Love what you have

Today I begin a new chapter. A complete change of pace. And I can’t wait!

For the last 9 months I’ve been travelling weekly with work. It’s had an impact on my kids. It’s had an impact on me. In both positive and negative ways. So, a short while ago, I decided (with the support of my incredible partner – have to say that, because he’s letting me do this… to be fair, he is actually incredible anyway) I digress, yet again…

I decided to take the summer off! Yep, you heard right. 6 weeks summer holiday! It’s like being back at school. The last time I had a 6 week summer break? 1996. That’s 21 years! (How was that 21 years ago? 50 years ago was 1950, right?!?)

6 weeks with my gorgeous babies. 

I’m imagining lots of laughter, hugs, family yoga, impeccable zen-like behaviour (all 3 of us šŸ˜œ) and memories made in adventure after adventure!

You can bet that the reality will be very different! But as we grow and learn together, the memories we make, will light up my heart for years to come. 


And if all else fails, there’s always Grandma! šŸ˜‚

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Out of the blue

Hello! It’s been a while again, hasn’t it? My bad. Lots going on, and I’ve been trying to prioritise correctly.

Thanks to the 3 Day Nanny and a reward chart, my toddlers behaviour has transformed itself in the last few weeks. And, I’m kind of ashamedĀ to say, so has my own. Ashamed because that meansĀ admitting, that previously, my behaviour had been poor.

I can see, now,Ā that I spent several months wallowing in despair. Having 2Ā toddlers is hard work and can be physically and emotionally exhausting.Ā Instead of taking a deep breath and some positive steps to make things better, I was creating a cycle of sadness andĀ stress. I was making myself and everyone around me, including my babies, downright miserable. No wonder there were daily tantrums. Life was no fun. No fun at all.

My Beloved and IĀ spent a couple of months talking with a relationship specialist. The first few sessions were easy. And afterwards we tried toĀ ensure we made some time forĀ ‘us’. But, I wasn’t feeling any improvement at home. A few weeks ago, though, we had a tough session. We argued. There was genuine anger. But, I think it was a turning point. I think we were starting to get honest.

We continue to meet with our friend, though not so regularly. It turns out we’re not naturally good communicators (which is funny, given the jobs that we do!) and we needed someone to help us just talk to each other.

We’re better now, although still have a way to go. There is still anger some days, there is still frustration. There are still many misunderstandings. But, how we each react to a negative feeling in the other, is beginning to change and we are able to deal with most of these instances quite quickly and move on. (In the past, it would have dragged on for hours, maybe even days).

And I think that is how the ball began to roll…

Feeling more confident in our ability to feel, to express and to deal with emotion without the threat of Armageddon, we were able (I was able) to knock down the walls that were keeping happiness at bay.

And so we started having some fun.

We had my baby girls birthday party with all her little friends. We went on an Outdoors Adventure holiday. We searched for Goldilocks and theĀ 3 bears in the woods. We’ve been swimming. We’ve been on bike rides. We’ve been to the park and fed the ducks. We’ve been to the safari park. We washed the car. The kids have loved it. And we have re-discovered our inner child.

We’re having fun!

And I noticed something.

When the kids are happy, their behaviour is better. Which makes family time less stressful. Which makes us happier. The cycle, is now on an upwards spiral. So, we decided to make the most of it.

We introduced a reward chart 2 weeks ago, some house rules (like Be Kind, Share, Use your manners and Safety 1st). And we’ve tried really hard to stop saying NO! and start following through on the consequences of bad behaviour. But, to be honest, with less ‘nay-saying’ and positive focus on the sticker chart, there’s actually less need for ‘going to your room’. Both kids even managed to give up their dummy’s with only 1 night of major complaints. (ParticularlyĀ difficult for my 3 year old as we had enabled her to form a very strong dependency on her “dodi”)

So, here we are. Not in the proverbial rose garden. And not with children who behave perfectly 100% of the time. But, a happy family, who love and support each other and are all learning how to deal with the hard stuff, and move on from it, so that we can get back to doing the fun stuff, sooner than later.

We’re out of the blue, and into the sunshine.

Taking Ten

Once again, the mayhem of day to day life has led me from the path I wish to follow. Or should I say, I have used the mayhem as an excuse.

I haven’t blogged, I haven’t taken advantage of the wonderful sunshine we have been experiencing in the UK these last few weeks, I haven’t attended any yoga classes or generally taken any time for ‘path’ activities.

That’s not entirely true. I watched the Horizon programme (The Truth about Personality) and discovered Andy Puddicombe and Headspace. I was inspired. This guy (a former Buddhist monk) is helping people like me (too busy, too stressed, too unmotivated) a way to improve our lives, ourselves, for free! (well initially), with just 10 minutes per day.

