I don’t need a village but I do need help

helpI’ve never been very good at accepting help. Possibly because I often find ‘help’ more of a ‘hindrance’, if you know what I mean. And I’ve never really needed a great deal of help – well certainly not before I had children and not in the early stages of parenthood.

When my first baby was born, I remember the strongest piece of advice in all the baby books was to leave the washing and the cleaning up. Never, I thought. I don’t like mess. Fortunately I had a baby that slept for long periods at a time. So, in addition to attending to her needs I was also able to go on long walks, do pilates, cook the dinner, bake sweets and clean the house. People would kindly say, “Just sing out if you need any help”. But, I didn’t. I was lucky in some ways, well organised in other ways, and pig-headed in further ways!

When my second child came along, I got quite a rude shock. Those small gaps of “free” time were swallowed up the moment she was born. She was a serial cat napper. And when she was awake, she was unhappy. It was the antithesis to my first experience. She demanded my attention all day long. There was no time for cleaning, little time for cooking and certainly no time for leisurely walks or baking. But still I didn’t like accepting help. So I became very tolerant of mess and chaos.

“Why don’t you put them in childcare?”, “Get a nanny”, and “Hire a cleaner”, the suggestions flowed. But I ploughed along. I was lucky that my mother-in-law looked after my girls once a week if she could and this was a godsend. But sometimes she went away, on long holidays for up to seven weeks!

When my third daughter was born, two years ago, life got messier and busier. Having three kids in less than three years will do that to your life. I got accustomed to living in a continuum of chaos. But then I made a change. My saviour came in the form of these two words: Occasional care.

Miss J and Miss H go to a wonderful and warm neighbourhood house once a week. It allows me time to drink a coffee in peace, clean up some of the mess (I say “some”) and recharge…. a little. It also gives me one-on-one time with Miss A, which is a highlight of my week. It is “help” and I like it.

The old adage “It takes a village to raise a child” has merit but who has access to a village.? I don’t think I need a village but an extra pair of hands, now THAT I can definitely embrace. So, things are changing around here. I am accepting help. Not only that, I am seeking help.

On my To Do list is the following:

* Hire a nanny/babysitter to look after my girls for half a day each week, thereby allowing me to escape to the library to do work.

* Ask my lovely MIL if she will look after my girls one morning a week so I can do a Cardio tennis workout for an hour with a friend.

* Pay a baby sitter once a month so I can go out on a date with hubby or out to dinner with friends.

* Investigate getting a cleaner once a fortnight. Still in two minds about this one as technically I can spot clean during naps, at night-time and on weekends. But gosh it would be nice to open the front door to a neat house….

How about you? Do you get much help? Are you good at accepting help or do you prefer to do it all yourself?

How to throw a fabulous 5th birthday Fairy Party

party foodIn the past, I’ve kept my kids’ birthday parties to modest affairs – the cheap and cheerful variety. But this year for Miss A’s 5th birthday I decided to spend a little more time and money on creating a spectacular party for my beautiful girl. When I asked her what type of party she would like, I was not the least bit surprised when she requested a Fairy theme.

At the age of five she’s delightfully immersed in imaginative play and the existence of fairies are very real. The best part about planning this party was consulting with my client every step of the way. Miss A loved every part of the event coordination, from developing the invitees list, to collecting the RSVPs and deciding on catering requirements. We had so much fun and her involvement made it a really fun and exciting event.

The party venue

I toyed with the idea of hosting the party away from home but ultimately our backyard provided the perfect backdrop for a ‘Fairy Garden Party’. We were blessed with a perfect autumn day. Scattered tables and chairs around the garden enabled the kids to sit down together to eat, which I am a big fan of at parties. Balloons, a fairy castle and pinwheels also added to the whimsical theme.

Party Decorations

Followers of my blog will know I am not the art & crafty type. I am more creative with knives and icing than with scissors and paste. But for this party I decided to make an effort with decorations other than balloons! I picked up these crafty kits in the US (if you are ever visiting go to Paper Source – a stationary lovers paradise). Together with Miss A, we created this colourful icy-pole garland and these bright pinwheels. It was heaps of fun and I have to say, rather rewarding too!

The Party Dress!

