care for our two young sons. This works well for us at the moment, but the wheels often fall off and I regularly find myself needing to work from home while the kids are around. It can be a challenge – there’s been plenty of of nappy changes on meeting room floors and client calls while playing Lego, but I’ve managed to come up with a mish-mash of solutions that work for our family, and may work for yours too!

Read the rest!

Recent readings, and tips on how to read more

IMG_7485 ^^ These are the books I keep on my desk. Woodworking, some business-y stuff, design references and a random book about vernacular architecture.

It's been a good week on my bedside table. A bit of fiction, a bit of non-fiction, an anti-dieting book and a book basically written about my husband.

First up was Craft for the Soul by Pip Lincolne. LOVED IT. It's like a conversation with a chatty friend about how to be slightly more awesome, mostly involving tea and blankets and reading. I have a few of Pip's craft books and love her writing style, so was equally happy to read her first 'proper' non-crafty book.

I also just read Pretty Honest by UK beauty columnist Sali Hughes. I actually bought it accidentally, thinking it was another book, but I was surprised at how much I like it. It felt a bit like reading a grown-up version of the beauty pages of Cosmo. Lots of advice about skincare (my secret obsession), lipstick, doing your hair and girly stuff like that.

And last week, I read Anna Quindlen's Every Last One. Wow. There is a huge plot twist about halfway through which totally threw me. A very readable book. And god, I miss reading fiction. A good, rollicking story is like a holiday from your own brain.

Right now, I'm enjoying Quiet by Susan Cain. It's billed as a book about "the power of introverts in a world that can't stop talking". As I am married to someone who is super introverted and gets easily overwhelmed by groups of people and social situations, it has been a bit of an eye-opener so far. Again, very readable and interesting.

And up next, Just Kids by Patti Smith. I think I am the last person on the planet to read this, despite it being recommended to me eleventy-billion times. I don't always love memoirs, especially ones by rock stars, but her prose is pretty freaking amazing, so I'm looking forward to it.

Also, if you are wondering how I get through a few books each week, despite having two young kids and a business and a husband, here is my advice:

1. Don't watch TV. It is all crap and will rot your brain. However, I will make exceptions for Girls, Orange is the New Black, anything by Louis Theroux and the very occasional movie.

2. Go to bed earlier. I am in bed at 9pm at the latest, which gives me at least an hour of reading time.

3. Keep a list of books. I have a list on my phone of books I want to read, and I make an effort to download or buy them so I always have stuff to read. I get lots of book recommendations through friends, the Kobo book-recommender thing (see below) and from podcasts like Chat 10 Looks 3.

4. Get an e-reader. Unless it's a particularly gorgeous book or a book that a friend has written, I read pretty much everything on my Kobo. I can buy books straight off the Kobo too, and have found lots of new authors that way. It also saves space, paper, energy and all that too.

xx

If not dieting, then what? AKA The one where I overshare about my food issues

I have just started a book called If not dieting, then what? by Dr Rick Kausman. I randomly picked it up in Brunswick Savers because the title is kind of catchy, and seriously, I think this book will changed my life.

Since I was about 13, I have been on countless diets. Weight Watchers (twice), Atkins (constipation!), gluten-free (gross), vegetarian (oh hell no), vegan (for about 3 hours until I realised I couldn't eat cheese, chocolate or bacon #veganfail), paleo (missed bread too much), juice fasts (missed chewing too much), raw foodism (WTF) the Michelle Bridges one (ain't nobody got time to exercise for an hour a day), the I Quit Sugar one (Sarah Fucking Wilson) and some bizarre thing where I ate a lot of cottage cheese and spring onions and had to have monthly blood tests... and the weird thing is that besides my student exchange to France in Year 11 where I put on 12 kilos due to basically eating cheese and butter for several months, I have hovered somewhere between 65 and 70kg since I was about 17. For a 175cm woman who has had two kids, I am not overweight. Rationally, I know this. I even mostly like my body - it has made two incredible humans and allows me to do all sorts of cool things.

I am a rampant feminist and get such rage when I see magazine covers and advertisements that are aimed at making women feel like shit. I know that weight is just a number and that scales should be banned. I know that exercise and eating well should be about feeling good and being healthy, not being 'bikini ready' - whatever the hell that even means.

