Author: Bree James

The Thing is…I’ll Never Stop Worrying About My Kids!

My boys have scared me since the day we conceived them. Even if you are trying for a baby, that “holy crap” moment still happened for me when I saw the two pink lines. Then you start worrying about them in utero. Have you nourished them enough even though you have vomited all day? They haven’t moved much today – are they ok? Worry then sets in about the labour, hoping it goes well and that they will be healthy. And, then it continues as you wonder if you are going to have the skills to look after this child.

The thing is, as your children get older, you think the worry will stop, but it only gets worse!

Having kids has certainly meant that rescue remedy drops are in my handbag at all times. Not for them, but for me, for the moments they get my heart racing with their antics – which is often.

They find absolute pleasure in playing pranks on me.

Scaring me by jumping out at me while I am casually walking down the hallway. Pretending there are spiders when there are not. Plus, of course, jumping from heights and doing those stupid things that boys do – making my stomach churn at the thought of them breaking something, someone or themselves.

Like most families, we’ve had late night hospital visits, a few trips in some ambulances, and lots of first aid kit moments both at home, and on holiday.

The other day though, I had the fright of my life. The school rang and asked permission to call an ambulance as one of my children was laying injured on the school oval.

I have never left work so fast.

That five-minute drive not knowing what had happened to my child, was torture. So many thoughts run through your brain, and keeping calm is not easy. As a parent it’s your worst nightmare thinking something has happened and you aren’t there. I beat the ambulance there, and the teachers were taking very good care of him. It wasn’t long till they offered him the green whistle, and the journey with my spaced-out child to the hospital to find out what the injury was began.

Thankfully, it was only a broken collar bone, inflicted accidently by his big brother pushing him over. Seeing both my boys in pain, one from literal pain, the other remorseful for the pain he had inadvertently caused, will be one for the memory banks that’s for sure. As a parent you are constantly reminding your kids to be careful before one of them inflicts permanent damage to the other. That day in my household had finally arrived.

The child with the broken collar bone has since enjoyed the odd “but I can’t ’cause you broke my collar bone” jibe at his brother. I am sure it will be brought up at many opportunities in the future as they age. I am also sure that this won’t be the last episode with a lifelong story. As much as I hope this has been a learning experience for both of them, my mummy instinct tells me that I’ll be carrying rescue remedy in my bag for a while longer yet!


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The Thing Is…Boys Are Full On! with Bree James

Being the only female in a house of boys, it’s a celebration of the XY chromosome most days. I have certainly learnt a lot about the male species since becoming a mother of boys, and there are a lot of things I wish I didn’t learn, but also many I am so pleased I have.

The thing is… little boys are fuuullllll on. I know girls can be too, but from what I have witnessed most girls can sit still whilst watching tv, at a dinner table and when a passenger in the car. I am sure some boys can too, but mine…cannot.

My boys have so much energy they could power a small town. From the time they wake up, until the time they go to bed, they are jumping, wrestling, throwing, play fighting, twitching, jiggling, and any other movement you can think of.

And no matter how much activity they have in a day, you feed them and off they go again.

You cannot take them to the shops without them turning it into a maze, battlefield, or racetrack. It doesn’t matter how much you warn them when you go into the shops that they have to behave, not run and to stay close – they do not. It takes all of a parent’s power to keep their cool whilst copping knowing or judgmental looks at your inability to keep your boys in line in public.

Boys also attempt really dumb things. Getting chills up and down your spine is a daily occurrence – with many of us surprised at how little time we spend in the Emergency Room.

Parents of boys have a special “I feel you” nod we give each other when passing by a chaotic scene.

Boys are really weird too, they love the topics of farts, poop, bottoms, and private parts. If you want to make your boys laugh, it’s really simple. Mention one of the above and you are seriously the funniest human being on the planet. My boys have also recently started naming their farts-why? Because they can.

And don’t get me started on the 3rd leg. From the time boys are born their hands are always on it. My dad used to say he was so poor when he was a kid his mum cut holes in his pockets so he had something to play with. It doesn’t matter if your son has every toy they could ever want, that thing is by far their favorite. As a new mum, I remember the first day of my precious baby being born. It’s a harsh reality that I wasn’t expecting nor knew what to do with and I was horrified. Yes- from the time they are born that happens! And don’t forget to always point it down in a nappy, learnt that the hard way many times…

Noise is another thing you have to live with. Boys are so loud. I know if I ever go away for work and come back it takes a good 24 hours to get used to the noise again.

