If we were having a conversation and I told you that I was not beautiful, would you disagree with me? The majority of people would. Whether they agreed with me or not, most would try to tell me that I am indeed beautiful. That is because most people are inherently kind and would be doing the wonderful human thing of trying to lift someone up.


But I am not saying it because I am being hard on myself, I just don’t describe myself as beautiful. Really. It is OK. Hang in here for a moment though while I think out loud for a bit. What if it was culturally OK not to be beautiful. I am talking about the word. Now I understand being in awe of people radiating beauty from inside and describing others as beautiful because they are good and kind and thoughtful and all those other amazing qualities. What if it was good enough to celebrate those qualities alone. The word “beauty” has really taken on the meaning of having to do with one’s outward appearance. The beauty industry makes their (truckloads of) money off selling things to people who want to look their best. Beauty bloggers will showcase products that make the outside of you look pretty. There is nothing wrong with that. I certainly feel like I look a lot better when I get a great blow dry and the perfect shade of lip stain. I don’t mind being told when I look pretty and I am even prone to believe whoever said it when I am feeling like I look my best. There is not enough mascara and concealer in the world though to make me feel beautiful when I look in the mirror, but then again, that is not what I am even looking for. No, I don’t feel like I have to be beautiful. I am excited to be quirky, kind, bubbly, bright and creative. I strive to be loyal, authentic and clever. I wish I was strong and sporty. I want to be known as curious, open-minded and generous as well as grateful, polite and reliable. I would hope that when people remember me, they use words like happy and loving too. If they say beautiful, that is fine, but it is not important to me.

This reframing of the language we use to consider ourselves and speak of others is one of the main driving forces behind my photo project, Within The Keep. I have no problem with people leaving comments like “So beautiful!” and “How gorgeous” or even “Isn’t she pretty?!?!” on any of the photos because I am not trying to stop people from using those terms. Instead, I want a forum where these girls pictured can tell you about the awesomeness that they are under the surface. Those qualities on the inside that make you want to tell someone they are beautiful have unique names and those individual qualities are what I want to celebrate.

I saw a really thought provoking movie the other day called Embrace: The Documentary and the topics covered in it have been swirling around my brain ever since. Watching that movie at the same time as confronting these changing challenges of being a mother to a tween has me determined to do what I can to help kids develop a solid sense of empathy. I want to work with organisations and creatives to get kids to understand that there is so much diversity in this world that is to be celebrated. Not all of it is beautiful to everyone and that is totally fine. Kindness and the many other varied positive character traits they are developing are so valuable. Let’s help foster these important traits before the walls kids build to protect themselves are to high to break through.

I’d love to win People’s Choice for Within The Keep at the Bupa Blog Awards on September 1st. That means there are just a few days left for you to click this link, hit Vote Now, scroll down to the Visual category and select Sesame Ellis as your vote.

Thank you.

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  • Lea - Everything you said xReplyCancel

  • Maxabella - All the yeses. I guess we’ll always comment on appearance because that is what we see. A throwaway compliment – it’s nice, really. Just so long as it doesn’t take the place of what’s important. I think “pretty” is a surface compliment, but when we call someone “beautiful”, I think we are moving deeper. Only beautiful souls are described as such. xReplyCancel

    • sesame - Thank you for this. I think I just wasted so much time and hurt in my youth trying to be the beauty I saw on the outside of others. There was a high premium on that kind of beautiful in Los Angeles. I’m no longer looking for that and it feels great to finally be all the things I am and be fine with what I see reflected in the mirror. ReplyCancel

The twins have a winter birthday here in Australia and double their poor luck, it falls in the school holidays. When they were babies it was fantastic as they got to turn one in the states and two in Bali. They did not really have any friends of their own at three, but we still had a fun time at an indoor play centre. Birthday number four doesn’t even register in my memory, but their fifth was an epic bash because they had their very own buddies from Kinder and we invited the lot of them as well as a magician. That year we waited until everyone was back in town. Five was a big deal. We did five well. From then on, we said a party at seven (first grade) and again at ten (double digits) and maybe another at sweet sixteen. That was fine for them at six and they rocked the house doing ten pin bowling at seven. Eight came around and they were wondering about that “not again until ten” rule. All their friends had parties. Birthday parties are enjoying a renaissance and I blame Pinterest. I said no to a big event, but I did cave to their request to just have a few friends over for a play date at our house to celebrate. I mean, it was the school holidays, how many would actually be able to come???? All but two, it turns out.

