Friday, 26 September 2014

They would trade places with you

Coming to the end of Week 4 of being more mindful, and we've had a crisis of sorts in our house this week.

My Mr Almost-3 came down with his first ever tummy bug after crèche on Monday, and has been unwell ever since. It is now Friday and I am hoping with every fibre of my being that he is well enough to travel to Fiji on Sunday for our week-long family holiday. Furthermore, I'm hoping my hospital-grade, won't-stop-cleaning level of hygiene will keep the rest of us healthy. We have been looking forward to this trip for over a year, and now I can feel the tropical bliss I imagined slipping through my fingers as I nurse my sick little boy and wonder which one of us might be next.

This week is the perfect week to exercise some perspective, to be as mindful as possible and to stay positive.

I've been playing a little game with myself to try and minimise the complaining (mine) and cursing (definitely mine), and to stay positive. It's called 'They would trade places with you', and it goes like this...

When I'm cursing the fact we're on day 5 of what should have been a mild tummy bug over in 24hrs (according to me), I think:
They would trade places with you. Those parents in the oncology wards, praying for a miracle but unsure when their child's hardship will be over and they'll be out the other side; those parents would have no trouble nursing a child whose sickness will be over in a matter of days. They would trade places with you. Those brand new parents in the ICU watching their helpless baby struggle for life; those parents would love to be cleaning up after a thriving toddler that's only come down with a stock-standard tummy bug. They would trade places with you.

When I'm begrudgingly bundling my tenth load of washing for the day into the machine, I think:
They would trade places with you. All those people without homes, who are living in clothes that don't know when they'll next be washed; they would love to have a hot shower and a washing machine to clean away their day. They would trade places with you. Those mums that can barely afford to feed their children let alone run a washing machine 24/7 to keep their child's clothes clean. They would trade places with you.

When I'm worrying about what might happen if one or all of us aren't feeling 100% on the flight to Fiji, I think: Yes, poor you. Worrying about your flight to Fiji. Millions would happily trade places with you and go on that flight to paradise. There are FAR worse things to be worried about.

Thank you brain. Very true.

Like everything in life, there are always lessons to be learnt and silver linings to be seen. I've learnt that I'm not as squeamish as I thought, and seeing my little one so unwell is far harder to deal with than the clean-up. I've learnt that my two babies are far more resilient than I thought - my littlest one has been so good keeping herself entertained while I've been looking after her big brother, and my wee man has been a real trooper and still managing to smile when I know he's feeling crappy.

And so, mums out there... if you find yourself complaining or cursing this week about your toddler who is running around and just isn't doing what they're told, or is asking for another bowl of cereal, or is animatedly pestering you for a game of hide and seek... play my game, because right now, I would trade places with you.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Escaping the world

I've escaped.

Yesterday we packed up the car, put the kids in their car seats, and left the city for my parent's farm house. We're here for four glorious days.

As I type, I'm looking out the huge bay windows at trees laden with citrus fruits, with paddocks and paddocks of lush green grass spreading over the rolling hills as far as the eye can see. I can hear an orchestra of chirps from the flurries of birds dancing around the treetops. I've spotted the fluffy white tail of a little bunny hopping under the hedge (might be the same one my toddler said 'hello' to down the rabbit hole this morning). The smell of just-baked banana loaf fills the house, and will soon be sliced to go with our afternoon coffees.

It feels like a dream.

It is impossible to not feel refreshed and alive and at peace out here.

At this moment, I'm halfway through the process of learning Mindfulness in a bid to become less anxious and more relaxed in my life. If you've been following me for a while, you'll know that Mindfulness has provided some helpful tools that allow me to feel calmer and more focused. It is teaching me how to ignore some of the negative and meaningless chatter in my head and how to enjoy the present moment instead of always worrying about the future.

But, I just can't shake this feeling that it's a little flawed; that it's actually not the ultimate fix I was hoping it would be.

Because the place in which we find ourselves, and the people that surround us, and the circumstances in which we're living in, DO matter and DO affect us. Focusing on ourselves and adopting self-help remedies in the hope that we'll find peace can only be one piece of the puzzle. It does not change the fact that shitty things happen in our lives, that negative people can poison our thoughts or that we're sometimes living in a world that's too busy to be beautiful.

Being out here in the open countryside for a day, with the fresh air and vibrant colours and lack of traffic noise, seems to have done more for my soul than the last four weeks of Mindfulness combined. This change in scenery, this escape to another place is what I needed at this point. We eat better here and we sleep better here too, which I'm sure contributes to the overall feeling of health and vitality.

I've come to realise that what I actually need and want is to learn acceptance. Acceptance of myself, acceptance from others and acceptance of this life. I want to be at peace with things the way they are, accepting of whatever is to come and accepting of this [often ugly] world we live in.

I obviously still have a lot to learn.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

The 100th

Somehow, my jumbled ramblings, my whimsical thoughts, my bitsy little pieces of advice and my poems about life, have amounted to 100. This is my 100th Latte Mum post.

From the start, Latte Mum has been followed by friends and family who either love me dearly or have been coerced into reading it. New friends have joined along the way - mums I've met or friends of friends or others that have somehow stumbled upon us.

Your positive comments and interest and support has been an unexpected bonus, to what started out and continues to be an avenue in which I can indulge in my first ever love - words.

Thank you for following. Thank you for showing an interest (even when you're pretending) and spurring me on to write yet another post. Here's to 100 more... x

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Before the last time

It's Week 4 of living more mindfully, and I have writers block.

Thankfully though, I saw these words on Belle Bebes. Given this beautiful poem just sums up my life right now I thought I'd share this with you instead of my usual post, as a reminder to live and love through every moment...

The Last Time

From the moment you hold your baby in your arms,
you will never be the same.
You might long for the person you were before,
when you had freedom and time,
and nothing in particular to worry about.
You will know tiredness like you never knew it before,
and days will run into days that are exactly the same,
Full of feedings and burping,
Nappy changes and crying,
Whining and fighting,
Naps or a lack of naps,
It might seem like a never-ending cycle.