They talk loud, play loud, fight loud, walk loud, go to the toilet loud, eat loud, everything is loud and it can be so draining.

I know the grunting, sleeping teenage boy stage is just around the corner. So, for now, I am embracing the chaos, gaining grey hairs and mild anxiety from their risk taking, and taking deep breaths knowing they have an amazing dad that I hope they turn out like one day. We’ve just got to get through the next ten years.

You can visit the Bree James website HERE. 

 

 

 

 

The Thing Is…My Kids Ask Me 100 Questions! – with Bree James

One of the things about being a parent is; you get asked A LOT of questions. Everything from “Why is the sky blue?”, to “Why do dogs sniff each other’s butts?” And don’t forget “Why do I have to wear underpants?” Plus some of these questions aren’t even from our kids, they are from our significant other. I don’t know about you, but sometimes the constant questioning does my head in.

The thing is, I do love that my children are inquisitive. Some of the questions they ask are really quite interesting and I am so thankful for Google. When I was a kid, my mum would send me to the encyclopedia set on the shelf and I’d have to look it up myself. Otherwise I would just live with the fact that I’m not going to have an answer after many days or even weeks of pondering it.

These days, we can pretty much google anything and get the answer instantly. The questions that are actually inquisitive and a learning opportunity, I do not mind whatsoever, and I quite enjoy learning alongside my children. Kids ask some really great questions and I think I have learnt more from their inquisitive minds than I did myself at school.

However, the questions that drive me nuts are always the ones they really know the answer to;

Clean up your room – “WHY?”

Go to bed – “WHY?”

Don’t put your wet clothes on top of those dry clothes – “WHY?”

And you know your response isn’t going to be a one-off either. You could make these statements “go to bed” and get “WHY?” every night for years. It’s no wonder “because I said so!” screams out eventually.

My darling husband the other day was cooking from a recipe. He had it right in front of him. Yet, he asked me from the other room what the next step was…?! Or he’ll ask me “what am I cooking?”, even though it’s written on the meal planner (we prepared together the night before) right next to him.

My wonderful children will ask me what I am doing, even when they can see clearly what I am doing; i.e. sitting on the toilet.

My next favorite though, is when they ask a question, you give the answer, and then they ask you again. So, you give the answer in another way, and then they ask you the question again, so you give the answer in another way… and then they ask you again.

Sometimes you just shake your head and look back at their years on the earth and worry; did you have too much Panadol when you were pregnant or give them too much when they were teething? Or you second guess yourself and conclude that you really aren’t a good parent if you can’t answer your child in a way they understand.

The ultimate questions that make parent’s hearts stop or drop are the ones they ask perfect strangers. “Are you a pirate cause you have a patch on?”, “Did you fart- what’s that smell?”, “Are you dying?”, “What happened to your hair?”, “Are you Santa Claus?”, “Are you drinking because you’re an alcoholic?”

These questions are enough to tip any parent over the edge!

In the end, our children are going to question us just as much as we question ourselves. Questioning is a huge part of their learning, and even though it drives us nuts, there is nothing that can help you understand your beliefs and knowledge more than trying to explain them to a child with an inquisitive mind. Millions saw the apple fall from the tree, but Newton asked WHY? So as much as it drives us absolutely insane sometimes, take a breath, and ask “why do you think?”. This buys us a little time and encourages them to keep on searching and being inquisitive, or just walk away and clean their teeth like you asked them to.

Read more of Bree’s blogs for PakMag here. 

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Hooked on Dopamine – The ‘Feel-Good’ Neurotransmitter

The worlds brands and tech creators spend literally billions of dollars trying to get your attention.

We are the “Attention Generation”. Dopamine plays a role in how they get our attention. But what is Dopamine and how does this chemical work in our bodies?

Nearly all pleasurable experiences involve the release of dopamine. Having a good meal, exercising, shopping and even drugs, gambling, gaming and getting a notification that someone has liked your post on Facebook.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter made in the brain. Basically, it acts as a chemical messenger between neurons, and your brain releases this ‘feel-good’ chemical when it is expecting a reward. It determines whether we want to do something again. Dopamine isn’t acting alone. It works with other neurotransmitters and hormones, such as serotonin and adrenaline. 