I've always had this feeling that if I just found the right diet, the right way of eating, then I would feel better. I would be able to calmly eat dessert without spiralling into a pit of guilt. I wouldn't automatically calculate calories in my head when assessing a menu. I'd be able to enjoy my food more and be disciplined and resolute and glowy. After getting halfway through the first chapter of this book, I had a huge light bulb moment. It isn't food or fat or diets that are the problem. It is my relationship with food, and eating more broadly.

I kind of had an inkling of this a few years ago when I went to see a nutritionist who specialised in eating disorders and appropriate eating habits. I ended up in tears in the first session and was so affected by the experience that I never went back. It brought up all my feelings about food and I realised just how deep this stuff goes.

Anyway, I've only read the first chapter so I'm sure there are many more truthbombs to come. There are loads of resources about mindful and positive eating on the If not dieting website.

Here's an article by Dr Rick about the realities of weight loss. Mind blowing stuff.

And another one about how a healthy relationship with eating is more complex than just ditching the diet.

I know this is a pretty personal post, I just needed to write it out. And god knows I've shared everything else on here, so why not my weird eating angst ?!

xx

Fluffing a cactus: what it's like to have your house photographed for the newspaper

DSC_0048 Last Wednesday our house was photographed for the Herald Sun's Home magazine. I don't actually read that newspaper, but I think it will be in their interior design section. We made sure all our handmade furniture was in prime position, and I tried to display all the artworks and books my creative friends have made or written!

The shoot took the better part of a morning, and was pretty fun! I've been on shoots like this before, but never in my own home. Having it on a Wednesday was actually perfect timing as Archie is at creche on Monday and Tuesdays, so I cleaned like a maniac and kept the place relatively tidy.

The photographer Chris Groenhout was lovely and made the boys laugh. When Archie smiles for photos he does a terrifying grimace, so we had to work hard to get some natural shots. Jed ate about seven mandarins as we tried to get a shot of us all looking natural in the kitchen. At one point, I had to pretend to 'fluff' a cactus in a pot while Lee gazed off broodingly into the distance.

A journalist interviewed us about our house, our renovations, our business and all that stuff. It was actually really good to stop and answer those sorts of questions - we don't often have time to sit down and think about the Big Picture stuff, like why we renovate houses, where the business is headed, why we make furniture.

I took the opportunity of having a clean house to take some of my own photos...

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And in the interest of keeping it real, this is what my house usually looks like...

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The story will come out on July 18th. Keep an eye out!

xx

Me, elsewhere: How to run a business with your partner

I wrote an article earlier in the year about running a business with your partner. Lee and I are partners in life, business and crime (crimes include the illegal downloading of Mad Men, smoking pot while backpacking in Spain and occasionally letting Archie sit on our laps while we drive down the laneway. Gangsters!). There is no way I have all the answers, but we haven't killed each other yet, so we must be doing something right.

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For some couples, working together makes perfect sense. You have complementary skillsets, share a passion and vision and you obviously like them as a person and enjoy their company. Why not build on that and start a creative business together?

If you can make it work, setting up shop with your favourite person allows the kind of freedom, flexibility and work-life balance that creative people dream about. My husband and I run a bespoke timber furniture and joinery company, which allows us the flexibility to raise our young sons together. However, it hasn’t always been smooth sailing and there has been plenty of roaring arguments negotiations to get to where we are now. Here’s our advice to keep your business and relationship on track and out of the divorce court.

Read the rest!

Some awesome things I have read. And some gushing.

Some interesting books and articles I have read. Maybe you will find them interesting/awesome too.

I have been binge-reading everything that Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has ever written. She is the Nigerian writer whose TED talk (watch it) was sampled on Beyonce's 'Flawless' video. And anything endorsed by Queen Bey is obviously worthy of my time. Adichie's writing is mesmerising and raw, while also being un-putdown-able.

Speaking of heart-wrenching writing, I have just finished rereading Cheryl Strayed's Tiny Beautiful Things. God, that is probably one of my favourite books of all time. The prose is sweetness and light and grit and earth.

Our book club (which unintentionally seems to focus on female writers with a feminist slant) just finished Bad Feminist by Roxanne Gay. It's a book of essays, which aren't always my favourite thing, and honestly I loved some essays and wasn't mad on others. She has validating and positive discussions of everything from Lena Dunham's Girls to Sweet Valley High (Elizabeth Wakefield was always my favourite) to The Help.

