Thursday, March 27, 2014

Unwelcome Change

There is a lot going on in Australia at the moment. And much of it has many of us concerned. But can I just share ONE more thing that is dear to my heart?

It is looking more and more likely that we are going to see the end of the National Partnership Agreement on Early Childhood Education, an agreement between Federal and State government, that has funded the huge reforms to the Early Childhood sector over the last few years. These reforms have meant that all kids now have access to 15 hours of kindergarten (until last year it was around 10 hours), and that all kindergartens across Australia are being held accountable to a fantastic set of research based standards and practices (the National Quality Framework). A LOT of hard work has gone into these changes. And why?? UNICEF put it very nicely...

      There is consistent and strong evidence which shows that:

·      Brain development is most rapid in the early years of life. When the quality of stimulation, support and nurturance is deficient, child development is seriously affected.

·      The effects of early disadvantage on children can be reduced. Early interventions for disadvantaged children lead to improvements in children’s survival, health, growth, and cognitive and social development.

·      Children who receive assistance in their early years achieve more success at school. As adults they have higher employment and earnings, better health, and lower levels of welfare dependence and crime rates than those who don’t have these early opportunities.

·      Efforts to improve early child development are an investment, not a cost. Available cost-benefit ratios of early intervention indicate that for every dollar spent on improving early child development, returns can be on average 4 to 5 times the amount invested, and in some cases, much higher.

The Federal government are putting it out there that they plan to withdraw their portion of the funding that pays for 15 hours of kindergarten. The state governments will be unable/unwilling to cover the gap. 15 hours of kinder will be way too expensive for parents to pay for. We will be forced to cut back the hours of kinder to about 10 hours. The momentum of raising the bar in early childhood will almost certainly be lost.

And look, many of you may be thinking, “we didn’t have 15 hours of kinder when we were kids and we turned out fine". Sure, you did. But chances are you were from a middle class family who were able to provide many other great sources of stimulus apart from kinder. There are many, many kids out there for whom an extra 5 hours a week in a safe, nurturing, stimulating environment might just make all the difference. And kindergarten educators are expert at picking up those kids who might need a little (or a lot) of extra assistance that might make all the difference. And this difference, from a national economic perspective, if nothing else, affects all of us. And this isn’t mere speculation.

I’d love this to become an election issue.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Real Food, Real Change

I have been thinking about and experimenting with switching the family to a more "real food" diet. Less processed and artificial foods. More fresh, organic, wholewheat and home made food to be consumed. This is out of character for me. The last 7 years of parenting have often been about survival, which has often meant convenient and easy food, and probably too much take-away. No regrets though. I survived. The kids survived. The husband survived. And they all look healthy enough on the surface. But what's going on inside I wonder?

I have done some reading, but mostly this latest attempt at change is inspired just by common sense. Our bodies must surely function better when we put food in that has a chemical structure close to how it began. And there's a level of sentimentality too... a connection with the nutritional history of humanity since the beginning of time, rather than with the American diet of the last 50 years.

My first project has been switching to wholegrain. Wholegrain bread, pasta, brown rice, wholemeal flour in baking. We have been a white bread family for some time. High fibre white bread, but white never-the-less. So far the family hasn't objected or even noticed. Some other things I have tried:
  • a few family favourites with half and half - a mix of white and brown rice
  • wholegrain wraps instead of white tortillas
  • no store bought biscuits
  • some recipes for biscuits that only use bananas for sweetening
  • natural yoghurt sweetened with maple syrup
  • wholemeal banana pancakes
There are a lot of others out there attempting this kind of change, including 100 days of real food which has been very helpful.

My biggest challenge will be maintaining this when school and kinder and all the associated activities start up again, and I am working 3 days a week.  But, as with all of these things, it's worth trying. If I aim high I might at least get off the ground. Wish me luck.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Loose Fit

This year has been huge. Obviously not huge in terms of the prolificacy of blog posts.  It’s been huge in terms of life content. Bulging even. I thought about writing a whole series of catch up posts based around each dramatic and thrilling event. Each post would have made you laugh, inhale rapidly, admire, and engage. Each post would have been themed around a life changing event: a house and whole-life relocation, a life-threatening mini-stroke, a deconstruction and revelation of faith and meaning, an impending change of decade. But instead I have chosen to reflect once more on something that is of great concern and interest to us all. Weight loss.

