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Saturday, 13 September 2014

You Weren’t Ok– And that is Ok

I'm sharing something that happened this week that made me sad. Twice I experienced someone going through a hardship/concern/deep pain and they broke down and tears flowed. They both apologised for this - one for "being unprofessional" another for "ruining your lunch".  This happened on "R U OK?” week.

HoldMe

Can I please please please just put this out there to the universe and to you the people I care more than a stuff about, you will never ever have to apologise to me because your heart needed healing and you felt I could help?? Even if it was just to let you talk or hold your hand.

I am not good at asking for help. I need to get better. Having a child and being away from family meant that I have had to learn to. The hardest thing I had to say once was “I am really lonely”. I just needed some company and I didn’t want dragon to get caught up in my loneliness as a parent without a support network beyond my nuclear family. So I believe these people were stronger than me because they let their emotions flow in front someone that they never thought they would do it in front of. It bought them some time. To process. That is so beneficial to a heart that is heavy.

That is all. Much has been made about mental health this week. I am leaving this right here  - sometimes the heart needs healing so the mind doesn’t fall down the rabbit hole. An apology makes me sad because a ‘thank you’ is more than enough.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Oat, Banana & Chia Pancakes

Weekends and pancakes go hand-in-hand for us these days and in our household their ‘portability’ and capacity for disguising additional ingredients from the toddler Dragon they have featured a lot in the “starting solids” journey.

I have been asked for the recipe a few times recently so I am documenting it here to let my friends bookmark/evernote away for their convenience and hey you might like them too!

This version makes for a good breakfast and a hearty ‘on-the-go’ snack and is versatile enough to accommodate variations such as dairy-free, egg free, low/no gluten, banana free as needed so I’m including some substitutions for you.  They can be done in a blender, thermomix or with a good old cake mixer.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1 1/2 – 2 tblsp chia seeds
  • 1/2 cup milk (more if needed for consistency – I have used coconut milk with success too)
  • 1 banana (apple sauce can be used as a substitution)
  • 1/4 cup greek yoghurt
  • 1 egg (optional)
  • 1/2 cup self raising flour (plain flour + baking powder can be used to)
  • Butter/coconut oil/macadamia oil for cooking
  • Optional  - berries

Method

  1. Grind the first two ingredients in your TMX (sp 8, 5 secs) or blender – this is optional but if you skip this step you need to soak in milk for longer (20-30  mins);
  2. Add milk, enough to cover the mix. The longer you leave it, the more gelatinous the batter will be from the chia seeds. Leave it to soak for at least 10 mins. Great chance to get your skillet or electric fry pan ready;
  3. Break the banana into pieces, add the yoghurt (again you can vary the quantity according to taste). Yoghurt adds a nice tartness, makes the pancakes silky soft and balances out the banana sweetness;
  4. Add egg and your dry flour of choice. I use self raising or add baking powder to help keep air in the batter as the banana can make it stodgy;
  5. There is no need to rush to the skillet, the batter softens a lot from resting. Now I mix in berries by hand to keep then intact and have them burst with juice when you go to eat them.
  6. Cook them on your skillet/frying pan – be patient you want them to cook right through. I used a salted butter because the butter actually adds a nice balance to the banana sweetness;
  7. Serve – sprinkle of cinnamon, sliced bananas, yoghurt and a drizzle of pure maple syrup or agave syrup and you’re away!

Variations

  • Using coconut milk? Squeeze on some lime juice and grate some palm sugar to serve. Great with sliced strawberries;
  • Use buckwheat flour – really let it soak;
  • Make a berry coulis – so quick with frozen berries and a little water gently heated on the stove;

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And don’t let this image of Dragon fool you – she loved these pancakes. She was just majorly offended to find blueberries in them. Even though she once ate it by the puBlueberriesnnett full this time last year, they now receive an undeniable reaction. She still waved her arms enthusiastically demanding  more but I had to be ‘that’ parent and pull out the blueberries and wait for her to inspect it before demolishing it.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Crazy Colourful Bath Fun

As my days with dragon are starting to decrease as increase my days at work, I feel the need to make sure she gets to do something special on our day together.  The weather had turned a bit and a park playdate was going to be weather dependent so I decided we had better make the most of the day before the pre-nap crankiness set in!

BathPaints

A wakeful night for the whole family meant the morning routine was a little out of whack. Miss would be needing a bath so a bit of mucky fun seemed in order before that.

I had seen several suggested bath paints online and knew there was a great recipe out there to contain the mess to the bathroom!

I settled on using the method from The Idea Room.

