Category Archives: Family

As easy 1.2.3 cake

How to survive your baby’s first birthday party

My nerves have never survived a party.

Birthdays, babyshowers, farewells…. whatever the occasion, I find myself wound up tighter than a two dollar watch.

My parents, bless them, are great entertainers and have covered the vast majority of my birthday milestones with aplomb. But when I ventured forth into the big bad world of adulthood I realised something was wrong with the “hostess with the mostess” scenario inflicted upon me. It left little room for failure in my anxious mind.

I used to have one fail-safe way to survive my own parties. I would drink my way through them.

But that tactic doesn’t really work when it comes to your children’s birthday parties, now does it? 

I used to think baby parties would be a piece of cake (pun intended) compared to adult ones. But when I actually started attending these parties I realised I was a whole bucketload of wrong. I was way, way out of my league.

My daughter’s second birthday was a stand out, Oscar-worthy “worst party experience of the year” moment for me.  I ruined two batches of cake before I finally gave in and bought packet mix, furiously trying to finish off the cake ahead of the guests’ arrival. If my neighbour had not literally rescued me at the 11th hour, I’d have been a crying mess on the floor, covered in flour and threatening to slit my wrists with the nozzle of a piping bag. (I don’t know if I ever truly thanked you for saving my life, Gemma?). 

2nd birthday party for my daughter. My neighbour saved the cake!
2nd birthday party for my daughter. My neighbour saved the cake!

I was a wreck when my guests left that day and vowed “never again”… Only to have another party for her 3rd birthday, this time with a six week old baby in tow.

(Yes, at this point you can officially call me an idiot.)

Maybe all you awesome mums out there can do the cooking, baking, cleaning, gift wrapping, music sorting, and game inventing for your children’s birthday parties with no sweat, one hand behind your back, and the other wrapped around a margharita. Or maybe you just have more help on hand than I do. Alls I know is that I throw a lousy party, and I think this – along with driving and making phone calls – must be one of my biggest anxiety inducing events.

So, having just thrown the first successful birthday party of my life for my son, I have learned a few tips that some other anxious mothers out there may find useful.

HOW TO SURVIVE YOUR BABY’S FIRST BIRTHDAY PARTY 
1) Don’t throw  a party. This year, I had the best non-party party ever. I “surprised” my neighbours on the day of his birthday, inviting them to the local park with their kiddies for cake that afternoon. That’s it. There were no invitations, just a chat across the driveways. We supplied cake, one balloon, and free entertainment (my energetic 4 year old). Maybe you think that’s tight of us?  I think it’s perfect. A run outdoors for the kids, a bit of a sugar-fix, then home in time for tea. Winner.

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2) If there must be cake, make peace with packet mix. There are two rules to cake. First, make it the day before. Second, use packet mix. Freeze it. The Australian Womens’ Weekly birthday cakebook, ahem, BIBLE, says it’s OK to use packet mix. It actually says that. So no guilt required!

As easy 1.2.3 cake
As easy 1.2.3 cake

3) Get out of the house – Host your party anywhere except your house. Even your local prison yard’s exercise park is probably going to be less trying on your nerves than hosting it at home… Forget cleaning to the point of madness, and go out and soak up the fresh air. Ain’t no one going to judge you if there’s a spot of dirt on a playground picnic table!

4) Buy your kid a gift. One gift. When my daughter was born, we weren’t in a great financial situation. I looked at beautiful toys (and pined for those soft, flat koalas you see in every inner city Sydney suburban home) and knew I couldn’t buy them for her. I was very grateful for the generosity of the gifts she received from others, but was truly unable to buy a “wow” present from myself. It’s only in hindsight that I realise it doesn’t matter. It does not mean you love your child any less. They’ll never remember anyway. So this year I gave my son a letter. I posted it to him, and it will remain sealed for decades to come until I finally decide for him to have it. The card, and postage, cost me a whopping $6.50 and I am sure he’ll cherish it when he’s old enough to appreciate it.

5) Avoid Instagram like the plague. Pinterest too. These sites will only have you obsessing over the exact shade of bunting to coordinate with your cake-pop icing and sooner or later you’ll collapse with exhaustion. Or…. if you’re like me, these sites will just make you feel like a complete and utter party-cripple.

