Over the years, I have come to realise one reliable thing about my family. Nothing drives us further apart with greater speed than good old fashioned competition. There hasn’t even been a game of UNO in our house that did not end in tears…ever. It isn’t that we don’t love being together, nor that we don’t support each other’s endeavours. It is just the mere mention of a game sets into motion some sort of primal individual instinct to win. On our own, we all do different sport. I run to be alone with my music and thoughts.

When we take a soccer ball to the park, Clover shines, but bring out the cricket bat and Gemma is the star. Just try to keep up with Alec on a bike. He rides 40km round trip to and from work every day.

Finally, Kieran is our fish who comes alive in the lanes of a pool. With his Sensory Processing Disorder resulting in low pain tolerance, the calming sensation of the water is a great motivator for him. So while we love being together and outdoors, if we challenge each other in any of those situations where one of us is actually good at something, disaster is inevitable.

That is when I figured out the secret to this family’s happiness together! Find something we are all terrible at! Enter, basketball. While we would bring a basketball to the park to shoot hoops, there always seemed to be someone who beat us to the court. By the time we got our turn, one of us would need the bathroom, a snack or something from home, but we loved playing together. None of us are tall or all that proficient at the game and frankly no one actually know the rules so when we play as a family, no one loses! Then for the twins’ eighth birthday, their godmother gave them a fancy basketball hoop for our driveway. It has been game on ever since. That hoop out in front of our house might have been a gift for the twins, but has brought nothing but high-fives, teamwork and laughter to all of us. With no one invested in being the best at it, basketball has taught us to happily take turns, help each other and learn new skills together. After school, in the driveway now, the kids all open up about their day while we just try to get the ball in the hoop.

backyard pool sesameelis.com

From out front to the garden in back, we like to play at home and we have finally saved enough to get a backyard swimming pool. Our goal is to create a gathering spot where over the summer months we will all meet and enjoy each other’s company on a nightly basis. We used to go swim in the sea after school, trying to time our little excursions with Alec’s ride home from work. Now we don’t have to pack up dinner or come home sandy to enjoy those warm nights. We will have our own private sea in the backyard. And even though swimming might be Kieran’s thing, our family has learned a lot from that basketball hoop in the driveway and I think we are all ready to share the water. Together.

The best times we have as a family are when we are active, outside and together. Our key to that happiness is encouraging a non-competitive space where we can support each other, laugh and just have fun as a whole unit. Our family team doesn’t need to win to be connected.

Bupa understands that and is offering your family the chance to win up to $5,000.00 to stay connected through sport in whatever way makes sense for you. Head over to http://theblueroom.bupa.com.au/bupa-family-fun and tell them how you could see sport bringing your family together.

Maybe it is as simple as reuniting people from all different places to join you in your driveway for a friendly of no rules basketball, properly kitting out your family for a whole day of beach cricket or even finally all being able to attend the grand final of your favourite sport together. Dream big, but dream quick as the contest ends on October 12th!

Post brought to you by Bupa Australia

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I have spent a large part of my life thinking about motherhood. Whether it was the many years dreaming about having kids or the dozen years I have spent actually parenting my own children, I have put a lot of effort into it. Sometimes I wonder if men spend even half that amount of time dreaming about being dads. Whether Alec did or not, here we are as parents. At some point after reading all the books about raising kids through infancy, we seem to have blinked and now have two eight year olds and one nearing her twelfth birthday. As far as reading up on parenting, we have run out of books on the subject and our family of five is in a bit of a routine.

Kieran has a neurological difference called Sensory Processing Disorder that makes parenting him a bit trying at times. Normal childhood misbehaviour tends to be more frequent and disruptive with him. The way his developing brain processes the world around him often results in outbursts that can be extremely difficult to manage. The thing is though, it is manageable, but everyone needs to be on board with the same tools and methods so that the reactions to and outcomes of his behaviour are consistent. At the end of a long day, I know that both Alec and I are tired and our parenting skills toolbox is pretty empty. That leads to some flawed behaviour from us that includes yelling, giving in and even undermining each other to just get through until bedtime. I am certain there are many families out there who can relate to that situation. The key to successful parenting though is teamwork. It will not work in our home if I, as the mother, am the default parent who always has to deal with childhood conduct problems.