Since we were just returning from a week away ourselves, the morning of the party found me waking up to the fact that 16 or so kids were going to be expecting the birthday cake I forgot to make.

No worries, I am great under pressure. I picked up some pre-made sponge cakes at the supermarket and we iced and decorated them ourselves back home. All you need to make frosting is some butter, powdered sugar, milk and vanilla. Oh and a blender. I had already purchased rainbow coloured decorations and lots of snacks.

We simply moved some furniture to turn the living room into a Netflix theatre and since we wanted something both the boys and girls would enjoy, keyed up the new season of All Hail King Julien.

The girls were so calm, got themselves popcorn, treats & water and just found a seat to watch the show. The boys disappeared to the playroom where they jumped off the couch, played video games, made lots of noise and threw popcorn everywhere. It was two hours of absolute happy mayhem, but I did wonder how primary school teachers survive their jobs.

While Chilli was desperate for everyone to go home so she could clean up all the popcorn, the kids did not want to leave the endless Netflix. By the end, the boys had joined the girls in the home theatre. I don’t blame them. It is not just All Hail King Julien, there is great programming for kids their age. I asked the twins to list their favourite shows.

Clover’s top Netflix: Ever After High, Project MC2, Lego Friends, My Little Pony Equestria Girls (I don’t understand that one. At all.)

Kieran’s top Netflix: Pokemon, Dragons, Bionicle, anything David Attenborough

While I love looking at Pinterest, I don’t live a Pinterest worthy life by any means. I am going to consider this an easy home birthday party and not a cop out. They had fun, it was easy on the budget and most importantly, my twins were happy.

All Hail King Netflix!

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  • Patsy Rowland - Rach, You are an amazing Mom!! Little did I know when you were growing up, you would be such a talented, gifted, warm, wonderful young (I could go on and on) woman. I am so glad you are allowing me to share this journey with you. LoveReplyCancel

    • sesame - Well, aren’t you the sweetest?!?! Thank you! ReplyCancel

  • se7en - Happy Brilliant birthdays… I just cannot believe your babies are eight!!! How long have we all been interneting!!! Incredible. And that is exactly the level of perfect party planning we achieve over here!!!ReplyCancel

    • sesame - We have been internetting a LONG time!ReplyCancel

Tuesday night I had finished taking pictures for Within The Keep and had a quiet house with the kids and husband having dinner with the in laws. I headed upstairs to get into something more comfortable (no really, like sweatpants…) and was excited to have a simple supper of wine and whatever. The chihuahua had other plans. You would think after the many years of having her, I would be used to the little black and tan cloud always swirling just under my feet. Yet there I was tripping over her immediately regretful little self and smacking my arm on the second floor as I tried to break my fall. 

I ended up going for scans the next day when I woke up in pain and with tingling fingers. I have been in a pain medicine cycle that goes a little something like this :

Morning, “Ouch, I’ll be fine.”

Noon, “Oh man, I’ll just take the medicine.”

Post medication, “I’m healed!”

*does all the things*

A few hours later, “OMG, I’m exhausted and in pain.”


Everyone said I should take this as a sign to slow down. I don’t have time for that. I will just be more aware of the tiny thug underfoot. Just when I was getting my f*cks back….

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  • Dawn Klein - Ouch! Was it “just” sprained? I’m a serial ankle sprainer. Sometimes it’s almost worse. Such a slow time getting better.ReplyCancel

Implied language warning. See footnote.

I  have been struggling for some time now with a rather confusing feeling. I could not decide if I was sad, scared or angry. Apathetic is just not my style, so I was pretty baffled at this state of being. I seem to have run out of f*cks to give.

There is a difference between not giving a f*ck and actually running out of f*cks to give. I am never stingy with my f*cks. I totally get the feeling of not giving a f*ck about what someone thinks about your outfit or not giving a f*ck that you ate the last bit of chocolate behind your kids backs. Those situations are not worth the energy it takes to give that f*ck. I would probably still give a tiny f*ck even if I tried not to. Some may be routinely prudent with the f*cks they have to give and analyse every situation as to the worthiness of their f*cks, but not me. I always give a f*ck when they are really needed. Until now…I still want to give a f*ck. I know I should give one, but even in the face of some serious issues deserving of all the f*cks in the world, I have nothing left in my f*cks-to-give basket.

