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Ari Chavez

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Funny mummy Ari contemplates the value of play dough for kids.

The great existential question that has been bothering me lately is, who the hell invented play dough? And how do we punish them?I’ll be frank. Play dough is one of the great loves of my son’s life. He is the king of play dough, in fact, and I freaking hate the stuff.

In fact, I hate it so much I hide it in a big plastic tub behind walls of chaos in the labyrinth of things-that-need-to-be-sorted-out-but-I-cannot-currently-deal-with that I call our garage. I hide it so well that pretty much no one can ever find it, not even me.

Except the child.

The child has a sixth sense about both hidden play dough places, and hidden chocolate biscuit places, I’ll give him that. He does not have a sixth sense about where his shoes, socks, school hat, library books or swimming goggles are, which would be far more useful.

It’s all about motivation I guess. He can find that damn play dough tub in about half a nano second. He will never, ever find his school hat or his second running shoe. As far as play dough goes, his modus operandi is quiet stealth, which I should have cottoned onto by now. If ever my kid, who is in the habit of providing a running narrative of exhausting questions I am required to answer non stop, is ever quiet I know he’s up to no good. NO. GOOD.

 

He will ask me a series of stupendously tedious and exhausting questions, while he observes me sidle towards the teapot so I don’t lose the will to live.

Sometimes, however, I just need to sit down and have a cup of tea, stare blankly into space and not answer any questions. Heck, sometimes I don’t KNOW THE ANSWERS TO HIS QUESTIONS, ISN’T THAT WHAT GOOGLE IS FOR? The kid knows the game. He will ask me a series of stupendously tedious and exhausting questions, while he observes me sidle towards the teapot so I don’t lose the will to live. In these moments of weakness, he ever-so-quietly tootles up the hallway and slips into the garage, scales the pile of stuff for the council pick up, like a mountain goat, and seizes the play dough tub toot suite.

Then he drags it into the play room and sets about making a complicated sea anemone that he saw some deranged mother, who has nothing better to do, make on YouTube. Of course, his sea anemone looks nothing like the YouTube mother’s sea anemone. OF COURSE IT DOESN’T. That YouTube play dough mother has an online play dough making course she’s selling. Why the heck else would you make a sea anemone out of play dough?

 

 

My son, bless his play dough loving heart, is not wise to the ways of crafty-YouTube-mothers-making-a-buck-on-the-side. He will spend five minutes trying to make his sea anemone look like a sea anemone, and not like a lump of pink and yellow stuff, and then yell, “MAMA, CAN YOU HELP ME?”

Then he drags it into the play room and sets about making a complicated sea anemone that he saw some deranged mother, who has nothing better to do, make on YouTube.

Obviously, the only thing to do is to pretend not to hear. Never works.

“MAMA, HELP PLEASE! HELP PLEASE! MAMA! MAMA! MAMA! MAAAMMAAAAAAAAAAA!”

The point is, this could go one for hours – me pretending not to hear, and the child chanting my name like some sort of mantra. The other point is, I will crumble first. So the only way to deal with it, is to sit down with the child and try to make a play dough sea anemone while fobbing off questions about why our sea anemone looks so rubbish in comparison to the YouTube one.

Toot suite.

Holidays are meant to be a relaxing time, right? Hm, well perhaps not when travelling with toddlers! If you have ever travelled with little ones, this may be something you can completely relate to.

Once Upon A Time when I was young, and didn’t have any wrinkles, and used to flit around the world on a whim, I’d watch parents board planes with toddlers and glower at them. Ferociously. I’d will them not to trail their child and all its paraphernalia in my direction and sit next to me. I didn’t care how apologetic they looked. I had been very busy and I had some relaxing to do, and they looked, well, frazzled and un-relaxed. Jeez, couldn’t they put on some clean clothes and brush their hair? What was all that stuff they were carrying, anyway? Hadn’t they heard of travelling light? Of minimalism? They probably had a whole house full of stuff. They probably had ten houses, actually, bursting with stuff and toddlers. I hoped they never moved next door to me, with all their stuff and overflowing bags and their ten houses and 1000 toddlers. Ugh, what was the deal with toddlers and snot, anyway? Couldn’t they wipe the kid’s nose?

And, so it went. Sometimes those harried parents would sit next to me, or in front of me, or behind me, which was hideous, obviously, with the snot and seat-kicking and everything, and sometimes they’d move past me and sit someplace else. At which juncture, I’d heave an exaggerated sigh of relief and thank my lucky stars.

Ah, well. I was young. The world turns, and most of us become wrinkled up parents of toddlers some day, and Karma, as they say, is one hell of a Beyotch.

I know this, because I married the best guy in the world who, romantically at the time, grew up in two different countries on the other side of the globe. Fantastic, I thought. Not only do I get to marry the best guy in the world, I get to travel back to his two countries for the rest of my life, stopping at a couple of places en route because the flights are so Very Very Very Long. Score!

Ahem. That deluded-ness was before I had my baby, who has turned into a toddler who somehow has Energizer Bunny batteries running 24/7. Unfortunately, my husband’s family and friends still live a gazillion miles away and, unless someone can tell me how to close my eyes and zap myself there in an instant, like Samantha from Bewitched, we’re long-hauling for the rest of our lives. Hello, Karma!

Touchingly, a lot of parents think that flying with their toddler won’t be that bad because, well, it’s their child. They are wrong. Always. 110 per cent wrong. Unless, of course, they have a Freak Toddler with a throwback Good Behaviour Gene – and if they do, they should see a health professional about that. Flying with a toddler is just a bad idea. I figured as much when I was an entitled world-flitter and now, after ten flights in four weeks, two of them around the 35-hour mark, I know it in my bones.