Of all the changes that I have brought upon myself or that have been imposed upon me over these last 6 months, it has been the losing of 3.4kg (and counting) that means the most to me. Is that strange? Dropping a size has been a goal for a few years, but I have never managed to set this sinking ship on that course. Actually managing to stick with it for a month and see some results feels like the best thing I have done in a very long time. I would not have thought myself shallow, and in fact I am not. I think this goes deeper than shallow. I think this has something to do to with vanity and even less to do with health, but more to do with control, achievement, self-validation, self-recognition, boundaries, and self-love. Too much self? Selfish? I don’t think so. 

Oh the cliches of mothers not looking after themselves, forgetting to think straight as they lose themselves in their desperate attempts to hang on to the run-away fiasco that their lives became overnight. I hate cliches and I especially hate motherhood statements about motherhood and how hard it is. But, help! Surprise! They are nearly all true! I suspect all mothers who have felt themselves spinning out of control take a while to get their bearings and grab on to something that floats. Something stable. Tossed out of their tiny canoe trying to keep their head out of the water long enough to breath, down that river of early mornings after not enough sleep, the seemingly endless hours of time to kill with a toddler, or the not enough hours in the week for a preschooler and work…. And the washing! Talk about cliches. Anyway, we grab on to whatever we can to keep us afloat. Looking forward to our first coffee, Playschool, a visit from a grandparent. Online shopping, a veggie patch, chooks. Crafting, baking, switching to cloth nappies. The gym, study, blogging. And if it works, keep doing it. If it makes things worse, stop.

So for me at this time of transition, munching on carrot dipped in cottage cheese and making coffees from white water they are somehow allowed to call “milk” - this craziness is my life jacket. It’s not exactly a hobby, but it is something that is giving me a sense of achievement. Soon I hope to move on. I am itching to do some serious gardening (once the itching and energy sapping of shingles subsides) and I look forward to the fun and new challenges of being a school mum next year. I have plans to study and I still hope to be famous one day! But there’s no hurry, and at least I’ll look HOT.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Growing Up

This morning as I was lying in bed trying to pretend to be asleep, I overheard a conversation between my daughters (3 and 5).

W: What are you going to be when you grow up?
H: Ummmmm .... a mummy.
W: But you WILL be a mummy! What do you want to DO when you are a mummy!?
H: I just want to be a mummy.
W (exasperated) : Fine. Just stay at home then! I'm going to be a firefighter.

So much to be said about this and yet it speaks for itself.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

My World

Before I had kids and before I got married, I was a reader. If I wasn't reading a novel, it was like I was only half alive. Now that's a weighty statement. Do I exaggerate? I don't think I do. It's akin to my relationship with music when I was a teenager. Those crazy teens today who can't breathe if their iPod headphones are out of 15cm easy access from their ears  - I would have been one of them. I can't understand them now, and I prefer silence to music these days, but my trusty walkman and portable tape player were never far from reach when I was 16.

I couldn't sleep without reading before bed. A book was the first thing I packed for a holiday. My shelves of books were my trusted companions as I moved house every 18 months or so during my 20s. Looking back over the last 6 years... I must have read maybe an average of one or maybe two novels a year. Falling into bed after 24 hours of broken sleep + breastfeeding and then child-chasing + houseworking + playing fairies + negotiating and now work + mothering + community involvement + financial responsibility + iPhones + the age of the HBO tv series..... books have all but disappeared from my world.

Until now.

They are back. I've read and enjoyed two novels since the start of the year. Last year I spent probably 10 whole months reading Cry, the Beloved Country. This year already I have read Vernon God Little, after hearing an interview with author DBC Pierre on the radio last year. And last night I finished Noah's Compass, by Anne Tyler, who has held the title of "My Favourite Author" since 1989 when I studied Accidental Tourist for year 12 English.

