Wednesday, 10 December 2014

So, you're travelling... with kids... at Christmas... OH DEAR.

You're smiling... for now
Climbing the walls
  Every year we do it to ourselves! We make that decision to either stay at home and face the onslaught of relatives and inevitable family disasters, laced with a demolished house, the clean up that goes with hosting a Christmas feast and the inevitable declaration to our better halves at the end of the day (if you're still on speaking terms) that you're NEVER going to do that again!!!

Or, you fool yourself into thinking a little trip away with the kids, to escape the rush and chaos of Christmas at home might be the better way to go. You're wrong!!!!!

But, if you're going to do it anyway, then you're going to need some help. So, here it is.
Use Santa as your trump card!

Happy family flight... or is it?

Car trips are so much fun... NOT
This is the sentence that will bring you much joy. It's more effective than a lollipop. Than a gobstopper. Than actually pushing them out the window of the plane itself. Use it wisely and sparingly. Keep it secret. Keep it safe.


A messy crash waiting to happen
Did we really need all this?
In a nutshell, avoid them at all costs. If there's no alternative, and you're keen on a divorce, then I suggest packing plenty of visual tools - iPads (with headphones), toys they've never seen and for god's sake, keep all snacks and toys to a "non mess" standard. There's no faster way to crash your car than by the distraction of a spilled yoghurt or dropped bottle of juice all down the back of your neck.

Find a new kitchen sink!

That's right, a lighter pack is a happier pack. You may think you neeeeeeed the prams, the bikes, the extra outfit options for each child in case of every weather scenario, the bath toys, the sand castle building implements... but you don't. And neither does your back or your sanity.  When kids are in a foreign environment, the last thing they want is their "old" toys. They are happier (and healthier) being introduced to the joys of completely new surrounds and all the adventures that can go with it. We all know most of it never makes it home with us anyway!
Oh, a conversation... about television


We often feel like the kids call the shots. We get to that breaking point where we believe it's just easier to let them have whatever they (think) they want rather than argue and start world war three. So, what's the answer... don't even have the option. When you're away from home, you have the perfect excuse and they can't argue with you... "we didn't bring the xbox". "This villa doesn't have Foxtel".  "There's no wifi in paradise". Go outside and play!!!


We all think we know our kids. But think back to when you used to HATE seafood... (hopefully, you've grown out of that one). Holidays away are the perfect chance to see where your ever-evolving kids' tastebuds are at. Don't be shy. It's not just stuff they've never tried before, it's stuff that's simply cooked differently than at home. Perhaps leave the ingredient details out of the conversation until they've finished.

busted kissing!!

You've worked so hard, you and your partner, to get to this stage. If you're on a holiday, with your kids at Christmas time, then that's all that needs to be said. You deserve a break!! Book ahead and line up one night, that's the bare minimum, just one night, with a local, highly recommended babysitter that you're comfortable with, and take some time alone, without the kids. It will be the difference between a trip from hell and a trip from purgatory. Chances are, if the kids do even notice that you've gone, they're going to appreciate you more for having some self respect. My small tip, if they're not already asleep when you leave, make sure you sit them down and give them a really adult explanation of what's happening. Mum and Dad are going out for dinner. Our friend "Flossy" is going to be here to hang out. We have our phone. We love you. We will be home soon.
Be a big kid!
Stop and smell the sea water


The whole point of going to all this effort is to spend some quality time together as a family. Let's face it, chances are some sort of drama or disappointment has already gone down, either with missed flights, sick kids, under-parr accommodation, stolen wallet, torrential rain, missing cat, flat tyre, etc etc... so why not use this opportunity to stop caring about all the logistics, all the usual cares of your world and just sit for a bit, with your kids. Do NOTHING. Breathe. Watch the clouds. Pick flowers. Build sand castles. Write a letter to Santa. Whatever it is, just reconnect with your kids. It's the "Holiday Mum and Dad" that they will remember for the rest of their lives - and quite probably describe you as at their wedding... so make it good.

