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super spies on the hunt for stolen treasure...

Humans are funny creatures aren't we? Despite all of the technology, development and innovation that has occurred, our happiness and security still seems to be linked to a primal desire to be part of a tribe. Sure we can have the latest car, clothes and phone, but it's all kind of meaningless unless we feel like we belong. To a place, or a family or a circle of friends. Maybe its a workplace. Feeling like you belong is a lot more satisfying than owning the latest flat screen TV. Isn't it? It's easy to lose sight of though. To get caught up in the rush to have everything right now. The latest and greatest. Until you realise that really, what makes you happy is being with people you like, or in a place where you can relax/ have fun, or be inspired by a bunch of folks who's own thoughts and outlook  resonate with you. It's kind of magical to watch when a group of people is truly enjoying and thriving in each others company. I watched my little tribe yesterday as they played one of their seemingly endless array of made-up games, and they were in the moment. Having a ball! Oblivious to everything and everyone around them as they played with a little mate of theirs. The game was super spies, and along with their trusty sniffer dog, (AKA Charlie the Wonderdog) they were on the hunt for some stolen treasure. No fancy technology, no store-bought board game. Just having fun with friends. Next time you are out and about, indulge in a little people watching, and you'll see what I mean. How about you, do you feel like you are part of a team? A group? A place? Enjoy xx
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Satisfaction I have been contemplating my future, career aspirations and life in general over the past week. Kicked off my a 360° session (where you seek out and invite your leader and co-workers to assess you - sounds like fun right?) in the office, and spurned on by a thought-provoking day at WIMWA 2013(Women in Mining Western Australia). I have been wondering what is it that keeps me satisfied in life? The fabulous Jane Caro, gave an inspirational and hilarious speech at WIMWA, and spoke of finding the balance between boredom and fear. This struck a chord with me. Feeling satisfied, and happy isn't the result of one silver bullet, one thing that makes everything right. It's more in a constant state of flux. When life is becoming a little stale and uninspiring, it's time to dial up the risk factor a little and try something new. Learn a new language. Apply for that job that may be a bit of a stretch. Eat somewhere new. Try cooking something different. Take a risk and cut your hair. A small change can make a big difference and be enough to get the fire burning again. Likewise if your head is spinning, and life seems to be weighing you down, and it's all getting a little hard, then it's time to take your foot off the pedal and slow down.  Get back to routine. Cut out a couple of essential activities for you and the kids (let's face it, nobody really needs to be playing three sports before the age of 5!). Go back to eating simple wholesome food. Walk instead of drive. Which brings me back to where I am right now.  For me, it's time to change it up, and dial up the risk factor a little. I have started my own blog (thank you for visiting!), started my own retail space and am amping it up a notch in my corporate life by getting more involved, joining the Institute of Company Directors and seeking out and accepting speaking gigs (my big fear is public speaking, I also happen to love doing it, after the event, when my nerves are a little less frazzled). Where are you right now?  Are you satisfied? Enjoy xx
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How to tackle homework with tears (gorgeous stationery like this from kikki k may help!)

How to tackle homework without tears (gorgeous stationery like this from kikki k may help!)

