Last Christmas, I gave you my heart

I think I must have blacked out for a bit there. And now I’ve come to, Christmas – that sneaky, emotion-charged season – is in full swing. Do you know what that means? It means it’s a whole year since I looked up from making pom poms (those bastard little school fete pom poms) to realise that my marriage was toast.  It also means I can legitimately buy myself (I mean the kids) an enormous tiger soft toy and listen to soppy Wham songs.

I’m doing those things right now.Wham. Tiger. Me

Yep. Last Christmas was positively craptastic.  There’s nothing festive about sucking it up and holding it together for the kids, when all you want to do is crawl under a large rock. I was lucky, though, to have my sturdy support crew, who propped me up through December and January while I stomped my feet and cried bucket-loads. Whatever it took (wine, inappropriate jokes, nose blowing) they had my back, and helped me stumble through the season in a pretty rock ‘n roll fashion.

This Christmas is so much better.

Some marriage break-ups stretch out over a bumpy, painful road for years. Mine felt more like a gut-wrenching supernova at the time. But once the shell shock subsided, I realised that not only was I still standing, I was starting to feel a little inkling of something good. It felt like one of those stinking hot Melbourne days we have, after the rain washes all the heat and stink away. When everything feels fresher and newer, and suddenly you can breathe properly again.

I won’t sugar coat it and say it was a walk in the park from there on. Some of this year was absolutely, mind-numbingly, face-palmingly frustrating.

And here’s what really blows about being a separated parent. It’s the stupid (and not so stupid) little things:

Stupid little thing 1

The school uniform that got left at the other house.  And by the way, it doesn’t make any difference how many sets you buy – they always end up at the other house.

Stupid little thing 2

The Goddamn Tuppaware and drink bottles and homework books that you need right now, this very morning, but are also at the other house.

Stupid little thing 3

The freaking 20-pack of kids socks and undies you bought last week, which seems to have migrated, on mass, to – you guessed it – the other house. Or the grandparents’ house. Or their beach house. Or ANY HOUSE OTHER THAN THE ONE YOU’RE IN RIGHT NOW.

< Deep breathing >

(not so) Stupid little thing 4

It’s when you’re in the car, absentmindedly fielding questions about McDonalds / why you shouldn’t play with your doodle in public / why the lady on that song just said shit… And then the littlest one hits you up with:

‘Mumma, can you explain again why Daddy had to go and live in another house?’

It’s the little things that make your heart feel like it might just implode. Because you realise that these questions are just floating around in their subconscious all the time, and it’s only every so often that they rise up to the conscious level and bubble out as words.

At times like these, about the only thing that can save you from unravelling then and there, is a really funny motivational meme.

YOU'RE ALL MISS UNIVERSE

But the good news I have is that at this point, I’m still relatively sane. And on the whole, things have been pretty awesome this past year. Being mindful of attention spans and word count, I’ve decided to loosely classify the good bits into the following neat categories:

People. Dancing. And The Universe.

People

This year, from the comfort of my lounge room, and thanks in part to this little blog, I’ve met people from all over Australia. They made me laugh out loud, and reminded me I was fun again.  They saw me travelling to Byron Bay for 5 days of yoga, mindfulness and slightly raucous gin and tonics.   And to Darwin, for my first crack at a long distance relationship. And two stops on the train, for renegade dietitian meetings. These beautiful new and old friends helped me start picking up the pieces and sticking them all back together again.

And the kids – my little people . They’re just as baffling, and high maintenance, and hilarious as they ever were. I can’t help but be happy when I look at their precious faces and sturdy little bodies. Sometimes I want to eat them.  I mean like literally devour them. And sometimes, when they’re arguing (which is a large percentage of the time), I also want to knock their bloody heads together.

Dancing

I dance a lot these days. I’ve always danced in the kitchen and on big nights out. But six months ago I twisted the arm of a new buddy into taking me dancing (it didn’t take that much twisting – just a few scotches).  I’m talking beginner swing dancing class.

It was equal parts excruciating, exhilarating and hilarious.   Not unlike year 10 dance classes, except this time we didn’t have pimples or bad ’80s hair. We walked out with two huge grins plastered to our faces, and were hooked.

Dancing is nice because it gets you touching other people (albeit sometimes strange and sweaty people), and laughing and being a dork. In the words of Amy Poehler – dancing gets you out of your head and into your body. And by the way, I am totally in love with Amy Poehler. She has a lot of piss-funny and wise things to say about life and divorce. One of them is this:

‘Someday you may be in a happy couple again. Someday you will wake up feeling 51 percent happy and slowly, molecule by molecule, you will feel like yourself again. Or you will lose your mind and turn into a crazy person. Either way, let’s just hope you avoided tattoos, because most are pretty stupid anyway.

Oh crap.  I wish I read that last bit earlier…

Amy Poehler

The Universe

The Universe is a funny thing.  Sometimes it knows stuff you don’t, and puts you in funny places at funny times, to show you that stuff.  Sometimes it taps you on the shoulder, and then when you don’t listen the first time, it gives you a big old shove.  And then it slaps you square on the bum and grins.  Kind of like this:

Universe: Hey – look over here

You:  Ah – c’mon.. That’s ridiculous!

Universe: Yeah, I know. But trust me – I’ve been doing this a long time you know?

You:  That’s outrageous!  It’d never work.  Surely you can’t be ….. ?

Universe: Yes I can. Just shut up and go with this.

Sometimes you just have to stop overanalysing and defer to The Universe.  Because it knows stuff.  And maybe there just aren’t enough newly tattooed, swing-dancing, bar-tending, biker mole dietitian types these days.

Simples 😉

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The Obama ‘Hoff Inebriation Scale: A novel assessment tool for drunken behaviour.

It’s been a while between blog posts.  Again.  I suppose that’s what happens when you’re spending most of your time riding the intense single parenting train, and the remainder of it trying to be a grown up with a career and a social life.