Too young to care
Or your family photos will look like this

Put the camera away. Remember the moments. Stop tidying up. Eat chocolates. Let the kids stay up late and look for shooting stars. Build a bonfire (except on extreme fire danger days). Turn off your phone. Sleep in. Let the kids sleep in bed with you. Play loud music. Dance like a parent. Tell Dad jokes. Be sprung kissing in front of the kids. Play in the rain. Be a kid again, with your kids... show them how its done... and let them show you how it's done again!!!
Sleep ins are the BEST!
Touch the sky butterfly!

Wednesday, 20 August 2014


A few weeks ago my husband and I took our first official international trip away together… without our two small kids.

Look kids, two hands!
I feel the need to write that final line once again… without our kids… because of the weight that it carries, or rather, doesn’t carry. Do you know what I’m talking about? The lightness of travelling without prams, nappy bags, toys, bottles, and so on and on and on. And then there’s the screaming… well, the only screams were mine, screams of joy, as I sipped champagne at the airport, with two hands, all to myself!!!

We drifted through the flight, read books, watched movies, napped, even… had. a. conversation. Insane!!!
We swam, we lazed, we loved every moment!

Then there was the destination itself. We slept till we woke naturally. We wore white clothes without the need for several changes throughout the day from food, poo, vomit, dirt and other unidentified substances.

We drank cocktails. We had lazy long lunches. We spoke with other human beings for more than ten seconds without interruption.

This is me in paradise (Vanuatu) still using my two hands
And we missed our monsters like crazy. It was the longest four days of my life. I cried when we called them. I thought of them constantly. My heart ached for them. We searched for awesome little presents for them all day long. We practically bolted through the airport upon arrival home to throw ourselves back into their arms.

That was the trip without kids.

And then, last week, I foolishly attempted a trip of a different kind – with an outcome I could NEVER have expected.

Hubby was in Germany for work. I decided to seize the opportunity to visit my gorgeous Mum, who happens to live on the NSW Mid North Coast in a seaside sleepy sunny village called Sawtell. It also happens to be a seven hour drive from Sydney. When you consider I did this drive as a solo adult, with a one year old, a three year old and our two dogs, it was more like taking seven years off my life.

I was also attempting a detox. No alcohol, caffeine, carbs, sugar, dairy… or anything delicious or calming for the nervous system. I had a grilled chicken salad at McDonalds. It was HELL!!!!!!!!!!

All calm at the beach with Granny
When we drove into the driveway at my folks, the first thing they said was “darling, have a glass of wine” and the second thing they said was “there’s no way you’re driving back.”

The week was beautiful. Sunshine, swims, reading books, making sand castles, listening to old tunes, mum’s cooking, walks on the beach, day trips to the Butterfly House and nearby rivers in lush rainforests.

Grandma with Frenchie at the Pet Porpoise Pool
And then there were my kids. My youngest may have been teething, out of her routine, frustrated at not being able to do as much as her sister, going through a clingy faze, a tad snotty, missing her Dad, having a growth spurt, constipated, or all of the above, but for whatever reason, she was hell on wheels!!! Screamed, wanted to be held, constantly, screamed some more, cried, whinged, a tornado of destruction. She broke me.

This was hands down one of the hardest weeks of my parenting existence… and my life to date. I was in tears daily. I took long walks on the beach simply to calm down and learn to breathe again. I was a bundle of anxiety and stress on what should have been a really enjoyable, calm and grounding week.

And it was on this trip that I told my husband via skype in Germany that my previous desire to one day down the track expand our family to three kids, was now 100 per cent out the window. Along with my alcohol free diet.

This was actually a big decision for me. It wasn’t about my longing for another beautiful little cherub of a baby. Of course I would love that. There’s nothing better. But this was about my belief in myself as to whether or not I would be capable of being a good parent to another little cherub of a baby. And the outcome, from deep in my heart was no. I was done. Spent. Capput.