I can manage that, I thought. I promptly downloaded the app and off we went on our short journey; 10 minutes for 10 days… that was 8 days ago. I am ashamed to say that I have not even allowed myself to keep that commitment. Is there any hope for me?

I have excuses abound – We took the kids to Scotland for 3 days forĀ a family wedding (too busy,Ā no time to ourselves and poor internet connection), we slept most of Monday as we were exhausted from said weekend (too tired), then our baby girl got sick, and then we got sick (too poorly). But really, none of these are acceptable. If I had really wanted to I could have made myself available for 10 minutes and to be honest, would have greatly benefited from it.

But, yes. There is still hope.

As Andy says, learning to meditate isn’t necessarily easy. And we all encounter obstacles along the way. The first step is recognising that we have done so and gently bringing ourselves back to where we left off.

And so, on my journey towards self improvement, towards improving my quality of life; this morning, I step back up onto the learning curve and start Day 2. With good intention and positive thoughts in my heart, I shall now embark on TakeĀ Tw0 of Take10.

Stillness

I thought it was about time I wrote about something other than babies. Iā€™m not sure itā€™s possible, but Iā€™ll try.

Last Saturday we had a day out at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool. Itā€™s a beautiful old building. Thereā€™s a large atrium with a glass dome in the ceiling, lots of marble and polished stone. And the exhibition rooms are ornate. Silk and velvet wall coverings, parquet floors and so very quiet, so very still.

I went for a walk along the beach yesterday. I love to walk at the beach; the space, the expanse of the horizon, the sounds of the wind and the sea. Another place where my mind finds solace and stillness.

I think I’ve mentioned previously, on #100factsaboutme, that I like sitting in empty churches. Large rooms, high ceilings, polished stone, lots of art to observe, space and stillness to contemplate, or just be.

I find that all of these places have a similar vibe, for me anyway. Iā€™ve been visiting these places, and finding comfort in them, for many years now, even more so, during my time of depression.

I was born, baptised and raised Roman Catholic. At the age of 17, like many of my peers, I stopped going to church. Out of respect for my Father (whose faith is very strong), I consulted him about my decision and made a promise to him that my cessation of attendance was not out of laziness but out of a genuine confusion about my religious and spiritual beliefs. I could make that promise, because it was true. It still is.

I am interested in all religious, spiritual and faith systems. I genuinely am. And I have taken some time, over the years, to read about some other religions and faith systems, talk to people who subscribe to them and try to understand them more. And I intend to continue to do so, if and when I can find (or make) the time.

The way of life that I am continually drawn back to, is Buddhism. Iā€™m not sure I want to “become” a Buddhist (if that is even an action), but the teachings of the Buddha (in comparison to the teachings of others) are the ones that seem to make the most sense to me. With a few exceptions, for example, karma. Conceptually, I agree that, in this life, what goes around comes around. But, I’m not sure I can believe in actual physical rebirth.

Buddha teaches compassion, respect and kindness, and I think (I hope) that we all get that.

He teaches not to become attached to material things, I get that too. He teaches not to become attached to others, which I am still trying to fully understand. Others can not make you happy or sad, only you can do that. I love my Beloved deeply, it is not his job to provide my happiness and conversely, I can not blame him (or anyone else) for feeling angry or unhappy. I can choose to be happy or angry or sad. But, this is a difficult thing to master!

And then there is the love I have for my kids. It is unconditional. When they are sick or unhappy, I find it difficult not to be affected by that. So, in this way, my attachment to my children is one that I could never break. (I knew I couldn’t get through a post without including them! :-))

A large element of Buddhism, one that everyone recognises as being associated with that way of life, is meditation. Just being. And I think my long time draw towards empty churches, the expanse of the beach and quiet corners of old buildings like Art Galleries, (and my perennial mission to practice yoga) all illustrate that Iā€™ve actually been practicing this teaching, in a fashion, for years.

Another thing that the Buddha teaches us, which I can really relate to, is that one should question everything. Even the Buddha himself and his teachings. Well, I feel like Iā€™ve been doing that since I was born, too!

Maybe Iā€™ve been a Buddhist all along šŸ™‚

Book Club

I’ve been inspired to pick up a book and read (an actual book with actual paper pages). Strangely, I’ve been inspired almost exactly at the same time from two different sources. Firstly, there was my Twitter buddy (@billy_mccallum), who’s been reading War and Peace and tweeting a synopsis of the plot lines as he goes. I never thought I could read a book as long as War and Peace, but his ingenuity with 140 characters makes the story seem very accessible. And then a suggestion from my Beloved, to turn off the TV for one night per week, turn on some relaxing music, read and talk. He’d picked up on something I’d mentioned in the passing about wanting to read more. How thoughtful!