I also recently read Girlboss by Sophia Amoruso and unlike most of the internet, I am not a fan. Amoruso started Nasty Gal Vintage, a vintage clothing store which started on eBay and is now a huge company. I was expecting a practical business book about leadership and DIYness, and granted, there are shades of that, but most of the book reads like an extended Dolly magazine article about girlpower and dream-following and selling your homemade plasticine jewellery at markets then using the profits to buy an art deco flat in Richmond #unrealisticmuch. I am all for more women starting their own businesses and doing it their way, sticking it to the man and all that, frankly Amoruso came off as totally self-congratulatory.

And on to the articles...

This is a loooooong story about passwords, but it's surprisingly fascinating.

Slow the eff down.

When someone you love wants to kill themselves.

Once again, Bec's writing has totally slain me. This is an old post, but her words are like a punch in the face. Marriage is really freaking hard, no matter how perfect anybody makes it look. Sometimes you hate each other and sometimes you feel like you are actually speaking entirely different languages and you want to push them until they hurt. And sometimes you do.

And then there are the times when you want to crawl up into their skin and hold them forever because there isn't enough words to express how you feel when they hook their ankle around your leg in the night. And how I know that if my sons turn out to be even a quarter of the man their father is, then I have done my job as their mother.

Well, that got gushy fast. 

Enjoy the weekend

xx

Things I Feel Guilty About

I feel guilty most of the time. Someone smart once told me that only good people feel guilty, so at least I have that. The stupidest part of the whole guilt thing is how I  feel guilty if I do something... and guilty if I don't. Oxymoron, much? Or maybe just moronic. I think my lesson here is to CHILL THE EFF OUT.

1. Sending my kid to creche twice a week. 

He gets so much out of it. Socialising, how to deal with other adults telling him what to do, more interesting activities than I do at home... at yet, I still feel enormous guilt about it. Mainly because he still gets upset on creche mornings, despite being fine five minutes after he settles in. I'm sure it's harder for me than it is for him. Dude likes to make his mum suffer.

2. Looking at my phone in front of the kids.

This is probably my biggest issue. Less mindful parental attention means more demanding kids means more rebellious teenagers means more drugs on the street means we're all going to die. I HATE how much I use my phone, and even downloaded an app (Moment) which tracks how long I am on my phone everyday. I am constantly checking emails, the weather, how many steps I've taken, the weather, my emails, Instagram, how long it will take us to walk to the zoo, my emails... so freaking boring. The app sends me a popup when I've been on it too much, which is making a big difference. But still. There is work to be done here, friends.

3. Not running.

Okay, I actually don't feel that guilty about this. I started the Couch to 5k running program and LOVED it for the first three weeks... then winter came, I got cold and wussy and tired, and um, couch-bound. The only time of the day I can run is 6am, before Lee leaves for work at 7am, and DUDE, as if me running at 6am was ever going to be sustainable. Also, I think I actually hate running. So for now, I am enjoying my soft, squishy mumbod and will start again when the weather is less frigid.

4. Eating sh*t

I'm looking at you, Baker's Delight Custard Scrolls. Also, leftover birthday cake/s, hunks of camembert, and seventy zillion cups of tea with sugar a day. I only drink tea with sugar when I'm home alone (by home alone, obviously I mean with the kids here too. I dream of the day I am actually in this home ALONE.) because I am a sneaky motherfucker and if a tree falls and no one hears it, does it make a sound? If I have sugar in my tea on my own, is it really unhealthy? Is it? IS IT?

Do you feel guilty about stuff? But obviously not guilty enough to actually do much about it? For the love of god, tell me I am normal.

Me, elsewhere : How to hire your first employee

I wrote an article recently for the very excellent Creative Women's Circle website about hiring your first employee. We actually have a couple of guys working for the business now and while it was a very positive decision for us (I now even get to see Lee sometimes!), we had no idea how to actually hire someone. Here's my hot tips...

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So, you’ve built your business up from scratch and poured your own blood, sweat, tears and cash into it. You have more work than you can handle and are in need of help. If you’re a one-lady operation, bringing someone else into your business can be daunting, especially if you are used to doing everything yourself.

The first step is realising that you can’t do it all, which can be both a revelation and a frustration. The second step? Relinquishing control and realising that hiring the right person will save you time, money and stress!

Read the rest here!

The Dictator

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I thought the Terrible Twos were kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy, and if I just stayed positive and light it would not be too much of a big deal.

I was wrong.