It dawned on me that I have used up the majority of my f*cks on the kids lately. I did not realise my f*cks-to-give supply was a limited resource so I had been giving them out for small issues when the kids are really old enough to use their own. I mean, they don’t give a f*ck about cleaning the house or chores, so they must have a backlog. I had to break it down to them in a way they would understand. I said, “Look, it is like opening up Pokemon Go on my lunch break and finding that elusive Pikachu we want to catch standing right in the middle of our kitchen, but when I go to throw a Pokeball at it, I find I have run out because you have wasted them all on catching Rattata and Pidgey.” I have been throwing every little last f*ck I had to give at the same worthless little problems that keep popping up when I should have just ignored them and saved all those f*cks for the big stuff. You know, like my passion project, Within The Keep.

So after searching everywhere and coming up empty, I turned to a good friend who is also out of f*cks. We had a great chat and I even shed a few tears. You know what I discovered? Watering your empty f*cks-to-give fields with tears helps them to grow. You can’t buy them, you can’t find them in the cracks of the couch, you have to farm those f*cks. When Sunday brought sunshine and respite from the endless weeks of cold and rain, even more f*cks-to-give began to bloom. Of course I had to pick a few to throw at an epic sensory meltdown the boy was having, but I am now hopeful that with a little care, my f*cks-to-give farm will be back in business soon. I am going to need a bumper crop in the next few months. I am never good with periods of transition so I might need to be stingy and squirrel some away. I know I am going to want to give a f*ck or two about little things as well so I have begun to put things in my calendar to jump start the germination period. I have a women’s circle to attend where I plan on trading some of my supply with others. We have a game night planned with other families who make us laugh. Laughter is f*cks-to-give fertiliser. And in just a few weeks I will finally be meeting Ben Folds and seeing his new show from the third row. His music is like steroids for my f*cks-to-give fields.

So with some sun, tears, laughter, support and great music, my f*cks should be overflowing by the time I need to throw them at some really big things. I will be taking pictures and sharing what is beautiful to me on a daily basis without wasting any f*cks on what people expect from the Sesame Ellis brand. I can share thoughts on the blog without giving any precious f*cks to SEO and analytics. If I keep doing all that, I might even have a few extra f*cks to share. Until I do, I hope you remember to tend to your own supply and if that means playing Pokemon on your lunch break even when your friends don’t understand  or blasting music your tween thinks is boring, take my advice and start increasing your supply by not giving a f*ck what they think about the little things that build you up.

Sorry for the little blogging break I have been on. It was accidental and totally the result of me running out of f*cks. I’m back in the black though, so thanks for sticking around.

*My mom reads my blog and apparently I still give a f*ck what she thinks about me. Just replace the * with u and there you go.

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  • Kylie - Oh my gosh. I think you just diagnosed me. I have run out of f*cks too. I didn’t even realise there was such a thing, but YES. There is. I am all over it. I need to take myself to a f*ucks to give farm and replenish. Or maybe I just need a good week full of sleep, no children and no study.

    Love your work! XxReplyCancel

  • Amanda @ Cooker and a Looker - Love this Rachel!
    Long may your f*cks blossom. xxReplyCancel

  • JiwaTani - hello…
    I’m a new blogger…just visit your blogReplyCancel

I just can’t understand why there are so many people upset about the release of Pokemon Go. My personal Facebook feed is split with those who are all GET OFF MY LAWN AND GET A JOB and those who sheepishly admit they kind of love the little monsters. I am one of a vocal minority who proudly says: “We are having fun with the app!” I thought I would tell my reasons.

Pokemom why we love Pokemon Go by SesameEllis . com

One) I keep hearing these reports of people wandering into traffic and off cliffs or even just into other people as they play the game. You don’t need to keep your face pointed down on the screen to use the app. Head on over to the settings and make sure the vibrate option is turned on. When a Pokemon pops up in your personal space, the phone will vibrate and you can then look and catch try to catch it. If you are on the hunt for Pokestops, gyms and/or rare monsters, you can look at the screen and then plan your route. There really is no reason to fall off a cliff. Ever.

