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Three and a half is a magic number

13 Jul

Last week a blogging buddy of mine, Grace -fellow mumma of twins and person I have grown to admire, had a bad week.  Make that a sleep deprived with sick, whiny 17-month old twins, at-the-end-of her freakin’-tether kind of week!

Today, they are all doing a whole lot better (thanks for asking) but the anxiety and overwhelm Grace reported feeling brought a lot of ‘raw’ back to my present. I couldn’t help but reflect on how different my life is now that my twins and eldest daughter are all over three and a half years old.

Three and a half is my magic number.

That’s when my girls started to ‘play’ by themselves for more than five minutes without insisting that I remain right next to them. That’s when they had learnt to master the art of self-feeding to the point where the kitchen no longer required an industrial hose and vacuum cleaner to clean up afterwards.

By three and a half, my girls demonstrated empathy and a deeper understanding of human behaviour:

when I hit my sister on the head with the block, her screaming seems to suggest pain and anger, so maybe I will just do it once instead of over and over just to test the validity of my cause and effect experiments.  Plus I can see that mummy is watching and has that ‘no good can come of this’ look on her face.

The twin factor finally becomes a bonus instead of a hindrance – instant playmate, cheer-leader and partner in crime. They may
be more interested in gaining each other’s approval than their parents, but the delights of watching twins interact so closely and intuitively are huge!

Your over-threes will still get sick (especially if they attend some form of pre-school), but lengthy prior experience now ensures you are more adept at dealing.  You will still feel concerned but not so worried that you sleep fitfully on the floor by their cot all night.

For those of you who are struggling through an existence of sleep deprivation, small babies or the extra challenges afforded by twins and multiple kidlets….Hang in there!

Life does get easier or at the very least, it evolves to find you in a more relaxed and familiar space.

A few extra suggestions:

– Join a mothers group as early as possible and get involved.  It’s such an affirming experience to be able to share your parenting journey with a bunch of big and little people going through similar challenges and milestones at exactly the same time.

– Eat healthy and get fit. Your body sucks up extra nutrients and vitamins when stressed and given that sleep deprivation is going to be your long time companion, you will benefit so much from daily exercise and healthy meals.  Looking after yourself ensures you have more energy reserves for those times when mummyhood gets really ugly.

– If you are isolated from close friends and family, join an online parenting community, keep a journal or start a blog.  Record your experiences and share them. You can always garner support and advice when you need it from an online group, and if you blog, you will have a valuable record of your early parenting days to later share with your children.

– Ensure you have a family doctor you like and feel comfortable with. Preferably someone who is also a parent and with whom you can build a history with.  This is particularly important if you are at risk of depression and/or anxiety.

– Take some time out every day just for you.  So many mums wait until they are at breaking point before realizing that they are at breaking point!  Even if it’s a walk around the block, a coffee date sans kids or lounging in bed with a good book and pot of green tea. Make a concerted effort to relax regularly.

And, in the back of your mind, when you think that you really can’t take another day…

Repeat the mantra:

Three and a half is a magic number

~Kirri

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Too scary to write about or do?

11 Jun

Written by Kirri White.  Follow me on twitter or facebook.

You can also contact me by email –  kirri@happymumsathome.com

This post is part of the #trust30 writing initiative, inspired by Ralph Waldo Emersons “Self-reliance” that encourages you to look within and trust yourself.  You can find further details regarding the challenge here.

Day nine prompt by Author Mary Jaksch:

Emerson says: “Always do what you are afraid to do.” What is ‘too scary’ to write about? Try doing it now.

(Author: Mary Jaksch)

Too scary to write about…really?  There is nothing I am afraid to write about.  A lot of scary stuff I have explored remains in a journal aptly titled ‘Don’t you dare’.

Just because you can write about it doesn’t necessarily mean you should – at least in such a public space.

Something that is too scary for me to DO?

That’s easy. To write about.

Confront my fear of public speaking.

(I have Terry to thank for making this more public… in the comments section of an earlier post. Cheers mate!)

My eldest daughter is now seven and required to give little talks in front of her class on a weekly basis.  Maybe its show and tell, discussing the highlights of her weekend or what healthy snacks are in her lunch-box that day. Whatever the topic and for whatever reason she takes to it like the Beckhams to Prada.  Most unlike me.

There have been many times when I have had to take centre stage – speeches and debates at school, presentations at university and coaching seminars. I can do it the but I hate it and I’m not good at it either.

Lets just say that there was a good reason for me being nick-named “Little Red” or “Blossom”.

I’m not going to state here and now how I will exactly tackles this fear, which in my defence is now termed Glossophobia and has been cited as one of the most prevalent fears held by people all over the world.

What I know for sure is that if I don’t do anything about it….My coaching business will not grow in the direction I want it to and I will not be all that I can be.