And so, as we boarded that plane to come home, with my step dad driving our car and the dogs the seven hour journey back to Sydney for me (world’s greatest man!!!) I thanked the gods for my two magnificent children (who only screamed for the entire duration of the one hour flight home) and I thanked the gods for the journey that helped me reach such an important conclusion.

We never know what the outcomes will be from our travels. We often have such expectations, or fantasies about our trips away, with or without our kids. But they are so rarely met. The one thing I do know is, I never lose appreciation for home and for that feeling of unity when we walk back in the door, safe, healthy, together, wiser and grateful.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

BALI BELLY...LAUGHS!!! How to survive the island paradise with kids.

Family holiday in Bali... we survived!
We took a trip to Bali a couple of weeks ago. Score fifty points! We took the kids. Minus ten points. We chose to stay at three different locations during our two week trip. Gain ten points and lose five. We also attempted a day of shopping in Seminyak with the kids. Deduct fifteen points. But we made up for it by booking sitters so we could escape for a few amazing romantic nights out on the town! Bonus thirty points! Overall, it was a win win experience, and i've got a stack of tips for you if you're headed to Bali with the gidgets any time soon. Here they are!

We flew Sydney to Denpasar on Garuda. The airline was shocking, but not the worst I've seen. And we flew overnight, landing around midnight. Our three year old had a nice little dose of phernergen and slept like an angel!! Our 14 month old chose to have the biggest spack-attack i've ever seen from her and then slept for the final hour of the flight. Go figure.

Half an hour before landing
The must-do tip for the actual travel side of the journey was that we pre-booked an express customs chauffeur for about $30AU per person, which meant that we could bypass all customs and immigration queues, all visa lines, and are personally escorted past the other hundreds of bedraggled passengers with kids screaming with fatigue all waiting in line, straight to our car and driver ready to deliver us direct to our hotel.

The only downside was that our pram (the $25 target umbrella pram special!) was the last item to come out through the compulsory oversized baggage area - so almost everyone in those long lines at customs eventually overtook us anyway!!

Parents-escape dinner in Seminyak!
We stayed in the heart of trendy Seminyak at the U Paasha hotel - which had THE BEST breakfasts and the most incredible rooftop pool!!! The rooms were fantastic and the hotel was right in the best position on Jalan Laksmana (the main shopping street) only a few doors down from Seminyak Square and only a short cab ride to some of the most incredible restaurants in Bali.

They also offered a babysitting service if you book more than 24 hours in advance. And these girls were sensational! In fact, Balinese women generally are!

We also took a boat trip to an island called Nusa Lembongan (where we got married four years ago) and spoiled ourselves in true Bali island style with a private villa with our own pool a house-girl, babysitters, gardeners, and even masseuses that only charge $13 an hour. This was the most extraordinary experience. If you are looking for a very special treat, then this is the way to go.

The best part was that we were just a short beach stroll away from an amazing beach club called Sandy Bay Beach Club that was super kid-friendly and served the most delicious fresh juices and homemade gelato of all time!

Meep Meep!!
Some people may find this next bit a little controversial - but we also hired a motorbike while we were there on this island (with practically no cars or real roads). People move around this island either on foot, on motorbike, or on golf cart. Its slow. Just the way we like it.
So, with both our daughters between us (Frenchie strapped onto me in a baby bjorn) we putted off on little adventures around the island. Issy was so comfortable on the bike she actually fell asleep on one ride! Frenchie spent the rest of the Bali holiday pointing at every vespa she saw and screaming until I let her sit on them all, immediately pacifying her. There were many.
(*nb: For the record, there's no way I would do this back on mainland Bali, no matter how many local Indonesian twelve year old kids you see confidently riding motorbikes in and out of peak hour traffic through Kuta!)

We collected shells. We spent all day every day in the pool. We hung in hammocks. We had afternoon siestas. We picked flowers. We stood still. We had quality family time.