We started out well, I guess. We clipped out lists from those “Happy Long Haul Flights With Toddler” articles, and packed our carry-on bags – about six, but who’s counting? – accordingly. We tried. We had milk and water and crackers and toys and books and a blanky and a sooky and a portable DVD player and DVDs and nappies and wipes and tissues and flannels and toiletries and changes of clothes and fruit and, hilariously, a Kindle for me, loaded with all the books I was going to read.

The Toddler did okay on his first flight, probably because it was a novelty. The second wasn’t too bad, either. By the third, in a terrible portent of things to come, he’d had enough. HAD ENOUGH! Especially when we entered Mexico City’s airport, which was about 500 degrees with no air-conditioning. The Toddler was not down with that. He had San Francisco layers on! He became the flailing, thrashing, screeching manifestation of the Terrible Demonic Twos. He yelled. He cried. He insisted on crawling up the baggage scanner towards our ten-tonne cases hurtling towards him. Every time I pulled him off, he arched his back and foamed at the mouth, and then flung himself on the floor and howled until his face turned purple. I kept waiting for his head to spin around and fly off and hit the Baggage Scanner Lady in the neck. Luckily for us it didn’t, but I think we were close.

People stared at us and frowned. They whispered and moved away. Couples nudged each other and grinned, grateful for the Family Entertainment. The Toddler obliged, ramping up the angst a few hundred notches and sweating profusely. The airport felt like it was 900 degrees. I tried to get his goddamn layers off, while he hurled himself around the baggage cart wailing. Our ridiculous mountain of luggage teetered. Those couples grinned some more, waiting for our cases, knapsack, travel cot, camera bag, hand luggage and random water bottles, books, crackers and tissues to spill all over the floor. Obviously, I wanted the Toddler’s head to fly off and hit them smack bang in the mouth. That would have been just fine with me.

Regrettably, he refused to oblige. The Toddler’s screaming head stayed well and truly attached to his flailing, kicking, furious body. Ah, well. Like they say, Karma is a Beyotch. We were three flights down, and counting. Only, ahem, seven more flights to go.

Ari takes inspiration from her own childhood when planning school holidays for her child.

Okay, so now that I’m a mother, I can see the flawed and horrible logic that is the summer School Holidays.

SO LONG! Why so long? And why so sunny? Not only do the weeks last forever, each day seems like about ten days because the sun never goes down so you can’t do the old, it’s-dark-now-so-go-to-bed-and-leave-me-in-peace trick until about 9.00pm. Gruesome. Badly planned. Too hot. Whoever decides on these things needs a couple of mothers on the committee to arrange things properly.

When I was a kid, I loved Summer Hols, even though they mostly consisted of going to swimming lessons. I mean, there were a LOT of lessons and they kinda sucked. We didn’t get merit certificates for putting our heads under the water, or anything like that. No, me and my three siblings used to front up to the fifty metre non-solar-heated pool and some Old Boiler would make us fling ourselves into the lap-lane and bitch at us about our stroke. Every. Single. Day. I joke not. The only day we didn’t go was Sunday, and that’s because we had to go to church. My folks liked structure.

All of us kids were at different swimming levels and each lesson lasted about an hour – no pithy 25 minutes in a heated pool for us – so we had to hang around the local pool for about five hours by the time we got through everyone. In between lessons my mother, who engineered the annual Swimming Lesson Bonanza, would instruct us to do about a million more laps for ‘practise’, while she leisurely swam about seven lanes away from us pretending, I see in retrospect, that we didn’t belong to her.

Anyway, all that lapping took us through to about 2.00pm every day, and after five hours of swimming in waters that felt sub-Arctic, we had a lot of our collective Energizer Bunny burnt out of us. Basically that meant we were too tired to whinge and fight at the level we were accustomed to. Plus, we were starving.

My mother is a wily woman, non? She was deliberately, and delightedly, onto something and, now that I am a harried veteran of School Hols myself, I can see she utilised this strategy shamelessly throughout my childhood.

Summer hols meant overdosing on swimming lessons and Old Boilers brandishing megaphones but I think our winter holidays were worse. In winter, we’d take a trip down to Bluff Knoll and have to climb the mountain pretty much constantly. Once was never enough.

I, personally, do not understand the point of mountain climbing. I know there is a point and people feel all I’ve-Conquered-The-Mountain kind of thing when they’ve slogged up the rock face and are standing at the top, but I am quite happy for the mountain to conquer me. The mountain can win and I am MORE THAN OKAY with that. There. I said it. Go mountain. Victory is yours. Unfortunately, my folks are conquering types so I have actually conquered Bluff Knoll – miserably and without grace – more times than I care to recall. Sorry ‘bout that mountain. Won’t happen again.

If we didn’t climb the mountain, we’d go on long bush walks – like six hours or something – with an apple and a vegemite roll for sustenance, and only one another for company. I am not sure why. My parents thought this kind of thing was Fun With A Capital F. I mean, they really dug stumbling along some bush track for hours playing ‘I Spy’ for kicks. There’s only so many times you can Spy a Tree, if you know what I’m saying.

And being winter it rained quite a bit. Basically it rained whenever we had to do a Challenging Outdoor Activity, which was every day. It did not matter if there were fecking hail stones the size of golf balls – we still went mountain climbing or roaming around in the wilderness. My mother packed an odd assortment of raincoats for such weather and flung them happily at us, along with random too-big gumboots, and off we went.

We did complain to our parents, of course. I might have, ahem, complained more than anyone else but they took precisely zero notice and we still had to do these God-awful Extreme Sport like holidays, except we didn’t look cool like they do in Extreme Sport commercials, we just looked random and mis-matched, dodging hailstones in our weird raincoats.

So anyway, this School Hols we had a few weeks of the child bouncing-off-the-walls and me and the other half were starting to get a bit desperate and tetchy. The days were sunny and hot and, above all, long. So, so long.

“I have the solution,” I said, one morning after trying and failing to persuade the child to bounce on the trampoline in the broiling son without Mummy.