But not being one to follow recipes to the letter, my version turned out like this

  • 1/2 cup cornflour
  • 1/4 cup Baby wash/shampoo – this was a chance to use up the sample packs and brands we don’t normally use
  • 1/4 cup lukewarm water
  • Food colouring
  • Plastic fork for mixing
  • Bath scrub for the tub
  • Paint brushes, sponges

I added a little more water as I wanted a runnier consistency because I wasn’t necessarily convinced they would come off so easily!!

I mixed up the first 3 ingredients then poured it into our tray. I decided to use our much beloved Weanmeister freezer pods that were awesomely useful to us during our early days of starting solids and continue to prove their utility in our home.

I went a little heavy handed with the food colouring so be warned!  Also I had an impatient ankle biter confused by what was being made on the kitchen counter and was convinced she was hungry as well as curious!  Give them a good stir to absorb the colours and keep the corn starch from separating.

Dragon had a silly load of fun – we made sure that the session was accompanied by lots of warm water  - it was a little nippy, intense colours and a need to clean brushes.  It was testing for mummy to see the crazy colour mixing but what fun for the dragon. I was frequently ordered to keep the supplies of warm water coming  so I gave up the constant running and turned on the warm water helped move around the excess colour.

Clean up is a breeze too – grab that bath scrub and encourage them to start wiping as you pour the warm water. Once the colours were nicely diluted, I popped the plug in and filled up the tub. Fears that I may have colour dipped my child into looking like a smurf were soon allayed. I rubbed a bit of coconut oil on her skin for extra cleaning measure. It made the bath a slip n’ slide which only added to the fun! 

So throw on some fun tunes, strip them off and let them go for it! My very happy little girl enjoyed a lovely nap after all her fun and this evening insisted another bath was necessary and gave her Dad a run for his money when he tried to get her out (I forgot to put away the paint brushes!!!)

Warning: Please keep an eye on your little at all times. The soapy paint makes the tub slippery. Do not leave them unattended and frequently dilute with water to wash away the soapiness. I used less soap than the original recipe required.

And the Winner is …

The very lovely lady, Dawn had her name drawn for the Green Dragon Epsom Bath Salts and they are on their way to her so hoping she can fit that long walk, a hot soak with these salts and maybe even that book while you’re there!! She deserves it for sure!

Anyway I’m looking forward to sharing some with my osteopath this weekend and have to stock up myself!!  So if you missed on out on the draw please check out Green Dragon, I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Review: Green Dragon Epsom Salts

When my body hurts it hurts bad. A bad flare up can result in debilitating pain and extreme fatigue. A totally hostile state of being for me because, well, I suffer from FOMO Who me?

In a recent conversation with a massage therapist of long standing, he mentioned a product he had been working on for his clients and to grab a sample from some that my brother-in-law (an intense gym-goer) was using.  A new product he had been working on for a range for his clients. He had been testing it with them and modified his recipe to arrive at his latest creation. The market research  and his genius has paid off because the final product rivals a luxury spa brand I splashed out for a few years ago because I truly wanted to believe in the hype!  Don’t get me wrong it was certainly delicious but at a horrendous expense and with variable results. He suggested taking a bath using his Green Dragon Epsom Salts

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Now this product is not for the faint hearted, it is a muscle soak and as such it is not going to take you on a floaty fantasy down the Nile as you imagine life as Cleopatra bathed in milk and fragrant flowers. These salts work on tired, aching muscles, but most blissfully, the addition of cinnamon and ginger essential oils ensures you don’t have to worry about smelling like the inside of a sports physiotherapist’s kit bag. These are an extremely cost effective alternative that gave that big name label I have a serious run.

I was feeling super sore after a rigorous osteopathic treatment for a fall that has slam dunked my leg and my back. A bit of toddler taming added to the mix and I was in a fair amount of pain that afternoon and was looking forward to getting home to get painkillers on to it. Instead I gratefully took up the suggestion of taking a bath using a sample of the salts (its own hilarious escapade as a “dragon” went to considerable effort to join me along with every bath toy in the house, but I wouldn’t recommend bathing children in it! All joking aside always double check what essential oils you use with children). After desperate pleas for an uninterrupted bath were finally heard I got to relax and let the salts do their thing.   After some post bath recovery with a bit of heat massage from my lovely massager I found the desperation for pain killers dissipated and was replaced by a delicious longing for sleep. A bloody success in my books!GreenDragon  I honestly  can’t wait to be able to take another bath!