Back on the mainland we headed up to the famous cliff / surf spot of Uluwatu where we stayed for three nights and hung out at various kid friendly beach clubs and hidden surf locations that only the locals will tell you about if they like you! I got in good with my morning yoga instructor and she spilled the beans on all the amazing little gems in the area!
Blue Point Beach

Either way, you need to check out the incredible cliff-side cafe and surf shack area of Blue Point Beach. Make sure you go Allll the way down the stairs to the cave at the beach. You won't regret it, even when carrying a toddler in thirty five degree heat!!

And, for a day of really cool relaxation, the kids will be stoked at the gondola ride down the cliff face to Finns Beach Club at the Semaya Resort.
Finns Beach Club
It's a little hair raising, but so worth the ride!! And for a special dinner or two, you need to book a cliff-side table at the Alila Resort (it's the one in all the magazines!) and at the Karma Kandara Restaurant. The views are the ocean equivalent of "The Wall" - and yes, you will feel like John Snow when you stand on the edge.
Karma Kandara

And then finally, to cap off the trip back in Seminyak, Steven and I discovered some really exceptional spots for dinners once the girls were down. Methis was phenomenal. Potato Head was mind blowing.
Potato Head
And Sarong has the best crispy fish in the world. The Rock Bar at the Ayana Resort is out of this world. But the list was endless. I spent the entire trip imagining ways we could live in Bali, like expat kings, being warm, creative and free.
Living the dream
And while I will continue to quietly plot this fantasy in my mind from our wintry cold reality back in Sydney (it's winter here in July for my international readers needing a reminder) I take comfort in the knowledge that we went, we saw, we conquered... and we will go again, as soon as we humanly can!! You should go too.

Terima Kasih
(Thank you)

And my other favourite phrase..."Berapa harganya?"... "how much is this?". It's only a problem when they answer you back in Indonesian.

Let me know if you need any extra tips!!

Monday, 12 May 2014


I heard a horrifying story in the news this week – one that will make your toes curl up – and at the same time, might make you feel better about any trips you are planning to take with your little ones any time soon.
Emergency crews on the ready for the sixty sick kids!
An emirates flight bound for London from Dubai was loaded with SIXTY children travelling as part of a children’s choir. That’s horrifying in itself. But it’s the fact they all contracted severe food poisoning during the long haul flight that will make you gasp.
All but a five of the sixty children came down with sudden vomiting and diarrhoea during the flight with flight attendants rushing to provide sick bags in time and the children forced to line up to share the limited toilet facilities.
Thank goodness the children have all made a full recovery now – but my thoughts remain with the fellow passengers who must still be suffering trauma beyond belief!

In other news, something that will put you at ease for where our airlines are headed – namely in favour of travelling families, Etihad airlines have recently launched their new “FLYING NANNIES” program with over 500 flight staff across the international airlines’ services now entirely dedicated to helping out with travelling kids in the skies. Trained in child psychology and masters of the art of distraction, these fluorescent clad airlines staff spend the duration of the flight entertaining and caring for small children, regardless of what class they are travelling in.
Etihad's super nannies! I want to fly Etihad next time!

Now that’s a smart idea!!

And in another sign of the times, this one’s so futuristic it might just be our grandchildren who will benefit from it but a 3D designer has created an invention that will mean we no longer have to travel with luggage. That’s right! No suitcases, no overweight charges, no stress with juggling bags and kids, no problem if you’ve forgotten anything… all you do is 3D print your travel items when you get to your destination!! Everything from bags to sunglasses, dresses and shoes!
As I said, maybe not quite one that will be available for us just yet, and no mention of nappies being printed in 3D – but hope for us all, nonetheless.
Where do i find 3D Nappies?