The big one is a whirlwind of activity and intensity. He is stubborn, independent and contrary, quick to give kisses and cuddles, loves wrestling and climbing all over me, then will start punching me in the arm.

His inner world is a huge volatile ocean of emotions and thoughts and feelings, and the weather can change from happy and content to total devastation and turmoil in the amount of time it takes a Lego tower to fall down. There are some days when it's like living with a tiny, noisy lunatic dictator. He bosses me around, bosses Jed around, bosses his toys around. I have to keep reminding myself that I'M the boss, not this confident, decisive little man-child. I tell him it's time for lunch and he'll say, "Actually, no mum. Wait until I'm ready, please" like a three-foot CEO.

While we were on holiday he had a fullscale meltdown over banana glue. His banana broke in half, so I fixed it with imaginary 'Banana Glue'.

Mistake.

The high point of the resulting tantrum was me cleaning non-existent Banana Glue off the broken ends of his banana and presenting it to him to inspect. He would wail hysterically while I ran back to the kitchen to get every last bit of non-existent glue off the banana, muttering to myself "How did I get here? I am an intelligent person and THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS EFFING BANANA GLUE!"

I read something about Emphatic Limits, where you set a limit and can comfort the kid when he cracks it, but still don't give in. I think it is kind of working, maybe? At every stage of the game, I have felt waaaaay out of my league but never more than dealing with a defiant toddler. But! He is hysterically funny, and prone to random breakdancing displays on the footpath, or spontaneous "I love yous" while yanking his shorts on, or big face squeezing, eye gazing, lip smacking kisses. It's a rollercoaster of emotions and disaster and mess and joy.

x

So...it's been a while

IMG_5898 The boys are seven months old  and two and a half now. The little guy is a sitting, eating, smiling little human being, with a personality and an opinion. The big guy is two and a half, and is an assertive, boisterous dude who makes strangers in Kmart watch him jump and doesn't like carrots because "I'm not a bunny rabbit, mum!" I am twenty-eight. I am working on liking what I like, carving out time, staying calm in the face of sleeplessness and chaos. So that is where we are.

Reading...

I have read a lot of brilliant, eye-opening writing lately, all on the Kobo (which is like a Kindle). The e-reader makes me read SO much more. I thought I would have the opposite effect, but according to the Reading Stats on the device, I have read 46 books in 335 hours in the past 12 months. That's almost a book a week, which isn't bad considering I had a baby and moved house in the past year. For 2015, I am making a commitment to read only Australian fiction. I've started early and in the past month have read The Strays by Emily Bitto, Past the Shallows by Favel Parrett, This House of Grief, The First Stone and True Stories by Helen Garner, and The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan. Reading so much of Garner's non-fiction work is what inspired me to start blogging again. Her writing slays me with its honesty, bluntness and total lack of irony or self-consciousness.

Wondering...

Part of the reason I haven't written here for a while is because I have conflicting feelings about sharing so much of my kid's lives online. There are a whole host of issues surrounding consent, identity and privacy that I'm not sure how to navigate it all... I don't know if anyone does, really. I think I will henceforth refer to the kids as A and J, and limit the amount of photos of their faces. It feels weird and curbs the flow of writing but we don't know how the online landscape will look in ten years, so for now I will be cautious.

Doing...

Enjoying summer. Having naked kids and me in a singlet, eating mangoes and peaches for lunch, rolling around hysterically on a rug in the backyard pretending to chew on little chubby thighs and grubby toes. Breathing in the bit behind J's ear that smells like almonds. Blasting the Lumineers and playing cricket in the laneway. Going to bed early and reading while sharing a Terry's Chocolate Orange with Lee. Making plans and schemes and lists for next year, our year of balance. Lee and I are both going to work part time. I am excited/scared about it, about sharing my domain of routines and dirty floors and playdates, and formalising working with my husband. It will certainly be an interesting transition - I will keep you updated.

x

Five things from the first twelve weeks

IMG_4702 So I have had a three month blog hiatus after my little dude was born. Understandable, considering I have become the kind of person who takes several days to reply to a text, let along write a freaking blog post. The little guys take up quite a bit of time, with the feeding and yabbering and feeding and laughing and pooping and feeding and not napping. Jed is awesome and cute and funny and much, much more relaxed than his brother was at his age. The first few months with a baby are messy, chaotic and emotional, but we are slowly emerging from the bubble back into the real world. Here's some stuff I've noticed from the first three months...