The other half raised an eyebrow.

“He needs to know how to swim better than he does,” I gabbled. “Much, MUCH better. We need to book him into swimming lessons EVERY DAY for the rest of the holidays RIGHT NOW.”

I grabbed my phone and started dialling swim schools and, gosh darn it, I did not stop dialling until someone told me they would take him the very next day. Huzzah!

And so he went. And he put his head under the water and blew bubbles and stuff. And he got a merit certificate and a colouring in book and lots of high fives. Unfortunately, it seems Old Boilers are now extinct, but he still got tired-ish. Sort of.

Next hols, I’ve decided that we’re off to Bluff Knoll. I plan to nominate myself for tea duty, while my husband and son conquer the mountain.

Ari Chavez chats with Sally Obermeder about beating cancer, thriving on green smoothies and most importantly to Sally, being mum to three year old Annabelle, amidst a high profile career.

Sally Obermeder knows her way around a curve ball or two. In October 2011, the bubbly author, a National Entertainment and Lifestyle Reporter for Today Tonight was on top of the world. Her career was thriving and she loved her work but, most importantly, the then-37 year old was 41 weeks pregnant with a longed for baby, a successful IVF attempt after many years of trying to conceive naturally with her husband of a decade, Marcus.

Preoccupied with the imminent birth of Annabelle, Sally paid little attending to the nagging pain in her breast, and a small amount of skin puckering, believing the changes in her body were pregnancy-related. After a routine check from her obstetrician, however, she was referred for urgent scans and a biopsy.

The results were grim. Sally had a rare and aggressive form of Stage 3 breast cancer, and the medical advice was to start chemotherapy immediately. Sally needed to give birth as a priority, so she was induced while oncologists undertook further testing throughout her labour.

“Reeling from shock, Sally gave birth to Annabelle just one day after her cancer diagnosis. Ten days later, she started aggressive medical intervention.”

Ultimately, Sally’s treatment involved eight months of chemotherapy and a double mastectomy.

The chemo, she said publically, was like being “nuclear bombed”. Her nails fell off, her mouth and throat ulcerated, she lost her hair and eyebrows and the ache in her bones was so relentless she could not lie down. The double mastectomy triggered such feelings of grief and shame, she revealed at the time that she felt “unworthy of being in the world.”

And all the while there was Annabelle, baby Annabelle, who needed feeding and changing and cuddling. Sally was too sick from her treatment to do it and, even if she could summon up the energy to kiss her baby, she was forbidden from doing so as the chemotherapy was too toxic for the newborn. It was a painful reality, another loss.

“I can’t get up in the night to feed Annabelle or change her during the days of chemotherapy treatment,” the popular media personality told The Australian Women’s Weekly not long after Annabelle’s birth.

“This is not how it’s supposed to be. She is supposed to know that I am there for her no matter what, not just when the cancer allows. And I hate the cancer for that. Because I feel like it has taken something precious from me and from my baby girl.

“This is something I have wanted my whole life, and now that I have it, I feel like it’s completely compromised. I thought I would be in this baby-and-me bubble. It would just be us, and it would be so beautiful. But instead there’s me and the cancer in one bubble and me and Annabelle in the other bubble, and I just keep shuffling between the two.”

Finally, twelve months later, Sally was given the all clear. She was completely cancer free.

Sally struggled on with her treatment, which at times was so debilitating it took all of her mental strength to continue with it. Courageously, she raised awareness of breast cancer by making public appearances and attending industry events, either with a wig or bald. Finally, twelve months later, Sally was given the all clear. She was completely cancer free.

It had been a brutal battle, but Sally had won it and, determined to restore her chemo-ravaged body to health, she set about pursuing a healthier lifestyle. Key to this was her love of green smoothies, a healthy blend of vegetables, fruits and super foods, which have boosted her energy levels, and helped her lose 15 kilograms, weight she gained due to eating to help fight nausea and sickness caused by the chemotherapy. The smoothie ingredients, which can include any fruits or vegetables, are blended with water or nut milks or cow’s milk, ensuring all the fibre and nutrients are consumed.

Such is her belief in the health benefits of green smoothies, Sally has written a book, with her sister, Maha Koraiem, Super Green Smoothies (Allen & Unwin, $19.99), which includes loads of recipes and tips for the smoothie lifestyle.

“We have been drinking green smoothies for about a year and a half now, and we wanted to include our favourite recipes, the ones we absolutely love that we knew other people would love,” Sally explains, enthusiastically.

“We really tried to think about what is it that’s important to us and to other people, and usually it’s weight loss, so we have a whole section on weight loss, we have a specific kids section because Mums want to know how to get veggies into their kids’ diets and we did a section for people who are just starting out and just want to settle in. We really worked the book to start simple and then get a little bit harder and add a few more ingredients. We wanted people to start to love smoothies and have it for your lifestyle like it is for us.

You’re not juicing, it’s in a blender. You get all the fibre, you get the entire vegetable, you get all of it.

Coming off the back of such aggressive medical intervention, and as a busy working mum juggling numerous demands on her time, Sally was searching for something to boost and sustain her energy levels throughout the day. The rainbow plate of fruit ‘n’ veg that makes its way into her morning smoothie has proven to be the answer, and she does indeed radiate health.

“My energy levels are incredible,” she says. “That’s the thing, suddenly you are not reliant on five coffees a day, and you’re not suddenly going, ‘when is it three o’clock so I can have a coffee? Oh my gosh, how can I prop myself up with sugar?’ The thing that happens, and you notice it straight away, is that you want good food, you don’t want sugar and you don’t really want crap anymore. Then you start to get this buzz.