I will be limited by fear and that’s not how I want to continue living my life.

The other terror that scares us from self-trust is our consistency; a reverence for our past act or word, because the eyes of others have no other data for computing our orbit than our past acts, and we are loath to disappoint them. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Daring to be bold my way

9 Jun

Written by Kirri White.  Follow me on twitter or facebook.

You can also contact me by email –  kirri@happymumsathome.com

This post is part of the #trust30 writing initiative, inspired by Ralph Waldo Emersons “Self-reliance” that encourages you to look within and trust yourself.  You can find further details regarding the challenge here.

Day seven prompt by Author: Matt Cheuvront

“Next to Resistance, rational thought is the artist or entrepreneurs worst enemy. Bad things happen when we employ rational thought, because rational thought comes from the ego. Instead, we want to work from the Self, that is, from instinct and intuition, from the unconscious.

A child has no trouble believing the unbelievable, nor does the genius or the madman. Its only you and I, with our big brains and our tiny hearts, who doubt and overthink and hesitate.” – Steven Pressfield, Do the Work

The idea of “being realistic” holds all of us back. From starting a business or quitting a job to dating someone who may not be our type or moving to a new place – getting “real” often means putting your dreams on hold.

Today, let’s take a step away from rational thought and dare to be bold. What’s one thing you’ve always wanted to accomplish but have been afraid to pursue? Write it down. Also write down the obstacles in your way of reaching your goal. Finally, write down a tangible plan to overcome each obstacle.

The only thing left is to, you know, actually go make it happen. What are you waiting for?

This writing prompt had me flummoxed.  I kept envisaging BIG – things that involved changing the world, lots of money and a sense of danger   The seemingly impossible and frightening.

Strangely, I dont have a fear of a lot of so called adventure pursuits.  I’ve shimmied my way down rock faces, jumped off steep cliffs into dark waters and camped without a shower for three days. Ha – That’s big!

Sky-diving and bungee jumping look like fun, if I were willing to put that amount of money into it…which Im not.

Something bold that speaks to me? Something I gave up on too early or failed to pursue because I was too lazy, because it was too hard ? Because I was scared?

Investing fully in a new creative outlet.

Mastering a foreign language, learning an instrument or joining a local theatre. Any of these would be fantastic. They have often played on my mind but I have always assuaged my inner voice by remaining a spectator.

I like to be reasonably good at something straight away or with minimal effort and if Im not…I have a history of giving up.

So I did German for four years but could never get past an introductory conversation with my fluent father, played the piano for two but was put off by a perpetually grouchy music teacher.  I also danced on and off for more than 10 years (and was pretty damn good) but sadly, never moved past the thought of it not being a “real” profession.

Regrets and excuses? Yes.   Standing in my own way again…yup.

What am I going to do about it?

I’m not sure.  I do know that I will continue to have signs thrown in my path unless I take action- a flyer about a local theatre at the library, watching my daughter at dance class and experiencing envy…ditto husband when he turns Canadian-French on me 🙂

The danger of making promises is that someone may call me out on it and keep me accountable.

Yeah..you guys!

I will explore my options, see where intuition takes me and what I can access locally.   I can promise that I am driven to do this and that I will commit to taking up a new creative venture…sometime in the next couple of months.

Feel free to keep me accountable.

~Kirri

Our arts, our occupations, our marriages, our religion, we have not chosen, but society has chosen for us. We are parlour soldiers. We shun the rugged battle of fate, where strength is born. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Source of image 

Resolve to do only what makes you come alive

8 Jun

Written by Kirri White.  Follow me on twitter or facebook.

You can also contact me by email –  kirri@happymumsathome.com

This post is part of the #trust30 writing initiative, inspired by Ralph Waldo Emersons “Self-reliance” that encourages you to look within and trust yourself.  You can find further details regarding the challenge here.

Day six prompt by Author Jonathan Mead

If you had one week left to live, would you still be doing what you’re doing now? In what areas of your life are you preparing to live? Take them off your To Do list and add them to a To Stop list. Resolve to only do what makes you come alive.

Bonus: How can your goals improve the present and not keep you in a perpetual “always something better” spiral?

The notion of having one week to live is a lot easier to deal with than a mere 15 minutes and I imagine that I would spend much of it going about my ‘busyness’ in a state of denial…..given that I’m immortal and all.   But seriously – this question finds me in a good place.

Aside from over-thinking and a natural-born tendency to worry about others, I truly feel that I am currently living in line with my passion and purpose.   Moreover, I have more love in my life than I know what to do with….want some?  It’s good stuff.

If you had posed the same question six months ago, I would not have been able to provide the same answer…so that speaks volumes.  To me anyhow.

I think its inevitable to periodically be in an “always something better” spiral.  Not to say that I am immune to those feelings but right here and right now –

My life is filled with more love and blessings than I had could have ever wished for.