So, I’ve started reading. As has my Beloved. Not War and Peace, but a fairly lengthy tale, and one that I have read before. A story that I love. In fact, I would probably say it’s my favourite book of all time (so far – I don’t read that much). The Count of Monte Cristo. The original (though, I’m sure even it is based on another original) tale of love, loss and rebirth. And I’m tweeting my synopsis (though not nearly as amusingly as Billy.)

Bear with me, whilst I digress a little… Another little hobby that I’ve been working on recently, is developing my family tree (more of that in another blog). The information that I am coming across is fascinating. But what really strikes me a general realisation about the world and human nature.

The story in the book, the stories I have discovered in my Family Tree and the stories I have lived in my own life, can all be threaded together by similar themes. Young love, loss, greed, lust, injustice, unrequited love, “illegitimate” children, “living in sin”, birth, death, relationship breakdown, mental illness… the list goes on and on…

But despite ideas held firm by my parents and grandparents, of things being different or better in the “Good Old Days”. They were just the same. Because fundamentally, human nature has not changed much over the last few centuries. And every generation lives through the same trials and tribulations, the same highs and lows. That’s life.

And that’s one of the wonderful facets of books. Some books offer escape, some knowledge. And many offer re-assurance that we are not alone, that someone else has walked this path before us and survived.

Another year has gone by, and what have I learned?

Today is my birthday. I’m not looking for felicitations but (as it does for many in my stage of life) today, my train of thought has hurtled out of the station and is racing to an unknown destination.

My birthday used to be a REALLY BIG deal to me. And I’ve blogged about this before. It was my one day in the year where I got to be the centre of attention (in reality, I was quite the attention seeker and so managed to manoeuvre myself to the centre on quite a lot of days). But fairytale dreams of Prince Charming, lavish gifts and generally just being adored, built up horrendously unachievable expectations in my mind (Damn you Disney/Hollywood RomComs!).

I have no expectations this year, in fact I can’t even be bothered celebrating. I told my Beloved in advance I was going to “save it up” for next year – the big 4.0. (Not really sure what “it” is – I guess it’s any amount of energy I can muster…) I also told him that I wanted 2 things for my birthday – 1) space, time all on my own and 2) a shower. I should really have added a full night’s sleep to the birthday list but I’d have to actually decant to another house to get that so, it seemed more than a tad selfish.

So, I’m sitting here feeling fresher than a daisy, alone, writing, with music playing loud and not another human being in sight. Bliss!

Don’t get me wrong – in about an hour, I’ll be bored. I’ll be glued to NurseryCam and texting my Beloved telling him I miss him like crazy and what’s his expected ETA. (Tempramental – I know. It’s just one of a long list of adjectives on the list of words that, I have come to realise, describe me to a tee :-))Ā 

But for now, I’m enjoying the peace and quiet and I wouldn’t swap it for an Omega watch even if you paid me. Because I don’t need the Hollywood dream anymore. I am happier than I ever imagined I could be. And it’s all because of 3 things;

1) Family – My Beloved, my 2 beautiful babies, my Parents, my siblings;
2) Friends – I don’t have a wide network of friends but I have a few close ones that reciprocate the love and trust I have for them and
3) Security – I feel secure. Not because I have millions in the bank (no where near it). Not because I have a fancy house with state of the art alarm systems. But because I feel loved. Truly loved. And I am finally beginning to understand who I am and accepting myself for who I am. And that has only been possible because I have 1) and 2) above.

How times have changed.

*The train of thought has now reached it’s destination*

Welcome to Mombieville

“They” say that the worst thing about having a baby is sleep deprivation. (Not sure who “they” are but) “they” are right. Throw a full time job and a toddler into the mix and welcome to Mombieville!

It’s no secret or surprise, that I’m struggling at the moment (see recent posts). And lack of sleep is by far the biggest barrier to reaching the other side.

We tried some gentle sleep training with Peanut (a.k.a. my handsome baby boy) a couple of weeks back, which was in itself exhausting, but we pushed on through knowing that many nights of soothing sleep would be the reward (for all of us). But, he’s had some visits to the hospital since then and a weekend away (with the rest of us, to be clear). So, it’s basically all gone out the window.

The hospital visits and the, more complicated than we thought, future outlook for Peanut, I’ll share with you another time. I can’t get my head around it at the moment, thanks to my Mombie status. And for once, I do mean “thanks” to the sleep deprivation as I’m quite happy to delay that thinking process for a short while.

