Healthy Eating in Children – A Parent's Choice

Recently, I did a blog post on encouraging healthy eating amongst children. The post started out innocently enough – a mother posting on why she thought offering a healthy and varied diet to children was actually a very easy thing to do. I posted this with vim and vigour and my typical love for children.

What I didn’t expect was the barrage of negative comments that quickly ensued (along with lots of supportive comments, of course).

So how did this debacle begin? Well, I posted about a child who came for a day-long playdate last week – a child I found impossible to feed, unless it involved highly-processed, trans-fat-saturated or sugar-laden food – with not a vitamin or mineral in sight. I offered him a barrage of options for lunch but without white bread, he wasn’t going anywhere with sandwich ideas (we don’t have white bread in our house and never have – no, not even the stuff hiding ‘extra fibre’).

I instead tried offering a variety of – gasp – fresh foods. Carrot sticks, cherry tomatoes, fruit, yoghurt, boiled eggs, slices of cheese (a no go because we didn’t have ‘wobbly’ cheese). “I don’t like that,” was the constant refrain.

So, I switched to canned and pre-packaged goods – baked beans? Tinned spaghetti? Soup? Ryvitas or crispbreads with a variety of delicious spreads? Tinned fruit? No go. Didn’t like any of them. Sheesh. What did this kid actually eat?

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Back to School Planning Tips

I know, I know – it seems like the school holidays have only just begun, but like most years, January will evaporate like a salty ocean droplet on a surfer’s shagpile head. Suddenly, you’ll be staring down the barrel at your sunburnt children with their hoofers crammed into too-small-school shoes, toting scuffed book bags and a rainbow of pencils worn down to the nub.

Best get planning.

These nifty Back-to-School planning ideas should help you get the pencil cases snaplock fresh and the school shoes gleaming.

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New study confirms high risks of home births

Australian Medical Association (AMA) President, Dr Andrew Pesce, said today that a new Australian study confirms the high safety risks and higher death rates associated with home births in Australia compared to hospital births.

The study of home and hospital births in South Australia between 1991 and 2006, published in the latest edition of the Medical Journal of Australia, shows that planned home births had a sevenfold higher risk of intrapartum death (occurring during delivery) and a 27-fold higher risk of death from intrapartum asphyxia than planned hospital births.

Dr Pesce said the study sends a strong signal to the Government that any policy decisions around maternity care must be evidence-based, not politically motivated.

“The safety of mothers and babies must come first in any debate about maternity care,” Dr Pesce said.

“The AMA supports women having choice when it comes to labour and childbirth, but they must also have access to all the evidence to ensure that their choice is an informed choice.

“The AMA does not support home birth because of the safety concerns for mother and baby, and this latest independent study backs our concerns.

“However, we do support expanded Medicare funding arrangements to improve patient access to midwife care within a quality framework that guarantees meaningful collaboration between doctors and midwives.

“Team-based care arrangements need to be in place throughout the pregnancy to ensure that there is obstetric, anaesthetic and paediatric care readily available to deal with unpredictable complications.

“Evidence shows that patients enjoy better health outcomes when they are treated in a model of care that provides coordinated, continuous, and comprehensive patient-centred care that is delivered by appropriately trained health professionals.

“Australia is one of the safest places in the world for mothers and babies.

“It is vital that we do not walk away from a safe system that has served the Australian community well for generations,” Dr Pesce said.

Source AMA

Scheduling some New Year Planning

A short while ago, I attended a businesswomen’s social meeting (complete with festive nibbles and bubbles) and listened to the supremely calm and organized Emma Grey (author of our recent book giveaway Wits’ End Before Breakfast, and new AWO contributor) speak.

Emma runs WorkLifeBliss – a consultancy that helps women gain clarity, focus and balance in their harried work/life/family/kids/ health/house lives. I loved every word Emma had to say; this is one experienced, clever, insightful woman, who had us oohing and aahing and completely relating at the end of virtually every sentence.

One of the most insightful parts of Emma’s talk was when she spoke of planning and scheduling your year in advance. Ha! I laughed inwardly. Who does THAT?! With the way our years go, nothing could possibly be that pre-booked; things shift and change almost daily, if not hourly.

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Are You a Family of High-Tech Neanderthals?

I’m quite techno savvy. I work online, run my own sites, know how to use the latest internet software and understand what an emoticon is and what twitter does. I’m on facebook, I blog, I can text really fast on my BlackBerry (complete with acronyms), and yes, I can even programme the VCR.

I will admit, though, that RSS feed configuration confuses me a little, I’m not sure I could explain to you what Blueteeth actually do, and I can’t always solve Wii gaming levels for my son. “Ask your sister!” is a common refrain in our house.