Could this really be why I am feeling more alive, more whole and more human? Or am I reading because I feel more alive, more whole and more human? I don't much care to argue. I just need to decide what I'm going to read next.....

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Mashed Potato Cupcakes

Whilst eating dinner (sausages, mash, peas) last night, W(4) decided to roll some mashed potato into a ball, cover it with sauce and place a "cherry" pea on top. At first I was horrified. This child is queen of playing with her food and manages to do just about anything possible with food apart from eat it. She can take a good 30 minutes to dissect an Oreo biscuit - pulling it apart, licking off the filling, and nibbling both biscuits as slowly as a mouse. It drives me crazy. But I began to see the genius of her ways, as H(2), who NEVER eats mashed potato, suddenly decided that mashed potato cupcakes were the yummiest things ever! Win.

Monday, January 31, 2011


"Food and kids" is one of those cliche topics that parents go on and on about and when you are not a parent, or when your kids eat olives and calamari from 12 months of age, it's a topic that gets very annoying. But it is on parents' minds for a reason. And it's on my mind daily: morning, afternoon and night. It feels like the food that I feed my kids/family is always an issue and often even a stress. It’s so important. And it is my responsibility. It’s important to me for the following reasons:
1.     Their health
2.     My parenting abilities
3.     My own enjoyment of food
4.     The family budget
5.     Happiness at the dinner table
6.     The environment

I’ve had a few attempts at healthifying the girls' diet. I’m having another at the moment. Mostly, I must admit, because I am so bored of sausages, fish fingers, and the rest of the limited repertoire that is not scorned by my personal food critics nightly at 6pm.

Last week I saw the “CSIRO Wellbeing Plan for Kids” on sale at a bookstore. I hadn’t actually heard of it but I know the CSIRO Wellbeing Plan for Adults. So I showed it to W, my 4 year old, and said, with animation, “This looks great! We should have a look at it at home together and do some healthy cooking”. She responded with a measureable level of enthusiasm. However by 6:15pm three days later she was screaming, “We should throw that healthy kids food book in the bin!!”

But unperturbed I have tried a few recipes from a little booklet that I got at a local council run workshop regarding food for fussy eaters.  They have both been quite successful, so I thought I’d share them. If my kids will eat them, then chances are, so will yours!


250g frozen peas
½ cup milk
2 eggs
30g cornflour
2/3 cup plain flour
½ tsp baking powder (I added more)
250g haloumi cheese cut into 1cm cubes
1 tbsp chopped mint
olive oil to shallow fry

1.     Boil the peas in salted water for 2 minutes, then drain.
2.     Refresh under col water, then drain again.
3.     Puree half the peas in a food processor until smooth.
4.     Whisk the milk, eggs, flours, baking powder and pureed peas in a bowl, then fold in the remaining peas, haloumi, mint, salt and pepper.
5.     Heat the olive oil in a lrge non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat.
6.     Add a tablespoon of the mixture to the pan, in batches, pressing down to flatten slightly and fry for 2-3 mins or until golden on both sides.
7.     Drain on paper towels.

These are VERY VERY yummy!!! I’m eating a left-over one as I type.

Fresh out of the oven are some Pumpkin Muffins. Now I know some people object to vegetables in sweet things, but take my word for it, you cannot taste anything pumpkinie in these muffins. I think… I’ll just have to go and have another one to check. Yep. They are good.


1 cup cooked pumpkin (about half a small butternut)
¼ cup canola oil
¼ apple sauce
½ cup honey
1/3 cup water
¾ cup sultanas
2 eggs lightly beaten

1 ¾ cups wholemeal flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarb soda
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg

1.     Oven at 180
2.     Mix all the wet ingredients together.
3.     Mix all the dry ingredients together.
4.     Mix both lots together. Don’t over mix.
5.     Bake for 20 mins.
6.     Freeze as required.