But something got me giggling recently, in a very non-health-professional, snort-laughing kind of way.  And you’ll be pleased to hear that it has nothing to do with Pete Bloody Evans.

Last Saturday night was a big one on the social calendar.  The grade 3 parent mixer for my kids’ school.  It was going to be wall-to-wall couples, but I’ve known these people for four years now, and they’re a pretty cool bunch.  So I did what any self-respecting, awkwardly single parent would do – I took a deep breath, poured myself into my favourite supportive undergarments, put on my I’m Doing Better Than Okay face, and hit the scene.

Being a school event, it was local.  Meaning that most of us were within stumbling distance to our front doors.  And being parents, the feeling in the room was a mixture of exhaustion, and unbridled joy, to be out and kid-free on a Saturday night.

It started out nice: convivial, catching up on kids, jobs, holidays.  And then it got a bit rowdy.  And then there was dancing.  And then, all of a sudden, there were a lot of rather inebriated people in the room.  Parents – most of us in our forties and beyond – and yet it was like we were transported back in time.  Back to a time when it was de rigueur to get good and sozzled.  To hug and exclaim ‘I bloody love you!’ on the streets, and (inexplicably) to drink Bailey’s on the one-train-stop journey home.  Hilarious.

A friend, to whom I was relating the evening’s festivities, asked me this question:

So on a scale of 1 to David Hasselhoff,  just how inebriated were you?

I guffawed!  Because we’re all familiar with David Hasselhoff at his slurring worst.  And because as a health professional, I’m a sucker for a quantitative assessment tool. Entertainingly, we set about fleshing out this scale, and filling the gaps in between.

So without further ado, I give you The Obama ‘Hoff inebriation scale*.  It’s a thing now – I’ve registered it.  Please feel free to use it in your day-to-day practice.

Obama, bit drunk

Obama is after your first drink or two.  It’s nice.  A bit cheeky. You’ve got that happy buzz going on, and you’re working the room.  It’s a good place to be.

Tom Cruise, Oprah, couch

Tom is that excited, energetic zone.  You know the one.

Are you a bit drunk? Nah – you’re just invincible.  You spontaneously hug people.  You might fist pump the air.  And  (in my personal experience) this is where you might start pulling out some dance moves. You’re on fire.  The room loves you!

Tobey Maguire drunk

The Tobey is where things start to get a bit silly. Funny faces. Impersonations. Gossip. Poking fun. Giggling. You’re hilarious, and so are your friends.

Bill Murray, drunk

Ah Bill!  Who wouldn’t love Bill?

At this stage you’re getting pretty loose.  Silliness is peaking.  Coordination may be a little lacking, but it’s funny.  EVERYTHING IS FUNNY!  In fact if we all just stayed here at number 4, the world would be a pretty happy place.

Pam Anderson, Simon Cowell, Paris Hilton

It has to be a Pam / Simon / Paris montage for the half way mark.  Because at this stage you’re cutting up rough.

You might be Pam (the body is willing but the eyes are getting sleepy), you might be Simon (of course you should take a traveller for the trip home), or you might be Paris (surely no-one will notice if you take a little rest while you’re down there?).

Number 5 is where costume malfunctions start to happen, and it’s only a matter of time before you lose your footing.  It’s the ‘I bloody love youse all’ mark, but the dignity is slipping.

Britney Spears drunk

Oh dear.  When you’ve reached the Britney stage, you’re not fooling anyone (even if you’ve convinced yourself that you’re making a good fist of it).  The smile isn’t quite getting there, and the eyes are unseeing.  Best get yourself home – it’s all downhill from here.

Keifer Sutherland drunk moments

Okay, Keifer’s gotten himself good and drunk.

He’s bypassed the sleepy stage and gone straight to rowdy and inappropriate. Clothing is optional, and apparently pants-off at the table is pretty amusing.  He’s also fallen down for a bit there, but he’s not out for the count.

If you get to Keifer, you’re not going to remember a lot of the night’s proceedings.  And you may wake up without your pants.  Fun at the time, but in retrospect, not really advisable.

Gary Busey, drunk

Yikes! Gary’s not in a good way.  He’s dishevelled.  He’s finding it a challenge to keep upright.  His face says it all really.

DRUNK.  And a bit surly.

Courtney Love, wasted

Oh Courtney.  Can I get you a stretcher?

This is about as drunk as you can get without going the Full ‘Hoff.  Mouth open, eyes clocked off for the night, pasty, sweaty, highly vomitous.  There’s nothing pretty about getting to this stage.  She’s wasted.

David Hasselhoff, drunk

David Hasselhoff – AKA The Full ‘Hoff – is a sad state of affairs, I think you’ll agree.

He’s on the floor, eating with his hands, down to one syllable words.  All dignity is gone.

The only redeeming feature about getting this drunk is that you’ll have no recollection of the event.  Although if your kids are around and handy with the phone camera, it may just come back to haunt you.

Nobody ever means to go The Full ‘Hoff.  But sadly, it sometimes happens.

***

*Disclaimer.  Obama to ‘Hoff is not a scientifically valid assessment tool. And I’m not saying that drinking to excess is classy, or clever … but maybe it’s a bit funny when celebrities do it…

Bunny Shaming

Last weekend, my children took part in a yearly ritual involving a fantastical giant fluffy bunny and a shite-load of chocolate.  Some call it Easter, but in our (seriously non-denominational) family, it’s known as The Chocolate Holiday.

The holy chocolate day starts with the adult rising uncharacteristically early, and sneaking outside – under cover of darkness – to scatter the goods throughout the garden.  It is quickly followed by the stampeding of little feet, the ripping of foil, and the unbridled joy (and heavenly silence) that is legitimate chocolate consumption before breakfast.