The right amount of dopamine usually goes along with a pretty good mood. It’s ideal for learning, planning, and productivity giving you feelings of focus, motivation, happiness, and alertness. Low dopamine however is one reason why you can have trouble concentrating, poor coordination, and low motivation.

When our body is experiencing pleasure, it responds by releasing dopamine. This release causes your brain to focus more of its attention on the experience and it works out pathways to ensure it receives this feel good chemical again. Dopamine activates your brain’s reward centre. When the brain picks up that it may soon receive a reward, whether that reward be food, or likes on social media- a flash of dopamine zaps that reward pathway. Then you get another hit when you get the perceived reward.

For example, suppose your “go-to” comfort food is a bar of chocolate. Your brain may increase dopamine when you see chocolate in advertising, spot it in the pantry, you see someone eating it, or even if you think about it or get a waft of it. When you eat it, another flood of dopamine acts to reinforce this craving and focuses on satisfying it in the future.

It’s a cycle of motivation, reward, and reinforcement that causes us to seek, desire, and expect certain outcomes.

Now imagine that you’ve been longing for that hidden chocolate bar all day, but you discover when you get home that someone in your family ate it. Your disappointment might lower your dopamine level and dampen your mood. It might also intensify your desire for chocolate, making you want it even more (and send someone to the store!).

This can also happen when we post something on social media. We expect some likes and comments and we constantly check and get a dopamine hit if it’s going well. If it’s not, then that can cause internal conflict and lower mood feelings.

While dopamine isn’t the sole cause of addiction, its motivational properties are thought to play a role in addiction.

Experts evaluate something’s potential to cause addiction by looking at the speed, intensity, and reliability of the dopamine release it causes in your brain. It doesn’t take long for your brain to associate certain behaviours or substances with a rush of dopamine. That’s why people can get addicted to drugs, overeating, gambling, gaming, alcohol, caffeine and even exercise.

Addictive substances and behaviours can cause dopamine levels to spike, and over a long period of time, sometimes the brain weakens or eliminates receptors built to respond to dopamine which leads to us needing more of the drug, substance or activity to elicit the same amount of dopamine. This can steadily lead to us losing interest and needing something more exciting to take its place (for and extreme example; those that start out on marijuana can end up on ice).

That is why our phones are becoming an issue for many of us, and why we can easily get addicted to watching a show or playing a video game. Digital technologies, such as social networks, online shopping, and games, use a set of persuasive and motivational techniques to keep users returning. This is why we need to be acutely aware that technology in particular, is built to keep us hooked.

Notifications, responses and rewards are ruling our lives because this attention is addictive. Gaming creators call this the “compulsion loop”.

The Science Behind it?

Every time someone reacts to something you have done online, or you react positively to something someone else has done online, you get a dopamine hit. Dopamine is an addictive pleasure chemical, it’s like a hug for the brain. Who doesn’t want more pleasure chemicals and hugs? The negative though is that the opposite also occurs if we don’t get the attention we desire:

  • Decreased self-esteem/eating disorders and body dysmorphia
  • Anxiety
  • Depression/depressive symptoms
  • Feeling a lack of connection
  • Feelings of inferiority
  • Deterioration in concentration and other symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Researchers have found that addicted players of video games, regardless of gender, were more anxious and depressed, and showed poorer impulse control and cognitive functioning than gamers who were not addicted. Poor impulse control and poor cognitive functioning are risk factors for various kinds of addiction, so those with pre-existing depression, anxiety or under high levels of stress need to be mindful of this.

The brain, according to Dr Win Wenger, can consciously process 126 bits of information per second. However, the brain receives 10 million bits of information per second. That means we can only focus on 1/80,000 of the data our brain is getting.

Our brain loves to build patterns, and even though the brain makes up 2 percent of our bodies mass, it uses 20% of our body’s energy. So, if your brain has been in overdrive, it’s no wonder we can feel exhausted. This is where techniques like meditation, mindfulness, and learning ways to give our brains a rest and reset is really important.