Follow my steps above and you’ll have a ball!

I didn’t even NEED alcohol to cope!!

Selfish or selfless? Why I’ve chosen to be a stay at home mum.

I resigned from my job a couple of weeks ago, citing my children as the reason for doing so. But my kids aren’t just the reason I’m leaving; they’re also a convenient excuse.

JessBlog

While it is true that I am choosing to stay at home so I can devote more time to enjoying my children, it is not the only truth. The other truth is that I’m kind of glad that I don’t have to do the whole “working mother of two” thing. Not being forced to manage spreadsheets,  diaries and deadlines, alongside sick kids, laundry and daycare drop-offs is a blessing. Being able to let the career ball drop means I am free to juggle the rest of my life. It’s a relief.

When I resigned, my boss labelled my decision “selfless”. I wanted to imagine that this was the case; that I was choosing to put my kids’ needs ahead of my own. But the funny thing is, I feel like I’m being completely selfish. That for the first time I’m putting my own needs ahead of anyone else’s…wow!

I think it’s easy to say that stay at home mums are being selfless – sacrificing their careers for the sake of their families. Putting themselves firmly in second-place as they focus all their energies on raising little snot-faced cuddlebags, and ignoring their greater yearnings to be somebody. But this is only true of women who love their career, have aspirations of high achievements professionally, and see themselves in what they do.  

Despite my frequent complaints and gripes about parenthood, I secretly love my role as part-teacher, part-chef, part-doctor, part-driver, part-stylist. For some reason, being made up of so many parts makes me feel whole. Being a mum, like any job, infuriates me, challenges me, and – occasionally – throws me into despair. But at this time in my life I would rather be there for my son’s developmental milestones, than those of my career.

I do not judge women who return to work when their babies are still small; I think universally all mothers need to give each other a break and stop judging each other. I know instinctively that returning to work is not the right path for me. I quite simply could not cope with handing my son over to daycare at his age. Luckily I am not weighed down by a heavy mortgage or household expenses that my husband’s wage can not cover. And while I can’t afford all the luxuries in life right now, I am in a fortunate position that I can choose whether I return to work or not.  I accept that not everyone has this luxury, and I’m grateful for the freedom I’m enjoying right now.

I have worked in the advertising/marketing industry for almost two decades. During this time my ego has taken a certain degree of pride out of climbing the ranks, working for great agencies and organisations, and generally getting a leg up onto the corporate ladder. Knowing that I am making a decision that could hinder my return to the world of marketing – the only corporate world I know – is frightening and definitely ego-bruising.

But from my very first job out of university I knew, at a soul level, that this was not the right industry for me. The universe has thrown out a billion road blocks in my way over the years but I’ve chosen to either hurdle them or ignore them as I have pressed ahead with job after job after job thinking “maybe this one will be better?”  

I’ve been doing lots of meditation and mindfulness training with my psychologist lately, and a certain degree of truth has been unlocked and unleashed from within. It’s now smacking me about the face with a dead, wet fish screaming “it is time to change, WOMAN!” 

But how do we actually stop what we’re doing and activate change? My children have also given me the perfect excuse to put my “professional”cloak back into the cupboard and root around for something new to wear. Something colourful, bright, inventive.

For now, my focus can be on my children which is exactly where I believe my energy needs to be focussed. They allow me to be as creative as I like; I get muddy with them, I splash in puddles, I make cakes that don’t rise and paintings that look ridiculous, I sing stupid songs and I read beautiful short stories…. This is my full time gig, and I do enjoy it. But I know it is a short-term gig, and the powerfulness of this role is that it is a stepping stone to a new adventure.

Being a SAHM also allows me the space  I need to focus on myself as a person undefined by career. It’s freaking scary to not be able to answer “what do you do?” with a professional response. But here, in this moment, it is exactly what I need. To find a way to define myself not by what I do, but what I am. 

Make no mistake, for me leaving work was not a selfless decision. It was a selfish one. And sometimes, they’re the best decisions to make. 

What’s driving your decision to return to work or stay at home? 

Food tips for lazy mums who don’t own a Thermomix

There was a joke I heard once that stuck in my mind because of how sexist it was.