“I think it’s because if you put it on a plate and look at how many vegetables you’re having, you wouldn’t have that much. You wouldn’t have two cups of spinach, a handful of broccoli, you’re not going to have kale as well, you’re not going to have quarter of an avocado or half an avocado, a banana, a lime, coconut so you are having all these vegetables, some fruit, some super foods. So you’re suddenly going, ‘Well, this is actually really good for you,’ and when would you do this? Probably not ever. Certainly not at the beginning of the day.”

Sally is clear about the benefits of blending versus juicing, believing blending wins hands down in the health-boosting stakes.

“The things that happens, and you notice it straight away, is that you want good food, you don’t want sugar and you really don’t want crap anymore. Then you start to get this buzz.”

“You’re not juicing, it’s in a blender,” she explains, firmly. “You get all the fibre, you get the entire vegetable, you get all of it. That’s why it’s so good for your digestion. I think if you’re juicing, and there’s a lot of people who love juicing and swear by it, I think what happens is you don’t get the fibre, you don’t get the bulk, you are only extracting part of it. You’re not getting the whole vegetable. It’s just like eating it [fruit and vegetables] only you couldn’t eat this many!”

Sally’s changed approach to diet, and her resulting good health, is only one of many changes being a cancer survivor has wrought. The eight months of gruelling chemotherapy, the double mastectomy, the hours lying on the tiles in the shower unable to move, the inability to kiss her longed-for baby have changed her irrevocably. Time is now a precious commodity, something she does not waste.

“That whole experience of having cancer has completely changed my outlook on life – motherhood and everything else outside motherhood. I was grateful before, I have always been a grateful person, but I am far more grateful because I appreciate that it’s not a given that you’re just going to live until ninety,” she explains.

“Sometimes, when you’re younger, you’re just in a bubble where you assume your life will play out in a certain way, and when something shocking like that happens and then you come so close to dying, you really realise, ‘oh, actually this is not a given anymore and every day I am on this planet is actually a gift’.

You choose how you want to spend it and who you want to spend it with. You really re-evaluate that. You think, what is it that is important to me, what is it that I want to do with my time because time is not infinite…You really value your time and it becomes so precious because you realise there is not endless amounts of it.”

One of Sally’s key priorities is to spend as much time as possible with her beloved daughter, Annabelle. Sally, a naturally warm and engaging woman, literally lights up when talking about her daughter.

“She is hilarious and amazing, like they all are, and it’s such a fun age…she’s three and a half now. It’s a really fun time, we do Adventure Wednesdays and we wander around and we create our own adventures, and we talk and talk and it’s just beautiful,” she says, proudly.

I think it [motherhood] has made me a lot more present because you just have to be. They are so interesting, they demand so much of you, you don’t drift off I find, you are really in the moment.

“I think it [motherhood] has made me a lot more present because you just have to be. They are so interesting, they demand so much of your time, you don’t drift off I find, you are really in the moment. If you are playing with them or you are in the park or you’re running around, that’s just what you’re doing and it’s good because it keeps you focused.”

Despite her obvious pleasure in family life, Sally is not immune from the common complaint that mothers typically carry the thought load of the family, the mental lists of commitments, meals, groceries, bills, laundry and housework, and the mental exhaustion this can bring.

“It’s hard being a mum, it just is hard. There are so many demands on you. Sometimes I’ll say to [husband] Marcus, ‘I’m so jealous because you’re so helpful with everything but ultimately you’re not the general manager of the house or whatever’. If I say, ‘Hey Babe, tomorrow can you get the groceries’ then yes, he will do it, but guess what? There’s a step before that, and that is he didn’t have to think of anything that led up to that moment.

“Most mums I know, working mums and non-working mums, it’s them that that falls on, the planning and organisation and orchestration of the family – who is going where, and when and at what time, and the flow on effect of everything – and that is exhausting when you are a mum. It is. My girlfriends and I call it pinging because your brain is always pinging with everything you have to do.”

 

“Most mums I know, working mums and non-working mums, it’s them that that falls on, the planning and organisation and orchestration of the family.”

“Sometimes I juggle it so well, and I’m like, ‘I’m such a rock star!’ and then the next week I am in tears every day thinking, ‘Oh my God, this is a disaster!’. I think I have learnt to accept that some weeks it goes to plan and some weeks it just doesn’t, and that’s the nature of life. It takes a long time to accept it.

“I had a real turning point late last year when I decided that I’m going to stop trying to have a set routine that I create on January the 1st that carries me through the whole year because I have finally accepted after ten years that the nature of my job is that it is a job with no routine, so I have gone, ‘Okay, I am going to stop trying to force it into a box and make it fit and then getting pissed off when it doesn’t fit. I am just going to look at this week on its own and next week on its own…and just keep it a little bit fluid’. Some weeks that means I work all day Saturday, some weeks that means I work five nights after Annabelle has gone to bed…I just fit it in as best I can for that week.”

The mind-boggling demands of juggling her high profile media career, her online store and authoring her books, have not distracted Sally from what requires her full and considered attention – Annabelle. When she is with her daughter, all the other demands on her time are put to one side and she focuses on the task at hand, mothering her child.

 

-Ari Chavez

*MORE INFO*

Sally’s book: https://www.allenandunwin.com/browse/books/general-books/food-drink/Super-Green-Smoothies-Sally-Obermeder-AND-Maha-Koraiem-9781760113711

Sally’s online store: http://www.swiish.com

Benefits of green smoothies: Click below

GREEN SMOOTHIES! WHAT’S ALL THE FUSS ABOUT?

Entrepreneur, model, Balinese princess and wife to Olympic Swimmer, Michael Klim, Lindy, shares why, despite her privileges, she is not immune to the challenges of being a wife and mother and why family support and maintaining a sense of self are crucial to the balance.

