This morning before work/school drop off I had two conversations that really struck a chord with me.
The first was with an amazing lady who has taught my children at the beautiful small school they attend here in sunny Brisbane, Australia. She’s a dynamo of a lady, fantastic teacher, and mother of a bunch of kids herself. She’s one of those people who is a ray of sunshine, and the kind of person that you feel kind of lucky to get to know let alone be the person to shape the minds of your kids.
I saw her whilst we were both grabbing a coffee at our local café before 7am. She had already dropped her kids to school and been to the gym and was off to school…at 7am.
We talked about teaching, how tricky it can be to squeeze in the curriculum, stay relevant, cater for individual needs, be innovative and also be inspiring for kids. She has years of experience under her belt, whilst my experience was limited to my ‘prac teaching’ experience a few years ago whilst studying a Graduate Diploma of Education.
I came away from our conversation thinking, wow, we are so lucky to have this wonderful lady as part of our school community and that I still think that teaching is a tough gig.
Once I arrived at school to drop my youngest daughter off at Before School Care, I had a brief but frustrating conversation with two other parents.
The conversation started with one of the parents commenting on seeing this wonderful teacher (who I had just spoken to) arriving at school in her gym gear, with a dress in her hand ready to get changed and prepare for the day.
The comment was something along the lines of ‘how nice it must be to have the time to exercise’ and how ‘easy it must be for this particular lady as she is a teacher and has teenagers’. I couldn’t help but feel a little incredulous and also defensive. I replied that I thought teaching was a tough gig, and that my brief stint highlighted to me how tough it can be, especially if you are also a parent. The response I got was underwhelming and came with a side-serve of eye roll, along with a comment about how nice it would be to have ‘all those holidays’.
I smiled, nodded and continued on my day, signing in my youngest daughter, dropping my sons to school and then heading to the hospital to spend the day juggling caring for my eldest daughter whilst also working remotely.
After giving the morning and those interactions some thought, here’s my take.
Working can be hard.
Working with children can be hard.
Working once you are a parent can be hard.
So it stands to reason surely, that working with children once you are a parent can also be hard.
It can be so easy to look across and form an opinion on how hard someone’s life/job/family/ situation is when you have not walked a mile in their shoes.
I will freely admit I am sometimes jealous of the amount of holidays teachers get each year. When you work full-time in most other professions, you only get four weeks annual leave a year. Once you have children this presents you with an impossible challenge – spread out your four weeks annual leave to care for your children during their 12-16 weeks of holidays. So unfair right?
Well, not quite when you look at the whole picture. My brief stint of teaching taught me this – teaching is hard, rewarding, gruelling (so much time on your feet! parents expectations! the assault on your senses!) and takes you away from your own kids…a lot.
I also came to the realisation that teachers need those holidays to plan, recover, relax and for some to spend time with their own children, connecting and having fun. How can I begrudge the great people who spend every day of the school term fostering the learning of my kids some time to recover, relax and plan for the next semester/year/subject/group of young minds they will be looking after?
On a related note, if you are there on the sidelines judging and thinking teaching is such a great deal…why not become a teacher? You know why a lot of people don’t? Most people don’t have the patience, resilience and passion to do that.
Most people find out what teachers are paid, and think well that’s not enough for me. I know that I didn’t have the patience and right personality to become a teacher. Which makes me feel even more appreciative of the fantastic people who do.
It’s not just teachers, there are countless other professions who cop flak and yet these wonderful people still turn up day in and day out to work, helping others, contributing to society, supporting their families. They do this despite the criticism and judgment levelled at them.
I came away from my conversation with those parents thinking, I really hope that one day they can appreciate how hard teachers work and how life can be tricky for teachers too.
Until you’ve taught a class, worked a night shift, completed a swing as a FIFO (Fly-In-Fly-Out) worker, maybe save the judgement.
A little empathy can go a long way.
It’s been a super busy time here, with school holidays and then back to school, exams, school sports finishing/starting…it’s all a little hectic really!
Whenever life gets a little too hectic, I always take the opportunity to stop, take a breath and refocus on our routines and see what’s working and what’s not working.
I thought I’d share a few of our ideas today – maybe you’re thinking of starting /stopping some things at your place?
Starting – Chef’s Tuesday is the newest addition to our family routine. Here’s the lowdown, each week two of the kids select a recipe they would like to cook for dinner and then we have a family cooking session. This week, the kids choose Bacon & Zucchini Fritters and Beef Stir-fry with Garlic Rice. My top tip? Keep the recipes simple (try this fab magazine or grab the freebies from Coles, Woolworths or Aldi), sneak in lots of vegetables and try and shop for the ingredients together (great opportunity for real life maths – bonus!).