But don't forget...
There is a last time for everything.
There will come a time when you will feed your baby
for the very last time.
They will fall asleep on you after a long day,
and it will be the last time you ever hold your sleeping child.
One day you will carry them on your hip,
then set them down,
and never pick them up that way again.
You will scrub their hair in the bath one night,
and from that day on they will want to bathe alone.
They will hold your hand to cross the road,
then never reach for it again.
They will creep into your room at midnight for cuddles,
and it will be the last night you ever wake to this.
One afternoon you will sing "the wheels on the bus"
and do all the actions,
then never sing them that song again.
They will kiss you goodbye at the school gate,
the next day they will ask to walk to the gate alone.
You will read a final bedtime story
and wipe your last dirty face.
They will one day run to you with arms raised,
for the very last time.

The thing is, you won't even know it's the last time
until there are no more times, and even then,
it will take you a while to realise.

So while you are living in these times,
remember there are only so many of them and
when they are gone,
you will yearn for just one more day of them.

For one last time.

Author Unknown

Friday, 29 August 2014

Stillness (the end of week 3)

You will have figured out by now that the beautiful world I live in is often bubbling with chaos, stress, noise, mess and heart palpitations.

It often comes from all angles; overwhelming the senses. It's the constant chatter and crying and questions and screaming and laughter out of the mouths of babes. It's the orchestra of thoughts that swim around in my head - from what I'm going to make the kids for dinner through to what I'm going to do with my life. It's the toys in every primary colour and primary-colour-combination imaginable, scattered around the floor, under cushions, beneath my feet. It's the torrential rain and wind howling past the windows in an obvious taunt: 'You won't be going outside today.' It's the external pressures, the internal expectations and the impossible desire for everything to be perfect and just so.

It's waking up angry and exhausted for no reason other than I've been working 14-hour days, for 3 years, without a day off. It's getting frustrated with myself for being angry about being exhausted, when this is the life I want to live and it's a long way to go till they're 18 anyway.

I've written before about how my perception and expectations surrounding time has changed since having children, but it doesn't change the fact that I want more quality time to myself. I read this hilarious blog the other day, by a mum arguing that labelling mundane activities that you were going to do anyway as "me" time does not mean you've actually had any quality time to yourself. For example, having a shower without an audience should be a daily expectation rather than your "me" time for the year. If only!

When I was forcing myself to do the meditations last night - with the usual background sounds of pots clanging in the soapy sink downstairs, and traffic zooming past outside, and the occasional snore from the baby monitor - there was one phrase that the man-with-the-wise-voice uttered that really resonated.

The deep stillness we seek, does not arise because the world is still or the mind is quiet. Stillness is nourished when we allow things to be just as they are for now, in this moment, moment by moment, and breath by breath.

I drunk those words in like I'd never heard them before.

Breathe. Let things be just as they are, in this moment.

In this moment, I am the happiest I have ever been in my life. The people I love most in the world are safe inside this home of ours. We are healthy. We all laugh and wrestle and listen to each other.

I am breathing. I am here. And there is so much more to come.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Sunny skies (still on Week 3)

I've been doing my own form of meditation this week.

There's two variations. One involves standing on the beach and watching the waves roll in, and pointing out flocks of seagulls to the kids, and spotting Hairy Maclary-style dogs lolloping along, and squinting at the horizon to look out for any jumping fish.

The other involves a rhythmic dance at the park, consisting firstly of pushing two little cherubs in side-by-side swings, and then catching them as they zoom down the slippery slide.

OK, so it's not quite the meditations I'm supposed to be doing as part of my Mindfulness Week 3 routine, but I've found it very hard to make time for these when the sun is shining, the ocean's glistening, and the jasmine is blossoming. Spring is in the air.

Feeling better, feeling refreshed, feeling rejuvenated is intoxicating. I don't feel as though I need Mindfulness as much anymore, but I've made a commitment to learn all of the meditation techniques as per the book, and know that I need to continue if I truly want to change the way I'm thinking about life for the better. So, I've decided to do the Week 3 meditations again for another week, and do them properly this time.

Can I also just say, I have LOVED hearing from you all out there via Facebook, email and the Mouths of Mums posts I've been doing on this topic. The mums that feel the same as I do and aren't sure where to turn next, the ladies that have been where I am and have already used Mindfulness and other techniques to make a real difference in their lives, the new friends that have decided to read the book too and join me on this journey - I am amazed and so grateful to you for sharing your stories with me.

Your positive energy makes a difference.



Sunday, 24 August 2014

A new reality (the start of Week 3)

I'm loving life with my teeny tiny 'to do' list. Before I felt I was always under-achieving because I couldn't get through half of my daily tasks let alone all of them. And now? Well, everything I do above and beyond keeping the kids happy is a bonus, a gold star, a big fat cherry on the top, and I feel like I'm finally on top of things.

As well as my realisation about the redundant list, I've also realised my concept of time is different. Specifically, the rhythm of my day and my week has completely changed. This has been an extremely important lightbulb moment. Let me explain why...

I started this journey because I was struggling with feelings of anxiety, but truth be told, I was also feeling overwhelmed at times and joyless just trying to keep everybody's lives ticking along. I could never quite put my finger on why I would sometimes feel like this, because I really do love being a mum. I love my little family to absolute bits and pieces.

This week, I found a possible answer.

Before I had children, I could and expected to recharge my batteries every day at lunchtime and in the evenings - at the very least. On the days I had to work through my lunchtime (and there were many, many, many times I did this) I felt drained, undervalued and utterly fed up with the daily grind. On the days I had to work into the evenings (and there were many, many, many times I did this) I felt exhausted and overwhelmed because it was never ending.

Now, this is my norm. I eat lunch at whatever time I can grab it, and am hardly ever sitting down let alone relaxing in the middle of the day. My evenings are the busiest time of day, without question. The only time I get a break is when I'm kneeling next to the bath and washing the kids. No wonder I'm sometimes feeling fed up with the daily grind by lunch and utterly exhausted by evening.