Two) We are getting out and walking around. I can’t run in the winter because of my asthma, but I can walk and you know what got me back into the habit of taking 10km tours of my neighbourhood? Yep, Pokemon. It would have been very easy to just turn back home even before I made the halfway point, but I had virtual waypoints to visit with Pokestops and new monsters were popping up at the waters edge. I turned the sounds off in the game settings so I could listen to my music playlist as I went. It isn’t just this old girl getting out because of this. My kids will head out to take a walk just to see what we can find. We used to do Geocaching, but would discover that the physical treasures were no longer there and the app was out of date. There was a lot of disappointment when we had walked such a long way to no avail (other than a lovely walk which as a reward in itself is often lost on little kids) and the cost of the subscription was less and less worth it to me.

Pokemon and Prisma app SesameEllis.comThree) It is inherently non-competitive and non-violent. Ok, there are “battles” and levels, but the Pokemon don’t “die” in battles, apparently they faint. You can get medicine at Pokestops or from getting to the next level to fix them them back up too. Heck, you don’t need to even fight in battles to play the game if you don’t want to. It can be just a treasure hunt forever. Or find a gym that is the same colour as the team you choose and you can train. You play at your own pace and in your own time. If you level up, you level up. Some may do it quickly while others can take ages. It doesn’t matter. There is no real leaderboard to encourage anxiety in those who get really competitive. Yes, there are hardcore players, but your enjoyment of the game and theirs never have to cross paths. The tagline might be “Gotta catch ’em all!”, but you don’t really…whatever is fun for you.

Four) It is friendly and free. These don’t really go together, but give me a minute. When you run out of Pokeballs, you can get more for free by visiting Pokestops. The developers are making plenty of money from the folks who do buy virtual supplies, so take advantage of the large number of people playing and make friends out and about. Chances are your kids’ friends are playing this game too. You can be sure to find someone to go walking and hunting with. If you don’t want to spend data charges on it, have a friend over and play at home on WiFi. You might not be close to a gym or Pokestop, but Pokemon will show up in your house.

Pokemon in the house and Mextures app by SesameEllis.com


Five) There is some learning in it too! Not only do you have to calculate the value of certain monsters and the benefits in trading them to upgrade or to clear space, but more importantly for my family, you learn self control. One of Kieran’s greatest challenges with Sensory Processing Disorder is self control. With this game, he is learning that when the Pokeballs are gone, we are not buying more so we must wait to replenish them for free at a Pokestop. He understands that even though we love to play the game, I will not have it on in the car if we are driving somewhere. We can take careful trips out to play in the car, but only if he holds the phone and we pull over safely before we do any hunting or Pokestop gathering. We are next going to focus on learning about maps and measurements through this app as we walk certain distances to incubate eggs, plot our adventures and time the use of magic eggs as it aligns with their measurement maths inquiry at school this term. See, magic eggs double the points you get during a 30 minute period so we will have to figure out how long it takes to walk 5km, calculate if we can activate the magic egg time period and hatch the regular egg within that 30 minutes. The fine motor skills he works so hard to improve during OT sessions are getting a workout as well.

Overall, this game has been a great motivator for my son. For example, he has developed a bit of a fear of the dark lately and to get him to do his chore of taking out the trash at night, I offered to walk around the block with him catching special Pokemon who only appear at night. I was amazed to see him face his real fear and take my hand for the opportunity to do something he likes with his mom. He did his chore too.

So while I might not yet be able to offer you any real tips to playing Pokemon Go, I do hope you might understand a little better why it isn’t just some mindless zombie gamer apocalypse. And my kids and I? Well, we promise to stay off your lawn.

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  • Marybeth - My 14 year old has been banned from playing Pokémon Go. If it is found on one of his devices again, he will lose the device for good. He made bad choices while playing the game and exhibited a lack of self control (walking to places he didn’t have permission to walk to just to collect Poke stops, etc). He even woke up from a dead sleep one night, walked into my bedroom where his devices are kept overnight, picked his phone up, and said he was going for a walk because there was a Pokémon nearby. He was obviously dreaming, but still. The game isn’t to blame… but I could clearly see how it affected his thinking and decision making. I don’t want to have to worry about him walking in rush hour traffic, or walking somewhere at school he isn’t meant to be just because he sees a Pokémon near his location.ReplyCancel