And, here’s a winning top tip of the week for travelling with little ones, courtesy of my pregnant friend Jo who flew as a solo adult from Sydney to London with her three year old son. She was particularly pleased to find one advantage of flying with kids (in amongst so, so many obvious disadvantages!). She said she never had to wait to use the toilet, with all passengers insisting she jump the qeue with her little one… a rare treat when we know the frustration of having to stand in line for what can sometimes seem an age and your bladder is close to bursting!!
I am yet to clarify whether or not she trained her son up to say the words “Mummy, I really need to poo” whilst waiting in said qeue, but either way, I’m impressed!!!
Have a lovely, poop-free week my friends, wherever in the world you find yourself. 

Monday, 14 April 2014


Dear Kate and Wills - first of all, congratulations on making it to the last place on earth, in one piece, with baby on hip and looking so incredibly poised!
Ten points for surviving a risk é situation!

Of course, I am sure the lear jet, the nannies, the world class wardrobe and the many, many organisers would have helped. But something tells me this young couple is, in many ways, a little more human than the pedestal we love to put them on.

The royal nanny
I applaud them for taking their child-free holiday to Mauritius a month before their three week journey down under. (Although they copped it from many other sources). I admire their decision to leave George in the capable hands of the nanny (s) - the main one of whom I read has had James Bond-esque siege get-away driving training and is something of a black-belt assassin - while they fulfil their royal duties at various functions.

I adore the way they have been hands on with little baby George at the times that they do have together as a family - and have even structured part of their trip around child-friendly activities in an effort to truly make this a family-friendly adventure.
Kate and George attend a play date in NZ
There's only one conclusion to be made really - Wills and Kate have clearly read my blog and have followed my advice!!!

Because if they have, they'd know that it is really important to take a little time on a trip away to explore the local region, the local wines, the local cultures - and not all of them are child friendly... but just because you have brought the kids with you, doesn't mean you have to view a foreign destination through a child's eyes. You're still an adult, in an adult
relationship, with adult ideas and an adult mind.
Spot the new parents!

Ok, so not all of us have our own lear jets, and not all of us can afford to take our nannies away with us... but there are ways around that, for us mere morsels.

I have to say I am blown away by the news that Etihad offers nannies on their long haul flights. Over 500 of them have been trained to help out families on their services, with training in child psychology and experts in the art of "distraction". Sounds like a dream come true - eat your heart out Mary Poppins!!
Etihad - you are my new favourite airline!

More than that, so many hotels now offer babysitting services that go above and beyond. I recall a trip to Hawaii with our daughter Isabella and I was so anxious about leaving her for the first time with a hotel babysitter - although I needn't have been worried. As it turned out, when we returned she handed me a document detailing almost every five minutes of her evening with Isabella, including everything from snacks eaten, games played, sleep times and bowel movements!!! I was tempted to frame the document and save it for Issy's 21st!
Issy does Waikiki!!

But the point I'm trying to make is this. Kate and Wills, if you're reading this (as I suspect you must be), congratulations on this trip. First of all, you made the right decision to travel as a family unit. No-one gets left behind.

Adult drinks (no straws, no spillage, no sippy cups!)
Second of all, you're travelling as a married couple, enjoying each others' company. Thirdly, you're doing the right thing by George (by George!) to not drag him along to any and every ribbon cutting ceremony. And lastly, Kate, you should have drunk a teensy bit more of that red wine you sampled in New Zealand the other day - because I'd really love it if you guys told the tale one day of your romantic trip down under that ended up as George's little baby brother or sister. Her name could be Adelaide? Or his Sidney? Perhaps Victoria???

Oh and one more thing - Please tell George he's welcome to pop over any time for a playdate while you're here in Aus. I just know he would get on swimmingly with my daughters Isabella and Frenchie... yes, Princess Frenchie, kinda has a nice ring to it doesn't it?!
Frenchie...The future Mrs Prince George!
Oh George, stop looking so adorable! 

Wednesday, 5 March 2014


So March is officially upon us. Which means the next big break (and school holidays) is just around the corner. This year in Aus, Anzac Day is on the radar along with Easter, making it a double whammy of anxiety and excitement, depending on how many red wines you've had.