Growing up, I don't remember homework being a big deal. It was more a case of racing through it as quickly as possible so I still had time to get outside and ride my bike or play Monkey Magic (sorry to anyone born after the 80's - you may not get that one - I was always Sandy by the way, and we made my little sister play the part of Pigsy, yep she still hasn't forgiven us!). Oh how times have changed!  With four kids, we run the full gambit of approaches to homework: from 'no homework policy' through to rote learning of spelling, violin practice, occupational therapy, and school readiness (am not sure that even existed when I was a kid!). It's a bit tricky though to know when you are about to cross the line between helpful parent and hovering stress machine... So today I thought I'd share a couple of tips/ tricks I've learnt along the way:
  • A small amount of time each night beats a BIG night on Thursday.  Captain Jack (Year 2) gets homework each week which is due on a Friday.  So two choices, do a little each night, or have a LONG session Thursday night.We trialled letting him decide the first week of term and the long night at the end of the week was an abysmal failure. He was exhausted, I was exhausted, we were both grumpy and it was like pulling teeth, slowly, with kitchen tongs. Painful.  So, now we do 15-20 minutes every night, and bingo, he's normally finished by Thursday.
  • Get the whole crew involved. My four kids sit down at the same time each night either at our 'homework table' or with the iPad, and all do their 'homework'. Nobody is missing out, and nobody feels hard done by.
  • No TV until the homework session is done. Some nights, this means no TV for the kids.  Sounds harsh, but it's been worth it! Fewer distractions, and calmer kids for homework, dinner and then bath and bedtime.
  • Mix it up. We have the homework/ craft table, stocked with pencils, textas, rubbers, sharpeners, paper, scissors, all ready to go.  Here is a fab website if you really want to go to town on your own  table or get some ideas on how to spruce up your study area. Plus we have an iPad with educational apps to keep the kids interested.
  • Make friends with technology!  Use your iPad, PC or iPod to keep the kids interested and learning.  Here are some great apps to try to we also love Mathletics, reading eggs, literacy planet.
  • Keep it all firm but positive!  Sounds tough, but you have to persevere. Kids like adults get a huge kick of satisfaction and personal pride when they finish a project or do well after practising.  It is worth the effort.  Praise the effort taken and don't be afraid to point out how they could improve.
Have you got any good tips for making homework a little less stressful? Enjoy xx
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Vilfredo Pareto, perhaps gazing out at Italy or his patch or peas?

Vilfredo Pareto, perhaps gazing out at Italy or his patch or peas?

  Have you ever heard of the Pareto Principle?  Sometimes it's referred to as the 80/20 rule. In 1906 an Italian economist , Vilfredo Pareto,  noted that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the people, then on a horticultural front, noted that 20% of his  peapods contained 80% of the peas ( how's  that for diversity of application!).  This principle has since been translated into business, 80% of your revenue comes from 20% of your clients, 80% of your complaints come from 20% of your customers... So how about applying this principle in your life? At work, what are the top 20% of things you should be focussing your efforts on?  Tacking the big stuff (your top 20%) first will give you big gains, whilst you could think about delegating the smaller stuff (the other 80%) to somebody in your team (helping them to learn the ropes). If you are in the midst of  climbing the corporate ladder, can you find an opportunity to step up and tackle one of the big tricky problems? At home, can 20% of your cleaning give you 80% of your 'clean house' satisfaction? I tested this theory out this week. Cleaning our castle takes me about 5-6 hours, which means I should get the most bang out my cleaning buck for about 1.5 hours.  Coincidently (or not - according to the Pareto Principle), this is about the time it takes me to clean our 'high traffic areas'  kitchen/ living room. Though this is totally unscientific, I found that yes I did feel like I had a much cleaner house after that initial 1.5 hours. Now if only I could find someone to clean the 'less satisfying' parts... my kids maybe? What if I applied it to de-cluttering? I decided to target Little L's wardrobe - an amazingly large collection of clothes, shoes and accessories (fairy wings anyone) all thanks to hand-me-downs and being the youngest (if the bigger kids get a new top, so does Little L- does anyone else apply this 'equality' to their tribe?).  So using the Pareto Principle or 80/20 rule, I decided to keep the clothes she wore 80% of the time, the items on high rotation.  I employed a highly complex technique of a dedicated (separate) washing basket for the week, then everything left in her giant wardrobe was sorted and most of it donated. Presto!  Can you think of other ways to apply this handy little principle? Enjoy xx
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The tiny ballerina finds her feet and her confidence