What I was failing to do however, was recognise when I did have time in the day to recharge, and taking that time to do just that. Early-afternoon is one such time - it's rare we have any activities planned, and the kids are usually in good spirits and content to play on their own for a little bit. I've realised this is the ideal time to prepare for the evening onslaught. This week I've been using this time to pre-prepare for dinner so I'm not having to chop veges while comforting an over-tired baby. Or I've been reading the paper, or sitting down with a coffee and watching a mini-concert performed by my little rockstar, or flicking through an interiors magazine. Monday mornings (my old arch-enemy) is another such time, as my little boy is at crèche so I can get everything ready for the week ahead in peace or get some study done or simply have some special bonding time with my little one.

There's no doubt that the routine of my days and weeks has completely changed, but without even realising it I was completely overlooking the (albeit small) time in the day that I can actually refuel. So now I've let go of any expectations I once had about lunchtimes and evenings, and am instead looking to the times and the days where I know I'll be able to breathe a little easier, and appreciating these times more.

Importantly, there's very little about my routine that's to do with me anymore. Now, my rhythm is drumming to their tune, and I wouldn't have it any other way. But, and there's always a but... it's great to realise there's still time for sanity!

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Less to do, more to see (the end of Week 2)

Before I start, I just want to say one thing.

I saw this in the paper last week, about a cult-like movement towards enlightenment and self improvement that has hit NZ shores. It seems to be a little bit of scientology and a little bit of a pyramid scheme and a lot about word of mouth and spreading the "Avatar" message.

If you saw the same article and are wondering if this is related to my journey in any way, let me tell you it is not.

This dodgy Avatar crap is NOT Mindfulness nor does it have any relationship to anything I've been talking about in my last few posts. As I've said previously, "Mindfulness is based on mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) which was co-developed by Professor Mark Williams of Oxford University. MBCT is recommended by the UK's National Institute for Health & Clinical Excellence, and has been clinically proven to be as effective as drugs for preventing depression." Mindfulness is based on science, and research, and clinical studies - which matters a lot to me because it means this can genuinely work and isn't a sham. I'm not sharing my journey because I've been brainwashed (!!).

I simply want to write all of this down for myself, and for anyone else out there that can relate to what I'm saying and is inspired to find some balance too.

So, I'm now at the end of my second Mindfulness week. I'm really looking forward to moving on to the new set of meditations tomorrow as I've been finding this "body scan" one quite challenging. I get the point of it (tuning into your body, listening to it and treating it more kindly), but by the 10 minute mark I just completely zone out / fall asleep / think about something else / hope the next 4 minutes goes really fast! I'm also supposed to be doing this meditation twice a day, but this is completely impractical with the two little ones, so perhaps I need to keep practising this meditation along with the new one in the coming week. I'm trying to stay open minded and not beat myself up if I'm not doing it all by the book - I wouldn't expect to turn into a professional athlete after 2 weeks at the gym, so can't expect my mind to be completely zen after the same level of workout!

One truly positive development this past week is my 'to do' list has shrunk, dramatically. Initially I thought this was because the meditations had magically made me way more productive, enabling me to get more done. Instead, I realised I just hadn't added that much to my 'to do' list in the first place this week, which - funnily enough - was enabling me to get more done.

Anyone who knows me well, knows I have a special relationship with my 'to do' list. It has just taken me almost 3 years to realise this relationship is no longer working for me; it has less relevance to me as a mum than it did beforehand. Even though I haven't read anything (yet) about Mindfulness and 'to do' lists, I suspect if they ever did meet they wouldn't have a good relationship either. While Mindfulness is all about calm, presence and enjoying the current moment, 'to do' lists are about future stress, workload and always thinking ahead.

I'm a "list" kind of person though. Traditionally, if it was on my 'to do' list it was guaranteed to get done. Of course I assumed this would transfer to mummyhood, and I don't know why it has taken me this long to realise how ridiculous that is. I am at the mercy of two barely-speaking, fairly-irrational, extremely-cute, highly-adventurous, on-their-own-agenda individuals. But, up until this past week, I had put everything on my silly daily list. Chores such as vacuuming or sweeping up leaves, enjoyable pastimes such as reading more of my book or writing this blog, reminders related to my wellbeing such as back exercises or Mindfulness meditations - it was all there, on that one gigantic list. Interestingly, the one job that I actually do each day without fail, never made it on the list - KEEP MY CHILDREN FED, THRIVING, HAPPY, DRY & ALIVE!

In my life pre-kids in a PR agency, a favourite saying in the midst of some crisis was "PR not ER". It was a saying that was supposed to give us some perspective and reassure us; this isn't life or death. Well now I am actually in charge of two little lives, and there can be extreme consequences if I drop the ball in this job. There is more at stake here, which is why I think I'm more anxious than ever.

But as far as 'to do' lists go, if I achieve nothing else in my day but keeping the kidlets alive and happy, then I am a success. To be honest, I have very little time to do anything but this anyway. It's no wonder then that my old 'to do' list (filled with tasks that don't actually matter at the end of the day) was making me feel overwhelmed when I looked at it in the morning and like a failure when I saw how much I didn't do by night time. Why do I need to add "vacuuming" to my list when the crumbs I can see on the floor remind me to do this anyway? Why add "write blog" to my list when all it does is make it a chore instead of the passion it is? Old habits die hard and I still have a little list, but it now consists of important tasks with a specific deadline that I mustn't forget, like "pay the electricity bill".

Everything else can be done when it gets done, enjoyed when it happens or be saved for another day.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

More changing perspectives in Week 2...

This has been another topsy turvy week in the world.

Driving horizontal rain and hail giving way to double rainbows. Unspeakable horrors happening to children on the other side of the globe. Cabin fever. Funny man Robin Williams passing on. "Mum mum mum" from baby girl's lips for the first time. Holiday booked. Colourful pictures galore. Plenty of rest.

I feel I've been writing a bit about how a change in perspective can instantaneously make the sun shine. This point has been proved to me time and time again this week.