So I am thrilled to be able to offer a lucky reader in  Australia the chance to try Green Dragon Epsom Salts (RRP $30) for themselves thanks to the generosity of Green Dragon’s creator, Ian Blewitt. This 600g stainless steel canister (love the packaging) is enough for 12 baths.

All you need to do answer the question “What is one thing you do to make sure you are taking care of yourself?” in the comments below and complete this online form with your details! The draw will close in one week at 10pm AEST Sunday 24 August 2014 and the lucky recipient will be selected randomly and contacted via the details they have completed.

But if you can’t wait to try it out head on over to the Green Dragon website and check out the rest of the range. You can also get the bath salts refills for $20.

Thursday, 31 July 2014

You’re in an Abusive Relationship–with your Boss

I have to admit that one of the great things about having been on parental leave (other than your children) is that you are clear of office politics for a while. Really helpful for taking a breath and fostering a greater awareness of things you take for granted.

While I was on leave I caught up with a friend and she shared her nagging fears about returning to work after being on a lengthy holiday. prickly

Her shortness of breath, clammy pallor and tense body language as she spoke gave away the high levels of stress she was under.  As you have probably experienced yourself, being away from the office can often reveal a moment of truth, and she seemed to be experiencing hers.  She was literally fearful of what might await her when she returned.  As I listened to her I couldn’t help but compare her situation to an abusive relationship.  Too extreme you think? Well I ‘m not so sure and checked out a few resources on abusive relationships and definitions used for workplace bullying.  The similarities are too close to ignore.  White Ribbon Australia provides some guidance on the types of abuse that exist in a relationship:

Emotional abuse - blaming the victim for all problems in the relationship, constantly comparing the victim with
others to undermine self-esteem and self-worth, sporadic sulking, withdrawing all interest and engagement (eg weeks
of silence).

Ever witnessed something similar in the workplace? The silent treatment and undermining a person professionally can be commonplace, yet the word “abuser” is rarely used in that context.  A “bully” is recognised the workplace, but for many is as equally dismissed as it is in the playground (entirely unacceptable).

Hidden Hurt (UK) spelled out some warning signs of an abusive relationship, of course not all of which are relevant in the work environment but take a look, there are a few too many to dismiss:

  • Jealousy – of contacts, relationships, friendships, praise from others, respect of others
  • Isolation – removal of responsibilities, exclusion from meetings, projects, opportunities for development
  • Controlling Behaviour – all hail the micro manager, diarising, reversing decisions
  • Unrealistic Expectations  - far too common in the workplace, unachievable tasks/goals
  • Blame-shifting for Problems/Feelings – the ‘scape goat’, setting up for failure,
  • Verbal Abuse – “running down accomplishments” – out and out dismissing them?
  • Dr Jekyll & Mr Hide – frightening for the victim, praise followed by ridicule, inconsistent instructions, fabrication of information

(My examples in italics)

It really gives me no joy to say that I have witnessed all of the above take place in the working environment. The complexities of office politics and power imbalance mean that advice often given to children on how to handle bullies has an unrealistic chance of success in such an environment. HR departments are riddled with managers of varying titles tasked with averting risk, for the organisation. This rarely protects the interest of the victim.

And that friend? Well in her case she started out in a positive supportive relationship with her manager, she was his ally and unwavering loyal servant. They were a great team. As he built his empire he soon grew tired of her, when her personal circumstances caused disruption to her work life she was soon dropped like a hot potato. Oh if only it were the premise of a badly written romance novel. Her environment was nothing short of toxic and her boss quite frankly an asshole.

For my readers in Australia, do you think there is enough protection for workers in situation like these here?  Do those in Corporate Australia even get to meet union representatives? Do you need to be below a certain salary level to be able to access help of a union? Is Fair Work Australia meeting the needs of people like my friend?

Sunday, 27 July 2014

The Secret World of Baby Wearers

I had never heard of it myself. Not before the dragon entered my world. Didn’t realise it was a ‘thing’ or that it had the potential to define what particular style of parenting  you ascribed to (a whole other post on that subject one day I think!). All I knew from before dragon landed earthside  was that I would have to deal with a growing child and a medical condition that meant the physical toll would require some careful management. Something a lot more primal than careful transportation and reduction of mechanical strain had me convinced it was something I wanted to investigate further though I didn’t realise I would be entering a whole other world.

