The kindness of strangers

Killing time at the airport with a not quite two year old. Rationing out the snacks and trying to get him to walk as many kilometres as his little legs would carry him in the hope of a nice mid-flight sleep without walking into the duty free stores with their toddler height and plentiful bottles of liqueur. This was our afternoon a few days ago and our airport wandering had taken us to every window to look at trucks, baggage trolleys and aero planes from every angle imaginable.

A quick lunch at Movida’s airport sibling, followed by a snack of strawberries by the window. About 10 minutes later we were browsing past the outer perimeter of the bookshop when said toddler takes a couple of steps and promptly vomits all over the bookshop’s lovely white tiled (thank god!) floor. After heave number one I’m squatting catching the rest in my own hands (definitely not one of the glamorous instinctive motherhood moments we have!) and we’re stuck with nowhere to go and nothing to start the clean up mission with.

Just then I noticed a couple of policemen walk past so called out to them and asked for a rescue mission – would they be so kind as so run across to the hungry jacks and ask for something – ANYTHING – to help us get cleaned up?? Thankfully they were quick to help but no sooner had they left than I looked up to see a kind woman with a big handful of paper towels in outstretched hands. THANK YOU whoever you are!!

Many a person might walk past such a scene, particularly in an airport and think “hope to god the kid with gastro isn’t on my flight”, or “why would those parents take a sick kid on an international flight”. (and gastro it wasn’t, for the record). So whoever saw us scrambling to catch handfuls of vomit in bare hands, and acted so quickly to grab supplies for us, thank you very very very much. You helped get us out of that bookstore as quickly and with as much grace as possible in those circumstances. We might not have bought a book, but hey on holiday with a toddler it would just be an unopened tease reminding you us of days gone by and holidays spent devouring book after book….

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23 and homeless: a sad reality

This morning I caught the train into the city for a meeting. Walking from the train, I noticed a homeless person huddled against the outside of a pub. As I drew closer, I saw the sign next to her asking for spare change. In my power walk, all I managed to read was “Hi, I’m 23 and homeless…” Having worked in the city for years, I’ve walked past people on the street hundreds of times. None have affected me the way this mornings walk-by did. The thought of someone so young, living on the street and sleeping in the alcove of a pub wall haunted me for the rest of my walk. What could possibly have happened to land her in this desperate situation?

It made me reflect on what I was doing at 23. A year or so into my career, living in Sydney, young and fanciful with the world at my feet. All I was worried about was waking up in time for PT sessions, whether that guy I had a bit of a crush on had even noticed me, or where friday night drinks would be. Not dissimilar from most 23 year olds I imagine! How guilty I felt, thinking of that past me and the selfishness inherent in that single stage of life. Sure I had the occasional worry about money ( I was paying Sydney rent after all!) but that usually only resulted after one too many new pairs of shoes. Life was sweet, I had career aspirations that stretched to the moon, there was nothing standing in my way.

And so my mind pondered as I walked to my meeting. As is the case with distraction, we got straight into a full day of planning, budgeting and forecasting, and it wasn’t until I started my journey home that I thought about the girl again. I caught the tram this time ( a tad lazy, but it was dark and I was keen to get home to see the little guy before bedtime!). As I passed the same pub, I cast a glance and realised she was still there. The next 10 mins were like some other power took over my body. I back tracked to walk over to where she was. Admittedly, a small voice in my head told me not to be silly, just get home to my boys and not worry – but my legs just kept going, I was compelled to go and speak with her. I stopped just a few metres away and began to read more of her story. I got one sentence in “Hi, I’m 23 and homeless. Since my mother died from breast cancer…”

I couldn’t keep standing there so I bent down, touched her shoulder gently as her eyes were closed, and she instantly smiled and said ‘Hi’. She then started telling me all about her day, having left her spot at 9am to go in search of a shower. But the showers were too busy so she couldn’t have one. Then she tried two shelters looking for somewhere to stay tonight, but they were both full. She said she’d been to “Lentil” to have something to eat, and had just got back to her spot to get cosy in time for the cold. At this point the tears welled up in my eyes. No one deserves to live on life’s edge in that way. In the only way I could think of to help at the time, I handed her some money. Enough to buy food for a few days, and I really hope that’s what she does with it. How I’d love to have been able to magic up a hot shower and a safe, clean bed for her for tonight and every night.

When I got home to my boys, a little later than expected, I’ve never been so happy to wrap my arms around my little man. How grateful I feel right now to have not only a roof over our heads, but plenty of food in the fridge, and a safe, warm house with showers and clean sheets. Today was a shock reality check for me. I hope I have helped this girl by providing a few much-needed dollars, and not helped to feed a different problem. When I thought about how else I could help, I was reminded of a program I heard of recently, where The Big Issue is selling subscriptions which are packed and sent by women they have been able to employ off the streets. I have just taken out a subscription – as providing work and a safe environment must go a large part of the way in helping these women restart their lives. If this story resonates with you and you would like to do something to help, subscribe here and help get another woman off the street http://www.thebigissue.org.au/about/

Goodnight x

Cosmetic Testing – We Name & Shame!