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Work Life Balance: A Fuss-Free Christmas

It’s a Festive Irony that the more convenient and accessible the media and retail markets make Christmas, the less time, energy and funds we have to inject into this all-encompassing time of year. Planning ahead is all good and well, but with nary a minute to catch breath between Australia Day and the very moment next year’s calendars hit the ‘marked-down’ box, who has time to even plan?

I’ve just taken down the Halloween decorations and it felt really odd to eyeball the jam-packed Christmas cartons with disdain. Like most working mothers, I’ve had a hectic and high-achieving year, and now that November’s wrapped its summery tentacles around us, I’m feeling a tad, well – exhausted. For someone who adores the festive season as much as I do, it was depressing to find myself thinking of Christmas and heaving a groan instead of peeping with glee.

In light of this, I’ve thought long and hard about ways to make this upcoming season not only easier to cope with, but far more worthy of an excited peep.

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Keeping House for Modern Day Kids

Oh boy, my kids could pass for the Queen of Lackadaisical Land and the Sultan of Lazytown. Have you been to these places? I visited briefly when the heavens opened and delivered us an ‘ayi’ [read: cook/maid] during our posting in Beijing. Since coming back to Real Life, however, in the magical land of Aus, it seems it’s only my children who’ve escaped the crushing reality of house keeping.

Often, I’m too busy or too much in a hurry to get things done to pester my kids to complete their chores, but this has to change. I think I’m doing them an enormous disservice by not encouraging them to help around the house. Not even the golden promise of pocket money seems to help.

Of course, it goes without saying that teaching our kids how to keep house provides them valuable life skills they can count on to become organised, self-sufficient adults. Seemingly trivial or boring rituals like making beds and unpacking the dishwasher are, in fact, essential building blocks to creating a capable adult fifteen or twenty years from now. [Read more…]

Ocsober Is Nearly Over!!

I put an exclamation point on the title of this article because I wanted to you to think I was really excited for Ocsober to be over and that I was rolling about on the floor, clutching at my throat, gagging for a shooter, gasping for a martini, choking for a lick of the edge of a salted magarita glass.

A month without a drop of alcohol is something many adults would never even contemplate and I must admit something to you – I didn’t think I could do it. [Read more…]

Hocus Pocus – Hosting a Haunting Halloween

Holding a Halloween celebration in your house can be as easy as pumpkin pie. Follow these basic ideas and get ready to spook!

When we lived in Beijing, our family became hooked on Halloween. Like, seriously hooked – it’s just the most fantastically frightening fun. And being a party-throwing maniac, I knew it would be without question we’d need to continue the tradition back home in Australia.

I’m therefore throwing the kids a Halloween party at home this year. I just can’t resist. I’m already planning and plotting all the freakishly good fun and setting a monstrous mood. I’d really love to hold a trick-or-treat as well, but seeing as though we’re new in town and haven’t really managed to street party with the neighbours (yet), that might have to wait for next year.

If you’re also not too keen to hold a trick-or-treat, you could host a smashing pumpkin party instead – or organise a trick-or-treating session just amongst family and friends. To get your creative puke juices flowing, here are some ideas that may it inspire you to unearth some creepy sentiment and get into the – er - spirit of this ancient pagan festival. [Read more…]

It's a Sweet Life Family Road Trip – Day Four

Day Four of our Koleos It’s A Sweet Life adventure meant home time. Alas. How we loved our short stay in Sydney, and could have easily spent another twenty years exploring the enriching tendrils that seem to snake down every single laneway and waterway.

I actually decided, when we dragged our carcasses out of bed far too early this morning, that I’d like to live in Sydney again, and so asked Husband if he could please organise a posting there soon. Sure, he said. Right after he organises postings to the other cities I’ve requested – New York City, London, Paris and the Hague.

After a God-awful ‘misunderstanding’ involving an inability to read road maps or driving incompetency (depending on which front seat of the Koleos your backside was parked in) we were finally on our way home. In the correct direction, this time.

It was a relative breeze getting out of Sydney on the quick and smooth freeways heading south-west. Surely these magnificent roads have cut two hours off the Canberra-Sydney trip.

On the way south, we had a smattering of sun shower and to our amazement, the Koleos’s windscreen wipers came on automatically to swipe the rain away – hey presto! Something similar happened on our forward journey, too. We’d had the wipers on ‘intermittent’ and when it started raining more heavily, they sped up. At the time, we thought we’d imagined it, but when checking the Koleos handbook, I noticed automatic windscreen wipers and headlights are standard. Love it.