Lindy Klim is that most contemporary of things, a multi-hyphenate. She’s a Business-Woman-Balinese-Princess-Former-Catwalk-Model-Fashion-Designer-Wife-Of-Olympian-Michael-Klim-And-Mother-Of-Three, for starters. Her life appears to be a glamorous and blessed one, preposterously so. Indeed, observers could be forgiven for thinking that Lindy is living a veritable modern-day fairytale, complete with royal lineage, pots of gold and a handsome prince, who also happens to be a dab hand at fast laps in the swimming pool.

It’s certainly no ordinary life. Behind all the gloss, however, is a busy woman juggling the demands of work, family and a public profile, while navigating the joys and challenges of raising her children to straddle two vastly different countries and cultures, and call both places home.

Lindy, founder of the organic skincare range for babies, Milk Baby, was born to a Balinese father, a prince in the Denpasar Royal Family, and an Australian mother. She lived a royal life in Bali for her first three years until her mother, chafing at the restrictions of a duty-filled existence, divorced Lindy’s father, and took her daughter home to Tasmania to raise her. It was a long absence. Lindy didn’t return to Bali for 15 years, yet swapping Balinese ways for the chillier climes of the Apple Isle wasn’t always easy. And, despite the differences in language, culture and custom, the tug of her extended family grew stronger as the years passed.

“I’ve always stood out,” says Lindy, “especially in Tasmania. I was practically the only Asian”

“Now I’ve got this big pull to come back to Bali and be with my family I didn’t grow up with. And when I see my children here as well, they kind of belong, you can see it.”

They go to school here and when they come out I don’t even recognise them, I can’t see them amongst the sea of brown hair and brown faces. It’s really nice that they can identify themselves with their own little community.”

Lindy’s recent move to Bali, with her children, Stella (6), Rocco (4) and Frankie (16 months), was triggered by the demands of Michael’s comeback for the London Olympics. Michael, one of Australia’s most admired swimmers, with a string of records and medals, and an Order of Australia, to his name, was determined to make the 2012 London team, five years after retiring in 2007.

 

The ABC’s Race to London series documents his gruelling journey, giving an insight into the sacrifices elite athletes, and their loved ones, must make for a shot at medal glory. Lindy, who was filmed for the program, appeared a lonely figure, juggling family and the demands of the family business, Milk & Co, while Michael focused on an increasingly demanding training regime.

At the time, Michael stated, “Lindy made the biggest sacrifice of all. She was basically a single mother for the whole time…There were times I needed to be pulled back into line because I can get very obsessive about my sport.”

Michael’s much-anticipated comeback was ultimately unsuccessful; however it proved to be a game changer for the Klim family, which was beginning to crack under the strain of his Olympic dreams. It was a far cry from Lindy and Michael’s first meeting in 2004 backstage at a fashion parade. Presciently, they were told to strut the catwalk together, Michael wearing a tuxedo and Lindy modelling a bridal gown. Two years later they married, baby Stella in tow.

Fast forward a few years and two more children, and Lindy is frank about the recent difficulties the family faced during Michael’s comeback period.

“When Michael decided to go back to swimming…to make the London games it was really difficult on our family,” she says. “I was pregnant with Frankie at the same time. It was really hard, with work as well.

After I had Frankie and he’d finished and retired for good I kind of said to him, ‘I feel like we’re going to break if we don’t do something about it. How about we move to Bali for a couple of months and completely reunite as a family and get some kind of…I don’t know, just relax a little bit more’ because it was just so hard. And he said ‘yes’.”

 

The move, while temporary, appears to have worked, with the children settled and Michael, who is based in Melbourne for work commitments, visiting the family every month for an extended period. Even the Witching Hour of dinner-bath-teeth-bed, dreaded by parents everywhere, is easier.

“It’s hard for Michael, because he doesn’t see the children as much,” says Lindy. “But…we’re really happy here.”

“The children are happy, I’m happy. I’m not resentful towards him for not being around and helping at bath time or bedtime because I have people here to help me. And I can do my work easily…I can do the Asia and Europe side of things from here. I find it a lot easier to juggle the children-work thing here, to be honest.”

Lindy’s work includes her Milk Baby organic range, which sits alongside Michael’s Milk range of skin products for men (Milk is Klim spelt backwards). Lindy decided to develop the range after the birth of her first child, Stella, after failing to find skin care products she felt comfortable using on her new baby.

Milk Baby’s products, with names such as Snotty Grotty Room Spray and Milk Baby Toothy Pegs, are stocked in Australia, the UK, Denmark, China, Singapore and Malaysia, and sold in online stores in Switzerland, Hong Kong & New Zealand. Milk & Co has annual turnover of $4.5 million, and growing, but Lindy is careful to point out that the expansion of the brand overseas, where she and Michael are not well known, is not about having a celebrity profile. The products are successful in their own right.

“We’re doing so much export…which is fantastic for the brand. I think that’s really nice that… the brand is speaking for itself and the product is speaking for itself, not just the fact that Michael and I are behind it,” she says. “I’m really proud of our business and we have big plans for it to grow in a really big way in the next five years.”

Juggling three kids and a growing business is no walk in the park, but Lindy sees the opportunity to maintain a sense of self outside the role of ‘Mum’ as a key, even crucial, benefit.

“I think that being a parent can consume you so much and sometimes all you can think about is your children and you lose a part of yourself, which I didn’t like losing,” she says.

“I wanted to still be me and I wanted to still have a relationship with my husband and I still wanted to have a relationship with my friends. I feel like you can still do all of that and it’s just about managing your time, and try not to make yourself feel guilty while you leave your kids to go out for dinner.”

Dinners out aside, what of that old chestnut, possibly invented by a childless person, The Working Mother and Work Life Balance? Lindy sighs, sounding like every other mother when taking a mental inventory of the demands on her time.

“The worst thing is definitely that I’m exhausted all the time,” she says. “I’m sure a Stay At Home Mum is completely exhausted as well. Sometimes I find that I’m trying to be everything to everybody. Instead of ‘just take a breath and say no occasionally’, which is hard to do.”