I am contributing to make my tiny piece of this planet a better place and I’m feeling it.

To Stop list:

-Minimise the over-analysis and pondering in general.  Daydreams are fun but continue to participate in life whole-heartedly.

-Fear Shmeer. Retaliate. Topple them one at a time but remember that you don’t have to do it all today.

-The pursuit of perfection and being everything to everyone?   It’s exhausting right?  Take a break from it.

To do list or things that make me come alive

Playing like a child with my kidlets.  Engaging and connecting, taking part in their games is not only fun but leaves me feeling loved up and carefree

Walking in the sunshine. I’m a regular gym goer and have just started running but going for a leisurely walk, preferably near the water and taking in the air and the life of nature increases my feelings of aliveness and peace.

Socialise more with friends and family  – organise get togethers rather than letting someone else do it or waiting for an invite.

Be bold, spontaneous….do and learn new things that challenge my perspective and extend my comfort zone.

~Kirri

Life wastes itself while we are preparing to live. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

How being a mum can lead to highly successful habits

24 May

Written by Kirri White.  Follow me on twitter or facebook.

You can also contact me by email –  kirri@happymumsathome.com

A couple of weeks ago, I had an Oprah-esque ‘Aha’ moment while watching Australia’s Masterchef.  One of the top 24 contestants, Kate – occupation ‘mum,’ was taking part in a team challenge which involved being woken (after two hours sleep) to bake artisan-worthy bread for eight hours straight.

A lot of the contestants emerged bleary-eyed and cranky, but not this Mumma!  She cheerily narrated that parenthood had more than prepared her for this type of challenge:

when you are a mum, you get used to having to work hard,
whether you like it or not, whether you feel like it or not.

Damn straight, I thought. This woman’s going to bake some killer bread!

Becoming a mum is fraught with experiences that can lead you to a whole new level of learning. From the very first moment you gingerly claim your newborn …your life is no longer yours.  You are officially ‘owned’, required to be on call 24 /7 and have orders communicated to you in a cacophonous language not yet fully understood by either parties.

Days and nights blend into the same monochrome and for many new parents, the outside world can seem like an alternate universe.

I know that some mums allegedly give birth to “sleepers” *dislike* but for most of us, becoming a parent is an exhausting exercise comparable to the effects of sleep deprivation-torture-tactics used in war-fare.

And no, you don’t get to call in sick….ever.

I have had to lay, vomit bucket at head-level while my three-year olds whined and pulled my hair in an effort to “stop mummy being boring”.  Fortunately, I also had my life-saving five-year old at hand, who was able to make lunch among puddles of juice and vegemite smears.

While many childless couples look forward to engaging in some serious ‘lounging’ on the weekends, mummies have forgotten that it is in fact the weekend.

No down time for you sistah!  It’s business as usual, 365 days a year.

Such is the nature of the unwritten job description.  You may not realise that ‘this’ is exactly what you signed up for but you step up and you do it.

Not to say that it’s all hard work and tears.  There are many positives to having your world shaken sideways by mummyhood. After a while, you catch your groove, and inadvertently find you have adopted a few habits of the ‘highly successful’.

For example:

You now have the permanent built-in alarm of a serious go-getter that wakes you up early no matter what. You may even morph into a healthier version of yourself, given that you no longer go out partying every weekend till 5am.

Establishing routines, organising schedules and planning events are things that have now become second nature. Household supplies and food are dutifully replenished, budgets micro-managed and a multitude of other tasks accomplished every day.

You get used to working diligently without being pushed, asked, thanked…or sometimes even noticed.

The mood of a small child can easily dictate how your day will play out from moment to moment.  As such you learn to adjust plans accordingly.  You become far more resilient and capable at handling the downright ugly and seemingly impossible. Even in public.

As your child’s first role model, you become more adept at building and maintaining positive relationships, promoting perseverance and cooperation.  With kidlet eyes now taking in your every move, you try to emulate ‘goodness’.  You become a leader without a title, far more responsible, self-contained and polite.  You become better at controlling and managing yourself and your emotions….most of the time anyway.

Flippancy to the side…being a mum can lead to strengthening all of the skills you gained as a singleton, with the addition of a few more.  In my humble opinion.

All learning has an emotional base ~Plato

Being a mum may not always educate the intellect but it does educate the heart.  The emotional intelligence I have gained in seven years of parenting remains unparalleled.  Coincidentally, emotional intelligence has been widely reported as one of the strongest indicators for success in life and directly affects ones psychological well-being (ref).

I read somewhere that the brain gives knowledge but the heart gives direction. As a mum even though your heart now moves independent of your body – the sense of purpose, passion and direction you feel can spur you on to achieve greatness in all areas of life.

Sidenote: Some of you may be thinking that this particular blog is biased and a tad dismissive of non-parents or even daddy’s.

I would concur.