As the kids get bigger, their problems get bigger too. While we came into this looking for help to better manage Kieran’s special issues, we know that a solid foundation of loving discipline is only going to benefit our daughters as well, especially with one of them heading to high school and the teen years soon. Alec and I know that we need to solidify our parenting approach now and there is no shame in looking for assistance to do so.

With busy lives of work, school and extracurricular activities, time is not plentiful to attend workshops together. That is exactly why we agreed to participate in the new online parenting program from ParentWorks, led by Professor Mark Dadds at the University of Sydney. This is a free web based program, proudly funded by the Movember Foundation and aims to reduce the prevalence of behaviour issues in Australian kids.

Alec and I sat down two weekends ago to begin the program together. The course is broken up into small modules and worksheets so that you can do little bits at a time. We have currently just finished the second module, so we are going to spend the week practicing what we have learned. The program lets you do the introduction module and then the first practical module right away, but then begins to pace the modules out by a week. It is designed so one can’t unlock the next module and speed through the program. This gives you time to put the skills from each module into practice throughout the week.

Here are our thoughts.

Rachel: I am extremely surprised at how easy it was to find the time to watch the modules with Alec. With each little video lasting only about 15-20 minutes at the most, we were easily able to complete the first week of the course without feeling like we had to let something else suffer for the time required. I am already feeling closer to Alec as a partner and excited to put the easy advice into practice as a family.

Alec: I’m always conscious of my role as a father and how my relationship with Kieran will impact his future. I found the program really useful so far. Given Kieran’s behaviour and personality it’s an ongoing challenge to both get through it in the best way possible but also set him up for the future to not perpetuate the ‘now’. The information presented in the program is useful – some of it I’ve seen before, some of it was new.  I thought it did a good job in making recommendations/plans actionable – and I even walked away really keen to start using the 4 strategies for encouraging positive behaviour. I really did identify with some of the “ineffective parenting practices” they highlighted (especially in when and how he gets my attention).

We would both love to see this program include a companion app. At the moment we must download the worksheets to track our progress and remind ourselves of what our goals and strategies are. If that were to be in digital form, I think we both would be so much better at creating these parenting habits. I am just so grateful though that there is a free program available online because it makes it so easy for both of us to participate.

Please take a look at Parentworks.org.au and get started with better parenting strategies for free today.

This post is brought to you by Nuffnang and ParentWorks

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With spring arriving in Australia, I am thinking of endings and lasts instead of new beginnings and all the rest of that cherry blossom covered positivity being shared online. Nope, after these school holidays, Gemma will start her final term of primary school and I can’t shake the dread. In Australia, grade seven means high school. They go from little to big with no middle ground. Yes, she can do complicated mathematics and demonstrate higher order thinking, but she can also still get afraid of the dark. Eleven years on this planet is not very long at all. She is excited and nervous for the new stage. I am not ready to say goodbye to that much childhood.  

They are only little for such a short time. Why is everyone in a rush to harden them up. How about making the whole world softer instead. It couldn’t hurt to try. 

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  • Patsy Rowland - She will do great. She is all “you” and if she is scared of the dark, you will be there to give her courage by offering your hand if she needs to hold onto you.ReplyCancel

Within The Keep - An AWARD WINNING photo project to help develop a sense of empathy amongst school aged girls. -Rachel Devine / SesameEllis.com

So last night as the sun set on the first spring day out the windows of a fancy restaurant high above Melbourne, I won a blogging award. For luck and to calm my nerves during the day, I had worn my birthday necklace from a friend, my friendship bracelet from another friend, and my mother’s opal ring. To counteract the Murphy’s Law around getting my hair done especially for the night, I bought the dress I was to wear that evening from an OP shop right before I headed into the city. I did not even try it on in the store. I had my hopes up, but I was protecting myself. These are all things I have brought with me into adulthood packed in the little bag deep inside my heart marked “lessons learned in childhood.” I see other mothers unpack their own emotional bags in my studio when they bring their daughters to be photographed for Within The Keep. They might not see me, but I notice them rummaging around for the things their own inner little girl would have needed. I hear them telling their daughter to smile and fixing their hair out of their eyes. I watch others step away, unsure if they are allowed into the photography space. It is only natural. We want to protect the memory of ourselves we see in our daughters. I do too.