Lindy may be well advised to inhale deeply, because the Milk & Co brand is about to get bigger with her new apparel collection, that has a sports luxe feeling about it, scheduled to debut in 2013.

“For me and our Milk brand, it’s about that easy living lifestyle. I spend a lot of my time in workout gear running around with the kids…It’s basic pieces that you can mix and match.”

“Apparel is a natural progression for me, I’ve always been into fashion so heavily,” she says, pausing to think for a moment. “I really do think it’s important…having  your own goals.”

There’s no doubt that Lindy Klim has goals galore. All her own.

The digital age has its benefits, but it isn’t always straight-forward for the technologically-challenged, as Ari shares. 

So, here’s the thing. We have a robot. A real live one, blinking around the house. Robot – I came up with that name – doesn’t talk, but he does beep a lot and sends me messages from his, erm, screen. He’s a pretty pragmatic kind of chap, but I’m thinking that the beeping might be a way of expressing affection? Is beeping one of those five Love Languages? If it isn’t, it should be.

It’s a bit of an unexpected relationship because I wouldn’t say I’m a robot kinda gal. In fact, me and technology have issues most of the time. Okay, ALL of the time. You know those Sat Nav thingies that never shut up? They don’t work for me. Ever. I end up driving around new estates full of sand and cul-de-sacs while the voice – the goddamn non-stop voice – keeps telling me to, “take the fifth exit at the roundabout on Highway 61”. Where the heck is Highway 61? Does anyone know? Has Perth grown a big ole road that I don’t know about?  And do roundabouts actually have five exits, because I’ve never been able to count that many, even if I do circle them for hours, like a mouse on a treadmill,  slowing down at the off-roads to peer desperately at street signs. Obviously, other drivers hate me. That’s okay. In these situations, I hate myself too. It’s a bad vibe. Bring back the map book, I say.

 

Me and technology have issues most of the time. Okay, ALL of the time. You know those Sat Nav thingies that never shut up? They don’t work for me. Ever.

Look, there’s all sorts of technology that’s way too clever for me. Smart Phones that get clogged with photos I can’t work out how to transfer, iPads that follow me to bed brandishing the internet so I don’t read books, iTunes – how do I get a song off that thing? – passwords for EV-ERY-TH-ING that get routinely forgotten, those darn recorded voice messages that go on and on, asking you to press so many options that finally, exhausted, you press ‘2’ instead of ‘5’  and get cut off. It’s brain haemorrhaging stuff. Truly. It’s a wonder we’re not all dead from the stress of so much convenience.

And it goes on. Relentlessly. All these time-saving, you-beaut, shiny-buttoned advances give me brain strain. This is because I grew up in the ‘80s, that much maligned decade of Pseudo Echo and Spandau Ballet, and the best bad fashion you could ever, ever ask for. Jeez, I miss those fluro tube skirts teamed with a Wham-inspired ‘Choose Life!’ t.shirt. Could it get any better than that? I say, not. It’s been all downhill since then.

All these time-saving, you-beaut, shiny-buttoned advances give me brain strain.

The thing about the ‘80s is that it was Low Tech, in all sorts of ways, and this was AWESOME. In fact, the most technologically advanced thing about the ‘80s was the Mix Tape, and I was pretty darn good at those babies. It involved listening to the Top Ten on the radio every night, cassette player in hand, and pressing Play and Record at EXACTLY THE SAME TIME, whenever your favourite song came on. The trick was trying to cut off the stupid announcer, who always talked over the first few bars of the song. It was impossible, of course. You’d always end up with Madonna’s Holiday overlayed with a booming voice about “a provocative new talent”, while you did your best Madonna moves around the bedroom. And she was provocative, back then. Madonna  – she liked a tube skirt, too – was risky business.

… the most technologically advanced thing about the ‘80s was the Mix Tape, and I was pretty darn good at those babies.

So anyway, we all made Mix Tapes and gave them to one another, complete with ragged sound bites from random radio announcers. I was good at it. I could get down with the Mix Tape. There are people who think I peaked too early, perhaps. My husband, who sees technology as an extension of his arm, might be one of them. He gets a bit tense about the password-forgetting and photo-clogged phone, just between you and me. Never mind. We all have our peccadilloes.

Interestingly, old Robot and I have a mutually respectful relationship, and I know how to make that baby work for his food and board. He’s pretty good at picking up after the Dog –The Hair Dropper From Hell – and the Toddler – The Crumbalina – and he does it without any sighing or eye-rolling, or announcements about ‘helping’. You listening, chaps? My lovely Robot, who I might in fact love very, very much, is a vacuum cleaner. Yep, that’s right. I just place him gently on the floor and press a button and off he goes, tootling around the house sucking up stuff, as happy as a productive duck. In fact, the only time he gets a bit shirty is when he’s full of rubbish and wants to be emptied, so he can KEEP ON DOING THE HOUSEWORK. That’s when the beeping and written messages start, if you get my drift.

 

My lovely Robot, who I might in fact love very, very much, is a vacuum cleaner.

Now, this is the kind of technology I intuitively understand. I lock eyes with Robot’s screen, and we just get each other. You hearing me, all you millionaire-geek-inventor type people? Yes, you, over there, laughing at my Mix Tapes. Forget about inventing another stupid game that involves shooting birds, or whatever, we need you to invent a robot that does the laundry, puts clothes away, scrubs the loo, cleans the windows and IRONS. A spot of cooking wouldn’t go astray, either.

It’ll make you another few million bucks, and women will love you. L-O-V-E  Y-O-U. Actually, they’ll love your robot more, but they’ll still like you a lot – more than when you were doing the bird game, okay.

And, while you’re at it, if you can sort out a Sat Nav that actually works, Perth drivers would be very grateful.