Stopping – Trying to solve everyone’s problems and overreacting to bad things. Ok, this is a tough one, and one I’ve really had to work on. With the aim of building grit and resistance in each of my kids, I have been trying to listen more, guide them to solve/ deal with issues in their lives, and have been encouraging more independence. Here’s an example – so you find out that your kid didn’t get invited to a birthday party. Your instinct may be to get super grumpy and feel put out (on your kids behalf). The downside? Your kid see your reaction and thinks ‘hang on, maybe this is a big deal – Mum/ Dad is really cranky, maybe I should be too?’. Not great right? Instead, stay calm and model the resilience and confidence you’d like to see in your kid. So you didn’t get invited to the party, that’s ok, maybe their parents could only invite a few kids, or maybe that’s just what they wanted to do. So, what are we going to do that weekend? (Ahhh, the powers of distraction can also work a treat with this one).
Continuing – Daily exercise. All the experts agree, exercise is really good for you! Our exercise can include going for a walk, getting the bikes or scooters out and heading out and about, heading to the boxing gym together or going for swim. My top tips? Make it fun, add in a scavenger hunt if interest is waning, make it a race (oh my goodness, my kids will compete for any reason!), try a new sport if you can, stay positive – remember it should be about effort and attitude – not ability. One final tip – make sure everyone has comfortable exercising gear including decent runners/ sneakers. Target, Big W, Kmart and Best & Less all have some great affordable gear (*not sponsored by the way, I just find kitting out four kids in clothes can get super expensive!).
Hopefully that’s given you a little insight into what’s working and not working in my world, and maybe also given you a little inspiration to take a look at your world and think about what’s working/ not working for you.
I was chatting to a good friend about what makes Byron such a special place.
Is it the beach?
The gorgeous places to eat and drink?
Is it the super-friendly and relaxed people you meet and who run the amazing businesses there?
For me, it’s a combination of all of the above and why I always have a fab time in Byron whether I visit for a few hours or stay for a week.
Breakfast or Brunch? No matter what time you finally wake up, head to The Farm
If you are an early riser like me, Byron is a fab spot to get up early and head out for a walk along the beach. Love a sleep in? No worries, breakfast at most places seems to stretch out to become brunch. The Farm is a perfect spot to enjoy both. The Farm is a firm fave of mine.
You can choose to takeaway delicious hot coffee and buttery pastries and head off for a stroll (let the kids run wild!) or dine in and enjoy the view. If you choose to dine in, super friendly staff are always buzzing around, which means you can relax while you order from the locavore menu.
A lot of the fresh produce comes directly from the small lot farmers who share the space and I think you can taste the difference!
Time for a Sunday stroll – Bangalow & Newrybar
After enjoying a sleep in, big breakfast and a strong coffee, if you feel the need to walk it off or just go for a wander – take the short drive to beautiful Bangalow and Newrybar. Nestled in the hinterland behind Byron, these two tiny villages are home to gorgeous homewares, more great cafes and some fab fashion.
Some of my fave spots to visit/ eat in and around Bangalow and Newrybar are:
For a beautiful collective of retailers head to Newrybar Merchants, home to Art Park, Shannon Fricke, The Book Room, Minimosh, Tigmi Trading, Beautiflora, Nikau, Fate & Fortune and firm fave The Society Inc.
Time for a drink – fab spots for a drink or two, maybe just settle in for the afternoon
After all of that eating, shopping and walking if you are feeling a little parched head back to Byron for a cold drink or two. For a laid-back afternoon under the trees, try starting with a Bloody Mary at The Treehouse. My friend and I both settled in for some quality people-watching, savouring ours. Order extra-hot if you’re feeling game! Nestled next to the beach, and serving wood-fired pizzas, Treehouse is a perfect spot to relax for a couple of hours with a drink or two.
If a pub and a cold brew are more your scene, wander in to the Beach Hotel (fab views, live music, did I mention the view?), The Rails (The Railway Friendly Barl) or The Great Northern (for an old school pub, keep an eye out for the great bands playing here).
The Rails (The Railway Friendly Bar)
If you’re not a fan of pubs, Miss Margarita is a fab little spot near the beach serving a range of delicious drinks and Mexican food.
Whew! That is one hefty list, but there are just so many great places to eat/drink/shop and relax!
Have you got any firm faves in Byron?
My mornings in Byron always start with a wander along the beach, taking in the headland, laughing at dogs frolicking in the waves and saying hello to other blissed out folk wandering along the sand. Doesn’t matter whether it’s wintery weather or mid-summer. Getting sand between my toes is a must, and as soon as possible.