At 8 years of age, my daughter is undoubtedly too old to believe in a giant, chocolate-bearing bunny (just as she’s surely too old to believe in Santa or the tooth fairy, yet steadfastly clings to such notions).  But she’s not letting go, or letting on, because …

CHOCOLATE

And you know what?  I totally get that.  In fact I applaud that.

As a dietitian, and a foodie, I believe that finding pleasure in food is a good thing. And following on from that, I believe that it’s okay to eat some foods not for their nutritional value, or health-giving properties, but simply because they’re luxurious / indulgent / insanely delicious.

And that’s why something I read this week made me feel very sad.

Surprise surprise, it was Pete Evans.  Pete with his special brand of blue-eyed, slightly unhinged dietary zeal, preaching once again to his tribe on Facebook.  But what got me this time was that he wasn’t just talking about himself. Nor was it another emotive, highly crafted ‘over to you’ tale of paleo triumphing over the woes of chronic disease.   This time, it was about kids – his kids – and how he was teaching them the ‘right’ way to eat.

Here it is what he posted on 13th April.

Pete Evans and the bunnies

On the surface it’s kind of sweet – is it not? The protective, nurturing father, guiding his daughters through life with a charming tale of (pure, disease free, enlightened) bunnies. And judging by the volumes of adoring comments it garnered, that’s exactly the way Pete’s tribe saw it.

But it’s the subtext that made my stomach churn.  Because when you read between the lines, Pete’s message to his daughters is that eating lollies at a party is a bad thing to do – that it would harm them, and essentially make them less pure.

His is a lesson in the dichotomy of food, and the warped idea that no amount of lollies is ever okay, if they want to lead healthy, happy lives.  It perpetuates the idea that foods are either righteous or sinful.  Tonic or toxin.  Pure or dirty.

To me, the bunny story is food guilt, dressed up as good parenting.  And it makes me sad to think what foundations are being laid down right now in his daughters’ impressionable young minds.  And – for that matter – in the impressionable young minds of children all over the country who’s parents buy into this militant way of thinking.

No bunnies were harmed

Because humans are not bunnies Pete.  We are emotionally complex, intelligent creatures who develop a relationship with food very early on in life.  We don’t just mindlessly nibble away on whatever we are fed – we learn and develop a belief system around foods from our family, friends and life experiences, which will lay the foundation for our eating patterns in the future.

Will Pete’s ‘bunnies’ grow up subscribing to his dogma and never want to eat a lolly?  Or (more likely) will they eat the lollies one day, and then feel the guilt?  What other ‘bad’ foods will they grow up feeling ashamed of eating?  Chocolate surely, and maybe grains, dairy foods, legumes, potatoes?  And how will they fare in their teenage and adult years when their world opens up to reveal a minefield of dangerously available, ultimately alluring ‘banned’ foods?

My opinion is that such teaching is a recipe for disordered eating in susceptible individuals.

And that’s why I won’t be banning my children from any particular foods, regardless of how nutritionally bereft they may be.  I won’t be staying at the party to slap their little hands away from the fairy bread, or cautioning the grandparents against buying them an ice cream.

I’ll be offering them mostly nutrient dense, minimally processed foods that I know will support the growth of their bodies and minds.  I’ll be teaching them that we eat not only to fuel our bodies, but also to indulge our senses, and to socialise, and be part of a community.  I’ll be letting them know that sometimes it is okay to eat food just for pleasure, and hoping to instil in them a mindful, moderate approach to eating, rather than a rigid, fearful one.

And so, ends my little Friday night stint on the soap box – with that vexatious, unsexy message of moderation again.  That, and a couple of questions to ponder:

1.  Are you sure no bunnies were harmed in the making of that statement?

And

2.  Is food the new rock?  Or for some, is it the new religion?

Pete Evans

Is Food the new rock? Image: http://www.news.com.au

Life in the Febfast lane

Yes, you heard correctly.  I’m doing Febfast.

If you don’t know me, you’ll be yawning about now and pondering whether to read on.  A dietitian not drinking for a month? That sounds about as newsworthy as your children giving up asparagus, doesn’t it?  Woop-de-fucking-do.

Well… maybe you haven’t met many real live dietitians before.  I’ll let you in on a secret.

Despite what Google thinks, we do not actually look like this:

dietitian image

Some of us don’t even like apples, you know? And the last time I whipped out a tape and measured fruit was, um.. I’m pretty sure I never have.

Oh look, you still don’t believe me?  Well here’s a picture I took at our staff meeting this month.

inside a dietitians' meeting

You see?  Wine is even mandatory during Tuesday night meetings in my workplace (it’s a good way to suss out the latest pregnancy news).

My friends will also vouch for the fact that I enjoy a good tipple, and that I hardly ever wear a lab coat.  Over the last few months, they’ve been lovingly administering me with more of the stuff than I’d care to admit.  And at the mention of Febfast, they’re now shaking their heads in sympathy – certain that I’ve finally lost my poor, tiny little mind.

You see, I’m just not a big one for swearing off things.

I’ve never quit sugar.  Actually I have a very healthy relationship with carbs (one of mutual respect and admiration).

I’m also totally rubbish when it comes to fasting – my only recent experience being when I tried the 5:2 diet to see what all the fuss was about. I lasted all of 17 hours on my meagre 500 calories, until at 2am I was wide awake and so deliriously hungry that I had to creep out of bed and make toast, least I chew my own arm off.

The truth is that I love food, and I especially love good food. And good food goes well with wine, which, in my books, is one of the perks of being a grown up.

Some foods actually demand an appropriate accompanying beverage.  Like these crisps, which – not being enough like crack cocaine by themselves – actually tell you to drink a beer with them.  I’d never noticed the fine print until this February.

chips go better with beer

It is scientifically proven that chips go better with beer

So why (I hear you asking) am I here? Very loudly and publicly vowing my sobriety throughout the month of February? Yikes, it’s hard to remember about now…

But I guess I figured it was time for some clarity.

February seemed as good a time as any to take a break from the booze, and start taking care of business.  And blimey, have I been TCB of late.