Dopamine is the reward centre in our brains, and the challenging thing for 21st century parents in our high-tech society is our potential addiction to constant rewards, and gratification. Understanding how dopamine works is a great start to teaching our children that not everything in their lives can be gamified and rewarded, and we need to find lots of ways to get these lovely dopamine hits naturally.

Did you know dopamine is involved in many body functions. These include:

  • blood flow
  • digestion
  • executive functioning
  • heart and kidney function
  • memory and focus
  • mood and emotions
  • motor control
  • pain processing
  • pancreatic function and insulin regulation
  • pleasure and reward seeking behaviour
  • sleep
  • stress response

 

Learn more about Bree James here and read more of her PakMag blogs here.  

 

 

 

The Thing Is…the Baby Days Are Over! with Bree James

It’s an interesting moment when you make the decision to not have any more children. I’m a mum of two boys nearing 9 and 11 years old. People still ask me if I am going to go back to try and have a girl. Now… my ovaries get excited when I see a gorgeous baby. But the rest of my body gets chills at the thought of going through parenthood from the beginning again. The Thing is, I do feel completely blessed and honored to be a mother. BUT I am pretty happy that the days of having a baby hanging off my boobs all hours of the day and the sleepless nights are over. Don’t get me started on the tantrums, constant nappy changing and not being able to know what they are crying about!

My eldest asked me the other day about periods. Being a mum that over educates and answers questions, I told him all about them. Told him that he will need to be a supportive boyfriend one day. Of course I mentioned how he has to be gentle with the girls at school who may be experiencing them. The cutest thing he said was, “Mummy it must be so sad though, getting a period knowing it could have been a baby”. The “Hell no” nearly came out of my mouth, as I have experienced 2,184 days of them. But, I stopped, and thought about it. I shared that yes, many ladies are sad if they are trying for a baby. However, many are pretty excited when they get their period as it means no babies.

It’s a big decision to have kids. I think it’s a pretty big decision for some of us to say that our uterus is closed for business.

I’ve still got most of our baby stuff “just in case we had an accident”. But now I am hitting 40 this year, my husband and I had to have the talk about no more babies. He decided that it’s time he gets the snip. I fully support this if he is happy to do it (even though the reality that this part of my life is over makes me a little sad). Now, my husband is as nervous about this procedure as I was about giving birth to our watermelon sized children. 

Sure, I understand that a man’s member is literally like having another human being in the house. Another human that has needs. And I know that men have a huge attachment to this area of their body way more than women do with their own bits. I acknowledge that this is a big surgery for a man to have psychologically. He is really worried about “King Richard” and “the twins” and I am trying to be sympathetic. But as anyone who has witnessed childbirth knows, a vjay jay goes through so much more during childbirth. Plus, these things can results in a lot more stitches!

My eldest said, ‘Daddy is getting de-sexed’. This made me laugh so hard that I nearly wet myself, but it’s certainly not helping calm his nerves. Now I am sure it will all be fine, and we will celebrate once it’s all over.I think it’s only fair that if we celebrated having a baby, we should celebrate not having any more too. We should also thank our bodies for their service.

As they say, the swim team may have been cut, but the coach will never retire.

I am sure like childbirth, he will forget all about this trauma to the family jewels in a few days. He will look at his two amazing children and thank his dad bod for its service to our family. When they are fighting over something stupid, or he sees a toddler being really naughty, or a parent struggling with their infant, he will realise getting the snip wasn’t so bad after all.

 

Learn more about Bree on her website. 

Read more of ‘The The Thing Is’ with Bree James here

 

 

21 Ways to Save Money

What if you could save thousands of dollars per year instead of trying to earn more? Isn’t it smarter to make our dollar go further than trying to get more dollars? If you can do both that’s even better of course! To give you a hand, here are twenty-one tips to save money or stop wasting your hard-earned dollars.

1. Start your own garden – This will cut down on the costs of some of your herbs, fruits and veggies. Many can be grown from food scraps, like potatoes.

2. Go second hand – Op-shopping is a great way to find deals on clothing, toys and other household items.

3. Use the 30-day rule – Introduce a 30-day spending rule. If you see something you love, give it a month. If you still need it one month later, then buy it. More likely than not, the impulse to buy the item will be gone by the end of the month.