-Ari Chavez

Have you noticed how much you need to pack in your kid’s lunch box as well as to share with the class? What ever happened to the classic Vegemite sandwich?  Now, it’s fruit plates, sushi muffins and so much more!

There’s a lot of talk, this time of year, post-hols-and-with-the-schoolyard-looming, of the humble school lunchbox and what should go in it.

My son is going to Kindy this year, so I’m new to all this. I must admit, I’m a bit gobsmacked by the AMOUNT of food that’s expected to be packed for a six hour stint in the classroom and playground. There seems to be all manner of muffins, and snacks, and fruit platters, and sushi, and rice paper rolls, and bread rolls, and olives with cubed fetta and sundried tomato and some sort of marinated mushroom. Plus a drink, half a sack of popcorn and a tub of yoghurt. And some grapes, preferably seedless.

There are lots of fancy lunchboxes, with nifty little slide-out compartments, so you can send a veritable buffet of food options for lunch and your child can pick and choose. There are fabulous cool bags, and ice block-thingies to keep your sushi fresh, and neat little pockets to store a drink bottle in. It’s all terribly organised, and the expectations are clear. Buffet up, Mama, you have work to do.

I am a child of the 70s; a latchkey kid, with parents who favoured the Free Range approach before it was even called that. Basically, I’m so old I am almost desiccated. Even so, the buffet-lunchbox approach seems excessive to me. I hate to play the ‘in-my-day’ card but, heck, I’ll do it anyway.

In my day, I distinctly remember being sent to school with:

1. A vegemite and cheese sandwich on wholemeal bread.

2. An apple.

3. A mandarin or carrot.

4. Possibly a water bottle, if anyone remembered and usually they didn’t. If I needed a drink, I could find a water fountain somewhere or, failing this, a puddle. Like I said, Free Range. Use your initiative. Find your own way, even if it does involve slurping from a puddle to avoid dying of thirst. All of that.

My lunch was packed in a recycled paper bread bag, which more often than not retained a veritable avalanche of bread crumbs that stuck to everything inside. I did envy the other kids who had proper brown paper lunch sacks, clean and crumb-less, and always hoped that Mum might buy the same. Great expectations, and all that. She never did, by the way, being somewhat embarrassingly before her time in regards to waste and recycling.

If I needed a drink, I could find a water fountain somewhere or, failing this, a puddle.

My school also put on Dry Roll Days semi-regularly. On Dry Roll Day, the whole school abstained from bringing lunches and, instead, purchased plain dry rolls – white and fluffy as clouds – for about fifty cents. The reason for this was twofold. Firstly, it was an attempt, well intentioned but perhaps misguided, to make us comfortable middle class kids experience how it might feel to have limited food options and be a bit hungry. I’m not sure how successful this was, given we had breakfast before school and afternoon tea and dinner afterwards, and could buy as many dry rolls as we pleased, and we did. Secondly, all those fifty cent pieces we handed over for our dry rolls went to a charity, which provided food to people who needed it.

All well and good, but I’m not sure if Dry Roll Day would cut it today. There would be all sorts of worry about malnutrition and the like. Stern notes might even be sent home, reiterating the value of healthy food choices. It sounds dramatic, but I have heard of such things. Teachers policing lunchboxes and pouncing on illegal biscuits, only to have a tetchy word with Mum at the school gate about sending broccoli florets instead. That sort of thing.

It’s all rather daunting if you think too much about it. You can’t spend your whole life dodging behind the lavender bush near the school gate, because you sent a donut to school for your child’s morning tea. Or can you? There are fourteen years of school, counting Kindy and Pre-Primary. That’s a heck of a lot of dodging. Bad for the knees, I’d wager. It’d be better for everyone to Mum up to things, and learn to make rice paper rolls and the like. Even if your child turns up their nose at them and asks for a vegemite sandwich instead.

Not that I’m worried about my boy doing this, of course. No, not one little bit.N

Do you ever see yourself in your kids? This mum loved stray animals when she was younger, and now her own son can’t help but follow in her footsteps.

There are children who love animals, and wish for nothing more than a lion on the bookcase and a crocodile under the bed, and there are those who run screaming at the sight of a dog.

It goes without saying that I have the first kind of child. In very many spades.

The other day, he picked up a feather and ate it – I know – and then told me he was now able to grow his own feathers and turn into a bird. He would soon fly far away from me, he confided. Far, far away. Despite my preoccupation with possible feather-eating-diseases that the Child was no doubt incubating then and there, I was fascinated.

“What colour are your feathers?” I asked, wondering if he would choose to be a brightly coloured parrot, or perhaps a peacock.

“Grey!” the Child said, eyes sparkling.

Ahem. A practical choice, grey. It seemed out of character. The child would, if he could, festoon our house with dinosaurs and cows and pigs and penguins. Tigers in the garage. Otters on the roof. That sort of thing.

But most of all, the Child wants that most mundane of animals. A cat. Last year he brought home a letter from school, a letter to Santa, in fact, which he’d deigned to write for his teacher, whom he loves fiercely and who has a rather enviable way with him.

In sloping letters he asked for a cat like Slinky Malinki, no less, who would sleep on his bed, play hide and seek with him, and whom he would, unceremoniously, call Kitty. Obviously, this was terrible news. When I was young and stupid, I brought home a kitten and insisted on a dog, whom my parents had to look after when I went travelling. When I was older, and should have known better, I turned up with a ridiculous Labrador puppy, who was as skittish as a colt and as destructive as a hurricane. My own mother found me a great trial in this regard, clearly not wanting anything else to look after other than the four children she already had who were, just quietly, a Packet of Headaches for many, many years.

 

“NOT A GODDAMN HOPE IN HELL!” he bellowed. “ARE YOU CRAZY??!! WE ALREADY HAVE TO EMPLOY A NANNY FOR THE DOG!!!”