See, this award was won for my photo project to help school aged girls develop their sense of empathy and to learn to value themselves and their peers equally despite their differences. This visual project is allowing girls to define themselves and literally tell you what to think when you look at their photographs. It is my heart and soul dancing naked in a spotlight because I refuse to backdown from the idea that we as a society might inadvertently be raising mean girls. The way we allow media to to value physical beauty above kindness and compassion or integrity, resilience, humour and all those other vital human traits is teaching girls that they must strive to be one narrow thing instead of the varied and interesting types they actually are.

The money from this award means that I can keep doing this for free so that no one ever thinks their daughter can’t be a part of this project since they have to buy food instead. The recognition mean that conversations can start in homes where it is safe to openly discuss the language we use to describe others and how we can think about circumstances and reframe our view of the world. The trophy itself means that when I am frustrated I can look at something tangible that says you are doing something good…people believe in you.

Thank you, Bupa for seeing the important work this project is doing for the mental health of our girls. Thank you to the families who support each girl with likes and comments on their photos and spread the word. Thank you for allowing your girls to tell us who they are because we are all more than we can see. Finally, thank you to each and every girl who has come and put themselves in front of my camera for this project. You are the everything and this is just the beginning.

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  • Jennifer Rosenberg - So proud of you my beautiful friend!ReplyCancel

  • Paul - Yay so glad you won. I’ll admit I was sad when I read multiple votes did not count since I voted 100+ times.ReplyCancel

  • se7en - Wonderful… in every way!!!ReplyCancel

  • Praveen - Congrats Sesame! Hope you get more in future 🙂ReplyCancel

  • YADIRA CALDERON - So impressed…
    what an empowering project…

I think one of the greatest gifts of digital photography is also one of my biggest failings with the medium and that is home printing of images. When I learned photography in the day of film, I would get prints when my rolls were processed. As I got more into digital photography, I had a habit of ordering prints from online labs. Somewhere along the way, my balance went from printing about half the photographs I posted online to printing none. In fact, the walls in my home clearly illustrate when I last put any effort into creating beautiful art prints from my own photography. Clearly, it all peaked when Gemma was around four years old and the twins were babies. I know I am not alone in this dilemma. It seems that the easier it is to share our images online, the less likely we are to make prints.

Last year we updated our nine year old home printer, but it was not a fine art photography printer. As I finally invested the time to make the front room of my home into a photography studio, I began to print a few favourite images to hang with thumb tacks in between the kids’ best art work. That just reinforced my desire to get more of my own work on the walls. This winter, I have been given the Epson SureColor SC-P600 to produce fine art photographic prints in my own home studio from my daily life as art imagery. And what a difference a fine art photographic printer makes! Here is a little peek into my studio working with the Epson SureColor SC-P600.

You can find the Epson SureColor SC-P600 in select photography stores as well as online through Epson’s store. When you purchase and register your printer, you get a $50 Shop Online Voucher * that can be used to purchase genuine Epson inks and papers. The SC-P600 has additional software that works as a plug-in for the Adobe image editing software that I have used for years making printing at home a seamless integration into my existing workflow.

The Epson SureColor SC-P600 makes A3+ sized gallery quality prints. I have yet to set it up to take roll paper, but am absolutely blown away by the paper choices available in A4 and A3 sheets. The rendition of colours and tone produced by Epson UltraChrome HD pigment ink combined with Epson’s innovative MicroPiezo print heads is so smooth resulting in prints worthy of exhibition and even sales. Not only am I going to finally fill my walls with the art I so love to create with my photography, I am going to be stocking my very own little Etsy store with prints made in my home on the Epson SureColor SC-P600 using genuine Epson ink and my favourite Epson Signature Worthy paper. This printer has changed my professional game in a wonderful way! I even have a few fine art photography to give away to readers! Just tell me what you would love about being able to print gallery quality images in your home with an Epson SureColor SC-P600 and you could win one of three underwater images printed and signed by me!

*This deal changes from time to time depending on the promotion offered.

Review brought to you by Epson and Nuffnang

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