Here are the finer details of Part 1 of the highlights from my recent mid-winter weekend:
Breakfast – Top Shop
If you are keen to see more of the town than just the main strip, take a walk to the super cool Top Shop, perched on a hill, nestled alongside the ocean. Filled with local folk fresh from the surf, families and couples, you can follow my lead and settle in with a hot coffee and a delicious serve of avocado toast on the verandah or join the crowd sprawled out on blankets on the grass. The vibe is relaxed and friendly complimented by quick service from the friendly crew. My friend and I found our two sunny spots on the deck were also perfect for people watching (an absolute treat in Byron!)
Stone & Wood Brewery Tour
Keen to do something a little different for the day and support a local business, next stop was a tour of local brewery Stone & Wood. Started by three clever blokes (Jamie, Ross and Brad) Stone & Wood is nestled in an industrial estate on the outskirts of Byron. My friend and I chose to walk to the Brewery – a comfortable 20 minute stroll from town along sunny walking track runs alongside a Teatree forest.
Our tour started with a ‘welcome beer’ of our choice – on the advice of the super friendly staff we settled on a lighter style brew, ‘Garden Ale’. The tour kicked off with a history of the business, the brewing process, and then a tour of where the magic happens. I learnt that it’s all about the hops, and that ‘Galaxy Hops’ are the bomb (well at least that’s the case for Stone & Wood). After our brewery tour, our little group settled in to the beer garden for a ‘tasting paddle’. Turns out a tasting paddle is a platter of beer, starting with lighter styles and moving through to heavier brews. Absolutely delicious and a brilliant way to spend a sunny afternoon with a beer-loving mate (or two!).
Dinner & drinks with a view – Balcony Bar
After enjoying the laidback atmosphere of Stone & Wood, it was time to frock up and head out to dinner. Byron has some many amazing places to chose from, it may seem a little overwhelming at first. High on my list were great atmosphere and seafood so Balcony Bar & Oyster Co was perfect. Dinner kicked off with oysters (of course), followed by ceviche of Kingfish, steak tartare and finally free range lamb shoulder. Drinks were just as good, kicking off with cocktails and moving through the beer and wine list which made for a long and fantastic night. Our ever friendly waiter Adam made sure our glasses were never empty for long and helped us navigate the delicious menu. My only tip would be to make sure you book a table (go for the balcony).
Well, that’s a wrap on Part 1, I’ll post Part 2 next week.
Have you got a fave spot in Byron? Share in the comments below if you do.
This morning on the way to drop tribe off at work, I was thinking about how easy it can be to drift through the days and never quite be present in the moment.
Days can become a trudge, with every day feeling the same.
Life can start to feel a little beige.
One of my best tricks to keep life in technicolour is to make a conscious effort to be in the present.
Back to this morning where I found myself in the midst of a couple of awesome moments, brief but tiny moments of love, happiness and fun:
- Singing (very badly) along to the Miss L’s playlist on Spotify – a fantastic insight into an 8 year old’s mind.
- Getting a giant hug and hearing Flashdance (now a super-cool 11) say ‘…love you Mum’ as I dropped him off.
- Getting a delicious coffee from the tiny Coffee Shed (part a super cool Co-Op place in Sunny South Brisbane) and having chat to the ever lovely barista.
A very good start to the day.
Any little moments of joy in your day?
I love the way kid’s minds tick.
The recent furore over plastic bags, and bring your own, supermarkets back-flipping has been entertaining, frustrating and nonsensical, in equal measure.
Can adults remember to bring their bags?
Should supermarkets subsidise bags for people who forget?
Are thicker ‘reusable’ plastic bags different or any better than ‘single use’?
My 8 year old summed the whole debacle up well this week.
‘It’s not that hard to remember, if you forget your bags you are going to have to juggle all your groceries to the car and then your house. You’ll only want to do that once!’ she said laughing.
Spot on, my little friend, spot on!
Several years ago, we had the fantastic idea to take the kids on a bushwalk.
Not a huge trek, just a short walk along the coastline to see a lighthouse and take in the view.
Not a huge deal. Right?
Wrong! Within 20 metres the whinging started. I’m hot, I’m tired, my shoes aren’t working (shoes were fine, toddler logic was at work on that one)… On and on it went. To our credit we persevered and after what seemed like 14 hours we completed the ‘trek’. Arriving back at the car, both of us declared that bushwalking had been a fizzer.
No time to take in the view, the glorious coastline. Just one enormous whinge-fest!
Fast forward a few years, and we have taken a quantum leap forward.
Over the weekend we visited the glorious Springbrook National Park. Tucked up in the hinterland behind the Gold Coast, this spectacular park looks like it is straight out of Jurassic Park. Waterfalls, rainforest, sheer cliffs and brilliant tracks to explore, Springbrook promised a lot.