I’m currently finding car keys, hair clips or the tea caddy Ā in the fridge on a weekly basis, my natural clumsiness has taken itself to another level and I’m having daily Ā conversations with my Beloved that go like this:

Me “I, err……”
B “You…?what?”
Me “Em…..”
[Some time later]
B “When you’re ready…?”
Me “I can’t remember now, couldn’t have been important”
B *rolls eyes* “I Love You” *Sighs*

[Next day]
Me “So, what do you think?”
B “About what?”
Me “Do you think we can go on holiday this year? I think we need a break.” *huff of impatience*
B “I’m not sure. Sorry… did we talk about this before?”
Me “Yes, yesterday. Oh no.. wait… I, err…”

Still deadlines are deadlines, and my BFF has given me to the end of January (3.5 days from now) to finish wallowing and then it’s time to get positive, get healthy and get living again! Better find that baby sleep book…

Mombie

I’m a (Role) Model, you know what I mean? And I do my little turn on the catwalk

Even more shocking than the ode to Right Said Fred in the title of this post, is the realisation that I am a role model!

Why has this just hit me?

It was something that my Beloved said this morning that illuminated the point to me, in huge Vegas-style lights.

Strawbug went to day care today, carrying a tiny white, vintage style, handbag. It was her choice to take it, I had no influence in the decision. The bag was given to her (preloved) by her Auntie who lives in London. (Note to the reader: Strawbug has regular bouts of obsession with London, but that’s another post).

She carried it over her arm, the strap cradled in her elbow. She looked like a mini Jackie-O, without the hat and gloves… and in some leggings and a pair of baby converse. OK, so, she didn’t look exactly like Jackie O. But, she did have an aura of 1950’s glamour about her, in the way that she carried herself, or more specifically her bag.Ā I digress.

When I told my Beloved about how much everyone smiled when they seen her, he said “Aww, she wants to be just like you. She loves you.” And the lights went on…

I have lost count of the number of times that I have reprimanded my Beloved for things he has said, or done, in front of the kids. “I know that they are only little, but they are like sponges. They take it all in” I say. To the point where now, I only have to look over at him and he says “I know, I know, SPONGES!”. And to prove my point, Strawbug regularly walks around the house reciting “Oh, Blimey!” continually. (To be honest, it could have been worse). I have a stack of parenting books that back up this theory (and, it seems now I have Strawbug backing me up with real, live, evidence).

I’m always so careful about what I say in front of the kids, because the feedback from their learning tends to be rapid. (i.e. they pretty much repeat what you say, word for bloody word, immediately – especially if it’s a word you shouldn’t have said within earshot of them).

But I often forget that they are soaking in all that I DO as well. Because the impact of this learning appears (to me, anyway) to be more subtle or, at least, deferred until later. Now that I have seen my first exhibit of evidence, though, is it time to start moderating my behaviour as well? That’s seems like a big ask.

But surely I would only need to change my behaviour, if my behaviour was defective. And well, if your a mother, (and you are anything like me) you probably question your behaviour (and your abilities) on a daily basis. Every day I think about how to help Strawbug be the best Strawbug she can be. And now, it has finally dawned on me that the best way to do that is to be the best Me that I can be.

So, here I am. My life is a catwalk and I’m being watched, admired and looked up to, by my babies. I need to show them how to face life with dignity and grace. I need to show them what beauty really means. If I come across an obstacle I need to show them how to find a way to the other side. If I find myself at a crossing, I need to show them how to choose the right path. And if I fall off my heels, I need to show them how to get up again, dust yourself off and keep going. Because I am a role model!

Contemplation

The year is drawing to a close. Christmas is within touching distance. And my annual period of contemplation has presented itself ahead of it’s normal ETA.

My mind has wandered often during recent weeks and even more so in recent days. It considers becoming a yoga teacher. It reflects on life as a stay at home mum versus life as a working mum. It (farcically) wonders how it can be more present. It checks out bigger houses in “better” areas that we can’t afford. It even goes as far as imagining relocating to sunnier climes. It contemplates – as it does every year – the future.

Not just my future, my children’s future and the future of the world we live in. As, in my opinion, those three things are inextricably linked. I, like many others across the world, feel a deep deep sadness when I think about the recent tragedy in Newtown, Conneticut. And I am horrified by the seemingly vast number of crimes against children in my own country. Even if it was just one crime, I would still be appalled. And I search my mind, my heart and my soul. How can we keep our children safe? Where can we raise them to ensure that they will have a long, happy and healthy life? And I wish I had foolproof answers. But, I don’t.

There is something about the end of one year and the beginning of the next, that prods my inner dreamer to wake up and make some plans. Before daily routine suppresses its enthusiasm and sends it back into a dark quiet corner somewhere. It strikes me that, this year, I have experienced more endings and beginnings than usual, and that maybe, this is the reason for my process starting early.

Experience has taught me that if I allow my thoughts to find their own path, they usually introduce themselves in illuminated fashion. And so I find myself practising patience (as I often ask Strawbug to do – neither of us are very good at it, I hastened to add), waiting for the big reveal.