There was also something very easy, natural even, about keeping my baby close to me. Hells I even observed a ‘confinement’ period (ask me about that some time!).  I had spoken to at least one mother who  mentioned a Bjorn and Ergo. We decided on a ring sling (breeze baby) that I could use in the water (I spent my entire pregnancy attending the pool 3 x a week so of course baby would too!) and a Stokke carrier, organic cotton, highly structured and informative video on its efficacy. The RS got put to use not long after we returned home as round the clock breastfeeding sitting down too long, too much indian food and a need to get mobile again got me back in the kitchen again. I don’t even know if the position was optimal or safe at the time, but she was up high, I could feel her breath and she was content to be close. I even earned the, albeit brief, admiration of my mother for just ‘getting on with it’. Trips out of the home involved the Stokke, all manner of clipping, buckles and well secure (complicated?) but it elicited positive comments from the radiographer scanning dragon’s hips at six weeks – my first wearing ‘validation’ moment.  A few short weeks of carrying dragon in the blasted capsule to “parent’s group” I spotted a mum in a stretchy wrap and bubs looked so snug and content. A chance purchase from a buy/sell/trade local page from another mama who couldn’t quite conquer all that fabric resulted in a Moby coming to live with me and well the love affair began and the “stash” started to grow.

There is an entire community of baby wearers out there. It has a wide range of members of varying walks of life but there is a very strong sense of “community” within it which was great for a new parent navigating this strange new world where there was more expected of me than being a corporate clown. On the positive side of meeting this group of fabulous people is a lot of parenting support, exposure to all sorts of parenting styles and philosophies, on the negative side you can also develop a really rather manic addiction because you know some of these wraps start at around $100 but also into the range of the highly desirable in around the $1500 mark.

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Benefits of Baby Wearing

  • Helping babies with reflux remain upright;
  • Nursing discretely in public;
  • Helping unwell babies remain close without tying both wearer and baby to bed;
  • Rocking a fussy baby with natural movement much like that experienced in the womb;
  • Enables skin-to-skin between wearer and baby – particularly helpful in regulating high temperatures;

This list is by no means definitive and any physical benefits are best shared by an expert but I can say that babywearing …

Saved my life. Dramatic it seems maybe but the bond that I have with my daughter has greatly benefited from babywearing. With a chronic pain condition, no family support and some difficult challenges that have come our way I have had a “village” of other women support me through those times. These women came to me through the babywearing world and have been there when I attempted to avoid the difficult stuff or needed to pour my heart out when I thought it could not break any more than it already had. It has not been a parenting philosophy, a dogma or any other indoctrination – we come from different walks of life, religions, cultures, backgrounds etc but have enjoyed a shared love of the world of amazing wraps, fabric blends, machine woven, handwoven, from around the globe, exclusive releases, well worn and loved “beater” wraps and everything else in between. To them I am eternally grateful.

Optimal Wearing

I’m going to only briefly mention to those that may be curious and wondering why the dearth of carrier options when the likes of Baby Bjorn (known as a front pack carrier ‘FPC’), can “do the trick”?  The  latter and its copies has had the benefit of significant marketing and product placement but has only recently improved its design.

Baby wearing is about the comfort of both baby and wearer. “Optimal carriers” is the term used to define any carrier used to carry an infant-toddler, and they are not created equal. With recent attention on introducing safety standards it is absolutely worth being educated on what carriers are suitable for baby safety and wearer comfort. This illustration sums it up many respects and as someone that does wear with a chronic pain condition I can’t emphasis enough on the difference a well designed carrier or well executed wrapping job will make to your wearing comfort. I frequently wear for several hours at a time, today alone we completed shopping in six stores while I wore my now 18 month old dragon in a hemp/cotton blend wrap. In a back carry we managed to avoid tantrums, visited toy shops without losing too much of my mind and she even clocked a quick nap.

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Do you babywear? Have you thought about babywearing? I didn’t even mention that our household also has a ‘babywearing Daddy’ in it who has his own carriers of choice!

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Saturday, 10 May 2014

It’s OK to Look Down

A while back I had posted about the ‘sistahood’, the one that I had found when my existing network was forced to break down, and I had to re-evaluate and move on because making that transition into the realm of parenthood meant embracing and letting go all at the same time.

My village has extended in that time and there are parts of it that are purely virtual, people I have never met but we’ve found commonality in spirit, ideas and thought. And those that are real life connections who, by virtue of the social aspects of social media, are available when your lifestyle no longer suits late night phone calls when you need some support and motivation.

So this morning when the usual wake up rituals of chaos of living with a toddler had calmed down I enjoyed this post from a dear member of my village. It features the talents of a woman in her village asking us to redefine the indignation of connection via social media. “Look up look up” they say but sometimes and for many that lifeline lay in looking down for minute to read something that would soothe. It does not mean not being present but can occasionally be the reason you are.

As delivered by the spoken word, please take a moment to reflect on the message and be your own judge: