Monday, 15 October 2012

Am I really cut out for this job?

Do you ever have doubts about being strong enough to be a parent.

I have moments when I am overwhelmed by self doubt.

Doubts that I have the credentials to fulfil the job description.

Last night was one of them.

A heavy black velvet veil of anxiety draped itself around me good and proper.

Our family had only 2 days before shown the signs of recovery from the WORST gastro ever to take it's grip on our family.

I went out on Saturday night with some of my gorgeous blogging pals that were in town for a conference.

It was so good to get out.

We laughed HARD all night.

The best medicine of all.

I thought things were on the up.

All the hard stuff had gone out of my head.

Then last night our 12y.o's lips blew up- he was clearly having an allergic reaction to something.
My tummy felt like it had fallen to the floor.  I just felt paralysed with anxiety.

My head was shouting at me-

"You are not strong enough to cope with this.

Do I go to the hospital?

Do I wait & see what happens?

Do I ring the Ambulance or will they think I am stupid?

WHAT DO I DO?????"

Lucky for me my rational Husband comes to the rescue at this point.

We called Nurse on Call and the Nurse put us straight through to a Doctor.  He told me I had done exactly the right thing (I had given him an antihistamine as soon as I saw his lip) and now we talked about a plan.

I felt better.  Despite hating plans to do with my personal life- this sort of plan was my friend.

But I still had this feeling of panic- a sort of "Oh my god I have FIVE children and I am NOT any good at this parenting thing. I really am not."

Yeah that.

Then I take a breath and think of some advice a gorgeous friend gave me a few weeks back when I was talking to her of being consumed by self doubt.

She said the key is accepting that some level of self doubt is normal.  Is human nature.  But that to carry on we need to accept that and move ahead by letting ourselves believe we CAN do it.

I'm trying in amongst my sleep deprived, barely recovered state to hang on to this advice.

To say it over and over.

This morning we have seen a Doctor as his lip was still way too swollen to feel at ease.

Looks like we are going down the Allergy testing route.

But somehow I felt better.  I feel like we have support.  Like people are looking after us.

But I feel a little scared.  And a whole lot fragile. That little voice is in my head making me feel anxious. If anxious is the new black I am so in fashion right now.

We might have to wait SIX months - SIX MONTHS I mean really??!!!- for an appointment with the specialist and there may well be another allergic reaction in that time.

The key for me is to know to ask for help.

Don't try and be brave.

People DO want to help.

And there is nothing cowardly about asking for it.

And NOTHING cowardly at all about ringing an Ambulance.

Are you full of self doubt?

DO you find asking for help easy?

I first found out about this dish from my ace Sister in Law who has Chinese heritage-( she's related to the super doop Sydney chef Kylie Kwong don't ya know?!! (gotta drop that in don't I- cause it's super ace!))
Anyway she taught me about this dish after eating it from street stalls when she was living in Wuhan.
It is an intensely aromatic dish yet ever so simple.
The flavours are not what most of us would first think of as Chinese- but they are very authentic. Most of our views of what constitutes Chinese cuisine are limited.
Like many National cuisines, Chinese cuisine has incredible variety from province to province.
Xinjiang is one of the far northern provinces- bordering Mongolia.  Lamb- which is not seen in a lot of the other Chinese region's cuisine- is common here.
I went out with some ace friends and had this dish- I was reminded of it's simple glory & wanted to share it with you all. 
I hope you give it a try & LOVE it!

  • 1/2kg finely sliced Lamb (I deboned a leg of lamb and sliced the meat from that- get your butcher to do it for you & reserve half the meat to make something else)
  • 1 onion
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 3 tablespoons WHOLE cumin seeds 
  • 2 teaspoons Sichuan peppercorns
  • 10 whole dried chillies (optional for the chilli lovers)
  • 1 tablespoon Soy sauce
  • generous pinch of salt
  • 1 tblspn Rice bran oil (this is a high heat tolerant oil)
To get the BEST flavour from your spices you need to dry roast them. You will NOT believe the difference this makes to the overall finished dish. 
Heat a heavy based (cast iron pots are perfect) pan to a low/medium heat.

Pop in the Cumin seeds and the Sichuan peppercorns into the pan & roast until the seeds are starting to brown slightly and are giving off a gorgeous aroma. 

Remove from the pan and put into a Mortar & Pestle.

Grind till there is some powder but still some whole seeds. Drink in that perfume!

Dice the onion into wedges.

Place the finely sliced Lamb into a large bowl.  

Add the spice mix, the crushed garlic and the soy sauce and mix very well with your hands.  

It is preferable to let this marinade for a few hours but will still be delicious if you cook straight away.

Now you need to heat your wok to smoking- the heat of the wok is super important. 

Add the oil carefully and let it heat or about 20 seconds. 

Add a small handful of Lamb at a time. 

Let it sit in your wok for a minute WITHOUT stirring or touching AT ALL.

I know you want to!  I can see you reaching for your spoon!


By leaving the lamb you achieve this lovely crunchy exterior to the meat while leaving the meat tender.  It is the secret to this dish.

Once it has cooked for a minute you can now stir.  Once the Lamb is cooked remove form the pan and set aside.

Continue in small batches allowing the wok to come back to full heat in between batches.

When you have done all the lamb and it is sitting aside you can now add the onion wedges and stir fry till brown on edges and soft.  

Add chillies now if you are including them.

Now add the Lamb back to the wok and stir through to combine all ingredients well.

NB. This dish can be done on a BBQ plate if you have a solid plate and allow it to come to a VERY high heat.