  • The logistics of having two kids is tricky. Do I leave Jed on the footpath while I strap Archie into the car? Or leave Archie to hold on to me while I get Jed in? Gah!
  • I have to include at least 10 minutes just to get out of the house. As in, the actual act of walking from the back door to driving down the driveway. It goes like this: Manage to get both kids dressed in relatively clean clothes. Watch Archie jump off the back step six times. Carry Jed's carseat and the enormous nappy bag into the car. Tell Archie not to run on the driveway. Clip Jed's carseat in. Chase Archie across the backyard. Negotiate with him to come to the car. Wrestle him into the carseat. Settle an unhappy Jed. Start car. Go back inside to get forgotten water bottle. Realise I have the wrong pram in the boot. Take single pram out and lug the enormous double pram into the boot. Resettle Jed. Finally start moving, while singing 53745750 verses of the Wheels on the Bus.
  • I am not as tired this time around. I think part of it is that I am already used to being up at 6am and going to bed early, and have gotten waaaaay more efficient with sleep. And I know the sleepless nights will eventually pass and I will miss the nighttime feedings one day. That said, Jed is currently only waking up once a night, usually at about 2am and sleeps 7-7, so I can't complain too much. Although Archie was a great sleeper until he hit four months and started waking up at least five times a night... so I'm not getting too excited.
  • Breastfeeding is a bit easier the second time around. I am more comfortable flopping the boob out in public or in awkward positions (while playing cricket with Archie, for example), and got a handle on the oversupply issues more quickly. Jed feeds every three hours, and takes 3-5 minutes to feed. And he only feeds one side at a time. I know, I know. I am pretty lucky, but because he feeds so damn fast he gets super gassy. The kid is like a freaking boob vacuum.
  • Two boys are ace. I'm looking forward to when they can play and wrestle and explore together. So many adventures to be had!

xx

And then there were four: Jethro's birth story

10441368_497360820391345_3765657742184911976_n Soon after Archie was born, I wrote up the story of his birth for posterity, before the details disappeared in the fog of nappies, milk and snuggles that descends in the weeks after giving birth. I’m so glad I did it, even though the boys are both likely to be horrified at reading about their mum’s ladyparts.

Here is Jed’s story…

So I had been having really uncomfortable contractions for almost two weeks before my due date. They were becoming pretty tiresome and annoying, and three times we had the car packed ready to go before the contractions fizzled out into nothing. I was waddling up and down the driveway and heaving myself up and down the stairs to try and get things moving, but no luck. I never thought I would actually be looking forward to childbirth, but I felt totally ready and was so sick of being pregnant. I was excited to actually get into the next stage of our life!

On Wednesday 28th I had a stretch and sweep, which is pretty much what it sounds like – my midwife gloved up and tickled the baby’s head to entice it out. Not exactly comfortable but I lost all my dignity somewhere around the time during Archie’s birth where I was screaming in the foyer of the Mercy hospital wearing a dressing gown and an eye mask. She thought that the baby would come that night, so I got excited and tried to rest as much as possible.

I woke up at about 5.30am on Thursday 29th – my due date - busting to pee, and as I got up I felt like the baby had dropped really low. My fake contractions had ramped up and by 6.30am I was pretty sure that things were happening. It was probably the best timing ever – Archie only goes to daycare one day a week, on a Thursday. Lee was installing a big job at Werribee Zoo and I had been freaking out that I would go into labour and he would be stuck at the zoo, but he obviously stayed home once we realised that the baby would arrive soon.

Going into labour during the day was a completely different feeling to labouring at night and I was a bit worried that I would give birth during peak hour on the side of Bell Street. We called Amy, my awesome midwife and told her that things were finally happening. The contractions weren’t that painful yet and I could still talk and walk around. I was leaning over the kitchen table breathing through a big one and Archie was just chatting to me, totally oblivious. Mum took him to daycare and I told him that he would be a big brother next time I saw him.

I got in the shower for a while but the hot water ran out which was pretty bloody distressing, as a hot shower is my number one form of pain relief. Since I figured the hospital had endless hot water, we decided to go. This was about 9.30am. The car trip was crap. I was fine in between contractions, but during them it felt like I could feel every single little pebble on the road. Lee managed to strike a balance between driving like an old man and driving like a maniac to get there as fast and as smoothly as possible.