The tiny ballerina finds her feet and her confidence

Growing up I was a known for being a shy kid. If you know me now, this may come as a surprise, since I am fairly outgoing and love a good social outing. Though I still have a shy moment, or two occasionally. As a kid, it was a whole different ball game. Even if someone (including my grandparents) phoned to wish me a happy birthday, I would steadfastly refuse, and hide under the bed until Mum gave up on the whole caper.  The thought of speaking to a group of other kids terrified me, and I dreaded any event where I would be the centre of attention. My Mum, being the wise woman that she is, enrolled myself and my sisters and brothers in all kinds of activities. Drama, gymnastics, dancing, Brownies, Girl Guides, Scouts, and a whole bunch of sports. With four kids, Mum probably had an ulterior motive of keeping us occupied, not to mention burning off some energy. However, the added bonus was building our confidence. Whether it was setting up a tent at guides, taking a drama class, or competing in an athletics event, over the years we all became well-rounded kids, who also found it easier to make friends and as we got older, socialize.  None of us were world champions, but we all had fun and tried new things, making new mates along the way. Fast forward to the present, and Little L announced a few weeks ago she would LOVE to learn ballet.   Now, although she is a bubbly little poppet at home, put her in front of strangers and she turns into a little deer in the headlights. Frozen. Rigid with fear. So, I wondered, was a ballet class a good idea? Casting any doubts aside, we purchased the kit (shoes, tutu, and of course little pale pink tights), and set off for the local Church hall (where all good ballet class are held). Little L's first week of ballet involved her sitting at the edge of the dance-floor, with her big blue eyes peeking out from under her fringe watching the other little ballerinas.  She tiptoed into the middle of the little group for about 30 seconds towards the end, then scampered back to her spot, tears in her little eyes. 'It's really scary' she whispered to me.  My heart sank - was I doing the right thing? Should I bring her back if she is this anxious? Afterwards, the lovely patient teacher, said quietly, 'just keep doing what you are doing, don't rush her, keep gently encouraging her'. In the car afterwards, when I asked Little L, 'how was ballet?', she replied, 'AMAZING, did you see me?'. Of course, I said, you were amazing. So we persevered. The following week, she migrated from the edge of the dance-floor to the middle of the group for about half of the lesson, but stayed still as a statue, watching the ballerinas dance by.  Again, she thought she had done an AMAZING job, and that ballet was 'wonderful'. Which brings us to this week, when my shy little poppet, bravely ventured in the middle of the group and danced her little heart for the whole class, with a huge grin on her little face the whole time. 'I did it' she told me proudly at the end. 'Yes, you did, and I am very proud'. Cue huge sigh of relief from me, as a parent and a formerly shy kid. Sure it's tough to watch your little poppet struggle to be brave and face their fears, but when they  overcome a fear, even one as sweet as dancing in a ballet class, it's an amazing feeling. Enjoy xx
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Embracing feminism...

Embracing feminism...