A birthday girl must have a new party dress and I picked up this gorgeous dress at GAP kids on my shopping spree in the US. Complete with fairy wings and pink jiffies, she looked every bit the beautiful fairy hostess. IMG_4846 The entertainment

I saw an article in the local paper about a young girl who had launched her own Fairy party business. The fairy business is quite competitive these days and I wanted to support a local teenager showing entrepreneurial skills. Enter Fairy Friends Forever. Fairy Molly and Fairy Leah entertained the guests with nail art, face painting and the party games, including pass-the-parcel, musical butterflies and piñata. The best part about it is it freed me up to chat to my friends and drink champagne.

Party food

The moment I started planning Miss A’s menu I knew I would need some more baking tools. Given I have zero time to drag kids around to shops I jumped online to Miss Dot.  Miss Dot is a one-stop-shop for all your baking essentials, specialising in quality baking products and accessories. Ordering was so easy and my products arrived in the post the very next day. I love getting a package at my front door and these items helped create the show stopping cake. IMG_2425

The party spread included:

Fairy “Grissini” wands

These fairy wands were delicious and super easy to make, albeit a little messy. I did a mix of dark chocolate and white chocolate and they were a hit. Miss A and Miss J helped me create the wands, hence the mess. But it was fun mess!

Buttercream Cup Cakes

Every party must have cup cakes even if the kids devour the icing and leave half the cake! I found these gorgeous ballerina cake toppers at a specialty cake store and the fondant icing toppers were from the supermarket. Pink buttercream icing is always a favourite at our parties.

IMG_4885 Fairy bread

Fairy bread is an essential item at “Fairy” party and my client requested star shapes. I did the buttering and cutting, and she placed the stars in the 100’s and 1000’s, diligently ensuring full coverage. IMG_4878 Rainbow fruit wands

Kids are more inclined to eat fruit when it’s presented like this. One child’s mother said she saw her daughter eat fruit eagerly for the first time in a long time! Miss A requested blueberries, despite me proposing the less expensive grape! IMG_4880 Party Cake

I set myself a big challenge this year:  To experiment with fondant icing! This is not something I have ever attempted before. Miss A requested a Ballerina Cake but no such cake was to be found in the trusty Australian Women’s Weekly Kids’ Birthday Cakes book. So I had to use my imagination and create an original design. A separate post on working with fondant will appear on my blog soon. For now, let’s just say the cake was a 4-week process!

Working with fondant was fun although there are A LOT of pressure points. Miss A helped create the pink heart-shaped decorations and topped with a beautiful ballerina figurine we think the cake scrubbed up pretty well. cake Party Bags

A couple of treats, a couple of novelty items and cute rainbow party bags topped with a colourful peg! My girls were in charge of the party bags so I can’t be sure all items were distributed equally…

Fit for a fairy 

One of the most unique presents Miss A received was this cute Fairy Egg. Over 48 hours it actually hatches a fairy. What a great idea. I’ll be fairy egg shopping for a few upcoming girls’ parties.

The verdict

The Fairy Garden Party was a huge hit and Miss A was the happiest and most grateful guest of all. I had barely finished cleaning up when Miss J started suggesting themes for her 4th birthday!! Lucky it’s not until September, as I need a rest….

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My beautiful fairy…

 

A story about conception

pregnancyI’ve been in Japan for 10 days on a work trip and I am flying home. I am so excited to see your dad. I am hoping that life – your life – has been created inside me.

Our reunion is beautiful; just like it is after every trip. Only this time there is the added excitement of possibility; the possibility of a positive pregnancy.

You see, I am late.

I tell myself not to get too excited. Air travel can affect the body; it’s not unusual to be late after flying from a different time zone.

I am impatient. “I want to do a test,” I say to your dad.

“Why don’t we wait until tomorrow?” he suggests. I sense he is trying to protect me from potential disappointment.

The answer is no. I can’t wait a day longer. I’ve never been so excited about anything in my life.

I am crushed when the test is negative. Your dad says to be patient but I want you now.

I go to bed feeling confused. I was sure I felt differently.

**********************************************************************************

Three days later.

I do another test. My heart beats a little quicker. Is that two lines I see?

Could we really be this lucky?

I dare not believe that it could be true. There’s one line but I could be imaging the second line, so desperately I want it to be true.

I show your dad the pregnancy test. The second line is so faint he can barely see it. He’s not convinced.

It’s not my imagination is it? Is that a second blue line or just an illusion?

I make a doctor’s appointment for the next day. I go to bed willing your life to exist. Your dad remains calm. He didn’t see the second line; he’s worried I will be disappointed.

I can hardly contain my excitement once in the doctor’s surgery.

“I take it this is something you really want?” she says, knowing full well it is.