During a particularly bad cabin fever moment, with an antsy toddler and bored baby and torrential rain ruling out an afternoon walk, I decided I just had to switch things up. Usually I'd be content with puzzles, The Wiggles and playdough on a day like that, but the kids weren't having a bar of it. Thinking in a Mindfulness way, I threw some extra layers and gumboots on Mr 2 and set him up on the balcony undercover with his easel and paints. He had a ball out there making a messy masterpiece and dodging the occasional rain drop that flew his way. Little Miss had a prime viewing spot from the warmth inside, and happily watched Pint-casso at work. It bought me about 30 minutes of contented children and a minute to catch my breath. Success.

Later in the week I was feeling uninspired with the next steps on our home redecoration project, I know, first world problems. I've almost finished my Interior Design Diploma - which I've been enthusiastically studying in my "spare time" - and now I just really want to put the finishing touches into our house properly and thoughtfully. Except, I just couldn't see how all the pieces and ideas were going to fit. Tired of messing about with 2D floor plans and mood boards, I decided to roll up my sleeves and get on with it. So as soon as the kids were up from their naps, we did some rearranging. The littlest one had a front row seat to all the chaos, while my strapping young man helped push and pull the couch here and back there and then back over here again. The physical exertion of doing it all, the feeling of just getting on with it instead of thinking and imagining all the time, and the end result made the whole exercise thoroughly worth it. We all stood back after a short while and admired our new living space - not dramatically different - but it was a different perspective and a better arrangement. Suddenly, the colours and fabrics and ornaments that I had in mind for the room just worked, and I could suddenly see how it would all come together.

And even later in the week, my beautiful sister and I and our gaggle of kids visited the Museum on another rainy day. How fabulous are Museums and libraries and galleries?! So full of interesting, tangible items from the world. It was a welcome change of scenery, a different place to explore, a new place to eat lunch and too many nooks to poke our noses into in just one morning. We will go back again, many times I'm sure.

The daily meditations have been going well. I still find myself wishing them to hurry up - even though the meditation for Week 2 is only 15 minutes in length - but am trying to focus on the process rather than just passively sitting through them. For me, they are starting to provide a level of calm in my life that I'm welcoming with open arms.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Finding time (Week 2)

After finishing last week on a high, I feel I started this week on a low.

My Monday in particular was relentless. It was traffic, anxiety-to-the-max, grizzles, naughtiness, washing, headaches, too many dirty nappies, airborne toys, tears.

The biggest revelation this week is I'm in love with night time. Yes, I am a night owl through and through.

From about 7pm, a hush descends on our house that fills me with energy and peace. Our children are snuggled up in their beds, sighing deeply as they sleep, full of dreams and dinner and cuddles. I can finally clear away the books and toys that were missed by my son as he pottered around doing his evening clean-up (which usually eventuates in him finding something he was playing with earlier and simply resuming his game, making even more mess). At night time I can peel potatoes and carrots, and chop broccoli and onions, and boil water on the stove, and load the dishwasher - all chores I generally don't enjoy, but they suddenly seem to sparkle and seduce me because I can do these things now without questions or commentary or a little duo nipping at my heels threatening to pull that pot of boiling water from the stove if my back's turned.

Night time means I can sit with my husband and enjoy a hot meal from start to finish, and we can chat about the world and his work and some article from the paper that sparked my interest [when I finally got around to flicking through it at 4pm]. It's post-dinner that I also get the chance to do more meditation and write too, which is becoming a real highlight of my day.

The only catch is that I love this time to myself so much and the sudden surge of energy and productivity I get at this time of day, that I find it's often a real struggle to make myself go to bed at a reasonable hour. This is important because I don't function well if I'm really tired (does anyone?!).

One of the things that Mindfulness has taught me is perspective can change everything. Seems obvious enough, but honestly, when I was living my Monday I just couldn't seem to pull my head above the chaos to see anything beautiful in each moment. But after having 2 hours without the constant babble of little voices puncturing my thoughts, I can look back on the most stressful of days and see many, many, many gems. They were there, under the sea of commotion.

The week 2 Mindfulness meditation is amazing. Last week's was about focusing on the breath in order to focus your frantic mind. This week's is about using your breath to become aware of your body, which sounds weird to say, but having now done this "body scan" exercise I can hand-on-heart say I have been somewhat disconnected from my body. I have totally taken it for granted, like a trusty car that will just go and go and go without so much as a warning light. What I discovered during the 15 minute meditation is that the electrical buzz running through my limbs is stronger in some areas than others. Some of my joints are aching. My head hurts. My left hip feels out of place, probably because it usually has one or other of the kids propped upon it. Like I said before, I know I need sleep to function, but it seems I need much more than that because this bod is clearly in need of some maintenance.

Might be time to prioritise more sleep, less sugar and a bit of brisk pram walking. Just for this week at least.
 


Wednesday, 13 August 2014

The meaning of life (more from Week 1)

I'm at the end of my first week of Mindfulness already. I haven't done everything by the book, but I'm doing what I can and am definitely on my way to becoming a less anxious mum. I'm amazed by how much has changed already.

I don't about you, but I tend to over-think things. Way tooooo much sometimes. Unnecessarily so. Having children has been an incredible leveller for me actually, as their lives and needs are so straight forward and our days just had to become simpler. Practising Mindfulness this week has helped me see the world in a more matter-of-fact way - the past is gone, the future is unknown and all I have is this moment. Just deal with this moment, don't analyse anything else.

Last night was spent curled on the couch in front of the fire with a good glass of red, and our favourite TV show-of-the-moment. Another wonderfully perfect yet simple moment in my week. We were watching Ricky Gervais' latest creation, Derek. It features some of the quirky humour he's known for, but surprisingly some extremely insightful and poignant one liners from the characters within the rest home in which the show is set.

One of the characters in last night's show explained the meaning of life in a very matter-of-fact way that I wanted to share: "Don't waste energy questioning why you're here; the meaning of life is 'you're here, you're alive', now get on with it."

As someone who has pondered the meaning of life on many an occasion, this perfectly simple summary was an unexpected (and just so absolutely true) lightbulb moment and the perfect way to end Mindfulness Week 1.