Thankfully, the hospital was open this time and I didn’t have to bang on the door while screaming. We went into the birth centre just after 10am, just as the midwife was arriving and went straight into the birthing room. I was still talking and laughing in between contractions, but they were getting more and more painful and were about five minutes apart. Amy listened to the heartbeat and poked my tummy and said that the bub was in a great position and that I would spit it out soon (her words.) I stripped off and got straight into the shower, sitting on a plastic chair wearing nothing but a shower cap. The noise of the shower cap was a good distraction from the pain of the contractions.

I hung out in the shower for about an hour and a half. It was super hot and steamy and Amy’s glasses kept fogging up. Because it was daylight and I had only been in labour for a few hours, I was much more awake and lucid than last time. Judging by the pain level and by how long Archie’s birth was, I thought I had hours and hours to go so was trying to conserve energy between contractions by leaning on the towel rail. Lee’s mum and my mum had arrived and I could see them watching me.

The best bit about having a baby in a midwife-run birth centre rather than a normal birthing suite with doctors and medical staff is how hands-off everyone is. Obviously, if something was wrong they would spring into action, but I never had any internal examinations or monitoring or people fussing around and was totally left to just listen to my body and roll with it.

I felt a lot of downwards pressure and thought that I might be ready to push. Amy told me not to be afraid of the pushing feeling and to just go with it. She had told me earlier that the pushing stage in second labours can be as short as ten minutes, but I totally didn’t believe her as it took over an hour to push Archie’s giant head out.

Clearly she was right though, because I suddenly had a huge overwhelming feeling to poo and was sure that I was going to crap myself in front of my husband, mum and mother-in-law. Um, no, that would be the baby coming out.

Sitting down on a plastic chair is not conducive to pushing out a baby, so Amy told me to stand up. My legs were shaking and had turned to jelly, so I lurched myself at Lee in one movement. My waters broke in a huge gush, which freaked me out because they never broke with Archie, but it relieved a lot of pressure.

Lee had all 80 kilos of me and baby in an awkward headlock/wrestling move to avoid us all falling down, but managed to stay semi-upright and hold me while I let out a massive scream and the head started to appear.

If anyone is wondering what it actually feels like to push a baby out of you, well, it basically feels like you are pushing a baby out of you. It is that painful. I let out another scream and the baby’s head popped right out, then one more big push and Jethro Thomas Gratton plopped out onto the floor. Amy quickly picked him up and gave him to Lee for skin on skin time, and I lowered myself down on the ground. My first thought was that he was so tiny, much smaller than Archie, and was completely, totally perfect.

I had an injection to help the placenta come out – I held Lee’s hand because, hello, injections hurt, even if you have just pushed a human being out of your body – and managed to stand up and walk to the bed. I was a bit in shock at how easy it had been – three big pushes and he was out in less than five minutes.

The placenta came out, Lee handed me the little dude and he found the boob and fed like a trooper. He is 100g smaller than Archie at 4.4kg, and a couple of centimetres shorter at 55cm. Most importantly, his head is a whole 4cm smaller than Archie’s hefty dome. Thanks, Jed. He is still considered to be a big baby, although he seems super-small to me, because he is much more petite and delicate than his brother. He has his dad’s enormous feet and long fingers.

My brother picked Archie up from daycare at about 2pm and brought him in to meet his little brother. Archie glanced at Jed and then asked if he could eat some more grapes. Then he spotted my lunch tray and ate the bread roll and grilled chicken, before he spotted a crane out the window and watched that for a while. Not so interested in his brother!

Archie seemed so big and grown up compared to Jed – he was bouncing on the bed in his Chucks and hoodie and kind of freaked me out at how quickly time has gone. It seems like only yesterday that he was a teeny, roly-poly newborn.

We were going to go home that afternoon, but they had a private room on the ward so gave us the chance to stay as we still had to meet with the physio and mental health lady and have Jed’s hearing tested and glucose testing done. Seriously, our experience with the public hospital midwifery system has been so awesome. We had a big double room with a view of the Dandenongs, a midwife on call and now four follow-up midwife visits at home.

While I was pregnant, I was worried that I wouldn't be able to love this next baby as much as I love Archie. I couldn’t imagine feeling the same depth of emotion and fierce protectiveness for another person. But you know what? A mama’s love is elastic and infinite and ferocious. It stretches and expands with each baby, filling up the space in and around her family like a web.

Before Jed was born, there was a feeling that someone was still missing in our little trio. He has been patiently waiting in the wings to complete our family. And now we are whole.

xx