She does a test. It’s the longest minute of my life. I search her face for signs of confirmation. She squints at the stick and a frown appears.

The result is negative. I am shocked. I tell her I wasn’t imagining it. I am sure there was a line.

My body feels different. I know you are growing inside me.

She does a blood test. “Maybe you are too hydrated,” she says offering me some hope. “False negatives can happen” she explains encouragingly.

“You’ll get the results tomorrow,” she says.

I am upset by the negative result. Your dad tries to comfort me but I go to sleep feeling sad.

***********************************************************************************

The next day.

I am at work when I call the doctor’s surgery from my desk at the first available opportunity.

“I am calling to get some results. Can you check for me?” I say, nervously, still hopeful….

A few seconds of silence save for the tapping of keys on the keyboard. And then she speaks:

“I have good news for you. You are pregnant. Congratulations.”

I am giddy with the joy. I have just been given the best news of my life. Goose bumps cover my skin. I send an email to your dad. It’s the shortest email I have ever sent, containing just one word…..

Positive!

My phone rings seconds later. It’s your dad.

**********************************************************************************

And so our journey together begins. I am the happiest person in the world.

My darling Miss A, the moment you were conceived my whole world shifted. I had been given the greatest gift imaginable. And when I met you I fell in love. We both felt a fierce, vulnerable and uninhibited love, a strand of love not known to us before.

I have watched you grow into the most thoughtful, kind, curious and compassionate young girl.  You have a greedy curiosity, tempered with a quite patience and focus. I love watching your big, blue eyes blazing with life and love and joy.

To be with you is to bear witness to a profound optimism.

To speak to you is to know your sharp mind and revealing sense of humour.

To play with you is to see imagination at its most powerful and creative.

To read with you is to understand how perceptive and self-aware you are at such a young age.

To be still with you is to see your mind quietly embracing the present.

To kiss you is to feel love.

To know you is to love you and to love life more.

To call you my daughter is the greatest blessing of my life.

Happy 5th Birthday Miss A. Thank you for teaching me so much about life. Thank you for creating that second line. I love you more than words can express.

 

 

 

What kind of “Liker” are you?

likeIn the modern age of instant gratification it’s no surprise that when you broadcast something on Facebook you want a flood of “Likes” in response. The innocent thumbs up symbol can make you feel validated, appreciated, loved and respected, but the absence of the like leaves you feeling unloved, insecure and perplexed. Trust me, I know. I think I may suffer from “like anxiety”. If there’s not a medical term for it now, I am sure it won’t be long before there is one.

“Likes” are Facebook’s social currency, and there is plenty of thumbs up action going on. After all it feels good to be liked and social acceptance is no exception.  But are you a genuine liker, or an automatic one? Do you actually like the things you “like” on Facebook?

When I launched my blog and Facebook page I had no idea how I would come to scrutinise and catalogue the number or likes, shares and comments.  Or more noticeably, the silence. Such is the curse of the social like.  Over the past 18 months I have learnt to distinguish the different types of likers. Here are my observations:

The Serial liker: As the name suggests, this person pretty much likes anything in their feed. They are on social media a lot and that little thumbs up from them comes up a nano-second after you’ve posted your update. Love the serial liker. The serial liker is gold for bloggers. They often get the cycle of likes coming. Someone has to start it of. Although their sincerity is questionable (I mean seriously, can they really like every crappy update about your children?) but it really doesn’t matter.

The Discerning liker: This person is far harder to charm and they don’t give away their likes easily. They actually think about what you’ve written or photographed and if they are not convinced, they don’t like. From a political rant to a fairly innocuous pinterest pic, if they don’t like what they see, they aint gonna like it. On the upside, getting the thumbs up from the Discerning liker is quite a thrill.

The Agreeable liker: Consistently affable and complimentary, the Agreeable liker lives up to their name, agreeing with pretty much whatever you say. Either you’ve nailed the message-to-market beautifully and they genuinely do agree with you, or they are just as agreeable online as they are in person.

The Disagreeable liker: This person doesn’t seem to agree with much. They have an opinion and aren’t afraid to share it on Facebook. They were probably head of the debating team in high school. Or perhaps they are actually quite shy in person but online they find their voice.

The Aloof liker: Much like a distant crush, this person pops up now and then but there’s no consistency to their presence. They may like one post, but not the next.  Don’t push too hard with them. They don’t stick around too long and are likely to shut down if you try to engage with them. They arrive late to the party and leave early. The trick with this relationship is to know just the right time to stop the conversation. Push them too hard and they’ll get frustrated. Don’t show too much interest. A fine balance is the key to sustaining this liker.