I also just have to re-mention the très French left-hand indicator that goes ‘pip pop’ when you flick it on. I also know I whinged about the low light LED screen but it seems to have turned itself on brighter (I didn’t do it – perhaps it heard me whinging, the car seems to be that intelligent). And my other love is the sibling-altercation convex mirror you can flip down above the rear vision. You all know what that’s for, parents. Heaven.

Another thing the handbook tells me is something I may not get to experience because I’m usually in my nanna tracky dacks by 7 pm (my penchant to wander out during the nighttime hours is long gone) – and that is the full-beam protector across the windscreen to guard your eyes from oncoming headlight glare. Mentioning this may seem a little trite, but let me tell you – when you’re as night-blind as me behind the wheel, you take every little bit of help you can get.

Yet another thing I found in the handbook is that you can get an optional tent with the Koleos that hooks onto the back via the split opening, offering a bed in the rear of the car and then overflow space onto the ground where the tent rests. We’re not really a family of campers, but… I want one!

One more little thing I noticed in the book which I’m yet to try is the cute little French-sounding horn. Ayo! I just had to test this, post-haste. Mee-meep!

After irritating Husband monumentally with my tooting and lots of hand-swiping-away, we quickly came upon the exit to the small, historic town of Berrima. Spurred on by the promise of a peek into the renowned Lolly Swagman sweets shop (Old Hume Highway, tel 02-4877 1137), we were absolutely delighted to discover more than just a lolly shop in this quaint village.

This tiny town not only boasts a stack of historic buildings like the old Berrima Court House and a Gaol, it also features a museum, contemporary art gallery, antiques and bric-a-brac stores, a general store and ice creamery and the gorgeous Little Hand-stirred Jam Shop, stacked with luscious consumables and a café/ice creamery (1/9 Old Hume Highway, tel: 02-4877 1404)

Near the Jam Shop, you can find Bimbee Kids (tel: 02-4877 2777) which has baby and clothing as well as bedding and toys. Nearby, Sprinkles of Berrima (tel: 02-4877 1577) features Christmas all year round, and Sugar Daddy’s Cake Design will send the eyes of sugar-addicts skyward.

There’s also a gaggle of other cafés and tea rooms, the White Horse Inn pub, the Australian Alpaca Centre and The Cottage Berrima – an olden time country store selling the softest fine knits stacked in glorious gelato colours, glittering vintage chandeliers, delightful buttons and other olden time treasures.

Right near the quaint Berrima Post Office is the Art of Bookbinding and the Gumnut Patisserie (tel 4877 2177), where we ogled over pastries and cakes and came away with a marbled and swirled meringue for Riley and a strawberry tart for Ella. Husband and I guzzled neat little lattès on the rest of the leg home, arriving well before lunchtime.

Home. I’ve always said part of the attraction of traveling is the moment you arrive home, where things are unpacked and washed and freshened, and crinkling packets and bags are opened to reveal snaffled treasures and photos are uploaded and pored over.

It’s also a time when home comforts slip easily back into place. Like slipping feet into soft bed socks, we snuggle back into our world and give thanks for the wonderful opportunities we have to travel and see other parts of the world – even if those parts are in our very own backyard.

Although we’re generally a family of air-travellers, our family loved our road trip in the Koleos so much, we’re keen to take more road trips – both far and wide. Being able to stop where and when you want and having the freedom and comfort of getting off the beaten track (in the case of the Koleos, 4WDing is also a distinct possibility) and cruising wherever we want, at any given time is just so attractive, and if you plan your route carefully, you can really make the most of even long travel times.

So, thanks, Renault, for our time with the spunky little Koleos and for this glorious opportunity to get away and enjoy our Sweet Adventure. My blue, shiny baby will be delivered back to the car dealer on Friday with a surprising and very deep sigh of sadness. I’ve so enjoyed this car and hope one day we’ll meet again.

And for all you road travellers out there, I highly recommend factoring small country towns into road trips, not only in support of these out-of-the-way places, but for the fact that you may just find a treasure. We live in a  country of such enviable beauty and constant variety, it’s easy to stare straight through unique and wondrous places, unable to see the treats contained within – usually due to our wild hurry to make it between cities in record time.

Slow down. Pause. Take a peek and you, too may just find some of the sweet sweet treasures hidden in this extraordinary country of ours.

If you want to suss out the spunky looking Koleos and drum up some original answers for this amazing competition, just organize a test drive at your local dealership at – it’s only a web click away.
If you can’t reach a dealership, you can learn more about the car’s details at the Koleos website