My mountain of paperwork is slowly eroding.  My bedroom hasn’t been this orderly since we moved in (one of the unexpected perks of singledom is all that extra cupboard space). And – if I do say so myself – you’d be hard pressed to find a more disciplined Tuppaware cupboard in the wider Glen Iris area.

tuppaware cupboard graphic

Suddenly it’s february 14th (blerk), and I haven’t had a sip.  Which means I’m over the half way hump already.  And considering my body fluid composition is now approximately 40% Perrier and 60% tea, I’m feeling pretty good.

I’m still waiting for the sparkling eyes, glowing skin and thick glossy hair that was promised – oh hang on –  I think I may have just confused Febfast with pregnancy there?  Forgive me.  I’ve been hitting the rocky road ice cream pretty hard tonight.

hit's of rocky road ice cream, straight from the tub

Seriously though, what I have noticed is the decided tinge of optimism in my demeanour these days.  I think it’s got a little to do with sobriety.  But no doubt it’s also just the passage of time.

So, fellow Febfasters – I know there’s a few of you out there.  I think you’ll agree that we all deserve a group hug and a pat on the back about now (or perhaps, just another mini Mars Bar and a cup of tea?).  Let’s chink our posh mineral water in wine glasses, and exclaim ‘gee, this is just so… refreshing!’ in unison.

There’s plenty of room on the sofa of sobriety at my place – we can clean out our email inboxes together, and submit our tax returns whilst knocking back peanut M&Ms like they’re going out of style.  And when we’re spent, we’ll pop on the tele and perve at the dishy Hotel Trivago guy, over, and over again. Ad nauseum.

On behalf of all the Febfasters out there, I’m dialling up a bit of Wilson Phillips tonight (in a totally ironic and self-effacing, Bridesmaids kind of way of course) and belting out a bit of ‘Hold On’ while I’m making the meatballs.

Go ahead and join me – you know you want to.

 

 

 

 

 

2014 – The Year That Shocked the Pants Off Me

Okay, no doubt you’re thinking it’s a smidge late for a 2014 Year in Review type post. And I wholeheartedly agree.  I realise all the Serious Bloggers had this one mapped out by November and scheduled to go in time for festive season reading.

I also realise that Serious Bloggers write for their target audience.  They don’t jump wildly between travel, cake decorating, fashion, nutrition, parenting, and flowery reflections on life, as the mood takes them.  And they fo’ shiz don’t disappear for months, without tacking the virtual equivalent of a ‘We are experiencing life difficulties – back in 5 min’ sign on the door.

Oops. But then I never claimed to be a serious blogger.

And the beauty of that, is that I can disappear when I just don’t have anything interesting to say, or when it all goes pear-shaped, as life often does.  And if I’m getting all excited about my revolutionary new system of Lego organisation, then I’ll bloody well write about that next (stay tuned folks – it’ll change your life).

But it’s true.  Last year did shock the pants off me.  And I think it quite apt that my first post for 2015 is written sans pants, from the shelter of my doona cave. It’s quiet, warm, safe… and there’s a whippet at my feet.

And so, let’s cover the good bits first, shall we?

In Blogging News…

2014 was the year I cracked the shits with celebrity chef Pete Evans and his ridiculous brand of food-wankery (you can read the post here).  Fortunately, this turned out to be the best move of my blogging career to date, as far as stats and follows go.  But more importantly, it got me writing about what I know as a dietitian.

So I’d just like to say thanks to Pete for the inspiration.  Thanks for making my blood boil every time I heard your name, and for introducing my blog to search engines around the world.  It was great while it lasted, but I’m kind of over you now.  You see, positive body image and moderation are the new sexy, and Rick Kausman has recently ousted you as top dog on my stats page.  Not sorry.

rick ousts pete 2

In Crafting News

For much of 2014 I crafted my arse off in preparation for the school fete – making some dear new friends and earning a few new frown lines in the process.

In the name of Hartwell Handmade I did things with parachute cord that I never knew existed, and discovered a plethora of uses for an enigmatic substance called Modpodge. I literally developed furballs while handcrafting 400-odd pom poms and then stringing them onto garlands.  And in hindsight…  I learnt about the dark side of Pinterest, and the virtues of delegating, and Ryan Gosling craft memes.

gosling

In Pet News

2014 was the year we adopted Billie the whippet puppy.  We mopped up lots of wee, and watched her grow from a needle-toothed little teddy bear into a sleek, speedy supermodel of dogs.

Billie was very busy in 2014.  She dug up the lawn, tortured the children’s beloved soft toys, and created her own doggy door by clawing and chewing at the back door until… it just wasn’t really there any more.  You see, Billie has persistence.  And mad DIY skills.

billie one year

And in other news

I’m not quite sure how to say this.  But I’m just gonna rip that bandaid off.  2014 was the year my marriage ended.

To me it was sudden.  Nonsensical.  Flabbergasting even.

‘I just think we’ve grown apart’

WHAT THE?..

‘I have feelings for someone else’

BAM!

And there I was, suddenly contemplating life as a 41 year-old single mother of two. And wondering how on earth it happened to me.

Rest assured I won’t be delving into the details here.  Firstly because no-one wants to read a 50,000 word thesis on the subject of my marital issues.  Ain’t nobody got time for that.  And secondly because I might be tempted to use the term conscious uncoupling, and I’m pretty sure that doesn’t go with the type of expletives I’ve been using lately. I don’t think Gwenyth would approve.

So… What’s on for 2015 then?…

Ah!  Thank you – Great question!

Well, there will undoubtedly be a lot of refocusing, rebuilding and being strong this year (combined with a good measure of wine-drinking).  I’m also going to have to learn how to deal with scary spiders in the house, and inexplicable computer issues.  And my awesome friends and family will be there every step of the way.

Of course the two most important people in all of this are my beautiful kids.  I’ll be snuggling them tight, and trying not to miss them too desperately when they’re spending time with their dad (gulp).