The Giveaway liker: This liker is a lurker – lurking in the background just waiting for a giveaway or competition update. You don’t see this person pop up in the comments section outside of freebie Fridays. All of a sudden they have an opinion when there’s something on offer.

The Teaser liker: This so-called Facebook friend is online liking everyone else’s updates apart from yours. You are most likely very close with this person which is why it’s so confusing. This person is usually glued to their device so you know they can’t be missing your updates. They taunt you by liking every pic and status update on their feed but for some unknown reason they are not liking what you are posting.

Recognise yourself in this line-up? What kind of “liker” are you?

* In the interest of full discloser, I love getting liked. So if you haven’t already liked me, it’s time you did! Come on, “Like” me, please at Not another slippery dip. I’ll like you back. I am a payback liker! 

If you are reading this on your smart phone and the link is not working go to https://www.facebook.com/notanotherslipperydip

Musings on Michigan: a week sans kids

IMG_2628Some of you may be wondering where hubby and I escaped to on our 9-day adventure sans kids. I mentioned we were travelling to the US but I didn’t say where. Much as I wished it was an exciting city like New York or San Francisco, it was not. We went to Detroit. You may ask why? Understandably so. It’s hardly a tourist destination and won’t be making any Top Cities of the World lists.  But we did not go to Motor City for a holiday. It’s fair to say we are facing a major life decision as hubby has been offered a job there. But that’s another post altogether! For now, let me share with you my musings on Michigan.

I have travelled to the US several times, for both work and pleasure. I’ve been to Seattle, New York and Chicago (pleasure) and Nashville, Huntsville and Las Vegas (work). I am both fascinated and perplexed by the States but there’s a lot to love.

Things I loved:

Choices, Substitute & Sides

I just love ordering at restaurants in the US. Some people may find it irritating but I embrace the choices available on menus. You order a burger but it doesn’t end there. Do you want a whole-wheat, rye, and white, sour dough bun? American, cheddar, provolone or Jack cheese? A side of fries or salad? Mustard or mayo? I love it! For someone, like me, who never likes EXACTLY what’s on the menu, I love the way I can substitute ingredients and the waiter doesn’t look at me like they want to spit in my food. It’s awesome.

IMG_2563Mexican is huge in the US and they know how to do it well!

IMG_2564But the sizes are huge. This was dinner for two!!

The people

The Americans are just so darn lovely. During our week in Michigan we were welcomed by everyone from the shop staff, to the waiters, to strangers on the street. They are sincere, polite, helpful and friendly.  Although, Aussie sarcasm is a little lost on them!

The burgers

OK, I actually first discovered Red Robin in Canada but it’s an American chain and I always hunt it down when I am visiting. I’ve had a garden burger (vegie burger) in Chicago, Vegas and now Detroit. I can’t quite put my finger on it but I think it’s the mayo or relish that makes it so good. Delicious. Every. Time.

IMG_2589If you are ever travelling in Northern America, you MUST locate a Red Robin!

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The shopping

I just love clothes shopping in the US. It always seems much easier and less expensive than Australia. Somerset Mall had all my retail requirements under the one roof. I was very democratic with my expenditure and shopped up a storm at The Limited, GAP, Banana Republic and Anthropologie (my favourite shop in the US). And GAP kids did pretty well out of my visit too! And Kitchen Aid stand mixers were on sale for $399. We pay double that in Australia. It’s a pity the electrics aren’t compatible with Australia, or is that just what hubby told me….?!?!

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Things I didn’t love so much:

The weather

Admittedly we visited during the longest, coldest and snowiest winter on record in Michigan, but coming from 35 degrees in Melbourne to below 0 temperatures in Detroit was quite the shock. On one day it was -14, hubby spent 15 minutes scraping the snow and ice off the car windscreen, and then we got stuck in the snow and hubby had to push the car out of it.

I also discovered that snow may look pretty blanketing the houses and streets but it looks ugly piled up on the side of the road, smothered in dirt. I had to wonder if I could survive a winter…..I tend to think the novelty of snow might wear off quite quickly and become a nuisance.

IMG_0841 Fresh snowfall is breathtaking…

IMG_0845But scraping the ice and snow off the windscreen and having to shovel the snow out from under your car is not fun!

IMG_0836A frozen playground! Not sure they needed the sign to keep people away!!