Time to get on with it...

Monday, 11 August 2014

Day 5: Measuring the days

My days can either be measured by the clock or measured by what happened during each of the 86,400 seconds in it.

I'm only 5 days in on this journey but suddenly my days aren't as much about time and the ticking clock and how many checks I can put against my to do list and how there are never enough hours to get everything done.

My days have become clusters of moments. Moments that are wonderful, moments that are challenging, moments that are mundane. Moments that last for seconds and moments that last for hours. Moments that are being enjoyed and lived as they happen.

I'm not always thinking ahead or doing twenty activities at once. I'm getting to my non-essential chores as I have time instead of pressuring myself to do it all now, and by tackling each challenge as it unfolds I'm not constantly pre-empting or trying to be two steps ahead all the time.

I'm seeing opportunities and making moments happen. Today we had an impromptu picnic in the garden during a rare spell of winter sunshine. The kids loved it.

The day feels longer as I'm more aware and present to what's going on. By the end of the day - even the most uninteresting and boring of days - I'm feeling more fulfilled, as I can see that all of the hundreds or thousands of moments I enjoyed, collectively make for a beautiful day. It was another day on this planet, another day with my family, another day of inhaling and exhaling.

I go to bed not worrying as much about when this will all end, but savouring the moment - right now, I am warm and safe and alive in my bed, and I'm going to get a good night's rest (hopefully).

Some of you might think this is all really obvious, but I can assure you this is a revolutionary way to think for me. Importantly, it's not just about knowing this is the best way to think about things, but actually getting my mind and soul to do it.

These very simple Mindfulness meditations certainly seem to be working. Anyone else keen to give it a crack yet?

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Day 4: Sharing is caring

Thanks for all the lovely messages of support thus far. It's amazing how many of you can relate to what I've been talking about.

My decision to share all of this via Latte Mum wasn't taken lightly, but I felt I had uncovered such a big secret in Mindfulness; something that could help us all to become more centred, more present and more excited about life. How could I not share?!

I feel that too often our Facebook pages and blogs and Twitter feeds are flooded with all the amazing holidays / shoes / people / pay rises / angelic cherubs in our life, and we seem too afraid to share the real-life juicy bits too. Well, I'm not ashamed or afraid to say I am not a 2D person living in a virtual world, and that I have struggles and issues like the rest of us. I stress about life too much sometimes, I worry too much about what other people think, I get anxious about getting anxious for no apparent reason. But this is one element of me that makes me who I am, and gives me colour and texture and personality.

I live in a beautiful world, in a beautiful life, with the most amazing people in it. Every day I get to show my children things they've never seen before, and eat lunch with them at their little dining table, and watch their faces light up when I pull out forgotten toys from the depths of the toy basket. Every night I vacuum up the crumbs leftover from all our meals and snacks, and I wipe away all the sticky finger prints, and I tuck two squeaky clean poppets into their beds and kiss them goodnight. I have a husband who loves me, a family that supports me and a roof over my head. I am incredibly, incredibly lucky.

But sometimes, the long-gone sadness of past times or the future worries about things that will probably never happen will creep into my mind. Sometimes the list of chores and tasks and activities I think I need to do will overwhelm me. Sometimes I feel I have no time to breathe or just be. Sometimes it feels like the sometimes have become all-the-times. I'm not afraid to admit it.

Mums are expected to "do it all" - whatever that means. We have to get on with nurturing our little ones, and caring for our families, and working to provide more than is necessary, because we want to and because we just have to. I don't think there's any shame in asking for more help, support and love before we all hit absolute burn-out. I'm thankful I at least have the self-awareness to make some changes now so that I can be the best version of myself.

Day 4 of my Mindfulness meditation is still a challenge. Far from being more focused and concentrated on the present moment, my mind is abuzz with new ideas and future projects and exciting times ahead. At least it's all positive thoughts! If nothing else, this journey is giving me a damn good reason to get writing and sharing with you all, which I'm so happy about.



Saturday, 9 August 2014

Day 3: Some realisations

I'm finding it easier to make the time for the two rounds of 8 minute meditations. If nothing else, it's 8 minutes of quiet in a room by myself and I'm feeling good about doing this for myself. I'm only 3 days in but I'm hopeful it will all start to click soon.

I tried to deliberately approach my day in a Mindfulness way today, and had a few realisations along the way:

ONE: I decided to do the "raisin exercise" on my children today, not as in eat them (although they are very delicious) but as in focus on them each intently for at least 10 minutes. I soon realised I already do this thousands of times, on an hourly basis. I know every hair on their head, how the differing shades of blue cascade in each iris and the cheeky chuckle of one versus the infectious giggle of the other. They are both such perfect little people.

TWO: I think it's normal to feel frustrated/anxious/annoyed when certain situations occur. For example, I was getting ready to bundle the kids in the car for our morning outing (after a good 45 minutes of brushing teeth, putting on clean nappies, combing hair, finding shoes, filling drink bottles, grabbing jumpers - it always takes longer than I think), only to realise my car keys are not in my bag and nowhere to be found.
This is not a situation I have encountered before, truly. I have a nappy bag that just about has a colour coded filing system and definitely has a clasp which I use to clip my keys to, to avoid this very scenario. Clearly I am letting my standards slip because the last time I remember seeing them was in my toddler's chubby grasp yesterday after I let him lock the car.
I feel the anxiety rising and gripping me round my ribcage. Mr Key-Stealer pretends he doesn't know what I'm talking about but is happy to help me look for them, then spends the next 15 minutes exclaiming "here they are!" only to produce a teddy bear, or toy phone, or piece of lego and not mummy's car keys. I give up as soon as I remember I have a spare car key upstairs - I can find my proper set later.
As I'm pulling out of the garage I think 'Mindfulness, Mindfulness, Mindfulness' and then 'how on earth am I supposed to practice Mindfulness in a situation like that?!' But as I continue down the road I try and focus on the here and now: the little shops on either side of the road, the mother puffing as she pushes a pram up the hill, the way the clouds are rolling ominously across the sky and threatening rain. I realised it's ok to get frustrated over certain events - you're not hurting anyone by feeling this way and it can be quite understandable at times - but it's important I don't then spiral into a ball of stress over it for hours and hours afterwards. That moment of anxiety over the car keys was then gone pretty quickly, and I just moved on. Whether I found them later or not, I couldn't do anything about it now and it wasn't going to help me by worrying about it. It was refreshing. Sure enough, as soon as we got home, there they were! Propped up in the blue paint pottle of my son's easel (of course that's where they'd be).