But sometimes a mummy needs to hear that she is valued, competent, resourceful and freakin’ fabulous!

She needs to understand that the skills and experiences acquired through parenthood hold relevance in any environment and that she is a successful contributing member of society right here and now.

Nuff said!

~ Kirri

The dangers of multi-tasking (or how to be less crazy and more productive!)

1 Apr

Written by Kirri White – Follow me on twitter

I’m going to go out on a limb today and assume that most readers are familiar with the meaning of the term “multi-tasking’ and also with the general consensus, that women are more effective multi-taskers than men.

However, I wonder how many of us view multi-tasking as a necessity for modern living? Is it something that you employ in your daily routine to ensure you get as much done in as little time possible?  Furthermore, just how effective is it?

I used to pride myself on being a fabulous multi-tasker and becoming a mum is what pushed me into this seemingly fine habit.  I would whip up a double batch of muffins while making breakfast, so that I only needed to do the dishes once.  Then, I would start the dishes with the telephone on speaker or cradled awkwardly between neck and shoulder, attempting to catch up with a friend or family member.  In the background, the washing machine would be whirring its way through the first load of many and my then twin babies and toddler would all be vying for my attention – frantically clapping, choir-screaming or cleverly foraging for breakables and potential choking hazards.

Fun times indeed.

It wasn’t until two or more years of living this way that I noticed Ms. Multi-tasker was not the benign smiley faced companion I had initially thought.  Bouncing between doing five things at once had its drawbacks – valuable snippets of conversation missed or forgotten, white clothing items permanently stained pink, important mail thrown into the rubbish and ultimately, scrambled eggs for brains!

My attention to detail was compromised, thought processes scattered and ultimately I seemed to be changing from one task to another and not completing anything in a manner I was satisfied with.  Did I also mention that it was damned stressful at times!

What happens when we multi-task?      

The impact of everyday multi-tasking on performance has been explored in numerous studies.

Findings indicate that multi-tasking may impair short-term memory and concentration, elevate levels of stress hormones and reduce our social skills, creativity and overall sense of wellbeing. (Silvercloud consulting, 2009).

Spend three or more hours with a baby or small child, attending to the immediacy of their physical and emotional needs and I would argue that there will be days (many days!) where you experience complete mental exhaustion.  You may find it difficult to follow adult conversation, feel overwhelmed by dealing with daily bouts of crying and temper tantrums, or be confused and fatigued from having to change task mid-way ten times in one hour.

The bottom line is that while we may think that heaping as many things possible into our day creates more ‘free time’, there is pretty good evidence to indicate we are actually less productive, less effective, less healthy and certainly much less fun to be around.

So, what to do?

As a mum of three young children, I’m not sure if it is possible to completely eradicate the need for multi-tasking. However, it is possible to reduce the negative side-effects of doing too many things at once.  Try employing some of the following strategies when you find yourself careening towards multitasking mayhem:

1)       The first step is to be aware of your multi-tasking habits and ask yourself if what you are doing right now is really necessary.  Focus on managing and directing your energy more effectively and keeping energy renewed rather than focusing solely on ‘clock’ time.  Use your internal ‘stress-o-meter’ as an indicator to whether you are tackling too many things at once.

2)      Complete one task at a time. You can achieve much more in a 30 minute chunk of time if you are completely committed to task, than when you are attempting to cram in as many things as possible into the same time frame.  Choose one task and concentrate on completing it in full before you put your mind to anything else.

3)      Do difficult tasks first.  If you have something that requires a certain level of concentration – do it first thing in the morning when you are relatively well rested and alert.  You will gain a sense of accomplishment that will set a positive light on the rest of your day.  Additionally, if things start to go pear-shaped (which happens from time to time with kiddlywinks) – you will have completed at least one important job that day.

4)      Learn to ignore unnecessary distractions.  Turn off all electronic distractions when not in use. Don’t answer the phone if you are in the middle of making dinner and when you do answer the phone, concentrate on your conversation rather than trying to browse the internet or fold the laundry at the same time.

5)      Set some boundaries and guidelines for your children so that they learn there are times when it is not ok to interrupt.  As rude as it may sound, in our house when we hold up one finger (no, not the middle one!) – the girls know that means that they have to remain quiet for a minute or two, until we are off the phone or finished our conversation.  We started doing this when they were about two years old and they started adhering around three.  It works like a dream now! 

6)      If you are running an online business from home you may want to allocate specific time intervals in which you deal with emails or paperwork.  File electronic or paper mail immediately after you have finished rather than shuffling bits of paper to and fro and having an overloaded inbox.  I check my emails once in the morning and again in the afternoon, responding to emails immediately wherever possible, then filing or deleting old emails so that everything is dealt with then and there. The same applies for all forms of social media  (facebook, twitter etc) – check them once a day at the most.