Downtown Detroit

It was an incredible experience driving around the streets of downtown Detroit and the neighbouring suburbs. Although it was fascinating, it was eerie and sad to see so many houses abandoned, simply rotting away. Entire streets had been evacuated. I’ve never seen anything like it in my life. And I’ve been to war-torn Bosnia and seen buildings destroyed by bombing and shrapnel. In some ways it reminded me of that. Devastating.

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The flight home

Flying at 50,000 feet suffering from Strep throat is by far the most agonising experience of my life. I have NEVER been in so much pain and can honestly say it was worse than childbirth. It didn’t help that we were delayed in LA 12 hours and our 30-hour flight home came in just under 50-hours.

The highlight of the trip:

Having my girls leap into my arms when we arrived home, shedding tears of excitement. I have never felt so grateful in my life. There is no place like home. No place.

Have you ever spent time in the US? How did you find it?

19 things I’ve learnt as a mum

nappy wipesAs my youngest baby nears two and my oldest baby nears five, something is happening in my world. The “fog” is starting to lift. Having three children in less than three years has made motherhood an all-consuming job. For almost five years I’ve been living in a perpetual state of chaos and fatigue. It’s been a hectic pace but I’ve squeezed a lot of learning into this chapter of my life. Here are 20 random lessons I’ve learned on the job:

1. Motherhood redefines pain, exhaustion and love; the order of which depends on the day!

2. If you want to make any friends at mothers’ group DON’T tell them if your baby is sleeping through the night at eight weeks. Feign tiredness and nod sympathetically if you want to connect.

3. First-time mothers know their baby is 21 months and 6 days old. Second-time mums know vaguely in months, and third-time mums round up or down to the nearest year.

4. Nursing a baby while nursing a hangover is worse than labour.

5. Sometimes those infomercials you watch blankly in the dead of the night actually seem like good ideas.

6. More than once you will find yourself pushing an empty pram, rocking a shopping trolley or swaying from side to side even when your baby is not with you!

7. The old-fashioned height measuring system on the back of door is much cooler than the high-end wall decals flooding the market.

8.  When you go out without your first-born baby you feel naked.  When you go out without your second-born you call to check in with the babysitter. When you go out without your third-born you don’t want to come home!

9. Bribes, rewards, incentives:  call them what you like, they all mean the same thing and there’s a place for them in my mothering book.

10. Nappy wipes will dominate your life for years, but their uses extend beyond babies’ bottoms.

11. Your child who never sleeps during the day, won’t eat anything, and throws tantrums, will miraculously transform into an angel when their dad is looking after them.

12. There is a lot of code in motherhood around child behaviour: “Spirited” is a nice way of defining explosive, intense behaviour, and an “energetic” child is most likely strong-willed, stubborn and unable to concentrate.

13. Kids’ birthday cakes do not have to be Pinterest perfect. I’ve spent hours – actually days – assembling the perfect Castle Cake and immaculate fairy cakes.  The one they declared “The Best Cake Ever” was the $5 chocolate mud cake purchased from the supermarket.

14. The crinkly kangaroo pouch of skin that was once your tummy is here to stay. Accept it and think of it as a “souvenir” from your pregnancy.

15. The bonds boy-cut knickers that now replace your matching sets are also here to stay.

16. You eat a lot of humble pie as a mum. The things you swore you’d never do become necessary for your survival (for example, refer to 9).

17. Treachery (like feeding your baby formula) is best committed not by the traitor herself but by a hired assassin (dad).

18. When you think you’ve cleaned up the last of the vomit, be prepared for one last spew all over the bed linen you’ve just replaced. There’s always one more after the last one.

19. Forcing your toddler to go to their room for quiet time when they are not tired doesn’t always work. Feeling smug one day, I told my 3-year-old she had to have a day rest, if not a sleep. As her room fell silent I applauded myself for being firm and enjoyed an hour of peace. When I later opened her door to discover a hand drawn mural in pink highlighter the entire length of her wall, I didn’t feel so smug after all. But refer to number 10 for the saviour!

What’s missing from this list? What lessons have you learned on the job? 

* First published on Essential Baby

A trip without the kids

virgin-atlantic-plane-here-you-can-see_299506In a couple of days hubby and I are heading off on an overseas adventure. I won’t call it a holiday as such, but we are going to the US, to explore a new city. I’ll save the details and reasons for such a trip for later but suffice to say we are contemplating a life change. So, we are going away without the children. I am going to repeat that sentence. We are going away without the children!

We’ve never done this before. (more…)