Serve with Jasmine Rice.


  1. All three of my girls have allergies. Call me uf you need a chat about anything. xx

  2. My 6 words "You are doing such a great job."

    ....onto food - Serendipity. I remember driving to a favourite XinJiang restaurant in Beijing (in my Toyota Crown) to eat this very dish, listening to a compilation CD made you, playing this Iron and Wine song.

  3. Oh Ruth I am consumed with parenting self-doubt. CONSUMED. Maybe, most of us are? It's just so hard, to give ourselves a break. I have a feeling you are doing the VERY best you can do, and that's enough!

    And now I want to consume your lamb. YUM.

    XXXX So, so great to catch up with you on Saturday night. I will never forget your funky car table.

  4. You are the best mama I know - truly! xxx

  5. I think most parents would have periods of self-doubt, I know I certainly do. And you have 5. I have 3 and that nearly does my head in. And thank you for that recipe too - I am definitely going to try it. I could not BELIEVE how yummy that was on Saturday night! xx

  6. Here I was thinking that you guys have this whole parenting thing figured out (and ready to give me all the how to advice I may need soon), I"m glad that the thought of being a first time Mama to twins and all the wonderful but also challenging times ahead can leave me being a little overwhelmed, but I know I'll be in good company!

  7. You are such a wonderful mum. I feel proud to know you, Ruthie, and share in your family via your blog. xx

  8. A massive hug from across the seas. Ignore the gremlins, you are amazing!! xxx

  9. Hello Ruth. I know just from your blog you are doing an amazing job. I think raising 5 children is incredible...I have 2 and find it hard work at times. Anxiety is part of my world too, sometimes I find it more manageable than others.

    Yummy food and cool tunes as always :)

  10. You are AMAZING! Man, I can't believe I am telling YOU that! You rock, you are the type of Mum that I WANT TO BE! *tears welling* :)

  11. the only parents not experiencing self-doubt are delusion ones. it's healthy in a weird uncomfortable way. have a lovely week :)sarah

  12. I too believe you are a great parent, a sick child just brings you to your knees... and thank you for sharing your doubts... and your recipes.

  13. I think when something means SO much to us, and we want to do it well with every part of ourselves, when something goes wrong it's very natural to doubt ourselves. I know that I do.

    I TOTALLY identify with this post & I felt so much empathy when I read it. You are a wonderful mum Ruth, & stuff like this is SO hard to deal with!! I hope that your son is okay now and your are all feeling better. There is nothing worse that a real scare when it comes to our kids.

    Have a lovely week.

  14. Of course your amazing...they don't give boys to just anyone you know! of course we all have self doubt....we want to get it so damn right that we think we are failing if we have to ask for help or when something terrifying happens....i hope your wonderful, cared for, well fed and adored boy is feeling better....oh thats right - thats what you do for him! you love him, you provide for him, god damn it if he isn't the best fed kid on the planet and of course you will panic when he is threatened....thats the sign of an amazing parent! your like a parenting goddess to so many of us out here in blog land...brave enough to share the good bits and the bad bits...leading the way in growing gorgeous boys who know an artichoke from asparagus and who know what love kind to yourself like you would your own child deserve it xoxoxo

  15. I think self doubt is a wonderful form of humility. If we just barge through life with blinkered confidence we can make mistakes, miss beautiful detours or make decisions for our families that may not be for the best. I struggle with the dual role of being a mum, career person and a wannabe party animal, and I hope that this internal struggle helps me to find the balance between living a rich life and giving my girls the very best parenting I can, also showing them that parents are people too.

    I hope your big-little one recovers and you find it was nothing, I'd be at the hospital after every tumble if my bloke wasn't so sensible! I love reading your thoughts, knowing that other people mirror my worries makes me feel a little less insane ;)

  16. Oh dear, what a run you've had, it's no wonder you are feeling a bit wobbly!! Who wouldn't?
    Nothing more stressful than sick children, it's just so hard. And no one is better at giving oneself a hard time than us Mama's. As all the previous comments here attest, you are an AMAZING Mama! Truly, as I have said before, you are an inspiration.

    I am not great at asking for help, and tend to be ah-sure-everythings-grand until I collapse. Thank god for my man, he is my voice of reason always just when I need it.

    Sending hugs to you, dear one. Just take a little read back through your own blog here, and try and see it with our eyes, because sometimes it is impossible to see just how wonderful we are. And you are. xxxx

  17. When you are starting out as a parent you wonder if you will ever know as much about parenting as your friends or your parents as they always seem so in control. I know I always felt quite inadequate when my daughter was a baby but I can't help myself and would talk to my girlfriends about what ever was bothering me, thinking at least I had it off my chest even though I didn't think they could help as they seemed to be so in control! What a relief it was and still is to know they all had the same problems but didn't talk to me about them. There is something about mother's that makes them think they need to always know what to do and what is best for their child, unfortunately we're not wonder woman or super girl or both rolled into one. How can we know what's best all the time but as long as we have people like all of you on this site and our girlfriends we can talk to we will get through it and be able to smile on the other side. Hope you all have a wonderful day xxx

  18. I hear you! I have tried to reply to your post many times but I keep being interrupted. Parenting is hard. I feel overwhelmed mst days. I am sure you are doing a very good job. Illness is horrible and brings sleep deprivation...... I hope they figure out what was wrong with your little fellas lip. You feel so helpless and panicky in those situations. I'm glad you had some support and the foresight for antihistamine! And don't forget, at least you feed yours well! X Sarah


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