I have, of course, become my mother. Once a collector of strays and lost things, I now DO NOT WANT anything else that requires my time, care, attention, money or organisational skills. I do not want to pick up more poop. I do not want to be woken at un-Godly hours for food, cuddles, a heater, a blanket or just because. Nope, I do not.

I stared at the letter, the longing in it. My heart remained stone but maybe not stone enough. I called my husband, and put it to him. At this point, I should mention that the crazy Labrador puppy I bought is still with us, but she falls apart if left alone for more than an hour, so we have had to hire a Doggy Nanny for her for when we are at work.

“NOT A GODDAMN HOPE IN HELL!” he bellowed. “ARE YOU CRAZY??!! WE ALREADY HAVE TO EMPLOY A NANNY FOR THE DOG!!!”

Right then. Quite. Thank God one of us is being sensible.

I stared at the Child, all spider legs and innocence.

“Did you write this beautiful letter to Santa?”  I asked, heart sinking.

“Yes,” he said. “I want Santa to bring me a cat like Slinky Malinki. He will sleep on my bed.”

“Hmmm,” I said.

“I also want a goldfish,” said the Child, shamelessly. “The goldfish will sit on my bookcase and watch me while I sleep.”

“That isn’t in your letter,” I said, worriedly.

“I also want a rabbit,” said the Child, eyeballing me. “I will play with my rabbit outside.”

I stared at the Child, and saw myself. This is a Bad Thing.

“I think,” I said, “that Santa may have run out of animals this year. That’s what I’ve heard, anyway.”

“No, he hasn’t,” said the Child, his bottom lip jutting out. “He HAS NOT run out of animals.”

I looked at his beautiful sun of a face, his bottom lip quivering, and sighed.

“Let’s talk to Daddy about it when he gets home,” I said. “Daddy might have some bright ideas.”

“Really,” said the Child, hopefully.

“Really,” I said.

HA!

I kissed the Child’s soft head and told him to run outside and play. I grabbed an old shoe box, and tucked his letter to Santa safely inside for later.

Blood, guts, and shrieks, oh my. Child birth can be such a beautiful thing… But oh so terrifying. 

The Child and my Beloved had skedaddled to the park for an hour – THANK YOU, GOD – so I grabbed the stash of chocolates that no one else had yet found – THANKS AGAIN, GOD – and hit the sofa for some mindless net surfing and sugar-high-ing.

The first article I saw was about a woman who had just given birth but managed, somehow, the stupendous achievement of looking AH-MAY-ZING one hour later. She looked so amazing, in fact, that someone took a photo of her and flung it around the internet for the world’s admiration.

Ahem.

Okay, so she looked glorious, and she was half-naked and smiling in some frilly white-knicker concoction. Good for her. But for feck’s sake, she’d just spent nine months growing a human, who is probably the size of a couple of pumpkins, and then however many hours screaming and bellowing as she pushed that two-pumpkin-human out of her down-belows. Unless she did one of those silent birth things – WHO DOES THESE AND HOW? – and didn’t scream or bellow. It doesn’t matter, really, the woman had a baby and that is the shining achievement, not how she looked one hour later.

Isn’t having a baby enough, nowadays? I seem to recall, hazily thank goodness, that labour and birth was more than enough achievement for one day, but I am not one of those I-AM-WOMAN-HEAR-ME-ROAR types about birthing. I’m the one who went green as other mothers blithely told me their birthing war stories – blood, guts and zombies – and wished, hopelessly, that the goddamn stork was the delivery mechanism, not me.

In the birthing suite, before things turned all Horror Movie, I could hear another labouring woman screaming in agony.

“What is that noise?” I asked my Beloved, palely.

He looked panicked. “What noise?” he said, ridiculously.

“That HOWLING AND SCREAMING,” I yelled.

My Beloved put his best poker face on and stared at me unblinking. “Ah, that noise,” he said. “That noise is a cat.”

I began to pace, as the woman in the suite next to me erupted into a crescendo of auditory agony.

“That is not a bloody cat,” I said. “That is a woman giving birth.”

My husband said nothing.

“WELL GO AND TELL HER TO STOP,” I said. “She is making me VERY nervous, and it’s EXTREMELY inconsiderate of her. HURRY UP!”

 

Maybe she was birthing a seven-pumpkin baby, so I can’t really blame her, but, my good-ness, she set me on a terrible path.

My husband silently considered how to placate both me and the screaming Cat Woman. Cat Woman kept yowling. Maybe she was birthing a seven-pumpkin baby, so I can’t really blame her, but, my goodness, she set me on a terrible path.

“I can’t do this,” I whispered. “I don’t want to do this anymore. I want to go home NOW. I DON’T WANT TO BE HERE. TELL THAT CAT WOMAN TO STOP!”

My Beloved stood in front of the door. “You can do this, sweetheart,” he said.

“No,” I said, “I actually can’t. And don’t tell me I have to. WHY DON’T YOU DO IT!? WHY DO I HAVE TO DO IT!? YOU DO IT! YOU DO IT!!!! WHY DO I HAVE TO DO EVERYTHING? YOU HAVE THE BABY, I’VE DONE EVERYTHING ELSE!”

Clearly, it was the beginning of a very downward spiral. It went on. And on. For hours. It got worse. There was blood and guts and zombies. Some Dracula and a few clown masks. Basically, it was all your horror movies rolled into one.

And then, at the end, there was him. The Child. Our Grace. The most beautiful thing we’d ever seen. As beautiful as the day. A couple of pumpkins’ worth. Amazing.

And I looked like hell, for days, years even. I spent all my time in ugly flannelette PJs, feeding the Child, who had an abnormally large appetite, and not sleeping because he never slept. Ever. And I didn’t give a hoot, because I’d grown my own pumpkin, survived the horror movie birth and he was mine.

Well, I probably did give a hoot, actually, but I was too sleep deprived to do anything about it.

So there’s that, I guess. All of that.