THREE: I definitely have triggers that cause those feelings of anxiety to rise. I feel it's important to start acknowledging them and either choosing to ignore them or doing something about it. Triggers identified today include: messy house (must ignore, it's not that bad), one or both children yelling/screaming when we're out in public (must ignore, they're not that bad).

FOUR: My mood is easily influenced by others. That young man that slammed the café door so hard it made my baby cry in her highchair, darkened my mood. The older lady that pinched my toddler's chubby cheek and made both kiddies smile, brightened my mood. I'm hoping I encounter more of the latter and less of the former, but ultimately I'm hoping this Mindfulness journey will help me to influence me and not worry as much about the outside forces.

FIVE: While I can totally see the merits of training yourself to be more in the present and appreciate the here and now, it's also helpful if you have something to look forward to. Whenever I had a dip today, I just kept thinking about the dinner reservation I have tomorrow night with my better half.


Friday, 8 August 2014

Day 2: More Mindfulness, less Witching Hour please!

Day 2 of my Mindfulness journey, and I couldn't sleep last night as my mind was going 100 miles an hour with thoughts and ideas and things I needed to do. Ironic. Maybe I need this Mindfulness thing more than I thought - pardon the pun.

It meant I did get up relatively early to sneak in a shower, wash my hair, get dressed and do my make up before getting the kids up. This process alone, without fail, always makes me feel a million dollars and just gets the day off to a cracker start. It's not always like this, obviously, but getting my game face on and PJs off is just my style and helps me tackle the day with positivity. I must remember this.

At least the day has gotten off to a better start than yesterday.

Keeping in mind my Mindfulness tasks for this week, I sat on a different section of the couch to do bub's morning breastfeed (sit on a different chair - check), and as the exercise intended I did get a whole new perspective - straight into the neighbours lounge window (and vice versa)! Oops. Not ideal. At least the exercise was [somewhat] successful.

Totally forgot to focus on the process of brushing my teeth (focus on a menial task - uncheck). Instead I did my usual routine of asking my toddler to get his shoes, jumper and drink bottle from his room, then plonking him on to the toilet, and then brushing his hair - all with a toothbrush hanging out of my mouth. Will have to work on that particular Mindfulness exercise tomorrow then.

Had a brilliant and peaceful morning after the little man trotted off to music with his Nonnie - an activity they both seem to love, and I love too as it gives me some rare one-on-one time with my youngest. It was catch-up day with my coffee group mid-morning, which I absolutely love and look forward to. They're such a gorgeous bunch of mums, and I've realised this is one of the few times that I practise Mindfulness without even realising. I can easily focus on my cup of coffee, and listen intently to the mums there, and it's not until I'm walking back to my car that I remember to check my phone and the rest of the day floods over me - what do I have in the fridge for lunch, I must reschedule next week's swimming lessons, I haven't heard from X in a while I wonder how they are, I hope the breakfast crumbs have miraculously disappeared by the time I get home otherwise I'll have to make time to vacuum this afternoon, damn I need to get petrol etc. etc. etc. Makes me exhausted even typing it!

Forced myself to do round 1 of the meditation just after lunch. Couldn't seem to focus as much as yesterday and it seemed to take forever for the 8 minutes to be over, but it's done.

My afternoon involved more catch ups. The littlest one seems to be past the worst of her separation anxiety phase (yahoo!) and was happy to chat and cuddle [almost] everyone - just like she was a couple of months ago. Really happy it's looking like I have my social little girl back.

But one thing's for sure - it doesn't matter how well the day has gone or how "zen" I might be feeling, when the 4pm Witching Hour hits my entire universe gets tipped on it's head. I guess a grizzling / crying / screaming baby, dinner x 3 to prepare and a hyper-active toddler will do that to you. Relentless is the only way I can describe it, and it unravels my fabulous day in an instant.

Of course the kids dinner time doesn't go smoothly either, and after the sixth serious gag-near-choke from my little baby in her highchair, I decide she's had enough solids for one day and can have her milk feed early. Enter anxiety and this unshakeable fear that she just about choked to death.

By the time they're in bed, I'm feeling completely frazzled, frantic and exhausted. Again.

Perhaps not the best time (or maybe it is?) to do round 2 of my meditation for the day, but I had a window of opportunity that I needed to take. I completely zoned out of what the man on the CD was even saying for the first few minutes - epic fail. Tried to get my mind to focus on my breath like the meditation teaches, but was so far away with a myriad of to-do lists that I barely noticed when the 8 minutes was up. On the plus side, when I opened my eyes I felt like I'd just had an 8 minute power nap (possible this is actually what happened) and was feeling a bit more refreshed. A bonus I guess!

All in all, am looking forward to this Mindfulness thing again tomorrow!

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Day 1: Latte Mum's trip to Mindfulness

I struggle with anxiety. I always have.

There are many reasons why - most too personal to share - but it has ramped up a notch since my little family has come along; more to worry about, more to care about, more at stake. Not surprising really and I know many others feel this way. Luckily I feel great most of the time, but when the bouts of anxiety hit for seemingly no apparent reason, I can feel like a bundle of buzzing nerves. It has been hard to admit, but while I've been managing this side of me for a while now, my increasing worries and anxious thoughts are starting to get in the way of me fully enjoying my wonderful life.

So I decided to do something about it. With PND ruled out, it was agreed I needed some tools that would allow me to better control the frantic thoughts that often swirled in my head. It was suggested I bring the practise of "Mindfulness" into my life.

Thus my personal project begins.