7)      If you are returning to the paid workforce or starting your own business and find that an addiction to multi-tasking has impacted your ability to concentrate on one task for long – consider some ‘brain exercise’ such as crosswords, Sudoku or, my personal fave –  luminosity.   Such games are hugely beneficial for improving memory, concentration and agility and I’m not embarassed to admit that I have needed a lot of help in this area!!  I can also personally attest to the benefits of regular exercise and taking quality marine oil capsules.

Final thoughts….

Practice being ‘present’ in your daily life.  Stop reacting to every demand for your attention – be more aware and choose what you will attend to right there and then and if it is really necessary to do so.

If, like me, you can’t quite kick Ms. Multi-tasker to the kerb, you may at least be able to effectively micro-manage her before she deals you a punch to the shins!

What’s your take on multi-tasking?  Share with us in the comments.

If you are not already on the list to receive free updates from Happy Mums At Home, get on it! 

A special shout out to all my loyal subscribers!  I really appreciate your support and will do my best to keep learning and sharing work that leads to a more balanced, successful and happy life for us all!

Have a Happy Day

~Kirri

The importance of filling your bucket

9 Mar

My identical twin daughters turned five years old on Sunday and I’m sitting here wondering how on earth that happened?

It really was just yesterday that they appeared surgically, as bundled up baby rats in the operating theatre. I know – comparing them to vermin is pretty harsh, right?  It’s just that they were super tiny, with little body-fat and skin that was transparent in certain areas. They looked like they needed more time before they could be considered ‘fully cooked’ and yet, at 38 weeks, they were apparently perfectly Al dente – just slightly scrawny.

Still…I learned to love them, feed them and teach them cool stuff and now…. they are five.  

The twins recently started attending prep year at school and after a somewhat shaky start, have been making friends, learning new skills and becoming more independent.  It’s an observation that, for me, is both encouraging and alarming.

One day last week they had their first encounter with a substitute teacher and when hubby and I picked them up after school, she approached us and said:

“These are your girls?  They were wonderful today.  You’re very lucky. You won’t have any problems with these two.  I see many happy years ahead in the future – for all of you”

With her tight braids, chocolate-brown shiny skin, and commanding voice – she reminded me of Mama Odie from “The Princess and a Frog”.  Yes, it is sad that I now use Disney Princess movies as frames of reference, but I’m telling you there was something majestic and magical about her!    

Of course, her kind words mirrored back what I often think to myself anyway. I love my girls and am the same as any other parent who thinks their children are special and fabulous and every other adjective likened to wonderful.   But when a virtual stranger affirms these biased thoughts, it is very edifying.

The substitute teacher may have already forgotten that she offered these words of acknowledgement, but I carried them round for several days like precious stones in my pocket.  Those words, I will never forget.

Then, a few days ago, I received a profound and heart-felt email from a friend, thanking me for my support during a particularly dark time in their lives.  He noted that while I must already know how much it had meant to him, he wanted to remind, and thank me again.

Funnily enough, until that exact moment, I did not know for certain, how significant my actions had been.   Sure, I believed our friendship was real and meaningful, but we haven’t seen each other in many years and recent contact has been sporadic.  I was unsure if the value of our friendship and esteem was felt on a mutual level and to have that confirmed, was both reassuring and touching.

On both aforementioned occasions, the emotional impact of words was considerable. I felt acknowledged and assured that my actions mattered – that I mattered. I also noticed that for the rest of the day, my general demeanour was lighter and brighter!

It made me think – How often do we hold back from offering words of acknowledgement or thanks to the people we share this planet with?   How many times have I failed to thank, or taken for granted, my friends, family and connections?  More than I would like to admit.

In 2004, Donald Clifton and Tom Rath published a book titled “How full is your bucket”.

Based on more than 50 years of research in the area of Positive Psychology, they employed a simple metaphor of a bucket and dipper to explain how our daily interactions either improve or diminish other people’s lives.  The basic premise is that saying something positive to another person can fill someones ‘bucket’, resulting in renewed energy and a positive outlook for both parties.  Conversely, negative comments undermine, sap energy and lower the levels in our emotional buckets. 

The book effectively illustrates the important choice we are faced with every day – to fill someone’s bucket with positive words or say and do things that dip from another’s bucket, thereby diminishing their lives and our own. 

My thought is this…let people know that they matter, remind them of their good points, thank them for their efforts; acknowledge them for their time.   Our connections and relationships have the power to join hearts, minds and countries together in a collective consciousness of unity.

I can’t tell you how much my heart leapt with love and pride when that teacher took the time to acknowledge my girls.  Similarly, when my friend contacted me, it really bought home how a small display of gratitude and affection can effectively impact someone’s day from miles away.

My little girls are now one year older. They are far from being babies or even toddlers and are old enough to remember every sentiment that falls carelessly from my mouth.  I intend on ensuring, every day, that they will also be showered with love, smiles and affirmations. 