Who knows?  Maybe I’ll throw myself into yoga, or meditation? Or swing dancing!  I already have the perfect wardrobe for the latter.  Or perhaps this year I’ll realise some deep, previously-untapped love for endurance sports or rock climbing. (No. That was a joke people).  What about a sweet (little) rockabilly-inspired tattoo? Why the hell not?

However it pans out, I’ll be sure to let you know along the way.  And I promise to think of a smashing topic that has nothing** to do with my marital issues, for the next instalment.

**well.. maybe just a little, if I’m keeping it real

This is me.  Being all positive and 'bring it', in front of a lime tree.

This is me. Being all positive and ‘bring it’, in front of a lime tree.

Supermarket stupor

Well, it’s been a pretty big few weeks, I’ve got to say.  Firstly, I dissed the machine that is Pete Evans – and survived to tell the tale.  Secondly, I donned my invisible cape of assertiveness and pimped the story to a parenting website (at the risk of being descended on by activated nut-jobs around the country).  And thirdly, I joined twitter.

The freakish spike in my stats since last week’s post appears to confirm three things:

  1. Love him or loath him, Pete Evans and his ‘Paleo Way’ are very hot right now
  2. I’m not the only one who has completely cracked the sads with fad diets, food wankery and the people getting rich off the back of it all
  3. Secretly, we all have a little bit of Alf Stewart in us.
My (surprisingly real) Alf Stewart impersonation

My (surprisingly real) Alf Stewart impersonation

Happily, all of these factors seem to be working in my favour, and have brought about more than one spontaneous expression of joy through dance in my kitchen, and a record number of new subscribers.   So to the newbies, I’d like to introduce myself:

Hello. I’m Marnie.  And in real life, I’m not nearly as authoritative as I sounded in my last post (just ask my children, who never listen to me).

In a previous life (B.C.), I lived with my husband in cosmopolitan St Kilda, dined in the hottest restaurants, and worked with one of Australia’s most talented chefs (he was scary as hell in the kitchen, but a teddy bear outside of it).   But these days, I spend a lot more time reading Lego instructions than articles about the hottest new fad diet on the scene. And (quite dull I’m afraid), I spend a large chunk of my life teaching clients about basic nutrition, and preparing meals that my kids will actually eat.

I don’t usually make a habit of poking my nose into the business of celebrity chefs, or blogging about their peculiar food choices – but I’ve made an exception in Pete Evans’ case.  And that’s because he’s decided he knows a crap-load more than anyone trained in nutrition or public health, and has quite a penchant for dietitian-bashing.

The recent argy-bargy between Pete’s disciples and dietitian Susie Burrell is proof that many members of the public prefer to take dietary advice from a tanned celebrity, than an experienced health professional.  It’s also been a stark reminder of how downright revolting people can be, from behind the anonymity of a computer screen.

And that’s what was on my mind, last Friday afternoon when i-village parenting site published an edited, (somewhat less entertaining version) of my Pete Evans rebuttal.  As I quietly closed my laptop, and bundled the kids into the car for the shopping trip I’d be putting off all day, I realised I had just put myself out there amongst the trolls.

And it was in the supermarket, under that horrible flurescent lighting (my shopping list predictably forgotten) that I experienced a severe case of Supermarket Stupor.

super stupor

It went something like this:

‘Okay kids let’s think about what we came here for THINK Goddammit. Visualise the list and stop pulling the trolley – it makes it hard to steer’ Oh God… have they started slagging me off yet?!  

‘I think we’re out of juice [toxic cocktail] Who said that?!?  and cheese sticks’  Oh no – excess packaging = bad.  Will get 1kg block and cut into cheese sticks.. [probably from miserable grain-fed cows] Excuse me? What are you doing in my head?!  Hmm.. maybe should buy organic cheese – is that a thing? Quick! What would Rosemary Stanton do?

‘You wanted granny smith apples?  There – grab that bulk pack. Oh FRIG the packaging thing again –  must send message to evil supermarkets re: obsession with wrapping everything  No – get the loose ones and put them in a bag I’ll reuse the bag for dog poo and Arlo STOP pulling.  It makes it VERY. HARD. TO. STEER.’  Ommmmm… Breathing… breathing is good….

‘Mummy!! You said we could choose one thing – can we have CLIX?! Yeah CLIX! CLIX!’ here we go – this is my fault for letting them have Clix last week

‘No. We’re not getting Clix.’ stop frowning – people think you’re a grumpy cow

‘Pleeeeaaaase?’

‘NO!’ because I’ve just published a post professing we all need to eat less processed food and more plants, and I’m pretty sure Clix biscuits don’t fit into the second category there, and ? is that guy looking at me strange ?  Is he going for his..?!  No of course he’s not. Don’t be silly.  He’s just looking at his phone.  

‘Mumma can we have Shapes then?’  Maybe he’s waiting to snap a picture of your kids with Clix and Shapes so he can post it to Pete’s Facebook page with the caption:

Just encountered outspoken paleo ridiculer and brainwashed brand-slave dietitian Marnie buying her kids processed crap in the stupor market this evening #slavetothefoodindustry #dietaryguidelinesfail #badastherestofthem

 

*   *   *

You’ll be glad to know that I eventually pulled myself together and escaped the supermarket without appearing obviously unhinged.   I also stopped worrying about my potential death by social media suicide, and enjoyed an extremely delicious Thai takeaway with a friend while we watched Dead Poets Society and toasted the life of Robin Williams.

But the point of this post (I think) is that being a parent is a tough gig.  Sometimes, all of the noise and clamouring and expert advice out there about what we should and shouldn’t eat drives me a little batty – to the point where I just want to pack up, go home, and cuddle the dog.

But when I take a breath and a step back from it all –  I realise this:  Rather than freaking out and reinventing our way of eating, I just need a reminder, every now and then, to get back to basics.  And so my aims this week are simply to say no to the pester power of packaged rubbish, and to pack good, simple food in their lunches.