Feminism and the concept of labeling myself a feminist has been on my mind lately. A lot. Call me a late bloomer, but the thought of actually stepping up and proudly calling myself a feminist has only recently occurred to me. Prior to that, I would have preferred to drop the f-bomb in the boardroom than utter the word feminist, let alone label myself one. I am tired of waiting for change though, and want my kids to enter a workforce where men and women are on a par, and where raising kids as a team effort is the norm (the lovely Big A and I make it work after all!). So spurned on by some seriously ambitious and intelligent women, thank you Catherine Fox and Sheryl Sandberg, I have started 'stepping up' or 'leaning in'. No easy feat as I work in the mining industry, which is, well, more than a little blokey. Which most of the time doesn't bother me...too much. Then I think about the fact that it's not just mining, it's nearly all industries, and it's really obvious as you rise through the ranks. I am writing this from the Qantas Club, a business lounge in an airport in Brisbane, Australia. Where, the vast majority of patrons are men.  Last night, before I flew out of sunny Perth (Australia), the situation was even more blokey.  Qantas Club had bascially become a Man Cave (I would say Gentlemen's Club, however, there were far too many men in thongs, singlets and mullets getting around for that - PS - if you are confused right now and you're thinking wait a minute...Qantas Club...WTF... it's because there's a mining boom in WA peeps - so loads of miners, and therefore men). Seems kind of wrong doesn't it? Where were all the women? Qantas Club is (usually) the place you go when traveling for business.  I was tempted to get the hell out of there last night, there were a shiteload of men, a lot of loud drinking and swearing, and well, it wasn't the most welcoming of places. However, I decided to stick it out, as I had every right to be there. Which is a pretty neat analogy and a great story to share when I try to explain how tough it can be to be a woman in the workforce. It is tough, and it is challenging. Each and every day I face up to situations where I am the only woman, or one of a handful. Over the years while working in other industries, it's the same story. I've missed out on a top job because I had just had a young baby, visited sites where there are no ladies toilets, been asked to take the minutes and get the coffee, been called a 'girl' more times that I can count, and been treated like an idiot just for being a woman, and missed out on promotions time and time again despite being more qualified and experienced than the male applicants I am competing against. You know what though, I have never given up and walked away. Just like at the Qantas Club last night, I have no intention of walking away because it's too hard.  Instead I intend to keep standing my ground, and encourage and inspire women and men to look beyond gender in the workplace and on the home-front. Whilst enjoying my time in the Man Cave - sorry Qantas Club, I have been reading a wonderful, thought-provoking, funny and poignant set of stories presented by Jane Caro- Destroying the Joint.  Born from the rantings of Alan Jones, (in his usual brash shock-jock way), women have united to share their thoughts on why women have to change the world.  You see, poor old Alan is concerned women will 'destroy the joint' if too many women get into power. So, thank you Alan Jones, thank you to all the Alan Jones in this world who think men and women aren't equally capable at home and at work. Thanks to all of you for encouraging (ok maybe forcing me) to own the label.  Yes, I am a feminist, and I am proud of it. I do believe women offer as much to the world as men, I believe in equal pay, equal chance of promotion, and above all the ability to choose.  Equality means shared responsibility at home too, raising kids, cleaning the house, whatever it takes. Do you see yourself as a feminist? Enjoy xx
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Is it a long way to the top?

Is it a long way to the top?

This morning I got to thinking about the career progression and ambition. Maybe not the sexiest of topics to all, but on my mind nonetheless. There's good reason too... First the lovely Big A presented me with a copy of 7 Myths about Women and Work by Catherine Fox. Which I loved as it really resonated with me. I devoured it in three days and promptly lent it to a friend, saying 'you HAVE to read this'. Then there was the 'sage' (tongue planted firmly in cheek) opinion piece from Susan Patton about how to make the most out of your time at University (in this case Princeton) - apparently the main game is to find a rich, smart husband!  Incredibly aggravating, outrageously old-fashioned, but well worth the read as you are highly likely to encounter the same 'opinion' in your professional career. Grrrrrr, bloody grrrr. Next up was Sheryl Sandberg's tome, Lean In. Enlightening, brilliantly/ brutally honest, and one of the best books I have ever read. Ever. Furiously ambitious, Sheryl Sandberg's book and opinion pieces have appeared at precisely the right time for me. A time when I am looking around, and wondering where are all the women in leadership? Which leads me to here, in a coffee shop at lunchtime, pondering the big question of... what next? You see, I am filled to the brim with ambition. Years ago, it bubbled over as I saw my future as bright and shiny, and I knew that of course I would eventually become a CEO.  Blind, brash ambition? Maybe. In my heart of hearts though, that is what I was aiming for. So what has changed? In short, nothing. If you read this blog a little (or a lot - in which case - thank you!), you'll know that I have a tribe of kids, and a fab supportive husband (that'd be Big A). This has not changed/ dampened/ erased my ambition. Over the years I've pursued challenging roles (overseas, interstate, change management, operations), completed two Masters degrees, and taken very little 'time out' to give birth to my little tribe. I work full-time and give it my all. I have now reached middle management. So, my question is now... what is next? What is it that I need to do to get to the top? In the mining industry where women are in the minority (like most industries), and the gender pay gap is moving at snails pace this ambition seems even more lofty. Yet, I am not going to give up. And nor should you if you are reading this and thinking, yes, me too! My plan of attack so far is to keep speaking up, continuing to seek out and step into challenges, and supporting my colleagues in closing the gap. What would you do? Have you got any hot tips? Enjoy xx
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Leading a busy life?