Why is a bride’s wedding dress white?…… To match the rest of the kitchen appliances.”

used to think this was sexist. But now – having had two kids – I think it’s quite insightful.

I am permanently in the kitchen. When I leave the kitchen I get dizzy. I kind of mummy-chef-benz. All this time in the kitchen and I’m not even claiming to be a supercook. Squeezy sachets of pureed food line my cupboards because no matter how many hours I spend whizzing, frying, baking, and crumbing, there NEVER seems to be enough food to feed my kids. (They have appetites like me, Lord help them).

Source: Huffington Post
Source: Huffington Post

So here are a few quick ideas I’ve decided to plot down incase anyone else is struggling. And these tips are for parents who DON’T have thermomixes. Yes, us poverty-stricken mums who don’t have a few grand in our pockets to afford god’s gift to cooking. DAMN IT.

Not sure what a Thermomix is? Do yourself a favour – watch this!

My tips:

Tip 1: CHIA is ACE.

I’m not glorifying chia for it’s health benefits (although, it is a damn fine food in terms of Omega-3). I’m praising it for it’s mystical thickening abilities. Leave chia seeds soaking in milk overnight, splash a dash of vanilla essence in it, and booyah….porridge. My baby loves this stuff. And it’s way quicker than even toast; you just have to make it the night before….

Tip 2: Bechamel sauce (white sauce). On everything.

My kids eat veggies. I don’t think this is because I am a supermum and have done anything in a particular way to make them like vegetables. I know some kids refuse to eat their greens because they are fussy with food and have been that way regardless of what their parents did or didn’t do. But I learned this cheese-sauce trick when introducing zucchini to my daughter. She would not touch it, but soaked in white sauce, she couldn’t really tell what it was. Gradually, I put less and less sauce on top and eventually she one day, she was eating plain zucchini. Ta-da!

Tip 3 – Arrowroot biccies

These biscuits are better pacifiers than dummies. My son starts freaking out in anticipation of food from the minute I put him in the high chair. I literally do not have time to warm anything up because he is intensely crying, so I end up just serving him his food cold. Poor lad. But then, I discovered the secret of the Arrowroot biscuit. This handy tool keeps him occupied more than any toy, and he sucks and munches away giving me the precious two minutes to get lunch ready. Yes, these things have sugar. Yes, I should care about that.  But really, I don’t give a toss. It’s virtually the only sugar he gets and it is a dead-set lifesaver.

No 4 – Chops. 

Sorry Shaun, but you’re up for dinner. Lamb chops are an absolute MUST for any time poor parent with a fussy eater. I was sitting at the table eating my chop with my kids when I heard the most remarkable sound. SILENCE. We were all so absorbed in the salty slice of heaven in our hands that there was no nagging, screaming, tears or shrieking. Lamb chops, I love you. (No vegetarians in this house).

Tip 5 – bite sized Fish’n’chip ‘fingers’

OK, this one I will need to give you a recipe for. I never do exact measurements, so bear with me. You add some potatoes to the boil (about 3 medium sized ones). Once they’ve boiled, mash them. Add a big can of tuna in olive oil. Grate in half a zucchini, a carrot, and if you have some sweetcorn, throw a bit of that in too. Put in any fresh herbs you have lying around the place. Grate in some cheese and throw in a raw egg. Mix it all together with some breadcrumbs too. Then roll them and shape them into any shape you like (I make them like fingers so my son can get a good grip) and grill in the over for 10-15minutes, or fry in coconut oil.

If you somehow manage not to eat them all yourself, your kids will love them!

Tip 6: Fake it to make it with Cacao, Avocado and Banana. 

I confess, I got this recipe from Belle Gibson, so I feel a bit immoral sharing this. My conscience is appeased by the fact that this recipe is healthy and won’t be doing anyone any harm (unlike her fake claims that her diet could cure cancers!).

In a processor blitz raw cacao (about a tablespoon), a tablespoon of maple syrup, a full avocado and banana/pear (preferably, all should be ripe) and pretend it’s mousse. My three year old is none-the-wiser and my bubba goes gaga for this. You can thank me later :)

What are your quick-meal tips? Share the love people!