I was less that sure we were up to it. Sure we had no toddlers in tow, but we did have four kids (now 6 through to 11) to keep motivated and enthusiastic.
Short story…it was brilliant!
All of us were blown away by the majesty of this place.
All of us loved it, even with two kids tripping over, a grazed knee and some steep tricky tracks to contend with.
As we triumphantly finished the 2 hour (yep, 2 hours!) trek, I was brimming with pride at my little gangs efforts.
We are now a family that bushwalks again!
Have you been bushwalking lately? Share your favourite track!
I cannot believe that it is almost time for school to go back. Summer holidays are so long, weeks and weeks of no school, trying to think of things to do, and sometimes (a lot of the time?) dealing with ‘bored’ kids.
To help out a little, here are a couple of winners I have discovered over the years with my gang.
- Visit the Libraries in Brisbane. Don’t worry if you aren’t a member, it’s super easy to join! Check out the library in person or online for holiday activities, our local library has craft, lego, author (last holidays it was Roald Dahl) celebrations. Best of all it’s free! Most libraries nowadays also lend DVDs, comics, and magazines as well, something for everyone!
- Check out your local National Parks, botanic gardens, bush reserves. Nothing burns off excess energy and curbs cabin fever like a good run around, and some bushwalking. Pack a backpack, water and first aid kit and you are good to go. It’s also worthwhile checking online first, as a lot of parks have special programs just for kids. Try National Parks Association and Find a National Park in Queensland for information/ ideas.
- Have a bake-off. Split up into teams and have a baking competition, keep it fun though as things can get pretty competitive once the kids start to get into it! Here are some recipe sites to try… Food to Love, Delicious
- Hold a crafter-noon with some friends, take turns with other parents and have a few of the kids friends over for a craft session. Lego/ brick making also works well. This one works best outside/ on the verandah, and use recyclable material if you can, super cheap and easy to clean up. Take a look here and My Poppet for ideas!
- Have a movie afternoon, make popcorn and snacks. Steer away from new releases and break out a classic like Back to the Future, Goonies, The Labyrinth. Kids and grownups will love it!
Hopefully that will give you a little inspiration! Feel free to post any great ideas that work for your gang too!
I just finished reading The Martian, in record time! It is a cracker of a read, and though heavy on the science and engineering (which I loved!), also tells a tale of resilience. Filled to the brim with humour and adversity, it made me think a lot about how reliant we can become on others.
For our happiness, for comfort, for love, for inspiration.
We are truly sociable creatures at times aren’t we?
In parallel, I think that it can sometimes be a bit of a trap to always be surrounded by others.
Ask a busy professional, mother, volunteer, school teacher or friend, what is it that you crave?
Alone time. Space. Quiet.
Time to think, ponder, muse and let your mind wander.
Some of my best ideas come to me when I am alone. Whether it’s walking, listening to music, lying in bed at night reading, alone time can give you the space you need to think.
When was the last time you carved out a bit of the day to be alone?
Over a coffee with a lovely girlfriend this week, I started to think about the fab tips I have collected over 13 years of parenting.
Each time I heard/saw/read a good tip over the years, I have trialled it and if it’s a winner I have added it to our morning routine. With four kids and two adults to get ready each day these save us all a lot of time and stress.
So because I think you guys are my friends too, here are a few of my faves:
- Bag drop stop – create a bag drop spot. Maybe it’s near the front door, maybe it’s a hat-rack, maybe it’s a combo! Whatever you decide, make it the kids job to drop their bag off/pick it up from there. You can even add a lap-top charge station if you need to. Add a spot for hats and shoes and you are ready to roll. Here’s some pics for ideas…
- Uniform shop – put all of the school uniforms in one spot. I wash then hang uniforms straight up on a coat hanger and onto a small cloths rack. We have a basket nearby for school socks. We also keep sports/dance/swim bags here too – packed and ready to go.
- Lunchbox production line – get the kids involved! Make it the kids job to place lunch boxes on the bench when they arrive home. In the morning, have snacks in one container, fruit in a bowl, and let the kids assemble their own lunch. This helps each child to take responsibility for what in their lunchbox and you can chat about healthy choices at the same time…winning! Here’s some lunch-box inspiration.
- Ban technology/ TV – no tv/iPad/phone/internet/devices until everyone is dressed and ready to go. Stay firm on this one, let the kids know that technology is a no-go until there are dressed and ready. Lead by example – no Facebook/ phones for adults either until you are ready too!
- Breakfast all round. Make breakfast part of the morning routine, smoothies, toast, boiled eggs, cereal…whatever works with your crew! Just make it simple, quick and as healthy as you can. No breakfast equals grumpy kids (and grown-ups!).
I am sure you could add to the list! What are your fave tips to get moving in the morning?
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