They may not listen to me as much as I would like, but I figure that if I make more time to fill the emotional reservoirs of others, they will learn by modelling and become fabulous bucket-fillers by the time they reach adulthood.

Happy Birthday beautiful girls!

Why thinking and living like a kid can lead to a happier, more successful life.

25 Feb

Last week, I was confronted by the identical challenge I face every time I attempt to make pasta sauce. 

No, not the fact that I would need to bury the empty jar deep in the recycling bin, to avoid the meaningful looks directed my way by cheffy husband – who can never understand why I don’t just whip up my own sauce.  Pfft.It is the dance of trial and tribulation that ensues every time I attempt to take the top off the jar.  Bloody impossible!! 

I twist it both ways, wringing until my hands are as pink as my face. I then use a tea towel in an effort to assist sweaty sore hands, run the jar under cold, then hot water, bang it on the granite bench and as a last resort mutter a few not-so-niceties about the jar making machine having been designed by some puny-female-hating mean man!

As my efforts become more desperate, I notice one of my darling twin daughters silently observing me.  Approaching me quietly, she places a reassuring hand on my leg (being far too mini to reach my shoulder) and speaks to me with knowing calmness –

“It’s ok mummy. You can do it. I know you can. You just have to believe in yourself.”

How cute is she?  The cutest. Of course.              

I couldn’t help but recognise the familiar words of positive persuasion, borrowed from Winx Club.  Winx Club is an animated Italian television series which we discovered in Canada two years ago.  It follows the adventures of a girl Bloom and her fairy friends, on earth and the Magical Dimension.  Our whole family loves it.  We have taken on individual fairy personas (yes even daddy) and like to spout the theme song, regularly –

Close your eyes,
and open your heart.
Believe in yourself,
that’s how it starts.
Dreams will come true,
just wait and see
Cause the Magic’s in you,
and the magic’s in me!

 Anyway, it got me thinking (in addition to the fact that I really must increase my weights in pump class); about the magical way children view the world.  More specifically, the manner in which their behavior is a timely reminder on how to be more relaxed and present in our lives. 

And so, I present you with the following list of tips for successful living that I have garnered from my children.  Yes, although my girls are aged 4 and 6 – they are budding experts in the area of positive psychology.  Just ask them.   

The list is in no particular order but I dare you to live like a child for a day, or a week, and see how things pan out.  If you don’t feel like you are experiencing more fun, passion, learning and connection with the important people and priorities in your life, you are quite welcome to come and kick my ass!  Well, not mine actually, but my girls.  This is their list after all and I am merely the messenger.

  • Believe in yourself.  Children don’t place limits on themselves the way adults do. They live in a world where anything is possible and nothing cannot be conjured up with a little imagination.  They are fearless and like to take risks.  Tell them they can’t do something and you know they will attempt it, just to prove you wrong.  Don’t doubt yourself before you have even started. Just do it! 

 

  •  Children are passionate, curious creatures.  Be hungry for knowledge and learning like your children.  Ask questions and research the answers in books or the internet. Learn something new every day. Even if it’s a new word or an idea you have been pondering for years.  Knowledge is power and just imagine how powerful your brain will be in a year after absorbing 365 new words or ideas.  You then get to share that knowledge with your kids – plus you will feel a whole lot smarter.

 

  •  Be authentic and genuine.  Children generally see the best in you. They love you unconditionally.  The only masks they wear are those adorned by princesses and super-heroes.  Be yourself. Like yourself.  Respect yourself.  Easy to say and sometimes difficult to do but in the long term, you will feel better inside and people warm to what’s real.

 

  •  Children are open to, and great at, forming relationships. Take them to the park and when you leave 30 minutes later, they are frantically waving farewell to their new ‘bestie’.  Be friendly to the people you meet. Chat with the cashier at your local supermarket and mean it when you say “Have a happy day.” Make eye contact with the other parents at school and smile at your neighbours or people you pass on the street.  Yes, some will think you are a bit of a weirdo but so what….Even if they don’t smile back the first time, I guarantee they will have a better day. Smiles are infectious and they feel good for all parties involved.

 

  • Start your day early and with the gusto of a kid!  Exercise and be energetic. You are allowed to have a cup of coffee first but as you do, smile and ponder over something fun you intend to do today and then make sure you do it!         

         

  • Persist!  Kids are persistent and tenacious. They don’t give up easily.  “Mummy can I have this? “Mummy can I have this? Now can I have it?” Yes, it’s annoying sometimes, but also valuable in a world where after a while, we just start accepting “No” and stop asking for what we really want.