Leading a busy life?

This morning on the way to work, my inner dialogue went something like this...

God, I am so tired. I really need a coffee (this is one of my first thoughts most days, along with I should really go to the gym, or bugger its bin day, I hope Big A has it covered).

I really hope I got the uniforms right today.  Did Flashdance have sport or Captain Jack? Did the Mini Fashionista have violin today? Has she been practising enough (probably not)!  Will need to remember to ask tonight. 

I should be helping Little L with her writing - she's keen and interested, but we always seem to run out of time.  When did the rest of the tribe learn to write their name?  God my memory is shocking some days! Why did I give her such a long name, I should've called the little poppet Anna, or something equally short in nature.  

It's career planning time for my team and for myself. I really should take the time to do some more thinking about both. What do I want to do next year or in five years time? Does anyone really know what they want to do in five years time?

Life of Pi was such a divine movie. I really should try to get a copy of the book for Captain Jack, who is a sensitive soul and would probably love the tale.  Is he mature enough to understand the themes? Do I understand the themes enough to explain them to him if he gets stuck?

What on earth am I going to do next year when all four kids are at school? Should I hire a nanny? Do they have nannies in Australia? God, what will people think if I get a nanny?

When on earth did this happen? What happened to my old (or should that be youthful) inner dialogue, the one that was always seeking out something new, adventurous, and happy to fly by the seat of your pants.  Like the time I decided that Sydney would be a fab place to live (that harbour, the shopping, the beaches, so much to do), despite not knowing anyone, or having a job there, or even really knowing anything about the place (apart from the harbour, that there were beaches and some rumours about the shopping). So after about, oh, 30 seconds thought, I applied for a job, gave up my house, packed my car and off I went. And (luckily) I loved it! Is this what growing up is?  Or have I matured? Do you still wing it or are you growing up too? Enjoy xx
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Who's your hero? (cool cape t via Ksubi for Target)

Growing up, my heroes ranged from Wonderwoman to Einstein (yep a geek from an early age). Over the years I added composers (Beethoven), authors (Ben Elton, Maggie Alderson) and public figures/ media gurus (Mia Freedman).  A hero was someone I could admire, and learn something from. Now in my 30's I've added a new crop of prominent business women and men (Gina Rinehart, Ita Buttrose), musicians (Florence Welsh, John Butler, ), activists... My little tribe has followed suit with Captain Jack looking up to Monet, Van Gogh, Tony Hawk, David Attenborough and Andy Griffiths. Flashdance aspires to be like Mick Jagger, or maybe Nick Sharratt or even Kelly Slater. Make no mistake, not all of the tribes heroes are 'ideal from a parents perspective'. I mean, Little L worships Nicki Minaj... My mind boggles though at some 'heroes'... Famous personalities?  What does that even mean, a famous personality? Famous for being in the public eye? Honey Boo Boo anyone? So I am throwing down the gauntlet and challenging you to think of an authentic hero to look up to...and inspiring  your tribe to do the same. Who's your hero?  If you have your own tribe, who do they look up to? Enjoy xx
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Q is for Quiet via ecards.com

Q is for Quiet via ecards.com

When was the last time you enjoyed some quiet time? Late at night once everyone is in bed? An early morning walk? On a plane by yourself? It can be a pretty confronting thing at first. I find it takes time to adjust to the quiet, to enjoy the calm that comes with silence. Just like absence makes the heart grow fonder, do you think being bombarded with noise and chaos makes us crave a quiet moment? I love my crazy, chaotic life nearly all of the time, but sometimes, I just want a quiet moment. To think, to reflect, to daydream. How about you? Enjoy xx
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