4. Start a loose change jar – At the end of each week, everyone in the household empties their loose change from their wallets, pockets and purses into the jar. Make this your “fun jar.”

5. Make your own cleaning supplies – Use baking soda, warm water and white vinegar-it’s better for the environment too!

6. Go meat-free on Mondays – Plan a weekly meal that doesn’t involve meat. Doing it twice a week will save your family approximately $1,500.00 a year (based on meat costing an average of $15.00 per meal).

7. Get smarter with your grocery shopping – Have a fortnightly meal plan, buy in bulk and stick to your food shopping list.

8. Avoid food waste – Buy according to your meal plan and pre-prep your meals soon after bringing your shopping home, so that it’s like a DIY Hello Fresh in your fridge. This way you are using all of your ingredients. Freeze things like lime juice, herbs in water or oil, so that you aren’t wasting food.

9. Avoid late payment fees – Arrange to pay bills by direct debit so you don’t miss them.

10. Use your own banks ATM’s – Or withdraw cash when food shopping to save on bank fees.

11. Shop around – With your insurance, see if you can get a better deal and still be well covered.

12. Ask for discounts – You’d be surprised how many businesses will give you one if you ask.

13. Save on communication – Look for cheaper mobile phone and home internet plans.

14. Do an audit on your bank statement – See what subscriptions you have, cull as many as you can. Netflix, Stan, Spotify, do you really need them all?

15. Invest in a slow cooker – Ready-make some meals to save/freeze for those times you’d reach for takeaway.

16. Shop local – Local produce is often much cheaper than supermarket bought.

17. Repair – Mend what you can, like clothing instead of throwing it out. You’d be surprised what you can give a second life.

18. Don’t use the car – Where you can; ride, walk, or batch your car trips so you aren’t driving unnecessarily and wasting fuel.

19. Try the $5 Rule – Every time you get $5, put it in your rainy day container. By the end of the year you could have several hundred dollars!

20. Have no spend days – Choose one or two days a week where no one is to spend any money.

21. Quit bad habits – Have a look into your spending habits as an annual cost. Maybe it’s a coffee on the way to work every day (that’s a $1500 a year habit). Take away lunch twice weekly (that’s another $1500 at $15 lunch twice a week). Cutting those two habits alone can save you some serious money.

It may not seem like a lot, but every small saving can add up to some serious dough at the end of the year. Good luck.

Resources to Inspire and Educate

PakMag Family Budget Downloadable

Whether it’s for keeping track of your family expenses, trying to save on family expenses, or both – a budget is the way to go. We know how hard it is to remember all of the bills as a parent, and a budget is there to help you do exactly that. By keeping all of the expenses in one place, even the non-essentials ones, you’ll find it a lot easier to manage them.

Pocketbook Personal Finance Expense Tracker App

This Australian-grown app syncs easily with your all your financial needs including bank accounts, credit cards and loans. You can get bill reminders and an easy overview of your budgets, transactions and upcoming bills, plus the latest insights on your money. Visit www.getpocketbook.com to get the app and find more information. Compatible with iPhone, iPad, iPod touch and Android.

PakMag Meal Planner and Shopping List

Planning dinners for the week ahead can be such a great way to not only be organised but to also save money, by buying only the food items you will need for the week. Find our printable template here, where you can keep a digital copy for your life hacks or print several copies to put on the fridge.

Step-by-step Veg patch

How to Grow Your Own Food in Australia by Lucy Chamberlain: Get help starting your own veggie garden by reading this book of simple instructions on how to grow the most common vegetables, from start to finish. You can also read our blog ‘Vegetables you can regrow in your backyard’ – You don’t even need seeds, just vegetables scraps and leftovers!

Financial and Digital Tool For Kids

ZAAP is Australia’s first low-cost, prepaid Mastercard for young people, available as a card that kids can design themselves and a wearable band. ZAAP is a pocket money product and financial literacy tool rolled into one, enabling parents to teach their kids important money management skills, while also giving them peace of mind as it is safer than cash or handing over a credit card. Supported by a mobile app, parents can manage ZAAP accounts for multiple children, transfer funds and monitor where and how their kids are spending and saving. Kids can track spending and set enriching savings goals. For more information, check out www.zaap.com.au .