Never heard of Mindfulness? Neither had I. It is a form of meditation I guess, but one that has been heavily studied and researched, and is scientifically proven to treat depression and anxiety. Mindfulness is described as "observation without criticism; being compassionate with yourself, and learning to observe unhappiness and stress as merely black clouds in the sky as they drift past without affecting you". I can't even imagine thinking like that, but I'm currently working my way through the book Mindfulness: a practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world by Mark Williams and Danny Penman, and honestly, I am completely blown away by it. If you click on the link above, you can read about some of the insights that can be found within the book. What jumped out to me is that clinical trials have shown that the Mindfulness practise (based on mindfulness-based cognitive therapy) halves the risk of depression in those who have suffered the most debilitating forms of the illness, and is at least as effective as antidepressants. Mindfulness seems to promise that it's possible to look at life with a fresh perspective, to focus on the here and now, to pick and choose what thoughts you'd like to focus on, and to stop the endless cycles of anxiety and franticness that is so easy to fall into.

Just by way of personal example, this is one of my regular thought cycles: hubby is late home from work - what if he's had a car accident - that's unlikely, I'm sure he's fine - but what about the story I read in the paper yesterday about the young man who died in a car accident on the motorway - oh god, I bet that's what's happened - a policeman is going to knock on my door any minute - how will I cope... and so on and so forth until I hear the garage door open moments later.

As I've been reading the book, I've thought of many people I know that have similar sorts of thought processes that would no doubt benefit from learning these Mindfulness tools too, which I guess is another reason I've decided to share how I'm finding it with you all in case you too want to get on board.

So, the program for week 1 (there are 8 weeks in total) has asked me to commit to 20-30 minutes of uninterrupted meditation per day (already I am thinking I'm going to fail - where on earth am I going to get that time from, 2am?!) and to also study a raisin in focused detail for 10 minutes before eating it (quite an amazing exercise if you want to see what it's like to have just one thought in your head at a time). Today is day 1, and I have had the most ridiculous day with the kidlets (and not in a good way). I am covered in splotches of yoghurt, mashed potato, blue playdough and sticky finger prints. I have had zero time to go to the toilet let alone meditate, particularly now that Master 2 has dropped his daytime sleep and has ramped up the "What's that?" questions to 2000 per day. The little miss has the sniffles, and has needed constant cuddles and tissues (poor little thing, is there anything worse than a sick baby?). All I've actually wanted to do today is shut myself behind a closed door with my laptop and surf Pinterest with a bottle of wine at the ready (which I didn't do by the way). I have just not been very Mindfulness-ness today at all, and honestly can't see how it's going to be possible to slow my frantic life down.

But, despite all of this I've forced myself to do 8 minutes of meditation just after I had dinner. It's only half the meditation I was supposed to do but figure it's better than nothing. It was a very easy exercise and I do feel better for it. No humming or weird yoga poses, just an exercise about focusing on your breath and trying to bring your wandering mind back to the inhale and exhale and the here and now. For the next 6 days I'm also supposed to sit in a different chair than I normally do - to help me see things from a different perspective, and to focus (like I did with the raisin) on a normal menial task (which I've decided will be toothbrushing). I could/should do another 8 minute meditation now but have decided I need to paint my nails, as that is actually what will put a smile on this face! Will endeavour to do the full 20 minutes tomorrow. Baby steps.

Watch this space...

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

New project

I've been wrestling with thoughts about this blog in my mind for a while. I feel despondent that I write so infrequently, and feel like I often start a blog post - either in my head or on paper - and give up on it before it's finished. I have a ton of drafts waiting to be completed.

I've come to the conclusion that I'm lacking in focus and inspiration, and that this blog is lacking direction. It was supposed to be a place in which I could foster my love of writing, but all too often I'm discovering that what my heart wants to write is not very "Latte Mum" and so I don't even bother.

So, rather than stop altogether, I've decided to try and write about a personal project that I've embarked on. It will be a good way to keep me committed to both the journey and to Latte Mum, and I hope you can relate to what it's all about too.

Day 1 is tomorrow...

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Back to basics

Being a mum can be so complicated at times.

Some days even the simplest of tasks seem overwhelming and unsolvable - it's worst when I'm tired, the kids are tired and a million things needed to be done half an hour ago. It's on these days that I usually decide to cram in a bunch of unnecessary super-mum duties too, like a fancy meal with a gazillion steps and hours of preparation or a mega arts and crafts afternoon involving glue, paint, glitter and other messy materials that require constant supervision and days of post-creating clean-up.

But today is a simple day, and it's made me realise that perfection can often be found when we strip everything back to basics.

Today I'm doing easy homemade food for my toddler, like vegemite and cheese on rye with slices of apple on the side.

I've opened up the sliding doors, wrapped the little one up in a jumper and warm pants, and sent him out to play on the lawn in the fresh air.

My baby is sitting inside on her blanket, bathed in a patch of sun, and playing contentedly with two coloured blocks. Clearly happy to have her things to herself for once, while big brother is otherwise occupied.

Lo and behold, they are both happy entertaining themselves for five minutes without their mother in their faces all the time. I quickly get over that pang I feel when I realise they don't need me as much as I think they do.

So I'm now perched upon a bar stool at my kitchen bench, with dirty dishes concealed in the sink and the morning's mess behind me out of view (it can wait). I'm drinking a hot cup of coffee, flicking through the paper (before midday - amazing!), writing this blog and intermittently checking on the two smiling poppets. I'm so happy.

Maybe if we go for a walk to the playground this afternoon, I'll be rewarded with bathroom breaks without an audience. Just maybe.

Who knew basic pleasures could be so good.
 
Nothing better than bare feet on grass
Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/coofdy/5519356318

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Why mums of more-than-one rock

I like myself so much better as a mum of two instead of a mum of one.

A pretty bold statement I know, but let me explain. I had this realisation the other day at our local library. After dropping off big brother to his second ever morning at crèche, I decided to take little sister to her first ever Wriggle & Rhyme to enjoy some rare one-on-one time together. While waiting for the session to begin, I overheard the group of mums next to me discussing - at great length - whether their babies had or hadn't sat up on their own yet. One baby was happily sitting there unaided, while another would sit for a short time before slumping to the side, and the other was sitting propped up against his mummy. The conversation continued for an unnecessarily long time, as each mum tried to out do the other with stories about their infants over-achieving in the sitting department.