But one thing is undeniable... most of us over reach when we plan for a short break, particularly at this time of the year - post Christmas and New Year, at the tail end of the warmer months for Aussies, or just starting to visualise the light at the end of the tunnel for my northern hemisphere friends! And, if you're like me, you are still aghast at the pace the year has started out at... and quite rightly, deserve a decent break.
Why on earth then, do we all seem to fall into the trap of over shooting our family holiday plans for Easter? We suddenly think we need to travel hours, to ambitious destinations, with an itinerary up to our eyeballs, a budget that's even more of a stretch, perhaps even combined with other kids / families / friends.
I say stop!
It's like the UK rail system that shuts down every summer from overheating... why do we not pre-empt this and learn from years gone by?! Easter breaks should be just that, breaks. Especially given our need for a step away from the vibrations of our already manic start to the year. This is a time to reboot, recharge and reconnect... with ourselves, our kids, our partners and our sleeeeep!!!
A blissful day at Disneyland!

Since when did gigantic family theme parks, water slides, long haul flights and action adventure tours count as R&R? Say no to stress this Easter! Instead, step off the map.
Who's idea of fun was this!?

There's no set formula for doing this, I should add a disclaimer here! But there are a couple of ways to try and get it right:

1. Do leave home if you can. It's like trying to write an email when you've got a teething baby at your ankles. The house ain't always a place of sanctuary, no matter how hard you try.

2. It doesn't have to mean a long distance or a big budget. Wherever you can get to that speaks to your soul. Remember, this trip is very much about Mum and Dad chilling out - and as kids go, they can make their own fun just about anywhere on the planet. We too often make the mistake of booking destinations or themes that are designed for the kids, giving them all the power and we wonder why the holiday was a nightmare, with the kids having everything they could want and yet still being hard work?! It's because Mum and Dad aren't relaxed, and therefore neither are they! And the more we try to cater for them, the more they feel our eyes on them and the more demanding they get!! Seriously - less is more. I can sense you nodding at your computer now - especially if you have older kids?!

3. Observe the limit. I'm not actually talking about drink driving here. This is a given. I'm referring to your own limitations. If you need to get off the grid, don't go somewhere busy. If you want to avoid the small talk, don't travel with another family. If you need to feel grass under your feet, spend quality time with your children, sit without electronic interference, dim the lights, not have to drive anywhere  for days, not have to worry about large crowds, restaurant protocol, locking doors and looking decent, then this is the holiday break of the year to do it.
One chilled out holiday bunny

4. Bring it back to your own childhood holidays. Eating ice creams in the sand, fish and chips at sunset, barbecues alongside friendly strangers in the caravan park, the smell of coconut sunblock, walks along the shoreline at dusk, searching for crabs, catching fire flies in the garden, midday naps, cuddles, dancing in the thunderstorms, riding a bike to the corner store, morning swims before brekkie, the things that slow us down, help us breathe, bring us closer without having to say a word.

5. Give yourself time to unwind. If you're like me, it can take a few days (at least) to really detox from the hectic pace we've been working at. The constant damage control of being a parent is not a choice... it's a constant mind space. And once it's there, it's very hard to budge. So on this trip, allow a few days of the anxiety before you start to notice you don't leap, shout, whinge or hover every time your child reaches for something liquid across the table.
Stop the clock, reconnect

6. Less is more. Don't fill the car / suitcases with so much paraphernalia that you feel weighed down before you even leave the house. This is the trip that allows the kids to re-discover what being a kid used to mean. Leave the technology behind. Leave the games. Leave the work. Just take your bare essentials and each other and let mother nature provide the rest. But please, don't forget the nappies.

7. Bring it back with you. I'm not one for carting half the world home with you after a journey - but this Easter, allow yourself to bring home some shells, some photos, new recipes, new memories... these are the things that will help you get through the next chapter of crazy-busy... until, the next holiday.
Easter collectibles.
Paperbark camp, NSW south coast

Oh, and for those of you who are anti-camping. Google "Glamping". I'm sure even Jesus would approve. Happy Easter everyone!!