 

  • Children like to touch, explore, observe every detail and inspire connection.  Stop seeing things from the same old and tired perspective.  That’s how our work and personal lives get in ruts – we only see what we are accustomed to and ignore the rest. Remember how you took in every aspect of a new building or face the first time you saw it as a child?  Try and do that as much as possible. You will undoubtedly feel more alert and alive. You may even regain appreciation for something or someone you have been taking for granted.

 

  •  Finally – Celebrate your successes no matter how small.  Every step you take towards learning, creating a positive environment, or mastering a task that has been eluding you for months, indicates growth and progress.  “You learnt how to catch a ball today?  That’s freaking fabulous.”  Tomorrow, world domination!

It’s not only children who grow.  Parents do too.  As much as we watch to see what our children do with their lives, they are watching us to see what we do with ours.  I can’t tell my children to reach for the sun.  All I can do is reach for it, myself.  ~Joyce Maynard

Live more. Stress Less.

27 Jan

What’s important to you? Take a look at my home environment and you would be spot on for believing that apple pie order is a priority for me.  Yeah, I’m a clean freak and my hubby is a neat freak. Match made in heaven as far as I’m concerned. If you visited our house, you would no doubt leave wondering how we manage to keep it looking so spotless and uncluttered, particularly with young kids running round. The dishes are always done, beds made, bathroom disinfected, toys stored in colour-coded boxes and the toilet paper folded into a pretty triangle after every use!  Well, almost.  

It takes a certain level of commitment on a daily basis to live that way but it is high on my list of essentials because it makes me feel calm, collected and like I have my sh*t sorted!  It’s not something I feel compelled to do in order to regain a sense of control in what can sometimes be a very chaotic state of being. Or is it?

Excessive drinking, smoking, shopping, and yes, even cleaning, can be distractions.  They take our focus from one area and move it to another place that offers temporary respite.  These habits are often the things we do unconsciously to fill a gap or get a rush of feel-good endorphins when panic threatens to overwhelm.  Is this a surprise in a modern society that generally values the busiest and seemingly most productive members?  Moreover, am I the only one with kids who feels like daily life is sometimes a battle of epic proportions??  Having one child, let alone three before the age of 30 can be a bit of a challenge.  Just ask my husband!  There are times when you find yourself running around in a blur of ‘doing’ -feeding, bathing, calming, cleaning, playing and screaming. It gets ugly sometimes people!      

Obviously I am far from immune to such distractions, but I’m getting way better at identifying my survival mode and squashing it.  How can I tell when I’m in survival mode? My actions start getting more frantic.  I try and do more in less time and I try and do it all at once.   The stress levels rise, jaw-clenching begins and eventually I get to a point where I am no longer able to think clearly. Sound familiar?

For me, the antidote is a mix of prevention and learning to refocus on the present moment.  It’s the age old saying about having a fence at the top of the cliff, rather than an ambulance waiting at the bottom for someone to fall.  Making time to read, exercise and relax regularly may seem like lofty ideals when you have a family, work and social life to contend with.  However, I have learnt the hard way that they really do help to prevent my stress levels from rising to a furor.  I like to refer to them as my ‘preventative activities’ or things that I choose to do on a regular basis to stop my mean girl coming out. Nuff said.

Learning or attempting something new, with a certain degree of difficulty can also be hugely beneficial.  Doing difficult things helps foster personal confidence and strength. Over time, these challenges lead to a sense of personal mastery and accomplishment that can boost our limits of endurance.  Maybe it’s tackling a foreign language, learning to play an instrument or revisiting a sport that you last played when you were ten. Initially it can be a little uncomfortable and frustrating.  But with time and determination, a little bit of progress can be made each day. In a year or two, your learning and performance in this area will have improved profoundly.  Additionally, you will reap the residual effects of learned persistence.  The activity in question is going to be different for everyone.  Figure out what is meaningful or just plain fun to you and pursue it.  Not half assed but whole-heartedly!

 Choosing to remain in the present moment is another proven stress buster for me.  It’s a habit that I am still practicing but I’m telling you, it works.  Learning to shake off life’s’ inevitable annoyances is not always easy, but it is possible. You can get irritated when your four year old chats loudly and incessantly, wiping yoghurt on her freshly changed top and demanding you watch her every dance move when you are trying to get some work done.  Similarly it can be disconcerting just how slowly small kids walk when you are already running 10 minutes late for school and have a meeting to get to. In situations like this, I try and remind myself that I can choose to react in an irritated manner or I can take a breath, give a little laugh and just go with it.  Ok, maybe not a laugh, but at least a half hearted sigh.  Either way, we can always choose our response and attitude in any potentially stressful situation and make it work for us.

 I’m not saying I have it all down-pat. Far from it (just ask my husband!).  There are times when I fall back into that stressed out survival mode but I try to remain aware of it and take a moment to refocus myself in the present.  Sometimes it just takes a few quiet deep breaths or a second where I can look into the eyes of my girls and experience that deep sense of connection. Other times, I crank up the stereo when I’m driving and sing loudly and unapologetically, while sucking up some of our beautiful Queensland sunshine.  Immediately I am brought back to the present and able to identify with that core that is free and adventurous.   Boo yah – I’m back in the moment and feeling fine!