I’m slightly embarrassed to admit this is an issue I don’t often think about – and I certainly have some of these brands in my bathroom! Will be googling this list regularly and restocking ASAP.

theveganbox

Did you knfreedom_animals_1ow that in most parts of the world (including Australia), animals in laboratories STILL suffer (and die) to test everyday cosmetics, such as your supermarket brand shampoo, and your fancy new red lipstick? 

When I first went vegan I was all about the food – switching and swapping all my pantry items, and tossing out anything I could find in the fridge that contained any animal ingredients or derivatives. However, my bathroom cabinet and makeup bag was riddled with big names such as MAC, Loreal, Maybelline, Redken…..and (unfortunately) the list went on! I was a sucker for any ‘new & improved’ line of lipstick, nailpolish, or hair care, that promised to make me ‘glow and shine’  – and yes, I was blinded to the reality of what was really happening behind the scenes to get these products onto the shelves in department stores and pharmacies.

Typically cosmetic testing on lab animals, such as rabbits, cats…

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‘Happy Mum’ Life Hacks #2

When you’ve got a baby or very young children, it seems like you can get to 9am and feel like you’ve already had a full day. Know the feeling? I have a love/hate relationship with this feeling. On most days I genuinely love that we’re up at 6:30am, getting busy and feeling like you’ve actually achieved a few things before the rest of the world has risen (especially on weekends). But the one thing I just can’t face at that time of morning is baby/toddler play time. Call me a bad mum, but I find the idea of having to sit down on the floor and start entertaining as soon as breakfast is over (usually before 7:30am!) just so difficult.

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE playtime. At 10am, or 11am, or 2pm, 3pm, 4pm. You get the drift. But when it starts super early, I generally feel like it’s going to be a verrrry long day. Which is where this ‘happiness hack’ comes into play – again, with my new-since-having-a-baby friend.

The early morning walk/coffee/breakfast:

In the very early days, each with 4-5 month old babies, we started walking. We would walk every weekday morning together and finish up with a coffee. As the bubs started their first solids, we would also take along their breakfast. At that stage, we were usually racing back in time to put them to bed for naps. Gradually their naps got later and we’d have more time to play with. We’d start meeting on the weekends with the dads as well for coffee/baby breakfast.

This little tradition has turned into one of the non-negotiable events in my week. I love that we’re setting our children the great example of getting up and exercising in the morning, and that they get some fresh air themselves. I love that we get to have our essential hit of caffeine while the little ones plough through their porridge or weetbix. And I really love that just for that first hour or so, they’re happy sitting in their prams (most of the time – we do sometimes have to stop off at the park for a quick run around!) and the dog gets his much needed walk.

Our weekends now follow the same ritual. Get up, get dressed, prepare porridge and head off. Quick walk, coffee, a bit more of a walk, often a trip to the playground, and then home. Sure, we’re often at our local cafe so early we could be helping them set up. But that’s just an added bonus – no other customers to worry about disturbing by a rogue toddler. Our little outings give us all a great start to the day and some togetherness before we get busy. Some exercise, fresh air, the coffee we’ve all become so dependent on, and postpones the need to start entertaining little ones until a much more palatable hour. I can’t imagine a time when this is no longer our morning ritual.

‘Happy Mum’ Life Hacks #1

I’m dedicating my whole first Life Hacks post to one topic tonight: BABY DINNER

If someone had told me 2 years ago (hell, even 1 year ago), that my most enjoyable social engagement of the week would start at 4pm, finish at 7pm, and involve toddlers eating (or not eating) dinner, I’d have laughed for the rest of the day!

But here we are, and we do ‘baby dinner’ at least once, often twice a week with our new-since-having-a-baby friends who live just down the road. In fact, this long weekend we all gathered for ‘baby dinner’ Saturday, Sunday, AND Monday nights. Best..invention..ever. Here’s how it played out.

Saturday – at our house. Toddler playtime, Moroccan roast chicken and delicious salads from my favourite chicken shop, a beer/wine, great friends and the opportunity to actually chat because the toddlers are playing! Miraculously they also always seem to eat the things they wouldn’t normally when they’re at a different house eating someone else’s cooking. Amazing.

Sunday – in the park. We discovered a new park and took an antipasto style spread for the little ones. They chased each other around and around and around the playground, giggling uncontrollably. The dads kicked a football and we managed to enjoy the last few rays of sun sitting at the picnic table.