I’m also working on my new book I know stuff Pete Evans doesn’t – which I’m writing in the hope it will convince my husband and children that I actually do know what I’m talking about.  Wish me luck.

i know stuff pete evans doesn't

I got 99 problems – but a grain ain’t one

I’ve been channelling Alf Stewart again.  It’s something that comes over me at times of intense frustration – like when my children decide to barge through the toilet door the moment I have closed it and sat down… or in this case it’s when celebrity chefs decide they need to reeducate the nation about feeding their families.  Not according to evidence-based guidelines developed by research bodies throughout the world, but according to their own skewed beliefs and practices.

The Almonds are activated! (Image: Sunday Life, The Australian)

The Almonds are activated! I repeat: The almonds are activated! (Image: Sunday Life)

If you haven’t yet heard, Celebrity chef Pete Evans’ latest bit of Facebook grandstanding has him promising to bring his version of healthy eating into schools across Australia – and his Facebook fans – the anti-dietititian brigade – can barely contain themselves.  He hasn’t yet told us what exactly his ‘Healthy School Lunches’ program will entail, but if we are to go by his recent spot in the Australian (‘6 foods I never stock at home’), it might look something like this:

No grains.  That means goodbye to the humble sandwich and sushi roll (sorry mum). This also extends to meat that was fed grains, in case you’re wondering.

No dairy.  Because apparently no-one in his family can digest it.  And sorry (!) but soy alternatives such as tofu and soy milk are also bad for us  – proving 130 million Japanese resoundingly clueless.

No sugar (Pete goes into convulsions at the mere mention of sugar).  That seemingly innocent combination of glucose and fructose apparently causes all manner of physical and psychological disturbances, according to…. well… him.  But don’t fear, because pure maple syrup and raw honey are tickety-boo.

No vegetable oils.  Pete reckons vegetable oils are toxic.

Gee, that’s quite a bit there on the bad list Pete.  So which foods does he give his blessing to?

Nuts and seeds.  I’m right here with you Pete – these are great foods.  Activate away!

Fibrous organic vegetables.  Awesome.  Fibre is good.  Organic is nice.. if you have the funds.  We should probably all eat more vegetables.

Herbs and spices and naturally fermented foods.  No argument here.  Hey -I wonder if the sludgey banana I found at the bottom of my daughter’s bag would count as a naturally fermented superfood?!

Organic, free range, 100% pasteurised meat, poultry and eggs and hand-caught salmon from sustainable waters.   These are all good things.  Very expensive good things.  But here’s where the value judgements start to creep in – because surely if we just cared enough about our family, we’d all scrape around and find the money to eat organic?    

Coconut oil. Yes of course coconut oil.  Coconut oil is so hot right now. Because of it’s high smoke point right? (see what I did there) and it’s apparent lack of ‘toxicity’.  He also allows virgin olive oil at times, but favours lard and tallow as healthy cooking options at home.  Mmmm…

What about fruit? I hear you ask.  Fruit didn’t rate a mention – evidently it wasn’t downright evil enough to make the naughty list, or pure enough to make the nice list.  Does that mean I should give up practicing my apple swan lunch box art?  Humph.

turn-ordinary-apple-into-deliciously-artful-swan.w654

Now you’re probably thinking at this point – gee she’s really got her knickers in a knot over this one.  And yes, this is out of character for a dietitian who isn’t usually very dietitian-like about food.  It takes a bit for me to get my hackles up, but man they’re up.  My inner Alf Stewart (in his gravelly tones) has been baiting me:  ‘C’mon girly – are you gonna let that dingbat with his flamin’ activated almonds get away with this rot?’

No Alf.  I won’t stand for it.  I’m going to clamber up onto my soap-box and let rip.  Here goes..

As a dietiitan, I see people every week who are utterly bamboozled by conflicting dietary advice.  They no longer know who to believe, and many have lost the instinct which tells them whether they’re hungry or full.  Guilt is a big theme.  They ask me about the 5:2 diet, whether they should Quit Sugar or detox, and whether dairy is good or bad.  The ones who eat well are also taking spirulina and popping vitamins, and the ones who eat crap don’t don’t really give a crap.so hot right now

I’m very familiar with actual food allergies/intolerances and the restrictive and socially isolating diets that some need to follow.   Food allergy sucks.  Coeliac disease is not fun. And food intolerance symptoms can be genuinely distressing.  But I’m also encountering more and more clients who appear to be hiding their frankly disordered eating habits behind the veil of food intolerance or ‘special’ requirements.

Like the woman I saw recently, who over ten years, had whittled her diet down to only eggs (6-8/day), cream and butter, pork, chicken and lamb.  She avoided all grains and all fruits and vegetables except potato (which she fried in duck fat) and banana (100g/day).  Her blood cholesterol was a whopping 19mmol.  But in the immediate future she needed a psychologist more than she needed a dietitian.

And I suppose that’s why I get so worked up about diets that are all about restriction, and self-appointed ‘experts’ like Pete, who advocate them.  They promote the idea that eating to a certain formula will make you better, cleaner, stronger.  Through mainstream and social media, they subtly pervade the public conscious, encouraging confusion and needless anxiety around food.which diet?

Do we want to teach our kids that foods have either good or bad moral values?  Do we want to risk strengthening the foundation for disordered eating, in those who are most vulnerable?  As the mother of a nearly eight year-old daughter, the idea terrifies me.  And I wonder if the thousands who ‘like’ and ‘share’ Pete’s grandiose school lunch plans have really thought this through?

Pete obviously has passion for what he does – and that’s great for him, and the upwardly mobile, alternative-aligned punters with whom the paleo movement resonates.  But let’s not get ahead of ourselves here.  He’s a TV chef with nutrition qualifications from an ‘Institute Of Wellness’, and quite frankly, he’s no Jamie Oliver.