The point is – this is your life. Design it the way you want to live it.  You can choose to survive (something so easy to fall into when you have little people to look after), or you can choose to LIVE.   You can get by on those to-do lists and endless obligations, struggling to keep up with the Joneses and buying more stuff which frankly, you do not need. Or, you can dwell in the land of small pleasures, powerful intentions and boundless opportunities.  

Live more. Stress less.  That’s what I’m doing today.

Staying positive in the face of disaster

17 Jan

 Queensland floods – January 11-13, 2011

The rain has been unrelenting over the past two weeks and yet, I still found myself as a Brisbane resident thinking that we were immune to the possibility of flooding. I’ve never in my life been in a city while a disaster, natural or human made, has occurred. The worst we get is some fairly heavy storms in summer that can knock out the power for a few hours.  That was, until two days ago when watching channel 9 news reporting on the deathly flash flooding in Toowoomba, less than two hours from where I live.  Continuing on from that report was the news that this devastating wall of water was headed towards Brisbane, joining forces with the swollen river and burgeoning Wivenhoe dam. Newsflash – Brisbane was going to experience flooding unheard of since 1974.

My thoughts immediately turned to my mother, who was working in Ipswich, one of the current danger zones. She was supposed to be relieved of her seven day stint as a caregiver for an at-risk youth that day. As I watched the news, I felt sure that she was going to be stuck there. My fingers hit auto dial and mum reassured me in her usual chirpy tone that she was just fine and would be home tomorrow. Less than two hours later, she called again to say that they had just been evacuated, that the water was rushing into the city at an alarming rate but that she was safe and not to worry.  Hello!  When it comes to family, telling me not to worry is like asking Shane Warne to stop texting illicit ditties to married women.  It ain’t going to happen! 

The past two days have been somewhat of an emotional roller coaster. For hours I have had the TV firmly glued to Australia’s Channel Nine News, observing reporter Karl Stefanovic and Queensland’s’ Premier Anna Bligh as they recount widespread devastation, several deaths and the lingering possibility of disease.  I’m sure I’m not the only one to be shocked and confounded by the frightening footage of Toowoomba or Brisbane’s central district, now covered by an ominous muddy swirl.  The more I watched, the more my mood became sombre and quite emotional at times. People were losing loved ones, thousands had lost their homes and livelihoods.  In some less discernible way, it felt like our ‘lucky lives’ were being threatened.

One thing that remained unaffected was the demeanour of my girls.  They continued to laugh, dance, paint, and play with their Barbie’s. They complain about the fact that they are unable to swim in the pool and pester me to take them to the park, mall or even the “cold shop” (supermarket).  They glance at the news footage and fleetingly say “poor nana” and “their house is going to be dirty!”  Seconds later, they resume their version of Australian Idol where one sings or dances to Selena Gomez and the other two judge.   Kids, hey! 

Phone lines were congested for two days but when I eventually talked with my mum – I was once again amazed by her continued upbeat attitude.  To be honest, it was slightly bewildering; given the gamut of emotions I was feeling, just watching the disaster unfold on television!  There she was, a 60 year old woman with little food, no power or water, surrounded by catastrophe and yet she was laughing at her apparent luck!  

While my mother later acknowledged that it had been scary at times, she said that she was able to maintain calm because she had a young person in her care, who was understandably traumatized.  This girl had just lost all her worldly possessions and the only place she could ever remember calling home. For me, it was an enormous relief to know that they were safe and that my mum would get to return home as soon as the roads cleared. 

It was also a timely reminder that while anyone can maintain a positive attitude when everything is going their way – it is much more difficult to maintain that positive attitude when the going gets tough. 

Of course, it’s important to have compassion for those who experienced loss and devastation in the Queensland floods.  But surely you can be of more help to others with a smile on your face than someone who is depressed and sullen?  As irritating as it can be at times, my mother has always demonstrated that when you maintain a hopeful disposition and put on a happy face in a dire situation; it is so much easier to be happy on an everyday basis. 

The damage to Brisbane and in fact much of Queensland will no doubt have long term effects and require a lot of work, money and community spirit. There is more heavy rain forecast for the next month or two and a possible cyclone on Australia Day.  So, this is far from over. 

At the moment, my life feels slightly altered.  From now on, I will no longer be able to view overseas reports of natural disasters with the same level of denial.  I am immensely grateful for the daily luxuries that I usually overlook as part of modern living – clean drinking water, power, a home untouched by the sometimes brutal forces of Mother Nature.  

I am also reminded of the choice to stay positive in the apparent face of disaster.  Thanks mum!

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