Lee Furlong is a busy woman—juggling family life with her two kids, Will, 4 and Matilda, 2 and cricketer husband Shane Watson, along with Let’s Activate, the children’s sports program she founded with Shane. Amongst all this she has somehow managed to find time to write a children’s book. Titled Nothing Happens Outside on Tuesday, the book focuses on the importance of physical activity and spending time with family enjoying the great outdoors. Here Lee chats to me about writing a book, how she encourages her kids to stay active and what’s in store for 2018.
Tell me all about your new book, Nothing Happens Outside on Tuesday.
Golden Circle approached me not long after I launched [children’s sports program] Let’s Activate. At the start of the year they mentioned they wanted to create a colourful children’s book but with a really strong message about the importance of physical activity and creating beautiful family moments outside. Right away I knew that there was also some synergy between Golden Circle and Let’s Activate.
What’s involved when you put together a children’s book?
Well, it’s quite a long process. Usually it would take a good six months to put a colourful children’s book together like this, but we’ve had really tight deadlines. So, myself and the book’s illustrator Heath McKenzie, who is definitely the best in the business at this sort of thing, just had lots of chats here and there. It was just spending a lot of time together, going back and forth. We got along so well right from the start, so it was really nice.
What makes you so passionate about children being active?
I can only speak from personal experience that my kids Will and Matilda are such happy children when they’re outside doing things and being active. That’s the main reason we started Let’s Activate. We wanted to create a programme specialising in all different sports and trying to give parents other options of what they can do, not only at our clinics, but while they’re at home. There’s a whole bunch of activities online on our website that give parents tips along the way of how they can be fit and healthy. It’s fine to have a balance of screen time and TVs and getting out there. I don’t think you’re ever too young to start sport.
What were you like as a child?
Yes! I didn’t stop. [I have] all these childhood memories of playing with my brother in the backyard. We had a trampoline, a Slip and Slide— that was always good fun with the detergent— and running amok in the backyard. I always played sports, tennis and swimming. I think the only instruction I had was when Mum and Dad were like “Come inside. It’s dinnertime.”
How do you limit screen time with your kids?
Yeah, it’s a constant challenge. They can watch their favourite show each day, and it’s a great time to unwind. I think they’re happiest when they are out in the fresh air and the outdoors. What I find really easy is just going to a park or going to the beach and letting them discover nature and doing what they want and interacting with other children. For me, time goes so quickly. We always have a really fun time. When I’m stuck at home on a rainy day, that’s a tedious time. You’re sort of clock-watching, waiting for it all to roll by. For us, it’s all about discovering. For me, it’s rewarding seeing the world through their eyes.
What is happening with Let’s Activate?
Well we’ve just launched sports-themed birthday parties. Kids pretty much being active from the start to the end. We’re absolutely loving what we’re doing, and we’re finding kids are spending less time sitting around the lolly table.
How do you juggle this all?
I have dedicated time. Family time and work time. It’s not up until recently that I realised don’t mix the two together. When I’m with the kids trying to send emails, it never works.
Where do you see yourself and Let’s Activate in five years time?
Hopefully, in every school. As long as the kids are happy, and they’re learning all sorts of skills from a young age. We start at 20 months. It’s amazing how many children that we see from 20 months to six years, that may have very little experience throwing a ball, catching, kicking, all sorts of things.
What are your go-tos for being a stylish mum?
Day-to-day, it’s just jeans and a t-shirt and runners for me. If I’m with the kids it’s a black t-shirt and jeans, because usually I’m covered in dirt and the kids’ breakfast by the afternoon. I wear a lot of black. That’s really relaxed sort of style. And a lot of active wear.
What are your plans for Christmas?
So many years we spent Christmas with the [cricket] training team in Melvin, getting ready for the Boxing Day test, and that was the big focus. As much as everyone wanted to relax and enjoy Christmas, but the players were always thinking about the next day. Will and Matilda are four and two and it’s all about the kids. We spend the morning at the beach having a little swim and having a nice little barbecue with our families.
Do you think either of your kids will follow in Shane’s footsteps?
They love playing sports. They absolutely do. Will hasn’t picked up a cricket bat. We haven’t encouraged that, besides what he does in Let’s Activate. We cover all sports, and he loves it there. He plays a fair bit of softball. Matilda and Will and Shane and I will play soccer in the backyard, all sorts of things. Look, whatever they want to get into that’d be awesome. They both definitely love their sport. That’s as far as it goes at the moment.
What’s been the biggest highlight of this year?
The biggest highlight is writing this book with Heath McKenzie. And being asked to do it by Golden Circle. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, in particular, a children’s book. I know how special [reading] time is of a nighttime.
Do you have plans to write any more books?
Not at the moment, but I would love to do it in the coming years. Let’s Activate has kept me extremely busy, and being a mum, and trying to be there as much as I can, and enjoy this awesome time. Because in just over a year’s time, Will’s going to be at school. Followed by Matilda, so they’re the moments that I cherish because I’ll never be able to get them back.
What are your plans for 2018?
We’re spending a couple of months in Italy. Usually when we travel, it’s for work [this time] it’s going to be for fun. And really trying to nail that school space with Let’s Activate. And just having as many awesome family moments as we can, and spending as much time together.
We went to: Machiavelli
We drank: Aperol Spritz
We ate: Catch of the day marinated in lemon, olive oil and chilli dressing served with micro herbs and crostini; Mixed salad green served with seasonal vegetables and Balsamic vinaigrette