I prefer a bit of common sense and moderation, myself.  I learn from my colleagues, who blog with intelligence and perspective – like Dr Tim Crowe from http://www.thinkingnutrition.com.au – who presents the science in lovely bite-sized, helpful chunks.  And http://www.thenutritionguruandthechef.com – a breath of fresh air in cyberspace in the form of no-nonsense, cut-the-crap good food.

So how about we all just calm down (that’s you included Alf), practice a bit of moderation, and agree that different styles of eating suit different people.  If we cook real food at home, eat plenty of plants, eat less processed food and stop when we’re full, I figure that’s a pretty good start.

(now if you’ll excuse me – I’m just popping down to the shops for some organic free range offal and giant mushrooms to make this paleo burger for the kids lunch tomorrow)

Abaondoned undies, exhausting forks

It’s occurred to me lately that we need to rethink the division of labour in our household. Because as the kids are growing up, life is getting seriously busy – and I’m slowly turning into a grumpy old cow.

Long gone are those toddler years when staying in jamies until noon was de rigueur, and ordering drive through coffee in your ugg boots was an acceptable days outing.

early days

These days there are alarms going bleep-bleep and befuddled children to boss about.  There are sustaining breakfasts and inspiring lunches to be negotiated. There are bags to pack, uniforms to locate, permission slips to be signed and teeth to be brushed. Those teeth need to be brushed Every. Single. Morning.   Top if off with a school bell to meet, and it gets me almost every time – I’m doing that shouty thing before the day has even properly started.

And the days when I try to complete the whole saga and then continue on my way to work?  Multiply the degree of difficulty by approximately 1.75, if you expect to a) remember your lunch and b) not look like you’ve been dragged through a bush backwards.  Some women do it every day of the week – and it baffles me how.

But then I read a few of those smug, ‘it’s really not so difficult if you’re organised’ type blog posts and came across this gem:

I have 3 young boys to get to school in the morning and have no trouble . We have a timetable. 6.30 – 7am – breakfast and shower. 7 – 7.30 – Chores, which are broken into 3 groups and they do each morning. They rotate at the end of the week. 7.30 – 8 – relax, 8am – depart for school. Lunches are made on Sunday night and packed in the fridge/freezer for the whole week with their name on them. Have been doing this since the youngest was 4 yrs old and have no problems at all.Pocket money of $5/wk is paid every Sunday. My boys are healthy, responsible, organised, good at school and sports and very happy..

Is she for real?  Do people really get their jollies packing a week’s worth of lunches every Sunday night, before unwinding with a well-overdue sock drawer inventory and a cup of camomile tea?  Obviously Ms Smarty Pants here doesn’t need to ask her children to do something at least three times before it will even appear on their radar – giving her plenty of time for her pelvic floor exercises while cooking day 13 of her 20-day rotating menu cycle.

Anyhow… I recently decided to implement a system of weekly chores and pocket money – because it dawned on me that if I don’t, I may well miss the bus, and end up with children who still don’t know how to use a washing machine at age 35.

The bedroom formed the ‘core focus’ of my new system.  From now on it was up to them to ensure it was tidy every morning, or they could kiss goodbye to their sweet $2 on Sunday.  In addition, he would take charge of emptying the dishwasher cutlery basket, she would help sort the clean washing, and they would both take turns feeding the dog.  I wrote it up, had it laminated and hoped for the best.

high hopes

One week down the track, we hit a snag.  My daughter had ‘run out’ of underwear, and so I went in to investigate and found no less than 5 pairs of underpants (balled up within various garments) in the bottom of the closet.  I delved deeper, and discovered several pairs of pyjamas covered in vegemite smears or crusted-on porridge, and shoved in various PATENTLY NON-PYJAMA draws throughout the room.

Arlo started out brilliantly with the cutlery task (completed with more precision than my husband, who favours the ‘turn upside and tip’ approach).   But predictably his enthusiasm faded, to the point where a direct transcript from his most recent unpack goes something like this:

Oh… this is soooo booorrrring (drop one fork into draw)…  It’s going…. to…. take…….. all………day… (drop one spoon into drawer) …. It’s….. tooo…. hard…. and… booooorrrrrring….. {enormous sigh}

Observing this spectacle, I fought against every fibre of my being, which wanted to take him and shout: JUST LET ME DO IT YOU LAZY GOOD-FOR-NOTHING OVER-PRIVILEGED UPSTART in an alarmingly Alf Stewart fashion.

Surely I should just save myself the angst and do it myself, properly, with no need for the drill-sergeant routine?  But that would be quitting.  So we’re pressing on.

I’ll let you know if the point ever comes when the kids ‘helping’ actually saves me time, and doesn’t make me want to stick a fork in my leg.  But until then, I’m keeping a good stock of Bombay Sapphire at the ready.

He got the cutlery blues

 

And then there were five

Life in our household used to be a bit mad.  And by mad, I mean up and down like a yo-yo with an average noise level rated as extreme.  It was also mad as in one minute we’re all getting along swimmingly and the next minute it’s fisticuffs.  I think the madness level was pretty much on par, for a family with two young children.

And then, along came Billie.

Along came BillieBillie who has impulse control issues and a penchant for destruction.  Billie with her fetish for eating pencils, the children’s soft toys, and human food (straight off the table).  If she’s not supposed to have it, you can bet she wants it – with every fibre of her being.

Billie is what you might call a keen gardener.  In fact keen is an understatement – I’d venture she’s more of a fervid gardener.  She has a grand vision for our back yard, and in this vision, succulents just will not be tolerated.  The ones in pots are toppled, and those in the garden beds are enthusiastically chomped apon.   I like to think that her online dating profile might go something along the lines of:

‘Hi, I’m Billie.  I have a shoe fetish and a penchant for rigorous pruning and excavation work’.

Needless to say, we’ve given the winter veggie garden a miss this year.