I looked down at my little ballerina lying on the floor, happily kicking her legs in the air and shoving her chubby feet into her mouth, and I thought "thank goodness I don't care about whether she's sitting or not, I'm just glad to have a stationary child for a little while longer!" I felt enlightened. I had always hoped that I would be a relaxed, go-with-the-flow kind of mum; one who would be down on the floor playing and making mess instead of just following the chaos and cleaning up; one who would gently encourage instead of simply checking off milestones. And here I was - not quite the carefree hippy mum of my dreams, but nevertheless certainly relaxed, definitely content, and not at all worried if my little bubba was sitting up, lying down or doing the moon walk. It felt good to be on this side of the fence (even if, dare I say it, I was being a little judgemental of those on the other side)!

But it didn't take long for the memories to kick in, because - of course - I did very much care about 'sitting' and 'puree' and other such milestones to a near-obsessive degree when all I had to think about was my one little boy. I only need to read some of my earlier Latte Mum posts to realise this is true, and I cringe to think how I must have sounded to other seasoned mums around me when I was going on about blackout blinds, bumbos, organic cotton clothing and other ridiculous things that mean nothing and have no bearing on what your child does or does not do in life.

As a mum of two, I now know that my little one will reach each milestone eventually and the sky won't cave in if she doesn't sit on her own within the recommended time frame. I know she'll be fine if I don't wake her for a dream feed one night, or if I don't interrupt her playtime to immediately change her nappy, or if I don't quarantine her from the rest of the world if she has a runny nose. I know she's just as happy to go with the flow as I am, which is why I've quit fussing [as much] and just let her be.

Yep, I like myself so much better as a more relaxed mum of two, and I'm sure my kids do too.

Wow - a baby sitting AND typing his thesis!
Photo credit: www.visioncreation.co.uk

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

When I signed up to motherhood...

When I signed up to motherhood, I thought I knew full well what I was getting myself into.

I couldn't wait to hold that little bundle in my arms. To feel the surprisingly strong squeeze of that chubby hand around my finger. To see the gummy smile, and hear the soft coo's and ma-ma-ma's from that same mouth.

I knew I would pack the best school lunches. Be the shockingly embarrassing mum cheering from the front row of the school play. And I would spend extra time getting the grass stains out of clothes, only for them to be stained again, and again, and again during delirious play times.

I was happy to deal with the nappies, the vomit, the tears, the chopped off fingers, the sleepless nights, the cheekiness, the tantrums, the nights and days and weeks that I would have to be a solo-mum when my lovely husband is away with work, the time my toilet training toddler has an accident in the middle of the supermarket (which hasn't happened yet, by the way). I knew I could deal with all of those things, because I would also get to experience all the joys of being a mum as well.

So there I was, "signed up" and committed to this action-packed journey. And after all of that soul searching, the "am I ready for this?", "can we afford a family?" and "what will I do about my career?", my husband and I have been blessed with not one but two beautiful children. This body of mine is different now to when I started, but it has carried and fed two children - a miracle and blessing that is not lost on me.

This heart of mine is all the more bigger as a result of this love, for these two little people that the world was always supposed to meet. A love that cannot be explained in words. When I signed up to motherhood, I hoped I would feel this way but the reality is more amazing than I could ever have imagined.

But my soul... my soul was unprepared and will be forever changed.

My silly old soul. The one that has been devastated and elated at various times over the years, and is now finally back together again. The one that soars and sings when I see those two little faces every morning. And sinks, just a little bit, when I tuck them into bed at night knowing it will be hours until we get to chat again (I know, I'm weird).

The same soul that cries (and will forever more) when I hear about tragedies involving children, pets, parents - or anything that relates to families being broken. My soul knows now how much there is to lose.

Right now, I can give them everything they need - hugs, food, coloured blocks, walks in the park - you name it. Right now, I can protect them from the world, from the bullies, self-doubts, bad influences, or worse, that they may one day have to encounter. Their world just isn't that complicated - yet.

Right now, they are my two little babies sleeping upstairs in warm beds, with full tummies, busy minds and fluttering little hearts, that know their mummy and daddy love them. I wish I could keep them like that forever.

When I signed up to become a mother, I never thought about the fact that, one day, I'll have to let them go.
Credit: www.flickr.com/photos/ebonysweden/

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Time

It's March, and this is my first post for 2014. Ridiculous. My plea to The Year has clearly not been heard.

As always, a lot has happened since I last wrote. I'm now feeding my "newborn" kumara mash and pears - writing it feels as weird as doing it, as I honestly feel like we brought her home from the hospital yesterday. My "little" boy now tells me stories, asks questions, makes demands and is losing his baby chub thanks to all the running, jumping and dancing he does each day.

I'm just trying to take it all in as this lovely life I'm in just keeps galloping on. I try to go with it as I'm scared that if I pull on the reins too hard, I'll fall off. I'll admit I've taken less photos this year than last, but that's because I'm making a conscious effort to try and fill my memory, instead of my memory stick, with images of my little two. This, at least, is helping me to live more in the moment!

I guess all parents feel like this in one way or another, don't we? Time, time, time - a blessing and enemy in equal measure - and somewhat of a recurring theme on this blog lately! I saw this incredible post the other day about advice for your 30's, and it has made me think it's time to re-evaluate my priorities and set some goals for this decade. More on this later though.

The Year (traitor!) does nothing to ease this sense of life-without-pause, as the leaves start to change and the air grows cooler to remind me it's now many months since Christmas. Soon I'll be shrugging my sun-kissed shoulders into an autumnal cardy, and sunny walks to the park will be replaced with rainy-day arts & crafts sessions.

Anyway - please tell me I'm not the only one that feels this way? More importantly, how was your summer and what are you looking forward to with the change in season?

Until next time, tick tock tick tock...