Monday – our place again. A whole lot more toddler playtime. BBQ’d lamb, roast veggies, broccolini, a drink for the adults and a great unwind on the lawn after a busy long weekend. A bit more cleanup tonight perhaps, the giggle-filled game of chasey ended up with bowls of dinner upturned at the other end of the house! But the joy of watching these two play and grow up together makes it all worth it.

Got the theme here? The kids are happy, parents are happy, and everyone gets through that typically ‘crazy’, ‘witching hour’ time of day with their wits in tact and toddlers a whole lot more worn out than if they were entertaining themselves.

 

What’s the future for mothers groups?

I’ve been thinking recently about mothers groups and the growing trend of many new mums to either not go along at all or to drop off after just a couple of weeks. In my group of friends, I’m one of the few who still catches up frequently with my mothers group, and most of us still only have bubs or toddlers! Even our group of regulars is now about half the original group, but I love that I’ve got a handful of girls and a whatsapp group where we can organise to catchup at library story time, in the park, for a coffee or over dinner and a few bottles of wine!

I wonder if people view ‘mothers group’ with the stigma as one of those things your mum did back in the dark ages? Coincidentally, my mum joined a mothers group and 30+ years later still has dinner with those same ladies every few months! A few even became our very good friends as we were growing up and continue to be an extended part of our family.

Perhaps we feel like we’ve set up so much of our ‘social infrastructure’ by the time we have kids that we feel we don’t need or have room for any more friends or commitments. Even if this is the case, unless you’ve got some great friends who have babies within weeks of you, I guarantee there are going to be times that you feel desperately alone or frustrated or confused by whatever stage your bub happens to be going through. This is where mothers group really came into its own for me. We finished our organised sessions at the maternal health centre and decided to continue meeting at the same time each week in a local cafe. Oh, to have those days back again – when we could sit and drink coffee and chat with either a sleeping or feeding bub in your arms! These were the times when we really started to connect. It’s hard to imagine discussing intimate details about your birth, or how you and your partner are negotiating parenthood, or confessing you feel like a failure because your baby hardly sleeps with relative strangers. But I think it’s down to this unique time in your life when you feel quite vulnerable, and being connected with others who are in exactly the same situation makes it all just happen with ease.

Our babies are still only toddlers and yet the combination of work, life and family commitments and still-different sleep schedules mean we infrequently catch up with the little ones in tow. But it’s great to meet someone at the park for a play, or have that one friend you go for a regular morning walk and coffee with – because we live close by and our kids wake and eat at the same time. Some of my friends started having babies a year or two before me, and others are only just starting now. The girls in my mothers group have been amazing to go through ‘babyhood’ with, and amazing support to each other when any of us are dealing with sick and fussy toddlers. I genuinely hope that we continue our catchups (preferably with more wine!) over the years and keep being a great source of support for each other throughout future pregnancies, babies, and every other adventure that comes with being a parent.

I’d love to know whether you embraced your mothers group? Please leave a comment about your own experiences!

The 5:2 – week 4

Today was the start of week 4 for me on the 5:2 diet. If you haven’t heard of this yet, the 5:2 diet is more of a lifestyle designed around intermittent fasting. My first introduction to this was watching the BBC documentary ‘Eat, fast, and live longer’ by Michael Mosley. I was captivated and the research was all so convincing, I decided I had to try. The method behind this type of intermittent fasting involves restricting your calories on two non-consecutive days each week, and preferably including a long fasting period on each of these days. The ideal seems to be eating about 500 calories (for females, 600 for men), on your fast days and splitting these between breakfast and dinner.

“You should not only lose weight but also enjoy a wide range of health benefits. Studies of intermittent fasting show that not only do people see improvements in blood pressure and their cholesterol levels, but also in their insulin sensitivity.” http://thefastdiet.co.uk/why-fast/

Fast forward several months and I had finished breastfeeding and was free to start giving it a shot. I really struggled the first few times I tried fasting. I chose Mondays and Thursdays as I was at work, so easier to avoid snacking, and goes hand in hand with a bit of a lazy streak – no need to prepare lunches! The turning point for me was reading The Fast Diet, written by Michael Mosley and Mimi Spencer. If you’re at all inclined to give this lifestyle a go, I highly recommend reading the book. While the documentary sucks you in and gets you excited, the book describes how it works, what it will feel like, and gives you plenty of strategies for coping with the hunger waves.

Right now I’m proud to say I’m well and truly on track. I can almost relate to the comments of other ‘fasters’ who say they actually look forward to the fast days and the sensation of hunger. I’m about 1kg down, and have a few to go. But I can absolutely imagine embracing this as a lifelong lifestyle change, not just a diet or another fad.

Keep following and I’ll keep the updates a-coming!

x Anne