Billie is also a keen collector.  She curates and covets the strangest things – such as the awful fluorescent green wig and the Hulk mask from the kids’ dress-up box.  These enigmatic items are so much more tasty and interesting than the dedicated dog chewy toys we bought for her. And her collection continues to grow – so that this week I had to buy her a toy box of her own.

She fills it by slowly appropriating more and more of the kids toys – each desperate dash into the playroom being carefully timed and orchestrated.  She has learnt, you see, that possession is 9/10ths of the law.  And persistence pays off.

naughty billie brady bunch.jpg

And then there’s the food thing.  The problem is that Billie just isn’t that fond of dog food – which is troubling for me as a mother, dietitian and general food enthusiast.  I simply can’t have a skinny dog.

I mix up puppy milk for her every morning (even though she’s technically too old for it now). Sometimes I squat next to her and coo words of encouragement while she eats.   And the other night I even added double cream to her doggy kibble, in an effort to bump up the calories and tempt her little tastebuds.

I know – she’s a Whippet, and they’re skinny right?  But I can’t seem to help it – I’m a feeder.

I can, however, confirm that she is growing, because last Friday when I tried to bath her in the laundry sink, she didn’t really fit anymore.  There was a lot of scrabbling, splashing, slipping around and sweary outbursts until we finally emerged  – both utterly flustered and dripping wet.   It was not unlike trying to bath a baby giraffe.

Another development of late is that my weekly purchases of paper towel and disinfectant wipes are slowing, and I can’t remember the last time I stepped in a puddle of urine.  In fact, Billie has recently taken to tapping at the back door to go out for a wee. Can I tell you how exciting that is?!  To me, it’s a bit like finding a forgotten fifty in my jeans pocket.

What - they do dog graduation certificates now?

What – they do dog graduation certificates now?

The main reason she’s learnt to do this, of course, is the treaties.  If we learnt nothing else from puppy pre-school, we learnt that treaties are the currency Billie works on.  Thanks to treaties she can also sit, and drop, and wait at the road.  Which is why my pockets are always full of liver treats these days (no forgotten fifties to be found).

It’s also the reason why the people at City Farmers LOVE me.

And when I add up all the food, the paraphernalia, puppy pre-school lessons, kennel make-over expenses, doggie parkers (plural, because she ate the first one), vet bills and registration ..

…well, the truth is that I don’t.  I think it would give me a small coronary to see the final figure.  And that wouldn’t achieve much now would it?

The cost of Billie

So what’s life like with a Billie in the family?  It’s a little bit more mad than before, but it’s good.

It’s good to see the kids race out to greet her when we get home, and to hear her skidding around the house at top speed first thing in the morning.  I secretly love it when she goes missing at night, and I find her quietly snuggled up and eyeing me sheepishly from one of the kids’ beds.  And she gets us out of the house and walking every day.  She reminds me that what really matters isn’t that the beds are made or that the floor is mopped. Housework will always be there tomorrow.

We’re just so in love with our kleptomaniac, hyperactive, little bony-assed dog, it’s insane.

Billie goes to the park

 

 

 

 

 

I can see clearly now

Man, how time flies.

This time last year, Cam and I had just returned from two decadent, amazing weeks in New York City.  If I remember rightly, I was on cloud nine – firstly to be reunited with the kids, and secondly due to my greatly enriched wardrobe.  And a year down the track, my New York dress and Freddies jeans are still on regular rotation.  They’re the souvenirs that keep on giving.

High pants on the highline

Wearing my high pants on the Highline

I started writing this post last week at the Royal Childrens’ Hospital, as Arlo and I waited for his annual opthalmology appointment.  And because it’s only once a year now that we make that trip, I always find myself taking stock of life.  Every year I cast my mind back to those horror few months when he was tiny, and we were told he may well be blind.

From about six weeks of age, I’d noticed that Arlo wasn’t responding to visual cues as did his eagle-eyed big sister.  I could walk by him, and he wouldn’t turn his head – nor would his eyes follow me around the room.  And at times I noticed his eyes would waver from side to side in a slow, rhythmic fashion.  It was unnerving, but he was so little.  I told myself that they all developed differently, and tried not to worry.

early days snuggles

early days snuggles

But by twelve weeks we were booked in to see our first paediatric ophthalmologist.  She assessed him, and was fairly blunt about the situation – we were given the various forms we needed for a battery of further tests, and wandered, shell shocked out to the car.  I bawled.  And for a month or so we lamented and agonized over the idea that our precious little guy might never see our faces.

If we skip forward almost five years, those of your who know Arlo will know that he is not blind – not even close.  He has a condition called congenital nystagmus – essentially a weakness in his eye muscles that makes focusing difficult, and causes a slight jiggling of his eyes (which you may notice if you’re up really close).

He does lose me easily in the playground (there have been more than one of those announcements over the loud speaker at school), and finds it hard to pick out tiny details in the distance.  But oh – how I wish I could show him to the heartbroken mother who bawled in the car that day.  I could save her a lot of anguish by telling her what we have since learnt: a twelve week old baby who smiles cannot be blind (and surely that is something that any paediatric ophthalmologist worth their salt should also know?).

barwon heads jetty jumps

We never saw that doctor again – we got a second, and a third opinion, and had an enormous amount of support from the wonderful people at Vision Australia.  We were overjoyed to see his sight improve – slowly but surely – to where he is now.

And what of this year’s appointment?  Arlo has improved one line on the vision test, and although he’s still technically below the driving level, we’re not worrying about that for a good eleven years or so. If it’s warranted in the future, there is the option of surgery – which can’t fix it, but should help a bit.  And we’ve been off choosing glasses frames this week, to see if correcting his slight astigmatism with lenses will also help.  He’s chosen the Country Road frames, as he felt they looked ‘sporty’.

And so, as I do every year around this time, I look around at how fortunate we are, and I thank my lucky stars that my little man can see.